Shadows of Valor

Shadows of Valor

4.6 5
by Elsie Park
     
 

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Something dark stirs within the peaceful walls of the prosperous city of Graywall, something only the mysterious vigilante known as The Shadow—a man torn between a sense of justice and the desire for revenge—can overcome. In reality the nobleman Sir Calan, The Shadow is sent to hunt down smugglers who have run rampant after the levying of a harsh tax by

Overview

Something dark stirs within the peaceful walls of the prosperous city of Graywall, something only the mysterious vigilante known as The Shadow—a man torn between a sense of justice and the desire for revenge—can overcome. In reality the nobleman Sir Calan, The Shadow is sent to hunt down smugglers who have run rampant after the levying of a harsh tax by King Edward. When he learns of a plot against the just ruler of the city, Lord Shaufton, on his mission, he must enter a pseudo courtship with Shaufton’s daughter under his guise of Sir Calan, even as he wrestles with emotions stirred by the lovely Elsbeth, Lord Shaufton’s niece. Elsbeth may be the only person who can heal Calan’s troubled soul, but she has secrets of her own. Rife with deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and love, this page-turner will grip readers from the opening lines.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781939967077
Publisher:
Jolly Fish Press
Publication date:
09/27/2013
Pages:
252
Sales rank:
1,251,240
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Shadows of Valor

A Novel


By Elsie Park

Jolly Fish Press

Copyright © 2013 Elsie Park
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-939967-72-5


CHAPTER 1

Garth slapped his partner Darby on the shoulder in congratulations — another successful thieving effort to add to their repertoire. They'd wiggled and conned their way out of the hands of the local authorities, and now — in the safe cover of night — they rode on to certain freedom.

Their wagon rolled at a leisurely pace through the woods. Garth inhaled the earthy, moist scent — evidence of rain.

His skin prickled as they passed a particularly dark set of trees. His jaw tightened.

Someone was watching them.

"YAH!" he bellowed, flicking the reins. The wagon sped up, the horses building to a run.

He glanced over his shoulder. A black figure, astride an equally black horse, emerged from the trees and gave chase.

Garth cursed and Darby looked behind them, emitting a strangled gasp. "Faster, Garth, he's catching up!" he shouted over the din of pounding hooves and racing wheels. He maintained a white-knuckled grip on the rickety seat, his scrawny neck craning back.

Nocturnal creatures scurried off the hard-packed road before them, escaping death by steed.

Garth struggled to hold the reins with one hand while grasping his slipping eye-patch with the other. The wheels shook violently, threatening to abandon their axles with each jarring bump. As they hit a large rock, he almost lost his grip on the reins. He obligingly placed both hands on the leather straps and the eye-patch escaped into the wind.

His head whipped around to follow its path, his eyeless hole exposed. "Fie!"

The wagon hit a deep rut, all but overturning it.

"It'll shatter with another smack like that," Darby yelled.

Garth glanced over their left side. A board had come loose and barely hung onto its peg.

When he looked up again, the black horse had slowed to a trot behind them, without its rider.

"I think we lost him." Garth whirled back to the front. "He must've fallen off somewhere." He continued their hard pace long enough to put a safe distance between them and their fallen pursuer before pulling hard on the reins, stopping the wagon.

The wind picked up. "Let's take a reckoning of the goods," Garth said. "We may've lost something back there."

They turned to view the contents, Garth's finger pointing to each sack as his mouth silently counted. They were marked as flour sacks, but contained smuggled wool. Then his lone eye grew wide as he caught an indistinct shape crouched among their cargo. He moved a beefy hand to Darby's skeletal leg. "Don't move," he warned in a tight whisper. Darby obliged.

Slow and methodical, the shape stood, a masculine form materializing from the shadows. With his back to the moonlight, the intruder's face was invisible under his dark hood.

Garth moved to draw his booted dagger, but the man stepped forward and kicked his hand. The dagger careened through the air and landed in the dirt. Darby, frozen in place, provided no help.

Before Garth could react, the black-cloaked man lunged and grabbed them by their tunics, heaving them onto the bed. The pair landed on their stomachs, and the air was audibly knocked from their lungs.

The man leaped onto the rickety driver's seat, then turned to face the trembling pair. His ebony cloak flapped in the wind, making a sound akin to great dragon wings. With the moon now against his face, Garth recognized the signature mask covering the man's mouth and nose, and his chunky limbs quaked.

"I am everywhere and I see everything," the man spoke in a husky tone. "I've been watching you and know your ill deeds."

"You're The Shadow," Garth choked.

"Yes," the man affirmed with a chuckle. "The devil himself, who crawled up from the depths of yon underworld! You've cheated the king for the last time and now dungeon walls will be your abode, though you deserve far worse."

Garth shivered. The Shadow hunted smugglers and dangerous criminals for King Edward. It was said he could gut men with his sword before they'd realized he'd drawn his weapon. He was like a phantom, as stealthy and dark as the night itself. And he was rarely merciful.

"Be grateful for the leniency of imprisonment," The Shadow threatened, "for if you're ever released and you return to foul work, you'll wish for death to take you from the doom I'll bestow."

Garth stared at his captor, his jaw trembling, before dropping his head in fear. Beside him, Darby let out a small whimper.

"And now," The Shadow finished, his voice quiet and dangerous in the earthy night, "let darkness steal your wake."

At the sound of grating metal, Garth glanced up at The Shadow's steel sword reflecting the moonlight. The thick hilt connected with his companion's head, sending him into unconsciousness. Garth scrambled backward, then knew no more as he succumbed to the same fate.

* * *

Graywall Village on the northwest coast of England, 30th day of April, 1300 A.D.

As Elsbeth strode down the main road toward town, she kicked a dirt clod at the edge of the road, sending the hardened ball several yards ahead. With rolling hills, lakes and thick forests, her uncle's land provided a sprawling landscape for the village. She had to walk a full mile before she hit the main square. It was an additional mile from there to Emmy's house on the opposite side of town.

She'd received a message from Emmy Firthland that young Roland had injured his arm. Roland and the other orphans were precious to Elsbeth, she being parentless as well. She understood the fear and loneliness of losing one's mother and father. Serving the people of Graywall helped temper her feelings of unrest.

Elsbeth entered the town square where children skipped around with ribbons that would soon be tied to the maypole and watched vibrantly dressed entertainers juggle and perform tricks. Although May Day didn't arrive until tomorrow, the merriment had already begun. Mouth-watering scents of roasted meats, dessert confections, and bread permeated the air. Flowers, banners, and colorful flags adorned the village from the ground up. Guests flocked to Graywall by the hundreds.

Maidens were already whispering about who they would choose as their partner to dance around the maypole. She'd enjoy doing the same if she were several years younger. Elsbeth sighed, tugging her sleeves farther down her wrists.

It was impossible to feel like a worthy participant in the game of courtship when the other players ran off before the match scarcely commenced. Though she didn't think much about her scars, the unfortunate reality was that would-be suitors, upon seeing them, changed their minds about courting her. She'd seen it time and again.

The latest incident had occurred a month ago, but her frustration continued to assault her weary mind. When Lord Yorkworth's gifted necklace had slipped through her fingers by the lakeshore, she hadn't thought twice before pushing up her sleeves to retrieve it from the muddy shallows. She sneered, remembering his gasp of surprise. He couldn't have hidden his disdain for her arms with less tact. In an ill attempt to feign indifference, he'd filled the awkward moment with nonsensical small talk and had refused to look at her. He'd taken the necklace back, saying he'd return it after a good washing, but he had left that night, having received an urgent message from home, or so he'd said. She never heard from him again.

She shook her head, shoving the recollection from her mind. She had more important matters at hand than musing over a bygone beau. As she neared the bakery, her stomach growled, protesting her earlier decision to skip lunch to finish organizing her medicinal herbs. A loose strand of hair escaped her half-wimple and waved about her cheek. She tucked it behind her ear.

"Good day, Master Baker," she hailed as she approached Peter Gillam's shop.

Peter stuck his head through the ground-level window. "Lady Rawley."

Elsbeth stopped before his window and the aroma of baked bread invaded her nostrils. "How be your fine wife this day, Peter?" As a midwife, Elsbeth concerned herself with Fay's health in the woman's last month of pregnancy. Being the niece and ward to an unconventional uncle, Elsbeth was allowed the liberty to serve the castle and village as she pleased, a rare allowance for a lady. Uncle Rupert already possessed a wife and daughter to oversee household duties. He felt Elsbeth's skill and knowledge were wisely used among his people. And she enjoyed the freedom. "All's well that we can tell," Peter said of his wife.

"Glad to hear it."

"Does the fair bring you to town?"

"No, I've come to look in on Roland."

"Ah, that rambunctious boy." Peter lowered his voice. "I heard he ran into smugglers last night in the fields. He tripped, but got away."

"Good heavens." Elsbeth was shocked. "I had no idea he'd witnessed something so dangerous."

"Yes, the thieves are getting bolder of late."

"Mm, dangerously so." Elsbeth's eyebrows turned down. It angered her that some people turned to illegal means of earning money because they didn't agree with the king's heightened taxes. No one enjoyed paying taxes, but that didn't justify unlawful actions.

"On a more cheerful note," Peter grinned. "Have you enjoyed the festivities yet?"

"No, I haven't, but assisting others must come before revelry."

"Ah, I might have guessed by your attire that you ran errands instead." Dressed in a brown sideless surcoat over a white long-sleeved kirtle, Elsbeth resembled a fellow villager. "But save time for amusement if you can."

Elsbeth smiled. "I'll try, but now I must be off. Send for me if you need anything."

"Sure will. And here —" Peter tossed a large bun out the window. Elsbeth cupped her hands and caught it. It was soft and warm. She loved fresh bread.

"Thank you, Peter. You've just saved me from starvation."

Peter produced a toothy grin before his head disappeared inside his window.

Elsbeth continued through town, looking up at the thatched roofs that hung over the lanes. The buildings stood two and three stories high with living quarters situated above the ground-level shops. They lined the street, creating an outdoor hallway. Various side streets branched off from the main road, leading to other buildings and eventually to large fields beyond.

Elsbeth wondered in which field Roland had happened upon the smugglers last night. It could have been any of them, for they were all situated away from the populated areas.

She entered a remote part of town and the odor of sheep reached her nose as she came upon a low stone wall. She picked up her pace. The pasture it surrounded belonged to Bartram McCaulch, the most prominent sheep monger and wealthiest wool merchant in Graywall.

Though Elsbeth endeavored to like everyone, she didn't like Bartram and tried to avoid him completely. His beady eyes unsettled her. She didn't trust him.

With the added export tax on wool, many mongers had cut back on their spending, but not Bartram. His abode posed a grander residence than the average peasant, built of fine gray stone and strong oak beams. Although talk existed of Bartram's lewd business dealings, it lacked sufficient evidence to pin him to anything illegal.

She kept to the opposite side of the rutted street as she neared his dwelling. The road bent to the left, circling around the front of his home. Bartram sat in his yard, his legs astride an old log as he sharpened his shears. She cringed when he looked over at her.

He set his shears down and stood. Elsbeth longed to run, but continued walking at her present pace. She feigned ignorance as he moved his stocky frame toward the road. His signature limp reminded Elsbeth of a wounded, but dangerous, animal.

Elsbeth gauged the distance between them. "Maggots," she swore under her breath. Interception was inevitable.

"Well, well, Lady Rawley," Bartram snickered, barring her path with his burly form. Elsbeth had no choice but to stop. A crooked grin cracked his tanned face and she eyed him with uncertainty. He stood too close for comfort.

"Master McCaulch," she acknowledged with curt formality.

"Please, call me Barty." He smiled again, exposing dirty teeth through at least five days of beard stubble. His black, unkempt hair added to his shady appearance. In addition to his unnerving eyes, his breath was foul enough to knock over a war horse. She forced down the bile that rose in her throat.

His dark gaze swept over her body and she recoiled in disgust. "I beg your pardon, Master McCaulch," she again stressed his formal name, "but I must be getting along. I have errands to run and people to see." She sidestepped the offensive obstacle and took up a brisk walk.

Bartram pursued, limping from behind and taking a large step around to again impede her progress. Elsbeth let out an impatient sigh, and his knowing smirk proved he enjoyed his little game.

"What's the hurry, sweetheart? Stay a while."

"I really must go."

"You're certainly a do-gooder to those orphans. I like watching you as you pass by on the way to their house." Shivers raced up Elsbeth's spine. What a disturbing man. "Could you find the time to stop off and visit me too?" His face turned into a bold leer and he leaned closer. "Perhaps you could show me how a lady of noble breeding makes jolly with the opposite gender?" He waggled his eyebrows.

Though utterly repulsed, her expression remained impervious, giving Bartram no satisfaction he'd affected her with his crude comments. She mustered a calm response. "Bartram McCaulch, step aside and let me pass, or I will mention this interlude to my uncle, who will undoubtedly seek disciplinary action against you."

Bartram lost his smirk and seized her upper arm. She inhaled sharply, her eyes wide. She'd have lost her balance if not for his fixed hold upon her. "You impudent brute! Unhand me if you value your life!" Her heart hammered. The audacity, handling Lord Rupert's niece in such a way, but then no one was present to witness it. He would never have been so bold in public.

Bartram's menacing orbs bored into hers. "If you value your life, or the lives of those orphans, you'll think twice about threatening me."

Elsbeth froze. This man was treacherous. She didn't dare provoke him further. "Unhand me, McCaulch," she repeated.

Bartram held her a few seconds before letting her go. She rubbed her sore arm and glared at him. He smiled as if he'd done nothing wrong, and then turned and slithered into his house.

Elsbeth sped down the lane, feeling Bartram's eyes upon her from somewhere within his walls. She didn't slow her pace until his house disappeared from view.

She wouldn't mention Bartram's behavior to her uncle. He'd done no real harm, and if Bartram found out she'd said anything, he might do something terrible to the children before her uncle could stop him. She couldn't risk that.

Elsbeth's heart returned to a normal tempo as she came upon Emmy Firthland's modest but well-built, cottage. The sturdy oak door, with a bouquet of colorful dried flowers tacked onto it, warmly welcomed.

Loud, off-tune singing flowed from an open window around the side of the house. She chuckled and shook her head. Emmy's singing rivaled a howling cat.

Barren, Emmy and her now deceased husband had always cared for parentless tots, usually street urchins. Uncle Rupert gave them a monthly allotment to support the children they took in. Rupert considered it a smart tactic for keeping the criminal activity down. With someone caring for the kids, they wouldn't have to steal their daily bread.

Emmy currently looked after four young ones whose parents had died from fever three winters ago.

Elsbeth knocked on the door and the feline notes ceased.

"It's Beth! It's Beth!" a toddler voice elated. Light, pattering feet approached alongside heavier footsteps. The door opened to reveal a pudgy five-foot woman with a flour-splotched face. A little girl jumped up and down beside her.

Emmy smiled wide and admitted Elsbeth to the cottage, where the whiff of new thrushes scattered about the floor mingled with Emmy's yeast dough, brought feelings of tranquility.

"Thank you for coming, Beth." Emmy wiped her floured hands with a linen rag.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Shadows of Valor by Elsie Park. Copyright © 2013 Elsie Park. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Elsie Park is a former police officer, security guard, and wild-land firefighter. Shadows of Valor is her first novel.

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Shadows of Valor 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
E-Park More than 1 year ago
Review by Kayla Shirley I was hooked from page one with this novel. I honestly didn't want to put it down because I was transported so effortlessly back in time. The setting was done in a manner where I felt as though I could've walked outside and been wandering down the path towards a castle or getting ready to head to the May Day celebrations. The setting of the novel seemed more detailed than any other historical piece I've read - the wording threw me for a loop because, hello, I have no idea what a kirtle or surcoat is...(plus a million other words regarding clothing). LoL Of course, obviously, I'm no expert on the time period; However, you can see the effort that the author put into capturing the small details and specifics regarding the time period. The characters are absolutely brilliant. Stunning. Elsbeth and Calan are completely and utterly well-rounded characters in my opinion. I felt their every emotion nearly coming off of the page. I was immediately drawn to Calan with his current charm and Elsbeth's fond memories of driving him bonkers when she was child. Then, you begin to get to know him more. I fell hard for him as lead male character. He ultimately housed the magical characteristics of the Knight who all women would love to come sweep them off their feet. He was valiantly trying to rid the kingdom of smugglers and evil-doers but was slowly losing his grasp on a positive life. He was being overcome with cynicism because he was forever-facing and dealing with the scum of society. It was hard for him to see any good left in the human race. Elsbeth was the complete opposite. She was constantly trying to do good for others, nearly forsaking the wealth that she had at her disposal while living with her uncle. My heart was desperately broken for her loss with regards to her mother and father. My heart received a horrible ping every time she traveled down memory lane, especially when she visited the remains of her family's castle. Her lack of self-worth simply because of her scars broke me. I felt horrible for her and angry and the men who she recalled coming to court her - only to disappear once seeing her scars. Elsbeth brought light back into Calan's view of the world... while Calan brought self-worth back into the life of Elsbeth. Not to mention, FINALLY, a masculine character who doesn't smell like sandalwood, musk, or something of that regards. Cinnamon... ahh....I have a new respect for the fragrance of that wonderful spice. :) The plot was spectacular! There wasn't a single, solitary, dull moment. Something was going on constantly and the mystery revolving around identifying the traitors within their midst keeps you glued to the pages. The only thing I have to admit is that I had already determined who that mystery traitor was well before Calan and Elsbeth. It was sort of like I knew the answer and wanted to scream it through the pages for all of them to hear. Everyone except Calan saw the best or hoped for the best in everyone. There's a great point honestly. It's good to hope for the best in everyone but not good to put your blind trust in them even since you never know their true intentions. I loved when The Shadow and Elsbeth bantered back and forth over their viewpoints on the subject matter. Overall, I was completely enamored with Shadows of Valor and didn't want it to end. I could've read more about the characters lives for several hundred more pages and been completely happy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I first read the summary for SHADOWS OF VALOR, I knew it was a story that I would more than likely enjoy. Park’s narrative deals with Elsbeth Rawley, orphan and ward to her kind uncle, Lord Shaufton. Elsbeth lost her parents to a tragic fire, leaving her with scars, both literally and figuratively. She has done her best to deal with both for ten years since their deaths. During this time, her life has been one of relative contentment with her cousin Genna, five years younger than herself, as her constant companion at Graywall.   Sir Calan Beaumont has always been in Elsbeth’s heart. Even when she was a young child, she idolized him. He was called away by the King of England to rise as one of the Sovereign’s most trusted knights. Elsbeth hasn’t seen him for the past ten years, not since he saved her from the tragic fire that claimed her parents. But now he is back for the tournament games at Graywall and to supposedly pursue Elsbeth’s cousin, Genna.  Then there’s The Shadow, a vigilante who takes matters into his own hands for king and country. Dark, mysterious, and ever present when needed, he soon enlists Elsbeth’s help to find out who is smuggling goods and wool in the surrounding area of Graywall, evading taxes to the king.  I’m not a lover of spoilers so I will try and keep my remaining comments informative, but not too revealing. I enjoyed SHADOWS OF VALOR. It is a cute, sweet romance, with some mystery and intrigue entwined.  Elsbeth is an engaging character that I was able to like easily. The evil characters were just dastardly enough that I truly wanted them to receive their just desserts. And the hero, Calan, was the epitome of a “knight in shining armor.”  SHADOWS OF VALOR is a pleasant, faith-promoting story that can be enjoyed by tweens, young adults, and adults alike. It kept my interest and, although it was predictable as to whom the villains were, it was enjoyable just taking the journey. There is a bit of sword-fighting and demise, and a few mild expletives, but is most definitely kept to a “PG” rating.   Two issues I had with the story were, one, the speech. Most of the time Park did a good job writing in such a way as to convey the time period of A.D. 1300. However, there were times where her writing was a bit anachronistic. Contracting words were distracting for me, as that is not how they spoke in medieval times, and could easily have been remedied by simply keeping the words separate. And her word usage, at times, had the same problem. Words like: referee, ajar, and suave, were not used in that day and age, and proved to be a bit jarring for me. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that the speech wasn’t all strict medieval prose, as that can get boggish, but more could have been done to keep true to the time period.  And, two, I wish Park had kept The Shadow’s identity more of a mystery, rather than revealing his character so early on in the story.  I think keeping Calan’s and The Shadow’s characters separate for the reader, until Elsbeth clued into the “cinnamon” factor, would have been so much more entertaining, making the reveal that much more dramatic for us.  I was also surprised that Elsbeth didn’t recognize the scent of cinnamon sooner than she did, especially considering her shared intimate moments with The Shadow. It was mildly unbelievable since the scent was such a prominent draw for her.   However, despite my issues, I found SHADOWS OF VALOR to be a very entertaining read, one that I recommend without reservation.
Kissablysweetone More than 1 year ago
   Known as The Shadow, Sir Calan Beaumont came to Graywall to find smugglers.  He had to be very careful no one knew his other identity.  While watching for smugglers, Calan heard a conversation about a kidnapping.  His first thought was the nobles daughter, Genevieve.  Sir Calan knew he must protect her at all costs.  After approaching the castle, he found out his childhood friend Elsbeth was living there as well.  Elsbeth  was a friendly person who helped serve the village and castle.  She was content with the knowledge she would never marry.  Sir Calan sent her thoughts in the other direction though.        The story is a good one and you'll enjoy the mystery and intrigue this book offers.   A little light on the romance, but that's okay. When it does have a romantic moment it's sweet and special.  I recommend this book for everyone. You'll enjoy the refreshing approach Ms Park takes.  For a debut novel, this one ranks right up there.      I found only one issue.  It takes awhile to build up to the conflict and then ends quickly. Up to that point, it's a little slow in parts.      When all is said and done, I gave this one 5 out of 5 cheers. Great debut Elsie Park!!   ~Copy of book provided by author in exchange for a fair review~
LehuaParker More than 1 year ago
Shadows of Valor by Elsie Park is a step back into a medieval England where a noblewoman’s outward scars hide an inner beauty and fire as a dark knight walks a fine line between upholding the law, revenge, and becoming what he most despises. It’s a delicate dance between light and darkness, subterfuge and revelation, and a flirtation that never wavers past squeaky clean. But you knew the maiden and the Shadow were going to have a thing for each other, right? Lady Elsbeth is the good maiden, serving as a midwife and caring more for the common people of Graywall than herself. Sir Calan returns to Graywall under the guise of courting Elsbeth’s cousin, but in reality he’s on a secret mission to hunt down smugglers and to stop a plot against Lord Shaufton. As his alter-ego the Shadow, Calan battles his own inner demons to find the good in humanity, a faith that’s unshakable in Elsbeth. Like many hero in disguise tales, there’s mistaken identify, misdirection, conflicting codes of honor, and snappy banter between the would be lovers. Elsie’s meticulous research into medieval England is apparent in her details of period clothing, food, social graces, and music. To the modern ear, the novel’s language harkens to the more formal speech patterns of the past. While purists may spot a few rough patches, it doesn’t get in the way of the story. Lovers of entertaining non-bodice-ripping medieval romances will find an easy afternoon escape into another world. When the dark knight has a thing for cinnamon, you know it’s gonna be good.
HsRamblingMom More than 1 year ago
Loved it!! Can't wait to see what this author comes up with next!!!