"Come on, this is the eleventh time I've missed out on becoming a rider and you still won't tell me why."
"We've told you before Aryanna, it cannot be allowed," Terrik, the man in charge of army conscription, informed me. "You are a lady, and a friend of Lady Vellery. It wouldn't be right for you to be flying around on a dragon and fighting."
"You've been giving me this rubbish for years and I will not accept it as the truth. I can fight just as well as any other soldier, better even."
"Just because Lady Vellery allows you to study and practice the fighting arts doesn't mean that I can allow you to become a rider."
"But you don't deny I would be able to do it?"
"Of course not Aryanna, you would make a very good and capable rider. Your skills with a sword are superb, as is your handling of a bow, but I simply can't allow you to become a rider. Besides, you know I have no say in who is chosen, that is up to Skade."
"But she won't listen to me. And I'm sick of being told, well maybe next time. What if there isn't a next time?"
"We will always need more riders. I'm sure one day your turn will come."
"But I don't have much time. I'm twenty-seven, that's old for anyone wanting to become a rider. I don't know how many more chances I will get."
"As I've told you before Aryanna," Terrik became cold, leaning back in his chair and keeping a frown fixed on his face, "I don't make these decisions. If you want an answer you'll have to take it up with Skade."
"Thanks for nothing," I spat, standing up and almost throwing my chair backwards.
"Aryanna don't be like that-"
"I will be however I want to be," I retorted. "If you're not going to let me be a part of your team then you can't expect to order me about."
I ignored Terrik's shouts as I stormed out of his office and out into the corridor. At this rate I would never get the chance to be a rider before I became too old. It was hopeless. And by now the new guy would have finished the bonding rites and would be getting ready to spend the night alone with his dragon.
It was so unfair! It was frustrating that women had such a small chance of becoming riders. Skade seemed to be the exception that proved the rule.
I was going to have to find another way to convince Skade to look past my privileged background and be willing to give me a chance based on my skills. It was an impossible task.
I walked straight to Vell's rooms, knocking on the door and waiting impatiently for her to answer it. I knocked three more times before the door opened.
"I can't believe you didn't tell me about the new rider," I said accusingly as I brushed past Vellery and into her room.
"I wasn't allowed to. How did you find out?"
"How long will it take you to learn that nothing stays secret here. So why did I have to find out from someone else that the new rider's spot had been filled? I thought this was going to be my chance Vellery."
"I wanted to tell you, I really did, but I couldn't until after the bonding rites. I knew you'd be like this. It's the reason I didn't want you to know."
"Well to earn my forgiveness you'll have to help me think of a way to get Skade to see I am a natural born rider and perfect for the job."
I sat down on the end of Vellery's bed, looking up at the young girl with my big, dark eyes. Despite that there were almost ten years between the two of us, I got on with Vellery astonishingly well. I knew I could trust her with anything. She was my best friend. My partner in crime. And if I was going to get Skade's attention I was going to need Vellery's help.