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
The next time he woke, he was lying on the ceiling (actually the floor). By the time he realized he was no longer hanging toes-up, he could see the girl in front of him, sitting there cross-legged again, watching him.
There was more light in the cell now, and Vival could see her properly. Her face and the backs of her hands were dark, like walnut wood, her hair a collection of intricate black braids arranged in a bunch at the top of her head and held together with a bright red ribbon tied in a bow. She was obviously young, no more than eleven or twelve years old. She was dressed in a tattered purple shirt which hung over blue leggings and partially covered her dry, cracked toes.
The girl was also staring at him. She would have seen a man of above average height, whose arms bulged from regular use, whose own appearance was, by necessity, neat and uncomplicated from the bristle-short hair to the functional clothes. As she looked him over, the intense focus of her deep black eyes and the turn of her mouth gave an impression of her being both curious and bored at the same time.
He rubbed his head. It felt as though he had been dropped on it.
“’Lo,” said the girl.
“Hello,” Vival muttered. He tried to move, and a chain sang out as it scraped against the floor. He was still chained to the wall, only not upside down. “How did I get like this?” he asked her.
“Well, you snuck into the Kingdom Under the Mountain here,” Nyla began, counting on her fingers, “Tried to attack the big ugly man…”
“Yeah, you actually did pretty good. Not too many people get that close to him.”
“I’m not upside down anymore,” Vival observed.
“Oh, yeah,” Nyla said. “I asked the guards to turn you around. I figured you’d be more comfortable.”
“You were right,” Vival said, appreciative. “Why did they listen to you?”
“Oh, they’re easy to talk to,” Nyla said. “They’re all glazed in the eyes. They do just about whatever I tell them to do.”
“Can you tell them to free me?”
“No,” Nyla said. “No, I can’t tell them to do something that goes against the big ugly man’s orders. That confuses them. But the big ugly man didn’t tell them to hang you upside down. They just do that. To everybody. So I asked them to turn you around and because they can’t think for themselves, they did it.”
“Thanks,” Vival said, trying to rub the knot out of his head.
“No problem,” Nyla said. “I wanted to talk to you anyway. There hasn’t been anybody around here to talk to except the big ugly man, and all he does is give me orders. Everybody else is all glazed up like the guards and they don’t say anything except ‘unhh.’”
As Nyla mentioned the guards, Vival began remembering more about how he had gotten into this mess. The image of the glassy-eyed guards ushered in more of his recent past and he told it to Nyla.
Once he’d gotten into the enormous main cavern that was the Underground City, with its hundreds and hundreds of ledges, the dwellings all facing inward towards a glowing center, he had noticed how the thousands of its inhabitants took no notice of him. They shuffled, around doing their tasks, paying him no attention.
That was when he’d heard the drumming sound, and had gotten a little dizzy. His fuzziness had grown worse the closer he had come to the sound, so that by the time he stood before the Overreacher, all the tyrant had to do was laugh and point. The guards, equally as fog-eyed as he was, had taken him away to the dungeons. “Yeah,” nodded Nyla. “Nobody can get near Big Ugly as long as that drum is playing. He’s had everyone in the kingdom under a trance for years, I hear.”
“Why aren’t you glazed up?” Vival asked.
“I don’t know,” Nyla admitted. “When I hear the drum it doesn’t make my brain cloud. It just sounds like talking. I understand it somehow. If I don’t like it, I drown it out with music from my imaginary fiddle.” At this, she made a bowing movement with her arm. She acted as though she heard something as a result of her movement, and she was so convincing that for a second, Vival thought he heard it too.
Vival took a closer look at her. She was obviously bright and spirited underneath her careless expression. Her face had a somewhat squashed character, starting with her doughy nose, but her eyes were astoundingly sharp and clear. Her voice was full and rich for her age and seemed to come from a place that was deeper than her small body could have hidden. “You don’t look like the rest of these people,” Vival began. “Where—“
“So, who are you?” Nyla asked, interrupting him.
“You said your name was Vival.”
“Yes,” Vival said. “Of the Fittest.”
“What’s the Fittest?” she asked, shifting to a more comfortable seated pose, cocking her head curiously to look at him.
“A group of Knights who have perfected themselves in some way and who are out in the world accomplishing their missions.”
“What’s the mission?” Nyla wanted to know.
“It’s different for each of us,” Vival explained. “Some of them are interested in personal gain, in managing land for themselves, in becoming powerful leaders. Others just want to be left alone to do what they think is best.”
Nyla watched him for a second. “And you?” she asked, finally.
Vival straightened himself up. “I’m good at surviving in difficult environments. I help people get things they couldn’t get themselves.”
Nyla considered. “Not very noble,” she said after a moment.
“It’s a start,” Vival retorted, a little put out.
Neither of them said anything for a while. Finally, Nyla cracked. “So what are you doing here?”
“I was charged by the Sand Witch to rescue the princess from The Overreacher.”
“The big ugly man. The evil creature who’s subjugated your entire island.”
“Oh, him. He’s evil?”
“Don’t you think so?”
“I thought so,” said Nyla. “I just didn’t know anybody else thought so. Ever since I been here, everybody just do what he says. They never question him, they never argue with him. They just work and work.”
Vival nodded. “I’m here to stop that.”
Nyla laughed a little. “Okay!” she said. Then she peered at him again. “How you get here?”
“It wasn’t easy,” Vival admitted. “I know there’s a port, but from what I understand, it’s guarded. I sailed a little cutter here and left it anchored off shore near a lagoon that’s out of sight, swam to the island and found Mount Ingfier. That’s where we are now.”
Nyla looked around, as if she had never known the place’s name.
“The Sand Witch told me several things to help me defeat the Overreacher. She said, there is a secret passage through the Barrow where the Lich King sleeps…”
“The Lich King?”
“Yes. He’s the ancient ruler of Veer Isle and the Underground City. His body is lying in a tomb in the Barrow.”
“Why is he called the Lich King?” Nyla wanted to know.
“Because he’s not truly dead,” Vival answered. “He can be brought back to life. That was the second thing the Sand Witch told me.”
Nyla shuddered. “Why would you want to bring some dead guy back to life?”
“He can defeat the Overreacher. She gave me the Lich King’s name and told me that if I summoned him in the presence of the Overreacher, he’d take out his fury on the one who enslaved his people.”
Nyla didn’t say anything at first. Then she ventured, “That sounds risky.”
“It is,” admitted Vival. “She warned me about an additional danger. That was the third thing she said.”
Vival squirmed uncomfortably. “Well, I can’t remember, exactly.”
“I don’t do good at remembering more than two things.”
“But it sounds like the third thing was the most important!” Nyla exclaimed.
“Well, I’m sure it will come to me,” Vival reassured her. “The question is, will you get me out of here so that I can defeat him?”
Nyla rose to her feet.
“Wait!” exclaimed Vival. “Where are you going?”
“To think about it,” Nyla answered. “You sound crazy to me.”
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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