When she was born, she was a tiny light in the world, like a firefly, wings of lightning, and her mother clapped her hands in glee. When he was born, he was a tiny squalling hurricane, a voice like the wind, and her father was enormously proud.
She hated her brother for all he could do, for all he could say and get away with. He made friends with the foxes and wolves, racing them between the trees. Blackbirds followed her everywhere.
He told her once he loved her, then he laughed, he laughed, as if it wasn't true, and she wondered why she had to love him, because of some twist of shared blood and bone, they had the same parents, they had the same eyes, but what did that matter, why did she have to love him.
One of his wolves leapt for her throat on a fall afternoon among the color-burning leaves and he laughed again. She slit the wolf's throat instead with the ebony knife her father had given him, she'd gone into his room at night and stolen it because he didn't deserve it, she did. She could shed blood; she knew because he would manipulate her into doing it.
He said, Manon, do you know who you are?
She nodded, hair dark over her eyes. Yes.
He said, I love you, sister, the way you are.
I love you too, my brother.
Then she cut out his heart to see if he was lying. And she became a dragon.
Her mother would not say her name. Her father banished her. She took the ebony knife with her, she took her mother's ring with her, she took the blackbirds, she took her name and her brother's heart and her knowledge of how true love fails.
She wandered, a thick smoke trailing behind her, and she killed crops and livestock as she passed by. A blackbird landed on her hand and pressed his beak to her temple; he told her where to find shelter, where to find stone, because stone is the truest element.
A lost castle at the edge of a prosperous kingdom and yes, she liked it there, the stone cool under her palms, and she wrote her mother's magic into the walls, the charms she had learned from the time she was a tiny light in the world, and on her heart, she wrote her brother's crooked brand of magic, how he ran with the predators and nuzzled at the blood in their fur. She ate her brother's heart to keep him with her because he was the wrong one, but now she was the one left behind, so she had to continue the legacy.
Anyone wishing ill came to visit her, as if she was a crone, a witch with gnarled plant roots and guttering candles and the smell of ash in the air. She helped them with their problems, then helped herself; they were a vindictive people, so once their wishes were done, her own carried out, the spells turning on them, exactly what they wished on other people. She laughed and walked along her battlements, her Diablo on her shoulder, her devil keeping her happy because he could read her mind, his little fast-beating soul as dark as his wings.
Some days, they would fly together, blackbird and dragon, looking for carrion.
The kingdom nearby was so good and green, it reminded her of home, the time before her and her brother ever worried about being separated or growing unknown to each other, though they knew each other's skins like a hunter knows the skin of its prey.
She felt her brother's heart beat inside her, and she said, I know, brother, I know, these people think they have every happiness, every color banner of freedom. We should burn it.
Then word came the queen was carrying a child and she could tell it would be a girl-child, beautiful and fair, a tiny light in the world.
And Maleficent touched the stones of her home, one of her skittish children of magic capering around her ankles, and Diablo touched his beak to her temple.
The people in the green kingdom needed to know the truth. She would help them see, and she would help them see.