Sun was rising above the four turrets of the Temple of Balance. The temple was clearly visible from a large distance as it was placed on the top of the highest hill in the Tiverhame Heights.
The cold wind was blowing through its central yard when Sister Artemise opened the door and stepped forward; she just awoke and headed towards the refectory. Sister Artemise was an experienced witch and she had been assigned important missions in the past.
“Sister Artemise, the Grandmaster Cassandra wants to meet you immediately,” a young novice ran across the yard and bowed in front of her.
“Thank you, novice,” Sister Artemise nodded and turned to the right to the sanctuary. The Grandmaster’s private rooms were located directly behind the sanctuary.
The Temple of Balance was the seat of the Deep Justice Order. Deep Justice Order was a religion-based community of female witches. Its main goal was justice and its agents lived in the neighboring kingdoms. The temple itself didn’t belong to any of the surrounding countries and it was like an independent land. However, most of the kingdoms supported it and they got peace and prosperity in return. The Order’s agents were able to discover any plots against the rulers as well as any attempts to abuse the young and unexpected rulers.
Of course, the Order’s activity was quite uncomfortable for those who were struggling for power in the kingdoms in an illegal way. The most powerful enemy was the Grey Wolf Front. The order was a real thorn in their side and the Grandmaster Norward kept hunting Order’s agents and many of them got captured and escorted to the Southern Lands where they were sold to slavery. The Grey Wolf wizards knew how to disarm the Order’s witches. However no one of the Order’s witches came back from slavery to explain what exactly had happened.
Sister Artemis knocked on the door of Grandmaster’s private room.
“Come in, sister,” she heard Grandmaster’s voice and opened the door.
“You called me, Grandmaster.”
“Yeah, sister. I’m afraid we are in serious trouble.”
“Our agent in the Beslenad Kingdom hasn’t replied to my letters for almost half a year. According to the last reports King Raymond the 4-th died and his son Lambert the 2-nd ascended the throne. However Lambert is young and naive and his counselors could mislead him. If we don’t act quickly, Lambert will declare war against his neighbors.”
“What do you expect, Grandmaster?”
“Go to the Beslenad Kingdom and find Cliona. She should live in Nyshamm, the capital of the Beslenad Kingdom. Even if you don’t find her, you should use your magic and contact the young King. He should learn about his treachery counselors.”
“I’ll do my best, Grandmaster.”
“I hope so; you are an experienced witch and you have accomplished several important missions already. Anyway, I have an extra request for you. You will take an apprentice with you. Our apprentices need experience.”
“When should I set off?”
“As soon as possible. A caravan bound for Uppstad will arrive today about lunchtime and you will reach Uppstad in about two days. You can stay overnight there and another caravan bound for Nyshamm will reach Uppstad the next day.”
Sister Artemisa nodded and headed back to the door when Cassandra stopped her:
“Sister, be careful. The Grey Wolf wizards probably would know about your mission and they would try to capture you.”
Artemisa wasn’t enthusiastic about the fact that Grey Wolf wizards already knew about the mission but she could expect it. A cold chill ran down her spine if she remembered all Order witches that had disappeared. However it wasn’t any reason to refuse the mission; she only had to be more careful and pick the right apprentice.
Although the apprentices weren’t as powerful as the witches, they still were useful. Moreover, the apprentices needed experience and the only way was the missions.
Later at the refectory, Artemisa was sitting, eating breakfast and watching the apprentices. There were eleven apprentices sitting at the neighboring table and Artemisa had to pick the right one. Four of the apprentices had attended a mission already, three were novices and the remaining four had undergone the basic training only.
The decision was quite difficult; the novices without the basic training were not allowed to take part in missions but she still had eight of them left.
Daire, a young girl with blue eyes and innocent look, caught her eye. Daire just finished the basic training and she almost failed at the final tests but there was something in her look that attracted Artemisa’s attention.
“Daire,” Artemisa turned to the young apprentice, “You will accompany me in the upcoming mission.”
“It would be an honor for me, sister,” Daire jumped up quickly and bowed in front of Artemisa.
“Get ready and we’ll meet in half an hour in the yard.”
“Are you serious? She hardly was able to pass the final tests,” Grandmaster Cassandra was surprised by Artemisa’s choice.
“Grandmaster, she needs experience just like any other apprentice and I’m sure she would help me. Trust my instinct please.”
“Okay; after all it is your mission, your choice and your risk.”
Half an hour later Artemisa and Daire met in the yard. They were wearing plain dresses and each of them was carrying a small bag with her entire possessions and food for the first days. Of course, they were wearing their magic wands.
The Order’s witches were able to cast spells using words, gestures and magic wands. The spells included mind reading, telepathic communication, mind control, telekinesis and combat spells for both attack and defense. Novices needed their magic wands to perform almost every spell but advanced witches needed the wands for the most powerful spells only. Every witch was trained to make her magic wand invisible to everyone else.
Grandmaster Cassandra was waiting for Artemisa and Daire and she provided them last advice and encouragement before their mission. Daire was excited but she also was getting worried; she had the very first mission ahead.