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.
Good, he’s alone, Trill thought as Eric stepped out of the hedge garden. Overhead, clouds were gathering, and the garden seemed almost gloomy in the gray, late-afternoon light. She left her seat on the wooden bench and hurried after him.
“Eric,” she called, waving as he turned.
She had not been alone with him for more than a minute since the hunt. And even when she could have talked to him, she’d been afraid to mention the magic. She fell into step beside him. They walked in silence, and she swallowed hard.
Steeling herself, she spoke. “I … I haven’t thanked you for the other day.”
“You confused the bear. You used magic.”
She glanced at him. It was possible she was wrong, perhaps he had a charm that he’d used. But it hadn’t felt that way.
“Oh. You could sense that?” His fists clenched.
“Yes, I’m — Yes.”
A small voice said in the back of her head, If you’re going to make him tell you, you should tell him. But she hushed it. If their friendship ended here, if he was angry because she had found out about him, she couldn’t let him know about her. He might tell his father, who would undoubtedly tell her own.
He sighed, and stared thoughtfully down the path. They had stopped by a bush of three-petaled orange flowers. Eric plucked one and rolled its stem in his hand for a bit, then shrugged.
“Come on. It’d be easiest to show you,” he said.
He led her back to the castle. Trill couldn’t say she regretted leaving the gardens. The air felt thick, and she guessed they were in for one last rain before summer. They went up through the castle, but she was surprised when they turned off into the north wing.
As he passed a servant, he paused and whispered something. The maid nodded and left.
They walked through the area she had explored, turned a corner, and stopped in front of a door. Eric pulled out a key.
“Is this why you chased me away the other day, when I was exploring?” Trill asked.
“Yeah. But it’s not much, really.”
The door clicked open, and they entered.
This room was different from all the others in the wing. There was no bed. Instead a table stood near the window, strewn with books. In one corner, a stone statue reminded her of the wooden practice dummies her brothers had used for swordplay. But mostly there were books. The wall beyond the table was entirely taken up by a bookshelf, crammed full. More books were stacked on the floor, with papers scattered about.
Eric looked around and grimaced.
“The servants can’t get in except when I’m here,” he said, “so the cleaning is mostly left to me, and ah…”
Trill suppressed a chuckle. What would a duke’s son know about cleaning?
“But, why all the books?” she asked. “Surely they’d be better off in the library?”
Actually, she thought, these books might almost double the size of Duke Grith’s library — and that was larger than most private collections she had seen.
“No, these are all mine. Well, they’re my father’s, but he gives them to me to study. Here, let me clear some space.”
He set his flower on the table, then grabbed a broom and started pushing the books off to the side.
Trill picked up a volume, then gasped. It was no wonder these weren’t in the library. The slightly cracked golden title made her almost want to drop the book.
The Magic Defense: Beginner Spells was not exactly standard reading.
Eric began to snatch it, then stopped.
“Sorry, I’m not used to letting people see them. Another reason the servants don’t do the cleaning. We don’t want too many to know. They might gossip and all.”
“We. So your father’s a magician, too?”
Eric nodded slowly.
“He’s been teaching me, but I’m not very good. Father’s touchy about it. He insists that I don’t tell anyone. But since you found out anyway, I thought I could trust you.”
He paused, his brow creased.
“I can, right?”
“I won’t tell anyone,” she said. “The people I spend most of my time with would probably laugh at me.”
“You won’t even tell Father, will you? He’d be mad that I slipped up.”
Trill nodded, and Eric smiled again.
“I’m glad someone else knows,” he said. “I can’t talk about it properly with Father. He always quizzes me. And even though you probably wouldn’t find most of the theory and stuff that interesting, I do enjoy talking to you.”
You should tell him, whispered the voice again.
But they were interrupted by a short knock on the door. The servant had brought a tray with a pitcher of water and several tiny sandwiches.
“I’ve always been curious about magic,” Trill said, after the girl had gone. “My father never wanted anyone in his family to study it. Chris got in trouble once for bringing home a book on magic history from the school library.”
She stopped, and clenched her jaw.
Eric didn’t comment, but she had a feeling that he understood.
“Here,” he said. “Let me show you something.”
He shut the door, then gestured for her to sit down. Then, taking one more look at the flower, he touched her dress.
It was a plain dress, the most comfortable one she owned — a pale, gray cotton, no ruffles, with a white undershirt that showed at the neck. She had often worn it for casual garden work, and the gray had faded over the years.
She could feel the magic going out from his hand in a wave. She stared as, beginning at the sleeve where he’d touched it, a pale orange that matched the flower spread to cover the entire dress.
The tingly feeling faded, and then she felt it starting again. This time, the magic added a pattern of deeper orange leaves and flowers. He creased his brow, and a third wave of magic turned the undershirt to a warm cream.
He pulled away, but a nearly unnoticeable shell of magic remained, slowly soaking into the fabric. He handed her the flower, which now matched her dress perfectly.
As Trill accepted the flower, she struggled to keep her voice calm.
“I see you have an eye for color,” she said.
She tucked the flower gently into her hair.
“Orange suits you.”
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.