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 felt a slight breeze twisting around his hair. He nudged his horse down the hill. They would be entering the mountains soon, a small section called Scar Range that hung down from the main northern mountains and made a gray scar across North Raec on the maps. It would be the hardest part of their journey, or at least the slowest.
The four had been traveling through the foothills for a couple days now. Their pace had slowed, but Chris felt a lot more at ease. He still missed home, mostly his twin and his other friends — though he had spent most of his time with Arnold, Terrin, and Nora.
In fact, now that he thought about it, he almost wished he had spent more time with others. Ever since he had met Arnold, back when they were six, he’d tagged along. Wherever Arnold led, he would follow.
But now, Arnold was the tag-along.
Before Arnold, Chris was very shy and opened up only to his sister. As the youngest of eight, he wasn’t often noticed. Then he entered school, and more people had noticed him.
Still, he stayed next to Arnold, not sure how to act. It had felt weird, being called “honorable.” The first, and pretty much only, time he had exercised authority was to tell people to drop the title.
Ah, well, he thought with a small chuckle, that won’t be a problem anymore.
“Hey, Chris. What’s with having your head in the sky? We’ll have enough of that in the mountains, even though we’re staying on the low roads. And you’re not a scholar yet, so you don’t have that excuse.”
He turned his head and saw a grinning Arnold beside him. “Humph. Scholars don’t always have their heads in the sky. They can be very adventurous men. After all, think of King Miles. He discovered the Riddled Stone, and he was also known as one of the wisest scholars.”
It hadn’t pinched as bad as he thought it would, to mention the Riddled Stone. He would have preferred to avoid the subject, but Miles was the first example that came to mind. Luckily no one noticed, or rather, no one showed that they had noticed.
Instead, Arnold threw a punch at him. He ducked, and the punch went harmlessly over him, as both boys had known it would, and Chris then picked up a canter. He heard Arnold and the girls do the same behind him. Arnold pressed Rich up beside Marc, and they raced towards the next hill.
It was a game they had played a lot as boys. One would try to punch the other — though even the first time, they’d missed — and then they would race a ways. Somehow they always knew where the finish line was, usually wherever it was that they were forced to slow down, like the upward slope of the hill they were quickly approaching.
The first time they had played the game, they hadn’t been friends. But they’d been walking together, talking about squires and knighthood. Or rather, Arnold was talking, and Chris listening. Then, for whatever reason, Arnold had thrown a punch at his head, and he had ducked. Then he had run, thinking that Arnold was being mean. It was something his older brothers did quite a lot. But they reached the door and ran into his sister, Trill, and that put a stop to the chase. Later, Arnold had complimented him, and that was when their tradition started — at first more a test of skill, but soon it became a game.
This time, Chris won. He slowed his horse to a walk to climb the tall hill. The path thinned, and on the rugged mountain terrain, they had to go in single file.
He stopped at a flat hollow in the hill. There was a shallow cave and a bit of open meadow. He glanced back at the line behind him. Arnold was first, then Nora. She was a natural on a horse, though she hadn’t learned to ride till she had met them. Last came Terrin, who was intently watching the ground.
Arnold pulled up and glanced back as well, to see what Chris was looking at.
Chris nibbled his lip and asked, “Think she’s spotted the tracks of a wolf pack or something?”
“With the best of luck, it’s a deer herd. Plenty of good venison nearby, though we couldn’t carry a whole lot.”
Nora had stopped on the path and was calling to Terrin. “Come on, everyone’s waiting.”
Terrin looked up and nudged Leaf on, and Nora turned forward. In unison, their faces changed. Terrin’s became twisted in disgust and horror, and Nora’s jaw dropped, and her eyes widened in surprise. Both boys turned to see what it was, but from their angle at the flat hollow, they couldn’t see anything.
It was Nora who answered their question. She pulled herself together and shouted, “Harpies!”
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.