A sneak peek at the first chapter of my Epic Fantasy book. I’m querying literary agents, so if you know of someone interested in representing my writing, contact me on my website www.alexisveenendaal.com
The gods’ damned storm came out of nowhere, a black mark on the horizon heading straight for them — against the wind. They had minutes if they were lucky.
He said we’d get through. Ros stood at the helm, frowning as she read the distant clouds. Through, as in… Right. She took a fortifying breath, tied back her dark curls, and shouted, “Strike the sails!”
The Errant Pride’s crew leaned over the rail, but at her command, they broke from their muttering and ran to follow the captain’s orders.
Ros had been expecting this. Well, not this, per se. But some kind of shit storm. It wasn’t natural, which meant they couldn’t outrun it — not so long as they kept to their course. But she didn’t have a choice. They had to get to that land.
Ros’s hand dropped to her hip by instinct. She’d left her swords in her cabin. Right, because swords are helpful in the middle of the ocean. Still, their absence nagged at her.
In the distance, the first preternatural bolt of lightning whipped over the dark clouds. A second later, the ship’s sails billowed under the first buffeting breaths. The crew wrestled the ropes, taming them before the canvas could tear.
“Where in the hells did that thing come from?” her first mate, Ardon, swore as he came up the stairs.
“I think ‘the hells’ isn’t far off.”
Ardon Sutori had tied his thick black hair back from the wind, but strands still cut across his shaved jaw. Ros had to crane her neck to look up at him as he approached, a familiar line of concern pressed between his brows.
“We’ll be fine,” Ros said, the wind stealing the words. “She can take it,” she added louder.
Ardon grimaced. “I’m not so sure about that. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
She and Ardon had spent more than half their lives sailing Karrun’s coastlines. Storms at sea had telltale signs — until this one. But they were far from home, navigating unchartered waters. Unusual was the least they could expect.
Kyrie Jaimins, her golden braid whipping in the wind, ran up the deck and shouted, “Captain! I don’t know how we missed it. Emiel says it’s dark magic.”
“Emiel’s been reading too many of Ardon’s books.” Ros quirked a self-indulgent smile in Ardon’s direction. Ardon rolled his eyes on cue. “No; there were signs. We just missed them.”
Until recently, Ros hadn’t believed in magic at all. Most sensible people didn’t. But now… It was hard to ignore.
“As you say, Captain,” Kyrie said with a doubtful expression.
Ros scanned the familiar lines of The Errant Pride; she wasn’t just a ship anymore. After a year on her maiden voyage with Ros at the helm, she was home. Ros’s crew weren’t the first to attempt sailing across the Great Ocean, but they’d damned well be the first to survive if she had anything to say about it. You’d better come through for me now, she thought grimly. She looked back at Kyrie. “We’ll have to bear through it, Jaimins. Take Dietric and Colm to secure everything below decks.”
Ros turned back to Ardon as Kyrie went off with her orders.
Looking at the storm now, Ros knew there was no navigating through it, even with Ardon’s expert guidance as the ship’s navigator. They’d have to ride it out and hope Ros’s ongoing dreams weren’t a figment of her drug-induced mind. He made a rutting promise. We’ll make it through.
Ros read Ardon’s thoughts in his expression: he knew what she planned. He also knew what she’d say, but she lowered her voice and said it anyway, “We’ll have to go through. There’s no outrunning it now.”
“Those clouds aren’t natural. Whatever this is — magic or not — it isn’t right.” They both looked at the approaching clouds churning like a pit of poisonous snakes. Ardon sighed at her immovable expression. “The ship won’t take it. Why not delay a few days? Try going around. We could bring up the sails — pull her out. There’s still time.”
Ros’s abdomen tightened. “It can’t wait.”
“We’re running low on rations.”
“A few days won’t kill us — but this storm might.”
She didn’t meet his gaze. “Ready the ship.”
Ardon’s hazel eyes probed her face for answers she couldn’t give. Not yet.
His puzzlement made her gut clench tighter. “We’ll get as close to land as we can. I’ll keep a skeleton crew up top.” Before he could protest, she added, “Take everyone else below decks.” They’ll be safer there.
He opened his mouth, then closed it, shaking his head. He wanted to ask her, she knew, but the loyalty that drove him aboard her ship a year ago was the same staying his tongue now. Were she not so used to this feeling, she might’ve grabbed him by the shirt and demanded: Why do you still trust me? Why are you here, Ardon? Why did you forgive me for leaving?
She clutched her hands on the rail and looked out, taking one last, long breath. “Trust me. Just a little longer.” The lightning cracked and popped like knuckles loosening before a fight. They were so close, now. She eyed her friend with desperate hope. “Can you do that?”
“I always do.” He answered so softly she almost didn’t catch it over the building storm. Only a few more minutes to share, just the two of them. A split of lightning blazed across his pupils. “I guess all that’s left is to pray we make it out alive.”
“Prayer is for the desperate,” Ros said, amusement tugging at her lips. A game they’d played since the orphanage.
“‘The Nine Gods mark the wisdom of believers, and cast a light upon their path.’”
“Please don’t quote the Nine Points to me,” she pleaded. “I really need to be awake for this next part.”
Ardon made a face and was about to retort when the air shook, the thunder crawling ever closer. They were out of time. Ros squeezed Ardon’s hand. Forgive me, she thought, releasing him. “Prep the crew. Please. And Ardon—? Take care of them.”
Ardon offered another brief smile — a promise they’d always shared and had never needed to speak aloud. “Aye, Captain.” The title still made her grin despite everything. He stepped away, calling to the crew over the noise. “All hands ready! Brace for the storm!”
Ros watched their reactions. A sane captain would direct them away from the storm, as Ardon had suggested, leaving land for another day. But she knew they couldn’t avoid it. No matter how many days they rerouted, the storm would come. They could sail tomorrow, or in a week’s time, and the result would be the same. So long as her father kept his end, they’d get through.
“Tie everything down!” Ardon cried as the first fat raindrops splattered over the deck. “We sail for rough waters!”
Ros steeled herself for dissent, but it didn’t come. It was that inkling of power — that influence that wasn’t quite hers but spurred them to fall in line as they always did, racing to their tasks and shouting over the wind.
The storm overtook them like the great maw of a beast, devouring them in chaotic waves and wind that obscured the horizon, or any notion of direction. Night fell early, casting Ros’s ship into a quaking nightmare. The few sailors remaining above had each fastened themselves with a short tether — as she had — to avoid the storm sweeping them overboard. The rest, thank the nonexistent gods, sat secured below and saved from this sight.
A wave swelled up as if in slow motion, sucking The Errant Pride into its inexorable grasp. Ros’s stomach rose with her ship. They crested the massive wave and hovered – frozen on the edge for a split second – before the ship nose-dived headlong into blackness.
She couldn’t help but think, for half a heartbeat, that this was the end.
But they tore free of their icy plunge, the wrestling waves doing their best to sweep the teetering ship into oblivion as it bandied for balance.
The storm battered The Errant Pride from all sides. Ros clutched the wheel with white-knuckled hands as her feet slipped on the slick deck. Another crack tore through the air, leaving a shuddering ghost of timber and rigging behind her eyes. The air tasted of metal.
The night wore on. Once or twice, between the waves, the darkness, and the consuming black sky, Ros swore she saw a flash of green. But then, just as fast, she blinked and realised she’d imagined it. All the while, she cried out through chattering teeth: “Where are you?”
She was wrong. He wasn’t coming. She’d committed her friends to a death sentence. Ardon. De’Car. They were all going to die, because of her. I’m a monster. I’m deluded. I’ve killed them all. It was all should could do not to tear through her rope and cast herself into the sea – sacrifice herself and maybe the rest would live. Maybe that’s what he’d intended all along.
Maybe none of it was real.
Crack! The mast snapped and flew off into the foaming waves, tearing canvas, rope, and one body from the deck. Through the haze, Ros couldn’t see who’d fallen, but she heard a woman scream.
The next behemoth wave came like a great wall; it vibrated low and deep in Ros’s chest. This is it. She found herself reaching for something — a glimmer, too far away.
Ros knew before the storm dragged them in that The Errant Pride had endured all she could. In that final dive, as they hit solid water, the deck splintered. Ros’s fingers slipped from the wheel as she lurched back, pulled by the rope at her waist. She felt more than she heard something pop.
The rope snapped and she flew back into nothingness.
The cold ocean hit like a carriage running at full speed, sending an icy shock through her body that expelled the breath from her lungs. She spun in the darkness and kicked. Up. Which way is up? Pieces of The Errant Pride streaked past, dragged by the tossing weight of the ocean. Her body burned for the air she’d forgotten above.
Something flashed in her periphery. She whirled. There! A faint shimmer of green light.
Before Ros could kick toward it, a dark shape fell past her vision – a chunk of the hull. She spun, but the light had vanished. She’d sunk too deep. Her head felt like it was being pressed between two irons. She shook it, trying to clear her wits.
Swim! But her body had stopped responding. I’m dying… I’m actually bloody dying. After everything. Her limbs felt numb.
Ardon was right. We shouldn’t have come.
Find me… The voice from her dreams had said. My light will guide you.
But the light was gone.
A glint of silver. Ros raised her sluggish hands and a sudden warmth flooded every limb. Her fingertips brushed against metal, and then — blinding green light exploded around her. She propelled upwards. Closer, closer. There! She could see the surface.
Something slammed into her, forcing out the last few bubbles.
About the book:
How’d you like to kill a god? What about someone powerful enough to think he can become one? It’s up to Ros, a sea captain with a ship full of secrets and a haunted past, to figure it out. TIDE OF SANDS is a 115k-word Epic Fantasy reminiscent of ‘GODKILLER’ by Hannah Kaner meets ‘THE SHADOW OF WHAT WAS LOST’ by James Islington. Ros and her crew shipwreck on a hidden continent – where a forbidden romance, a selfish father, and a friend’s betrayal force them on a winding pursuit to save magic.
About the author:
Alexis Veenendaal grew up in Canada, earning an English Literature from the University of Lethbridge. She lived in the Netherlands for three years and currently resides in Wales in the UK as a full-time writer and editor for an AI robotics automation company.