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.
It wasn’t fair, Terrin thought. The Shard should not have been that big a deal. Sure, it was a powerful source of magical energy, but no one could use it. A few people had tried to draw on the power of the Shards, generations ago, and the action had sucked them dry of magic.
Way back during the Great Raec War, King Miles had followed a series of cryptic hints that led him to the famous Riddled Stone. It was surrounded by a shell of impenetrable, black rock, but as he picked it up, the shell split into five pieces, revealing the white Stone. Those five Shards were nothing, compared to the power of the Stone — and only the king could use that. King Miles had used the Stone to end the Great War. The Raecs had still become separate countries, but there had been peace, for a while. Later kings had used it, too, in times of great need, but never on a whim because the magic in the Stone was natural, not a magician-cast spell, and such raw magic was always finicky.
Of course, from Arnold and Chris’s story, she thought the whole situation reeked of magic. How else would all those people forget that they had danced with Chris mere minutes before? But of course, there was no way to prove anything of that sort.
Now Terrin, Nora, and Arnold were sitting at the fountain. They didn’t care that Arnold should be on his way, or that the girls should be in class. They had just returned from the earl’s house.
The early spring air, which had seemed icy and fragile, shattered as Nora spoke. “I suppose we should be packing.”
Arnold stared at her, and even Terrin blinked in surprise.
She had known what was coming, from herself and Arnold at least, but she hadn’t expected it from Nora. Arnold opened his mouth and spluttered something that sounded a bit like, “Sput duh you manths?” though it probably was, “What do you mean?”
Nora spoke again. “Oh, come on, Arnold. We can’t just let him go alone. Yes, he’ll argue, but he can’t stop us. Even when he had his title of Honorable Christopher, he couldn’t control us. We all know that he’s not a thief. Besides, it’s better to all go together rather than run into each other later.”
Arnold opened his mouth as if to argue, but Terrin shook her head. “Nora’s right, we all know we’re going. There’s nothing else to do. Come on, Nora, I bet we can finish packing before class ends. No use letting our roommates figure it out.”
The two got up and hurried to their room. She heard Arnold mutter something about girls, and she rolled her eyes.
She and the boys had been together for a long time, since Chris started school. They’d had their arguments in the early days, lots of them, and it had been a long time before they had actually become friends. But something about Chris had drawn them, and later Nora.
And it still did.
* * *
Terrin, Nora, and Arnold left in the early morning, when only people like shopkeepers or farmers were up. As soon as the city gate opened, they slipped out and rode as far as the first bend in the road. Now they let their horses nibble the grass as they waited for Chris.
Finally he appeared, riding his white horse, Marc. He obviously hadn’t packed much. The medium-sized brown sack slung across Marc’s back couldn’t have contained much more than a bit of food and a few changes of clothes. Chris’s head was hanging, and Marc picked up on the mood, plodding more like a pack horse than a fine steed.
Arnold nudged his dun-colored horse, Rich, to walk alongside Marc, and the girls followed on their own horses — Terrin’s, a dark chestnut named Leaf, and Nora’s, a dapple gray named Minty.
Chris looked at them sadly. “I should have known I couldn’t get away without saying goodbye.”
Nora opened her mouth, and then shut it. Terrin wondered if she was scared of how Chris would react when he realized they weren’t there just to see him off.
Arnold spoke instead. “Chris, we are going with you.”
Chris’s eyes popped with anger, and he pulled Marc to a stop. He twisted in his saddled and glared at his friends.
“Did you not hear what the prince said? If we’re caught in this country by the time the month is out, I’ll be thrown in jail, or worse. And anyone traveling with me will get the same. I don’t care how much you want to show your faith in my innocence, I’m dangerous. Get that through your heads: I’m dangerous.”
Marc stomped his foot.
Terrin spoke calmly, “Chris, we are coming with you. You know you can’t stop us. And it’s not just to prove that we think you’re innocent. It’s also because you’re our best friend. We’re old enough to make our own decisions. However much you keep saying no, we’ll just follow you.”
Chris looked her in the eye, but she knew he was faltering.
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.