Uwin, the small man who would train Ladd to be a wizard, walked through the door that connected the grocery shop and the living quarters with a sack in his hands. He told the boy he was going to prepare their evening meal, then they were going to bed. They’d had a very long walk over the last two days from Ladd’s village of Farnsworth and tomorrow was the first day of Ladd’s apprenticeshp in wizardry and shopkeeping. Uwin felt he should get a good night’s rest.
Uwin went to the fireplace to cook and when he opened the sack, Ladd gasped. He had never seen such a feast. In the country, the peasants, like Ladd’s family, lived on wild meat. Since Uwin ran a grocery shop, he had access to meat like beef and lamb. In the sack, there was beef for dinner, which Ladd had never eaten. Uwin also had leeks and peas and even fruit. In his sack, he had strawberries. Uwin cooked the beef and fixed the leeks and peas together. He served them with a loaf of crusty bread. They had the strawberries at the end of their meal.
“Uwin, such good food. I’ve never eaten like this in my whole life,” Ladd remarked.
“There are benefits to being a grocer in the city, Ladd. Even in the country. You have access to better food because you have rich people like the Lords, or in the case of London, the Royals, who will buy from you.”
Ladd thought to himself that being a shopkeeper might not be so bad after all. Shortly, the two fell into their beds for the night.
Uwin woke Ladd up before dawn the next day. As Ladd was washing up, he asked Uwin what he would be doing that day. Uwin walked into the shop and simply told Ladd to meet him there wearing his oldest, dirtiest clothes. Puzzled, Ladd dressed and met Uwin in the shop. Uwin was getting the goods in the shop ready for the day.
“Ladd, today, you will clean the store. First, you will take all the meat that is hanging in the window out of the window. It has gotten old during my trip to your village. You will discard it in the back of the shop. We have a delivery of fresh meat due today, which you will hang in the window after you clean it. As you have time today, you will clean the shelves that the goods sit on. That will help you familiarize yourself with the products I sell. Most of the products are grocery products that everyone needs. Some of the products, most behind the counter, are specialized products for witches and wizards. You’ll gradually learn what they are and what they are used for. Do you understand my instructions?”
“Yes, Uwin, I do.”
“Let’s get to work. I will tell you when we can take a lunch break. If you have any questions, ask me.”
Ladd started hauling the meat out of the window and putting it behind the shop. It was raining, a cold spring rain in London. It was cold, wet work. When he got the last side of meat out to the back, he noticed a group of children standing back watching him. As he walked away, the children ran up to the meat and started dragging it away. He went back into the shop. Uwin wasn’t busy at that moment.
“Uwin, who are those children and why are they dragging away that meat?”
“Those are the orphan children that live on the streets of London. They take that meat to the place they live and the adults who also live on the street cook it,” Uwin replied.
“They don’t have any parents?” Ladd asked.
“Something has happened to their parents or they’ve been abandoned.”
Ladd didn’t say anymore, but he suddenly felt very lucky that he had his family and, now, Uwin. He began to clean out the window where the meat hung. It was hard, dirty work.
Ladd heard the door of the shop open. He felt a sudden chill come over him. It wasn’t from the cold weather. He’d never felt anything like it before. It was like his body was freezing into a statue. His eyes were drawn up and he saw a girl who was a little older than he was. She had on a long brown, wool tunic with brown hair wrapped around her head in a braid. Their eyes locked and for the first time in Ladd’s life, he felt the flickering of his powers as a wizard. Something magical passed between them. They knew each other and Ladd realized not only did he have magical powers, but she did too. They stared at each other for a moment and it was she who broke the connection. Shaking her head, she walked to the grocery counter where Uwin stood watching both of them.
The magical girl knew Uwin. They greeted each other by name as Ladd watched. Ladd heard Uwin call her Joyful.
Joyful went about the business of picking out some grocery items as Ladd watched. Some flour, beans, onions, and turnips. Then, she went to Uwin and finished her order by adding some items from behind the counter. Ladd couldn’t see what they were, but he knew he would ask Uwin later. As Joyful left the shop, she dropped her eyelids and didn’t look at Ladd again.
As Ladd worked in the shop, he felt different after his encounter with Joyful. He had so many questions. Was he becoming a wizard? How did it happen? What just happened with Joyful? He would talk with Uwin.
It got too busy in the shop for Ladd to do much thinking. He kept feeling flashes of that same chill within him that he felt when Joyful had walked into the shop. He felt like her presence had somehow changed him.
That afternoon, there were meat deliveries. Women brought in eggs to sell to Uwin. There were deliveries of the staples in barrels like flour, cornmeal, and beans. In between deliveries, Ladd kept on cleaning. He and Uwin only had time to grab a piece of dried meat for lunch that day.
Dusk came and Uwin closed the shop. Even though Ladd was tired, the day had flown for him. He had learned a lot about the products Uwin sold in the shop, both food products and hardware. The shop had been busy all day. It was the neighborhood grocery and Uwin had been closed for a few days while he came to fetch Ladd. People from the neighborhood were catching up on their shopping. After the shop closed, Uwin and Ladd went back to the living quarters and Uwin cooked their dinner. They discussed how much Ladd had learned that day about the shop, its products, and being a shopkeeper. While they were eating, Ladd decided to share his experience when Joyful came into the shop with Uwin.
“Uwin, do you remember when that girl came into the shop early this morning? You called her Joyful.”
“Oh yes. Joyful shops here regularly. What about it?” Uwin asked.
“Something strange happened to me when I saw her, Uwin.”
Uwin’s head snapped up and he peered intensely at the boy.
“What happened, Ladd?”
“When she walked in the shop, I felt a chill in my bones. I got so cold I felt I would freeze solid. We looked at each other and something odd happened between us. I can’t explain it, but it was like we knew each other.”
Uwin leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“I’m sorry that happened without you being prepared, Ladd. I wanted you to have more time here before I had to tell you this.”
“Tell me what, Uwin?”
“Finish your dinner, Ladd. Then I have a story to tell you.”
Ladd finished his dinner as Uwin paced around the room with Cat on his heels. It was like Cat already knew the story and was worried.
After the boy had eaten, Uwin told him to get comfortable and he would tell him a story.
“A long time ago, Ladd, in the days of the old King, William the Conquerer, there was a witch, a beautiful witch, who was a member of his court. Some thought William was a great King. Others did not. Your great-grandmother, through a series of events that are not important now, ended up serving at his pleasure. She was a secret member of his court, but not a well-kept secret. He depended on her greatly.
Ladd interrupted Uwin.
“What did my great-grandmother do? Which side of my family was she on? You said she was a witch?”
Uwin continued, “She was your mother’s grandmother, Ladd. She had tremendous powers. Her name was Eleanor and she will always be remembered in England. Eleanor had a daughter, Elizabeth, who was also a witch, but Elizabeth did not practice witchcraft. Your mother, Knowledge, was born of Elizabeth.”
“Is my mother also a witch, Uwin?” Ladd asked.
“Knowledge has the power of a witch, Ladd, but she has never practiced witchcraft. Do you now see why the Grand Wizard choose you to be the wizard for your village? You have a history of sorcery and, apparently you also have the power or you wouldn’t have reacted to Joyful today. This is a good thing, my boy. You will be easy to train as a wizard.”
That night, Ladd sat awake on his cot for a long time. It was all too much to take in. Since a wizard was his calling, he had to take this in and fast. He missed his family. They would have helped him.
Uwin also was awake for a long time that night. He’d had to give Ladd too much information too soon. He hoped the boy was mature enough to handle it.
Copyright Rosemary Carlson 2019