“Who are the wizards?” I demanded, thumping the staff against the ground to emphasize my words.

Hamol looked shocked. “I don’t know their names.”

“Describe them!” Panic was edging into my voice.

Hamol jumped down from the tree, but kept her distance. “An old man and a young one.”

I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “Ah,” I breathed a sigh of relief. “Some wizards mean to harm me. They killed my master.” I looked at the bundle Carves-the-Foundation was carrying.

Hamol let out a gasp. “I… I’m sorry. Wait here, I will find out more,” she said then ran down the hill to the village before I could say anything.

“I didn’t think about this,” I said, fighting back tears. “There will be other wizards traveling. It could be dangerous.”

“Do you worry about those wizards she described?”

“I don’t think so.” Men, probably safe.

“Let us wait for Hamol. I trust her.”

Anxiety bubbled in my stomach, threatening to displace my breakfast. My breath caught in my throat and tried to choke me. I hated the brief relief I felt at learning the wizards were male. I hated that I feared female wizards.

A cry interrupted my thoughts. I turned around to see a thin figure in a colorful robe running up the hill. I recognized the face and ran down toward him.

“Cloud’s Reflection!”

He ran into me, his arms wrapped around me and embraced me tightly. “Oh, sad reunion! The girl, she asked my name. I cast a spell and found another wizard. I feared it was you.”

I buried my face in his robe as tears came unbidden. The memories of last time we saw each other tore into fresh wounds.

His grip loosened and he lifted his hand to wipe away his own tears. “What happened to Starwise?”

“Some spell they cast on him. It killed him. I could not undo it.”

“A fool I was! I should have checked. But, if you could not undo the spell, then surely I would not be able to do anything.”

I nodded and looked back up the hill to Carves-the-Foundation who was moving down the hill with the fur-wrapped bundle.

“I need to burn the body. The ritual…” I started.

Cloud’s Reflection nodded. “I know it. I know where the leaves and roots grow around here. Go, rest, have my son prepare the tree wood. We will do it tonight.”

“Thank you.”

“You gave me strength through your kindness. I wish we met again in happier times, but I can repay you in a small way.”

“It was nothing.”

“No. It was important to me. But, one thing you must decide soon.” He pointed to the staff I held. “You are no longer the apprentice, but the wizard. You need a name.”

“My name is Dorua, the same as my parents gave me.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “You do not believe name has power?”

“I knew his name,” I pointed to the bundle. “And never could I best Mhorik in a magical fight.”

Cloud’s Reflection nodded. “You are strong. I am surprised, but not. Go then, Dorua. I will collect the herbs and we will send Starwise to the other world tonight.”

I turned toward the village and saw Hamol standing to the side.

“He just ran when I asked him his name!” she started.

“Do not worry. I know him from before. He and his son are friends.”

She was visibly relieved to hear that. “Let us go to the village. I will show you where his son is.”

In the village, we put the body in the hut Cloud’s Reflection was staying in. Cloud’s Reflection’s son listened to Hamol and ran off to collect wood as I instructed. I sat outside the hut, mentally exhausted, when Carves-the-Foundation joined up with me. We sat in friendly silence while the village moved all around us. I was offered food a few times and I ate sparingly. Cloud’s Reflection returned and showed the herbs he had collected. They were precisely what the ritual needed.

Near the center fire, the villagers built a careful stack of wood. As dusk approached, Cloud’s reflection came to me. “We should begin.”

I nodded. Carves-the-Foundation went inside the hut and brought the body out. We approached the stacked wood and lifted Mhorik’s remains onto the flat top of the stack.

I went through with the ritual. I waved the staff, I chanted the words, I smashed the roots with stones and poured the pulp on the wood. I tore the leaves and sprinkled them around the body. When the sun had set, I placed a fiery brand against the furs and let them burn.

The fire burned high and bright, brighter than I had ever seen. Perhaps the brightness was an indication of Mhorik’s power, I thought. I cherished my memories of Mhorik as I went through this last ritual for him.

I slept soundly that night in the hut with Cloud’s Reflection and his son. It was good to be near friends.

“I wish I could stay longer,” I said the next morning as I collected some of the ashes into a pouch. “But, I need to get back to my village. I have so much to do.”

“I understand,” Cloud’s Reflection said. “I wish we could spend a more happy time, but let us say that is for the future.”

I felt a genuine smile appear on my face. “I would like that.” I explained where my village was, and told him to visit sometime.

Carves-the-Foundation and I set off early that morning after we said our goodbyes. I left some of Mhorik’s items behind for Cloud’s Reflection to take care of, a promise that we would meet again.

The next two days, the travel was smooth as we left the foothills. A weight had been lifted. I missed Mhorik, but the ritual was done and I took on my new role as a wizard.

Carves-the-Foundation and I talked about the area, and I learned more about the Korodan from his stories. How they used to travel around, how they used to follow humans, how they made friends with many in the aera. I fell into a regular pattern of travel, talking, meals, and sleep.

That pattern was broken one evening while looking for a place to camp for the night. We rounded a curve in the path and saw a large beast in our way I fell backward in surprise, holding my staff before me in defense.

The beast stood up on its hind legs and bared its teeth at me.

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