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24 February 2012 @ 05:39 pm
Release - The Ronin and the Fox  

Hello, everyone :)!
I have great news - my second novella, The Ronin and the Fox is out today with Storm Moon Press! This story took a long, tortuous path before being born. I started planning it in summer 2010, for an anthology centered on fantastical creatures. I immediately knew that I wanted to deal with a kitsune, the trickster fox spirits from Japanese mythology. However, it soon became evident that there was no way that I would fit everything in a short story, so I abandoned the project for a while, busy chasing after a billion deadlines, both for publishers and for uni. Before I had the time to notice it, a year had passed, and I stumbled across the WIP and thought to myself - now it's your turn, buddy... :)

In feudal Japan, Kaede Hajime lives as a vagabond ronin, a samurai without a lord. As he spends the night at a village's inn, the innkeeper begs him to help stop a mischevious kitsune, a fox spirit, plaguing their village. But when he captures the spirit—in the form of a hauntingly beautiful man—Hajime learns that the kitsune has troubles of his own. The pearl that contains the fox's soul has been stolen, leaving him a slave to the new owner, who is forcing him to attack the village.

Hajime agrees to help the fox retrieve the jewel, but living with a fox spirit isn't easy, and the budding trust between them is constantly tested. Kitsune are tricksters above all, and Hajime must decide how much of the story the fox tells him is truth. What's worse, an old comrade of Hajime's is in town, bringing with him the sour memories of Hajime's time as a samurai. Hajime must find a way to locate the thief and steal back the jewel before the thief turns the kitsune's considerable power against him.

You can grab a copy on Storm Moon Press' website!

Here's an excerpt from the story ;)!


Hajime flexed his fingers, trying to warm them up, before resting them on his katana. The night air was cool. Gravel crunched too loudly under his boots as he walked across the village's alleys.

He'd been patrolling the town for three nights, and still nothing. During the daytime, he'd explored the bamboo forest surrounding the village, setting a number of traps between the tall bamboo stalks where the ground appeared recently trampled. He'd spoken to several villagers, alerting them of his intentions and giving them instructions on how to behave at night. He was sure they would obey. No one would dare disobey the orders of a samurai, and even though he wasn't exactly... any longer... Damn. They would listen to him, and that was enough.

Hajime had never before met a fox spirit. The trickster spirits haunted houses and villages, stealing food and whatever tickled their fancies from the inhabitants. They could shift shape as they pleased, possess people, and ensnare a man's mind with their charms and illusions. Hajime had heard that they could change a field into a kingdom or a cave into a sumptuous palace. They could create pockets in reality and trap a man there for years if they so chose. Hajime fingered the deep red silk ribbon securely fastened around his right wrist. He'd received it from Tanaka-san. The man claimed a priest had blessed it years before, and that it would grant Hajime protection against the fox's enchantments. Hajime hoped he was right. He was not keen on losing his mind and spending the next decade frolicking in a cave at the mercy of some horrific spirit.

The sharp sound of a bell broke the quiet.
Hajime stilled, every muscle tense, and listened. It came again, a single silvery sound somewhere in the alleys to his right, and then a loud, jingling noise cascaded through the night, dozens of bells tumbling to the ground. In an instant Hajime was running, the thrill of the chase sizzling and burning in his veins. He'd tied strings of bells up all around the village, in the hidden passages he'd pinpointed between roofs and back alleys, and summoned his powers of intimidation to order the citizens to keep indoors at night. The fox must have stumbled across one of the strings and snapped it. It was incredibly careless of a spirit, but Hajime had been counting on the fox feeling so assured in its supremacy over the village that it lowered its guard.

He'd been lucky. He knew he wouldn't have a second chance.

A small vulpine shape caught his eye, shifting quickly from shadow to shadow. As he watched, it hopped onto a cart and then jumped to a roof and set out running, betrayed by the moonlight.

Hajime was fast. He jumped, grasping the copper rain chain hanging from the nearest house and reaching up to grasp the edge of the slanted roof. He hauled himself up, the chain clinking wildly below him, and sprinted. The village's roofs were nearly level, but still slanted enough to make running on them dangerous—Hajime nearly lost his footing twice and cursed. He might survive the fall, but he'd surely break bones, and his chase would be in vain. He leapt between the close houses, struggling to retain his balance. The fox was some ten yards ahead, small and fast, taking impossible leaps and all but flying across the roofs, its balance perfect and a fan of tails fluttering behind it. Hajime abandoned all caution, leaping across a wide road, suspended in the air for a long, exhilarating instant where he wondered whether he'd make it to the other side or plummet to the ground. He landed heavily on the very edge of the roof, wobbling backward for a dreadful moment, but was quick to regain his balance and sprint again.

For all his prowess, Hajime was losing ground. The little fox had reached the last houses of the village, and it jumped easily off the buildings, diving for the forest. Hajime ran, the chase making him careless and only luck preventing him from falling when he dared jumps too broad for him. He followed the fox down, bending his knees to absorb as he landed on the ground the impact, and scanned the bamboo frantically, trying to guess which direction his prey had gone.

A loud, pained yelp tore the night, and Hajime sprang up, unable to contain a wild grin. The fox must have fallen into one of his traps. He launched himself between the clumps of bamboo, following the whimpers and yelps, and only slowed down when he saw the small shape of the creature twisting fruitlessly, one of its hind legs caught in the jaws of a trap.

As he approached, the figure shifted and blurred, stretching and growing, making Hajime's eyes ache until he had to look away. When he glanced back, Hajime could see a human where the fox had been, bending to pry the trap open with frantic hands.

"Not so fast," Hajime growled, his hand shooting out to grasp the man's arm. Before the fox spirit could react, Hajime tied a red ribbon like the one he was wearing around the man's wrist, knotting it maybe too tight. The man cried out as the fabric touched his skin, trying to tear his arm out of Hajime's hold. When the fox spirit turned around to face him, Hajime gasped.

The man had wild red hair and two furry fox ears flattened over his head like those of an angry cat. His face was contorted in agony and anger, covered in scratches and with a large bruise marring his cheekbone, but there was no mistaking his delicate features or the unusual, rust-brown eyes that fixed on Hajime with fury, and which had been full of pleasure the last time he'd seen them.

"You," he gasped, his grip on the stranger's arm faltering.

The fox snatched his wrist out of Hajime's hold and snarled, his head held high. "Surprise," he said, sharp teeth gleaming in the moonlight.

you've never looked more beautiful, darlingmistyzeo on February 24th, 2012 05:48 pm (UTC)

this just sounds so great.
cornelia grey. a festival of foolscorneliagrey on February 25th, 2012 10:41 pm (UTC)
Thanks baby :D!
chrissymunder: violetschrissymunder on February 24th, 2012 07:46 pm (UTC)
The excerpt is great - and that cover is amazing! Congratulations!
cornelia grey. a festival of foolscorneliagrey on February 25th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Chrissy :)! I just love every cover that Nathie draws. She's such a talented artist.
Fantastical worlds, Fiery Lovejana_denardo on February 25th, 2012 04:37 am (UTC)
congrats. this is the one I'd like to find time to read. It sounds like something I'd enjoy. I also liked your blog post about writing as a non-native speaker.
cornelia grey. a festival of foolscorneliagrey on February 25th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much, Jana :)! I really appreciate you stopping by :)