there? Bird-watching?

'Do you really need another?' Cassian asked, casting an eye at the table Tennora had been using for her research. Books lay open on still more open books, hanging over every edge. 'You have nearly the whole library there.'

Tennora smiled nervously. 'Well, there are a lot of references and

… I just like books?'

He smiled back. 'You certainly do. Master Halnian sent me. He wants to have a word with you. He's in his study.' Cassian looked at the mountain of books. 'He sounded urgent.'

'I'll just… clean them up later,' Tennora said. 'Thank you. For telling me.' Before he could answer, Tennora rushed out of the library.

Bloody Sune's spit, she thought, pressing a cool hand against her face. Why did he make her act like she had all the social graces of a hobgoblin? Tennora knew she was pretty enough, knew she had plenty of interesting things to say-yet when faced with Cassian… she might as well be a hobgoblin.

In the hallway, she passed another student, an elf girl called Shava carrying a tray of used glasses and half- finished sweetmeats away from Master Halnian's study. Tennora stopped her.

'Is he upset?' she asked.

'Not a bit,' Shava said. 'He seems to be in a better mood than usual.' A weight came off Tennora's shoulders.

Remembering that feeling of relief, Tennora cringed.

The door to Master Halnian's study was open. Her master stood in front of a row of windows that faced the sea and was high enough in the tower to spy the gray edge of the water and catch the smell of the salt breeze if the windows were open. Shelves of books and strange artifacts lined two walls. Behind Master Halnian's divan he kept an array of particularly precious items behind glass-a sword with an amethyst in the hilt carved like a sleeping face, a crown made of silver bones, a collar set with a moonstone the size of Tennora's fist that Master Halnian had said was a piece of the Songdragon's armor from the Wailing Years. They all scintillated with waiting magic.

On the wall farthest from the windows, the symbol of the dead goddess still traced the stones-a ring of seven stars around a plume of red. As she often did, Tennora took a moment to study it, reverence in her memorization of the fading paint and chipped stones.

'Master Halnian?' Tennora said. 'You wanted to see me?'

The eladrin wizard turned abruptly. 'Tennora. Please sit,' he said with a smile. She slid into the chair opposite him.

'Tennora,' he said, taking a seat behind his desk. He said her name like a sigh. Tennora's heart squeezed-she was in trouble. She ran through the last tenday-nothing stood out. But the look of concern on Master Halnian's face was unavoidable.

'Tennora, there's no easy way to say this. I'm afraid I'm going to have to release you from your term of study,' he said.

The words struck her like a slap to the face. 'I–I'm sorry?'

'I don't believe this is the proper… path for you. I know you are very passionate about learning the Art,' he said. 'But I simply cannot condone keeping you here. You see, when Lord and Lady Hedare first brought you to me, I had thought… well, my dear, you have a certain grace in your physical movement. It does not translate to your casting.'

'What do you mean?' 'I mean that the practice of the Art should be like a dance, an opera, a synergy of motion and sound and magic. What we have left is fragile and fickle. It deserves care and focus. You, my dear-how shall I put it? You yank on the threads of the Weave as if they were leashes and the spells errant hounds.'

'But…' Tennora said. 'But isn't there anything I can do? I mean, I'm studying very hard-'

'Yes, yes,' Rhinzen said. 'You're a very intelligent girl. Very quick. But being clever is only a part of mastering the Weave.'

'Isn't that what you're supposed to be teaching me?' Tennora asked. 'I can sense it-I can-it's just that sometimes the spells don't quite work right. That happens to everyone.'

'You more than most,' Rhinzen said. 'I am glad to see your eyebrows have grown back, by the by.'

Tennora blushed. 'It wasn't so bad as all that.'

Rhinzen stood and paced behind her, studied his artifacts. 'The matter is simple, my dear. Some of us are gifted with an understanding of the Weave. And some of us are not. That is the way things are, and neither you nor I can change that any more than we can make ourselves dwarves!'

'But I… I know I can. I just need-'

'Waterdeep needs quality wizards. What would we have done if Ahghairon's spells didn't work quite right? Where would we be if the Songdragon's armor had been enchanted by mere amateurs?'

Exactly where we are now, a small voice in the back of Tennora's mind said. The Spellplague came, with or without you.

Out loud, she said, 'Master Halnian, I promise you I do not take this lightly. Give me another chance. Please. I have wanted to be a wizard all my life.'

'Tennora, please.' The eladrin set a hand on hers. 'Make certain you tidy the library before you leave.'

And that had been that. She was unsuited to the Art. She had wasted whole years trying. It didn't matter how much she wanted or tried or studied.

Master Halnian wouldn't take her back. Everything she'd loved, everything she'd studied for so long, had been pointless.

She thought of her fellow students-especially handsome Cassian. He'd go on to great things, probably marry some elf girl with no hips, Tennora thought bitterly. One who could cast a fire spell without burning anyone's eyebrows off.

She watched the rain fall and the clouds drift by, becoming darker and stormier with each passing sigh. It was as if her life had stopped.

Her stomach gurgled as if to remind Tennora that her life had not stopped and that she still had to figure out what she was going to do next. A meal, a pint, and some sympathy seemed like an excellent plan to start with, and Tennora rose from her seat to look out the window.

The view encompassed the square and its jumble of ancient and rebuilt architecture. People tended to forget anything was even there, sandwiched as it was between busier streets. Tennora adored it. The history of Waterdeep peeked out of every comer.

Where other areas of the city had been rebuilt with care, the street of the God Catcher made do with what it could, picking up bits and baubles from the ruins. A section of cobbles made from a fallen tower, the window arch still intact. A wall that jutted proudly between two buildings, surpassing and supporting them both. An ornate street lamp, just in front of the hearth-house, that hadn't been lit in a century.

Tennora squinted into the rain.

Under the street lamp, the madwoman waited.

Something about her made Tennora want to close the shutters and crawl back into bed. If Tennora went out, the madwoman would seize her, she felt sure. She might scream a banshee's scream, and then rip her Tennora shook her head. What in the Nine Hells was getting into her? She looked at the woman standing in the rain. Just a woman-she didn't even seem to carry a weapon. Though whatever she'd done earlier had clearly been some sort of spell…

The hearth-house-and a hope for capping off the dreary day with a better evening-waited beyond the dark street lamp and its mad sentinel. If Tennora moved quickly and kept her distance, she could probably avoid speaking to the woman at all. She was quick. She knew how to avoid people, how to slip by with a demure smile and be on her way. It wouldn't be difficult at all. She buckled her stormcloak and snuffed out the candles-and with them the concern lingering in the back of her mind.

Her staff rested in the comer by the door. Tennora let her fingers trace the hard lines of the wood grain.

She left it and slammed the door shut behind her.

Every step of the four flights it took to reach street level was punctuated by the sounds of children shouting, women and men laughing and arguing, the smells of a dozen suppers-and here and there conversations between neighbors about the madwoman screaming in the street.

Once she was out the door, Tennora crossed the square quickly, trying to keep her head down so the woman

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