For Services Rendered

By Rukochan

"Your promise, child," Ashura spoke, gently.

"Please. Please." She wiped at her eyes furiously, trying to focus. "You can't."

The Queen of Summons turned on her in anger, scowling and red-faced. "You forget your place!"

There was a cautious knock at the door, more than likely a guard concerned by an unfamiliar voice in the nursery. "Are you all right, Majesty?"

"Our assistance has a price. You knew this. Yet you sought Us out." Ashura turned her face to her, pale and pained. "We need magic, child. We ask not out of selfishness or greed, but survival."

That sobered her. She thought of what she had endured to become a summoner, and realized that this was merely another of her trials.

"Yes," she said, wiping her face a final time and giving a nod. "I must honor my promise."

"Rydia, what's going on?" Edge was at the door now. "Is someone in there with you?"

Ashura actually curtsied to her, Her head lowered, one ruler acknowledging another. "You help Us more than you know, child."

She turned away, her lips tight, her eyes filling again with tears. She went to the cot, gently picking the child up. Her daughter shifted, made a brief whining complaint. "Hush, Lakshmi, it'll be all right."

The door creaked in its frame as the would-be rescuers pounded against it.

"Dammit, man! If that's all you can do, get the hell out of my way!" Edge snapped at the guard. "Open the door, Rydia, please!"

"Lakshmi," Ashura crooned, folding the child to Her breast, many hands cradling and carressing. "Sweet little starlet." Then the Queen looked away from the girl to her mother, Her eyes shining with affection and sympathy. "We shall raise this one as Our own, she will help sustain Us. You have My thanks, Queen Rydia."

And She was gone.

The heavy wood splintered as Edge broke the door down, tumbling into the room with his katana drawn and looking about wildly for an intruder.

The nursery was empty. Empty, save Eblana's young queen beside the princess' cot, clutching the sheets in her arms and weeping, loud ugly sobs shaking her.

All That Glitters Is Cold Fanfic Competition

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