The light of the full moon shone down on the island below. A cruise ship eased slowly up and down as it rocked on the tiny waves. The ship was completely silent, save for a single guard walking up and down the deck. The man leaned on the forward rail, gazing out at the island where the ship was moored. A beach of glittering silver sand stretched back about fifty feet, abruptly halting at the edge of a massive tropical forest.
The guard yawned and stretched, glancing at his watch.
It was fifteen minutes to midnight. Then his shift would finally be over and he could crash on his bunk until noon. He looked out at the forest once more, slightly apprehensive. Deep shadows covered the ground, giving the whole area an aura of evil and darkness. A phantom wind blew across the deck, sending shivers up and down his spine as goose pimples rose on his skin. He shook his head to clear those thoughts from his mind, then continued hurriedly on his route.
Far out of sight of the ship, two shadowy figures stood in a clearing deep in the forest. A large cauldron had been placed in the center of the clearing, some sort of bubbling black liquid filling it nearly to the brim as smoke rolled up and over the sides, spilling onto the ground below before dissipating into the air. One of the figures shifted impatiently, her black and purple robe rippling around her slim figure. Her face was beautiful in the moonlight, though anyone who looked closely enough could see a hint of the ugliness and cruelty that dwelled inside.
"Is it midnight yet?" she demanded.
Her companion glanced up at the sky, whether to check the time, or purely out of exasperation, the Queen didn't know. "Patience, Your Highness," she said, no hint of sarcasm in her dull monotone. "We have not much longer to wait." The woman scratched at her headful of dreadlocks, her many bangles and necklaces clanking as she moved.
The tall one, more commonly known as the Evil Queen, sighed, turning to examine the surrounding tree line. "Are you sure those...Kingdom Keepers," she spat, "aren't lurking around here somewhere?"
The other, Tia Dalma, bit back a retort. The Evil Queen may have once been the fairest in the land, but she was only a pretty face who happened to know some magic. Tia Dalma doubted that a single intelligent thought had ever passed through that empty little head. "They are still on the ship," she said flatly. "The hyenas are making sure they stay in their chambers."
The Evil Queen snorted. "Like that will work," she muttered.
"Besides," the witch continued, pretending to not hear her comrade, "we made sure to lay a proper false trail so even if they did find their way around the mutts, they would be going off in the entirely wrong direction. They believe we're trying to...how do they say? Reboot? Yes, reboot our DHI server. We are perfectly safe."
The Queen's fingers twitched. Oh how she wished she could strangle that little witch who thought she knew so much more than her. Why Chernabog kept that scruffy little savage around when he could rely on the beautiful Queen, she didn't know. "That still doesn't change the fact that it was partially correct," the Queen hissed. "We are trying to resurrect Maleficent's spirit in the form of a DHI until enough belief gives her a new body."
Tia Dalma shrugged. "A little bit of truth mixed with the lies make it all the more believable." She glanced up at the moon, noting its position. "It is time," she announced. She crouched down and picked up the end of a large sack at her feet. She began to drag it toward the cauldron in the center of the clearing, struggling under its immense weight.
"Help me with this," she said.
The Evil Queen sniffed, sticking her thin little nose into the air. "I am not one for doing the grunt work."
Tia Dalma gritted her teeth, just managing to keep her anger under control. "I cannot lift it on my own. Do you want to bring Maleficent back or not?"
The Evil Queen hesitated. No, she did not want to bring Maleficent back. That little upstart thought she was Chernabog's favorite-ha! The Queen had been around years before her, and yet she was forced to work under the younger's orders. But the logical part of her told her that if they did not have Maleficent, they would fail. Maleficent had been the leader of these operations ever since Chernabog decided the supposed good characters of Disney shouldn't be above them.
She sighed in frustration. "Fine."
She moved forward to help the little witch, and together, they dragged the bag just to the edge of the ring of smoke.
Tia Dalma opened the sack, and the grisly shape of a dragon's skull became clear in the moonlight.
A slight gasp of horror, hurriedly stifled came from somewhere off to the right.
The Evil Queen and Tia Dalma's heads whipped toward the sound, peering suspiciously into the shadows for any sign of movement.
Tia Dalma held up her hand, signaling the Queen to wait. She crouched low to the earth, slithering toward the source of the noise.
The Queen pretended to have ignored the sound, examining the immense dragon's skull sitting on the ground and watching Tia's progress out of the corner of her eye. She grudgingly admired how swiftly and silently the witch could move, almost invisible to the casual observer despite the moon shining directly into the clearing.
Tia Dalma reached the bushes, and pounced behind them.
Instantly, the Queen heard an angry screech, quickly followed by Tia's screams. She ran toward the commotion, raising her hand above her head in preparation to cast a spell. She hesitated at the edge of the shaking bushes, wondering if it was really worth tearing her favorite gown in order to protect a little savage. She was saved the decision as a raccoon burst out of trembling leaves, hissed at the bushes, and loped away to the other side of the clearing.
Tia Dalma followed soon after, blood oozing from multiple scratches along her face and arms, her feathered dress badly torn. "Just a raccoon."
The Queen managed not to smile-smiling made wrinkles-choosing instead to raise one pencil thin eyebrow. "Indeed." She turned in a swirl of fabric and stalked back to the skull, leaving Tia Dalma to follow as best she could.
"We must hurry," Tia Dalma said, grimacing in pain each time she took a step. That stupid raccoon had made her twist her ankle. "It is midnight. Not a second to waste!"
The Queen looked up at the sky. Sure enough, the moon had reached its peak, the silvery light shining directly into the smoking cauldron.
The two woman each grabbed an end of the skull, the Queen wrinkling her nose in disgust. They hefted it into the cauldron and hurriedly backed away as a fresh wave of poisonous smoke burst from the surface, the black liquid becoming a sickly shade of green.
"Fetch the server," Tia ordered.
Under normal circumstances, the Queen would have rebelled at being bossed around, but she knew that if she argued, their chance would be lost. She reached into her robes and pulled out a box about a foot long, covered in little red lights that blinked on and off.
"Is the projector connected?" Tia Dalma asked.
The Queen flipped a switch on the side, and then turned to look at a specific tree. A little red light began to blink on and off in its branches, signaling that the projector was activated. "Yes."
They had stolen the DHI camera months ago, not exactly sure how they would use it, let alone how it worked. After a brainwashed human had explained to them its properties and how to work it, it only took a little sorcery to make it capable of what they wanted to use it for.
Tia Dalma raised her hand to the sky and began to chant in a foreign language that the Queen didn't understand. As the witch continued the spell, the smoke began to curl into a funnel cloud, swirling hypnotically above the cauldron.
The Queen flipped another switch and pressed a couple buttons, and the server beeped, the lights flickering from red to green.
The smoke began to move, creeping toward the now activated server in the Queen's hands. It was all she could do not to scream and drop the device as the smoke curled around the box, seeping into the hole on top.
A flicker of movement caught her eye, and she turned to look at the forest. Filled with sudden panic, she twisted her head back to look at the projector. To her relief, the red light still shone through the leaves. Then she realized there was a shape slowly creeping toward it, barely visible against the black shadows.
"The Keepers," she hissed.
Tia Dalma didn't stop chanting, but her expression was clear: Stop them!
"With pleasure," the Queen growled.
Carefully, she placed the box on the ground, the smoke following it down. She stood, holding up a hand in the direction of the figure and muttering under her breath.
A ring of fire erupted around the shape, and the person yelped in surprise and pain, backing away from the flames and coughing as black smoke filled the air. It was a boy with bright red hair. That computer geek, the one who constantly hacked into the Overtaker's database and destroyed their servers.
She didn't know his name. She had decided a long time ago that it wasn't worth her time to learn the names of enemies, since they never lived for long anyway.
She raised her hand, preparing to finish him off, when a twig snapped behind her. She turned around just in time to see another figure drop out of the tree just above the site of the raccoon commotion. The figure ran into the clearing, her straight blonde hair glinting like gold in the moonlight, heading straight for the Queen.
The Queen prepared to launch another spell when the girl vaulted into the air, somersaulting over her head and landing behind her. The Queen whirled to face her, but before she could do anything, someone tackled her from behind. She fell to the ground, shrieking in indignation. She found herself facing the tall African kid.
"Get off, you miserable wretch!" she screamed.
She squirmed in his grasp, struggling to break free, but the boy's arms remained firmly locked around her waist.
"Willa!" someone shouted. "Get Philby! Everyone else, stop the server!"
The Queen looked up and her vision tinged red. Running toward the cauldron was none other than Finn Whitman-one of the few enemies she'd bothered to learn the name of.
A growl erupted in the back of her throat. In answer to its mistresses call, her favorite crow swooped down and pecked at the boy's hands until he finally released her. She stood up, kicking the boy away when he tried to tackle her legs. She ran toward the server, standing before it with her arms outstretched, prepared to ward off anyone who came near it.
The boy she'd kicked staggered to his feet. He looked up and his eyes widened when he looked at the Queen. He cursed viciously. "Guys," he said.
The Queen realized that he was looking at something behind her. She turned around and took a step back in surprise. The mist was rising in a column above the server. Then she realized that the fog was slowly shaping into a familiar horned figure. Once again, it was all she could do not to smile.
"She rises!" she crowed.
"No!" Finn yelled.
She turned just in time to be tackled by the infamous Finn Whitman. They fell to the ground, just barely missing the server.
Finn reached out an arm, struggling to reach the blinking box.
The Queen rolled to the side, pulling them both away from the smoky form growing out of the plastic. She scratched at the boy's face, forcing him to release her. She staggered back to the cauldron just in time to knock aside the African boy as he took a leap at the box.
Through all this, Tia Dalma kept chanting, seemingly unfazed by the fighting going on all around her.
A fresh surge of anger flared to life inside the Queen, and she wanted to yell at the little witch to help her. Then she looked down at her dress. It had been torn almost to shreds, mud and grass stains running up and down her nearly shredded skirt. Her breath came in ragged gasps, pure hatred welling up inside her as she stared at the Keepers. They had just made things personal.
"My...best...dress!" she screamed. She raised her hands, barely managing to keep her voice to a whisper as she murmured a few words.
The African kid cried out, collapsing to the ground and writhing in pain.
"Terry!" cried the blonde, running to his side.
The Evil Queen gestured toward her, and her crow swooped down and attacked the girl, sending her screaming and swatting as she tried to protect her eyes.
A low, drawn out gasp echoed behind her. Tia Dalma yelled a few more words, then fell silent. The Keepers in the clearing froze, staring in shock at the server.
The Queen turned. Standing in front of the server was a woman with horrible green skin, dressed in black robes with two massive horns poking above her head. The Queen curtsied low. "Maleficent," she said cooly. "So nice of you to join us."
The green witch took a deep breath, seemingly savoring the air. "Indeed. It is good to be alive again." She turned her piercing gaze toward the Keepers. "And how nice that our enemies have come to witness my rebirth. It shall be the last thing they shall ever see." She raised her hands into the sky and lightning flashed in the previously clear sky.
"Scatter!" Finn shouted, turning and grabbing the African boy under his arms and dragging him toward the tree line. The blonde hurried to follow, but the Evil Queen knew it was useless. They would be struck down before they were halfway across the clearing.
Suddenly, the image of Maleficent flickered. The lightning storm paused, and the witch lowered her arms. "What?" she demanded. Her image slowly began to fade.
Horrified, the Queen turned toward the forgotten projector. No red light blinked from among the branches of the trees.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Maleficent screamed as her image faded completely.
Tia Dalma and the Evil Queen stared at the spot where Maleficent had stood.
Tia Dalma spun around, searching for the Keepers, but they had already faded into the forest.
"This isn't over!" she yelled. "Maleficent has been resurrected as a DHI! You have only stopped her for a moment by turning off the projector. She still lives! We will still prevail!"
No answer came from the forest.
The Evil Queen sniffed indignantly. "Cowards. Attacking us while their little friend turned off the projector." She turned and picked up the server. "Fetch the projector," she ordered Tia Dalma. "We'll wake her DHI on the ship."