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Banished Chapter Twenty-Two

Banished

All Christopher Fredrico wanted was to be a peaceful scholar who could spend a lot of time with his friends. Now, falsely accused of stealing a magical artifact, he is forced to leave the only home he knows.

But as he and his friends travel towards the coast, they find a riddle that may save a kingdom — or cost them their lives.

Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One by homeschooled teen author Teresa Gaskins, is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. The full novel is available in ebook or paperback format on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.


PART TWO

Click here to read from the beginning.

Chapter 22

Trillory

Boring. The Dukedom of Grith was completely boring. Perhaps if she could escape the duke’s manor house and explore the city of Charlon, she might find something of interest, but she was sick of parties and fancy dresses. She had been perfectly happy at home with only the occasional feast and with plenty of time to run and play.

The duke had hosted a party every week so far. There were plenty of courtiers, and everyone insisted on dressing so finely that even her best gown — a pale pink color with a darker pink pattern of flowers, and a blue silk underskirt that matched her eyes — looked childish next to the other nobles. Clothes seemed of utmost importance here.

Lady Joline, who almost always stayed with Duke Grith during her visits from Diamond Isles, had immediately set to ordering some fine cloth, which she then cut into the latest fashion and was now helping the ever-reluctant Trill sew it into a lovely gown of a bright green, which the lady said would make her eyes stand out, and add a trim of deep red accents.

After Chris had departed, Anthony had convinced their father that the dukedom would be the best place for her.

“It is high time that the poor dear is exposed to courtly society and learns to make her way in the world,” he said. “She’s become too much of a boy under her wild excuse for a brother, and the influence of ladies would surely do her well. Indeed, that is partly why I came here, though I knew not how bad Christopher really was.”

Perhaps Anthony was right in saying that Trill enjoyed acting like a boy, but she saw no problem in that — in fact, she found it much preferable to the ‘influence of ladies.’ But her father had a weakness for Anthony, and so here she was, gazing out the window on a perfectly sunny day into a lovely green garden.

And from here she saw the messenger arrive, riding a majestic black stallion. Across the rump of the animal was a white cloth with the messenger’s coat of arms, a snake swallowing a sword hilt first and holding a feather in its tail.

Her brother was out near the garden gate and met the man as he came through. Anthony stepped quickly to the messenger’s side, and they talked for a minute before walking towards the castle.

Trill watched with interest, for she could clearly see the worried expression on both men’s faces.

She stood quickly and turned to Joline, who sat nearby, adding a golden embroidery of peacocks to the new gown.

“Joline, I do feel ever so bored in here,” she said. “And while I know it would be nice to have the new gown finished before the night of the next dance, I simply cannot bear sitting still for another minute. Couldn’t we take a walk down to the hall, at least?”

Joline looked up and then smiled brightly. Normally, Trill preferred to sit in her room away from the hustle and bustle, and the lady no doubt thought her desire to visit the hall represented great progress. She set down her work and said in her sweet voice, “Of course, Trillory. Come on, now. That dress will do for simply visiting the hall. My, after we’re done with your ball gown—”

Trill followed Joline quietly, only replying when necessary. They reached the hall quickly, and she was glad to see that the messenger was not there yet. She started up a conversation with one of Joline’s many friends, while watching the door out of the corner of her eye.

She had but a minute’s wait, then Anthony entered with the messenger beside him. The whole hall quieted at the sight of the messenger’s arms, embroidered brightly on his sleeves.

The two walked halfway up the hall. Anthony bowed deeply, and the messenger knelt. Next to her, she sensed Joline stiffen, and she was sure that she saw a gleam in the lady’s eyes, for a second. Then Joline regained control of her expression, and the clueless look returned.

Duke Grith was a handsome man in his late fifties. He was tall, had short neat black hair and eyes nearly as dark. He wore a gold suit with a silver robe over it. On his head was a thin silver circlet, and he wore a silver ring on his finger with a ruby in it.

The duke stood. “Rise, Sir Anthony, come to my side. Rise, Messenger, and tell me what news you bring and from whom.”

This all sounded very grand, but Trill wished he would skip the formalities. She thought it very well that her father never bothered with this proper stuff.

Anthony walked quickly to his lord’s side. There he stood, very tall and proud looking. It was no secret that he was one of Grith’s favorites.

The messenger stood and began his tale. “From the king I come, bearing ill tidings. A messenger arrived three weeks ago at the king’s court, bearing news that the South grows weary, and that their merchants seem restless.

“This alone worried my lord, but three days past, Crown Prince Tyler was out on a hunt and discovered the remains of a North Raecan caravan. Their carts were stripped clean and all valuables taken, the rest burned. At least ten North Raecans were found dead. There was an eleventh of the dead, thoroughly burned, but not thoroughly enough. The prince found on him a piece of cloth emblazoned with the Southern arms.

“From this we have concluded that South Raec has attacked one of our caravans. It appears that the Southern merchants knew the attack was coming. We think it would be wise to prepare for war, though the king seeks your opinion. Also, we ask that you make sure that no Southern merchants leave your lands until the matter is settled.”

The duke turned to the courtiers. “Quickly, you heard him. We have long been expecting South Raec to rise against us again. Ride now to your homes, and to all the villages within our district, and there imprison any Southern merchants. Give them comforts, but do not allow them to leave.

“Anthony, go to the captain of the guard and give him orders to shut the gates. No merchants or commoners are to leave the city until all the South Raecan merchants have been secured.

“Messenger, pray stay and rest tonight, return to the king tomorrow. Tell him that I positively agree. We cannot delay. We must prepare for war.”


Read Chapter Twenty-Three…

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover art copyright © Anton Tokarev / DepositPhoto.com, and Christian Joudrey / 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.

Banished Chapter Twenty-One

Banished

All Christopher Fredrico wanted was to be a peaceful scholar who could spend a lot of time with his friends. Now, falsely accused of stealing a magical artifact, he is forced to leave the only home he knows.

But as he and his friends travel towards the coast, they find a riddle that may save a kingdom — or cost them their lives.

Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One by homeschooled teen author Teresa Gaskins, is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. The full novel is available in ebook or paperback format on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.


PART TWO

Click here to read from the beginning.

Chapter 21

Terrin

Terrin snapped a small twig between her fingers, then glanced over to where Nora was examining the leaves of a plant. They had gone into the forest to gather a full stock of herbs. Nora wanted to have plenty for treating Chris’s shoulder and any other wounds that might arise.

Terrin’s hands dropped to the hilt of her knife, which Arnold had bought for her from a trader. It was a simple, Yorc-style knife, well-balanced and sturdy. The handle went into the blade with no cross bar. Instead the handle got thinner at the center so her hand would not slide into the blade. Its leather grip shaped comfortably to her fingers. That very knife had cut Chris’s shoulder, and now their quest was delayed.

Their quest, what of it? All of the other three seemed bewitched by the idea of following that silly riddle.

She wondered if it wasn’t magic working on them. That would explain why she didn’t feel like they did about it. The forest people had a resistance to magic, one for which she was thankful.

Surely it was magic, and it was making her friends crazy. Chris tried to strangle Nora, and Nora apparently had a strange trust of harpies. And Arnold, who was supposed to be a defender of the people, acted like there was nothing wrong. If anything, he was being more like a clown than usual.

She felt a light touch on her shoulder and blinked, realizing that she had been staring at the broken twig in her hand for the last few minutes. She looked up to see Nora looking at her, a knowing expression in her eyes. Nora was intelligent and understanding, sometimes too much so.

“I’ve got enough of everything,” Nora said. “We can head back. And I think if we break camp tomorrow afternoon, Chris should be well enough for a half day of travel. Don’t you agree?”

Terrin nodded half-heartedly. Even though she distrusted this whole expedition, she had promised herself at the harpies’ lake that she would make sure they stayed safe, and that Chris didn’t make any stupid decisions.

Of course, she personally thought this entire quest was a stupid decision. How did they know they wouldn’t run into a dead end? Maybe the riddle had just been nonsense. But she had tried and failed to stop them, so she was stuck.

They trudged back towards the camp, Nora taking deep breaths and enjoying the fresh pine-scented air, made even fresher by the rain that had fallen late yesterday. Normally Terrin would have also been enjoying the air, but she found she couldn’t. It wasn’t the same as the forest around Xell, which was much thicker and boasted a richer variety of trees than these mountain evergreens.

Several minutes later, they entered their camp. They had moved into the forest two days ago, when they spotted the darker clouds moving in, so that there would be some shelter from the rain and wind.

Nora glanced at her. “I’ll tell Chris. I should check on him anyway. Can you pass on the news to Arnold? Thanks.”

Terrin groaned. “I wish you wouldn’t.”

“Thank you before you actually do it? Or be the one to tell Chris?”

“Both, but mostly the second. Even if he was asleep, he did try to strangle you.”

“Tried, Terrin, tried. He didn’t succeed, and it was an accident. I don’t see any reason to hold a grudge, and if I’m not, why should you? You don’t need to take care of me that much.”

Grumbling, Terrin headed off to find Arnold.

Arnold glanced at her as she approached. He patted the ground beside him and she sat down, accepting the harpy flower he offered. Terrin let the first bite melt away before she started to talk.

“Nora thinks we should head out tomorrow afternoon. I agree. We’ve wasted too much time, but south would be a much better direction. Arnold, you do realize that we won’t make it to Diamond Isles by the deadline, right? Not unless we get back on the main road and pick up the pace. And that’s assuming we aren’t attacked, or get sick, and the rains haven’t washed out the trail, or some other disaster.”

Arnold shrugged. “Chris knows, too. But I think he’s already made his choice. And we’re just following him, right.”

The last word was stated as a fact, not a question.

Terrin sighed.

“You’re all bewitched,” she said, with an air that meant she didn’t want to continue the conversation.

She set to eating her flower as if it actually tasted good, and left as soon as she was done, without saying another word. She could feel Arnold’s eyes on her back.


Read Chapter Twenty-Two…

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover art copyright © Anton Tokarev / DepositPhoto.com, and Christian Joudrey / 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.

Banished Chapter Twenty

Banished

All Christopher Fredrico wanted was to be a peaceful scholar who could spend a lot of time with his friends. Now, falsely accused of stealing a magical artifact, he is forced to leave the only home he knows.

But as he and his friends travel towards the coast, they find a riddle that may save a kingdom — or cost them their lives.

Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One by homeschooled teen author Teresa Gaskins, is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. The full novel is available in ebook or paperback format on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.


PART TWO

Click here to read from the beginning.

Chapter 20

Arnold

Arnold spun ninety degrees, sidestepped, and slashed the air in front of him. Then he turned to Nora.

“Practice that move for a little while. Remember, hold your sword lightly, but make sure you can’t drop it. And tighten your grip just before you strike, and put force behind it. When you jab, twist and pull, and—”

“She knows, Arnold, and she’ll never get any practice done if you repeat yourself and make her stand around listening,” Terrin said from where she watched, sitting on the ground with her legs crossed.

Nora, who had been watching and listening to Arnold intently, giggled. She pulled out Arnold’s spare sword and made a shooing sign at him.

He sighed dramatically. “Oh, poor me! Everyone’s a critic.”

Terrin rolled her eyes at him and looked the other way.

They had decided to stay at the lake for a few days to let Chris’s injury heal. He said his shoulder was still sore, and it hurt to move his arm, but Nora had performed wonders after one short trip into the woods to pick herbs. She told them that she had an herbalist aunt with whom she had often stayed as a child, and so she’d learned many salves and mixtures. Arnold thought she had a natural talent, and if she ever finished her education, she should become a healer. Both he and Terrin knew some simple medicines, but she seemed to know a lot more.

Arnold headed off towards camp. He found Chris, grooming Marc with his left hand. He watched for a second, wondering what Chris could be thinking about as he mechanically performed his self-assigned task. Probably torturing himself over the episode with the dream. Even Nora had seemingly forgotten it after her cry — and considering it had been her attacker she was hugging while she cried, she had been over it even before that.

Why does Chris have to be like this? he wondered. And more importantly, what can I do to make him stop?

He watched silently as Chris rubbed his curry comb in circles across Marc’s back.

After a minute, Chris said, “I know you’re there.”

“How’s your arm feeling?”

“Better, but not up to the tiring work of making circles on a horse’s back, as you can see.”

“My right arm is never up to it. My sword teacher used to make me brush the horse with just one arm, to make me stronger. I got to where I could groom the whole horse without resting, and then he let me do whatever I wanted. Of course, it wasn’t that my arms didn’t feel like they were about to fall off, but I just learned the will to act as if they didn’t. Maybe that was what he wanted, after all.”

Chris ignored him.

Not the response that Arnold had been going for — a low laugh, even just a small grin would have been better. He walked around to lean against the other side of Marc and get a better looked at Chris’s face. It was stony still, and he could see the pain in his eyes.

Arnold tightened his face, doing his best to mimic Chris’s own look.

Chris blinked at him. “What are you doing?”

“Showing you what you look like. What else?” he said, attempting to copy Chris’s voice.

Chris raised his eyebrows. “I know that, I meant why are you doing it? You’re no good actor, nor have you ever been, nor will you ever be.”

Arnold gave up on the face. “You’re right, I am not a good actor. I’m a great actor!” He waved his hands in the air. “And do you see that source of water, called a lake despite being more a pool? Well—”

He stood on his toes and swung a punch at Chris’s head. Chris ducked. As Chris was straightening, Arnold set off running towards the lake.

About halfway there, he realized Chris wasn’t following. He stopped and spun on balls of his feet. Chris dropped the curry comb and picked up a brush, then continued to clean Marc. The horse, being used to their game, kept munching grass, not interested in the fact his master had been attacked.

Arnold frowned and plodded back to Chris. “Christopher Fredrico—”

Chris turned and said, “I’m not a Fredrico anymore.”

“Chris, don’t say that. We chose to come with you because to us, you are still a Fredrico. Never say you aren’t, or I’ll drag you to the lake and dunk you, and then I’ll give you a black eye. And after that I’ll feed you on bread and water.”

“Then you don’t think of me as a Fredrico. Because if I was, you wouldn’t treat me like that.”

“Of course I would, and so would Terrin. In fact, only Nora wouldn’t treat you that way, and that’s just because she’s too quiet and peaceful. I’d bet she wants to, sometimes.”

Chris looked around. The girls were nowhere in sight. “Arnold, you’re the best friend I have. So if you promise to keep it a secret, I’ll tell you something.”

“Fine, I’ll keep a secret this once,” Arnold said, pulling his best sad face.

Chris didn’t smile. “It’s that dream I was having when I nearly strangled Nora. It was different than normal dreams. And I had another one like it that had the same vivid feeling. I was on this ledge, leading Marc. It wasn’t the way I would have chosen to go, but I was taking it anyway. And, Arnold, if these dreams continue, if something like before happens—”

“Is that what’s worrying you? Chris, I trust you. Nora trusts you. You may be crazy, but we’re with you because you need us. Besides, they’ve probably already figured out that we’re with you and banished us, too.”

Chris turned back to brushing Marc.

Arnold furrowed his brow, deemed that for now it was a hopeless cause, and went to check on Nora.

But as he walked away, he heard Chris mutter, “That’s what I’m worried about.”


Read Chapter Twenty-One…

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover art copyright © Anton Tokarev / DepositPhoto.com, and Christian Joudrey / 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.

Book 1 of 100: Cal Newport’s “How to Become a Straight-A Student”

Book 1: How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal NewportIn preparation for the coming semester, I started the year off by reading Cal Newport’s How to Become a Straight-A Student, a book about earning good grades while still having free time, and not pulling all-nighters. The tips he gives are pulled from the techniques of himself and other students, who he interviewed via questionnaire, who managed to do just that.

To sum up the theme of the book: “Plan ahead and don’t procrastinate.”

The book is broken into three sections, the first being on how to plan your day and avoid procrastination. The second section is specifically on how to schedule your study sessions in order to prepare for tests, and the third breaks down how to write papers. Each section ends with an example story to illustrate the method.

Now, I haven’t had the time to really test any of the techniques, but they make sense on paper, though he might lean towards optimistic time estimates.

Newport tended to hammer home the point that everyone he got quotes from were straight-A students. It felt like at least eighty percent of the time when he quoted someone, he would say they were a straight-A student, which felt excessive when he’d already stated that he only questioned straight-A students.

I wish he had added a few chapters on variations to the plans he laid out. I don’t how much he tested the various students’ plans, or if he just tried to pull out the common threads from their answers to his questionnaire. Either way I feel like it would have been interesting to see plans besides his, and seems like it would have only needed an extra chapter per section.

But as it is, the book is kept as a short, easy read, and I would recommend it to anyone in or soon to be in college, who is looking for a way to improve their grade. Whether they use any or all of the plans, the book is at least proof that it is possible to avoid last minute cramming.

Banished Chapter Nineteen

Banished

All Christopher Fredrico wanted was to be a peaceful scholar who could spend a lot of time with his friends. Now, falsely accused of stealing a magical artifact, he is forced to leave the only home he knows.

But as he and his friends travel towards the coast, they find a riddle that may save a kingdom — or cost them their lives.

Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One by homeschooled teen author Teresa Gaskins, is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. The full novel is available in ebook or paperback format on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.


PART TWO

Click here to read from the beginning.

Chapter 19

Christopher

Chris turned towards the girl. She looked familiar, but if he took time to remember why, it might be too late. She was going to kill the two men behind him, and it was his responsibility to protect them. He strode towards her across the courtyard. She backed away to the gates, but they were closed. In a moment he was next to her, wrapping his hands around her neck and squeezing.

He wouldn’t kill her — he didn’t have time for that — but he had to put her out of action. She gasped and kicked at him, trying to say something. Behind him someone started screaming, but he ignored the sound. He knew the girl’s two partners were also a threat, but she was the greatest danger. He had to take her out first.

Water splashed over the back of his head, and he kicked backwards. Someone gasped in pain, and the screaming stopped. He moved farther away, dragging the girl with him. Her eyes went wide, and she kicked at him, trying to twist away. Someone grabbed at him, but he tightened his grip. She was going limp now, her strength almost spent.

Then a blade cut at his shoulder. He dropped the girl and turned around, ready to fight, but there was nothing there, just whiteness. It seemed as if the girl had been his anchor, for now he was weightless, detached from the world. Even the hands that had grabbed him were gone. He kicked, as if trying to swim, but he was losing control, falling through a white mist.

Then he landed, and pain lurched through his arm. He gasped and blinked. Nora was scrambling away from him. Terrin dropped a bloody dagger and grabbed Nora’s arm, helping her up. Arnold was running towards them from the lake, his hand on the hilt of his sword.

He looked around to see what the problem was, but saw nothing that indicated danger. What he did see was that there was a knife wound in his shoulder, and he felt it, too.

Arnold crouched beside him. “It’s all right, now,” he said. “He’s awake.” Then he helped Chris up, careful not to touch his wounded arm.

Chris asked, “What happened?”

Terrin was the one who answered. “You tried to strangle Nora, that’s what. You nearly killed her!”

He stared forward without seeing more than a blur. He realized that he must have been acting out the dream, and Nora had gotten in the way. In fact, everything happening in the dream had been semi-real. Near his feet, he saw a deflated water skin on the ground. Terrin must have dumped it on him when she saw what was happening. And the invisible arms, the cut, the bloodied dagger — it had all been Terrin trying to get him to let go of Nora.

And he had nearly strangled her.

The world spun around him, and he lurched free of Arnold.

Terrin was talking again. “What has gotten into you, Chris? Ever since the harpies, you’ve been off in your own world. You need to let go, and we need to go back to our original plans. You’re on a goose chase. This whole thing smells of magic, and that’s never good.”

He looked at the ground, his thoughts reeling through his head. Terrin was right, even if he continued following this thing, which he somehow knew he had to, they shouldn’t be here. Why had he let them come in the first place? Why hadn’t he fought them harder?

“Go home, now, all of you,” he said. “Nora, go get in that college of yours, Arnold, go slay some dragon. Terrin, we all know you belong in a forest. Go home. Terrin’s right, this is my quest. You should have never come.”

Nora ran into him with a force that made him stumble backwards. He looked down and was surprise to see she had her head buried deep in his chest and her arms tightly around his waist. Her shoulders shook, showing that she was crying.

Terrin stood frozen in place. Arnold’s mouth was slightly opened, and his eyes more so.

Chris looked down at Nora, and his mind felt like a muddled mess, and he didn’t know what to do. He had never seen Nora cry before, none of them had that he knew of.

A half minute of stillness passed, and then Nora’s arms loosened and she moved away, her face tear-stained. She rubbed at it with her sleeve, then said, louder and clearer than he would have suspected, “I’m okay now. It’s Chris we should be worrying about.” She gestured to his reddened sleeve.

Terrin nodded slowly, and picked up the water skin, going to the lake to refill it, grabbing her dropped blade as she went, seeming a bit in a trance. Arnold hovered for a second, while Nora dug in her pack for bandages, then he drifted away, to watch from a distance.

Chris tried to take care of the wound himself, brushing Nora away. But after it became evident that using his left hand to awkwardly bandage his shoulder wouldn’t work, he gave up and let her tend to it.

Deep in thought, he argued with himself. It was too dangerous, dragging his friends along on this quest. Had he really been so desperate not to be alone that he had only made a show of protesting?


Read Chapter Twenty…

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover art copyright © Anton Tokarev / DepositPhoto.com, and Christian Joudrey / 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.

Feliz Años Nuevo!

I hope you all had a good week between Christmas and the New Year, and that those who are in school are enjoying their break. I am, but I’m also excited for school to start again. Did I ever mention that I started college classes? I’m still a technically a senior in high school, but I started dual credit classes at a community college this past fall.

My first semester went well, and I enjoyed my classes. That said, I’m not excited because I feel prepared for the next semester. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if the next couple weeks set their heels in the ground and dragged their feet all the way till the first day. But at the same time, there are things I did poorly last semester that I’m looking forward to improving.

Call it New Year’s optimism.

Because New Year’s Day is just the day when you shake off last year’s mistakes, wipe the slate clean so to speak, and start over. Or at least, try your hardest for two weeks before things go back to normal.

And one thing I want to clean up is my blog. I haven’t paid it much attention the past few years. And, even though I probably won’t be writing regular posts (besides continuing to post chapters of Banished), I feel it’s time to do some tidying up. Which mostly just means I’ll be finding a new theme over the next couple days and updating my About Me section (it’s going on four years old!), so don’t be surprised if things look different the next time you stop by.

Also, I plan to read 100 books in 2017. And to keep myself accountable (and to keep track of what I’ve read), I’ll be making short blog posts about each one. These won’t be full reviews, just comments on what stood out to me.

Other things to look forward to this year: Banished will continue to release weekly until it’s entirely on the blog, which will finish in late March (assuming I can count weeks), at which point I might take a short break before I start releasing Hunted. And while I’m not sure I’ll get it out before Banished finishes its run, you can expect the fourth and final Riddled Stone book to hit Amazon this spring.

I’m not sure what I’ll do once I finish the Riddled Stone series. Probably take a long nap.

Anyway, happy New Year!

Banished Chapter Eighteen

Banished

All Christopher Fredrico wanted was to be a peaceful scholar who could spend a lot of time with his friends. Now, falsely accused of stealing a magical artifact, he is forced to leave the only home he knows.

But as he and his friends travel towards the coast, they find a riddle that may save a kingdom — or cost them their lives.

Banished: The Riddled Stone Book One by homeschooled teen author Teresa Gaskins, is being serialized freely on this website at the pace of one chapter per week. The full novel is available in ebook or paperback format on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and other online retailers.


PART TWO

Click here to read from the beginning.

Chapter 18

Nora

Arnold stepped forward and slashed to his right. Nora danced out of the way, spinning to bring a blow down on his back. He twisted, bringing his wooden sword up to block hers, and then bounced his sword off to point at her throat.

Nora ducked before the tip of his sword reached her, then sprang up almost as soon as she was down, pushing the flat of her sword against his.

He slid to her left, but she angled her sword up so that if he had continued, his sword would have been too high for any good. So he quickly sidestepped the other way, and his blade darted in and pressed lightly against the side of her neck.

“You’re better at this than I would have thought,” he said.

“Thanks,” she said. “I used to practice with my brother quite a bit. But still, I didn’t last long enough to mean much, and you were going easy on me, weren’t you?”

“What did you expect me to do in a friendly training match? If I had done my best, you wouldn’t have had time to strike.”

Chris walked up and slung his arm across Arnold’s shoulders, saying, “Yeah, right. You couldn’t hurt a flea.”

Nora laughed as Arnold shoved him off, and then she handed Chris her wooden sword.

“If he’s that bad, you should be able to handle him.”

Chris tried to refuse, but Arnold cheered him on, and soon they were dueling. Nora picked up a light short sword from the ground. It was Arnold’s extra, which he had let her borrow. She started to practice different blows, building arm muscle and speed as Arnold had shown her, though she was careful to stay well out of the boys’ way.

It had been Chris’s idea for them to whittle out a couple of wooden swords so that Nora could learn, and she couldn’t say she disagreed. Arnold had been working on them in the evenings at the first lake, but had only just finished the day before.

After a couple days’ travel, they had reached a small and shallow lake, and Chris had decided they’d camp there a few nights, and dry out whatever they could before the rain began again.

She stopped her practice when Terrin appeared through the trees, holding up a pair of rabbits. Quickly, she sheathed the sword and ran to prep a pot with water. She cut up some roots while Terrin chatted with the boys and skinned the rabbits she’d caught. They were a nice size, though not the fattest.

Soon the stew was simmering, and Nora sat with Chris near the fire.

“Where do we go next?” she asked.

He glanced around the lake. Two other streams flowed into it in addition to the one they had followed. One came crashing down as a waterfall from a steep slope. The other flowed out of a high cave and meandered steadily down the side of the valley until it met the lake. At the far side of the lake, the river flowed on towards the forest below.

Chris pointed to the gentler stream. “Looks like that one will be the easiest to follow, and there’s a cave. We’re pretty sure the riddle was referring to a cave, so we’ll try that way first. If it’s a dead end, then we’ll come back and try the steeper one. But I’m not sure if the horses will be able to make the climb.”

“Why do I have a feeling I’d be the one left behind to take care of them? Just remember, I grew up in the north, near mountains. I’m good at climbing, and cold doesn’t get to me.”

“But someone has to stay with the horses.”

“And so you leave me behind because you think it’s the best way to protect me?”

He grinned and shoved at her shoulder a bit. “When did you get to know me so well?”

“About three years ago, when you appeared before me as a wide open book.”

“What do you mean a wide open book? It took you three months to figure out I was the earl’s son, and that was only because I told you.”

“Yeah,” she said, “but that was because you were using all your power to keep the school quiet, you dictator.”

“Well, as dictator, I decree that you are very unruly subjects who don’t act at all like you’re under a dictatorship.”

“Hey, I didn’t say you were still a dictator.” She shoved at him and added, “Though even if I thought you were, I wouldn’t say it.”

“Eh, I miss the you I first met,” he said. “You were so shy then. Now you’re the one who acts like a dictator.”

“The cook’s the dictator in his or her own kitchen. Currently my kitchen has no walls, so I’m apparently dictator of the whole outdoors. And with great power comes the great responsibility to check on the stew.”

“Never heard that one,” he said. He stood up and bowed, motioning toward the fire. “By all means, check away.”

She chuckled and went to stir the pot.

But he was right, she knew him well. And Nora knew that he was the type to treat his friends over-protectively. If he thought that following this trail was going put any of them in too much danger, he wouldn’t hesitate to leave them behind.

She would have to keep an eye on that.


Read Chapter Nineteen…

Copyright © 2012 by Teresa Gaskins
Published by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover and layout copyright © 2016 by Tabletop Academy Press
Cover art copyright © Anton Tokarev / DepositPhoto.com, and Christian Joudrey / 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.