"We just need to make sure that the herbs and crystals will arrive in time, pay the caterer, and make sure Kya doesn't change her mind, then we should be all set." I said into my phone, reassuring our current Mother Witch that our full moon plans were where they should be. This was the fourth phone call with Terra in less than a day. Kya was very nervous, and I'd had to alter the plans almost every day over the last week. It was driving me mad! I understood it, don't get me wrong, but trying to get Kya to stick to a plan was proving to be the hardest thing I'd had to do recently. "Yes, I've spoken to the Elders, they should be arriving first thing in the morning. Yes, they are aware. Of course, Terra. I'll speak to you tomorrow morning." As I put the phone down, I felt a soft buzzing of energy coming from outside my office door. It was Marla, so I call out "Come in, I'm off the phone."

"Was that Terra?" Marla asked as she opened the door. She took the seat opposite me, laying a colourful array of crystals on the table.

"Yes, it was," I replied, shoulders falling in exhaustion. "She was checking where we're at with the ceremony plans." I sighed, the feeling of stress starting to settle on my chest again. "Hopefully Kya won't make any more dramatic changes, and we'll get through this without too many hiccups." I didn't sound convinced, and I wasn't sure how Marla was so calm about everything. But that was one of her many gifts, I supposed. Taking anything negative and somehow transforming it into something beautifully positive and radiant. I needed some of that right now.

"Does she know about the wards?" Marla asked me, her voice strained and not holding it's usual gentleness. My heart sank even lower.

"No, she doesn't." My voice betrayed how tense I felt. I picked up two of the stones that were in front of me, not noticing which ones they were, but their energies called to me, a clear sign that I needed their magical help. "And I hope that it doesn't come to that. She has a lot on her plate at the moment, not just with Kya's ceremony, so I'm trying not to add to that. I'd like to try and sort this one of myself. I've asked Palma to find out which ward was breached, and to see if she can identify what crossed it." Palma was the best spell caster in our coven, and she trained the witches who maintained the wards around the mansion. She knew everything there was to know about them, and was the best shot we had at solving this problem before tomorrow.

"As you wish." Marla dipped her head in respect, but her voice said she didn't agree. She didn't have to agree, though, she just had to follow my lead. "I'm sure Palma will figure out what happened. Shall I put together any herbs or crystals to put around the wards?" In the same way Palma was the best caster, Marla was by far the best I'd ever seen at putting together potions and talismans, physical spells usually made up of different crystals, herbs or oils. Sometimes a talisman was more potent than a spell, or the combination of a spell and a talisman made magic a lot more permanent, so it was always good when Marla was around to offer her help.

"If you could, that would be much appreciated." I took a moment to look at my friend, taking in her appearance. Her hair was greying, a sign of her age, as were the many lines around her eyes and cheeks. She wore her usual colourful clothing, which normally brought a smile to the faces of our fellow witches, but today, the light that normally radiated from her blue eyes was absent. I frowned, trying to get a feeling of Marla's energy, but she was closed off from any reading, so I didn't probe. As the next Mother Witch, I had the ability to read the thoughts and emotions of anyone in my coven, but it was a choice we all made to only do this in extreme circumstances. It invaded privacy so much, and was not the best way to maintain trust. "Tell me what's on your mind, Marla." I asked. I got the sense something was niggling away at her, and my instincts wanted to make her feel better.

"I had a vision last night," Marla closed her eyes and drew a deep breath, and I could feel her drawing strength to try and centre herself. A small tear fell down her cheek, which she tried to brush away quickly. I felt the squeeze of sadness in her, and I put a hand over hers to show her I was here to support her, nothing else. When she had collected her emotions, she opened her eyes and looked at me, fear and heartbreak vying for dominance in them. "I'm not sure on the time scale, or who exactly it will affect, but it was clear in one thing; someone will leave us. I get the feeling it's one of the young ones." More tears fell, and Marla opened her mind to me, letting me see her vision. Despair and heartbreak swamped me, threatening to drown me as I relived the vision, felt the anguish and the betrayal radiating from the witch whose face I could not see, as they turned to leave the coven. I pulled out of the vision, no longer able to handle the emotional pain. I understood the emptiness in Marla's eyes. I tried to look at her face, tried to see what she was currently feeling, but there were too many tears flowing down my cheeks. I stood up and walked around the table, pulling Marla into a hug, trying to draw any strength from the magic that thrummed through the air all around our mansion. I reached down into my reserves, pulling on any and all positive energies I had left, and channelled them into my friend, hating to see her in so much pain.

"I'm so sorry, Marla," I whispered into her hair,trying to imbue my words with a magical calm that wasn't coming naturally to either of us at the moment. "I will stand with you until this comes to be. You have my word and my support, but I ask yours in return." I stepped back, putting space between me and Marla. "I will tell Terra, when the time is right. Until then, I will wear this burden. Terra will then inform the elders, and we will decide what to do from there. For the time being, I ask that you not speak of this, unless it is to me, or Terra if you feel you absolutely must. We still have Kya's full moon ceremony to focus on, and we need to put all our energy into that." I drew on my magic, shaping it into the command I needed it to follow, then pushed it into Marla. My heart almost shattered at her gasp, surprised I would bind this conversation. She wouldn't feel the pain of the vision until I removed the spell, and she would be able to think about other things without being consumed by such a powerful vision. I hated forcing it upon her, but it was something I had to do.

"As you wish," came the whisper from my friend, causing fresh tears to roll down my face. I hoped she understood why I bound her, but it didn't make it any easier to do.