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A ronins honor, p.1
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       A Ronin's Honor, p.1

           TD Bauer
 
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A Ronin's Honor


  A Ronin's Honor

  A short story by: TD Bauer

  Published by: TD Bauer

  Copyright 2013 TD Bauer

  License Notes

  This ebook short story is licensed for your personal enjoyment. This ebook may be given away and shared with other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please feel free to do so with the author's blessing.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, incidents and events are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. Some of the locations described in the book actually exist, but are described from the characters’ points of view and do not necessarily represent the traditional perspective of such locales.

  Other Published Works by TD Bauer:

  A Whisper in the Dark

  (Tales of Katsume Shogoro, #2)

  Duel at Strolling Ponds

  A Ronin's Honor

  The Rising Moon was the first inn on the western edge of the small city-state of Iiso, and a bitter-sweet site to Katsume Shogoro. His journey to Iiso had begun several days ago, taking place in the peak of the summer dry season. The roads he'd been traveling had been hard packed dirt and dusty, the seasonal heat dry and exhausting.

  The mere sight of the inn helped ease the road weary tension from his aching body, but Shogoro couldn't help but feel an overbearing oppression of a task that was awaiting him to complete, a task that had burdened him emotionally for seventeen long years.

  A task that would set his life free, or end it with him dying in a warm pool of his own blood.

  At five foot nine Shogoro was slightly taller than the average man. He was a few years past thirty and had a lean build that was typical of a life spent on the road. His face was clean-shaven and his full head of blue-black hair was pulled back tight, oiled, and tied in a neat topknot. He had thick dark eyebrows, long sideburns, tight lips, and a slender nose. He was dressed in a brown kimono and hakama pants that were starting to show moderate wear from long use. Over his shoulder he carried a small pack of his personal items. At his left side he wore the two worn looking swords that distinguished him as samurai.

  A tall stone wall surrounded the outside of the inn. Stepping up to the front wooden gate Shogoro rang a small bell that hung from a post. After a short wait the gate opened from the inside. A young girl, amid many bows, bade him to enter with gestures but no words. Once inside the girl bowed again and then led him to a covered veranda at the front of the inn. The girl kneeled down and slid open a shoji door made of fine rice-paper that led into the inn. Shogoro bowed his head quickly with a short nod, as a common courtesy, before slipping off his sandals and stepping inside to an empty room.

  No sooner had the shoji door slid shut behind him than another shoji door on the opposite side of the unadorned room opened. In stepped a smallish man of late years with mostly gray hair. He bowed once very low, as was customary when dealing with a samurai. “Konban wa,” he greeted. “Can my inn be of service to you, honorable sir?”

  “Hai, I am Katsume Shogoro,” Shogoro again bowed his head curtly. “I would like a room.”

  The old innkeeper thought he had heard that name once before, but was not certain. “Will your stay be long, Shogoro-san?” He noticed by the samurai’s worn attire that he was probably not in the service to any of the local lords. More than likely he was a ronin, a masterless samurai, and not with enough funds to pay for the minimal services his inn offered.

  “I’m not sure. Let me know when this runs out,” Shogoro said, as he produced a coin from inside his kimono and handed it to the innkeeper.

  The innkeeper’s eyes lit up at the coin placed in his hand. It was gold, and would easily pay for a few weeks of room and board. Quickly he bowed low to hide his joy from the samurai. Advance payment for services from a samurai was rare. He certainly had misjudged the man before him. “Please come this way,” the old man said excitingly, stepping back through the open lathe door and onto another veranda.

  The inn was large, square, and its many rooms were located around a central garden with a small bamboo cha house located on a raised platform at the center. Tucked into the far corner there was a moderate sized bathhouse of similar design to the cha house. Narrow stone pathways wound their way through the garden amid a tranquil scene of finely manicured grass, shrubbery, and cherry trees, the later of which were at the end of their bloom and starting to drop their pink and tiny peddles. The innkeeper led Shogoro down the inside veranda to his room and slid the lathe door open followed by a bow.

  “Is this acceptable?” asked the innkeeper.

  “This will more than suffice,” Shogoro said, hardly giving the room more than a cursory look. “First I will take a bath. Then I would like a meal. And after that I will need someone to deliver a message for me.”

  Shogoro soaked for almost a half hour in the bath before climbing out. The warm water felt incredibly good and melted away the soreness in his muscles from his travels. More importantly it helped to clear his mind and prepare for the task he faced yet ahead.

  Clean undergarments, kimono, as well as a fresh hakama had been provided for him and waiting once he finished his bath. After dressing, Shogoro began to make his way back to his room. Once there he found a lacquered tray covered with dishes of food and a small chime. Shogoro admitted to himself that the innkeeper was very efficient. The food was still hot, probably arriving at his room just moments ago, yet he never saw a servant coming or going.

  He ate silently with the lathe door of his room wide open so he could look out upon the inn’s beautiful garden. Oddly enough the sounds of the city outside the inn’s walls could not to be heard. It was very peaceful, and by the time he finished his meal he felt fully rejuvenated from the road. Ringing the small chime brought two female servants to his call. One cleared away the tray while Shogoro asked for the other to bring him writing materials. Once the paper and quill arrived Shogoro dismissed the servant and began to write:

  At the border skirmish of Yoshioka forty years ago, your grandfather accused my grandfather of an atrocity that has disgraced my family’s honor ever since. You are the head of your clan. I am the last of mine. I must appease my ancestors and restore my family’s honor or die trying. Therefore I challenge you, honorable Matsuo Kaname, to a duel that will end this contention between our clans.

  I leave to you the choosing of the time and place. Please send your response to the Rising Moon inn.

  Katsume Shogoro-

  Shogoro folded the letter neatly and tied a bright red string around it to make it secure. Ringing the chime once again, a servant girl came to his calling. “I need this letter delivered,” he ordered.

  The servant took the letter and rushed off immediately, leaving Shogoro to sit and continue to look out over the garden in quiet solitude. He hoped Kaname would accept his challenge to a duel. If the other man had any honor what-so-ever he would accept and do so quickly. However, Kaname was a lord of no minor rank within the Iiso city-state hierarchy, with many samurai retainers and a large family clan. Shogoro knew there was a chance the other man could laugh at and then discard his letter without a second thought.

  Shogoro’s jaw clenched slightly and a determined looked crossed his face under a furrowing brow. He knew that if Kaname refused his request to duel, that his only other option to restore his family’s honor was to attempt cutting a bloody swath through the other man’s many vassals in order to confront him.

  If need be, Shogoro was prepared to do that very thing. In life or in death, he would have his honor.


  From the Author

  A Ronin's Honor is the first installment in The Tales of Katsume Shogoro, and can be found with some of my other stories by searching under TD Bauer at most online eBook retailers.

  A Ronin's Honor is actually the prologue from a much larger unfinished novel I had started writing several years ago but never finished. The story background is similar to Japan during the Sengoku jidai "Warring States" period between the 15th and 17th centuries. However, what you have not yet encountered is the Japanese versions of goblins, ogres, and trolls. Much like western fantasy, as read in stories like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Japan also has their own highly detailed cultural based mythological setting that includes evil spirits, demons, kami, tengu, bakemono, and oni, to name a few. So be forewarned and prepared for such mythological creatures popping up from time to time in future stories.

  I plan to continue the release of more excerpts from The Tales of Katsume Shogoro. The bad news is that I only have about seven to nine chapters written in the novel. If people seem to be interested in more, I will of course write more, or perhaps sit down with the novel's outline I have and finish the entire thing. You, the reader, will determine that outcome based on your feedback.

  Please take the time to write a quick review of my stories at the retail site where you obtained them. Reviews are very important to all authors, especially those that are independent from publishing houses, like me. Any and all feedback is welcome.

  About the Author

  I was born in South Dakota in 1973. I’ve lived in Alaska, Wisconsin, and Maryland. I’ve worked some interesting jobs over the years, some of which you may learn something about from my blog page. Fishing, hunting, reading, hiking, history, writing, travel…yeah, you get the idea.

  I've dabbled in writing various genres of fiction, mostly for my own amusement, for as long as I can remember. From the prompting of friends in 2012 to share some of my stories with a larger audience came my 2013 New Year's Resolution. Now here I am self publishing.

  My blog page: www.tdbauer.com

  Facebook: www.facebook.com/tim.bauer.77

  Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/realtdbauer

  The following is a short excerpt from the novella "A Whisper in the Dark".

  The stairs were narrow and just wide enough so that Navarr and Gaston could walk down them single file without having to do so at a sidestepping angle. Navarr counted each step as he descended, and at twenty-five he couldn’t help but wonder just how far down into the ground they were going to end up. At forty steps the stairs finally leveled off and came to an end, with the narrow hallway opening up into a tunnel carved out of the bedrock. The tunnel was several feet wide and just as high, and reached as far ahead of the two men as the lantern light allowed them to see, which was only about thirty feet. The two men stopped at the bottom of the stairs to examine their surroundings closer.

  “What is this place, do you suppose?” Gaston said with a hushed tone. He stood an arm’s length away from Navarr and shifted uneasily on his feet. He was clearly nervous.

  “I don’t know,” Navarr replied, in an equally quiet tone. “The town above certainly has sewers under their city streets, but this is both naturally eroded and carved stone and not part of that system, to be sure.”

  Cautiously, Navarr proceeded forward into the tunnel and tried to walk as silently as possible. He was calm and reserved, yet alert and ready for just about anything to come at him from the darkness ahead. People who knew him well were known to comment on his nerves of steel, and how he was always able to keep a clear head and make decisive decisions followed by quick and necessary action.

  Gaston was the direct opposite of Navarr at that very moment. He was clearly on edge and shuffled his feet restlessly while gripping both the lantern and his pistol in white-knuckled fists. His eyes were firmly set on the edge of the darkness directly ahead, and he found himself swallowing often and hard.

  After slowly advancing down the tunnel for a few minutes it began to suddenly become narrow with the lantern light illuminating a doorway ahead. The door was old and made of wood. It looked blackened and was covered in small cracks that extended up and down its six-foot height. There were three large hinges on the left hand side and a large door handle on the right with a locking mechanism. At close examination Navarr could see that the hinges had a great deal of rust on them.

  Navarr, still holding the candle in his right hand, tucked his pistol he was holding in his left beneath his right arm. Then, with his free hand, he reached forward and turned the door’s handle. With a light pull the door started to open with only slight creaking from rusted hinges. Once the door was opened wide it revealed many layers of thick spider webs on the other side, though no spiders were in sight. The webs were so thick and dusty that Navarr couldn’t see past them. He returned his pistol to his left hand and angled himself so he could partially face Gaston.

  “I really don’t like spiders,” Navarr said.

  “Not that anybody could tell by looking at you. Even standing this close to such a tangled nightmare of webbing you have that stone-like expression you wear so well,” Gaston smirked with just a hint of envy.

  Navarr didn’t reply, instead he turned back towards the web and used the flame from his candle to slowly burn them away. After a few minutes he had created a large enough hole in the webbing where passage through would not be an issue.

  Stepping through the remnants of the silky barrier, Navarr and Gaston found themselves standing in a small cavernous room about fifteen paces across that the lantern was able to easily illuminate. Looking around the room both men immediately knew they had entered into a section of catacombs underneath the city. Niches, two feet deep, two feet tall, and six feet long had been cut into the stone walls. Resting in the niches were skeletal remains, their clothes and burial garb having deteriorated away centuries ago. Most of the bones of the skeletons had crumbled into dust leaving only the largest of bones intact. A thin layer of spider webbing lined the walls all the way around the room that only added to the eerily illuminated scene. Across the room there were two passages, one that curved out of sight to the left, and another that curved out of sight to the right. A rat could be seen meandering at the base of the opposite wall.

  “Mold, dust and decay,” Gaston murmured as he continued to look about the chamber. “It has the look and smell of death. I’m ready to be far away from this place.”

  “First time in a catacomb?”

  “Yes, and I don’t like it,” Gaston said with a little more apprehension in his voice than he would have liked. “I’m glad the practice of burying the dead has changed to cemeteries above ground. This all seems so morbid. I can’t help but feel like I’m intruding here.”

  Navarr nodded in agreement. This was not the first time he had found himself wandering in catacombs. A few years ago he had ventured into the labyrinth of burial tunnels and chambers under Saint Bartholomew’s Cathedral. It was a time in his life that he would never be able to forget. The living had no business wandering among the dead. He had felt out of place then, and now that he was in another catacomb he felt much the same once again.

  Walking across the burial chamber both men carefully examined the two passageways. Other than the fact that the passageways curved away from one another, there was really no difference between the two. Navarr shrugged and led the way into the passage on the right. Just like the burial chamber, the passageway also had niches cut into the wall that were occupied by dry and dusty remains. The passageway didn’t go very far before both men found themselves standing inside another chamber.

  This new burial chamber was about twice the size of the first. Stepping further into the chamber both men noticed that the floor was littered in human bones, and the further the lamplight reached into the room the more numerous they became. The floor also became darker in color the further into the room the two men could see. There were a few dozen rats milling
about, but both men paid them little attention.

  “Look there,” Navarr pointed with his pistol to the far end of the chamber. There was a large pile of skeletal remains stacked as high as his waist. Ribcages, hipbones, spinal columns and skulls were easily identified from where they stood.

  Gaston didn’t have anything to say. He just stood silently as he looked on at the heaping pile with a tight and uneasy expression on his face.

  Navarr walked over to the pile of bones and as he did so noted that shreds of clothing were also scattered around the room and could be seen inside the pile. Kneeling down at the edge of the bone heap he noticed some of the bones looked small, like they probably belonged to children. He also noticed that some of the bones were broken, in particular ribs and the occasional crushed skull.

  Gaston set down the lantern in the middle of the chamber and picked up a small wooden doll, a child’s toy, dirty and stained with dried blood. He turned the doll over in his hand and then looked at Navarr as the younger man examined the pile of bones.

  “What happened here?” Gaston asked uneasily.

  “I'm fairly certain these bodies were dumped in this room after they were murdered,” Navarr replied as he stood and continued to look upon the bones. Then he pointed to a skull sitting at the edge of the pile and looked to Gaston to make sure the other man saw what he was pointing at.

  Gaston could see that the skull was cleft open above the left eye-socket and suddenly understood. “They were taken from their room in the dead of the night. Killed and robbed.” It was then that he realized the dark coloring of the floor was probably the stain left over from dried up blood.

  Navarr nodded in agreement. “Then their bodies discarded here were they would not likely be found. Their bones picked clean by rats.”

 
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