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With all the respect I had left in my system, I still could not muster the focus or the patience I needed to listen to older men bickering about their beliefs. It's been hours of having to sit through this, and in all honesty, I would rather be skinned alive and placed on a stake set to a slow roast until I was nothing more than a pile of charcoal than have to listen to this madness. With all due respect, of course.

"I just simply cannot see a female possessing the necessary powers to be in battle!"

I screamed internally. We were going around in circles.

"This is outrageous, Colin! How could you even be considering this?" The man's eyes were the colour red. Burning like a wildfire that was begging to come out. I averted my eyes whenever he looked in my direction.

"The Gods don't make mistakes." The Headmaster said as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

"I will not accept a female to be a part of this battle. Too much harm can come to her, the danger she'll be put in, for god's sake!" His glowing blue eyes stood out against his near-black-hued skin.

My eyes narrowed. Subconsciously I could feel my breathing coming out in a fit of heated staggers. Their arrogant voices were pounding against my head, and their insults heated my skin. Throwing myself up from the wooden chair, I let my anger bubble over. The chair's legs screeched harshly on the stone ground, causing a stilled silence to take over the room. Pete held my arm and gave me a warning glance, which I ignored and ripped away from his grasp.

Now, eerily quiet, I calmly walked towards the men surrounding the Headmaster's desk. Their beady eyes took in my movements as I placed my hands on the wooden surface, looking at everyone dead in the eyes. 

"You know, I appreciate the concern, Councillors, but in reality, we all know that the real concern for our lands is the demon spawns on the other side of the mountains who can't seem to stay on their side. We are losing this war, and I know this just from speculation. You're increasing the number of men for your army, the visits to our village are becoming more frequent. You may try hiding the truth from everyone, but we all know." And this was true. Keaton, Chay, and Oliver weren't the first boys nor were they the last to leave Acrine. 

The men look outraged. I'm sure they were not often defied, especially by a female. But there are times when the truth must be spoken in front of them, with a little slap to the face to have them wake up and smell the dead bodies.

"Girl, show me the stone." The Headmaster beckoned me forward. I took the stone from my pocket. The little black orb waited patiently as I willed its light to pierce through the darkness. The amber fire trapped within sparked to life with a burning glow. The light and heat were so fierce I had to shield my eyes from its assault. Someone's breath hitched, and murmurs filled their line of people.

"You see? It is the stone that no one has been able to claim for years! And considering the looks of the stone as well as finding it under the statue of Lizarae, she could very well be bonded to a Niarvat. Quite frankly, I believe we could use their abilities in this war." I thank Pete silently for his efforts. Our eyes met, and although he spoke strongly, I could see his eyes wavering between uncertainty and hopeful desperation. His emotions confused me. He must feel very strongly for the first female to show rider characteristics. 

"Has the stone, by its power, made any changes come to you? Do you feel anything?" 

Before I could answer, the man with coal for eyes spoke up. His ugly white scar stood out on his face as the lanterns flickered around him. "Stone or no stone, ma'am, it's far too dangerous to have a lady in battle. The heights you could fall from, the weapons you could be killed with, and not to mention if you were to be captured. Those Kellso are not merciful with their hostages." The others murmured in agreement, except for the Headmaster. He gave me a pitiful look for which I wanted to burn his damn beard off.

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