So I'm finally back in the swing of things (Thank god for summer!), so I decided to post this little story a friend (Mew of Fire) and I had been working on last year. The original character, Josselyn, belongs to Mew of Fire and I wrote for Balthazar. I did some editing, so hopefully it flows a bit better than it did originally... ^^; Please enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own The Sorcerer's Apprentice, nor do I own Josselyn. Josselyn belongs to Mew of Fire.
Chapter 1: Prologue
Josselyn frowned as she picked her way through the forest. She loved nature and the sunny weather they were experiencing , but four hours was a bit too much for her. But she knew she needed to find the last herb for the spell she and her master were working on. Speaking of her master, Balthazar was probably wondering what was taking her so long. He wanted to get these protection pouches done before King Arthur and his men took a short tour of the country. Carefully picking up the hem of of her simple emerald dress, Josselyn stepped over another tree root. Her gray speckled eyes scoured the forest floor as she slowly made her way through the intertwining trees. Another strand of auburn hair fell into her face, signaling that her braid was once again falling apart. Josselyn let out a sigh, and wondered if anything was going to work in her favor today.
Just as the thought entered her mind, a flash of white waved at her from the corner of her eye. Josselyn smiled. There was the Angelica. She quickly made her way over to the plant and pulled the flowery herbs out of the ground. With a contented sigh and a slight feeling of accomplishment, she began to make her way back to her horse. As she swung herself up into the saddle of Helios, she thought she saw a shadow move in between the trees. She just shook her head and started up the path toward the castle. The sun was just beginning to set and made a beautiful backdrop as she looked up at the castle. This was home.
Balthazar was in his lab working on an advanced spell that, for some reason, had slipped his notice when he had been training to become Merlin's apprentice. Looking at the spell, it wasn't that difficult to perform, but it required a number of rare materials. He'd sent his assistant, Josselyn, out into the woods to gather the rarest of the herbs he'd need. He couldn't say he was happy that he'd had to send her away, though. She would have been a great help during this particular step in the preparation of the spell.
Josselyn made her way up the stairs quickly, almost knocking into Horvath on her way up. He had flinched at the sight of her, but merely stepped to the side to avoid her. He had been acting strange lately, but then again he had always liked to keep to himself. Josselyn pushed her bangs out of her face once again and opened the door to the lab.
"I apologize for taking so long Balthazar. The Angelica was extremely hard to find this time," she said as she made her way into the room, carefully avoiding the piles of books and artifacts lining the room.
Balthazar sighed in relief when he heard his door open and Josselyn's voice cut through the silence. Against his better judgment, he had started to worry. "No no, that's fine. Just bring it over here. I'll need your help with this next part," he said distractedly, waving her over.
Josselyn made her way over to him, staring curiously at the spell. Stumbling only once over the butt of a spear, she finally made it over to his table.
"What exactly are you working on?" she asked, looking up at Balthazar in a confused manner.
"It's a spell I never fully mastered back when I was in training," he mumbled, slightly embarrassed. When she reached him, he took her hands and placed them on either side of the bowl he was working with. "Hold that in place and make sure it doesn't move. Where are the herbs?" he asked. When she indicated their position to him, he grabbed them and sprinkled them over the solution, then held his hands over the bowl. He murmured a few words, concentrating deeply. The solution started to bubble. Balthazar allowed himself a small self-satisfied smile before returning his full concentration to the spell, trying not to think about the woman whose hands brushed against his sleeves.
A bright flash of light illuminated the room, quickly shrinking to a pinpoint of light in the middle of the solution. Balthazar's hands remained over the solution.
Josselyn watched his face carefully as he focused on the potion in front of him. She liked the focused look he wore on his face and was excited when she saw him smile. Whatever they were working on, it was a success.
"What does the spell do?" she asked quietly, not wanting to break Balthazar's concentration.
"It creates Astrea," Balthazar explained, lifting his hands up slightly. The light remained stationary. "It separates a person from their body. Not a whole lot of research has been done on it for obvious reasons," he admitted. When he was sure the pearl of light wouldn't disappear, he let his hands rest by his sides, indicating that Josselyn could do the same.
Josselyn let her hands fall to her side and stared in wonder at the small bead of light in awe and wonder. She moved around the table, looking at the small floating light from different angles.
"It can do so much, even though it's so small. That why I love magic so much," Josselyn remarked as she stopped by Balthazar's side.
Balthazar nodded, trying to ignore the proximity of his assistant. He loved Veronica, right? He shouldn't be thinking these things about another woman, but he'd known Josselyn for so long.
He put his hand back over the light, bringing it to the surface and up towards his hand, but not letting it touch his skin. He brought it over to a jar and let it fall inside before closing it, observing the pinprick of light closely. It was amazing what such a tiny thing could do. Briefly he wondered, but all thoughts of it were pushed away when he turned back around to face Josselyn. "I am done for the day. You may take your leave, if you wish," he told her.
"I don't mind staying here and helping put things away," she replied, glancing at the piles of items surrounding them.
"...or," she continued, "I might go and see if Veronica needs any help." She looked over at Balthazar and shrugged.
Balthazar sighed as he said a little too quickly, "Why don't you clear out the bowl?" He wasn't sure why, but he was hesitant to let Veronica and Josselyn be in the same room without him. It was an irrational fear, but a fear nonetheless.
Josselyn looked back at Balthazar and quirked an eyebrow at his sudden suggestion but nodded her agreement nonetheless. She walked over to the bowl and picked it up, carrying it over to the sink. She cleaned it, dried it, and then made her way over to the shelf where they were stored and placed it back in its spot. Josselyn began to pick up random books and set them into neat piles wherever she could find space. After a while, she felt her stomach grumble.
"Do you want me to go get some food from the kitchen?" she asked, knowing Balthazar wouldn't eat unless she brought food for him. For being such a gifted apprentice of Merlin, it was odd to see the simple things he forgot.
"Yes, that would be great," he said absently as he put all of the unused herbs in their proper places. How he could tell they were the right spots was foreign to anyone but him. He had noticed his stomach was gurgling, but it wasn't until she pointed it out that he realized exactly how hungry he had been. "Whatever you can find is fine," he added quickly before she left.
Josselyn nodded to what he said and made her way down to the kitchen quickly. The chef seemed to know that she's be coming because there were two plates set out already and a flask of water. She smiled and thanked the cook before making her way up to the study. She heard someone call her name and turned to see Veronica slowly making her way down the opposite set of stairs.
"He forgot to eat again?" she asked, motioning to the plates in Josselyn's hands.
"Yes. He may be able to do amazing spells and quote ancient texts, but he always forgets to eat," she replied, smiling at the woman. "How have you been? I had heard you weren't feeling well because of a misused spell from one of the novices," Josselyn asked. Veronica smiled and shook her head.
"I'm better now. Thank you for asking. But I won't hold you up any more," she said and then continued on her path toward the dining room. Josselyn continued up the stairs and slowly made her way into the room, balancing both dishes while avoiding the piles of books.
"Balthazar? I really think your next project should be creating a system of storing all these objects in," she said, calling out to him. Josselyn bit her lip as she stubbed her toe on an ancient Roman shield and carefully set down the plates before slowing rolling the heavy shield so it couldn't attack any more toes.
"'I'll consider it," Balthazar joked, a small smirk alighting on his face as he turned around and walked toward the plates, picking one up and beginning to eat. "That was awfully quick. Did he have the plates waiting for you again?" he asked. His forgetting to eat had become so routine that the chef was able to make food just as Josselyn came to retrieve it. Tonight, he did not disappoint; the food was still warm.
Josselyn nodded in reply, having already taken a bite of her food. After swallowing and taking a quick drink of water, she replied.
"Yes, as usual, the plates were already set out. I also happened to bump into Veronica on the stairs. She's feeling much better now after that spell mishap earlier in the week," she informed Balthazar, watching as he ate his food before taking another spoonful of her own.
Balthazar stiffened a little bit, but quickly hid it. "Yes, she told me she was feeling better. It's good that she's up and around again," he replied, eating his own food absently. There was a distinct silence that followed, whether from eating or the subject of discussion was unclear. Balthazar cleared his throat at one point just to break the silence as he set his empty plate down a few minutes later. "I'm going to retire for the night, Josselyn. I'll see you tomorrow," he said.
Josselyn looked up at Balthazar has he began to make his way out of the room.
"Goodnight Balthazar. I'll see you tomorrow morning then," she replied. She quickly gathered up the plates and made her way down into the kitchen and deposited them in the sink. After that she quickly made her way up the back stairs. Though she'd never admit it, the shadows the torches made in the night startled her a bit. As she turned down the corridor that led to her room, she heard whispering coming from Horvath's room. She looked curiously at the door for a few moments and tried to hear snippets of the conversation. As soon as the whispers started, however, they ended and Josselyn backed away from the door. She didn't want to seem like she was eavesdropping. She made her way into her chambers and settled herself down for the night. She quickly exchanged her green dress for a soft, white night gown and curled up under the sheets of her bed. She wondered what tomorrow would bring for her as she fell into a deep sleep.
Balthazar sighed as he went to his room. The tug and pull of the two women in his life was beginning to tire him, but at least they both got along well. The last thing he wanted to deal with was an argument between the two of them. It would require too much energy to ignore something like that. He gratefully opened the door to his room and walked inside, shutting the door behind him.
"Good evening, Balthazar."
The man whipped around, surprised by the voice. When he turned around, he saw Veronica sitting on the edge of his bed, looking as perfect as ever.
"Well, don't just stand there! Come, sit," she said calmly, patting the covers beside her. Balthazar complied, setting himself next to her and allowing her to plant a kiss on his cheek. At the sight of his expression, though, she became worried. "Balthazar, dear, is something wrong?"
He sighed again, the weight of his thoughts clearly draining him. "I'm fine," he assured her, taking her hand and bringing it to his lips. "I'm just tired, so I think I'll retire for tonight. Alone," he added, looking her in the eye. She smiled understandingly and stood, slipping her hand out of his grasp. "Goodnight then, my love," she whispered.
"Goodnight, Veronica," he replied, waiting until she was out of the room before collapsing onto his bed. He didn't know how much longer he could hide his conflict from her. As he drifted asleep, he wondered if there was any way he could get out of his predicament unscathed.
As the sun rose, Josselyn rose with it. She put on a red dress for the day, liking how the gold accents brightened the dress. She made her way into the kitchen and picked up breakfast for both her and Balthazar. He would probably have already started working on another new project in the study. As she went up the stairs, she felt a dark sense of foreboding at the back of her neck. Josselyn turned to see Horvath preparing to head out on a ride. He looked up at her and nodded before turning back to mount his horse. For some reason, Josselyn felt that there was something wrong. She shook the feeling and continued up the stairs to Balthazar's lab. As usual, the stacks of books hadn't moved, and she moved carefully in between the piles. She noted that the urn had been moved a bit close to the table and took a bit more care stepping around that object. She placed the plates on the table and looked around for her master. However, he wasn't in the room.
"That's odd," Josselyn remarked to herself as she looked around.
Balthazar walked up the stairs to his lab to find Josselyn already there. "Oh, good, I found you," he said when he was close enough to her. "Horvath, Veronica and I were called out on an errand today, so you're free to do as you wish," he said. Then he noticed the plates on the table. "Oh, sorry, I guess I should have told you earlier..."
Josselyn looked up at him in surprise, before tucking a loose strand of her auburn hair behind her ear.
"It's alright. I'll just work around the palace today and see if Merlin needs my help with anything. Do you have anything you need me to do?" she asked, looking at Balthazar.
He shook his head. "I don't have anything for you to do, so if you want to work around the castle, feel free. Or maybe Merlin has something for you to do," he suggested, looking out the window. "The sun is fairly high, now. I should be off." He looked carefully into the speckled eyes he'd grown accustomed to. "Just be careful," he said, not quite understanding why he said it.
Josselyn watched as he was leaving and then remembered what had occurred the night before.
"Balthazar!" she called out. She watched as he paused and turned to face her. "I heard voices coming from Horvath's room last night when I was heading to my chambers. And this morning, I just felt this weird vibe from him. I'm not sure if it means anything; I just wanted you to know. Take care of yourself too," Josselyn said with a smile.
Balthazar nodded, mulling over the words in his head. Could it just be that Horvath was jealous and projecting his hate onto her? "Don't worry, I will," he promised, and left the room.
Josselyn watched as Balthazar rode off with his two friends. She hoped that they would all be safe. She spent the morning trying to straighten up Balthazar's lab. She had lunch with Merlin and spent a few moments walking through the garden with him. His vast knowledge always awed Josselyn.
In the light of the setting sun, Josselyn was organizing the dishes and herbs that were left out across the tables in the lab. She was so focused in her work, she didn't hear the sounds of footsteps making their way toward the lab. As the door crashed open, she whirled around to find Horvath standing there.
"What did you tell them?" he demanded, stomping into the room. Josselyn looked at him confused.
"What are you talking about?" she asked, backing up to put some distance between her and the enraged sorcerer.
"You told Balthazar that you heard voices from my chambers last night. What did you hear?" he shouted, walking toward the frightened auburn. Josselyn summoned a fireball and threw it at him, but he deflected it easily.
"Not willing to tell me? Then this is the end," he said as he raised his staff. Josselyn's eyes widened and she fell to the ground as the plasma bolt connected with her chest.
Balthazar knew something was wrong the moment he entered the castle grounds. At first, he couldn't tell what struck his internal alarm, but then he noticed it: there were none of the usual guards stationed around the castle. Sure enough, when he and Veronica reached the gates, the guards had all been slaughtered.
Balthazar catapulted off of his horse and ran into the building, running immediately for Merlin's office. What on Earth had happened?
Balthazar was in shock, the look of battle still fresh on his face. Horvath had betrayed them and brought Morgana straight to them. Now not only had they killed Merlin, but in order to stop Morgana, Veronica had locked both the witch and herself in the Grimhold. To make matters worse, Horvath had gotten away. Balthazar felt empty inside. How could this have happened? Why didn't they see it coming? The pain was unbearable.
Wait, there was still a glimmer of hope. He hadn't found Josselyn; maybe she was still alive! His energy renewed, Balthazar rushed towards the lab, hoping against hope that he wouldn't be the only survivor.
His lab was in shambles. The books he had stacked neatly on the floor were now in complete disarray, scattered all over the floor. Among them, making his heart sink, was a body. A woman with auburn hair.
"Josselyn!" he cried, rushing to her side and kneeling next to her. He didn't even have to check. She was gone.
"Josselyn," he whispered, taking her hand in his. He pressed it to his lips, doing for her in death what he hadn't had the courage to do in life. Now he'd lost his chance. He was completely alone.
The man cried then. Cried for his master and his lover who sacrificed herself that he might win, for all the people who died and the friend he lost to jealousy, but mostly he cried for a friend. A friend that helped him through everything and could have been so much more.
That was the day he swore vengeance. He would have his revenge, and he would chase after the one thing that might have survived that day: Veronica.
Hopefully you enjoyed the first chapter of Decent! Don't worry, it doesn't end here! I hope to have the second chapter up by the end of the week, but I'm also working on three other stories before I leave to start work, so it may take a bit. But if this is well-received, it will inspire me to get these chapters out faster! ^^