Part 9 | Part 11

Balwyn waited, wondering why the nymph wished to behave in her weïrd way.

Late into the night the lady arrived; Balwyn did not look or lift his head where he lay, feigning sleep.

Rapidly the nymph ripped the rest of the roasted meat he had left by the remains of the fire.

Then just as quickly she journeyed to her room, careful not to jam the door, jingle or jostle anything.

Balwyn silently neared the outside of her door to observe—only to hear the ordinary sounds of sleep.

If the nymph played the music only in his interest, then what was her intention in the end?

Painfully Balwyn realized how pitifully he pined for the music. Passing a night without it was paralyzing.

The feeling filled him with fury for his folly

How completely he had been caught, captured by the curiously cold creature

So briskly Balwyn collected himself to break the nymph’s bedroom, brandishing a knife from the kitchen

The violence with which he ventured into the vaulted room caused it to visibly vibrate

Balwyn’s shout shook the shrouded bed, where the nymph lay shuddering shyly.

Her tearful hysteria halted Balwyn, whose hand held the knife at the nymph’s fragile throat

Realizing with dread the evil desire of his deathly deed, Balwyn dropped the blade and damned himself

Then Balwyn thudded to his knees, thrusting forth threaded hands, eyes searching for the nymph’s.

She smiled slowly, silently sandwiching Balwyn’s hands with her own and summoned him to her bed.

Balwyn gratefully gave in, grasping for her lithe frame as she gently guided him

But just as Balwyn reached the bed, the nymph rose, rammed him in the ribs and ran out of the room.

The nymph’s re-entry escaped Balwyn, bent over his exploding entrails, until the room erupted in flame.

Barely overcoming the pain, Balwyn tried spreading the objects on fire, but oddly they only burnt hotter

Failing to reduce the roaring flames, he turned round to run away—only to find the door slam roughly.

Balwyn, realizing he was trapped, tried to pry at the doors, but they were tightly shut.

Smoke smothering his lungs, Balwyn struck the door, till suffocating, he lost his senses.

Upon waking covered in his own urine, Balwyn uttered an ugly groan, throwing up blood and ash

Nothingness enveloped him, neither light nor even the notice of promised light felt in the night.

Balwyn made as if to move, hoping he might be able to measure his misfortune.

But the chore of moving his chafed and charred flesh proved too challenging—he choked from the strain

And attempted nothing more than applying a calm, abiding breath.

So passed an eternal period, Balwyn pondering how to prevent dying in the polluted pit.

The intense darkness made it feel interminable—Balwyn’s skin began to itch from the irksome ash

And his restless mind meandered, marking his every mistake, hoping to make sense of the misery.

Balwyn was drawn out of his orderless musings by the odd sounds of someone making an opening

A brilliant shaft of light lanced the limited space, a limb leaving a bowl silently behind before it shut.

Blinded Balwyn barely had time to bark before he was again by himself in the dark.

Finding the food, he filled his belly, but as soon as he finished he pounded frantically for more.

Such was his hysteria and hounding that a he stirred the hidden ash into a horrible storm

It choked and irritated Balwyn into an illusory calm, though his insides boiled

With a rancorous rage that riled, the ash raining a-round him.

As the ash settled, Balwyn arrived at the conclusion: he must accept his circumstances.

Pondering his piteous plight, he passed into peace.

He had ventured far, victorious over many violent enemies, but the nymph had vanquished him.

She surpassed him in every undertaking, and now she showed she could save his life and destroy it

Balwyn had been measured, matched, made and unmade—his might meant nothing…

Part 9 | Part 11