This is the first installment in my latest book for young adults and classic fantasy readers. I grew up with C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Anthony, Alexander, Donaldson, Moorcock, Silverberg, and I’ve been wanting to write books like theirs since I was six years old. If you like this chapter, I’ll be posting a new one every Wednesday until the book is complete.
The Girl With The Bow
Book One in the Nyla Series
(C) 2013, 2016 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
On the night before his twenty-sixth birthday, Vival dreamed of a girl.
She was half his age, her eyes soft and curious. Her hair was in seven black, tight braids spread about her shining brown scalp. She sat upon the floor in front of him, dressed in a dirty beige smock that seemed a little too large for her, and she watched him.
The overlong sleeve of the smock covered up something that peeked out. When Vival lowered his head to look, he discovered that it was a small bow. Not like his own archer’s bow. This one was straight, and instead of a cord, from one end to the other there were hairs from a horse’s tail, hundreds of them, a couple odd strands flaring out and waving in the wind.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
Instead of answering, she smiled at him and raised the bow into the air. She brought it down about six inches from her shoulder and drew it across some object not visible, creating a glorious singing sound which emerged, softly at first, then louder.
Vival hung with his eyes almost reaching the floor. He knew he was upside down before he woke. It came as no surprise to him. Though his eyes were closed, the blood pounded in his ears and his throat was full and thick.
The sweet hum of a string, gently bowed, filled his head. Maybe it was a dream of the sound, and maybe it was the real thing. Either way, it brought him out of an uncomfortable sleep. As he pulled his eyelids open, a pair of brown ankles winked back at him.
He looked down (actually up) towards the skinny, dark thighs that were attached to those ankles and there he saw what must have been the girl, peering up (down, really) at him.
She didn’t say anything to him, even though she noticed that his eyes were now open. But she did sit crosslegged on the floor in front of him. She was young, obviously, still bony and very quiet, at least so far.
“What’s your name?” she asked suddenly.
He gurgled a little. She waited patiently for him to find his voice. “It’s…it’s Vival,” he managed.
“Vival, you got caught,” she said, as if this wasn’t completely obvious.
“Who are you?” he managed to ask her through his swollen vocal chords.
“My name’s Nyla,” she said. “I work here.”
“Can you…let me loose?” he asked, hopefully.
“No,” she said. Then, after a second, she added, as if to explain, “I don’t have the key.”
“Oh,” he said. When she said nothing more, he ventured to ask, “Can you get it?”
“No,” she replied simply.
Vival hung there for a while, letting that answer sink in.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
“I…can’t really talk…” he gurgled.
“Oh,” she said, “That’s okay. You’ll probably be dead soon anyway.” Sighing, she rose to her feet. The upside down image of Nyla moved away from him.
He had plenty of time to think back, although it took him a while at first to reconstruct what had happened to him. Parts of it were still a blank.
The most recent memories came to him first. He recalled sailing towards Veer Isle in his little boat, the knifelike cliffs emerging in the dim twilight. He remembered braving the shark-filled lagoon and scaling the cliff face, only to see the twin peaks of Mount Ingfier and Mount Ingdred glaring at him.
His destination was a barrow, a huge burial mound, that loomed just in front of the first mountain. After fending off a rabid wolf that had come from nowhere (the teeth-marks remained in his hand), he had scaled the side of the barrow mound in the pouring rain, nearly falling off of it, and had at last found entry through a hidden door.
Why had he come to the isle? Of course. He remembered it now. The Sand Witch had asked him to do it. He had owed her a favor and had agreed to do her a service. When she asked you to do something, it was always a good time to do it.
“Veer Isle,” she had croaked, peeking around her hourglass.
“I’ve heard of it,” Vival replied. “Nasty. Not too many people go there, and fewer come back. It only has one port, and that’s been controlled by the Goon for years.”
“That’s the place,” agreed the Sand Witch. “On the Isle is a princess. I want her brought to me.”
“A princess? On that deadly rock? ”
“She is there,” nodded the witch. “In the Underground Kingdom, ten miles walk from the town where the Goon holds the harbor. You will not be able to use the front gate. It has been sealed for years.
“You must enter the barrow where the Lich King, the ancestral ruler of the Isle, takes his long rest. You will need his help. Therefore, you must wake him.”
“You want me to wake a dead king?” Vival gawked.
“You must. The Underground Kingdom is now ruled by the Overreacher, who has enslaved the inhabitants. The Lich King is the only one powerful enough to defeat him.”
“So I’m supposed to set the people of the island free?”
“I don’t care about the people!” spat the Sand Witch. “He’s holding the princess!”
Vival’s memory of finding the Lich was spotty. He didn’t remember enjoying it. Mostly he could recall the fetid stench of clay and ashes and a rusutle like gravel over sand. Beyond that, he only had dim notions of what came next. A trip through a maze of passages. A city under the mountain. The pounding of a drum.
In fact, he heard it now. What he had taken to be the blood in his ears was the insistent pounding of a drum, a slow, relentless beat.
More about The Girl With The Bow
When Vival, Knight of the Fittest, risked his life to rescue the princess from Veer Isle, he never thought he’d be the one who needed to be rescued. And to make matters worse, the girl he was helping didn’t want to leave! The first book in the Nyla series introduces Vival, Knight of the Fittest, Tom the Incredibly Helpful Sword, two mysterious island dwellers named Cher and Sherluck, and Nyla, the mysterious girl with the bow.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Speed of Darkness and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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