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.
Chris shifted and pulled his blanket tighter around him. Warmth wasn’t an issue in the muggy swamp, but it felt strange to sleep without the blanket. The small raft was crowded, with all five of them spread out to sleep, but he wanted to reserve their strength for when they landed. He wanted to get as far as possible as quickly as possible. With soldiers around…
He shut his eyes, willing himself to relax, for the sound of Ceianna’s steering pole to lull him to sleep. And maybe, just maybe, for one of the dreams to come and tell him he was on the right track.
You found the riddle, he told himself. You must be on the right track. That’s probably why the dreams are absent.
He clenched his hand into a fist, pulling the blanket tighter around him.
Eventually he began to drift off. The sounds of Ceianna guiding the boat, even the sense of her moving about the sleepers faded to a blur.
Then there was a rapid series of soft thuds, a splash, and something landed just an inch from his head. Another something flew over him, landing with a thump.
Chris threw back his blanket and rolled away enough to jump to his feet.
Ceianna stood, arms wrapped around Terrin’s waist, attempting to pull the taller girl away from the edge of the raft. Terrin strained forward, her eyes wide and her face pale.
He stepped forward, blocking her way with his arm.
“Terrin, wake up. It’s just a dream.”
Her face turned slightly towards his. Her eyes were blank except for the panic. Her mouth was open, and her breath came in ragged gasps. A bead of sweat rolled down the side of her face.
“Terrin?” he said.
She blinked, and her straining lessened. Across the raft, Nora threw back her blanket and sat up, watching.
“It’s just a dream, Terrin. Wake up. Please.”
“Chris?” Terrin said softly.
Ceianna released her, and she slumped forward onto Chris’s arm. Ceianna stepped back, and Chris lowered himself and Terrin to a sitting position.
“What happened?” said Terrin.
Chris glanced up at Ceianna. She shrugged and turned away.
“You got up a couple minutes ago,” she said, “and wandered around for a bit. Next thing I know, you’re running across the boat. We nearly didn’t catch you.”
“Shouldn’t someone be steering the boat?” Terrin asked, glancing ahead.
“Looking for my — ah!” Ceianna’s hand flashed out and grasped a long rod sticking up from the water. Chris hadn’t even noticed it in the poor light. With a sucking sound, Ceianna pulled her steering paddle free from the water and mud.
She threaded her way back to the head of the boat, and as she passed Terrin, she said, “I’m more interested in WHY you tried to take a swim.”
Chris locked his gaze with Terrin’s.
“You’ve been having the dreams, haven’t you?”
“Of course, I’ve been having dreams. Everyone has dreams,” she said, standing up and turning away.
“You know what I mean, Terrin. The type of dreams … like the one that made me ne—”
Terrin turned back towards him sharply, cutting him off with a wave of her hand.
“Terrin?” said Nora softly.
Terrin glanced at Nora, then collected her hair, pulling it back over her shoulders.
“Alright, maybe I have.”
“That’s how you found me and Thomas, isn’t it?” Chris smiled as he made the connection.
Shrugging, Terrin sat back down. Nora came over and joined them.
Chris glanced at Ceianna. Her focus seemed locked on steering the boat, but she stood unnaturally still at the same time.
“So,” he said, turning his attention back to Terrin, “you’ve been having the dreams.”
The feeling of relief made him almost giddy.
“But what were you dreaming about, just now?” said Nora. Her eyebrows were knitting together.
“It’s not important,” Terrin said, tilting her head back.
“Of course it is,” said Chris. “These dreams have already proved important.”
“Well…” said Terrin, but she paused. Her gaze fell to her hands, folded in her lap.
“Terrin, why wouldn’t you tell us?” asked Nora.
“Fine,” snapped Terrin. “In my dream, I woke up in a clearing. And there was some crazy old lady and a wraith. The woman kept going on about me being a fool to come into the swamp, and that I was a threat, and — she wanted me to do something. Then I ran away, which is when you woke me up.”
They fell into silence. Arnold let out a loud snore, then rolled over.
“Well, at least someone is getting sleep,” said Terrin.
Chris refused to be distracted.
“Terrin, what was it the woman wanted you to do? And where were you in the dream, exactly?”
She held his gaze for a minute, then dropped her eyes back to her hands. Her fingers tugged at the edge of her left sleeve.
“We were in a clearing in a forest. I think Xell, but I couldn’t be sure. I don’t know. She just wanted me to do something.”
Chris considered pressing the issue, but discarded that idea.
“We should go back to sleep,” he said. “Tomorrow will be a long day, no doubt.”
As Chris knelt back down by his blanket, a thought crossed his mind. He looked over his shoulder to where the two girls were settling into their own beds.
“If you have any more dreams — if either of you have any more dreams — please, tell me. And also, Terrin, don’t worry too much about the dream. I promise that we’ll be there. We might not be able to stop the dream from happening but I promise we won’t let that woman hurt you.”
Terrin looked over to him and opened her mouth, but snapped it shut again and turned back to her blanket.
Chris did not sleep much more that night.
To be continued…
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.