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Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1)
Author:Michael J. Sullivan

Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1)

Michael J. Sullivan




Author’s Note



Welcome to The Legends of the First Empire, my latest fantasy series. If you haven’t read any of my previous work, have no fear. This is a new series, and no knowledge of either The Riyria Chronicles or The Riyria Revelations is necessary to fully enjoy this tale. Also, reading this book won’t expose you to spoilers, so there are no concerns on that front. This series is meant to be a separate entryway into the world of Elan, and if you want to read more—well, there are nine books (told in six volumes) waiting for you.

For those who have read the Riyria books, I should mention that this series is set three thousand years before the events in those novels. You might think you know how the First Empire was formed, or at least have some general ideas about the events. But, having read my books, you probably realize that things aren’t always as they seem. The accounts I’ve revealed through Riyria haven’t been entirely accurate. After all, history is written by the victors. In this series, I can set the record straight, and you’ll know the truth in myths and the lies of legends.

For those unfamiliar with my process, I write sagas in an unusual way. I finish the entire series before publishing the first novel, and these books continue that tradition. Why is this important? Well, there are several reasons. First, it allows me to weave threads throughout the entire narrative. Minor references that seem initially unimportant will usually provide some interesting insights upon re-reading. This is possible because I’m able to spread out details across the entire story line.

Second, writing this way assures me (and my readers) that the books are working toward an ultimate conclusion. Too often, series wander off track, and it’s questionable if the author will be able to rein in everything when all is said and done. I’m honored by the praise The Riyria Revelations’ conclusion has received. The series’ satisfying ending was mostly due to my ability to make tweaks, add characters, or provide foundation support in earlier books when an interesting idea came to me as I wrote a later one. Plus, there is no fear about me being hit by a bus or meeting some other unfortunate end, leaving you hanging and wondering how the full story works out.

Third, writing all the books in advance allows me to tell the story unburdened by the constraints of publishing contracts or business concerns. In fact, when I started this series I had intended a trilogy. But as the plot emerged, it grew into four and then five books. Had I signed a contract with just one book completed, I might have been forced to make some difficult decisions to fit the narrative into a box that was determined by the deal brokered. Without that restriction, I was able to tell the story in the way that makes the most sense for the narrative as a whole.

Fourth, writing the entire series relieves me from deadline pressures. I’ll admit that I hate trying to create on the clock. The muse doesn’t always cooperate on demand, and I really enjoy being able to write the books without the company of a ticking time bomb. Without constraints, I’ll produce the best work possible because a book is finished when I say it is finished rather than when the clock runs out.

Last, but certainly not least, you are guaranteed to get the books in a timely manner. Too often readers are frustrated by constantly wondering when (or if) the next book of a series will appear. Having all the books written eliminates that concern. Sure, there could be publishing concerns regarding when to release a particular title, but my job has been completed, and I can move on to the next project.

One final thing I should note—for any aspiring authors out there—this isn’t how I recommend approaching your own writing. There are many good reasons why most series aren’t produced this way. I’m an outlier by using this method, and while it produces the highest-quality product for me, it could result in years and years of wasted effort when employed by others.

Well, that’s more than enough preamble. I just wanted to give a little peek behind the process to help set expectations. Now turn the page, tap the screen, or adjust the volume—a new adventure awaits.





CHAPTER ONE


Of Gods and Men




In the days of darkness before the war, men were called Rhunes. We lived in Rhuneland or Rhulyn as it was once known. We had little to eat and much to fear. What we feared most were the gods across the Bern River, where we were not allowed. Most people believe our conflict with the Fhrey started at the Battle of Grandford, but it actually began on a day in early spring when two men crossed the river.

—THE BOOK OF BRIN





Raithe’s first impulse was to pray. Curse, cry, scream, pray—people did such things in their last minutes of life. But praying struck Raithe as absurd given that his problem was the angry god twenty feet away. Gods weren’t known for their tolerance, and this one appeared on the verge of striking them both dead. Neither Raithe nor his father had noticed the god approach. The waters of the nearby converging rivers made enough noise to mask an army’s passage. Raithe would have preferred an army.

Dressed in shimmering clothes, the god sat on a horse and was accompanied by two servants on foot. They were men, but dressed in the same remarkable clothing. All three silent, watching.

“Hey?” Raithe called to his father.

Herkimer knelt beside a deer, opening its stomach with his knife. Earlier, Raithe had landed a spear in the stag’s side, and he and his father had spent most of the morning chasing it. Herkimer had stripped off his wool leigh mor as well as his shirt because opening a deer’s belly was a bloody business. “What?” He looked up.

Raithe jerked his head toward the god, and his father’s sight tracked to the three figures. The old man’s eyes widened, and the color left his face.

I knew this was a bad idea, Raithe thought.

His father had seemed so confident, so sure that crossing the forbidden river would solve their problems. But he’d mentioned his certainty enough times to make Raithe wonder. Now the old man looked as if he’d forgotten how to breathe. Herkimer wiped his knife on the deer’s side before slipping it into his belt and getting up.

“Ah…” Raithe’s father began. Herkimer looked at the half-gutted deer, then back at the god. “It’s…okay.”

This was the total sum of his father’s wisdom, his grand defense for their high crime of trespassing on divine land. Raithe wasn’t sure if slaughtering one of the deities’ deer was also an offense but assumed it didn’t help their situation. And although Herkimer said it was okay, his face told a different story. Raithe’s stomach sank. He had no idea what he’d expected his father to say, but something more than that.

Not surprisingly, the god wasn’t appeased, and the three continued to stare in growing irritation.

They were on a tiny point of open meadowland where the Bern and North Branch rivers met. A pine forest, thick and rich, grew a short distance up the slope behind them. Down at the point where the rivers converged lay a stony beach. Beneath a snow-gray blanket of sky, the river’s roar was the only sound. Just minutes earlier Raithe had seen the tiny field as a paradise. That was then.