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Part 10 | Part 12

Filled with a loathing for his life, or what was left of it in his loss, he languished

Drawn deep into the abyss of this despair, Balwyn did not notice the door open again

Nor did he notice when it opened the next time, or the next time. He ignored the nourishment offered

On one occasion the door remained open, light casting over Balwyn’s odorous frame.

I bid you—begged Balwyn—to banish life from me, bring me rest.

But the nymph hissed hatefully at the helpless and hungry form huddled up and slammed the door shut.

After a long time, she returned; and again Balwyn asked for death.

Again the nymph refused, cast the rotting food over him in a rage and rammed the door roughly.

When next the nymph opened, Balwyn was watching and waiting, with calm appearance

The nymph leapt like lightning, ready to lash Balwyn with the length of her sword.

However, he waved his hands and spoke calmly, without hurry.

–Graceful lady, grantor of life and guardian of all that is good, noble, true and glorious

–I entreat you to entertain an event that could end our conflict for ever.

–If it pleases you to listen I will explain the idea, if not I will choose the peace of death.

The nymph’s eyes narrowed, but she removed the nasty blade from ‘neath Balwyn’s nose, saying

–Speak sir, for surely I will listen to your proposition and say whether it is sound.

Balwyn took a big breathe, then brought himself to begin.

–your powers are prodigious, more potent than my pitiful possibilities.

–Even so, your un-matched ability to make music is the most magical of all.

–Therefore, think on this challenge; that we will both try and only the best will win.

–If it is you, good lady, then I will surrender to you, indefinitely

–On my honor I will hold by, cheerfully handling all tasks, hostile, harmful or not, that you have for me.

–I would stay here in this wasted state or work outside, whatever you willed.

–But if I should instead prevail, playing superior music that interests and inspires you

–Then you must make me free, promising never to marshal your might against me again.

Quietly the nymph considered the quandary as Balwyn quickly quit speaking, his question hanging

Longer and longer the silence lasted, the nymph looking at lonely Balwyn, weighing unknown measures

–Very well, I will accept this venture, seeing you volunteer it virtuously, but if you should plan vile steps

–Hoping to harness some advantage from our bond and having it, then hide or flee from my hand

–Why, better for you to be burned and rubbed into bits—for with me you will still be alive.

Balwyn gratefully gave the Nymph his good word, getting up from the ground to leave the room.

But the shattered hero shook and fell as the Nymph shoved, shutting the door with a slam to show him

She lead, not he, though at least the Nymph would leave an instrument to learn in the long dark

As a fixture of fairness, but it was for nought—he was forsaken, tricked again by her foreign arts

When the dim darkness within matched the darkness without, Balwyn’s prison door drew open,

Balwyn watched The Nymph, who held what appeared to be a weapon, some water and a wheatenloaf.

–Until I return, you will remain in here, though I render unto you a Riff—to refine your performance.

–Only once will I warn you, opt to break your oath and you will own a terrible pain upon your pain.

The Nymph closed the door before Balwyn could claim his obedience, uttering the cold command

–10 passages till the performance—then all was a ponderous silence as she passed on to the path

Part 10 | Part 12