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SIGNED -- Steel and Valor (The Silent Champions #3)


A hunt for a traitor. A desperate search for salvation. An uncovered secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.

ictory over an unstoppable barbarian horde and the salvation of an allied clan are distant memories for Aravon and his Grim Reavers. Now, they have a single objective: unmask the turncoat selling vital information to the enemy, and bring to justice the one guilty of murdering Aravon’s mentor and surrogate father.

The noble quest throws the specially-trained champions directly in the path of a rampaging force of ruthless enemies. Scrambling to defend a precarious position, Aravon and his companions must rely on the courage and skill of mysterious masked warriors guarding a secret treasure.

But even with their forces bolstered, the soldiers have little hope of survival…much less victory.

Can Aravon defeat overwhelming odds to protect his people, or is his mission doomed to end in failure and death?

Buy Steel and Valor to join the war against the savage invaders today!


(Each paperback is hand-signed and personalized by me. Swag included!)

elite warriors
special forces unit
band of brothers
secret identity
Roman Legion

SIGNED -- Steel and Valor (The Silent Champions #3)

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“Now!” Aravon’s silent hand gesture signaled the attack.

Zaharis dropped from the tall birch tree and brought his mace down hard on the Eirdkilr’s skullcap. Steel and bone crunched beneath the force of the impact. Blood and gore sprayed and the barbarian went down without a sound.

Two red-shafted arrows whistled from the dense thicket where Skathi hid, the second a mere instant after the first. Both found their mark in Eirdkilr throats, and a pair of towering giants fell, gurgling, clutching at the crimson fountaining from their necks.

Aravon and Colborn moved in perfect synchronicity, leaping out from behind a huge oak tree and attacking the two barbarians leading the raiding party. Colborn’s longsword sheared through an Eirdkilr’s exposed neck, cleaving gristle, flesh, muscle, and driving until it struck bone. Aravon drove his spear into the barbarian’s chest, twisted, and ripped it free in a spray of blood.

Before the two rearmost barbarians could react, Noll and Rangvaldr were on them. The little scout’s short sword punched through the base of one’s spine, and the Eirdkilr collapsed like a dropped sack of flour. Rangvaldr wrapped a hand around the other’s mouth and dragged the razor-sharp edge of his sword across the barbarian’s throat. The Eirdkilr thrashed in the Seiomenn’s grip, coughing, breath whistling through the gaping rent in his neck. Slowly, his struggles weakened, his struggles fading to weak, twitching jerks as his lifeblood stained the ground. When Rangvaldr released him, the Eirdkilr slumped beside the corpse of his comrade.

Aravon had no time to celebrate their silent victory. He whirled on his comrades. “We move, now!”

No one protested; they knew the danger of remaining near these corpses. With more and more Eirdkilrs flooding the forests, their only hope of survival was to ride as if the very demons of old were on their heels.

“Noll, Rangvaldr, Colborn, deal with the bodies,” Aravon signed in the silent Secret Keeper hand language Zaharis had taught them.

The three named soldiers moved, seizing the slain Eirdkilrs and hauling them off the narrow hunting trail.
Aravon turned to the archer. “Skathi, fetch Belthar and the horses.”

With a nod, the red-haired archer turned and disappeared into a thick, spine-riddled stand of hawthorns, heading toward the shallow dry gulch where they’d left Belthar guarding their mounts under cover of the setting sun and towering spruce trees.

“Zaharis,” Aravon signed to the Secret Keeper, “you’ve got two minutes before we move out. See what you can find to stock up.”

“Yes, Captain.” Zaharis rushed off into the dense underbrush. Aravon had no idea if he’d find anything, but this was the best chance he’d get to replenish his Secret Keeper supplies until they got clear of the Eirdkilrs flooding the Deid forests.

Colborn appeared from between the broad birch trees and hurried through the woods toward Aravon. “This isn’t good, Captain,” he signed. “That’s the third group of Eirdkilrs to cross our path in the last two hours. That’s far too many of them this far north.”

“I know.” Aravon met the Lieutenant’s gaze. Though the leather greatwolf mask hid Colborn’s face, his eyes were grim—a mirror for the dread that sat like a rock in Aravon’s stomach. “And something tells me that they’re only a fraction of the real force now running free in Deid lands.”

Colborn’s spine stiffened. “The Eirdkilrs that fled Hangman’s Hill?”

Aravon nodded. “The Deid hit them hard, and now they’re hitting back.”

Colborn gave a soft whistle. “And with Hafgrimsson and his warband still at Banamadrhaed, they’ve got free rein.” He shook his head. “Keeper’s teeth, that’s bad.”

“Damned right it is.” Aravon drew in a breath.
“Swordsman knows how many of the bastards are between us and Saerheim.” His brow furrowed beneath his mask. “Which is going to make finding the Hilmir’s daughter and Lord Virinus a whole lot harder.”

At that moment, Noll and Rangvaldr appeared from a thicket of mulberry bushes, wiping blood off their gloved hands with broad fern leaves.

“Best course of action?” Aravon’s question was directed to the scout, Seiomenn, and Lieutenant. “Ride straight to Saerheim and hope this is the last patrol we find—”

“About as much hope as Noll here sprouting wings and growing taller than Belthar,” Rangvaldr interjected.

Aravon inclined his head. “Or we find a way to cross the Daellausa River in an effort to avoid any Eirdkilrs roaming the Deid’s southeastern lands.”

After a pensive moment, Colborn nodded. “Nearest crossing’s thirty miles north. But if we ride hard, we should reach it just after dark.”

Aravon glanced at the sky. The sun had begun its descent toward the western horizon, and the golden glow of afternoon painted the lush, dense forest around him in a gentle brilliance that might have been soothing if not for the danger that lurked somewhere in the distance.

They had won the Battle at Hangman’s Hill—despite impossible odds, and only thanks to the timely arrival of Rangvaldr with the Deid warband and Noll at the head of Onyx Battalion—but nearly two thousand Eirdkilrs had survived to flee into the southern forests and the marshlands east of the battlefield. In the hours since the battle’s end, it seemed they had turned north. North, toward the now-unguarded Deid lands.

Already, two pillars of smoke had appeared on the northeastern horizon—the Eirdkilrs had unleashed their anger on the small Deid villages and homesteads in their path. The fast-traveling barbarians had covered far more ground than Aravon had expected. Worse, they moved far faster than the Deid warband ever could, even if freshly rested. Chief Svein Hafgrimsson and his warriors, exhausted from traveling and the battle, would never catch up to the Eirdkilr raiders in time to stop them from wreaking havoc through the Deid lands. The Blood Queen might lie dead and the bulk of the Eirdkilr army slaughtered, but countless more innocents would die at the hands of these savages before they were put down.
That job fell to the Deid warband and Galerius, Commander of Onyx Battalion. Aravon had more important tasks to attend to.

Belthar and Skathi pushed through the dense underbrush, leading their seven horses. Six had empty saddles, but Aravon’s eyes went to the cloth-wrapped bundle tied behind the saddle of the seventh horse—his horse.

Sorrow twisted a knife in his chest at that sight. Such ignominious treatment for the man that had been not only one of the most powerful politicians in Icespire, a personal envoy and counselor to Prince Toran himself, but who had been like a father to Aravon. Wraithfever and a Secret Keeper poison had claimed Duke Sammael Dyrund.

This was Aravon’s true mission: to hunt down the man that had slain the Duke. The list of possible culprits was small—either Lord Virinus, the nobleman that had journeyed with them to negotiate with the Hilmir, or one of the nine mercenaries sent to accompany them. Nine men, and at least one of them was the traitor that had stabbed a poisoned needle into Duke Dyrund’s side.
Aravon drew in a long breath and pushed back against the emotions threatening to swallow him. Grief at losing his mentor, the man that had been a constant in Aravon’s life for as long as he could remember, always there to lend a kind word of encouragement or bolster Aravon’s confidence. Anger at the coward that had poisoned the Duke. A burning, rage-fueled desire to hunt the bastard down and make him suffer. Nothing, not even the protection of one of Icespire’s most prominent noble houses, would stay his hand if Lord Virinus was to blame. He would have answers as to who was behind the poisoning, even if he had to flay the traitor’s skin from his bones to get them.

But first, they had to evade the Eirdkilrs flooding the Deid lands. Though the bulk of the enemy forces were undoubtedly farther east, likely on the far side of the Hardrfoss River, enough of the barbarians had roamed westward in the direction Aravon traveled. Instead of making a straight line from Hangman’s Hill to Saerheim, he’d have to go the longer way around.

He turned to Colborn. “Get us to that crossing,” he signed. “With the river between us and the Eirdkilrs, we can cover ground more quickly.”

Colborn nodded. “We’ll have to skirt the western shores of Cold Lake, and even riding hard, we won’t reach Saerheim before tomorrow night.”

Aravon ground his teeth in frustration. The delay chafed, yet he had no choice.

“So be it,” he signed. “We don’t stop until we get across the Daellausa.”

As he climbed into his saddle, Aravon shot a sidelong glance at Belthar. The big man’s mask hid his face, but Aravon could see the pain brightening his dark eyes. He’d taken a serious head wound at the Battle of Hangman’s Hill, and Rangvaldr’s holy stones could only partially heal that injury. Though he had never protested on their hard ride north, Aravon could see the tension in the big man’s shoulders, the tight clench of his fists. Belthar would keep up no matter what, but he was suffering. Even with the smooth, rolling gait of the Kostarasar chargers, every mile northward only increased his discomfort and exhaustion.

Once we get across the Daellausa, we’ll find somewhere safe to hole up, Aravon decided. Belthar wasn’t the only one exhausted. Skathi had sustained an equally grievous wound in the fighting retreat, and despite her insistence, she had yet to make a full recovery. Aravon’s various injuries still ached, even after drinking one of Zaharis’ hastily-concocted painkilling remedies. Noll and Rangvaldr had worn themselves out riding to summon Onyx Battalion and the Deid warband, and even the unflappable Colborn showed signs of fatigue. Though Aravon hated the idea of delaying his pursuit of the traitor that had poisoned Duke Dyrund, he had to put his soldiers’ wellbeing first.

Zaharis slipped from the forest before Aravon fully settled into his saddle.

“Anything useful?” Aravon asked.

The Secret Keeper gave a little shrug and clambered into his saddle. “Nothing that packs a real punch, but a few bits and pieces that might come in handy for keeping us alive a few more minutes.”

Aravon shrugged. “Good enough.” He turned to Colborn and Noll. “Move out.”

The two men—Legion-trained scout and Fehlan-born warrior-turned-Lieutenant—kicked their horses into motion at the head of their small seven-man column. Under normal circumstances, they’d range at least a mile ahead and out to the east and west, keeping a sharp eye for enemies. But now, with Eirdkilrs all around, their best choice was to keep a tight formation and move quickly, trusting the speed of their horses and the terrain to conceal them.

The hunting path they’d chosen led through a heavily-wooded corner of the Deid’s lands. On both sides of the dusty trail, slim white birch trees stood silent guard among stately old-growth spruce trees, lofty pines, and oaks that spread gnarled branches in a shield between the forest floor and the brilliant-colored sky above.

A strange, ominous silence hung over the forest. The song of birds and the call of woodland creatures had stilled. Even the wind had fallen silent, as if the world held its breath in reverence for the Duke. Or fear of the Eirdkilrs that even now flooded the land. Colborn had chosen this route due to its heavy tree cover, trusting the forest to hide them from enemy eyes. Yet Aravon couldn’t help the nervousness roiling in his stomach. His eyes never stopped moving, never stopped searching the ever-deepening shadows. How many enemies lurked behind that towering fir tree, or stared at them from the leafy branches of the ash trees atop the ridge?
Aravon bent lower over his horse’s mane, gripped his spear tighter.

He couldn’t see the Eirdkilrs, but he knew they were there. Somewhere, far too near for his comfort, and they came for him and his soldiers.

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