It's a cold and rainy August evening, and Wart is in a horrible mood. He's so over it and pretty much hates everyone and everything today.
Unfortunately, the feeling is pretty much mutual. No one (including the Dog Boy, so that's pretty bad) wants to let the Wart play their reindeer games.
Even Merlyn is in a nasty mood. He picks at Wart for wanting to get his "eddication" on just because there's nothing else to do.
What Wart really wants is to be turned into a hawk, but Merlyn isn't really down with that, since (according to him), it's not time yet.
To get back at Merlyn a bit, Wart doesn't tell Merlyn when he knits his long beard into the cap he's making. That'll show him, Wart!
Merlyn decides to turn Wart into a hawk, but only to allow him to stay in the Mews for one night, to overhear the birds' conversation and learn something that way. It's just too rainy for Wart to be flying around outside.
Apparently, hawks like to talk about military strategy and food, so Merlyn is hoping the Wart will pick up some helpful tidbits from hanging around and listening to them.
The Wart decides he wants to be a merlin (a particular type of hawk). Young Arthur really knows how to score points with the old tutor, eh?
Oops! Merlyn changes himself into a bird, and not Wart.
Now Wart changes into a hawk, and hops up onto Merlyn's hand, like a falcon to his falconer.
After a few instructions to stay away from certain high-ranking birds, Merlyn leaves Wart in the Mews for the night.
The hawks give Wart a sort of oral exam before making him an official member of their group.
What a good student! Wart scores a 90% on this quiz. Not too shabby! The other birds seem quite pleased with him.
Before Wart can be sworn in as an officer, we discover that the spar-hawk doesn't have any tirings (leftover bones) to swear upon. He has eaten them all up, which is a breach of protocol.
Turns out, the hawks want to put Wart through an "ordeal," which sounds pretty ominous. Wart wants nothing to do with it.
The proposed ordeal isn't at all to Wart's liking: he must sit near Cully (the hawk who flew away way back in the first chapter), who is absolutely insane. He's psychopathic. He's the Hannibal Lecter of hawks.
Bravely, Wart stands near Cully until the other birds ring their bells three times. Just before the third bell (as Cully is edging nearer), Wart tricks him by telling him a cat or something is behind him.
Too bad for Wart, though: Cully's talons dig into his thumb as he moves away.
Luckily, Wart only loses a few feathers, so no biggie.
For his bravery, the other birds sing Wart a victory song—and note that he'll one day be good enough to be king of the birds.