“Ladd, come along, we’ll be late. They are lighting the balefire for Wizard tonight,” Mercy said.
“That old goat,” replied Ladd, Mercy’s older brother. “I didn’t like him anyway. The way he crept around, watching all of us. Making his silly predictions.”
“Oh, Ladd, hush,” Mercy cried. “Wizard is powerful. We dare not say things like that. Come, let’s run. We must get to the funeral. Mama is waiting and will be angry with us.”
Ladd and Mercy set off from their hut in the village through the woods toward the funeral pyre. The people of the village were all frightened. They didn’t know that wizards could die. After a session in the street when Wizard was making a series of predictions for his people, he suddenly crumbled and dropped to the dirt. The people left him there for three days. They thought he would rise again. Finally, the medicine woman who served the village examined Wizard and determined that he was dead.
There was much weeping and wailing among the people of the village. They had never heard of a wizard dying and they thought they had done something wicked to cause it. The men started building a funeral pyre outside of the village. The women prepared Wizard’s body, including Knowledge, Ladd and Mercy’s mother.
Knowledge told the children that she had heard from the other women that one of Wizard’s predictions was going to come true. The Grand Wizard from the King was coming to the village to talk to the people. She didn’t know when the visit would take place, but she was very uneasy about it.
Within a few days, the funeral pyre was ready for the balefire to be lit and for Wizard’s funeral to take place. Knowledge told Ladd and Mercy it would be that evening and they were expected to be there. She and the other women had to accompany Wizard’s body.
When Ladd and Mercy reached the funeral pyre, the balefire had been lit and was beginning to burn high. The people were standing back. They were fearful of what a balefire meant for a wizard.
Then, someone appeared from the shadows. Everyone gasped. It was the Grand Wizard sent from the King. He roared as he stood in front of the funeral pyre. He said that a wizard would be dispatched from the kingdom to the village to train someone to take Wizard’s place. The people of the village all looked at each other, wondering who would be the chosen one that would be trained.
The Grand Wizard raised his arms to the sky and a lightning bolt struck the ground right next to Ladd. The Grand Wizard declared that Ladd was the chosen one and that he should prepare himself for training to be the next wizard. Knowledge swooned and fell to the ground. Ladd stood there in shock, not knowing what to do. He didn’t want to be the wizard, but he was struck dumb.
The Grand Wizard disappeared, leaving the people of the village to the funeral and Ladd and his family to absorb the news. Mercy, standing off to the side, contemplated the trouble that would likely follow.