2. The Pull
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“This is not going to do,” Balin said to himself as he stared at the pipe in his hand. He replaced it in his pocket, and slammed the panel door shut.

“What am I to do?” he murmured to himself with folded arms.

He pondered on the spot.

‘Maybe they’re still back there where I left them,’ he thought to himself and departed from the still machine.

He made his long way back to where he thought he had left the gears and walked about through the tall grasses, sweeping across the ground with his eyes as he wandered in circles, but couldn’t seem to find where the small pile of gears he had left behind was. He searched for hours in the hot sun until he gave up.

He lied down in the grass for a while to think, feeling the soft grass beneath him with his palms and fingers.

Finally, he decided to go see his friend Viviane Bradán.

She had magical powers, and could maybe fabricate for him some one-and-a-half inch gears.

‘Lady Viviane might be able to help me make some of these gears!’ he thought.

So he travelled far south from Merlin’s machines, along the edge of the city and across the rural countryside to the village where her family lived.

He walked past the small huts and houses to a very simple-looking dwelling, built with brick and wood shingles.

Balin knocked on the open door and saw a slender and graceful woman seated at a bench, dexterously stitching cloth together.

“Hi, Dame Bradán,” Balin greeted her. “Is your daughter here?”

Dame Bradán smiled at the young man, then turned around in her chair.

“Oh, Viviane!” Dame Bradán called out.

“Yes, mother?” a young woman’s voice called back from far away.

“Sir Balin’s here to see you!” the lady shouted, smiling at Balin.

“Oh!” the girl replied. “Good! Balin, stay right there. I’ll come get you!”

Dame Bradán turned back to face Balin, who awkwardly stared at his feet.

Lady Viviane burst forth out of some tall grasses with a great big smile on her face.

“Balin! You’re here!” she said with glee. “Aren’t you supposed to be working?”

“I am, but then I ran into a problem I need your help with,” he replied. “Do you happen to have any one-and—”

“Well, it just so happens I also have a problem you could help me with,” she said. “Come!”

She grabbed his hand and, as they ran off together, Balin blushed.

“Be careful now, you two,” Lady Viviane’s mother warned as the two of them left.

“What is it, Viv?” Balin asked, barely able to contain his excitement that Lady Viviane was pulling him by the wrist deep into the forest. He felt the warmth of her surprisingly strong grip. He couldn’t wipe the stupid grin from his face.

She led him through the woods to his brother Balan, who was standing next a sword that was stuck upright, blade-down, in a large stone boulder.

“Yeah, so we’ve been trying to get this darn sword out,” she said as she let go of Balin’s hand and swiftly clambered atop the large boulder. “Tight as your mum’s arsehole.”

“Hey!” both Balin and Sir Balan cried out in unison, resenting the comment.

“Relax,” she said with a sly smile. “‘Twas merely a jape.”

Sir Balan still looked mad as Balin approached the boulder that Lady Viviane was standing on.

She began to yank up hard on the golden handle of the sword with both hands, to no avail, then waved Balin over as she rested her hand upon its golden hilt.

“Come and give it a shot!” she cried out.

“He won’t be able to,” Sir Balan said jokingly with an air of smugness. “If you and I can’t, I’m sure Lin here’s not going to be able to succeed.”

Balin snarled at Sir Balan before approaching the boulder and nimbly scaling it.