All Christopher Fredrico wanted was to be a peaceful scholar who could spend a lot of time with his friends. Now, falsely accused of stealing a magical artifact, he is forced to leave the only home he knows.
But as he and his friends travel towards the coast, they find a riddle that may save a kingdom — or cost them their lives.
Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One by homeschooled teen author Teresa Gaskins, is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. The full novel is available in ebook or paperback format on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.
Chris lay on the soft grass, gazing up into the late afternoon sky. Around him the others rested, as he was supposed to be doing. Instead he was thinking about the writing on the stone.
It was the last line that worried him most. What did the riddle mean by, “Until the hidden are retrieved, you cannot be free”? Was it a trap? Or did it have a deeper meaning?
He shook his head. It was nonsense. They were all free. Just because he had been banished from North Raec, that didn’t mean anything. They would be perfectly free once they got to Diamond Isles.
But that had been bothering him, too. He was sure someone had framed him. He’d had that particular brooch after he left the temple. That meant it had been put there later.
Who would want to frame him?
And who would want to steal a Shard? And why had King Miles wanted to protect them so much, placing the Shards in separate towns, and setting up caretakers and guards, unless they were more important than they were made out to be?
And this valley, with its hidden cave and the carved stone, wasn’t this where King Miles’s search for the Riddled Stone began? That much he could guess from the story Janley had told.
He sat up and glanced at the others. Terrin propped herself up on her elbows, gave him a wry smile, and whispered, “You’re awake, too. I should have known.”
He whispered back, “I think I’ve decided to follow the riddle. I think… I think it will explain why the Shard was stolen. I don’t know how they are connected, but I’m sure they are.”
Terrin’s smile turned downward. “Chris, it doesn’t matter. They banished you. It’s not your job. If we try and solve this, you’ll run out of your month and get caught, and the prince said that your life would be forfeit.”
He glanced over to where Arnold lay. It wasn’t himself he was worried about. He didn’t really want to go to Diamond Isles anyway. He’d visited there once, and he hadn’t seen any reason to call it Diamond Isles. Sheep Isles would have been a better name.
No, he was worried about Arnold, Nora, and Terrin. Nora, he supposed, would probably be fine. She could just promise never to leave Yorc territory again, and then the prince’s law couldn’t touch her. But the others, if they were found with him after the month was up, would be under the ban.
And the riddle had mentioned death.
“You’re right,” he said. “You should go back to the city, or to your forest, or even to Diamond Isles. This is my task, alone.”
“No way, Chris. You can’t face this by yourself.”
“I have to. Didn’t you hear what Janley said? This whole thing is like what happened to King Miles. I was the one who read the stone — even Andrea said she couldn’t read it — so I’m the one who has to follow it.”
“How do you know that King Miles traveled alone?”
“Well then, where did his companions go? Did he take all the glory for finding the Riddled Stone and shove them into the shadows? Or did they die in the process? Because either way, it doesn’t really encourage me to bring you guys along.”
“But you can’t do it alone. The harpy, Andrea, said that the whispers told her to find four people! Besides, this whole whisper thing is crazy, and if King Miles has already followed the riddles, then what could we achieve by following them?”
“I don’t know, but that’s what I have to do. Anyway, for all we know, the riddle has changed since King Miles’s time.”
“How would it do that?”
“There is such a thing as magic in this world, you know. Think about at this place, and the cave. Everything just echoes of magic.”
“Look who knows so much about magic.”
“I’m going, and I’m going alone.”
Their voices had risen. Chris’s was now a loud whisper, while Terrin was obviously having a hard time not coming straight out and shouting.
Suddenly Nora sat up beside them. “Guys, weren’t we all chosen? Chris, there are bound to be more riddles. Don’t you think it’s likely some of them will contain things that one of us would understand more than you? For example, I think the second line, ‘Beneath the surface, and yet high above,’ means we need to look for a cave in the mountains. I’ve lived near mountains most of my life. Did either of you think of that?”
Chris hated to admit it, but he hadn’t. And from the annoyed look on Terrin’s face, she hadn’t either.
He sighed, then said, “We’ll decide in the morning. Whatever we do, we should all rest now.” Though he doubted he would be a very good example for them.
To be continued….
Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover art copyright © Anton Tokarev / DepositPhoto.com, and Christian Joudrey / Unsplash.com
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.