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.
Two armed guards stood by the paddock where Marc and the other horses were grazing. Chris and his friends watched them from the shelter of the trees.
“Okay, so our welcome here might be gone,” he whispered.
He fought the urge to curse. When he had heard there were soldiers in the swamp, Chris had hoped that their mission was related to the possible war Arnold had mentioned. But regardless of their original intent, this made it almost certain that his presence in North Raec was known.
“Ceianna, you should go back,” he added. “You’ve done your job and more. And who knows how long we’ll be waiting here for an opportunity.”
Ceianna had insisted on accompanying them until they retrieved their horses. Despite not having slept in over twenty-four hours, she did not seem tired.
“I—” started Ceianna, but she was cut off by a sharp “shh” from Terrin.
Chris turned his attention back to the guards.
“How much longer you figure we have to wait?” said the first one, stroking Minty. “Nice horses they got.”
“What is it with you and horses?” snapped the second. He leaned against the stable wall, his arms crossed. “And they could be back any time.”
“Nah,” said the first one. “The captain hasn’t come back yet, so we should have a while.”
“The captain was supposed ta be back yesterday. What if he got held up? What if one of them crazy swampers killed him?”
Chris glanced over to Ceianna. Her muscles had tightened, and her brow was creased. While the swamp people were generally considered crazy by the plainsmen, to call them so to their face was bordering on suicidal — depending on the people involved.
“You worry too much,” said the first one. He gave Minty a final pat and turned to Marc. “They’re just a bunch of kids, and it’s not like—”
“What are you bedlams doing outside?” shouted a third man, bursting from the forest several yards to Chris’s right. “Inside now. Go, go! What type of ambush is this? Bah!”
“Watch it, Cap,” said the first guard. “Your accent is showing. And if they’re close enough to see us standing about, they’re more than close enough to hear you yelling your head off.”
“And also,” said the second one, bouncing off the wall, “if you’d come on time like you were supposed ta, we would be exactly where we were supposed ta be, exactly when we were supposed ta be.”
“What’s important right now is that I lost track of them, and they could be here any minute. So if you’re not in position in three seconds, you’ll be cleaning dishes and peeling potatoes for the rest of your army life!”
This time, Chris noticed the Diamond Isles accent the man was struggling to conceal. He filed that information away for further consideration.
Scowling, the two soldiers scurried to their hiding places, followed by their captain.
Chris turned to the others. “Okay, we need to make a plan. Preferably one that doesn’t involve anyone getting hurt.”
“I say go for the old distract-and-grab tactic,” said Arnold.
“My thoughts exactly,” said Chris, nodding. “Terrin and I are the best runners, so we’ll distract the soldiers and draw them away. Arnold will stand guard, in case any of them return, while Nora and Thomas saddle the horses. When the two of us get back, we’ll mount up and clear out as fast as we can.”
“I’ll help distract them,” said Ceianna. “I’ll be able to lose them just by looping back to the swamp.”
“You needn’t,” said Chris. “Guiding us out of the swamp was plenty of help, and if you do this you could get in trouble. Your people could get in trouble.”
“You have promised our people your friendship, and so we return it. I, even more so, since you would have risked your lives to save mine. I will help you retrieve your horses, to repay the debt, and there is nothing you can do to stop me.”
Her eyes met his, and they flashed with determination.
“Fine,” said Chris. He didn’t have time to argue. “We’ll fall back and eat lunch. Give them an hour or so to get bored, and then—”
“And then finalize our plans on a full stomach,” cut in Thomas.
Chris smiled slightly and nodded.
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.