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.
Coren had summoned four of the harpies who could talk to carry them out of the valley. When Arnold asked about it, Andrea explained that she’d been trying to teach human language to the other harpies. Most could understand, but only a few had the talent to speak it well.
Arnold couldn’t remember the name of the young harpy that was carrying him. Currently he was worried about staying still so that the creature would not have to tighten its grip. He wasn’t big on heights, and after a while the wind got a bit chilly.
But at the same time, the view was absolutely amazing.
He was just about to relax and enjoy the flight when a large cloud rolled into them. He glanced up at the harpy above him, who said, “Sorry, I didn’t pull up quite fast enough. I’m not used to carrying humans.”
Arnold sighed and brushed a few of the droplets off his sleeve, though it only rubbed them in.
No, he definitely did not like flying.
Ahead of him, Nora looked much more excited about the experience and was constantly pointing something out to her harpy. He could hear the murmur of their voices. A bit to her left was Terrin, who had her hands clasped around her harpy’s legs, no doubt to its distaste, and to the right was Chris. Arnold couldn’t guess what he thought of it all. Behind them, other harpies were bringing their horses and baggage.
Coren had decided that they should be carried to one of the larger mountain lakes where they could begin their search. Their main concern was that they would go to the right lake, but not find what they were looking for. After all, if the entrance really was underwater, it would be hard to see, and the mountains were large. Whatever they needed to find might not even be in Scar Range, for all they knew.
In fact, Arnold was slightly worried. Chris was obviously serious about this whole quest thing, but he could not imagine the reason why. King Miles already found the Riddled Stone and carried it away ages ago. What good would it do to follow in his footsteps?
Suddenly, he felt himself dropping.
The weightlessness was horrid, and with it came the feeling of weakness. The wind seemed to suck all the strength out of him as it rushed past. Then it slowed, and he was gliding across the ground.
He glared up at his harpy. “You could have given me some warning, you know.”
The harpy looked down at him, full of childlike innocence. “Sorry. We have arrived, young master.”
Arnold grimaced. “Don’t call me young master. If you must title me, at least say knight or sir or something like that.”
The harpy laughed lightly, then said, “Knight or sir young master, I’m going to drop you now. Farewell.”
True to its word, the harpy dropped him barely a hundredth of a second after it said ‘now’, and Arnold stumbled, falling on his face and barely catching the last word.
As Terrin helped him to his feet, he spat at the ground and said, “That’s it. Those harpies are just as bad as humans, especially the children. It mocked me! What did I say to it to make it dislike me?”
He heard Nora giggle, and Terrin laughed out loud as she pulled him to the side so Chris could land.
He stumbled after her angrily. “What’s so funny?”
Nora answered, “I think she liked you. As you said, they are like humans, and children often show affection through teasing.”
Terrin rolled her eyes, and Arnold cast her a glance.
“Well, the children you’re used to might tease,” she said, “but where I come from, children are very respectful and would never do such a thing.”
Arnold punched at her shoulder. “Hey, if that’s true, why were you always so mean to Chris and me?”
“I meant we wouldn’t tease adults,” Terrin said. “Of course we teased other children, especially ones like you. Chris just happened to pick up some of the affects.”
Chris jumped in. “Wait a minute. Are you saying you were so desperate to be mean to Arnold that you were willing to hurt an innocent civilian like me?”
Nora gaped. “Terrin used to be mean to you guys? Terrin? But I thought she was there to take care of you.”
Arnold turned on her. “Are you saying we need taken care of?”
“Yes,” said the two girls in sync, though Terrin sounded much harsher than Nora.
“But, guys, really, we need to get settled,” Chris said. “I think we’ll camp here tonight. I bet the horses are a bit shaken after that flight. We can start checking out the lake tomorrow.”
The next five days, Nora usually stayed at the camp to watch the horses and prepare their meals. Terrin did some hunting, keeping an eye out for caves around the lake, while Chris and Arnold took turns diving into the water to search for underwater caves.
Only when Chris was sure that they had checked every nook and cranny did they leave the lake. They followed a shallow stream down towards the valley. By noon they entered a forest, and the stream had gathered strength, turning into a small river.
By the time they found a suitable place to camp, the clouds had turned dark and thickened considerably. Arnold groaned. There had been many nights over the last year when he’d slept under the rain, sometimes even under snow or sleet. However, early spring rains tended to be the worst.
That night they settled down to sleep restlessly.
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.