In keeping with last week’s blog about Yoga and Kendo, I thought I would post a scene from the first book of the Walkers Trilogy.
For two reasons:
1) It shows how an author uses what he/she knows and incorporates it into their writing, and
2) It’s the first time we get to know TinneHolm, one of my favorite characters of the Trilogy. TinneHolm is a sword, and as the trilogy progresses, he becomes more and more an ally to Kate, my main character.
At the end of this scene, I’ve posted a pretty cool YouTube link about the parts of a sword and how to handle a sword in a polite manner. It’s 8 minutes long, so grab a second cup of ‘Jo’ and have fun with it.
In this scene, we have Ash, a Walker-Between-Worlds, giving Kate her first sword lesson with a live blade. It turns out to be a most unusual lesson…
And now, take a sip of coffee, relax and…
Enjoy a little Story Time….
With Joey strapped onto Ash’s back, the two set off to the training field. Only a few weeks ago the grass had been at her waist, Kate thought as she looked at the bare and trampled earth.
“We sure have trained hard here,” she commented.
Ash glanced at her with a smile, “Aye, that we have.”
They walked in silence to the middle of the meadow and stopped.
Ash pulled the sword that was fastened at his waist. “This is TinneHolm,” he announced. “I will perform the purification ritual, and then you will perform it. That is how we will begin.”
Kate watched as he slid the sword back into his belt and then wrapped the scabbard’s cord through to keep it secure. “Ash? How can you be sure that Straif will attack with a sword, anyway? What if we’ve been wasting our time? Why wouldn’t he just use a gun or something?”
Ash paused to look at her. “A sword it will be. He comes to assassinate a prince.”
“But why is that any different?”
“There is a code that we live by,” he explained. “Straif will not deviate from it.”
“But how can you be so sure?”
“I can. Come, Kate, we waste time.”
Kate folded her arms and watched as Ash performed Harai Tachi, the purification draw. Despite the added weight and awkwardness of an infant in a backpack, his movements were fluid and graceful. In a split second, the sword was in his hand, the silver glistening bright in the sun. His left hand came to meet the sword as it swept up into position. He stepped forward and made a cut, then brought the sword, blade parallel to the ground, slowly in an arc in front of him as his left hand again returned to grasp the lacquered scabbard. With a twisting motion, the blade was returned to its home.
“Wow,” Kate breathed.
“Now it is your turn,” Ash said with a smile. He pulled the sword from his belt and handed it to Kate. “Always keep your thumb over the tsuba like this,” he warned. “You do not wish this blade to become unsheathed uninvited.”
Kate took the sword with excitement. She had handled dulled practice swords before. But never anything like the one she now held in her hands. Kate could feel its age. She felt she was holding a piece of ancient history, very beautiful and very deadly.
“The name ‘TinneHolm,’’’ Ash said quietly, “means ‘best in the fight.’”
“TinneHolm,” Kate repeated, studying the sword. With her thumb carefully on the tsuba, Kate raised the sword in front of her so that she could get a better look at the intricate patterns of runes and whorls carved into the scabbard, squinting to make sense of the patterns. The runes, she realized, must be the sword’s name. She wondered if the same runes were on the blade itself.
Without thinking, she slowly slid the sword out of its casing. It was heavier than she had supposed.
She was right. The same runes were on the blade. The reflected sun dazzled her eyes.
“TinneHolm,” she repeated in a whisper. She felt mesmerized by the sword’s beauty, and honored that she was actually holding such an ancient piece of craftsmanship.
Ash spoke, but Kate did not listen. He sounded very far away.
“TinneHolm,” she said for a third time. The sun was so bright on the metal that she could barely read the runes any more. It hurt her eyes.
With a gasp, Kate realized that it was not the sun’s reflection after all that was so bright, but rather the sword itself. As it became still brighter she felt, for the first time in her life, true terror. The illumination, the power, the runes, the loss of control all collided in her heart and body.
Kate took a step backward and tried to fling the sword from her, but to her horror, the sword held fast to her right hand.
Her eyes wide with fear, Kate watched her own hand perform the same purification ritual that Ash had done. But instead of it being placed within the scabbard at the end, she watched helplessly as the blade slid lightly over the palm of her left hand. She felt no pain as the blood welled up from the cut, and she was given no chance to think because the sword again moved.
This time the back of the blade pressed against her forehead, and she sank to her knees as her left hand joined her right on the tsuka.
When the cool, glowing metal touched her forehead, it was as if a cord had been played, too low for the human ear to hear. Yet the vibration coursed throughout her body, her ears ringing.
Kate felt energy surge through her, and then she heard a chorus of voices, all women, one after another. She suddenly realized that she was hearing names, countless names. And when the last name was spoken, Kate felt compelled to add her own to the list.
She spoke her name. The words rang out clear and strong, and she felt a sense of welcome and of homecoming.
And then all was quiet.
It took Kate several moments to realize that she was in control of her body again.
She looked at Ash and tried to speak, but no words issued forth. Her hands shook, and she would have dropped TinneHolm had not Ash taken it from her and returned it to its scabbard.
Silently, he bound her hand in the towel that she had brought and closed her fist around it.
Keep your hand like this for a little longer, Kate. It is not a deep cut. It will heal quickly.”
With Ash’s help, Kate stood and dusted off her knees.
“What just happened here?” she asked.
Ash gazed at Kate for several moments before answering. It felt as if he were seeing her in a whole different light.
“TinneHolm was forged more than one thousand years ago,” he replied. “It is one of twenty-one swords that were created for an elite group of highly trained warriors, the Sword Maidens, sworn to protect the great kings of Brendt. Each sword was endowed with a life force of its own, and a Sword Maiden and her sword would form a bond that would last the lifetime of that Maiden. When she died, the sword waited for its next battle ally. Kate, TinneHolm has chosen you to be the next Sword Maiden it will serve.”
Kate shook her head. “But it’s your sword, Ash. I don’t understand.”
“Actually, the sword belonged to my mother. I was merely caring for it until it bonded with a warrior. At her death, my mother told me I would find its next partner. And so it seems that I have. You belong to TinneHolm and TinneHolm belongs to you.”
“But I’m no warrior. I’m not even from Ruis! Why would it pick me? There must be some mistake.”
Ash laughed. “After what you just experienced, how could you doubt this? The sword looks for a certain spirit to be its ally–spirit, rather than skill. This blade is a vessel that contains a thousand years of skill! It does not lack skill. What it lacked was a warrior with a noble heart with which to share its skill.”
Kate looked at him blankly.
Ash smiled and put a hand on her shoulder, turning her towards their camp. “Come, Kate, I will show you how to clean your sword. We will practice after you have rested a bit. But, in truth, I am no longer concerned with your training. TinneHolm will teach you far more skill than I will ever possess.”
AND HERE’S THAT YOUTUBE LINK I WAS TALKING ABOUT…