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 room beyond the door was very large. Light from some unseen shaft barely illuminated its nearest walls. It had obviously once been some kind of huge foyer. A couple of pieces of cracked furniture littered the floor here and there, but most of what they could see was bare.
Nyla stopped where the light began to give out. She looked as though she were standing at the edge of a great ocean. “How are we going to see?” she asked.
“I’d be willing to bet,” said Sherluck, and moved forward into the darkness without finishing his sentence. Vival and Nyla watched the dark patch where he had disappeared. A crash rang out, the tinkling sound of breaking glass, and from far away Sherluck’s familiar cursing echoed across the space. After another interval, his voice returned to them at last. “I’ve found it! Another door! Just go straight forward. Don’t trip over the chandelier!”
Holding each others’ hands, Nyla and Vival walked into the pitch black, sliding their feet with every step. Tom was held at the ready, though for once he said nothing.
The floor was smooth as glass. After a minute of moving through the dusky space, their feet bumped against the spidery arms of the chandelier which must have fallen from the high ceiling ages ago. Carefully moving around it, they continued forward until they could hear Sherluck’s breath. Nyla stuck out her hands and they touched smooth, cold marble.
“You said there’s a door over here?” Vival’s voice came.
“Yes, a smaller one. With a handle!” Sherluck added for emphasis, as if this were some kind of treat.
“Are you going to open it?” Vival asked.
“I…uh…I was going to let you take this one,” Sherluck mumbled.
Shrugging in the darkness, Vival felt in front of him. At waist level he felt a cool brass handle, bunched in several places like a rope. Pushing gently upon it, Vival felt the handle move away from him as the door gave.
It took a minute for everyone to realize that what they saw on the other side was not a trick of their eyes, but actually a distant light at the end of a long hallway. Eagerly, Sherluck moved forward. Vival hissed at him to slow down, but he was afraid to make too loud a sound and soon Sherluck was at the end of the hall.
Hastening to catch up to him, Vival dragged Nyla down the hallway. Sherluck had stopped at the end of the hall and was blocking the view beyond it. As they caught up to him, Vival remembered the last time he had approached the interior of the mountain. Then there had been the insistent throbbing of the drum which had clouded his mind. This time there was no such sound. In fact, there was no sound at all.
As Sherluck felt Vival and Nyla behind him he stepped forward, allowing them to get a look at what he had been staring at. When Vival had last entered the mountain, the vast interior had been lit by thousands of lanterns and torches. Now the cavernous interior was dark, a huge wasting gulf of cold air whose dimensions were unguessable. Only one source of light remained: a lantern suspended from the hand of a worried looking woman in a faded crimson shawl.
She did not speak as they stared at her. She stared back, regarding each of them in turn. At last, looking at them meaningfully, she turned and began walking into the darkness.
Hesitating, Vival, Nyla and Sherluck watched her move away. After a second she took another look back, then made a gesture with her head. Uncertainly, they began following her.
It was much darker in the caves than it had been when Nyla and Vival had last been there. Many of the torches and lamps that had been habitually kept lit were now dark, possibly extinguished by the great battle only a day before. The woman led them down twists and turns, descending gradually into a part of the city that Nyla had never visited.
At long last they came to a small room where a little man in a shabby grey robe was tidying up. The objects in this room had obviously been neglected for a long time.
The man straightened up in alarm and then relaxed a little. “Oh, Antheppe…thank goodness. I’m still jumpy every time I see some…” His words trailed off midsentence as he noticed the people she had brought with her. “Who are you?” he cried, alarmed. “Antheppe, who are these people? Why have you brought them?” He seemed very much alarmed.
“We’re friends,” Sherluck said with an oily smile, extending his hand. “We come from the outside.”
“I guessed as much!” the man said quickly, as if accusing them of something. “But ‘friends’…We have none in this place. How could you have gotten in? All the ways are sealed.”
“We came in through the front door,” Nyla said, trying to reassure him.
The man fell deathly still. “Impossible,” he whispered. “The doors are immensely heavy and the mechanism that opened them has never been repaired.”
“We used the little door,” Nyla said. “The one at the bottom.”
“What?” The man looked over at Antheppe, who nodded a confirmation. Incredulous, the man looked at Nyla again. “How did you pass that door?” he asked in a trembling voice. “No one has passed that door since the avalanche destroyed the road to it in the days of my great, great grandmother.”
“The child did it!” answered Sherluck, pointing at her.
“Whattaya mean child?” demanded Nyla.
The little man stepped before her. He was about her height. As he gazed intently in her eyes, he seemed to be searching for something. “No key could ever have unlocked that door. It was sealed with a riddle. How did you know the secret?” he asked her.
“I didn’t,” Nyla replied. “We just figured it out.”
“We?” The man began looking rapidly from Vival to Sherluck.
“Me and Tom,” Nyla finished. Seeing that the man remained confused, Nyla explained, “Tom is the sword.”
“Pleased to make your aquaintance!” Tom said.
The man jumped back. “A talking sword…where did you get this?”
Sherluck spoke up eagerly. “From here under the mountain. Do you have any more like it?”
Vival was afraid the old man would be offended by Sherluck’s rude question. But he only shook his grey head. “From here? No…I have never seen it before.” Before Vival could stop him, the old man grabbed the blade in his hand and pulled its surface toward the light. As he ran his hand over the flat, his eyes lit upon the delicate writing on the blade. “Ah…” Looking up at Vival, he said. “When were you here? Have you come to return it to us?”
“This hero earned the sword fair and square!” Sherluck went on. “He defeated the Overreacher.”
The man’s hand went limp and the blade of the sword pulled free. “Oh…” he said again, his eyes focused on something unseen. “So you are the hero who defeated the Overreacher.” For a moment, the man’s shoulders sagged. Then he straightened up, as if summoning his courage. “You must come with me…”
“Come with you where?” asked Vival cautiously.
The man seemed to have changed his attitude toward the visitors entirely. He now bowed humbly. “My lord King told us that the one who defeated the Overreacher might return. He said that if that day arrived, I must bring him.”
“Of course!” whispered Sherluck into Vival’s ear. “The new king wants to thank you! This is our way in. With a good relationship, I can start negotiations for the Goon…then you and your friend are out of here!”
Slapping the old man on the back, Sherluck spoke up. “Please take us to your King!”
The little man bowed again deeply. “Follow me,” he said. He moved up the corridor, Sherluck following quickly behind.
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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