Alice was 33. She was the head personal maid to her Ladyship the Duchess. She obtained this illustrious position because she was clean, organized, neat, and prompt about her duties. She obtained those attributes by always looking forwards to the next task. Never daydreaming, never being distracted by life's hopes. Always anticipating what would happen next. That was why she was at the ball.
As a young girl she used to daydream of princes and castles. That ended when her parents disappeared one night. After a week of waiting the uncaring town officials had her packaged up and sent to an orphanage. There she learned many things. That her name was Alice. That she was to be a servant. That she had been abandoned and did not deserve the love that normal children received. She was told she had better be productive or she’d find herself starving on the highway.
Tonight thoughts of her childhood had been bustled up by the business of life and shoved into a closet. Covered with duties and obligations. Earlier tonight had been spent in a controlled panic. Tonight’s ball had been and still was quite a surprise. The mercenary company had arrived early. The same company that had been so instrumental in the latest victory in the war. In turning around the Summer King’s losing war with the empire to the west. In forcing them to accept what they had taken and take no more. The heroes of the day… were early. They had made it back to the capitol almost a week ahead of schedule. They would have been a complete surprise but a messenger rider had seen them about a day out and had rushed in with the news.
Rather than be seen unprepared the royal court had sprung into action. Tonight’s ball had been thrown together with all the haste that could be beaten out of the servants and commoners available. Gold spent like water in an effort to preserve the myth of the all knowing nobility.
Alice herself had spent all day fixing her Ladyship a new dress with a new hairstyle and just the right color of yellow to stand out but blend in with the Summer Court. She was quite pleased with her efforts. Her ladyship was easily the best dressed woman at the ball and this fact had already been noticed by several of the more eligible bachelors.
She sat across the room from the Duchess; right next to the wine table, ready at a moment’s notice to hop up and fetch anything required. Sometimes wine, sometimes a snack, sometimes a light wet cloth for wiping away the sweat of the summer heat. And sometimes even drugged wine for some of the more… avid lords who didn’t know how to take a kindly hinted dismissal from her Ladyship. They would simply wakeup the next morning with a heavier hangover than normal and no memory of having been refused by a beautiful woman.
Ah! There it was, nothing noticeable if you were not aware. A quick gesture meaning more wine, unchilled, undrugged. Alice swept up a few glasses and started weaving her way across the dance floor.
The air was warm. The room noisy. The vibrations of the dancers gently shook the wooden floor. The music pranced around her.
The room grew distant. She suddenly had to focus carefully just to keep walking straight.
Ice swept through her blood. Winter frost numbed her hands. Images of vast glacial walls and deep icy rivers rushed through her mind. The tray in her hands shook and slipped to the floor with the tinkle of cracking ice. She stopped in her tracks.
“Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter”
An impossibly large man dressed in barbarian leathers walked out of the crowd. His chest covered in icy blue ink sigils and harsh forgotten phrases. On his back a massive stone sword covered in azure runes rested; held by two thin leather cords. His eyes glowed with a neon blue fire.
Alice, no that isn’t/wasn’t/wouldn’t be her. Alice saw. Suddenly, unbidden she saw. For the first time in almost twenty years her mother’s face drifted in her mind’s eye. Her mother standing over her father’s body healing him with tears in her eyes. Her mother suddenly snapped up in the giant claws of an enormous blue lizard. An ancient wyrm from beyond season. Her mother struggling against the crushing grip ice water turning her hair black.
A far off frozen wasteland. A dying egg. Her mother pouring the last of her healing magic into the egg. Another wyrm nuzzling the now living shell.
The two dragons conferring. A claw dipped in blue blood and traced over scales. Sigils of meaning and power. Phrases of promises and debts.
A question to her dying mother. Icy pale from exhaustion her mother’s gasped response. One last misty breath and then eternal peace.
Alice was herself once more. On her knees in the middle of the floor. The image of her mother whispering her name with her last breath etched in her mind forever. Her soul numb with the remembrance of all that she had lost. All that had been taken from her.
“Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter”
The booming voice was no longer just in her mind. The room froze as everyone stared at the icy giant. The fey dragon bound in man form. Elemental winter in the shape of a mortal.
“I have come. My life bound to serve you. My blade bound to aid you. My magic bound to protect you.”
“Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter. I AM PAYMENT.”
They had taught her many things in the orphanage. That her name was Alice. That she couldn't dream of anything better than a servant’s life. That she had been abandoned and was unloved.
All of these were wrong. Her Imperial Majesty, Bethany Marie Sarahsdaughter, Queen of Dragons was reborn that night. Freed from rotting slavery in the summer king's palace by winter's life debt to her mother.
This is a piece of a larger story that is as of yet unwritten. This however was the piece I imagined that started that story. Hopefully you enjoy your reading.
*Edited 25 Feb 2010 for spacing issues after first posting.