A/N: Hi everyone! This is my first ever story on fictionpress, so please be nice! I own all of the characters, settings, plots, etc, so if you want to use them, you have to ask me first! Also, flames are accepted, but I prefer "constructive criticism". Constructive criticism will be appreciated, but flames will be ignored. Thank you all!

For my best friend, Tori, for always being there when I needed her the most.


From Fire to Water

Chapter 1 – Living in the Past

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I regarded the messenger standing before me, his face a mask of politeness, and his eyes cast downwards in respect as he waited for my answer.

"My father said that he wants to see me in his headquarters?" I asked, frowning, as I ran a hand through my long, unruly auburn hair. "Why his headquarters and not in his study?"

"My lord says that he wishes to tell you something," replied the messenger. "He wants to see you as soon as you are ready, my lady."

I sighed. "Tell him I'll be down as soon as I can."

"Yes, my lady," responded the man, bowing his way out of the room.

I sighed as I turned to my mirror. I hurriedly brushed out my reddish-golden-brown hair, the color of autumn leaves. That done, I stared at my reflection in the glass, surveying my appearance.

If I had to say what my best feature was, I would definitely have to say my eyes. They were a really pretty dark violet, and I liked them, even though I didn't care much for my looks or appearance. I had gotten them from my mother, the mother that I could hardly remember.

When I was eight years old, my mother had left. I remember her saying a goodbye to both me and father, telling me that I would see her again, someday. I remembered how her eyes glistened with tears as she embraced us both. Her eyes, so much like mine.

And then, she had left. I had tried to ask my father why she left, but he only told me that she had "very important business" and that it was mandatory for her to do so. He never explained what it was, or why.

I was now seventeen. That had been nine years ago.

I shook my head to clear it of all the depressing thoughts that had crept up on me. My father was waiting to see me. I left the room quickly, heading towards the east wing of our manor, where his headquarters were.

Stopping outside the door, I smoothed my dress and then knocked lightly. My father's deep baritone voice called, "Come in!"

I opened the door and slipped inside the room, taking a quick glance around. The "headquarters" was the term that we used to refer to the office where my father stayed when he was commanding his troops of soldiers, or when he was reviewing military strategy in private with a commanding officer. I didn't see much point of using this room, though, since our last commanding officer had retired, too old to continue his job. Since then, my father hadn't yet hired a new general – or at least, not that I knew of.

My gaze switched to a young man whom I hadn't noticed at first glance. He was sitting in an armchair, looking at ease. I studied him for a minute. He had short, dark-brown hair, sapphire eyes, and a small sprinkling of freckles across his nose. Overall, he had a friendly look to him, although I wasn't sure about his personality. When you're a noble, and court trained, you can't trust too many people. Most of them are much deeper than their looks reveal.

He rose as I entered. "Sir Kendall at your service," he said, with a genuine smile and a formal bow.

"Layna," I said shyly, with a small, graceful curtsy.

My father, Lord Javreth, cleared his throat. "Kendall, this is my daughter, Lady Layna. Layna, this is Sir Kendall, my new commanding officer."

My surprise must have shown on my face, because Kendall broke out in a grin. "Surprised you there?"

I could only manage a nod. "It's about time we had a new general to command the army."

My father smiled warmly, and addressed Kendall. "My daughter has much interest in military tactics and stratagem. It's one of her study courses that she excels at, because she actually likes it."

I was about to protest, but I caught the amused smile on his face. "I really think it's interesting," I told Kendall sincerely. "Weaponry and fighting aren't only for men. I think girls and women are just as capable. That's why I persuaded father to let me have military command as a study course."

Lord Javreth smiled proudly, beaming at me. "And now, Layna has almost surpassed her teacher. She is doing so well at it that we're all impressed. And she mingles with my army, so the soldiers all love her. I just had to let her have her own private troops when she asked."

Kendall looked interested now. "You command your own personal troops?" he inquired.

I grinned. "Yes. They're a group of female fighters dubbed the "Water Warriors" by the rest of the army."

"Why that name?" Kendall asked curiously.

"Our first fight ended up with the enemies falling into a lake," I replied, grinning at the memory.

"Not bad. You actually won your first fight. Not many can do that," Kendall mused. I didn't see the point in telling him that the odds were two-to-one – against us. That seemed too much like bragging.

So instead, I smiled politely, asking, "Where do you hail from?"

"I'm not from around here. I'm not even a noble," Kendall said honestly, and immediately, I took a liking to him. Not many people around here were truly honest. It was rare to find someone both open and non-lying.

"I'll leave you two to talk for a while," my father said. "I have urgent business to attend to with another lord. Please excuse me." He left the room, leaving me with just Kendall for company.

"So," I said, breaking the silence, "Do you want a tour of the place?"

Kendall grinned. "That'd be great."

Chatting lightly about anything we could think of, we made our way through the numerous hallways of our mansion. I found out a lot about Kendall. He was nineteen; two years older than me. He had grown up in a small village near the palace, and had enlisted in the military service there when he was thirteen. He had done well and even been promoted to lieutenant quickly. He had liked his job as a military commander, so he had stayed. Eventually, he had been asked to help train some soldiers in the palace guard, despite his young age. Finally, when he decided to do something else, he had heard that my father was searching for someone who had training and experience to command his troops. So he had come here.

He didn't tell me much of his personal life, and I didn't ask. I didn't want him to think of me as prying or rude. In turn, I told him about my life. I found it easy to talk to him. The words just flowed, and he listened without ever interrupting me. I found myself explaining about my mother, and how she had had to leave, and father distancing himself from everyone. I told him about everything I could think about, yet it was really nothing more than everyone already knew about me anyway.

He knew this, and I knew it. Finally, he commented on it. "You're telling me things that most of the court already knows. Heaven knows the court ladies gossip too much."

I nodded. "True," I said slowly. "I didn't tell you anything new, I know. Please don't take offense or anything, but I don't trust often. I don't trust anyone . . . anymore."

"I understand completely," Kendall said. "There's no one to trust in court, anyway. Too many secret alliances, hatreds, enmities . . ."

I felt myself stiffen slightly. What he was saying was all too true. Too many enemies . . . no one to trust.

He noticed my sudden coldness. "What's wrong?"

I gave a tight smile. "Nothing. What you're saying strikes me as very true, that's all."

He nodded. "I know; I've spent a little time in the palace court, while I was helping to train the soldiers." He shuddered. "No one was completely honest. It was like everything was planned for my benefit."

I understood. I had often felt the same myself, whenever I went to balls or extravagant parties or the like.

I looked around, and discovered that we had wandered from the military headquarters to the private gardens area. I decided that I would show Kendall our private gardens. He seemed truly honest and friendly.

I opened the doors to the small garden. It wasn't really small by most standards, but it certainly was a lot smaller than our public gardens, which took up several acres.

"Wow," Kendall breathed, as soon as we stepped outside. "This place is beautiful."

It was beautiful, indeed. Flowers of all varieties blossomed, scattering color all through our vision.

I smiled. "I know. This is my own secret paradise." I gazed around fondly. These private gardens had always been my favorite spot to come to whenever I needed to just think or clear my head. It had been my sanctuary. I had come to this place to think about my mother. I had come into these gardens, feeling lost and lonely, and so different from all the other children who did have mothers. I had also come to these gardens when I had lost my best – and only – friend in the world. The very flowers seemed to blossom with my emotions; red for anger; white for innocence; pink for passion.

"What are you thinking of?" Kendall inquired, realizing my attention was elsewhere.

I snapped back to reality. "Nothing," I said, blushing. "Just . . . memories. Memories that I wish I could forget." I gazed at the flowers and plants. Sweet pea, violets, forget-me-nots, and hundreds of other flowers grew in abundance. They weren't organized in rows or anything; they just grew as if they were in the wild. Ivy twisted through sprigs of flowers, adding green here and there, and rose trellises climbed the stone walls that encircled the gardens.

"Violets are for faithfulness . . ." I murmured, not even aware that I had spoken aloud.

Kendall glanced at me. "What?"

"Oh, nothing. I'm just into flowers, sometimes . . . they all symbolize things, you know," I said with a little laugh.

He grinned. "I'm supposing forget-me-not means forget me not?"

I shrugged. "Yes. And roses mean love or passion, ivy means wandering, violets are for faithfulness . . ." I stopped abruptly.

If Kendall noticed the sudden change in my attitude, he didn't say anything. I wasn't listening to him anyway. I was staring past him. Kendall turned, curious as to what had caught my attention.

"Javion," I said. My voice was icy. "What are you doing here?"

A boy, only one year older than me, stood behind us, grinning. He had raven-black hair, storm-gray eyes, and really handsome features, but I didn't care right then. I was angry; angry that he had chosen to show up; angry that he had decided to come back into my life although I had told him I wanted nothing to do with him.

"Hello to you too, Lady Layna," he drawled, emphasizing my title, which he knew I hated.

"You're not welcome here. Go back to where you came from," I said coldly, turning on him.

"Well, it's not my fault that my father and your father are good friends and want to discuss something important with each other," he returned smoothly. "It's not as if I didn't have anything better to do than come talk to you."

That stung, but I didn't show it. "Then get lost," I grounded out, annoyed.

"Can't. I know this place too well to get lost here," Javion said with a satisfactory smirk.

I ignored him. "Let's go," I told Kendall.

Kendall followed me out of the private gardens into the wide, spacious public ones. "What was that all about?" he asked interestedly.

"Javion – he's the guy you met back there – well, he's my number one enemy. I hate him, he hates me; the feeling is mutual," I stated calmly.

"Why?"

"Long story short, we were once best friends, but he decided that I wasn't good enough for him or something like that, and well, our friendship stopped," I answered.

"Why? If you were truly best friends, that wouldn't have happened."

Impatiently, I brushed aside a lock of reddish-brown hair that had fallen into my eyes. "I don't really want to talk about this right now. I'm sorry, but I've never told anyone what happened between us, and I prefer to keep it private." I grinned at him apologetically. "Sorry."

"No hard feelings. I understand," he replied easily.

"It's the past," I said suddenly. "I know that my and Javion's friendship has passed, and I can't do anything about it – and people keep telling me to let go of the past. But I can't. I don't know why."

Kendall looked at me, his gaze intense. "Do you want to forget it?"

"Not . . . not really," I said, acutely embarrassed.

"Then don't forget it. Don't let go of the past. Don't ever let go of anything that you hold dear," he said quietly.

I let out a little, relieved sigh. I was glad that Kendall thought differently than most people. "Well, um, I . . . um . . ."

He grinned. "Um what?"

"I think I should go back to my room."

"Oh . . . alright," he said. He smiled. "It was nice talking to you. I really enjoyed it."

I hesitated, and then gave a tentative smile in return. "Same here," I said softly.

And I really meant it.

-

-

-

Safely back in my room, with no one else around, I breathed a sigh of relief.

I hadn't wanted to talk to Kendall anymore. I was afraid that if I did, he would see how much it had hurt when I had talked about Javion and my old friendship.

Because, although I tried to deny it, I still hadn't gotten over it.

We had been such good friends. Why did our friendship have to end?

Stop living in the past.

But I couldn't stop. I continued to relive the painful memories of my life. I didn't want to let the memories go, no matter how painful they were.

I missed my mother. I missed having Javion as a friend.

Mentally, I scolded myself for that last thought. Javion wants nothing to do with you. You're enemies now.

People always told me that I should forget about the past. Kendall had told me otherwise. He had told me to hold onto anything I held dear.

I had dearly loved the friendship that had once existed between Javion and me. That friendship had once been so strong, nothing would ever break it. Over time, though, the intimacy had faded, until our once-strong connections had dissipated into fragile strands. Just one little touch, one little whisper of wind, could have broken those strands.

We had let it break. I had just watched our friendship dissolve. I hadn't done anything about it.

And that bothered me more than anything else. Could I have – possibly – saved our friendship? Kept it from fading away?

I didn't know the answer to that question. I didn't think I would ever know. What I did know was that I was living too much in the past, even though the past was hard and painful.

Little did I know that the true pain and hardships lie ahead.