Her heels clicked loudly against the institution's stone floors. The hall was so quiet she could hear the fabric of her black skirt brushing gently against her legs but ever so distantly she could hear the sound of boys playing in the yard. Morning sunlight streamed in through the halls many windows igniting her hair in a silvery golden glow around her face. The staff member guiding her looked back at her over his shoulder eyes brimming with nervous energy. She suspected these scholars had never seen a woman like her in any of their pathetic lives. Finally he came to a stop in front of one of the many doors.
"This is the one?" she asked.
"Yes," he nodded. "He is quite possibly the brightest young man I've ever seen come through these halls. I believe he is precisely what you're looking for."
"And he is an orphan? No family to speak of?"
"They're all orphans, ma'am."
"Very well," she nodded. "Proceed."
He opened the door revealing the humble dormitory inside. The room was just large enough to accommodate a twin-sized bed, night stand, and desk. Sitting at the desk was a boy, fourteen or so, his light brown hair neatly combed. He wore a clean white shirt and dark pants, navy blue or black, the typical uniform of an institution like this. He looked up surprised by their entrance. Whatever he was doing quickly fell forgotten to the desk.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"Be polite," the man chided.
"It's fine," she said brushing him off. "My name is Katherine Marlowe but more importantly, who are you?"
"Talbot," he replied.
"What a nice name," she smiled. "So, Talbot, rumor has it that around here you are the best and the brightest."
"Yes, well they will say just about anything to get us out of here," he said shooting a look at the man in the doorway.
"Well if it's not true I'll just be on my way then," she said turning towards the door.
"No wait!" he stood abruptly nearly knocking over his chair. "It's true."
Turning she looked at the man still hovering in the door way.
"Leave us," she snapped.
"But I'm not supposed to…"
"Now," she added forcefully.
"Right," he blanched retreating.
Calmly she shut the door behind him and took a seat on the bed across from the boy. Now that they were alone he became increasingly nervous. Soon he was wringing his fingers together.
"So," he asked breaking the momentary silence. "What do you want from me?"
She laughed, "Want from you? My dear boy, I want nothing from you. What I want is to offer you something."
"What?" he asked sitting forward.
"The World," she grinned.
"Knowledge, money, power, it can all be yours but you have to want it. Can you do that? Do you have the desire to learn, see the world, seize control of your own fate and the fate of others?"
"Yes," he said a dark cloud passing over his face. "But I have to ask, why me?"
"Why you?" she mused. "Because I have recently discovered that men of own age can no longer be trusted. They have too much will and desire of their own. No, I needed someone younger, someone I could teach to be exactly what I need them to be and you are perfect."
The boy grinned as if he had never received such a compliment before.
"But," she continued. "There is however one thing I do require from you?"
He swallowed nervously, "What?"
"Your loyalty," she answered, "your unending and devoted loyalty to me above all else. Can you give me that?"
"Excellent," she grinned.
Rising she walked over and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"When I looked into our future do you know what I see?" she asked smiling.
He shook his head.