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
Vival and Nyla turned towards the sound. The voice was much friendlier than the others had been, but the face of the person belonging to it was obscured by the many people in the tavern.
“It’s bad luck bein’ here at all!” exclaimed the proprietor. “Especially with a broken boat!”
“Still, the best thing about bad luck is that you can change it!” said the pleasant voice again. Then a man rose from the back of the room where he had been sitting at a table by himself.
“Can you help us?” asked Vival. “Change our luck, I mean?”
The proprietor snorted. “Your luck just got worse talkin’ to that one!” he said.
“Don’t listen to my dour friend,” said the man. He was tall and thin, dressed considerably nicer than his fellow drinkers, perhaps to compensate for his rather awkward face. His top teeth stuck out of the front of his mouth, and his cheeks were long and lean, giving him the impression of a well-dressed pole. “In fact, don’t listen to any of these sad-faced beasts of burden.” His voice was in stark contrast to his appearance. It was as smooth and groomed as his clothing seemed to be.
“We need a place to stay for the night,” Vival said. “Then we want to get off this island by any means.”
“The first problem is no problem at all,” replied the man, smiling across his bucked teeth. “You can stay with me!” All the men in the bar laughed, and Vival felt somewhat uneasy. “The second problem can best be tackled in the morning. Gentlemen!” The tall man saluted them with a wave of his arm. No one saluted him back. Instead, everyone simply turned inward and resumed their conversations.
The proprietor snorted once more. “So is your new friend going to settle your tab, Sherluck?”
The tall, thin man strode quickly over to Vival and whispered into his ear, “Consider it payment for your lodgings. If you have even the merest token, something to offer the man, I’d be most…”
“I don’t have—“
“If I may suggest,” piped the voice of Tom the Sword. Everyone jumped at the sound and the knives came out again. “Your dagger…”
“Who said that?” demanded the proprietor, looking towards the door.
“That’s his sword!” exclaimed Nyla, now fully awake.
Everyone looked, astonished, at Vival’s back where the sword now held center stage. “As I was saying,” repeated Tom. “Your dagger would probably satisfy him.”
“I don’t need another knife!” cried the proprietor, still looking around as if refusing to believe in the existence of a talking sword.
“The handle is a gold alloy,” the sword continued. “Pretty dingy. I doubt even Vival noticed. It’s not worth a lot, but certainly a bar tab.”
The barman scratched his grubby chin. After a moment, he nodded. “All right, I’ll take the knife.”
Quickly, Vival held out the handle to the proprietor who took it, looking appraisingly at it before pulling it behind his back. Sherluck pulled Vival and Nyla towards the door with a smile and a nod and a “Top of the evening, your honor!” Soon, they were out and several paces away, safe in the grim fog.
“That was a nice move,” Sherluck whispered to Vival.
“Throwing your voice like that!” Sherluck nodded appreciatively. “It startled the old barman so much he didn’t even notice the handle didn’t have a grain of gold in it!”
Vival felt his shoulders bunch. He had been fooled, too, by the deception of the sword, but considering the circumstances he held off from berating it.
Sherluck walked quickly with a high bounce, as if he were stepping through daisies on a sunny day rather than across clammy fog-drenched cobblestones. Vival and Nyla hastened to keep up. Every once in a while, Sherluck glanced back over his shoulder to see if they were following him. After a number of twists and turns, with Sherluck increasing the pace, always with those backwards glances, Vival began to wonder if the tall, thin man were actually trying to lose them.
Finally, having kept up with Sherluck, everyone arrived at a miserable building towards the top of the street. “Home sweet home,” Sherluck chuckled as he pushed open the door. Vival noticed it wasn’t locked. When Sherluck lit the lamp, he discovered why.
There wasn’t anything in the room at all except a straw pallet, a table with the lantern, and a long wooden pipe from which hung several woman’s dresses. Sherluck watched Nyla and Vival enter. “Err…you’re welcome to find a spot on the floor,” he said apologetically.
“This is it?” Vival said.
“Yes,” Sherluck said, looking a little miffed at the comment. “I’m sorry it’s not the Mayoral Palace. If you’d rather sleep outside…”
“Why do you have dresses?” Nyla asked, moving over to the pipe.
“A previous tenant,” Sherluck said quickly. “Haven’t got any use for them. Would you like to buy them?
“I don’t think they’d fit me,” Nyla answered, running her fingers over the fabric. She looked at Sherluck curiously. Upon closer inspection his suit of clothes, which had looked so fine in the bar, now showed signs of wear and tear.
“Well, it’s time I turned in for the night,” Sherluck said, slapping the pallette.
“Aren’t you going to let the girl sleep there?” Vival asked.
Sherluck looked at Nyla. Then he looked at Vival’s large upper body. He seemed to be trying to make up his mind about something. “Of course,” he said, moving away from the straw while gesturing at it. “The floor here is made of very soft wood! I’ll sleep like a baby. You’ll see.”
“You could sleep on one of these dresses!” Nyla said, pulling a pink one down and handing it to him.
“She’d kill me!” Sherluck exclaimed, bringing his hands to his face.
“What?” Nyla said. “I thought you said she was a previous tenant!”
“Yes, but she might come back to claim the dresses!” Sherluck said quickly.
“Suit yourself,” Nyla said, shrugging.
“Suit yourself!” Sherluck chuckled drily. “Very funny! The girl has quite a sense of humor.”
“She does, at that,” agreed Vival. “You make yourself comfortable, Nyla. At least we have four walls and a roof over our heads. In the morning we can figure out what to do.” Laying down in the softest spot he could find, Vival made a pillow out of his hands, faced the wall, and closed his eyes. Nyla arranged herself in the straw. Looking a little put out, Sherluck reached over and doused the lantern.
The next morning the sun rose red and its baleful glow painted the town of Folio. The light woke Vival and he turned around to check on Nyla, still sleeping awkwardly in the straw. The light pouring over her brown skin seemed to set her face on fire. Vival was entranced by the vision. She appeared briefly like some kind of goddess, bathed in the light, her mouth open as if drinking in the brilliance.
Then Vival noticed that Sherluck was gone.
Quickly he rose to his feet and checked his possessions. Sherluck had not tried to rob them of the little they had. Surely the sword would have warned him if…
“Tom!” Vival said. “Where’s Sherluck?”
The sword remained silent.
“Aw, c’mon, Tom!” Vival pleaded.
“Sword, where’s Sherluck?” Nyla asked sleepily from the pallette.
“He left well before dawn,” replied the sword.
“Is he coming back, do you think?” Nyla asked, pulling herself upright. She made a face as if suddenly realizing how stiff her body felt.
“I doubt it,” remarked Vival. “I somehow think he didn’t really want us around.”
“I’m hungry!” Nyla said.
Vival shrugged. He was hungry, too. They had eaten the few provisions they had salvaged from the boat on the walk to the town.
“My feet hurt!” Nyla continued, looking down at her blisters.
Vival prepared a speech about being tough and working through adversity. Before he could launch this unfortunate lecture, the door opened.
A strikingly beautiful woman came through the doorway and then stopped with alarm at the sight of the visitors. “Who are you?” she demanded. Her voice was almost as lovely as her face, stern, yet musical.
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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