It was still dark when I raised myself from where I slept. I figured that I had at least two hours to do my work before anyone else got up.

Creeping silently from my sleeping quarters, I head toward my laboratory, where an invisible white bat-like creature was sleeping in a cage.

I knew that the Roush was sleeping, because it did not respond when I whispered its name a several times.

I reached for the cage when I heard a tiny voice; as if just woke from sleep.

"What are you doing, Master Grushon?"

I had not meant to wake it up, but the creature seemed to instantly recover from sleep and started hopping about the cage that confined it.

I dropped my hand and sighed. I didn't know if I could do this.

"Lord Ba'al has ordered more experiments done on you," I admitted. I imagined that the little creature tilted his head at this, looking amused. Obviously I never knew its facial reaction, because I could not see it.

"And what kind of experiments does he want done?" it inquired, sounding just as cheerful as usual.

I sighed and sat down in a nearby chair; the one that Fahzid frequently sat in while talking to the Roush. I looked at where the creature's voice came from.

Finally I figured I would just tell it. "Lord Ba'al wants me to test how long you can live without food or water, but I can't do that. I'm sure that—"

"Why can't you do that?" it interrupted.

I sat for a long time saying nothing, before rising and taking a dose of the elixir that would allow me to see the Roush. It tasted bitter and disgusting, but its aftertaste left me craving more, as usual. I walked back to the chair and sat back down.

I finally gathered the courage to say, "I can't let you starve to death, because I have grown fond of you. And I know that Fahzid would never forgive me."

"So you're going to disobey your master?" the Roush asked.

"Raphel," I said, "If someone goes against the orders of Lord Ba'al, and he finds out, that person is going to be banished forever, or worse. If I were banished, the Priest would just hire another alchemist who would follow his every order, and you would inevitably endure worse torture."

The Roush, who I could see now, had grown a less happy expression, though its eyes still shown with the same brightness they always had. Its head tilted to one side, as if waiting for me to continue.

"I can't free you," I said slowly, "because as I said, I would most likely be banished or killed."

Raphel's voice was very quiet. "Then what are you going to do?"

I closed my eyes, and then opened them. "I'm going to make your death quick, and look like an accident, so you won't have to endure a long, painful death."

Instead of the expression of sorrow or betrayal I said been expecting, Raphel looked merely disappointed. It obviously saw the shock on my face, and asked, "I won't be able to say goodbye to Fahzid, will I?" I shook my head, and Raphel looked sad.

"I didn't even mean to wake you up," I said. "I didn't want to have to confess to you."

Raphel surprisingly mustered a smiled, and said, "Well, I'm glad you did."

Then he turned around, closed his eyes, and said to my further shock, "You can finish the task you came here to do. I am ready."

And as I reached into the cage for it, I heard the words, "Goodbye, Master Grushon. I'm sorry I couldn't save you."

That morning would haunt my dreams for the rest of my life. Little did I know, though, that already our days were numbered, and before long the entire world as we knew it would be gone.