1. The lowermost portion of a structure. 2. A story of a building, partly or wholly underground.

Balthazar and Dave had completed their training for the day. As the session had worn on, Balthazar's mood had improved somewhat. Barking out instructions and corrections to Dave, along with throwing a few unexpected plasma bolts at him to test his response time to a threat, always seemed to make his teacher rather happy.

"So, are you going to go back home to Veronica now?" asked Dave, as he stepped out of the Circle and collapsed in one of the chairs. Even though his stamina was improving, long extended periods in the Circle could still drain him. Plus, today had been the practice of invisibility and levitation of the self, both at the same time. The two concepts were somewhat draining for even the most advanced sorcerer.

"I don't know. I don't want the risk of sleeping on the couch."

"Don't tell me you're afraid of Veronica?"

Balthazar glared at Dave. "Just wait till you and Becky have been together for any length of time, Dave. If there is one thing I have learned in over a thousand years of marriage, it's that a man who is not capable of being afraid of his wife every once and awhile is an idiot. The sooner you learn that, the happier you and Becky will be."

Dave rolled his eyes. "Thank you for that uplifting statement, Balthazar. You are just a ray of sunshine in all things."

"Just telling it like it is, Dave."

Dave, his breath regained, now sat up a little straighter and said, a little nervously, "Um, Balthazar, can I ask you something?"

"No, Dave."

"You don't even know what I was going to ask."

"Yes, I do. You always look like that when you want some time off for training, and you're not going to get it. I was generous in giving you a few days off during Finals. We have to keep working, Dave, and it's not just for any lark that you can neglect your training."

"This isn't a lark that I'm asking about, Balthazar. It's something very important."

"Well, what is it?"

Dave's face flushed a little bit, and he looked down, shuffling his feet as he did so. "I want to go home next weekend, to Buffalo. It's my mom's birthday on Saturday, and it's sort of accepted tradition that I always go down there to celebrate with the rest of the family."

Balthazar stared at Dave for a moment, genuinely surprised. "You're not playing very fair, Dave. You know that family relationships are the one weakness I have that you can exploit."

Dave looked up. "Does that mean I can have next weekend off?"

"Yes, all right, go and celebrate with your family. But, I expect you to work hard between now and then so there isn't any sort of lag. You're making progress and I don't want to see it slow down."

"It won't, Balthazar. Don't worry."

"Were you really that nervous?"

"Well, yes. If you must know; contrary to popular belief, I do actually like spending time with my parents. Plus, this is really important. Besides it being my mom's birthday, this will also be the first time that they meet Becky."

"Oh, it's that time of the relationship, is it? Are you nervous?"

"Yeah, I am, a little bit."

"What on earth for? I'm sure that your parents will like Becky if she is so important to you. I know it's costmary to have some awkwardness with the in-laws, but it might be kind of a stereotype that the in-laws always hate the significant other of their children."

"I wish it were. But after meeting Becky's mom, I'm kind of worried about what my own parents will say."

"So Becky's mom said that she didn't like you and that you weren't worthy of her daughter?"

"Well, no she didn't say that exactly. But she might as well have. She wasn't exactly welcoming when she first met me. She didn't say anything specific really, but I just got the feeling within five minutes of speaking with her that she saw something in me that she didn't approve of. Her manner towards me was positively glacial. Plus, I haven't been invited back since, which I think speaks volumes in and of itself."

"So, you're afraid that just because Becky's mom disapproved of you that means that your parents will have to automatically not like her in return."

"Boy, the way you say it, it makes it sound completely illogical. Look, Balthazar, I don't have the advantage of age, okay? I mean, I'm lucky to even have someone like Becky. You don't think that I consider it a miracle every day that we have even gotten this far? I just don't want to anything to spoil what we already have. I don't need my parents to love Becky, but I at least want them to accept her. I don't want the added burden of another set of disproving parents."

Balthazar was silent for a moment, and he was staring at Dave in such a manner that was both proud and discerning at the same time. "You are right, Dave. You are very lucky to have Becky, and you're man enough to say that. If your parents are anything like you, and from what you've told me I don't doubt that they are, then you have nothing to worry about. They will see what a positive impact Becky is having on your life, even I can tell that. I'm fairly certain that your parents will love Becky. It's almost impossible not to like her."

Dave was surprised to hear those words coming out of Balthazar's mouth. "You know, that's the closest that I have ever heard you come to giving Becky a complement."

"I've always approved of Becky, I just didn't see until recently how special she is. You have any idea how difficult relationships can be between sorcerers and ordinary humans? They can become complicated very quickly, and a good many of them fail within a few months. That Becky has held out this long and still is holding firm tells me that there is something special about her. You should be grateful that you have found someone like her, Dave. Be sure that you never let her go."

Dave felt somewhat heartened and encouraged by this statement. He had come to rely a great deal on Balthazar's wisdom, not only in training with magic, but also in his growth as a person. He would maybe never say this to Balthazar's face, but he was beginning to feel that he owed him almost as much as his father in making him the person that he was becoming. And to know that Balthazar really respected Becky, made him hope that it was not so impossible that his parents could do the same. "I won't, Balthazar. I promise you that."

This is sort of a short chapter after a pretty long time between updates, but I have been pretty busy recently with the ending of school. Also, being a performance major means that I have a lot to do. Hopefully, the next chapter will be a bit longer and will begint o build up a little tension. In the meantime though, please tell me what you think.

Next chapter: The Merlineans presence may be strong in New York, but the Morganians are always in the shadows, waiting to strike, like a snake. And now a new visitor has arrived from Russia, one who has a plan for them to redeem themselves afer the failure of Morgana.