Visions of a Hidden, a new short story based on The Ronin Saga world is on the way...
It takes place with Rydel, Hadrian and Dryan as young boys learning the arts, training, fighting skills needed to become the most deadly warrior in Farhaven. After years of dedication and tireless conditioning bordering on torture, Rydel has nearly obtained the coveted title of "Hidden". Alas, beautiful elves, elite fighters, and even dragons can get in the way...
Here's a sneak peak of the opening, and I can't wait for you to read more. It is going to be amazing:
Visions of a Hidden
The three elf boys sat silently, nervously. They were uncertain why they had been chosen, only that they had. They were young, especially for elves, each having only seen the fifth spring. The eldest of these three was a long brown-haired boy with hard eyes named Rydel. He knew that the tall elf before them was someone to be feared.
On the big elf’s back was a grand-looking cloak that brushed the floor. As Rydel looked at the cloak, his eyes strangely hurt. The big elf shifted subtly and as he did the cloak shimmered, blending with its surroundings as he moved. Rydel was in awe, but the cloak paled before what really drew his eyes.
A sword like out of the stories…
The big elf stood with one hand on a green-handled blade at his waist, talking with another older elf with a white beard. Much older, he wore white robes with green embroidered vines and leaves. Rydel had seen clothes like that before when his mother had pointed to the king and queen as they’d strode through the dappled lit forest.
The two elves were whispering now, but their words were loud enough to be heard to Rydel’s keen ears. Perhaps they didn’t know or didn’t care, but he listened as the hardened, younger-looking one asked, “King Gias wishes this? You’re certain?” The elf wasn’t just tall. He was big. Rydel had seen strong elves like the Terma, but this man’s simple green clothing didn’t hide his bulging arms and thick neck. He must’ve been the biggest elf Rydel had ever seen. Middling in years for an elf, perhaps Rydel’s father’s age, but the tough look on his face made him look much older still. Rydel had never seen anyone look so mean before. He towered over them and cast occasional unsettling glances at the three boys who sat on their knees in the green glade, trembling. On Rydel’s right, the little black haired boy sniffled, as if holding back tears; while the blonde-haired boy to his left held a distant wide-eyed gaze, as if he was imagining he was someplace else far from here.
“From his mouth to my ears,” said the old elf dutifully. “It is the King’s own wish.”
The big elf growled in frustration. “Why now? Why bring back the old ways now? We are at peace. Fractured and divided from the other Great Kingdoms, but at peace. What is he preparing for?”
The old elf shook his head, fine, straight white beard swaying. “I can’t say, but King Gias is not one to frighten easily. You know this above all others, Trinaden.” Trinaden… was that the big elf’s name?
King Gias. Rydel knew that name too. Lord of all the elves and ruler of the Great Kingdom of Leaf. King Gias ordered this? Rydel’s mother hadn’t been able to tell him anything. She had just said she loved him very much and to trust that, and listen to the old elf. That was yesterday. Shortly after, the old one had come and collected him, tears in his mother’s eyes as she had watched him leave. They had walked in silence for what felt like ages, until they reached the green glade and the mean-looking mister Trinaden. The other two boys had been waiting when he had arrived.
“You know more than you’re saying, Lorsan,” growled the mean-looking elf.
The old elf, named Lorsan, sighed. “If I had to guess, the King sees something on the horizon we cannot. These boys will be needed one day. Either way, they are yours now,” Lorsan said gravely, nodding his head to Rydel and the other two at his side. “Their provisions will be cared for. Their training and all else is yours to oversee.”
Trinaden grunted at last. “So be it. I will do what I can. But when I’m done with them, they won’t be boys. They might not even be elves.”
The way he said it frightened Rydel. Might… not even be elves? What did he mean?
The big elf had a haunted look on his face, then it passed and only a hard craggy exterior remained. When the old elf left, the tall elf turned to them, silent for a long moment. Rydel watched the sword with keen interest. He couldn’t stop staring at it. It had a strange emerald handle and a green glow emanated from within the sheath. Then Rydel spotted the elf’s gnarled hands. They had thick calluses and many tiny white scars. The big elf spoke in a voice like thunder and gravel, “My name is Trinaden dal’ Melowyn, but you will call me Master.”
The two boys at Rydel’s side gave slow nods.
Trinaden unsheathed his blade in a rush, pointing to them. His expression was cold and calculated, lacking hatred or remorse. “Words have power. I would have you say it now.”
“Master,” the two boys echoed in trembling voices.
Rydel felt their fear, saw their wide terrified eyes in the corner of his vision. He knew he should be scared too. He knew that this elf was death—that that blade was something the likes he’d never seen before. Not from the Mela, not even the Terma, the supposedly strongest of all Elvin warriors and guards to the King himself. Trinaden was different still. But instead, Rydel could only stare at the blade before him. The weapon hovered before his eyes, a glistening point of steel with a green hue, drawing him in.
“You like the blade, boy?” Trina—Master asked.
Rydel could only nod.
“You’ve a fine eye for steel, if that is what it even is borne of, though I doubt it very much. It’s a leafblade, an ancient relic belonging to warriors from a time long before you were born.” Rydel didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded special. “Your name, what is it?”
“Ry-rydel,” Rydel stuttered. Without warning, the blade sliced and a small bloody pain stung Rydel on the cheek. Fingers unconsciously reached up and felt the split skin and pooling warm blood. Anger and fear flashed inside him. Trinaden’s expression hadn’t altered a single hair. It remained cold, mean, uncaring, and… expectant. Rydel realized his mistake. “Master,” Rydel added quickly.
Master Trinaden inclined his head, slightly, and sheathed the leafblade. “Understand this,” the big elf announced. “Your parents gave you up. Your brothers, sister, friends—you have none. I am your family, and I am not your family. You are mine now to do as I will, to craft and mold to one purpose. To wield this,” he lifted the green-hued sword, “and become a leafbearer. Once you have passed your training you will bear the leafblade, and become something more, something none have in a thousand years.”
“Leafbearer… Master?” The little boy to Rydel’s left asked in a shaky voice. He was a blonde-haired elf and the youngest of the three. His long pointed ears poked out from his long hair and he had inquisitive emerald eyes and a small, nervous smile. “What are leafbearers?”
“Royal warriors to the Ronin themselves, though some called them the Hidden. The most powerful and revered warriors in all Farhaven. You will become that weapon. If you do not listen as I say, you will be cast out. It will not be easy. You will hurt. You will make pain your friend. I will not lie to you. Even if you do as I say, you may die,” he said and let it sink in and Rydel realized his body was shivering of its own accord. “But,” the big elf said with a slim smile—the first and last it looked like he’d ever make, “you will be something the likes of which the world has not seen for many an age.”
“What must we do?” Rydel asked. The others looked to him, surprised. His mother had said to trust that old elf, Lorsan, and Lorsan had put his faith in Trinaden. Rydel would do whatever it took to see his mother again.
“So eager already, young elf?” Master Trinaden asked, then obliged his head. “The task is simple, but far from easy: withstand my tutelage, speak the oaths, and finally survive the Trial of the Forest. Then and only then will you receive your blades and have the honor of being called a Hidden, a Leafbearer."
Rydel swallowed and heard the others do the same.
“Now, names,” Master Trinaden ordered and pointed to the small towheaded boy at Rydel’s side.
“Hadrian,” the blonde boy answered timidly.
The long raven-haired boy and the middle in age replied, “Dryan.” He had little scrolls like curling vines under his bright blue eyes, a rare but not unheard of birthmark for elves. His voice to had a keener, higher edge to it, and his face looked like one made for mischief--more sharply angled eyes that flitted about nervously.
Master grunted. “Good.”
Master then showed them to their rooms. They were cramped quarters with three beds huddled against the far wall. There was nothing else. No decorations aside from a single window that peered into the verdant, glowing green woods of Eldas, the city of leaf. “This is where you will stay,” Master Trinaden announced.
All three stared at the tiny cots and Master Trinaden answered their unasked question, “You will learn to live sparsely. You are hiddens-in-training, not boys, and you’ll have no need of toys or material possessions. Your bodies, your very souls now belong to a higher calling—in light of this, worldly items are meaningless.” He let the words sink in, then announced, “In the morning we begin. Be ready.” Without another word, he shut the door with a bang making the three boys jump.
Unsure of what else to do, Rydel began to silently unpack his meager belongings. The others did the same when the little boy with black hair began to cry. His sobs and little sniffles continued as he half-heartedly laid his clothes in a stack beside his small cot.
Rydel didn’t know what to say, he wanted comfort himself so he just stood frozen. Hadrian left his bedside and put his arm around Dryan’s shoulders. Rydel watched them. Tears stained their faces and they wore fearful expressions. “Do you think he’s… do you think it’s true?” Hadrian asked Rydel. “Our family, our friends… they’re gone?”
Rydel could only nod.
“Why? Why us?” Hadrian asked.
“I wanna go home,” the little boy with black-hair said in a sniffly whine.
Rydel turned away, anger, fear and uncertainty swirling inside him when he felt something in his pack—it was the small stone his mother had given him. They weren’t allowed to bring anything aside from clothes, but he’d hidden it and now he tucked it under his pillow, and turned back to the other two. They’re afraid, and so am I, but… Be brave, his mother had told him. As the oldest, this was his duty. It sounded like something his father would say.
His father had barely spoken to him, but when he had, he’d demanded Rydel to be strong, to overcome his fear. While his mother had demanded him to care. Rydel chose to envision his mother’s face and drew a deep breath, summoning his courage. He placed his hands on their shoulders. The two boys looked up at him with big, watery eyes and he smiled as wide as he could, though he was certain they could see how scared he was too. Mustering his voice, Rydel declared, “He was wrong. This is our home. We are brothers now and we will protect each other. I won’t let anything happen to you two.” Hadrian smiled and Dryan nodded. “I promise.” And he meant it.