Lilybeth sat, sobbing quietly, on one the multitude of low cushions she had strewn about her floor of the tower. At her lessons last week, she had misspoken a key phrase, resulting in an errant spark careening off across her Master’s sanctum. It should have been a spark, at least. Instead it was practically a fireball. It had manifested before her eyes and gone hurtling across the room, impacting an old tapestry that hung on one wall. The tapestry had gone up in flames and was ashes before either she or her Master could react.
Her Master, the sorcerer Kalithil, had merely stood and looked at the scorch mark where the tapestry had hung. He sighed and remarked, “You were supposed to be lighting a candle.”
“I know, Master, I’m sorry. Uh..I think I melted the candle too.”
“We have more candles. However, at this point, bandu, I will reiterate my opinion that perhaps elemental magics are not the right choice for you.”
“We’ll speak on it more later,” he said, looking thoughtful, “Lessons are over for now.”
“Yes, Master,” she said again, and fled downstairs. Since then, nearly a week, she had sat and waited for the axe to fall. Any moment, she thought, he will come down those stairs and tell me that I am no longer his apprentice. She had heard nothing, not a sound from his sanctum. Surely this was the end. It would be like every other time. No one put up with her for long. She was always too clumsy, or too talkative, or just messed something up. She sniffled, resolved to it. Perhaps it was time to just set aside her foolish dream. Maybe they were all right about her. Getting a determined expression on her tear-stained face, she sat up and retrieved her lapboard. Taking out a quill, she began to pen him a letter. Dearest Master, she thought wistfully, my latest accident has shown me that I must choose a new path…
She worked on the letter for some time, determined that it should be perfect. She was weighing the right word to use in her final farewell when she heard footsteps.
Oh, of course, she thought, that’s why it has been quiet up there, he teleported off somewhere. Maybe to make arrangements to get me out of here. Intent that she should at least bear this latest setback with some kind of dignity, she went back to her writing. With growing dread, she felt him approach. Despite her resolve to remain dignified, by the time the last footfall was heard right behind her, she was hunched over like a servant expecting the lash.
For tense moments, there was no sound or movement, then she heard a metallic tinkling sound. Without realizing, she had squeezed her eyes shut. She cracked them open to see something hanging before her. On a silver chain, a pendant hung a few inches in front of her eyes. Fine silver cagework enclosed a smooth, milky round gem. The silver-work was beautiful, but the gem at first seemed unimpressive. That is, until a shaft of light from one of her lanterns hit it, just so. When that beam of light struck, flecks and striations of green, blue, and violet lit up within the gem, transforming it. She sat utterly still, just staring at it, completely lost.
“Call it Cynosura,” came his resonate, slightly gravelly voice behind her, “It means The Focus.”
“W-what is this,” she asked tremulously.
“It will help you direct and manage your power, bandu.”
“Has your hearing deteriorated in my absence?”
Gulping, she answered, in what she hoped was a more confident voice, “No, Master. I am simply confused.”
“What confuses you?” Amusement colored his voice.
“This is…a very nice gift for someone who destroyed one of your tapestries.”
“The tapestry was hanging there when I took the tower for my own, bandu, it was nothing to me,” he said, chuckling lightly. “You, however,” he added, looping the chain around her neck and fixing the clasp, “are a very fine and promising student.”
Lilybeth’s eyes nearly rolled back in her head at his touch on the back of her neck. Stop it, idiot, she screamed in her own skull, he is just putting it on you! It is just for your studies! It doesn’t mean anything! Taking very deep breath, she squeaked out, “Thank you, Master.”
Patting her shoulder, turned and made his way up to his sanctum, saying, “Lessons resume tomorrow, bandu.”
Lilybeth sat at her desk, fingering the pendant for a long time. She eventually remembered the letter she had been writing. Thinking, I hope he didn’t see it, she grasped Cynosura and furrowed her brow. This time a spark danced from her fingers and consumed the pages she had written, exactly as she’d wanted.
“Much better,” she murmured.