The two distraught priestesses hammered with their young fists, on the heavy wooden door at the top of the temple stairs.
‘’Mother Donmari. Mother!’’ Sister Jillian shouted, her usual calm demeanor chased away by distress.
Sister Rachel stood beside her. She was trembling, her fear more than twice as intense as that of her colleague. It was forbidden to sleep while on watch. Tonight, Rachel had fought hard against slumber when she had felt her eyelids drooping, but as Jillian had been too busy writing to keep her awake with talk, she had lost the battle. Mother Donmari, ever vigilant, all-intuitive, would know this, and her disappointment would be unbearable.
‘’Knock again, Jillian.’’ whispered Rachel, though she dreaded the appearance of her kind Superior. ‘’She must be told, immediately.’’
But then the door opened and the dark, tousled head of Mother Donmari appeared, her eyes squinting against the candlelight.
‘’Ladies?’’ she murmured, her Celtic lilt a touch husky from interrupted sleep. ‘’It is not yet daybreak, surely?’’
‘’Mother, the Writer’s Block…’’ said Jillian. ''Its...its gone, stolen by a dark stranger.
‘’I’m sorry, Mother.’’ said Rachel, her head bowed. ‘’It’s all my fault. I fell asleep…’’
Mother Donmari looked from one to the other, her eyes concerned, then compassionate. She came forward and draped her arms gently around the shoulders of the two girls, then spoke – addressing both, but looking at Rachel, whose guilty tears were now sliding down her pale cheeks.
‘’Girls, girls. It was foretold that this would happen. A relic as precious as the Block was always vulnerable. Someone will come to help, to save it, and save us all. We will all learn and grow from this tragedy. Come! We must go for help, at once.''
A short time later, Mother Donmari and the two young Sisters made their way through the tangled forest at the back of the Temple of Protagopolis. They pulled their woollen cloaks tightly round them, against the chill of night. The sky was lightening in the East.
As they hurried along the rocky path, all three were watchful, turning their heads this way and that. There were many undesirables hereabouts: The Pirate Queen’s cohorts often held their ghastly orgies in these thick woods; her chief henchman, Redhat, and his servant, the crooked dwarf, Smac, were among the more dreadful.
But the one they most feared was … the Jonty. He could appear at any moment, after long absences during which the people felt it was safe to breathe again. His rapier-like wit was feared throughout the land of Protagopolis. He was known to possess fearsome powers of Dark Magic. It was said that he sent a spirit ahead of him, in the form of a clown. A clown who appeared to people and shouted a blood-chilling curse: ‘’The best to you – even terrible!’’ No-one who had set eyes on this clown, and heard his curse, had ever lived for more than one day afterwards.
It was almost full daylight when the three women reached their destination. It was a small cottage, overgrown with dark ivy. Mother Donmari peered through a murky window, then rapped on the door with her wooden staff.
The door opened and a woman peeped out.
‘’Ah, Baffs.’’ said Mother Donmari. ‘’Greetings to you! We respectfully request an audience with your Master, Seldom the Wise.’’