Forgiveness

Disclaimer: All Publicly Recognizable Characters, Settings, Ideas, etc. are the Property of Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Productions. The Original Characters and Plot are the Property of the Author. The Author is in no way Associated with the Owners, Creators, or Producers of Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Productions. No Copyright Infringement is intended.

Chapter III

Balthazar groaned as the floor beneath him jostled and rattled about. He took a moment to feel out his situation before opening his eyes. He was lying on his stomach, hands and legs unbound. He tried to move, but found he couldn't and he didn't feel the familiar pressure of any of his rings save for his wedding band. He breathed out a sigh of relief that he still had it. The floor beneath him felt like wood, and judging from the way it was jostling, he figured he must be in a cart or a wagon. He was relieved to note that his back didn't hurt. If he could move, he might be able to fight. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

"Awake?" said a voice he recognized.

"Megan… where am I?"

"In a cart. We're been transported to the main castle, where you'll be granted an audience with Alyne.

Balthazar snorted. 'Granted'. Riiight.

"My back…"

"That's been healed. You were lucky. Your coat, it's dragon hide, right? There was pretty minimal damage to your back. The whip didn't slice through your coat but the force of the blow shattered part of your scapula and broke a few ribs. Pieces of bone became embedded in your lungs, which is why you were coughing up blood. If you didn't have this coat on, the damage would have been lethal. Do you remember been being healed?"

"No."

"Well you woke up for it. Fortunately we gagged you beforehand so you didn't bite off your tongue. My healer wasn't very gentle, so it was more painful then it had to be. You're lucky you were too out of it to remember." She told him dryly.

Funny, Balthazar didn't feel particularly lucky right now.

"Why did you heal me? Where's Dave?"

"The answer to both is the same. Dave got away. We'd like you to tell us where he is before he gets really annoying."

Balthazar scoffed at the idea.

"Thought you'd say that, which brings up another reason we healed you. Alyne will want to interrogate you, and you wouldn't survive unless we patched you up completely."

Balthazar once again tried to move his limbs but couldn't even curl a finger.

"Why can't I move?"

"Paralytic spell, and without your ring you can't break it. Don't worry, I'll remove it once we reach the castle. We're just a few minutes away."

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Dave, meanwhile, ran as soon as Balthazar had turned his back. The younger man had run for all he was worth. Fortunately, this was something he had a lot of practice with, running from bullies. lol He had enough sense to cast an invisibility spell on himself and a sound spell on his feet to prevent his footfalls from been being heard. And he just ran, not paying any attention to where he was going. Eventually, he fell forward. He tried to scramble back to his feet but his legs wouldn't obey him. It was only then he realized that he was gasping for breath, his throat raw. Now that he thought about it, breathing was pretty painful. He brought his hand to his chest, and his eyes widened at the feeling of his heart pounding against his rib cage. The thing felt like it was about to burst out.

His legs hurt and still wouldn't obey him.

He used his arms to crawl over to the nearest tree and prop himself into a sitting position with his back to it.

He couldn't believe he had done that. He had run until he had literally collapsed from exhaustion. No wonder his legs wouldn't move. He needed to figure out where he was, rest, and get back to the mill. He told himself Balthazar would be there, but he knew his master wouldn't be. There had been too much blood coming out his mouth.

Dave flinched and shook his head. Balthazar had probably just bitten his tongue. There was no reason to assume the man had suffered internal injuries. His coat had been fine, Dave had seen that. Megan's whip hadn't sliced through. Balthazar was smart and strong, and he— he was fine. He was fine and waiting at the mill.

"I was only injured because I had to watch you're back!"

'Ouch,' thought Dave as the memory hit him full force. He had managed to avoid thinking about it by running and not stopping, but now that he was forced to rest, the memory was rearing it's ugly head.

"Run before you get me killed!"

Dave hugged his knees. If only he had been quicker, if only he hadn't relaxed, Balthazar wouldn't have been hurt. He wouldn't have been cap—

Dave shook his head, dispelling the thought before it could fully form. He needed to focus on getting back to the mill. He looked in the direction he had come, fairly sure he had run in a straight line, at least in the same general direction. He looked up at the sky and judged he had run north by northeast, and he and Balthazar had been west of the mill. So if he went south, that would take him in the general direction of the mill, or at least to an area he recognized.

He gathered water from the air to drink, easing his throat. He wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. If Megan or one of her cronies came, he wouldn't be able to stand. He barely had enough in him to gather water. He closed his eyes and slept, too exhausted to even think further.

Three hours later, Dave pushed the door of the mill open, greeted by its creaking and groaning. He had slept about an hour, then started his trek back to the mill where he had hoped Balthazar would be waiting for him.

But he wasn't there. No one was.

"Balthazar?" called Dave refusing to give up hope just yet. He darted over to the loose floor boards and poked his head into the crawlspace, casting a light spell as he did so. He saw their gear and sleeping bags, but no Balthazar.

The apprentice took deep breaths and tried to calm down. He got out his sleeping bag and unzipped the side so he could use it as a blanket before sitting down against a section of wall right across from the door. If Balthazar hadn't been captured and was late, Dave wanted to see him as soon as he arrived. If he had been captured and tortured so badly that he revealed Dave's location, then the youth wanted to be the first thing Megan and her men saw when they came to investigate. He wouldn't even put up a fight. They might decide to take it out on Balthazar. The apprentice doubted his master would crack. But he was human, right?

His stomach churned when he remembered what Maggie had said about Alyne being a sadist who had tortured people from the tour bus to death in the public square because they protested their slave status. He hoped Balthazar would talk. Dave didn't think he could handle much more guilt.

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Balthazar clenched his right hand, his thumb habitually rubbing his finger where his ring should be, an old habit that had never died out. He was in shackles with his wrists bound together by a chain that went down and constricted his ankles as well. He also had a collar around his neck. It had four rings; one at the front, the back and both sides. The two guards escorting him each had a pole with a hook at the end. These were in the rings on the sides of Balthazar's collar and were being used to direct the master sorcerer.

Ahead of him he could see three thrones. The largest one was in the center and was currently the only one occupied. In it sat a woman with long, light brown hair and green eyes. She was thin and, in the light green dress she wore, appeared very elegant. The only really unattractive thing about her was the cruel smile on her lips. She was absently twiddling Balthazar's ring between her fingers.

"Well, well, the great Balthazar Blake," she said pleasantly as the guards stopped Balthazar several feet from the throne. She raised an eyebrow at the guards when Balthazar just stood there saying nothing. In unison, both guards yanked their poles back, offsetting Balthazar's balance then forcing him to fall forward onto his knees. He glared at the woman.

"Alyne Orrick, I presume?" asked Balthazar dryly, sounding almost bored.

"Very good," she replied with a slight nod. "Now, we don't get out much, but if the Prime Merlinian is here, and you have a wedding band, then it's a safe bet that you not only found the the boy but freed Veronica and killed Morgana. Congratulations. Now, I would very much like to meet your apprentice. Where is he?" She cocked her head when Balthazar didn't answer, carefully examining his face. "Must you be difficult?" Balthazar still said nothing. Alyne sighed before continuing. "So, neither of you know the area very well, that would limit hiding places. Where would he go?"

Balthazar looked at the floor, still silent. Alyne rolled her eyes and stood. Smiling, she walked towards her captive, red flame burning from her hand. She got down on one knee so that she was eye level with Balthazar and held out her hand.

"Do you know what this is?" she queried pleasantly.

"Greecian burn spell."

"Know what it does?"

"Makes the victim feel as if they're on fire."

"Correct, it's not a very pleasant experience. Where is he?"

Balthazar said nothing and just continued to stare at the floor. Alyne pressed her hand to his chest. The master sorcerer threw his head back and screamed. Eventually, Alyne removed her hand and repeated her question.

Balthazar just stared at her, a slight smile on his lips as he panted. "That all... you... got?"

"Unfortunately for you, no." She turned to the guards. "Take him to the dungeons. Beat him, break his fingers, ribs, legs, everything. Have the healers repair the bones and repeat the process again. Bring him into interrogation cell number three, then come and get me."

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"Where is the boy?"

"Pittsburgh." The circle surrounding the ancient sorcerer glowed red, and Balthazar was dimly aware of his body contorting as a wave of pain ripped through him.

Balthazar lifted his head from the stone floor. Using his arms, he propped himself up so that he was sitting on his knees.

"Alright, I lied, he's in Connecticut. Ahhhh!" screamed Balthazar as another more painful shock made him feel like he was been ripped in half.

"The boy, Blake."

"Kansas."

Balthazar felt himself lifted into the air. He didn't struggle, just tensed his muscles in preparation for the inevitable contact with the ground. His tormentor sent him crashing to the stone floor, feet first.

"Ahh!" cried Balthazar as he felt his right leg break from the impact.

"The boy."

"Connecticut."

"You already said that."

"Did I?" he asked with a slight chuckle, looking up at her. His mouth twisted into a painful smirk as blood started dripping from the corners of his lips. He had bitten his tongue in an attempt to stop himself from screaming. "So hard to keep track." Alyne sighed and walked into the circle. She knelt down beside the Merlinian and gently pushed a few strands of his hair aside. "Let's start a little easier, then. Megan heard you call the boy 'Dave,' but you never gave a last name."

Balthazar smiled and spat a wad of blood at her face. Alyne reached out and was handed a handkerchief by one of the guards.

"Classy," she sneered as she stood, wiping her face. "Goodnight, Blake." She turned to the door, then stopped and looked back at the master sorcerer. "I'll see you again after breakfast. By the way, you like oatmeal?"

"Excuse me?"

"We don't have an interest in starving you to death."

"Oatmeal?"

"Yes, it's healthy and filling. Well, doesn't matter, that's what you're going to get."

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"Don't like oatmeal, then?" asked Alyne.

Balthazar chose not to answer. He hadn't touched the food he had been given, not because he wasn't hungry or didn't like oatmeal but because he found it good practice not to accept food from a known enemy.

He felt himself being lifted into the air and gently placed against the wall.

"I have good news and bad news, Blake. The good news is, today won't be as painful. The bad news is, it will be far, far more humiliating. We will be taking you out to the public square and torturing you there. Word will spread and your apprentice will be too worried about you to bother formulating a plan that will succeed in getting you both out of here. Why not just save yourself some pain and tell us where the boy would hide?"

Balthazar just stared tiredly at the woman. She sighed and started unbuttoning his vest.

"Now, don't get excited, this is purely professional."

"Lady," he hissed, pronouncing the title like a curse. "You're not my type." She smiled and started on his shirt. He knew why she was doing this. She needed the people to see his blood, see that he was a weak human and make sure they told Dave about it, about his inability to protect himself, about the screams and the pain and the blood that was shortly to come.

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There was a stage in the middle of the town square. It was used as both a place to make announcements and perform public executions. Like the many medieval towns Balthazar had visited all those centuries ago. It was exactly like countless medieval towns Balthazar had visited all those centuries ago. He hadn't liked them then, either. He hadn't liked them then.

In a way, he was glad he hadn't found Dave at that point in time. It had been no place or time to raise a family like the one he wanted with Veronica. Then there was all the plagues. He really appreciated that the immortality spell had helped protect him from disease.

He was shirtless and shoeless. Balthazar felt the poke of a blade at his back and descended from the cart awkwardly since his hands were tied behind his back.

Sword still poking into his back, he walked up the stairs to the platform. Alyne was there, smiling maliciously. Balthazar rolled his eyes he was getting sick of that self satisfied smirk. One guard placed the tip of his sword at the sorcerer's throat while the other secured a rope to the bindings around Balthazar's wrists and looped it over a beam that was secured to a pole in the stage.

Alyne took a moment to observe her prey. She hadn't had much opportunity in the darkened cell last night. Balthazar was muscular, very... well chiseled. The numerous scars on his torso explained his high tolerance for pain, that it was obviously nothing new to him. There were burn scars, scars that could only be caused from stabbing, lash marks, and so many others. His skin looked more like a patchwork quilt than human flesh. Many of the scars overlapped each other, and it looked like a wolf or some such creature managed to do a number on his right arm at some point. None of it, however, detracted from the man's overall appearance.

Alyne decided to stop admiring and get to work. "People of Aldercy!" she shouted. "This man claims to be a powerful sorcerer! He claims he can free you! That his apprentice will help you!

She turned to look at the master sorcerer. "He can't save you."

Balthazar tensed when the crowd did. He grimaced in pain when the whip struck his back, but he remained silent. This was easier to bear than yesterday's torture. It made sense, because back then they had been going for pain. Today was about humiliation, showing the people that he was helpless, that neither he nor Dave could save them. For that, they needed his torture to be bloody, visual. They also needed him screaming, but he wasn't going to let that happen. They needed Dave to hear about this and become so incensed that he wouldn't think straight. He would come straight to them. Balthazar had had all night, but he still hadn't been able to come up with a counter plan, other than remaining silent so that maybe Dave wouldn't think the torture was anything the master sorcerer couldn't handle. He doubted it would work, but it was something. Beside, he was a proud man, and he had no desire to give them the satisfaction.

After twenty lashes, Alyne ordered her man to stop. She walked up behind Balthazar, and he could feel her breath on his ear.

"I had hoped today would be easier for you, but unless you start screaming in agony soon, I'll have to get really nasty and use those spells from yesterday. As I'm sure you recall, you weren't so closed-lipped then. Save yourself the trouble."

"Better those spells than your voice."

The pain was sudden, too sudden. Blake was unprepared when the spell ripped through him. He couldn't stop himself from crying out. He felt like he was been burned, gutted and ripped apart all at once.

"I invented that one. Problem is, it's too potent. You know how pain receptors work? How they tell the difference between a burn or a cut? Chemicals. Different chemicals are released in different quantities. Now, imagine your body starts producing and releasing all these chemicals in massive amounts. I was nice yesterday. I only used the old-fashioned stuff. Start screaming."

She turned her head to look at one of her men. Balthazar saw her give a curt nod, then felt an intense burning sensation on his back.

Balthazar relaxed his facial muscles as the red-hot iron dug into his back. He didn't even grimace. He looked off and into the crowd. He saw Isabel and shot her a tired smile and a wink, hoping to reassure her, make her think he was okay. Maybe she would tell Dave and he would be alright. Maybe the apprentice wouldn't come. And maybe pigs would sprout wings and fly south for the winter.

After a few moments, the iron was removed and Alyne rested her hand on Balthazar's shoulder.

"Last chance."

"Go to hell."

At the far edge of the gathered crowd stood an elderly women named Amanda Evans. She was seventy years old and had lived in the village her whole life. She had few health problems, but her ears were going, and people had to shout for her to hear them. Even she had to plug her ears when Alyne cast the spell.

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"Just throw him on the floor," Alyne ordered the two guards who were carrying Balthazar back to his cell. "We don't need him alive anymore. The apprentice will come."

"You're not going to touch him," rasped Balthazar, his throat raw from all the screaming he had done. Every breath was labored. He didn't even have the strength to lift his head.

"You're still conscious?" asked Alyne in disbelief. "Wow, that is impressive. Chain him up on the right side of the cell," she ordered, pointing to a pair of short shackles. "Hold on," she said, holding up her hand. "I have to do something first." She stared at the wall, her eyes glowed blue. She held up her hand and it started to glow, and the air in front shimmered slightly.

"A snapshot wall?" rasped Balthazar almost too quietly for Alyne to hear. His voice was growing weaker with every word he spoke.

"Uh huh," she turned to him, smiling. "You are going to hate this."

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Dave jumped when he heard the door creak open. He had been half asleep at the time, but now he was fully awake and scrambling to his feet. He relaxed when he saw it was only Isabel, not Megan and her cronies, though he tried to hide his disappointment at the visitor not been his master.

"Hey Isabel, what's wrong?" asked Dave as he darted up to the young girl. He knelt down so that he was eye level with her and gently took hold of her hands which she was using to wipe her tear-stained face and red eyes.

She looked at Dave, her lip trembling. She swallowed and opened her mouth as if to say something but only managed to emit a wail before wrapping her arms around Dave's neck and balling into his chest.

Dave quickly recovered from his shock and held the girl close. Eventually, she stopped her sobs and he pulled back. Dave reached into his back pocket. There was no handkerchief, but there was a candy wrapper. He quickly transformed it and handed it to her. She took it, wiped her eyes and blew her nose before handing it back to him.

"Keep it," said Dave with a slight smile. "What's wrong?"

Isabel's eyes started to water and Dave was afraid she'd start crying again, but she gathered herself.

"Alyne used the square again."

Dave's blood froze.

"She tortured Balthazar. Dave ther-ther-there was so much blood, and he was screaming, an-and-and ahhh!" She wrapped her arms around Dave again and continued to wail and ball into his chest. Dave wrapped his arms around her out of instinct and just held her, his mind numb.

After a few moments, his mind started to work again.

Balthazar had been captured.

They had hurt him enough to make him scream.

His mind went numb again.

It was only a few minutes later that his mind began to form thoughts once more, but unfortunately they were no more pleasant.

Balthazar had been captured and tortured because of him.

Again his mind shut down, unable to process any further thought. He felt Isabel pushing him, trying to get away. He unwrapped his arms and stared down at the little girl.

"Was Balthazar still alive when you saw him?" he asked, the cogs in his head beginning to turn once more.

"Yes."

Dave let out a sigh of relief. Balthazar was alive. That was something.

"When Alyne was cutting him down, she said she'd torture him again tomorrow morning unless you turned yourself over to her!"

Dave froze. Balthazar hadn't talked and it had cost him. All because Dave couldn't dodge.

The apprentice got up off the floor and grabbed his sleeping bag. He tossed it back underneath the floorboards, grabbed his jacket and started walking towards the door.

"Go home, Isabel."

The girl sniffled. Dave turned to look at her.

"Balthazar's tough. He'll be fine. I'm going to go get him now." The little girl continued to sniffle and wipe her eyes with her new handkerchief.

"Can you get home on your own?" She had done it before, but she was so upset. He wasn't sure she could make it home on her own in this state. He held out his hand. This girl was his responsibility. He would see her home and then make his way over to the castle.

It was hours later that Dave was squatting next to some reeds by the moat that encircled the castle. Getting Isabel back home had proved to be easy. They had been walking all of ten minutes, Dave casting an invisibility spell the hide the pair. Isabel had had some fun trying to see her hand while waving it in front of her face while her other hand clutched Dave's. Isabel tugged on his arm suddenly and whispered that she spotted her mom. There were a few other people on the street, so Dave and Isabel had ducked behind a house so that Dave could lift the invisibility spell without making the locals wonder why two people had literally popped out of nowhere.

He had watched her run to her mother who lifted the child into the air and held her close. Dave smiled, thinking of his own mom. He shook his head. He didn't have time to think about that now.

Isabel pointed to the building where Dave was and Maggie looked over and spotted him. He gave her a quick wave before turning invisible again and starting towards the castle.

The continued use of the invisibility spell took its toll. Dave had had to hide and rest on many occasions. Over half the trip had been spent resting and he was still trying to catch his… what, fiftieth wind? He'd lost count.

Just a few more minutes and he'd be ready to attempt to get in. The plan was simple-freeze a path of water, walk over to the wall of the castle across the moat and phase through and find the dungeons.

Everything after that depended on Balthazar's condition. Dave's stomach churned at the thought of what they had done. Balthazar was strong. Dave knew the man could take a lot of punishment. The fact that they hadn't managed to find his breaking point wasn't comforting. As far as Dave knew, the man didn't have any. Save for his family.

Dave sat back in the grass, resting. He needed to be in top for. No telling what he had to deal with. It was another half an hour before he finally felt rested enough to move.

The water was easy, simple molecule manipulation. He poked his head through the wall and into a washroom which, fortunately, was empty. He stepped through and unfroze the ice. He then cast an illusion to make himself look like a guard, lightening his hair and turning his eyes blue. He listened at the door, and after a few moments of nothing, he stepped out and started looking for stairs that would take him to the lower levels.

He saw a few people-servants, sorcerers and other guards-but they paid him no mind. He tried to act like he belonged. It took him a half hour to find the dungeons. He tried every cell door he came across. If it was locked, he magicked it open. It was less draining than phasing. He saw other prisoners shackled to the wall. They all appeared to be…resting. They weren't moving at any rate, for the most part. A few times the inhabitants backed away, pressing themselves further into the wall furthest from the door. Dave just closed the door quickly and locked it again afterwards. Every time he did he felt sick, but he knew if someone found that a door that was supposed to be locked wasn't locked it would raise the alarm. Everyone he saw was in shackles so it's not like having the door unlocked would help them anyway. Besides, soon he and Balthazar would bring an end to the Orricks and they'd all be free. At least, that's what he kept telling himself.

"Balthazar?" whispered Dave, opening the door of the twenty-sixth cell. "You in here?" He squinted at the form on the floor, in the middle of an engraved circle with markings he couldn't make out. He raised his hand and conjured a ball of light that would illuminate the cell only for the caster. His eyes widened. There was no mistaking that bird's nest.

"Balthazar!" He ran towards his master. "Oh God, oh God." Dave couldn't believe it-the dried and crusted blood, the bruises and welts, and that was just the back. Gently, Dave brushed the hair out of his master's face. He could barely see Balthazar's eye, it was so swollen. There was a large welt on his cheek, his nose was crooked, and his breathing was labored. Dave could only see half of Balthazar's face, the other side resting on the cold, filthy stone floor. The wounds were probably infected.

"Why didn't you just tell them what they wanted? I could've handled them! I would have forgiven you. You should have told them. You didn't have to… I, I'm so sorry. Oh God, please be okay." Dave took a deep breath to steady himself. The man was breathing. He was alive. Dave needed to focus. "We have to get out of here." Dave tried to lift Balthazar's arm over his shoulder and hoist the older man to his feet.

"Wha—" exclaimed Dave as he let go of Balthazar in an attempt to dodge the flash of a blade. He felt it slice open his cheek. He brought his hand up to the wound and looked at the man kneeling on the ground.

"Who are you?"

The man looked up at him. "Balthazar."

"No, he would never attack me—"

"It stopped them Dave, I couldn't..." Fake Balthazar looked at the floor.

Dave took a step back from the impostor. "No," said Dave raising a hand for emphasis. "No, no no. Even if you broke him, even if you hurt him so bad he'd betray me to make it stop he'd never attack me. Give up my location maybe, but come at me with a knife!? You're lying. Where is—!"

Dave fell forward onto his knees, but he didn't understand why. He wasn't injured aside from the cut, so why were his legs weak? He shook his head, his vision getting blurry, and he was hot, flushed.

The figure shifted from Balthazar into Alyne. "My dagger was coated with a poison," she sneered. "It'll hurt, and you're gonna lose the contents of your stomach. But it won't kill you."

"Where is he?" Dave managed to rasp before his body convulsed and bile came out his mouth.

Alyne hesitated a moment, then shrugged and snapped her fingers. Dave saw the air shimmer before the snapshot wall disintegrated and there was Balthazar, chained to the wall in a kneeling position, arms spread. He was held in place by four strips of metal bolted to the wall, two just above his elbows and the other two around his wrists. The impostor hadn't exaggerated about Balthazar's wounds. If anything, the master's eye was even more swollen, his chest was covered in dried blood, and there were welts from burns. Blood trickled down from the metal straps. Balthazar had strained against them in an effort to warn Dave about the danger.

"Dave, run!"

"Too late for that, Balthazar. The poison has already taken effect. Dave can't stand, much less run." She informed the pair in an annoyingly cheerful voice.

Dave reach out, grabbed Alyne's ankle, and conjured a plasma bolt.

"Arrrgh!" Alyne waved her arms, but the damage to her ankle left her unable to regain her balance. She landed ungracefully on her bum.

"Big mistake, David." She held out her hand, palm facing Balthazar.

"No!" shouted Dave. "Please!"

Alyne fired, and the plasma bolt hit Balthazar square in the chest.

"Balthazar!" rasped Dave he started crawling towards his master while Alyne worked on healing her ankle. He was about halfway there when he felt pressure on his back and was forced down onto the floor.

"That wasn't very nice, Dave," scolded Alyne, pressing her foot with the now healed ankle down on the apprentice's back. In his weakened state, Dave couldn't do anything other than become acquainted with the floor.

"That's because I really don't like you."

"You're a very rude young man."

"You're a murdering psychopath. Balthazar! Come on buddy, say something."

"I think your master's dead, Dave."

"No, no he's breathing. Help him, please… please."

Alyne smiled as she turned her head from Dave to Balthazar. "How about I just kill him? Right in front of you."

Dave held up his hand and a weak shield formed in front of Balthazar.

"Okay, that's impressive. Weak, but I'd have thought you'd have lost consciousness by now." She pointed with her finger and shot out a plasma bolt. It broke through the shield and hit the wall just above Balthazar's shoulder.

"I'll send in a healer for him and a couple of guards to deal with you."

Dave heard the door open and felt himself being dragged up by his arms. He struggled and tried to speak, but his body convulsed again and he started gagging, trying to empty an already depleted stomach.

He thought he heard Balthazar say something about cronies getting their hands off his apprentice, but he couldn't be sure. He was pretty out of it, and he struggled futilely as the arms dragged him from the cell and away from his master.