T am not giving up on my main story, The Will Born in Fire but I am posting up the first chapter of another story that has been on my data stick for a few months now.
As needed, I do not own Naruto, its characters or the fact that lately the manga should be named Sasuke due to the lack of use on its title character. The story idea is mine but I am willing to share if someone else gets inspired by this.

Naruto: The Lost Ninja

The ringing sound of a hammer hitting metal rang twice then a softened thump was heard. The ringing sounded twice again with another soft thump following. The daily sounds of the smithy were a comfort to the bald man wielding the heavy hammer. More blows followed before the man took a needed break. He set the half made sword into the coals to remain warm while he stepped out into the cool evening.

'Another day and I can have that sword finished. The daimyo will get his order on time at this rate. The Master Smith will be pleased.'

The smith looked out at the mountain valley that was his home. His badly scarred face relaxed as the evening breeze seemed to promise rain. He looked at the sleeping form of the ten-year-old apprentice and decided he would not need to wake his junior student to stoke the forge again tonight. The coals would keep the metal fine until morning. He lifted the boy and climbed a narrow stair into the loft. The scarred man placed the boy into his bed and lay down to get a few hours of needed sleep

Four shapes moved silently through the forest canopy. They had another lead to follow after too many years of dead ends. The mountains lay in the near distance and the local lord had approved their entry into the remote valley. By dusk the next day, they would know if this was another dead end or they had found the object of their search.

The scarred smith stood as the Master Smith inspected his work. His keen eye looked the length of the finished blade for flaws and saw none. He took a firm grip on the hilt and swung the blade at the target dummy. The blade cut into the wood to a satisfactory depth. The older man nodded again as he inspected the blade a second time. No blemish showed on the blade where it had made contact.

"Ken, you have accomplished your task. You have learned enough of the trade that you are no longer to be considered a student."

The older man bowed to the younger and presented a simple sash that would tell all who looked at him his status as a blacksmith and weapons maker. The embroidered name of his master was plainly visible on the end for anyone to see.

"Thank you, Master," the young man said.

"Ken-san, as you are no longer a student but rather a full smith, you are entitled to call me by my name; Kama."

"Thank you, Kama-sensei."

The older man smirked but he knew the younger man was trying to honor him so he let it pass.

Ken wrapped the sash around his waist and tied it in place so that the kanji of his name and his teacher's name were plainly visible as it hung.

"I have one more sword to complete to finish the daimyo's order. I will have it completed in two days if nothing happens."

Kama nodded briefly and turned to his remaining apprentice. "Lazy boy, you stood there the whole time and did nothing while the coal bin is only half full! Back to work!" The boy scuttled off before Kama could kick him and got back to work. Ken chuckled lightly as he turned to his own duties.

His hands worked in well-practiced motions as his thoughts wandered to other things. Now that he was a full smith, he would be getting a portion of the money earned by Kama for the contracts. In a year or possibly two, he would be able to think about his own smithy and perhaps marriage. The village had several girls already of age and something could be arranged for a price. He glanced into a water bucket to see his face.

One side was a jigsaw pattern of scars and stitches. The other had the look of smooth skin but was the melted looking heavy scar tissue of burns. The remains of a blonde eyebrow stood out amid the scars. Ken shaved his head to keep the patchy hair from looking worse. 'Who am I kidding? No father would want his son in law to look like I do without some heavy compensation in return, no matter how low ranking the man is.'

Ken lowered his head as he placed the glowing red metal against the anvil. His tears would hiss against the steel as they fell. Shaking off the feeling, Ken began his work as the three beat sound of the smith rang from in the building.

Four ninja stood in the open nearby. They could sense no trained chakra sources nearby and the genjutsu the leader had cast upon them kept all eyes from seeing the group. One raised a hand as a bug lit on the finger. He listened and looked to his comrades. "My bugs detected normal civilian chakra levels from all present. The smithy is the correct one our sources told us about but it seems we were mistaken in our assumption it would be our friend."

"His scent is not familiar to me. If this guy has been here for eight years I am sure it would the same as I remember. No one's scent changes that much. This guy is also a good six inches taller than our target. Even with a possible growth spurt that is a big difference."

The shortest of the group focused on the building as if looking through it. "Wait, Shino-kun, Kiba-kun. My eyes tell me something else entirely. The man's chakra coils are very highly developed. But you are correct, Shino. He only has a civilian level of chakra running through them. I am detecting some minor levels in his abdomen and forehead that might indicate seals. We should get closer and examine the man."

The leader looked at the younger woman, "Hinata, I know you want it to be him but we need to be sure."

"I know what I am seeing, Kurenai-san. I am not certain it is him, but that person was a ninja. It does bear investigating further."

The ninja all made hand signs and in their place stood four civilians. The team walked up to the smithy as Kurenai rang the gong on the post outside.

Kama came to the door, "Who is banging? This is the smithy of Kama, the son of Tsuba."

"Greetings, Kama-san, I am an agent of the daimyo in the Land of Fire. I have been instructed to search out people who might be able to work for him." Kurenai held up her authorization from the local lord. "I have permission to come here and interview your apprentice, Ken. If he is acceptable, we are further allowed to purchase his contract from you."

Kurenai smiled gently at the man before her. She had not lied at all to him. She merely told a slightly modified version of the truth. As a ninja of Konohakagure no Sato, the Village Hidden in the Leaves, she was an agent of the lord of the Land of Fire. If they found who they were seeking, they were able to use whatever legal means they could to bring the person back with them. In this case, it would be by buying the apprenticeship of the man, Ken.

"If only you had come 2 days ago," the man wailed. "Ken is no longer my apprentice. He has passed all guild requirements and received his sash as a peer. Ken! These foreigners wish to speak to you."

Ken put his work in the forge to remain warm and came out of the work area. His cerulean blue eyes focused on the four people outside. "I am Ken. Can I help you?"

Hinata gasped softly as she looked at the destroyed face. Even Kiba and Shino flinched slightly at the appearance. The lack of recognition in the blue eyes was nothing to Hinata. She knew those eyes. They still haunted her dreams at night.

Ken saw the reactions to his appearance all too often. He tried to mask the pain as Kurenai spoke to him.

"Ken, I am named Kurenai. I am an agent for the Daimyo of the Land of Fire. He is looking for people of certain talents and you had been brought to our attention. We wish to interview you and see if you are suitable for his needs."

Ken looked over at Kama but Kama shrugged, "You are your own man. You do not need my permission to speak with them."

"What would you like to know, Kurenai-san?" Ken asked.

"We would like to speak to you about your past and perform a pair of minor tests. If things go as planned, we would like you to come with us. Suitable compensation would of course be arranged."

Ken thought for a moment before responding. "I will allow it only as long as you are quick about it. I have duties to perform and a sword will be ruined if I am away from it for too long."

Kurenai nodded, "How it is you came to be in this valley, Ken?"

"I do not know. I woke up here nearly 8 years ago at the foot of the mountain. I was injured and badly burnt and cut. The locals thought I would die but I recovered somehow but badly scarred. I took an apprenticeship with Kama-san to pay back the debt I accrued to the daimyo for my care. My debts have been all paid in full and he informed me this morning my training as a smith is completed to his standards."

"Do you have any memory prior to your waking in the area?"

"I have no memory before this place," Ken replied.

"Interesting but it fits what information we do have. We have a simple test to perform now, Ken. If you could remove your shirt and let us examine your stomach."

"That is a strange request, Kurenai-san."

"I know but it is a necessary one for our task."

Ken shrugged and removed his shirt. Both Hinata and Kurenai had to fight back nosebleeds at the muscular build Ken's shirt had hidden. He was not bulky but he had larger muscles than most men they were accustomed to seeing due to his years of heavy labor. Several prominent scars ran onto his chest from his neck. Kurenai placed two fingers gently on either side of his abdomen and funneled chakra between them. Slowly, black lines of a seal appeared on the skin of Ken. Shino pulled out a parchment with a design on it and held it up beside the markings on Ken's stomach.

They matched.

"It IS him," Hinata whispered. "We found him."

Kurenai was about to stop funneling chakra when the black lines spread further out from the center. More designs appeared around the edges that did not match anything on the parchment.

"The primary seal matches, Kurenai-san. This is the person we are looking for," Shino said. "It appears additional seals were placed over the original but the purpose or reason is unknown."

Ken backed up once the people began talking about seals. He had no clue what was going on and wanted to get away from these strangers. "I do not think I wish to entertain the Land of Fire's offer. Please go."

Kama had already stepped back from the group. His eyes were focused on the newly revealed seal on Ken's stomach and he was making gestures to ward off evil. "What are you?" he shouted.

"Do not be alarmed, Kama-san," Shino spoke up. "It is nothing bad. He was once a ninja and the design there is what restrains his ability as one."

Kama looked wary but stopped with his warding gestures. "What did he do then; to have been branded so?"

Kurenai looked at Kama. "He did nothing that we are aware of. We have merely been told to retrieve him." She looked at Ken now. "Ken, you can either come with us willingly or by force. You were our friend once and will be again once we learn what has happened and free your mind. Please do not make us do something all of us would regret."

Ken sat down on the ground as all this information piled up on him. "Who … Who was I?"

Hinata spoke up now, tears running down her face. "You are Uzumaki Naruto, ninja of Konohakagure no Sato in the Land of Fire. You are the only son of the Yondaime Hokage. But most importantly, you are my husband."

Ken fainted.

Next Chapter: The Journey Home

Notes: This story is one of a dozen plot bunnies that have been dancing around my head since I began my other story The Will Born in Fire. Whenever I get writer's block on my story I pull out one of my ideas and add a little bit more to the kernel. This one has been nagging at me more of late due to the large numbers of banished Naruto stories I have seen. I find it highly doubtful that Konoha would banish Naruto and risk his being taken in by another village given what he contains. In this case, Naruto is not banished or a missing nin, merely missing in action and lost.

The idea for the look for Ken I got from MattK as he used the same look for a wounded Kim Possible in his 'Blood Bond' series. The story series is well worth reading by anyone who loves good writing and large scale adventure.