I’ve been asked quite a lot lately about when will book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga be released. Well, let me just say that I am working on it and that I hope to have it finished by the end of the year. (Yes, I know I write slowly compared to some authors). To ease some of the wait here’s a sneak peek at an early part of the book. I hope you enjoy it.
A worried shout came from the helmsman. Luxon followed the direction the man was pointing in. A massive wave taller than all the others was coming straight at them. It was the size of a mountain, and as it drew closer, its shadow loomed over the ship. Whitelaw grabbed a rope and began tying it about his waist, the other crew members on deck did likewise.
“I suggest you do the same Master Wizard; this is going to be a little rough,” Whitelaw said with a twinkle in his eye. Luxon gulped and did as suggested. He took the rope offered to him by Whitelaw and rapidly began tying it around his waist. Water poured into eyes, and he could feel it soaking through his overcoat. The massive wave struck causing the Agatha to climb the wall water at a near ninety-degree angle. On and on it climbed until it looked as though the ship would be smashed like a twig. Luxon cried out, expecting the ship to be flipped over. To everyone’s relief, it crested the summit of the waves to plunge down the other side. The descent was a hundred feet, almost causing Luxon to spew his guts everywhere.
Another shout of alarm came from the deck. A fork of lightning split the sky illuminating the giant waves. Even in the turmoil of the thrashing sea, the flash revealed a massive shadow moving against the storm. Luxon’s stomach flipped at the sight; even Whitelaw went quiet.
“Fell Beast!” the captain bellowed. He grabbed the petrified helmsman and set him back to his task.
“Don’t make it easy for the bloody thing!”
Luxon staggered over to the deck’s rail his eyes fixed on the shadow. He couldn’t make out any details of the beast, but it was massive in size and aquatic. Huge taloned flippers were the only obvious feature. The ship began to rise again as it rode another giant wave. The Fell Beast, however, launched itself through the water to push its way through the other side of the wave. Luxon shouted a warning as the creature took up position right where the ‘Agatha’ was due to fall. A long, lean snout, itself the length of a ship, burst out of the water and opened wide to reveal a cavernous mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth. Luxon turned his head to see Captain Whitelaw grab the ship’s wheel in an attempt to help the helmsman steer the vessel. The two men strained with all their might to get the ship to steer through the stormy sea and avoid the beast.
The Agatha turned just in time, avoiding the Fell Beasts snapping jaws. As the ship turned the crew hastily armed themselves with bows, crossbows and whatever else they could get their hands on. Luxon struggled towards the hatch that led below deck; he had to warn Ferran and the others. The Beast exploded through another wave, sending a wall of water smashing down onto the deck. Luxon was swept off his feet, only the guardrail stopping him from being tossed overboard. Other crew members weren’t so lucky. Three sailors were sent screaming into the icy cold waters of the deep.
“Man the harpoons!” Whitelaw bellowed to his men. The ‘Agatha’ was equipped with two large harpoon guns located on the foredeck. Fell Beasts of the Void was a terror the world over, and often ships were destroyed by their talons or tentacles. As a result, most merchant ships that dared venture into the deep sea were armed with harpoons or ballistae.
The squall that had fallen upon the ‘Agatha’ began to recede just as quickly as it had arrived. The waves remained rough and tumbling, but the howling wind and rains were moving quickly southwards towards the continent of Delfinnia, now a brown smudge on the distant horizon.
With the storm quickly passing overhead the Fell Beast was revealed in all its horror. Luxon clung to the guardrail and gasped. He’d read tales of the Fell Beasts that used Esperia’s oceans as their hunting grounds, but he’d never really believed them. The monster that was now stalking the ‘Agatha’ was larger than any creature he’d ever seen including the dragons. Ferran and his fellow Nightblade Welsly emerged from below deck. The specialist Fell Beast hunters ran over to the rail and helped Luxon back onto his unsteady feet.
“What is it?” Luxon asked unable to take his eyes off the beast pursuing the ship.
Captain Whitelaw hurled insults at his men as he ordered them to unfurl the sails. With the storm over it was now safe to use the mainsails once more. The sailors moved through the rigging with incredible skill and agility as they unhooked ropes and pulled pulleys. Within moments the mainsail was deployed. The huge piece of blue fabric unfurled and flapped before catching the wind. With a whoosh the sail deployed, and with a jolt the ‘Agatha’ surged forward, picking up speed.
“It’s a Leviathan,” Ferran said in awe. “There are Void Rifts deep beneath the waves just as there are rifts on the land. This is beyond any Nightblade’s skill to fight.”
Suddenly, a melody began to play, causing everyone to look at the deck. The bard Eripa stood there, her fingers playing expertly over the strings of her lute. Her blonde hair billowed in the breeze, and her long red bard’s cape whipped out behind her in the wind. She began to sing, her voice piercing the roar of the waves and the hearts of every man on board. It was a song of the storms and seas, one of a tempest’s passing. Her song was literally magical. Lightning still lit up the sky, and the rain still fell, but the intensity of the storm began to fade.
Eripa winked at Luxon and the Nightblades as she continued to play her tune. With the storm weakening, the Agatha was able to pick up speed. The monstrous beast was now in pursuit, the waves parting as its enormous bulk barreled through the water. The Agatha’s crew were shooting their weapons to try and scare the Beast off. Luxon watched as a harpoon struck the Leviathan only for it to spin wildly off its thick skin.
“I have an idea,” Luxon said as he rushed to the hatch and clambered down into the hold where they were billeted. Next to his wildly swinging hammock was a chest containing his valuables. He opened it and reached inside. His fingers tightened around a long wooden object; the dragon enchanted staff Dragasdol. A whimper caused him to look up. Cowering in the darkness of the hold was Alderlade. The boy king looked positively terrified. Luxon hurried over to him.
“Are you ok sire?” he asked. The words still felt strange to him knowing that the boy and ruler of Delfinnia was, in fact, his half-brother. Kneeling next to the bleary-eyed lad, he took his hand in his own.
“It’ll be over soon. Stay down here and keep your head down,” he said. He looked over his shoulder to see Sophia stagger over to them. The Witch hunter looked wretched; the sea had not been kind to her stomach.
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” she said weakly.
Luxon nodded and picked up his staff. He ran back to the ladder and looked at them both.
“Stay strong,” he added before climbing back to the deck.
Eripa was still singing, her voice somehow carrying loud and clear over the roar of the waves and Leviathan. The crew were growing increasingly desperate as they continued to shoot everything they had at the rapidly gaining Fell Beast. Luxon ran to the aft deck and raised Dragasdol high. He focused on the fading storm. With a deafening crack of thunder, lightning split the sky and struck the tip of the staff. The hairs on his body stood on end as Dragasdol absorbed the power of the bolt. Electricity crackled and fizzed about him until with a shout he thrust the staff towards the approaching monster. Blinding white-hot power lanced out from Dragasdol striking the Leviathan. Electricity mixed with seawater, vapourising the tough outer skin of the creature. The beast roared in pain, but still, it came.
“Shoot everything you’ve got!” Luxon commanded the crew.
A volley of arrows and harpoons were loosed, and this time the deadly projectiles hit their mark. With its thick hide burnt away by the lightning, its soft under tissue was exposed, and the harpoons punched deep. Luxon ran to the ship’s aft and watched in awe as the massive creature reeled back in agony. The Nightblades dashed to the rail and together pulled their banishing vials from the pouches on their belts.
“We could use a boost here Luxon,” Ferran shouted as he arched his arm back ready to throw the vial. Luxon nodded and focused.
“Now!” he shouted.
Ferran and Welsly hurled the vials as hard as they could. Just as they reached their zenith, Luxon pushed with telekinesis to send the vials soaring through the air where they shattered against the writhing Leviathan. Instantly a blinding light flashed into existence as two portals to the Void ripped open. An unnatural wind began to blow, threatening to pull the ship and its crew towards the tear. Vast amounts of seawater were sucked into the powerful vortex, including the Leviathan. At first, it seemed like the massive creature would escape the pull of the magical portal, but the wounds inflicted upon it by the Agatha’s crew took their toll, and soon its strength faded. With a last roar, the Leviathan disappeared into the portal with a flash. With its purpose fulfilled the portal collapsed in on itself to leave tumultuous waves in its wake.
The Agatha lurched forward once more as the pull of the void rift disappeared, and Eripa’s strange song continued to calm the sea. The crew cheered and let out laughs of disbelief at surviving their encounter with a beast of the Void and the storm. Luxon couldn’t help but laugh with them. Whitelaw clapped him on the shoulder and cackled before pacing down the deck to inspect the ship.
“I can’t believe it. A Leviathan! I’d read about them in the old tomes from Caldaria’s library but never in a million years did I expect to ever set eyes on one,” Welsly was saying to Ferran in excited tones as the two Nightblades walked towards the aft. In the days of the world-spanning Golden Empire, Nightblades had been common on the high seas, but after the Empire’s collapse and the subsequent decline in global trade, ships travelling from one continent to another became rarer and rarer until now, millennia later, the other lands were nothing more than a myth.
“It doesn’t bode well that we encountered one so soon into the voyage. We’ve been at sea for what, a week? If the maps Thanos recovered from Caldaria’s archive are correct then we have a long way to go until we reach Tulis,” Ferran said with his arms crossed.
Luxon looked to the horizon, not to the west where they were sailing, but back towards Delfinnia and the friends they had left behind. Dark clouds swirled in the far distance; he hoped they were not an ominous sign.
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