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
“Is that an instrument of power?” asked the Lich King, looking intently at the Vee A’La. He reached towards it with bony fingers but paused just before he touched it. Nyla could not have squeezed any farther away from him.
“Who are you?” asked the King, looking at the little man.
The Clef stood up straight and spoke in a clear and tuneful voice. “I am your Clef, awoken from the Overeacher’s trance, here to serve you as in days of old.”
The Lich King broke away from the soldiers and began gliding towards the Clef, much to the Clef’s discomfort.
“She can assist us,” said the Clef quickly. “I can teach her the charms of the instruments that remain…with power like hers, you will reconquer your vast kingdom.”
The Lich stopped. He turned towards the girl. “Is this true?” he hissed at her. “You have been trained in our ways?”
Nyla nodded stiffly, unable to speak for herself.
The Lich King appeared to be considering, though it was difficult to read the expressionless features of the skull. He stood absolutely still, his eyeless sockets pointed at the Clef. When at last the little man felt as if his knees would give way, the Lich King spoke.
“Clef,” he growled. “Do you fear me?”
Unsure how to answer, the Clef chose honesty. “Y…yes, my Lord!” he admitted.
“So do all these people,” the Lich replied. “So do my bravest soldiers,” he said, gesturing at the one who had brought Nyla. Looking suddenly at the girl, the King spoke. “Can she charm my people so that they love me instead of fear me?”
Terrified, Nyla looked over to the Clef, but the little man did not return her glance. Without a pause, he nodded and said, “Of course, your majesty!”
“Very well,” the Lich King said. Gesturing at the crumpled heap of a man lying on the floor by the melting nose, he barked, “Bring that one.” The soldiers hastened to obey.
Nyla, seeing Vival for the first time, cried out his name. She tried to run to him, but the Clef quickly intervened. He held her tightly with his little hands, and for a moment Nyla fought back, nearly losing her grip on the Vee A’La. As the Clef’s fingers tightened on her arm, it occurred to Nyla that the Clef was only pretending to serve the Lich and she calmed herself down.
“Lead me to the gates!” the Lich demanded. “Then I will summon a crowd for the girl to charm.”
Vival wasn’t doing so well, even for Vival. Weak from lack of food and decent sleep, dispirited at what he had done, and now terrified at what the Lich might do to Nyla, he allowed himself to be yanked along the corridor by the back of his neck.
He still could hardly speak with the enchantment in his mouth, could do little more than moan, so he made a steadfast effort not to give the Lich or his lackeys the satisfaction. Screwing up what remained of his strength, he marched as well as he could after the floating spectre of the Lich and the cowering girl and little man that followed him.
After a long journey through half-lit corridors, up and down crumbling stairs still damaged from the recent battle between the Lich and the Overreacher, they came at last to the large room just inside the front gates of the Kingdom Under the Mountain.
The door still stood ajar, lighting a small portion of the area. By that light, Vival could see the ruins of the great chandelier in the center of the space.
The Lich strode soundlessly into the foyer. “We will have more light,” he said, and gestured royally. Brought to life, the chandelier began to glow as if coldly illuminated from within. It rose in a jangly dance and shook its way to the ceiling where it hung without any visible support.
Now the large entry room was made visible by a ghostly florescence that showed every detail of its former splendor. Wondrous carvings adorned the moldings that encircled the wall near the ceiling. Gorgeous tapestries, moth-eaten and dusty, hung from them, depicting various scenes from the Kingdom’s past: musicians leading armies into battle; a bard wandering a grassy slope; and finally, the image of a king, handsome and terrible, bearing a scepter and standing on a high peak, gazing down at the world below.
The Lich took a second to regard this last image. “That was me,” he said, though it was impossible to say how he felt about seeing himself. Turning suddenly to the more cowardly of the two soldiers, he said, “Go. Summon a hundred of my subjects, from the lowest to the highest of them.” The soldier quickly bowed and ran out, glad to be leaving the room.
During the interval between which the soldier left and the subjects arrived, the Lich never budged from his spot. For all anyone could have guessed, the power of movement might have left him. He might have been a decoration in the room. But no one had the nerve to make a sound while the Lich stood silent. Vival kept himself still, guarded at sword point by the larger soldier who was himself uneasy at the silence in that place.
The Clef and Nyla did not even dare to sit and could not speak to one another. A million thoughts churned and rushed through Nyla’s head. How did she get here, she wondered. What brought her here, to this place, where she was supposedly going to end the reign of a powerful creature by playing an oversized fiddle?
Could she remember the tune? Trying not to move her hands, she reviewed the fingerings in her head, almost forgot herself as an exhalation that would have been sound emerged from between her lips, but she caught it at the last second by pressing her lips tight and holding her breath.
When Nyla was certain she was going to have to sit down, the first of the subjects entered from a far doorway. The woman, some kind of courtier in a shabby costume that had obviously been left in a closet for years, looked very unhappy about the summons and was absolutely horrified upon seeing the Lich posed still before her. As quietly as she could, she crept to a chair, righted it, and sat daintily upon it, smoothing out her ratty skirts. The Lich did not move.
Nor did he move as others entered the space, each looking equally horrified about being asked to come. Not until the last of the one hundred entered and had seated themselves did the Lich stir again.
His movement was sudden and smooth, with no warning, no breath to prepare anyone. He came to life like a scene from a painting, turning towards them and holding out his arms.
“My subjects,” he said in a voice meant to be soft, but which was merely chilling. “I have returned to you!
No one in that room was overjoyed at the news. A couple of the nobles tried to smile and look pleased, but it was very hard to tell if the Lich King appreciated the effort since his own skull expression never changed. Most of the people in the chairs simply looked mortified.
Brusquely the Lich King gestured at the Clef. “Bring the girl forward with the instrument. Show me what she can do.”
As gently as he could, the Clef shoved Nyla into the open space and nodded to her.
The Lich King had turned his skull face toward her and watched with empty sockets. Terrified, Nyla didn’t want to move at all. Was that small tilt of his head impatience? Was he going to hurt her? What if she couldn’t charm him?
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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