Aside from a few isolated events that were lost on me at the time, the trouble really started when I was 16. The year was 2004, and President Chaparral had just been reelected. Most Americans pointed to DOMA, the Dissipation of Magic Act, as the main reason they elected him. With the Republicans pushing to amend the constitution to allow them to lock up suspected part-dragons and other semi-magical creatures, as well as cutting off government funding to arcane research, anti-magic sentiment was polarizing the nation.
I personally didn't care much either way. As far as I knew I didn't know any part-humans, and there were so few left I thought the whole thing was blown way out of proportion. We needed to have elected a president based on bigger issues, like the brewing war in China. But really politics weren't much more than a hobby for me then, I was just trying to get through school and learn to drive.
My constant companions throughout high school were Jason Anderson and his little sister, Fay. Jason was my age, Fay was a year younger, and the three of us were inseperable. I probably spent as much if not more time at the Anderson home as I did at my own. The fourth member of our little quartet was Fay's best friend, Zhong Hua. Her parents had moved here from China before the first war. I had acquaintances besides these three, but none were close friends, with one possible exception who I'll get to in a minute. For the most part I was happy, though I struggled a little with the things all teenagers do - schoolwork, relationships, stuff that seems important at the time - until you find out what important really means.
The only other person I spent any amount of time with was a girl by the name of Mora Bridges. We met because we were seated in study hall together, the seating arrangments being alphabetical. Mora was the ultimate non-conformist, which made her an interesting person to be around. At first glance she looked like the classic, angsty lesbian goth girl. But beyond that first impression was a much deeper personality, something I discovered as we had plenty of time to talk in study hall. She was interested in various occult things - on a purely scholarly level, of course, I doubt she really believed all of it, though it was hard to say sometimes. But she'd show me things in books, and through her I learned a lot of seemingly useless trivia about the Arcane age.
Now as most of you probably know, there's a huge amount of controversy over the historical accuracy of accounts of the Arcane age. Scores of Christians have tried to revise history to eliminate magic altogether, with some degree of success. Lots of respectable people believe Elves were nothing more than exagerations of stories told by aristocracies to inspire respect and awe, or that Orcs were an earlier stage of human evolution. Mora believed that both sides were revising history - that Elves, rather than the imposing overlords history made them out to be, had been an enlightened, benevolent race who had helped humans get to where they were today, and that Conner Macer was a mass-murderer rather than the savior of the human race, and that he meant for the Vampires to go bad. I didn't believe a word of it - I mean how could anyone? - but arguing with Mora was thoroughly pointless, so I mostly just nodded and listened to her far-flung conspiracy theories with feigned interest. If I known what I know now, I probably would have paid more attention.