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 would have preferred to talk to the old man further before committing to this path, but Sherluck was in control of their only way off the island and if he got in trouble, someone would have to get him out of it. So, reluctantly, Vival nodded and gave Nyla’s arm a little squeeze. Leaving the mute Antheppe behind, they moved to follow.
The shabby man moved slowly along a narrow ledge at the edge of a mysterious interior cliff face, saying nothing. Occasionally they passed by one or another opening in the wall, but their guide chose not to take those paths.
“So…” Vival ventured, hoping to get more information. “What’s happening? Is the Overreacher gone?”
“Oh, yes, he is gone,” agreed the old man.
Vival waited for him to continue. After a few moments of silence, he asked another question. “Who took his place?”
“The rightful king,” the little man sighed. But he would say no more.
At last they came to a long stairway descending from the ledge into the blackness. Nyla’s legs shook as she clutched Vival for balance. It felt like the mountain was eating them, bit by bit. The stairway took several twists and turns before feeding back into the cliff face like a tongue. Soon they were surrounded by rock, moving down a narrow stair in another dark hall.
At the bottom, the little man stopped and hummed a little tune over a doorway. The door gave and opened towards them. Pulling it aside, the man gestured for his three guests to enter.
Sherluck, Nyla and Vival, with Tom the Sword still held at the ready, moved through the opening. The little man followed them and pulled the door closed behind them.
Looking around, they found themselves in a large, circular room with a series of doors at various intervals along the wall. In between the doors were places for torches. The room was bare of all furniture.
“I remember this place…” Nyla said quietly, as if afraid to make too much sound. “It’s right by the throne room…”
“Then you have been among us!” cried the little man, coming up to her suddenly. “I thought it must be! Yet I do not remember you…”
“When I was here, everyone was all glassy-eyed. In a trance,” Nyla explained.
“Except you,” Vival pointed out.
The man’s eyebrows went up. “You resisted the spell of Tooth Skin?”
“What’s Tooth Skin?” Sherluck asked. He was trying to sound casual, but the greed in his voice was hard to disguise.
“It is one of the sacred instruments,” answered the little man. “For generations, our people crafted many objects of great beauty, but the height of our achievements came when the sacred instruments were crafted. Into them went the best of our work, our knowledge of music and of construction. I am the Clef. It is the duty of the Clef to keep the secrets of our sacred instruments, to protect them from damage and guard their use carefully.”
The man bowed his head. “This was the task of all my forebears, generations of Clefs before me. But several hundred years ago, our work grew more difficult. Some of the instruments were taken without our guidance, used badly, perverted from their original design. Our people became conquerors and used instruments like Tooth Skin, the great drum, to subject others to their will. The Overreacher came to us a generation ago, when I was barely a child. He knew of our secrets, came pretending to be a friend, offering to teach us deeper secrets of our own arts. In reality, he was making us slaves. By the time my father, who was then Clef, recognized what was happening, it was too late. The Overreacher had mastered Tooth Skin and all of our people entered into the long sleep.
“My father was strong and we were able to resist the drum for a while, but it was not easy. We were able to carry on, but not to resist. I learned my trade in a fog and my sleep was always full of terrible dreams. When my father died, I fell into despair and Tooth Skin finally took hold of me…”
The little man looked at Nyla again. “Yet the drum had no pull upon you? Did you not hear its call?”
“Yeah, I heard it,” Nyla shrugged. “Whenever it told me to do something I didn’t want to do, I just listened to the music that came out of my fiddle.”
“Your…fiddle…” the Clef repeated slowly, trying to understand.
“Yeah, my fiddle! The one in my head.” Nyla made a movement as if she were playing some kind of instrument. As she did so, a wistful look came into her eyes. Meanwhile, the eyes of the Clef flew wide open.
As if her movement had triggered some sort of invocation, the torches on the wall suddenly burst into flame, startling poor Nyla so badly she bumped her face into Vival trying to get away. At the far end of the room, one of the doors opened.
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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