She tried to warn them. They wouldn’t listen.
As a child, Terrin of Xell barely escaped a spirit from the Dark Forest. She knows better than to rely on magic. But with her schoolmate Chris accused of a magical crime he didn’t commit, she couldn’t let him face banishment alone.
So Terrin gets caught up in Chris’s quest to recover an ancient relic, with only magic to guide them. Naturally, everything goes wrong.
What lurks in the shadows, hunting Terrin and her friends? Or did the magic itself turn against them?
Hunted: The Riddled Stone Book Two is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. You can buy the full novel at my publisher’s store or in ebook or paperback format at your favorite online retailer.
Stretching out her arms, Trillory whirled herself in a circle. She loved the freedom of being alone in the north wing’s small common room. The bustling manor of Duke Grith seemed almost empty, now that the king had summoned the duke to a council in Coricstead. Many of the nobles and noble-wannabe courtiers had already scattered, returning to their own homes to prepare for the expected war.
She stopped spinning and let her arms drop. Her father, Earl Fredrico, had always said the rivalry with South Raec was long past, that they were friends now. Others strongly disagreed.
Would there really be a war?
If only Chris was here. Trillory disliked chatting with strangers, but she could talk to her twin for hours. He had studied more about history and politics than she could ever learn, so he would know how to explain what was happening.
With a sigh, she wandered towards the balcony and looked out at the pouring rain. Chris was gone. There had been nothing she could do to save him.
She pushed through the doors and onto the balcony.
Lady Joline — the graceful socialite who tried to mentor Trill in courtly manners — was distracted with official business as ambassador from the Diamond Isles. She’d gotten a message from her government this morning and had locked herself in her room to write a response. She would be leaving soon to follow the duke to the capital.
For once Trillory had the afternoon to herself, and she planned to enjoy it.
Striding across the balcony, she leaned against the stone balustrade, inches from the rain. She would have preferred to be outside, exploring the grounds, but Joline had insisted on her staying out of the rain.
Of course she saw the wisdom in this. Even besides escaping the threat of a cold, none of the maids would have appreciated the puddle she would make coming in from this downpour.
The rain made it impossible to see anything more than a few yards away, much less the city of Charlon that rested below. But she still couldn’t resist reaching out her hand to feel the cool spray of water on her fingers. She smiled. Quickly she glanced behind her and then pulled back her hand. Tilting it forward, she watched as the water on it collected into a large drop and rolled off, launching itself straight out and back into the rain.
She ran her now-dry hand through her hair, and turned to continue exploring. The manor was quite big, and Trill had barely seen half of it.
She wandered down one of the branching halls. The architecture of the duke’s manor was marvelous — especially the north wing, which seemed to be the oldest part of the building. Trill wondered if even the king’s palace could match it. Of course, there was a rumor that Charlon had once been the capital, so this would have belonged to the king.
Not that she minded the oversizing. It was nice to be alone. Even the servants weren’t here today.
She pushed open the first door. The room only held one simple bed tucked in the corner, with a chest at its end, and a small table and seat by the window. A smaller door led to a closet. Had it not been raining, she would have opened the window and tried to get some air circulating. She had always disliked rooms — whether in use or not — without proper air flow.
But it was raining, and she left shortly. She found nothing in the next three rooms and was just opening a fifth door when someone spoke.
“They’re all the same. And if there was anything special, I would know.”
Trill spun to face the voice, and the door clacked loudly shut behind her. She found herself facing Eric, the duke’s son.
She couldn’t help blushing a bit, which was rare for her. How long had he been watching? Though she had seen him several times in the weeks since she’d arrived, she had not actually talked to Eric. He must think she was daft. No normal person would be so absorbed with checking empty, stuffy rooms as not to notice someone walking up behind her.
She dropped a quick curtsy, and murmured under her breath, “Sir Eric.”
He bowed slightly. “Lady Trillory. Tell me, how have you been enjoying your stay here?”
“Very well. I’m honored that your father welcomes me so warmly.”
“He’s always had a fondness for your family.” He smiled down at her. “Would you like me to escort you anywhere?”
“It is not necessary.”
“I insist. I would not leave you to wander alone on such a dreary day as this.”
Eric extended his arm, practically sealing the deal with the motion.
Trill’s shoulders slumped a bit. She would rather have kept exploring.
“Very well, then. I’d been planning to return to my quarters soon, anyway.”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer the warmer atmosphere of the hall?” His eyebrows pulled into a puzzled frown, but his smile remained.
“I — I’m sure. I want to rest before tonight’s party.”
He nodded. “Of course.”
She took his arm, and they started back to the main wing. They didn’t talk much. She was relieved when the walk was over.
Copyright © 2015 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press.
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover Photo Credits: “Girl with bow” by Yeko Photo Studio via DepositPhoto.com and “Forest, untagged” by Lukasz Szmigiel via 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.