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.
Boring. The Dukedom of Grith was completely boring. Perhaps if she could escape the duke’s manor house and explore the city of Charlon, she might find something of interest, but she was sick of parties and fancy dresses. She had been perfectly happy at home with only the occasional feast and with plenty of time to run and play.
The duke had hosted a party every week so far. There were plenty of courtiers, and everyone insisted on dressing so finely that even her best gown — a pale pink color with a darker pink pattern of flowers, and a blue silk underskirt that matched her eyes — looked childish next to the other nobles. Clothes seemed of utmost importance here.
Lady Joline, who almost always stayed with Duke Grith during her visits from Diamond Isles, had immediately set to ordering some fine cloth, which she then cut into the latest fashion and was now helping the ever-reluctant Trill sew it into a lovely gown of a bright green, which the lady said would make her eyes stand out, and add a trim of deep red accents.
After Chris had departed, Anthony had convinced their father that the dukedom would be the best place for her.
“It is high time that the poor dear is exposed to courtly society and learns to make her way in the world,” he said. “She’s become too much of a boy under her wild excuse for a brother, and the influence of ladies would surely do her well. Indeed, that is partly why I came here, though I knew not how bad Christopher really was.”
Perhaps Anthony was right in saying that Trill enjoyed acting like a boy, but she saw no problem in that — in fact, she found it much preferable to the ‘influence of ladies.’ But her father had a weakness for Anthony, and so here she was, gazing out the window on a perfectly sunny day into a lovely green garden.
And from here she saw the messenger arrive, riding a majestic black stallion. Across the rump of the animal was a white cloth with the messenger’s coat of arms, a snake swallowing a sword hilt first and holding a feather in its tail.
Her brother was out near the garden gate and met the man as he came through. Anthony stepped quickly to the messenger’s side, and they talked for a minute before walking towards the castle.
Trill watched with interest, for she could clearly see the worried expression on both men’s faces.
She stood quickly and turned to Joline, who sat nearby, adding a golden embroidery of peacocks to the new gown.
“Joline, I do feel ever so bored in here,” she said. “And while I know it would be nice to have the new gown finished before the night of the next dance, I simply cannot bear sitting still for another minute. Couldn’t we take a walk down to the hall, at least?”
Joline looked up and then smiled brightly. Normally, Trill preferred to sit in her room away from the hustle and bustle, and the lady no doubt thought her desire to visit the hall represented great progress. She set down her work and said in her sweet voice, “Of course, Trillory. Come on, now. That dress will do for simply visiting the hall. My, after we’re done with your ball gown—”
Trill followed Joline quietly, only replying when necessary. They reached the hall quickly, and she was glad to see that the messenger was not there yet. She started up a conversation with one of Joline’s many friends, while watching the door out of the corner of her eye.
She had but a minute’s wait, then Anthony entered with the messenger beside him. The whole hall quieted at the sight of the messenger’s arms, embroidered brightly on his sleeves.
The two walked halfway up the hall. Anthony bowed deeply, and the messenger knelt. Next to her, she sensed Joline stiffen, and she was sure that she saw a gleam in the lady’s eyes, for a second. Then Joline regained control of her expression, and the clueless look returned.
Duke Grith was a handsome man in his late fifties. He was tall, had short neat black hair and eyes nearly as dark. He wore a gold suit with a silver robe over it. On his head was a thin silver circlet, and he wore a silver ring on his finger with a ruby in it.
The duke stood. “Rise, Sir Anthony, come to my side. Rise, Messenger, and tell me what news you bring and from whom.”
This all sounded very grand, but Trill wished he would skip the formalities. She thought it very well that her father never bothered with this proper stuff.
Anthony walked quickly to his lord’s side. There he stood, very tall and proud looking. It was no secret that he was one of Grith’s favorites.
The messenger stood and began his tale. “From the king I come, bearing ill tidings. A messenger arrived three weeks ago at the king’s court, bearing news that the South grows weary, and that their merchants seem restless.
“This alone worried my lord, but three days past, Crown Prince Tyler was out on a hunt and discovered the remains of a North Raecan caravan. Their carts were stripped clean and all valuables taken, the rest burned. At least ten North Raecans were found dead. There was an eleventh of the dead, thoroughly burned, but not thoroughly enough. The prince found on him a piece of cloth emblazoned with the Southern arms.
“From this we have concluded that South Raec has attacked one of our caravans. It appears that the Southern merchants knew the attack was coming. We think it would be wise to prepare for war, though the king seeks your opinion. Also, we ask that you make sure that no Southern merchants leave your lands until the matter is settled.”
The duke turned to the courtiers. “Quickly, you heard him. We have long been expecting South Raec to rise against us again. Ride now to your homes, and to all the villages within our district, and there imprison any Southern merchants. Give them comforts, but do not allow them to leave.
“Anthony, go to the captain of the guard and give him orders to shut the gates. No merchants or commoners are to leave the city until all the South Raecan merchants have been secured.
“Messenger, pray stay and rest tonight, return to the king tomorrow. Tell him that I positively agree. We cannot delay. We must prepare for war.”
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.