Prize clapped Vival on the shoulder.  “It’s good to see you well,” he said.  “Your sword painted a dire picture.”
    “My sword…” Vival repeated, looking uneasy.
    Prize gestured and a woman appeared carrying a long cloth.  She opened it to reveal a familiar looking blade.
    “Reunited at last!” it said, excited.
    “Tom!” cried Vival, hurrying to it and running a dark finger along the blade affectionately.
    “Hello, Nyla!  You survived after all!  That’s pretty impressive.”
    “It is impressive!” Nyla agreed.  “You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through, Tom.  I have so much to tell you!”
    Prize gave Vival a look.  “I thought this was your sword.”
    Vival looked uncomfortable.  “It…sort of belongs…”
    Nyla cut him off.  “It doesn’t belong to anyone.  He’s our friend!”
    “But Tom didn’t know where we were,” Vival said, looking uneasily at Prize.
    “We followed Render,” Prize replied simply.
    Vival’s eyes narrowed.  “Render would never have allowed that.  You couldn’t possibly have followed him closely enough without him knowing.”
    “Well…” Prize admitted.  “We had some help.”
    “What help?” Vival demanded, pointing an angry finger at Prize’s chest.  “Who are you working for?”
    “Vival!” Nyla said, coming in between them.  “Don’t be rude!  He saved us!”
    Vival did not look reassured.  He backed a step away from Prize.
    “Don’t worry about it,” said Prize.  “We’re heading back to Zen now, and so are you.  Let’s just travel together.”
    Vival nodded, but he turned away, a grim expression on his face.  Nyla watched him walk several steps.  She hastened to catch up to him.
    “What’s wrong?” she whispered to Vival.
    “I don’t know,” Vival muttered down to her.  “Just because he’s saved us from Render doesn’t mean he’s here to help us.  He keeps his motives very close to his chest.  That’s how he does what he does so well.  If we go to Zen with him, he may very well have a nasty turn waiting for us.”
    Nyla considered.  “Can we get there without him?”
    Vival shrugged.  “We can’t go alone.  The desert would kill us.  Some of the Just might have taken us, but now they’ll be too busy repairing the damage from the storm.  It could take weeks.”
    “Do we have to go to Zen?”
    Vival looked conflicted.  “I promised to take you to the Sand Witch,” he said.  “She seems to think it’s important that you be there.  And anyway,” he said, “I’m not sure what Prize would do if we refused.”
    “So we go,” Nyla said.  “That’s fine.  I’m not worried.”
    Vival looked down at her, surprised.  “Why?”
    “Because we’re together.”
    Vival shrugged once, considering.
    Nyla frowned and put her hands on her hips.  “That’s all you got?  A shrug?”
    Vival was taken aback.  “I didn’t say anything.  I just shrugged.”
    “I know!” Nyla said, irritated.  “I try to be nice and sweet and all you can do is shrug.  Okay, mister Hero.  I can see how much I mean to you.”  She stomped a ways off.
    “Nyla!” Vival called out.  “I didn’t mean…oh, for crying out loud!”
    He didn’t see the secret smile on her face.  She wasn’t about to show him.

The End

The Blue Woman and the High Wood

Book Two in the Nyla Series

Adam Cole

Chapter Fifty-Nine

(C) 2018 Adam Cole

Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC

    Slowly, cautiously, Prize’s soldiers crept out from among the trees.  Each was dressed in a desert outfit not too different from their Captain’s, though none of them were as immaculately clean.  Prize smiled widely as they emerged.
     The startled and battered Just came after.  Nyla looked anxiously for Highboy among them, and she saw with relief that he was tucked under the arm of Iss, who still stood proud though her eye was swollen from Render’s blow, as she surveyed the scene of the bowmen that had protected their woods.  Nyla was also glad to see that Highboy kept his instrument tucked under his arm.
    She went over to them and looked up at Iss.  The woman’s face was a mixture of relief and pain.  “When the storm hit,” she said, “we could no longer see you or find you.  In order for us to preserve what we could, we retreated to the High Wood, as many as we could.  When we found the bowmen hidden there, we thought we were finished.”  Her brows furrowed and her eyes betrayed wonder.  “How did you survive?”
    “I think the Blue Woman saved me,” Nyla said.
    “The Blue Woman?”
    “You didn’t see her?” Nyla asked, amazed.  “She was huge, and blue!  And she glowed!”
    “No,” replied Iss.
    “What about you, Vival?  Is that why you thought I went with Iss?  Didn’t anybody see the big huge glowing woman?”
    “I saw her,” said Highboy quietly.
    Then Nyla understood.  She’d had her own eyes closed the entire time.  But what she’d experienced hadn’t been in her imagination, just invisible to anyone who was looking in an ordinary way.
    “Who was she?” Highboy asked.
    “I was hoping you knew…” said Nyla.  “I think we’re connected in some way.  But I can’t say how, or if I’ll ever see her again.  I wonder…”
    Nyla paused.  “She took the Vie A’Lyn,” Nyla told him.  “The ghost instrument.  I gave it to her.”
    “She wanted it.  She heard my playing and came for it.  And when I gave it to her, she took the storm with her as she went.”
    “Try to imagine the instrument now, Nyla,” Highboy said, and he moistened his lips and played on his instrument.
    Nyla tried.  She tried to recall its sound, to the feeling of having it.  “No,” she said.  “I can’t even remember it properly.  I just feel empty.”
    “Then it’s gone forever,” said Highboy.  He looked up at his mother.  “Iss, Nyla won’t be able to help us now.”
    Iss considered for a moment.  Then she nodded sadly.  “You could still remain here, Nyla.  You will always have a place with us.”
    “I know that,” said Nyla, coming over and hugging Iss around the waist.  Iss, surprised, softened and returned the embrace.  “But I think I want to go with my friends now.  Hey, Vival!” she called.
    “Did Sherluck come with you?”
    “No,” Vival admitted.  “I couldn’t see anything once that storm hit.  I only made it to the woods by following Iss.”
    “Iss?” Nyla asked, looking at her.
    “He may be hiding in the trees,” Iss replied.  With a curt command, she ordered her people to search the High Wood.
    “I hope he’s not one of those bodies I saw in the sand!” Nyla cried.
    Prize stepped up.  “We will take you back there and all of us will search for him.”
    But there was no sign of Sherluck back at the ruined campsite.  None of the bodies belonged to him.  And Iss reported that he had not been hiding in the trees.
    “He could be buried in the sand somewhere,” Vival said.  “Or he could have gotten lucky and slipped away, found some kind of shelter.”
    “Or…” Nyla said quietly.  She couldn’t continue.
    “What?” Vival urged her.
    “Or he could have changed to Chere and let her face the danger.”
    Vival frowned at the thought.  “There’s no way to know now.”
    Nyla felt a strange mixture of regret and relief, and she was ashamed.  “They were my friends too.  I feel like if I had trusted Chere, none of this would have happened.”
    “You can’t blame yourself, Nyla,” Vival admonished.
    But she found that she could.

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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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 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 will give you one last chance, Vival,” Nyla heard Render say, his voice echoing off the hill.  “Send the girl out to me and we will leave this place peacefully.”

 Nyla staggered to her feet, which were painful and unsteady.  She tottered from one person to the next, looking for faces she recognized.  Vival?  Highboy?  Iss?
    “Is anybody here?”
    A woman’s voice said, “I am.”
    Nyla turned, but the face she saw was not familiar.

 To her dismay, the blue woman seemed startled and she retreated around the fire the other way.  “Wait!” Nyla said.  “I’m not gonna hurt you!  I just want to…”  But it made no difference.  With each step she took, the blue woman skittered back to stay away from her.  She seemed miserable now, full of longing and aversion at the same time, a kind of combined terror of getting what she wanted and not getting it.
    “Well then why did you come here?” Nyla yelled at her.  “What do you want?”

It’s howling intensified.  It would not be subjugated to the minor.  It was the fundamental, it was the normal.
    It was the truth.


“It’s like my storm!  When we tried to get away.  Only it’s yours!”

“Highboy!  What are you talking about?”

“Didn’t you say a storm tried to keep you?  On that island?  I think it followed you here!  It found you, maybe!”

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