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.
“You get the horses ready. I’ll let the stable-master know we’re back,” said Chris, strolling into the clearing, struggling to keep his voice even.
“Okay,” said Terrin, jogging past him to the stable. The horses looked up at their voices and greeted them with a chorus of whinnies.
“Hey, guys,” Terrin said, pausing to pat Leaf before she turned towards the tack shed.
Chris’s breath caught in his throat, but he forced himself to continue walking across the yard. If the soldiers were going to attack, they would do it soon, probably once Terrin picked up the saddle.
Then there was a loud yelp from one of the guards, and Terrin sprinted out of the stable yelling, “Run, run! Everyone run!”
One of the guards ran out of the stable right behind her.
Chris took up her shouts, waving his arms around. A second man emerged from the stable, glancing around. For a second, his and Chris’s eyes met. It was the third guard — the captain.
Chris took off running.
He resisted the urge to look back and see if the man was following either him or Terrin. If he didn’t, it would be Ceianna’s job to try and draw him away.
And if that didn’t work…
Well, Chris really hoped it would.
At first, Chris ran slowly, almost jogging. Then he heard someone crashing through the woods behind him and one glance over his shoulder gave him an extra burst of speed. The third guard was following behind him by only a couple yards.
As he ran, he searched the forest for signs of Terrin. There she was, ten yards or so off to his left. She wasn’t running full out, for fear of leaving her guard behind. Chris glanced back and forth between the path ahead of him and Terrin. He didn’t want to get too close to her. Whenever she made a turn, he responded to keep the distance. Several times, his pursuer almost caught him, and he would have to throw on a special burst of speed to add distance. At some point, he lost track of Terrin and her pursuer. After what felt like an hour, though he was sure it couldn’t have been much more than five minutes, the guard began to lag behind.
Suddenly Ceianna was beside him, pushing him to his right.
“Wraith pack … headed … this way,” she said between breaths.
“Does Terrin know?” Chris said, stretching his legs to full speed.
Ceianna didn’t answer, and Chris was running too hard to ask again.
Behind them, he heard a short scream. Chris glanced back in time to see a wraith standing over Chris’s pursuer, glaring at one of the other guards. The men hadn’t noticed a second wraith in the shadows. Chris slowed down to shout a warning, but Ceianna jerked him into a sharp turn that made him focus on where they were going. Ten minutes later, they stopped in a clearing.
“What about Terrin?” gasped out Chris, staring at Ceianna.
“I don’t know,” she spat out through her teeth. “I couldn’t find her.”
She was doubled up a bit, hands against her knees.
“How did you know they were coming?”
She hesitated. “I saw them.”
“Saw them? I didn’t notice anything.”
“You weren’t looking for them.”
“And you were? Why?”
“Because … because…”
Chris strode across and grabbed her shoulders.
“Tell me,” he hissed. “My friend is out there, and I need to find her. And if you know anything about it—”
“My grandmother kidnapped her,” Ceianna said it with a huff, glaring at him with a force that made him step back.
She squeezed her head between her hands, as if she was resisting the urge to tear out her hair.
“Because she thinks that Terrin’s going to raise an army and lead the forest people to war on the swamp people. And the swamp people couldn’t withstand that. So she’s decided to stop it.”
“Why would she think that?”
“Because Terrin’s a spirit-friend.”
She said it as if it explained everything, but it confused Chris more.
“But Terrin hates spirits!” he said. “They scare her to death. She’d never be friends with them.”
“Well, she is. Or at least she has the capability to be. And that makes her as dangerous as a wild dragon, as far as my gran’s concerned.”
Chris thought this over for a moment.
“And you agree with this?”
“I don’t know,” she snapped.
There was a short silence. Then she continued. “I think that it’s wrong to kill her. Especially like this.”
“Then will you help me rescue her?”
Ceianna nodded. “It was given to me to protect you. All of you, including her. And I’ll do it.”
“Good. Then find her and your grandmother. I’m going back to get the others. We’ll meet back here.”
Chris glanced up at the sky. Terrin had said that it had been around midafternoon in her dream. They didn’t have much time.
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.