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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When Nora woke up, the first thing she noticed was the silence. The second thing was the light gray fog dampening her blanket. The third was that it was already mid-morning, and Terrin had not woken her.
Terrin was supposed to have the last watch, but now it was long past the time for all four of them to be up and about. A quick glance at Terrin told her that the other girl was still asleep.
Nora sat up and looked around.
Arnold was asleep, and Chris was gone — only this time Marc was also missing.
“Shoot. He did it,” said Nora loudly.
Arnold snorted and muttered something.
Terrin sat up straight as a post. It took her only a couple seconds to grasp the situation. “Arnold, why didn’t you wake me for my watch?”
Arnold grumbled, slowly pushing himself up with his left arm, and rubbing his eyes with the right. The only bit Nora caught was, “Chris… watch.”
Nora whirled. “Chris is not watching or being watched by anything. Chris is gone.”
Arnold twisted and fell back onto his stomach.
Terrin kicked off her blanket easily and was on her feet in a second. She walked over to where Chris had slept.
“The idiot!” she said. “How does he think he can get by on his own?”
Nora turned away and knelt by her bag, roughly pushing her belongings in. She was glad she had packed it part way the night before.
She heard Arnold say, “This is my fault. I shouldn’t have let him take my spot.”
“It’s not your fault,” Terrin said. “He’s the one who did it. And by the way, I thought you were a knight. Surely you have to be better at getting out of bed than this?”
Nora finished her own bag and moved on to Arnold’s.
Arnold said, “Hey — ” but Terrin cut him off. “Nora, why are you packing Arnold’s stuff?”
“Well, you two were taking so long that I figured it would be quicker if I did it.”
Arnold once again made a sound of protest and snatched his bag away. For a second, his bottom lip puckered in a sulky expression as he shoved his belongings in, but his expression quickly changed to a grim frown.
Terrin humphed loudly. “I don’t see why we shouldn’t just go home. It’s what Chris wanted us to do. And he left us — he deserves whatever trouble he gets for it.”
Arnold glared at her. “Harpies aren’t the only dangers out here, even if they’re usually the worst. Not to mention he has a bad arm. And most of all, he’s our friend. You’ve known him nearly as long as I have. You should know that we can’t leave him. The fact that you’d even think of it — ”
Terrin whirled, her mouth open, and brow furrowed. Arnold instantly silenced and looked away, no doubt preparing himself for an angry torrent of words. But before Terrin could begin her rant, Nora heard something scrambling in the rocks. She turned to stare into the gray fog.
She started walking towards the sound. A second later, Terrin passed her with long, quick strides and disappeared into the bushes. Nora saw something go over a ridge on the mountainside.
“Just an old rabbit,” Terrin said from where she was crouching. “Maybe it accidentally slipped down here, plenty of loose stones on the mountainside. Caused a shower of them trying to get away from us.”
“Well, you are kind of scary when you’re in a mood,” came Arnold’s voice from behind Nora. Terrin twisted and Nora got out of the way as she stormed back towards Arnold, who ducked, holding his bag up as if it were a shield.
Terrin’s face twisted between a glare and a smile. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll come with you. I’m not going let all three of you run off and get in trouble.”
“Sometimes I don’t know how we put up with her crazy notions and moods,” said Arnold, looking after her, half serious.
“Arnold, you are the one person I know who can really put up with anyone,” Nora said.
“Naw, you can put up with anyone. It’s just that you’re shy. I bet if we put you in a room of maniacs, you would just sit quietly in a corner and read, if you had a book. And you’d be real nice if anyone tried to talk to you. Me, I would probably end up knocking them all out, or maybe killing someone. And who knows what Terrin would do.”
Nora rolled her eyes, and went to bury the ashes of the camp fire.
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.