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.
Christopher, 17 years later
Chris caught Arnold as the bigger boy stumbled backwards towards him and Nora. He pushed Arnold back towards Terrin, and the two continued their duel.
Arnold easily regained his balance in time to parry a blow from the grinning, brown-haired forest girl, Terrin.
Nora sat nearly oblivious to the scene. She had long ago stopped being excited at the duels of her friends. Now she hummed quietly, her long, blond hair falling to nearly hide her face. To a passerby, she would have looked completely absorbed in her studies, but Chris could see a hint of amusement in her deep sapphire eyes as she glanced up every once in a while.
Nearly four years had passed since he had met Nora, back when she had first entered the school. She came from North Yorc, a town up in the mountains of North Raec. Yorcs were tough folk; some thought them too opinionated. After the Great Raec War, the war that had really made North and South Raec two different countries, the people of Yorc decided that no longer would they serve the king, except when they agreed with his orders. It was commonly understood that the only reason the king had put up with such insubordination was that Yorcs were some of the best fighters, and he hated to completely lose their allegiance.
But he had found that Nora was neither opinionated nor did she have much of an interest in fighting. Instead she was shy and studious, and what opinions she did have, she rarely stated. It had surprised him a bit when he first met her.
Arnold he’d known nearly all his life. Terrin he met when he was seven. The four were best friends, doing everything together. Arnold had graduated the year before and had left to continue his training as a knight. Having completed that training, he had come to spend some free time with them. The other three had missed him, but they too would be parting soon.
Terrin would be returning to the forest people of Xell, where she would become a hunter. Nora was going to continue her studies at a small college, to specialize in either history or healing. Chris himself would be going to a more well-known college, where he would finish his training as a scholar.
A bell tolled the late hour, and he sighed. “I need to be getting back now. I’ll see you tomorrow, and then maybe we’ll have a duel, Arnold, to see if you really have earned your knighthood. When do you have to leave, anyway?”
“I might as well go Monday,” Arnold said. “You’ll be back in classes, and with exams… Well, I’ve been there before, and I wouldn’t do it again for the world. I’d rather take on the whole school alone in a fight.”
Terrin rolled her eyes, and Nora smiled.
Chris waved and departed. He walked with his head down, trying not to draw unwanted attention. He was the youngest child of Earl Fredrico, and he hated when people felt the urge to bow and say, “Honorable Christopher,” when he would rather be treated like a normal person.
He was about halfway to the manor house when someone grabbed his arm and tugged. He turned his head to see his twin sister, tall as him but with strawberry blond hair flowing in waves down her back. He thought Trill had a regal look, with her straight pose and her bright eyes, like a younger version of their mother.
“Anthony is home,” she whispered, barely audible.
He knew what this meant and started walking again quickly. Anthony was his eldest brother, who spent most of his time out looking for quests or courting at the Dukedom of Grith, where he had lived in Chris’s childhood as a squire and later as a knight.
Anthony was not really bad, but Chris and Trill thought that he was overly ambitious and more interested in power than anything. Their father, on the other hand, considered him the crown jewel of his collections, and, in his own words, “one worthy of kingship.”
Chris himself was scared of his eldest brother, who had often teased him about being the youngest — even younger than his twin by several minutes. And Trill, the only one who knew, hated Anthony because of it.
He groaned, straightening his coat, and hurried on with Trill at his elbow, preparing himself for his brother. He probably wouldn’t be allowed to leave the house over the weekend. He’d have to ask one of the servants to give his regrets to Terrin, Nora, and Arnold.
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.