Forged in Blood is an anthology set in Michael Z. Williamson’s Freehold universe. The stories go from ancient history to the distant future. I love when I get to write samurai.
Here is the description:
NEW STORIES OF A MYSTICAL KILLING SWORD SET IN MICHAEL Z. WILLIAMSON’S FREEHOLD SERIES
WARRIORS AND SOLDIERS TIED TOGETHER THROUGHOUT TIME AND SPACE.
From the distant past to the far future, those who carry the sword rack up commendations for bravery. They are men and women who, like the swords they carry, have been forged in blood. These are their stories.
In medieval Japan, a surly ronin is called upon to defend a village against a thieving tax collector who soon finds out it’s not wise to anger an old, tired man. In the ugliest fighting in the Pacific Theater, an American sergeant and a Japanese lieutenant must face each other, and themselves. A former US Marine chooses sides with outnumbered Indonesian refugees against an invading army from Java. When her lover is stolen by death, a sergeant fighting on a far-flung world vows vengeance that will become legendary. And, when a planet fragments in violent chaos, seven Freeholders volunteer to help protect another nation’s embassy against a horde.
Featuring all-new stories by Michael Z. Williamson, Larry Correia, Tom Kratman, Tony Daniel, Micahel Massa, Peter Grant, John F. Holmes, and many more.
Here is the intro to mine.
When you hit a man with a sword, it can go clean or ugly. A clean hit and you barely even feel the impact. Oh, your opponent feels it. Trust me. But for the swordsman, your blade travels through skin and muscle as if it is parting water. Arms can come right off. Legs are tougher, but a good strike will cut clear to the bone and leave them crippled. A katana will shear a rib like paper, and their guts will fall out like a butchered pig. Then with a snap of the wrist the blade has returned and the swordsman is prepared to strike again. Simple. Effective. Clean. I’ll spare you all the flowery talk the perfumed sensei spout about rhythm and footwork that inevitably make killing sound like a formal court dance, but when you do everything just right, I swear to you that I’ve killed men so smoothly that their heads have remained sitting upon their necks long enough to blink twice before falling off.
However, an ugly hit, means you pulled it wrong, or he moved unexpectedly, the littlest things, a slight change in angle, a tiny bit of hesitation, upon impact you feel that pop in your wrists, and then your sword is stuck in their bone, they’re screaming in your face, flinging blood everywhere, and you have to practically wrestle your steel out of them. Whatever bone you struck is a splintered mess, usually the meat is dangling off in ghastly strips. Some men will take that as a sign to lie down and die, but a dedicated samurai will take that ugly hit and still try to take you with him, just because in principle if a samurai is dying, then damn it, he shouldn’t have to do it alone. It can be a very nasty affair.
The tax collector died very ugly.
I only wanted to be left alone.
Kanemori was sitting by the stove, absorbing the warmth, debating over whether it was too early in the afternoon to get drunk, when there was a great commotion in his yard. Someone was calling his name. It wouldn’t be the first time in his long life that someone with a grudge had turned up looking for him, but this sounded like a girl. He rose and peeked out one of the gaps in the wall that he’d been meaning to repair, to see that it was the village headman’s daughter trudging through the snow with determination.
“Go away!” he shouted.
“Kanemori! The village needs your help.”
The headman always wanted his help with something, the lazy bastard. A tree fell on old lady Haru’s hut. Or Den’s ox is stuck in the river. Or please save us from these bandits, Kanemori-sama! And then he’d have to go saw wood, or pull on a stupid ox, or cut down some pathetic bandit rabble. He knew it was usually just the headman trying to be social, but it was a waste of his time. He didn’t belong to the village. He’d simply had the misfortune of building his shack near it.
“What now?” He bellowed through the wall.
“The new Kura-Bugyo is going to execute my father!”
“What did your imbecile father do to make the tax collector angry this time?”
“The last official was honest, but the officials this year are corrupt. They take more than they’re supposed to. They take the Lord’s share, and then they take more to sell for themselves! Father refused to give up the last of our stores. If we do we’ll perish during the winter.”
Of course the officials were corrupt. That’s what officials were for.
The girl was about ten, but already bossy enough to be a magistrate. When she reached the shack she began pounding on his door. “Let me in, Kanemori!”
“No! I will stay out here and cry until I freeze to death! Your lack of mercy will cause my angry ghost to haunt you forever. And then you will feel very sorry!”
Kanemori sighed. Peasants were stupid and stubborn. He opened the door. “What do you expect me to do about it?”
“You are samurai! Make them stop.”
“Oh?” He looked around his humble shack theatrically. “Do I look like Oda Nobunaga to you? I am without clan, status, or even basic dignity. Officials aren’t going to listen to me. Do you think I moved to the frozen north because I am so popular?”
“You are the worst samurai ever!”
In defense of the clumsy butchery that passed for a battle against the corrupt tax collector and his men, my soldiering days were over. It had been many seasons since I’d last time I had to hit a man with a sword, so I was rusty. When your joints ache every morning, the last thing you want to do is practice your forms, so my daily training consisted of the minimum a retired swordsman must do in order to avoid feeling guilty. Why do more? I had no Lord to command me, no general to bark orders at me—The only person who’d done so recently was my second wife, and I’d buried her two winters ago—and if I spent all my energy swinging a sword who was going to feed all these damnable chickens?
It isn’t that peasants can’t fight. It is that they’re too tired from working all day to learn to fight. A long time ago some clever sort figured that out, traded his hoe for a sword, started bossing around the local farmers, said you give me food and in exchange I’ll protect you from assholes who will kill you, but if you don’t, I’ll kill you myself, and the samurai class was born. From then on, by accident of one’s birth it determined if you’d be well fed until you got stabbed to death, or hungry and laboring, until you starved… Or got stabbed to death.
Spare me the history lectures. I actually do know where samurai come from. I was born buke. I slept through the finest history lessons in Kyoto. You would not know it to look at me now, but I was once a promising young warrior. It was said that handsome Hatsu Kanemori was a scholar, a poet, and the veritable pride of my clan, and high ranking officials were lining up to offer me marriages to their daughters… until one day I finally told my Lord I was sick of his shit. Then I promptly ran away before he could decorate his castle wall with my head.
Now, the life of a ronin is a different sort of thing entirely. Samurai live well, but they’re expected to die on behalf of their Lord. Ronin live slightly better than dogs, and are expected to die on behalf of whichever lord scraped up enough coin to hire us. Being a wave man retains all of the joys of getting stabbed to death, but with the added enticement of being as miserable and hungry as a peasant, up until when you get stabbed to death.
But at least you are your own boss.
Here are all the contributors. One nifty thing is the stories go in order, so my character is descended from the one Zach Hill wrote, and Mike Massa’s story follows mine, but jumping forward a few hundred years, and so on. It’s a pretty cool premise.
John F. Holmes
Christopher L. Smith
Michael Z. Williamson