1Disclaimer: Jian and her family are mine, but that's about it.
Chapter One - From Jianara to Jian: Jianara D'Altari stood on the balcony outside her room, letting the wind flow through her long, white-blond hair. She stared down at the street below, biting her lip to stop the tears that threatened to fall. She was ten years old, and desperate. In her country, Janaal, it was customary for young girls to be betrothed at ten or eleven, and to live with their fiance's family until marriage, usually when the girl was about fourteen. The theory was that the young couple would get to know each other before marriage and thus become comfortable with one another more quickly. Jianara didn't know if it worked or not, and she didn't care. What she did know was that the woman of the house made the match, which meant her stepmother, Nadja. And Nadja hated her.
"She's bound to pick someone evil for me," the girl whispered bitterly. But what could she do? Nadja would get approval from Jianara's father, and Kaleb would have never even asked who the boy was. Just so long as his eldest daughter, the ghost of his first wife, was gone, he wouldn't care. He could hardly bring himself to look at her, much less try to help her.
So how was she to get out of this? Jianara sighed, discouraged. One hand slipped into the pocket of her skirt, where she kept what she referred to as her 'talisman'. It was a piece of wood she had carved a complex design of lines and curlicues and symbols on last year. Well, she thought she had; it had seemed almost as if the wood had guided her, and she hadn't had any real control. She always carried it, but it was always hidden. Jianara was forbidden to do any crafts. Artisans were the third rank; military families like hers (her father was a general in the king's army) were second rank, below only nobles and priests. Each rank had certain duties and those duties never overlapped. If she were caught using tools, she would probably be whipped.
And she couldn't run away either. It would be disobeying her father's will, and if she were caught, her father had the right to kill her. A disobedient boy, of course, would lose a hand at most, but girls were disposable. If only she were a boy. Boys went unnoticed; they could wander as they wished, while girls had to be chaperoned. If only...
She gasped. That was it! Pretend to be a boy! Not forever, of course. Just until she reached Janaal's borders. Rubbing her fingers against her talisman, Jianara grinned for the first time in quite a while. But then the smile faded. Could she pull it off? She had no boy's clothes. No, but she could steal some from the extra servant supplies. And as for her hair, she could chop it off. But she wasn't a very boyish-looking girl. That's what hats are for, she told herself. It would work. It had to.
She waited until midnight. The first thing she did was take her old whittling knife and cut her hair until there were only about two inches left. It was spiky now, but soft, like an animal's fur. Next, she packed a few things, keepsakes mostly. There was a miniature of her mother, a few books, and her mother's three journals. Then, she stole downstairs, went to the servants' closet, and took out a cream-colored shirt and beige leggings. She was able to find a beige hat as well. She pulled it down low over her eyes, swung her bag onto her shoulder, and slipped out the back door.
She was walking along her street when she realized something. She needed a boy's name. It had to be simple, and similar to her own name, so she'd remember it. She mulled it over for a while, and then hit on something. Jian. It wasn't a boy's name, exactly, more of one to fit either gender. "Jian," she whispered. A new name for a new future. It fit well.
A/N: Niko's first appearance will be soon. And as for the setup, this fic will go through most of Sandry's Book, parts of Tris's, Daja's, and Briar's Books, and then go into my idea of a fifth Circle book, as well as maybe give some idea of what happened in the four years between The Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens. Oh, and about her name, from now on, I'm going to refer to her as Jian, but for this chapter, that was no good, considering she wasn't using the name yet.