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.
Arnold clambered carefully over the rocks. After a short debate, he had convinced the girls that the hoof print in the mud was too obvious. He was sure Chris had not gone into the cave they had been planning to investigate, and Terrin couldn’t find any tracks headed down the mountain, so they agreed to try the slope with the waterfall.
The path was rocky and jumbled. They didn’t expect to be able to follow Chris’s trail, but if they moved fast enough, they might be able to catch up with him.
They had been in constant travel since lunch. He hadn’t thought the horses would be able to make the climb, especially with the persistent patches of mist that hung in the valley despite the afternoon sun shining down, but Nora had found a narrow, switch-back trail to the top of the waterfall.
Now she was several yards ahead of him, following the small stream that gurgled down a narrow valley between high cliffs, easily finding the best footing where the horses were safe to go. Her boots were made of strong, flexible leather that protected her feet from the sharp rocks, and her loose pants could be tucked in, with the boots tightened around them.
The next time I decide to go hiking in the mountains, he thought, I’ll stop in North Yorc first and get some proper gear.
Rich balked at the rough footing, and Arnold pulled gently on the reins, clucking encouragement. Placing his hoofs with caution, the horse came along. Minty followed, tied to the other horse’s saddle with a loose rope.
Terrin brought up the rear, trudging along, sour and gloomy. Arnold knew that she hated the mountains. Though they had their own kind of amazing beauty, she would always feel much happier in the thick, green forests of Xell than in the thin, pine woods of the mountain. He wondered if that wasn’t the main source of her uneasy mood.
He picked his way around a patch of loose gravel, not trusting it to stay put under his feet. Then he noticed a break in the cliff to his left, and he paused.
The break opened into a passage from which a narrow ledge wound around the outer side of the mountain, with an abrupt drop to the forest valley below. The whole thing was only a yard wide, barely room for a horse to walk safely. But it reminded him sharply of something.
Chris’s dream — he had mentioned a ledge like this, and that he’d seen someone going along it. Knowing how he had been obsessed with riddles and dreams lately, no doubt he would investigate. It didn’t look like the ledge went anywhere, but perhaps Chris had found something.
“Nora, come back here,” Arnold called. “I want you to see this.”
She turned and headed back down.
By the time she arrived, Terrin was standing by Arnold with a puzzled look on her face.
“Why are we stopping here?” Terrin asked.
Nora went past them to pat Minty’s neck while she waited to hear Arnold’s answer.
He gestured at the ledge. “The other day Chris told me he had a dream that he was going along a ledge just like this. I think we should check it out.”
Nora contemplated it for a second.
“True. But it looks dangerous for the horses. Let me try it alone first. Then if there’s anything to see, we can all go.”
He nodded, but Terrin was more cautious. “Are you sure? There’s no proof that this is actually the stream he was following in his dream.”
Nora shrugged. “It can’t hurt to look it over. Besides, mountains can hold all sorts of secrets. If you’re not used to them, then you’ll probably never find them. And if you don’t look, you definitely won’t.”
So Arnold left the horses with Terrin. He followed Nora to where the ledge opened out on the side of the mountain, then watched as she edged along, pressing herself against the cliff.
She reached the end of the rock wall. Arnold half expected her to turn and disappear around a corner, but instead, she stood there with her hands on the rock, making small movements that made no sense.
Then there was a scraping noise, and Nora disappeared for a minute, and part of the stone wall shifted out. After a couple of minutes, she reappeared and started back along the ledge with a big grin on her face.
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.