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.
Click here to read from Chapter One. Or go back to the very beginning in Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One.
Terrin sighted a squirrel. In one smooth movement she raised her bow, aimed, and fired. The squirrel, who had been busily snacking on a nut, came alert at the twang of her bow, but she had expected the reaction. A millisecond later, the arrow slammed into its left eye.
She started forward to collect her kill. She hadn’t hunted since the previous fall, so she should have felt some sort of joy. But instead she could only chide herself for not shooting that well earlier. If she had been faster, if she had just taken down the wolf before it reached Arnold…
She removed the arrow, wiped it on the grass, and then started to clean the squirrel.
Behind her, she heard a twig snap. A twig more akin to a small branch, by the sound of it. Terrin froze, then slowly turned her head towards the sound. Seeing nothing through the underbrush, she stood, knife in hand.
There! She caught a glimpse of a face — an old woman with angry eyes, dried mud on her face and in her hair. A swamp woman?
But even as Terrin registered her appearance, the woman was gone.
Terrin took two steps forward and stared at the now-vacant space for several minutes. Her mind told her she must be crazy — they were in northwest Xell, and the swamp was far to the south. Her instinct told her to get away, head back to camp. And her curiosity bade her to investigate.
There was another snap, and she spun, looking for the woman. This time she saw a wraith slinking out from under a thicket. Its flat, disk-shaped head with its yellow-green eyes stared at her from barely a yard away, and its elbows jutting up above its body gave it an awkward look.
“Hello there,” she said slowly, tightening her grip on the knife.
She’d been attacked by a wraith once, and though every schoolbook claimed they were peaceful creatures, she didn’t trust them.
The wraith lunged forward. She moved into a fighting stance, but the wraith was already backing away. Its mouth seemed to be pulled back into a wide grin — and in its teeth was her freshly caught squirrel.
“Drop that!” Terrin said, stepping forward.
The wraith hissed as it straightened its legs. In a few seconds it went from being inches from the ground to being the size of a large pony. Terrin stared at the beast. She had never seen any animal do such a thing before, and she couldn’t help taking a step back.
The wraith’s grin seemed to grow even larger as it shrank back to its normal, flat position. It turned and scuttled away through the underbrush.
“Stinking thief,” Terrin called after it, then sighed.
Glancing reluctantly back at where she had seen the woman disappear, she turned and headed away from both the wraith and the woman. She would have to settle her curiosity another day. She didn’t want to go back to camp empty-handed, but any nearby prey would have been scared off by the noise.
She had been stalking quietly through the woods for only a few minutes when the smell of blood and rotting meat touched her nose. Dropping even lower into a crouch, she moved upwind towards the scent.
She didn’t travel far before she found the scene of a battle. Six wolves lay around the trampled clearing, some torn almost beyond recognition. At first she thought two wolf packs had been fighting for territory. But she noticed a few unfamiliar tracks, too big for wolves or a wildcat, but not the right shape for a bear.
Then it struck her: the wraith.
With new interest, she stepped out of the shadows to examine the fight scene closer. There were more of the strange tracks. Two wraiths, at least, maybe more? She had never heard of wraiths traveling in a pack. The battle appeared to have been one-sided, since no wraiths had fallen. The tracks were so jumbled that it would take some time to work out exactly what had happened.
“The wraiths entered over here. They fought for a while, and then the last of the wolves fled.”
Terrin spun to face the voice, sliding her knife free.
A forest woman was leaning against a tree, her arms crossed.
“The wraiths have grown more aggressive recently,” she continued. “I can’t pretend to understand their habits, but many of the territorial creatures are being driven away. Guess this wolf pack decided to fight.”
A smile spread across Terrin’s face, and she sheathed her knife as fast as she had drawn it.
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.