Hunted Chapter Forty-Three

Hunted-600

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.


PART THREE

Click here to read from Chapter One. Or go back to the very beginning in Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One.

Chapter 43

Terrin

Terrin bent over a leather bag, which was spread flat across her lap. One hand held the bag steady, and in the other, she held a fine-tipped brush. She nibbled the inside of her left cheek as she lowered the brush, adding smooth, grayish-brown strokes to the other colors on the bag.

Another dream. The thought faded as soon as she had it. She tried to grasp it, but quickly found she couldn’t focus on anything except her painting.

“Watcha workin’ on, Roz?”

Someone plopped down beside her. Terrin looked — no, Roz looked around and saw the stocky youth craning his neck to see the bag.

Roz’s cheeks grew warm.

“Oh, ah, nothing. Well, I mean, ah, you weren’t—”

She glanced back down at the bag.

“Spit it out, Roz,” said the tall, blond man. He sat down on Roz’s other side.

“Well, I thought the bag Peter gave me looked a bit bland — I mean it’s wonderful, but … so I decided to document our journey on it. Leaving out the harpies’ cave, of course.”

Roz held up the bag, careful not to smudge the paint.

Terrin examined her work. So far, there were three blocks of color, each about a hand-width square, and the beginning of a fourth, with small gaps between them. In the first picture, three riders drew near some mountains, above which harpies circled. In the second, they stood in a great cavern with green mist, and below them was another room with a stream running through it. A hump of stone with little black scratches on it sat beside the stream. Around the edges of the third picture, Roz had painted the letters N, W, E, and S in a swirling script. Between them stood a forest, shaped like an arrow and pointing downward to the S. From the gray brown color, Terrin knew that the swamp came next.

“Looks nice,” said the blond man.

“Nice?” said the other. “It’s her best work! I’m honored my bag has received such favor.”

“Though,” started the man, “shouldn’t you wait till after the journey to paint it? I mean, besides being able to work on it at a proper table with proper light, there’s also spacing. What if you end up with too much left over, or not enough room to finish?”

“Oh, uh…” once again Roz’s gaze dropped. Then she smiled and said, “I wanted to work while the details were still fresh in my mind.”

The man frowned. His eyes searched her face.

“Roselyn?” he said softly.

“Honestly, Miles, you shouldn’t look at your sister like that,” said Peter. “Though, you should take note, Roz, that you are far more beautiful than you portray yourself there.”

Roz giggled.

“Yeah,” said Miles, “and Peter should be fatter.”

“Hey!” said Peter, jumping to his feet.

“That’s what you get for flirting with my sister,” said Miles.

“How about you two go duke it out somewhere else, and let me finish up here,” said Roz, smiling. “Or better yet, you could start fixing supper.”

“Alright, alright,” said Peter, walking off. “Supper it is.”

Miles also stood and started away. Then he paused and glanced back at Roz for a moment.

“We are going to make it, you know. All of us.”

Then he turned and left.

* * *

Terrin’s eyes flickered open. Her cheek was pressed against soft blades of green grass. The world before her was slightly blurry. She sat up, blinking the daze away, and the world sharpened. She was in a clearing.

Familiarity washed over her. She leaped to her feet and spun to face the wraith that crouched behind her, just like it had in her dream. Which meant…

“So, you’re finally awake,” said a drawling voice.

Terrin turned, already knowing what she would see. An old woman — the one who’d been watching her for the past month — leaned against a tree.

“You were a fool, gallivanting around the swamp like that. That, more than anything, made me sure it was time to dispose of you, spirit-friend.”

The woman spat at Terrin’s feet, but Terrin jumped away.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Terrin said.

She wondered vaguely if she could change the dream. She opened her mouth to say something else, but the woman cut her off.

“Lies!”

The woman’s shout startled Terrin, and she burst into a run. Once she started, she didn’t stop, leaping over a bush and out of the clearing. She heard the roar of the wraith behind her, and the woman shouted, “I know what you are, and you cannot hide it. Nor can you escape me!”

Terrin cut a sharp right to avoid a tree, and then she was past where the dream had ended. But this time, she wasn’t pulled away from the world. This time she kept running.

This time it was real.

The underbrush caught at her legs, but she pushed through, swerving through the trees. She could hear the steady thumps of the wraith following her. She rounded another tree. Two wraiths stood in front of her, their teeth bared. She dove to the right, rolling and springing back to her feet, and ran again. She glanced over her shoulder to see the first wraith jump over one of the two, and then they all turned to follow her.

She looked forward again, putting all her energy into a burst of speed. She curved around another tree, but had to pull up short as a fourth wraith blocked her way. She turned left, but another one was already cutting her off that direction.

She spun, searching for an escape, but the wraiths had surrounded her and were circling closer and closer. They stopped a couple yards away, their eyes pinned on her.

The woman arrived a few minutes later.

“I see my pets have rounded you up,” she said, her eyes glittering.

The four wraiths backed up, making room for the woman.

“Let me go,” said Terrin. “I’ve done no harm to you or your people, and I certainly don’t intend to.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I am not a cold-blooded murderer. But I cannot allow a threat against my people to stand. So, I will give you a choice. If you call your spirit here, we will kill it and spare you. Otherwise…”

The woman’s voice trailed off and her eyes locked with Terrin’s.

“You know the truce as well as I do,” Terrin snapped. “You can’t kill me, nor would I ever harm your people.”

The woman laughed.

“Ah, but the wraiths have been acting up lately, haven’t they? There would be no proof of my involvement. Besides, even if I convinced my darlings to let you go today, the forest would never again be safe for you. So, call your spirit.”

“I don’t have a spirit, and I certainly can’t call it. And even if I could, you can’t kill a spirit. Your weapon would go right through.”

“Ah, there you are mistaken,” said the woman.

She drew out a dagger, nearly identical to Ceianna’s.

“See, wraith teeth have the ability to tear apart spirit magic.” She slid her hand along the white blade. “How else do you think we managed to fight you?”

“Okay, now I really don’t have a clue what you’re talking about,” said Terrin, backing away. “If you wanna kill spirits go ahead, I won’t stop you. But I can’t call a spirit here. So let me go.”

Her spine prickled.

She was alone.

Chris had said he’d be here, but even if he were, what could he do?

She was going to die.

The madwoman cursed. “You can’t trick me, spirit friend. But if that is what you wish, no one can say that I didn’t give you a chance.”

The wraith nearest Terrin lunged. The prickling in her spine vanished, replaced by a feeling of absolute calm. The world seemed to have slowed down, particularly the wraith. It almost floated through the air.

Run.

The one, simple word flashed through her mind. She didn’t need more prompting. She dove forward, under the wraith, then jumped back to her feet. The other three beasts charged, as the first landed with a howl. She sprinted forward, straight to the nearest tree, her eyes slid half shut. She didn’t bother to even try jumping for the branch above her or looking for hand holds. She just ran, placing one foot then the next against the bark, pushing herself up. Running up the tree.

She felt her feet start to slip and forced herself to take one more step, then flung out her hand, catching the branch. She swung her body sideways, arcing her legs up and around. Her foot caught the branch. She hauled herself up, almost slipped, and pulled herself to her feet.

For a second, as she stood, pride fill her chest, and she wished that her brother could have seen.

Then a wraith lunged upward towards her, banishing the feeling. She turned and fled further up the tree. She didn’t even pause to think about finding handholds, just climbed on instinct. She got up several feet, then leaped to the next tree.

“Follow her!”

Terrin glanced back and saw that the woman now rode one of the wraiths, which stood at its full height. The others were below the tree, golden eyes locked on Terrin.

Terrin ran.


Read chapter forty-four…

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.

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