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.
Arnold checked his bag one last time. Nora had offered to help him pack, but he’d refused. Satisfied that everything was in place, he grabbed the strap and slung it over his shoulder.
Boots, jacket? All set.
Sword? Belts had been a struggle at first, when even bumping his stump caused it pain. But he’d figured out how to hold the strap so he could get the loose end through the buckle, and then it was mostly a matter of finagling until it was tight enough. He tugged again to make sure the belt and sword were secure. His weapons teacher had pounded in a certain measure of paranoia.
He swept the room with his eyes.
After the healer was satisfied they had gotten all the infection, he had moved from the medicine hut to a back room at Dyani’s house. As wife of the village chief, she had one of the few homes large enough to host visitors. Unfortunately, there had been more hanging cots — he was glad to finally be leaving those behind.
He exited the room and started around the back of the house.
“Took you long enough,” Terrin said, meeting him halfway around. “You should have at least let Chris help you.”
“I got it,” Arnold said.
Chris and Thomas had shared the room with him, but the packing that took him ten minutes, they finished in two.
As he and Terrin came around the back of the house to the small lean-to stable, he was annoyed — though not surprised — to see Rich was already saddled. He had not yet had a chance to attempt saddling.
He fastened his bag behind his saddle, then mounted. He had to go around to the other side, so he could grab the pommel in his right hand. It was something he’d practiced many times before, but it felt different now that he was doing it from necessity.
The others also mounted.
“Farewell, Dyani of Xell. We thank you, and your village, for your hospitality,” Chris said, inclining his head towards Dyani. “May we one day return the favor.”
She smiled and nodded in return.
“Farewell, Christopher, Thomas, and Arnold of plains, Nora of Yorc, and Terrin of Xell. May your travels be profitable. I will remember your offer.”
She paused, then continued in a less formal tone. “Take care of yourselves.”
“Thank you,” said Chris.
He nudged Marc forward.
“Don’t worry,” Arnold said, suddenly grinning. “We obviously do a great job of that.” He waved with his left arm.
He could sense Terrin rolling her eyes, but Dyani smiled.
“Don’t lose that attitude, Arnold,” she said, waving back. “It suits you well.”
It felt good to finally be on the road again. The month they had spent in the village since Chris’s return had felt more akin to forever. Arnold had vented some of his energy by teaching Nora, but still he’d been restless.
Chris, though he tried to hide it, had been even more so. The forest people’s loyalty to the crown was famous. Very few would have hesitated to turn him in if they’d known he was banished. Still, he had seemed to enjoy talking with Dyani and her husband. They couldn’t tell him much about King Miles, since the forest people cared little for history, but they were wise in other lore.
Of course Nora hadn’t minded the wait. She’d spent most of her time with healer Koresh, learning of forest herbs. Arnold and Nora quickly discovered that a simple question could keep him talking for what felt like hours, and Nora had the patience to listen.
While Arnold had not the fortitude for Koresh, in Thomas he’d found a mixture of humor and wisdom. The old man had disappeared for about a week, collecting herbs in the forest. Once he returned, though, Thomas had shown Arnold several exercises for regaining strength and cheered him with anecdotes of his past patients. He even proved to have some skill with a sword and assisted with Nora’s lessons.
Then there was Terrin.
He glanced across at the tall girl. Her straight, brown hair fell over her shoulders, her sharp features pointed up towards the sky. She, unlike Chris, had long ago mastered the art of hiding her emotions. But he’d seen her the other day with her brother. Even before that, he’d seen how relaxed she was in her forest. Relaxed in a way he’d never seen her before.
Regardless, they were leaving now. Within a few days, they expected to reach a small stable where they could leave the horses. Then sometime the following day, they would reach the swamp.
From there, they would have to improvise.
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.