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Part 8 | Part 10

In such a manner time travelled, Balwyn learned to trust the nymph, turning to her for everything

At long last the nymph lifted Balwyn to test his lame legs.

Balwyn hoped to balance by himself, but as he hobbled forward, he hit the ground

The nymph, knowingly knelt down on her knees, took out her knife and carved a knotted piece of wood

Putting it politely before Balwyn, the nymph pressed onward, pausing only to see if Balwyn followed

Under great strain, he did get up, making use of the stick he urged his unaccustomed legs onward.

Gaal’s glare had retired to a mere glimpse before they got to their destination, Balwyn’s legs giving out

A tidy cottage made with tiny stones, topped by tangled wood—its age beyond telling.

The nymph appeared at once under the archway of the abode’s entrance, beckoning Balwyn along

Venturing inside, Balwyn viewed the virtuous and well victualed hearth, an in-viting fire burning

Happiness overwhelmed the helpless man, who had given up hoping to see the inside of a home

So he turned to the nymph and embraced her tightly, tears streaming down his tired face.

The nymph bade Balwyn sit before the fire, bringing him a warm brew

A strong drink, which was designed to dull Balwyn’s senses and desires—distancing him from pain

As well as all pleasure and anything beyond the most basic awareness.

Before he could object to the obligatory oblivion, Balwyn had obeyed, drinking the offered cup.

Balwyn’s mind misted over, memories of his meal and the evening music mired by his stupor.

But the rest, the relaxation and the rambling rhythm of the music rendered Balwyn blissful

Entranced, Balwyn welcomed more elixir, eager to elongate his escape.

So the nymph generously obliged, offering jar after jar of the juice every time he jumped.

When Gaal returned, Balwyn was well on his way to a weary sleep.

He slept heavily, hardly stirring for hours, not noticing the nymph had disappeared.

As darkness settled, she silently slipped back into the cottage,

And she made a meal and mixed more of the mind-numbing elixir.

Just as Balwyn was joining the world from his stupor, she jammed another jug of the juice into his face.

At first the taste was abhorrent, but Balwyn accepted more liquid—and returned to his artificial abyss.

For many more darknesses the doses of drink combined with the drifting music held Balwyn in a daze.

By Gaal’s glare, Balwyn would glide into a great sleep, and the nymph would go out on errands.

Never did the nymph speak, except in the nightly concerts or Balwyn’s narcotic nightmares.

It wasn’t long and the idle Balwyn craved the liquid with an increasingly impatient intensity.

Balwyn basked before the burning fire, lost in the blurred world of reality and music inspired dreams.

Time consumed the two as they wove their daily pattern—it isn’t certain for how long.

Then one darkness came without the nymph, who was still wandering in the wilderness.

Deprived of his precious potion, Balwyn passed into a state of panic, pushing over everything in pursuit.

With fierce fanaticism (for Balwyn’s limbs had returned to their former shape) he fixed upon his quest.

Finally, Balwyn slumped against the stone floor, tears streaming silently down his stony face.

Up came Gaal from under the horizon and Balwyn felt his old urges stir up. He rushed upon the door

But it was locked, no amount of leverage could loosen it, for it was lined in a hard, stone-like material.

Thus trapped, Balwyn took in his true surrounding as if for the first time.

Light streamed through narrow windows, revealing walls impossibly wide, worked entirely with stone.

Realizing the reality of his prison, Balwyn rushed again at the door, to ram it with all his returned might

But the door did not bend or break. It didn’t even dent—such was the quality of its design.

Collapsing, puzzled by the position he was in, he peered even more closely at his prison.

Balwyn considered: Could it be possible he was caught in a cage—like pet creatures in his settlement?

Hunger gnawed at him, so Balwyn explored the home, hanging a pot over the fire to make hearthstew

As evening approached and a pleasant aroma escaped the pot, the cottage door opened.

The nymph entered, an easy smile escaped her eyes—she looked at the food eagerly.

Balwyn greeted her, returning her gaze, hand grasping a giant spoon to test how good the stew was.

He presented the piled up spoon to her, proudly peering into her face to see if she was pleased

The nymph took the spoon, tasted it, and turned to get two bowls, for more.

Quickly and quietly they ate, eager to quell their hunger with food, no matter the quality or quantity.

Only then did the nymph offer to speak to Balwyn, taking a stick out of the fire to point at objects

Balwyn looked at her lengthily before letting out a laugh—she desired lessons in his tongue.

The right words for the objects ran roughly from his lips, so rarely had he had reason to speak them.

But the nymph proved herself to be as brilliant at bringing out words as healing broken bodies.

Late into the evening they entertained each other, Balwyn explaining every word, the nymph repeating

The nymph did nothing to try and net Balwyn with the nefarious and noxious concoction

Instead she imitated a “good night” in Balwyn’s tongue, rose idly and departed into another room.

Balwyn, felt a furious fire from within, filling him with the urge to follow the nymph.

So he silently rose and stood outside her sealed door, seeking the courage to go inside.

But before Balwyn could bring himself to do it, sounds of stringed music began to bubble out.

As the tones filled the area, it activated in Balwyn an inner alchemy

The melody marked him, causing murky memories to meander through his mind.

Caught in the curious course of the music, he collapsed in his sleeping place to contemplate them.

The darkness drug on till light, Balwyn disabled, dreaming in the music inspired dementia.

By the time Gaal’s glory grasped Balwyn from his guileless stupor, the nymph was a-gain gone.

Part 8 | Part 10