The sky was darkening and a light breeze kicked up as the last golden rays of the sun touched the treetops. The barest hint of cool night air touched her face and whipped at the ends of her hair as she twirled and soared. A smile touched the faerie’s angular face as she crested a snowy peak and then dipped down low to the valley beyond. Her eyes opened wider to take in all she could see in the fast dimming light. Below her, a few lithe water sprites cavorted in a swift stream, gracefully weaving between rocks, their small bodies propelled by wide fins on back legs. A large troll was resting on the bank, contentedly munching a tree stump and sending splinters flying as it chewed with formidable jagged teeth. All seemed well in the kingdom she had grown up in, and her powerful wings twitched and spread with the flowing air around her. She was complete once more, when for a time she had been convinced she would never again fly under her own power. She may not be the ruler she once had been but for now, seeing peace and harmony among the residents of her beloved Moors was enough. Ruling more directly could wait, if ever the opportunity befell her and she could prove herself worthy of the power. For tonight there were other concerns and duties that required her attention. Rising above the forest swiftly, the pale woman arched her back and smoothly flew towards the pale ascending moon, then beat her powerful feathered wings and rushed forwards towards the distant castle silhouetted against the green mountains beyond. Her beastie would be waiting and she did not wish to be late and disappoint the lass.
It had taken some getting used to for the faerie, the reality of sharing her rule. She knew at times during the years of war with King Stefan she had been a undesirable leader to the other fae folk: strict, demanding, even frightening. Much discord and unease had been sown throughout her kingdom by her dark moods and brooding fixations on how to keep the humans away. Later, she had been distracted of course by watching out for the helpless human child entrusted to some of her most scatterbrained subjects: the child was the offspring of an enemy, and it’s shrieking offended her sensitive ears. All the same, the negligence and ignorance of those she had known as a child herself, with a creature they were entrusted to keep safe and raise well, raised her ire and temper.
As she was exposed to Aurora in person, she gradually became aware that she had fallen head-first into a trap of her own making. This rather bitterly amused her, but she could not resist the old magicks she herself had woven around the child - she too grew to love the young princess and the claws of her own curse sunk their way into her heart. The thought of the eventual death of the beastie from sheer neglect filled her with loathing, and so she found a new fixation. She tried to push away her nagging feelings that she may as well leave the human alone, given she herself had cursed it to a horrible fate - yet she never could quite give up and resign herself to the suffering of the helpless thing. Her rule was more benign and less angry overall in the years that the princess aged, but her leadership was scattered and distracted, as she and Diaval stole away to watch at the isolated cottage and ensure all was well and the child safe from the latest idiotic ministrations of the pixies. The rest of her 'subjects' mainly went back to normal and tended to themselves when they were out of her (previously rather angry and sullen) view.
After the joining of their two kingdoms and Maleficent’s naming of the young woman as queen of both with the approval of representatives of the royal court, things did not get any easier. She helped Aurora to know the many realms of the fae, of course, and navigate the complex web of interrelated species that dwelled in them and learn their concerns and values. Such was pleasurable for her, and she thought the young queen enjoyed it as well. The rule over the human kingdoms was another matter entirely. The young woman was royalty, but she had been raised in isolation and scarcely interacted with other humans for basically all of her formative years. Her established council were wise, patient and helpful with the sixteen year-old queen, but there was another issue: for several years the former faerie ruler refused to set foot in the castle to aid her in learning to rule, regardless of the pleas of her one-time 'ward’.
The two would still meet in the fields or on the edge of the Moors when Aurora could arrange time away to help rule the fae realms. Life in the castle without the faerie, however, quickly lost its' savor for the young queen. She was traumatized by the sight of the iron spears and gauntlets and armor that were omnipresent and had nightmares that such would come to enchanted life and burn her, as they had Maleficent. Worse still was her father’s primary remaining legacy: the twisting network of barbed bars surrounding portions of the castle and snaking through corridors that had been built to keep the faerie woman out. She shuddered when she had to pass near them, and often begged the faerie to come and take her away by letter. One particularly stormy night in the Moors, the two had a terrible fight about Maleficent ‘abandoning’ the girl she herself had named queen. Voices were raised and accusations hurled, but the vehement argument settled down fairly quickly when the faerie broke down and revealed she was frightened of traveling back to that castle.
Aurora stared at her in shock. The faerie’s face was largely cloaked in the shadow of a tall, weathered rock but her eyes glowed faintly and the young woman could see the look of fear on her normally composed face.
“Please....Malle....what do you mean, you’re afraid...?”.
The use of that relatively recently acquired affectionate nickname seemed to give the faerie woman power to speak, haltingly. She stepped forward slightly from the shadows to take Aurora’s hands in her own: since her crowning the two had grown closer physically in certain ways. The blonde lass seemed to seek out and relish being held by the faerie woman and at times could not resist showering her face with kisses when happy. They never discussed the potential meaning of this, but the intimacy between them seemed to grow unchecked despite the avoidance of the topic verbally. Maleficent never took advantage or touched her young charge in what might be deemed 'private’ areas, but she was well aware that kisses they had shared and closeness of embraces both had engaged went beyond the simple realm of 'familial love’ or ones a guardian or mother figure might bestow on a cherished daughter. She cleared her throat and hesitated, thinking of how best to explain to the young queen.
“I remember too well the night I came - I came, to save you, beastie. The panic I felt as Diaval and I dragged that prince across the countryside. The burning pain when I was stabbed at and whipped with chains. How I thought you to be dead and beyond my reach. The horror with which the smallfolk looked at me. I dare not come there again, now that you rule. Not for a while at any rate. I do not wish to taint your reign by hovering too close - words may spread and take wing. Vile statements of my corrupting you or ruling from the shadows, spread by those who may well rightfully fear me due to my last visit to their realms. It is best they love you first - and then I may join you in the sunlight, when all have seen you to be a fair, kind and strong ruler. We may work together then to show them the nature of the faerie realms. For now, I would not react well besides, and I fear the people in turn would not react well to me. You must do this alone for now, beastie. I am sorry but I cannot join you when you rule over your human subjects. It is a path you must start down alone.”
Aurora embraced Maleficent tight and stroked her hair, the two withdrawing into shadow, all anger and bitterness from their argument spent. The two talked softly well into the night as cold rain fell around them and thunder rolled occasionally in the distance. The next day, the young queen was escorted to her castle by an honor guard of the tree guardians: Balthazar himself in the lead, tasked by the faerie he had known since her childhood to guard the royal woman. Her new subjects exclaimed in wonder at the tree-like creatures, but seemed to shed any lingering fear when the captain, tallest among them, led the group in bowing before the humans and their queen. Aurora did indeed grow in power and nobility, and her kindness and justice were talked about throughout the land. Smallfolk and members of the high courts all loved and revered her equally, and she established trade anew with many distant lands that contracts with had fallen into neglect or ruin. Clams, woven nets and precious stones came from Skagos in the northern sea. Blankets, shields, reindeer meat and supplies of ice came from Arendelle in the icy southern mountains. Diplomatic ties flourished and Queen Aurora was hailed throughout her realm. As promised, Maleficent began to come and visit and the humans were introduced gradually to elements of faerie culture. The older woman still did prefer to come to her beastie alone, however, and at night - but she understood the importance of supporting the queen and appearing publicly as well, and did so with good grace and poise when required of her.
Three years had passed since Aurora’s ascension to the throne on the night Maleficent set out for the castle just as dusk was setting. Inside the sprawling castle work was underway, as it was wont to be at all hours of the day and night. Even now workmen still were hard at task dismantling a cruel tangled web of iron barbs and twisted mazelike metal rods from both inside and outside the castle. Elsewhere, assistants and cooks bustled in the large kitchens, expertly trained cleaning staff washed linens and scrubbed stone floors, and various tradespeople in the yard hammered, stitched and sawed on items ranging from wooden barrels to horse saddles and metal shields. There was scarcely a single spot to be found within the walls that was quiet and peaceful, but the queen was always granted such an amenity if she should wish it. The events that had led to her being crowned as the ruler both of the castle and the distant Moors were now a confused blur in her mind - a tangled mix of elation, despair, crushing pain, shock and newfound hope. Her dismay at the madness of her father still left a nasty, bitter taste in her mouth - the unpleasant dregs of finally learning the truth of her lineage and the promise that she would meet her own blood being coldly dashed to shards. When she had time alone free of distraction, such memories came bubbling back to the surface now and again, as much as she might wish to never recall them again in any detail.
Aurora had seldom felt so happy as the day before her sixteenth birthday, when she thought she would live with the faerie woman she had grown to love and trust forever on the Moors, only to be told she had been lied to by her 'aunts’. The three rather clueless but well-meaning spinsters had destroyed her brief shining moment of bliss when they revealed her true lineage and that she had been cursed to suffer a horrible fate by one she trusted. In a blind panic, she ran to the castle. She had been expecting help, a warm welcome and some kind of protection. Instead, she was shoved aside with barely a greeting from the angry, armored man she was told was the King, her father, and locked away with not a single word of reassurance or explanation. Alone in that darkened chamber, she had to resist chewing her lips till they bled, or the impulse to scream and pound at the walls. She had felt like a rabbit in a trap, twisting and turning with no hope of escape.
The woman who had cared for her, watched over her, and she had grown to love - had cursed her? Condemned her forever to sleep and never awake, not rotting, but to be locked away in an eternal prison of flesh from which she could never escape. The thought terrified her: how could she trust the creature called Maleficent again? Yet her own blood, her father, would doubtless now slaughter the faerie who had for so long loved her and watched over her outright: he would torture the only true protector she had ever known, while his own daughter was shunted away and imprisoned to stew in her own fears.
As these thoughts circled in her mind like caged birds, the blonde young woman twisted and twined her fingers together. The sense of helplessness swelled and fear at what might be happening even now to Maleficent throbbed, like an infected tooth. Conflicting her fear for the faerie was the livid anger and disappointment at the threat of the curse the creature had once inflicted open her. And underneath it all a strange, itching feeling swirled. At first, Aurora was barely aware of it - a distant whispering, perhaps, like someone was talking behind one of the thick stone walls. The sensation of talking only grew, however, and she began to feel paranoid and strange - as if someone was watching her. Her eyes began to water slightly and itch, and her tongue felt dry and dead in her mouth, like a strange animal twitching to be released. Something was desperately wrong, she knew - cold shivers wracked her body and it felt like small insects were crawling over her. Could this be the curse? All conscious thought was slowly driven from her mind: the resentment towards her ‘captors’ for keeping her in the woods and lying to her about her parents, her fear and anger towards her father, the pangs of mistrust and confused longing for the faerie woman.
Somewhere nearby was something she had to find. When she did, the itching would stop, and the distant screaming she could barely hear that echoed distantly in her ears would cease. As if in a trance, her feet slid over the rich carpets and uneven stonework of the chamber floor, and she pushed a heavy tapestry aside. The wall behind it gave way at her touch and slid back - beyond lay a dark passage and steps spiraling away. The young woman quickly followed the stairs downwards, her limbs feeling heavy and odd. The staircase spun in tight circles into darkness, yet Aurora thought she caught glimpses of an odd, shifting green light reflecting on the walls at times. Her eyes burned and hot tears trailed unnoticed down her plush cheeks as her head swam with the voices only she could hear - they were getting louder. “Sleep like death”, one cooed, as if someone was lurking right at her ear. “Touch the spindle”, another begged deep inside her brain.
Ahead of the wandering lass, a door creaked open slowly on its' hinges, to reveal a vast room filled with shadowy and disquieting forms looming over her. She seemed to float inwards and the door slammed behind her - all control was lost. Whatever she needed to find, she would see it soon. All the voices would stop and leave her in blessed silence. Green flashes burst before her throbbing eyes and her hands clenched and unfurled against her will, fingernails digging into the soft flesh of her palms. All around her the shapes were dark and towering, the soft sounds of creaking wood coming now and again, and the faint smell of long-burned char lingered on the air. A single golden ray of light came from some unseen source to guide her forwards: there, alone, sat a intact spinning wheel. The wood looked as if it was vibrating softly, and the needle gleamed with a golden inner glow. All of her being longed to touch it and the voices were screaming now. Aurora’s heart pounded and she could feel herself being pulled forward - she almost could see herself as if from above, being yanked towards the point of the spindle’s end. Her hand was alternating between icy cold and burning hot and all her nerves pulsed and thrummed: it seemed to her that her skin ought to be glowing a strange green. She felt the small stab of the spindle on her extended finger and knew no more - all fell quiet, and the cursed girl never felt her head hit the dusty stone floor.
Aurora firmly shook her head to clear her mind of such pointless reminiscing. Her pale fingers brushed back her blonde hair thoughtlessly and adjusted the lightweight golden crown set atop her head. Maleficent had saved her. The past was over, and the pain and sense of loss of self she had suffered then would never happen to her again. She remembered the joy she had felt at slowly waking up, confused, and seeing the horned woman standing over her and the softness of the pillows and sheets underneath her - the joy and still-wet tears mingling on her faerie protector’s face as she saw her ‘little beastie’ smiling up at her anew, alive and awake. The girl knew then what must have happened. Maleficent had given her the one gift that could save her - a expression of truest love. A kiss. As Diaval crowed happily and fluttered over (quite forgetting he was currently a man, she was sure) to greet her and the faerie queen regarded her, still somewhat in shock, Aurora gently touched her lips....had the woman kissed her there, as she sometimes dreamed of? Was that the only element that could have saved her? When she asked this question directly later, the winged woman laughed ruefully, before answering:
“Not just then, beastie - you well remember our first proper kiss, I am sure.”
And of course Aurora did: the two of them snug together in the faerie’s favored tree, gazing up at the angular face of the stunningly beautiful creature who loved her enough to save her life from the curse she herself had foolishly bestowed on the girl. Small batlike pixies flitted through the night air, leaving their trails of glittering light, and Maleficent’s fierce eyes were locked onto the girl’s, seeming to drink her in. Then without warning they were kissing: the faerie’s lips touching her own more gently than she could have imagined, and Aurora instantly needed more, couldn’t imagine going on without this beautiful woman in her life ever again.
The events after she roused were no less difficult to remember, but that single moment of awakening and seeing Maleficent gazing at her in gladdened shock overpowered the horrors that followed, mostly. The roaring of the dragon Diaval became, the faerie’s screams of pain and breaking of glass and rush of the freed severed wings now and then came back to haunt her, or worse yet, a glimpse of the King (he wasn’t your father, truly, she told herself - he never treated you with love) broken and crumpled far below after he attacked the now-winged faerie, trying anew to kill her when she showed him mercy. Such thoughts had eased some with time: yet she thought it likely they’d crop up now and then for the rest of her years, like stepping on a hidden point of a shell amongst the sand when it was least expected. But all that had been in the past - Maleficent had crowned her queen in knowledge and sight of representatives of both realms and now they could truly be together.
Aurora stood there, coming out of her reverie fully at last, to find she was facing a tapestry depicting a rather poorly proportioned unicorn frolicking beside a stream as a woman with differently-sized eyes played the harp. It was an ugly thing, truth be told. She should have it replaced. Perhaps some of her dear faerie love’s friends could help replace it. As she was gazing at the unfortunate tapestry, she at last realized parts of it were darker than others, as if something was blocking the pale moonlight. She frowned at this phenomenon briefly before the shape became clear: a slender neck, softly arched wings, twin slightly curved horns. She gasped softly and quickly turned to face the far wall. Maleficent, of course, was standing there completely still and watching her - outlined by the open window as the rich purple curtains lightly moved in the night breeze.