"Alexandra, please," Liam begged piteously.

Alexandra's heart panged but she remained firm as she said, "Liam, I can't love you that way. You know I love you already but I can never love you like… like that. I'm sorry. I really am. You must know that. I do care about you."

Liam's eyes looked shiny and glassy as he said, "But I love you."

"And I love you too. Of course, I do, Li. Just not in that way. Please don't speak of this anymore. I can't handle it anymore. Everything time I say no, a little part of my heart breaks. Can't you settle for just being friends?" Alexandra implored, her own eyes filling as she watched her best friend break before her. This was his third time asking and his third rejection. Alexandra hated hurting him but she had to. She didn't love him and when he came around to that, it would hurt him even more than now.

Liam continued. "But I can't. Do you not understand? The way I feel for you… my God, it's crazy. And I can't do anything to stop it. It's like I'm overwhelmed with this feeling every time I see you laugh or smile or even cry. And I can't help it. I wish I could but I really can't. You think I haven't tried to stop?" He stopped as he tried to catch his breath and Alexandra's stomach convulsed as she watched him try to breathe. She had hurt him in a way that she had promised she wouldn't, but it was necessary. He didn't understand, he would never understand, but she did. A Queen and the boy who loved her. What gossip there would be. His reputation would be ruined. She couldn't do that to him. Once upon a time, she had loved him too, but she had pushed those feelings down and locked them inside of her.

"What about… What about Carla?" Alexandra asked, searching through her memories for other girls Liam was thought to have "loved". She needed to remind him that there were other fish in the sea, ones better suited for him.

Liam cursed and ran a hand through his hair. "Don't you see? She was only mine so that I could make you jealous. I thought maybe you would notice me if I was with someone else. I even asked her to marry me so you would feel something. But instead, you congratulated our engagement," Liam said bitterly, his eyes cast downwards.

Alexandra had felt something: relief. If he was to be married to someone else, she couldn't hurt him. And then he left Carla Peterson.

"And Jane?" Alexandra knew that any mention of her best friend would hurt Liam even more so but she couldn't think of anyone else that Liam had loved and she needed to prove that he only thought he loved her. She couldn't handle Liam loving her. She needed him as a friend and not as anything else. She could not chance it.

Liam scoffed but his eyes showed hurt. "I can't believe you would even bring her up. She… she told me that she loved me. And then she dumped me for Max Campbell in Ninth Year." Alexandra's heart reached out to her friend but she couldn't say anything. Finally, she pursed her lips and remained stolid as she said,

"I really am sorry, Li." Then she turned around and swiftly walked inside of the palace, desperate to not let Liam see how much his words had affected her, for they had.

As soon as she got to her bedroom chamber, she flung herself upon the bed and sobbed. She wept for all the things she had just lost: her friend, a comrade, even a lover. She had loved him… once. But she had vowed never to let anyone get too close to her. To love was to be weak and she was a daughter of Battle Wisdom. None of them were weak.

She heard the door open and she quickly dried her tears as she said coldly, "Haven't you ever heard of knocking, Athena?" Her younger sister recoiled at the harshness of her words but said,

"No. I've never heard of any such thing when someone is so obviously distressed. Was it Liam again?" Her eyes showed sympathy and perhaps a hint of envy, for it was known that she had harbored a secret fancy for Liam Hawthorne for a certain number of years.

"Yes," Alexandra said, her voice cracking. Athena came over and sat on Alexandra's bed, being careful not to rumple the bedclothes so as not to give their maid, Hannah, more work than she needed.

"It hurts, Athena."

"I know." She reached over and patted her shoulder and then left her alone.

After a little while, Alexandra had finally stopped crying and she stepped out of her bedroom and into her office, which was right next door. She started working on the documents that she had been scouring for important information on Battle Warrior when she heard a knock on the door.

"Come in," she called and the door opened, revealing Hannah holding a rolled up letter tied with a purple silk ribbon.

"I've got a letter fer ya," Hannah said and walked over and gave it to her. Alexandra took the parchment and thanked Hannah. Hannah curtsied and left the room.

Alexandra pulled off the ribbon and unrolled the scroll and started to read.

To Her Majesty High Queen Alexandra Thomas of the Kingdom of Iliada,

You are called for a mandatory meeting with the Daughters of Battle Wisdom to discuss battle tactics for the upcoming War against Battle Warrior and his Sons on December 19. Please arrive at dusk promptly and do not be late. Be prepared to discuss what you have discovered from any documents that we have sent you to descry and research.

Thank you,

Battle Wisdom

Alexandra dropped the letter as she rang for Hannah again. Hannah came back into the room and bowed her head. Alexandra ordered, "Get Athena, please, and hurry," and Hannah bustled off to find the Queen.

Athena walked inside of her office a few minutes later, holding the same scroll, but hers was tied with a green ribbon. "You got it too?" Alexandra asked.

"Of course I did. Are you going?" Athena asked, though she already knew the answer. To not go would be a dishonor and it would risk their association with Battle Wisdom's Daughters.

"Obviously. We're committed for life, Athena. We can't just skip it." Alexandra scoffed at the idea.

"But… the meeting. The presentation for the coronations?" Athena asked. "We can't skip that either."

"Amanda would understand," Alexandra said. Their little sister was going to be the High Princess but they would just have to miss the planning. "Besides, Roger and Robert can do it."

Roger and Robert were their older brothers, twins, but they were rulers of the neighboring kingdom of Yanotona, ally of Iliada, enemy of Isosceles. They often sent battle plans or funds and troops to Iliada, for which Alexandra and Athena were grateful to receive. In return, the two Queens sent food or any other needed things to Yanotona.

Athena sighed. "We can't tell Amanda then. Imagine how torn she would be if she knew." Amanda wouldn't just be torn; she would throw a fit, an outrageous tantrum.

"Yes, we'll keep it a secret," Alexandra agreed, shuddering at the thought of the screams and tears and pain that came along with Amanda's outbursts.

"We must be getting to bed then. Big day tomorrow," Athena said. She walked briskly away and Alexandra sighed. Yes, it would be a big day.

That was Chapter One! Make sure to review, favorite, and follow!