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.
Trill silently slipped out of the dining hall into the garden and away from the music of the party. She’d never been one for dancing, and this had become her usual retreat. She had thought the near-nightly socializing would end when the duke left last week, but Eric seemed determined to continue the tradition. Many of the remaining courtiers, including Joline, were to depart the next morning, for home or for the capital. But tonight they were all enjoying the party.
The last hints of sunset lingered over the town, evidence of the approaching summer. But the lamps in the garden were already lit, and some of the flames sparkled on the small pond. Trill had always enjoyed water, the smooth way it flowed, the crystal sounds, the way a rainstorm could change from calm to vicious and then fade away. Even the air seemed fresher around water.
Someone tapped her shoulder, and Trill spun to face the intruder. She was surprised to see Eric.
She dropped a curtsy.
He bowed his head. “Would you join me in the next dance?”
“Will it make you stop sneaking up on me?” She grinned.
Eric laughed. “Maybe you should pay more attention to your surroundings. But I suppose that I could make an extra effort.”
He extended his arm, and she took it.
As they entered the room and waited for the music to start, she realized how short she was next to him. She was tall for a woman, matching Chris in height, but Eric was nearly a head taller.
“I feel like I know everyone here but you,” he said. “We’ve talked, what, twice? The first day that you joined us, and then this afternoon.”
“I suppose I’m used to the country life. There have been so many people to meet since I arrived, sometimes it seems overwhelming.”
“It’s hard to believe you didn’t get through meeting everyone in the first week, with Joline as your guide. Though I do hear that you are a bit of a loner.”
The music started, and she let him lead her into the dance. “I’m just not used to all the people and their gossiping. At my father’s court, there was rarely anyone but family, servants, and a few soldiers.”
“I hear your mother has been very ill.”
Trill raised an eyebrow. “Surely Anthony has kept the duke informed of our mother’s health.”
“Sorry,” he said.
Trill immediately regretted her tartness, and they danced in silence for several minutes.
She nibbled the edge of her lip, then spoke. “Mother has been ill for a while, now. We have one of the best healers constantly at her side, and Father hopes that one day she might recover. But she has little strength. I’m afraid I don’t expect much change.”
“And how did she react to the news of her youngest’s actions?”
“We thought it best not to tell her.” Trill tried to control the sudden chill in her voice and hoped he would not pursue the subject of Chris.
“Surely she’ll notice his absence?”
Of course not, she thought sadly. “She sometimes goes for several weeks without seeing us, even if we visit daily.”
“I see. I’m sorry.”
Trill took the short pause to change the subject. “Do you remember your mother?”
“No. Though my father often tells me that I take after her.”
“In looks or in personality?”
“I’m not sure. I do have her eyes, but beyond that it is hard to tell.”
Trill glanced up into his hazel eyes. She didn’t know what his mother’s eyes were like, but Eric’s were most certainly not like his father’s dark ones.
“And as to her personality,” he continued, “I’ve been told very little. You have seen the picture of her?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t had much chance to look at the artwork, though what I have seen has been very well done, like the rest of the manor.”
He chuckled. “With Joline as a guide, I’m not surprised. She does her job well and knows everyone, but she never has time for art. But that’s beside the point: the best portrait of my mother is in the private section of the west wing, in the middle of the gallery between my father’s chamber and mine. But there is also a very good tapestry to the immediate right of the grand entrance.”
“Then your mother was indeed very beautiful.”
“Hmm. Do you weave tapestries?”
“I must admit I never took much to needlework of any sort. I’m more of a gardener.”
He nodded. “Of course, I cannot say I would enjoy needlework. But I have always found the use of colors interesting in all kinds of art. The way minute changes in the shading can make a scene look so realistic. Unfortunately, I have little talent with a brush.”
“Yes, art can be fascinating to study. But I suppose I have always preferred natural things.”
“Well, I hope you have enjoyed our gardens.”
“Your fountain is very nice, and the arrangements are fine enough. Your men have certainly put a lot of work into the topiaries.”
Eric narrowed his eyes at her. “You sound like you have seen better.”
Trill blushed. “Well, I am probably biased, but I can’t help but compare them to the gardens back home.”
“Well then, hopefully one day I will see them and decide for myself.”
He spoke the last part in a rush as the music ended and he guided her to the edge of the room.
“We should talk again soon, Lady Trillory.”
“Please, call me Trill,” she said impulsively.
They exchanged a bow and curtsy, and she watched as he walked away. She found herself pleasantly surprised. She had expected Eric to be haughty, like her brother Anthony, but now she wished she’d befriended him sooner.
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.