The Knife’s Edge (The Ronin Saga #1)
written by Matthew Wolf
published by Matthew Wolf
About the book: When legends come to life the world trembles from a single name. Ronin. Once-heroes from a different age, they wield elemental powers… wind, water, fire, stone, forest, sun, moon, flesh, and metal.
Gray awoke with a strange, but familiar sensation.
It was like many mornings, but this time he felt the pressure of eyes on him so heavy it ripped him awake, tearing him from a pleasant dream. Normally the sensation was reassuring like being tucked inside a blanket, almost as if he were being watched over. But today the blanket no longer felt sheltering, but suffocating. He tried to shift his mind from it.
He looked around the dawn-lit chamber, reassuring himself with the familiar image. His room was small and simply furnished. Each piece of furniture was a rich brown, burnished from time and carved from Silveroots, the long-standing monarchs of the Lost Woods. His bed was tucked against the wall farthest from the door. Beside his bed was a small stand, his creation. A heavy bookcase lined the wall opposite. It was filled with tomes of Mura’s, most of which Gray had already read. His favorite book sat on his bedside stand, the pages heavily worn. He glanced to its leather cover, eyeing the gold lettering: Tales of the Ronin.
He sat up, letting the covers tumble, and then groaned in pain, noticing the welts on his body like purple snakes—outlines from Mura’s training staff. Suddenly, the door to his room burst open.
Mura stood in the doorway, garbed in forest hues, with soft leather boots suitable for stealth. A grimace lined his weathered face. “Still in bed?” In his right hand, Mura gripped a polished quarterstaff.
“Still? What are you talking about? The sun’s barely up.”
Mura grunted. “Barely and is are not barely different.”
“What? I don’t even think you know what that means,” Gray grumbled. “You should know better. Wine ought to be drunk at night Mura.”
“It means if you don’t get out of bed now, I’m going to take that bed out from beneath you, and your feistiness with it.” Mura thumped his staff on the floor for emphasis.
“All right, hold on,” he slowly pushed back the covers and—
In his periphery, he saw Mura heft his staff. Not good. He scrambled out of bed landing in a crouch balanced on the balls of his feet. His blood pumped and his covers were haphazardly draped across his half-naked body.
“I see you can move when you need to.”
“Now that you got me up, mind helping me out? Toss me those,” he said, pointing to the pair of britches next to Mura who glanced down, grimace deepening, then wordlessly used his staff and tossed the pants.
Gray snagged them from the air, and sat back on the bed slipping them on. Soft and worn, though fitted enough for hunting or stealth, his pants were one of the few articles that remained from his past, along with his much-treasured worn gray cloak. It hung from a hook upon the wall. He eyed its emblem of twin-crossed swords and wondered again, guessing at their significance. He often conjured stories about the mysterious insignia, imagining faraway lands.
The thought reminded him of the other item of his past. He pointedly avoided looking to the cubbyhole behind the bookcase, not wanting to attract Mura’s keen eye. He had not touched the blade for two years, but he still felt it. Its casing of cloth did nothing to dampen the fear that turned his stomach when thinking about it. It pulled at him, even now, like a moth to a flame.
“More training today?” he questioned.
Mura grumbled. “I’m not sure how to answer you when you ask foolish questions. Of course we train today. Now finish dressing,” then the hermit paused, revealing a devious smile. “Oh, and bring your sword. I want to see it now.”
The door shut behind him.
For two years, the man had known all along. Gray dove towards the bookcase and hauled it away from the wall. There sat an unassuming bundle of white cloth. It was more than twice the length of his forearm. He carefully examined the bundle’s surface. There it was. A single strand of his brown hair rested on the white fabric. It was just as he’d left it long ago, as if not a day had gone by.
“Tricky old man,” he muttered, running a hand through his hair. Grabbing the bundle, he unwrapped the sword. The bright steel glinted, dangerous and beautiful. Dried blood, a blackish red, caked its keen edge—just as the day he found it. Its silver hue glowed beneath the blood
His grip tightened, loathing the blade. With water from the washbasin, he scrubbed the blade with his bare hands, turning the bowl a dark scarlet, then inspected it under the light of the window. It gleamed as if brand new. He quickly wrapped the sword, running out of the hut.
An early morning fog was fading, unveiling the clearing. The hut sat in the center of a glade, surrounded by the dense Lost Woods. Mura stood near an old stump used for chopping firewood, where a stubborn piece of oak sat which Gray had been unable to hew.
Wordlessly, he handed the blade to Mura. The hermit assessed the blade, scrutinizing it with a careful eye. If Mura knew the origin of the blade, he might uncover more of his past. “Does it look familiar?” he asked.
Mura’s peppered hair swayed. “I’m afraid not. Where’d you get it, boy?”
Such a simple question, but when Gray reached into his mind to answer, he saw nothing of his past. As if it was shut behind a door that he didn’t have the key to. “I don’t know,” he replied.
Running a finger along the blade’s edge, Mura shrugged. “Your past is your own, lad. I’ve never asked, and I never will.”
Gray gripped the hermit’s arm, stopping him before he continued, “I wish I knew. I have nothing to hide from you, but I simply can’t remember. My last memory is holding the blade when I entered the woods. Other than that…”
Mura rubbed his jaw. “Sometimes things are forgotten for a reason. Now put your sword away. We won’t need it today.”
“I doubt it’s much good anyway,” Gray agreed.
Mura twisted and the blade arced faster than light. It cleaved the stubborn hunk of firewood, slicing like molten iron through paper. The two halves tumbled to the forest floor. “It can cut well enough, but this is a weapon of death, and it has seen much blood. I’m afraid it would not suit for our practice today.”
Gray tried to hide his surprise. “Then we’ll train with staffs?”
Mura winked, handing back his sword, disappearing into the hut. He came back with two strange looking blades, constructed from light wood. Mura handed him a blade. “Today I want to test your skill and limits with a sword. These are made of yen boughs, so they should only smart a bit. It won’t do to be slicing each other to ribbons just yet.” Mura turned, walking away.
“Wait, where are you going?” he asked. “Aren’t we sparring here?”
Mura looked back with a wink. “I have something else in mind. Today, we’ll train like never before.”
About the author: Matthew Wolf is the author of the Ronin Saga. Or maybe he’s a Ronin. Either way, he’s involved somehow. Aside from epic fantasy, he enjoys woodcrafting, outdoors, a bit of a health nut (Kale is good!), and trains in Kung Fu.
His childhood of traveling the world and studying Old English and Japanese influenced the schemes of the Saga, and the world of Daerval. He is a graduate from UCSB with a Literature degree with a specialization in Medieval Literature and Japanese.
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April 3, 2014
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