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.
“Fire, come, and light. Surge, burn, turn my foes to ash,” muttered Eric.
Between his palms, Trill could see a small spark of flame. It showed no interest in his words.
She sensed the tendrils of magic that spilled from his fingers and reached towards the flame. A few strands had twisted themselves into a ball around it, but the rest either scattered before they reach the ball, or surged past without attaching.
Eric said the words were supposed to help guide the magic, but they didn’t seem to be helping him much.
She turned back to her reading. Manipulative spells. She had thought she might find the confusion spell here, but the book had no index. This probably wouldn’t have been a problem — she didn’t really want to learn magic — but she was curious about the bear. For one thing, the form of the magic had felt familiar. It had reminded her of the night of the ball.
The night Chris had been framed.
Every spell seemed to have its own set of rules. She noticed one that would cause a person to ‘decide’ to hold still, but the spell would break if the person’s life was threatened. There also seemed to be dozens of variations on the same spell. For instance, one spell took such complete control that the person wouldn’t do anything without orders, while another left them relatively free but allowed you to influence their actions.
One thing was consistent, though. All the spells limited what other magic the caster could use.
But despite the restrictions, Trill couldn’t help worrying what would happen if someone like Anthony got a hold of these spells. If he had magic, his cruel streak could do serious damage.
She also understood now why her father made his family wear charms to protect against such spells. But it made her wonder why more courtiers didn’t use them. The only other person she’d sensed that sort of charm magic around was Crown Prince Tyler. Even though magicians were rare, why would anyone take the chance?
Trill poured herself a fresh cup of water and glanced at Eric. He had succeeded in guiding more magic to the ball, and his spark had grown to the size of a teacup. She smiled.
She’d spent most of her time the last few weeks in this room. She found Eric was easygoing and friendly, a nice change from Joline. At first she’d also used the room to avoid Anthony, but a couple weeks ago he had mysteriously left on ‘business.’ It irked her — if their father had known Anthony would be gone, perhaps he would have let her come home — but she did not mind so much as she would have before Eric befriended her.
The dry pages of the book rustled as she flipped to the next page. This spell made someone agree with everything you say, and answer yes to all your questions. Her eyes went past the incantation to the notes.
This spell will not work if the subject has eaten pancakes for breakfast, Trill began to read. Also, in the event of—
Trill stopped and reread the first sentence.
She couldn’t stop the laughter that surged from her chest.
She dropped the book and tried to smother the sound, but already she sensed Eric’s magic faltering. She looked up in time to see the fire fall from its place between his hands. The magic tendrils that had held it in place had snapped. The fire hit the floor and flattened.
Then it flickered and vanished.
Trill let out a long breath, and looked up to meet Eric’s eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“It’s okay,” he said, smiling a bit. “I was about to lose it anyway. What’s so funny?”
He stepped toward her to examine the book.
“Well, it’s just that I never realized that what someone ate for breakfast could affect magic,” said Trill, showing him the spell.
“Well, I knew there were certain herbs that affected magic, but that is strangely specific.”
There was a scream from the doorway. Trill looked up to see a maid, her fingers white around a shaking tray of tea and cakes. The girl’s eyes were locked on the floor.
Trill followed her gaze to where the fire had been.
To where the fire was.
Though the original flames had died out, a spark must have caught one of the many loose pages that littered the floor. Now the fire was surging back to life with more energy than ever.
Trill jumped to her feet as Eric turned towards the flame. She reached for the pitcher on the table, but her instincts were already taking over. The water surged from the pitcher, brushing across her extended hand.
Her other hand shifted, grasping the magic that had wrapped itself around the water, flinging it across the room without the slow grace that normally accompanied her magic. As the water touched the fire she opened her fingers so that it spread, covering the flames. Then she closed her hand into a fist so that the water closed around the flame, dousing it.
She stood there a second, then released the water and swayed into the table, grasping the edge with one hand. It wasn’t that she was in any way exhausted by the magic — in fact, she felt slightly exhilarated — but that she was shocked at how automatically it had come.
So much for her secret.
“Here, Kelly, let me take that,” she heard Eric say, “and you take this. And it would be best if you didn’t mention this to anyone.”
Trill glanced up to see the maid clutch the now-empty pitcher to her chest. She dropped a quick curtsy and backed out of the room.
Eric set down the tray and picked up a towel that lay by the window. He dropped it across the pool of water. Without giving it more attention, he turned back to the table and poured two cups of tea. He handed one to her. After a careful drink from his cup, he sat down across from where Trill still stood.
Trill met his eyes, waiting for him to comment on her magic.
Instead he said, “Well, that could have gone worse.”
Trill sat and took a shaky sip of her own tea.
“Maybe you shouldn’t leave paper lying around when you’re playing with fire,” she said.
“Yes, well. I’ve never been great at the whole safety thing.”
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Trill’s eyes dropped to the table. Eric’s fingers drummed against the wood, and she noticed that the table seemed to be rapidly changing colors, at first only slightly, and then becoming brighter and brighter.
Then the drumming stopped, and the table remained a florescent pink.
Trill glanced up at Eric and raised her eyebrows.
He grinned, and the table went back to normal.
“So, how long have you known about your powers?” he asked.
Trill blinked. “Er, what?”
“Well, at first I assumed you didn’t know,” he said. “But considering you’re not in shock—”
“Wait, you knew?”
“Don’t change the subject.”
Trill set down her cup and leaned back. She crossed her arms, glaring at him.
“Well, you did make it kind of obvious,” he said. “Aside from the forest people, I don’t think anyone can sense magic unless it’s very strong, or unless they themselves are magicians.”
He waved toward the window. “What I cast at that bear was a very minor confusion spell — there was hardly any power in it. Since you could sense it, the obvious conclusion was that you were a magician. Now, my question.”
Trill dropped her eyes.
She should have been more careful. After all, Chris had never sensed her magic, but she never thought about that.
Well, it was too late now.
“So? How long have you known?” Eric repeated.
“As long as I can remember.”
“Really?” he said.
Trill looked up at the surprise in his voice.
“I could barely do anything before I was twelve,” he said, “and what I managed was only because my father taught me. You must be powerful. Why didn’t you tell anyone?”
“At first, I didn’t want to,” she said. “It was fun to have a secret. And then later, I figured my father wouldn’t approve. He … distrusts magic, to say the least. And besides, had he let me learn, I would have had to take lessons from the Shard’s caretaker, and he is a stodgy old man.”
“Well, how would you like to learn now?”
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.