AN: To my returning readers, thank you for having stuck with this for so long, I know it has been a couple years and two rewrites. I think you will be satisfied with this one. To any first-timers, welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride.

A note on the chapters: each one will be from a different character's point of view. Assume nothing about the time lapse between chapters.

Reviews are appreciated! ~.^


Her name was Lutos. At least, that's how her people believed she was named, and thus it was so. Sometimes, she wanted to break away, to have a different name, a different everything. She was called the Maid of Fire because of her manifest orange-red hair, but had always wanted black hair. Her eyes were blue, but she wanted green eyes. Her skin was a soft bronze-brown, but she had always wanted to be a paler shade. And none of it was because she thought herself more beautiful one way, but just because she wanted to be different. There were so many things that she wanted, things that she could never have. And it frustrated her. Gods didn't have all the power in the universe, it seemed.

"You want to change the world?" she vaguely heard the White Woman say with contempt. "Go down yourself and speak to the kings."

The Maid's brother, called The Lord, frowned at the Woman. "We cannot. You well know why, with your Eye."

The Masked snorted at this, and the Maid felt the tingle of fear she always did at the presence of the one who would have killed her, were it not for the powers of her twin brother.

"We can meddle all we want. The people welcome it."

The Lord glared hatefully at his fellow. "They do not welcome you. Your creatures are a plague on the Wastelands, and I hear you wish to make your lackeys take them north."

The Masked flicked his wrist in a noncommittal gesture. "It is time for dissension. Besides, their fear gives me power."

"We have enough dissension," the Maid of Fire said quietly, leaning just a little closer to her brother. "And you do not want the power the fear gives you."

The Woman sneered at her, manifesting long white hair which rippled in the dark. "Everyone loves Lutos the Virgin. What do you know of it?"

"What do you?" The Lord returned quickly, sharply. "Are you also getting strength from this? You should heed my sister and leave those powers alone. She gifted lixos once. She knows."

The Masked leaned forward, eyes sparkling through the soft black mask he manifested, staring unblinkingly at the Maid with neither malice nor love. She shuddered.

"Yes, once," he muttered, fairly bragging. "But not after I killed you, right?"

Even the White Woman, ever his ally, looked askance at him for that, even as The Lord glared at him, stepping in front of his sister. "I should hate to think that you took pleasure from that."

The Masked turned his attention away from the Maid, for which she was grateful. A smirk dallied on his lips. "No, I did not. My victory was a small one, only a small balance."

The Maid longed to draw away from the council of Makers, wanting again to observe the planet from her moon. It was such a beautiful planet, from a distance. But it was troubled, as her brother had said. Perhaps it would become more troubled. At least, that's what the Woman said.

"Silence, both of you. You amused me once, but this is tiresome. We have better things to discuss."

Both the Masked and The Lord turned to face the Woman, having the grace to look abashed. The Woman continued, holding up her crystal orb. One eye, her left, glowed white. The other glowed a soft sky blue.

"I have seen the coming of...something. Mayhap it is like the Lonely, I cannot be sure."

She turned sharply to The Lord. "Your sister could find the truth of it, if she would but go out into the Black."

The Lord frowned deeply, his mouth set grimly. "I am loath to ask it of her."

And well he should, the Maid thought. The Makers knew little of what existed outside of their planet and moons. They were not omniscient, as the humans believed. They only existed because of the myths told, and the strange power of the planet itself. What they knew, they knew from the minds of those below, including the one called the Lonely.

The Masked smirked again. "The coming of more of his kind would give us greater power."

"No," the Woman said sharply, glaring now at him with her mismatched eyes. "No, it would not. The people will suffer, they will hate us for their troubles which we cannot ease, and then they will forget us. They will leave our soil, and lose the link. The planet will die."

The Masked gave her a level look - at least, the Maid thought that. It was hard to tell. "What, crops will wither and die, and the seas will boil? I don't think so."

The Woman pursed her lips in a mixture of rebuttal and disdain. "That is not how it would happen. True, the crops will not die, and the seas will not boil. But there are worse deaths than that. I would have thought that you should know that."

The Masked stayed silent this time, pensive. The Woman turned now not to The Lord, but to the Maid.

"You must help. Go into the Black, or find help, help like the Lonely. Speak with him."

The Maid blushed, for once, but the others didn't seem to notice. "I dare not speak with him. I don't know what that would do to him, but I can find us help."

The Woman and the Maid regarded each other coolly for a few moments. They were almost opposite, one the manifest of girlish innocence, the other of adult womanhood and all the mysterious knowledge that such adult women had. They did not war as the Woman did with The Lord, he being the pure essence of man, but there was always tension between them.

The Maid was expectant.

"What help do we need?" The Lord asked suddenly. He was ever proud, the Maid's brother.

The Woman sighed. "Help that we cannot provide, guidance beyond our own. Science is what the Otherworlders will bring, and cold logic. Our people need someone to guide them through this - someone with both emotion and science."

"It sounds like you're looking for a king," the Masked commented levelly.

"Not a king," the Maid said. "A king would think of power."

"And yet power is what he would need to lead," the Masked said, now derisive.

"There are many kinds of power," The Lord offered thoughtfully.

"You speak of lixos?" the Woman inquired.

"We cannot bring one with lixos," the Maid cut in, now afraid. "No. Lixos would drive her mad."

There was a short silence meeting her statement. She bit her lip.

"Her?" The Lord asked.

"Yes," the Maid said slowly.

The Woman looked unsure. "Alder is not a woman's world. Are you sure?"

The Maid nodded. "Yes. I cannot tell you why I say this, but I feel that the one we want is a woman."

The White Woman nodded slowly, with a growing smile. "Yes, I think I see it too. I thought far-seeing was my gift alone."

The Maid smiled tentatively. "It is."

The Lord looked between them. "So, we need a woman who will lead our people. I trust you to figure that out as I cannot. But how will we choose this person? And from where?"

She smiled at her brother. "With a book."

"A book?" asked the Masked.

"A book," confirmed the Maid. "But I can't make it alone. You all will have to lend me some power."

In the midst of the Four there was a burst of light, and then the smoky form of a tome taking shape. The Maid of Fire shaped it and filled it with many things that would be important only to whomever it was meant for. When it was done, she had the White Woman send it off through time and space until it should find its way into the hands of the one they needed.