Dan had tried to at least doze as they traveled but the cart was so uncomfortable that he could not even manage that. The man did not seem to tire at all even though he was walking most of the way. Dan could see the bridge entrance and the many swords men waiting for them on the other side.
“You’ll have to be unconscious when we travel through. I only get paid if you are alive and easily handled.”
Dan had been knocked out and forced asleep more than enough times already. He began to fight and flail, ignoring the electricity that coursed through his tired body. Adrenaline and fear made pain and weariness easy to push aside. Still, the strain the struggle put on his body could not be ignored forever.
Dan’s struggles began to slow and the man was able to wrap his arms around Dan and hold him immobile. Dan kicked the man on his shins twice but the hold he had on Dan never lessened. The man grunted with pain for several of Dan’s vicious kicks.
“You’ll regret this, boy!” The man chanted three words and Dan was instantly thrown into unconsciousness.
Dan returned to consciousness slowly. Memories returned to him in flashes. He knew that he was in a different world and that his captor had brought him here for a different captor… a new captor who seemed to have a plan.
Dan looked around him and saw that he was in a small room but he was not alone in the small room. Thick bars with strange symbols etched on them separated him from a red-haired man who was watching him.
“Glad to see that you are awake, young inventor... or are all your talents in magic and not science?” Dan’s face paled and his heart beat faster… this man knew who he was!
“Have we met before?” Dan asked sarcastically. “I don’t know you.”
“You may not know me but I know all about you, Dan. I am Raven and I asked our friend to bring you here.”
“Why do you want me here?”
“I think you already know the answer to that. I know who you are and what you can do, Dan.”
“Just give me a straight answer!” Dan tried to hide the desperation from his voice but he could hear that he failed in his attempt. The man – Raven, Dan remembered – smiled cruelly.
“You will lead me to a very specific bridge, Dan. Your new invention, combined with your knowledge, can get me across more than bridges.”
“I remember how this works. Somehow at the end of this scheme of your’s the world will be run by you. Me and mine will still be at the bottom of the run. Why would I help you do that?”
“I’d like to think that you’ll join me without coercion but I do have insurance just in case.”
“You think you can bribe me to help you?”
“I don’t think anything, Dan. I know you’ll join me to save your friend. Nothing else would do, of course.”
“What do you mean? He said that Alice would not be hurt if I did not make a sound! You can’t threaten her life for any and every thing!” Dan’s face flushed in anger before his sentence as finished. His heart beat hard against his ribs at the mere thought of Alice in danger. She had already faced so much because of him. He could not bear the thought of seeing her go through more on his account.
“The girl will be joining us but it is not her I speak of. The girl’s brother is under the belief that my associates and I have his wife. He will do anything we ask if there is a chance that he can get her back.”
“You tricked him! You think that this will not only make me lead you to a bridge but also convince Alice to come to you than you’re wrong!”
Raven’s icy façade seemed to crack at Dan’s words. The man struggled to hold his temper in check and his voice shook with effort.
“You should hope that the girl agrees to come. I hate to think about Hamish would do to her.”
“The man who brought you here,” Raven explained. “I would have to send him to go get her if she refused. You know how persuasive his methods are.”
Anger gave way to hate. Raven was only hinting at threats but he had no bout that Raven was serious. “Don’t you touch her! You or that awful man!”
“I doubt such tactics will be needed. We do have her brother after all. Besides, I would think that the two of you would want to help me. I am one of you after all.”
“What do you mean, ‘one of us’?”
“I am a magic-user myself, Dan; a sorcerer and a warlock. I live in a village of magic users but the emperor made magic illegal – he was jealous of us, of course – and sent an army to the village. No one resisted but many died. The army killed my parents and any other adult in the village but they could not stomached killing children. Now is the time for my family’s revenge. Our honor shall be restored!”
“You have no honor! You’re just going to threaten a girl and lie to a kind man?”
Raven breathed out a heavy sigh. “I should not have expected one so young to understand how the world works. I could offer you the world to help me but you are too naïve to accept the gracious offer. Instead you will make your friends suffer.”
“You’re making them suffer; not me!”
“You are the only one who can make their suffering stop and you won’t… all this is your fault.”
“I am not like you. I cannot hurt people just to make life easier. If my friends were here they would be asking me to do it!” Dan’s words angered Raven and forced him to lose the calm facade he had put on. He lunged at the hurt Dan and had his hands around the boy’s neck in no time at all.
“Think about your words before you speak, boy! Think about what your pride will do to the ones you love…”
The man released his hold on Dan’s throat but kept him pinned to the ground. “You can’t kill them,” Dan almost pleaded. “You need them.”
“I only need them if they are useful. I am not like your friend the Mayor. He changed plans so that he could use as many people as possible. Changing plans and making things over-complicated lead to his downfall.” The man pinning Dan gave an evil smile. “My plans are simple and tight. There is no tomb for you and your friends to wiggle out of it!”
The man’s outburst startled Dan. He thought about the man’s questionable sanity and about his friends. This mad man had Timothy and he was working to get Alice. Dan knew that he had to get them away from him.
“I’ll do what you say,” Dan whispered. “But only if you leave Alice and her brother out of this. If I am as powerful a sorcerer as you say I am than we will not need them anyway.”
“I am afraid that it is not that simple, Dan.”
“You just said that your plans were simple,” Dan protested. “If this doesn’t work just make them simpler.”
The man laughed and waved his hand. Dan felt roots wrap around him from the ground and trap his arms and legs.
“You and I, Dan, we are the same. You are still learning what you are but I will help you and then you and I will stop all the injustices that have followed our kind.”
“I told you that I would do what you wanted! Just let Alice and Timothy go. Please! Just don’t hurt them!”
“I see that you are taking my words seriously. That is good. I was not exaggerating the truth. These things will happen weather you help or not but things will go better for your friends if you help willingly.”
“How can I help them if we are all prisoners?”
“Oh there are many things that I could force you to become. Believe me, Dan, there are worse things than prisoners.”