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.
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Christopher, 14 years earlier
Chris’ eyes were wide. Beside him Trillory held out her hands, cupping water from the small stream into them. The gardens around them were bursting with life, and they made Chris feel safe.
“See, watch,” Trill said, and she blew on the water. It rushed up her fingers and then curved back like a wave. Then a hole appeared in the middle, and the water curved back on itself, making a donut shape.
Entranced, Chris reached out in awe to touch the water. But Trill blew again, and the water lifted out of his reach. The two giggled.
Then a large hand reached out and grabbed the water. It dissolved immediately and splashed down onto Trill’s face and lap. She squealed and scrambled away, grabbing Chris’s arm to pull him with her.
He was glad she did, for he went numb as his eyes settled on the face of his eldest brother, glaring down at them. However, Trill pulled them only to the edge of the path, and then she turned to give a quick half curtsy.
The older boy suddenly smirked, blinking once, slowly, like a cat that knows it has its prey entrapped. “Well, Christopher, why aren’t you bowing? Your sister may be full of tricks,” he glanced at the stream, “but at least she has manners.”
Quickly Chris snapped to attention, arms tight to his side, eyes straight ahead, he bowed as low as he could. Trill nudged him with her elbow after he had been in that position for a minute, and he straightened. Anthony’s smirk had widened.
“Now, I shouldn’t keep Trillory from her duties as a young lady. I’m sure there’s something she should be doing. Run along now, girl.”
Trill grabbed Chris’s hand, and the two began to scurry down the path, but Anthony called after them.
“Ah, I said Trillory could go. But Chris, I really do want to talk to you. Stay and walk with me, little brother.”
Chris felt his stomach quake as he looked back, up at his brother’s face. He felt Trill turn with him, and she said, “I’ll stay with my twin.”
But Anthony frowned.
“I only want to talk to Chris, little sister. Besides, you need to get dried off. I wouldn’t want anything to dampen that little fiery spirit of yours. Though so unfitting to a young lady of your status.” The last was but a murmur, but Chris heard, and anger rose in him, though his wide-eyed fear did not melt away.
Trill gave his hand a quick squeeze, then she let go to curtsy quickly.
“Yes, brother.” Then she was gone.
“Walk with me,” Anthony said again, but it was an order, not a request. Then he turned and went down the opposite path from the one their sister had taken.
Chris followed behind and slightly to the side of his brother, eyes down. Suddenly he could feel the chill of early May, though it hadn’t been there before.
Anthony spoke. “You know, Father’s quite proud of the way I’ve been advancing. So young, and already a knight. Duke Grith was telling Father just the other day that I was quite talented, that he saw much in my future. The duke has told me things that he’d have never told any of the other squires — not even some of his knights.
“And you know, Christopher, Father would be quite sad if you, his last son, were to prove to be the weak link in his family. Of course you’ll never be as good as me. After all, I’ll be earl one day, maybe something more.
“Anyway, brother, what I’m trying to say is that Father would be very disappointed, we all would be, if you showed your repulsive cowardice in front of everyone at my knighting ceremony tonight. Especially the ambassadors from Diamond Isles.
“Maybe if you make a good enough impression on the duke, he’ll invite you to be a page at his manor — might do you some good.”
Anthony turned and leaned over to look Chris in the eye, grabbing his arm as he started to back away.
“Now brother, you really must go and prepare. I’d be quite upset if you embarrassed the family. I just don’t know what I’d do.”
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.