As she braided Awena’s hair, Mother Venetia shivered. Their undyed wool robes were not warm enough for the freezing dungeon.
“I’m so cold, Mother!” Awena cried.
“I know, child.” Venetia rubbed the young novice’s arms to warm her. She and Awena were two of hundreds locked up due to Father Shylah’s edict. How the Lundian high priest had got the king to ban and imprison female members of the clergy, Venetia couldn’t imagine. Perhaps the rumors were right, and the king had lost his mind.
It was so cold she could see her breath, but Venetia shivered for another reason. Tonight was the night of the new moon, the night all priestesses throughout Korth would perform the ritual to keep the Ancient Evil contained behind the shield of Armunn’s soul. Since her village of Balley Beg was closest to the source of that evil, Mother Venetia’s role in the ritual had always been pivotal. This would be the third month in a row she’d been unable to play her part, and because of the mass imprisonment of Korthian priestesses, she was hardly the only one absent. Prophesies spoke of a day when Armunn’s shield would fail. She feared the weakened ritual might well lead to such a time.
She abruptly stopped braiding as she felt warm tingling through the soles of her shoes.
Awena grabbed Mother Venetia’s arm. “What is it, Mother?”
“It’s Mother Bensaggyrt. She’s sending a call through the earth for all of us to gather.”
“Why would she do that? That will only make it easier for the Royal Guard to arrest more of us!”
Mother Venetia shook her head. “I don’t know, child.” But she could think of only one reason. Had the ancient prophesies come true and evil been loosed to ravage Korthlundia again?