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.
Brayden jumped to his feet as the library door opened. With a flick of his wrist, he tossed the book on dragon myths he’d been reading to the table. The book flew, spinning once, and struck the stack of unread books, sending them to the floor. He glanced at the scattered books, then looked back up into the surprised, though quickly turning to frustrated, face of Mason. Mason was the king’s chamberlain, Brayden’s tutor in all but the art of war, and far too easily annoyed by the young prince’s clumsiness.
Brayden dropped to his knees and started to pick up the books, keeping his head down to hide his strawberry cheeks.
Mason was a second cousin three times removed, or something of that sort. But he’d been selected for his post not for his blood, but for his authoritativeness and orderliness. His eclectic knowledge helped, too.
“My lord. Stand yourself up properly this moment. The servants can take care of that mess — bah, how you manage it, I do not know. Nearly a man grown, you should be dignified, self-confident, displaying poise suited to your position. Regardless, you are wanted in the council chamber this moment. I’ll take care of this, you must hurry. Straighten your shirt before you go in. Pity you haven’t time to change it.”
Brayden stood and smoothed out his shirt. He bowed deeply, and Mason opened his mouth to start again, thought better of it, and merely said, “Go.”
Brayden had avoided the council room since he was eight, when he had somehow — even he wasn’t sure what he’d done — torn down one of the tapestries of King Miles, burying himself and several nobles in its heavy folds. Now he kept far away, except for special occasions.
He ran down the hall, managing to avoid any real mishaps, though he did nearly knock over a suit of armor rounding a corner in haste. Upon arriving at the door he straightened his shirt once more, brushed his moppy brown bangs out of his face, rubbed his hands together, and stepped into the room.
All of the major landholders were either there or had sent a representative. Currently they stood in small groups, talking quietly to one another. At the head of the room, his older brother Tyler stood on Father’s right, tall and proud — the type of proud that demands respect, not the haughty kind — though a furious scowl covered his face. The queen sat in her smaller throne to the king’s left, and her gaze latched onto Brayden as soon as he entered. A warm smile spread over her face.
Taking a deep breath, Brayden marched forward to the half-moon of clear space in front of his father, and bowed deeply. He raised his head just enough to see his father, but held the bow.
The king nodded.
“Come here, Brayden,” he said, gesturing to his direct right.
Brayden frowned. It felt awkward to step between his father and Tyler, but he obeyed.
“Brayden, tell me what you think of the incident with South Raec.”
A hand seemed to tighten around Brayden’s throat.
He forced himself to breathe, running everything he knew of the incident over in his head, painfully aware that all attention had turned to him.
Why would his father ask a question like this, here?
“I think,” he started slowly, but quickly sped up, “that though the evidence seems to show that it was an attack by South Raecans, we should not be too hasty to assume that the government of South Raec means to pick up hostilities.”
One of the nobles started to protest, but Brayden ignored him and continued, his eyes squeezing shut against the watching faces.
“It would be best to send an envoy of peace to the king of South Raec, someone who would show your trust in his good nature. To ask what they know of the attack.”
Brayden opened his eyes again and stared back into his father’s stern eyes.
The king turned to look over the nobles.
Brayden followed his gaze. Duke Grith was the only noble who stood out — the only one ignoring the whispers that ran around the court. His face was smooth, expressionless, watching the king.
“And,” the king continued, turning his gaze back to Brayden. “Who would you send on this important, but rather risky, mission?”
Brayden’s head swung back to face his father quickly. Perhaps too quickly, as dizziness set in. Please don’t stutter. He swallowed.
“My lord, I would send—”
Tyler’s voice exploded from nowhere as he stepped forward to address the king. “Father, you — It’s far too dangerous to send anyone of importance. A normal courier would be more than adequate. Let the current ambassador make inquiries. We dare not risk such a loss if anything should go awry!”
Brayden almost jumped at his brother’s outburst, which set his skin to crawling. A sudden silence settled over the room, leaving Brayden feeling more claustrophobic than before, though he knew their eyes were no longer on him.
The king, however, seemed slightly amused. “And do you see no good in your brother’s thoughts?”
“I see that any envoy important enough to show our trust would make a great hostage, should that trust be ill-founded. And South Raec’s reaction might go the other way. They may take our action as a threat.”
Brayden saw concern on his brother’s face and realized that Tyler was pleading with their father.
The queen reached out and gripped her husband’s arm.
The king nodded at her, then stood and needlessly raised his hand for the attention of the nobles.
“I thank you all for joining us today. I value all your opinions and advice,” he started.
Only Brayden heard Tyler say one last pleading, “Father,” under his breath.
“I have made my decision,” the king continued, “and I trust that all of you will respect it.”
Brayden scanned the nobles. Though they kept their faces straight, Brayden could sense anticipation. The duke smiled grimly.
“Prince Brayden shall be sent as emissary to South Raec, to assess the situation and to serve alongside Ambassador Gillian Fredrico in negotiating for peace.”
Brayden almost fainted.
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.