Told you it's Hero Month! That's why today's flash is an excerpt from Halitor the Hero.


Isn't that a lovely cover?
 Title: Halitor the Hero
Author: Rebecca M. Douglass
Publication Info: 2014, 159 pages (paperback). Available in paper and all ebook formats
Genre: Humorous fantasy
Age Level: Middle grades (roughly age 8 or 9) and up
 
A Fair Maiden who breaks all the rules.  A would-be Hero who fails everything by the book.  It’ll be the adventure of a lifetime…if they survive past breakfast.


Blurb:
Halitor wants to be a Hero and ride through the world rescuing Princesses and Fair Maidens in distress. Too bad he tends to trip over his own feet and drop his sword when he gets excited! When his Hero apprentice-master abandons him at an inn in Loria, he resigns himself to life as a kitchen boy. But he’s reckoned without Melly, the young kitchen wench. She wants his help finding her father, and she won’t quit until she has it. Soon Halitor is tramping through the mountains fighting ogres and dragons and just hoping to stay alive. Along the way he learns a lot more than just how to be a Hero. This fun fantasy adventure has a good dose of humor and plenty of excitement to keep kids turning pages.

Excerpt--From Chapter 3, "Encounters With Ogres"

Melly clutched Halitor’s arm and pointed into the woods. A pair of small ogres stared at them, growling and gnashing their teeth. When the young people drew their swords, the ogres slunk away. Ogres wouldn’t attack people who could put up a fight. Still, after that, Melly and Halitor walked a little faster and a little closer together. The next ogres might not be so quick to take flight. It began to drizzle, and Halitor thought of his stable loft. If not for Melly, he would have been there, warm and dry, and with a full belly.

“We need to get onto a main road,” Melly said. “There’s bound to be more monsters about and I don’t want to meet them.”

“What about Derker? Won’t he be looking on the road for us?”

“Not in the rain, not him. And anyway, he’ll think we’ve gone south, or off by the Great Road. Not up towards the Ice Castle with winter coming on.”

Halitor didn’t much like the sound of that, but he liked the idea of following a road, where more traffic might mean fewer ogres. They found a path that after much winding joined the road, and turned again toward the mountains.

Around noon they smelled the smoke of a cooking fire—smoke mingled with something that made Halitor’s stomach growl.

“I bet it’s a trader’s caravan,” Melly whispered, peeking around a tree at the camp where half a dozen wagons were stopped for a mid-day meal. “Maybe we can join them, if they’re going our way.”

Halitor remembered that she and her Da had been traders. She must be used to that sort of thing. “I’ll go in first,” he said, trying to think what a Hero would do. “What if they’re slave-hunters, or bandits?” Melly nodded, as though Halitor could somehow protect her. He knew that if they were bandits, the most he could do was occupy them long enough for her to escape. Well, that was something, and it was what a Hero would do.

The merchants were just merchants, and shared their meal in exchange for news. They would have preferred coin, but there was much the young travelers did not have, and coins were among them. The caravan-master was a kindly sort, so he let them eat. They looked like a pair of boys out for adventure and discovering it to be hungry work, as well as cold and wet. He asked about the road ahead, on down across Loria to Carthor and the other towns.

Halitor and Melly, disappointed the caravan wasn’t going their way, told what they could about the road, without mentioning that they hadn’t been using it.

When they parted, the caravan master warned them, “Ye’d do well to take care. Find a caravan if ye can. The ogres are bad this year.”

“Were you attacked?” Halitor asked, feeling to be sure his sword was still in place.

“Nay, not us. They won’t attack a large party, seein’ as they can’t work together, not more than two at a time anyhow. A pair of younglings like ye, though, they might think were easy pickins.”

Melly thanked him for his concern, and, hitching her sword to a more comfortable position under her hand, promised they’d be careful. “We can’t wait for another group. We are in a bit of a hurry.”

“Ay. Ye’d best move on fast in any case. It’s fair cold up high, and the weather has a changing feel. This rain could turn to snow up there any time, if it hasn’t already.”

Halitor felt a deeper chill than the drizzle caused. Until now he hadn’t grasped that their way led through a high pass. Melly led him off before he could ask any more questions.

They kept a sharp, nervous eye out front and back after they started on. After a mile or so, however, they started arguing again and forgot to watch.

“Why do we have to cross the mountains, anyway?” Halitor asked.

“Because my home lies on the other side,” Melly answered, in that too-patient voice that means both parties are about to be aggravated.

“But why can’t we go south? We could take the Great Road,” he suggested, referring to the largest road that linked the valley states of Loria, Garan, Duria and Kargor, which spread out from the Ice Castle like the splayed fingers of a hand. “Or even the desert route.” He and Bovrell had gone around the south end of the range that separated Duria and Garan, and it had been warm, even in the dead of winter. Maybe her home—what had she called it? Gandaria?—was in the far north. That would explain why he’d never heard of it.

“How long did all that riding around take you?” Melly asked in a tone that didn’t encourage him to answer. He did anyway.

“I don’t know, maybe a few months? We did stuff along the way, you know.”

He wanted to tell her that they had rescued maidens and freed a village from a cruel overlord. And they had done those things, but Halitor had always dropped his sword or ridden the wrong way or fallen from his horse. Every single time. By the time they had reached Loria and rescued Melly, Bovrell was scarcely speaking to him. He didn’t want to talk about it.

“Say, Melly,” he said to change the subject, since the idea of going south didn’t seem to go over well, especially as they had walked north for three days already and would have to go back towards Carthor and the Inn. “I never did ask how you got taken by that ogre in the first place. I mean, if you were at the inn and all.” Ogres would never come into a town, though according to the Hero’s Guide they might enter a lone castle to take a princess.

“I, um,” she glanced at him and went ahead and said it. “I was trying to run off.”

The news didn’t shock or surprise him as it might have once. After all, they were running away now because she wanted to. Of course she’d tried before. He thought of something else. “Ogres are only supposed to kidnap Princesses. The Guide says so. So why you?”

“Maybe they only kidnap princesses, but I’m pretty sure they’ll eat anyone.” She sighed. “I suppose that was what it would have done. How should I know?”

Halitor didn’t answer, because he didn’t know how to tell if an ogre was kidnapping a Princess or looking for dinner. And what did they do with the ones who weren’t rescued? It wasn’t like the ogres did it just so Heroes could have someone to rescue. That wouldn’t be a good bargain for the ogres, who nearly always ended up killed by the Heroes, if the Guide was right.

Thinking made his head hurt, so he stopped thinking and went back to watching for ogres. Fighting monsters he understood, even if he wasn’t any good at it.

***
©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
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