The Archcaptain brushed past me, his face both bored and annoyed with my application to the guard. My hopes came crashing down around me. I had sold everything and faced the perils of 400 miles to come to the great city of Airengard and become a member of the Archcaptain's elite force.
"I am an excellent warrior, Archcaptain." A mixture of protest and desperation in my voice.
"Yes, yes. That is what they all say." The Archcaptain paused his retreat, one foot already on the stone steps leading down from his portico. "I don't need another cocky brawler." His eyes caught mine, the piercing blue intensity almost making me quake on the inside. "If you want to be an Elite, you must use your brain. Find me the answers to the secrets of the palace, and I will give you a bed in our barracks."
"The secrets of the palace?" What sort of demand was that? How was I to find such secrets? The Archcaptain turned away from me, striding down the steps with his cape fluttering behind him. I could feel my future slipping away from me with each step he took. "Where shall I find them?"
"They are all to be found in one enigmatic girl known as Gladys." His voice carried back to me, though he didn't turn his head. "When you have solved Gladys, you will have solved the palace."
A girl? Surely the entrance to the Elite guard could not be so easy as that! I expected some type of gladiator trial in which a dozen men tested my metal as a warrior. Or to be submitted to a torment chamber which would push my mind and body to the breaking point. What sort of elite force required nothing but delicacies from their applicants to prove their worth?
But just as I thought this, an Elite strode up the steps to the portico. The muscles in his chest bulged against the leather band he wore, and he snarled under his breath as he past me. I threw my shoulders back and raised my chin. Yes, this was the force that I idolized my entire life. Who was I to question the Archcaptain's judgment. I carelessly tossed a glance at the passing Elite, as if recognizing him as nothing more than a fellow soldier - my equal. By nightfall, I expected to find myself in a bunk next to his.