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The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4)
Author:Michael J. Sullivan

The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4)

Michael J. Sullivan


To Royce and Hadrian:

two thieves who stole hearts

and fulfilled dreams.





Author’s Note





It may seem odd to dedicate a book to two fictional characters, especially ones of my own creation, but the pair have taken on lives of their own, and these days, I’m a simple observer listening to their conversations and following their exploits. Watching the pair has fulfilled a dream, one that I once felt was forever beyond my reach. To understand why I felt this way, let me take you on a short (yes, Robin, I promise it will be brief) journey back in time.

In 2004, when I wrote the first Riyria book, The Crown Conspiracy (the first half of Theft of Swords), I never thought I would be where I am now. The book I had finished directly before that one was called A Burden to the Earth, and it was written in 1994, a full decade earlier. You haven’t read it. I can count on one hand the number of people who have—it was the straw that broke my camel’s back. You see, from 1975 to 1994, I wrote thirteen novels and four short stories, and all that work got me exactly nowhere.

The first eight books weren’t meant for publication. They were practice tales created to teach myself how to write. Having spent a decade learning the craft, I spent the next eight years penning five books and riding the query-go-round. None of that effort produced a single offer of publication; its only product was the assemblage of heart-wrenching rejections, apparently a rite of passage for nearly all authors.

Eighteen years is a long time to delude oneself, and it finally sank in that I’d never be a writer. So, I did the only sane thing I could . . . I quit. A reasonable conclusion given what Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

I should note that during this time, my wife, Robin, was a saint of the highest order. I never had to juggle writing with a career; she was willing to be the single wage-earner and never once asked me to “quit this nonsense and get a real job.” She knew that writing was my joy and my passion, and if doing it made me happy, that was good enough for her.

So, as I said, I finally wised up, and I left writing with dramatic flair. I saw myself as Scarlett O’Hara just before Gone with the Wind’s intermission, but my declaration was “I shall never write creatively again!” I couldn’t imagine anything that could make me break that vow—which brings me back to Royce and Hadrian.

During that decade’s hiatus, I was able to prevent myself from typing stories, but I couldn’t silence the voices in my head—most notably, the duo otherwise known as Riyria (it’s elvish for two). After I’d listened to them for ten years, we had become close. You might say it was difficult for me to differentiate between where I left off and they began. As you already know, I finally relented, and the Riyria books came into being. The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter is the tenth novel starring the pair. I had no idea so many books would grow from the whisperings of these two characters, and I never dreamed that their world would spawn another six books (currently releasing as the Legends of the First Empire series). And it doesn’t end there. I’m now writing a new series (code name: The Bridge Trilogy), which is set in the time period between Riyria and Legends. These books uncover the events precipitating the downfall of Novron’s Empire.

All these books have allowed me to return Robin’s gift, and she left her day job in 2011. And while she still works incredibly hard (all on my behalf and for the benefit of the readers), at least she can set her own schedule, she doesn’t have to “dress for success,” and her longest commute is from the bedroom to the porch where she spends the mornings watching the sun come up over the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley.

So, yes, I dedicated this book to Royce and Hadrian, for their constant whispering during that terrible decade when writing wasn’t a part of my life, and for staying with me once I returned to the keyboard. Each time I sit down to write about the pair, it’s like reuniting with old friends, and my work on The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter was no exception. If you enjoy reading it half as much as I enjoyed writing it, then you should have a very fun time indeed.

With that out of the way, I have a few housekeeping things to go over before I get on to the tale. First, if you are new to the Riyria stories, you certainly can start with this book. Yes, that sounds strange since it’s the fourth book in the Riyria Chronicles and the tenth Riyria novel as a whole, so let me explain. I’ve continued the same technique as I used for The Death of Dulgath, which was also designed to stand on its own. I’ve received reader feedback from hundreds of people who’ve read only that book, and they confirm no prior knowledge was required. In addition, I sent The Disappearance of Winter’s Daughter to another group (none of whom have read any of my novels) and each one confirmed the lack of Riyria familiarity wasn’t a problem.

Second, in my more recent works, I’ve asked people to drop me a line if they feel inclined to do so, and I’m happy to say that many have taken me up on the offer . . . some of whom have never written an author before. Their emails often start out with, “I don’t want to bother you, but . . . ” Let me assure you, hearing from readers is never a bother. Writing is its own reward, but learning that my scribblings have been enjoyed by others takes a good thing and makes it even better. So, please, by all means, drop me a line. My address is [email protected]

Third, and this is last, but certainly not least: My eternal gratitude goes out to you, the readers, without whom my dream of being an author could never have been fully realized. Yes, I would still pen my tales (I won’t be quitting again), but your generous support keeps me and Robin away from the dreaded “day jobs,” and that means we have more time to create stories for you—a synergistic arrangement if ever there was one. So in conclusion, I want to say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I take your trust seriously and will always strive to put out the very best book that I’m capable of creating. I hope you find it worthy of your time.

Now turn the page, tap the screen, or adjust the volume. A new adventure awaits, and I’m glad you’ll be along for the ride.





— Michael J. Sullivan October 2017





World Map



Maps are problematic on many ereaders that don’t have adequate resolution to display them, and for this reason you can access a high-resolution map online.





Close-up Map





Contents



Praise for Sullivan’s Work

About the Book

Works by Michael J. Sullivan

Copyright

Dedication

Author’s Note

World Map



Chapter 1: Vested Interest

Chapter 2: The Return of Virgil Puck

Chapter 3: The Whiskey Baron

Chapter 4: Rochelle

Chapter 5: Mercator

Chapter 6: Over Lamb and Small Beer

Chapter 7: Breakfast

Chapter 8: A Tale of Two Soldiers

Chapter 9: The Gold Eater

Chapter 10: Venlin Is Standing

Chapter 11: Little Gur Em

Chapter 12: Unicorns and Polka Dots

Chapter 13: Grom Galimus

Chapter 14: The Driver

Chapter 15: Bird Hunting

Chapter 16: Looking Away

Chapter 17: The Gathering

Chapter 18: The Rasa

Chapter 19: Living Proof

Chapter 20: Jiggery-Pokery

Chapter 21: The Duke

Chapter 22: The Morning After

Chapter 23: A Prayer to Novron

Chapter 24: Haunted

Chapter 25: Keys and Coins

Chapter 26: Haggling

Chapter 27: The Spring Feast

Chapter 28: Hide-and-Seek

Chapter 29: Winter’s Daughter



Afterword

Acknowledgments

Kickstarter Backers

About the Author





Chapter One

Vested Interest