Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Knife’s Edge by Matthew Wolf: Spotlight and Excerpt


 



 
 
Knife's Edge

The Knife's Edge by Matthew Wolf


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.


At the same time, a young man discovers his best friend with a sword in her stomach, and dark wings sprouting from her back. Guards rush onto the scene, accuse him of the act, and he is forced to flee. In a new world without his memories, Gray must find his way amid legends and darkness, as he wrestles with an elemental power inside himself.


A power all too similar to the infamous Ronin…



 
 
Praise for The Knife's Edge


"A truly engaging story!" - Tracy Hickman, New York Times Bestselling Author and creator of the Dragonlance Series
"Amazing, I am so happy when I find books that keep me up all night. This is a tome of light, among darkness. Never a boring page, action packed and loved the story. Can't wait for the second book. And I want to know more about all the characters." - Tor-Ole Halverson
"This book has everything any epic fantasy lover is looking for in a book, mesmerizing characters, fantastical creatures, sword fights, magic, mystery and even comedy. For some the beginning of the book might seem to be slow, but the further you read, it gets better on each page. Matthew Wolf does an excellent job describing every scene, every character, every feeling and the consequences the character take to submerge you into this wonderful world he has created. I just can't wait for book 2 to continue with this epic saga that I just fell in love with!" - Dominique



EXCERPT


Karil shoved another set of riding clothes into her pack and turned from her bed.  Her room was still, but her heart was not.  Even the serene night mocked her frantic mind.  
From the window above her bed, azure scrolls lit her room.   An ornately carved bookshelf sat in the room’s corner.  In the center, a wide-table, its stout legs made of silveroot, flowing as if alive with liquid silver.  Elvin craftsmanship fit for a princess.  A tranquil scene, but still her hand trembled, for beyond these walls lurked danger.  Her gaze jumped to the plum-colored door made of heartwood.  Heartwood was harder than most human metals—it would take a small army to break it down, but she knew that wouldn’t save her.  He will be here any minute, she prayed.
She looked down and saw the polished stone in her palm.  The rock was carved with a pattern of a leaf, stunningly real, as if the leaf had shed its skin upon the emerald stone.  It was a gift of her fathers, something she had long forgotten, and childhood memories flooded through her.  Only things I can’t live without, she repeated.  She set it aside, placing it in a pile of books, jewelry, and precious things likely never to be seen again. Surely it’s too small to matter, she thought and quickly tucked the smooth stone in her bag.
The hard rap of knuckles sounded on the door.  Karil grabbed a fistful of her split- riding skirt.  Three knocks.  She remembered their code and rushed to the door, unlocking it.  Rydel flowed inside like a tempest.  He passed her wordlessly and strode to the window.  His grand hando cloak of black and forest green fluttered as he moved.  Karil knew the cloak silently demanded respect, for he was one of only ten elves who bore the same shroud.  He took the room in two giant strides, throwing back the drapes.
Outside, lights from the kingdom glowed.  Hues of amethyst and sapphire lit the forest.   A vast canopy was obscured by mist and cloud.  Far below, tiny white dots blushed where twisting paths wound throughout the forest.  The whole kingdom appeared as if stars were flung amid the trees.  Each tree was a towering guardian, their trunks the width of cities.  Below, a staircase glimmered, as if made of shimmering glass.  It encircled the main structure they were in, the massive Spire, twining all the way up the Great Tree.
“Is it time?” she asked, stepping forward.  Her voice was strong.  She was glad for that—the tears shed were all but a memory.  Rydel was quiet.  His slender elvin eyes, a piercing green, watched the staircase.  His sharp ears pricked, as if hearing sounds her half-elf ears could not.
Karil joined his side. “What is it?  What do you see?”
“I see them.  They are coming.”  Rydel turned.  He grabbed her shoulders.  “We must leave, now.”
“So soon,” she said, “Somehow I thought there would be more time.  Is everything ready?”
Rydel grabbed her pack.  “The horses are waiting in the stables.  All that is required now is to get to them, from there I have cleared a path out of the woods.” She heard the unspoken message in his words.  If we can make it there…
“How many?” she asked.
“A dozen in the halls, maybe more, and hundreds scattered around the grounds of the city.”  She saw his hesitancy, as if he was afraid to speak the rest, “What we feared has come to pass.  Dryan is seizing upon the chaos of your father’s murder.  Elves are joining his side in droves.  There will be hundreds, if not thousands looking for you soon.  You are the only thing standing between Dryan and the throne now.”
“And what of our supporters?”
“Most are dead or swayed to his side.”
“Then Dryan has won,” she whispered.
“No.  Not yet.  It will not be long before the entire kingdom is crawling, and then all hope of escaping will be lost.  But there is still a chance if we leave now.”
If all things good can go to ruin so quickly, what did it matter?  Karil rested a hand upon the windowsill.  “I can always trust you, can’t I Rydel?”
Rydel answered without hesitation.  “Forever, my queen.”  Karil tensed.  The title was daunting, but somehow he made it sound true and good.
“Lead the way,” she ordered and he nodded.
They left her quarters and swiftly navigated their way through the labyrinth of halls, taking the least used routes.  Though they moved quickly, they were high in the Spire, where all the nobility resided.  They turned a corner and saw shadows nearing.  They threw themselves against the wall.  The shadows revealed themselves as servants trailing robed nobles.  Karil breathed a sigh.  For a moment she considered gathering them as allies.  Judging by their robes that were shades of green, they were of the House of Nava, a staunch supporter of her father.  She shook her head.  No one could be trusted.
As they ran, she caught glimpses through wide windows of bright lights like dashing sprites in the night.  Rydel abruptly pressed her against the wall.  Karil waited, listening, the elf’s rock-like arm holding her in place.  He pulled them back further, moving into a carved niche, tucked behind a standing vase of Merilian Silver.  She looked but saw nothing.  The halls were silent.  Then, around the bend, something shifted.  Karil’s breath caught as a guard in black elvin plate-mail appeared, as if melting from the wall.  He had been hiding in plain sight.  His eyes skimmed just past their hidden nook.  At last, he moved down the hall.  Now she knew what pursued them. 
The Terma.
As a girl, she had both looked up to and been afraid of these elite guards that protected her father.  Even back then, she would cling to his leg when a Terma entered the room.  Her father would simply stroke her hair as she trembled.  The Terma lived and breathed their training, with the skill and agility of a hundred normal elves.
However, there was another rank, a secret echelon.  The black-armored Terma were one rank below Rydel, and it was said that difference was the span of chasms.  For there was no one higher than one of the Hidden, those who bore the hando cloak.  But one against hundreds?
As they wove through the halls, she kept to Rydel’s side, watching the dark corners.  Four more times Rydel halted them.  Each time a Terma slunk out of the shadows, always impossible to see until revealed.
At last, they reached the stables.  Relief flooded her.  She entered.  The dawn light lit the rafters and stacks of hay.
Rydel returned, guiding their horses.  She saw Rensha, her white mare, and was glad for the familiar face.  She stroked the horse’s muzzle and Rensha nickered.  Rydel swiftly strapped down the saddlebags.   She normally rode her cormac—faster and more intelligent creatures that were more attuned to the spark, but such a creature would be far too conspicuous beyond the gates and within Daerval, a land without magic.
Karil nimbly mounted Rensha.  Rydel took to his large black warhorse and together they turned towards the wide archway when the ground rattled.  Abruptly, the door behind burst open.  Shards of wood rained down.  Rensha spooked, bucking in terror and she fought to gain control of the frantic animal.
“Karil! Run!” Rydel shouted.
She slammed her heels into Rensha’s flanks, bursting towards the open archway, but her charge was brought to a sudden halt as she was flung forward.  When Karil gained her senses, she was on the ground.  Twenty or so elves in black armor poured into the stables, surrounding them with silent, deadly ease.  She saw the one that had flung her from her horse.  He stood before her, tall and muscular.  Where Rydel was broader of shoulder and arm, this elf was slender like a blade, with long straight blond hair that draped over his shoulders.  He held Rensha’s reins casually with one powerful arm as the creature bucked.  His other hand gripped a long, curved dagger.  Karil swallowed with a rush of comprehension.
“So then, Dryan has no intention of letting me live,” she said.  The blond elf grinned, showing uncharacteristically human-like emotion.  Karil’s blood ran cold.  “I see.  That’s clever of him, crushing all opposition here in the quiet, where the chaos will flow over and wash away his questionable deeds.”
The elf sneered as he approached.  “Oh, you misunderstand.  You’re not a threat to an elf like Dryan.  Nevertheless, dead is always simpler than alive.  Rumors are easy enough to quell.  You have been too outspoken for your own good.”
Anger rose inside Karil.  “You’re more of a fool than I thought,” she replied.  “Dryan has no claim to the throne, and never will.  Who would ever believe him?”
The elf laughed openly.  “You don’t get it, do you?  They will believe what we want them to believe.”
Karil took a calm breath.  She summoned her ka.  It was weaker than most elves because of her half-blood, but undetectable for that same reason.  In the corner of her vision she saw Rydel.  Surrounded by ten other elves, he looked like a cornered tiger.  He flashed her a look.  She nodded.  With a fierce cry, she lashed out, pulling every shred of her power into one invisible cord.  A root from a nearby tree plunged upward through the thick ground, sending a shower of dirt into the air.  Startled, the elf bounded backwards.  He cut at the tubers, but the roots were quicker.  They shot out, snaring his legs.  The elf was thrown to the ground.  At the same time, Karil leapt to her feet and bounded into Rensha’s saddle.  
Behind, she heard the cry and clash of Rydel with the other elves, but she didn’t spare the time to look, trusting her companion.  She bolted for the open door, when Rensha bucked again as if colliding with a brick wall.  She turned and saw the blond elf held the reins.  His face twisted, muscles cording with strain.  Three more guards were approaching fast behind her.  In one swift movement, she unsheathed her slim dagger and slashed the elf’s hand.  He unleashed the reins with a cry and she broke free.  Suddenly, Rydel was at her side, riding hard.  
Twenty more elves alighted from thin air and she pulled her reins short.  Too many, she thought.
A fierce battle cry rang through the clearing, and the Terma froze.  Karil followed the sound, but saw nothing.  When suddenly more elves burst from the woods.  Her heart rose as she glimpsed their green armor.  The two forces clashed and cries pierced the night.  Green armor upon black, swords flickered like a blur.  A Terma was thrown into Rensha’s flank.  The animal bucked wildly.  She gripped the reins and clung to her mounts back.  Through the haze of swords and tangle of Rensha’s mane, she saw him once again.  
The blonde Terma cut down a green armored shadow with menacing ease.  The other elf fell to his knees clutching his chest, vainly trying to stop the flow of his gaping wound.   The Terma lifted his sword to finish the job.  Karil wasted no time.  Holding Rensha’s mane in one vise-like grip, she lunged for her dagger, hurling the blade.   It flew over the crowds and sunk into his back, biting deep between his shoulder blades.   She watched him fall and then unsheathed her sword and looked around, but in a matter of seconds, the fighting was over.
Bodies littered the ground, mostly the Terma.  She turned to her defenders.  Their breathing was heavy, faces ragged.  They wore green cloth, loose and light with a few added pieces of leather armor, piecemealed together.  It was the garb of the Lando, as they had started calling themselves.  In the common tongue, it meant Liberators.  Karil noticed the last subtle difference in their armor.  Small trinkets the size of her finger were pinned to their breasts.  She recognized them as the shattered pieces of her father’s crown.
Rydel approached.  “Are you all right?”
“Fine now.”
Rydel looked to the elves, with a note of respect.  “They saved us again.  But the Terma are not done,” he said.  “You know as well as I, that was only the first.  More will be coming, and soon.”
            She nodded.  The elves now stood in a file, all facing her.  As one they clapped a hand to their chest, and spoke in unison, “Tel Merahas.”  Then they took to one knee, their armor rustling in the quiet night.
Her heart welled with pride and sorrow.  Every one of them had abandoned everything to protect her, to protect the side of light against the tide of darkness.  Her people.  Most of them were young, but their youthful faces were far different than two days ago.  Whatever softness had once been there had been hammered out.  She regretted it all, feeling somehow that it was her fault.  Yet such was the times, her father would have said.  She swallowed, choking back her emotions.  “Twice you have protected me.  Words can never express my gratitude for your brave acts, both two days ago, and tonight.” She let the words hang in the air.  She felt Rydel’s presence and knew the gap for their escape was closing, but it was because of these elves she had survived.  The elves waited for her command, and she felt the weight of all their fates.  “Time is short.  I would wish to say more, and though I do not want to I, we must leave now.”
“Then we will accompany you,” said one, immediately standing.
“We will have your side,” said another, a slightly older guard with longer ears and deeper-set eyes, but with equal fervor.
She shook her head firmly.  “You all must stay.  With Rydel, I can make it past the border.  I would ask one more thing of you, as your queen.”  The words tasted bitter on her tongue, a taste she would gladly spit out for another.  Her first order as queen was to strip them of their pride, but she knew she must.  “You must forsake your pledge to me until I return.  Furthermore, for now, you must wear your normal armor.”
            They looked hurt and confused.
She pointed to the small trinkets.  “I know what it represents to you.  You fought with great pride that day, but the honor you hold is not in some trinket upon your breast.  Just as the power my father wielded, and your love for him did not derive from the crown he bore.  So please, spread the word: take up the normal armament of the guard, and assimilate back into the ranks.”  And live.  She swallowed hard at the command.  She knew she was doing it for them, but she also knew many of them might have chosen death, instead of losing their pride.   And many of them had died.  Yet she would not allow anymore, at least not because of her.
Karil felt Rydel, urging her to leave.  She owed them one more thing…  “Not far from now, where we stand, I will be back to take the throne, and on that day I will call for you to fight and take back what is rightfully ours.”  Pride returned to their faces.
“My queen,” Rydel pressed.  At the same time, Terma guards appeared like shadows from thin air, attacking from every angle, but the Lando charged.
Sirvas!” they cried as one, cutting a path through the enemy.  The dark armored Terma faltered, taken back by the sudden retaliation, but only for a moment, and the tide was quickly turning in favor of the dark elves.
A shout rose, “Run, my queen!”
One elf, the older of the bunch, gripped Rensha’s reins in one hand.  “Heed your own words.  Live, my queen.  One day we will see you again, and return the honor that has been stolen from you.  I swear to you, we will not see your father, the true king, die in vain.”  He clasped a fist to heart and dove back into the fray.  The Lando bellowed as they were sliced down, but still they fought.
“Karil!” Rydel shouted.
At last, guilt wrenching her, she turned, dashing through the opening they had created for her.  Rensha’s hooves pounded as she raced into the woods, away from her kingdom.  Karil chased the image of Rydel’s whipping cloak, heading towards Daerval, with the bloody cries of elves loud in her ears.




mattihasAuthor Matthew Wolf


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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