The Blue Woman and the High Wood
Book Two in the Nyla Series
(C) 2018 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
“Shhhhhhh…” whispered a voice. “Not yet. Just wait.”
She turned eagerly, expecting to see someone she knew. “Sherluck!” she began to say. But she stopped suddenly.
The man kneeling next to her was unfamiliar. He was dressed in a stylish outfit that nevertheless reflected the colors of the desert. His grey eyes shrewdly surveyed the scene in front of him. His skin was smooth, immaculate, like his clothes, odd for anyone that had been out in the desert, much less the storm.
“I take it, then, by your stance, that you choose the ‘dumb thing?’” Render asked politely, cracking his knuckles.
“Stay down,” said the man next to Nyla. “Out of sight.” His hand had remained on her shoulder and now it pushed gently, so that she felt it sensible to lower herself behind the shelter of the dune.
“I guess,” Vival answered Render, looking determined but somewhat miserable.
The man by Nyla chose to speak now, but it was the timing of his words that amazed her. It seemed that he paused just a split second, long enough for Render to take a breath in preparation for a response. Then, at the exact moment Render would have spoken, the man seemed to inject his own words into the conversation.
“Maybe he knows something you don’t.”
If Render was caught off guard by the man’s appearance, he did an admirable job of hiding his reaction. Only the minutest tensing of his shoulders before he turned betrayed his thoughts. By the time he was facing his rival, he seemed completely ready. And, for that matter, entirely unconcerned with Vival.
“I doubt it,” Render remarked to the man.
“Well, then,” said the man. “Maybe I do.”
“It’s possible, Prize,” said Render, looking tired. “What do you know?”
“I know you’re about to do some damage to a friend of mine. I know I wouldn’t take too kindly to that, either.”
Render’s right eyebrow went up and he gestured idly with his shoulder back towards Vival. “Him? A friend? Why bother with that sad excuse for a Knight of the Fittest?”
Vival glowered from behind Render, but said nothing, and kept his posture of readiness.
“Because he has something I’m here to get.”
Render’s face widened into a disbelieving smile. “Oh! I see! You’re here for the girl as well! Who sent you, I wonder.”
“You wonder,” answered Prize, smiling.
Render frowned, taking in Prize’s taunt. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I assume you’ve brought your people with you?”
“I have,” replied Prize.
“So the battle would be more…interesting.”
“Well, I don’t know about that,” Prize said, checking his sleeve for a loose thread.
Render’s smile tightened. He said nothing.
“In any case,” Prize said, satisfied with his sleeve. “I’d suggest you head on back to the City.”
“Or my people will cut you down where you stand in the next two minutes.”
Render looked around, sniffing at the wind expertly. “I don’t know what you’ve got planned, Prize,” he said. “But my scout has done a pretty good job of keeping me in the know. Wherever you’ve set up your people, you certainly don’t have us surrounded. By the time they get here, we’ll be more than ready, and those woods will be ablaze.”
“I don’t think my people would take too kindly to that,” Prize said, and he gestured with his left index finger.
Render turned around, trying to remain at ease. His eyes went to the woods which suddenly seemed to sprout. Eyes and hands peeked through the branches, barely visible, the tips of their arrows aimed squarely at the surrounding warriors. Render’s people, seeing that they were covered by bowshot, looked with alarm towards their leader.
He looked back at them, left and right, with a disgusted expression on his face. Without hesitation, with the barest flick of his wrist, he signaled at them to follow him. He trotted in a direction somewhat obscure to Prize, not sparing a glance for him or for Vival, who at last seemed ready to relax.
And yet the man remained on a kind of alert. When Render and his people had vanished, Prize’s bowmen emerged slowly from the woods, singly and in pairs. “Where’s Nyla?” Vival asked.
“Come on out!” called Prize. And Nyla leapt up and ran to Vival. Surprised, pleased, the large man opened his arms and took her in.
He smelled of sweat and sand, and his face was rough and bristly. He nearly crushed her in his arms.
“What are you doing out there?” he asked, dazed.
“Hiding, watching. How did you make it through the storm?”
“I followed Iss. I thought for sure she had taken you. I…” His voice broke. He managed to get it under control. “I honestly thought you were in there.”
“You didn’t see…” Nyla began, but then he hugged her tight and the air exploded from her lungs. His eyes were closed and he held her close and quiet for a long, long time.
Nyla felt safe now. She felt like she was where she belonged.
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More about The Blue Woman and the High Wood
Now that Veer Isle was secure, it was time for the hero Vival to take Nyla to see the Sand Witch. Accompanied by Chere/Sherluck and Tom the Incredibly Helpful Sword, Nyla and Vival board a ship bound for Zen.
But trouble begins as soon as the ship leaves the harbor. A terrible storm comes up. The sailors want to throw Nyla from the ship. And rising out of the ocean is the mysterious Blue Woman.
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 Motherless Child and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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