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About Writing this Book

How to Be a Hero was originally a (realllllllly) short—like 9 pages short—story I wrote as a birthday present for a nephew. It wasn't until I was writing chapter 5 of Through the Dark Wood and I was having Galwen mention the name of his old master that the name Alanak flowed through my fingers into the keyboard. I squinted at the screen and scratched my head at the unintentional realization that Galwen was Jacob. Suddenly Galwen's life bloomed out in front of me, and I was stunned at how the two stories flowed together. Galwen is one of my favorite characters. 


I also wanted to experiment with self-publishing, and suddenly had a short story related to my novel that I could start with. So, I added the front and back matter and a chapter of my novel, and published. It was a great learning experience. But, I have wanted to tell more of young Galwen's story ever since.


This is that opportunity. Since it's been a while since I've published anything, I decided to give you another short story. This one's 32 pages long and comes with a few chapters of TODTOL, Book Two which is still in the works.


Volume one is kind of a moot point now, and I'd give it away free on Amazon if they'd ever drop the price like I've tried to get them to. So, until then, you can read Volume One for free here. I hope you enjoy!

How to Be a Hero

Volumes  1 & 2

SAMPLE from the book...


Jacob Galwen Dorria, future friend and mentor to Zam Windwater, is granted the chance to learn the Warrior’s Way in these two short stories. The tale of Jacob Dorria’s training begins at age eleven in How to Be a Hero and continues at age twenty in A Path to Parting Ways. He faces down a Grimmal as a boy, and later, endures a treacherous winter trek through the dark wood of Darlandis. A young man on a mission, Galwen—as he will later be called—journeys to deliver the Almanor (a graced sable stone) to an endangered Lord and old friend of his adopted father Alanak. Jacob and Alanak encounter strange creatures and grave perils as they journey to discover whether they truly know… How to Be a Hero. 

This volume includes the original How to be a Hero; its sequel, A Path to Parting Ways, and a sneak peek into both Treasures of Darkness - Treasures of Light Books. Fans of Through the Dark Wood will be excited to find nearly 70 pages of Book Two: Along the Old Kings Road included in the sneak peek


Note from the Author


As you’re probably aware, the book you hold in your hands is not Book Two of Treasures of Darkness - Treasures of Light (though you’ll find a nearly seventy page excerpt from that story at the end—just after a one chapter excerpt from Book One). This is instead the continuation of young Jacob Dorria’s story from How to be a Hero. I’ve wanted to set this record down since I first discovered the nine page short story I wrote for my nephew’s birthday was actually the back story for Galwen Dorria (that actually happened by accident).

As that first short (short-short—like 9 pages short) short story was a present to my nephew, How to be a Hero – Volume Two is (a little longer—thirty-two pages—and) a present to you my reader. I thoroughly hope you enjoy. I’ve included the first short story for continuity, but if you prefer you can skip straight to PART TWO.

Thanks for reading!

–  Geno



How to be a Hero: Volume One

How to be a Hero




Several decades before Zam’s tale began, his friend and teacher Jacob Galwen Dorria—called Galwen in his latter days—was granted his chance to learn the warrior’s way. It is his tale that I, Graffeon—royal recorder and messenger—present to you now. When King Tursidan passed from life, Targanon his twelve year old son took the throne. He was a cruel boy who taxed the people greatly to fund his revelry and sport. It was in this era that eleven year old Jacob and his mother were taken as payment for taxes and sold as slaves in the market of Valkiliar.

Jacob watched helplessly as his mother was purchased and taken away by a Coriaeran before he too was sold to the Knight Rorithet Maldan who claimed him as his page. Rorithet lost him in tournament to Alanak of Kirisong—a blustery but kind-hearted knight. Alanak treated him well—almost like a father—but he spent no time training him. Jacob had seen Alanak win many victories, and he longed to learn the ways of knighthood so he could right wrongs and protect others from the fate he and his mother had faced. Little did Jacob know how soon he would be tested. It was midsummer…



Battles won for glory alone:


It was midsummer, and only now—as the sun was sinking behind the hills and great towering trees—did the travelers stop for their evening meal. Afterward, they would push on through the night in hopes of reaching Tarnanis by mid-morning.


As Alanak took the larger portion of meat from the spit, Jacob asked him, “Alanak, how can you be so heroic?”


His master smiled, and answered in his usual bluster, “It is my place in life. I am called to the glories of heroism.” as Alanak spoke, light from the fire glinted off of his well-polished armor and danced throughout their little camp as if some heavenly agreement with his statement were taking place. “Moreover, someone must champion the innocent. If not I, then who? I know of no one more brave or strong.”


He is strong. His armor alone would weary most horses. He breaks tree branches like they’re twigs.


“What brings this question, young one?”


Jacob paused a moment and tried to find an answer that didn’t make him feel foolish. Falling short of one, he answered truthfully and timidly. “I want to know because… well… one day… I would like to be a hero too—to have you teach me to be a hero.”


Alanak chuckled loudly, and feelings of foolishness rushed through Jacob.


“Jacob, you’re a small child. By your age I was much larger, and stronger. Why, you have difficulty lifting my pack to Rascar’s saddle. I fear the hero’s life is not in your future. You do well to serve, but a hero must be strong and brave—willing to face any challenge no matter the personal cost. Jacob, I have taken on seven bandits at once and only received one blow from the lot.” He softened. “I don’t mean to seem unkind, but heroes are not like you. We are bold, daring, warriors capable of holding the hearts of the world in our hands. And that takes some hard fought battles. I don’t see in you what it takes to be a hero. Stick with service. That is your life.”


A tear ran down Jacob’s cheek as he nodded, looking toward the woods to ensure Alanak would not see. Their meal passed in relative silence. Though, Alanak chuckled a few more times.


It’s probably from my question.


When the meal was done Jacob packed up the food and supplies and loaded them on the horses—he really did have trouble loading up Rascar—and while Jacob was preparing to leave, Alanak was admiring his sword then fighting invisible foes and admiring his sword again.



They rode without conversation through the night toward Tarnanis. Alanak had been summoned to compete against the valiant knight Toreshon Valdair. It was to be a grand tournament and celebration. The winner would receive great honor and a place in King Targanon’s court. Jacob had watched his master repeatedly engage in tournaments and often receive great rewards. It seems they are the only battles he ever engages in any more.


As they rode, Jacob wasn’t looking ahead to his master’s victory as he often did with great excitement. Instead, his mind recounted the earlier conversation. “I fear the hero’s life is not in your future.” But I long to be a hero… “A hero must be strong, and brave—willing to face any challenge no matter the personal cost.” That is the heart I have. One to champion the innocent no matter the cost. I can be a hero. I know it… if only I were given the chance.


Through the darkest parts of the night, Jacob struggled in his heart. He desired to be a hero like Alanak and wanted Alanak to see that he could be… someday.


As the sun lifted its head from the blanket of night and prepared to wish the world a good morning, soft colors began to stretch across the sky lending beauty to the surroundings; the woods; the hills; in the far distance even the sea.


“Jacob, do you see the water there? Tarnanis is by the sea. It has been many years since I have traveled there. We will have to quicken our pace and skip breakfast if we are to make it to the festival. And, to my next victory.” As always the often-chuckling knight found humor in the expectation of his impending victory and glory. He mused. “A place in the royal court….” Alanak of Kirisong had made quite a name for himself. When he approached towns his name was now heralded and nobles wished to meet him.


Jacob nodded his understanding that they would have to go without food. They had barely begun to quicken the pace when from somewhere in the woods a child screamed. It startled them both. Jacob pulled at the reigns of his horse Meritak and listened intently trying to hear where the scream had come from.


Alanak’s initial startling subsided and he began to ride on when he realized Jacob had stopped. “Come boy! If we stop we’ll miss the festival. Come. I have a battle to fight.”


Jacob didn’t understand. “But Alanak, there may be someone in danger here.” An invisible voice whispered to Jacob’s soul, there is danger here, and innocents to champion.


“We haven't the time, Jacob. Now come along.”


Alanak was getting visibly angry, but the voice kept speaking to Jacob’s soul. Some will not take the true battles presented to them, only battles they pursue. Such men are not true heroes. Jacob heard the scream again followed by another.


“That was a little girl!” He looked at Alanak who showed no willingness to intervene.


“It’s probably children playing—as children do—and if it is not, where is the glory? There are no heralds here, no men of rank. The king of Cairemia awaits in Tarnanis and has summoned me to tournament. Now come along!” This was a side of Alanak that Jacob had never seen.


Another scream and a guttural shout broke through the woods. “Stop your screaming!” The voice seemed equal parts boar-grunt and man-speech. Jacob knew something horrible was in the woods. He looked for Alanak to finally respond heroically. But Alanak was frozen by fear, his complexion a ghostly white.


The soul whisper spoke to Jacob again. This is your moment Jacob. Champion the innocents no matter the cost. That was all he needed. He thrust Meritak forward, bolting in the direction of the screams. Trees and branches flew past him as he pushed his horse faster than he ever had before. Speaking his thoughts to the air, he bolstered his strength. “Though the villain be more hideous than my imagination can conceive, that will not detour me.”


A triumphant growl rose, filling the woods and shaking the air. Jacob’s heart beat faster.


If the creature has done them violence, he shouted, “It will pay!”


He felt somehow that the villain was close. So, he brought his legs up into a crouch atop Meritak’s saddle, reached for his boot-dagger, and plunged into the clearing at great speed. The world seemed to slow as he saw the horrible ogre-like creature carrying away two children only a little younger than Jacob himself.


Across the clearing was a cottage; the children’s parents lay limp along side it. The beast was easily a head taller than Alanak and twice his girth—horrible to behold. Its yellow-green skin was mottled with black as if covered in tar or a more unsavory filth. It had its hands covering the children’s faces so they could no longer scream.


And likely no longer breath!


The pace at which the world was moving began to quicken again as Meritak lurched to a stop and Jacob launched from the horse toward the beast, dagger in hand. He landed, plunging the blade as deeply into the creatures back as its guard would allow. Jacob held on for dear life as the creature reeled from the blow and bellowed, “AAAAAaaahhhhh!!!” reaching over its shoulder for Jacob. At that moment, Meritak reared up as if prompted by some unseen master and struck the creature twice with his hooves. The creature’s response was swift. It swung wildly, and the back of its hand struck the horse knocking it aside, but Meritak’s blows had found their mark. The creature was having difficulty seeing and could not help but release the children from his grasp. They ran to where their parents lay and huddled together.


Jacob was now very afraid. Meritak cast so easily aside. The creature barely phased by the blade I cling to in its back…. His strength began to ebb.


The creature reached for him again and again, but could not get hold of him. It tried to shake him loose. The voice spoke again to Jacob’s soul, Just another moment, Jacob.


It strengthened him. Yes. I can hold on another moment. He shouted to the children, “Run, you two. Find a hiding place.”


“But our parents?” the boy protested. And the beast growled again.


Jacob wrapped one arm around the creature’s neck while the other hand still clutched the handle of the blade. “Go!”


As Jacob shouted, the beast rushed backward slamming him into a nearby tree. The impact was blinding. But to the creature’s dismay it drove the blade deeper. The pain angered it and drove it into a frenzy. Repeatedly it struck Jacob against the trees bordering the clearing. With each strike, the beast was weakening as it drove the weapon of its own demise deeper into itself. But Jacob, a mere boy, was weakened too. The force of the last blow caused the blade to pierce the creature’s heart. Jacob could no longer hold on. He fell from the beast’s back and landed, barely conscious, on the gnarled roots of the tree. The soul whisper spoke again. Well done, Jacob. You’ve done well.


The creature—mortally undone and weak—stumbled backward away from the boy who had caused its destruction. In gasping agony it chose its vengeance: crushing Jacob as it met its own end. The creature struggled through failing strength with all its malicious intent to close the gap to Jacob. Breathing its last, the beast crumpled to the ground, landing with crushing force mere inches from Jacob. Its, now limp, arm was all that struck. Still the pain was profound, and Jacob fell from consciousness.



Pain roiled through Jacob’s body as he woke. He wasn’t sure if he were alive or in heaven. As he pondered this, the great pain he felt assured him this was not heaven. However, the bed he found himself in seemed heavenly enough after all the nights he’d slept on the ground when traveling with Alanak. As he opened his eyes, he saw the little boy and girl who immediately smiled at him.


Through a rakish grin the boy said, “Hi. I’m Dorrin.”


The little girl—slightly disheveled, but pretty—smiled broadly. “And I’m Terrice, his sister. You are most brave.” Jacob couldn’t help but smile in return.


A voice came from the other side of the room. “It’s true. You are most brave young man. I’m Torrin Darviss. These are my children and this is my wife Emelia.” she bowed her head to him. “Our children told us what you did—how you saved us all. We are forever in your debt.”


Jacob was surprised. “You’re alive? But I saw you… the creature—”


“Likes its meals alive, but unconscious so they cannot struggle.”


Emelia crossed the room to Jacob. Tears creased her cheeks. “If you had not heard, had not come…” a grim look fell over her at the thought, “Oh, thank you for your bravery.”


Jacob tried to sit up. “Oww!”


“You may not want to do that for a while.” another voice—this one familiar. Jacob turned his head and Alanak said, “Your injuries are great, and you need time to mend.” Jacob noticed Alanak wasn’t wearing his glorious armor, his precious sword was not in the room, and he had been crying. Alanak turned to the children’s father, “Torrin, may I have a moment alone with Jacob?”


Torrin nodded. “Come children.” the family left the cottage, and Terrice looked back, smiling sweetly at Jacob. She whispered, “Thank you.” as she exited, and Jacob smiled.


Alanak knelt beside the bed. “Jacob, Lad, forgive me. Yesternight I laughed at you for desiring to be a hero, for daring to think you could be like me. I said all you could ever be was a servant. When trouble arose, I sought my glory, ignoring my own belief that a hero is a champion of the innocent. Those words now haunt me.” Tears began welling in his eyes again. “I was overcome by my pride and selfishness, and in a time when I should have acted the hero, I gave that part… to a child.” The tears began to run down his cheek. “A child who could have died, who was wounded—badly wounded—in what should have been my battle,” he scoffed himself, “If I am a hero.”


Jacob was taken aback by the emotion Alanak was showing. He tried to respond, but Alanak held up his hand and said, “You need to rest and recover. I will stay and guard you and this cottage until you are able to travel again.”


“But your tournament? King Targanon?”


Alanak bowed his head in humility. “Put those thoughts from your mind, Jacob. I will no longer be seeking such glories. Besides that, you’ve slept a day and a half already. The King will not suffer a tardy knight, and will not likely treat pleasantly one who disregarded a summons to compete.”


Jacob felt horrible for his master. “I’m so sorry.”


Alanak wiped his tears away and straitened. “I don’t care about that anymore, Jacob. You’re alive—this family is alive thanks to you—that is what matters.”

Jacob’s thoughts turned to his deeper hopes. “Alanak, will you now teach how me to be a hero.”


Alanak frowned. “When I said that you should stick with service and that is your life. I meant it, Lad. I still mean it.”


Jacob tried to sit up and protest, but pain ran through him and he spoke weakly, “after that battle…?”


Alanak raised his hand again, “Jacob, to truly live as a hero requires a life of service. Battles won for glory alone are not heroic. I knew that once, and have been reminded. I will teach you how to be a warrior, and perhaps one day to be a knight. But you asked me to teach you how to be a hero.” He shook his head and smiled. “My Boy, you already know how, and have reminded me… how to be a hero.”


Jacob smiled.


“Now rest, Son, and I will watch over you.”





I, Graffeon, am called once again to the walks of men, and must for a time set aside the telling of tales. But Alanak did indeed teach Jacob the warrior’s way—raising him as a son—and the Darviss family remained a part of Jacob’s life ever after. A great many adventures passed in the years between his first victory and that day fifty years later when a young Zam Windwater walked into his life. Jacob Galwen Dorria grew to be a great warrior and a better man. He had the ear of Cairemia’s greatest generals, battled beasts few men have faced, learned the ways of Elyon, and wed his truest love. His tale may one day be told in full, but for now I must away.


Royal Recorder and Messenger – Graffeon

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