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 chorus of farewells filled the air, and the carriages started pulling away. Trill wished she was in one of them. She’d sent a letter to Father asking that she might go home, as many of the nobles were doing. Her father had refused. Of course, he was trying to do what was best for her. The duke’s manor had once been a castle, and it could still be defended if the war came to them. And her older brother Anthony, as one of Duke Grith’s knights, was staying here in Charlon, though the duke himself was still with the king.
Trillory frowned. Anthony was Father’s favorite, but he had a cruel streak, and she always did her best to avoid him. That would be harder than ever, now.
Lady Joline waved from the carriage window, finally on her way to join the duke in Coricstead. She had complained about having to wait for instructions from the Isles. As an ambassador, it was her job to be in the middle of things, and she worried that by the time she reached the capital, all the interesting stuff would be done and over with.
Joline was sure that if the Diamond Isles took sides in the coming war, it would join with North Raec, but Trill thought they would keep themselves out of the fray.
If there was a fray to join.
Which Trill hoped there wasn’t.
The last carriage went through the gate and disappeared into the streets. Now the castle really did seem empty. Only the duke’s knights remained, and a few of the ladies like Trill.
Perhaps finally there won’t be a ball, thought Trill wryly, as she walked away from the courtyard.
She entered the garden. She’d rather be there than in the stuffy castle, quiet as it would finally be. She wished she had some clippers so that she could trim the small hedge maze. It would be nice to do some work she could really appreciate.
There was a cough from behind her, and she turned around to face Eric.
“Sir Eric!” she said, dropping a quick curtsy.
“Honestly,” he said, “if I am to call you Trill, then you should drop the sir.”
She smiled. “Just Eric then.”
“No, Eric. No ‘Just’ about it.”
Trill was confused. Had it been Arnold, she would have known it was a joke, but it was hard to tell with Eric.
Eric waited for a second, then sighed.
“Never mind. Shall we walk?” He gestured broadly to the whole garden. “I find if one stares at a single patch of flowers too long, one begins to see every little flaw. And I would hate for you to see all the flaws of our garden. Especially when you already think less of it than your own.”
Trill resisted shrugging. She was sure Eric was trying to put a lighter mood on things, but she couldn’t decide how best to respond.
“I suppose you’re too late for that,” she said. “I was already thinking of trimming your hedges. But we can walk.”
He grinned. “Then I had best distract you. Our gardener takes a lot of pride in his hedges.”
He offered his arm. She accepted it, allowing him to lead her away from the maze. She watched his face out of the corner of her eye. She couldn’t help wondering why he kept going out of his way to talk to her. Perhaps he was just trying to be friendly. After all, when he was duke, he would want good relations with the other noble families.
They walked in silence for a minute.
Then he spoke again. “I should apologize.”
Trill stared at him, struggling to keep her mouth from falling open. She tried to think of something he should apologize for.
“For being so forceful about you leaving the north wing. I had my reasons, but they weren’t enough to excuse my rudeness.”
Trill considered this for a second. She agreed that he had seemed rather insistent. But she hadn’t really thought of it as needing an apology. But he had offered one, so she nodded.
Again there was a minute of silence.
Then he continued. “I’m also sorry I didn’t seek you out earlier. I knew that I’d have to befriend you at some point, but I waited. And I’m sorry I did. I mean, what kind of duke am I to be, if I won’t save a damsel from torture.”
Trill arched an eyebrow. “You consider it torture to go without having met you?”
“No, I consider it torture to be Lady Joline’s constant companion.”
“You almost sound like you speak from experience.”
“I do.” He winced.
Trill couldn’t help laughing a bit at his expression. He laughed, too, and something about him looked relieved.
“Well,” Trill continued, “she is gone now. Though I feel sorry for the queen and her ladies.”
Trill had not realized how long it took to walk around the entire garden, though she had seen all but the maze from a bird’s-eye view. But she was beginning to see that Eric was a bit like Chris or Arnold, a potential friend. She had expected him to be more serious, bordering on angry, like Anthony.
Now that the laugh had put her at ease, she needed to clear the air.
“But we shouldn’t make fun of Joline, you know. She can be a prattle, but she has good intentions.”
Though as she said this, she couldn’t help remembering that momentary gleam in Joline’s eyes the day the king’s messenger arrived. The woman had almost looked excited — but no, that was just her overactive imagination.
Eric nodded solemnly.
They walked for a while in silence, coming back around to the start of the path.
“Perhaps we should go in,” she said. She was beginning to feel tense again.
“As you please,” he answered. “By the way, I was thinking of organizing a small hunt. Nothing big, mostly a reason to ride around the countryside.”
“I should like that, if you have a horse you can lend me. I’m afraid I left mine at home.”
“I’m sure we can find one to suit you. Would you like to look at the options?”
Trillory’s stomach twinged, and she glanced up at the sun, surprised at how much time had passed. “Perhaps after lunch.”
Eric glanced up as well, and then nodded.
“Yes, after lunch would be good.” He smiled. “Well then, I look forward to it, Trill.”
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.