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Excerpt from Beginning of a Hero: Unlikely Heroes

By Jason Pedersen

By Jason Pedersen

(Allure of the Gypsies debuts on December 1st!  Check it out on Goodreads!)

“Let me through!” he shouts, pushing through the last line of spadix and coming face to face with Selenia. The blood-soaked warriors feel tremors in the ground as the giant cyclops approaches them.

Luke says nothing to Selenia as he races toward the monster and dives past it. A quick slash at the back of its leathery heel goes unnoticed while Selenia leaps onto its foot and climbs up its ragged clothing. She stabs deep into its kneecap, causing the cyclops to violently shake her off and send her crashing through the door to the Grandguard dorm. The giant lifts its foot to step toward her, pausing when a spear thuds into its cheek.

“Come and get me!” Luke exclaims, running toward the middle of the academy. A few steps by the cyclops brings it within reach of the half-elf while two spadix break through a group of students. Luke is hit in the arm by one of their stingers, distracted by the cyclops lifting its foot. He dives and rolls between the spadix as the mud-crusted foot smashes and grinds them into the ground.

Luke stumbles away from the crushed monsters as the poison starts to take effect. The cyclops grabs the forest tracker, whose body is wracked by a burning sensation and muscles spasms. He is barely off the ground when a sharp pain hits his arm and the poison is purged from his system, the green ooze seeping out of the fresh wound. Wrinkling his nose, he can smell a very potent anti-toxin coming from the cut.

“I definitely owe somebody,” he mutters.

The cyclops squeezes Luke in its hand, but the forest tracker is saved by the angle he is holding his sabers. He digs and twists his sabers into the soft palm of the giant, but the pain is only enough to prevent it from crushing him. With a howl of primal frustration, the cyclops moves Luke closer to his drooling mouth.

A lightning bolt hits the cyclops in the stomach causing it to exhale a gust of foul-smelling air and putrid spit. Luke is dropped in front of Selenia and they split up to dodge another ground-quaking stomp. The headmistress runs behind the cyclops to swiftly climb the back of its pant leg. The giant reaches down to smash her against its leg when the mysterious chain and sickle weapon flies out at one of the filthy fingers and sticks into the middle of the nail. The cyclops bellows in surprise and pain as the weapon yanks the nail right off the finger.

“Is there anybody in my academy without a secret this semester?” Selenia amusingly asks, looking down to see Kira clumsily stumble away from the large fingernail.

The girl has a long chain loosely wrapped around her left arm, the weapon ending in a curved sickle. The blade is connected to the chain by a foot of bare metal that she clutches in her right hand. Two medical satchels are dangling at her sides, the stoppered top of a bottle sticking out of one of them.

Kira scrambles to her feet in a panicked attempt to run away from the cyclops. The monster raises its foot to squish her, but stops when Selenia stabs it in the back of the knee, her longsword sinking up to the hilt. The growling cyclops pauses long enough for Luke to shoulder rush Kira out of the way. He flips his sabers upwards when he sees the monster’s foot coming toward him, the half-elf waiting for the perfect moment. Before the bare foot can finish its awkward descent, Luke runs out of the way, swinging his blades and dragging them through the leathery flesh.

“Don’t ever try that again!” Luke shouts at Kira. He backs toward the fountain, cautiously watching the cyclops limp in pain.

“Toss me one of those bottles, Grasdon!” Selenia yells, fighting to hang onto the cyclops.

Kira throws one of the anti-toxin bottles to the headmistress, who slices into the monster’s leg and shatters the bottle on the fresh wound. Without any poison to destroy, the magical liquid burns into the open wound and eats at the leg muscles. Selenia tries to climb further up, but the pants tear and she falls to the ground. The ex-mercenary is on her feet in an instant, carefully backing toward Luke.

“This is a stalemate until he steps on us. Got any ideas, headmistress?” Luke asks as they retreat a few steps. He can hear the gurgling fountain behind them as the cyclops roars in frustration.

“Give me a minute to think. A cyclops of this size and power isn’t natural,” Selenia replies, her longsword sparking and humming.

“That isn’t reassuring,” he mutters.

A glimmer in the eye of the cyclops draws their attention, the two warriors leaping out of the way of a spiraling blast of green energy. The grass where they were standing is left brown and dead as the cyclops fires another beam at Selenia. She blocks it with her sword, the deadly magic absorbed by the enchanted blade. The force of the attack shoves her back several yards, leaving shallow ruts in the ground. The cyclops turns toward Luke, who retreats until he bumps into the fountain.

“Catch, kid!” Kevin shouts, hurling his shield to Luke. The half-elf catches it as the death beam races toward him. He awkwardly gets the magic shield up in time to reflect the blast back at the cyclops. The energy hits it in the eye, melting the bulbous orb into white ooze. A large shockwave ripples through the earth as the screaming monster stomps and flails with all its might. A wave ripples along the ground and tosses Luke into the fountain.

“What do we have to do to kill this thing?” Luke groans, hurrying to the rim. The cyclops charges the fountain, but his run abruptly turns into a slow, clumsy stumble. The young warrior nervously watches the monster pitch forward and impale its throat on the angel statue’s sword. A spray of blood covers Luke, who is in shock and quietly trying to figure out what just happened.

“Hope you didn’t plan on being the hero this time,” Nimby says, walking up to Luke with a wide grin. The halfling has a few small cuts on his arms and is covered in slick spadix blood.

Everyone cheers as the remaining monsters retreat into the forest. As the last of the hideous spadix vanish into the tree line, the students gather behind Selenia, who is calmly approaching the fountain. Kira frantically pushes her way through the crowd, even shoving the headmistress to the side, to help Luke out of the water. She tries very hard to ignore the thick blood dripping off of him.

“What are you talking about, Nimby? Did Selenia or Kevin get it?” Luke asks. The halfling proudly points at the large corpse and the young warrior obediently follows the path of his finger. Embedded in the base of the monster’s skull is Nimby’s shortsword, the sliver of exposed blade shining in the sunlight.

“I was actually aiming for an inch more to the left so the big guy would drop and not get that extra step,” Nimby sheepishly admits.

“That is the greatest shot in the history of Windemere,” Luke declares, staring in awe at the shortsword. “I think I’ll hide behind you from now on. If you were Kira, I would kiss you.”

Kira and Nimby both ask, “What was that?”

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.

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