Prologue

My mind was never mine. It never truly belonged to me, not even to a being within my body. A long time ago, the government decided women were nothing. They decided we were too dangerous, and should be given to men as possessions. Our minds, our bodies all of us belonged to the man who claimed us at birth. Generally, there wasn't too large of an age difference, seeing as the man usually claimed the woman as a wife. Women were only taught basic reading and writing. No science, no math. Since the law that was passed that limited the positions of women, no girl has ever been taught to fight or think for herself. As for me however, I didn't have to be taught that. I learned it.

Every child grows up with their parents, until either they claim independence (in the case of men) or are claimed for their masters' family (in the case of women). In retrospect, my mother was very lucky to have been claimed by my father. My father was a kind and caring man and my mother adored him. They both loved me as much as any human was capable of doing so, and in this love my defiant spirit flourished. I often ran off into the forest bordering my father's house. Punishments did nothing but add fuel to the fire growing within my soul. My hair was a vibrant burning caramel and my eyes, fitting for a woman of my personality, a brilliant gold that faded into the most striking blue. Everything about me spoke fire, my hair, my tanned skin, my eyes and the fact that I never followed the rules. Sure by law I was to be whipped every time I disobeyed my superiors but, as I said, those whippings did nothing but to add fire to my spirit and fuel to my veins.

I often found myself spying on the boys' fighting school. Every man since toddler age was taught weaponry, science, math, writing, and vigorous hand-to-hand combat, and I loved it. I loved everything about it, the way the teachers and tutors spoke, the way they handled themselves, the clang of metal clashing on metal, the bang of pistols during gun training. Often I would watch from a distance, and then run through the forms myself, determined to be as able to protect myself as any man on this Earth.

At the beginning of my fascination with the fighting, my father looked on as I came home sweaty, muddy and tired. He'd smile knowingly as he saw my muscles grow and firm and once, casually, he told mother, "I think our daughter is more of a son."

That secret was the first we shared. It was delicious, having someone to share secrets with, having someone I could trust to not judge me. That was when I truly began to respect my father, not because he was a man but because he was good. He saw goodness and beauty in all things, and never looked down on me because of my gender. I think he was the first and last man I loved and respected.

Later on my spying sessions got me into trouble. I had been practicing a sword form with a long, straight tree branch when I heard laughing behind me.

"Look, isn't it cute? It thinks it's one of us." I heard the croaking laugh and I felt the familiar fire begin to burn. I whipped around and saw a pack of five boys, jeering like wolves on the hunt.

I stepped back and said boldly, "I don't want trouble."

"Aw, cute it doesn't want to fight. It know's it will lose." He sniggered and I knelt and clenches my fist on a small rock beneath my feet.

I drew it up.

"A rock?" THe lead boy jeered, stepping towards me. He was probably a few years older than me and bigger, he had a strong build. I gripped my rock tightly and drew it back. He laughed and his wolf-like eyes sparkled, "Go on sweet cakes, throw it. Let's see what you've got."

"You asked for it." I breathed and threw the rock. It soared through the air like a bullet and struck him squarely in the head. He staggered back and blood dripped through the hand he held clenched to his face. I grabbed my tree branch and launches forward, rapidly practicing the forms and strikes I had taught myself, and running through them perfectly. The head boy fell back, completely unconscious and I turned my gaze to the other boys. My hair, long and loose, gently shifted behind my head and my fiery eyes blazed, the gold alighting with flame and the blue vibrantly shining.

The pack stepped back, looks of pure shock on their faces. I was twelve at the time and I felt nothing but pride at putting a man on the ground as I had. It didn't occur to me then that my actions would put me in deep trouble. The shock in the older boys' eyes quickly turned to fury and they all converged on me.

"Stop!" I heard a loud voice announce and all of our heads snapped to one boy, maybe three or four years older than me. He stepped in between me and the group, his black hair gathered into a small ponytail at the back of his head.

"You have no right to tell us what we can and can not punish." Snarled one of the boys at the front.

"I do when it's my property," The boy in front of me said in a low warning tone, "ruining her when I have forbidden it is punishable by death."

The new leader spat on the ground in front of my unlikely savior, turned and helped his cronies pick up their original alpha and drag his limp form away. I stood stoic, staring at the man in front of me. He turned and I saw his face, I saw sternness there.

"What were you doing? Don't you realize they would have killed you?" He said in a low growl. I shifted uncomfortably and didn't reply, just stared awkwardly at my bare feet.

He walked in front of me and bent so out eyes were level and very gently lifted my chin to look at him, "training to fight is one thing. fighting is something different, thought you did kick that guys ass."

I cursed myself for blushing. He smiled and his face brightened like summer sun. I liked that smile, it promised candy and cake and ice cream and warm hugs on winter nights. Suddenly a small part of me felt more secure, safer, stronger and the fire in my veins cooled. my eyes darted up and I let out the tiniest of smiles.

"Let's get you home." The boy said and gently picked me up on his back, holding my legs, "You can sleep if you want."

I glanced up at the setting sun and felt overwhelming tiredness rush over me and I leaned my head into his back and closed my eyes; moments later I was asleep.