Not long after her crowning, Aurora became entrapped by the human land and all its concerns. She wore, however, her magnificent crown of the Moors rather than the jewel-studded monstrosity the court attempted to ply her with. Tutors and their flocks of valets ran here and there, putting the young queen through her paces in the hopes that amid their barrage of teachings, something would stick and make the coarse girl into a proper lady. Advisors and counselors followed or crowded Aurora, likened to nervous vultures - eager to watch the lady fall under the weight of her new burdens that they might pick her apart by her mistakes and place someone more suitable in their eyes.
Or so that is how Diaval best understood it when he questioned Maleficent regarding court behaviors.
Bird, beast, dragon, and now a simple messenger, Diaval spent the majority of his days gliding between the castle and the great rowan that housed his dour mistress. He saw the bowing of Aurora's shoulders matched only by the subtle fall of Maleficent's chin when he returned empty-clawed.
Not that she could read the messages.
That little tidbit didn't become clear to him until the fifth exchange when Maleficent didn't even bother to unfurl the paper scrap but placed it carefully with the other four and listened as Diaval went on about what Aurora had chattered about. It certainly hadn't been for love of his voice, as she liked to tease him. Fortunately for them, the queen tended to speak aloud as she wrote, practicing writing and spelling and reading in one.
He didn't know how to go about breaching the subject without losing his feathers.
By the second snowfall, however, he was saved from having to.
A great stallion rushed into the moors, kicking up snow and sprites and tossing mud and mane with gleeful abandon. He would have been chastised for it if not for the lady that slipped from his back. He nickered and pranced and hopped, free of saddle or bridle and happy in the magical realm. Aurora smiled and scratched his neck. "Go on. I'll find you when I must."
He butted his heavy nose into her chest and snorted before they parted company.
Diaval didn't fly off to report right away, rather enjoying simply having the girl back home. Truly home. In the Moors, her shoulders relaxed and her smile curved just a little wider below the childish spark in her eyes and she was Aurora rather than Queen. The fair folk that didn't mind the cold came out to greet her and Aurora had a kind word for all.
After a time, though, her eyes looked through them, through the trees, searching out a particular path. Diaval fluttered down from his perch to take a new one on her shoulder, cawing softly in greeting. He preened when she stroked her knuckles over his chest. "Pretty bird." she smiled.
He ducked his head and the path before them cleared.
"I feel as though I've been away for an age." she sighed when they were well and truly alone.
Diaval made a soft noise of agreement and shuffled his wings.
"Is that your way of saying you missed me?"
He gently tapped a wing against her ear, earning a giggle.
"Is your mistress here?"
His head cocked in curiosity.
"I have missed you both. You never reply to my letters. Is my penmanship so terrible?"
Diaval could give no more reassurance than to lean into her head.
Up and up and through the strange silence - silent because this was Maleficent's hill and the fae were still respectful of her power and privacy. As the ancient rowan came into sight, Diaval left Aurora's shoulder in favor of his nest, fluffing his feathers to create a personal bubble of warmth.
"Godmother?" Aurora called.
There was no reply beyond Diaval's quiet squawk so Aurora set hand and foot to the ancient wood, finding holds all too easily. She wondered if the tree was making her climb easier somehow but shook the thought off as she came to the top where heavy limbs branched out, reaching for the sheer drop over the cliff. Aurora looked around in quiet wonder - she had never been in the tree before. She couldn't even begin to guess where the dark fae slept but nosed about a collection of trinkets and pried the lid off a small woven basket. Within were each of her notes and letters, all rolled tight and sealed with strips of grass or vine rather than the leather and wax they left with.
"Rude little beastie."
A rush of cold air followed the stalling swing of autumn wings and Aurora set the lid tight on the basket again. "Hello, godmother."
Unnatural eyes glimmered, taking in the sight of Maleficent's wayward charge. "You seem...different."
"I'm..." Aurora drifted, searching for words that flitted about and away. "...tired."
The way Maleficent kept shifting her wings over the stretching silence threatened to drive Diaval to screech. His mistress was no coward and yet! He shuffled onto his feet with a few soft, disgruntled noises that earned him a sharp glare. Diaval turned to give his mistress his tail feathers before taking to wing.
There was not so much as a breath of wind to cover Aurora's soft, 'Do you hate me now?', but Diaval beat his wings and forced himself to leave.
On his return, the raven was stuffed full and eager to settle in for a well-deserved sleep. Patrolling the Moors wasn't his duty yet when Maleficent didn't come to find and berate him for his insolence, he realized the responsibility fell on him that night. Nothing much to report. The scar of the Wall of Thorns was being tended by the large guardians whose loyalties veered dangerously close to Maleficent rather than the Moors.
Fortunately the two were one and the same again.
"Into a Man."
An indignant squawk broke into a deep grunt as Diaval barely swung away from his nest in time. He stumbled and wheeled his arms until steady enough to stand. "I hate it when you do that!"
He huffed and tugged at his clothes but stilled as she drew a wing back to show him that Aurora slept pressed into Maleficent's side. "Is she better now?"
"She's not sick, Diaval."
"Just homesick." he countered.
Maleficent hummed and her wing closed.
"What did she say?" He almost hopped before recalling that the body of a Man was not half as light or graceful about it.
"She could not leave the castle until her tutors cleared out and went back to their steadings for the winter. She asked that I come and visit her several times." It was then he noticed the latest of the rolled letters being twisted between long fingers. "The idiot beastie allowed herself to believe I could despise her for being away so long."
He scoffed. "Truly? If only she'd seen the number of times you stood ready to fly off and--"
Diaval finished in irritated caws as Maleficent interrupted him. He stopped only when Aurora stirred and Maleficent's eyes cut out a clear threat. Then it was a sigh and a short climb to his nest where he fluffed his feathers and made what faces a bird could at his mistress.
It proved a most interesting visit.
Apparently the young girl managed to get Maleficent to crack (or crumble like a wall if Diaval correctly interpreted the pantomime behind his mistress' back) and admit that she had no clue how to read the assortment of black-scratches Aurora sent with her messenger. So it was that the Queen giggled, insisted it was called 'writing,' and set about teaching the dark fae. Maleficent turned her nose up at the suggestion that she aught to know the language of humans on paper when she could speak it just fine.
Aurora then wrote out their names with as much grace and flourish as she could summon (one of the first things she insisted be taught, even before the alphabet).
Let it never be said that the fae are without vanity or pride. After a few quiet minutes of dour glowering at the journal, Maleficent snatched away the sharpened stick of charcoal and attempted to imitate. Diaval chortled in broken caws when the letters came out rather wobbly. A 'mysterious', pointed down burst blew him straight out of the tree.
"That wasn't very nice." Aurora chided, though her eyes were bright with amusement.
Maleficent merely sealed her great wings tighter against her back and went about trying it again.
They moved to practicing on the banks of small streams and creeks where the mutually poor handwriting would be washed away. The sun broke through on Aurora's third day so by the fourth, the snow was melted and the grass springy and dry enough for bare feet. Diaval declared himself 'captain of the watch' to ensure mudfights didn't break out, though it was more that he, too, turned his chin away from the lessons. "I'm a Raven, not a Man!" he cried. "Birds don't need to know human words to know humans!"
"You speak well enough." Aurora half-questioned.
He flung an arm towards Maleficent, fingers spread like wingtips. "Aye, but it's her magic that makes it so!"
"Remind me to turn you into a croaky, fat little toad next time." his mistress called airily, writing out the Queen's name with a great deal more confidence and speed than just two days prior.
Aurora fell back where the sunlight could warm her from head to hip, arms flung out to the side. She giggled as a family of sprites ran over her forehead, the touch of their toes like soft blades of grass. "But when I leave, Diaval, who will make sure she practices?"
He folded his arms over his chest, keeping his back to them in mute refusal to bend.
"You know how dreadfully lazy she can be, after all." she continued, cracking one eye open as a shadow crossed over her face. Maleficent stared, wings stretched out and back. Aurora grinned. "Terribly, terribly lazy for a godmother. Did you know she let three over-sized pixies raise me rather than lift a finger to help?"
His shoulders hitched. Maleficent's eyes snapped towards the jerk of movement.
"Imagine just what would happen if I wasn't here to keep her on-task. Chaos, Diaval!"
He doubled over in a fit. Aurora jumped upright as his laughter became baritone croaks. "Godmother!"
Feathered Toad-Diaval floated over to them on a wash of gold, managing to look as indignant and upset as he did awkward; long legs flailing uselessly and throat pillowing big as he might make it. He continued to futilely thrash over Maleficent's palm while his mistress' eyes gleamed with dark amusement. "Lunch can take so long to gather for such a lazy creature, beastie. Why bother when we can have frog legs right here?"
"You wouldn't!" she gaped.
Maleficent's expression neared the edge of innocence. "Wouldn't what?"
Diaval stopped floating and grunted as he was hung upside-down, held gently by an ankle.
"Maleficent, change him back right now!"
"Oh, so it's 'Maleficent' when you need something, is it?"
Her godmother barely said it with a straight face so Aurora didn't feel wrong in laughing and leaning over to kiss the tip of the dark fae's nose. "Let him go, you silly thing!"
Maleficent's expression softened for a moment before she rolled her eyes and unceremoniously dropped Diaval into the water. He writhed and sputtered as he was transformed again into a Man. For all his furious glowering, there were still two matching expressions of contained amusement and innocence looking up at him. "I hate you both," the raven grumbled, dropping onto the most sunny section of shore where he found his own twig to practice with.