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Authors: Michael J. Sullivan

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Wintertide

BOOK: Wintertide
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This book and parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher, except as provided by the United States of America copyright law.

Ridan and its logo are copyrighted and trademarked by Ridan Publishing. All rights reserved.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual persons, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.

A Ridan Publication
www.ridanpublishing.com
www.michaelsullivan-author.com
www.riyria.blogspot.com

Copyright © 2010 by Michael J. Sullivan
Cover Art and Map by Michael J. Sullivan
Story editing by Robin Sullivan and Annie Rush
Copy editing by Heather A. McBride, David Gould, Anne-Marie Reidy, and Christine Cartwright

ISBN: 978-0982514580
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES
First Printing: October 2010

To Robin, for taking pity on Royce and sending him home and for fixing the entire first half of the novel, which she originally thought was perfect.

To Annie, for helping me to see I was being too subtle, for fixing the chess game, and teaching the nobles to dance.

And to the members of the Arlington Writer’s Group, for their generous support, assistance, and feedback.

BOOKS IN THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS

The Crown Conspiracy
Avempartha
Nyphron Rising
The Emerald Storm
Wintertide
Percepliquis*

*Coming in April 2011

AWARDS FOR THE RIYRIA REVELATION BOOKS

THE CROWN CONSPIRACY

2009 Dark Wolf Award for Top 10 Fantasy Books
2009 National Indie Excellence Award Finalist
2008 ReaderViews Literary Award Finalist
2007 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist

AVEMPARTHA

2009 Winner Book Spot Central Tournament of Books
2009 Dark Wolf Award for Top 10 Fantasy Books
2010 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist

NYPHRON RISING

2010 Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Finalist
2009 Dark Wolf Award for Top 10 Fantasy Books

PRAISE FOR THE RIYRIA REVELATIONS

“I can’t suggest these books enough. They are light-hearted yet deep. They are fast pace and involving. They remind me of old-school adventure fantasy and political spy thrillers. These are the quintessential fun summer-time reads that I find so enjoyable when the heat index rises and the days grow longer lending themselves to lots of reading by the pool. It’s a heady mix, and I sincerely hope you give yourself a few hours to give them a try.”
— Jaime Chambers, Ruled By Books

“The Riyria Revelations is a much needed return to fantasy’s grassroots. For fans who miss the straightforward adventurous tales—the stories that got a lot of us 35+ year-olds hooked on fantasy to begin with—The Crown Conspiracy brings back that excitement.”
— Greg Hersom, Fantasy Literature

“The Crown Conspiracy is a well-written and enjoyable novel. I was invested in the characters and their travails. Royce and Hadrian’s friendship was particularly fun to read.”
— Tammy Moore, sfSite

“Every time I finish a book in this series it makes me want the next one instantly.”
— Cindy Hannikman, Fantasy Book Critic

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Aquesta
Chapter 2: Into Darkness
Chapter 3: Sir Breckton
Chapter 4: Wedding Plans
Chapter 5: Footprints in the Snow
Chapter 6: The Palace
Chapter 7: Deeper into Darkness
Chapter 8: Sir Hadrian
Chapter 9: Winds Abbey
Chapter 10: The Feast of Nobles
Chapter 11: Knightly Virtue
Chapter 12: A Question of Succession
Chapter 13: The House on Heath Street
Chapter 14: Tournament Day
Chapter 15: The Hunt
Chapter 16: Trials by Combat
Chapter 17: The Final Darkness
Chapter 18: Wintertide
Chapter 19: New Beginnings
Chapter 20: The Queen’s Gambit Accepted
Chapter 21: Langdon Bridge

Chapter 1
Aquesta

Some people are skilled, and some are lucky, but at that moment Mince realized he was neither. Failing to cut the merchant’s purse strings, he froze with one hand still cupping the bag. He knew the pickpocket’s creed allowed for only a single touch and had dutifully slipped into the crowd after two earlier attempts. A third failure meant they would bar him from another meal—Mince was too hungry to let go.

With his hands still under the merchant’s cloak, he waited. The man remained oblivious.

Should I try again?

The thought was insane, but his empty stomach won the battle over reason. In a moment of desperation, Mince pushed caution aside. The leather seemed oddly thick. Sawing back and forth, he felt the purse come loose, but something was not right. It took only an instant for Mince to realize his mistake. Instead of purse strings, he had sliced through the merchant’s belt. Like a hissing snake, the leather strap slithered off the fat man’s belly, dragged to the cobblestones by the weight of his weapons.

Mince did not breathe or move as the entire span of his ten disappointing years flashed by.

Run!
the voice inside his head screamed as he realized there was a heartbeat, perhaps two, before his victim—

The merchant turned.

He was a large, soft man with saddlebag cheeks reddened by the cold. His eyes widened when he noticed the purse in Mince’s hand. “Hey, you!” The man reached for his dagger, and surprise filled his face when he found it missing. Groping for his other weapon, he spotted them both lying in the street.

Mince heeded the voice of his smarter self and bolted. Common sense told him the best way to escape a rampaging giant was to head for the smallest crack. He plunged beneath an ale cart outside the Blue Swan Inn and slid to the far side. Scrambling to his feet, he raced for the alley, clutching the knife and purse to his chest. The recent snow hampered his flight, and his small feet lost traction rounding a corner.

“Thief! Stop!” The shouts were not nearly as close as expected.

Mince continued to run. Finally reaching the stable, he ducked between the rails of the fence framing the manure pile. He crouched with his back against the far wall, exhausted. The boy shoved the knife into his belt and stuffed the purse down his shirt, leaving a noticeable bulge. Panting amidst the steaming piles, he struggled to hear anything over the pounding in his ears.

“There you are!” Elbright shouted, skidding in the snow and catching himself on the fence. “What an idiot. You just stood there—waiting for the fat oaf to turn around. You’re a moron, Mince. That’s it—that’s all there is to it. I honestly don’t know why I bother trying to teach you.”

Mince and the other boys referred to thirteen-year-old Elbright as “the Old Man.” In their small band only he wore an actual cloak, which was dingy-gray and secured with a tarnished metal broach. Elbright was the smartest and most accomplished of their crew, and Mince hated to disappoint him.

Laughing, Brand arrived only moments later and joined Elbright at the fence.

“It’s not funny,” Elbright said.

“But—he—” Brand could not finish, as laughter consumed him.

Like the other two, Brand was dirty, thin, and dressed in mismatched clothing of varying sizes. His pants were too long and snow gathered in the folds of the rolled-up bottoms. Only his tunic fit properly. Made from green brocade and trimmed with fine supple leather, it fastened down the front with intricately carved wooden toggles. A year younger than the Old Man, he was a tad taller and a bit broader. In the unspoken hierarchy of their gang, Brand came second—the muscle to Elbright’s brains. Kine, the remaining member of their group, ranked third because he was the best pickpocket. This left Mince unquestionably at the bottom. His size matched his position as he stood barely four feet tall and weighed little more than a wet cat.

BOOK: Wintertide
3.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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