Chapter 1- Given

As usual, Slana woke up a few minutes before the sun rose. She slipped out of her bed and quietly left her room, careful that she didn't wake anyone else up. Her stepbrothers would be very angry with her if she woke them up this early, and Slana didn't want to be beaten.
As Slana glanced out the window, the sun had just risen, the clouds still slightly pink. It looked like it was going to be a beautiful day.
She headed downstairs to take her morning bath, always before anyone else in her stepfamily. The live-in maids had taken theirs an hour before.
As soon as Slana had finished, she got changed into her school uniform and headed down to the kitchen to oversee breakfast.
Slana's position was a difficult one. She wasn't considered one of the servants because she'd been raised by the family. She hadn't been fully adopted by the Yoptin family, so she didn't belong with them either. It made life very hard for Slana.
The cooks didn't look up when she entered, but then again they never did. They knew she would never get them in trouble, unless they did something extremely wrong. Slana hated getting people into trouble.
She had only been watching them for five minutes when her stepmother's personal maid, Dine, appeared.
"She wants to see you." The maid said, her tone imperious.
All the colour drained from Slana's face. Her stepmother only summoned you when you were in serious trouble. Minor trouble she dealt with when she next saw you.
Why is she summoning me? Slana wondered as she followed Dine. I haven't done anything wrong.
Soon, far too soon for Slana, they arrived at her stepmother's rooms. She was ushered inside by Dine and the door shut behind her, with an ominous click.
Her stepmother was sitting in her favourite red chair, her greying hair pulled back into a tight bun. She was studying Slana intently.
Slana blushed and looked at the floor, her hair falling in front of her face.
"So. Today you are sixteen." Her stepmother said after a long moment of silence.
Slana was so startled she looked up at her stepmother. She'd completely forgotten today was her birthday.
"Yes, so you are sixteen and the age to be Given." Her stepmother continued.
All the colour that had returned to Slana's face drained away again as the meaning of those words sank in. Given!!! She thought. No, oh dear gods, no!
"You will be Given to Lyren. He has already been told. You will take your things to his rooms immediately. You will do what he says without question or we will have you sold. Do you understand?"
If Slana's face wasn't already dead white, it was now. Being sold meant she lost the few rights she had. She would cease to be a person and become nothing more then an object, where the buyer could do what they wanted to her and fear no punishment for it.
Slana nodded her understanding. "Good, then go pack your things and go to Lyren."
The young girl nodded again and swiftly left the room. She walked slowly towards her rooms dread building with each step. It didn't take her long to pack all her clothes and her six books. As she packed she tried to remember who Lyren was.
All she could remember was that he was her youngest stepbrother, some few years older than her. Slana couldn't remember what he looked like, because he'd moved out four years earlier. He lived in a smaller house on the grounds.
Not being able to remember the face left Slana's imagination painting all sorts of horrible possibilities. Not just at what he was going to look like but also what he was going to be like. He could make her do all sorts of horrible things and if she refused she would be sold, an even worse fate.
By the time Slana had made it outside she was trembling with fear. She approached the small house that was Lyren's home and knocked quietly on the door.
The door opened almost immediately. The person staring at her was nothing like she had imagined. He wasn't horrible looking at all. In fact, he was sort of handsome but in an odd way. He had spiky brown hair cut short. His eyes were a bright blue and were staring at her with a muted intensity. Belatedly realizing he was staring at her, Slana blushed and looked at her feet.
When he had heard that his parents was Giving him a girl, Lyren had been rather nervous. What if she found out? What if she got in the way? But he had no control over his parents' actions, so he was forced to accept her.
Now that he'd actually seen the girl, he was slightly less nervous. She seemed to be very shy, blushing and looking at the ground as soon as she realized he was staring at her.
She had a quiet kind of beauty, one that could easily be overlooked. Her honey coloured hair had fallen in front of her face, hiding her light brown eyes. She was dressed in what must be her school uniform, a navy blue skirt, cloak and white blouse.
He motioned for her to enter and when the girl did, shut the door behind her. He watched as she glanced quickly at the room before staring at the floor again.
Slana first impression of the house was of mild disorganization. It wasn't really messy, but there were things left in places they quite clearly didn't belong. There were two shirts and a coat hung over one of the chairs, there were glasses on the floor and on the windowsill and there was a stack of papers that seemed to have fallen off of the table and onto the floor.
Another quick glance at the room showed that one corner was designated as the kitchen having an oven, cold box and sink. The area nearest her seemed to be a living/dining room, as it had a large wooden table surrounded by an assortment of chairs, couches and stools, none of which matched.
Feeling rather nervous, Slana looked up at the man she'd been Given to and asked. "Where should I put my things?"
Lyren was a little surprised when he heard the question and pointed to the small bed set up in the corner opposite the kitchen. He saw the look of relief that spread across Slana's face and smiled slightly. She'd obviously been expecting to have to share a bed with him. Not only would that have made him uncomfortable, but it would also have made discovery much higher.
Seeing the bed was such a relief, Slana was surprised she didn't faint. Even better there was a small chest where she could put her clothes, though there wasn't enough room for her books. She quickly put her clothes away, her books under the bed and tied her hair back with a black ribbon before looking to Lyren for any orders he might have.
She was staring at him again, in her nervous way. He had no idea what she wanted. He had noticed the books and decided to build a bookshelf before he went to work. It wouldn't do for her books to get ruined.
When he didn't say anything, Slana got even more nervous. Finally she asked him. "Do you have anything you need me to do?"
Lyren shook his head. "You seem ready for school and you do not wish to be late. I will not keep you."
Slana had begun to think he couldn't speak when he finally answered her with more then a gesture. His voice was deep and very quiet, almost as if he was afraid of scaring her. She was happy he wasn't going to prevent her from going to school, at least for today. She wanted desperately to talk to Liddie. She gave Lyren a small smile before grabbing her bag and running out the door. If she didn't hurry she was going to be late.
Lyren was a bit taken aback as she dashed outside. Thinking about how much time had passed, he realized she was probably late or very close to it. Shrugging he went to go find some wood so he could go make a bookshelf.
Slana actually managed to make it inside the classroom before the bell rang, but only just. She quickly took her seat next to Liddie, her best friend, who was not just her best friend, but her only friend.
When Slana sat down beside her, Liddie noticed the black ribbon and immediately knew something was wrong. The colour of Slana's ribbons always corresponded to her mood. Blue was calm, green was tired, red was angry, yellow was cheerful, orange was worried, purple was nervous and black was frightened or upset. Slana had never worn white, pink or brown ribbons before, so Liddie had no idea what those signified.
"What happened?" Liddie asked, worry evident in her voice.
"I got Given." Slana whispered, once again surprised at how Liddie always knew when something had happened to her.
"You WWWWHHAAAAATTTTT!!!!!" she yelled, causing the teacher to come over and tell Liddie if she didn't keep her voice down she would have to give her a detention. All the rest of the girls were giggling at her outburst.
Liddie managed to calm herself enough to demand quietly that Slana tell her everything. Slana explained all about her stepmother Giving her to Lyren.
"If he gives you any problems or tries anything come tell me." Liddie said, causing Slana to blush. Liddie was always defending her.
"He seems nice." She whispered, feeling an obligation to defend him. After all, it could have been much worse.
Her friend snorted. "We'll see about that."
The rest of the day progressed as normal, most of the class avoiding both Slana and Liddie for various reasons. The self-proclaimed popular group avoided them because they weren't important enough (and Liddie would give them a verbal lashing), the wannabe popular group because the popular group didn't like them, and the quieter girls because they avoided everyone most of the time. Slana actually would have fell into this category, but she was friends with Liddie who was considered an outsider by all the groups, so by extension Slana was considered an outsider. Not that she minded, as long as she had Liddie she didn't care what the other thought.
As they parted ways in front of the school at the end of the day, Liddie said. "Remember, you're always welcome at my house at any time."
Slana smiled her shy smile. "Thank you." She whispered.
Liddie flapped her hands at her, embarrassed.
They both went in their respective direction, halting at corners opposite to each other and waved, as they did every day, before continuing on home.
As she entered the house, Slana looked around for Lyren but he was nowhere in sight. Instead she saw a bookshelf above her bed, all her books arranged neatly along it with two new additions.
Slana dropped her bag in surprise. Lyren had done this, and for her? This had to be one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for her.
She swiftly picked up her bag and put on her bed as she examined the two new books. One was called 'General Healing Techniques' the other one was the continuation of the history she had, entitled 'The Fall of Magic'. The first one had been 'The Rise of Magic'. Both of the histories were enormous books of more than two thousand pages each. The book on healing looked to be about five hundred pages.
Slana could hardly wait to start reading them, but first, she decided, I'm going to tidy up in here. It took about a half-hour for Slana to neatly pile the papers up on the table, wash and put away the dirty glasses and put the clothes on Lyren's bed in the next room.
Her final act before settling down to read was to bake some carrot muffins and make a pot of tea. So when Lyren returned home he found Slana curled up in one of the big armchairs, steaming cup of tea and muffin in front of her, the history beside her.
She was so absorbed in the book; it wasn't until she heard Lyren pouring himself a cup of tea that she realized he was there.
"Ah! I, uh, made some muffins and um, well you found the tea." Slana stammered, blushing, embarrassed that she hadn't noticed him coming in.
It took a great deal of Lyren's willpower to not laugh at the warring expressions of complete embarrassment and surprise on the girl's face. He did smile though, it was really funny.
Slana was further surprised when she saw Lyren smile. This was the first time she'd seen him smile. He was much handsomer when he smiled which caused Slana's blush to deepen to a brilliant crimson.
"Ummmm, t-th-thank you for the bookshelf and the b-b-books." She stammered out, unable to think of any better way to say it.
Lyren shrugged, still with a hint of a smile. "You like to learn?"
She nodded. "I love books. I love learning new things from them."
His smile grew again. "Then learn. I will not stop you."
Slana was so shocked and pleased she didn't say anything for the rest of the day, not that Lyren minded. The dinner she cooked was delicious and he was happy to see his bed, even though he knew he'd be up in a few hours. From the way she had been yawning before she went to sleep, sneaking past the girl was going to be no problem. At least tonight.