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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.

Banished Chapter Seventeen

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 17

Christopher

Chris looked around, surprised to find himself beside the gazebo in his father’s garden. Nora motioned for Chris to follow her. He took a step after her and almost stumbled.

Glancing down, he saw the path ended in a steep cliff at his feet. He reached out his hand towards Nora as she disappeared behind the hedge.

She was calling his name.

Then the ground crumbled. He tried to step back, but he couldn’t move.

Chris gasped and opened his eyes. Nora was shaking him. She turned and called, “Terrin, he’s awake. Really, for someone who is so determined to find this place, he sure is lazy.”

For a second he couldn’t understand what had happened, and then he realized he’d been sleeping. Rain plastered itself to his face, and he shivered. He pulled himself out of his soaked blanket.

Nora took his blanket and handed him a small bundle. “The rain started around midnight. Terrin was right: We’ll have some treacherous footing today.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t want to risk losing sight of the river and getting lost,” Chris said. “We’ll just have to lead the horses.”

He unwrapped the bundle to find one of the flowers. They had stocked as many as they could for the trip, but the harpies were right. Already the sweet taste seemed almost to burn. But it was still filling, and when he let it soak in the rain, it seemed to taste a bit better.

They hiked all morning along the edge of the trees, as close as they dared to the rushing waters. The river had, predictably, flooded, and the horses were obviously restless. As they stumbled through the mud, Terrin ended up walking beside him.

“You know,” she said, “we sure picked a great time to be wandering around in the mountains. This is only the first of the rains, and who knows how long they’ll last?”

He scowled. “Yeah, yeah, I don’t need you to tell me that.”

“By the way, what was that this morning? I’ve never known you to sleep in.”

“Just a bad dream. It was… I don’t know.”

He frowned. Already the images of the dream seemed to be blurring together — parts of his past, events at school, the headmaster, the day he had met Terrin — but their details were fading. The one scene that seemed most real was something he couldn’t remember ever happening. He had never known Anthony to cry. It probably was nothing, but it had made him want to run. When he’d first woken, he had thought the wet rain was sweat.

Terrin looked at him for a second longer, then turned her gaze forward. “You should be more relaxed. Something about that riddle is getting to you. And I know this all probably has to do with the Riddled Stone, which has to do with the Shards, which has to do with why you were banished. But do you really think this will help?”

He tilted his head forward and murmured, “I can’t help but do this, Terrin. After all, I’m the one that can read the words.”

But he didn’t think she heard him.


Read Chapter Eighteen…

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 Sixteen

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 16

Arnold

Coren had summoned four of the harpies who could talk to carry them out of the valley. When Arnold asked about it, Andrea explained that she’d been trying to teach human language to the other harpies. Most could understand, but only a few had the talent to speak it well.

Arnold couldn’t remember the name of the young harpy that was carrying him. Currently he was worried about staying still so that the creature would not have to tighten its grip. He wasn’t big on heights, and after a while the wind got a bit chilly.

But at the same time, the view was absolutely amazing.

He was just about to relax and enjoy the flight when a large cloud rolled into them. He glanced up at the harpy above him, who said, “Sorry, I didn’t pull up quite fast enough. I’m not used to carrying humans.”

Arnold sighed and brushed a few of the droplets off his sleeve, though it only rubbed them in.

No, he definitely did not like flying.

Ahead of him, Nora looked much more excited about the experience and was constantly pointing something out to her harpy. He could hear the murmur of their voices. A bit to her left was Terrin, who had her hands clasped around her harpy’s legs, no doubt to its distaste, and to the right was Chris. Arnold couldn’t guess what he thought of it all. Behind them, other harpies were bringing their horses and baggage.

Coren had decided that they should be carried to one of the larger mountain lakes where they could begin their search. Their main concern was that they would go to the right lake, but not find what they were looking for. After all, if the entrance really was underwater, it would be hard to see, and the mountains were large. Whatever they needed to find might not even be in Scar Range, for all they knew.

In fact, Arnold was slightly worried. Chris was obviously serious about this whole quest thing, but he could not imagine the reason why. King Miles already found the Riddled Stone and carried it away ages ago. What good would it do to follow in his footsteps?

Suddenly, he felt himself dropping.

The weightlessness was horrid, and with it came the feeling of weakness. The wind seemed to suck all the strength out of him as it rushed past. Then it slowed, and he was gliding across the ground.

He glared up at his harpy. “You could have given me some warning, you know.”

The harpy looked down at him, full of childlike innocence. “Sorry. We have arrived, young master.”

Arnold grimaced. “Don’t call me young master. If you must title me, at least say knight or sir or something like that.”

The harpy laughed lightly, then said, “Knight or sir young master, I’m going to drop you now. Farewell.”

True to its word, the harpy dropped him barely a hundredth of a second after it said ‘now’, and Arnold stumbled, falling on his face and barely catching the last word.

As Terrin helped him to his feet, he spat at the ground and said, “That’s it. Those harpies are just as bad as humans, especially the children. It mocked me! What did I say to it to make it dislike me?”

He heard Nora giggle, and Terrin laughed out loud as she pulled him to the side so Chris could land.

He stumbled after her angrily. “What’s so funny?”

Nora answered, “I think she liked you. As you said, they are like humans, and children often show affection through teasing.”

Terrin rolled her eyes, and Arnold cast her a glance.

“Well, the children you’re used to might tease,” she said, “but where I come from, children are very respectful and would never do such a thing.”

Arnold punched at her shoulder. “Hey, if that’s true, why were you always so mean to Chris and me?”

“I meant we wouldn’t tease adults,” Terrin said. “Of course we teased other children, especially ones like you. Chris just happened to pick up some of the affects.”

Chris jumped in. “Wait a minute. Are you saying you were so desperate to be mean to Arnold that you were willing to hurt an innocent civilian like me?”

Nora gaped. “Terrin used to be mean to you guys? Terrin? But I thought she was there to take care of you.”

Arnold turned on her. “Are you saying we need taken care of?”

“Yes,” said the two girls in sync, though Terrin sounded much harsher than Nora.

“But, guys, really, we need to get settled,” Chris said. “I think we’ll camp here tonight. I bet the horses are a bit shaken after that flight. We can start checking out the lake tomorrow.”

The next five days, Nora usually stayed at the camp to watch the horses and prepare their meals. Terrin did some hunting, keeping an eye out for caves around the lake, while Chris and Arnold took turns diving into the water to search for underwater caves.

Only when Chris was sure that they had checked every nook and cranny did they leave the lake. They followed a shallow stream down towards the valley. By noon they entered a forest, and the stream had gathered strength, turning into a small river.

By the time they found a suitable place to camp, the clouds had turned dark and thickened considerably. Arnold groaned. There had been many nights over the last year when he’d slept under the rain, sometimes even under snow or sleet. However, early spring rains tended to be the worst.

That night they settled down to sleep restlessly.


Read Chapter Seventeen…

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 Fifteen

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 15

Terrin

Terrin awoke to pale morning light and yawned. The night had been restful. Andrea had joined them for dinner, and she and Nora had talked about what had happened since they last met. Nora had constantly called on the others to help her remember minor details, thus making certain that Chris didn’t have time to bring the argument back up.

Terrin hated to admit how much she was curious about this whole riddle thing, how right Nora was, or how homesick she herself was. It seemed much longer than it really had been since she had walked in the forest, joked with her family, hunted the fleet-footed deer, or tracked the daring wolves that raided their food supply.

She remembered the first night on their journey, when Arnold had approached her with his worries. He asked what they would do when they reached Diamond Isles. She had acted so self-assured when she answered.

“Well,” she had said, “you can become a traveling warrior. That’s what you were trained for, pretty much. I’ll be a hunter, or a ranger, or something like that — perhaps guide travelers through the more treacherous parts of the Isles.

“Nora will get a job at a nice little inn and eventually settle down with a big family. And Chris can become a courier. He’s so good on horseback that he’ll do quite well at it.

“We can easily settle down in the capital or some city, so we can stay close to each other.”

Yet even then, she had wondered if they were doing the right thing. They had stuck together so faithfully since they were younger that it seemed like the natural thing to do. Wasn’t it time to start making their own way?

Argh! The whole situation gave her a headache.

She wasn’t about to let the others leave without her. Chris would choose to go running after the riddle, and Arnold would surely follow — he seemed to think of himself as Chris’s guardian. And Nora was as sure of these riddles as Chris, so she would join him, too.

Well then, Terrin had to go. Arnold was a fighter, not a decision maker, and he and Chris were usually too likeminded. Nora was intelligent, and had good instincts. However, she would rarely speak up. Chris would need someone to point out where he was wrong.

Besides, having an archer on hand was often helpful.

Set in her decision, Terrin stood up and walked over to where the others knelt by the lake. Nora looked up and handed Terrin her leather water bottle and backpack, saying, “I filled these for you, and packed up some flowers for the trail. Andrea says the whispers want us to hurry.”

Terrin scowled. She might as well try one last time to stop this idiocy. “Chris, please.” She said. “You’re not seriously thinking of following the riddle? It’s suicide.”

“How do you know that? I’m going, whether you do or not. Though I hope you will come, too. You and Nora were right when you said we were all chosen. Without you three, I’ll probably take too long to figure everything out.”

Terrin threw up her hands and humphed. “Well, you’ll need someone to take care of you until you see sense. So I guess I’ll go, just to keep you from getting yourselves killed.”

“Great,” Arnold said. “Then we’re all ready. So, where do you suppose we should look? The first line said, ‘Where walkers cannot tread and seekers lose…’ What kind of clue is that?”

Chris’s face lit up. “A lake or a large river? Something deep enough you can’t wade in it? You can’t walk in deep water, and it washes away tracks and scents that a seeker might use to find things. Isn’t that true, Terrin?”

“Oh, great,” Terrin said. “So now we just have to search all the rivers and lakes in the mountains. It might not even be in the Scar Range. Besides, what if the clue means something else? You can tread water, you know.”

“Hmm, yes,” Chris said. “But not if it’s under water, and you have to swim down.”

“What if the riddle means a forest?” she asked. “Forests can be like labyrinths. If you’re not careful, you’ll lose you way and whatever you’re looking for.”

“But people walk in forests all the time. It doesn’t fit that.”

“Some mountain forests can be hard to exactly walk in. You have to do more of a scrambling or climbing. And it’s hard to tread quietly. So that’s two ways it could fit.”

Nora broke in. “We’re forgetting one thing. The riddle says that the way is easy. Those forests certainly aren’t easy. Sure, swimming under water wouldn’t be all that easy either, but it makes more sense. So I think we should concentrate on water.”

The two looked at Nora. Then they nodded, and Terrin said, “I suppose that’s the best we can do.”

Arnold chuckled, his eyes looking back and forth between the three of them. “Can we go now? Andrea’s probably getting impatient.”

Terrin rolled her eyes.


Read Chapter Sixteen…

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 Fourteen

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 14

Christopher

Chris lay on the soft grass, gazing up into the late afternoon sky. Around him the others rested, as he was supposed to be doing. Instead he was thinking about the writing on the stone.

It was the last line that worried him most. What did the riddle mean by, “Until the hidden are retrieved, you cannot be free”? Was it a trap? Or did it have a deeper meaning?

He shook his head. It was nonsense. They were all free. Just because he had been banished from North Raec, that didn’t mean anything. They would be perfectly free once they got to Diamond Isles.

But that had been bothering him, too. He was sure someone had framed him. He’d had that particular brooch after he left the temple. That meant it had been put there later.

Who would want to frame him?

And who would want to steal a Shard? And why had King Miles wanted to protect them so much, placing the Shards in separate towns, and setting up caretakers and guards, unless they were more important than they were made out to be?

And this valley, with its hidden cave and the carved stone, wasn’t this where King Miles’s search for the Riddled Stone began? That much he could guess from the story Janley had told.

He sat up and glanced at the others. Terrin propped herself up on her elbows, gave him a wry smile, and whispered, “You’re awake, too. I should have known.”

He whispered back, “I think I’ve decided to follow the riddle. I think… I think it will explain why the Shard was stolen. I don’t know how they are connected, but I’m sure they are.”

Terrin’s smile turned downward. “Chris, it doesn’t matter. They banished you. It’s not your job. If we try and solve this, you’ll run out of your month and get caught, and the prince said that your life would be forfeit.”

He glanced over to where Arnold lay. It wasn’t himself he was worried about. He didn’t really want to go to Diamond Isles anyway. He’d visited there once, and he hadn’t seen any reason to call it Diamond Isles. Sheep Isles would have been a better name.

No, he was worried about Arnold, Nora, and Terrin. Nora, he supposed, would probably be fine. She could just promise never to leave Yorc territory again, and then the prince’s law couldn’t touch her. But the others, if they were found with him after the month was up, would be under the ban.

And the riddle had mentioned death.

“You’re right,” he said. “You should go back to the city, or to your forest, or even to Diamond Isles. This is my task, alone.”

“No way, Chris. You can’t face this by yourself.”

“I have to. Didn’t you hear what Janley said? This whole thing is like what happened to King Miles. I was the one who read the stone — even Andrea said she couldn’t read it — so I’m the one who has to follow it.”

“How do you know that King Miles traveled alone?”

“Well then, where did his companions go? Did he take all the glory for finding the Riddled Stone and shove them into the shadows? Or did they die in the process? Because either way, it doesn’t really encourage me to bring you guys along.”

“But you can’t do it alone. The harpy, Andrea, said that the whispers told her to find four people! Besides, this whole whisper thing is crazy, and if King Miles has already followed the riddles, then what could we achieve by following them?”

“I don’t know, but that’s what I have to do. Anyway, for all we know, the riddle has changed since King Miles’s time.”

“How would it do that?”

“There is such a thing as magic in this world, you know. Think about at this place, and the cave. Everything just echoes of magic.”

“Look who knows so much about magic.”

“I’m going, and I’m going alone.”

Their voices had risen. Chris’s was now a loud whisper, while Terrin was obviously having a hard time not coming straight out and shouting.

Suddenly Nora sat up beside them. “Guys, weren’t we all chosen? Chris, there are bound to be more riddles. Don’t you think it’s likely some of them will contain things that one of us would understand more than you? For example, I think the second line, ‘Beneath the surface, and yet high above,’ means we need to look for a cave in the mountains. I’ve lived near mountains most of my life. Did either of you think of that?”

Chris hated to admit it, but he hadn’t. And from the annoyed look on Terrin’s face, she hadn’t either.

He sighed, then said, “We’ll decide in the morning. Whatever we do, we should all rest now.” Though he doubted he would be a very good example for them.


Read Chapter Fifteen…

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 Thirteen

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 13

Christopher, 14 years earlier

Chris’ eyes were wide. Beside him Trillory held out her hands, cupping water from the small stream into them. The gardens around them were bursting with life, and they made Chris feel safe.

“See, watch,” Trill said, and she blew on the water. It rushed up her fingers and then curved back like a wave. Then a hole appeared in the middle, and the water curved back on itself, making a donut shape.

Entranced, Chris reached out in awe to touch the water. But Trill blew again, and the water lifted out of his reach. The two giggled.

Then a large hand reached out and grabbed the water. It dissolved immediately and splashed down onto Trill’s face and lap. She squealed and scrambled away, grabbing Chris’s arm to pull him with her.

He was glad she did, for he went numb as his eyes settled on the face of his eldest brother, glaring down at them. However, Trill pulled them only to the edge of the path, and then she turned to give a quick half curtsy.

The older boy suddenly smirked, blinking once, slowly, like a cat that knows it has its prey entrapped. “Well, Christopher, why aren’t you bowing? Your sister may be full of tricks,” he glanced at the stream, “but at least she has manners.”

Quickly Chris snapped to attention, arms tight to his side, eyes straight ahead, he bowed as low as he could. Trill nudged him with her elbow after he had been in that position for a minute, and he straightened. Anthony’s smirk had widened.

“Now, I shouldn’t keep Trillory from her duties as a young lady. I’m sure there’s something she should be doing. Run along now, girl.”

Trill grabbed Chris’s hand, and the two began to scurry down the path, but Anthony called after them.

“Ah, I said Trillory could go. But Chris, I really do want to talk to you. Stay and walk with me, little brother.”

Chris felt his stomach quake as he looked back, up at his brother’s face. He felt Trill turn with him, and she said, “I’ll stay with my twin.”

But Anthony frowned.

“I only want to talk to Chris, little sister. Besides, you need to get dried off. I wouldn’t want anything to dampen that little fiery spirit of yours. Though so unfitting to a young lady of your status.” The last was but a murmur, but Chris heard, and anger rose in him, though his wide-eyed fear did not melt away.

Trill gave his hand a quick squeeze, then she let go to curtsy quickly.

“Yes, brother.” Then she was gone.

“Walk with me,” Anthony said again, but it was an order, not a request. Then he turned and went down the opposite path from the one their sister had taken.

Chris followed behind and slightly to the side of his brother, eyes down. Suddenly he could feel the chill of early May, though it hadn’t been there before.

Anthony spoke. “You know, Father’s quite proud of the way I’ve been advancing. So young, and already a knight. Duke Grith was telling Father just the other day that I was quite talented, that he saw much in my future. The duke has told me things that he’d have never told any of the other squires — not even some of his knights.

“And you know, Christopher, Father would be quite sad if you, his last son, were to prove to be the weak link in his family. Of course you’ll never be as good as me. After all, I’ll be earl one day, maybe something more.

“Anyway, brother, what I’m trying to say is that Father would be very disappointed, we all would be, if you showed your repulsive cowardice in front of everyone at my knighting ceremony tonight. Especially the ambassadors from Diamond Isles.

“Maybe if you make a good enough impression on the duke, he’ll invite you to be a page at his manor — might do you some good.”

Anthony turned and leaned over to look Chris in the eye, grabbing his arm as he started to back away.

“Now brother, you really must go and prepare. I’d be quite upset if you embarrassed the family. I just don’t know what I’d do.”


Read Chapter Fourteen…

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.