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.
The Dark Forest loomed before them, the trees crowding close to each other, surrounded by deep shadows. Marc snorted as Chris urged him closer and pawed the ground when they stopped a few feet away.
Thomas gazed into the woods. Chris watched him out of the corner of his eye, wishing he could read the man’s expression.
Finally Thomas spoke. “Certainly a cheery looking place. We aren’t going through there, are we?”
Chris shook his head. “Of course not. We need to go farther south, to the boundary of Xell. We can cut east there.”
Thomas half smiled. “Good. The stories are probably far-fetched, but who knows what’s in there.”
“I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss the stories,” he said. “The tales of King Miles are true. Why not these ones?”
“King Miles is a historical figure. Dark Forest stories are myths. Who ever heard of trees that can read minds or drive people insane?”
“Maybe. Who ever heard of riddles that can only be read by certain people, or dreams that offer guidance?”
“Actually, there are many versions of the King Miles story that say he was the only one who could read the riddles. Most dismiss this, since the idea of magic that can ‘choose’ people seems … unlikely. Also, since he supposedly traveled alone, how could he test it? But there are never any mentions of dreams.” Thomas paused. “I suppose we know the truth now.”
“Perhaps when this is over, you can go correct the stories,” said Chris, turning Marc southward.
“I would like that,” murmured Thomas.
Chris glanced over his shoulder, and saw Thomas smiling and absentmindedly rubbing his horse’s neck.
“We should get going,” Chris said, nudging Marc into a trot.
Chris had considered going through the Dark Forest, simply to avoid the risk of being seen. His month of grace was running out, probably already gone — he had lost track of days in the mountains. But no one would find him in there. After all, even the forest people refused to enter those woods.
The legends varied from telling to telling. Some said giant monsters roamed in the darkness, others warned of trees that came alive, and still others told of an aura that drove men crazy. What the tales did agree about was that people who entered that forest never came out again — except for the occasional “brave and pure knight.”
Whatever was beyond the shadows, Chris didn’t feel like testing those stories right now.
They rode in silence. As the ground rose, they slowed the horses to a walk. The trees sank below them. They found a narrow path headed east through the forest of Xell, following the edge of a cliff that towered over the Dark Forest.
When the path widened into a grassy clearing, Thomas nudged his horse forward to walk beside Marc.
“Did you know that King Miles didn’t originally live in Coricstead? During the war, his parents died, and after the war his sister married someone from a small town — nobody even remembers what it was called. Since she was the only family he had left, he moved there with her. But then, because he was a hero and their new king, they changed the town’s name, and it became the new capital.”
“I didn’t know Miles had a sister,” said Chris.
“She never got involved in court life. It’s quite possible, though, that there are still some of his sister’s descendants living there.”
For a few minutes, the air was quiet except for the thumping of the horse’s hooves against the ground.
Finally Chris twisted to look at Thomas and said, “Why did you tell me that?”
“Well, if I was following Miles’s footsteps, I’d like to know more about him. And I always thought that knowing he had a family he loved made him more human.”
“Also, I admit I was trying to distract you, and perhaps coax you out of your shell. The only words you’ve said since we left my house are things like, ‘We’ll camp here,’ and ‘We’ll go that way.’ You have a lot on your mind. You just met me, and I doubt you want to share your problems with an old man, but mulling on your own thoughts for too long is never good. You should talk more, or at least listen.”
Chris reined his horse to a stop.
Thomas did the same beside him and caught his gaze.
They stood there for a moment, then Chris’s shoulders slumped, and he said, “It’ll be dark soon. We can talk over supper.”
A smile spread across Thomas’s face. He said, “You know, being a healer isn’t all herbs and physical sickness — that’s just the easy part.”
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.