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I got you beneath my skin

Chapter Text


I got you beneath my skin


Watch it break like porcelain


As you slip through cracks so thin


To bury your half soul, deep within.




Soulmates were a fact of life. The sky was blue (unless you were color blind), the sun breathed life and soulmates were everywhere. They could be one or multiple per person-if a soul decided it wanted to travel the world and split into three or more bodies instead of two. They could be platonic, or romantic, but the truth of the matter was, that they were the only people in their reality, that were the best equipped to understand their other halves. Understand them, see them, feel them. A complementation, not a completion.

People weren’t crippled if they didn’t find their soulmate; some special cases didn’t even have soulmates. Magical creatures, after all were generally, well, above it-in their own words. Animals, also, weren’t exactly built for it. But it was generally agreed that soulmates were sacred. Whether they be a blessing or a curse, depended on more. They tended to bury beneath one’s skin, in more ways than one. Stories graved into the flimsy armor of the body transferred, the beginnings of beautiful tapestries, or tragically scarred engravings.

Some soulmates were even more blessed, or cursed depending on who asked, than the regular soulmate bond. These soulmates were written into fate’s plan to change the world. They were rare, but never forgotten, never lost, for the world never expected them, would never expect them. It always shunned them, trampled them, but it always remembered them. It thanked them in moments where they came close to perishing for a world that never deserved it. Almost always closer to a never than a late.

 


The magical world of Auradon, was a union of peaceful states all living in armony- uh-mm, harmony. Auradon was a beautiful jewel-encrusted sword, coated with silver to cover the bloody rust of the lives of innocents, doomed to a heritage that was enforced on them and a government that never cared. It was the stoic painted face of a regal lady, bleeding white powder and ink over bloody black scars, restricted into a corset where a subset of living beings were wrung out of an integral part of them, where the feathered fan hid the mouth of the masses, sharpened points carving across trembling lips, scared to breathe out of turn and get doomed to a fate the likes of demons living and forcibly resurrected, caged together in a vigorous fight of survival, where no one wins but the shining beacon of goodness that was King Beast’s kingdom. An apt name for an apt leader. There was no real morality; there was the crown and those against it, be they good or horrid people.

The good people of Auradon were the chosen ones, the only ones worthy of soulmates. After all they were the ones who stayed in Auradon and were never banished. There was nothing wrong with them.

There were no soulmates on the Isle of The Lost.

Such ignorance could never be bliss, for there were innocent souls condemned to a prison camp, blessed with someone of their own, who they didn’t have to fight for, like everything else in their lives. But they never knew it. There were no soulmates on the Isle, even if there were. No one had them, even if they did. And spontaneous marks on one’s body were hallucinations courtesy of hunger pains and a magical barrier forming a lovely umbrella over the Isle- to keep the sun out and the rain in.

They didn’t exist, even if they did. Love was weakness, and soulmates were a weak human concept, not allowed in Maleficent’s domain, even if it wasn’t, even if her own daughter was plagued with them.

There were no soulmates on the Isle, even if there were, even if both domains were horribly wrong.

Two little girls aren’t soulmate, they don’t change the course of their current history, even they if are, even if they will.

Chapter Text

Pale skin. Purple hair. Acidic flashing green eyes.

A suffocating wide spanning heritage. Not worthy of her own name. An inherited name. A feared name. A hated name.

Little girls trained to be monsters, with hearts too big to hide, stomped fragile little hearts, wrung out of any light. Little dragons with wings beneath their skin, itching, itching, with no hope to emerge in a magic wasteland. Always taunting with the ability to fly but chained by their weights to their bones, wrapped in fragile leathery armor; no scales, just flimsy skin.

Faes with purple hair and thundering eyes, with pointy ears, tips hidden in their hair and horns breaking through their scalp. But still too human, with human weakness that could never hope to be hidden. Never as strong as Mother, never as bad as Mother, never enough for Mother. Disappointing little girls, with their hearts buried beneath the bars of their ribcage, and soulmates etched into the tattoos on their skin. A small bony arm bearing two dragons embracing as a heart, a symbol of heritage, a symbol of more.

 

Darker skin. Blue hair. Warm brown eyes. Trapped in darkness no matter their light.

One role, one trait, one value. Pretty looks with pretty eyes, only allowed to say pretty words, forced to hide the sharp edges of a silver tongue. Flowing limbs and fluid grace confined to cemented porcelain; fragile, doomed to crack with the slightest force. Vital breath trapped inside screaming lungs, begging, just begging for freedom, to fly with the wind and shine with the sun. Elastic spine stiffened with golden whips. Deadened eyes eclipsed by an elastic smile, thin petals stretched wide over poisonous pearls.

One step forward, strut. No hesitation. Strut. Head high, so very high. They all bowed to her, to her. She bowed to no one, no one but her Mother. Her Mother with the pointy heels, the crackly whip. Smile, smile, little princess, smile for the prince. Back straight, head up, smile out. Polished looks, princesses are to serve, are to live in huge hollow castles. Little princess shut your mouth and turn off your brain.

Turn it off.

Turn it off. And spend an everlasting decade roaming hollow halls, chained to brittle walls.

 

Little girls, just little girls… doomed by their parents’ crimes, doomed to their disappointments. Just two little girls who did not chose to close off their hearts and turn off their minds. Did not choose to be so much more.

 

 



 

 

At five years of age, Mal already knew a few Isle rules by heart: trust no one for they’ll stab you, magic doesn’t work on the Isle so things suddenly appearing are mind tricks from starving, and most of all love is weakness and shall be exploited. Not that she would ever disgrace herself by forgetting them; she was sharp for her age, she had to be to survive Mother.

Be bad Mal.

Steal, if you want to eat, worthless child.

Learn to take a beating, how else will you inflict them on the scum around you.

Be evil.

Be cruel.

Be worse.

Be a Maleficent, don’t be a Mal.

 

Mal was five years old, but some lessons got burned behind thin eyelids.

She rubbed her dragon mark, a sign of her heritage, a sign that she was her Mother’s daughter, a sign that was weirdly heart shaped - the only reason she knew that shape was so that her Mother could show her what broken hearts looked like. Whenever she felt like a disappointment, she pressed on her mark. And whenever she pressed on her mark, she felt like it settled deeper into her skin – ridiculous, but it always tingled then. Ridiculous, there was no magic on the Isle.

At present, she’d been forbidden from returning to the castle by her Mother; she just hadn’t been misbehaving enough. Finding food would be harder than usual, but this wasn’t her first time locked out. She stuck to the shadows, not really in the mood to stomp down the streets; sometimes the darkness just provided more protection, both for her mind and body.

She stuck to the walls, pressing further on her mark, and for a moment she felt a ripple under her skin, something eager to break out and cover her whole body, something hard and sharp and gleaming. The feeling persisted, and Mal could feel her eyes glowing in the darkness, a dead giveaway for her position. So, she closed them and trusted her ears; her hearing was always sharply tuned and keen, more so than any other kids, even Jay. Maybe it was something passed down from her Mother, because while there was no magic on the Isle, physical advantages specific to species remained, and Mal was always a little too quick, a little too strong, her senses a little too sharp.

She wondered if it was her Fae side or if she inherited some of her Mother’s dragon traits.

She might have had an edge over the other kids, which was one of the reasons they feared her, but she was never as much as Mother, never enough for Mother, she always had to be more: more terrible, more wicked, more evil, more rotten, more, more, more….

Mal took several deep breaths, rattling the fragile cage of her heart, pushing it to escape, to seek freedom. Alas it would remain imprisoned for the time being, destined for freedom in the future. She slowly opened her eyes – almost feeling the glow recede from them – and noticed that she was close to the ramshackle bazaar.

She released the pressure on her mark, bracing herself against the wall. She quieted her breathing and bent into a crouch. Her hair might have been very noticeable, but stealth was a survival skill for any kid on the Isle; she was always invisible when she wanted to be. She slowly crept on light feet through the crowded cluttered stalls, using her height to her advantage and hiding behind dented metal and ripped cardboard. She was only on the search for food today, so she paid no mind to the various little trinkets on display, just begging for grubby hands to swipe them.

A flash of blue in the corner of her eye grabbed her attention. She turned her head to see a little girl her age with vibrant blue hair grasping at the dress of an imposing woman with the bearing of a royal and a crown on her head. The woman moved a little way ahead, with the girl staying where she was.

There wasn’t a lot of royalty on the Isle, so Mal quickly deduced the woman to be The Evil Queen and the girl to be her daughter.

She watched them closely, noting how the girl seemed to almost vibrate, though it was obvious she was trying to contain herself – unsuccessfully if the way she was swiveling her head, was any indication.  

She snuck closer to them, curiosity gripping her. When she was but a few feet away from them, that swiveling head stopped and she was suddenly pinned by the princess’s gaze. Intense, curious brown eyes fixated on her and completely froze her in her tracks. She could almost feel that look like an actual touch, a peculiar warmth pervading her chest, like a puzzle piece was slotting into place inside her.

The princess looked as equally enthralled as she, tilting her head and stepping a little closer. Mal could honestly say that she did not belong on the Isle. Nothing that pretty should be on this desolate prison, even at five Mal knew that.

She swept her eyes over the pretty blue haired princess, but finally fixed them on a little basket in her hands, where there were a few red apples that were only a bit bruised and not rotten.

Her stomach cried for mercy at the sight of edible food, so Mal hunched her shoulders a bit and prepared for a quick grab and dash, before that searching gaze was on her again, all but freezing her, a delicate hum breaking the silence. The princess picked up one of the better-looking apples and extended it to her.

Mal looked flabbergasted between the girl and the apple, but only had the apple thrust more in her direction as a response. Mal hesitantly reached for the fruit, expecting it to be cruelly snatched back, but the princess still patiently waited for her to take it.

Once in her grasp, she cradled the treat close to her chest and lifted her eyes to the unexpectedly generous girl in front of her. It would not do to show gratitude on the Isle, but Mal allowed her thanks to be clear in her eyes, something the princess seemed to pick up on, tilting her head and gifting her with a beaming smile.

For a moment, just a moment, Mal could have sworn a ray of sunlight shone on both of them. Even though Mal heard of the sun by nostalgic drunk pirates, it never appeared on the Isle, but for just a moment it shined bright and turned soft blue hair into flames and warm brown eyes into what she heard and imagined chocolate to be. But clouds doused the flames as the other girl opened her mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by her mother.

“Evelyn! Are you mingling with the trash!” She came storming back their way, tightly latching onto her daughter’s arm. Mal frowned at the grimace on the other girl’s lips and almost started shouting at The Evil Queen, but she was already dragging her daughter away, all while ignoring her cries of pain, without sparing Mal another glance.

Mal wondered at the heavy weight on her heart and how something seemed to tug at her chest, like someone was trying to drag her forward. She felt a pressure on her forearm and before her eyes, little crescent moon marks appeared on her arm. She blinked, befuddled, and they were gone in the next second. She shook her head, the hunger obviously getting to her and slinked back into the shadows, sparing one last final glance at the pretty blue princess, watching her disappear with her mother.

 

She was already planning how to survive the night with her meager meal and where best to sleep, it wouldn’t do to get back to Mother tonight.

 

 


 

  

At five years of age, Evie knew of her Mother’s rules by heart:

Find a Prince, looks are her only good quality and the only thing that matters, do NOT wander outside the castle unsupervised, once out on the streets stick close to Mother. Evie had spent most of her little years in the castle and out of the streets, so she didn’t really know much of the Isle, except that it was desolate, dirty, and gloomy. But she might have sometimes preferred the streets over her Mother’s lessons.

Find a Prince.

Shut your mouth, your words don’t matter.

Turn off your brain.

You should be the second fairest of them all.

Spine straight.

Head high.

A princess is poised Evelyn.

A princess is beautiful Evelyn.

A princess does not open her mouth, Evelyn.

A princess does NOT associate with the trash Evelyn!

 

Yes, sometimes Evie preferred the dirty streets over Mother’s painful teachings.

She was five years old, but some lessons were painfully engraved in her mind.

And Mother’s been gradually replacing Mommy and it was painfully difficult to deal with.

“Come, Evelyn. I have deals to broker, and you are to come along and stick close to me.” Mother’s eyes bore into her own to be certain of her cooperation.

“Yes, Momm– Mother…Yes, Mother.” Evie dutifully followed her Mother out of the castle, holding in a breath and stubbornly ignoring the ache of Mommy turning into Mother.

She straightened her back and stuck very close to Mother, casting a wary eye at the shadowy corners, but turning her head every time a splash of vivid color came to her attention. There was so little color on the Isle, that anything that was other than dark and gloomy, caught her eye.

As she was squinting at the sky trying to find the sun that never shone on the Isle, she felt a tingling along her arm and a prickling in her chest. As she absentmindedly rubbed over her heart, she pushed back her sleeve to see a purple mark briefly flash over her skin. But as she blinked, her skin was once again smooth and clear and unmarked. Dread pulled weights at the galloping of her heart. She lifted a trembling hand to rub a thumb over where she could have sworn a mark, almost heart shaped, appeared on her arm.

She didn’t notice that she stopped following her Mother until she was violently yanked out of her thoughts, by her Mother yanking on her arm to capture her attention.

“What did I say Evelyn. I told you to stay close!” It came as quiet hiss, far deadlier than any raised voice, but they were in public and a queen did not need a raised voice to have her subjects obey her.

“But Mother, I saw–” Evie tried to explain what she witnessed, but she realized a little too late that she broke another of Mother’s rules.

“Princesses do not talk back Evelyn! Now come!” Without allowing her another opportunity to talk, Mother dragged her along until she started keeping up on her own.

Maybe it was for the best, Mother already lectured her about imaginations run wild, and ghostly images that never existed, best not to give her more to criticize her about.

Evie studiously ignored the continued tingling along her arm, the closer they got to the bazaar.

At least the bazaar was one of the highlights of the Isle; all the fabric, all the jewelry, all the food. Even if everything was obviously Auradon’s leftovers and in awful shape, it was all still better than the hollow halls of their empty castle.

As her Mother negotiated with a skeevy looking man about something in hushed vicious voices, Evie continued looking around the bazaar, swiveling her head around. She absently took a basket her Mother handed her before she was ushered away with a sharp, “Our deal is payed Rumple,” from her Mother who urged her onward, a non-characteristic scowl on her face.

With a glance towards the basket, Evie delightfully noted the juicy red apples that looked edible but decided to refrain from asking her Mother about the man, instead silently following her to another merchant, clutching her dress while looking around.

Ignoring her Mother to instead look at the colorful fabrics, a flash of bright color immediately drew her attention. Snapping her head, her eyes took note of the splash of purple adorning a small head.

Upon focusing more, she saw that the unkempt hair belonged to a small little girl her age, pale with pointy ears, who was disheveled and staring at her in return, only a few feet separating them. But her most discerning feature were her eyes; a deep vivid emerald green that looked to glow in the gloomy bazaar. Evie’d never seen a color so bright and imagined it to be the same color as the trees her Mother told her bore her apples. She could feel little sparks tapping over her skin, the green gaze almost close to an actual touch.

Evie stepped a little closer to the girl – who looked to be as taken with her as Evie felt – tilting her head to examine her more. She was dressed in all purple, clothes a little baggy, a little cut, a little frayed, with what looked to be small leather wings at the shoulders of her jacket. She had the look of a haggard hungry girl, but she was still strikingly pretty, especially with her haunting eyes. The girl appeared to be looking her over as well, but alas, the apples appeared to be the most appealing to her, if the way her eyes were entranced with Evie’s basket was any indication.

A grumbling growl broke the silence, but on closer inspection, it appeared to not be a monster on the verge of attacking, but just a hungry stomach from a tired looking purple haired girl, hunched over, preparing to pounce.

Evie barely turned her head to check that her Mother was away and couldn’t see her, before she picked up one of the healthier apples and offered it to her new acquaintance with a hum.

She was met with a heavily suspicious stare that only served to confuse her. The girl was hungry, so why wasn’t she taking the offered food, Evie wondered.

After a few more moments of suspended silence, Evie extended the apple more insistently and watched as it was taken to be possessively cradled against a small chest.

When green eyes met her own again, they shone with gratitude, filling her with an odd warmth that seemed to embrace her heart and that stretched her lips into a beaming smile and tilted her head in consideration.

For a moment, just a suspended moment, light seemed to descend on them, illuminating them both. For just a moment, the sun she was searching for smiled at them, turning purple hair and green eyes into vivid fire, and almost bringing those little wings to a full span.

But that moment of light couldn’t last, for darkness obscured again and her Mother came swooping in like a vengeful vulture.

“Evelyn! Are you mingling with the trash!” She thundered over to them, grasping Evie’s arm in an unforgiving grip and dragging her away, quickly putting a gaping distance between them and the flaming girl that bled purple and green fire and looked ready to fly.

“But Mother–” Evie tried to unchain her Mother’s grip, to no avail, finally letting herself be dragged from what felt like a very important call from the universe.

“No, Evelyn! What is one of my rules!” Mother tightened her hold, sharp talons digging into soft flesh, forcing blood to flood the little punctures, ripping little weak cries of pain out of Evie’s throat that she ignored and did nothing to alleviate.

“Princesses do not mingle with trash,” Evie reluctantly recited. “But Mother, she wasn’t trash! No one with eyes like that, could be trash!”

“Eyes like what?”

“A very bright vivid green!”

Her Mother stopped in her tracks. “So, we met Maleficent’s brood. I wonder why she looked like that and if it’s for the reason I think it is,” she hummed thoughtfully.

“Mother?”

“Hush Evelyn. We shall go back to our castle and you will be locked in your chambers. Am I understood?” Her Mother finally regained her royal composure, tugging her more sedately to their castle.

“Yes, Mother.” Evie sighed, resisting the urge to drag her feet; it was unbecoming of a princess. She threw one last look over her shoulder, where apparently Maleficent’s daughter was supposed to be standing.

 

She wondered as she followed her Mother, why it felt like she left her heart somewhere behind, why it was trying to drive her back in that direction.

She tried to put it out of her mind, massaging the nail marks Mother left on her forearm, thinking of ways to occupy her time locked up, and wondering if she had the right colored pencils to try to remember Maleficent’s daughter.

Chapter Text

Prince, prince, prince, prince, bloody nonexistent PRINCE.

 

Little Evie raged – though silently – stepping on light tiptoes and hunching stiff shoulders.

Her whole body was tense with rage and apprehension, as she stuck to the shadows of her dilapidated and dusty castle, hoping – though she knew not to –that her Mother wouldn’t emerge and strike her and drag her to her room.

I am not yet six, why should I care about princes who do not exist and boys that wish to steal ownership over me, Evie exhaled furiously, then promptly froze, just waiting for her Mother to come clamp on her and chew her out.

After a few tense seconds, she allowed herself to relax and inched slowly towards the gates.

Why if I knew how to swim, I’d brave the sea and drag myself to Auradon. Though I wouldn’t be escaping princes there, I would be escaping Mother, a red haze incased her vision, causing her to halt her movements.

Wait a min- don’t be ridiculous Evie, it’s just not possible, she chided herself, breathing deeply and clearing her vision, not noticing the bright red glow recede from her eyes.

She slipped past the gates into the cold night, careful not to dirty her clothes. I should only die for one crime tonight, if I’m caught, so let her kill me for sneaking out, not for the state of my dress, she thought wryly, though, ironically, she wasn’t wearing a dress. It would do no good to sneak among the shrubs and dead trees of the very dead forest.

She seemingly couldn’t control her legs, something pulling her by the cord of her soul to the forest, a speck of moonlight showing through the clouds leading the way.

The night was eery and quiet, the air still, like the world was holding its breath for something fated and extraordinary to happen.

Evie crouched low, creeping further into the dead forest, mindful of her steps so as not to make loud noises. She might have not been around the Isle much, but every kid knew stealth. Their survival hinged on it.

She couldn’t see that much, even with the moon, which might be the reason for not seeing the sharp splinter jutting out of a tree in her path. It grazed her forearm, sharp wood piercing delicate skin.

She bit back her cry of pain, letting it out in a prolonged hiss, taking deep breaths until it faded to a dull throbbing. Shaking her arm, she continued to follow the light.

She still felt an unknown tugging, like an invisible spooky compass guiding her way, until she came upon a clearing.

There was nothing clear nor clean about the clearing, but the moon made it almost glow, colors hedging around the edges. There were spikes of ebony rock, extending jagged claws to the miserable sky, casting tall shadows on the uneven ground.

No matter the unnerving feel of the clearing, Evie found herself stepping further, edging close to a big boulder in the center of the clearing.

As she neared it, a flash of color drove her forward.

But she wasn’t careful enough, and the sound of tumbling rocks was deafening in the night.

Evie froze, silently begging the world to remain as it was.

A moment of stillness. And then.

A flash of color leaped from behind the boulder, crouching before her with terrifying glowing green eyes, made more piercing in the darkness.

Evie threw her arms up to shield herself, but a flash of moonlight illuminated deep purple hair, and she relaxed as a memory of an apple, sun, purple hair, and vivid green eyes came to mind. She spread her arms in peace, keeping very still.

After a tense moment, recognition passed the girl’s face and she unfurled from her crouch – like a great big cat, or even a lizard, stretching. All deadly grace.

“What are you doing here, Princess?” Her voice sounded for the first time, soft and melodious. Mesmerizing.

Evie found herself entranced, her soul pulling her forward once again.

“I had to leave. Momm – Mother is suffocating, and I found myself pulled here,” Evie answered honestly, feeling a warmth fill her chest and warm her numb fingertips.

She shivered a little, clutching her arms to her chest, hoping to warm herself. Maybe her rage was warming her before, because the prickling cold of the night that had been chasing her without her notice, seemed to have caught up, nipping at her skin.

The other girl noticed, seemed pensive for a bit, then gestured to her with an open hand.

Evie cocked her head in confusion, which was evidently detected.

“Come here, Princess. I happen to be very warm.” She exhaled, sitting back down against the boulder.

Evie couldn’t even hesitate, joining her and leaning close to her. She was unusually warm.

“How are you so hot?” Evie demanded to know.

“Awwww, how kind of you Princess.” The girl flashed her a wicked smirk, mischief filling her eyes.

Red flooded her cheeks, but before she could even defend herself, the girl carried on.

“It’s in my blood,” it was said with an unconcerned shrug.

Evie decided not to ask for elaboration, instead asking her why she was here.

“Well sometimes I wander at night when I can’t sleep. How bout you, Princess. What’s this about your Mother?” she asked, barely masking her concern.

Why a stranger, no matter how attracting – maybe even attractive – was concerned for her, Evie didn’t know. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Well, you can talk to me. I know all about suffocating Mothers,” the girl tried to keep her voice light, but it was heavy – like the hand that suddenly rested on her own shoulder – weighed down by burdening memories.

Evie found comfort in the heavy hand, leaning more into it, cradling her legs to her chest. Chest that ached for her new friend. So, Evie tried to explain, “Well…she just...everything with her is…PRINCE!”

Her sudden exclamation caused her companion to snatch back her hand and jump a little away from her.

Evie’s chest heaved with her earlier anger flooding back into her blood, but it wasn’t anger chocking her voice. Horrifyingly, she found her throat bobbing in time with the cutting tears tracing down her aching cheeks.

That appeared to panic her friend even further.

“Oh geeze. Oh, no. Please don’t. I don’t know how to deal with crying kids, unless it’s to make them cry harder.” She fluttered her hands around her, obviously uncertain how to handle this, before hastily shoving her hand in her pants and thrusting it back at Evie.

Evie was so surprised that she blinked, tears momentarily forgotten. Which gave the other girl time to uncurl her fingers. “You like hearts, right. I bet you love hearts, so here, take it,” she insisted, stilling her hand to allow Evie a proper look.

It was a poison red glass heart, with a crown on top, all dangling from a golden chain. It didn’t look like much, but it looked like it was made for Evie. She reached for it without proper thought, pausing to glance back at her friend, opening her mouth to say that she couldn’t just take such a jewel on this junkyard of an Isle.

The other girl appeared to be done waiting, and Evie found herself with a lapful of a poison-heart necklace and with the passing comment of how, “It just isn’t for me. But it looks like it completely suits you, Princess!”

Evie couldn’t stop her beaming smile for anything, even with the other girl looking away in seeming embarrassment. “Can you help me put it on?”

The girl looked reluctant, though she seemed to cave when Evie jutted out her lip. “Give it here.” She sighed holding out her hand.

Evie happily gave it back, turned around and lifted her braid away from her neck. Even the girl’s fingers were burning warm, leaving sparks traveling her neck to warm the rest of her, before seeming to settle in her chest.

After a steadying breath, she turned around to thank her friend, but she found herself trapped in deep green eyes. At least she wasn’t the only one in a trance. Though the other girl seemed to shake herself out of it first.

“Well, if you’re feeling better, Princess, we can do something, if you want.” She stood, extending her hand to help Evie up – like how her Mother told her princes would act with her.

“What is there to do in a dead forest?” Evie couldn’t stop herself from asking, though she found she didn’t want to part ways with this enchanting girl.

“I don’t know, summon spirits?” this was said so very sarcastically, though it still chilled Evie to think of the undead and the stories about them her Mother loved to tell her, to get her to behave.

“Oh, would you like to dance?” Evie excitedly clasped her hands together, after casting the chill away, keeping her thoughts away from haunting spirits.

“In the forest?” her companion was decidedly less enthusiastic.

Evie just eagerly nodded her head.

“With no music.”

A hum was her only answer.

A resigned sigh.

“Fine, but just to warn you, Princess. I don’t know how to dance.”

“That’s okay, I can teach you.” Evie barely restrained her squeal. “I might have to teach you how to lead, though.”

“Why?”

“A Princess never leads.”

“That sounds like bull.”

“Language!” Evie gasped, scandalized. That was no way for a lady to speak. Though Evie found herself almost agreeing with her.

“Sorry, Princess. No etiquette lessons where I’m from.” She spread her hands in a sarcastic, disinterested gesture.

“Do you want to dance, or not,” Evie demanded, hands on her hips.

“Not. But, well, I already agreed, sooo…” The girl slowly stepped towards her, holding out her arms.

The air went quiet again, except for the squawking of vultures, flying overhead.

Evie clasped a hand and positioned the other on her own waist.

After several fumbling starts, stumbling steps, and almost squished toes, they fell into a rhythm, clicking together. No matter the other girl’s previous ignorance of dance, she was very graceful, effortlessly keeping up with Evie, taking lead like donning a well-loved piece of clothing.

They twirled until the edge of the clearing, moonlight giving way to shadows, eclipsing their features. But they still appeared to glow, their hair lighting up and green eyes flaring in the dark. They were trapped in their own moment, feet rooted to the ground, and eyes anchored to each other’s soul.

Something seemed to shift inside her, like an empty space slowly filling up. But before Evie could ponder more on it, they were wrenched out of their trance by thundering footsteps and a drawn, “EVELYYYYYYN!!!!”

“Oh blast,” Evie whispered, blanching to an unhealthy degree.

Her Mother came stomping through the trees, expression more thunderous than the sky.

“HOW MANY RULES HAVE YOU BROKEN, EVELYYYYYN! AND JUST WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??!!!” she continued to shout, clamping tightly on her arm, and wrenching her away from her source of comfort.

“Here, Mot–” Evie turned to gesture at the clearing, which appeared to have run away.

The otherwise impossible disappearance of the supposed immobile clearing disquieted the girls enough for her Mother to have been able to drag her frozen body a few feet away from her friend, who seemed to awaken at that and shout “HEY!” chasing them.

Her Mother whirled on the other girl in a flurry of billowing robes and barely controlled fury.

“YOU! URCHIN! STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!”

But this appeared to anger her friend, whose eyes began to glow ominously, looking ready to fight her Mother to the death. “You listen here you–”

But her Mother was already dragging them away, height giving her an advantage even with a struggling daughter in her grasp. Soon enough, Evie couldn’t see the enchanting girl who gave her a heart.

“MOTHER LET ME GO!” She struggled even harder, sensing if she lost this fight, she would lose so much more.

“Do not raise your voice Evelyn.”

“How did you even find me?”

“The vultures have many uses.”

“But Mother, I was going to invite her to my birthday party.”

That finally stopped her Mother, though Evie sensed that this was no victory.

“You will NOT invite her! That urchin shall NOT tarnish our goals!”

“But Mot –”

“Hush! You will be quiet! And will be punished for the company you kept and the rules you broke, am I understood?” Her Mother grasped her by the collar with an increasingly tight grip, until she had difficulty breathing.

“Yes, Mother,” Evie was finally able to choke out, refusing to look at the malicious gleam of triumph in her Mother’s eyes.

They headed to their castle, to even more restricted freedom and more rigorous rules, with Evie feeling like she lost so much more than her freedom, feeling like she left a heart behind in exchange for the fragile glass one under her shirt.

She didn’t notice the brief flashing of green in her eyes, nor did her Mother, who wasn’t looking at her.

Neither did she notice the dragon mark caress her skin again.

They continued on, the night the only witness to such foretelling events.

She silently resolved, discreetly grasping the necklace, she wouldn’t let her Mother steal nor break this one.

 

 


 

 

Six-year-old Mal knew when to be loud, and when to be quiet.

Loud was for intimidation, displaying power, luring unsuspecting prey into traps. Loud was the stomping of sturdy worn boots, the grinding of sharp almost fang-like teeth. Loud was the flashing of acid green eyes and the impossible fleeting stench of magic.

Quiet was for sneaking, stealing valuables from under sniffing noses without bringing any notice. Quiet was for food, survival. Quiet was the little squeak of lightly treading boots, the whisper of tumbling rocks and cracked gravel, the glint and slink of a knife aimed at an unprotected back.

Quiet was the execution of revenge.

Loud was the reaping of the results of it.

Loud was deadly confrontations with similar flashing eyes and deadly pointed horns.

Quiet was the essential slide and slip to survive, to escape Mother.

 

No one would dare pickpocket her, but sometimes stealth was required.

Especially if you’re stealing away with a rather nice piece of jewelry, Mal mused embracing the dark and putting distance between her and the chaotic bazaar . Some people stayed open very late, but how she came upon this heart necklace at the dark of night, was beyond her.

At least Mother wouldn’t look for her at this time. Mother usually didn’t care what she did, just that she was sufficiently bad. Sometimes she made sure Mal was sufficiently bad. Mal hated those days.

What in Lucifer’s name could have possibly possessed me to swipe that necklace and what could have possessed the world to let it happen, I have no idea. I’m good, but not that good, Mal thought.

It was almost like something else was reaching out for that necklace, something not quite me.

It was frankly unnerving.

Mal blended well with darkness, even with her colorful hair. She kept treading far from the decrepit buildings, and crumbling roads, following an indecipherable feeling, her steps light, but mindless, specks of moonlight silent, present guides.

She found herself within the clutching embrace of black bushes and dead, crispy, burnt trees.

She was in the dead forest whose name always escaped her, words as slippery as the rain.

She remained cautious, even while she advanced. Trust nothing on the Isle, was another hard-learned engraved lesson.

She followed the moon trail into a clearing made even more visible by the rays of the moon, almost hurting her sensitive eyes, well above normal vision and which allowed her to progress within the trees with a clear view and on sure steps.

Huge spires of jagged rock barricaded the clearing, whose contrast of light and shadow made an otherwise barren clearing on a prison island, to be almost…beautiful.

As she continued her careful sweep, her feet took her to the center of the clearing, where a black boulder rested, almost throne like. Something tugged at her chest, when she stopped to examine the boulder further.

It almost looked like there were etchings on the stone surface, but before she could pounder further, she felt herself take a seat leaning against the boulder – without any conscious thought to perform the action, nor any explanation of her strange behavior.

What would Mother say about me doing thoughtless actions, without planning ahead. Definitely nothing good, Mal barely suppressed a shiver at the thought.

A glimpse of her arm gave her pause and halted her train of thought.

 

Huh, when did I get this cut, Mal wondered. Maybe when I was sticking to the walls or I was too distracted by my thoughts while surrounded by hard, sharp wood. Not my best idea.

She ran her finger over the cut. It was like she couldn’t even feel the broken skin, like it wasn’t even there. As visible and touchable as her moonlit guide.

Right, maybe ghosts did this. Then again, I wouldn’t put it past this prison island to trap even death and spirits, she thought sardonically.

Taking a deep breath and pushing her worries to the back of her head, she slumped even more into her makeshift chair, focusing on the rise of her chest, letting her sleeve mask her doubts.

For a long moment, she felt connected to nature. The wind playfully tugging her hair and clothes. The rock supporting her weight. The ground tickling her palms. The smell of rain and wet grass teasing her nose. For a second, she almost joined the stars that were never visible to the island cage. With the moonlight caressing her skin – something almost rippling beneath the flimsy armor – and the trees whispering ancient secrets in her ears.

Her moment of peace was shattered with the screeching of tumbling rocks and hurried footsteps headed her way.

Mal’s eyes sprung open, her whole body coiling in anxious anticipation.

 

A second of quiet.

 

And Mal sprung, from behind the safety of her boulder chair, into a crouch, sharp teeth bared and green eyes glowing in a show of power – a growl trapped deep in her throat, scratching with frantic claws to be released.

The intruder appeared to be ineffectually trying to shield themselves with their arms.

It wasn’t until said shields were lowered and then spread into a defenseless position, that Mal was able to examine the person who disrupted her rare peace.

Mal recognized that blue hair, swept away in a V-braid and those innocent brown eyes. Eyes on the other side of a freely given apple to feed a hungry soul. Eyes made brighter and warmer by the never-before-seen sun. Eyes that burrowed themselves into her brain.

She straightened from her crouch, calming the glow of her eyes.

“What are you doing here, Princess?” she finally asked, voice low.

“I had to leave. Mam – Mother is suffocating, and I found myself pulled here,” the other girl told her, honesty freely given, voice low and warm. Enthralling.

Really, no one on this Isle should be so genuine.

But before she could question her further, she noticed her companion try to ineffectively mask a shiver.

Mal waged a silent battle in her head. On one side her Mother was practically looming over her, threatening to disown her and worse if she were to be so weak, and the other side more incomprehensible, an insistent pull tugging her closer to the Princess.

“Come here, Princess. I happen to be very warm.” She finally exhaled, reclaiming her seat, reclining against the boulder.

The other girl immediately joined her, invading her space.

Really? She needs to be less trusting.

“How are you so hot?” She was vigorously interrogated before she could caution against such naivety.

It took her a moment to process.

“Awwww, how kind of you Princess.” Mal flashed a wicked smirk, gleeful mischief dancing in her eyes.

The Princess looked flushed, appearing ready to wholly protest but Mal bulldozed against any sad excuses.

“It’s in my blood.” She shrugged, unconcerned, already used to some of the benefits of dragon heritage. Though she could do without the negatives; her temper could completely blind her and stop her thinking at times, and you could not be blind and unthinking on the Isle. Some of her cravings, though they were still mild while she was still young, were outrageous, especially on the Isle of the Leftovers.

“Why are you here, then?” Thankfully, she wasn’t asked for an explanation. It wouldn’t do to advertise her advantages, it would be practically inviting herself to get robbed.

“Well sometimes I wander at night when I can’t sleep. How bout you, Princess. What’s this about your Mother?” She was curious, her inexplicable concern filling her tone unauthorized.

“I don’t really want to talk about it.”

“Well, you can talk to me. I know all about suffocating Mothers.” She couldn’t keep her voice unaffected no matter how hard she tried. Mother’s cages were so varied, all very suffocating.

 

Little girls shouldn’t even know words like ‘suffocating’, yet here they were.

 

Mal found herself putting an unthinking hand on the Princess’s shoulder, still a bit surprised – but not much – when it was used for further support.

“Well…she just...everything with her is…PRINCE!” The other girl seemed to struggle with her words before practically bursting at the final word, said with uncharacteristic venom.

The loud screech made Mal jump away, hand her own again, and delicate sensitive pointy ears ringing.

The girl’s chest heaved, breath shallow. But Mal didn’t truly panic until she saw the sparkling tears racing down small cheeks.

“Oh geeze. Oh, no. Please don’t. I don’t know how to deal with crying kids, unless it’s to make them cry harder.” She fluttered her hands around the girl, completely out of her depth, before something occurred to her, and she hastily shoved her hand in her pants and thrusted it back at the Princess.

Who seemed to abandon her crying in her surprise. So Mal uncurled her fingers, exposing the content of her hand. “You like hearts, right. I bet you love hearts, so here, take it,” she insisted, stilling her hand to allow for a proper look.

It was a royal red glass heart, and she said royal because it was literally crowned with a golden crown, looping through a golden chain. It appeared to be in good shape, unusual for the Isle.

It didn’t suit Mal, and she still didn’t know how and why she swiped it, but it looked to be made for her Princess companion, who reached for it before pausing to glance back at her, opening her mouth to no doubt protest.

But Mal was done waiting, and dumped the necklace in the girl’s lap, an unconcerned, “It just isn’t for me. But it looks like it completely suits you, Princess!” her only further comment on the subject.

Though the girl’s beaming smile did give her pause, heating her cheeks with unexplained embarrassment.

“Can you help me put it on?” At least it saved her from further lamenting in humiliation.

Though that didn’t stop her from being reluctant, not wanting to be close to the Princess again, trying to fight the pull. But she had no fight to give, in the face of the gentle pout on display.

“Give it here.” She sighed holding out her hand.

After being handed the necklace and presented with a back and lifted braid, she gently clasped it, fingers lightly brushing against a delicate neck, burning higher than their usual heat, something rumbling in the back of her throat and tickling her nostrils.

She determinedly ignored the sweet charming scent her sensitive nose detected, though couldn’t escape the trance of the lovely brown eyes, once they locked with hers.

After a seemingly endless moment, Mal took a subtle deep breath, before shoving herself out of the spell of those eyes.

There is no magic on the Isle, and no spells can be cast.

“Well, if you’re feeling better, Princess, we can do something, if you want.” She stood, extending her hand to help the Princess up, courteous actions still deeply unconscious.

“What is there to do in a dead forest?” The other girl stepped away, as though struggling against a pull of her own.

“I don’t know, summon spirits?” Mal deadpanned, though it wasn’t impossible with the weird happenings around her lately, and Mother’s tales. She wouldn’t even put it past that Blasted King to imprison ghosts. She suspected they might the villains he failed to reanimate, or they might have been chained to the cemetery that was not long ago turned into a school.

“Oh, would you like to dance?” The Princess clapped her hands enthusiastically, glee evident in the bounce of her toes.

“In the forest?” Mal was decidedly less enthusiastic.

An eager nod of a blue haired head.

“With no music.”

A hum was her only answer.

A resigned sigh.

“Fine, but just to warn you, Princess. I don’t know how to dance.”

“That’s okay, I can teach you. I might have to teach you how to lead, though.”

“Why?” If she didn’t know how to dance, just how could she lead.

“A Princess never leads,” the words were said in a dull lifeless voice, so unlike the vibrant-as-her-hair girl. They were obviously words thrown and hammered so many times, that they eventually bruised and landed their intended mark.

“That sounds like bull,” Mal couldn’t help but scoff. Well, she was nothing if not blunt, at least.

“Language!” Apparently, the Princess had delicate ears. Mal tried to unsuccessfully ignore the warm feelings that thought invoked.

Mal was not made for gooey feelings. No, she was made of hard gritty stone walls and for complete power. She attempted to move on from how far from it she currently felt.

“Sorry, Princess. No etiquette lessons where I’m from.” She splayed her fingers, sarcasm pervading the very gesture.

“Do you want to dance, or not,” the other girl practically commanded, hands on her hips, royal bearing and status made even more apparent.

“Not. But, well, I already agreed, sooo…” Mal hesitantly approached the Princess, arms held out uncertainly, which really prickled her.

She was never uncertain of anything. But this slip of a girl seemed to completely unbalance her.

Silence filled the space between them, except for the squawking of vultures, flying overhead.

One of her hands was clasped and the other positioned on a small waist.

Mal fumbled, stumbled, and almost squished her dance partner’s toes. She was normally very sure of her every step but for the first few tries, she looked like a baby trying to find their footing and take their very first steps. Before they fell into a rhythm, clicking together.

While she might never have danced, her heritage was to lead, and her natural grace returned to her.

While she might forgo her grace to normally stomp in intimidation, it took a certain amount of grace to disappear from being so visible. She employed it now in their entrancing dance.

They twirled until the edge of the clearing, moonlight giving way to shadows, eclipsing their features. Warm brown eyes seemed to glow, red specks flaring and almost flashing, even though it seemed impossible. They were trapped in their own moment, feet rooted to the forest floor, and eyes anchored to each other’s soul.

Huh, she kinda looks like a Blueberry Princess, Mal observed fondly.

Something seemed to shift inside her, like an empty space slowly filling up. Something unfurling. A warmth heating her, something wiggling at her back. She felt her skin rippling, almost hardening, her eyes slowly swirling. The small horns hidden in her hair tingling. But before Mal could ponder more on it, they were wrenched out of their trance by thundering footsteps and a screeching, deafening, ear-splitting, “EVELYYYYYYN!!!!”

“Oh blast.” Her sensitive ears picked up the terrified whisper, while her sensitive eyes noticed the Princess’s abnormal pallor.

A familiar woman, in blue robes and a crown on her head, came stomping through the trees. Mal recognized her from their previous encounter.

That woman seriously needed to chill.

“HOW MANY RULES HAVE YOU BROKEN, EVELYYYYYN! AND JUST WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN??!!!” she continued to shout, clawing at her daughter’s arm and wrenching her away.

“Here, Mot–” The Princess turned to gesture at the clearing, which appeared to have decided to take a stroll.

Mal could not believe her otherwise impeccable eyes, disbelief rooting her feet into the ground. No more spires, no more moonlight, no more throne boulder. Dead trees and burnt shrubs replacing the otherwise peaceful clearing, where Mal’s soul was tugged to and where it appeared to bond with a warm, kind, beautiful Princess.

Her distraction cost her, the woman having forcibly pulled her daughter away and gotten a distance between them. This effectively awaked her, causing her to run and shout: “HEY!” chasing them.

The Evil Queen whirled on her in a flurry of billowing robes and barely controlled fury.

“YOU! URCHIN! STAY AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!”

A fast, burning anger filled her. No one could order her like that.

She ignored the insidious voice in her head whispering Only Mother and trampled forward, eyes flashing, intending to let her royal pain have it.

“You listen here you–”

But she couldn’t even finish before the woman swept away. Freezing Mal at her audacity. Those precious few seconds cost her as well. Before she took off at a dead run after them, feeling she would lose everything if she couldn’t catch them, dread filling her, slowing her down, almost like something was physically holding her back. But that was impossible. She struggled forward, the forest seeming to impede her, like it didn’t want her to meet her Princess again so soon. Like it wasn’t time.

Soon she broke through the tree line, despair taking over, seeing she reached the shore.

No sign of life anywhere.

She slowly approached the murky sea, bending to look into the water lapping at her feet, but keeping far away so she wouldn’t drown.

It would be a lame way for me to go.

Her reflection appeared as miserable and deflated as she felt.

She continued to examine it, almost swearing she saw a flashing of red through her eyes, but in a blink, it was gone. At a closer look, she could almost see red lines on the skin of her neck. She rose her hand but felt nothing. And in a second, they too were gone.

She shook her head. Losing her mind would be the last of her survival.

My mind is just playing tricks on me.

She trudged back to her home, pressing on her dragon mark in cold drained vain comfort, skin still rippling, eyes still interminably, intermediately flashing and soul weeping in loss. Her heart feeling like it was left behind.

 

It would be years, till her soul would feel peace again. Ten years. After a devastating party that pushed fond, entrancing memories of an enchanting, beautiful, blue haired Princess away. Veiling memories with the haze of hatred, of vengeance. Hatred that would be swept away upon the touch to a scepter and a good deed done after years of shutting off a big heart, and a big mind. Ten years.

Ten years.

Though it would feel momentary peace earlier.

Chapter Text

This was stupid. Absolutely, totally, stupid.

 

“Come on Mal, I thought you wanted me to teach you flips, not how to stretch!” Jay’s jubilant tone taunted her.

Mal, bent, breathing jerky and hands on her knees, promptly flipped him the bird. Even at ten, kids on the Isle were intimately aware of the gesture.

She regretted thinking that asking him for help was a good idea. She was obviously not thinking.

“And…roof…climbing,” she struggled between breaths, finally straightening up.

She looked to the boy leaning on the wall, too much unwarranted enjoyment on his face.

He’d be sorry he laughed at her later… Later. Right now, she needed her stolen air back.

He was still a thief even when he wasn’t anywhere near her. Typical.

“Why do you need me to teach you flips, anyway?” He pushed himself off the wall, approaching her.

Mal silently debated whether to tell him or not. They weren’t friends. There were no friends on the Isle. They weren’t enemies either. Frankly they were too close for comfort – some might have even said, they were as thick as thieves – though the companionship was disconcertingly comforting.

She shook off that last thought, promptly dismissing her momentary weakness. That was exactly the reason for losing her previous ‘friend’. That sea shrimp was making her too soft. Jay challenged her in competitions of strength and thievery, so he didn’t make her weak. Plus, she needed to learn this. Being cornered at a dead end was as good as dead itself, she needed to know how to climb the roofs to escape. And the flips would definitely help her in fights.

“It’ll help with my sword fighting,” she finally told him, deeming it relatively harmless.

“Sword fighting?” Jay looked impressed, despite himself, making her crow in victory. “Where did you learn that?”

“Taught myself. Picked a few dirty tricks from the pirates. Looks like my dragon heritage helps too.” She was proud of herself, while she might not be a master swordsperson, she could hold her own, and would definitely surprise anyone attacking her.

“Can you teach me? I only use my fists in fights. It might be good to learn something else.” Well, she wasn’t the only with surprises, apparently. Jay even looked almost…hesitant – impossible with the boy who practically oozed confidence bordering on arrogance.

She decided to be gracious, this time, and not mention it. She tilted her head in thought. Honestly while they were almost always in competition, they’d never betrayed each other. It’d be good to have backup.

“What’s in it for me.” Nothing was free on the Isle, so a bit of caution should be exercised.

“Well…you won’t owe me for my lessons,” he offered, arms crossed over an already broadening chest, considering her.

She regarded him back, thoughtfully. Considered her options. And finally deemed it a deal worth her while. She didn’t like owing anyone anything, anyway. Even if it was Jay.

“Deal.” She shook his hand, keeping her pockets out of reach and the few rings she’d recently acquired, on the hand that she stuffed into her pocket.

They stayed training for hours.

It was mainly trial and error.

It was a lot of trial and even more errors.

“No, no, no, you’ll break your neck. Not like that, Mal!”

“Well excuuuuuse me, Mister Expert.”

“Use your arms!”

“What do you think I’m doing, dumbass!”

“Tuck your body!”

“I’m trying to flip, not go to bed!”

 

Climbing wasn’t any better.

“Ahahahahahaha!”

“Would you stop laughing and help me! I like my neck attached to my head!”

“Pftttttt!’’

“Jackass!” Mal yelled, desperately scrambling for a foothold, a handhold, something, to keep her from plunging to her death.

Okay, maybe, she was being a tad dramatic. But it’s not like she could fly if she fell.

At that thought, her back muscles gave a series of rapid twitches, something rippling under her skin.

She could suddenly focus harder, her eyes becoming sharper, seeing grooves and cracks previously unseen in the wall, overlooked by the bigger damage to its crumbling structure.

She pulled herself up with new vigor, feet instinctively finding safe footholds, hands scrambling up the wall like a big, purple, sprightly spider.

She pulled herself up the roof in mere seconds, almost like she flew up the wall. Blood pumping, she peeked at the alley below and reveled in Jay’s slack jawed expression.

She jeered at him with laughter a little too like her Mother. She quickly stopped.

“How did you do that! It took me like, two weeks to make it! And even more with that speed!” he practically squawked at her, hands grasping his hair, eyes fixed on her.

“I don’t know!” she called back to him, honest. She had no idea what possessed her. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think it was magic.

''You're a real Terror, you know that!''

There he went with that awful nickname, again.

You practically go feral on a guy once, and he never lets you forget it.

Well the flashing eyes didn't really help, nor that they were barely seven.

You usually don't expect a slip of a girl to have glowing eyes and literally growl at you. Well Mother could be blamed for that. It was one of the longest, hardest times she was locked out.

Jay seemed to shake himself out of it. Shame, she rather liked that stupid look on his face.

“Alright. Well you obviously don’t need help with that. So, when do we start sword training?”

“First Jay, we gotta go on a little heist.” She dropped off the roof, without thinking, a part of her confident her legs would support her.

“Mal!”

Well, maybe she should have warned Jay. He looked ready to collapse, looking, well, worried. She ignored the warm feeling that gave her.

“We’d have to either raid Mother’s armory or take them from some pirates.” She exchanged a look with Jay, both of them unanimously agreeing: “Pirates.”

“I’d rather face those sweaty drunks than my Mother.”

“Well, all right. Lets go steal some swords.” Jay clapped her on her back. And no matter his strength, she found she didn’t budge one bit.

They both paused. Mal’d seen bigger kids than her, even some adults, stagger under Jay’s hand. But it was like she was rooted to the ground. Maybe it was her enhanced strength. She decided against telling Jay that.

“Wow, looks like you’re a grounded person.” Jay clapped her again, teasing and impressed.

“Ughhhhh. Just why, do I even know you.”

 

For two loud kids, they were very light on their feet and deft with their hands. After all, thieves were rather slippery.

They headed to the docks, silent and sneaky. Some roughhousing might have happened, though how they kept that quiet was still a mystery.

 

It was a rather successful mission.

 

“GET BACK HERE, YOU VERMIN!”

“RUN!”

“SCATTER!”

 

Well, almost.

 

They ran away from the two enraged, half-drunk pirates chasing them, their booty swords grasped firmly in their grubby little hands.

They were able to dodge the cracks in the ground that would have otherwise slowed them down, putting distance between them and the docks. Not that much distance between them and their pursuers, though.

They split. Always a generally bad idea, though it couldn’t be helped this time.

Mal slipped between run down, crumbling buildings. She ran full tilt, not sparing a glance backwards, knowing it would slow her or trip her.

She heard the footsteps running after her, gaining on her. She ran even faster, but a dead end appeared up ahead.

You’d think I can see the future. A dead end. Psh. I didn’t expect to put all of Jay’s lessons to use, this soon.

The pirate was closer to her, so she pushed herself and sprinted even faster, heading right at the wall, and not stopping.

She ran along the wall and flipped off, pushing herself with her enhanced strength and landing behind her pursuer.

Prey had become predator.

She didn’t give him time to register the situation, she charged at him, knocking him with the full force of her tired speed and strength into the wall.

They hit with an impact that damaged him more than it damaged her.

As she caught her breath, blood pumping, she straightened and saw the pirate slumped on the wall, unconscious, bleeding a little from the back of the head. He looked to be breathing, though.

She felt both relief and dread. He was still alive, but she was sure the only reason she didn’t kill him even with her far too abnormal strength, was that she was tired, and they had been still rather far from the wall. Her small size might have helped, too. She dreaded to think of what would have happened if she was older, with a bigger, heavier body.

If they had been closer, she would have had blood on her hands.

She decided she didn’t want to think of that.

She was further relieved when she noticed him stirring, so without another look back at him, she scrambled up the wall to the roof, actions all still thoughtless.

She slumped once she reached the top, still trying to shake off the thought that she’d almost killed someone.

She needed to start learning how to control her strength. She didn’t want another repeat of this, especially if she hurt even her allies, like Jay.

Blue almost invaded her mind, but she couldn’t deal with that on top of everything else, so she violently pushed the thought away.

A shout not far away caught her attention, effectively distracting her.

“YOU LITTLE BASTARD! COME BACK HERE!”

She peeked her head over the edge of the roof, and saw Jay almost cornered against a dead end, himself.

She debated letting him deal with it, since he was the one who taught her how to flip, so he could get himself out of trouble, but she noticed that when he tried to make a break for it, he got tripped and pinned by the other pirate.

So, with a groan, she picked herself up and promptly threw herself over the edge of the roof on top of the pirate, a shout of “MOVE JAY!” warning the boy and making him throw himself out of the way, before he got crushed.

“UGHHHH.” Mal gingerly pushed off the ground, barely holding herself up, spitting stray purple hairs from her mouth, knocked out pirate under her, having broken her fall.

Jay helped her up, a disheveled mess himself, and slowly shuttled them away.

“Thanks,” Jay said absently, thoughtlessly – as thoughtless as she, when she hurled herself from the roof – Isle etiquette forgotten in the face of a traumatizing shared event and a saved life.

“I think that’s enough for today,” Mal blankly told him, her mind shut off with shock, sitting against the wall of a rundown warehouse.

“Yeah….Definitely enough excitement for today. We’ll do the sword fighting another time,” Jay agreed, just as blankly.

“You stash the swords with you for now. Make sure Jafar doesn’t get to them,” she instructed him, trying to shake herself back into the present.

“Okay, two booty swords hiding with my booties.” Jay tried for a cheeky smirk, falling short.

She regarded him expressionlessly.

“Booties, boots. Or under my butt. Get it?” His weak smirk fell at her face.

“Wow, tough crowd. I’ll be going. Lets not do this again, Terror.” He got up, swords cradled protectively in his vest, hands pressing them into his chest, and walked off, her “Why not, it was so much fun” ignored. Her ''Don't call me that!'' was even more belated.

 

She sat and breathed for a little while, forcing her weary body to move, getting off the hard ground.

She let her feet carry her, her mind elsewhere. Her surroundings an undistinguishable blur to her. With nothing registering.

 

“Well, well. If it isn’t Maleficent’s spawn,” a rumbling purr echoed behind her.

She didn’t stop, not one bit scared. “Get lost, Scar.”

“I could kill you, with just a jump.” The big cat sounded curious, if anything.

“Mother would have you for lunch.”

“I’m not afraid of her.”

She stopped at that, to stare at him incredulously. She couldn’t help it. She bent over with the force of the laugh exploding from her.

The big kitty did not appear to appreciate that, if the warning growl was anything to go by.

She got a hold of herself, taking deep breaths, wicked mirth still heavy on her tongue. “Really. Tell me, who would win in a fight? A big old kitty or a fire breathing dragon?”

“She’s no longer a dragon.”

“She’s still got her fire.” Mal pointedly flashed her eyes, baring sharpened teeth.

The lion appeared momentarily cowed, freezing at the scent of magic.

She kept walking, feeling the heat of curious feline eyes on her.

“Well. Bright hair appears to make little girls audacious. With no respect for their elders nor royalty,” he drawled after her.

She fought hard not to stop, only throwing a vicious “Almost royalty!” over her shoulder. A flash of blue hair crossed her mind, which she promptly ignored, along with her curiosity.

An enraged roar echoed behind her with the sound of running paws approaching.

Well, it really looked like all of Jay’s lessons were going to pay off early.

She waited for a moment, her sensitive hearing aiding her. At the right second, she deftly rolled out of the way, confronted with the unfortunate smell and sight of cold, dank, angry lion in front of her.

She felt something running down her face. Keeping her eyes on her attacker, she touched her right cheek, dark blood staining her finger. She locked her jaw, disappointed and angry with herself. He’d grazed her. Barely.

She needed to be faster. This shouldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t allow it.

As Scar turned to face her, body tensed, she crouched low, baring her teeth, snarling, and flashing her eyes a livid, acid green.

That appeared to stop Scar from advancing, freezing him with an almost scared whine.

She scrutinized him, but he looked like he wasn’t going anywhere soon.

She could have sworn his coat looked almost sooty, burnt. The smell of char seeming to invade her nose.

Impossible. That was all impossible.

She shook her head and scoffed, unfurling, roughly dusting herself off with her glare still focused on him. With one last brighter glow of her eyes in warning, and one heavy stomped lunge forward, she stalked off, cursing him all the while.

She didn’t see Scar the Flying Cat, who flew back like the earth was flipped from beneath his paws, smoke curling imperceptibly from his fur.

Her heightened hearing was able to pick up an incredulously grumbled, “Las mismas. The same. The absolute same. Unbelievable,” before she was out of sight and hearing range.

A tingle tickled her, heat flashing in her chest. Something about what he said, striking her. She almost couldn’t contain herself. But she did. Just barely. Though she couldn’t resist a look at the nearby dead forest that still haunted her, no matter what she did.

She was absolutely done for the day. Just done.

Memories still teased her mind. She roughly pushed them away, stalking a path to her castle, hapless people jumping out of her way.

It should have been impossible for a ten-year-old to inspire such fear. But apparently not. Maybe because while she was busy raging, without her noticing – with her eyes flashing, her shoulders hunched, her feet practically assaulting the ground – she looked the literal spitting image of her Mother.

 

She was so ready for this day to be done.

 

The day was obviously not done, neither with her nor in general.

 

As she trudged into Bargain Castle, her mind was still elsewhere, but she automatically stuck close to the walls, keeping her ears out for her Mother’s screeches or her henchmen’s footsteps.

It was eerily quiet. Too quiet, given Mother’s habits.

Mal made sure to be extra cautious.

As she slowly crept forward, her keen eyes noticed a fluttering a bit ahead.

Upon approaching, she noticed the drape to the armory was a bit displaced.

I really might just be able to tell the future. Seriously, how is almost everything I mentioned today, involved in the chaos today was turning out to be.

She silently slipped through the doorway, hoping the room would give her clues to what was wrong with the castle.

She tried not to pay too much attention to the blood rusted weapons. She still thought and dreamt about the first time she saw the armory, so she tried to limit her visits.

She shook off the chills of that time. Barely four. And it was still stuck in her head.

She did notice that one of the whips was crooked. She walked over to it, careful not to touch it, examining it.

The murmur of voices finally reached her, making her abandon the whip and head through the adjoining corridor, the sounds coming from another dreaded room.

Why Mother decided to replicate her spinning wheel, and use it as intimidation and punishment for me, I have no idea. Maybe for her inflated ego.

The wheel was made of scraps of splintered, rotting wood and the bark of the dead trees on the Isle. It made for a gruesome picture of a rotten wheel of splinters, with a sharpened spike as the spindle. She must have had her minions melt some of the metal that came on the barges.

Her Mother used to tell her it was her weapon to force little-girls-who-bothered-her into a deep eternal deadly sleep. And every time she bothered Mother or didn’t misbehave enough, she’d force her little finger closer to the spindle, until she promised to misbehave and got locked in the closet of the armory, instead.

Her punishment was death, basically, until Mother made her feel so horrible, one day when she was eight, that she just stabbed her right hand through it, hoping for relief.

All she got was a lot of blood, a permanent scar, and a loss of her fear of the wheel. Mother lost one of her favorite forms of punishment. It was glorious.

Though it was very lucky she didn’t permanently damage her hand. Her heritage might have been the reason. It was like she was made of sterner stuff than the other kids, it took way more to hurt her. Usually, only Mother was really able to, and very sharp objects driven through her with speed and force, especially when unexpected or driven with the abnormal strength and speed of a small dragon determined to hurt herself. Though even then, she never hurt anything important and her bleeding was slower than the regular kid.

Sharp metals driven or thrown with speed, seemed to be the downfall of both her and her Mother, who might have been defeated by a flying sword but could withhold more than Mal could; it took a lot to hurt her.

Mal blamed her stupid, weak, human father for her own vulnerability.

She still avoided the room that housed the spinning wheel as its center piece, like a weird horrifying display of worship, and wore a leather glove on her hand to hide the reminder of that death attempt. But she forced herself to enter the room, catching her Mother talking to someone.

“Now, how did you get in my castle?” Her voice was quiet, silky, threat dripping venom from the words.

Mal creeped closer, staying close to the doorway, out of sight. She was able to see into the room, spying her Mother encircling her poor prey, waiting for the moment to go for the kill.

Mal’s heart stopped as soon as she caught sight of the blue hair, mind remembering an apple, a clearing, a heart necklace, a dance, and warm dancing brown eyes. For the moment she forgot any memory of a dreadful party, hateful grudge pushed out of mind as she quickly analyzed the situation.

She tried to find a solution as she saw familiar, warm – though terrified – brown eyes.

“And just why, do you seem so familiar?” Mother continued her circle, ending with her back to Mal, staring the now known Princess down.

Mal stepped forward without thought, straightening her back, confidence pervading her demeanor, not wanting her Mother to make the connection that she was interrogating the Princess she’d banished.

“She’s my guest, Mother,” Mal calmly said, causing both occupants of the room to turn to her with different expressions. She stayed focused on her Mother, not wanting any distractions. It was her Mother, they were confronting this time.

Your guest?” Mother practically glided to her, small size belying immense danger.

“Yes, my guest. So, you can’t have her.”

“I can’t.” It wasn’t a question, it was an incredulous exhalation at her audacity.

“She’s mine, Mother.”

“Is that so.” Mother narrowed her eyes, flashing them a sick, acid green.

“Yes, my guest.” Mal didn’t let herself falter, not this time, and flashed her eyes right back.

Guest, Mal?” The missing letters of her full name were never more evident than at this moment, the words so quiet she only heard them because of her heightened hearing. It was impossible for the other girl to have heard them.

“Well,” Mal kept their stare-off as she started over to her guest, “not my willing guest, Mother.”

Mal mentally apologized to the Princess, stepping behind her, roughly grabbing her arm, and yanking it behind her back, squeezing a bit to really sell the lie.

I should really mind my strength, Mal thought as the Princess buckled with a cry.

She immediately let up, unnoticed by either of the others, holding the other girl up, stroking the knuckles of the hand she still had in her grip in a silent apology she didn’t dare speak, hoping it was noticed.

“Ah, your guest.” Mother stopped the glow of her eyes – the first ever victory for Mal that she couldn’t savor – and hummed in an approximation of approval, that was immediately ruined as she continued, “I expected more from you, honestly. But I get nothing but a disappointment. At least, do make sure to treat her with the standards I expect from you.”

Yeah, Mal didn’t think torture and intimidation were great welcoming tools, though she didn’t tell her Mother that, desperate to escape before her lie unraveled before her eyes, ignoring the normally devastating words.

“Yes, I was just going to get her acquainted with the armory. So, see you, Mother.” She was very thankful her hostage had been silent till now, but she wasn’t taking her chances.

“Oh, don’t let me keep you,” Mother intoned, dark-as-night amusement in her voice.

“You won’t.”

“That’s my nasty little girl.”

Mal hurried away, dragging the Princess with her, nauseous for the very first time at hearing those words.

“Oh, by the way Mother, I heard the pirates are having a party at the docks and they specifically didn’t invite you,” Mal threw over her shoulder, not waiting for the explosion.

Sure enough.

“WHAT! THEY DARE! THEY ARE DEAD! DEAD! YOU HEAR ME!”

That should keep her Mother occupied and keep the Princess off her mind, which could only be good. Though she should be concerned that her Mother would kill pirates that didn’t do anything – this time. Mother wouldn’t, once she knew it wasn’t true. She wasn’t sure if her Mother would approve or beat her for her lie. She wasn’t look forward to finding out.

Mal headed to the armory, left the girl – who remained silent, obviously still in shock – at the doorway, picked up a few rusty, crusty, dusty weapons and threw them randomly around the room to make it look like there was a struggle, making sure to disarrange some of the mounted weapons.

“What are you doing?” the voice rang as deafening as a bullet. Well Princess didn’t stay silent for long.

“Shuuuush!” Mal frantically shushed her, a finger against her own lips, which appeared to offend the girl, who looked like she had more to say. But Mal just help up her index, then pointed it at her own pointed ear.

A few moments of confusion, before the message came across. Shut up and listen.

They both perked their ears, hearing the footsteps of the patrolling henchmen.

Mal waited a moment. They didn’t seem close. She checked to make sure her companion understood and found her perfectly quiet.

Mal spared her a smile, before she finally took one of the unrusted knives, its handle missing, took off her right glove and swiftly drew the knife over her palm, barely managing a surface cut, her skin seeming to harden, rippling.

She still managed to draw a bit of blood. She dropped the knife on the floor and headed over to the horrified Princess who looked at her with an ‘are you crazy’ look.

She offered the girl her uninjured left hand, which she took after staring at it like she’d never seen a hand before.

Mal guided them on the way to the back entrance, sticking to the shadows, keeping away from the henchmen. She intermittently clenched her right fist, intentionally sprinkling droplets of blood onto the floor, and wiping her hand on the wall, earning herself weird looks from the Princess.

After a few tense minutes of sneaking and barely breathing, they reached the back entrance, and headed outside, finally allowing themselves to breath.

“All right. Now, what the hell were you thinking? No one steals from Maleficent, and they especially don’t sneak into her castle!” Mal hissed at her companion, making sure to keep her voice down, lest she alert her Mother.

“I don’t know! I wasn’t thinking, and I somehow ended up here! And me! What about you! What was all that back there with the knife and the blood and my arm!” At least Princess was able to freak out on her quietly, though it was only when she began to gesture, that they realized they were still holding hands.

They quickly let go.

Mal cleared her throat, feeling off balance.

She was always able to do that to me.

“I hope I didn’t hurt you,” she awkwardly said to the other girl.

“What?”

“With your arm. I had to be convincing, so I had to hurt you. Which… I… didn’t…mean…”

“So, the blood….?”

“To convince Mother of a struggle. That I used the knife on you and chased you out. Lets just hope she doesn’t look too closely at the blood if she does see it.”

“Why not?” She tilted her head curiously at Mal.

“My blood has a purple tint to it.”

All she got in response was a blink, so she waved her hand in a dismissive gesture.

“All righhhht…Anyway, it looks like you saved me. Can I give you something as a thank you?” She brought her hands together, widened her eyes and jutted out her lower lip.

While the sight was almost impossible to say no to, Mal didn’t really need it.

“It’s okay, you don’t really need to–”

“No really, I didn’t even buy it. But it isn’t for me. Though it looks like it was made for you.”

“Why do those words seem familiar?” Mal couldn’t help but playfully tease her, mind back to a glass heart necklace and heartwarming brown eyes.

Those eyes sparkled at her now, set in a beautiful face and lit up with a warm, sweet, shy smile. Mal watched as her hand rose to clutch at a lump under her shirt, fist resting over her chest.

Mal warmed at the thought that she kept the necklace, that she wore it under her shirt and over her heart for safekeeping.

The other girl fished in her pocket, before extending her hand and unfurling her fingers.

On her palm was a rather familiar ring.

A familiar ring bearing a purple stone, flanked by two silver dragons.

“Where did you get this?” Mal whispered, reaching for it, but stopping short.

“I found it under some leather scraps in an alley. Don’t remember where, maybe I was too in my head to notice. But why? And why do you sound like that?” She extended it once more, this time held between three fingers.

“My Mother lost this. She was supposed to give it to me, but she never did.”

“Well, maybe it was fate. Maybe it wanted you to have it. Maybe it wanted you to find it this way.” The low, comforting voice almost hypnotized her, though the deep brown eyes staring at her were what captivated Mal most.

Mal reached out a hand without breaking her stare, fingers clasping over the ones holding the ring. “Maybe.”

They stayed locked together, eyes never looking away from each other, not noticing the warm purple and blue glow of the ring, how it seemed to pulse like a heartbeat, how the dragons flashed the same colors.

They did notice when it began to warm, though, breaking out of their trance, embarrassed. Yet the Princess didn’t remove her hand from the ring, so Mal sent her a questioning look.

“May I?” she finally asked, timid.

“What?”

“May I put it on you?”

Mal could do nothing but stare, until the other girl looked like she was going to retract her request, so she finally just absently nodded and held out her left hand.

Since her fingers were so little, the Princess slipped the ring on her thumb, where it wasn’t in danger of falling off.

They both stared at the ring for a bit, before locking eyes once again.

“Maybe I should go.”

“Maybe you should.”

“Thanks for the save, and I hope I’ll see you again someday.” The Princess didn’t give her any warning before leaning in and giving her a delicate little kiss on her cheek, barely a brush of soft lips against skin.

She pulled back, soon after, further stunning her with a warm smile, flushed cheeks, and dancing eyes. “I will see you again, Maleficent’s daughter.” She gave her hand a final squeeze, before turning and slipping away.

“Bye,” Mal murmured, word lost to the wind, staring after the enchanting girl she was always enchanted by, two fingers rising to lightly brush the spot where soft petals painted their smile on her tingling skin.

Mal was thankful Mother was on the rampage, she didn’t get the displeasure of seeing her daughter so weak.

With a deep breath, she forced her hand to her side, straightened her spine and walked back inside.

She resolved to lock herself in her room, needing the privacy to recover.

Mal traced the cut on her cheek as she snuck to her room, the ring a warm, comforting weight on her hand.

Her hectic day, suddenly, didn’t seem so bad.

She really didn’t expect to meet her Princess again. And yet…

 

Though she did wonder, as she got ready to sleep, about the cut on her cheek. It looked like it was cut twice in the same place, making it thicker than it should be. Also, about the bruises on her back, she was certain she couldn’t have gotten those from jumping off the roof and knocking into the pirate. She had a bruise on her forehead and a few on her legs from that. The ones on her back look like someone pushed her on the ground with their full weight, which didn’t happen. Her arm also looked like someone decided to squeeze it to death.

It was all so weird.

She shrugged and left the thought for another day.

She closed her eyes, smiling as blue hair, warm brown eyes, and a soft sweet kiss, came to mind.

 

It would be a rather long while, before Mal would remember her grudge. This memory as precious as the previous ones.

 

Though she still didn’t know her Princess’s name. Odd, really.

 

 


 

 

Maybe I should think of better ways of dealing. I should really stop running away every time Mother gets overbearing. Her anger is always worse after I do. Then again, I am ‘supposedly’ locked in my room for daring to suggest I don’t want a prince, so maybe she won’t find me. Oh, who am I kidding. You might be desperate and unfoundedly optimistic, but you’re not stupid, Evie.

 

The ten-year-old little princess stubbornly refused to learn not to sneak out, especially after the last time she did. But this time she did not have the cloying protection of the night.

Why she thought it was a good idea to sneak out in broad – though neither bright nor sunny – daylight, was beyond her.

Rational thinking appeared to have fled in the face of the desperate urge to flee.

This time, mind the vultures, Evie. Maybe they’ll be too distracted by the highly repugnant scent of dead rat, I left as a present for them at the back of the castle.

Though she had no excuse – no insistent tugging, no urgent pulling – to explain why she ended up in the dead forest again.

Maybe nostalgia. Or stupid hope. Though, what is even the point... I lost her…More like Mother snatched me away, didn’t even push her away, just kept me in chains and under her tight grip and sharp fingernails. What else is new.

She valiantly trudged deeper, a deep feeling telling her she wouldn’t be finding eery magical clearings, nor beautiful magical girls, this time.

At least this forest looks significantly less creepy this time.

Even if the rustling of the trees seemed to be louder.

Her instincts were flashing her a loud warning that she ignored, though she remained cautious.

The air felt thick. Her instincts blared even louder. She halted her steps. Strained her ears. Tensed her body.

A roaring yowl caused her to violently flinch. The sound echoing in her ears, while the crunching of dead charred leaves hung in the air.

Or not.

The last thought barely made itself heard over the frantic pounding drum of her heart, hand clasped to her chest, lungs pleading for air, while she stared at the giant cat crouched before her in an unsettling poor mimicry of the last time she was pounced on in this Lucifer-damned forest.

No cat. Lion. Lion with a distinctive scar over its eye. Ugh. This forest is determined to make me join it in death. At least, I know my predator. I’d rather know, than die in ignorance. Mother would disapprove of my disgust over ignorance. ‘Blank mind, and pretty looks, that’s all you need Evelyn’.

I don’t know what will kill me, the vicious lion, or Mother’s voice in my head. No, Evie. No fear.

She frantically fixed her rumpled appearance. Took a few breaths. Lifted her chin. Straightened her spine. And glared down her nose with all the royal disdain she usually saw on Mother, even though she was facing her probable death.

“Oh, would you look at that. Princesa has a spine,” Scar rumbled mockingly, predator slowly circling its prey, a curious Spanish accent in his low voice.

“Kitty has claws,” she volleyed back, refusing to be cowed. She would not die a coward.

The lion stopped for a minute, as though not expecting her to fight back. “Hmm. I don’t know if I like you or not, Princesa. Time will tell.” He resumed his pacing.

She kept her eye on him, not wanting to be caught off guard again.

“Well, how did you escape your little cage?”

“Don’t you know, that curiosity killed the cat.” She crossed her arms over her chest, dreading word getting back not only to Mother, but to Maleficent as well.

“How did you get here? This forest isn’t meant for humans.” He ignored her jibe, intent eyes scrutinizing her.

“This isn’t my first time here.”

“Hmm. Though rare, the forest has shown certain, shall we say, excepciones.” She was object to an even more intense look.

“Where is here, anyway? I mean, what’s it called?” Evie asked, hoping to escape the scorch of that look.

He indulged her, conforming to the tales of the cat toying with its food. “El Bosque Muerto.”

“What?”

“It’s Spanish for The Dead Forest. Un bosque muerto para una isla muerta,” he purred, getting unnervingly, bit by bit, closer.

“What?”

“A dead forest for a dead island.”

“What do you mean?”

“It means this is an island of death, Princesa. That Rey, that King, who claims to be the holy paragon of goodness, is more a Beast than I am. He revived some of us from death to send us to a slower or more painful one on this dead Isle. It is nothing short of a miracle that I am still alive.” He viciously stalked in circles around her, agitation in his whipping tail and snarling teeth.

“Why wouldn’t you be alive?” She stalled, scanning the forest floor for a rock, a stick, any means to defend herself.

“With Clayton and Cruella here, no animal is safe. I am surprised I was able to survive.” He approached ever closer.

“Dead Forest?” She made sure to sound doubtful, as though trying for confirmation to quell the disbelief, trying to distract him.

“The Dead Forest.” He hummed, deadly feline grace suffusing his every move.

“Well, who named it, then?” She cautiously moved back in small shuffling steps when she didn’t find anything, not once removing her eyes from the predator.

“Why your Mother, of course! She speaks multiple languages.”

“Hmmm, maybe something to learn.” Knowing multiple languages could only benefit her. “What’s with the Spanish accent anyway?” It was curious for a lion, then again this was a talking lion, she had no idea what applied to those.

“You don’t know your geography, Princesa. Us, leones, were rather wide spread. My kingdom, in particular, was wide and to the south east of precious little Auradon.”

Your kingdom. As if,” she muttered under her breath, disbelieving. He either ignored her or didn’t hear her and went on with his little intimidation attack.

“Now enough chit cat, why are yo–” He stalked towards her, but she didn’t let him finish the question.

“Shit cat? You most certainly are.” She couldn’t stop her silver tongue lashing, cutting words sharpened to a steel.

What did you call me,” he growled at her, tensing, looking ready to kill her.

Still that didn’t stop her. “I thought cats were supposed to have sharp hearing.”  

“YOU WILL SHOW ME RESPECT! I WAS A KING!” he roared at her.

“Almost.” It was out of her mouth without thought, sealing her demise.

 

She couldn’t even prepare herself.

 

Scar lunged.

 

He flattened her to the ground in seconds, big weight crushing her small body, air violently forced out of her.

She felt a sharp pain at the back of her head. She was out of breath. Shaking. Her frantic heart threatening to give out.

Her right cheek pulsed, throbbing. She didn’t have to guess to know he got her with his claws.

So, this was she died, by insulting a lion. Well, there were certainly worst ways to go. Her Mother could have killed her for sneaking out again.

If she was going to die, she was going to be looking her killer in the eyes.

She took several fast breaths. Bracing herself. Anger slowly flooding her, lending her strength.

She was minding her own business when this cast out dumpster cat attacked! He had no idea who he was dealing with!

I’m not a lamb to be slaughtered.

Her eyes sprung open. Her body slowly sitting up, despite the greater weight crushing her.

She took no notice of the way her eyes flashed a bloody, vengeful red. Nor of the way, Scar seemed to freeze at it.

“You will get OFF me, this instant!” She didn’t scream. Her voice went dangerously low. Low timber carrying highly deadly power.

Something appeared to violently push the lion far away. The ground shaking, the trees trembling, the wind aggressively blowing. Like the whole forest was aiding her, rescuing her.

She slowly stood up, royal bearing steeling her spine, furrowing her brow, tilting her chin.

“You will NOT touch me again, you poor excuse for a shag carpet!” her voice rang out, deafening, echoing. The forest supporting her, trees almost bowing. If it was for her or for the wind, it was unclear. But even the wind seemed to quiet.

“Am I clear!” she screamed at the feline lump.

He was barely able to lift his head, dazed eyes locking with hers before skittering away.

He bowed his head, almost frightened. “I concede to your status.”

She examined him some more, but he was clearly beaten.

Though, she wasn’t taking any chances, so she turned on her heel, and strutted away from the forest, his phrasing almost giving her pause.

A lion talking about status. It was almost like he was implying, she was queen of the jungle.

Ridiculous.

Well…maybe not that ridiculous. Or at least of the forest. It was spooky how it was like it was listening to me.

 

She pushed that crazy thought away, rage still clouding her vision red. Her feet blindly guided her for several long minutes, and she soon found herself near the bazaar.

She wasn’t really in the mood for shopping, but the tugging feeling, from that night so many years ago, was back. It calmed her anger, leading her legs without any input from her.

They took her a bit farther away from the bazaar into an alley, and no matter the multiple warnings going off in her head she still walked on, until she came upon a small dark heap.

She crouched next to it, noticing that the heap was a bundle, a few scraps of fabric scrunched together. She felt them, running them over her fingertips.

Leather. Leathers with a solid lump under them.

She took the scraps of leather, noticing that they were of four colors; purple, green, red, and blue.

An idea came to mind, a small design already forming, purple and green combining to form a mark she was familiar with, flashing over her skin. She still wasn’t sure if that mark did come over her arm every once and a while, or if she was seeing things.

Mother would say she was seeing things. She’d surely make a remark about the futility and pointlessness of using one’s brain. How looks and beauty were the effective tools that Evie should use.

She pushed her mind Mother away for the moment, pocketing the leathers, feeling they’d be important in the future. Purple and green the combination for now, something telling her purple and blue weren’t ready to be merged. She resolved to make something of the blue and red leathers together. The red so dark it looked almost brown in certain lights.

She, at last, looked to the ground to finally find out what the lump was. She picked it up and brought it to eye level.

 

It was a ring.

 

A strange ring, with a purple gem at its center, surrounded by two guardian dragons. It was a bit clunky, nothing she’d ever wear. It seemed to almost warm at her touch, and she could have sworn the gem glowed a bit, two successive pulses, almost like a heartbeat.

At that impossible thought, she unconsciously clasped her glass heart, the necklace she’d always cherish. It almost seemed like her necklace warmed and pulsed to the ring’s beat, but upon looking at it, she expectedly found the same dull glass heart.

As she looked back at the ring, she found it to be familiar. So strikingly familiar.

Her breath caught at the flash of purple hair that crossed her mind, hand tightening on the necklace. She closed her eyes, not knowing if it was to preserve the image or to chase it away.

Without any control from her, her feet found a mind of their own and carried her away, while she drowned in precious, treasured memories, before the familiar gesture of opening a castle gate registered.

She took a moment to regain her bearings, deep breaths calming her, vision clearing.

Dread slowly filled her. She didn’t recognize where she was.

She, ever so slowly, tucked the ring in a pocket, in a measured gesture, all senses on high alert. She turned in a slow circle, mindful of her shoes, careful to keep quiet. She stuck close to the walls, keeping to the shadows, eyeing the sparse decor for any idea as to where she was. She strained her ears for any sounds.

She heard grumbling far ahead, her inhale getting trapped in her throat with her heart. She panicked, looking for anywhere to hide. Her frantic eyes focused on a fluttering threadbare drape, spying a room behind it. She hurried over, practically yanking the drape, hands gesturing at it in silent apology, once through the doorway.

She glued herself to the wall near the doorway, breath held, the grumbling taking seeming ages to pass the doorway. Thankfully, it didn’t pause at the drape.

She let out her trapped breath. She’d live. For now.

As she just breathed for a moment, she focused ahead, finally taking in her surroundings.

She appeared to be in a sort of armory, broken, rusted, twisted weapons scattered through the room and mounted on the walls. Some of the swords looked intact, some looked melted, twisted, jagged.

She had to wonder how anyone could have had such weapons. Either someone melted the scarce metal from rusted trays and broken utensils transported to the Isle on the barges, or the weapons and swords were deliberately put on the barges themselves, like there were people or guards in Auradon hoping the inhabitants of the Isle would just off each other, saving them any more trouble.

She stepped further into the room, sweeping her eyes over the grotesque weapons, spying a closed door to her left. Her gaze stopped on the other side of the room, near another doorway.

She let her feet guide her there, the array of weapons even weirder than the rest of the room.

She found her hand reaching for a whip made of what looked like strips of fraying belts, made evident by a few rows of holes punched through the fabric. Even the buckles were kept, maybe for maximum damage to skin.

Her fingers came into contact with some flaky crust on the whip, the dark crimson color of it clear after a closer look, causing her to jerk her hand back as though Mother wacked her with her favorite ruler, the whip moving out of place.

She spied a small block of wood, bringing to mind the mentioned ruler, along with a host of bad memories.

Terrified, she quickly escaped through the nearby hall, slipping into the first available room.

It wasn’t an improvement.

It was dark and dank, a weird structure of wood taking pride place in the center.

Evie wasn’t sure there was any pride to take.

Nevertheless, she still walked closer to it, apparently having not learned the lesson from her previous encounter in this dreary castle.

Curiosity could kill more than the cat. It would off inquisitive little girls, in enemy territory.

 

Upon closer examination, Evie noticed that the structure was made up of rotting wood, stuck together to form a lopsided wheel of splinters, with a prominent sharp needle sticking out of it.

The needle brought back memories of waking up one night, panicking at the sight of a round wound on both sides of her hand, as though something thin and sharp pierced her whole hand, only to watch it disappear from both sides of her palm.

She always thought of that memory as a nightmare. She clenched her right hand, remembering it now. She wasn’t so sure anymore.

The image, in front of her, rang a vaguely familiar nauseating tune, but before she could fully grasp it, a voice stopped her heart in its frantic scrambling tracks.

“Ah, I see you have met my pièce de résistance. I do think it my most powerful weapon. It impales disobedient minions and puts naughty princesses to eternal sleep. More effective than any lullaby. Really, quite…dead on point.” The silky words crawled down her spine in cold, scratching lines. They were accompanied by soft footsteps and a loud clacking, that echoed around the room and in her ears along with that last word.

Evie sucked in a shuddering breath, her heart a wild horse trying to escape the lunging snake. She forced herself to turn around and face the speaker.

That tune seemed entirely obvious and blaring, now.

Maleficent. This was Maleficent. She broke into Maleficent’s home. She was so, completely dead.

She didn’t let her panicky thoughts show, trained as she was by her Mother to always keep her mouth shut and her thoughts to herself.

She could keep her thoughts to herself. She didn’t think she ever succeeded in the other.

Never thought I’d thank Mother for any of her pointless lessons.

“Yes. It is quite…lovely.” She kept her face carefully blank, though the words didn’t roll off her tongue as easily as she’d hoped, looking at the infamous horns, the chilling green eyes and how the woman rested careless hands on top of her staff –the obvious source of the clacking.

“Hmmm. Quite.”

Evie tensed as the dragon lady started to circle her.

What is up with everyone stalking around me, today.

“Do I know you, little spy?”

“I’m not a spy, madam.” Evie crossed her arms defensively. Though, really, she had no excuse for her presence.

“Do I look like a madam to you,” Maleficent demanded, with a punctuated clack of her staff.

Evie rapidly shook her head.

“Well what do you call an uninvited guest, little spy.” The last words were pointed, hard as the eyes eyeing her like another predator.

I’m really sick of those.

“A weary traveler.” Yeah, her tongue wasn’t doing her any favors today.

Maleficent stopped her dizzying circles, to gift her with an unwanted calculating gaze. She chuckled a small, mocking breath. “Clever. Your sharp tongue might save you.” She resumed her stalking. “Then again, it might just doom you.”

Evie gulped, not saying anything further. This was the woman that sentenced her to a life of isolation. With her Mother. She really didn’t want to cross her.

“Now, how did you get in my castle?” Her voice was low, smooth, danger loud in the threat of the tone.

Evie found herself unable to answer, causing Maleficent’s expression to darken further as she stalked around her with renewed vigor, making her instinctively step back.

It was only when she was in front of the doorway – the only escape route – that Maleficent spoke again.

“And just why, do you seem so familiar?”

Evie panicked, careful to keep it off her face. She really didn’t want her to know that she was the princess she banished with the Evil Queen. It was obvious she didn’t take disobedience well.

Before she could try to outthink herself out of an early grave, they were interrupted.

“She’s my guest, Mother,” the voice rang loud, clear, deafening in the silence and warm in its familiarity, causing them both to turn to the doorway.

Evie sucked in a disbelieving breath, almost choking on it, at the sight of familiar purple hair and enchanting green eyes, so like the dragon lady’s, but so much warmer.

I found her. I found her. I can’t believe it. Why didn’t it occur to me?! I knew she was Maleficent’s daughter, why didn’t it ring a bell?! Oh, yeah, I was busy fearing for my life. Still...

Your guest?” No matter how terrifying she was, Maleficent moved with grace, to crowd around her daughter.

“Yes, my guest. So, you can’t have her.” The girl didn’t appear fazed. Evie wondered if she was pretending, too.

“I can’t.”

Evie couldn’t see Maleficent’s face, but she didn’t imagine it was pleasant. She seemed to tower over her daughter, who was small, so small. Just like Evie. Maleficent wasn’t that bigger and yet, she filled the room with her overpowering presence.

“She’s mine, Mother.” That affirmation brought a curious warmth to her chest, empty space filling as it wasn’t filled since that night in the forest, years ago.

“Is that so.”

“Yes, my guest.”

That girl was stupidly brave. Then again, the same could be said about her.

Evie couldn’t pick out anymore words, only a hiss escaping the woman, which resulted in a pair of glowing eyes from her daughter. Evie still wasn’t used to that, as they almost scared her to death the first time she saw them, all those years ago.

“Well, not my willing guest, Mother.”

Evie watched as the other girl approached her, not knowing what to expect.

She certainly didn’t expect her stepping behind her, roughly grabbing her arm, and yanking it behind her back, squeezing it within an inch of its life, almost cutting off the blood circulation.

Evie cried out, pain exploding in her arm, buckling her knees, and stealing her breath.

Why would she do this! She’s not like this!

She almost hit the floor, but something was holding her up, preventing any further bruising.

She hazily realized that it was the other girl that was holding her up. As she caught her breath, she noticed that there was no more pressure on her arm, but there was a soft touch feathering over her knuckles.

As her hair fell in front of her face, obscuring her from Maleficent’s view, it occurred to her that that soft touch meant something. Almost an apology.

She was too dazed to think about it.

“Ah, your guest.” Evie heard amidst the blood rushing through her ears. “I expected more from you, honestly. But I get nothing but a disappointment. At least, do make sure to treat her with the standards I expect from you.”

Evie had the feeling Maleficent’s methods made her daughter’s look like child play. She decided to keep quiet, it was going for her, and kept her out of the woman’s focus.

“Yes, I was just going to get her acquainted with the armory. So, see you, Mother.” She heard as she finally calmed her breath, automatically walking with the hand subtly nudging her along.

“Oh, don’t let me keep you.”

Never thought I’d miss my Mother being the one present when we meet.

“You won’t.”

“That’s my nasty little girl.”

Evie noticed how her companion grimaced at the words. Though she didn’t stop walking. Evie had since caught on that she was getting them away from danger.

“Oh, by the way Mother, I heard the pirates are having a party at the docks and they specifically didn’t invite you.”

Evie didn’t expect the reaction those words would cause. She would have plugged her ears, if she did.

“WHAT! THEY DARE! THEY ARE DEAD! DEAD! YOU HEAR ME!”

As it were, her ears would have to deal with their pounding.

She was dragged to the armory and left at the doorway – though she could have done without ever seeing this room ever again, not like she had any choice. She remained silent, still too rattled to question her companion, who picked up some weapons and carelessly threw them around the room, disarranging the ones mounted on the walls.

“What are you doing?” Evie finally burst, too curious not to ask.

“Shuuuush!” She was almost violently shushed, which was insulting, she already had enough orders from Mother, she didn’t need them from anyone else. But before she could protest further, the girl held up a finger, fixing her with a look and pointing to her pointy ear.

She was confused for a moment, before the message came across. Shut up and listen. Right.

They both perked their ears, hearing footsteps.

They waited a bit, but the footsteps weren’t coming near them. Evie relaxed, though she kept quiet, something that had the other girl flashing her a smile before she flitted around the room, once more.

What’s she doing now?

Evie watched as she took a knife, shucked off her glove and sliced open her hand!

She clapped a hand over her mouth, to trap the scream waiting to erupt, and to stop herself from shaking the obviously crazy girl. Evie made sure that thought was clear, when the girl came over to her, by flashing her an ‘are you crazy?!’ look.

All she got in response, was a left hand, thankfully uninjured, which she took after staring at it a little too long.

Holding hands should not feel so natural.

Evie followed her guide, blending with the shadows despite their bright hair. It was unsettling how her companion intermittently clenched her right fist, sprinkling droplets of blood onto the floor, wiping her hand on the wall, so Evie didn’t stop herself from throwing her weird looks.

After a few tense minutes of sneaking and barely breathing they reached a back entrance, and headed outside, finally allowing themselves to breath.

“All right. Now, what the hell were you thinking? No one steals from Maleficent, and they especially don’t sneak into her castle!” Evie wasn’t done catching her breath, when this was hissed at her in a quiet voice.

“I don’t know! I wasn’t thinking, and I somehow ended up here! And me! What about you! What was all that back there with the knife and the blood and my arm!” Evie made sure to keep her voice down while she freaked out, broadly gesturing with her hands, only now noticing that she was still holding the other girl’s hand.

They quickly let go.

Evie felt awkward as she averted her eyes, and tucked her hair behind her ears, hearing a throat being cleared.

“I hope I didn’t hurt you.”

At least she wasn’t the only one being awkward. Even if that didn’t make sense.

“What?”

“With your arm. I had to be convincing, so I had to hurt you. Which… I… didn’t…mean…”

Evie noticed how awkward the girl looked, nothing like the confident warrior who stood, er, almost, head to head with her Mother, The Mistress of All Evil, and saved an almost stranger.

“So, the blood….?” She was smart, Evie would give her that.

“To convince Mother of a struggle. That I used the knife on you and chased you out. Lets just hope she doesn’t look too closely at the blood if she does see it.”

“Why not?” She tilted her head curiously at the other girl, not knowing how blood could reveal that it wasn’t her that was hurt.

“My blood has a purple tint to it.”

Evie just blinked, baffled. She didn’t get to ask, before the topic was dismissed with a hand wave. She shook it off, questions still bouncing in her head.

“All righhhht…Anyway, it looks like you saved me. Can I give you something as a thank you?” Evie brought her hands together, widened her eyes and jutted out her lower lip, knowing almost no one could resist that look. Though she was, unfortunately, proven wrong.

“It’s okay, you don’t really need to–”

“No really, I didn’t even buy it. But it isn’t for me. Though it looks like it was made for you.” She tried not to pout at how her pleading puppy eyes didn’t work.

This girl is something else.

“Why do those words seem familiar?” Her little knight in shining armor teased her.

Evie brought her hand up to grasp her necklace over her heart, at the reminder from its donor. Her eyes sparkled at her knight, a warm, shy smile blossoming over her lips.

Evie took a moment to savor the look in those enchanting green eyes, before she fished in her pocket, extending her hand, and unfurling her fingers.

“Where did you get this?” It was a mere whisper, a small hand reaching out, but stopping short.

“I found it under some leather scraps in an alley. Don’t remember where, maybe I was too in my head to notice. But why? And why do you sound like that?” Evie insistently held it out, caught between three fingers.

“My Mother lost this. She was supposed to give it to me, but she never did.”

Sadness did not look good on such a pretty face, so Evie was determined to wipe it clean off.

“Well, maybe it was fate. Maybe it wanted you to have it. Maybe it wanted you to find it this way,” Evie comforted in a low voice, really believing fate wanted them to meet again.

The other girl reached out a hand without breaking her stare, fingers clasping over hers on the ring. “Maybe.”

They stayed locked together, eyes never looking away from each other, not noticing the warm purple and blue glow of the ring, how it seemed to pulse like a heartbeat, how the dragons flashed the same colors.

They did notice when it began to warm, though, breaking out of their trance, embarrassed. Yet Evie didn’t let go of the ring, prompting a questioning look from the other girl.

“May I?” she finally asked, timid.

“What?”

“May I put it on you?”

Evie regretted it, almost instantly, as she was met with only wide green eyes, a parted mouth, and deafening silence.

But then a head nodded and a hand extended, the uninjured one.

Since her fingers were so little, Evie slipped the ring on her thumb, where it wasn’t in danger of falling off.

They both stared at the ring for a bit, before locking eyes once again.

“Maybe I should go,” Evie whispered, after a while, still transfixed by the beautiful eyes in front of her.

“Maybe you should.”

She wasn’t the only one in a trance, it seemed. So, she took courage from that, drawing a deep breath, and deciding to go for it.

“Thanks for the save, and I hope I’ll see you again someday,” Evie didn’t give any warning before leaning in and planting a delicate little kiss on a pale soft cheek, barely a brush of soft lips against soft skin.

She pulled back, soon after, with a warm smile, flushed cheeks, and dancing eyes. “I will see you again, Maleficent’s daughter.” She gave her hand a final squeeze, before turning and slipping away, not allowing herself a final look, and not hearing the dazed goodbye following her.

 

Evie put a hand to her racing heart, hazily making her way back to her castle, a dopey smile on her flushed face.

She practically floated off to her room, expertly avoiding her Mother, her trick with the vultures apparently effective.

She fell on her bed, bringing two of her fingers to her still tingling lips, sighing happily.

A familiar state brought on by a familiar girl.

Though she still didn’t know her name. Very odd. A little upsetting.

As she took out the scraps of leather from her pocket, hiding them in the broken part of the underbelly of her bed, she resolved to make that design, so reminiscent of a scrappy girl with a big heart.

With maybe, some questionable methods for saving. But she knows her own Mother better than I do, so I can’t really judge.

 

Though she did wonder about the unexpected bruises, unlike the expected ones on her back and arm. The one on her forehead looked like she rammed her head into something. Which she didn’t. The ones on her legs, looked like she took a nasty fall. She only fell on her back and was prevented from injuring her legs. The ones on her hands were the weirdest. Like she scraped them on something rough, little cuts on her fingertips, like she was holding tight to something, with a very thin, vaguely familiar, cut on her right palm.

But her tired mind couldn’t make the connection, leaving it as an issue for another day.

 

That day never came, as she woke with hands as good as new, and fading colors on her forehead and legs that could have been from her scrape with Scar. Though the bruises on her back and the cut on her cheek were still prominent.

She chalked up the cuts she remembered from the night before, to a delusion from her drained mind.

After all they couldn’t have been there and disappeared the next day, as though by magic.

There was no magic on the Isle. It was simply impossible.

Chapter Text

I’m losing my mind. That’s what this it is. I am losing my damn mind, and I will be as insane as Mother. Well, maybe not as insane as Mother. I’d have to really crack for that.

 

Really, Evie expected a normal day. A normal, bleak day. A boring day. As boring a day stuck in a crumpling castle with only Mother for company was.

 

But this

 

“What… the… actual… hell,” Evie ghosted her fingers over a mark on her neck that looked suspiciously like teeth mark, like a bite mark. Though she couldn’t see them, there were thin lines cutting across the back of her neck.

She scanned her eyes over every bit of exposed skin, coming across marks that looked too much like hickeys. Which was impossible, considering she’d been stuck in this blasted castle for nine years.

But at fifteen years of age, Evie was far from innocent. Her Mother taught her – more like thrust upon her – the art of seduction: how with one tick of the eyebrow, she could get anyone to grovel at her feet, how a look would make anyone bend to her whims. Mother usually had boys line like ants waiting to be crushed under a high-heeled boot.

But she had not partaken in any such shenanigans, so that wouldn’t explain why her body appeared to have been mauled. Maybe…Evie considered the possibility of ghosts haunting her castle.

“Hello?” she called out to the room at large, immediately feeling ridiculous.

“If anyone is mauling me, please note that if you aren’t a prince, I am NOT INTERESTED!” she proceeded to scream at the ceiling, no matter how crazy she looked. Crazy wasn’t anything new in her castle.

“EVELYN, WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING? IF YOU AREN’T TALKING TO MIRRORS, THIS BEHAVIOR IS UNACCEPTABLE!”

“Yes Mother,” she called back, contrite, still casting a wary eye around her surroundings.

She honestly hated her Mother’s obsession with mirrors, but it almost seemed contagious. She was to look perfect at all times and check the mirrors to make sure there were no mistakes. Anything less was unacceptable. Which always left her scrambling for one when she was anything less than perfect, anything less than the fairest. Ironic, considering I am always second to the fairest, according to Mother.

There were some days Evie couldn’t even look in the mirror. Most of those days were because of Mother’s favorite sort of punishment.

Mother loved to sit her in front of a broken mirror, forbidding her from moving, forcing her to look at the broken shards.

‘Look at the mirror Evelyn, it reflects you perfectly. Beautiful, but broken into fragile pieces. Remember that Evelyn, next time you disobey me.’

Forget seven years of bad luck. Broken mirrors brought her a lifetime of fears and insecurities and loathing. It brought her Mother’s voice at the back of her head. Which was honestly the worst of all.

She still didn’t know where the bruises-or-hickeys came from, and she was already convinced of it being a ghost. People on the Isle always did warn of spirits.

Honestly, Evie wasn’t sure this wasn’t just the confinement impeding her logical processes. But they couldn’t have appeared from nowhere and to Evie’s knowledge she didn’t sleepwalk. Maybe she should consider that. Then again, she preferred unseen ghosts causing this than a loss of control, especially one over her body.

She swiftly turned away from the mirror, not wanting the nagging mystery tattooed over her skin to plague her. Even the pirates’ crude tattoos are better than this.

She wasn’t in the mood to deal with a lot today. It felt like a day where memories were just out of reach. Like she was forgetting something from years ago –it felt like a decade – something essential, something that drilled an empty aching hole with its absence.

Thank Lucifer her Mother screamed herself hoarse yesterday, so she only had the one scream from earlier in her. Days following days like yesterday, she was generally left alone, Mother needing some respite to recuperate her energy, so the cycle can repeat itself some other time.

At least she won’t be yelling at me today.

With Mother not there to scold her – without even the ability to scold her – she threw herself on her rickety bed, not caring that it might collapse. She looked at the cracks in the ceiling way above, letting out a heavy sigh as weighted as her soul.

She had absolutely no idea why she felt so heavy today, almost choking on the feeling of all-encompassing loss.

Mother is the only moody bitch in this castle, not my soul.

She absently wondered if some air on her balcony would make a difference, picking at the stuffing sticking out of the frayed upholstery of her headboard, continuing the mindless action until she felt a rip in the fabric. She paid more attention to her hand, poking experimentally around the rip, feeling something protruding. She stuck her fingers through the gap, wiggling until she could barely grasp something, pulling it out.

It was a square. Upon unfolding it, she could make out it was fabric.

Evie looked at the fabric heart made of what looked like two dragons, one purple, one green.

She vaguely recalled a memory of hiding it. But she didn’t remember procuring the fabric. She didn’t remember making it. She didn’t remember where she got the inspiration from.

She didn’t understand the peculiar fondness filling her, looking at that fragile-looking-but-resilient heart. Didn’t understand the unconscious movement of her hands, one rubbing her arm that was grasping her poison-red-glass-heart necklace – it was so incredibly important to her, it was ridiculous she couldn’t remember where she got it from.

She ran her fingers delicately over the grooves, the little imperceptible cracks. Caressing the center. She was suddenly overcome with a deep, gaping ache in her chest. She squeezed her eyes shut against the pain as she squeezed her hand around the necklace, inhaling deep-unfortunately-non-cleansing breaths, gritting her teeth, not knowing why it felt like someone was squeezing her heart in an unrelenting grip.

Not noticing the way the heart glowed.

Not noticing how it warmed.

Not noticing how, for a second, it beat.

She couldn’t remember anything, no matter how much she tried, tried so hard it made pain pierce the back of her head, only seeing in her mind’s eye a streak of purple and a flash of green. Which wasn’t really helpful, considering they could very well relate to the colors of the heart, or maybe it was the other way around. But that felt too hopeful for a place like the Isle.

She fluttered her eyes open, looking at the necklace, maybe hoping it would come alive to answer her question À La Genie. It remained still, no sign of life from it, though the same couldn’t be said about her hands.

There, before her eyes, dark smudges slowly and suddenly appeared on the tips of her fingers, reminiscent of the pencil stains she’d get while sketching her designs. She snuck her eyes to the other end of the room, where her supplies and tools remained untouched.

She again thought about the possibility of ghosts stalking her. The only thing that made sense to her.

“Would you stop that!” Evie hissed at her room, keeping quiet, less she wanted a repeat of earlier.

Silence was her only answer.

“I have an artistic mauling ghost in my room. An unresponsive, artistic, mauling ghost. Fantastic. Next thing I know, I’ll have dragon knights to protect me. Maybe Mother is right about not using my brain. And I’m talking to myself and seriously contemplating the possibility of Mother being right about something.  Perfect,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes at herself.

Having finally gotten fed up, Evie hauled herself off her bed, stalking across the room and flinging the door with all the drama befitting her Mother, who fortunately didn’t yell at her again – maybe she approved the gesture and knew of the necessity of slamming open doors, in more ways than one. Finally escaping her stifling room with more missing pieces than the puzzles that came on the barges from Auradon.

Though she paused when she noticed the fabric heart still clenched in her fist. She looked back at her room, then at her hand. Relaxing her grip, she stared again at the heart. She found she could breathe a bit easier. Mind made up, she carefully refolded it and stashed it in the left breast pocket of her jacket.

Missing the significance of two hearts meeting again.

She continued at a slower pace through the castle, keeping her steps quiet, her feet leading her to the front gates without conscious direction from her.

She wandered into the morning, the amount of light available a good indicator, what with the sun always hidden.

I bet Auradon can see the sun all the time, she thought wistfully, not sure why the sun seemed so important to her. Nor why she had a sudden craving for red apples.

She stuck to the shadows, no destination in mind, just pointless, aimless wandering.

She somehow ended up near the back of an old rundown house. Before she could question where she was, the sound of thundering footsteps and a raised voice came closer to the door, making her panic. With a frazzled look around, not seeing any hiding places, she practically dove to hide behind the corner of the house.

She pressed her back against the wall as she pressed a hand to her galloping heartbeat, straining to hear more. Though her ears seemed to be pounding with blood and Mother’s voice.

‘That’s not a way for a lady, especially a princess, to behave. Did you learn nothing, Evelyn? Into the dining chair with you, you will not move a hair, while you watch me eat. After your spine is sufficiently straight, you will lock yourself in your room. After, we will have additional lessons to ensure you have perfect posture, even if I have to break out the ruler. Understood, Evelyn?’

No Mother, I’m particularly dim, so you will have to repeat that for me, Evie argued back, pausing. I’m arguing with voices inside my head. Great. Terrific.

Before she could lament the loss of her sanity, the door slammed open, causing her to jump and strain her ears.

“But Daaaaad,” a voice whined.

“Don’t argue with me Clay Clayton. We’re going hunting. And you better hope to Lucifer that you know what to do,” a harsh voice rang out, along with the sounds of a scuffle.

“But what is there to hunt on this garbage joint,” the same whiney voice insisted.

“Rats and vermin like you! Now MOVE!”

Evie stuck her head a little around the corner, seeing a tall man dragging a boy around her age by the collar. He looked to be wearing old, worn, dirty clothes. They almost seemed like safari clothes, with rusted, bent knives hanging from the waist. Well at least that gave a clue to who that was, along with the name Clayton.

She waited, still hugging the corner, until they got out of sight with their voices still faintly echoing.

After a quick look around, she slowly ambled out of her hiding spot, nearing the front door. As she was just getting ready to walk away, her scanning eyes stopped on a small pile of old, torn books tossed haphazardly on an overturned bucket, like someone was using it as a reading spot.

Curiosity getting the best of her, she stepped closer to it and picked up the topmost book turning it over to read the title: ‘Survival Skills: Survival of the Fittest, Survival in the Wild.’ Interest thoroughly piqued, she picked up the only remaining book, wrinkling her nose as though smelling a pungent scent when she set her eyes on its disappointing subject: ‘The Secrets of the Hunt: How Manly Men Do It.’

Well that one was sure to be a pile of garbage.

She put down the disgusting book, clasping the only promising one between her hands.

She looked it over, running her eyes over the wrinkled, fraying spine and the faded image of a bonfire.

She silently debated with herself, keeping her eyes on the lookout for any witnesses and tapping her well-kept nails over the back of the book, the sound punctuating the movement of her thoughts.

I should. I shouldn’t. I should. Maybe not. Well everyone knows not to leave anything unattended on the Isle. They could need it. Well Mother always told me to take advantage of my surroundings. Don’t think she would approve of her princess becoming a thief. Not like she’s here to see. I can always hide it. Something tells me I’m going to need it.

Sweeping her eyes around her and not spotting anyone looking in her direction, she casually stuffed the book down her jacket, carefully wiped the repulsing book with the tail of her shirt – paranoid about leaving behind detectible traces – and slowly sauntered away with poise, making sure to keep the I’m-a-guilty-thief out of her step.

Once she was away from the buildings, she took out the book from its rather uncomfortable hiding place, keeping her senses all alert.

She let her feet carry her even if they seemed to always lead her to trouble, opening the book, feeling the spine creak, and seeing its skin flake. The pages were yellow with age, and fragile with wear, so she made sure to keep her touch light and careful.

She slowly flipped the pages, stopping on one with a promising title, the words still legible. ‘Excellent Uses of Pine Tree Sap.’

Not sure how that would be useful.

Though as she read on, it became clear that with her situation on this blasted island, it would be indispensable.

Salve.

Lamp.

Glue.

Soap? It might not smell good but well, beggars can’t be choosers.

Waterproofing. With the weather on the Isle, it’d be really useful to waterproof her clothes. Her shoes even!

Not like she got out much, though.

Well I can’t stay locked in the castle forever. Not like I’m that good at listening, considering where I am. Better head back. No need to test my luck.

She wasn’t very far from her castle, so she flipped the pages, careful to look up every few seconds.

She found herself on an interesting page.

‘How to make fire.’

Hmm…interesting. Fire’s always so hypnotic. Something about it just draws me in.

One sentence, in particular, caught her eye: ‘without any modern means.’

That’ll be helpful. There aren’t any modern means on the Isle. Only scraps. More like, barely scraps.

As she brought her hand to trace the words, she noticed a splash of color along the grey of her fingertips.

More smudges? Evie wondered. Though who could have found red paint on the Isle was beyond her. Maybe they decided blood was as good as any paint, she shuddered.

Though she couldn’t ignore how much they looked like cuts. Like, am I seriously being haunted? She rubbed her fingertips together, not feeling any ridges, any rip in the skin. She frantically felt them with her other hand. Still nothing.

It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not anything new. This happened before. At night, so many years ago.

At that she turned her right hand, palm side up, looking at the very faint, almost invisible mark in the middle, the only evidence she didn’t imagine that night. But now, staring at it, she was filled with an unexplainable dread, shivers skittering up her spine, an odd pounding in her ears as though to the rhythm of a morbid beat. Like a clack was echoing through her ears. Her mind empty except for its desperately reaching hand, trying to grasp a forgotten memory, only for it to slip through the gaps like smoke.

She was getting uncomfortably close to hyperventilating, so she stumbled to the nearest alley, slipping down the wall at the opening.

She grasped her jacket over her heart, breathing shaky, body trembling, pausing only when she felt the material bulging.

Her numb fingers slipped a few times on the zipper, before she was able to open the pocket and take out bunched fabric.

Recognizing the heart, she unfolded it, struggling to catch her breath. But once she looked at it, a sense of calm overtook her. It stilled her fingers and slowed down her breathing. It soothed her heart and drew a smile on her lips.

Just, what are you? And how can you make me feel so good when I’m falling apart.

She didn’t expect it to answer. But it would’ve been nice to know how a piece of fabric could be this soothing.

And this coming from a designer.

Evie rested her head on the wall, closing her eyes and just taking a moment to simply… breathe.

Her moment of peace was shattered like glass with the thundering ringing of a tin being knocked over.

Her eyes sprung open, her head whipping to her right. Seeing a girl, dirt streaked over her sunken features, hair a matted mess, a knife clutched in her fist.

They both froze upon eye contact. The moment hung, suspended, before breaking.

Evie flung herself up at the same time the girl flung herself at her, barely managing to stumble away from the wild arch of the knife. The girl still came at her, and she was sure the only reason she was avoiding the swings of the knife was because of the girl being sloppy. She was probably tired, hungry.

Evie would feel sorry for her if she stopped trying to kill her.

She got a stroke of luck when the girl stumbled on a crack in the ground. So without thinking about it, she flung her into the wall, barely hiding a wince at the sight.

Squeezing her eyes shut, Evie barely let the girl peel herself off the wall before she wildly swung her book at her face, instantly knocking her to the ground.

Peering through cracked lids, she saw her on the ground, knife just a little bit out of reach.

Holding her book out as a shield, Evie cautiously approached her, gently nudging her with her boot. Jumping away, heart pounding, when her chest abruptly rose in a breath.

Holding a hand over her heart, she chided herself.

Slowly calming down, she dragged the knife away with her boot, stooping to pick it up, aiming it and her book at the still girl. Who was still unconscious.

Taking a few steps back, Evie hesitated, not knowing why. Maybe it was because the girl was unkempt, obviously hoping to steal a loot from her to feed herself. She didn’t even have shoes, her feet cut, tiny bits of gravel stuck to the soles. She had the haggard look almost all people on the Isle had. Just skin and bones.

Feeling her heart squeeze at the sight even if she had almost shishkebabed her, she groaned, flinging her hands down, both items still tightly gripped, her head hanging back.

With a resigned sigh, she unclasped her bracelet. An old piece of jewelry her Mother once threw at her. It wasn’t anything extremely fancy, but it was still more than most people here had seen.

‘A princess should be covered in riches, Evelyn. Do not lose this, it is one of the only pieces I have left.’

She’s going to kill me.

Crouching down near her would-be attacker, she delicately took a small fist, putting the bracelet in the palm, tightly closing the fingers around it.

Tilting her head in thought, she stuck the hand in a fraying pocket.

It would have to do.

Standing back up, she dusted herself off as though cleaning herself of the situation. Bringing her hands up to fix the hairs escaping her braid, she jerked her head back, almost nicking herself with the knife still grasped in her hand.

Looking at it she could see it wasn’t much, the blade a bit dull, the tip rusted a little, the handle wrapped in only a piece of peeling black leather.

I’m keeping this, she ignored the guilt at stealing something else today.

Really, she was on a streak.

Assessing her outfit, she struggled to find someplace to hide it. It wasn’t like she could stuff that down her jacket.

Looking at her boots, she raised a single eyebrow, before shrugging and sticking the knife into the right one, careful so it wouldn’t cut her when she walked.

She looked around the alley to see if she forgot anything, though she had to be quick; the girl couldn’t stay down forever.

Her heart nearly stopped when she saw a splash of color near the mouth.

Swiftly approaching, she picked it up. It was the fabric heart. She must have dropped it when someone threw herself at her.

Throwing the prone figure a dirty look, she went to put it back in her pocket before stopping.

Regarding it thoughtfully, she stood back up, taking out the knife out of her boot, wrapping the fabric around it and sticking it back in.

That should protect her foot better.

Lastly turning to the book, she hummed, coolly stuffing it down her jacket again, heading back to her castle, keeping her eyes peeled. It was obvious she had to be vigilant.

Honestly, I’d love to live somewhere where I wouldn’t have to wrestle a knife from another girl trying to survive. And where my Mother would give me hugs, not hit me with a ruler. I’m positive she keeps it sharp just for me.

Even though she was keeping to the shadows, she made sure she had perfect posture, her face an impressive regal mask. Evie hated it.

She was slipping through the gates of her castle in almost no time at all. Once behind the relative safety of her gates, she took out the book, getting back to the page on fire. Taking a different corridor that would not lead her to her room.

Her steps echoed unnervingly in the silence. She could almost hear herself thinking.

But she never took her eyes off the book, walking the hollow halls of her castle.

Which she decided was a bad idea, a stupid idea, when she knocked into a pair of doors.

The gravity of the situation didn’t hit her until she realized that she didn’t recognize where she was.

How?! I’ve been stuck in this blasted castle my whole life!

The only explanation that sprang to mind, filled her with unbridled horror, recalling the halls her Mother forbade her from ever walking.

‘These corridors are not to be walked, explored, or investigated. Am I clear, Evelyn? Else you rather I fashion a coat out of your skin or a scarf out of your hair. No prince would want a bald skinless princess.’

A shiver scuttled along her spine.

A distant clang made her jump, whirling away from the doors to check her surroundings, heart beating at the bars of her ribs.

Before she could think through it more, she reached behind her. Opened the doors. Dashed through. And forcibly shut them with her back.

Evie tried to catch her breaths. Feeling them rattle in her lungs. Maybe that was how she’d die. Asphyxiation.

Mother carved that word into my mind. Her favorite punishment for the peasants when she was queen.

She violently shook her head, trying to dislodge the bad memories of her Mother’s twisted delight, instead glancing around her.

She was in a long dark corridor, lit only with a few strewn torches, a few sparse dented suits of armor scattered throughout. There were spiderwebs hanging from the torches and dusty, torn paintings hanging on the wall. It was almost like they were looking at her. Judgingly. Reminding her so much of Mother.

She gulped, clasping the survival book tighter to her chest, taking a few cautious steps forward. But a creaking stopped her in her tracks, before she quickly clapped a hand to her mouth, muffling her scream as the closest suit of armor turned its head to her before gallantly gesturing her forward with a bow.

Taking a few quick not-really-helping breaths, she shoved the book back in her jacket, else she’d lose it, skittered around the armor, before darting forward.

‘A princess does not run away, Evelyn.’

Screw that. She preferred living disheveled than dying composed. Maybe the paintings really were looking at her.

She shuddered, keeping alert.

Feeling eyes on her she turned her head to see a large hairy spider a few inches from her face.

With a hard swallow, she noticed that it was on the edge of a particularly vindictive looking painting that was throwing daggers at her.

And the spider… was…twisted over itself to stare at her directly with its beady eyes.

When it clicked its pincers once, in what she swore was warning, she absolutely gave up.

And I’m out.

Evie bolted down the creepy hall, stumbling as she sunk on a specific step, not paying it any mind.

Though maybe she should have, she thought hazily as she jumped at the very loud thud that sounded behind her.

Not stopping but looking over her shoulder, she saw long protruding spikes hitting the floor in quick succession from the ceiling.

BOOBY TRAPS?!

A brief glance up showed there was a mismatch of wooden and iron spikes to look forward to.

Pushing herself, she sprinted even faster, bursting through the doors, crashing into something, before falling on her back.

As she looked down at what was using her as a pillow, a skeleton grinned up at her.

With a grimace, she violently pushed it away. Before just, laying there. Staring wide eyed at the ceiling. There were no spikes here.

How am I going to hide that from Mother?!

At that terrifying thought, Evie dragged herself to the door, peering out and watching in amazement as the spikes retracted to the ceiling.

She collapsed against the door, trying to glue back her scattered wits and maybe pick up her heart from the underworld.

She never had any inkling that she should have died. That the spikes should have all dropped together. That something stopped them.

Turning dazed eyes up, she was further stunned when she saw the various vials of glass. The huge black cauldron. Talk about cliché. The bookshelves filled with books. And based on the setup, she’d guess spellbooks.

Slowly standing up, Evie looked around her, wrinkling her nose at the dust in the air.

Approaching the cauldron, she made sure to see what she was stepping on. One booby trap was enough, thank you Mother.

A glimpse at the wall opposite the cauldron showed scattered shards of glass littering the floor as though someone threw glass vials at the wall in utter rage.

She could vividly picture Mother doing just that.

As Evie continued surveying the room, she absently leaned back, back knocking into the cauldron, which quickly pulled her out of her musings.

She was still too jumpy from the hallway. She jerked away from the unknown object at her back.

But she turned a little too quickly, knocking into the table, hearing the rattling of glassware as they were knocked off-balance, but that wasn’t what concerned her.

It was the loud deafening sound of one vial breaking into a million little devastating pieces. Just like she would be.

She stopped moving, she stopped breathing, just waiting for her Mother to swoop in and scold her till her ears pounded, digging claws into her skin to drag her into ‘confinement refinement’; fancy words for a dark little suffocating closet.

But she never did, and Evie could finally suck in a breath to her poor abused lungs.

If she didn’t come because of the traps, why would she come because of some glass breaking?

Stepping away, she held her hands in front of her as though to ward the cauldron off. She’d bet anything she looked crazy, but honestly with her day, it’d be her luck if it decided to become animated and join the land of the barely living.

She jumped back, making karate chops with her hands, after feeling herself collide with something, again.

It was only a stand.

Lets just hope it doesn’t fall on me, or twist or stare or I don’t know what else.

But it did none of that.

It was hopefully just a stand. On which a thick dusty old book took pride of place.

Upon a closer look, she could see etchings and markings along the leather-bound cover, feeling herself getting excited.

It was a grimoire. An actual spellbook.

Holding out a cautious hand she almost touched it, before she was able to snatch it back from getting chopped clean off by a bear trap!

Honestly, Mother!

Clutching her hand to her chest, pulse racing, heart almost stopping, palms sweaty, she stared horrified at the metal trap surrounding the book that slowly retracted, sharp teeth menacingly glinting in the dim light.

Well she didn’t almost lose her hand to give up now. Though it looked like the blasted thing nicked her finger.

Glaring at the book, she determinedly marched back to the skeleton, ripping out its arm with no regret, she stomped back to the grimoire and watched in grim satisfaction as the metal teeth clamped on solid bone.

Holding tight to the arm, she pulled it back, dragging the trap with her. She poked the stand with the fingers, making sure there were no more booby traps or metal traps or creepy crawlies, before she threw it back to the skeleton as though telling it she got it a gift.

She stared at the book, almost daring it to pounce.

It remained still.

Extending a tentative finger, Evie caressed the cover, before slowly opening it, turning the pages, getting more agitated as she saw that they were all blank.

Except for the cover page.

There were a few sentences that might as well have been gibberish, for all she could read them. They didn’t appear the least bit comprehensible to her. Most certainly written in another language that she squinted her eyes at, that rang a pang in her soul, but swirled a headache before her eyes.

Thankfully, she recognized her Mother’s swoopy, looping writing in blessed English right under it.

‘Blood of the witches.’

Well that wasn’t cryptic at all.

Though… eyeing her finger, she deliberated, before wiping it on the cover page.

She waited.

And waited.

And nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

She almost threw it at the wall, temper À La Grimhilde, before lines and symbols curved onto the page like they had been written with invisible ink that her blood colored black.

About time, she huffed.

Flipping the pages, Evie stopped at a specific one, making out a detailed picture of what she imagined to be a dragon, based on her Mother’s many colorful descriptions when she would bad mouth Maleficent.

It appeared to be blowing flames with its glittering eyes seemingly focused on her. She shivered in half-remembered recognition that she mistook for fear.

It was a little cramped together and without thorough examination she could only pick up some key phrases.

 

‘Dragons, massive fire-breathing creatures…. Tough impenetrable scales, quick healing ability…. Vulnerable underbelly…. Possessive, protective…  Recognized in their normal form by their flashing eyes…’  

 

That last one sent the image of flashing green eyes behind her eyelids, along with a peculiar feeling of safety, of happiness of…fondness?

Odd. She’d never met anyone with green eyes before. Never before felt those feelings, Mother made sure of that; just a lifeless, pretty, porcelain doll, ready to be sold to the highest bidding prince.

She shook her head before she could sink into more depressing thoughts. She clutched the book, fingers tight around the leather.

She wasn’t staying in this accursed room a second longer. She was taking the book with her.

I’m a designer, I can probably replicate it. The leather is worn and that’s usually all the leather there is on the Isle. If I can’t, I could just copy it, or I’d just tell Mother I was looking for a love potion, or a beauty spell, or Sleeping Curse. She’d love that. I’ll figure it out.

Spying a door at the end of the room, she headed over, peering out.

The hallway looked normal.

She wasn’t trusting that.

Picking up a shard of glass, she hurled it out the door.

When nothing happened, she almost stepped out, freezing when she saw the floor opening like the gaping maw of a beast, before slowly, noisily retracting.

She slowly closed the door.

Spikes it is.

She snatched a few small vials that would be easily missed, tucking them into her pocket, and one of the small rusted buckets discarded around the room.

She’d loved to have said that she strutted out with the dignity of a princess, but she really just ran all the way back, not caring if she triggered the trap or not, blowing a mocking kiss to the waving suit of armor, noisily slamming the door on her way out.

As she was heading back to her room, Evie spied one of their oil lamps on the wall. Taking out a small vial, she gave it a conspiring grin before she filled it with the oil from the lamp.

She’d need that for the salve. Though where she would find beeswax was anybody’s guess.

Once inside her room she sat on her bed, her findings spread out on the sunken mattress. 

Before anything else, she had to see if her plans had merit.

Gripping the pages of the grimoire carefully, she yanked on the cover. It didn’t budge.

She tried to rip it out. It still didn’t budge.

She even tried to cut it out with the knife. It didn’t even break.

“I thought there was no magic here! How is it still intact, it looks like it should fall apart!” Evie threw her hands up exasperated, making sure that she wasn’t yelling. She didn’t need Mother catching her.

Guess I really am going to rewrite the whole thing. I’m going to have to put it back, so I don’t get caught. It’s a good thing I have an eye for detail. Well there go the almost good papers I’ve been saving for my designs.

Though really, she still didn’t know how she would do this.

She was going to need to make the glue.

Well we have lots of dead trees at the back of the castle. I can even get supplies to make a small fire.

Hiding away everything, she tucked the knife into her boot, put on full gloves to protect her hands and picked up the bucket, heading back outside.

It was obvious it was still daytime. She didn’t waste that much time. Thank Lucifer.

They really did have trees at the back, approaching a promising one. It’d definitely seen better days.

Evie could see the sap sticking out from one of the broken branches, its bark was peeling. It was clearly in bad shape.

Though its loss was her gain.

Taking out the knife, she took to the arduous task of peeling the sap off the tree and into the bucket. A bit hard with a dull knife and sticky sap.

But it was worth it to hear the satisfying plonk it made hitting the bottom of the bucket.

Kneeling, she started removing tufts of brown, dry grass stuffing them in her pocket. Picking up a few twigs and leaves, too. The bark looked promising.

Remembering the book, she picked up branches of differing thickness, pressing on them to test out their hardness, choosing ones varying from soft to extremely hard. Making sure all the wood was dry.

If Mother asks, I’ll just tell her I’m digging my own grave. She’ll be scandalized. Because I’m doing manual labor.

She picked up one last plank before carrying everything back inside.

Back in her room, she took all that she’d collected that day, along with the papers she’d been saving up, out to the balcony.

Flipping her survival book, Evie followed along the instructions, her mind made up on the friction method using two sticks.

  1. Tinder nest

She gathered the grass, the twigs, and the leaves into a nest; like a bird’s nest. Peeling off the bark with a knife, she gathered the shavings and shaped them around the bundle.

  1. Make a teepee out of the wood

Humming to herself, she arranged some of the sticks she’d gotten into a tent shape leaning it against the corner of the balcony, putting the tinder in the middle with lots of space left for air to pass.

  1. Get a fireboard

Holding the plank in front of her, she deemed it a good length, taking hold of the knife and divesting it from its bark in strips which she added to her tinder.

For a rather dull knife, it was still really useful.

Poking her thumb at the flat surface, she saw that the wood gave a little under the pressure. Good softness then. Well according to the book, anyway.

  1. Make the drill

Picking up a thick stick, making sure it was harder than the fireboard, she looked at it with a critical eye. Evie was rather good at estimating measurements. Assessing how much would be eight inches, she began to saw off the wood.

Taking the desired length, she peeled off the bark, carving one end into a tapered point, like a pencil.

She really liked making things difficult for herself, didn’t she.

Trailing a finger down the page, she skipped over a few steps. She wasn’t using the bow method. Though apparently the hand drill was harder work.

Like she said, difficult.

  1. Prepare the fireboard

She carved a hole an inch from the edge, making it as wide as her drill and a quarter of an inch deep. Checking to see if she made it correctly. ‘It should be difficult to turn the drill when you push down.’

Perfect.

  1. Burn a hole with a hand drill

Well this should take a while.

Taking the drill between both palms, she rubbed it between them backwards and forwards, pressing down into the hole. Moving her hands quickly back to the top when they got to the bottom, making sure to keep spinning it. She kept at it, no matter how tired her hands and arms were getting. She kept at it, till she saw some smoke rising.

Taking a breather, she read ahead a few steps, placing the bark-that-was-no-longer-really-bark under her fire board she cut a notch into the board in a V shape, the point near the hole, as according to the next step.

  1. Cut a chimney notch

Taking the drill, she stuck it in the hole and repeated the process again, breathing heavily with exertion, arms aching. It was a good thing she was wearing her gloves. She was sure she’d have peeled her skin off, otherwise.

  1. Make coal with the hand drill

So she stuck to spinning, clinging to her patience. At the sign of smoke, she removed the fireboard, fanning her hand over the coal she made, keeping the ember going. Until she gently transferred the coal to the tinder, squeezing it around the coal, blowing very gently on it to fan the embers.

As the flame spread, she threw a few thin sticks to feed it. Kindling was meant to feed the flames from the tinder. After that she’d add the thick firewood.

As she watched the fire build, she smiled but decided to take advantage of the time, she had to have the book replicated by tomorrow morning.

She was sure she wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight.

So, she began the diligent process of copying down the symbols and texts just as they were, looking for hidden pages and cutting the paper open carefully when she found them. Enjoying replicating the tamer pictures.

Every fifty pages or so, feeding the fire so it didn’t burn out.

She shouldn’t have been able to do it. The grimoire was at least a thousand pages and she could write only so fast. Maybe time slowed to a crawl or maybe she found a supernatural will to go even faster, finishing a page every minute.

Until she finally sat back, back aching, bones creaking, wrist throbbing, eyes squinting.

But she did it. She didn’t even know she had that many pages. But she did cramp in a lot on a single page, whereas sometimes the grimoire barely had a few sentences on a page. She definitely missed some things. After all her papers didn’t have magical properties. And the lines and text definitely wouldn’t disappear.

Evie glanced wistfully at the grimoire, but she knew she couldn’t keep it.

Mother would have my head. Definitely on one of those spikes.

Taking the bucket, she saw that the sap was still sticky at the bottom but was slowly solidifying.

The fire was barely still burning, but that was better right now.

Turning to the correct page in the survival book, she read ahead, sighing when she saw that she’d need some coal.

Well back to the fireboard it is.

Another straining exhausting spinning of the drill, she had her coal on a piece of bark. But she left it to be put out, placing the bucket on the slowly dying fire, taking a sturdy piece of wood to periodically stir it. Making sure the sap wouldn’t ignite unless she wanted an early death.

Removing the bucket from the fire and stirring it, she watched as it liquified, turning an almost black color. She added the coal, continuing to stir until it was well mixed.

Swirling a few sticks in the mixture, she watched the glue, fascinated. As it dried she stuck it back to the fire, liquifying it again, before starting to apply a very thin layer to the secret pages, carefully pressing them back together. Pursing her lips at the bit of glue sticking out like a glowing sign that someone did something they weren’t supposed to.

Tilting her head, Evie appraised the grimoire and her own pages, a few ideas running through her head. Heading back inside, she griped her dented nail file, a broken pen, and a large piece of leather that she was going to fashion into a skirt, but that had better use now.

Back outside, she shaved off the glue residue with the file, applying a thick layer of glue to the middle of the leather, arranging the pages she killed her hand for and pressing them into the paste. She kept applying the pressure until the glue began to dry. She then folded the leather in a specific way that when she finished tying it with a twine, it looked like a satchel. If she sewed a strap at the top it could possibly fool Mother if she ever saw it.

As one last thing, she carefully removed the peeling paper on the cover of her survival book, jotting down in her swoopy handwriting an alternative title: ‘101 ways to cook for your man.’

Sorry, Mother but I don’t think it’s exclusive to princes.

Letting out a wicked smile, Evie surveyed her work, tired and proud.

As she deliberated on where to hide everything, she spied a loose tile in the floor.

Well, hello there.

Excellent.

She carefully hid everything away, marking the tile with her pen, before arranging it in a way that no one other than her could tell it was loose.

She slowly stood up, feeling her bones pop. Giving a mighty, undignified, unladylike stretch, she felt the ache of a day well spent. Putting out the rest of the fire with her boot, she threw the charred wood over the cracking stone rail. The fireboard, the drill and the unused wood tucked safely beneath the tile.

Leaning on the rail, Evie could tell it was still dark out, though morning couldn’t be that far. Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, she relaxed her tense muscles. Living only in the moment.

Humming, she took no notice when it formed a melody. Took no notice of words she couldn’t have possibly known springing to her mind, then falling from her lips in a sweet, lilting lullaby.

 

Take me in your arms and save me

Only you can save me, save me

Come on, bring your love around

Rescue me right now

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me, can't you hear my heart calling

Calling out to you?

 

She kept her eyes closed, words rolling off her tongue like gentle waves, cresting before slowly lolling along the sand.

Serenity was a well missed, rarely seen friend. It took her in its embrace. Twirled her hair. Warmed her heart.

 

Save me, darling, won't you save me?

Oh, this heart is in distress

I need some tenderness, so take me

Take me in your arms and save me

Only you can save me, save me

Come on, bring your love around

Rescue me right now

 

The melody was slow, a lullaby that calmed her soul and lifted her lips in a beaming, beautiful smile.

 

Save me, only you can save me, save me

Come on, bring your love around

Rescue me right now

 

She didn’t expect a voice to join her. At any other time, she would have jumped. She would have stopped. She would have opened her eyes. But now, the voice mixing so well with hers it was like it was twirling with her under the stars, she felt peace. She felt alive. She felt magic. She felt it buzzing over her skin. She felt like the voice was whispering in her ears, playing with her hair, rubbing her cheek. She felt safe. She’d never felt safe before.

 

Though she had, in long forgotten memories.

 

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

 

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me

 

The silence was loud after the magical twining of two voices. Of the very brief unknowing meeting of two souls.

At any other time, Evie would have opened her eyes. Would have flung herself at the railing. She would have desperately searched the night. She wouldn’t have been able to see anything. She would have felt tremendous loss.

But tonight, her soul was rested. Her heart was full. Her cheeks ached with her smile.

She carried the voice back with her, still so comforting, still so calming, it even made the prospect of returning the book undaunting. While her feet carried her inside. They carried her downstairs. They carried her past booby traps that couldn’t hit her. They carried her to the stand, where she left the grimoire as it had been. They carried her back to her room. They carried her to her bed. Where the voice carried her to her dreams.

 

That voice would be her safe place in years to come.

But it would be her tormenter first.

And she would not understand until much later, why that always tore her heart apart.

 

 


 

 

 

Ouch.

It might not have hurt as much as it would have a normal weak human but having someone bite her neck so hard the skin should have broken on anyone else, was no picnic-with-unrotted-food either.

Making out between Mal and Uma was no give.

All take, take, take. Take any kiss for their own. Take breath.

Neither conceding, all a play for power. Always trying to get the upper hand.

It was to scratch an itch, so to speak. It didn’t hurt that Uma was easy on the eyes, though very hard on the ears.

Oh, she’s asking for it.

Mal pressed her further into the wall of the alleyway, tipping Uma's head back and attacking her neck with literal vengeance. She bit so hard that she, on the other hand, did break the skin, the hiss punctuating the air was music to her ears – not any of the mushy stuff that Auradon listened to, though.

She did not appreciate the retaliation in the form of nails raking down the back of her neck, leaving throbbing cuts behind. But she kept her hiss trapped, not willing to give an inch nor any advantage to the other girl.

She really needed to stop underestimating her.

Uma might not have been as strong as Mal, but she noticed she wasn’t that far off and definitely stronger than the average and fit human – she might even knock Jay on his ass, if he himself wasn’t so agile and strong. It was likely she still could. Though in terms of agility she was clearly supernatural – if Mal could have enhanced abilities from being part dragon, then it was almost sure that Uma inherited advantages from her sea-witch-half-or-more-octopus Mom.

Mal tried to conceal her advantages but there were some things they both couldn’t hide, especially in close encounters, like these. The lack of leaking blood on her part was one of them. Uma wasn’t that better at hiding them either; she was so flexible, it was almost like she had no bones to bend, she could camouflage even better than Jay. If they weren’t enemies when they weren’t making out, they might really have been an asset to each other.

That flexibility was something to look out for, as Mal had her pinned to the wall in one minute and in the next, with a twist of her limbs, like a slippery octopus, she was out of her arms, facing her, panting and bruised.

“We’ll have to do this again Maly. And maybe then, you’ll have a chance to win,” Uma laughed, taunting even with more bruises on her than Mal had, turning away with a flounce of light blue braids.

Well Mal might have been stronger, thus had less bruises, but she was the one at a disadvantage here. Uma’s dark skin could hide them much better than her own pale skin.

Mal brushed her fingers over a patch of mottled color she couldn’t see, but could know, that was on her neck. She barely stopped herself from baring her teeth at absolutely nothing, considering the perpetrator was long gone now.

At least I heal fast. Sometimes, just sometimes, it was good to be Mother’s daughter. Especially if no one knew of my advantages from my dragon blood. Though it does feel like Jay suspects sometimes.

Not a problem. There might not be honor among thieves, but we haven’t betrayed each other yet. I don’t want the day to come where we will.

In the safety of her own mind, she allowed herself to be weak.

Putting her hands in her pockets, she turned and walked away, leaving the alley behind along with any signs of humanity.

She kept her head up, flashing her eyes and sneering at anyone who dared meet her look, hiding any inside turmoil.

Feeling suffocated, she abandoned the main road and clambered up onto a familiar low hanging rooftop.

She’d not been to the castle in two days. Mal was sure her Mother would drag her herself if she gave a shit about her, but knowing she was causing havoc must have been enough.

She was rather far from the castle, closer to the dead looking mountains. It was a complete accident that she met Uma; they were both ways off from their own homes, but they both took advantage of the meeting.

She couldn’t even remember how she wandered this far into the island.

Not like it mattered.

She scanned her surrounding for any dangers, but it looked like she was alone. Still, she resolved to keep alert.

She heaved herself up the roof in the practiced motion it’d become since she was ten years old and she was escaping enraged pirates.

She approached a block of crumbling, broken rock at the opposite edge of the roof, carefully heaving it up and sideways – which should have been impossible for someone of her size, it was highly difficult for someone like Jay, but she was relatively alone and didn’t have to be mindful of her strength.

There was a small hole in the roof, previously hidden under the rock. She buried her hand under the pile of wilted grass and extracted her sketchbook.

It might have been a good hiding place, considering the only thing of value was dead grass – still useful to light a fire or eat in case someone was really desperate – but she only hid her sketchbook here yesterday. She’d been hiding it since her fight with Mother, a few days ago. She couldn’t be too complacent, so she alternated hiding places and for only a night each; looking for hiding places kept her skills sharp all around.

She sat down on the edge, crossing her legs under her, rummaging in her jacket pocket, before taking out a pencil no bigger than her thumb.

She’d need more supplies soon, or she’d have to make her own charcoal.

She quirked her lip remembering when she was young and as curious as she’d always be, poking around at various firepits, some of which were dug into the ground, picking out the wood at the very bottom, not consumed but charred black. Remembered dragging it along every surface she could find and concluding it was effective for leaving marks. It wasn’t long before she’d dragged it along ripped paper, liking the look of it.

She’d have to find a secluded place for that, though. Maybe down by the beach.

Mal turned her eyes to the far-off mountains, unconsciously leaning forward as though something was calling her there. She shook her head, but started to draw the lines of the peaks without telling her hand to.

She kept at it for a little while, lines and shapes filling the page. She held her sketchbook at armlength, looking at it with a critical eye, before humming in approval. Though before she could put it down, something drew her eye. An otherwise bright white spot, barely visible in the darkness of the mountain slopes. She didn’t know why it niggled at her, seeming like something about it was going to change her.

This whole day had started weird. Like it should have been brighter, though the sun had definitely never shone on the Isle. Like she was forgetting something vitally important, a hole in the middle of her chest that had her grasping at her heart to stop it from aching. She’d even stopped herself from stealing an apple – and it wasn’t the rot that put her off, it was that the feelings increased with her spotting the damned fruit. She didn’t even know if she liked apples, and why she associated them with the colors blue and brown.

Mal shook her head, putting the thought away with her sketchbook, though this time she hid it under a loose tile her keen eye spied and that she pried loose.

She had to keep her art supplies hidden, sometimes. Mother didn’t approve – the only drawing she liked, was drawing hapless victims into traps. Which meant she usually had to clean her hands from any evidence. This time she didn’t think to do it, jumping off the roof into a crouch, with her hands, darkened at the tip, bracing her weight on the ground.

She pushed herself up, closing her eyes, taking a deep breath, and moving.

It might be stupid to keep her eyes closed on the Isle, but her sharp hearing should give her enough warning. She just found she couldn’t look at her surroundings without feeling suffocated.

She kept to the shadows – she might be reckless, but she wasn’t stupid – and went further into the island, inching closer to the mountains without her knowing.

Her thoughts were so muddled, she suspected her sight would be whirling around with them if she had her eyes open.

Mal didn’t know how long she’d been walking until a crunch had her eyes flying open and all her muscles tensing up.

She swept her eyes around her, but she was on the outskirts of the buildings of the Isle, they were sparse here and inhabitants were even sparser; there was no one around except her.

As she went to move her feet, she felt her boot nudge something. Looking down she froze as she saw the rotted core of a red apple. She squeezed her eyes shut, a throbbing, piercing pain emanating from her chest.

This is ridiculous. It’s just an apple. Not even a full apple. Not in any way edible.

But even so, when she tried to crush the core under the heel of her boot, she found herself hesitating, felt herself shaking, a sense of inexplicable loss filling her.

As she found she couldn’t even kick it away from her, she decided to take herself away, stomping off, as though to take out her pain and frustration on the ground, getting faster and faster the farther she went. Until her surroundings were a blur and her legs were pumping. Until she didn’t even know what was happening. Until the only thing she could see was the back of her eyelids and the only thing she could hear was the sound of the wind rushing through her ears.

She only figured out what was happening when she registered the sound of boots pounding the ground.

Mal was running.

Running.

Running like never before.

That was all she seemed to be doing these days.

She ran, so abnormally fast she became a purple blur to the visible eye. Still she kept her eyes closed, not caring about how dangerous that was.

She couldn’t even feel the impact through her legs, though she did feel when concrete gave way to muddy earth, heard how she rustled the tall dead grass, how she almost caught her clothes on the growing prickly thorns.

She just followed where her feet led her, not knowing how nor why she was being pulled in a specific direction.

Even then, Mal didn’t register how she was heading up a rocky incline.

Her tumbling thoughts distracted her from her stumbling feet, muscle memory preventing her from taking a fall.

Though it wasn’t enough.

I’ve never been this reckless before. That was stupid, it was one of the only thoughts that ran through Mal’s brain as she stepped too hard on unstable rocks.

Her heart dropped along with her whole body as her eyes flew open to inexplicably find herself in the mountains, currently in the process of tangling with death as she fell off a small crumbling rocky edge.

It looked like she didn’t even take a traveled road, though she doubted there were man-made roads in these desolate mountains.

This is what I get when I break one of the most important survival lessons of the Isle: always stay alert.

She scrambled to find a foothold as she fell on her back and roughly slid down the slope.

She almost stopped breathing as she found that there was a small steep outcropping that would surely drop her who-knows-how-many-thousands of feet from the mountains to the ground in a spectacular show of shattered bones and splattered blood.

While she would normally appreciate a splash of color, Mal enjoyed her body intact even more, thank you very much.

I always wanted to see if I can fly, but I think I’d like a raincheck. Looks like it isn’t gonna be Mother to kill me. Color me surprised.

While her sense of humor was comforting, it wasn’t really helpful right now.

As she neared the ledge, Mal flipped onto her stomach, feeling even more rocks digging into all kinds of places she didn’t have time to think about. She dug her feet more into the ground, hands scrambling to hold on to something to help her not fall to her death. She applied all her strength as she buried her fingers into the earth, tufts of grass escaping them as she slid further down.

While it was all happening so fast, she felt like she was watching it all in slow motion.

I always knew this place liked mental torture too, Mal thought dryly. If you want me dead, just do it already, she mentally screamed at the Isle.

Her boots hit the edge. They couldn’t keep a grip, dangling into open air.

All she could think as she dug her nails now into the rock, was that it was good she kept them short and that she was stronger than most.

Though even with all her strength, she had too much speed to stop herself or pull herself up.

Thankfully, she was able to aim her fall closer to the mountain face.

Her body didn’t think it was such a good idea, though, as it screamed at her in pain as she hit jutting rocks and sharp branches.

She desperately tried to find a foothold, a handhold, a vine, anything before she’d fall through open air and really try to see if she could fly.

The mountains appeared to answer her, growing small ledges that her feet slammed into and that her hands griped before they crumbled.

She was able to slow down a bit, body dragging across the earth. Mouth almost swallowing dirt.

She squeezed her eyes, gritting her teeth. Her whole body throbbing as it was dragged across sharp rocks. Till her feet fell off the mountain side and her legs swung into open air.

As she was able to grasp a ledge and hold herself still for a few precious seconds, some distant part of her that sounded like it was far away – maybe because of all the blood pounding in her ears, where it will hopefully stay and not paint the ground down, way down, below – told her that it was probably, hopefully, a hole in the mountains. If she was lucky it could even be a cave.

Gripping harder to the ledge, ominously feeling it creaking, crumbling, Mal swung herself back and forth until she built up enough speed and momentum to swing herself down, letting go just as the ledge crumbled.

For a moment she flew, suspended, through air before she hit the ground. Hard. Her body rolling before coming to a stop.

As she lay there panting for breath, heart lost somewhere below on the ground, Mal could only absurdly think one thing.

Fucking Hell, if my favorite leathers are ripped, I’m gonna freak.

Yeah, Mal you almost died, you’re most definitely bruised all over, your hands are probably mangled, you can feel them sticky and throbbing and all you can think about are YOUR CLOTHES.

Well these are my favorite.

Would you stop fooling around and actually think for a second!

I almost died. I’m good thanks.

And now she was actually arguing with the voices in her head. Perfect. Though it seemed like her saner side was yelling at her to grow a working brain. Jokes on you, you live there.

Though it looked like it had a point. Near death definitely made her lose her remaining sanity. Thought that was Mother’s to take.

As she finally caught her breath, Mal slowly, painfully pushed herself up, grunting as she could almost feel her bones creaking, and walked to the opening. Hugging the wall, she stuck her head up and looked for the ledges that saved her life.

But she almost lost it again as she didn’t find any, no matter how hard she squinted or no matter how much she looked. She almost felt dizzy with how hard she was concentrating.

But still, nothing.

Pulling her head back in, she slid down the wall. She tried to make sense of it, because near death experience or not, she knew what she felt, knew what happened.

It’s not like the mountain can grow limbs like an overgrown starfish, at least according to Uma. Pretty sure they just didn’t magically appear.

She almost lost her breath again.

Before she could panic again at that thought, she decided not to dwell on it. Someday she’d get her answers. No matter what she had to do.

This island is sometimes too freaky.

Heaving herself up with a hand braced against the wall, Mal finally looked around herself. Well, this was a cave.

Weirdly while the mountains were mostly brown and dead, the walls and ground were so black they reminded her of her Mother’s staff.

‘Obsidian, Mal, obsidian. The finest for the finest.’

Mother did always have an enlarged head. She never told her that, though.

It was obvious it wasn’t lived in. She wondered why the animal folk didn’t explore here. But then, Mal could just picture Scar in her head. ‘I’m no león de montaña, hija de Maleficent,’ she could almost hear him hiss in his rumbling purr. Well, his loss.

She ignored how it was almost sure she’d heard Scar. Ignored how she knew what words he'd use when she didn’t even know what his language was.

On second thought, she wasn’t sure if it was a loss. The cave felt charged, weird.

She started walking further into the cave, dragging her hand along the wall, stopping when she felt an indentation in the rock.

When she got her face closer to the wall, she could see it was something carved into the stone. Like a character in a language she didn’t know. It was a miracle she even saw it, but she chalked that up to her senses.

Though she didn’t trust her sight this day, as she could almost swear the etching was glowing.

Raking one hand agitatedly through her hair, she resisted the overwhelming urge to yank on it for anything to hold on to, to stop herself from spiraling. Hesitating slightly on the small horns in her hair. They stopped growing a while ago. She could never figure out why, they just peeked a little out of the top of her head. Anyone not really focusing would miss them. Mother always made sure to point out the difference between them and her own.

‘You are weak. See how human you are. They’ll never get to be like mine. And neither will you.’

This day just kept getting better and better.

Mal felt her hair standing on end, like the air was filled with electricity, like how the air got just before a lightning strike. Shivers skittered along her spine, tensing her muscles, and gripping her heart.

She got further creeped out when no matter how hard she tried to silence her footfalls, they still rung like the striking of her sword on a rusted metal barrel - sometimes she liked to make music with what was available, so what.

No matter how sharp her sight was, she still didn’t notice that as she dragged her bloodied fingertips along the wall, the etchings did glow after a little while, a purple so light it was almost white. Almost lilac.

Though she certainly felt as the air got even more charged, like it was running in her veins, spinning her insides, something swirling in her chest.

The cave was deeper than it appeared, going deeper into the mountain, but it wasn’t enclosed. As she got further in, the ceiling curved high above her, making her feel tiny.

A cold wind suddenly whipped her hair, before dragging cold nails along her back forcing her into a shiver. She could even hear it. And she was getting really sick of her senses, because it sounded like a breath.

Nothing could make a breath that loud.

As she moved forward, she straightened her back, keeping her face a careful blank mask. She donned her get-out-of-my-way-or-fight-me face that she always wore facing her enemies. Because this felt awfully like she was facing something worse. More dangerous.

Though her whole stance dropped along with her jaw when she entered a huge cavern. It was probably bigger than the dead forest!

I really need to find out its name.

As she took slow hesitant steps forward, she didn’t notice how the cuts on her hands were taking longer to heal than normal. How blood was slowly trickling to the ground, one drop punctuating each of her steps. How the air warmed.

She was too busy staring at the vastness of the chamber. At the etchings that she could see on the floor. Clearer than the ones on the wall only because of their bigger size.

Had she thought harder, she would have noticed how some of them looked as if giant claws gouged the ground a long time ago.

As she followed a long line in the floor, her dragon mark flared a little, glowing with the etchings. Not that she felt it, entranced as she was, her gut telling her that she’d remember this for a long time.

Air blew harder the further along she went, until she got to the center of the chamber, where it hit the hardest, blowing her hair back, fully exposing her horns.

As Mal stepped into the very center of a web of interconnecting concentric circles, she heard the echoing plop of a single drop of liquid. Yet she still never knew that it was the sound of her blood dripping. Dripping from her fingers, the cuts now welding back together like ghosts were stitching them back up.

Her eyes slip closed, missing how with the last single drop, light flared up from the center of the circles running along the floor, up the walls, reaching the top of the cavern.

She breathed deeply, feeling a strange serenity overtaking her. She’d never felt like this before. Though she had. Precious memories buried, until it was time for them to be remembered.

But her eyes sprung open when she felt the ground shaking and her balance tilting, flared a bright green that allowed her to see better but masked the light coming from the etchings.

WHO DARES DISTURB MY SLUMBER!

“What?” Mal whispered, completely shaken. She slowly turned around. She looked everywhere, but she couldn’t find anyone or anything that could be talking.

The ground seemed to rumble in rhythmic shakes.

YOU?!

“What?” The word barely escaped the clutches of her tightening throat.

The cave shook in close intervals.

She really didn’t want to die here, where no one could find her. Not that anyone would mourn. Maybe Jay. Barely.

I am sorry, I had always wanted to say that.

“What?” she repeated, nonplussed. She tried to discard the thought that the floor shook because whatever-was-saying-that laughed.

And just who might you be?

She jumped. It was like someone whispered directly into her ear.

“I–” she didn’t even know what she was going to say had she not been interrupted.

Wait, the voice paused.

Well what the fuck is it doing, looking around? Mal internally screamed, trying to keep all feeling off her face.

Yes.

Mal tried very hard not to scream. She was moving fast from creeped out to completely fed up.

What, are you reading my mind? she sarcastically thought.

Well, how else are you hearing me?

“What!” She didn’t stop her scream this time.

You appear upset.

“You think!” Maybe she shouldn’t be yelling at unseen voices who could speak in her mind.

She was almost breaking her neck with how fast she was turning it, because if she wanted to punch it she had to know where it came from. She didn’t care if it was invisible. She’d figure that one out.

Tell me, my dear. Do you happen to be half-Fae?

“How did you–”

Hmm, is it not still early? It was like she wasn’t even there anymore. Could unseen voices muse aloud?

“What the hell are you talking about?” Mal harshly asked, completely sick of voices today, her own or otherwise.

Evidently not.

She was being ignored by a voice. And it did not feel good. At all. She tried not to lose her temper.

Have you lost any memories recently?

“Wha–”

Damned it be.

Her mouth hung open. Words long forgotten. Before now, the voice was speaking like an old timey folk from centuries ago with a penchant for Old English. Now it was almost cursing.

It was making all her masks useless and she didn’t know how to feel about that.

Do you happen to know what year it is?

“Not really.” Words. She could do words even if they weren’t many.

No?

“Don’t know if the calendars we sometimes get at the barges are accurate. Or when Auradon likes to throw them away.”

She didn't mention how she'd been losing track of the days.

I have evidently missed rather much. Hmm, maybe this will help. What mode of transportation are you familiar with?

“Foot,” Mal drawled dryly, sticking her hands into her pants pockets, relaxing into the weird conversation.

Pardon me?

I’m familiar with walking. Auradonians move places by cars.”

Cars… What are ‘cars’? the voice hesitated on ‘cars’ like it’d never heard it before.

Mal was stumped. She didn’t know how to explain it. The only car she’d seen was barely a glance at Cruella De Vil’s infamous not-always-functioning ‘baby’. She had a son, shouldn’t she be babying him. Then again, that seemed as likely as Mother treating her decently.

Whatever happened to carriages? To flight?

Could a disembodied voice sound incredulous?

“Well they still fly, by planes.” She hoped she wasn’t expected to explain a plane. She’d only seen one on the cracked TV at Ursula’s Fish & Chips.

What are damned planes?

She didn’t just skip over that one, she leaped over it. “Well anyway, cars are like carriages that don’t need horses, but can move if you press a paddle.”

Is that not magic?

“Oh no, they hate that.” She scoffed. King Beast could stand to learn a lesson or two about that.

There was a charged pause that she didn’t know what to make of.

And planes?

“Never personally seen one.” She shrugged, unaffected. If that was genuine or not was anybody’s guess. Even she didn’t know.

And this is not, oh what did you call it…

Seriously can it mumble too?!

Is this not ‘Auradon’?

“No, this here is the Isle of the Lost, the land of garbage and villains for your viewing pleasure.” She spread her arms, a wide sarcastic smirk on her face, as though inviting the voice to feast its nonexistent eyes on a veritable treasure.

I am still on the island. It only changed its name. Thank Aëra.

Yeah, no one should be relieved to be on the Isle. And what the fuck is Ayera? But she didn’t get to ask.

Do you not benefit from such transportations?

“No.” She heavily dropped her arms down to her sides.

You live near an advanced society, but you are segregated from it and its comforts?

“Pretty much.”

And what crimes did you commit?

“I was born. That was crime enough.” Mal gritted her teeth. She never chose to either be born or to live here. And she didn’t need a voice judging her.

You were born? It didn’t boom, but the voice just got dangerously low. Its rumble was very familiar to her, it was the kind of really dangerous tone her Mother sometimes liked to use. All dragon scraping its claws along gravel.

“To a villain. The villain. Maleficent,” she explained cautiously.

The ground shook once.

Did it just huff?

It has begun. Yet you are not ready. And you are missing your σύμβολον. 

“What? What is it? And what am I not ready for? And what the hell is that last word?”

She might not have understood the last word, but it did bring a familiar warmth. It reminded her of apples, of strokes of blue. Of whirls of warm brown.

As Mal tried to step forward, she found her feet literally rooted to the floor.

“And just why the fuck can’t I move?” She felt her blood pounding, her chest heaving, her fists clenching.

You are standing in Dwayr e Draënka.

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?!”

The more they talked the more questions she had.

No.

Mal waited for it to continue. And waited.

“Well!” she urged with a swatting hand.

It is how you are able to speak with me.

Was it sighing? She felt like it was sighing at her!

“So what. I have to stand here for who knows how long!” She might have had great stamina, but after this whole day her legs were about to collapse. And why was she losing her temper even faster than she normally did.

I never said you had to stand.

“Good.” Mal dropped to the ground like the bunch of rocks from earlier.

She felt the rhythmic shaking of the ground even more now that she was sitting on it.

Was your Mother so egotistical she named you after herself.

The question really came out of nowhere.

“How did you know that was my full name?” Annnnd she was getting creeped out again.

I see with an eye that you do not have.

“Right,” Mal drawled as she tugged hard on her hair, hoping to restart her brain. Especially as she was starting to find the voice soothing with its deep rumble and formal speak. “And I see myself leaving.”

You are unable to move.

“I know that!”

You are rather strange.

“Yeah, I’m the strange one. You’re a voice!”She gestured to the room at large. Not like she could point directly at it. “Then again. I’m the one talking to you. So how bout that,” she mumbled to herself, her palm over her eyes.

There was that shaking again.

It’s laughing. It’s totally laughing.

For a moment there was comfortable silence.

You should know, Dear One. I find being a Mal is infinitely better than a Maleficent.

She swallowed dryly, unsure how to feel hearing that. Unsure how to feel having her private thoughts aired out.

Your Mother knows not the treasure she has. Nor of the fate she has doomed you to.

“Oh, I think she knows.” She huffed, deliberately ignoring the first part of that statement.

No, she does not. And neither do you. Your doom is this world’s salvation.

What? Just what?” she was saying that a lot. She had to resist the strong urge to hit her head on the floor.

Do not fret, Dear One. You will not be alone.

“Oh, I’ll have a cavalry with me?” Mal mockingly nodded her head.

Yes.

She was starting to think it liked messing with her.

“You know what, I give up.” She threw herself backward, deciding she was going to admire the really black texture of the high ceiling.

She missed how her eyes were still glowing.

Give up what?

It was like the voice took a seat next to her. It sounded curious of all things.

“My sanity.” She rolled her eyes upward.

Is that wise? Allow me to amend that. That is not wise.

“Never pretended to be.”

You are quite interesting. Meeting you has been a delight.

“Thanks, I think.” She'd never received so many compliments in the same conversation. “Likewise.”

I’ve not heard that in centuries. And I will not hear it again in some time. I think we shall have to part ways, soon.

“Just, who are you?” Mal asked the voice. Things like that, got her curious.

I will let you take a wild guess. I sincerely wish you luck in your devastating trail, La Mitad Más Oscura de Nuestro Par Destinado, the voice rumbled, echoing in the emptiness of the cave.

“That is a mouthful. What is that? What language is that? How many languages do you even speak?”

It is a little look into your destined future. It was a necessity for us to know languages in the past. Farewell for now, Dear One.

“Us? Wait! Can I see, er, hear or talk to you again?” Mal flung herself up, wildly turning around, trying once more to identify where the voice came from. Stretching a hand out as though to grasp the fleeting voice.

You know where to find me. But I warn you, I cannot always answer your call.

Sweet, numbing relief took hold of her, making her let out a shaky breath.

Though you will find that you will not always find the trail leading here.

“What! Why?”

You are still not ready. The magic of the island will mask it.

“Magic,” she scoffed, “there’s no magic here. There’s a barrier that keeps it out.” She threw a thumb in its vague direction.

Hmm, so there is. But that does not stop magic. A barrier requires magic to be maintained over time. Has it been up for long?

“All my life, yeah.” She shrugged a shoulder, twisting her lips.

Then it had needed magic to stay that long. It could absorb it from either side. The earth and nature here aren’t so inclined to give it up. It is therefore, false that ‘there is no magic here’.

“How would you know. A minute ago, you didn’t know there’s a barrier.”

I have been in slumber for a long time. But I had awakened several times. I am able to sense it. I know magic beyond any you can imagine.

“What do you mean by that?” Mal asked urgently.

I cannot say. You are not quite ready. But you will find me when you are. And I will answer you. For now, I must take my leave.

But you aren’t actually here,” Mal dryly remarked, but just as she said that, she felt the air become less charged, less overwhelming, proving that yes maybe the voice was actually here.

The silence was unnerving. Stomping her foot on the circle did nothing. A quick walk around told her she was very much alone. Going back the way she came, she kept glancing over her shoulder as though expecting something to pounce on her, even if it were invisible.

She lost herself so deep in thought, that she didn’t notice she was at the mouth of the cave until she almost recreated her near death.

I need to stop doing that.

Sticking her head out, she swept her eyes looking for a way down. Looking left, she found nothing. Looking right. Also nothing.

But as she looked again to the left, a path offered itself like a gift from the gods. Or from invisible voices.

“Magic. Right.” She sighed, sitting down on the ledge and carefully sliding out of the cave to the path below.

As she carefully maneuvered along it, she didn’t notice the grass growing, branches extending, dirt rolling. All masking the cave. Just as it was predicted.

It was a long trek home, but Mal found herself unable to care or speed up, the voice circling her thoughts and its words echoing through her ears.

She was so immersed in her thoughts, she didn’t notice a cut appearing on her index. Didn’t notice how it didn’t bleed. How she wouldn’t have felt the break in the skin if she did see it.

It was almost evening when she stepped onto concrete again.

She automatically merged with the shadows, her feet carrying her where they liked. Though they’d betrayed her a lot today. So she could only blame absentmindedness for allowing them complete control.

She kept twisting her dragon ring around her thumb, absently wondering how she got it, if her Mother had lost it a while ago. Only flashes of memory came to her, a streak of blue, a warm brown hue and a brush of hands. She couldn’t remember more no matter how hard she tried.

Before she could think about it more, a voice put a screech to both the movement of her thoughts and of her feet.

“Hey, Mal. Want to do a little raid, it’s been a while,” Jay called to her, getting closer.

“Who whipped you with a belt?” Mal asked him.

“What?” He tilted his head.

She just nodded to the marks along his arms. They looked faint. Almost like they weren’t completely there.

“What? How did this happen?” He frantically turned over his arms, trying to twist in ways he couldn’t, unless he was Uma.

“Careful about those ghost stories, Jay.” Mal smirked at him, mostly joking. After today she wasn’t sure there weren’t ghosts on the Isle.

“Nah.” Jay just grinned at her, devil-may-care attitude oozing even if it looked shaky around the edges. “Anyway, raid?” he clapped his hands, index fingers pointed at her.

“Not really feeling up to it, today, Jay,” she told him, honestly more tired from her mental run then her what-would-kill-the-normal-human walk.

She saw his shoulders drop, immediately not thinking about why that would happen, deciding to throw him a bone – more like toss him the bottle of rum. “Though, let me tell you, some pirates are scrawny and can barely hold their drinks. If you sneak up on them, they wouldn’t notice, especially if they suddenly lose their voice and can’t talk,” she told him casually, walking away from him. “Some of them, even hide in the barrels,” she threw as her parting, over her shoulder.

“Wicked! See ya, Terror.”

Ugh. He just couldn't help himself, could he. If he keeps this up, I'm calling him Snake. Or Unsneaky Snake. That'll get 'im.

But she was too exhausted to care this time, about either nickname. She'd come up with something more insulting when she'd be able to tell up from down.

She heard the receding sound of running feet, and didn’t bother lifting a wave, sensing the unspoken-can’t-be-said-on-the-Isle words, even covered up with that atrocious nickname.

She aimlessly wandered, letting her feet guide her, though she questioned why she allowed them free reign when she saw she was on the beach overlooking Auradon.

Picking up a few rocks, she made sure they were heavy.

Hefting one in her hand, she balanced it in her palm, before abruptly flinging it to the sea with all her strength until she couldn’t see it anymore.

Damned fucking island.

She took out her bottled anger of the day on the rocks.

She threw one rock with her every thought. The distant plop of it in the sea soothing her frustration.

Damned fucking day.

Plop.

Damned fucking Mother.

Plop.

Damned I be.

Plop.

She let out a tired chuckle at the last thought, remembering the voice. She lazily flicked one last rock.

She took a minute to just enjoy the wind in her hair, feeling her anger draining away.

Opening her eyes, she looked at where she could barely see Auradon through the barrier.

I don’t know how to feel about that bright light. Too much light can blind if you’ve been in the dark for too long. But it can also make things clearer when the brightness dims to something manageable, Mal contemplated, hands in her pockets, feeling unusually melancholic.

Maybe I should have Uma teach me how to swim. Before we inevitably break it off.

Shaking her head and idly kicking a pebble into the sea, she turned away, heading back to the buildings.

It was very late into the night by the time she retrieved her sketchbook. She was exhausted from wandering around, slumping at a wall, not recognizing her surroundings, but not really caring.

She’d only closed her eyes for a second when she heard a voice.

Oh, come on!

Voices were going to drive her crazy.

But before she could get too worked up, she listened to it carefully.

This voice…was…singing?

Opening her eyes, Mal leaned forward, straining her ears.

It sounded melodious, soothing. She was entranced. She could believe magic existed on the Isle just by hearing it. She could fall asleep listening to that mesmerizing voice.

Her eyes slipped closed again, her legs carrying her closer to it, without her say-so.

She could make out words now.

 

Take me in your arms and save me

Only you can save me, save me

Come on, bring your love around

Rescue me right now

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me, can't you hear my heart calling

Calling out to you?

 

She kept her eyes closed, a warmth sweeping through her. A calmness washing away the stress of the whole day.

She took back any bad thing she’d been saying about voices.

 

Save me, darling, won't you save me?

Oh, this heart is in distress

I need some tenderness, so take me

Take me in your arms and save me

Only you can save me, save me

Come on, bring your love around

Rescue me right now

 

Save me, only you can save me, save me

Come on, bring your love around

Rescue me right now

 

She didn’t know how, but she knew the next words like they were coming from her soul. Her slightly higher voice joining the enchanting one in a melody that seemed to be made of magic.

 

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

 

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me from this emptiness

Save me from this loneliness

Save me

 

The night rung with silence as though holding its breath, as though it couldn’t bear to break the moment, as though it did witness magic.

And Mal. Mal kept her eyes closed, breathing deeply, feeling alive as though she’d been lifeless before now. She kept her eyes closed as her legs carried her away unwillingly. She kept her eyes closed as she made it to her castle without any hassle. She kept them closed as she avoided her Mother and drifted to her bed. She kept them closed as though she wasn’t completely changed by her day.

She kept them closed as she slowly drifted to sleep.

 

There would be two voices she would never be forgetting, no matter what tried to make her.

Not Mother. Not fate.

 

She would remember, but she wouldn’t know. She wouldn’t know the mesmerizing voice until she remembered.

Remembered an apple, a necklace, a ring, and a forest.

Remembered a blue haired, brown eyed, enchanting Princess.

Remembered what was buried beneath the overwhelming hatred and anger.

Remembered what it was like to feel alive. To be safe. To be warm on the inside.

 

 

Chapter Text

Mal was sixteen. Mal was sixteen and she felt a deep feeling, a deep unknown certainty that her world was about to be changed forever.

The day started out normal. Well as normal as it could get on the Isle. Normal dealing with goblins. Normal annoying dealing with Jay. Not really normal dream about Auradon and a boy-prince.

Completely abnormal enraging dealing with someone who stole her seat in Dragon Hall.

No one stole from her, she stole from them!

On closer look, she felt her jaw clench.

Only one person on the Isle had that shade of dark glossy blue hair.

Mal regarded the Princess with hateful disdain, ten years not enough to dull such intense feelings. At least that was what she assumed the fire running through her veins on seeing her was.

She’s so pretty it’s disgusting.

It was especially disgusting when the girl flashed her a bright, beaming, blinding smile and introduced herself.

“I’m Evie. What’s your name?”

She found she couldn’t answer, stunned speechless, though she made sure only her disdain was visible on her face, as a warm sweeping feeling overtook her, resounded in her ears, swam in her blood, flashed behind her eyes and finally settled, pounding around her heart.

She barely stopped herself from staggering back, the feeling still grasping her, overwhelming.

It was shaking her like it was trying to scream at her.

As though yelling at her. Remember this. Remember this and never forget.

At least she was still able to keep her cool or at least look it as the Princess, Evie, continued to ramble something about her jacket.

Though Mal wasn’t sure she was as innocent as she implied. She could always read fear exceptionally well. Thank you, Mother.

As she basically barked at her to get her pretty blue ass out of her seat, Mal couldn’t stop staring at Evie as she watched her basically flee to the back of the room, though she quickly sneered at anyone stupid enough to meet her eye.

Plopping into her seat and putting her feet on her desk, she furrowed her brow, unsure about her still basically vibrating body.

I’m just furious with her. Sometimes my anger literally moves me. That’s it. I’m just angry.

As she tried to ignore how she was trying to reassure herself where she shouldn’t need to, as she ignored a weird familiarity with Evie, as though she knew her before, as though something inside her recognized her and would never forget her, Mal again thought about Jay’s unwitting party idea.

Well, Princess, I’m giving you a welcome you’ll never forget.

She smirked wickedly, already anticipating the reaction, ignoring how the people closest to her cringed at her expression.

 

Before Evil Schemes, she wrangled little scrappy puppy-like Carlos De Vil into hosting her party, making sure to let her royal highness know that she was specifically not invited.

Later as Jay commented on how pleased with herself she looked, she wondered about the gooey-sticky feelings filling her as she denounced the Princess as Blueberry.

Shaking it off, she pulled her attention to Lady Tremaine and started thinking of her evil scheme of the year. She could do a lot of damage; ‘on the Isle everything goes’. Though maybe she shouldn’t resort to murder just yet, Mother would approve, but no matter how much Mother would like that, Mal wouldn’t.

Though she was disconcerted to find that Evie wasn’t miserable but laughing with Carlos De Vil.

A twisted smile grew on her lips as she thought more on it. She kept it hidden as she later invited the Princess to the party, as she quietly plotted how she would ruin her year, maybe even later, her life.

It grew again when Jay asked her about her methods.

“An evil scheme, huh?” He waggled both of his eyebrows.

“Maybe.” She flashed him that twisted smile as she kept quiet about her plans, denying it when he cajoled her saying he was the only one she could stand. Though as she sent him off with a list of demands, she privately agreed with him.

The runt better have my party ready, or I’ll raise Hell in Hell Hall.

 

Well Carlos would be escaping her wrath for the day. She didn’t believe him for one second when he opened the door, agreeing that he was excited to see her. Oh, well. She did live off of fear from others.

The party only resumed when she took her own shot of Toad’s Blood. It was good to know she had such wonderful presence. As she made a circuit around the room, she kept glancing at the door, waiting impatiently for Princess Blueberry – that name was still hand in hand with some weird gross stupid feelings.

Though she didn’t expect nor want to be interrupted discussing her scheme with Jay to be asked to dance by Lady Tremaine’s grandson, Anthony.

“I mean, I don’t dance with anyone. Ever,” Mal told him.

At least not since that night.

The thought came unbidden as though wading through the murky crocodile infested waters surrounding the Isle, giving her pause. Not letting her hear anything else Anthony said.

Wait. What night?

She was so distracted, she just walked away from Anthony, leaving him sputtering in affront.

But she stopped her spiraling thoughts as she spotted a familiar Princess through the windows.

After telling Jay to call her when the Princess would make her Fashionably-late entrance, Mal raised her voice over the din of the party, “New game! Seven Minutes in Heaven! And you’ve never played Seven Minutes in Heaven if you haven’t played it in a De Vil closet.”

As she watched the chaos after her statement and as Jay appointed newly arrived Evie as the first to go, Mal coaxed her into playing with promises of friendship.

Evie stared at her. “You want me to be your friend?”

“Sure—why not?” Even as Mal led her to the closet, mind occupied with her scheme, a part of her she wasn’t aware of or approving of was nodding enthusiastically at being friends with her.

“But doesn’t a boy go in there with me?”

Not really. I bet lots of girls would want to. Not me though. Mommy dearie must have been keeping anything not straight away from the dear Princess.

Mal ignored that highly uncharacteristic thought, shoving Evie into the closet, cackling to distract herself, “Did I say Seven Minutes in Heaven? You’re playing Seven Minutes in Hell!” 

Mal walked away cackling, ignoring Carlos other than to tell him to go get her himself if he didn’t want trouble with his messed-up mother.

Though it was slow going, like she was walking through water or mud, like something was holding her, dragging her backwards.

Her body was urging her to go back. Back. Open the door. Let her out. Mal shoved her hands in her pockets and shoved herself away, scratching at her knee a bit, not seeing the thin cut forming underneath the fabric of her pants.

 

She was circling around the room when she felt her skin rippling and stumbled to a stop, flinging her back against a wall and glaring out with blurry – and unknown to her, flashing – eyes to make it seem like she was angry and deter anyone from approaching.

An uncomfortable heat was spreading from her chest to the tips of her toes. She could even feel it through her little horns and the tips of her pointy ears. The rippling was most prominent between her shoulder blades, with the heat so strong it should have melted off her skin.

She gritted her teeth against the discomfort, dragging her hand across her face and astonishingly finding it wet with sweat – she only ever sweated after a whole day of activity!

But not even a second later she felt the heat receding, the sweat evaporating, the rippling stopping. As though it never happened at all.

She stayed leaning on the wall, staring at her hand, chest heaving.

It felt impossibly like magic. Like that cave.

Draining her soda, she shoved her shaking hand in her pocket and decided to take her mind off whatever the fuck that was by terrorizing some pirates.

 

Not long after, Mal saw Carlos and Princess Blueberry heading to grab some expired sodas with barely a scratch on her. She absently scratched her knee as she looked at them.

The Princess looked fine, a bit disheveled not that anyone else noticed. Her gait was not completely steady and Mal had to fight the overwhelming urge to get closer and check on her.

With those weird thoughts swirling in her head, she decided the party was over for her.

After taking out her turmoil on public property, she headed back to her castle where she was not-so-pleasantly surprised by her Mother waiting up for her.

“My dear friend, please do greet my spawn for me,” her Mother said, though she didn’t see who it was addressed to until she almost had her eye poked out!

“Get off!” Mal swatted around her face, reaching into her boot for her knife and swinging it around.

“If you dare harm my friend, you will be bathing in your blood in mere minutes.” Mother didn’t even have to raise her voice to completely freeze her, allowing the piece of shit to nip at her ear so hard it would have drawn blood if she were completely human. Still, she covered her ear with both her hair and her hand so as to not give her Mother any idea about the extent of her abilities.

“What the fuck was that?” She rubbed her ear to get the blood flowing, ignoring how it was throbbing.

“I’ve told you about Diablo. Or has your wretched brain already forgotten.” Mother stretched across her huge high-backed green ‘throne’, petting a black raven whose beady eyes were fixed on her and whose caws were infuriatingly taunting.

Mal had to stop from flinging her knife at the thing. Her Mother would surely kill her.

“How is he here? I thought he was a hunk of rock.”

“Mind your mouth if you do not want it cut off with that knife. But from the looks of things there was a disturbance in the barrier.” Maybe that’s what my whole episode at the party was about. “But that’s of no consequence now. My most precious companion tells me the Dragon’s Eye is on this wretched pile of rocks,” Mother rose from her seat and approached with wide sweeping steps, circling around her like an overgrown raven herself, “and you, are going to search for it and bring it for me.”

“Me?”

“Yes. Don’t you want to prove yourself to me? Prove that you are worthy of being my daughter?” Mother asked quietly.

Mal didn’t answer.

“You know how much you are a disappointment to me, how when I was your age, I had armies of goblins under my control, but you … you are nothing. And you do nothing. Now is the time for you to be something, anything. Show me your use, because you never have!” Mother continued to pace around her. 

Mal tightened her hold on her knife, stopping herself from responding to that, focusing on the flaws of that crazy plan. “You’re going to believe the word of a bird and send me on a hopeless goose chase,” Mal asked skeptically.

“See, this bird, as you call it was once enchanted by my most powerful magic.”

“Which is useless on the Isle,” she pointed out.

“Once enchanted. Always enchanted. Provided correct measures were taken,” Mother spoke directly into her ear and it was everything she could do not to startle, though she remained tense.

“There’s no magic here, Mother.”

Mother only hummed dismissively, as was her habit to anything Mal had to say. “He can still detect undetectable things. You will find my scepter and you will bring it to me. Or you will not bring yourself back at all.” She moved back in front of her, looking at her with cold harsh green eyes.

“Are you kicking me out?” Mal laughed in disbelief.

“My henchmen will ensure you stay out.”

“They can’t keep a lookout through the whole castle. It’s too big.”

“Then I’ll have some of the Isle wretch fill this whole castle. Until they bring you to me and I deal with you properly.” Maleficent walked back to the window, the clack of her staff punctuating her every word, until they pounded in her head with the same echo.

Mal gritted her teeth, tempted to throw her knife into her Mother’s back, but not willing to deal with the devastating consequences of being completely stupid. “Of course Mother.” She didn’t even let her dismiss her, stomping out of the room all the way to her room and out to her balcony.

Not even Jay could calm the seething writhing in her chest. Her armoire was going to be her target practice later tonight.

As she relayed to Jay all that happened and as she stared at Auradon in the distance, she could feel this feeling, almost like longing. She needed off this island and away from her Mother. Even if it meant being surrounded my do-goody hypocrites.

 

After her Mother’s threats and a last warning about a thousand-year-old curse that would plague the first person to touch the Dragon’s Eye, Mal found it very hard to sleep. Even with her abnormal amounts of energy no sleep was bad for her. At least she was able to catch a few hours before she woke up at the ass crack of dawn.

She would really, really like to ignore her Mother entirely, but nothing ever good happened to her if she did. And while she might have preferred a permanent vacation from her Mother, she rather liked having an actual bed to sleep on. That was more than a lot of the other shmucks on this island were able to scrape by.

 

Her Mother’s threats kept replaying in her mind all day, distracting her so not one word of any class registered with her.

Kicked out. On the street. Nothing new there, but those times were never long term. And something told her if she refused, Mother would have not only her henchmen but the whole island hunting for her, and while she could rely on her strengths and could in theory go back to the mountains, being hunted was no way to live.

She was predator, not prey. And even though she would never admit it aloud, she would probably miss Jay. And something deep inside her ached at never seeing Evie again.

Was her distraction the reason Lady Tremaine wanted to see her? Oh what did it matter, she was in trouble anyway.

And as Lady Tremaine lectured her on her scheme not being evil enough, while a part of her was deeply offended, the rest of her couldn’t help but agree.

Mal knew how to be cruel, how to be vicious, how to be ruthless. She did learn from the worst after all. So she didn’t know why she was playing parlor tricks on Evie. Like a part of her couldn’t dare lay a vengeful hand on the girl. A part of her screaming, She is too precious. You’d never hurt her. Whatever that part was, it was freaking her out, a feeling of warmth, of non-loneliness when she was around her. Her thumb almost always tingled, her ring a noticeable weight on her hand. And for some inexplicable reason, Mal often found her eyes drifting to the royal red glass heart adorning the Princess’s neck, a strange feeling of pride and warmth always filling her. Though it appeared to be missing today, an unexplainable feeling of hurt filling her at its absence.

She’d been completely out of it this whole day, and all these feelings were uncharacteristic of her. So she shook them off and concentrated a bit on Lady Tremaine.

Which paid off as the perfect scheme came to her.

Oh I’ll get that Dragon’s Eye Mother, but it won’t be for you and I won’t be the one taking a thousand-year nap. I think Princess is going to be Sleeping Beauty soon.

She needed her own team to convince Evie of going anywhere with her and to help her on her goose chase. And she knew just the thief for the job. Provided she could convince him.

 

She was actually suspicious at how easily she was able to convince him. Suspicious of the fact they were having a private conversation in open air.

Which proved to be true when Jafar slithered out of hiding, grasping a rusted dented staff that must have been his previously glorious golden snake scepter.

“Well my dear, if you really wanted your conversation private, you would have ensured it was. Come, it is time for me to educate you younglings.” He gestured them towards the door and once they were in, waved them to sit on the ottomans.

He told them about seeing what could only be her Mother’s Forbidden Fortress when he was first released from the lamp.

“Yes. But I’m afraid I can’t be certain of where it is. This island is far larger than you think. You could look forever and never find it. Especially if it’s in the forbidden zone.” Better known as Nowhere by everyone on the Isle. “Though I have no doubt, my dear, that you are capable of finding it. You look like a capable girl who can handle herself.” Jafar might have aged badly but he kept the charisma he was so known for, very clear in his voice, but the way he fixed her with hungry beady dark eyes made Mal barely suppress her disgusted shiver, curling her lip at him. “And I trust my useless boy to aid you.” As he glared at his son, he subtly stroked his staff in a way that someone with weaker eyes than her wouldn’t have picked up on. But when Jay absently rubbed his elbow, she could see a faded bruise there that made her even more disgusted with the man, if he could be called that.

“Yeah. Well thanks for the help. But I gotta go now.” Mal abruptly stood up, throwing a thumb over her shoulder. “Hey Jay, walk me out.”

“Sure.” With his back turned to his father, he looked at her gratefully.

“Oh do have a good day, my dear Mal.” His slimy voice slithered down her back and she didn’t answer him before she stomped out of his shop.

She pulled Jay down the road and into an alley, checking to see that they were completely alone before she turned to him. “Look I don’t really care about any of your personal plans and don’t try to tell me you don’t have any. But I want him far away from both of us, okay. I don’t care if I have to sneak you into my castle.” She kept her voice quiet, making it all the more intense in her complete seriousness.

“Yeah. I think that might be best.” Jay raked a hand through his hair, looking slightly shaken. The absence of his usual devil-may-care smile made it very clear they were both unsettled.

“Now I’m gonna go. You tell him you saw a nice haul somewhere but get out of there.”

“Sure.”

Jay suggested to pick up supplies in the morning on account of the crowd that night because of the party. After arguing about it a bit, they agreed and parted ways, with plans to go to the Anthe-whatever-lets-stick-to-the-Library-of-Forbidden-Secrets.

Mal was tempted to go throw herself in the ocean to wash his stench off her. She desperately needed a shower. Anything, no matter the state of the water, was better than this.

In the morning, they went to the bazaar to swipe their supplies. The tarot cards would probably distract Dr. Facilier enough that they could swipe the key for the library.

They were still arguing about the scepter’s presence on the Isle in frankly loud voices. Jay was still skeptical.

She tried to convince him by mentioning how weird it was they never left the village, the lie tasting as muddy as the coffee from the Slop Shop. At least she went into the mountains, though she didn’t really know if he ever explored beyond the village. Jay wasn’t swayed.

“Diablo swears that it sparked to life!”

“But how? There’s no magic on the Isle. Nada.” He sounded sure, but with an undercurrent, like he was hiding something.

She had to resist the very hard urge to tell him about the voice in the mountains and about whatever episode she had at the party. “Well, maybe there’s a hole in the dome, or something.”

After a little more arguing, she won. Nothing could get a guy to move like being called a chicken.

 

But they didn’t get to argue more as a sweet warm voice interrupted them. And even though she recognized Evie, there was no stopping how her body completely relaxed at the rich tones of that melodious voice.

And so she put on her sweetest smile – though it felt less fake than she intended it to – and ignored Jay’s confusion as she cajoled the Princess to tell them what she knew.

And though Evie didn’t appear the least convinced, she played along. Even if she sounded to be lying when she said there was no magic on the Isle as she dismissed Jay’s threat.

Mal didn’t think she was really convincing when she suggested to let lying dragons lie and stop being enemies, even if she felt a pang inside her chest at the idea of them being closer.

But before they could find out more about the hole, the Evil Queen swooped down on them.

“Ah, if it isn’t this island’s vermin.” Her voice was overly formal, superiority dripping from it as she looked down her nose on them. Not even her daughter was spared, which made Mal angrier still.

“Do I know you?” she asked, because those words sounded familiar, but she couldn’t for the life of her pull them from the murky depths of her memory.

Rage flashed across the queen’s face before it was carefully wiped away. She seemed to examine her face, looking a bit surprised by her findings, before that too was wiped away. “Of course you know me.” She sniffed, looking her over with dark empty eyes, finding her lacking and promptly dismissing her. “What did I tell you about mingling with the trash, Evelyn? Come.” She turned away, obviously expecting to be followed.

But Mal, feeling rage for herself and for the resigned look on Evie’s face, held her back by the arm until that Evil Bitch noticed and whirled around, stalking closer to them in still regal steps. Mal didn’t let her say anything, her mind whirring and stopping on the perfect lie. “She has a project with us. Lady Tremaine promised some very creative haircuts and makeovers if we didn’t do it.”

The Evil Queen curled her lip. “That hag is not touching a hair on you.”

“I don’t really want to take chances Mother, she could ambush me,” Evie told her, voice plaintive. Hmm, that was actually good.

“Then you will remain in the castle.”

“But weren’t you telling me to face my enemies just yesterday, Mother.”

The queen looked enraged at her daughter, evidently not expecting her to argue. Her face went as still as stone – probably much like her heart – with only the flaring of her nostrils to belie her. “Very well. Do not dally, Evelyn.” She walked away, stopping once and looking at Mal from the corner of her eye. “And do send my regards to your Mother.” She finally left after making that bold statement.

Mal could barely stop her jaw from dropping. Yeah, she wasn’t doing that. “Your mother is nuts,” she told Evie flatly.

“I can’t argue with you there.” Evie sighed looking at where her mother left.

“So about that hole,” she prompted her to get her head off that bitch.

And though the story she told was hard to believe – like that runt Carlos could actually overcome the dome, psh – as they locked eyes, Mal felt her own flashing and she could have sworn that Evie’s eyes turned red. But she knew with a certainty she shouldn’t have that, yes, she wasn’t lying.

Though Jay needed more proof then that, so off to Hell Hall it was.

 

That runt did not just slam a door in her face.

I’ll show him.

But before she could kick it down, Evie convinced him to open it, bribing him with a pillow. She felt some of her anger deflate at that, well aware of how bad some people had it. Not that anyone was having a picnic on the Isle, but some people had more supplies.

Though if he kept taking that tone with her, he was going to have even more problems.

Hearing the actual story was even more unbelievable, but it checked out with her almost collapsing at the party.

She didn’t really want to tell them why she was so interested in what happened, but as long as they kept their mouths shut, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Evie might have needed a double warning; she could have sworn she felt her wanting to cross her fingers behind her back with her promise.

Once she saw the actual machine, even with what happened to her, she was doubtful. There was no way that tiny ass box blew a hole through the dome. That barrier was a powerful piece of magic.

She and Jay needed some solid proof.

Well, he wasn’t lying.

Yup. Hole in his roof.

It seemed like a one-time deal, unfortunately. And they didn’t really have time for this. But before she could go, the box whirred.

Even though it didn’t do anything, she still stared at it, as Evie proposed the idea that it was a homing beacon.

“A homing beacon.” Mal hummed thoughtfully.

“I was just guessing. I don’t know anything about anything,” Evie backtracked.

Privately she thought Evie was selling herself short. The girl was smarter than she was making herself to be. Although aloud, she agreed with her, telling her she was coming with them, ignoring any protests.

Mal was going to take her with them even if she had to drag her kicking and screaming. “No way, you have to help us find the Eye. You’re a natural at this. You’re so good at it. I need help, and you want to help me, don’t you? Don’t you want to be my friend? I want to be yours, Evie.” But she couldn’t deny that her words rang more truthful than she ever wanted, they pounded in her ears and she tried to distract herself by trying to make off with the machine and then arguing with Carlos.

But even as she got him to agree on the condition Evie did too, they still beat inside her, tightening her throat and knocking on her racing heart.

She could not ignore them. Could not forget them.

And there was a whisper inside her that she couldn’t hear at all, pounding in time with her blood.

Say that you’re mine.

Tell me you’re mine.

She didn’t hear it, but it ached inside her. So she decided she needed to move it along.

“Evie? You’re coming, aren’t you lovely?” Okay she was going for flattery, not a come on. Hopefully the Princess didn’t take it that way.

It didn’t seem like it as Evie agreed to go with them, preferring it over finding flaws in the mirror.

You won’t find any.

Mal forcefully shoved the thought away, urging them to go to the library, getting distracted by Carlos refusing to move it because of chores.

She decided not to judge. She was technically on a chore too.

 

So, Carlos was basically Cruella’s slave. And the way he kept flinching away from his mother was enough indication that she treated him as well as any of their parents treated them. Probably even worse, Mal thought as she noticed the healed over cuts revealed when his coat rode up. And while she might be inclined to doubt that as her mind went back to that cursed spinning wheel, she finally decided that not only their parents sucked as beings, they sucked even more as parents if that were possible.

Their kids treated worse than their enemies. Showed a lot about their parenting skills.

Cruella might not have appeared vicious, but she was clearly well versed in keeping up appearances. Though her words revealed more about her than anything else.

“If my baby isn’t cleaned in the next fifteen minutes, darling, the closet will be the least of your worries.” She puffed some ‘vapor’ – she didn’t believe that for a second, she could smell too many toxic fumes – into her son’s face, almost but not quite obscuring the way he blanched, hugging his arms around his abdomen, curling his knees, his whole body shaking.

“And you, my esteemed guests, you either wash my baby or you’ll be introduced to my basement,” she called over her shoulder, voice annoyingly raspy, heels clicking with every word and from the way Carlos swayed, Mal had the feeling she didn’t want to know about the basement.

 

Dr. Facilier was easy to handle. A little bribe went a long way.

But if that creep thought he could give her a fake map and get away with it, he had another thing coming!

She might have used some of her strength to slam him against the bookshelves, breaking some vials in the process. Thankfully no one noticed, probably still stunned that she was basically threatening him.

But she wasn’t sure who was more surprised – probably her – when Evie was able to calm her down, her voice so soft and hypnotizing that she didn’t have any problem listening to it and letting him go.

Though she could have decked herself when he revealed she broke their solution.

Thank Lucifer she dragged Carlos with them.

 

As she brought up the rear, she had to try really hard not to stare at the one in front of her.

Which was why it was so shocking to hear Evie talk about her Mother calling her ugly as a way to make Carlos feel better about his own.

Honestly, all their parents had a few screws too loose.

At least, for a moment, surrounded by three other weirdos, she felt less lonely. She almost hoped they were feeling the same.

Her knees ached as they approached the fogy doorway to Nowhere. A whistle from ahead made Evie and Carlos jump, but Mal only whistled back to pinpoint their location to Jay.

Though the scare because of a kitten of all things almost made her kick Carlos into the ocean.

What was up with villains and pets. Especially birds of all things. You’d think a bird would be beneath a princess’s station.

Though the reminder that they all got them at that party when they were six, got her rage smoldering again. It made a nice brew with the betrayal and hurt she buried in her chest.

Walking into a wall of mist she was warned never to cross was a bit disconcerting. But Mal was not a coward, even if the feeling of complete darkness she felt traversing it brought back unfortunate memories that she fought to push away.

Emerging on the edge of the Isle and the rocky peaks that were the ocean’s doorway was not her idea of fun. She might have learned to swim from Uma, but she didn’t want to test exactly how strong her bones were.

So hijacking some goblin barges it was.

The alligators snapping at their heels served as a great shove forward, too.

Though the barge they heckled was sure to kill them before they got to the fortress.

It was surprising how pretty the Isle looked from another perspective.

Oddly enough, Evie seemed to almost know what she was thinking.

“Funny how different things look from far away, huh?”

“Yeah, sure, whatever.” Mal turned her back on her, that same ache settling in her gut again. She didn’t like it, not one bit.

 

Her Mother did have a certain, uh, talent for décor.

That Fortress was an ugly terrifying mess.

She absently took the knife Jay handed her, wondering if he forgot she always carried hidden weapons with her before refocusing on the castle.

 

The spiders looked hungry and the thorns looked angry. And when it rained the ground was slippery. But honestly it should have been worse. Maybe her Mother’s blood in her veins helped for something.

She could definitely feel the magic in the air, a tugging in her chest pulling her onwards. Though she felt unsettled when she told the others and no one else was feeling it. At least the tugging. She couldn’t be sure they weren’t feeling the magic.

Maybe she was a bit too disoriented with how magic was rippling against her skin, because she suddenly wasn’t so sure-footed and she slipped against the rocks, almost tumbling on her face if it weren’t for the warm steady arms that slipped around her, steadying her.

“I got you.” That warm silky voice seemed to promise her, as Evie tightened her arms around her and lamented over wearing the wrong kind of shoes.

But for a moment Mal felt safe, protected. And she absolutely couldn’t have that.

So no matter how much it hurt, she slowly, carefully extracted herself from those warm arms.

Though that didn’t mean she wasn’t bothered by Evie and Jay’s flirting. It was harmless, meaningless, but it still bothered her.

And Evie’s comment about thieves not being her style unsettled her too.

She didn’t recognize the familiar feeling rising in her for what it was.

Disappointment.

But she gave in and held Jay’s hand even if it seemed a bit too rough for her taste, even if something was telling her there was another hand she preferred holding.

When they arrived at the bridge and confronted her Mother’s ugly statues, Mal didn’t see a problem. Until she saw the forty-feet hole in the middle of the bridge.

Holes, man. The day was full of them.

She could theoretically make the jump. Though she never really wanted to test the limits of her physical advantages with a jump that big.

But she was determined to try. There was no way she could go back empty handed.

Jay stopped her from maybe jumping to her death, but before she could argue with him, it seemed like Carlos discovered something besides the sentence engraved in the stone.

So they were doorbells. Awesome. Or an alarm system. Even better. Now if they could ring and stop ignoring her, that’d be great.

So she channeled her inner Mother and screamed her birthright at the gargoyles.

And they finally answered. But they weren’t keyed to her.

“Carlossssss. Approach ussssss.”

Well, all he had to do was answer a question. Easy.

Or it would be if the bridge wasn’t threatening to collapse under them!

On the slightly less darker side, one correctly answered question, new section in the bridge.

But she was totally judging Evie about her makeup knowledge even as she clapped her on the back. Then again, that was without a doubt her mother’s fault.

The third question was the absolute worst as she was forced the verbalize how completely indifferent her Mother was to her.

She felt with Carlos when he had to scream that his mother’s one true love was her fur closet to get them safely to the other side.

 

The castle was cold even to her, and she was a furnace all on her own. Made more obvious by the way Evie kept getting closer.

But staring at her Mother’s portrait didn’t bring her any comfort. She knew she looked like her. Everyone always said. But Mother made sure she knew they were nothing alike.

And while a part of her was glad for that, there was a louder side that just wanted to be exactly like her so Mother could finally give her a flick of the good kind of attention.

 

When Jay led them to Cave of Wonders or whatever shit it was called, Mal was expecting another trap. And she was right.

She frantically climbed a sphinx to escape the sand that was slowly filling the room.

She urged Evie to grab her hand, needing to see her safe.

She stopped breathing when she sunk into the sand, only able to start again when she emerged relatively unscathed.

She couldn’t get Carlos out and as she debated upon the safety of using her strength he sunk down, along with Evie.

A deep aching loss was threatening to overwhelm her and as she got ready to dive in after them and save them with her strength, consequences be damned, Jay shouted the answer to the riddle.

She could finally breathe again when the chamber drained of sand and she saw that they were safe.

 

Of course it was Evie’s turn next. Of course it was.

And of course it preyed on her insecurities like both her Mother and the Evil Queen were prone to do. Of course.

The boys were not helping Evie one bit.

Mal had to resist the overwhelming urge to break that mirror into a million pieces, seven years of bad luck be damned. They were already extremely unlucky.

This protective feeling inside her was both foreign and familiar. As though from a time she couldn’t remember. But she put that aside to help Evie.

And while part of her didn’t understand how she could possibly have such insecurities – she was the most gorgeous person she’d ever seen, like really unfair – she still completely understood the power a parent could have on their child.

That Evil Bitch.

She had absolutely no hesitation admitting to Evie she was the Fairest. She was even completely truthful and it seemed to help Evie as she recited the answer to the riddle and broke the spell that made them all look like hags.

 

She had a feeling her test was next. If her Mother gave her even a speck of importance.

She could still feel that tug leading her until they were in front of the double doors of what must have been her Mother’s throne room.

She felt cold just looking at it. But the way Evie held her hand and squeezed it before letting go warmed her to the tips of her horns.

Once inside the throne room, they were all taken aback. It was the stuff of fairytales. It made them all real.

Her Mother’s throne might be missing, but it still brought everything into stark reality.

When they finally found the Dragon’s Eye, Mal could feel it calling to her.

But Evie was closest and she watched her reach for it as though through a glass that slowed everything down.

Could she let her get cursed into what was essentially an eternal sleep?

The idea of Evie being cursed and it being her fault froze her.

Before she finally made her call. “No!” She ran with her full speed at Evie. “Don’t!”

And when Mal grasped the scepter, she dropped to the ground asleep.

She saw her Mother in all her glory as she cursed a kingdom, as she cursed Princess Aurora.

And for a moment she felt kinship with her Mother. She knew how it felt, to be the only one not invited. But before she could reassure her Mother, she woke to find Jay and Carlos huddled around her while Evie was kneeling, clutching her arm in a grip that hurt even her abnormal pain tolerance.

 

“You’re awake! But you’re supposed to be asleep for a thousand years! How?” Evie cried.

Mal didn’t know until she realized that she had proved she was her Mother’s daughter. She showed them her double dragon tattoo and while Evie had a weird look on her face and rubbed her own forearm, the boys seemed to think it was cool.

But she really, really didn’t want to have that conversation with Evie. She couldn’t for the life of her tell her that the thought of her under that curse was worse than what her Mother would do to her once she found out about what she did.

So she only shrugged, but Evie seemed determined to hash it out, saying it was her mother, that Evil Bitch, who didn’t want her at her daughter’s party.

“Look, I didn’t mean to trap you in Cruella’s horrible closet. The one she loves more than her son,” Mal said.

“Yeah, you did.” Evie giggled.

“Okay, I did.”

“It’s alright. I didn’t get caught in any traps. Can we now let bygones be bygones?” Evie extended her hand, helping her off the floor, not letting go of her hand.

Mal stared at the sight of their hands intertwined before looking back up at her. “Yeah, okay.” They smiled at each other as they visibly shook on it, but the air seemed to ripple between their hands before it blew upwards into their faces, sending them crashing back on the ground, clutching their aching heads with twin cries.

“Mal!”

“Evie!”

They ignored the boys’ concerned cries. Mal felt the pain of a wave of previously suppressed memories. It crashed through her so hard she found it hard to breathe.

When it stopped, she sat panting for a moment before her eyes opened wide and she scrambled to sit up, pushing the boys away from her, gaze fixed only on Evie.

Her Princess.

“I know you.” She forced herself on shaking legs as Evie pulled herself up using the wall. “I know you. How in all the seven hells did I forget you?”

“I don’t know. I forgot about you too.” Evie was as equally as hushed, as equally as stunned as she was.

“Okay. What the hell is going on!” Jay demanded, arms crossed over his chest.

“I knew her! Before the whole thing with the party began! I wasn’t even mad about it when I saw you after that.”

Mal rushed to Evie to help steady her, not stopping her protective instincts now that she remembered.

“I knew that fabric was familiar!” Evie only said.

“What?” Mal paused to stare at her, before shaking her head and giving her a sweeping look, her face seeming to fall. “Where’s your necklace?”

Evie grasped shaking fingers around her throat. “I don’t know.” She sounded close to tears, but she did give a look to Jay.

Once sure she could support herself, Mal left her to stalk close to Jay, grasping him by the vest in an unforgiving grip. “Where’s her necklace, Jay?”

“What necklace?” He tried to escape her grip but she wasn’t letting up.

“Her heart necklace! I know you have it! Give it back before I shake it out of you!”

“Alright, alright. Geeze.” He held up placating hands before he reached into his pocket and handed it to her.

She released him to grab it, too focused to give him any more attention. But when she tried to hand it back to Evie, she only shook her head.

“Can you put it back on me?” she asked her shyly.

Mal sucked in a breath, only now understanding the weight of her ring. In a way this was a way to relive their stolen memories. “Of course,” she said softly, putting it on her just as delicately as when she was six, with maybe more coordination.

When she was done, they shared a relieved reminiscent smile, ignoring the boys as they goggled at them.

But after the moment passed, Evie seemed to get serious. “Why now? Why remember now?” She frowned.

Mal only shrugged. “Maybe it’s the residual magic?”

“But why didn’t it trigger before?”

“Maybe it was the hand shaking?”

“But I held your hand before that.”

“Then maybe it was because we made up.”

Mal hated the thought they even had to make up. Hated that there was anything that could have made her hate her Princess and made her turn a cute nickname into an insult.

“I think that might be it.” While she tried, Evie couldn’t hide the hurt from her face.

She would have to make it up to her, but as the fortress shook once again, she decided that they should probably go.

 

They hurried out of the fortress and across the bridge –  with Mal leading the charge so Carlos wouldn’t have to –  and climbed into the carriage after the goblins offered because of her supposed bravery.

Once seated in the carriage, they told the boys about their multiple meetings, leaving out all the private details.

“Yeah, once I even accidently snuck inside Maleficent’s castle,” Evie said.

Mal couldn’t help but scoff. “Accidently.”

“Yes, accidently.” Evie nodded, flashing that beaming smile of hers and Mal couldn’t find it within herself to argue.

And with how exhausted she was and the gentle creaking of the carriage, she was not one bit embarrassed with how she fell asleep on Evie’s shoulder.

Although the pleasure of her returned memories didn’t erase the dread she felt about seeing her castle. But she squared her shoulders because she was no coward, checked to see if she still had her knife and marched to her doom.

“So, the prodigal daughter returns. Empty handed.” Mother’s quiet voice rang out, pounding through her ears.

“Mother, I have something to …” Mal trailed off as she stared in disbelief at the scepter in her Mother’s hand. “But how?”

Her Mother stood up from her so called throne, stalking closer to her. “You think I would not send someone after you? With how useless you are. Tell me you are not so stupid.”

Mal only stared as Diablo settled on her Mother’s shoulder.

“I told you didn’t I? He never lost his abilities. And to know that my own spawn would sacrifice herself for Grimhilde’s brood. Have I taught you nothing? What did I tell you would happen if you were to return empty handed?” Even though she was taller than her, her Mother stared her down, boring her flashing eyes into her own. They looked particularly murderous tonight.

Mal clenched her fists, moving her weight to the tips of her toes in case she needed to move fast.

Her Mother put the scepter beneath her chin and started to tilt it up, but Mal refused to play her games, gritting her teeth as she applied equal force on the scepter. Mother might have the full force of the dragon, but she was inactive and a full magical being. Years deprived from it had taken their toll as evidenced by their stalemate now.

Mother raised an eyebrow, tightening her grip on her scepter. But Mal wouldn’t budge.

Her voice went even lower, danger in every layer of it. “And now to have my scepter be as useless as you. You are extremely lucky you procured it. And that I am in a less severe mood than normal.”

“What will you do, Mother?”

Her Mother stared at her coldly. “You will stay out of my domicile for four months. Or you will regret the consequences.”

Four months! The most she’d been forced out was two weeks.

But she carefully kept her dismay from showing. “Yes, Mother.”

Her Mother seemed to survey her for a moment, curling her lip. And suddenly, with no warning, Mal's head snapped to the side, her teeth clacking together, her lower face throbbing. A bruise was surely going to form. She opened her watery eyes and had to stop herself from clenching her jaw. She saw her Mother slowly lowering her raised scepter, with a twisted satisfied curl of her lips. She turned her back on her, scepter clacking even louder than her previous one as she walked away from her. “Get out of my sight.”

Mal didn’t say anything, digging her nails into her palms, keeping her eyes on her Mother as she walked backwards out of the room – resisting the urge to kill that bird with her knife if only because she was already in enough trouble –  detouring to her room to stock up on necessities before slipping past the henchmen and out of the castle.

She would be sleeping on the rooftops for a while. But at least Mother didn’t take her to the armory. And she had her memories back. And an explanation for all her weird thoughts and feelings.

The next day she was even able to join the other three, doing her hardest not to crowd Evie, as they commiserated about their parents.

She had to think about what could have possibly taken her memories, but she was going to enjoy her fri—allies for now.

 

 


 

 

It’d been ten years. Ten years alone with Mother. Tens imprisoned years. Imprisoned in a cave. In a crumpling, dusty castle. With only Mother for company. Her habit of talking to herself sometimes was proof enough of what that could do to a person. At least Evie now personally knew how Maleficent enjoyed torture. Ten years and Mother was throwing her to the dragon because she needed wrinkle cream.

Her Mother mellowed out some, but not enough. She could call her Mom sometimes now. Though she didn’t want to push her luck, so ‘Mother’ was going to stick around.

What ever happened to your servant vultures, Mother. Or are they only convenient for spying on me.

Evie wasn’t sure when exactly the vultures had spied on her, but she knew with complete irrational certainty that they had. The images of that were vague and blurry. It was almost like she was missing a chunk of her memories. Which was just ridiculous.

Well at least she wasn’t struck by lightning the minute she stepped out of the castle. Then again, she also wasn’t when she snuck off the last time and took a stroll to Clayton’s hovel. But she did intend to permanently stay out of her prison this time. So, there was that.

At least the Gastons were nice and helpful.

Unlike the purple haired girl who stared at her like she was a rotten rat she stepped on. Though seeing as she was in her seat and seeing as she knew exactly who it was right in front of her –  though she still didn’t know her name –  maybe she was a bit entitled to her scorn.

So Evie pasted on her brightest smile and played as dumb as Mother always wanted her to be, complementing her jacket – a bit too purple for her and she had the feeling that the back was bare and needed more color – and the view from the cauldron, still keeping her innocent demeanor, though she suspected it wasn’t working.

Which was confirmed when she was basically told to scram in so many words and with a more serious threat that she didn’t want to test.

As she scampered off and sat near a boy who looked like a bloody skunk or red painted newspaper in the back of the room, only one thought stuck to her that was louder than her dread and fear.

Why do I feel like this isn’t her at all?

“Is that who I think it is?” Evie asked the boy.

“If you mean Mal, you’re right, and I would stay out of her way if I were you,” he told her.

“Mal . . .” Evie breathed, her voice trembling nervously, vaguely hearing the boy confirm she was Maleficent’s daughter as a curious, familiar yet not, warmth passed over her, gently skating a shiver down her spine, filling an emptiness she didn’t know she had in her chest, stealing her breath and pulling her eyes unconsciously to a purple head. She almost felt paralyzed, gripping the edge of the desk with a white knuckled grip, feeling frozen.

There was a faint whisper in her ear, burying in her brain. Remember that name, it will stay with you forever.

She dimly unconsciously acknowledged it, still held by that peculiar warmth and familiarity.

She gulped, still frozen. Unsure why she was. Maybe it was the dread of making the worst enemy on her first day of school.

You’re not stupid, Evie. So why make that mistake?

As she stared at Mal, she didn’t think of the fact that her feet were the ones that led her to that particular desk. That she didn’t consciously pick that desk. That this meeting was inevitable. That that name was going to burrow into her mind, her heart, her soul. She didn’t think about anything. All that came to mind was that fabric of months ago. Of the warmth always brought on by seeing purple and green.

And as she looked at the girl that should have terrified her beyond compare, all she could feel was her pounding heart, her trembling hands, her flushed cheeks. And that peculiar warmth that was filling her chest.

She didn’t feel her mouth draw into an awed, fond smile. And thankfully no one else saw that either.

 

Well, at least she made a new friend. Carlos De Vil.

Selfies was her kind of class. Or everything her Mother aspired for her to be. At least having Carlos made it easier. Even if his mother’s fashion sense needed some, okay a lot, of counseling. It was a crime against her poor eyes.

Furs are so twenty years ago.

Though the little encounter with Mal and her not being invited to the party of the year was a downer.

She appreciated Carlos trying to make her feel better. Although she did wonder about him trying to blow a hole in the barrier. For more TV channels. She kind of liked seeing how life was in Auradon. How she should have been living. Mother appreciated the opportunity to scorn all her enemies and parade the princes to her. So it would be a less traumatizing experience looking at the TV far away from Mother.

She didn’t really want a prince. But it was either that or Mother would flay her alive and then dead. And she really enjoyed living. So adopt-the-appropriate-reaction-to-princes-that-it-becomes-unconscious-with-everyone-else-too, it is!

But what Evie wanted most of all was for Mal to make up her mind. Was she going to kill her or accidently kill her with that suspicious-yet-sweet-and-breathtaking smile?

Even though a part of her felt suspicious, Evie was still excited and breathless because Mal wanted her at Carlos’s, er, her party!

 

Though maybe she should have rethought her suspicion as she arrived Fashionably-late-because-that-was-the-only-kind-of-late-Mother-approved-of and was unceremoniously shoved into a closet full of real sharp bear traps!

This was Mother’s traps all over again.

As she frantically escaped them, she hissed as she felt one of them graze her knee.

Well, seeing poor Carlos’s teeny tiny little room, if it could even be called that, was one sure way to make her feel better about her own parent. At least she had a pillow. And a bedframe.

She did not feel one bit bad as she offered Carlos a pillow and a blanket. It actually felt warm to be good.

She really did make her very first friend. Though the thought felt wrong for some reason. She couldn’t recall having any previous friends.

Especially ones that took her to their Tree House Lab.

This was like discovering her Mother’s Witch room all over again. With less near death traps and more sciency concoctions.

As Carlos extended his arms to encompass the room, Evie saw that his jacket had ridden up. “What’s that?” she asked him, nodding at his arms, where thin scars carved unforgiving lines into the skin.

“Oh. That’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. Happened ages ago.” By the way he was hastily pulling his sleeves down, it was something to worried about.

“Ages?” she dug a little deeper, not wanting to overstep but worried for her new friend.

“Yeah. Maybe last year, I think. It’s hard to keep track with unreliable calendars. Anyway this is what I wanted to show you.” He pulled out the box he’d been working on in class.

As they got it to work and were blasted to the walls for their efforts, Evie couldn’t help but retract her previous thought.

Nevermind, this is exactly like Mother’s traps. Ugh.

Well, they blasted through the barrier. They literally blew a hole through a magical barrier using a little box of nonsense wires and cogs. That boy was surely a genius.

With the hole now in the barrier, Evie seized up, body going numb as though the lightning that flashed found her to be a good conducting rod. Her limbs tingled, her lungs heaved, her eyes heated up. She grasped the balcony railing in a faltering grip, all her muscles seeming to collapse on her. She felt an almost painful cold rake down her spine and for a second she thought she saw her breath fog up the air before it disappeared. All for a moment. Until the hole sealed back up.

She grasped her aching head as she stumbled on shaking legs back inside after Carlos.

Like seriously that box of scraps could absolutely not make her feel like she’d had an electric house dropped on her. And yet.

Even as Evie falsely promised Carlos her vow of silence over the incident, she still did not understand how she got to be in such a state while he walked away with nothing even though he was the one who invented that infernal box.

When Evie woke up the next day and she picked her outfit, an unnatural wave of panic hit her when she couldn’t find her poison-red necklace.

The heart stopping, finger numbing, cold panic should surely have not been appropriate for a flimsy piece of glass.

But her heart felt empty without it, and every time her hand reached up and her fingers closed on air, she felt her own heart breaking. A searing sense of loss overtaking her.

Not even prettying her face could distract her. Not even her dread and decision to not go back to school. Mal’s treatment of her equally as heartbreaking. Were they friends. Enemies. Frenemies?

I don’t know what we are, but I don’t like it.

That same sense of loss clutched her every time she looked at Mal and she just couldn’t deal with that today.

“And what, pray tell, are you still doing here?” Her Mother’s soft, disdainful voice made her jump, before she turned to face her.

“What?” Evie asked, still lost, still disoriented.

“I might have forced you out of our exile to procure my necessities for me. But need I remind you, you were the one who begged to attend school, Evelyn. So I ask again. What is it you are still doing here?” She approached her, robes billowing around her legs.

“Well, I’m not certain that I want to go at all, Mother.” She was careful with her words, a dangerous game with her Mother who was their master, who bent them to her will.

Unfortunately, Mother always knew her too well. “What did you do, Evelyn?”

“I didn’t do anything!” For a moment there, Evie lost her careful control, allowing her emotions to leak through her tone in all their outrage, before she firmly clamped down on them, barely masking her wince.

‘A Princess does not talk back, Evelyn.’

Thankfully, Mother only raised an eyebrow. And so she decided not to push her luck. “Allow me to only say, that Maleficent’s daughter was not very welcoming.” She sighed, loss aching through her chest.

For a moment, just a brief second, surprise swept across her Mother’s face, before it was wiped to be replaced with her familiar mask of haughty royalty. It was so fast it made her think she’d imagined it. “That would be your own problem. Do you think a royal can avoid their enemies whenever they pleased? Even powerless princesses cannot hope to avoid them when they come into their courts to dine on their tables. You face your own problems, Evelyn. But be sure not to anger them further.”

“You want me to go to school?”

“I did not raise a coward. Go. Face your problems.” Her Mother turned with a sweep of her robes to exit her room. “But do make sure that it isn’t with that face. You know the rules to wear your face armor. Let me never catch a glimpse of a mistake, Evelyn. Or you will surely regret it.”

Great. What she wouldn’t give for her Mother’s disinterested days.

“Of course, Mother.” She sighed, picking up her makeup, throwing a mournful glance to her bedside counter, loss slowing her well-practiced movements.

Bronzer on the bone. Blush on the cheek. Blue to bring out brown eyes.

She threw a despairing glance to her balcony, where she still hid her hand-made copy of her Mother’s grimoire. What she wouldn’t give for a Sleeping Curse. Or a Vanishing Spell.

But alas, Mother was right. Although there was debate on how much she ‘raised’ her, she was no coward.

Time to wear her armor and face her loss.

 

Thankfully the day didn’t turn out so bad. She didn’t even see Mal even once. And while she couldn’t help but be relieved, that same sense of loss still dragged her down and made her sluggish.

Not even Mother Gothel’s praise over her selfies could cheer her up. Though she didn’t think being commended on her level of self-centeredness as the reason she was so proficient with the photos, was actually praise.

“Your mother must be so proud,” Mother Gothel said, handing back the photos.

Evie only nodded, false smile plastered across her face, not that anyone would be able to tell.

Mother is never proud. It’s an achievement if she’s ever slightly less disdainful.

She might not have been killed in school but that didn’t mean her day was any kind of good.

As she went back to her prison, her fingers clutched on air. She found herself missing her necklace and somehow she couldn’t stop thinking about Mal. Like some part of her missed her too.

 

The next day, Mother decided that if she wasn’t killed, Maleficent had likely forgotten about their banishment. So she led them to the bazaar for their first shopping trip in about ten years.

“Same rules as when you were a child, Evelyn. I expect you to remember them.”

That was eleven years ago!

She kept her face carefully blank. “Yes, Mother.”

Mother glided around the bazaar like the queen she was, reacquainting herself with the vendors and arranging deals that left them scratching their heads as they were promptly ripped off.

Evie found herself stopping to admire some colorful fabric. That shade of blue was exquisite, even if the fabric itself was frayed and ripped and dirty. But she was an excellent seamstress, she could still salvage it.

However, before she could even try to heckle with the vendor, raised voices caught her attention.

It was Mal and Jay, and they seemed to be arguing over a hole in the barrier. She remembered the hole that Carlos blasted through the dome and decided to join them.

“Are you guys talking about a hole in the dome?” she asked.

“Why, Evie! You’re just the person I’ve been looking for,” Mal said, voice as thick as honey.

“She is?” Jay asked, confused.

“Yes, she is,” Mal said definitively. “Now, what were you saying about the dome?”

Evie was not sure she should tell them, while Mal seemed to have it out for her, there was a part of her that trusted her, that missed her. And well, Jay, she was sure he was the one who stole her necklace when he took her cloak at the party. And she wasn’t sure she could forgive that.

“Nothing.” That was exactly what she was telling them.

“Tell us,” Jay urged, crossing his arms.

“Why should I?” Evie sniffed.

“Because,” Jay said and seemed to pause as though not sure how to continue. “Um. Because if you don’t, Mal will curse you?” Even he didn’t seem convinced by his threat.

“If you haven’t noticed, there’s no magic on this island,” she lied, that whole episode that happened to her circling in her head like her Mother’s vultures.

“Not yet,” Mal said. “But there may be one day.” She took Evie’s arm in hers and whispered, “Look, I know we didn’t start off on the right foot, but I think we should let bygones be bygones. It’s a small island and we shouldn’t be enemies.”

And though she was obviously lying, Evie couldn’t help but agree with her. They weren’t meant to be enemies. This she knew with her whole heart.

“Really?”

“Totally,” Mal said with her sweetest smile.

And even though she wasn’t fooled even a bit, she was curious. But before she could tell them anything, her Mother swooped down on them like an overgrown vulture herself.

And when she basically looked at all of them like they were dirt underneath her high heels, Evie was resigned to being dragged off. Her Mother could smell when she was enjoying herself from a mile away.

Though she really didn’t expect to be held back by Mal of all people, who was staring at her Mother with a frankly menacing look on her face. But all she could feel was warmth, tingling in her chest and down her limbs, her lips melting into a besotted smile she couldn’t feel, because she could see the protective way Mal stood in front of her.

And so she helped her, turning her Mother’s favorite weapon against her.

But really her Mother was insane and she could only hope that Mal wouldn’t transfer what was basically a suicide note to Maleficent of all people.

She appreciated Mal trying to divert her attention, but she still looked at where her Mother left with frustrated despair.

“So about that hole.”

“Well, something happened the night of the party that may have to do with the dome.” She shrugged.

Mal raised an eyebrow. “Is that right?”

“You need to talk to Carlos. He knows what happened.” Evie shivered, it was a miracle Carlos didn’t notice what happened to her. She could still feel how cold she was, how weak her body got, how she felt electricity through every part of her body.

“Carlos? Why? What does he have to do with anything?”

“Because he was the one that did it.”

“Did what?”

“Punched a hole in the dome.”

They were taken out of their little bubble by Jay’s laugh as he slid off the roof and dropped down beside them. “Yeah, right—as if that little guy can punch anything. Come on Mal, we’ve got work to do.”

But Mal didn’t follow him. She just stared at Evie as Evie stared at her.

“I’m not lying.”

“I didn’t think you were,” Mal said, her eyes flashing, voice sincere. “Okay.”

“You actually believe her?” Jay squawked.

“I think we need to check it out.”

“But we’re headed to Dragon Hall,” Jay protested.

“No, we’ll head towards Hell Hall first. I want to talk to Carlos. And you’re coming with us Evie.”

Evie couldn’t find it in herself to argue, feeling the tension in the air, like the island itself was holding its breath. Change was in the wind and she didn’t want to miss it. She had a feeling nothing was going to be the same ever again.

 

She couldn’t really blame Carlos for slamming the door in Mal’s face. But she was able to convince him to open it with a bribe. Well, at least now she could say if asked that she didn’t bring the pillow out of the goodness of her own heart.

Carlos watch your tone. That girl has a temper.

As she and Carlos explained what happened at the party, she saw that Mal and Jay were still skeptical.

Why were they so interested in a hole in the barrier?

Mal hesitated a bit, before deciding to tell them, though how she could possibly know about her habit of crossing her fingers behind her back when making a promise was beyond her. Well it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. No one kept their word on the Isle.

But as she told them about Diablo and the Dragon’s Eye, she wasn’t sure she wanted any part of it.

Even if she still followed Carlos to show them the hole in his tree house as proof.

She certainly didn’t expect the machine to work again. It sounded like it was homing into something, maybe the Dragon’s Eye. But what would she know?

Apparently more than she gave herself credit for, as everyone seemed to consider it when she told them her theory.

It didn’t look like she had a choice coming with them.

“No way, you have to help us find the eye. You’re a natural at this. You’re so good at it. I need help, and you want to help me, don’t you? Don’t you want to be my friend? I want to be yours, Evie,” Mal said staring at her with intense captivating green eyes.

As she stuttered a bit, Evie couldn’t for the life of her figure out why she was fixating on her last words.

I want to be yours, Evie.

I want to be yours, Evie.

They echoed in her ears until the rest of the conversation was coming to her as though from a long distance away. They wrapped around her heart and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe.

She stared at her, at her purple hair, and sharp green eyes.

And something buried within her whispered in a way she couldn’t hear.

I want to be yours too.

When she was finally aware of the conversation again, Carlos was joining them in their quest for the Eye. But only if she went too.

“Evie? You’re coming, aren’t you lovely?” Mal batted her long eyelashes over those lovely eyes.

Evie had to work really hard not to blush. Her Mother was thorough in her education on how to seduce a prince. She didn’t even need to sneak any books to know how to use seemingly innocent words to fluster any boy. That was one of the lessons burned into the back of her eyes. Though she never expected they’d be used on her. Or how effective they would be. “Fine.” She sighed. “Fine. I guess I’ll come. Beats looking in the mirror all day for flaws.”

She was never telling her Mother about this. But for now, Maleficent was a bit more terrifying.

 

Well, she didn’t mind helping Carlos with his chores a little, humming as she folded clothes whose colors were appropriate for the Isle – black and white prison garb.

Though she rethought that idea when she was threatened with things worse than bear traps –  if the way Carlos was whimpering was any indication – if she didn’t help clean that stupid pretentious car.

Guess she wasn’t the only one with bad encounters with her parent that day.

 

They cleaned the car and left for the school before any of them gave into the temptation to wreck it.

Evie couldn’t believe how casual Mal was with Dr. Facilier. The guy communicated with demons on the other side, did she not have an iota of caution!

Guess not, Evie thought faintly as Mal later shoved him into the bookshelves for giving them a map with invisible ink.

What was even more surprising was the way Mal let her calm her down.

After Carlos made the antidote for the ink, they set off.

 

She could definitely do without Jay scaring her when almost everything was sure to do it for him.

This is nothing. Just like that corridor. Just like that corridor.

Their first terrifying monster turned out to be Carlos’s kitty which sparked a conversation about everyone’s evil sidekick.

But she could have kicked herself for not remembering where they got it from. Her sixth birthday party. That Mal wasn’t invited to.

She did not want to remind her of the reasons to hate her, because that hurt a bit too much.

If she was going to die in the dinghy of all dinghies, she was going to riot.

At least she got to see the island in full. It made for a rather pretty sight. Mal certainly seemed to think so.

It didn’t make it hurt any less when she dismissed her so easily.

The Fortress really was the stuff of nightmares and the spiders surrounding the gate were giving her vivid flashbacks to that forbidden corridor in her castle.

When Jay handed her a knife she almost told him she had one hidden, but found it best to keep quiet.

 

Well, she could say that she almost died less than in that corridor. But she didn’t want to say anything to jinx it.

The magic in the air was thick, electrifying. A bit overwhelming really. At least she didn’t have anything tugging at her like Mal did.

She knew perfectly well the correct use of the word ‘literally’, thank you very much Carlos.

Her heart almost stopped when Mal stumbled and almost fell with the slippery rocks.

In one quick movement, she caught her before she could break her face.

“I got you,” she assured her as she helped her regain her balance, the words feeling like a promise, ringing right inside her.

She didn’t pay attention to the boys’ quibbling, attention fixed on the girl in her arms and on how right it felt to have her there.

She couldn’t stop the pout on her lips when she felt her pulling away. But she didn’t really have an excuse to keep holding her.

She distracted herself by doing what she did best. Falsely flirting with a boy, even if it seemed it was the first time the boy was faking it as well.

“Don’t worry Jay—you’re cute, but thieves aren’t my style.” The lie felt sour on her tongue and she had to work really hard not to look at the other thief in their little group.

Though she did frown a little when Mal was finally convinced that holding hands was the best way to get through the mud. She admitted to herself that she wanted to be the one holding her hand.

They arrived to the bridge with honestly some of the ugliest things she had ever seen before.

And those gargoyles seemed determined to keep them away.

When they figured it out, it really was creepy how they all hissed at the same time.

She felt a little proud of herself for helping solve the second riddle and Mal’s clap on her back made her even prouder.

The third one bit everyone in the ass. She could almost feel them all getting closer as they named things their mothers loved and their kids were none of them.

Thank Lucifer Carlos found the courage to answer, because she would have been dead if she slipped even more from her glove while he held her up.

 

The fortress was freezing and Evie found herself unconsciously huddling closer to Mal who seemed to be emanating heat of her own. She wondered how much she’d kill her if she cuddled up to her. Probably a lot.

Mal really did look a lot like her mother, but there was a warmth to her underneath all her bluster and rage that was more than physical and was lacking in Maleficent. Staring at that fairy’s portrait only made her even colder.

 

Evie loved jewelry as much as the next princess, but nothing was worth getting buried in sand.

Mal seemed oddly panicked when she couldn’t get to her.

“I can’t make it.” Evie shouted to her.

“You have to!” Mal called back, terror stark on her face, before she couldn’t see it anymore when the sand engulfed her.

She was able to briefly emerge, spitting out coins. She tried to help Mal pull Carlos out of the sand, but then they were both buried in it.

She thought that was her rather inelegant end when the sand suddenly drained away.

 

This Fortress was a tomb. And it was waiting for four bodies.

It sloped and narrowed. It spat rock. And hid horrible hungry little goblins.

Thanks a lot Carlos.

But the worst of it all was that Magic Mirror that so reminded her of her Mother. Though her Mother spoke in a quiet, soft voice and to issue not-so-soft-threats.

That mirror was the devil.

Her face! Her beautiful youthful face!

Because no matter how many insecurities Mother stuck in her, she knew that anything was better than the atrocious sight before her.

She couldn’t focus on the riddle, staring at the hag that she was and knowing without a doubt if she returned like that to Mother she would flay her. She would kill her. With not a shred of regret.

Only Mal’s voice was able to burrow into her brain and take her mind off her reflection.

“Evie, come on. That’s not you. You know that. Don’t let my Mother’s evil fortress get under your skin.” She sounded unnaturally passionate. “This is what my—I mean, Maleficent does. She finds your weaknesses and picks them off, one by one. You think it’s an accident that we stumbled across this Magic Mirror, right when we happened to have the Fairest along for the ride?”

Evie felt her cheeks heating up, but felt also calmer, more clear-minded. Mal’s voice a soothing balm that quieted her panic. “You think it’s on purpose?”

“I think it’s a test, just like everything else in this place. Like Carlos and the gargoyles, or Jay and the Mouth.”

“Okay. You really think I can do it?”

“I know you can, you loser. I mean, Fairest loser.” Mal grinned.

And suddenly, Evie felt very warm in the cold, cold fortress. Also very confident.

So she recited the ingredients for the Peddler’s Disguise and freed them all from their atrocious appearances.

 

She had a feeling it was Mal’s turn next. She seemed a better compass than the box. When they stopped in front of the doors of what could only be the throne room, they all stared at it for a while.

Mal looked terrified and was doing a terrible job of hiding it, so with a pang inside her, Evie took her hand in her own and gave it a little squeeze before releasing it –  though she wanted to hold it more, she wasn’t going to push her luck.

The throne room – if it could be called that with no actual throne – was as terrifying or even more so – definitely more so – than the rest of the fortress. It might have been breathtaking, but it was what nightmares were made of, a darkness that had nothing to do with the color of the room seeped into the very stones.

It didn’t take much to find out where the Dragon’s Eye was and seeing as how she was closest to it she reached for it, relieved that it was all almost over.

But just as her fingers were closing around it, she jerked her hand back at the yell that reached her.

“No! Don’t!”

She couldn’t even see how Mal reached her so fast, before she took the scepter from under her hand and dropped like a sack of bricks!

Evie didn’t even think, she felt her knees collapse under her, the pain not even registering as she gripped Mal’s arm shaking her as the boys crowded around them.

With every second Mal remained asleep, she felt tears filling her eyes and her heart being squeezed inside her too tight chest.

For a long suspended moment.

Until Mal opened those gorgeous eyes of hers, flashing a bit before it receded.

 

“You’re awake! But you’re supposed to be asleep for a thousand years! How?” Evie cried, barely stopping the literal tears from falling.

Mal didn’t seem to know the reason either, but as she explained to them and showed them her tattoo, Evie forgot her worry for a second as she stared at the double dragon etched into her skin.

Absently, she rubbed at her arm, at the place that she’d been feeling since she was a child.

It’s just a coincidence. A stupid coincidence.

As a way to distract herself, she interrogated Mal, hurt aching through her as she knew with certainty that she meant that curse for her.

But that didn’t explain why Mal saved her.

It didn’t look like Mal herself knew the reason as she attempted to deflect, very badly she noted.

A part of her was weirded out at how easily they could laugh about that horrific closet. Even Carlos laughed at what must have surely been a deep wound.

But she really wanted to be done with this enemy business.

They weren’t meant to be enemies. She still felt that deep in her bones.

“It’s alright. I didn’t get caught in any traps. Can we now let bygones be bygones?” She held out her hand, pulling her from the floor, refusing to let go.

Mal only stared at their knotted hands for a moment before she nodded in agreement. “Yeah, okay.”

As their eyes locked, the world fell away, with only a smile and a shake of their hands that change that Evie had been sensing in the air for a while now finally hit its crescendo, starting around their hands and ending in their faces. Until they were blown back to the ground. 

Evie groaned, not sure if at the pain aching through her body or at the headache pounding behind her eyes as a rush of memories threatened to overwhelm her.

Precious, precious memories. Gone for years. Their absence felt and sorely missed.

Mal.

She finally had a name for her little fairy knight.

The name seemed to sigh into her body, filling every empty space inside her. Making her safe, protected. Just like its owner did all those years ago.

The rush finally stopped as the memories settled like a warm embrace around her.

For a moment she just lay on the ground, smiling to herself before she remembered where she was.

With a long drawn out groan, she dragged herself across the floor knowing that her legs were too weak to support her.

Clutching at the wall, she painfully pulled herself up, but that voice that was her tormentor and protector almost caused her to collapse again.

“I know you. I know you. How in all the seven hells did I forget you?”

 “I don’t know. I forgot about you too.” Evie’s voice was barely a whisper. She was still stunned. Still in awe.

Well at least Mal was helping her, careful to step a bit behind her and allowing her to lean on her. Ever so protective.

Evie ignored the boys, feeling that sense of safety she hadn’t felt in years.

And while she tried to voice the millions of thoughts in her head, only one came out.

“I knew that fabric was familiar!”

“What?” Maybe she shouldn’t have said that if the way Mal was staring at her was any indication, but she only seemed to check on her, suddenly looking sad for some reason. “Where’s your necklace?”

Oh.

With everything that happened, she’d forgotten about it. But now it made perfect sense why she seemed to associate it with Mal and that sense of loss.

She was stricken as she clutched at air, feeling the irrepressible need to cry. “I don’t know.” Then she remembered her suspicions and cut a look at Jay.

That seemed to be enough for Mal who, after making sure she was okay, stomped to him and gripped him with strength that was unnatural for a girl her size. “Where’s her necklace, Jay?”

“What necklace?”

Like really how much did she pack? Jay was way bigger than her and couldn’t seem to shake her off.

“Her heart necklace! I know you have it! Give it back before I shake it out of you!”

She seemed angrier than she’d ever seen her. And while Evie should have been terrified – again – she only felt gratified, soft brown eyes melting into her.

When Mal offered it back to her, she shook her head. That wasn’t how she wanted it back.

“Can you put it back on me?” Evie asked shyly, wanting to consolidate a specific memory by reliving it. Especially after getting over a hurdle like genuine hatred.

Mal seemed to understand, softly moving her braid and any stray hairs aside, before she clasped it around her neck, fingers soft and delicate against her skin.

For a moment they were locked in a stare, the boys forgotten.

Before Evie remembered to wonder who would take their memories and how exactly they got them back.

“Why now? Why remember now?”

“Maybe it’s the residual magic?” Mal suggested, hands in her pockets.

But that had been around since they all got here.

Evie shook her head. “But why didn’t it trigger before?”

“Maybe it was the hand shaking?”

That wasn’t it either. She’d held her hand before now too, no matter how briefly.

“But I held your hand before that.”

“Then maybe it was because we made up.”

That was as painful as the headache. Mal hating her. Plotting what might as well have been her death.

“I think that might be it.” Evie was sure her feelings were plain on her face. But she couldn’t help it. The person who had protected her when no else did, hurt her.

Tricked her.

Saved her.

She still didn’t know why, but the shaking of the fortress didn’t leave much room to pounder.

Once safely in the carriage, Evie tried to distract from her buzzing thoughts by regaling the boys with stories spun about their meetings.

Though she had a feeling they would be getting back to that ‘accidently’ at some point. But the levity of the moment was much appreciated.

She felt even lighter when Mal fell asleep on her shoulder. Leaning her head against hers, she stared out into the dreary scenery feeling as though she was watching the most beautiful forest.

That light feeling fled like the citizens do from Maleficent, once she was back at her castle.

Mother was waiting for her.

“Tell me, Evelyn. Just where were you?” She languidly descended the crumbling staircase, as though she had all the time in the world.

Probably building the fearful anticipation in the subjects she wished to control.

It was definitely working.

“I was working on the project, Mother.”

Mother held up a commanding hand. “I raised you to lie to everyone but me. What happens when you lie to me, Evelyn?” She didn’t wait for her answer before continuing, “Nothing good.”

Evie took several deep breaths to calm herself, determined not to tremble before her Mother.

“I have been hearing rumors. You see the goblins are not the quiet sort. Were you consorting with that trash like I specifically forbade you to?”

Evie picked up her chin. “Did you forget about the part where one of them saved me?”

Mother finally stepped off the stairs, looking at her like she was not right in the head. Ironic really. “And you think that is a good thing? Doing good? It will haunt you both.”

Evie only remained silent. She was even tempted to shrug in the most unladylike fashion she could manage, but she didn’t want more punishment than she was surely getting.

“Mirror Mirror, on the wall, who shall pay for her gall.” Her voice was quiet as she stepped closer to her, but Evie refused her any type of reaction. “Tell me, if I forbid you from seeing them, I will surely find you disobeying me. Wont I?”

Again she kept quiet, but her eyes did all the talking for her.

With one final step, her Mother got much closer than she was comfortable with. Staring at her. Reading her. Reaching into her soul and leaving it bereft. With a hum, she started to walk away, but she stopped in the doorway of a corridor, staring at her over her shoulder. “You will be wearing the Peaks for the next week, without taking them off once.”

The blasted woman seemed to enjoy how Evie’s eyes went wide for a second before she controlled herself.

But that didn’t stop her from gritting her teeth, unseen.

The Peaks were extremely high, high heels, with tiny little needles poking out from the inside.

They were stiff. They were difficult to balance. They were painful.

“And you will do it all without any nourishment.”

Evie barely stopped herself from screaming, only nodding stiffly. “Yes, Mother.”

“Now get out of my sight.”

She only just stopped herself from running to her room, not willing to give her the satisfaction.

The next few days were going to be painful – she was even going to have to steal her food from the bazaar, she wouldn’t make it otherwise – but she wouldn’t trade her new friends nor her newly returned memories for anything.

Especially her guardian fairy.

Mal.

That name seemed special now, after years of seeking it, not knowing it.

They were friends again and she wasn’t afraid to admit that she had friends, if only in the privacy of her own thoughts.

The next day, even with the devil heels slowly killing her feet, she had never been happier than when she was with them.

 

 

Chapter Text

The Isle of the Lost. More like Isle of the Prolonged Dead.

And she. She Mistress of Darkness. Now Mistress of the Deranged.

Maleficent was feeling oddly drained, lethargic, as she leaned on her scepter, sweeping her sharp eyes through her rundown prison of a kingdom. She took no prisoner, all the vermin under her command.

Death would have been preferable. The sweet embrace of emptiness over eternal exile in a barren wasteland. Her superior lifespan slowly being drained with her being cut off from magic.

Fools. Fool and Beast indeed. Parading behind that dreadful façade of goodness. Absolutely revolting.

“I have never known you to brood, dear Maleficent,” a voice rang out behind her.

“And I have never known you to lurk, little queen,” she said, still facing the window of what was once undoubtedly a lavish sitting room, but like everything else on the island had long since lost its glamor to dust, drought and decay.

“Now we both know that is a complete lie, so why don’t we lay it to rest.”

Maleficent hummed, ears pricked to the sound of clicking heels and sweeping robes, eyes still fixed to the streets.

“Why infiltrate my walls, after all these years?”

The footsteps stopped a way off.

“I was made aware that your daughter befriended mine.”

Maleficent whipped her head, eyes flashing a sickly threatening green, fixed on the undaunted face of the dethroned queen.

“You dare enter these halls and insult me after your betrayal.” She kept her voice dangerously low, but it still seemed to echo in the room.

“What? You expected me to cede rulership to you, just like that? We might be in a slow drawn out death, but I was never going to extend my torture. And how is that an insult?” It would have been a genuine question if not for the knowing smirk barely curling against ruby lips.

“My daughter does not have friends. She at worst has allies. At best slaves.” She turned her head back to the window, fixing her eyes at a commotion far off.

“I’ve already run off your beast of a brat years ago. What is she doing sniffing around my daughter again?” The queen’s voice dripped with disdain even as she paced on almost quiet feet around the room.

“I do not particularly care for the company my daughter keeps, nor do I ask how she comes to collect them. She only has to follow my rules and she can even converse with the goblins for all I care.”

“Rules?”

“We do not care for our subjects.”

“I’d be careful about your words. That is my daughter you speak of.”

Maleficent remained silent as she continued to look out the window. Her gaze sharpened as she now saw her cackling daughter jump out of the commotion. She watched passively as she paint sprayed some vendor in the eye and those other three – the queen’s most precious daughter among them – followed her.

As long as she remained out of her castle and as long as her mood willed it, for now she was leaving her poor-excuse-for-her-heir daughter be.

“I will ask you again. Why are you here, Grimhilde?” Maleficent asked with no pretentions, in no mood for mind games.

“For several reasons.” The queen stopped in front of a framed scroll, a mess of scrambled illegible symbols that would give an ignorant eye a headache. But she was no ignorant. She read the words with diligence and a keen knowing eye.

Maleficent tightened her hand over her scepter, irked at how that traitor avoided answering her question in her castle, but she was not able to breathe her fire before she was taken aback, though she masked it.

“Do you think, that had we met before our downfalls, we could have formed the oft so sought elusive magical bond?” Grimhilde asked offhandedly, though she had a genuine desire to know, leaning closer to read the small symbols. 

“Why suddenly ask about impossibilities?”

“Our daughters are thought provoking.” She lightly ran a finger along the peeling frame, sneering at the dust it collected.

“I would expect mine would only be provoking.” Maleficent watched her from the corner of her eye, curious as to how she could have acquired knowledge about a language long dead.

“It was always a question I wanted answered. You cannot have a soulmate and I had forsaken such trivialities for myself. But I cannot deny the advantages I could have been afforded.”

“Why concern yourself with such a petty bond.”

“And how would you know, dear, about such pettiness? Magical creatures are not afforded such privilege. Though the argument could be that as magical creatures are rather superior in many traits, humans need means to compensate.”

“That argument would be correct. Our accord was always strenuous. Why would you want to bond yourself to me?” Though she had an idea as to why she would.

“Power.” Grimhilde turned to her, eyes hungry and greedy. “Unimaginable power. We would have been a sight to behold.”

Maleficent could not help but agree, though she kept it silent and her face carefully blank.

“Look to me, Maleficent.” Her voice was soft, hypnotic and though it didn’t have an effect on her, she still turned her head to face her. “Let us confirm. Are you not curious, dear?”

“Not particularly,” Maleficent drawled, yet she still kept facing her which pulled the queen’s lips in victory. “But I suppose I will indulge you, just this once.”

In no audible agreement, they fixed eyes, one set flashing green and the other violet. Locked for one breathless moment that ended when the colors faded.

“Curious.” Grimhilde hummed. “It was unclear. It could have gone either way. A mutually assured destruction or the assured destruction of all in our path.”

“But you’re not here to speculate upon fanciful notions. So tell me your purpose.”

“Our daughters’ association.”

“What I find curious is your complete aversion to it. Tell me, Grimhilde, what do you know?” Maleficent dragged her scepter along the crumbling tiles of the floor, lips twitching at the garish sound it produced.

Yet again, she insolently did not answer her question. “If I could I would keep your spawn far away from mine. At the very least my daughter now has unwitting protection.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry to inform you, but your daughter seems to care for mine and no matter how much of an urchin she is, she is still yours. My daughter has protection. It should keep her alive for my plans.”

Care?” Maleficent asked dangerously, voice rumbling in her throat as she looked at her wretch of a daughter.

“Yes.” Grimhilde sounded delighted now, more so from ruffling the fairy than any personal feelings of her own.

“I do not know if I should be proud or flay her alive for her continued disobedience,” Maleficent intoned staring at the purple head of her daughter, eyes glowing as though trying to set her on fire.

“Disobedience?”

“Love is weakness!”

“Now I know you don’t believe that,” Grimhilde tsked at her. “Love is a weapon, a tool. Even you cannot deny how magical and soulmate bonds enhance.”

“Well we have always had different stances on it. You evidently used its different forms for tools. Certainly training your daughter to pursue a specific form. You want a castle again, don’t you?”

“Of course. How else am I to invade and conquer? Not all of us can turn into vicious fire breathing beasts.” She pointedly raised her eyebrow at Maleficent.

“Not any longer, not anywhere here,” Maleficent rumbled, furious, feeling her dragon scratching at her insides, waiting to be unleashed. She briefly wandered if her insolent daughter faced that particular issue, before promptly disregarding it.

“We’re all but shadows of our former glory,” Grimhilde commented idly, venturing to stand near the fairy at the window, taking a look and spying their brood stalking down the street. They looked like they had a specific destination in mind. She curled her lip in a sneer. “We all want bad influences for our children, but your spawn is not the type of bad influence I want around my daughter.”

Maleficent just stayed leaning on the Dragon’s Eye said spawn failed to deliver to her, tilting her head, following the kids with narrowed eyes, “She’s of no consequence.” She twirled a hand dismissively. Her daughter was barely useful.

“Not quite,” the sorceress disagreed, eyeing her contemplatively. “I might still think her a filthy vermin, but she will amount to something. Just what that is, remains to be seen.” She turned her eyes to stare at the purple head near her daughter.

Maleficent just hummed skeptically, not one bit in agreement. “And yours?”

“She will get me a kingdom if it is the last thing she does.” Grimhilde sniffed disdainfully, rage threatening to belie her tone, lip almost pulling into a snarl, but she was above dropping the cards she held close to her chest.

“Our children are useless. Even more powerless than we. We could plan for eventualities, but I would not expect a castle any time soon if I were you, little queen.”

“Change is in the wind, my dear Maleficent? Can you not feel it?”

She curled her lip. “You were always rather proficient in transformation spells. Change is something you are better equipped to detect.”

Grimhilde slowly turned to face her, lips pulling into a haughty delighted twist. “Was that a complement I heard?”

Maleficent huffed, slamming her scepter into the broken tiles. “I am rather secure in my own powers. It was but a commentary upon your own.”

“Aren’t you a master of transformation as well?” She twirled her finger to indicate her.

The fairy only shook her head. She was not afraid to share information. Nothing could be used against her on this magicless dead pile of bones and rock. “My dragon is an intrinsic part of me. It was never a spell. My transformation expertise is concentrated in inner subjects. Directed within. Not quite like you. Your potions were external. So what is it you are sensing?”

The queen tilted her head, humming. She inhaled deeply, eyes closing. “The winds of change smell new. And ancient.”

“And what does that mean?”

“Change will come from a young source. And another from ancient bones.”

“Dead?”

“I’m not entirely certain.”

“How about the timing.”

“The barrier dampens my abilities. I cannot say if they are simultaneous or far apart.”

“Then what was the point of mentioning it!” Maleficent clacked her scepter in frustration.

Grimhilde fixed dark swirling eyes, filled with torturous promises on her. “It means I do expect a castle, dear.”

“I would not hold my breath. You will be dead before the winds of change can scatter your robes,” she scoffed.

“You underestimate me.”

“I know your capabilities quite well, little queen.”

“I would assume that an insult if you were not implying me young.”

“You were always quite smart, Grimhilde. To me, the scum that live on this island are all but flies. All dead before me. And I do not even have to lift a finger.”

“Mark my words, change is soon. And it is concentrated on our brood.”

“Is that why you are so concerned?”

“Among other things.” The queen took to stalking around the room again. “If we do not correctly prepare them, I fear our goals will not be reached. Do you think it wise to tell them there is no magic on the Isle?” Grimhilde asked. “There is magic, we just cannot channel it.” She demonstrated by flashing her eyes violet, the only bit of magic that could be visible.

“I’m well aware,” Maleficent growled at her, sounding close to her previous dragon form. “But what use would it have. We were given no prior warning before being entombed here. I myself was returned from the brinks of death. If I was aware I could have collected my magical artifacts and tomes. Could have chosen the ones that could perform magic without any of my own. Clung to the last vestiges of my power. What use would it be to tell them? Magic may as well not be here at all. It certainly has no effect on anything.”

“Really?” Grimhilde didn’t hide the disbelief in her voice. “Its presence perhaps. But its absence is felt. It is prominent in you. Your impressive stature is no more. Shrunken down to half your size.”

Maleficent grinded her teeth, looking at her from the corner of a flashing eye. “And how about you Grimhilde. How were you affected by magic’s absence?”

“I have lost a lot. Nothing quite as physical as you. But this is not about magic’s effects. This is about all the tools we need to give our useless children so they are not an inevitable failure as always. With a few lessons to reinforce their dependence upon us, I see no problems. They shall need it. It is certain. But I happen to think the timing is not quite correct.”

“Why tell me all this?”

“So you can address your daughter as fit.”

“I do not concern myself with her petty affairs.”

“I’m afraid, dear Maleficent, that you underestimate her immensely.”

“What do you know?” She turned suspicious eyes on her.

The laugh that echoed in the room was chilling. Knowing.

Yet she still did not answer.

Perhaps it was time to show an old witch the strength of a dragon.

But before she could throw her out in all the meanings of the word, Grimhilde whirled around to face her, gliding closer on silent steps, robes tangling along her feet. “Our children have allied,” she said it like the curse it was, curling her lip in disgust. “I think it wise to do the same to prevent furthering their catastrophic union.”

Maleficent rested her chin on her scepter, scrutinizing her. “What are you on about?”

“That’s right. You’re unaware.” She stopped, the thought only now occurring to her, leaving a bad taste in her mouth. She stalked closer to the window, stopping a mere foot away from her to impress the gravity of the situation, staring with dark raging eyes. “Well, there was a reason I never showed you my daughter when she was born nor were you present for the birth.”

“I thought it was because of our power quarrels.”

“Not quite.”

“Then what was it?”

“My daughter was born with a dragon mark flashing across her arm until it settled as a faint outline then disappeared.”

“No,” Maleficent breathed, shakily reaching back for her chair near the window.

“Quite.” Grimhilde sighed in agreement.

“No. You are lying.” She shook her head refusing to believe the notion.

“And what would I hope to gain?”

“My daughter has my blood! Her soul should be intact! Whole, not hole!”

“Have you ever thought she might have inherited more from that wretch than you expected?”

“Then she’s weak. Like her father! She’s no daughter of mine.”

The queen shook her head, disappointment in her very countenance. “Oh, my dear Maleficent. You still do not see. It is rather obvious she has your blood. The scepter in your hand and the horns on her head are all the proof you need.”

“No daughter of mine is incomplete!”

“Not incomplete. Your daughter is a magical creature. And her human blood has allowed her her perfect complement in the world. The humans are not incomplete. Their bonds make them stronger. And your daughter is both. Yet you do not see how dangerous she really is.”

“She is pathetic!” Maleficent stood up so suddenly, so violently, she overturned her chair.

“She walks between two worlds. And it seems it is my daughter she is tied with. You do not know human affairs. You only think them ants to crush beneath your talons. But they are so much more.”

“You speak of them as though you’re not one yourself.”

“I have the blood of the witches. Passed down through the generation. We walk two worlds ourselves.”

“And you passed it along to your daughter.” Maleficent suddenly realized her concerns. “You think they can form both bonds.”

“They’re capable of it. Whether they can, remains to be seen.”

“Are you even certain that you saw a mark? Or that it pertained to my daughter?”

“I was not delusional, Maleficent. Even the midwife was witness to it. And who else could it have indicated?”

“The world is vast.”

“And how many of them were born close to my Evelyn? They are but months apart. And I think you are unaware of how connected they are. They met as children. Multiple times. And no matter how I pulled Evelyn away from your urchin they met again. Did you really not know? Have you never met my daughter?”

“If she is anything like you any meeting would surely be memorable. And I do not reca—wait.” Maleficent leaned out the window, her sharp eyes fixing on not her daughter, but the head of blue hair near her. A memory, deep and forgotten, surfaced. And yes while the body was then much smaller, that was still the same shade of hair and those were still the same eyes and she was certain that was still the same silver tongue. “That was your daughter?” she asked, astonished.

Grimhilde raised an eyebrow. “So you’ve met.”

“She has your silver tongue. She snuck into my castle. And my daughter told me she was her guest. Even said she was taking her to the armory. There was even blood along the walls. That little wretch of mine. She was saving her. And she tricked me.” For a moment a bare sliver of pride could almost be felt. But it was swept away by absolute rage. “My daughter, is good. I have never been more disgusted in my life. Or death.”

The queen pursed her lips. “Saved her you say. Yes, I recall her being protective. My daughter never argued with me before they met. I blame your brood for her insolence.”

Maleficent bared her teeth, tightening her grip over her scepter, fixing hateful eyes on her daughter as she thumbed Jafar’s thief on the back. “I shall flay her alive into a burning crisp. We have to keep them apart.”

Grimhilde loosely crossed her arms under her chest. “They will circumvent us. No matter how I dread and regret it, my daughter does have a brilliant mind, and while part of me weeps for my goals, the other part that was clever and cunning and almost won is rather, dare I say, proud. And I’ve known yours isn’t anything to scoff at.”

“She is an atrocious waste of dead space. But yes, from what you tell me, they will find each other.”

“We can delay it until then and continue our teachings more vigorously.”

“My daughter will be out of my influence for months.”

“What? Why?”

“For her failure retrieving the Dragon’s Eye.”

“Then recall her!”

“I will not! She’ll think me weak. Think herself capable of escaping my wrath and the consequences of her actions. I will send my minions after her. But I will not be bringing her back.”

“And if she eludes them?”

“She cannot forever.”

“Did she not inherit your physical prowess?” Grimhilde raised an eyebrow, tilting her head.

“Not that I am aware of.” But it might not be out of the realm of possibility that she hid them from her. Though that would require a fair bit of intelligence, something her daughter lacked.

“Are we in agreement then, dear Maleficent?”

“To what?”

“An alliance. To keep a close eye on them and keep them separated.”

“Yes,” Maleficent said absently staring at the retreating backs of their daughters, arms slung around each other, an insistent thought making itself known, “an alliance.”

As she stared at where the four of them disappeared, Maleficent tried desperately hard to ignore the chilling chant of an old prophecy ringing through her bones.

She gave one final slam of her scepter against the broken tiles, breaking them further, the sound echoing around the room, while the words of old echoed in her ears, before she swept out of the room, the little queen following her.