i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.



EDGE OF THE WORLD sample chapter

Published May 22, 2010 in Terra Incognita - 1 Comment

The first Terra Incognita volume, The Edge of the World, was just released in paperback.  I’ve posted the first chapter below for those of you who would like to check it out.  The second novel in the trilogy, The Map of All Things, comes out in a few weeks.  (And I’ve written the third book, The Key to Creation, and currently editing the manuscript.  The novel will come out in summer 2011.)

“When you reach the edge of the world, you can fly.”

—The Book of Aiden



These foreign seas looked much the same as the waters of home, but Criston Vora knew the lands were different, the people were different, and their religion was contrary to everything he had been taught in the Aidenist kirk.  For a twenty-year-old sailor eager to see the world, those differences could be either wondrous or frightening — he wouldn’t know which until he met the people of Uraba, which he was about to do.

The Fishhook had made this voyage several times, and Criston’s captain, Andon Shay, was confident in his abilities to negotiate another trade deal with the Uraban merchants.  The young man kept his eyes open and studied the unfolding coastline as the ship sailed far, far south of everything he had known.

From his fishing village of Windcatch, he had always felt the call of the sea, wanting to see what lay beyond the horizon, yearning to explore.  Though he had signed on for only a short trading voyage, at least he was seeing the other continent: Uraba.  A place of legends and mystery.

Though connected by a narrow isthmus, the world’s two main continents, Uraba and Tierra, were separated by a wide gulf of history and culture.  Ages ago, at the beginning of time, when Ondun — God — had sent two of his sons in separate sailing ships to explore the world, the descendents of Aiden’s crew had settled Tierra, while those from Urec’s vessel colonized Uraba.  Over the centuries, the followers of Aiden and the followers of Urec developed separate civilizations, religions and traditions; despite their differences, they were bound together by ties of trade and necessity.

On a bright sunny day with a brisk breeze, Captain Shay called for the sails to be trimmed for a gentle approach to the city of Ouroussa, where they hoped to find eager customers.  The hold of the Fishhook contained barrels of whale oil from Soeland Reach, large spools of hemp rope from Erietta, grain from Alamont, and, in a special locked chest in the captain’s cabin, beautiful metal-worked jewelry made by the skilled smiths of Corag Reach.  Though the bangles and ornaments would be sold to the followers of Urec, the Corag metalworkers subtly hid a tiny Aidenist fishhook on each piece of jewelry.

Captain Shay would sell his cargo at prices greatly reduced from what the other Uraban merchants and middlemen could offer.  With fast vessels, intrepid Tierran sailors braved the uncharted currents and sailed directly to Uraba’s coastal cities, bypassing the much slower overland merchants (much to their consternation).

Near the ship’s wheel, Criston paused to look at the two compasses mounted on a sheltered pedestal, a traditional magnetic compass that always pointed north and a magical Captain’s Compass that always pointed home.  The silver needle of the Captain’s Compass came from the same piece of precious metal as an identical needle in the Tierran capital city of Calay.  These twinned needles remained linked to each other by sympathetic magic, as all things in Ondun’s creation were said to be linked.

Now, as the Fishhook closed in on Ouroussa, the crew saw a flurry of activity in the distant harbor; a ship with a bright red sail set out to meet them, sailing toward the open water.  Captain Shay gestured to Criston.  “Go aloft and have a look, Mr. Vora.”  Shay’s dark hair ran to his shoulders, and instead of wearing a full bushy beard like most ship captains, he kept his neatly trimmed.

Nimble and unafraid of heights, the young man scrambled up the shroud lines to reach the lookout nest.  During the voyage, Criston had enjoyed spending time high atop the main mast overlooking the waters; he had even seen several fearsome-looking sea serpents, but only at a distance.

As the Uraban ship approached, Criston noted its central painted icon on its square mainsail, the Eye of Urec.  He spied additional movement in the harbor, where two fast Uraban galleys launched, their oars extended, beating across the water at a good clip.  They spread apart, approaching the Fishhook from opposite directions.

Criston scrambled back down the lines and reported what he had seen to Captain Shay.  “I couldn’t see many crewmen aboard the main ship, Captain.  Maybe they just want to escort us into port.”

“Never needed an escort before.”  Shay snapped orders to his crew, and all twenty-eight men came out on deck to stand ready.  “Once they know what we’re offering, they’ll welcome us with open arms, but don’t let your guard down.”  He turned back to the young sailor.  “This could be a very interesting first voyage for you, Mr. Vora.”

“It’s not my first voyage, sir.  I’ve spent most of my life on boats.”

“It’s your first voyage with me, and that’s what counts.”

Criston’s father, a fisherman, had been lost at sea, and Criston himself had served aboard many boats, working the local catch, but dreaming of more ambitious voyages.  Though young, Criston owned his own small boat for carrying cargo up to the Tierran capital of Calay, but the prospect of paying off the moneylenders seemed daunting.  So, when the Fishhook had passed through Windcatch on her way south, and Captain Shay asked for short-term sailors to accompany him on a two-month trip to Ouroussa, offering wages higher than he could make on his own boat, Criston had jumped at the chance.

Not only would it help him pay off the debt, but it would give Criston a chance to see far-off lands.  And when he returned to Windcatch with his purse full of coins, he would finally be able to marry Adrea, whom he had loved for years.  Once the Fishhook unloaded her cargo in Ouroussa, Criston could be on his way home. . . .

As the scarlet-sailed Uraban ship closed to within hailing distance, he spotted a man standing near the bow dressed in loose cream-colored robes, his head wrapped in a pale olba.  Only five crewmen stood with the man on the foreign vessel’s deck.  The robed man shouted across to them in heavily accented Tierran.  “I am Fillok, Ouroussa’s city leader.  What goods have you brought us?”

Shay lowered his voice to Criston.  “Fillok . . . I know that name.  I think he’s the brother of the soldan of Outer Wahilir, an important man.  Why would he come to meet us?”  He frowned in consternation.  “Men who consider themselves important sometimes do brash things, and it’s rarely a good sign.”  The captain raised his voice and called back across the water.  “We are on our way to port.  I can give your harbormaster a full list.”

“It is my right to inspect your cargo here and now!  How do we know your boat is not filled with soldiers to attack Ouroussa?”

“Why would we do that?”  Shay asked, genuinely perplexed.

If Fillok did not change course, his ship would collide with the Fishhook within minutes.  Criston eyed the two swift war galleys coming toward them from both port and starboard.  “This doesn’t feel right, Captain.  I’m going to have another look.”  He slipped away and scrambled back up the ropes to the lookout nest.

Tierran traders often made great profit from selling to Uraban cities, but many vessels vanished, more than could reasonably be accounted for by storms and reefs.  If Fillok were an ambitious and unprincipled man, he could have attacked those traders and seized their cargoes.  No one in Tierra would know.

When Criston reached the lookout nest and peered down at the foreign ship, he was astonished to see far more than just the five Uraban sailors standing at the ropes.  At least a dozen armed men crouched out of sight behind crates and sailcloth on the deck; the hatches were open, and even more Uraban men crowded below, holding bright scimitars.  Criston cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled at the top of his lungs.  “Captain, it’s a trap!  The ship is full of armed men!”

Shay shouted to his crew.  “Set sails!  All canvas, take the wind now!”  Already on edge, the men jumped to untie knots, pull ropes, and drop sails abruptly into place.

Criston’s warning forced Fillok into abrupt action.  The Ouroussan city leader screamed something in his own language, and hidden men burst into view, lifting their swords.  Shrill trumpets sounded a call to battle.  Ropes with grappling hooks flew across the narrow gap between the two ships; several fell into the water, but three caught the Fishhook’s deck rail.  Answering horns and drumbeats came from the two closing war galleys, and the rowers picked up their pace.

Shay reached down to grab a long harpoon stowed just below the starboard bow of the Fishhook.  The Tierran men armed themselves with boat-hooks, oars, and stunning clubs.  Criston clambered back down to the deck, ready to join the fight.  He held a long boat-knife to defend himself, though its reach was much shorter than that of a Uraban scimitar.

Criston ran to the straining ropes that bound the ships together, just as five Urabans jumped across the gap with an eerie inhuman howl.  Ducking a wide swing of a Uraban sword, he sawed at the first rope until it snapped and immediately set to work on the second one.

The Fishhook’s sails were fully extended now, giving her a much greater canvas area than Fillok’s small Uraban ship.  The ropes creaked as the Tierran vessel tried to break away.  One of the Tierran sailors went down, bleeding from a deep gash in his head.

Ignoring the mayhem around him, Captain Shay cocked his arm back and let the long harpoon fly toward the other ship — where its sharp iron tip plunged directly through Fillok’s chest.  The Ouroussan city leader staggered backward, grabbing the harpoon’s shaft in astonishment, before he collapsed into a pool of blood on his own deck.

The Uraban attackers gasped, then howled in rage upon seeing their leader killed.  They piled against each other, preparing to leap across and slaughter the Tierrans.  Racing in from shore, the two war galleys closed in a pincer maneuver.

Criston sawed with his knife until he severed the third grappling rope, and like a freed stallion, the Fishhook lunged free, separating from the Uraban ship as many of the enemy fighters leaped across.  A dozen men tumbled into the deep water, and only two managed to cling to the side of the Fishhook, clutching nets and an anchor rope.  Leaning over the rail, Criston lopped off fingers with a knife slash, and the screaming men slid into the water.

Though he was white as a sheet, Captain Shay’s voice did not waver as he shouted.  “All speed — head north!  Out to open sea!”  The Fishhook began to pull away.

Only three enemy soldiers remained on the deck.  Captain Shay’s crew quickly dispatched them and dumped the bodies overboard.

With Fillok killed — the brother of the local soldan! — the remaining Uraban sailors were in a frenzy aboard his ship.  The drums of the approaching war galleys beat furiously, but the Fishhook’s sails pushed the cargo ship faster.  The coastline began to dwindle in the distance, but Criston knew the uproar would not die down.  “Captain, what just happened?  Why did they do that?  We only came to trade.”

“They wanted our cargo, and now they’ll want our hides as well.”  Shay looked sick.  “Fillok’s brother will go to Soldan-Shah Imir and demand blood.  I suppose the blood of any Tierran will do.  We have to get to King Korastine as quickly as possible.”  He gave the young sailor a weary smile as he turned the wheel and aligned the course with the Captain’s Compass.  “When we pass Windcatch, I can drop you off, Mr. Vora.  But for the rest of us . . .”  He shook his head, still frowning.  “I think we just started a war.”

Nasir Nasty - April 18, 2011

Kevin J. Anderson, I enjoy the writings and other works from you. Good work Kevin!

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