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The First Days - Mal

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Home on the Isle of the Lost
The First Days

Part 1:

My name is Maleficent Emory le Fey, I’ve live the entirety of my life in captivity.

Mind you I am currently six years old and recounting my days as I count down what very possibly could be my end in twelve months.

I can even pinpoint everything started to change just three years ago.

And I can thank my oldest sister Malefactress for it.

In case you are wondering I have three older siblings in total. My two sisters, Malefic and Malefactress, who both would rather see me dead, and Malevolent, the third born, and my Mother’s pride and joy, who raised me from infancy to the age of three when I was enrolled at Dragon High.

Malevolent and I are a lot a like, sometimes to much. Someday’s, he’s the person I want to be around, other days I’d rather subject myself to spending times with Malefactress or Malefic. Which explains why I hide around the Jolly Roger, and close to the butcher shop in the main market to avoid all them on those days.

Not that they don’t have their uses. The main one being how to avoid the overseer of the Isle, the second Warden, Maleficent Alice le Fay, of the Moor, our Mother.

Mother’s favorite would always be my brother, the deviant he is. If he was half as sly, and a third as evil as he was now, she wouldn’t look twice at him.

Malefactress, the oldest of us, was a diva. When she was a student she attended all classes for fashion, plays, dance, everything. When she came of age, graduating from school at seventeen. She didn’t follow the traditions of the Isle, she didn’t find work, didn’t earn here keep. Really the only thing that changed, was her ‘passion’ was not longer excused as school work, she could use ‘free expression’.

This led to the one of the first decree that led to the countdown of my days in Bargain Castle.

Mother could only take so much. I had just started attending school that year at the age of three, but I could remember Mother’s declaration, like it was yesterday.

All four of us had been gathered into Mother’s ‘hall’ once classes released for the day. She’d been pacing again, and the papers thrown about her mad scribblings leading up to this meeting, meant only one thing, Mother was making a decree. The last one, made it possible for me to attend school, so she didn’t have to look at her failure.

Like Malefactress, Mother had a thing for dramatics, but we all did, at least a little bit. “Children!” She cackled, clapping her hands before her throne. “It has been decided, since your all in school we need to make plans for afterwards. God know Maleficent will need it.” Her dig at my expense, was sadly a very normal occurrence.

Malevolent rolled his eyes, making me almost smile, we both knew it was because Mother didn’t like having Malefactress under foot, and making her work was like asking to have your head bashed in, over and over again.

“When you become adults, you each get to stake claim on your own business on the Isle!” She seemed so pleased, and even grinned at most of the surprised noises that we couldn’t contain. “Any property but my castle. You could take Hell Hall for all I care, but you have to do it alone. Though if you can convince Goblins to help you, take them.” Her cackle was nearly infectious.

Malefactress was nearly giddy. “Can I choose one now Mommy?” I withhold my urge to roll my eyes, something I’d started picking up from Malevolent.

Mother sighed, “Let me get there. You can take your pick, but before any of you can make your move on your establishments, I have to approve them. If you fail, there are no redos you come back and you work for me.” Malefactress looked reluctant to take it, even though she had been excited prior. Seeing it Mother was quick to add on to her new plan, unwilling to put up with her anymore, “And you have upto one year to make your choice after your an adult before that becomes default.”

Malefactress, nodded slightly discouraged and grim, “I’ll let you know soon.” Was her only response. Stupid was not something I could ever call her, nor my other siblings.

A week later, in her usual dramatic fashion, Malefactress made her claim on the higher end entertainment house the school sometimes utilized for their dance and acting facilities when the main hall was being used for ‘standard training’, or what might better be described as the worst class in hell.

When the beatings at home weren’t enough, the teachers beat us back as well. With the entertainment house and stage gone, ‘standard training’ was canceled.

And maybe Malefactress’ stupid obsession wasn’t all useless.

With the aid of goblins Malefactress seized the stage and the house baring out the rabble and common folk. Inside her small stronghold, none of us heard from her for 48 hours, exactly as dictated by the customs rules and regulations.

Mother had her sane moments, rare they were, when she first seized control of the isle certain customs were put into place. One was for those who come to want a property, to avoid even more conflict and discruction to the shambles we populate, you must make your claim to Maleficent. To do so you would have to pay your claim barter, one of two things would happen next. One you would either get 48 hours to hold fort and defend your new lot, or two you would be beaten and thrown out.

Once a place was established, it could only be taken two ways.

The first option was by a claim approved by Maleficent, after its made you’d have to secure and guard the establishment, if you could not handle the current owner, or kill him, your claim was forfeit, and you would be forced into Maleficent’s employment.

And the second option, if the established claim is left unaccounted for by any persons under employment of the sanctioned claim for ninety days, the claim is invalid, and they are not able to counter the claim without killing or beating to surrender the new holder of the claim. If the new holder loses, the old claim is renewed.

With Malefactress’ claim established and the house secure. No one was able to counter her, and no one would win a claim on the property as one of the Isle Heirs.

Now for Malefic, she was a potioneer. After coming of age at sixteen, just half a year later, Mother let her take her pick of anywhere on the Isle to start her business. Being the studious child, and clearly well aquitted for the position. She gained Mother's approval, asking for permission to take over one of the family properties, the Apothecary.

She likely should have waited for a better day, as Mother clearly wasn’t all there as she cackled with amusement at her words, “You’d fight me for the claim?”

“Of course I would not, it is your business.” the way Malefic spoke always felt like I was selling my soul, but then again, you should never thank a fairy, or make a deal with one. “However I just feel so bad, you have so much work to do around here, and the goblins and little silly Maleficent to look after, I thought I could help you out taking control of such a tedious task.”

Mother laughed, slapping a hand on the edge of her throne. She startled the poor goblin by her feet. “Good girl, it's yours for a fee!” Malefic and Mother spoke for a few minutes as the rest of us sat around. Trying to not roll our eyes at Malefic’s smug smile.

As the meeting came to a close and we began to leave, Mother’s voice stopped us at the throne room entrance, “And remember, family doesn’t pay.” Malefic nodded, it was the same for when Mother controlled it.

Mother didn’t want grandchildren, and sick kids meant weakness in the castle, and weakness in the castle is weakness on her hold on the isle. With two children out of her castle, she only had to wait for Malevolent and myself to come of age.

Based on the fact I could walk circles around my teachers, and my classmates were trash at the age of four was showing good signs that Mother would be child free soon. Malevolent himself had slowed down his graduation to work on his claim, he knew it was going to take a lot, or at least that’s what he’d told me when he sat me down to ‘help’ me with my work.

And maybe I was a bit like Malefic but hey, at least half truths were still truths. The pains of being Fae.

It took another two years just before the school holiday that Malevolent made his move. Mother was impressed at the timing, thinking not much of it she approved his claim.

And with in 48 hours Serpent Hall, Witches School, Dragon High, and fourteen small brick buildings in their respective facilities were within iron fencing. No one even realized the schools were taken until the teachers came back. The three schools were all banded together under the name Dragon Hall.

None of them were happy, and when they got re evaluated and courses overhauled to encompass more material and trades. But they kept their mouth shut on the matters. No one crossed Maleficent or her laws.

And every teacher in the school knew better than to try and best Malevolent.

If Malefactress got her dramatics, Malefic her silver tongue, Malevolent got her obsession.

There was nothing Malevolent couldn’t accomplish if he wanted to.

Honestly his plan was by far my favorite, and the pact would work well in my favor once I graduated. We just had to play a waiting game while he paid me to help him out.

So when Malefic went to Mother demanding his claim undone, he made his move.

Like I said earlier, brother has always been Mother’s favorite. He was twice as cunning and three times as aggressive than most villains subjugated to the Isle, he had more ambition than he could use at home, and he had her favor simply for raising me.

Malevolent could only grin at her anger. “What’s the problem with me running the school dear sister, scared you’ll be out of business.” He pushed her shoulder, causing the calmer sister to lunge, because we all knew it was true, part of the course changes included potioneering, not a lot of kids were interested, and only I was in the class, for his arguments sake, but we didn’t say that.

“Enough!” Mother snarled at long last, “Malevolent made his claim, and I am not refuting it. Malevolent get rid of the class, I will not have idiots brewing death to kill us all!”

See her favorite. I grinned into my potioneering textbook that Malevolent wrote up for his mock class, exactly where she was glaring. I was technically learning to brew from her as well, being a skill that is a must for the family if we’re in a pinch, but never for sanity sake.

Malevolent glanced at me with a smirk, “I’ll consider it, but since I do have a class currently taking it, I think I need a little something for my troubles to do it. After all it is technically an act against my claim to make me do anything in my property, Mother.”

Mother scowled before easing into a smirk herself, “That is the law. Name your price, I’m sure Malefic would rather not have to revert back to my lacky.”

Malevolent waved off her offer, “Nothing so extreme, I just want this behind us. A promise as fairies will do, between the five of us. Once a claim in the families made no one in the family can refute it, nor can they demand a change.”

Malefactress who’d been flipping through her latest drama she’d been preparing for the stage nearly ripped the pages, “What!” she snapped papers crinkling, “Why on earth would I ever--”

“I see no issue in the pact.” Mother cut her off, “I bind you and you bind to me, a claim by blood is a claim by blood.” Malefactress broke eye contact with Mother, we each did as she met our eyes. “Mob, my chalice and my book!” A grumpy goblin near the entrance nodded, scurrying away. They no longer waited on her feet, several outsiders were now her property bound by contract, unable to leave.

The chalice was something we were all familiar with, Fae were Fae by blood and by blood we’d always be. The barrier was a hindrance, but magic still existed on the isle. True it was the stronger magically inclined could tap into it, for moments at a time, but they were all the same, all like my mother.

Villains, are predictable, the same could be said about the rest of the residents, they look for comfort in any place they can.

Owning a business allowed you control and power over others, having a home, gave you safety others can’t have, food was to be taken by the strong, while the weak lost. It was all about survival of the fittest.

Anyone who could use magic here, wasted it on stupid whims, looking for comfort.

The barrier trapped us all here, cut off from the magic of the world, but it didn’t cut us off from the magic of life.

Every person that lives and breaths gives of magical essence, the essence of life. This can be harnessed into magical powers and spells, or binding contract between Fae with a blood chalice.

For us, a blood contract is much more than just our Fae lineage tying us together, it ties the contract together by the magic of life within us all, anyone to break the contract, or to false seal the pact, will perish.

Mob hobbled back in with the chalice, and the book of Fae Mother sent for. Gor, one of Mother’s slaves, came in behind him, hobbling with the wrapped bag filled with the ceremonial knives.

Shooing them and the rest of her staff and slaves away. We all moved to stand in a circle around Malevolent, whom had taken the chalice from Mob, placed it in my hands.

Mother rolled her eyes. “Mal is the only one without claim, there for the magic can’t favor any one of us, nor herself when she makes her claim.” was he only response, it was enough to keep all our mouths shut.

One by one each of my family members from oldest claim to newest sliced their palm from heart line, to fame line, as we were tying life's blood to pact and pact to claim.

When it's my turn I don't remove my hands from the sides of the chalice, doing so would break the pact, I simply have to wait for Mother to continue the ritual for me. Malevolent may have suggested the pact, and chosen me to ground it, but Mother was the leader of the Fae in this room, and the leader of the Moor once long ago.

I can’t help but watch as she moves towards me, Mother has always had a look of grace and power in her features, one that’s amplified beneath the lull of magic around us, the heavy scent of blood, and essence of magic weighing in the room. Only the iron in the castle taints the air.

And yet another bad thing about the isle is that over 90% of the materials here are iron. So for the fae, we’re in hell, we burn on contact and when in close proximity for too long to metal we can contract iron sickness.

Unfortunately for the rest of the isle, the Fairy fucking Godmother of Cinderella didn’t think about that, the rest of the royalty who joined together to make the United States of Auradon, didn’t think about that, and all the other fuckers out there didn’t think about that.

Why is the fact fae are allergic to iron important. Simple, when you lock people under a magic barrier cutting them off from the outside world, and trapping them in a large cloud of life's magic, mutations happen. And every single inhabitant on the isle is allergic to iron, barring one exception.

Goblins are immune to the barrier and the iron poisoning. The only difficulty is, when we hit the barrier were held in. When a goblin does, they are torn to shreds.

Choosing to ignore the stench of Iron I tilt my chin up exposing the soft flesh of my neck and the zipper of my jacket. From the heart line to the fame line on your palm, works the same as from the center point on your throat straight down to the middle of your heart.

Mother, is quick, but it is far from painless, but I’ve learned to endure worse in my six years. I feel the blood more than I see it before bringing the cup to my heart as the blood spills from the wound. Letting the blood flow for a moment I breathe, then move it back to the original height I had held it at.

My jacket is left open, my shirt still cut from where Mother had sliced, but the ritual continues. It takes binding words, and thoughts. And I follow in line, voice strong despite the blood that's beginning to pool around our feet. There hands are still dripping as they hold the wound open with their fingernails, the crimson pool under our feet grounds us together.

When the words are spoken the chalice is raised to their lips and then to each person following them accepting the pact, until each member has spoken and in turn been accepted to the pact.

In the hours afterwards, I dream of drowning in blood, and the feeling of magic in my veins.

The days after my brothers claim was complete, and the ritual done, I prepared for what was to come.

It was inevitable and considering I’d gotten into yet another courtyard fight with Carlos de Vil.

And really if only Lady Trumaine didn’t feel the need to make us partners again for class. Historically the two of us have never gotten along since he joined school when we were four.

Graduates of Dragon Hall can only graduate after passing the required criteria set by the founding of the school. Malevolent may have added things, but he couldn’t remove the requirements.

The system was flawed, big time.

See there were two levels of classes, Henchmen and Villains. Even with the new over hall the average age of graduation still remains at seventeen.

My siblings all met or beat that average.

The Henchmen courses, focused primarily on the support roles. They had weight training, combat training, basic literature, basic math, basic evil history, basic scheming, and finally basic villain aid.

Really they were treated like fucking idiots.

And the only reason mother didn’t place me in with them, no matter how much of an idiot she thinks I am, or how useless she claims me to be, was because it would look bad to have a le Fay as a henchman, she’d lose her credibility.

Unlike the Evil Queen, whose daughter did attend the final henchman course year after being homeschooled. No child can come of age without attending one of the schools on the isle. Gwenevieve Yavvon Royal, was a bitch, but she knew how to sow from what my brother had told me.

The Villain classes were set to function in two tiers.

The First Tier was you standard Classes, Weight Training, Combat Training, Evasion Training, Pain Training, Evil Statistics, Evil History, Statistics on Henchman, intermediate or advanced Scheming, Selfies and Me, intermediate or advanced Mathematics, intermediate or advanced literature, calligraphy, intermediate or advanced trapping, intermediate or advanced logic, intermediate or advanced strategy, and intermediate or advanced planning.

Like I said they treat henchman like fucking idiots. But don’t worry that was only tier one, it gets better.

The Second Tier is what normally appears as a breeze, only these classes you must be partnered with another Villain level student of the opposite gender, in some cases groups of three may be made if one gender has more students. At the start of each year partners for all Tier 2 classes are assigned for the year. No trading.

What the heck class does ential, well... agony.

Lets see there's eight course with twelve years of work, and graduation requirements I simply don’t agree with.

You’ve got, Ballroom Dance, with fourteen standard dances memorized, and eight dances prompted under evaluation to be learned in an hour.

Then Choreographed Dance, needing six original pieces, and two pieces made on the go during evaluation based on the music provided.

Plus Foods class, both parties must know how to cook, together in the same space, they have to cook four meals and set the table three times in the settings casual, formal, and picnic, each party for settings will be tested separately, and both parties setups should match exactly.

Lets throw in Language class, which is centered on the nineteen common languages of the isle and their memorization. Both parties must memorize and match speech patterns, accents, and fluency. The group will be tested individually and expected to hold a conversation on their partnership. Both stories must match, or the group fails.

Okay and Acting, the pair/group must create three plays, musicals, or stories told through dance to be acted on stage. Their supporting roles will be the Villain Aid class. If the Plays, musicals or Dance stories are not completed by the time the Villain Aid class arrives for the first rehearsal, the group fails.

Of course adding Art, well you’d think it was ais simple class, four original art projects must be completed by the pair/group under supervision, they are to listen to art lecture in class and take notes, half way through class the parties are assigned to compare and discuss notes.

For some reason, Fashion class is a thing, both parties must make clothing designs together while learning the history and different fashions of history and the isle. And for their final project they both will be assigned the same topic of style and expected to make an outfit design for their partner, both outfits and color pallets should match for the team to pass, parties are tested separately.

I don’t even know why, but finally Courting, is a class on customs of courting and proper etiquette expected of ladies and gentlemen. The final test is for the pair/group to show proper courting during evaluation which is made at the discretion of the teacher. A paper exam on the history of courting and proper techniques will also be administered. Proper etiquette is a requirement to be used in ballroom dance, if you fail one you fail both.

Which all in the long run mean, Carlos and I fail every year, because every year without fail since I was four years old the little Devil has been my partner.

And we’d have been on track to fail, if it wasn’t for my nosy brother.

Mother was pleased to see Malevolent by the doors to her office, she’d been looking forward to graduate time, new henchmen, and new blood were always fun. Lots of spirits to crush.

I wish I hadn’t been present when he’d showed up, Mother and I’d been speaking yet again on what she’d expected of me when I saw the look of excitement as the door opened.

“Mother, Mal, I hoped we could all sit down and talk.” Mother frowns bemused, and rightfully so.

With a grimace and a sigh I sink lower into the chair I’m occupying.

In seconds Mother’s eyes fill with anger and disappointment, her eyes burning, “What's this about?” She doesn’t pause for long before turning on me. “I’ll pull Mal from school, you fucking embarrassment.” I can’t hold back my groan of pain as I unite my head with the surface of the table covering it with my hands.

I see Malevolent rolls his eyes as I glance up, “Oh don’t pull her, she’s tied for the highest ever graduating score on the entire island. The issue is she’s also been on the evaluation books for graduation for the last two years.” his drawl was enough for me to know he wasn’t angry at me, more so confused, and hurt that I didn’t trust him with this.

Mother actually looks at me, the anger is simmering, but she’s studying me like she isn’t sure I’m real. “Explain, Maleficent.”

Mother was one of the only ones to ever use my full name, and it never bodes well for me. She’d named me after herself when I was born a carbon copy of her. Every year she tells me on my birthday how much she can’t wait to have the chance to steal my life, my youth, and my body. When she uses my full name, she’s found another thing she wants, I’m not meant to be useful, I’m meant to be her chance at a second life, like suddenly I could grow her wings back, and return her to the Moor.

No my full name was never a good thing. “Doesn’t really matter, can’t pass tier two classes, I’m partnered with the fucking Devil again, same as the past two years. So, we’ll fail again because he’s a fucking idiot prick and they know he would rather gut them then listen to them on tier two garbage.” I sound like my age for once, I was more than a decade younger than the graduate average. Considering I was ready to graduate my first year, only not signing up due to my partner dying a week before exam time.

Carlos is always the one signing us up, mostly to piss me off, but sometimes I get the feeling he just doesn’t want to go home, not when his cousin is now gone out working late at the butcher shop, had been for a few years now.

Malevolent’s answering laugh held no humor, “Fucking de Vil’s are useless, but they have the brains for Villain work, and the scare the Henchmen teacher. I got partnered with his cousin several times, we never worked out, not saying Gilly was much better, but I could find common ground with him, he talked.” He commented, “But that's the difference, your de Vil talks Mal, and he has grades that are on par with yours, there is no way you two won't be partnered unless one of your grades tank, and at this point we’re out of material to teach you in Tier One, we’ve had to relegate those to Trade school and supervised study.” He snapped. See some days I want to talk to the asshole, others I don’t. This is a perfect example of when I clearly don’t.

I can feel Mother’s eyes on us, calculating all out comes as I lean in to respond, if she isn’t interrupting, I’m not waiting. “Do you realize how many times we’ve been relegated to the infirmary because the fucker has a god damn short fuse. We’re more likely to kill each other than complete even one assignment for tier two together. If they’d fucking passes us on solo work or give us fucking henchman we’d not have this goddamn problem!” my words are bitten short, my anger from that morning made me wish I’d punched Carlos, it would have been better than this.

Malevolent is more hyped than I’d seen him in years, his hands are white wrapped on the edge of the table. “Tradition, I can’t ever change that. Not ever Mal!” His words are hissed between his teeth his chair clatters backwards with his quick move to stand.

“Then don’t expect me to go die for this stupid tradition, the dick says two words max, I fucking tutor henchman, and work in the entertainment houses for bonus credit, I complete every assignment outside to the T, and all the ones they assign I have mastered, it's their problem if I don’t have a partner who actual works with me, or just shuts up and follows. Hell, if he’d lead I’d fucking take it, if it meant never having to see him again!” I’m not sure where in my tirade that I stood but my chair at least stayed standing as my hands laid splayed out on the table.

Mother’s chuckle at our outburst, popped the silence that had descended, “We’ll make a pact the three of us. Mal has to graduate partnered with the de Vil boy this year, or I will pull her from school and we will sign a work contract together.” The sugar sweet voice screamed for me to run, but the idea was already made, and I still wasn’t an adult in anyone's eyes, I had no out.

Malevolent, finally realized what he’d done, his eyes widened marginally, my siblings didn’t know why I was named Maleficent, nor did they know the promises my mother made for the day I became hers. But he knew enough to know that belonging to Mother was a fate worse than death, a fate worse than the Isle, or a life completely lost from magic.

He knew because we’ve all lived our lives in captivity, he found freedom, in a small place his own, but he might have just sold my chance. “If Mal doesn’t graduate, I would still like her to assist with classes, she is right, even with my temper tantrum, she does a marvelous job preparing the henchman.”

“For the pact, she can help when I don’t need her.” was her only response.

Thinking quick, there is no out, even if he secure some out of freedom for a moment, to be relegated back to the hell called school for it, but I wasn’t a princess, or a free fairy in the Moor, no one was going to save me, and I was not going to follow the failed protector of Fae. “When I graduate this year, I get my claim, no arguments, I’ll still follow customs to complete it, but you Mother, can’t say no to it, no matter what it may be, barring I do not try for you castle. During the school year for this graduating year, I am allowed free passage at any time through the isle and to the castle gate so that I can meet with my partner to accomplish twelve years of tier two course assignments, and complete the prerequisite to graduating.” My words come out slightly faster and breathy than I like, but they’ll be enough. “My time out of school is to be unsupervised.” I add for an afterthought, when working with a Devil, be prepared to break even the most basic isle customs.

“It’s a pact.” Mother smiled, hey eyes show she’s already thought she’s won.

And the three of us write the contract word for word for the next four hours, and with chalice and blood, word and right, the pact is seal.

That night as I lay in my room gazing at the plants lining the sill of my window, I can help the hope in my chest.

My claim had always been a long shot since the first time I set eyes on it when I was three, my brother taught me to not be stupid, to not be naive, but there was hope.

And if dancing with the Devil, quite literally, gave me even just one of my dreams, then so be it.

I know I’m not good.

I dream of an empire.

I dream of freedom.

I dream of Fae Lands, and Magic on the air and in my bones.

I dream of bathing in blood, and magic on my tongue.

And in the morning I awake long before sunrise, something I have always done.

Curfew on the Isle doesn’t permit any none adult to be out two hours from sundown without obtaining a permit.

After classes at Dragon Hall, all students must return home within the one hour allotted time, to receive a signed pass from their Warden. Without the signed pass or a permit allowing access to the Isle without escort, students are confined to their homes and usually forced into labor of some sort by their Warden.

The same could be said for Mornings unfortunately.

Students are only allowed outside one hour before classes begin for the day.

Today would be the start of something different for me. I finally had the means to obtain a curfew pass, something students dream about.

Most passes are single use, but Mother wasn’t stupid, while she wanted me to fail, she also knew if I did her hold on the Isle would weaken, even just the slightest bit worried the old reptile. So she’d given formal permission for an open pass.

As the day began, and I waited to leave and head for the old crocodile herself.

Madame Medusa, worked for my mother in the Isle permit office, she is the only person who can give permits upon word of Maleficent of the Moor, and falsified permit claims, are brought to mother, and for record sake, any certified claims, are kept on file, locked in one of the biggest, most difficult safes to reach on the Isle.

Security on the Isle, outside of Auradon’s influence, also fell to my mother. In most cases her businesses were run by Goblins, leaving the people in her employment to work as enforcers, people whom make sure no one is breaking mothers law. They check up on the Madame, and the Madame on them.

The enforcers consisted of Amos Slade, Gaston, The Big Bad Wolf, Shere Khan, Kaa, Isaac who was the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Guy of Gisbourne, and Shan Yu and the Hun, and some other sissy ants mother put there to keep her updated. Mother still knows everything they say and do without them of course. She had eyes and ears everywhere, it made being her daughter hard, it made freedom hard.

Most cases I’d stay in my room after school, she couldn’t reach me here, not since the old stairwell to the tower collapsed, if I wasn’t so determined to find my space away from her, I might not have been so willing to climb one hundred feet up crumbling castle wall.

My only saving grace was when the stairs fell, the tower tipped onto the mountain of Iron. It supported the remaining stairways, and rooms of the upper tower, but to leave you could only go down, outside was toxic, the land covered in iron bars, and wreckage left behind after the first great iron sickness, no one traversed the mountain, and I was as close as you could get before the sickness could reach you.

Leaving my room, I walked up the rest of what had been left of the stairs, there were three rooms above mine, ones I used for my own projects.

The first room couldn’t be accessed from the hall, but through a small hole in the wall of room three.

It wasn’t much, but the small agricultural farm inside produced enough food for one person to eat comfortably on the isle. Something I’d need to be able to copy no matter what I’d make my claim on.

Room two contained every book, and written word I’ve found on the isle, particularly in the dump called the harbor. Knowledge, was not something to take lightly. Not here on the Isle, it could mean life or death.

The only person who really gave me a challenge was the Devil in that department. He had more knowledge on some of the subjects taught than the teachers. Something that shouldn’t be possible, when they had all the knowledge available to them on the outside. Only they didn’t because they took it for granted. They thought, once I win this, all of it will be mine. What idiots. Get the knowledge first than take over, emotions are the end of all evil and good, too much heart, not enough brain.

Though, I can’t say I’m much better, but at least in my efforts to get away from mother, and keep away from family, I’ve only run into issues when the Devil is involved.

I still choose knowledge first over beating his face in, and I could still see that since the incident yesterday.

Rubbing the palm of my bandaged hand against my knee, room three, I push open the old wood and iron door, its hinges protesting to the motion. It was one of the few places even when she could reach it mother didn’t go. The door was braced with iron, the handle and lock always engaged, even the windows were barred with iron. It was a place she avoided with at all costs, she even forbids the goblins from it, evil knows what they could do without constant supervision.

Or so Mother thinks.

Her tirades are a bit winded, and a far bit stupid.

But considering she’d died and was magicked back to life by an idiot named the Fairy Godmother and the moron Merlin, brain damage was expected.

Let’s not forget the torment and tortures of the Isle, and the iron poisoning we breathe daily.

Room three held the most important things of all. Every single blueprint and plan I’ve found, and every single one I’ve made or modified.

Room three held the answers to how I would survive when I graduated. And if all went right this morning.

I don’t dilly dally grabbing my bag, coat, and staff I’d left in here late last night after the ceremony. I had places to be today, with only an hour of freedom before class to get the permit I wanted.

Tying the worn cloth black jacket around my waist and slinging my bag around my body to rest protectively near my dominant hand, where I held my staff, I take off back the way I’d come locking the third room behind me. The way down the tower, is tortuous and long, but I’ve made it several times in the last year I moved up to the room, that it doesn’t provide much challenge anymore.

Auradon had some odd ideas to helping the villains.

They put up inspirational posters, and send newspapers of news on the mainland, the run constant commercials on the main square tv’s about being good.

TV’s that are indestructible and unmovable due to binding eternal magic not even the barrier can stop.

They also put clocks everywhere, including the top of the barrier. And with each clock an inspirational quote about goodness. I’ve defaced most of them, and the posters, and the TV’s, but every night at midnight they are sparkling clean.

For a place that isn’t supposed to have magic, we sure have a lot.

Note my sarcasm.

Magic isn’t rare, powerful magic that isn’t ritual or blood based, now that’s rare.

Glancing at the sparkling clean white clock, I tap my foot. I may be getting my permit today, but I still had to follow curfew laws for now. As the clock hands hit five, I’m already down the front path of the castle making my way to the permit house.

The old crocodile’s eyes zero in on me the moment I enter her building.

It was an old one level brick home, one of the very few places with no iron on it. It didn’t have an actual roof when she’d began working in the building, but the goblins fixed that, aluminum sheet metal from one of the falling warehouses was moved and fastened down for the protection of the pass office.

Protection from storm season mostly, but thefts too.

“What do you want.” Madame Medusa had seen better days, most of the Isle’s original inhabitants had, but to be fair they weren’t born in captivity, nor with wardens breathing down our necks like we’re the reason they are here. “Your Mommy send you to check up on me. I know how to do my goddamn job better than a little girl!” Her mellow dramatics, have only improved in magnitude now. No diamonds or riches to find in her shop. Just a steady flow of food to keep her happy.

Madame Medusa didn’t show skin and bones like most, or muscle like others, she was one of the biggest people on the isle with actual fat on her bones. All because Mother kept her fed, and Medusa did her job to the T for it.

Pulling out my papers, I hand them to her, ignoring her screeching. Medusa snatched the papers reading through them several times before grimacing. “One open pass for the princess it seems.” She drawls out, disgust dripping from her words.

I was fully aware a pass like this would get me no friends, but considering most of the school assumed I already had one and never used it, well, I already didn’t have friends. What six-year-old needs them, let alone a child of a villain for that matter.

Now enemies, I really could live without.

A quarter to six Medusa finally pushed me my pass and completed paperwork to file with the school and with mother that night. “You got what you came for, get out of my sight.” She snapped.

Checking through the papers quickly, I nod before moving out the door. Medusa may be angry, but she isn’t stupid. Mother doesn’t like me, but attacking me is still an attack on her. She won’t risk losing her food source, not over something like this.

I made it to Dragon hall, five minutes later and up to filling in two.

I didn’t have class per say until closer to eleven, but like my lovely brother said last night, I was scheduled for supervised time with the Devil. Which really means being crammed in a tiny room with one table and two chairs, and no way out. The one door will be locked until we’re released.

Unsurprisingly, my nemesis was already in the room as the door swung shut and the lock clicked in place.

I wanted to get the conversation done, I really did. But the fact I was in school, under supervision, made me pause. I would get him to cooperate, but not now, or more like not here. Carlos was already seated on the table eyes closed, clearly trying to forget he’s in a four by four box, I am not. While most assume that the rooms are inescapable, they forget how small I am.

It would be a tight squeeze, and uncomfortable for the healing skin to rub against, but it was definingly better than this room. And if this twisted plan I had forming in my head was going to work, I was going to share this little secret. Glancing one last time at the other boy, I sigh, moving to the first chair dragging it across the concrete, once the chair Is snuggly in the corner. I move back over to the other chair.

Every other time I’d have just sat in silence by the small crack in the wall I’d tugged the chair to when he was in the room, something he’d clearly been expecting.

Carlos de Vil didn’t talk much, and when he did it was only when he wanted to, and when it was necessary, or what he deemed necessary. That often got him in trouble in school, if he wasn’t as smart as he was, he’d have been tossed out. And the same could have been said for Diego de Vil his cousin. The two were often seen together on the isle when the older cousin didn’t have to work, and if Carlos skipped no one tried to stop him, I didn’t call them Devils for nothing after all.

Clayton, Cruella’s longtime partner, had put a knife in Carlos’s hands at the age of three, while attended my first year of school, he was being taught how to hunt alongside his cousin. Clayton would have just taken Diego, if the boy could just speak up. Carlos was the only one to really understand the silent boy, hence the reason he got to come along.

The two were ruthless, and a pair of the best fighters on the isle, several of the Hun met their end when they had gone to capture Carlos when he skipped class. Class was tortures, especially to the Hun kids, all of our parents thought we deserved hell like they did, they didn’t think we could understand living here with them. We didn’t know any better.

And maybe they were right that we didn’t know better, but they were wrong to think they knew worse.

With my approach back to his table, I freeze when the glint of metal reaches my eyes. I wasn’t the only one armed, but I stayed still only moving to grab the edge of the other chair.

The knife was still in his hand as he rolled off the table on the other side, his silver eyes burned. He was ten pounds lighter, and seconds faster than me in close quarters. Carlos was one of the smartest people I knew, but that didn’t change the fact that he was more in tune with the baser instincts than almost anyone on the Isle, I’m not even sure Shere Khan, Kaa, or even the big bad wolf would survive against him. Some people think power alone is the most dangerous thing, but I know better. Power backed by intelligence, and skill are terrifying.

Breathing softly, I pull the chair out lifting it up to keep from dragging it too long on the ground.

It didn’t matter that I had a predator watching me, I still turned my back to him, not for the first time. He’d come close to killing me once, a surprise attaches too, but I still had enough of my own power, knowledge, and skill to keep me alive, or take him down with me.

We’d both missed the following week of school due to our injuries, that was the last time we fought with weapons. Survival of the fittest, even a small monkey can kill a cheetah, because one bite is enough to poison anyone.

And keeping Carlos alive had benefits, just as he knew killing me had cons.

Lifting the chair, I place the back two legs on the seat of the other chair before I wedge one into the back and the other into the crack on the wall. Ignoring Carlos would be a bad move, even still, he surprised me slightly when he comes up to my right. “Don’t know about you but I am not sticking around another four and a half hours for class, and unless you actually intend to work on our monstrosity project, I’m out.” My voice doesn’t waver as I hoist myself up on the chairs, the wall doesn’t even crumble beneath my weight.

On the adjacent wall, just above the iron candle holders is a small tunnel. The mortar was worn away by heat and humidity, and hidden in the shadows of the flames. There were only a couple places for foot holds, but I still found enough to push my way through.

Ignoring the pain in my chest I turn around slightly in the tunnel. Sticking my head back out into the room. His eyes snap up from where he’d been studying the wall and my foot holds. “If you do come, be back here by a quarter to eleven, I do not feel like having those cranky bats poking about for my tunnel, ‘k bye!” I scramble back. Its two feet from the room that a drop appears. It leads down to the dried-out irrigation system bellow the school. Its relatively easy to climb down, if you missed the ledge it was a hundred foot drop to the bottom.

Reaching the bottom of the wall I let go dropping the final nine feet, as my feet hit the ground I let my body fold and roll, breaking the impact tension.

It isn’t long before I hear a soft form landing to my right where I’d been working on one of blueprints. I was glad he’d followed, even if the way back will be harder to explain. But right now, that wasn’t what had me worried, no one comes down here, it was my hiding place, and sanctuary, I’d just willingly led one of the few people who have actively tried to kill me to it. I was at least fifty meters from where we dropped. Rolling up the papers, I cram them back into my bag as I lean back into the cool damp stone. “No one else knows about this place.” My voice is barely louder than a whisper, but the hollow passage carries it a small distance, “But we need to talk, and I’m not about to have my entire family and the Isle in on it.”

I’ve always been drawn to Carlos’ eyes, and it wasn’t because they were silver.

Nearly every descendant was born with silver or gold eyes, one of the mutations here. There are a few with bronze and copper, and several with very, very pale blues and greens, but those are the descendants of Cecaelia.

No, the reason his eyes always caught my attention was because of the look in them. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had Fae blood at this point, the look in them was one I saw in the mirror, if we didn’t get along like oil and water, we’d likely have been good partners. The two of us simply wanted separate things, and were way to competitive for our own good.

Carlos really should have a bell, I muse as he startles me for the second time appearing from the shadows by my side. You would think a boy with bright white hair would stick out of the darkness. “You got me here. Now what.” With how rough his voice sounds now I can only imagine how long it’s been since he’d last talked. Yesterday wasn’t some much an exchange of words as it was heated glares, and anger in our veins.

“I want to make a bargain.” Carlos would never take a deal, but a bargain means he has a shot at screwing me over, “I need to graduate before I lose all of my sanity. We both know trade schools a joke, and tier two is an even bigger joke. Please do not get me started on the possibility of being relegated to Villains Aid.” I grimace, even Carlos looks disgusted at the idea. “You give me your solo assignments for the classes on all material, and I will see to it that for Trade Class’s live assignment, we get put to work at the Giant Butcherboy’s shop alongside your cousin’s work hour.” Step one, get the assignments into one direction. Even passing just barely would be enough to graduate, that means any score above 50% with proven work, and documented hours of work under supervision, would be enough.

Carlos’ eyes watch me, “Every live assignment.”

“Every single one.” I confirm, not that I’d show up, Butcherboy and I don’t get along, for a fee I have no doubt he’d let me do what I want out of sight, and away from him.

Carlos nods once, “I’ll bring the papers, you get them once we’ve got our assignments.” He doesn’t wait for more before heading back the way we’d come.

Dancing with the Devil, was as exhausting as I remembered it being before we nearly killed each other.

Once the both of us were back up in the room, Carlos had already moved the chairs back to the table. Jumping down was easier than up, once you got past the candles.

Glancing through the whole in the wall, to see the barrier outside I sigh, “An hour left.”

Before dropping into the unoccupied seat. Somehow the bargain lead to a semi agreement to at least appear civil, even if we’d yet to say it out loud. I’d set an Arabic text between us with parchment by the time Madam Mim let us out. “Finally, you two!” Were her only words, if only she’d known the truth. Seriously I’d stolen the book on my way here, and that the pages belonged to some poor second year.

Once Carlos and I had left her far enough behind and at least had three other supervising teachers exclaim the same thing, he broke the silence, “You know half the papers there were garbage right, your grammars awful.”

“This trash, I swiped from a second year, dumbass should be thankful with how poor this shit is.” I mutter back, “Who the hell taught them Arabic sentence structure should be gutted.” Throwing the revolting papers in the trash I stash the book, “But I got a free book from it, so fuck it.”

Carlos’s mouth quirked up, “Hold up your end of the bargain and I’ll handle mine.” Was all he said before splitting ways, pretending to be civil might just be the death of me. Aggressive Carlos and Angry Carlos I knew how to handle, this one, not so much.

I still had a free period as ‘potioneering’ was canceled, and Malevolent has originally planned to tutor me, which was trashed last night. Making a right I headed for Trade School building.

Edgar Balthazar, the overseer head teacher of Trade School. Taught basic trades and oversaw active hour sheets. Convincing him to let Carlos and I, who he’d been told must work together by the tier two teaching staff, work with Butcherboy, was a cake walk. Most students avoid nine children eating giants, even if they no longer ate them seeing how we are all to boney, and much too bad for their health to ingest.

It took forty minutes with the dim fool to have every active session booked for the butcher shop, and every lesson scheduled in a fashion that would make skipping easy and unnoticeable.

By the time we were done, his midday lull was over and I had a Devil to catch. With our work copies in hand, I made my way towards the hall.

Carlos slowed down when he spotted me going away from the trade school, right brow raised. “We have our first active lesson at Butcherboy’s meat house in five minutes, I’d advise not standing around.” I call, keeping his paper in my hand, he can see it after we arrive.

“Maleficent.” The giants were among the only ones who’d insisted on calling me that,

“Boy.” To be fair it might be because I insist on degrading their names. “Let’s have a chat.” I smile handing him both papers.

The giant nods. “de Vil, go find the other one, help him.” The large giant ordered gesturing we go into the office. “You ain’t staying, I reject form.” Boy grumbled.

“Now that’s rude. You can’t take one and not the other, we are a paired deal, as the papers said.” I say leaning back against the doorway.

When the giants were being sent here, due to space, the good folk shrunk them down, now they only stood a towering eight feet tall, not four times that. “Then he goes to!”

They still should learn how to talk like people, “But then you lose your Diego Whisper. You want the two best hunters on the isle, who aren’t going to destroy the meat and work best together, you take the contracts. Carlos works, I don’t and we say I did. And I stay clear of your shop except on review days.” I smile folding my hands.

Boy groans hands on his head, “Hate fae.” He straightens, “I sign papers for today, you leave, I give de Vil the finished paperwork by end of shift. No coming back unless purchasing goods.”

Pushing off the wall I hold out my hand, “Pleasure doing business.” I smile walking away.

Boy’s voice carries as he bosses around Carlos.

I didn’t have anywhere to be, Trade Class Active assignments override Tier Two lessons, and we’re expected to catch up on our own time.

Heading over to the garbage dump, known as the harbor on the Isle, I scrap dive, pilling gear, and objects into my bag. The garbage pile is a gold mine, somethings still contain magic, runic magic, but magic.

My bag was an example of it, no matter what I put in it, it could still fit more, no matter size shape, or content the bag was never full. Nor did it weigh anything, which was a plus when you’re out running monsters, and wardens on the isle.

When the sun started to set I took a seat up on one of the highest piles of rubble thumbing through the book I’d just found when I heard it.

Or I should say them.

Both Devils were at the base of the mountain. From my limited contact with the older de Vil, Diego looked exactly as I’d remember him, even if the last time we met wasn’t the best.

After all, I’d nearly died by his hands. I was very close to it actually, even if I had injured him somewhat by the end. If I hadn’t been in so much pain, I might not have asked him why Carlos wanted me dead that he couldn’t just wait to try again. It’s not like I’d asked to be his partner in class, or was lording anything over him. I just wanted to survive long enough to graduate.

Diego had stepped back, from me, he couldn’t talk, I’d known that from Malevolent, but his eyes told me enough. It wasn’t until I’d seen Carlos again that I knew why he left, even if I knew what made him stop.

Diego never did tell his cousin what I’d stupidly revealed that day. I showed my weakness, and my card, but I’d seen his too, since he left me alive.

“Devils, what a surprise.” I call down, hoping for nothing else but to get my hands on actual material to save my ass. Carlos holds up a stack of papers, very much what I’d been hoping he’d bring. Passing my new book into my wrapped hand, I begin my climb down the heap, jumping the last feet to avoid an iron bar. “You came through. Can’t say I was expecting it so soon.” Or for them to come find me, though they did track me down twice before with less information.

Carlos pulls back the papers, clearly not happy with being ditched “You saw the schedule yourself, lessons are set up so you can skip and Edgar would never know, Boy and I came to a lovely agreement he doesn’t trash the contracts as long as I don’t step in his shop unless I’m paying or its review day. And I am literally only asking for concrete writing, not even practical applications here. I had to put up with forty minutes of Edgar in addition to the ten minutes with a giant who’d told me if I bothered him any more he’d eat me when I was four. So, if you want to add to the bargain add, I just want the writings we agreed on.” I look to him exasperated.

Diego stands watching the exchange, neither showing aggression or interest, simply waiting for his cousin. Such is life here on the isle, he might have almost killed me a year ago, but now it was water under the bridge, or it is until either of us bring it up, which isn’t likely in this case.

After a few moments Carlos extended the papers back. It only takes a second for two cassette tapes to be placed on the papers produced from his shorts pocket, something I hadn’t even been hoping for without having to work more for it.

“Concrete.” he says amused. “See you round, Fairy.” he smirked walking away. Diego nodded to me, before following the smaller boy off towards hell hall, Active Work still got an hour after completion to be out, but not even Carlos is willing to push the night security.

Once they’re both out of sight, I place the papers and cassette C120’s into my bag, before I yawn. I had another four hours to hangout before heading home myself. Enough for me to at least manage a form of thanks back for the extra material he’d brought me. Things were looking better than I could have hoped.

While I couldn’t outright lie, even as a half blood, but I had slightly more leeway than someone like my mother. And I was going to use it to my advantage, anyone who says fairies are selfless need their heads examined, fairies are selfless when they have a death wish, and only when they have a death wish.

Walking towards the Iron Mountain, my mind kept going back to the past, in my lone six years of life, the past two weeks have flipped it all on its axis. I thought I’d have at least four more years to prepare for graduation, and finding a way to work with the Devil or around him for it. I also thought I’d never seal away my freedom on a twenty-five percent chance at one of my dreams.

Gambling my life all on the next twelve months to graduate alongside the youngest of them wasn’t even close to how I planned my life going.

Maybe I still was naïve like Malevolent always said.

To be fair, when Prince Ben’s twelfth birthday party aired last month, well. If they still act like there three-year-old’s at twelve, they don’t grow up until well after twenty. Malefactress is better than them.

Ducking under the first iron bars I shiver feeling the iron cloud descend on me as I walked through and over the metal structures making up most of the Iron mountain. About thirteen meters in thick foliage of trees spring up twisting and grow around the metal, the wilds cage. If you don’t burn to death on iron, or die of the poisoning, the wild life out here would kill you.

Alright when I said no one goes to the Iron Mountain or near it, I meant no one but me. It was a thirty-minute hike to the small clearing I’d found two summers ago, when Malefactress was bragging about her claim’s success over their sisters, and about how wonderful she was for building the business all on her own.

Sure, Malefic picked the family business to get Mother’s praise, and to stick it to all the rest of us, we wouldn’t be so lucky.

And while Malevolent had just finished the overhaul, his success would rely on the next class of graduates on the second turn of his curriculum.

When I make it through the thickest part of the mountain and woodland, you wouldn’t expect the bright light clearing filled with critters and fire bugs, nor the flowers and clear water pond.

Life’s magic would always find a way, it was the life’s blood of Fae Lands. Here, surrounded by iron poisoning, and heavy darkness, a small sliver of land thrived.

Dropping my bag and staff, I quickly shimmy out of my clothing, ignoring the small critters, and diving into the pound. I was one of the dew people on the Isle who could swim, no descendants had ever been taught, and most villains didn’t have a clue, surprisingly enough neither did the pirates.

Cecaelia, knew how to swim, when they were still in their natural form, tritons magic, sealed that away, forcing them on to two legs. Many had drowned that year. And many died unable to swim away from the barrier. Their bones stir restlessly at the edge.

I’d taught myself in the flooded dungeons of the old castle belonging to king Stephen, a castle which had been magicked onto the for some unknown reason.

I still wasn’t sure how Auradon made their choices on who kept what. Hell Hall, Ravena’s Castle, Gothel’s Tower, my mother’s first castle and the forbidden fortress (which were bound to be somewhere on the isle), The Queen of heart’s castle (which is the size of a teacup), the Jolly Roger, Ursula’s belongings. It was like whenever they found something that reminded them of us, it got thrown here. Oh, dangers magical artifacts, priceless Fae history books, priceless magic books, ruins of an old world, iron palaces dump them on the isle. There are bound to be many other magical places and memorabilia on the isle and the many smaller islands around it floating thousands of feet above the new world.

This wasn’t an ancient land, or the healing waters of the Moor. But it was Fae Land, born of the Life’s blood of us all, absorbed by the iron palace around it. The burns I gathered on my walk, and the cuts incurred in the palace healed over, leaving behind pale scars. Scars joining the many that are scattered across my body.

I still dream of Fae Lands, even if I’d found my own, but now I dream only of here. When I get my claim, I’ll finally be able to protect my home, more than I already am.

The way out of the Fae Land is easier than coming in. Which had meant climbing through iron and breathing in the cloud of illness. To leave, there is a fast running stream to the outer edge by the harbor can carry me all the way back. It was a tight squeeze, but only a short walk from the pond, it is much better than the burns.

I rolled over floating on my back as I stared at the darkening sky, things could end very badly for me. Very, very badly.

Really, I was dancing with Devils, both I had been fighting with since the moment I met them.

I knew I would have to leave the water soon to go through the papers, but it was the C120’s that had me moving now and swimming to the edge. I smile as the fire lights land on me as I leave the water, their fire licks my skin as I rise, steam coming off my body as they eat away the flaking skin left over the freshly healed wounds.

The fire lights here weren’t normal, they didn’t match the books, or the stories, these bugs were made of a hard membranes that are alight with fire they burned each night, in the darkness alight with so many colors, and by day they’d find their way under water, protected from the daylight.

Shooing the bugs from my arm I collect my discarded clothes and bag heading to the cave where I’d set up a second farm and stored my more sensitive materials. And my treasure.

Yanking out a bottle of sickly sweet oil made from hemlock from my bag, I hesitate before pouring it into a bowl in the center of the table. The bugs wouldn’t die, but they’d get drowsy, and would at least keep them from burning up Carlos’ work.

Bringing out my notebook, I started copying all of his work, studying his speech pattern and stylization of languages and scripts.

It was closer to sunrise by the time I was done, and the straggling firebugs drunk on hemlock were making their way to the pond. Scooping up the stragglers along the way I helped them to the healing water.

The ecosystem depend on each other, the bugs and the water went hand in hand, so I took special care for more than one reason to get them home, they helped me more than anyone in my family ever had.

Watching the bugs all piled into the pond I smile as the lay on the surface a light with all the colors of the spectrum. However when the sun touches down, the magic leaks away leaving a husk of a place, the pond turns to stone, and the grass shrivels up as the other critters hide in the light turning the once beautiful fey land to stone and death.

I’d found out quickly the defense mechanisms of this small fae land, and how by day they slept hiding from the elements and the world when it woke.

I can’t help but feel grateful even with the chance of losing my life to my mother, I now had a better chance of exploring the rest of the land here. I smile before dressing and sliding the papers and my notebook back into my bag.

Time to find a way to swindle my mother and swing a thank you for the Devil I don’t need to say. Mother of mercy how the hell do I make it out of the year alive. To be honest I don’t think I’m going to, but hey if I can fuck with the hierarchy here before I die, then it's at least a win against my family.

Tightening my bag I jump into the stream letting it carry me back to the harbor.

Chapter Text

Home on the Isle of the Lost
The First Days

Part 2:

As the sun continued to ascend into the sky, I took my time going back to the castle.

I’d spent to long awake working on the assignments Carlos brought to even have the energy to deal with my mother now that I was the last child still in her care.

In all honesty I still wasn’t ready to give up the new taste of freedom I’d found. No matter how tempting it is to try and get more.

It was an idea for how I could pay back Carlos and maybe get something else out of the bargain, even if he’d given me enough to pass at the very least the written portion.

Getting more from our deal was ideal considering he was still in a position to screw me over. It would just take changing his written voice or style even a hair to make all the go down the drain.

Without finding a way to secure my grade, or a partnership of equal benefit, there wasn’t anything stopping him from destroying my life. Even if he wasn’t aware of what was on the line.

Pushing open the front passage to the castle I almost freeze at the sight of my mother, only just barely hiding the reaction as I kick the door shut behind me. “Your late.”

Being the smart ass that I am, I pull out the new pass, waving it her direction. “You gave me the right to work on my assignment mother.” I roll my eyes, “It’s not like I was having a good time. I hate tier two and I hate my partner. Do you have any idea how much iron I was around last night while working on this?” Normally my mother would have backhanded me at the very least, but the fact I really did reek of iron she kept far away from me. Thankfully Cruella’s house was known to smell of iron being filled with bear traps and other useless things. How any of the older de Vil’s were alive was beyond me. For now I just had to hope she didn’t ask for where I was or I was or my insinuation would only get me punished.

The disgust on her face was worth the stench from not cleaning my clothes at the harbor. “I can smell it from here. Go clean up and never come home smelling like this again.” Her sneer made me want to grin.

So soon I got to push back on our pact! Banning me from working with Carlos, even if that wasn’t what I had been doing was a direct violation. “And what are you going to do for me in return, or are you trying to ban me from the Devil.” My words halt her as she reaches the doorway towards the throne room.

I know I’m pushing my luck and her anger isn’t surprising as she spins on me. “What do you propose.” her voice promises pain. One we all knew if we stepped wrong we’d be whipped and left bleeding in the flooded dungeon cells.

Fuck, why do I do this. I don’t bend on her gaze as I try to find something to work with, whether it benefits me directly, or indirectly from Carlos, I’d take it. “If I can’t work around Hell Hall and the iron there to keep from bring the scent back here, then you need to find away for me to work with my Carlos elsewhere. A way Cruella can’t stop.”

It’s like a switch is flipped and her anger is suddenly amusement, a grin on her face, a plot on her mind. Some of the fae trapped here that I’d spoken to, claimed she never was quick to emotions. But after six years of watching them flicker in her snapping from one to the next, I question the intelligence more and more of The Fairy Godmother and Wizard Merlin. Especially since fae can’t lie.

And Maleficent’s emotional range was nowhere near stable. “Oh, that I can do. It’s a bonus if it angers the old coat chasing, puppy skipping idiot, makes me like it even more.”

I can almost feel safe that I was getting something I could use, but I can’t bring myself to relax until I’ve heard the words from her own lips. “Really and what's the solution? I doubt she’s going to enter a pact. Her distaste for Fae is as known as the Iron she keeps around.”

The old dragon’s grin by the door was all the warning I need to know it wasn’t going to be free. “Oh, she won’t; but you and I can. The only thing you have to do is fetch me some things from the woods, and in turn I’ll give you a pass for the idiot boy. One that will give him a whole year of free passage.”

I can’t help but want to accept with no questions, while keeping Carlos where I could find him was nice, it benefited me more to have him free, since if others can’t locate him easily, no one can report if I am or am not working with him. “What do you need?”

“Simple things my dear, simple things. Hemlock, henbane, opium poppy, lathyrus linifolius, ergot fungus, and juniper berry seeds to stock the apothecary.” Some I already knew I had, some were certainly harder to get. At the very least they all grew on the main island and I wouldn’t have to venture further.

I nod my acceptance of the proposal, reaching into my bag to snag a knife, one which I’d gotten from Carlos after he left it behind after a more violent altercation between the two of us at school. Not wanting to waste my time, or sit through a full ceremony I gently place the blade in my off hand, “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather get this done before I’m stuck smelling like this a second time.” I watch as she waves her hand for me to proceed. It takes only a second for me to slice into my palm encasing the blade before I quickly pass it on to mother.

I snort as she takes the blade from me, due to the care she uses not to touch me, and the iron stench I carry. Clearing my throat, I start, “I, Maleficent Emory le Fey, will retrieve hemlock, henbane, opium poppy, lathyrus linifolius, ergot fungus, and juniper berry seeds, one vial of each. In return for a one-year pass of free passage for Carlos de Vil that will be given to me to redeem with Madame Medusa and pass on the proper party to file accordingly.”

I felt her gaze as I left my hand extended, blood dripping. I watch as she weighs the words before slicing her own palm and encasing mine so the blood lines cross. “Upon delivery of hemlock, henbane, opium poppy, lathyrus linifolius, ergot fungus, and juniper berry seeds, one vial of each. I Maleficent Alice le Fey will write a one year pass of free passage for Carlos de Vil which will be redeemable by Maleficent Emory le Fey from Madame Medusa, after which she will pass it on the the proper party to file.”

“May the deal be binding by blood,” The acceptance of the bond brings the faint traces of magic I’d felt hours earlier in the clearing back to my mind. “ and may the blood run until the trade is complete.” Which is unfortunate as I didn’t like leaving my wounds exposed when gathering herbs, especially when several of them are poisons.

Relinquishing her grip on my hand, she passes my blade back once more before returning to the path I’d stopped her from earlier. “Don’t take to long, you only have two hours before class.” Was her sole advice as she continued away letting the doors swing shut between the two of us.

I don’t bother saying anything as I head for my tower, and my stash of herbs. It takes a moment for me to start scaling the walls, my bleeding palm slowing me down.

I want to continue up to my locked workroom, but the stench of iron holds me back, instead opting to duck into my bedroom to change.

I tug on the black leather pants that Malefactress gave me for one of her recital earlier in the year and a red tank top from one of the barges that managed to stay in tact. I wouldn't have my coat until I washed the smell off, but small prices to pay. I only had trade school lectures something I doubt the Devil would show up for, not when I knew it was Diego’s day off.

Picking up my bag once more I continue up the tower to drop my loot with the stored blueprints. Once I’m sure it's all secure, I swing my bag throw the small passage until I hear it drop before I too pass into the room I made into a small farm. One that I grew my food in and my potion ingredients I could get away with. I still had ergot fungus left over from the surplus I gathered previously on the shelves as well as opium poppy that was surprisingly one of the easier plants to keep alive in the small room.

Hemlock, and lathyrus linifolius were covered as well, both grew nearly everywhere on the isle. It was unfortunate for those who picked them without looking into what they were ingesting. It caused lots of miscarriages, premature labor, and death.

Remembering the last two items I need I can’t help feeling defeated. Juniper berry seeds and henbane. Both of which grew on the far side of the isle near Hell Hall. So, unless I was planning a trek out to a farther isle on the other side of mount Vera, I’d have no choice but to go into Devil infested woods.

Well there went my plan to not bring my jacket.

Stashing what I’d come for in my bag, I head back out locking everything behind me, before grabbing my jacket again. Pulling it on to cover my arms, I shoulder my bag once more heading back down to the main portion of bargain castle.

As I descend the wall, taking care again to keep from dragging the bleeding cut on my hand, I spot Bootsy.

Bootsy is one of the few goblins whom I had helped out a number of times in the past. The fact he was waiting with what appeared to be several loose vials in hand as he shifted back and forth meant mother started talking to herself again reminding herself of the pact, or he was looking to pay me back for patching up Guppie.

Reaching the edge closest to the hall I shove from the crumbling tower to land next to the smaller goblin making him jump. The large smile his face caught seeing me made me feel better about not being able to do more for them. They were treated nearly as bad as I was, or less so now that we had more slaves in the castle.

“Lady Mal!” The broken tongue of fae almost made me cringe, I knew Goblin, but they still insisted speaking the native tongue of their masters was the right thing for them to do. “Gift, gift!” He nodded popping forward, the vials outstretched.

Taking them gingerly, I nod, “I’ll receive it freely.” I pat his hand looking at whatever he’s brought, of the seven vials four were hemlock and one henbane, with the final two being nightshade. I should be concerned a goblin just handed me seven vials of deadly poisons, but at the same time I am not surprised. He did this last year after I got partnered with the Devil the second time.

I guess I’d simply have to hope for juniper berry seeds to be easily accessible so I wouldn’t have to fight my way out. “You’ve done well, Bootsy.” placing the vials away, I remove the small jar of honey I snatched yesterday that I was going to snack on while I tried to stay awake in Edgar’s lessons, extending it to him. “Payment?”

Bootsy just smiles and shakes his head before turning and heading back to the kitchen. All of the goblins rarely took my payments, not when I kept helping him when them when they needed their own medications. Sighing I put the honey back in my bag.

Checking the time, I stretch. 4:59 AM only an hour until I’d have to be at class.

Moving through the halls I swing myself from an open window dropping in front of the front door. Glancing for foot traffic, I make a quick run for the closest awning and hauling myself up to the rooftops running along to where I knew I’d find juniper berry seeds and hopefully no Devils.

It wasn’t until I capped the last vial that I felt it, the innate sense of self-preservation alerted me to the onlookers, I cursed myself to this. I’d much prefer to keep my distance from them when I could, especially the one who unknowingly held my life in his hands. “You trying to die?”

I glance up despite myself, I’d gotten careless and now I was being stocked lock prey, “I see your not getting ready for class, Devil.” Both boys looked very unimpressed, “Hey I went through the effort to make it so that you can skip, I’m not surprised, just stating a fact. But I should say, that Edgar does attendance at the very start, you miss it, you’ll be reported to the security, you at least make roll call, no one will give a shit.” I shrug my shoulders hoping he takes the offer, I was going to let him figure it out on his own.

I watch as Diego shifts looking to his cousin, tilting his head. I was beginning to like seeing the older de Vil. He, I had yet to figure out, like I have his cousin. Though I’ve only really been around him a handful of times prior to yesterday. “Whatever you say Fairy, stop bleeding in the woods.” he finally turns, heading off the way they came. Diego at least nods to me before following.

I can’t help but laugh once I’m sure they are gone. Of course, it's the goddamn blood from the pact that led them to me.

Rising I push the three vials filled with the seeds I’d collected into my bag. Today was going swimmingly, I was almost killed like some animal of prey after leading the hunters to me like an idiot, and had less than half an hour until I had to be at my very first trade lecture.

Though, apparently Carlos is interested in completing our pact, or is at least looking for a way to exploit me for graduation. Which is a thing I guess.

My mind is so cluttered with thoughts after seeing them that I don’t actually pay attention the entire way home, nor as my mother takes the stock she requested from me. I wasn’t even process most of what was happening or the perplexed look on her face as I handed all that was promised with very little fuss.

Unce I felt the papers settling in my hand I snapped fully back to the present finally realizing where I was, “I’ll have Malefic give you the vials when she stocks the bins at the apothecary. You can go.” Nodding I quickly leave, trying to ignore the flush on my own cheeks for having been caught zoning out by my own mother. I’m sure I looked even more like the idiot than she already sees me as.

When I reach my destination to get what I’d earned, I steel myself before entering into Medusa’s office for the second time in the span of two days.

Medusa looks pissed, but I don’t bother waiting for her tirade before shoving the papers her way. But by the joyous cackle that she lets out while she fills out the paperwork with no haggering from me, makes me roll my eyes.

She was a special one, who mother once told me had a grudge against Cruella for something or other in their shared childhood. Honestly, I highly doubt Cruella remembered it, let alone Medusa herself.

I continued watching as she dotted every i and crossed every t before shoving me on my way. She even did it in half the time it took her the last time. Which really should annoy me, but the lack of sleep was starting to get to me.

Making it to trade school, I nod to Edgar as he steps up to begin role call for the day. It takes me a second to spot the white hair I was hoping for after running into him this morning. Predictably, he’s near the back exit.

Crossing the way to his spot I drop down muttering a quiet greeting before raising my hand when Edgar makes it to my names. “Well, I still have to do the fashion assignments; I don’t suppose you’ll cough up your measurements.”

The boy doesn’t respond, instead opting to continue drawing on the paper he’d had out when I arrived. Though as soon as Edgar completed roll and turned his back Carlos was up and vanishing from the room, the paper and my bag with him, forcing me to follow. Luckily, he didn’t choose to go far ducking into an Alley a short ways away, nor does he seem interested in rummaging through the bag, he instead traps it behind him from my reach. “Why?”

I almost feel the need to make him clarify, but that was more likely going to ruin whatever civil situation we had going on. I was also half tempted to look around the alleyway we were in for Diego, knowing he was here somewhere. Taking a guess at what evers bothering him, I choose to clarify this morning. “Juniper berry seeds, and as for the bleeding, it was an open fae contract.” I show my bandaged hand, “Clearly done.”

He studies me for a moment, and it makes me want to squirm in the silence, though I’d gotten much more use to letting it be from years prior in the locked study room. Finally, he nods moving to grab my bag from where he was holding it, both it and a scrap piece of paper are held for me to take. I want to ask, but I don’t. “Stay out of our woods.”

I can’t stop the words before they come, “You offering to do the work for me?” nor the smirk that grows on my lips, it's a second of thumbing for the papers in my pocket for me to choose to toss them his way, fuck waiting for another bargain this was going to be more fun. “See you around Devils.” I slide past Diego as he comes down the alley heading to the dry well in the shadow of Mount Vera.

When I arrive I can’t stop the feeling of winning when I see the measurements I wanted are written on the paper, despite everything.

The caricature of Edgar and his crooked nose was like finding a jar of strawberry jam, something I don’t need but enjoy none the less. Who knew Devil could draw more than schematics and fashion assignments.

It takes several days, and more attempts than I’d like to admit to, to build styles of all the era’s in color patterns that match the samples Carlos handed over. And even worse none of them fully mesh with his, there is something in the designs I simply can’t get. Most obvious is the Charmington style.

It wasn’t until our next supervised study session that I saw him again. Though the fact he was waiting outside the room instead of in it was different, but I choose to ignore it for the moment as Madam Mim ushers us in before slamming the door and locking it.

It’s a four seconds breath later that I’m pinned to a wall, a familiar blade at my throat. I thankfully had enough time to get my staff in between the two of us, it was the only thing forcing him back from killing me at this point, I was glad that I felt the hard metal wedge between us, my safety net. “See, I go through the trouble to get you off the hook, and you decide to kill me. What a nice thank you.” I snark shifting forward slightly pressing the blade just that much closer, but it was worth it as I finally find the leverage to get one of my feet on the wall, using what I have I force the other knee up, shoving him back and away into the table.

The fact he flips to being on the table, and still at an advantage irritates the hell out of me.

The rasp in his voice never fails to draw my attention, never. “And why would you do that?” The blade from his hand is whipped snagging the left side of my unzipped coat, pinning it to the wall and forcing me to either rip it, or stay put. Both I’d rather not do but would depending on what he did next. I can’t put my guard down even if his main blade is with me because two others have already replaced it in his hand by the time I’ve made the choice to stay put.

I almost want to smack him instead of maim, “Gee, why two C120’s? Honestly, you were a convenient excuse to why I came home smelling of iron. Mother didn’t like it, and she doesn’t like Cruella, so if you have a problem it was her idea to give you the year pass. You got a problem take it up with her.”

Moving my left hand I yank the dagger from the wall, “Now unless you’ve decided our bargain is at a close, put away the goddamn weapons and take a nap or something.” I snap throwing it back to him not watching to see if he catches the stupid thing, opting instead to pick up my things where I dropped them when Mim locked the door.

I always remind myself that ignoring Carlos was bad, but it was getting harder and harder for me to care because despite only a week of my twelve month plan for survival, I wouldn't mind if he killed me, I’d go out at least I know my mother won't be winning. Sitting down in a chair I start yanking out my braid, which got snagged on the wall when I he attached. I card my fingers through the brown locks before braiding it back from my face once again.

It took at him thirteen minutes to get off the table and pretend he didn’t just try to kill me. What a guy.

I don’t try and hide what I’m working on, or the sketches he’d given me to work with as I felt him studying the Charmington style gentleman suit I still couldn’t just be done with..

His voice makes me jump, “Wrong style, I crossed a couple century artisan styles for the neckline. Third and fifth periods to be exact.” I wanted to smack myself for missing it now that he pointed it out. It was very obvious once I knew what to look for.

“Fucking figures the fashion mongrels son has better taste.” I gumble pulling the paper out as a guide and reworking the style of the suit. “Any other tips Devil?” I comment as I fix the error and complete the draft.

“Depends. How many other outfits have you butchered?”

Surprisingly, he didn’t seem to mind pointing out where my styles failed to mesh fully, despite the fact they at least looked better than the suit of Tremaines old residence prior to his help.

After several points and a few quick notes for me to sketch out later, I felt better about my grade in fashion than I could have previously any of the years.

“Well fuck me, I think I learned more about fashion in the last forty-eight minutes than Malefactress impacted on me in the last six miserable years of my existence. And I finally know that while my style is garbage, I might as well start her fucking closet on fire.” Leaning back I shove the art book away from the edge of the table where I’d been sketching. “Still never going to be my area of work, fairly certain Ravenna’s brat would laugh at this shit. And she’s seen Malevolent’s travesties.”

I wasn’t really talking for answers, more so because I can, and we still have seventy odd minutes to go. “You aren’t awful at it, I just like making the teachers skirm.” Carlos’ voice still sounded like shit, but it was a record for how much I could get him to talk in the span of a week. Generally, it took an actual altercation much larger than what I came into to today to make him talk. Which might be why I felt myself beginning tense as we sat together.

Something wasn’t right.

Ignoring the feeling the best I can, I don’t try to stop the snort from his comment, nor do I hide the smile hoping to cover the unease. “Good to know. Can’t say I haven’t done that on more than a few of the dance and music pieces. But I’ve always been in the opinion that tier two was a joke for partnering assignments there are much better things they could have tried to partner people up for. This shit is basically their way of seeing if the can break villain potential before graduation.”

The boy nods, but something in his look has me shifting uncomfortably, the unease begins to spread into my bones, “Anyways, depending on testing I can probably match you work as long as you aren’t planning anything more to throw me off or changing the writing assignments. And if as we can pull a 50% they can’t keep us.”

“True.” Not confirming that he was going to help my graduate or damning that he wasn’t. At least it was something, even if it wasn’t much. “Why juniper berry seeds?”

I almost want to shut down the conversation, but the Devils have never used the apothecary. And if medicine was what he was after, it would explain why he tried to help me this much, despite how the morning started. “They are for the apothecary. Even if Malefic has taken over the place, she still needs to stalk the potions my mother needs as a midwife, and juniper berry seeds are used in several potions including one that can induce labor.” I move grabbing the drawings setting the in my bag pulling out my notebook filled with isle research. “Anything else?”

“Hemlock.” I had meant to be sarcastic, even still hemlock was one I grabbed regularly, and I know I grabbed a few of them by Hell Hall this morning, though I hadn’t been aware he’d seen the vial.

Setting my pen down on the notebook I looked towards my nemesis, I give up on trying to hiding my rigid spine, I simply wasn’t a good enough actor yet to manage it, not with how this has turned.

Carlos isn’t looking at me, opting to face towards the window. Picking my words carefully I try my best to gage his reaction, “Hemlock is a poison that has a few different uses. One it can be used alone, or in a mix with a several other ingredients to make a powerful painkiller. If someone was to eat straight hemlock in a large enough quantity they’d die.”

I can’t stop myself from studying him closer. The wary expression I find, and clear lack of sleep hit me in the face. How I missed them before now, especially after I felt something was off, I had no had a clue.

“How sick is he?” my voice surprises me, it’s the softest I’ve ever heard myself. The rigidness of my spine is now for an entirely different reasoning. One I try very hard to ignore.

This was not something I knew how to handle, Carlos though has forced himself to be helpful today just for it, and the fact he is looking for medicine when the two already made their own meant this wasn’t a common illness. And that was a terrifying concept, because every time before that an unknown illness pops up, our population takes a hit.

Carlos for the most part doesn’t look to upset that I’ve figured him out when he finally faces me, the lack of sleep and greeting likely had a lot to do with it. “That obvious.” I nod even though I know I don’t need to, he shrugs, “It’s not good. Right now, I’m completely in the dark on how to fix this one.” Today I think, marks the record for how much he’s ever spoken in a day to someone who’s not related to him. And I wish it was for a different reason, even if it was the two of us fighting.

Glancing out the window for the time I yank open my notebook to the next blank page. “What are his symptoms, and don’t even give me that look. I don’t have a problem with him, that's Malevolent.” I snap before he can retort, he can act his age another time, I needed my nemesis now.

It was true that while I didn’t have a problem with Diego, but him dying would be better for my mother and siblings control over the isle with him gone. After all, the two were undisputed the best hunters and fighters the Isle has raised, and they gave the teachers a run for their money nearly from the get go thanks to Clayton.

Sometimes my lack of self-preservation astounds me as I gently nudge the agitated boy. Finally I was given something, “It didn’t settle in until the day after we last spoke. The fever came first.” Carlos spoke softly, his eyes weren’t really in the room with me as he continued giving the account of Diego’s health and illness.

As Carlos talks I’ve already decided I’d do everything I can to save Diego, because if he died, likely I would as well.

And dammit all to hell, he spared me once. Maybe this is my payment back for the debt I felt I owed. And that thought hurts, not only do I have to do this cause I’m selfish, but because I actually owe the guy. Fuck.

Carlos is silent after a while watching me as I process all of it.

Tapping my pen, I still. Knowing I had everything to lose, and nothing to gain from his death. “I have read on this, mothers even treated it a number of times, even a few cases on the Isle from her notes. In most cases those affected came into contact with a cursed relic of old or someone who has, if you haven’t caught it from near constant exposure it’s likely only affecting those in direct contact. If he’s had it for six days now he’s got another six to eight more from what I’ve read.”

His eyes are hard as the meet mine, “The counter.” I almost regretted my decision, Carlos had a habit of being rash, though it had yet to work against him. Usually they both had very good luck, this is the first time I’ve seen them without it on their side.

With a sigh, I scribble out all the ingredients names as well as a painkiller potion receipt on the empty page across from my current quote. Ripping it out I hold it away from him. “I am only explaining this once, so pay attention or you could kill him.”

Typically, I wouldn’t have written down any of this, one it being family secrets, and two, idiots could kill themselves with this list. If it was anyone else I wouldn’t even bother, but I have faith, and figured he wouldn’t actually listen if I didn’t, and he wasn’t a moron and passed chemistry just fine.

The biggest reason though was the fact this curative potion wasn’t in our reach and there was another relic found meant very bad things in the future for me, especially if he died.

Though the whole incident solidified what I’d come to believe about the eldest de Vil not being human. Though to be fair I had a hunch neither of them were actually human.

It was true that while the populace on the Isle was mostly non-magically inclined individuals, followed up by the ceceilia, witches, and godlings and ending with the descendants of fae being few and far between, most would be surprised they aren’t human.

What guaranteed he wasn’t human was what was killing him.

Curses like Diego’s would only affect Fae and Fae kind, and the cases I’d mentioned that my mother had to treat were that of my siblings prior to my birth, after nearly losing them to it she decided to have me, her back up plan.

It was why we had such a big age gap when the three of them were all within a year or two of each other.

Placing the paper between the two of us, I start by going over the main herbs for the painkiller, not that I wouldn’t bring what I had already stored up until I found a cure that would hopefully work, “Hemlock, henbane, and opium poppy in any measurement stronger than this will kill a person, but if you follow the instructions and measurements of all the ingredients in this one even the non lethal, it should knock down the fever and relieve some of the pain and stress on his body.” I stress the importance that everything matches despite the fact I no longer actually measure the ingredients now that I can see if the potions are correct or not by how they turn out.

Knowing the next part was going to be hard for both of us to swallow, me having to admit this was yet another impossible task I’d set myself up for, I begin again, “As for the cure my mother used in the past it isn’t obtainable in the barrier. The main ingredients don’t grow anywhere inside, and we don’t have any left in fae possession. The substitutes we use in the potions that call from them wont be strong enough without being lethal for it to work in this case.” I move to point to the three that simply weren’t found anywhere on all the Isle and its surrounding isles, choosing to ignore the others on the list for now.

Carlos looked like he'd lost faith in that moment, and while I’d like to believe I was doing this for me, and my right to live, I couldn’t convince myself it wasn’t for the two people I envied the most, that I didn’t wish my siblings and I could have a bond like theirs. Malevolent was as close as I got, but he saw raising me as a duty to my mother, not for me.

My sin to bare I suppose. I take a moment to scribble the usual locations of most of the items beside their names I’d written down earlier along with making quick sketches of them as well before continuing with what he needed to understand. “Since I’ll need to look for alternatives, we haven’t explored yet, or find a way to blasted a hole in the barrier to get off the Isle and back, I won't have time to find the others. Most are common by Hell Hall and the woods back your way. Sage though you need to get from the base of Mount Vera, the roots are important due to the volcanic soil it grows in in that area. You will gather them, and you will distribute the pain medication as I listed while I work on these three.”

He ignores the direct order, “You wont know if the alternatives work, will you?” The dead rasp of his voice was very different from how he sounded earlier.

And despite wanting to do a good thing and give him some security, I couldn’t lie, so I don’t. “No.”

“And the odds of finding them off the isle.”

“Much higher, you already know I use Hook’s spyglass near the west edge to study the lands below. There’s an isle not to far to the northwest that should have what I need. Finding something to poke even a minute hole in the barrier is where my first problem is.” I rub my face, “The second would be the time to get the ingredients, while they should grow close to the shore, swimming to them, and then back while also figuring out if my magic will be stable enough to get me back up here should only take a day. But that is a very big issue.”

“How is a day an issue.” The growl is expected, though I’d hoped he’d already have figured out what I’d discovered years ago. “Unless you’ve miss written your little piece of paper, brewing takes three hours tops, or your estimate on how much time he has is a lie.”

“Fae.” I point out, ignoring the fact I still twisted the truth to what I needed most days, I could not outright lie. “Carlos, you have noticed the clocks and tv’s are showing the exact same inspirational quote of the day as the last six.”

The look on his face makes me want to hit my head on the table as he doesn’t seem to get it. At least he looks less like he’s about to attack me, so I figure it might as well throw him a bone on this one. And for once my obsession with collecting newspapers from Auradon to pull current events to keep mother busy is going to come in handy.

Yanking out a paper that was by all means several years old I toss it to him. “That is the paper following Prince Ben’s twelfth birthday, it aired on TV when we were three.”

“So, fucking what.” The small progress on not becoming a pincushion in the future was disappearing.

Rolling my eyes despite it all, I lean towards him slightly. “You’ve been stuck in classes with me for two years, and locked in this tiny four by four room with me for a good portion of them. And you’re telling me you haven’t noticed what I always do with newspapers?”

I watch him as he furrows his brow before grabbing the paper to look at it. “Okay, you’ve proven your point three years old.”

“Three Isle years.” I correct placing my notebook over the newspaper, “But according to every TV on the isle and every newspaper and decree sent since, that was 141 days ago. The quote and dates from the TV changed every eight days. The barges that the King always said would come every week came every fifty-sixth days, always the day after the papers are printed. If I leave the Isle even for a day, eight days will go by here.”

The wide eyes from Carlos as he flips through pages and pages of the data I’d collected since I noticed the occurrence during my first year in school when I’d first seen the inspiration TV segments in person for longer than a second. “The chance of making the cure in time will be very close, and that's only if Diego can hang on long enough, and to hang on you’d have to cut back on the pain meds so he can fight to stay. It would be insanely painful for him. It’s up to you now, you can either make sure he’s comfortable until the end with keeping him on constant pain killers or you can try to keep him alive until I find a cure.” I vote firmly on the latter, but I don’t voice it as I wait.

Carlos drops the notebook before running a hand through his hair, “You’re sure on this. They can’t just be fucking with us.”

If only, “Look Devil, if I’m wrong and they are just fucking with us. It would mean that getting the cure for Diego isn’t close to impossible outside the Isle. I just find it very hard to believe that they are fucking with us with all the fucking instances adding up. Think of it this way goblins wouldn’t be affected by the transition in the barrier for time being immune to most magics, but the fact our food is already rotting by at least a day or stale for two after coming through, food from people who are known for being “good” isn’t looking to great on me being wrong on this one.”

I grab my notebook back placing it and my pen back in my bag where they belong. “Like I said, I can try exploring alternatives to try, but they do take time to brew as I can’t make plants from thin air, even regular fae can’t do that with magic. But they will be something, and while they won’t be an instant cure, or guaranteed, I can at least give it my best to work at trying to save him.” I leave the paper with the ingredients and pain potion between us.

I can feel the silence weighing, Carlos could either snap and kill me, or he could take the chance I could try and save Diego or at least make his last few days less painful than what he’s described the last ones being.

“The barrier.” he nods to the outside, specifically to the west. Of course the little beast would prefer that method, less chance, but only if we can open it.

“If I can get a hole in it, I should be able to use the stabilizer gun to hold it open and slip out.” Seeing the confusion I don’t mind sharing further. “It’s something I based off of the generators you built in the basement of hell hall for the scheming final last year.” It was very loosely built on the generator, and did not do all that I’d hoped it could. But hey hook it up to a Radio or TV from Auradon and you could sometimes get the dial to let you turn the idiot thing off. It was a blessed day when I got all of them to turn off in Town Square, I don’t think anyone complained that day for fear they’d come back, which by midnight they did.

Carlos folds the paper I’ve left for him before standing to face the door allowing me to see him head on. “I want a deal Fairy. I get you out of the barrier and you bring back and brew the cure for Diego.” Some days I wished we were on the same side, and others I simply wished to know what the hell went through his head. Chances are I’d never know, but damn do I wish I could.

I sigh, knowing my next words were going to make me hate myself, “If I save him Devil, you’ll owe me a favor of my choice that I can use when I want.” No matter how much I didn’t want to make the deal, I also know that when dealing with Devils, and fae like my mother, I should always have an escape route. And I was going to be using a lot of my luck, and likely throwing away another favor I had planned to use later for this.

“Fine. Is it a deal?” his hand was extended to me, a verbal deal with fae wasn’t as strong, but I’ve known him well enough to know he keeps his word when it comes to any deals he makes. With little fanfare, and none of the after affects of my normal deals I shake his hand.

I don’t let him withdraw his hand, choosing to hold it showing the soft side of my wrist when I twist it to keep him from pulling away, “Before we leave, I need you to think hard, do you have any ideas what could have infected him. If he still has it, the cure could be for nothing if he just gets sick again.”

He doesn’t yank back his hand and thankfully doesn’t go to cutting mine off either, I watch as he tries to recall, his silver eyes finally look less haunted, “We were scrap hunting the morning before we found you in the woods. He found something that he wanted to throw in Mount Vera, something we typically do with items that feel wrong. He went up while I waited for roll, never let me touch it. When you left he was coming back from destroying it. But we come across relics like it all the time, ones we just destroy.”

I almost want to scream, they’re both sensitive to magic, and have been destroying things that I’d love to get my hands on, though, thankfully not this one. “I’m going to ignore the fact you just admitted to destroying any objects you’ve found with runic magic, since you’ve gone through the trouble of destroying something that could kill those whom touch it. But for the record if it feels wrong you shouldn’t touch it in the future.” I release his hand. “It’s rule one of handling any magical artifact. Though I have to ask, what did you feel when you took my bag the other day.”

Carlos drops his hand with a shrug, “What ever residual magic that was still with you from your pact, Diego’s felt it many times when he was partnered with Malevolent.”

I nod, “Yeah no, not what you felt, that would only occur when a fae ritual ceremony is used, my bag contains runic magic.” I tell him before moving and placing my entire four foot staf inside making it vanish, “When you destroy the things that feel wrong, you destroy tools of magic, while some are bad, others are very helpful.” I tell him removing the staff again.

It’s the clicking of Mim’s heels makes me turn towards the door, despite the fact I just revealed that my bag was much more useful than carrying small objects, and the fact it means showing him my back. I have to trust that he won’t attack when I can help him.

It’s several heart beats before he talks bringing me back to my plan for finding alternatives, “When I was making the generator, I was trying to build a device to get rid of the barrier. It’s only worked once before blowing a main circuit, but it opened a hole for half a second. I’ve got what I need to repair it, if you can get me the stabilizer I’ll see what I can do, while you get whatever tools I need to brew this shit.” I’m so tempted to look at him to see his face, that was exactly what I’d been aiming for myself back when I made the stabilizer gun. Even if all’s it turned out to be good for was disrupting the magical essence and electricity to the electronic devices here.

“Of fucking course, if we actually got along we’d have broken out of this shit when we were four.” I grumble, fuck the Devil who can’t seem to stop surprising me lately. When Mim flings open the door, I shrug my bag higher on my shoulder leading with my staff.

“Glad to see you both taking this seriously.” Madam Mim cackled swirling away. Something told me if she knew the that so far, the most work we’ve done together was in bargains and deals, not the teachers getting through to us, she’d be less than pleased.

Carlos hums when we’re out of reach, “Odd isn’t it that two enemies could have made a formidable team.” The sentiment isn’t lost on me, after all I’d thought of it enough.

“Yeah, odd. I’ll bring the tools and stabilizer to you little tree house since I’m assuming that is why you’ve got the device and your cousin hidden right now. I do have something I need to take care of first.” I don’t wait heading away.

I don’t hear him as he leaves, but I don’t particularly care that he’s gone as I continue to my brothers office.

Flinging the door open, I notice my brother’s panicked eyes, “Little sister, what can I help you with. Cause if this is about the pacts and the--” Malevolent’s words are rushed, like he needs to say it before I smite him. Which would be nice some days, but right now I needed him alive.

As the door swings closed I cut him off. “Sure, something like that. I need to call in that favor you owe me for potioneering.” Honestly I’ve been known to hold on to my favors until I find something of importance, really he’s likely to think this is desperation from the surprised look on his face. “Carlos and I need unsupervised time from school to work on the project. Get us excused for a fortnight.”

“Mal, you can’t just--” Malevolent tries before I cut him off.

“Don’t say can’t brother. You owe me.”

There is resignation in his eyes as he fills out the documents, “This is for the rest of today as well isn’t it. What did you two get up to in supervised study that you need fourteen days in unsupervised?”

I don’t answer the question as I take the papers that would get us free pass outside of school, Malevolent would have to file the ones for today and the future days if the teachers got to picky on it. “I’ll see you in a fortnight.” before leaving, I had an appointment with a Devil to make.

It is nearly an hour from leaving school, that I make it to the woods just behind Hell Hall. I’ve come armed with the papers from my brother, a small chemistry set, three vials of completed pain killer, my staff, and the stabilizer all stashed into my bag.

Looking to the treetops, I begin to ascend to the one place on the Isle I’ve never been inside.

“It’s open.” Carlos’s voice from the otherside almost makes me drop from my spot as my hand sat just from reach of the trap door, I thankfully don’t as I continue placing it on the surface before pushing it up and open so that I can crawl the rest of the way inside.

It’s at least fourteen degrees warmer in the small box house. I can spot them both, one Devil laying prone, shivering in bed while the other watched over him. He was fiddling away with what was likely the device he’d mentioned. There was a large amount of burned wires and chips were discarded by his feet as he pulled more parts from the tray on his lap and soldered them to their proper places. One eye on his work, the other his cousin.

Setting the door closed I move in a foot, whispering despite the fact he hadn't, “Where do you want me to set up the chemistry set?”

Diego’s eyes snap open at my voice, something that shouldn’t be possible with how ill he was, but the instinct to protect himself out weight the self preservation his body was attempting to fight the curse. His eyes though weren’t on me they weren’t seeing more of trying to see. Hallucinations were common in these curses, but so was blindness from the grimoire notes.

Since opening his eyes, Carlos’s hand was the only thing keeping me from becoming a head shorter, the other boys short blade easily removed from this hand. He’d likely still had more on him, the two were armed to the teeth, “The desk in the backs fine.”

Nodding I pull everything from my bag, setting the vials out as well before grabbing the small metal tin containing my funnel and measuring spoons that I’d boiled and cleaned prior to leaving bargain castle.

Leaving most of it on the desk, I keep the funnel and tablespoon alongside one of the pain medications I’d mixed up with a standard magical counter to help combat the illness before approaching to the left of my nemesis, “Take this, I want you to give this ever three hours for a full tablespoon I’ve got a chart for how much you should give him until I get back”

I hand him the funnel first, “Really?” his disgust at the piece of plastic would have made me leave without giving him any of the medications if it wasn’t for the deal we struck.

“Just shut up. Trust me, while most of the ingredients in the base potion are pleasant tasting, the the additives to combat the curse while I’m gone, are not even close. I brought the raw stock you’ll need to add after you brew the painkiller to help him.” I pass him the measuring spoon and vial. “There are labels on the sides of the vials, try to not get them confused.”

I can tell he still would rather not use the funnel, but he offers me a nod anyway before moving closer to the older boy, I force myself not to listen to whatever his whispering to him, but the whine I pick up from the eldest makes me freeze, Diego de Vil has never talked, let alone made a sound, but that apparently didn’t mean he couldn’t.

The curiosity I felt, and the burning need to know if I‘m right on what he was almost has me turning around to find out the truth. Even still I force myself away, shutting down my thoughts on the manner..

Preoccupying myself, I start setting up the small burners, ring stands, and beakers of the chemistry set I swiped from Yen Sid. It doesn’t take me long to start the basic portion of the potion adding in what I could. And while I had lots of hemlock, and opium poppy on hand, they couldn’t be added without the henbane, unless I was to alter the receipt, about the only one I’d need Carlos to retrieve.

“Have you ever picked henbane?” I glance over seeing him nod once more in the chair beside the makeshift bed, medicine sitting within reach, as was the funnel and spoon, the confirmation made me feel a bit better, “That’s the only one I didn’t have on hand to bring. You can buy some from the apothecary if necessary. But I’m going to advise against it. For now try and stay out of sight, My brothers given us a fortnight of unsurprives study for tier two, it will give us enough time to hopeful have Diego back on his feet, before returning to the dumbest classes to date.”

Without much acknowledgement from him, I choose to take my leave. “I’ve got to step out and speak with Boy, you will stay here and figure out how to make something to break through the barrier” I almost expect him to fight back against the clear order I gave him, but the numb nod is all I get. A week ago I’d have been happy to see it, now with my life in the balance, and the small progress the two of us having made made it sour.

Slinging my bag on my shoulder, I heave up the door, letting it fall shut as I drop the ten feet rolling to my feet.

By the time I reached the market Butcherboy wasn’t surprised to see me, and for once didn’t seem to hate my presence as he waves me in towards his office. “Malevolent sent note, you and de Vil’s do not get along. Why does brother thinks you suddenly do after week.” He grumbles in his broken english. “Where are my workers, Maleficent?”

Closing the windows and door I flick the lock in place, before sitting across from him. “I’ll tell you for a deal, Butcherboy.”

The giant’s brow rises at my proper use of his name. “What have you gotten fingers into now?”

“A deal.”

The giant sighs aggressively scrubbing his face. “Name your price.”

“In exchange for the return of both Carlos and Diego de Vil in a fortnight, I require your assistance in keeping certain information silent.” I fold my hands over my left knee as he studies me.

The giant looks less than pleased, “And why do you need, let alone want two people you’d rather see dead, helping you.”

“The deal.” As much as I hate them, boy, and as much as I hate you. I can not tell you until you make the deal. I think softly.

“Fine in exchange for the return of my workers, Carlos and Diego de Vil, I will keep quiet about what you say here and now.” His voice booms in the room around us, as he gets annoyed at my insistence and the situation.

I can’t help that I still want to tease the giant over it, despite the serious nature of my business. “Told you, you’d get attached to them both.” The giant looks less than pleased as I raise my hands. “May the deal be sealed.” I extend one for him to shake, my palm is already red from where I’d sliced it on my way here, something people often attribute to my family and our pacts. The giant grumbling cutting his own and clasping it with my much smaller hand.

Giant’s were one of the few from the fae kind I wouldn’t hold at their word without a blood exchange.

Once the bloods mixed I lean back and away from the giant pulling out cleaning alcohol and bandages from my bag to treat the wound, I thankfully did not go for a more formal arrangement where I’d have to leave the cut open like my mother prefered to use on smaller pacts.

Once it's wrapped I stash my supplies giving the giant my full attention, “My brother has assumed when I said project that I meant those for school. The truth is Diego’s sick, deathly so. And while I know what the cure is, I have to leave to get the ingredients, from another isle and won't be back until eight days from now. Which is roughly how long he has to live, I have faith you will cover for him. No one can know of his illness, or that I am gone for a cure instead of my graduation assignments.”

Boy watches me a long while before nodded. He really has become attached to them, I muse. All the same it meant my faith wouldn't be misplaced, “Your going to need food for them.” He utters before tilting his head and speaking again, “And for you.” Never let it be said, Butcherboy wasn’t reasonable, even if he likely still wants to cook me for dinner. “Wait here, I’ve got left over cuts from yesterday.”

The giant stands lumbering away. Protein would do good to give Diego strength if he could manage to eat it, or at the least it’s stock. Hopefully Carlos had what I need to make at least something for him. Though I really wasn’t going to need food, I’d feel like a day has passed when I return, not eight.

I would have preferred not to see the giant, or put my faith in him, but the deal had to be made, or else all of the hard work I went through to get trade school assignments at the butcher shop were for naught.

And I hated my work going to waste.

When Butcherboy returned with more than enough meat for several months, I almost commented. My upbringing and Malevolent’s insistence echoing in my head over denying a gift exchange, had me taking the more than generous offering with my mouth closed.

Boy looks sheepish tossing words in his head from the looks before speaking, “You weren’t wrong, I like the boys around. Don’t tell others, but I usually just let them do what they like in the shop, they trade meat for sanctuary. If it got out it be bad for business” I nod as the giant scratches his head, “Faith and health for you all.”

The return of faith was surprising, the grimoire had written on the faith of fae kind, and a giants was never to be taken lightly, never. I never would have guessed that Butcherboy would ever stop threatening, let alone, stop planning on ways to cook me.

Shaking my head I shove the thoughts off to the side for later.

Sensing the end of our civil meeting I begin placing all the packaged food into my bag so that I can leave. I can’t stop from grinning at his perplexed expression, never having seen me stick so much into the small bag, the second person today, to find out about the magical object, “I’m not going to ask where you got that, and just pretend I don't see.” he settles on, heading back to open the windows and resume work as I leave.

When I make it back, Carlos doesn’t greet me or talk, though the stabilizer is very modified and to his left, the spare parts shoved away from him as he focuses only on his companion. “Do you have an icebox in here?”

Thankfully the pain killer keeps Diego from reacting this time as he continues to rest. He looks less fevered, and the pain that had been etched in his face earlier has subsided.

Carlos doesn’t answer verbally, instead standing and heading for the standing wardrobe in the back that is heavily protected with several locks. It takes a moment, as the door is opened, but the small freezer that is humming inside is answer enough.

Pulling out one of the packages I pass it to him, to put away. “You do know I can get food for us, I don’t need your charity.”

I can’t stop from rolling my eyes, “Thats nice, but I didn’t pay for it. Butcherboy would rather see you both back alive in a fortnight than dead because you didn’t eat right while I was off hunting for a cure.” Seeing he wasn’t going to be putting it away I change tactics. I put the next package on top ot the one he’s still holding. “And I highly doubt the meat will stay good if I pass through the barrier. So take it.”

“Why did you even go there.” His temper was showing through the tiredness, and it was a blessing. I’ve met to many sides of Carlos as of late, this old familiar one is welcome.

“Did you really ask that? Of course you did. In case you forgot I went through a lot of trouble to get our trade school assignments there. In addition to that, Boy is thee only person who’s given Diego a chance for work, and contrary to popular belief around the Isle, he didn’t do it for his skill. He did it because he wanted to keep me very far away.” I remark. Stacking two more, finally giving him enough to safely reach past him and put the others into the ice box. “So yes, I had to go see him to make sure Diego still has a job once he’s back on his feet. Is that fine with you?”

Carlos doesn’t respond, he kind of looks at me like he’s never seen me before. So much for a familiar Carlos. It takes several minutes, and a bit of rearranging in the icebox, before I begin taking the meat I handed to him and placing them in the box with the rest, I stop keeping the first package out. “Do you have potatoes, rice or flour in here?” I ask carrying the last package to check on the chemistry set and setting the meat in the small steel cooking pot I brought with me earlier. “I need to eat before I leave or we’ll end up wasting time with me out of the barrier. And so does Diego if you want him to survive eight days.”

I can hear him as he moves making his way back to where I found him both times, “The crate on the right.”

I hum softly moving towards the right one. It took a moment to find what I need to make a fast soup but it was thankfully easy enough.

I situate myself so that I can sit and still see the food cooking, chemistry set and timer, as well as my companions. No one speaks for a long while, It’s not until I pass food on to Carlos for both himself and Diego, whom would only really be having the stock, that anything changes.

I eat fast, trying to not focus on the fact that I feel not for the first time like I’m intruding as he wakes his cousin through the induced sedation we’d given him for the pain. Even more so as he helps him stay upright feeding him broth slowly.

Finishing quickly, I look for a reason to leave as my chest tightens, I glance tout the lone window at the barrier relieved to know it was time for me to go, “It’s time.”

Carlos doesn’t acknowledge the comment as he helps Diego back to where he’d been laying previously too tired to keep eating. Softly he sighs before talking to me, “I wired the device charge into the limiter of the stabilizer. It poked a hole without breaking, you’ll need to be closer to see if you can make the hole bigger from the design of the stabilizer. To use it flip the stabilizer on and pull the trigger switch.” The don’t fuck up goes unsaid as I lift the door, leaving them behind.

The sun is just at the horizon making me invisible to the occupants of the isle. It’s a short dive underwater where I plan on drilling. I hope to whatever gods can hear me the drill wouldn’t harm my bag from where it sat protecting the device from harm of the water and whatever I come into contact with outside the barrier.

Reaching in, I feel the familiar handle of the stabilizer, it takes a second to click the switch on, Crossing my fingers of my hand not on the handle, I pull the trigger.

Chapter Text

Home on the Isle of the Lost
The First Days

Part 3:

Free falling five hundred yards, was terrifying for a short time, and then very boring for the rest.

I mean there were highlights.

It was actually night time in Auradon, and I got to see the Stars and Moon for the first time in person. Which would have been nice if I was paying it any attention.

On the downside, going to the island in the dark to hunt for the herbs I need and hunt for a highly dangerous snake to harvest it's venom was not looking to be ideal.

Not to mention on the fall I found that I could now physically feel the influx of magic around me, and it was nothing like the life magic of the occupants of the isle. Even my own body gave off white sparks constantly during the fall, as the magic came and went in quick succession. It was interesting to see and feel, frustrating to try and harness.

I keep my bag clutched close to my side as I continued descending through the air. But hey, who knew falling so far, from a magic barrier, in water, would take so long.

Throughout the fall I had time to think of every lesson, and every book of magic I’d come across in my life, as I kept trying to find a way to stop my descent, it was not going well. Not even the magic spells and casts I’d read of in the grimoire were helping. Neither was my faith in my magic, if it could just take the fucking hint and work.

Goddammit all to hell. “Magic be rational, take me to travel. Not looking for adversary, take me to a mainland apothecary.” Hoping that if it works and that I’ll have enough luck and time to steal what I need before magicking myself away was a long shot. For one I’m not lucky, for two I have no idea what I’ll find.

Nothing happens after I otter the rhyme, and I’m about to try another spell only to suddenly feel my body crashing into solid ground and a woman’s scream filling my ears.

So much for hoping to go unnoticed. “Please don’t call the authorities.” I cry covering my ears to block out the sound. I don’t want to jinx myself in faith that the women would stop her incessant scream, but I wish it anyways.

My plee does the trick, the scream cutting off into silence that carries for a long moment. Soon though, I can hear the clicking of a cane and lumbering of off tempo steps making their way along, to what I wasn’t sure.

Finally, the familiar light of an oil lamp is revealed coming around a door frame. It bothered me that the woman screamed at the bang,due to the fact, back on the isle that would get her killed, especially during a robbery.

But at least now I know the mainlanders are more trusting, something that they should not do.

When I see the first glimpse of the woman herself, I almost wish I’d been anywhere else until I remembered this was Auradon proper.

The woman whom came was easily old enough to have known the Ravenna’s great aunt in her youth.

The oldest Neve, who didn’t suck the youth and beauty out of girls; but did fatten up children with the intent to eat them, looked all to similar to this women.

Sadly, that just meant she’s lived a long life.

The fine white hair and pale blue eyes were the most noticeable features. She also had many fine lines that came with her age, though they did not take away from the beauty that her face still held even as she frowned from the doorway.

I could only hope that she would take pity on the sob story I’d spin.

The only plus side to the harsh landing in the shop was that I no longer had white magic sparking off of my skin, for now I’d appear mostly human, as I was thankfully not having been born with the common fae traits of unique hair colors, and pointed ears.

Even still I felt saddened that I did not suddenly sprout wings or horns, nor that the brown strands in my face didn’t change.

“How ever did you fall into my shop child? You scared this old women near to death. Are you unwell?” Her voice sounded like the grandmother from one of the ads back home, it was uncomfortable knowing someone could sound so concerned for a girl they didn’t know. Even back on the isle concern was for allies and partnerships, and very rarely family, and friends, even if you found yourself brave enough to claim any as such.

Thanks be to Mab half truths still made truths to fae, I just had to keep honest in heart. “I-- Not me, its my brother. Our mother though, won't use new medicines. I was hoping to find what she’d need to make the elixir to save him.” I utter softly.

While Malevolent was sick, it wasn’t anything we couldn’t cure back on the isle. He just needed to stop going back to the same whore and contracting the same disease and we’d stop having to cure him all the time. I hoped she wouldn’t ask to closely into his story so that I won’t have to tell her his issues.

Seeing her hesitate I cringe, I’ll need to try harder. “Please, I don’t have much to offer now, but he’s my only brother. I don’t know what I’d do if we lost him, not after the fire.” my mouth tastes like ash as I outright beg for it, I sound like a whiny child.

Unfortunately, I really did appear to be a whiny child right then, at least no one else is around to know.

The woman's face softens, the frown and look of concern less worry some. “What is it you need, child?”

Thinking on my feet, I recalled one of the few potions that needed all three items, even if it was unlikely that she’d recognize the truth of what I needed it for, it was better she didn’t know I was from the Isle. The elixir I had in mind though was not a counter curse, but it was for an illness seen only in infancy and when not treated properly was fatal. Unsurprising it also only affected fae, much like the curse plaguing the older Devil.

Thinking silently, I hope with faith that the magic will listen as I reach my hand into my bag grabbing to pull a piece of paper out, Magic be rational, help me to unravel. Write before I waver, the following on this paper: Avens, Buckthorn, Ginkgo Leaves, Coriander, Mint, Bay, Bloodroot, Lemon Rind, Parsely, Basil, Plantain, Anise Seed, Wolfsbane, Cinchona, Arbutus, Honeysuckle, Blueberry Leaves, Blackberry Leaves, Adder's Tongue, Barberry, Death Benzoin, Pine, Aspen, Devil’s Bit.

Breathing I remove the paper from my bag, though when I see the last ingredient written my mind flashes back to the sources of my recent troubles. Diego didn’t have time for me to waste, and if she didn’t have what I need. Well I would have to brave the early morning to hunt the Death Adder out on the small Isle I’d originally intended to make use of.

Moving forward I hand the women the paper, watching closely as she mouths the words as she continues standing in the doorway from wince she came, “Child, this is need to cure… But no ones had that in over a century, even the last child of the fae to be stricken with it nearly-- Oh my.” Her shock and urgency in words, isn’t misplaced. The illness loosely translated to old English was child killer.

“His father was fae.” The statement catches me off guard, none of my sibling’s paternal genes were fae, Maleficent had said so in her notes when she started to plan to have me, and Cecil de Vil was human.

Was I... No, did my belief that Carlos was fae let me... I can’t focus on it. Not now, not without more information. “Please, my mother’s aged, but she remembers the tales. She even book that contained the recipe, it's the only book the fire didn’t burn.” The tale of how my mother came to possess the old leather grimoire was not a pleasant one, and it is the only book ever recorded to have ever survived dragons fire.

She nods finally moving out from the doorway, “Then we should hurry to get you what you need.” I watch as she hobbles by a switch on her way, moving it up it flickers on fluorescent yellow lights forcing me squint. “You’ll also need magic inducing agents for the following weeks after you’ve starve the parasite eating at his magic. Did your mixing pot survive?” I shake my head; a mixing pot would be better than the cooking pot I was planning on using. “I have several spares, I’ll send you with one. Very few people follow the old world choosing to buy my stock for decoration instead of its purpose.” She wrinkles her nose in disgust, and I’m sure my face matches, decoration, really.

I watch her face change again as she returns to her train of thought, “Now for the death benzoin, you are to not mess around with it, it is still a very deadly poison, let your mother handle it.” I had to working on keeping my mouth shut as she spoke of me needing to give the death benzoin to my mother, as long as I do not promise nor confirm that I’d bring it to her, I’ll be fine.

I keep an eye on her as she leaves the list on the counter before heading down one of the many aisles. Slowly she starts bringing ingredients back and forth.

My head hurts as I watch, perplexed as an arrangement of jars begin appearing on the counter. They ranged from a quarter of a pint to a gallon, and it was much more than I had asked for. Some of the ingredients I didn’t even recognize. “I... Are those all that I need?” I ask in awe as two gallons filled with dried ginkgo leaves were placed next.

What in the name of Queen Mab. I think I’ve died.

The women laugh despite the entire situation, and I can’t really blame her, I was very much going to laugh at myself later once Diego was in the clear, “Of course not. I need to make sure that you and your mother get back on your feet after the fire. And anyone who practices the ways of old, never really move into modern medicine, I haven’t and neither did any of my children. They all moved out towards Camelot and old practicing states. I can’t bring myself to when there are people whom still come here who practice.”

I want to nod, really I do, but I can’t really fathom that she’s simply doing this. Her explanation not making any sense to me, “Besides I have more than enough to share, and several things that you nor your mother will be able to get in Auradon due to the bans. But you’ll keep quiet on where you got it from, yes?”

Finally she asks something of me that I can promise, “I won’t tell the anyone in Auradon that you gave it to me. But how will I pay you back?” After all everything comes at a price. On the Isle I had plenty to trade, though I doubt she’d need any of it.

The woman’s eyes twinkle as she peeks out from behind a shelf to see me. “Payment? I suppose all I ask of you is that you let me help you in your times of need. Though the next time you drop in, if your landing skills haven’t improved I’m going to have to ask that you come in through the cellar to not scare this old woman.”

It’s not just the words she speaks, but the way she’s watching me that tells me she isn’t buying my act. But it makes me wonder, what act am I buying? “You don’t believe me, then.”

“Oh, I believe you just fine dear. Your truths cross nicely.” She laughs lightly, abandoning the slouched hobble and cane, she’s much more nimble than I expected, and the differences between Granny Neve and this woman were dwindling.

It takes me another moment to figure out who I was speaking, and when it finally clicks in place, I feel like a fool. “You’re the Seer, and you already know where I am from.”

The grin does not put me at ease, making me I wish not for the first time that I had my staff out, “That I do, I just haven’t got a clue of how you got out! I’ve never in all my years seen such a thing.” She leans against the wood tapping her foot, “When I gave the book to your mother when she was but a girl, I’d never even known she’d have children of her own, faith bless her soul.”

I shrug, not too worried about my mother’s damaged soul, “You wouldn’t want to meet her now. I’m afraid they didn’t get all the pieces back together correctly when they brought her back from the dead.” I move to look closer at the growing assortment on the table. “This really is more than I should accept.”

The hum from the women makes me look up, she’s studying me for a moment, a thoughtful look on her face, “What you should accept, and what you will aren’t always the same thing. Some fae I’ve met will only except what they want, others take what is offered.”

I get that, even the grimoire mentions it and what one or the other could mean. While accepting it all could put you in the others debt, not accepting could offend the one who offers it to you. “And why would you want me to accept all of this?”

“The largest reason I want you to take it, is simply because I don’t have a clue what you actually need and what for. In all my years with the sight, this is the first time I’m in the dark.” She remarks popping out of an another aisle disappearing down the next, I have to strain to hear the end as she travels farther down.

“And your happy about that?” I ask quite confused, why would a seer like to be in the dark? “Wouldn’t that mean you don’t know if I’m going to kill you.”

The woman has a spring to her step as she came back around with several gallon jars and a few bundles of wood, twine, and other miscellaneous branches and strands. “Look child, for the last three hundred years, I’ve known everything about everyone, seen the past, present and future. You are a breath of fresh air, and I very much doubt you’re here to kill me, you asked for my help. What are your trying to cure anyways or whom? Is it really your brother?”

She’s at least has the decency to look sheepish when she realizes how excited she sounds, when clearly my situation is dire if I’d traverse outside of the barrier and risk getting caught to come to her. “I don’t feel comfortable telling a seer I don’t even know the name of, that kind of information.” I retort, looking for something to grasp, why was this little old woman throwing me off my plans.

And if her name didn’t match... or did...

I hear her steps falter a moment before she gains her barring again, “Oh right, my birth name is Nadia Villers, but it's been a long time since anyones used it. I just go by Granny Dia now.”

Well I’ll be damned, this was the very seer whom gifted my mother the grimoire. Though it was more of a potioneering book prior to the notes, spells, casts, and runes she added over time.

Mab bless my soul, did I really find luck when I thought it had abandoned me. Or did I steal the luck of the Devil?

Steeling myself, I try to find the words, “A little over eight hours ago, a partner of mine in school came to me with an issue looking for medicine. I was a bit perplexed since he and his cousin have never used the apothecary, they had a basic understanding of first aid, and have never been sick enough to need anything else. He opted to ask after a few things I was collecting in the woods a week prior, juniper berry seeds and hemlock.” She nods, they were very common in almost every apothecary, “Taking a guess I asked how sick his older cousin was. His symptoms include loss of vision, loss of equilibrium, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, shallow breathing, high fever, a rash sprouting from his right arm, black veins originating from his right hand, and several others I’m sure you could guess.” I pause as the look of horror appears on her face. “I need to get him the cure. His cousins been laid up in a bed for six days prior to my trip out here, and that was without any painkillers or curse suppressants, which I dropped off for them after getting us excused from school for a fortnight. At the rate we’re going, and how his condition is I won't be able to save him unless I’m out of here by noon at the latest.”

Nadia’s posture grew more and more rigid as I spoke, the history books did her injustice when they spoke of her resolve to aid any in need, her spine was not only as straight as an arrow, but hardened in steel. Her blue eyes were hard, I was dealing with a woman who survived wars and plagues, one whom still chooses to believe the best in the worst. “How in the world did the boy catch The Magics Grim? Those curses were quite nasty, but they’ve all been banish and their practices lost, long ago. I’d know.”

I laugh humorlessly, yeah, lost and banished. “The funny thing about living in a place called the Isle of the Lost. Is that lost things don’t stay lost, they just end up collecting on our shores.” I shake my head, “Most of the Fae Kind know better than to touch them, but the boys were raised by humans. I just found out that they can sense the magic, but they didn’t realize it was going to harm them. And it's not even the first case of it being found on the isle either. There were three three cases my mother treated prior to my conception. My siblings had all contracted it after touching an amulet they found in the castle. It was destroyed by the one of her goblins throwing it into the volcano nearby. I was only able to diagnose him due to reading my mothers notes and journals, very few illnesses cause the black veins and on top of everything else, his symptoms alone are enough to confirm it. My mother used the last of the avens plants, ginkgo leaves, and death benzoin for the others, it’s why I left the barrier to travel to the mainland.” My voice sounds feint to my own ears as I glance out the lone window wishing that for once to see the barrier in my sights. “The boy whose afflicted, he doesn’t deserve to die, not like this.”

Her voice is harder, I have no doubt she’s realized the truth, that the curse is still very much a threat, “Then let's make sure we have you out of here by sunrise. We’ll need to make something to carry it all, I think there are old rune books in the cellar from my late husband. We might be able to make a bottomless crate.” She rambles, her voice fading as she disappears farther down the aisle. “You’ll also need much more death benzoin than I was initially expecting, I’ll get you all I can in case this occurs again and I haven’t infused more.”

“There isn’t a need for the crate now, though maybe next time it will be good. My bag with me has the runes.” I call once her ramblings ceased.

I jump feeling a bony finger in my side as she appear behind, setting everything in her arms down on the table. “Then get packing. Crates are that way we need to get it organised enough for travel. Be sure to sort through it so that you can get everything you need right away when you make it to the boys. Also pick up new brewing gear, and all the potions books you don't recognise from the closet. Hurry now.”

She waits for me to go to the closet before returning to the whirlwind of collecting more and more things for me to pack. I chance another glance while opening the closet to see the entire context of the grimoire magical ingredient directory is being deposited on the counter.

“You sure you want me to take your books?”

“Hum, oh yes, they’ll be donated if they stay. Auradon’s outlawed magic sometime ago, science and technology are the new magics. And in case you weren’t aware, the two don’t mesh. Besides it I can get them to someone who’s going to use them, Id feel much better about them being gone.” My already poor opinion of Auradon, gets worse the more I learn. Who in their right minds would ban magic, it’s the reason most of them are alive!

“I’ll use them, the family apothecary is the only reliable source of medicine on the entire Isle. And while I don’t care for my older sister who runs it, you just can’t make it through the winter months without some of the brews.” I traverse the titles, I only recognize two, and I’d gladly still take them with all the rest seeing as I could finally have copies of my own. “Do you want me to take them all? We have two of them in the castle, but I’d be very happy to have my own copies.”

She looks so pleased when I meet her eyes, “Of course, dear. If you can fit it all in your bag take everything in there. That's all the things that aren’t allowed any longer.” I want to know whose bright idea that was. Though seeing the small spinning wheel I’m not surprised. “I would rather it go with you instead of ending up like the Fairy Godmother's wand, did you know they put it on display in a museum?”

“Granny Dia said what. Why is the wand of the stars in a museum, it's entire power comes from being wielded by its chosen master, if she doesn’t cast with it actively it can choose a new holder. One who can harness the star, and I don’t know bring down the barrier!” I feel like hitting something, are they dumb, “What drugs are these people on!”

Nadia hums in agreement at my outburst, “None of the good kind. I don’t hear packing.”

I nod, grabbing one of the many wooden crates from behind the counter to pile the books in. I wasn’t going to share any of them if I can help it. IT was funny seeing titles of magic when Nadia Dia was only a potioneer in the history books, “Can you cast?” I call seeing the second volume of a book of casts we had in the castle.

“Oh no, I helped a young woman on the run hide that a century ago. Never really found anyone to take it off my hands. You might find use in it if you can now get on and off the Isle.” I hear a heavy bag hit the floor to my right, “I’ll be sending plain lindera benzoin with as well. Do you need any others that are infused?”

I shrug my shoulders, “Whatever you’re willing to send I guess, I’m sure I’ll have uses for them all.”

I listen to her move as I pull the rest of the things from the closet into two more crates, even one that I’m sure is for magic metal working, not potioneering, let alone casting. Once it is completely cleared out I glance at the mess, it would have to wait for further inspection on if any of it could be traded or used.

Sling my bag off my shoulder I carefully reach in to hold the stabilizer/drill before sliding the first three crates in. Once they were situated I felt more at ease, it was the first step to getting what I needed and leaving.

Approaching the very cluttered counter, I want to just sit and take it in. If Diego hadn’t gotten sick, would I have ever gotten the chance to see this, let alone know it was going to be all mine?

The much more delicate items were made to next. An entire jar of toads eyes caught my attention as I move for a closer look. “Do all your containers have preservation runes?”

“Yes, I found when the practice was dying my stock would go to waste if I didn’t. I have a huntsman who gets me most of them for common spices and creams.” Nadia hums, “Pass me a crate would you. I’ll start packing plants from the mint family, do you have a list of what we shouldn’t pack away, or at least not all of it?”

I look up, “Sure, give me a second.” I reach into my bag searching for my notebook, feeling it I hope it will hear me, Magic be rational, help me to unravel. Write before I waver, the following on this paper: five gallon cauldron, brewing tools, ginkgo leaves, avens buds, death benzoin, coriander, mint, bay, buckthorn, parsley, basil, anise seed.

Pulling the book out I set the open page near her. “Sound’s good. The cauldron’s that way.” She points before going about what she said. “I want you to also take a full set of cauldrons, mixing pots, table flasks, and tools for each as well. And I do mean a full sets.”

The way she says it leaves no option of refusal, so I just start packing them as I should, leaving a thirteen inch, five gallon cauldron and a set of tools on the counter for her to put the things from my list in.

 

We spend the rest of the night going through and packing everything away, the herbs by family and class, the wood by alphabet, the strands and spools by density, and the animal organics by strength and purpose.

I heard more and more tales from Nadia about the world of old during the hours of work. Things I’d dreamed of, and things I’d yet to ever know I wanted.

In return, I filled her in on my lone six years of life on the isle. She even got to know my hatred for tier two, through several rants on my part. Though personally, I think she finds it more amusing than anything else. She doesn’t judge, nor pity me, despite the more gruesome things I reveal. Nor does she brush me off, when I speak.

As I’m lifting the final crate that contained what I’d need to save Diego, Nadia finally speaks up again, “I wish I could tell you if it will work out little one, but I’m not able to see you in time, you are in my blindspot.” She sighs, glancing to the window. “I think it’s time you left.”

I nodded setting the rest into my bag, once again making sure the stabilizer/drill is still within reach. While I trusted Nadia enough to tell her about my life, I had yet to tell her how I got her, let alone my name. “I suppose it is.”

She hums, watching me as I put my bag to my right side, ready to leave, “Before you do. I want you to promise that you’ll come back here in a fortnight for me, I have some more things I think you could use that I need to gather.” Nadia’s voice had grown on me over the night, despite the fact I found it revolting when I first arrived.

“I’ll try my best.” I can’t promise her, not when I don’t know what I’ll be up to by than, it would be more than nine full months back home. Not that I’d mind coming back, I liked the freedom to speak my mind.

The first rays of sun touch the horizon as she pulls me in for a hug. It was different as I’ve never given, or received a hug in my entire life, and I wasn’t entirely sure what to do. “Be safe little fairy, and good luck.” She whispers before releasing me. “Now off you go.”

I’m already stepping to where I landed earlier in the night, before waving to her, “Be safe, Dia.”

Thinking I clear my throat, “On land I stand, bring me under my homeland.” The white sparks spring up around me until I begin to fall. My eyes are greeted with a very familiar purple bubble, though for once I’m on the outside. Reaching for the drill I quickly turn on the power supply making it hum to life.

It takes a moment for the compressed trigger to cause the ripple I’m looking for, which signifies the magical energy is disrupted. “Magic be rational, take me to travel. Now on the skies, bring me to the place where... my de Vil lies.” I don’t question the rationality of claiming either boy as mine, only that I need to make sure I can reach them as fast as possible. The longer the curse lingers the harder it is on the body.

I blink as I feel myself crashing onto another hard wooden floor, only this time it’s followed by a knife digging into my arm. At least I know I made it to the right place, I grin through the pain, so very Devilish, “Time?” I ask grabbing for the hilt to pull the blade from the floor and then out of my arm without causing more damage.

Carlos whom had very clearly been sleeping when I finally see him, is still sitting on the floor, blinking blindly at me. “Fairy? How did... Magic?”

He actually looked his age with the sleep and confusion showing on his face, it was... cute? Ignoring the fact I just called a killer cute, I snort, “Well how else did you expect me to get back on the isle? Now I won't ask again, how much time passed.”

He finally shakes the sleep, returning to the Devil I am most familiar with, “How much do you think?” he moves to stand holding his hand for the blade. I don’t bother cleaning it before passing it back, if Carlos need my blood, he’d already have it.

I roll my eyes moving to the desk, almost every ingredient on the list I gave him had been collected making me feel slightly better about not saving all of them off to the side. “If the conversion is one Auradon day for every eight on the isle, the seven hours would make it just over two days. Is that correct?”

Carlos nods, as I watch him tuck the now clean knife away, “You got what we need?”

The fact he thinks I’d come back without it when I clearly had time to spare irritates me as I move taking the crate out of my bag setting it beside the desk, “We still need goldenseal, feverfew, and lemon balm.” I note before smacking Carlos’ hand away when he goes to pick up the death benzoin. “Unless you know how to handle death benzoin, you do not touch that jar.”

The unimpressed look from Carlos, and the fact he doesn’t seem to recognize it from its name, makes me finally ask what I wanted to back in supervised study, “Do you even know how a potioneer makes death benzoin.”

He shrugs, not concerned cementing my theory, “I’m sure I’m about to find out.”

He’s not wrong. I had always planned on explaining the more intricate items I had to leave for anyways, I highly doubt he’d let me off without doing so once he found out we’d be feeding his cousin a very toxic poison. “I told you I had to leave for avens buds, ginkgo leaves, and death benzoin. While there are a combination of flowers and herbs that can replace avens bud, they lack the magical potency required, their used in several different potions. The first being love potions, the next being purification and exorcism, which is why we need them. To exorcise a curse and purify the body it hosted in. Ginkgo leaves come from a maidenhair tree, the trees feed off of the magic of the natural world which we are severed from and cannot grow here. They are used in potions to strengthen the mind and give mental clarity. With the cursed illness Diego’s body is combating ginkgo leaves will help him combat mentally as well. Death benzoin is not naturally grown, you have to harvest two separate ingredients. The first being lindera benzoin, or more commonly known as spicebush. The second being death adder venom which you spend three long hours infusing it into the allspice.” I explain, making sure to emphasize my point, “So unless you are ready to sit and learn how to handle and brew with it, you will not touch the container. Do I make myself clear.”

Carlos looks like he wished he’d killed me when I crashed into the floor, not simply pinning my arm, “And why is death adder venom required for the cure, last time I checked it's used in death curses.”

“Looks like you aren’t an idiot when it comes to potioneering, and you aren’t wrong about what it’s most known for its use in death curses. However, what you failed to notice, it it’s also used to combat death curses, and has other very useful effects. When added with lindera benzoin it strengthens the additive effects of it.” I move itching to change chemistry kit off, but I felt it better to keep it running for now, not wanting to pull out even more equipment from my bag when this will work fine. “The poison’s strength used when infused with lindera benzoin dictates how strong the effects of the magical qualities become in the mixture. This is why I wouldn’t have been able to safely sub in other venoms for the cure. Benzoin is used in potions for purification, prosperity, banishing negativity and astral travel, all things when in tandem with ginkgo leaves and avens buds make a very potent counter curse.”

Carlos looks doubtful, “You do know I’m going to be helping, I’m not letting you poison my cousin.” Do you know nothing about me after two years, Devil? My inner voice whispers, my nemesis you forget I know you better than most on the isle.

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” I finger through the pile of herbs on the desk, cementing my earlier observation “I picked up some goldenseal, feverfew, and lemon balm while I was out so that should be fine. Do you have a clean vial?” I ask glancing at the still dripping wound from where he’d stabbed me when I landed.

It takes a second before he produces one for me. Carefully I scoop up the blood dripping from my arm, taking care to not spread it anywhere else. “Here, mark that as blood of fae would you. I need to clean this before we risk contaminating anything. When your done, come back so I can show you what we need to start brewing this. We’ll b using the full length of time recommended, since I made it back earlier than expected.” I don’t check if he’s taking the vial where I left it, he wasn’t about to risk Diego’s life by ignoring me. It takes me only a moment to clean and bandage my arm, how odd that he got me in the same hand I used for my deal with boy.

I have to focus to hear his breathing as he continues looking out the sole window the blood vial in hand, whatever's going on in his head, I’m sure he can handle without my interference, so I let the silence lie. It only takes a moment before I hear the clink of it meeting the table, “Have you eaten since you left?”

I shake my head grabbing out the other things we’ll need. “No, didn’t find a reason to.”

It was normal to go days without eating for occupants, not having a reason, just meant many things, “I have to get food in Diego, you will eat, then you can show me the recipe before we start brewing this thing.” He doesn’t really wait before grabbing whatever he needed from the wardrobe.

It wasn’t a bad idea, some brewing had to be done on an empty stomach to avoid upsetting it, but this wasn’t one of those. The fumes would be more sweet than anything else. “Alright, but only if you eat as well. No need to risk you eating poisons.” It was more of a joke than anything, but I still made sure to wait until he nodded, a lot of the poisons we’d mix were sweat smelling, death benzoin was no different, and having a Devil die because he stupidly ate it, would be very bad. Very, very bad.

It's mostly silence as Carlos starts to reheats what looks to be rice porridge on the hot plate. Glancing at the unconscious figure in the corner, I sigh, “How has he been?”

Carlos doesn’t acknowledge me for a long time, I just hold my breath hoping he’ll through me a bone, if we could work together, and accomplish this much, pushing a little father may prove if graduation is possible.

I wasn’t the type of person who wanted a partner who didn’t value my opinion, or couldn’t try to meet me halfway, if I did I’d become a henchman.

At last I felt I could breath as he gives in, “Better, though he’s been asleep most of the time you’ve been gone. How did you find all of it so fast? I don’t think you stopped to make the death benzoin before coming back.” He doesn’t look up as he stirs the pot.

I promised not to tell people in Auradon, not a nemesis. “I didn’t want to go hunting snakes in the dark. So while I fell five hundred yards trying to get a spell to work to stop my descent, I choose to try a different route and have magic take me to an apothecary on the mainland where there would hopefully be the ingredients I need. I wasn’t wrong about them having what we needed, though I didn’t have to steal it.” I let the silence laps, did I mention Nadia, did I not.

He doesn’t push for more as he begins serving three bowls, extending one to me, which I take mine gratefully. I spoon some of the gruel up before finally giving in and asking of Granny Dia, “Have you ever heard of the seer Nadia Villers?”

Carlos didn’t disappoint my expectations, he was after all far more studious than others I know, despite the fact I often referred to him as an animal, “I have. Why does a women who live three hundred years ago matter right now.”

Not a bad question, “She matters in the fact that she was the one who gave my mother the recipe for the cure. At the time she introduced herself to her as Grandmother Dia, but her recipe and handwriting matched that of the original Nadia Villers. When my mother asked on, she admitted most no longer knew that name, and she simply changed her name to fit the time. As for now, well I found her living in Auradon and running the very apothecary I landed in.” Carlos pauses from eating, his other hand is stirring the third bowl evenly cooling it to make it easier for the sleeping party to eat. “You could put the next dose of painkiller in the porridge, it would dilute it, but it would soothe his throat from hurting since it likely feels like the arabian desert.”

He shakes his head, ignoring the afterthought I made letting the porridge sit. “You met Nadia Villers, the Nadia Villers. And you just took her word for it.”

“No, but put it this way. The amount of people who know what The Magics Grim is, and are alive exist only in my family outside of Nadia Villers, and she’s the one who gave it its name. The fact that I only told her how he contracted it, his symptoms and what I needed from her apothecary to cure it, were enough for her to utter the name. Besides I don’t really have a reason to doubt a women who’s more upset over Auradon banning magic for technology, and is willing to give me what I need for a price.”

He nods before the rooms lapped back into silence, once I’ve finished the last of the gruel I stretch, “Where can I clean the bowls and set up prep, the desk won't be big enough for all of this.” Carlos nods towards a bucket in the back, I rise moving where he’d indicated, happy to find white suds and lueke warm water quickly clean the dish and utensil before I remove them to let them dry on the rack beside it, where several others are. “Did dishes before you fell asleep?”

“Yeah.” I reach up for his bowl and spoon sensing him behind me, only giving them when I don’t budge. “You don’t need to do that.”

“We need the space, and you already made it clear you want to sit through all the steps. Now go feed the other Devil.” I wave him off before washing his dishes.

As soon as I've finished them, I rise and start getting prep ready, firstly placing the cauldron in the center of where we will work before slowly depositing the correct ingredients in the order that we’d need them around it. Moving clockwise around the pot across from each other would allow even distribution on both sides as well as more space for the pair of us to work.

The soft brush of fabric as Carlos kneels on the bed snags my attention, “Come on D, you need to eat.” Devil utters bring his cousin back to the land of the living. This time I’m less startled by the small sounds I hear from the older boy, and the wheeze which I am assuming is him trying to talk. “Shh. I know. You’ll be okay--”

I force myself to stop listening, comfort was not my expertise, and family bonds were not mine to intrude on. Though much to my chagrin, my mind flashes anyways back to the hug I received an hour ago. Nadia was the first person to show me open kindness. My brother may have taught me, and took care of me. But my brother never showed he cared, nor did he try to.

What they had was a very foreign concept. One I fear I’ll never know.

To preoccupy myself, I start taking out more ingredients from my bag, feeling through the many crates. I’d need them to create strength supplements to rebuild what Diego’s lost being laid up in bed. Finally after I’ve got all I need, I head for the chemistry set I choose to leave alone.

I don’t need my potion notes persay to do this, but I carry them with despite the fact I’ve been making this since I first started to learn potioneering. “What are you brewing?”

I jump clutching the pine branch to my chest to keep from burning too much to soon into the brew. “Has no one ever told you not to scare a potioneer when they are working! I could have made the entire thing blow up in our faces. As for what I’m brewing, it's strengthening elixirs. Once he’s taken the cure and starts getting back on his feet they’ll help his progress as his body works on returning to its proper state. Pine.” I lift the branch, “Burned into the mix helps create balance in the elixir.” I push the notes to him, “I use to brew it a lot for handling back to back trainings with Malevolent.”

He hums softly not pushing further, before picking up the book. “You write these?”

I nod my head once, before resuming my task of burning the pine in the flask with the elixir. “Most of the recipe’s are modified from my families grimoire. Lots of what I do is targeted to the mutations I’ve come across, there are some herbs that don’t work for me. I did write the original composition and recipe in the left margin. Judging by what I know about you Devil’s, and what mutations I’ve observed I went stronger on the ague root and banyan, and will burned less aspen prior to the pine.” I shrug my shoulders, “Thankfully or not so thankfully the mutations don’t change anything in The Magics Grim curse, which means the cure won't need any changes. I marked the first page of the notes and drawings I copied over for it, if you want to study while I finish this.”

I watch as he takes the book settling by Diego. Nodding to myself, I move to make several more vials of the supplement. As soon as I have enough to last him a month I turn off the equipment.

“You ready to get started on this?” I ask moving to settle on one side of the pot with my back exposed to them.

I nod for him to take the spot across from me before I start talking, “First we need to strip the roots of...” Carlos doesn’t comment as I continue speaking the entire way through as we brew the mixture. With the death benzoin already made, and the preparation of the mix taking only two more hours with the pair of us keeping a steady pace.

Once it's time to heat it, I get up to preheat the hot plate he’d used earlier for the food. “Why does it want us to put it on the burner for an hour without interference?” He mutters lifting the now full pot that weighs as much as we do together.

“The mixture will naturally burn through and alter the composition of the magical properties until a small dense amount is all that's left behind. If we interfere we could upset the process causing a different outcome altogether.” I mark down the date and time the mix is set on the preheated plate, “In exactly one hour we’ll pull it off. Do you want to help make the stabilizing mixture we need to add when we remove it, or are you going to sleep while I watch this?”

Carlos looks like he’s going to protest the sleep, but thinks against it. “I need to sleep. Wake me before the hours up.” Which is good as I wasn’t going to let him come close to brewing anything else when he's having issues keeping his eyes open.

Nodding I grab another pot and begin the much easier portion of the cure. The rhythmic breathing of both boys and calm that comes with brewing brings me to a sense of peace.

With to much time on my hands my thoughts wander despite the fact I should be giving my attention fully to the potion. But so much had happened in the span of 200 hours, and I wasn’t sure if I was fully processing it. If I kept at this rate, I’d burn out and die long before graduation or going to see Nadia again.

Keeping an eye on the wrist watch, I keep working.

Each ingredient is ground to dust and either added to water, or burned and then added to water, before being boiled off leaving behind a blue green sand like substance.

When it’s done, I sit watching them sleep, putting my faith that we weren’t to late and that the cure would save him.

Seeing the time I rise moving over to where Carlos was resting, “Time to wake up Devil.” Thankfully I didn’t end up with another knife in my arm for my efforts as he comes to, nodding to me, “You’ve got three and a half minutes until we have to pull the cauldron from the heat and add the stabilizing potion.”

The smell of the cure reminded me of cooked berries, though it was sweeter than that. Even still, I knew from the notes that it was revolting in taste despite the smell, I could only hope we wouldn’t have to brew it again and that Diego would drink it the first without difficulty. “I thought you said that it would boil off.” Carlos noted looking at the pink mixture that was almost bubbling over.

“It will condense down when we remove it from the heat. If we don’t get the stabilizing agent in right away when it does, we’re going to have a very large mess to clean up.” And forever smell like cooked berries when unsaid in my mind. “Do you want to grab the pot or pure this in?” I ask holding up the blue green stabilizer.

He shrugs his shoulders heading for the pot. I follow him uncapping the flask of sand and bringing my watch to my immediate line of sight, “Okay... I’ll handle the potion. Remember to not put it back on the burner no matter what once it’s removed.” I remind him before starting, my countdown seeing the time approaching, “You have fifteen seconds... ten... nine... eight... seven... six... five... four... three... two... one... now.”

I hold my breath as he removes it and the sand meets the pink bubble over the substance before the whole thing deflates becoming nearly untraceable in the dark pot. “How the fuck-- Why is it, the pot gained ten pounds despite the fact you added a handful of sand to it.” Carlos grits, “Don’t we need to get this in a flask?”

I nod holding up a funnel and flask I’d set on the desk. “Convenient, I know.” Setting the two down I move to help him as we slowly tip the cauldron.

The resulting mix is a soft yellow like substance that shimmers and glows as it goes into the flask not sticking to the funnel or the cauldron. “So, that's the color of the sun.” he comment recalling what the books said making me snort. “Did you get to see it?”

“No, I kind of wish I did. I got to see the stars and the moon, while I was falling out of the barrier. Didn’t really get time to appreciate them while trying to magic myself away.” I comment, ignoring the fact we could now leave any time we choose. “But hey, we just made a successful Magic’s Grim cure, which is one of the most advanced and volatile potions I’ve ever had to make. And we are now in the clear as long as he drinks it the first time keeping us from having to make a second batch.”

He nods before looking at me strangely, “You should sleep.” When he speaks I finally notice that I am yawning.

I guess only having a couple hours the night before last has finally caught up with me, shrugging I turn away, “I will once I’ve cleaned this up. You can give that to him once the pain medication worn off. The strength and balance supplements are over there, make sure he takes one a day until there gone.”

I move to grab my things only for him to stop me. “Sleep Fairy, you’ve been up more than a day, and just brewed several potions. You can clean after that. We can’t graduate if you die before the years even started.” I’m actually surprised by his words, despite what I’d said my vision begins to tunnel, why the... I feel him as he hauls me to my feet from where I was sitting to clean, and pulls me over to the bed before pushing me to sit on the side Diego’s not occupying. “Now go to sleep.”

The exhaustion I’d been fighting finally wins floods through me covering my world in darkness. His voice fading away.

I’m not sure how much time has passed, but Carlos is already awake and skimming through my notes on the supplements again, when I finally come to, the bags that had been under his eyes are substantially smaller. “How long have I been out?” I ask sitting up trying to not fall over when black dots fill my vision.

He glances up a second when I speak, “Long enough for Diego to wake up and eat five times as well as take the cure. When’s the last time you slept through a night, Fairy?”

I look to the other boy still laying beside me, he looks significantly better, the cure doing it's job. I continue to try think of when the last time I slept was, and I wish I could just say recently, but I didn’t even know of a time I’d ever actually made it through the night asleep.

Malevolent, no matter how much I liked to paint him as the good sibling, wasn’t a kind caretaker. Ever since I was a baby keeping him awake and taking his time, he's always held a grudge. When I was old enough to stand he forced me up for long days with gruesome trainings and exhausting lessons, never letting my body or mind truly rest. The largest reason I was as smart as I was could be attributed to him.

Giving up trying to remember, I turn my attention back to Devil. “You cleaned.” I note seeing everything placed in the crate near my bag. The cauldron, tools, and chemistry set as well. “Thought I was suppose to do that when I got up.”

The unimpressed look he gives me makes me smile, “I had time, most of us do when we aren’t sleep deprived. He’s still sleeping a lot, that normal?”

The change in topics is welcomed, “It depends on what you mean by normal. The cases my mother treated off the isle bounced back very quickly with the aid of magic and other fae magics. But here, yeah it's normal. My older siblings, they slept constantly for a number of months, and their recovery took a full year. Mother wasn’t actively feeding the supplements to help their bodies heal after the ordeal though. As long as you listen to me it’ll be only a couple of days until he does more than sleep and eat. Just make sure he stays fed and hydrated in addition to taking the potions. I’ve got some others I’ll bring back to you that he should take when he’s able to keep himself awake for eight or more hours.” I finally roll out of the bed, leaving my companion behind.

The series of cracks and pops as my bones shift feels both relieving and concerning. I really had been a sleep along while. But the question is how? “And you’re just going to give me more potions?”

“It’s not like I don’t have my reasons Devil. I made a deal with boy, and if Diego’s to keep his job I need him on his feet and well in eleven days.” That or betray my blood and faith.

I step around him grabbing the notebook, “But if you want to pay me back, keep out of sight until then, I’d rather not explain why we both have class off to Malevolent who somehow took my request to mean we’re working on tier two the second I use words like project and unsupervised study.” I repeat what I’m sure he’s forgotten since the day he last tried to actively kill me. The knife incident when I crash landed not included.

I throw the notebook into my bag before cramming the crate in as well, happy to note I still have the stabilizer/drill. “Where will you be headed?”

I want to ignore him, but I know if I do he’ll find me anyways, “Where I always hide from my brother when Boy’s isn’t an option.” Jasper Creeper wasn’t the best plan, but if Carlos was planning on coming to see me for any reason, I’d rather not lead him to the Iron Mountain.

When I reach the trap door he’s already there lifting it, “I owe you a favor fairy, so do try not to die. I hate owing people.”