Balwyn held the Riff in his hands, hoping the tool could teach him how to play it.
In the dark he inspected the instrument, its openings and its contours
Then Balwyn brought it forth to blow a sound, but nothing was heard, except his breath.
Again and again he attempted to make the Riff sound, asking for its help with agony
In the final fits of light on the first passage, it filled with air and burst forth with sound.
Balwyn jumped with joy, dancing a jig and with making his jail jolt with the sound again and again.
Next Balwyn tried to change the Riff’s tone, turning it up and down
Falteringly at first, the sound flitted and changed, then Balwyn found the places for his fingers
And the sound set off in flight, soaring to the heights and sinking to sonorous depths.
With maniacal energy, Balwyn made the Riff’s sound meander, molding it to meet a fixed form
He learned to sound each link of the ladder, lifting it to turn again into its own likeness
Then Balwyn challenged the links, chipping off one, changing the length of other, till his choices chimed
Each a different ladder to explore and elicit the elements of every longing
From the triumph of glory to the tired tip of sadness, to true despair
Having opened his heart, Balwyn then let silence hang heavily
And he attempted to remember the songs and aires of his ancestors in the North
Nothing came for nearly two passages, not even a nice memory of his Northern home.
So poor confused Balwyn collapsed, coming to the conclusion that he ought to crush the Riff.
Just as he was resolved to ram the Riff into the rough wall, a vision revealed itself to him
He gave thanks to Gaal, grasped the Riff and let his fingers guide him on the way he should go.
When the Nymph returned from wandering the wild, Balwyn was waiting, asleep.
She opened the door, letting her opponent out for the first occasion in untold amounts of time.
Gaal was descending when Balwyn left the doorway of the dwelling—he drank in the sight with delight.
The Nymph had piled up a pyre, its flames pricking the cool air pridefully, providing light and shadows
For the fateful contest. The Nymph had set up a feast, filled glasses and fantastical food.
She bid Balwyn eat, but wary of a trap, he put his back to the feast, merely basking in the light.
The Nymph ate and drank, allowing Balwyn a silent moment before announcing she would begin.
With eyes closed and head erect the Nymph entered a trance, emitting a wild energy
Her hands danced across her harp, winding a path that headed high and low
It leapt and languished, filled the air with longing and later lured the ear to sleep.
Then it carefully climbed to a clamor, a powerful crescendo of intense crisis
The dizzying pattern of the dance spun and spun—then died, deftly dropping into a soft hum
That slow, barely vocal vibration, without vigor or volume, varying little before disappearing altogether.
The Nymph’s turn finished triumphantly, the taste of its melodies filling the quiet meadow
The skylings having sat silently, respectfully watching the spectacle, resumed their songs
Balwyn had listened, head bowed, but once her ballad had finished he bent his eyes at the Nymph.
Neither he nor the Nymph spoke, but saying nothing noted everything.
So without a word he went ahead, waking the Riff with his inner wind.
Recalling Balwyn’s recital on the Riff would require rendering words not yet made
Its telling is impossible in ink.
What may be mentioned—in the making of it, Balwyn marked his life’s steps in his music.
From quiet beginnings through his quest—the qualms and questions that called for him to quit.
The fury of the first beast, the ferocious Vilkai who followed him, the fantastic pictures on the rocks
The confusion and then clarity as the clear sky revealed their story, the contest with the water-creature,
The struggle with the thunderous sea, scrambling up the thin sea-bound spire,
Eating the eggs, the attack of the enormous skyling, the extreme pain of the fall, the Nymph’s efforts
Balwyn’s wordless ballad did not end before Gaal had broken over the horizon, bringing brilliant light
The last note leapt and roared like a lunging vilkai, leaving the land without looking back.
Out of inner wind, Balwyn bent over, offering a kind of bow to the Nymph
Gaal glinted off the Nymph’s face as she got up and grasped Balwyn’s hand with a strong grip.
–Your performance and your yearning to be free have surpassed me—I yield: you may leave.
Balwyn held the Nymph’s hand, his eyes burning holes into hers
–If it please you, I would stay and apply myself in improving your home
–It has suffered so much since my arrival, and I would surely like to see it returned to glory.
The Nymph accepted with a smile, and so began a new chapter in the arduous life of Balwyn.