The fire had eaten through the Throne Room and left nothing but the scorched iron, black as the smoke-drenched night, in it’s wake. The gathering within the space itself was small and awkward, both sides glared at their opposites and wondered who would be the first to strike up the feud for the countless time.
For the Kingdom, the Captain of the Guard stood over the lifeless body of the King; behind him were several guards and the few advisers that Stefan had commanded to remain within the iron walls to see his eventual triumph over the Moorlands. Prince Philip stood by awkwardly, and looked as out of place as Maleficent herself felt.
For the Moorlands, Maleficent stood with her back towards the shattered window, and her body tense and ill-at-ease with the iron walls all about her. Diaval wore his raven-shape, the nature of his true form allowed him to recover from the battle barely an hour past. The three pixies hovered just out of reach, eyes wide and sad as the gravity of the situation affected even their tiny minds.
Only the Princess Aurora remained alone. She stood within the No-Man's Land between the two sides, her fingers curled and unfurled at her sides. She had watched Maleficent carry Stefan's body back within the castle, the man stripped from the iron monster, and now she stared at a father she had dreamed about but would never know.
There's an itch in Maleficent's body. It demanded she stride down the steps, step over the fragments of a kingdom, and steal the girl away before any more harm could befall her. She ignored it, shoved it deep within her until it's an ache in her bones. She wasn't even sure she was the right person to offer comfort. Not for this. She bristled when Prince Philip is the first one to break from the stand off and approach Aurora but does nothing to stop it. Why should she when it was her anger and her grief and her hatred that had brought everyone to this exact moment?
Prince Philip went towards Aurora as one would a spooked horse, hands steady and spread out wide and low, to show that no harm was meant; no trickery would be brought down sudden. He spoke to her with a voice softer than the breeze that rustled through the Moorlands at night and he made it almost to her side when she finally responded.
She turned, not toward him, but to Maleficent, blue eyes eerily luminescent in the dark and asked very simply: "I want to go home now."
Only then, Maleficent gave in. She took the steps down toward Aurora without thought and her arms opened wide, not as a sign of peace, but an offer of security. She didn't flinch when Aurora met her halfway, body thrown haphazardly against the faery. Maleficent's hands steadied the Princess, and she tried her hardest to ignore the trembling that she felt underneath her hands. She lifted her gaze to meet the Guard Captain's own, dared him to speak out against such vulnerability.
The man will forever be scarred from this night, it's visible in the way the skin is raw and ragged along the strong curve of his cheek, and in the way his body is curved inward upon itself, broken in ways Maleficent could not understand. Still, there's a wisdom in his eyes as he only granted her a nod in return before addressing his men.
"We will give the Princess the space and time she needs to mourn her father." The unspoken acknowledgement being that when the period of mourning was done, the affairs of state would be addressed was something Maleficent could agree upon. He gestured for the advisers to back away; that this gathering was concluded.
Truthfully, the protest of not only what had happened, but what was happening now should have sparked into a frenzy, but the advisers only murmured agreement and offered platitudes to Aurora, well-wishes and condolences that meant nothing.
Only Prince Philip lingered on, hands twisted nervously before him. Maleficent didn't give him the notice that he probably deserved, but that thought was banished when Aurora spoken her wish. She wanted to go home, and so, home they would travel.
Diaval stirred on the perch of wood and steel he'd claimed and clacked his beak questioningly. Would she need his services to carry Aurora? Maleficent shook her head, and unfurled her wings. Already she could feel the way they bristled and moved, eager to see flight once again. She had told Aurora that they were strong, and never faltered, and she had no reason to think they would do so now when she had need of them most.
"Hold tight, Beastie," she commanded Aurora, and waited until the Princess' arms were snug at her waist, cupped underneath the joining of her wings until she grasped tighter in return and pushed from the steps. Aurora instinctively gripped tighter but she turned her head towards the outside, so she could watch the flight and Maleficent could not help but feel pride in the girl's courage.
The flight was wonderful and awkward all at once. Maleficent, as agile as she had been once, was not used to carrying someone along with her, and the angle of her body to keep Aurora close and still have the grace to fly was one that left her shoulders aching.
She couldn't complain. Not when it was her body that protested the return of flight and the weight of her wings that threw her off-balance. Still, when her feet touched the moss at the roots of the Rowan tree that was her sanctuary, she was relieved and surprised that the travel went as smooth as it had. Aurora was a little shaken up; she'd toppled over as soon as Maleficent had let go, but the Princess' cheeks are red with the cold and her eyes were lit up with the same wonder Maleficent felt whenever she took to the air. For a moment or two, the grief was banished, but it returned soon enough with the retreat of excitement and arrival of exhaustion.
"Come on," Maleficent tugged carefully, maneuvered the girl from her spot on the moss and up into the tree. The branches are wide and secure, and within the very center formed a haven to rest one's weary head upon. It is here that Maleficent guided Aurora, and it is here that she took watch nearby. With Diaval settled upon his roost, and the Princess quick to fall into the oblivion that sleep could bring, Maleficent found herself awake long after the moon had climbed high into the sky. The day repeated in her mind again and again, and her thoughts went further back, to a boy who had once given up something precious just to hold her hand.
Only when the first rays of dawn lanced gold and pink over the eastern sky did Maleficent finally succumb to sleep herself.