It was a clear, cold night. Silence was settled over the courtyard like a blanket. Even the dogs didn't bark. A scream suddenly tore through the air, shredding the silence like paper. The origins of the scream, a stable, was packed with scantily clad people, all dirty and on the skinny side. A woman was lying in the middle of an empty stall, holding onto the hand of a tall, strong-looking man.
"Come on my love, you can do it. Push! You're almost finished!" He was quite encouraging, and he gave her his support.
With one final scream, the woman pushed the baby the rest of the way out. Another woman caught it in a spare bit of cotton cloth that had been retrieved beforehand. The woman collapsed backwards, completely worn out.
"Is it a boy?" The woman's voice was weak and barely audible. Her eyes fluttered open and stared into her husband's face.
He looked at the woman with the newborn child in her arms. The baby was clean of the blood that had been on it. She shook her head. The babe was alive, but, it was not a boy.
"No, Mara, she is not a boy. She is a strong, healthy little girl." His voice was soothing as he broke this heart wrenching news. The child would not grow up and be released when she came of age. All girls born as slaves remained as slaves. The boys could be released, if they joined the military forces that ruled the world.
The woman started sobbing, curling into her husband. When the other woman offered her the girl child, she refused to take the oddly silent girl. "Get rid of her! I don't want to ever see her again!" Mara cried harshly, slapping the woman holding the child.
With a white face, the woman backed away, clutching the baby close to her chest. She walked out of the courtyard, in what seemed to be compliance with the mother's wishes. She glanced behind her, and when she saw nobody following her, raced to the back entrance of the castle that they all belonged to. She stealthily climbed to the tower where the lady of the house rested with her own newly born child. When she reached the door, she gave a short knock.
"Come in," a woman's voice drifted through the door.
The woman pushed the door gently, making sure not to wake the sleeping child in her arms.
"My lady, your woman Mara has given birth," she said, bowing to her owner.
"Did she? Tell me, what is the child? Is the child male?" The lady of the tower leaned forward eagerly, her own child feeding at her breast.
"No, my lady. The child is female. She refuses to nurse. She bade me to get rid of the child. I didn't know what to do," the woman started to cry, holding the girl tightly.
"Hush, my child. Is that the babe in your arms?" When the woman nodded, the lady gestured her forward. When she was in front of the lady, the woman looked up.
"Will the baby die?" She asked timidly.
Without answering, the lady looked upon the face of the most adorable baby girl she had ever seen. She had had 3 girls herself, and she would never admit it aloud, but this girl was prettier than her daughters. She took the other baby in her arms, facing it towards the one already there.
"Meet your new sister, Dominic. Liana, this is your brother Dominic," The lady said, presenting the two babies to each other.
The slave woman broke down in grateful sobs. "Thank you Lady Toriana! Thank you so much. What will you tell Lord Marin?"
"I will simply tell him that i had carried two babes. Mara's child, sadly, did not survive the birth. She won't tell him any different, because she will be sold if she did." Lady Toriana may seem soft-hearted, but she would not tolerate insolence.
"Thank you again, Lady Toriana. May God bless you and your family," the slave woman, bowed again and left the room.
Left alone with the children, Lady Toriana gazed lovingly upon her new bundles of joy. She had given her lord husband the son he had wished, and a new daughter. She was sure that he would be pleased with them both. The children looked a lot alike. They both had pitch black hair, startlingly light blue eyes and intelligence in their faces.
"Liana, daughter of Lord Marin and Lady Toriana, sister to the ladies Sara, Eileen, and Katelyn. Twin to Lord Dominic. That has a nice ring to it, don't you think my children?" Toriana smiled sleepily and laid her children in their crib.
16 YEARS LATER
"Liana! Where are you?" Her mother called, exasperated. The girl was hard to find at the best of times, always disappearing at the most inconvenient times.
"Right here, Mother!" The mischievous teenager said, appearing behind her. Her mother whirled around, her skirts flaring out.
"Don't do that, Lia! You nearly gave me a heart attack!" Toriana clutched her chest dramatically. She gave a smile and hugged her daughter. She had raised the girl as her own child, and she had turned out wonderfully. She was strong willed, beautiful, and smart. It was going to break her heart to send her away to foster.
"You're going to miss your lessons! Come along, your brother is waiting!" She ushered the girl down to the training yard.
Liana laughed merrily. "Mother, I would never miss lessons! I love the fighting too much. I get to beat up on Dom." She smiled.
Toriana smiled with her. "Go easy on your brother. He will be your lord someday, and if you beat him up too much, it might backfire."
Liana shook her head and raced off toward her brother. She picked up a wooden sword on the way, and came in attacking. Dominic, caught off guard, barely had enough time to parry. The deadly dance began. They traded blows, Liana going on the offensive. They dueled for around a half an hour before Dominic finally managed to knock the sword out of her hands, putting his blade against her throat.
A roar went up in celebration. Dominic had finally defeated his sister, who had never lost any duels before, and gained the respect of everyone. He was surrounded by the Sword Master and the men-at-arms that served the lord.
Breathing hard, Liana bowed to her brother. "Well done Dom. I never thought you'd beat me." She gave him a hug, just to be sure he knew that there were no hard feelings.
He smiled and hugged her back. "Thanks Lia. Good luck when you go to Lord Brachio's home. I hear he's tough on his students."
Liana nodded. "Of course. I'm going to enjoy it. Hopefully i'll make some poor man a good wife one day." She turned and walked away. All the men watched with hungry eyes, her body revealed by the form fitting leather top and breeches she wore. She would go to her room and change into the gowns that was appropriate for a girl of her status. The tight breeches were only for her sword lessons. She would transform into the docile and beautiful hostess that she was meant to be for the night.
She greeted her guests politely. "Good evening, my lord Rikash Lohar. Rooms have been prepared for you and your lady wife. Dinner will be served in an hour. Will that be sufficient time to prepare?" She queried after curtsying.
The tall, tanned man nodded. "That is quite sufficient, Lady Liana. How does your mother fare?"
"Quite well, my lord. Do you require assistance in getting ready?" She always liked it when he came over. He was one of the better mannered men of the gentry.
"I believe I will. Is Mara available? She gives the best...assistance." He gave a knowing wink at the young girl. He thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world, and he wanted her to be his wife. Not the cold bitch that he was chained to now. He was sure this gorgeous young woman would be wonderful in bed. But, alas, he was forced to find a substitution.
"Yes, my lord. I will send her up to meet you." She curtsied again, leaving one of their slaves to lead the lord and his wife to their separate rooms.
"Anya." She said, and immediately, an older woman appeared by her side.
"Yes, milady?" Anya asked.
"Send Mara up to Lord Rikash's rooms. Then send Raoul to me. I have need to talk to him about Lady Lohar." Liana was used to taking charge. Her parents had taken Sara, Eileen and Katelyn to Nakesh, the royal court's gathering place. Her sisters were going husband hunting, leaving Liana and Dominic as Lord and Lady of the castle.
"Yes Lady Liana. Where shall I tell Raoul to go?" Anya was nothing if not thorough.
"The Grand Hall. My brother and I must speak with him tonight. It is urgent." Liana knew he would come if she said that. It wasn't urgent, but the man had been her personal guard ever since she could remember.
Liana sat in the Lady's chair at the end of the long hall, anxiously waiting for Raoul. When she saw him enter, she dashed to him, hugging him and crying.
"Raoul, what am I to do? I do not want to go away. I don't want to go to his home and become his student! Do you know what happens to girls that go there? They come away broken, and they cannot be wed. I am the heiress to Rama, and I cannot be discarded as unmarriagable!" she sobbed into her guards strong arms, comfortable in saying this aloud to someone that would not tell her family.
"Shhh, my dear, it's alright. I'll be there with you. I won't let anything happen to you." He petted her hair, soothing her. She was like his daughter, and her father Lord Marin had heard about the man who would train his daughter's appetites. He knew she would need strong protection, so he would send someone he could trust without a doubt with his daughter's virginity and her spirit.