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.
Terrin awoke to pale morning light and yawned. The night had been restful. Andrea had joined them for dinner, and she and Nora had talked about what had happened since they last met. Nora had constantly called on the others to help her remember minor details, thus making certain that Chris didn’t have time to bring the argument back up.
Terrin hated to admit how much she was curious about this whole riddle thing, how right Nora was, or how homesick she herself was. It seemed much longer than it really had been since she had walked in the forest, joked with her family, hunted the fleet-footed deer, or tracked the daring wolves that raided their food supply.
She remembered the first night on their journey, when Arnold had approached her with his worries. He asked what they would do when they reached Diamond Isles. She had acted so self-assured when she answered.
“Well,” she had said, “you can become a traveling warrior. That’s what you were trained for, pretty much. I’ll be a hunter, or a ranger, or something like that — perhaps guide travelers through the more treacherous parts of the Isles.
“Nora will get a job at a nice little inn and eventually settle down with a big family. And Chris can become a courier. He’s so good on horseback that he’ll do quite well at it.
“We can easily settle down in the capital or some city, so we can stay close to each other.”
Yet even then, she had wondered if they were doing the right thing. They had stuck together so faithfully since they were younger that it seemed like the natural thing to do. Wasn’t it time to start making their own way?
Argh! The whole situation gave her a headache.
She wasn’t about to let the others leave without her. Chris would choose to go running after the riddle, and Arnold would surely follow — he seemed to think of himself as Chris’s guardian. And Nora was as sure of these riddles as Chris, so she would join him, too.
Well then, Terrin had to go. Arnold was a fighter, not a decision maker, and he and Chris were usually too likeminded. Nora was intelligent, and had good instincts. However, she would rarely speak up. Chris would need someone to point out where he was wrong.
Besides, having an archer on hand was often helpful.
Set in her decision, Terrin stood up and walked over to where the others knelt by the lake. Nora looked up and handed Terrin her leather water bottle and backpack, saying, “I filled these for you, and packed up some flowers for the trail. Andrea says the whispers want us to hurry.”
Terrin scowled. She might as well try one last time to stop this idiocy. “Chris, please.” She said. “You’re not seriously thinking of following the riddle? It’s suicide.”
“How do you know that? I’m going, whether you do or not. Though I hope you will come, too. You and Nora were right when you said we were all chosen. Without you three, I’ll probably take too long to figure everything out.”
Terrin threw up her hands and humphed. “Well, you’ll need someone to take care of you until you see sense. So I guess I’ll go, just to keep you from getting yourselves killed.”
“Great,” Arnold said. “Then we’re all ready. So, where do you suppose we should look? The first line said, ‘Where walkers cannot tread and seekers lose…’ What kind of clue is that?”
Chris’s face lit up. “A lake or a large river? Something deep enough you can’t wade in it? You can’t walk in deep water, and it washes away tracks and scents that a seeker might use to find things. Isn’t that true, Terrin?”
“Oh, great,” Terrin said. “So now we just have to search all the rivers and lakes in the mountains. It might not even be in the Scar Range. Besides, what if the clue means something else? You can tread water, you know.”
“Hmm, yes,” Chris said. “But not if it’s under water, and you have to swim down.”
“What if the riddle means a forest?” she asked. “Forests can be like labyrinths. If you’re not careful, you’ll lose you way and whatever you’re looking for.”
“But people walk in forests all the time. It doesn’t fit that.”
“Some mountain forests can be hard to exactly walk in. You have to do more of a scrambling or climbing. And it’s hard to tread quietly. So that’s two ways it could fit.”
Nora broke in. “We’re forgetting one thing. The riddle says that the way is easy. Those forests certainly aren’t easy. Sure, swimming under water wouldn’t be all that easy either, but it makes more sense. So I think we should concentrate on water.”
The two looked at Nora. Then they nodded, and Terrin said, “I suppose that’s the best we can do.”
Arnold chuckled, his eyes looking back and forth between the three of them. “Can we go now? Andrea’s probably getting impatient.”
Terrin rolled her eyes.
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.