image-right Windwalker, the final book in the Starlight & Shadows trilogy, picks up right after the events of Tangled Webs. Now that Liriel’s quest is complete, she returns with Fyodor to Rashemen, a land ruled by masked witches and surrounded by enemies that test the mettle of her berserker defenders. But Fyodor’s homecoming is not at all what Liriel expected…

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Liriel’s story didn’t start out as a trilogy.  I was originally contracted to write two books. The second book, Tangled Webs, was published in 1996, shortly before TSR was sold to Wizards of the Coast. The folks at WotC asked me to venture into Halruaa  for the Counselors & Kings trilogy.  Editorial opinion of dark elves tends to be cyclic, ranging from Drizzt-only to omg-we-can’t-have-enough-drow! So several years passed before the wheel turned.

The switch from third edition D&D to 3.5 occurred while I was writing Windwalker, and one of the rule changes cut the legs out from under the plot of the first two books by reversing the rule that drow could not take their spells and magic items to the surface. Since Liriel spent the first two books trying to solve this problem, its sudden disappearance created a writing dilemma.  I had three choices: 1) ignore the issue and write according to the current rules, 2) ignore the new rule and write for internal consistency, or 3) write the rule change into the story.  I went with door number 3.  Windwalker provides a background story for how this change came about.  On the whole, this worked pretty well, in that it extended Liriel’s success, for good or ill, to all of her dark kindred.

Windwalker also tidies up some continuity issues. The six-book War of the Spider Queen series was in progress at the time. I asked to see the story bible–the events of this story took place several years after Liriel’s tale, but it’s always a good idea to know what’s in the pipeline. To my surprise, Quenthel Baenre was a character in the WotSQ, despite the fact that she’d been killed several years ago in one of Bob Salvatore’s Drizzt books. So I called the editor and pointed this out. His response, after a long moment of silence, consisted of one heartfelt four-letter word.  We kicked around ideas, and a little tweaking and a couple of new scenes brought Quenthel back to the land of the living. Teamwork!

For readers who wonder what happens after the trilogy’s conclusion, Liriel’s story continues in the short tale “Answered Prayers,” published in The Best of the Realms Book III:  The Stories of Elaine Cunningham. (2008)