Author's Note: If you read my story, please review it. Feel free to include constructive criticism, but don't just flame. If you don't like it, tell me why. Also, if you review my story, feel free to invite me to review yours. I firmly believe in exchanging reviews.

Next, my disclaimer. I will only say this once, so be sure to catch it the first time around. I own every single aspect of this story. Every character, ever action, every little plot quirk. It's all mine. It's all straight from my own head. You may not copy, adapt, arrange or otherwise use any part of my story without my written permission. Which I may or may not give to you if you ask, depending on what you intend to do.

Not that you'd want to use my story for anything anyway.

I thank my sister, Jessica, for her thoughts, but as much as I love her, the plot and characters are still mine. I also thank Jessica and my cousins, Ashley and Athena, for their listening ears and their encouraging words, and for their love of writing. I hope I have helped them as much as their enthusiasm has helped me.

Lastly, I want to assure every reader that these characters are indeed out of my head. I have gotten the idea for some of them from certain relationships in my life. The concept for the relationship between Kykelle, Musique, andKairee and Tanika is based on my relationship with my sister and my two cousins. The only other one in the story is Keith. I had a crush on a man named Keith, a long time ago, and during that time this story was forming in my mind. What would be more natural than to name a character after him? When I no longer had a crush on him, I found I was attached to the name even so, and I kept it despite what he might think. The point of telling you all that is to assure you that NONE of the characters in the story are based on real people. Names, yes, and relationships (in a loose sense) as named above, but every personality and every action of every character, including those above, to the best of my conscious knowledge, has come straight out of my head, just like the rest of the story. The characters themselves are not real people! If any of them resemble a reality in your life, I apologize, but the connection is coincidence. If you have questions, email me about it.

And with that said, I bring you the . . .


Prologue

Thousands of years hence, in a world far away, a world of magic and of majesty, a child was born. But he was not an ordinary child. He had been born without Tetonya, the magic his people possessed. His parents tried in vain to hide his deficiency, but to no avail. By the time he was sixteen, even his parents despised him, and turned him out of their house.

As he aimlessly wandered the streets of his city, he met a young woman. She was running away from home because her father was forcing her to marry a Lord twice her age for the sake of politics. In her anger and her rebellion, she did not care that the boy lacked Tetonya. Together they ran away, cursing their parents and feeding each other's anger.

They lived together in a cave not far from the city. After a year, she bore a child, a beautiful little girl who, despite their fears, had the magic her mother possessed. But the next child did not. Nor did the next. Or the next. By the time the woman had born six children without Tetonya, she began to despise the man and the children. She begged him to take her and her oldest child back to her father in the city. After weeks of arguing, he relented. The woman and the girl were delivered to the woman's father, and the man and the rest of the children built a house on the outskirts of town.

Much to the distress of the Lords in the city, the woman's actions became a popular method of rebellion among the nobles. The man's children soon found themselves to be the objects of much attention from the noble teen-aged rebels. And thus the population of those without magic grew, slowly, and in direct proportion grew the hatred of those with Tetonya against those without.

Many years passed, and as the hatred of the non-magic grew, the rebellious trend among young nobles died out. A gap grew between those with magic and those without; the gap grew, forming a giant rift in the population. In time, they separated themselves into two races: the Tetonya, named after the power they wielded, and the Raccra, meaning 'despised' in the archaic form of the language of the land. The Tetonya went so far as to develop their own language, to further distance themselves from their despised counterparts, affirming, in their minds, their superiority.

As time went on, the Tetonya began to oppress the Raccra. Eventually, the atrocities against the Raccra became so severe that the Lords of the Land, though they were all Tetonyan, could no longer turn their heads and close their eyes. A decree went forth ordering peace between the races. The decree was largely ignored.

The Raccra suffered unspeakably, unable to defend themselves against the magic of the Tetonya. After many years, a leader of sorts among the Raccra arose, seeking to fight the injustice, but the Tetonya outnumbered the Raccra, and wielded a superior weapon. The Raccran leader began to fight the terror of his people by again bringing their plight to the government. Reluctantly, they agreed to a meeting between the High Council, which was the ruling body of the land, and the man and his Raccran followers.

/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

"The meeting will commence," Norbook said very dryly. Naton, the Head of the High Council, shot his record-keeper a stern look. Norbook was always dry, but Naton was sure that there had been a hint of resentment in his voice today, as well. Norbook caught the look from his Lord and lowered his eyes as he sat down.

Naton understood that Norbook might be resentful at having to sit next to the Raccra, but with so many people in the room, Naton felt it necessary to have the record-keeper as near to the center of the room as possible. Norbook was a good man and an excellent record-keeper, and would not disobey the order from his Lord, but if the man was going to show his resentment on the question publicly, he would be dismissed. Norbook seemed to understand that, though, so Naton left the issue without further reprimand.

Naton waited to see who would speak first. The room was silent for several minutes. The Raccra, fourteen men who, with the exception of Ortac, looked as though they'd been picked directly from the streets minutes before the meeting, began to look increasingly uncomfortable. Naton almost understood Ortac's need to have the same number present as did Naton, to achieve some semblance of equality, but on the other hand, the Raccra could never truly be equal to the Tetonya.

Naton then looked at the Tetonya. They were called the High Council, but in truth, Naton ruled the land and the other thirteen men served as his staff. So long as those thirteen knew it, it didn't matter to Naton that the rest of the world didn't. It took a little of the pressure off of him. Naton's staff sat quietly. The only thing they had to worry about in this meeting was how to get the Raccra out of their city.

After several minutes, Ortac finally spoke in the Raccran language. "On behalf of my staff and my people," he began, "I would like to thank you for calling this meeting, my lord."

Naton struggled to keep a straight face. His staff? He dared call a collection of riffraff from the streets a staff? His amusement didn't last long, however, because Rikord took the opportunity to speak.

"Your people?" he sneered in Raccran. "You and your kind can hardly be called people! You are filthy maggots! You don't deserve—"

"Rikord," Naton interrupted, mild reproof tingeing his voice. Rikord was the most pessimistic member of the staff, and often voiced his negative opinions vociferously. Naton had not thought Rikord would make such a public statement of his feelings, but Naton's reproof should have stopped Rikord's tirade with nothing further said. Unfortunately, Rikord continued, this time directing his comments to Naton, still in the Raccran's language.

"We should kill them all! That's the only way we should be dealing with them! Rid the world of their malice! I don't know why you even—"

"Rikord!" Naton hissed, "That is enough!" The expression on Naton's face echoed his displeasure. That look alone should have silenced Rikord without words. A much milder look had effectively reprimanded Norbook. Why couldn't Rikord be more like Norbook? Rather than backing down, Rikord continued.

"But my lord, they are just parasites to us! We can't keep—"

"Rikord!" Naton snapped. The meeting was to be conducted in Raccran, because Raccrans were not allowed to learn Tetonyan in most cases, but Naton reverted to Tetonyan when he next spoke, "You are very near to being dismissed. If you'll remember, your position on my staff is already precarious." That wasn't quite true previously, but after that outburst, it was completely accurate. "You will be silent unless called upon to speak, or you will leave this meeting."

There. If Ortac insisted upon calling that motley group of ruffians a staff, he should at least have some idea now of the discipline required to keep them as staff, rather than competitors, and not allow dissension in the Council. Even if he didn't understand the language. And if Rikord said one more word . . . Naton would not be pleased if he had to show Ortac how to dismiss a man from a meeting, or depending on what Rikord said, how to dismiss a man from his service.

Rikord bowed his head, nearly looking submissive, but his eyes smoldered with anger. "Yes, my lord," he answered in Tetonyan, without looking up.

Naton turned back to Ortac and his . . . followers. He was not pleased to see many of their faces painted with anger and resentment. Naton already had a plan for dealing with the Raccra; he had been thinking about it and refining it for weeks, but he knew the Raccra would have to be in just the right state of mind to agree to it. If they didn't agree, it would not put an end to the problems between races. The Raccra had to believe that they were a part of the process, or they would fight it later.

He had told his staff only that he had a plan, and to agree for the moment and they could argue in private if they felt the need. Naton made it very clear, though, that he was to be the only one presenting plans at this meeting. The rest were there for show only, and were to play their parts well or be dismissed. His staff wanted nothing more than to be away from the Raccra as quickly as possible, and so had not been reluctant to agree. Apparently, Rikord had thought he could speed up the process even more.

Sensing discomfort in the room, Naton spoke, once again in Raccran. "I'm told your people consider you their leader. Is this true?"

Ortac looked a little surprised at the question. "If it pleases you, my lord, it is true."

"It does not please me," Naton shot back sharply, "but for our purposes here it will have to do." Naton wanted to put the Raccra at ease before he introduced his plan, but he knew he couldn't be too nice to them, either, lest they suspect something.

It didn't seem to be working. Ortac and his followers looked warily at one another, and then all looked at Ortac as if he had answers. When he didn't, they all looked back at Naton.

Perhaps he'd have to be a little more pleasant. Naton hadn't wanted to resort to this, but it seemed necessary. "Ortac," he said, almost politely, "Why don't you introduce me to your staff?" He only stumbled slightly on the last word. His staff noticed his use of the word, and Naton saw several disgusted looks passing over their faces, but it was necessary. He would do whatever was necessary to free the majority of Tetonyans of their Raccran counterparts, and to stop the struggle between them that had haunted Head Councilors since the first Raccran had been born.

Ortac gave only the names of the thirteen men with him, but no rank or title. Not that it mattered to Naton. He let the flood of names wash over him as he thought once more of the plan he hoped to implement.

As Ortac finished his introductions, Naton looked around the room at the Raccran men. All seemed much more at ease now, as if they were truly taking part in the meeting rather than being seen as spectators. Seeing this, Naton took a deep breath and started to turn their world upside-down.

"My staff and I have discussed this issue at length," Naton began, "and we have drafted a plan for your consideration." He carefully checked the faces of his staff. All seemed neutral except Rikord, but Naton had expected that. He continued, "We intend to build a wall—yes, I know it sounds a little silly, but listen—we will build a wall around a part of the land. Every Raccran will reside inside this wall.

"This wall will be protected by men we will call Guards, for obvious reasons. The Guards will have stations set up every mile on top of the wall to prevent anyone from entering or exiting the Raccra Sanctuary without the proper authorization. The only entrance to the Sanctuary will be through Tetonya Palace. No Tetonyan man will be allowed anywhere inside the wall, including the Palace, unless he is in uniform.

"Furthermore, no Tetonyan from outside the Sanctuary will be allowed inside the wall. Only Guards currently employed as such, Lords, including the ruling Council of the Tetonya, and the Lords' families will be permitted. The Palace will house all the Lords, the Guards, and their servants. All permanent residents of the Palace will be Tetonyan with the exception of the servants, and no Tetonyan will reside permanently outside the Palace inside the Sanctuary."

"What are you saying?" Ortac interrupted. "If the servants are not Tetonyan, you must mean they are Raccran. What makes you think Raccrans will serve Tetonyans?"

"Trust me. It's part of the deal," Naton tried to explain calmly. He took a deep breath. "You will not have Tetonyan Guards unless you have Tetonyan officers and Lords to rule them. And you will not have Tetonyan Lords unless they have servants to see to their needs. And if you do not have Tetonyan Guards, any Tetonyan could come inside and your situation would be no better than it is right now."

"Tetonyans can serve Tetonyans!" Ortac shot back. "There is no need for Raccran servants."

"Ortac, if you will allow me to continue, I will explain." Naton's calm hung by a thread. "But there are other things that must be explained first."

"Very well. Go on." Ortac sounded almost smug for some reason.

Naton paused for a moment, seething, but trying to calm himself. When he continued, his voice retained the calm with which it had begun. "The entire world will be ruled by one Tetonyan Lord—"

"The Raccra will not be excluded from government any longer!" Ortac interrupted again.

"Be silent!" Naton snapped harshly. Ortac started back in surprise. Naton moderated his voice. "All will be explained. I have no intention of leaving the Raccra out of the government. Now be silent and let me continue without further interruptions."

Still startled, Ortac quietly responded, "Yes, my lord."

That's better, thought Naton before continuing aloud. "As I was saying, this Lord, who will be called the Lord High Guard, as he is the supreme Guardian of both peoples, will be assisted by two Councils. One will be composed of Tetonyans, the other of Raccrans. These Councils will be elected by their respective peoples."

Naton paused for the reaction he knew would come. The idea of free election had never even been proposed in a government setting before that moment. Well, it was time for a change. Gasps broke out among the Raccrans, and even the Tetonyans' eyes widened, for all that they were supposed to agree. Rikord again opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it without a silencing look from Naton.

Naton didn't mention it, but had decided that the Lord High Guard would not, could not, be elected. He would be appointed by the Lord High Guard before him. But if the Councils were elected, it would give the people of both races less reason to complain. They were being ruled by their own people. No one had to know that the Lord High Guard was the true power. No one knew it about the Lord Head Councilor currently.

Truly, if one thought about it, the government wasn't changing much. Now, a Council ruled, as far as the people knew, and the Councilors themselves were the only ones who knew who was the true power in the government. If the plan worked, there would be two Councils, elected instead of appointed, and they would be ruled by the Lord High Guard. By the Lord High Guard Naton, until he passed on and appointed another. It wasn't that he was hungry for power, but he could think of no one better to play the part that himself. He considered himself as good a leader as the next man.

Naton continued. "The length of the term, the process of election, and the rules of the election will be determined by their respective peoples as well. The Tetonyan Council will reside in the Palace and will be given the status of Lords during their terms. The Raccran Council will be responsible for their own residence and will give attention to all other matters concerning their lifestyle during their terms. These Councils, overseen by the Lord High Guard, will be responsible for governing their respective peoples. If necessary, they will act as judges in disputes that cannot be solved at a local level; however, the mayor of each city will be responsible for governing his city without the intervention of outside authorities.

"The government will have to be provided for, of course. The Tetonya will pay taxes, as they do currently, to provide income for the government. The Raccra will provide food and supplies and servants for the Palace and all Guard posts along the walls. The servants, of course, will be completely provided for and will receive weekly wages and other benefits."

"Normally, with the exception of the Lord High Guard, the Tetonya will not interfere with the Raccra. The exception to this concerns the servants in the Palace. The servants serve all Tetonya inside the Sanctuary, and are therefore the business of all. Presumably, the Lord High Guard will appoint a clerk, the Clerk of Personnel, to oversee the staffing of the Palace and the Guard outposts with servants."

Norbook shot Naton a harried look as he wrote furiously, trying to keep up with Naton. Naton waited for a moment, letting this news be absorbed by his staff and the Raccra and letting Norbook catch up. When Norbook looked up expectantly, Naton continued. "To be completely fair to all concerned, I will lay out the exact procedure by which the servants for the Palace will be chosen. The most efficient and preferred method would be, of course, to have adequate volunteers to staff the Palace.

"Short that, the Clerk of Personnel will determine the approximate number of servants that will be required in the Palace. He will then assign a certain number of servants to be provided from each city, based on the population of that city. That number must be provided, or servants will be taken from that city by force. Exceptions will be dealt with on an individual basis by the Clerk of Personnel. This procedure will take place every year to be certain that the requirements of the Palace are being met, and that the changing population of the cities is being taken into account."

Naton looked around the room. Most, even his own staff, seemed to be in shock. When they saw him looking, they straightened and resumed more neutral appearances. The Raccra looked dumbfounded. Naton supposed they had not expected so much in this meeting. Well, the Tetonyans were sick of them, and if this was what it took to get them out of they way, so be it. "Are there any questions before I continue?" he asked, not expecting any until the shock wore off. When he received no answer, he continued again.

"Although the question has not been asked, I will address the subject. This is extremely important and will be strictly enforced. Under no circumstances will a Tetonyan touch a Raccran with his magic without the Raccran's permission. If it becomes necessary to touch a Raccran with magic, the Tetonyan will ask for permission. If permission is denied, no Tetonyan will in any way, shape, or form, try to coerce or convince the Raccran otherwise. If such an action is suspected, it will be heavily investigated, and if found true, the Tetonyan will be severely punished, and then dismissed from the Lord High Guard's service.

"Are there questions now?" Naton paused.

Ortac, still in shock, asked, "Why is the government to be housed inside the Sanctuary?" The man seemed to be thinking aloud more than asking a question, but Naton answered anyway.

"Because there will be such close contact between the Raccra and the Tetonya, it will be necessary to have only one government to preside over both peoples. Since the Raccra will normally not be allowed to leave the Sanctuary, for their own protection and to appease the Tetonya, and since it will be necessary to have the government easily accessible to all, the government will be located inside the Sanctuary." Naton looked around the room, waiting to see if anyone else would speak.

Finally, he said, "If there are no further questions, this meeting will be adjourned. I invite the Raccrans to stay here in my mansion until all details are worked out sufficiently and we have begun to implement the plan. Any comments? Questions? Concerns? No? Good. My staff, you are dismissed. I expect to see you tomorrow morning at nine o'clock in my office. Do not be late." He said the last very sternly and gave each of his staff a significant look before they filed out of the conference room.

"Norbook!" Naton called as his clerk walked out the door behind the rest.

The man turned and bowed slightly, "Yes, my lord?"

Naton spoke in Tetonyan once again. It was very convenient to have a language that the Raccra didn't understand. "I hope you have kept accurate notes in this meeting. We will need them in future meetings."

"I would dare not do otherwise, my lord." Norbook replied in Tetonyan, shuddering as he said it. Once, he had not kept his notes as accurately as Naton would have liked, and Naton was displeased, to say the least. Norbook still shuddered every time he was reminded of the unpleasant experience, though it had occurred more than three years before.

"That is good," Naton said lightly, but then he adopted a commanding tone. "Summon Tala for me on your way out."

Norbook bowed lower this time. "Yes, my lord," he answered quietly, and walked quickly into the hall.