Once upon a time, a princess was cursed by an evil fairy. She bore the wrath of the mistress of evil, and the scorn against her kingdom. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel, and die.
The good fairies, Flora and Fauna had blessed the child with the gift of beauty and song, and Maleficent herself bestowed the gift of grace and the love of all those around her. All this set up to tell a story of a perfect girl who would be dead at sixteen. Then there was Merryweather. A slightly disgruntled fairy, but she had her heart in the right place. This good fairy spent her gift trying to lift the spell placed on the princess. Despite the horrendous magic, she changed the sentence from death, to sleep. From her nightmares she would wake by true loves kiss. Because of course, true love conquers all.
Maleficent may have been evil, but she would not be deceived. The fairies hid the baby from the witch, so she could not retaliate on her plan. That is, she couldn't follow up on Aurora. But she was determined not to be bested by those whom she hated so much. The devil woman remembered the presence of another at the celebration of the baby princess. Her betrothed, Phillip. He was just a boy, not older then five when he met his bride. Although, the prospect of marrying a baby was not appealing at the time. Now, on the eve of his own sixteenth birthday, Maleficent decided to give the prince a present of her own.
The day had been spent greeting relations and other royals. Phillip was still a boy, and hated every moment of it. When his father gave him permission to spend the rest of the day how he wanted, Phillp wasted no time in saddling Samson and disappearing into the forest. Little known to anyone at that time, he would not be coming back.
Phillip happily rode through the woods, his boyish excitement bursting at the seams as he pushed his steed onward, faster and faster. In a moment of recklessness, he dared to go off the beaten path and delved deep into the woods surrounding the forbidden mountain. His adrenaline waned as he realized he was lost, very lost. The foreboding trees gave him chills as Samson began to panic and back in circles.
"Whoa fella, easy..." He calmed his friend. "Easy..."
A unnerving chuckled echoed in the air, followed by the sound of wind, singing a haunting tune.
"That sounds...familiar..." Phillip puzzled.
The laughter grew louder and more amused.
The Prince once again took in his surroundings, memories from his childhood, the day his bride was cursed, all flashed inside his mind. "I'm sorry," he apologized to his horse, "we shouldn't have come out here, let's go." At that he turned in the direction away from the mountain, only to stop short at sight of the black figure blocking his way. He swallowed deeply.
"Hello my dear boy." The witch addressed with a smile.
Phillip tried to be cordial. "Good afternoon, Maleficent." He nodded politely.
"So you do know me, how...lovely."
"You made an impression all those years ago..." He simpered.
"I see, I suppose I did. Didn't I?"
Phillip didn't like this woman's presence and was eager to leave it. "Please pardon me for trespassing. You see, we've gotten lost...if you could just point is in the direction of Stefan's castle..."
The witch said nothing, only narrowed her eyes.
"You're not much of a prince, now are you? Timid, shy, not yet grown into your own skin..."
She was right of course. Phillip was a late bloomer, still small for his age, just barely beginning puberty. His voice was even still high.
"I am a prince though," he assured her determined. "I will repay any grievances I have caused."
"Yes, you will." She affirmed. Her staff lit like a flame. "Prince Phillip, son of King Hubert. My grievance with you is your existence. While I wish I could kill you here and now, instead I see a plan for a much more miserable future!" She thrust her staff into the ground and caused a great rumble. The earth split under Samson and thorny vines shot out and latched onto them. Phillip was lifted from his mount and brought in front of the witch. She raised her hands an began her incantation.
"With foliage of fall, and song of spring,
I curse you the form of feather and wing!
To be small and weak is forever your fate,
Plagued night and day with an avian state!"
Phillip's breathing became harsh and labored as he felt painful changes in his body taking place. The undersides of his arms felt as if they were being ripped open as thick fibers surged forth. His fingers grew long and flat, bursting from the restrains of his riding gloves. He screamed in pain as the bones in his legs twisted in their joints so that his knees bend backwards. The arch in his foot stretched and slid out of his boots. He felt his pectoral muscles almost inflate in size as his shirt tore down the middle. Painful spasms racked throughout his body as he mutated.
Samson whined in horror and bucked to shake lose from the vines that kept him, but they held fast.
The prince cursed the witch one last time in his human voice before his swears were turned to shrill cheeps. Maleficent smiled as the boy finally shrank into a five inch bundle of feathers. He fell through the thorny vines and landed harshly on the ground, broken and sore. A sad 'peep' was his only reaction from the exhaustion of the transformation. Maleficent simply plucked the gray-brown bird from the ground.
"I believe I have myself a new toy." The horned witch smiled.
Phillip looked to her in fear. What would she do to him now? He looked back to Samson as the horse was released to go back to the castle, but barred from saving his master.
The trek to the forbidden mountain was long and unbearable for the little bird. His heart pounded faster then any drum and his breaths were quick, never taking in enough oxygen.
Inside the castle, Maleficent escorted the transformed prince to the dungeon where a minuscule rusty cage sat in a corner. In it, he was tossed like a useless rag.
As Maleficent turned to leave, he let out a questioning 'peep'. She turned back, still smiling.
"My, how rude of me. You probably want to know what happens next." She rested her hands on her staff. "You see, the reason I have a grievance with you is that you're the one that will break the spell on Princess Aurora. I never intended there to be a way out for her, but those fairies had to go and change things."
Mortified, Phillip was at full attention. He had never met the Princess, but grew up with the knowledge that he would someday take her as his own. That was enough of a reason for the honorable young man to want to protect her.
"There is a way out for you too. True love's kiss. Just the same as your bride to be. But there is a problem now, isn't there? You're in here, and she's out there. Neither of you know the where abouts of the other. So it looks like two curses will come true together!" At this, she laughed manically. "So make yourself at home, little birdie. You won't be leaving anytime soon!"
"Why you wicked old hag!" Of course, all that was heard was twittering. Maleficent laughed even harder at this, and left.
First thing Phillip realized was how dark it was. And cold. He shuddered, his feathers puffing up. This was no place for a little bird. He sat on his feet and tucked his head into the plumage. Soon, the exhaustion caught up to him and he fell asleep.
A panicked horse sped through the woods, relying solely on instinct to get him back to the castle. When he returned, it was dark. The sounds of his clopping hooves on the cobblestone brought King Hubert out of the castle.
"Phillip! My boy, why are you so late?!" He stopped when saw the horse with no rider. "Samson, where is Phillip? Where is my son?!" Not expecting an answer, he turned to his surroundings, "Phillip!" He shouted. "Phillip! Where are you?!"
There was no reply.
Samson nudged the King, turning in the direction of the woods.
"What? Is he still out there? Is he hurt? Lost?"
The horse shook his head and again gestured to the woods, but with more emphasis to go past the trees.
King Hubert looked into the distance and felt his heart drop into his shoes. "The Forbidden Mountain..." Tears welled up in his eyes and he immediately knew there was no hope. "No...no no no...why would he go there? What's wrong with you?! Did you even try to stop him?!" He barked at the horse. Foolishness hit him as he realized he was yelling at an animal. Instead he hugged the horse's neck and wept. "Oh my boy...my only son...oh what am I going to do? What shall I tell Stefan?" A barricade of disastrous thoughts plagued the king's mind but he could do nothing but weep for the loss of his son.
Weeks passed mutely as the avian prince stayed locked away in that god forsaken dungeon. Food was brought to him daily. Wasps, spiders, bees and other creepy crunchy insects. For the first few days, food did not sound appealing, especially the dead insects in his bowl. Then he got desperate. He ate a spider first, deciding it was safe. Then he ate a wasp. The stinger pricked his throat when he swallowed and caused an allergic reaction. His throat became swollen and he did not eat again for two days.
Phillip hadn't seen Maleficent since he had arrived. Her goons were always the ones to 'care' for him. He almost wondered if she had forgotten about him.
The little weasels were just as evil as the witch, but none too bright or cunning. They often argued with each other and more then once his water or food had ended up on the floor, not to be replenished. It was from these despicable creatures that the prince devised his escape. He waited for his evening meal, when the cover of darkness was his advantage. He took a stinger from the body of the wasp into his mouth and stayed quiet. Soon, a deep snorting sound came from the hall. The door unlocked and two guards came in, already arguing.
"Squirrel tastes better raw!"
"You're disgusting, they taste better cooked."
"What about birds then?" The hog-like demon asked. "The little gray and brown ones, how do they taste?" His voice grew deeper as he eyed the feathered prisoner.
"Don't tempt me; you know we can't eat him."
"Yeah yeah yeah." The pig man bent down to fill up the water tray from the frothy bucket below. Phillip aimed and fired, shooting the demon in the neck.
"Ow!" He clapped his hand over the wound. "What was that?"
"What was what?"
"You pinched me!"
"No I didn't!"
"Yes you did!"
"You calling me a liar?!"
"That's exactly what I'm sayin'!"
The grim monsters started to push and shove each other, much to Phillip's delight. One guard raised his axe and with a swift swing, almost landed a blow to his companion.
The blade sliced through the rusted metal like butter and Phillip swooped out of his cage. But he wasn't out of the woods yet. The guards were oblivious to his departure, and he slipped through the barred door and into the hall. Then he flew straight up and parallel to the ceiling. The prince was safe just as long as Diablo, Maleficent's crow, didn't spot him.
As he came to an opening into a new room in the castle, he spotted a window across the way. Deafly, he swooped across the space and was home free.
As he sprouted from within, he heard a shriek before Diablo dove after him. The crow missed by mere inches, but still knocked the bird off his flight pattern. Phillip had not yet learned to really fly except from just flapping his wings in pure adrenaline. He flailed as he fell, trying to regain his balance. Diablo circled around for his second blow. The prince tucked in his wings and dove into the woods, his small size allowed him to maneuver between thrush and thorn. Diablo shrieked behind him as he became tangled in the vines. However, Phillip never slowed down. He had finally escaped.
Onward he pushed, eager to get back home. There had to be someone there that could help! Maybe the good fairies could help him, or maybe he could get a clue to the whereabouts of Aurora. Anyway, it was the place to go. He flew for hours, not having any clue where to go except away from the mountain. The bird had enough sense not to fly above the trees and be spotted, so he sacrificed his time for safety. Eventually, he found the river which both King Stefan's and his own Kingdom were located on. He followed it eastward, spot his home in the distance. His little heart held strong as he grew closer with each passing moment. Oh how he had missed everyone, his friends, his father, even the nagging servants, he missed them all.
He reached the courtyard where Samson was enjoying a bucket of oats.
"Samson!" He twittered.
The horse never looked up.
"Come on! It's me, Phillip!" Still no reply. "Your old friend?" Discouraged, the bird sat atop the horses head. This got the horses attention as he stopped eating and twitched his ears. Phillip came down and hovered in front of his face, letting Samson give him a good look. A few moments passed before the horse whinnied in shock.
"There's the boy!" Phillip twittered. He regained his spot on Samson's head.
The horse raced to the front steps, where normally he was not allowed to go. Some guards tried to hold him back, but he only cried in protest.
"Get the King," one stated, "he's the only one Samson responds to."
A few moments later, the large man emerged from inside. "Now what's all this ruckus?" He approached Samson. "What's got you all in a tizzy?"
Phillip flew circles around his father's head to get his attention.
"Oh I see, you're being harassed." He swatted at his own son. "It's just a little...pigeon."
Samson roared in protest.
"What kind of horse are you to he afraid of birds?" He held out his hand where Phillip landed. "See? Harmless."
Just then, one of the King's dukes came out to speak with him. "Sire, in the matter of your son..." Both the king and his company grew solemn. "Do I...do we...declare him...dead?"
The king sighed. "No. I don't want my people to worry. If we can mask this tragedy and just say he's missing, there will still be hope that he returns."
"What about you, Sire? Do you believe he will return to us one day?"
The king shook his head slowly. "It's Maleficent, and there's been nothing for four weeks now...I fear what awful tortures my boy went through, and now...all I can hope for is an end to his misery."
Phillip peeped sadly to his father.
"Oh, come little one." He smiled to the bird. "You needn't be sad for me. The Lord takes care of you, you have nothing to worry about."
"But father..." The bird was released to sit on the ground.
"Yes, well, I best figure out some way to tell Stefan about this..."
"Father!" The little bird cheeped.
The king ignored him and continued inside.
The door slammed shut. The poor avian hung his head in despair as fat tears rolled off his dull brown feathers. He didn't consider that they wouldn't recognize him. Samson lowered his head and nudged his feathered friend.
"Thanks Samson. Glad to know you're here for me." The horse raised the boy up so he could see better. "I guess I should look for the good fairies and Aurora now, shouldn't I?" He mused. "Then I can come back home and explain everything."
Problem was, he had no idea where to find them. No one did. Aurora was hidden from Maleficent, and now he understood why. The rest of the evening was spent searching throughout his kingdom, looking for a girl of eleven with sunshine gold hair, and lips that would shame the rose. He listened for the voice of an angel, anything that he could go off of from the fairies gifts. Now he was regretting not paying more attention to the details on that day. On he flew, looking in every window he came across, perusing every detail carefully. When sun set, he found that he had far more ground to travel. With a heavy heart, he called it a day and retreated to the woods.
For his roost, he choose a small crevasse in a cliff face, which looked to be occupied at one time. There was a base of a nest, built out of mud, but it was falling apart. Roots of a tree netted around the rocks and hid the hole from predators.
Phillip applied more mud to the nest to make it sturdy, then he weaved the roots up to further inclose his new home. As it became darker out, he lined his nest with leaves and any other soft materials he could find. Finally, the prince settled in for his first night of freedom.
For once in weeks, the prince slept soundly, but purely from exhaustion. Sunlight woke him up, and as tired as he was, he believed he could sleep when this nightmare was over. He peered out his hiding place and looked over his kingdom. From his roost, he could see all the way out to the horizon. Stefan's castle was far to the left, and his father's far to the right. Separated only by streams and farmland. It was a beautiful sight to take in morning.
Then he looked down. Fifty feet straight down a rock face. And that appeared as a mile to the little bird. Suddenly, he forgot how to fly. How did most birds learn? Didn't their mother's push them out of the nest? He gulped. He may as well do it, there wasn't any other way to get out. He hyped himself up, leapt, closed his eyes and spread his wings. Instantly, the air swept him up and he was flying once again. It didn't seem difficult anymore, so on he flew, ready to embrace the search.
As his stomach began to yearn for food, his mind traveled to what to eat. Bugs? Berries? He made have been a bird, but he was also a prince. He wouldn't eat bugs anymore. So he reverted to scraps. Many older folks sat at benches and fed the birds bread, so that's where he would get his meal.
The search for Aurora lasted days which then faded into weeks, then months. Phillip's stomach longed for filling food. His arms ached from the overuse of muscles not previously stressed. He wanted to run, to ride, things that he used to be able to do. The worst part of it all was the exceeding loneliness that held fast. The wild birds didn't communicate like how he thought. They did not have abstract thought; the birds were only on a superficial level when it came to interaction. "There is food over here. This is my territory. I need a mate. That bush is not safe. Etc." They communicated with visual signs mostly. Nodding heads, flicking tails. Occasionally they made noise, but it was not very important.
Phillip had learned the hard way that the animals did not possess individuality. He landed next to a wren on a branch and attempted making conversation. He began with introducing himself and then explained his situation. The little brown bird stared at him peculiarly. After he was done, the wren replied. "You may share our nesting area." And then flew away. Similar things happened with other birds.
Phillip did, however, interface with emotions of the fellow avians. They were strictly visual, movements would become rapid or slow. He wandered once into a mother chickadee who had lost her child. She sat on the branch with her head and tail down.
"Why are you sad?" He asked plainly.
"I cannot find my chick. He can not yet fly." She replied.
"I can help you look." He suggested. He had gotten used to looking for things.
"Alright." She chirped. Without another word, she swooped from the branch and perused the ground. He joined quickly, weaving in and out of the trees. The chick was found under a bush. Phillip called the mother bird over, and she came, nesting with the baby. There she sat, guarding her child with no words of gratitude for his help.
Despite the raving social activity, Phillip's search was fruitless. There was no hint of the Princess in any of the surrounding areas.
Then came winter.
Snow rolled in like a nightmare for the little fellow. In return, he spent most of his time in his nest in the cliff face. In the weeks leading up to the season, Phillip had scavenged discarded cloth to keep his hovel warm. He also wrapped up in them when he went out to get food.
Stories flew throughout the kingdom about a bird that had stayed instead of migrating, adorned with a scarf and socks.
Phillip's favorite place to scavenge was windows of restaurants. He would sit upon the ledge and tap on the glass. Most people ignored him, some even shooed him away, but a handful would let him in and give him old shredded bread to eat. This also allowed him to warm up a bit.
Four years passed liked this. Constant searching, narrow survival, and painful loneliness. Every once in a while, he spared a moment to check in with Samson. He wanted to assure the horse that he was still alive, if only that. The poor prince began to loose hope in ever turning back into a human, and maybe someday, he would lose his mind the wilderness.
It was a warm summer day. Phillip glided through the forest on experienced wings in search of berries to feed on. As he flew, he heard a voice singing in the distance. He had lived in the woods for four years, yet never heard anything so beautiful. Suddenly, he didn't care about food anymore, he only wanted to find the source of the beautiful song. He listened carefully and hurried in the direction it came from. Louder and more brilliant it became, until he came upon a girl picking berries. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She waltzed barefoot across the grass, singing a haunting tune like a siren. She held a basket in her petite hands, half-way filled with various berries. Phillip noticed that other birds and woodland creatures were helping her pick the fruit. He decided he would help, too. He plucked a raspberry from a bush and hovered in front of her.
"Well, well." She smiled and held out her hands so that he could land. "I've never seen you around here before. It's nice to meet you, My name is Briar Rose. Thanks you for helping me out." She smiled.
Phillip melted. Rose lifted her hand to release him, and he swooped back to the bush.
He knew very well that he should keep looking for Aurora, but something in the back of his mind told him to stay. He reasoned with himself and decided that he would go back to the job at hand after Rose was finished picking...and she was taking her sweet time.
The girl talk aloud as she worked, intending to speak to the animals, but not knowing that none of them understood her.
He sympathized with her. She must have been very lonely. The prince had never seen the girl in all the trips to the towns he had made. A girl was true golden hair, fair skin like a porcelain doll, eyes vibrant like the petals of an iris, and lips redder then a rose. His eyes widened, her features were just like Aurora was supposed to have. She even looked like the queen.
The prince turned bird studied her carefully. She still sang as she worked, her song was pure perfection and she obviously wasn't even trying. With each step she took, he was reminded of spring.
It had to be her. But she had introduced herself as Rose. Maybe she didn't know her real name, or maybe she just used an alias. Either way, he was going to investigate and stick close to her.
She sighed, "I wish I could meet someone." Rose sat on a rock as a chipmunk clamored into her lap. Phillip neared her in an effort to listen better. "Someone interesting, like the man in my dreams." She rested her head on her knees. "Yes, it can be quite lonely out here, even with Aunt Flora, Aunt Fauna, and Merryweather."
Even if there were more people in the kingdom with those names, that was more evidence that this was the girl he was looking for.
"They are always doing something, but they still feel the need to treat me like a child. I'm almost sixteen, and I haven't even seen the town yet! It's quite unfair." She pouted.
Unconsciously, Phillip landed at her feet and chirped up at her, trying to comfort her. She smiled and allowed him to perch on her finger. Then she began to serenade him.
"I wonder...I wonder...I wonder why each little bird has a someone, to sing to, sweet things to...a gay little love melody...I wonder...I wonder...If my heart keeps singing, will my song go winging, to someone...to find me...and bring back a love song to me..." Her hand gently stroked his back as he fell into a trance. He had never ever felt this way before, he only wished he could experience it forever. His heart palpitated in his breast and his breathes where quick and short.
Then she stopped. "Oh dear..." She resigned. "I guess I should go back home, before they start worrying about me. She placed her new friend on a perch up in the tree and stood, dusting off her dress.
"Goodbye, see you all tomorrow?" She smiled, and then left.
Phillip was not about to let his new treasure get away, so he followed her from above, hoping not to be spotted. She entered a small cottage, hardly anything grand for a princess, and announced her arrival to her family, or the fairies as Phillip hoped. He watched from the window, examining them each. They had the same look, the same color clothes, they even carried themselves the same way. He had finally found them! After four years, he would finally be free of his curse. Problem was, how? Did he just swoop in a kiss Aurora without any warning? No, he would transform in front of her, and he didn't want to frighten the girl. Maybe he would wait, maybe she would kiss him? Like that was ever going to happen. The small bird pondered and contemplated. This would take a while.
Then he had doubts. What if true loves kiss needed to be between both of them? She didn't know he existed, surely she didn't love him. Would it be enough that he loved her? Did he actually really love her?
The only way, he surmised, was to spend as much time with her as possible. Maybe she would sense the human stuck inside of him.
For the rest of the week, Phillip observed from the windows what he could, and followed her in the woods and kept her company. Then at the end of the week, there was a heavy downpour. The cottage was closed up. He could barely see anything inside and it was highly unlikely that Aurora would come up in such a storm.
So he decided to go back to his nest for the day. On his way there, he noticed a brown streak high above him, but he didn't pay too much notice to it. Suddenly, he heard a shriek and not a split second later, he was hit and knocked to the ground. He rolled quickly under a dense thorny bush. The hawk landed and searched around for it's prey. Phillip stayed deafly silent as the larger bird looked onward. After what seemed like forever, the hawk took off into the air again.
Phillip peeped out from under the bush and checked his surroundings. All was clear and he prepared to take off again. He spread his wings and a painful sting ran up his wing. Upon further examination, he discovered a bloody gash and a chunk of feathers missing. He grunted. There was no safe way to fly with this, and if he was to survive, he would have to stay off of it.
Then a grand idea hit him. If Aurora saw his hurt wing, she would no doubt nurse him back to health. It was brilliant! If only he could figure out a way back to the cottage. At least he hadn't travel very far. Under the cover of foliage, he scurried on his way.
Finally, he arrived at Aurora's cottage. He pecked at the door, hoping for an answer.
"What in heaven's name is that?" Flora's muffled voice spoke from inside.
"I'll go look." Phillip internally cheered as his princess replied. A moment later, she opened the door. It took her a moment to notice him, but when she did, she knelt and lifted him. "Poor thing, you're soaking wet! And what happened to your wing?! Come inside, I'll take care of you." She brought him into the quaint little home, and set him on the table. Flora bookmarked her page and observed the guest.
"What a tame little thing. And he was just sitting at the front door?"
Aurora filled a pan with warm water and set it next to him. "Yes, like he knew we would help. He's a friend of mine." She elaborated. "I met him about a week ago."
Fauna and Merryweather had paused their game of checkers and had gathered at the table as well.
"Oh dear, the poor thing is injured." Fauna observed.
"Looks like he was attacked." Merryweather added.
Phillip chirped and raised his wing so Aurora could inspect it. She gently stretched it out as Phillip silently winced.
"It's pretty deep." She concluded. "Let's get you clean and warmed up first." She helped the prince into the little pan of warm water where he settled, enjoying the warmth. Gingerly, the girl dabbed a cloth in water and cleaned his wound. Then she applied some medicine and wrapped up his wing.
"There!" She smiled at him, "all done."
"I suppose he won't be flying on it for a while." Merryweather noted.
"He could stay here!" Aurora suggested, crossing her hands at her chest. "I'll take care of him!"
Flora began to think it over. "Now Rose, a pet is a big responsibility. You have to take very got care of it, he's not a toy." She warned.
"This seems familiar..." Merryweather muttered to the green fairy. Fauna just giggled.
"I know Aunt Flora, I want to have this responsibility. Please?"
"Oh thank you!" She threw her arms around her aunt.
Phillip had the urge to hug the old woman too, considering he had almost been denied a home.
"What's his name?" Fauna spoke up.
"You know, I don't believe I ever thought of a name for him."
"Well, what kind of bird is he?" Merryweather questioned.
"I'll get the bird book," Flora declared, halfway to the bookshelf.
Aurora tapped her chin. "I go outside daily and know most of the animals in this region, but I have never seen this type before."
"Rather plain, don't you think?" The blue fairy pointed out.
Phillip looked harshly to the speaker.
"Now now, don't listen to her." Aurora soothed.
"Here it is!" Flora set the book on the table. She flipped the pages and scoured the pages. The other girls peered over her shoulder. "Is this it?"
"No, he's got more of a tan belly then plain white. And his top is more gray than brown."
"And he's smaller, too."
"Yes!" Aurora read over her aunt's shoulder. "The Eastern Phoebe, native to lands to the Far East such as southern Russia, China, and India. Rarely found in Europe...you're a long way from home, aren't you friend?"
Merryweather continued, "it's diet contains wasps, hornets, and bees. But it will eat other insects and various fruits."
"Oh dear." Flora fretted. "Let's hope we can pacify him with berries and bread."
Phillip was grateful that they weren't going to try to feed him creepy crawlers.
Fauna read next, "often, Phoebe's are loners, keeping to themselves and out of flocks. The only interaction with fellow Phoebes is for mating, and even after that, the female will kick the male Phoebe out of the nest once her eggs have hatched. They are also very territorial birds; they tolerate most any other bird except their own kind."
Aurora helped her new pet out of his tub and gently dried him off. "Poor thing...must be awfully lonely."
"So, what's his name?" Merryweather asked.
Aurora was puzzled; it was a fair question, but she still didn't have an answer. "Phoebe?" She came up with at last.
Fauna giggled, "oh, but that's a girl's name!"
"You're right," Flora added, "he needs something manly, strong, dignified!"
Aurora interrupted, "How about Phillip then?"
The fairies looked at each other. "Well…" A grin came over Flora's face. "I think it's a perfect name."
"Wonderful!" She raised the feathered prince. "Oh Phillip, welcome to our family!"
Phillip chirped happily in reply.
The first night, Rose set her pet on her pillow and waltzed over to her dresser. He watched her obliviously, wondering what she was doing.
Suddenly, her dress slipped off her form and his eyes grew massively wide. Before he had the decency to look away, a blue nightgown covered her. She lifted the sheets, crawled in, and rested her head on the pillow. Her hair fanned out around him and her vibrant eyes bored into his own.
"Can you keep a secret?" She whispered. "There's a reason I named you Phillip. It's the name of my dream prince." She smiled.
"Dream Prince?" He twittered.
"You see, my aunt's never want me to meet anyone. Like they're hiding me from something. I am almost sixteen...and I've never even been to town before." She sighed. "I feared I would always be alone." She reached out and stroked his tiny head. "But then I met a Prince. He's tall and handsome...and so romantic!" She swooned.
"Oh really?" He peeped.
"We walk together, and talk together...and then right before we say goodbye, he takes me in his arms..." She built up anticipation. "And then I wake up."
"Oh..." He sang sadly.
"Yes, he's only in my dreams. But they say if you dream the same thing more than once it's sure to come true! And I've seen him so many times."
He cooed to comfort her. Honestly, he thought the whole thing was extremely ironic.
"So that's why I named you Phillip. I consider you my dearest friend and I wonder that if you we're human...if you would be a prince..." He laughed, but it came out has a high pitched squeak. She giggled as well. "What am I saying? Goodnight my little prince." She snuffed out the candle.
The two were inseparable. As his wing was healing, he stayed perched on her shoulder, safely being nestled in her golden hair. For once in four years, he was perfectly comfortable. Aurora spilled her heart out to him, trusting him wholly and completely, because of course, he was a bird and wouldn't tell, or even judge her for that matter.
Phillip was now twenty years old. In that time, he had heard his fair share of corruption among people, even the most noble of them. But then here was Aurora, naively speaking her mind and whatever came to heart, and he was never ashamed to listen to her. Her tongue was innocent and pure. She thought highly of everyone, even people she had never met! More then once she had spoken of her deep respect and sincere wish to meet the king, saying that, "to hold that high of an office with such a high responsibility, he must be a very wise man." Of course, he found the statement funny because the king was her father, and within the month, she would be meeting him.
Phillip could see the yearning all over her face. She wanted to leave the forest. She was bored of her daily routine, and wished to get out and experience life. Although, it wasn't as if she hadn't brought it up before. Many a days, she would rest against the tree branch looking out over the kingdom. "Would you believe this is the closest I've been to the village? I tried once when I was younger, just to go there and look around, but I became frightened, and turned around. Maybe someday, I'll gain the courage to run away from Aunt Flora, Aunt Fauna and Merryweather…" she huffed, "but it's not likely."
"Don't get me wrong, I love the dears so very much…but I desire more companionship." She sat at the edge of the cliff face and let her feet dangle.
"Like your Prince Charming?" he elaborated.
"Like my Prince Charming." she finished. "I have so little human interaction. The only reason I know what men look like is because of the town's Doctor and the Padre that visits occasionally from the church." She rested her head on her knees. "Even then, the Padre is old and the Doctor is married."
She lifted Phillip from his perch on her shoulder and looked at him, gently stroking him. "You're such a handsome thing, I bet you've had a few mates, haven't you?"
He fluffed up in embarrassment.
She laughed, "I kid with you of course." Then her eyes focused back out to the horizon. "But I suppose once you have healed, you will move on. Like nature dictates, you will migrate to where you belong, and meet someone wonderful. Someday…" She sighed. "At least you enjoy your solitude, according to that bird book." Her eyes downcast. "I wish you wouldn't leave."
He twittered a long happy tune, in an effort to lift her spirits. Catching him off guard, she kissed the back of his head. "You are so sweet." She smiled.
The simple time he had with her lasted for three weeks. His wing was healing very nicely, and was almost healed completely.
It was a cool and rainy day, three days before her sixteenth birthday. Phillip realized that Aurora was becoming more solemn and withdrawn. He couldn't imagine what was the matter with her, well, anything more then usual. Even when she was upset, she seemed to hide her emotions behind a veil of simple joy. But that day, she was just all sighs. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather picked up on it immediately, but later brushed it off as a teenage phase. He knew better, and he was going to find out what it was.
She was leaning out her window, observing the rain, when he nudged her.
"Oh Phillip…" She moaned. "I am not happy. I do not know what is wrong with me…but I feel as if…things are being hidden from me. My aunts keep talking behind my back, and it's about me, too. But I never know what it is! I have heard them say things such as 'she will know in time' and 'it's better if we don't tell her'. All this makes me curious, what do I not know about myself? No one could know me better then me, right? But I am afraid, because I feel like…I feel like I am being lied to! What is so important that they can not speak to me about it!? I am almost an adult, what do they feel like they need to protect me from?" That rant left him speechless. Now if he turned back, she would be angry! Rose lifted him from the sill and looked at him level. "At least I don't have to worry about you ever lying to me." Guilt fell on him like a ton of bricks. "I…I think…" She looked at him very closely.
"It may be silly…" She almost seemed to talk to herself. "But…I think…I'm in love with you."
He stared at her in disbelief. She just confessed that she loved him! Now, it was just a matter of time…
She leaned in to kiss the top of his feathery head, but he turned at the last second, his beak brushing the corner of her lips.
It started almost immediately. Phillip could see her face begin to illuminate from the light that was emitting from his body. She set him down quickly and backed towards the door, never tearing her eyes away. Briar Rose watched in shock as her beloved friend transformed in front of her eyes. His bird form slowly slipped away, his limbs twisting and contorting as he grew. His feathers pulled into his skin, and human hands reached out. Horror struck, she saw his face begin to form after his beak melted from it's hardened state. He let out a cry of pain as once again, his joints shifted and his bones filled again with marrow. Air filled his lungs, and he panted as the metamorphosis left him exhausted on the floor.
Rose stood frozen to her spot, unable to believe what laid before her.
"Rose…" The name sounded odd to both of them, since this was the first time he had heard his deep voice.
"You-you're…" She stuttered.
"A human, yes." He confirmed.
"Naked…" She finished, diverting her gaze.
"Oh…" He looked down and indeed, he was naked. He tried to stand, but the blood had not yet began to flow it's natural way, and he collapsed.
"Phillip!" Concerned, she hurried over to him.
He grasped her arm when she neared him. "Rose…I'm so weak…" he whispered.
She nodded, "I can understand that." She helped him to lie down on the bed and drew a blanket over him. "Just rest, I'm going to…get help I guess."
Before she was even out of the room, he was asleep.
"Aunt Flora! Aunt Fauna! Aunt Merryweather!" Aurora cried, practically tripping down the stairs.
"Good gracious! What's wrong child?!" Flora questioned and the girl's panic.
"It's Phillip!" She answered.
"Is he hurt?" Asked Fauna.
"Is he lost?" Asked Merryweather.
The maiden became tongue tied. "He's in my bed!"
The fairies looked to each other oddly.
Still a blank response.
She shook herself. "He's a human!" She proclaimed.
"OH!" The three fairies exclaimed simultaneously. Without another word, they fled upstairs to look at the phenomenon. When they came into the room, they immediately crowded around the bed to observe the bird-turned-human.
"Oh dear, this must be Maleficent's doing." Fauna dismayed.
Flora rested her hand against his forehead. "The poor thing has a raging fever."
"He looks awfully familiar…have we seen him before?" Merryweather questioned.
"I don't think so…"Added Fauna, "And yet…"
"We'll worry about that later. Fauna, go down to the church and ask the Padre if he has any clothes we can borrow. Merryweather, go fetch the doctor. I'll get some cold water to bring his fever down."
"What should I do?" Aurora finally spoke up.
"Watch him dear, get him anything he needs, and make sure he doesn't leave…although…I don't think he's in much of state to do so." With that, the three left.
Being alone with the boy was the last thing she wanted at the moment. She knew nothing about this stranger, because after all, that's what he was now. She reasoned with herself as she took a seat next to him. She knew plenty. He was loyal, caring, and good company. He was humble enough to ask for help, and was there for her no matter her tiff. Now, she also learned that he was really a human, and a very handsome one at that. She gazed at his sleeping face and sighed. She wanted to learn more about him. Where did he come from? What had changed him into a bird? What had changed him back? What was his name? There were just so many questions that needed to be answered, and the only one to answer them was sound asleep.
Phillip held a grimace on his face, the transformation inflicting much pain upon his body. Rose swept the the hair from his sweaty brow. A moment later, Flora brought a bucket of cool water from the river into the room.
"Here dear, dab his forehead with this." She handed the girl a wet cloth. "I'm going to make up some food for him. I'm sure it will be a welcoming sight for him." She smiled and left the room.
Aurora did as she was instructed. His sweaty face was wiped clean and she rested the cloth on his head. Idly, she tousled his chocolate locks and felt his brazen skin under her finger tips. He was very handsome, that, she couldn't deny. But did she still love him? She must have, what else was keeping her there? His amber eyes opened briefly, just barely looking at her.
"Hello," she whispered.
"Cold…" he whispered back.
She silently fetched a thicker blanket and draped it over him, covering almost up to his chin. "There, better?"
He reached out from the blanket and took her hand. "Stay?"
She nodded mutely. With the rain clouds, the room was dark, and in the dark she watched him. As time passed, she gained the courage to more closely examine her faint friend. His breathing was harsh as she rubbed her thumb over his features. It was strange, this was her first experience with a man around her age.
Soon, Merryweather arrived back with the Doctor, followed not long after by Fauna with clothes from the Padre. The blue fairy had provided the doctor with the knowledge that this had most likely been a curse from Maleficent. He removed the women from the room and began his examination.
To Aurora, time passed infinitely slow until the doctor emerged. "He'll be fine." He concluded. "I don't know any specifics, since I know nothing of magic. But a curse from that wicked witch can only mean that he was targeted, and the effects will be lasting. He will be sore for quite a few days, and depending on how long he's been under the spell, be may need time to adjust being a human again. It seems that his fever has gone down, but try to keep him in bed and resting."
"Alright, thank you Doctor." Flora concluded.
Before the conversation was finished, Aurora was back in her room and fretting over Phillip. He was awake, but not completely. "Rose…" he called. She went to his side and took his hand.
"Stay…" He commanded again.
"Yes, I won't leave again." She smoothed his hair and replaced the cool towel on his head.
"Will you…sing to me?" he asked. "To help me sleep?"
She nodded quietly, and hummed a little. Phillip closed his eyes and sunk back into the mattress.
"I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream. I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam. Yet I know it's true, that visions are seldom all they seem, but if I know you, I know what you do, you'd love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream..." She finished softly. The princess smiled when she noticed he had fallen back to sleep. Carefully, she dabbed his face and neck again with the clean washcloth. He didn't even stir.
Stifling a yawn, Rose let the backs of her fingers roll against his cheek before settling her head in the crook of her elbow. The day's events had exhausted her, and she decided to take a short rest. Soon, she was in dreamland.
Phillip's rest was far from peaceful. Nightmares plagued is feverish mind, making him believe he was still cursed. He fought against the images, cursing Maleficent in hushed tones. In his mind, he flew furiously through the darkness, searching for solace. An eerie green glow followed, no matter how fast he went. A voice sang to him from the depths. The voice of a siren, sweet, haunting…he sought it out in an effort for safety. The witch carried on in her pursuit, but Phillip persevered.
"Once upon a dream…" The voice finished.
Almost instantly, Phillip was filled with a peace unlike any he had in a long time. A dream. That's all it was, a dream. In reality, he was strong. He could be brave and fight back. He had even grown since the last time he faced Maleficent. The darkness faded away to the light of day. The prince flew for the last time, basking in the warmth and comfort of protection. For now, he felt like he could do anything.
Aurora awoke not long after the sun had set. She blinked her eyes a few times before she realized someone was running his fingers through her hair. She turned to him, her eyes alight with curiosity.
Phillip had awakened not too long before her, and didn't want to disturb her peace. He sat propped up with a pillow, the sheets resting a bit passed is chest. He still held her dainty hand within his own.
He smiled, "rest well?"
She sat up and rubbed her eyes. "Y-yes…I didn't mean to fall asleep. I'm sorry, I was supposed to be watching you."
"It's quite alright." He confirmed. "No harm done."
"How do you feel?" she felt his forehead. "Your fever seems to have gone down."
"I feel great! I think I got some of my strength back."
"That's good. I think my Aunt Flora is preparing dinner, if you're hungry."
"Alright, I'd like to take it down with everyone. If I may. No need in having you fret over me."
"Aunt Fauna brought you some clothes." She handed him the folded pile. "Nothing special, but it's all we could get in such short notice."
"That's fine." he assured her. "If…it wouldn't be too much trouble…"
"Could you help me get dressed? It's been quite awhile since I've worn clothes."
"Oh, of course." She nodded, unfolding the garments.
After he was dressed, Rose helped him stand. He was a bit wobbly, still getting used to the weight. But eventually, he was able to walk with her support. She guided him downstairs where the fairies looked in surprise.
"Oh dear! He's supposed to stay in bed!" Flora reprimanded.
"I'm sorry," Phillip interjected. "I felt like I couldn't just stay up there. I feel fine."
"Well, never mind then, just take a seat!" She gestured to the dining table.
He obeyed and sat at the head of the table. Fauna swooped in and covered him with a blanket while Merryweather poured a glass of tea.
"Can we get you anything else, dear?" Fauna asked.
"I am a little hungry..." He confessed, sheepishly.
"Dinner is almost finished!" Flora affirmed.
"How are you feeling?" Merryweather asked.
"Much better then before, thank you. I guess I was just exhausted." He admitted.
"Not just that," Fauna took over, "Maleficent's powers are rooted in hate, evil, and darkness. Being under her spell for a long time could have effected you physically, and drained you spiritually."
"I see..." He answered in awe.
"Here we go, child." Flora set a steaming bowl in front of the boy. He licked his lips. "Beef stew with carrots and potatoes."
"Oh thank you!" He practically dove into the dish he was so famished. The food was the most wonderful thing he had eaten. Nothing special of course, but it was the first hot meal that he had eaten in four years. Real meat, carrots and fat potatoes, all smothered in gravy. He knew he probably looked like a pig, but he didn't care.
"So tell us..." The four women sat at the table. "What is your real name?"
"Oh!" He wiped his chin. "Pardon me for not properly introducing myself. I am Prince Phillip, son of King Hubert."
Flora stood up in shock. "THE Prince Phillip?! The one that's been missing for four years?!"
"That's right. On the night of my sixteenth birthday, Maleficent changed me into a bird."
"Why?" Asked Fauna.
"She said it was fitting. Granted, I was much smaller at the time, and I had a...fragile appearance."
"But why you?" Merryweather questioned.
"She said that I was the only one that could break the spell on Princess Aurora."
The three grew silent.
"Does anyone else know about this?" Asked the red fairy.
He laughed. "Besides you four, only my horse. He was there when it happened."
"We have to get him back to King Hubert right away!" Merryweather exclaimed.
"But if he goes back, Maleficent will find him..." Flora countered.
"And if she seeks him out..." Continued Fauna.
"She'll find us." Finished Merryweather.
Aurora had been silent, taking in all the information. "What will happen if she finds us? Certainly, we are commoners and she'll over look us...correct?"
Flora shook her head. "It's nothing you need to worry about dear."
"Yes Rose," Fauna elaborated. "It doesn't concern you. You needn't be bothered."
Instead of at ease, the Princess was put off. The whole situation was too much for her. She spared a glance over at her handsome friend. He met it, and looked with sympathy. They had just talked about this earlier in the day, despite everything that happened since then.
"I-I need some fresh air." She declared and stalked to the door.
"Wait, Rose! It's still raining!" Regardless, the slam of the door was the only reply.
Phillip sighed. He could plainly see that Aurora had gotten sick up to the neck with all the lying. He wanted to comfort her too, but he knew that she needed a moment to calm down, cry a bit, and compose herself. Besides, he wanted to have a decent discussion with these fairies.
"She doesn't know, does she?" He finally asked.
"Doesn't know what?" Merryweather narrowed her eyes.
"You haven't told her that she's Princess Aurora, or about the curse have you?"
The three looked in shock. "How did you know about that?" Flora gasped.
"I was there when she was cursed!" He exasperated. "I'm betrothed to her, remember?"
"But how did you know this was Aurora?!"
This question was justified. "Maybe I should tell the story from the beginning." He clarified. "Maleficent cursed me on my sixteenth birthday, because I was the one who was supposed to break the spell on Aurora."
"Right, you already said that."
"Yes, and in turn, Aurora was the only one that would be able to lift the spell from me. Her belief was that since neither of us knew where the other was, the spells would never be lifted."
"Take a bite, dear." Fauna kindly reminded the Prince.
He did so, and then continued his story. "After a month of captivity, I was finally able to escape, but by then, my father had figured that I was dead. I supposed that the only way for me to change back was to find you three or Aurora. I spent four years scouring the forests, the mountains, the villages, everywhere…but to no avail."
"So, how did you end up finding her?"
He smiled, "I heard her singing in the woods. I didn't know it was Aurora at first, I just thought her voice was beautiful." He grew wistful. "Then when I saw her…"
"You remembered the gifts we gave her, and you assumed."
"Yes, exactly." he collected himself. "I followed her back here, and saw you three from the window. I remembered the way you were from back then, and I figured that had finally found her. All the evidence pointed to it."
The fairies silently mulled over this information, fear rising in the air.
"Please," he pleaded. "Don't be afraid. I don't think Maleficent could figure it out. After all, it took me four years."
"Yes, but she's had sixteen." Merryweather reiterated.
"But I found her when I wasn't looking. That's what I'm trying to say. You're safe." He assured.
"Aurora turns sixteen in a few days. If Phillip stays with her, it is less likely that she will fall prey to the curse." Fauna spoke up, being the voice of reason.
"That is true…" Flora considered. "What did Maleficent say would break your spell?"
The Prince turned bashful. "True love's kiss."
"So, do you love Aurora?"
"Truly?" Fauna added.
"I do." Phillip declared. "More then anything in the world."
"Why?" Challenged Merryweather.
He hadn't considered the reasons, he thought it was obvious. He leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. "Find the smartest man in the world and ask him why we fall in love. He won't have an answer. I could list all the things that make her wonderful. I could say her voice, her looks, her grace. I could say that every word that she speaks sounds like poetry to me. I could say that her knowledge and her thirst for learning keep me on my toes and interested. Or I could bring up any of the qualities that she possesses that sends my heart a flutter. But you know Rose, her kindness is unparalleled, and she reeks of the pure essence of innocence. I don't know why I love her, but I do. And I refuse to let her go, for any reason."
"Would you fight for her?"
"With every breath. I believe that my purpose in this life is to love and protect her. Even if she doesn't love me back."
"Do you believe that's enough to break the spell on her?"
He pursed his lips. "I'm willing to give her all the love in my heart, and then some."
Flora nodded. "Then you will wake her from her sleep."
"Or keep her from falling asleep in the first place!" Merryweather exclaimed. "We're acting like there's no way to avoid it, but if Phillip doesn't let Rose out of his sight, then how can she prick her finger?"
"Good idea, Merryweather! Now…where is the child anyway?"
Phillip stood up. "Alone, outside, in the dark." He quickly finished his stew and grabbed a blanket that was sitting on a chair. "Thank you very much for the meal. It was wonderful." He bid adieu to the ladies and headed outside.
Phillip closed the door softly behind him. There had been no reason to worry about Rose, she sat on a rock only a few feet away, with her feet dangling over the creek. Her face was in her hands as she wept. He approached her quietly. Her hair clung to her form as her perfect curls melted from the rain. The poor thing was drenched.
Ever the gentleman, Phillip wordlessly draped the blanket over her shoulders and sat next to her. Her hand rubbed under her eyes and she peered up at him. She didn't say anything though, the look of sheer confusion of the last few hours spoke for itself.
"I'm sorry." He looked to the ground. "Please Rose, I so badly wanted to tell you, but obviously I couldn't."
She shook her head. "It's not that…I can understand you not telling me you were under a curse. It would be unfair for me to judge you because of it."
"Then…what has you so upset?"
"I do not know!" She confessed. "Maybe because you know something that I don't, or maybe because the whole situation makes me feel uncomfortable and left out, or maybe I still feel like I'm only being fed lies by me Aunts. I am unsure, but there are so many reasons, I'm sure one applies!" She curled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them.
"You know, they are only trying to protect you." He defended.
"And I suppose they told you what it was?" She croaked out.
"No…" he confessed. "I knew a long time ago."
"How? Why? What is my roll in all of this? Why me?!"
"In due time, my dear."
"Then can you please just tell me? I want to know." she pleaded. "Please."
He shook his head. "I am not a liberty to tell you, or else I would." He held her hand. "Please Rose, just listen to me. You don't want to know. After the time passes, I'll tell you everything, but for right now, just believe that ignorance is bliss."
She looked down at their intertwined hands. "That is another thing that worries me…"
"This. How did this happen? I…I kissed you, while you were a bird. And you turned into a prince. What do I do now? What do…we do now?" She blushed.
Phillip smiled and draped an arm around her waist. "That was no ordinary kiss, my darling. Only true love's kiss could break the spell. And you even said that you loved me."
"I did, I know…but that was then, you were different…now…I don't even know you. How am I supposed to love you?"
He smiled sadly and kissed her forehead. "Because I love you. And I will prove that you mean everything to me."
Her eyes welled up with tears. "Really?"
"You told me many times of how much you wanted to leave this place and meet someone. I want to be that someone. I want to be your dream prince, please Rose! Let me love you!"
She silently nodded as she curled her arms around his neck. "I'm sorry."
"No, no don't apologize. You can't control the way your heart works." He held her close and smoothed her hair. "Just let me stay by your side, always."
In the days leading up to her birthday, Phillip bent over backwards to cater to Aurora's every need. Maybe he felt indebted to her for returning him back to his human form, or maybe he really did love her that much. Either way, he made sure she was treated like a princess.
In return, she helped to remind him how to be human. After all, four years is a long time to forget things. In the evenings, they often sat at the fireplace and read. Phillip hadn't forgotten completely, but he definitely needed a refresher. He stumbled clumsily through the pages and had to ask definitions for multiple words. Aurora didn't mind.
He picked up dressing and undressing pretty quickly, mostly because he found it extremely embarrassing to have someone help him put on his pantaloons. But tricky lessons came with eating.
As witnessed by his by his first meal as a human, his motor skills were next to nonexistent. Having feathers instead of fingers really diminished muscle memories. The poor boy was flinging his fork every which way until Aurora suggested for him to hold it in his fist and stab his food. It would work for the time being.
At night, Phillip curled up on the living room rug, in front of the hearth. It was no bed, and a whole lot less comfortable then what most people sleep on, but the Prince was content and warm. That's all that mattered to him.
From the outside, you would have thought the two had known each other their whole lives. He accompanied his Princess everywhere she went, unwilling to leave her side. All the while, Aurora began to finally fall for him, but had a difficult time expressing those feelings. In a word, shy. She felt safe with him; as they walked arm in arm. Their songs even matched. Not much needed to be said, as they were both of little words. Simplicity and innocence, that's what best described Aurora and Phillip.
It was a pleasant mid-summer morning. Where in most places, the sun made being outside unbearable, the forest kept everything cool and fresh.
Aurora was dusting the window sills. Outside, Phillip chopped wood. He smiled as her angelic voice could be heard from the window. He wiped the sweat from his brow, gathered the logs he cut, and went inside. In the main room, the three fairies were huddled around a table giggling and whispering. His presence was indicated by the door closing.
"Quick!" Flora beckoned. "Come here!"
"You know what today is, right?" Fauna asked in a hushed voice.
"Rose's sixteenth birthday?" He mimicked her quiet voice.
"Right! So we need you to distract her so that we can set up for the party!"
"What are you doing?" He peered over to the book on the table.
"Won't she look lovely?" Merryweather gushed as he studied the picture.
"Of course," Flora corrected, "we'll have to make it pink."
"Pink?!" Merryweather cried indignantly.
Aurora came down the stairs to see everyone gathered around the table. "And just what are you four dears up to?"
"Up to?" Asked Merryweather.
"Up to?" Asked Fauna.
"Up to?" Asked Flora.
"Up to?" Asked Phillip. "Why, Rose! They want us to pick some berries." He came up with an excuse on the fly.
The fairies caught on. "Yes, that's it! Berries!"
"But we picked berries yesterday!"
"Oh but we need more dear!"
"Lots and lots of berries!" They simultaneously pushed the couple out the door.
"Now don't go too far!"
"And don't talk to strangers!"
"We'll be careful!" Phillip assured.
Aurora simply rolled her eyes with a smile.
Outside, Aurora walked calmly, taking dainty steps. Phillip, on the other hand, rushed around. His eyes looking over everything and taking in the sights as they traveled closer to the edge of the forest.
"If you keep running around like that, your going to make yourself sick." Rose smiled as she paused in her song she hummed.
"Sorry," he came up next to her and interlocked arms. "I'm just so glad to have legs to carry me."
"Do you miss flying?" She looked up at him.
"Sometimes. But it was a dangerous life, being that small. The trade off is much better."
"What was it like?"
"No...being a bird in general."
"Well...here." He laid down on his stomach and looked up at her. "This was about my perspective."
She mimicked him. "Everything looks quite a bit bigger."
"Right." He helped her up. "Now, pick up that stick over there." He pointed.
Confused, she bent over to pick up the stick.
"Ah, ah! No hands. and you can't bent your knees."
"Are you suggesting I pick it up with my mouth?"
"I see your point…"
"Now, live only off of bread and berries…and the occasional crunchy insect."
"That's disgusting!" She scrunched her nose. "I understand, it was uncomfortable. But wasn't there anything good about it?"
He sighed as they traveled onward. "I didn't have the responsibilities of a Kingdom. No nagging servants, no pointless advisors…but no friends or family either. Cold winter nights, alone in a shabby nest in the side of a cliff…I apologize, I don't mean to be so melancholy."
She stroked his arm tenderly. "It's quite alright. I guess it really was a curse, wasn't it?"
"Awful. I was ripped away from everything I had known. All my comforts, pleasures…no one knew what happened to me, except Samson." His eyes widened in realization. "Samson! Oh my dear friend, I forgot about him! Why, he hasn't seen me in months! He's probably scared to pieces!"
Rose let go of his arm and began to pick berries from a nearby bush. "I'm sure you'll get home so. Won't he be so happy to see you as a human."
The thought of going home soon sounded wonderful to Phillip. But the more he thought of it, the more he remembered what awaited them. Tonight they would return, Aurora's sixteenth birthday, and there was a curse remained to be fulfilled. He knew that Maleficent was far more determined then to let them succeed. The spell would come to pass, somehow.
"Are you alright?" Rose asked after his prolonged silence.
"Hm? Oh, yes."
"Anxious about going home?"
"Much too anxious." He simpered. In the back of his mind, a nagging sensation told him to tell Rose everything. But for right now, he let her have peace of ignorance. It was her birthday after all. He came to her side and helped her pick the fruit. Soon enough, the little woodland creatures he had been so accustomed to seeing came out and flittered about, picking berries and climbing on them. By scent, they recognized the prince as the once common seen Phoebe in their midst. Of course, being animals, the thought of how he had gone from being a bird to being a human never really crossed their minds.
Regardless of his restored form, Phillip possessed a happy talent for whistling, in which he was able to continue his communications with the animals. Rose found it fascinating beyond a doubt.
"What are they saying?" She finally asked after many moments of watching.
"They say, 'Berries. We are picking berries. We are gathering food for the humans.'"
"Really?" She said a bit despondent. "Do they even know my name?"
He looked at her sadly. "Darling, they don't grasp the concept of names. They are unable to understand most things that we do."
"Oh…" She turned her head away.
"Now don't be like that!" He hooked his finger around her chin. "They count you as a part of their flock, their world. They can see your emotions more clearly then any human could. They love you, don't doubt that."
Rose looked surprised to the birds in the tree. She lifted her hand an a robin perched on her finger. She gave it a kiss and then released it.
"See?" He spoke softly, envying the bird. "It's like a different culture, but not without love and tenderness."
"And to think, I would have gone on believing that they understood me. Well, it's always interesting to learn new things."
He grasped her hand. "I didn't say it to hurt you. I hope that you won't feel lonely now. Besides, you have me, don't you?"
She looked him in the eyes, an unreadable expression on her face. "Of course." She patted his hands.
He sensed a solemn feeling within her. "Dance with me." He commanded.
"What?" She looked startled.
"Oh don't tell me you don't know how to dance! I'll show you, I'm a prince after all."
"No no, I know how to dance!" She blushed. "I've just never danced with a man."
"You've never seen a man, let alone spend so much time alone with one as you have with me. Come on, dance!" Without any other warning, he pulled her towards him and wrapped an arm around her waist. "What was that song you sang to me while I slept? Something like…'I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream!'" He sang as he spun around.
His good attitude was catching. "I know you, the gleam in your eye is so familiar a gleam!" She continued, falling into step.
The couple danced onward, forgetting their task. "And I know it's true, that visions are seldom more they seem…but if I know you, I know what you'll do. You'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream!" The song ended at Rose and Phillip stood toe to toe, eye to eye. The smiles on their faces were tremendous as mutual feelings crossed the space between them. Rose's hands rested against his chest as his caressed her waist.
Shyly, Aurora pulled out of his embrace, but tucked her hand into his. He led her to lean on a tree branch. The view looked out over the cliff he once nested on, out to the kingdom that was to be her home. To his joy, Rose snuggled into his side as they enjoyed the afternoon picture. This was not the first time they had been this close in contact, but every time she was near, his heart jumped into his throat. Imagine, a distinguished prince, even after facing a wicked witch and living for so long with challenges of survival, nervous around a helpless little princess. It was amazing at any rate. He lifted her delicate hand an placed a swift kiss on her knuckle.
She bored her pretty violet eyes into his hazel orbs. "My prince…" Her voice was weak, breaking. He closed his eyes as he knew what she was about to say. "I cannot reciprocate your love."
Just hearing it made his heart sink. "Why…?" Even though he had guessed the reason.
"Phillip, you are a prince, and I am a lowly peasant maid."
"But what if status didn't matter. Could you love me back?"
"Out of the question." She pulled away from him. "We can't ignore it."
But he had to know, he had to know that his kiss would revive her if she fell victim to the curse lingering. "Please Rose…I need to know."
"Phillip." She looked at him desperately. "You will soon leave me to go back home. How would you like me to fall in love with you, and then to have us be torn apart? Would you really do that to me?"
"I'm sorry Phillip…" She stepped farther away. "Maybe it is best if you forget about me and go back home."
He bit his knuckle as he so desperately wanted to tell her everything. But he didn't, it was best if if she heard it from the fairies. "I-I understand…" He said slowly. Then he addressed her sternly, "But I will not leave you on a day important as this. You only turn sixteen once. I want to celebrate with you…as a...friend…" He hesitantly spoke the last part.
She simpered back at him, "My dearest friend." She held out her arm.
He caught up with her and linked arms as they walked back to gather the basket of berries. "I'm sorry…" He said at last.
"I am too…"
"Promise me, you'll be happy. I'll visit every day, too." Of course, he knew he wouldn't have to, but he couldn't stand the look on her face.
"Please…stop." She whispered.
"Alright." He swallowed hard. "Let's go back."
Rose only nodded.
Back at the cottage, Rose opened the door to find the room black. "We're back! Aunt Flora, Aunt Fauna, Merryweather…" Everything was quiet, even Phillip. "Where is everybody?"
She turned the corner and spotted the darling dress and cake on the table. She gasped in joy.
"Surprise!" The three fairies called, coming out of hiding.
"Oh you darlings!" She cried, taking time to kiss them all. "This surprise is so wonderful! I could have never imagined it!" She twirled in her spot. "And this dress! It's so divine! How could I possess such a thing? I will have nowhere to wear it!"
Phillip finally approached the group, he sensed the inevitable was coming.
"Of course you will dear, tonight at the Castle." Flora stated matter-of-factly.
"What?" The smile still hadn't left her face.
"We're taking you home tonight, to your father, King Stephen."
"But that's impossible! I'd have to be a-…"
"A Princess." Merryweather provided.
"And you are dear!"
"Princess Aurora." Flora confirmed.
Rose stood frozen in shock, only her hand bracing her weight against the table. "I-I don't…I don't understand…" She finally managed to speak.
"Well dear, we're aren't really your mother's sister's like you thought…we're the three good fairies, and we brought you out here to protect you from Maleficent. The same witch that cursed Phillip."
Aurora looked to him, pleading with her eyes. He could see thoughts running around. She stepped up to him and grasped his forearms. "Is it true? Did you know about this?"
He nodded his head, a smile on his face. Phillip waited for joy to come to her face as the truth about being a Princess finally sunk in. No such thing happened. Instead, fat tears stared to roll down her cheeks.
"Rose!" Merryweather gasped.
"Whatever is the matter dear?" Fauna cooed.
How to narrow it down? Aurora shook her head as more tears fell. They had been hiding this from her her entire life! She was supposed to be happy she was a Princess? She wasn't dumb, she knew that they were married off for political gain. Then there was the fact about her going back tonight, that meant she had no time to learn about her duties and responsibilities. And what about Maleficent? Why was she being protected? And hadn't Phillip said something early on about a curse on Princess Aurora? Rose wasn't even her name! What was she going to do? It was all too much at one time.
"Aurora?" Phillip dared to use her real name.
"No! No no, I don't believe it!" She burst into frantic sobs. The young maid tore away from the group and raced up to her room, locking the door behind her.
"Oh dear, I hoped that would go over better…" Flora fretted.
"Well, what did you expect?" Merryweather huffed. "I told you she'd be overwhelmed. We expected too much of her."
"We're terrible." Fauna teared up. "Making her cry on her sixteenth birthday."
"You know…" Phillip raised. "What if we waited until tomorrow to take her back?"
Flora shook her head. "King Stephen is expecting us tonight. We cannot do anything about it."
Phillip sighed as he climbed the stairs. He raised his hand to knock, but then decided not to. Instead, he sat with his back to the door, listening to Aurora cry and hating himself.
He sat there all day, refusing to eat, or speak with them. Prince Phillip wanted to feel Aurora's misery as his own, and boy, did he feel awful.
"Phillip, dear," Fauna approached him. "It's getting late, we need to prepare to leave."
"And that means getting you cleaned up." Added Merryweather. "You're meeting your father tonight, too."
"Right," he amended, standing up.
Flora had been looking through some books and pointed to her sisters the idea she had. "It's not too formal, so then people won't recognize him when we pass through the kingdom."
"I like the neutral colors." Stated Fauna.
"Alright ladies," Flora said, directing her wand at Phillip. "All together!" And with a wave of their little wooden sticks and a splash of sparkles, Prince Phillip was tidied right up. He wore black pantaloons and a tight, black, long sleeved shirt, covered by a brown tunic. Maroon boots adorned his feet and a long red cape with a hood cascaded down his back.
"My, doesn't he look dashing?" Flora gushed.
"Much more fitting for a Prince!" Fauna agreed.
"Now, one more thing, and this is very important."
Phillip stood proud, to show he was listening.
"You will be protecting Aurora, you know this. But to help you, we bestow upon you this." Another spattering of sparkles and a mighty sword appeared in his grasp. "This mighty sword of the spirit, which is directly linked to your own spirit. May it's strength protect you and Aurora."
He kneeled and bowed his head. "I thank you. And I promise I shall guard her with my life."
It was then that the door creaked open and Princess Aurora stood above them all, dressed in the magnificent blue gown that was presented to her. Her normal black headband was missing, but her golden hair fell nicely on her shoulders. With a short curtsy, she looked to her family. "Do I look like a Princess?" She managed a small smile.
"You've always looked like a Princess." Fauna gushed, tears in her eyes.
Aurora blushed and came down the stairs.
"Now my dear," Fauna took out the cloak from the closet. "We'll need you to wear this. Once we get into the villages, we'll have you and Phillip walk a few steps behind us, so they don't associate us together."
"Why?" Asked she, as she wrapped up with the cloak.
"We can't have anyone recognize you, and we are well known faces. We promise everything will make sense soon."
Seemingly understanding them, Aurora nodded. "Can I take anything with me?"
"You won't need to dear…and if you want, we can come back."
"Alright." She pulled her hood up. Before Phillip could take her arm, she sealed herself inside her cape, her face barely able to be seen. Following suit, Phillip pulled his own hood up, and off they went.
The trip was silent and relatively uneventful. Everyone could tell that Aurora was still in inner turmoil, but let her be. They came upon the town relatively fast and melted into the throng of people. Everyone was busy doing this and that, cleaning, decorating, and overall preparing for the festivities.
"They're waiting to welcome you home." Phillip stated quietly.
She said nothing, but focused on the ground.
As the crowd grew thicker, Phillip instinctively put an arm on her waist. The fairies were now much farther ahead, but could still be seen. As predicted, the crowd parted when they saw the three mystic beings, but paid no heed to the cloaked strangers.
Phillip began to feel apprehension about returning. After all, he was proclaimed dead four years ago. How would people take to seeing him alive again? Would anyone even believe him? What if they assumed he was created by Maleficent? No, that wouldn't happen. One glimpse and his father would run to him with open arms.
As they neared the castle, the crowd grew thicker and thicker until Aurora was bumped from his side. Another young man grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him. "Well, hello gorgeous!" He raised his eyebrows.
Afraid, Aurora pulled her hood closer. Fortunately, Phillip found her a moment later and resumed his place around her waist. "Excuse us." He spoke to the stranger.
"Hey buddy, what's the big deal?" The uglier man spoke. "Can't you see I'm making a move?"
"Yes, and it's unwarranted. I'm sure." Again, he tried to pull the Princess away.
"What's your problem buddy?"
"She's spoken for!" Phillip's patience was worn thin.
"Oh yeah? By who? You? And just what are you going to do about it?" The peasant man sized Phillip up. Granted, he was a bit larger then the Prince, but then something sparkling at his waist caught the brute's attention. He released his hold on Aurora when he realized there was a large sword attached to the man's waist. "Whoa, you know what…I'll find someone else…someone in my class. Sorry, uh, sir!" The man slipped away into the crowd.
Phillip let out a huff as he watched the other fellow disappear. "Pig."
Aurora looked up to him in curiosity. "What was that?"
A smile cracked on his face. She had finally spoken. "He thought you were just a pretty face, and wanted to take you home. When he saw the size of my sword, he had second thoughts."
"What did he mean by, 'in my own class'?"
"Only nobles, knights, and royals carry swords this size. Now come on, let's not get separated from your aunts."
The final stretch went much the same as earlier. Phillip kept a keener eye on the populace and a firmer hand on his beloved. Aurora traveled with her cloak drawn tight, eyes riveted to the ground. Finally, they passed through the threshold to the castle and veered off to west wing.
"Aren't we going to the throne room?" Phillip questioned Flora.
"No, not until the sun sets." The Prince looked to the west and noticed the sphere was maybe a good hour before setting. "She'll stay in her room until we can present her."
Phillip dipped his head in understanding.
Inside the castle, stately guards stood watch at the entrance. They moved to the side when they saw the fairies. Eyes widened slightly when they saw the fair lady follow behind, assuming it was Aurora, and then the looks turned inquisitive on Phillip. He simply flashed them a smile and continued on. The group stole up the stairs and down a hallway, the fairies glancing every which way. Everything looked good.
"This way…" Flora beckoned as she opened the door. "In here dear." Aurora obediently came inside, not bothering to look around the room. "Lock the door Merryweather! Fauna, pull the drapes!"
Then she guided Aurora to sit at a ornate bureau. "Now, if you'll just sit here dear…this one last gift, dear child, for thee…"
The fairies worked their magic, and out of thin air, they produced a perfect little crown. "A symbol of thy royalty…A crown to wear in grace and beauty…tis thy rite, and royal duty." She placed the headdress delicately on her hempen locks. Phillip's heart ached at the beauty reflected in the mirror. Then, as she gazed upon herself, Aurora collapsed into her arms, sobbing once again.
"Come along dears, let's give her a few moments alone."
In the hall, Phillip relaxed minutely when Merryweather locked the door behind her.
"Come on, let's go set the facts straight with your father." Fauna spoke up.
Instantly, his anxiety came back at full force. He straightened his cape. "We might as well. Today is about Aurora, so the sooner we get this settled, the better." Then he hurried off to the throne room.
King Stefan was in a state of anxiety much like Phillip. He was preparing to meet his daughter for the first time in sixteen years. How would she receive him? Could she even love him, after never knowing him? These ideas tumbled around as he paced the floor.
"Darling, please come take a seat, you're only making yourself sick." The queen spoke up.
"She's right, you know." King Hubert spoke up, sipping on some wine. "Worrying will not change a thing."
Stefan fell into his throne. "You're both right of course, I just can't help it."
At that moment, the three fairies and Phillip entered the room. King Stefan stood to greet them. "Flora, Fauna, Merryweather! It's so wonderful to see you. But where is Aurora?"
"She's resting." Flora provided. "Finding out who she really is came as quite the shock."
King Stefan nodded in understanding. Being the wise ruler he was, he didn't doubt this would happen. "The poor girl will surely be confused and frustrated for a while, but we'll help her ease into things." He affirmed.
"And who is this young man?" The queen asked, striding up to her husband's side.
"Introduce yourself." Flora gestured Phillip forward.
"Your majesties," He bowed, "I hope this does not come as too much of a shock, but I am-…"
"Phillip…" King Hubert interrupted. "My boy…" He pushed passed the two royals to grasp his sons arms, shoulder, face everything, just make sure he was there. "Is that really you?"
"Yes father…" His voice was a little choked up. "I wasn't dead like everyone thought. Merely cursed, by Maleficent."
"Good heavens!" The queen exasperated. "She got you too?!"
"Yes, to prevent me from breaking the spell on Aurora." He stopped. All at once, his foolishness hit him in the face and he fell silent.
"Phillip?" The king asked, trying to get his attention.
"Excuse me, I-I forgot something…" Without another word, he took off running back to Aurora's room.
"Phillip!" Merryweather called after. But he didn't heed any attention. He thundered through the halls, passing alarmed guards and servants.
"How could I have been so foolish?" He berated himself as he clamored up the stairs. "A locked door and closed drapes aren't going to stop that witch!" He came to the hall and sprinted to the door, grasping the handle. To his dismay, it was locked tight.
"Aurora, It's me, Phillip!" He called knocking on the wood.
There was no reply.
"ROSE!" He cried.
In reply, the haunting voice of a siren sang, "Aurora..."
Mortified, he rammed his shoulder hard into the door. Over and over he slammed himself into the wood before it came off it's hinges. He rushed into the room to see his beloved Princess disappearing down a hallway that had not been there earlier.
"Rose! Oh why did we leave her alone?" The fairies cried finally catching up with the prince. As he ran to stop her, a wall formed at the threshold of the passage. It was transformed into a fireplace. Phillip's furious fists wailed on the stone, pleading them to open.
"Stand back!" Flora commanded before sending a barrage of magic at the wall. The four charged as soon as it was gone.
"Rose! Rose...Rose..." Their voices echoed as they each traveled different ways. "Where are you?!...Where are you...Where are you?"
Phillip's heart thundered in his chest as he raced through the labyrinthine corridors. His ears were tuned to the sound of her clicking heels on the stone. He turned and listened, and faintly, he heard it. From a serpentine staircase that rose high into the castle. A faint green light illuminated the corridor. He could hear every terrifying note in that enchantress' spell.
"Rose!…Rose…Rose…" The fairies called out again. "Don't touch anything!…Anything…Anything…"
Finally, he saw her shadow against the wall, her hand reaching out.
"Touch the spindle, touch it I say." Maleficent's nefarious voice cut through the air.
He broke through the brink just in time to see her fingers mere centimeters from the spindle.
"NOO!" Phillip shouted as he lunged, sweeping her hand away from the threat and drawing her into his arms. He wasted no time in pulling her up, but simply scooped her legs up with one arm and barreled out of the room.
As he scrambled down the steps, he could hear Maleficent's indignant howls of ferocity screaming behind him. Whatever trance Aurora was under had not yet been broken as Aurora reached out for Maleficent.
"I found her!" Phillip called, coming up on the exit. "Get out! Now!"
"Phillip?" Aurora finally asked, coming out of her stupor.
"I'm sorry…I'm so sorry…" He pleaded as he burst into the main room. "You're under a curse. We should have…I should have told you…"
Three colored lights came out of the tunnel before the entrance was sealed once again. Still not feeling safe, the Prince continued into the hall.
"What kind of curse?" The Princess gripped his shirt.
"On the day of your christening, Maleficent cursed you in anger from not being invited. Before the sun set tonight, you were supposed to prick your finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel…and then die."
Aurora went still as a grave when she realized how close to death she had been.
"But," he continued, "Merryweather altered the curse. Instead of death, you would meet sleep, only to be awakened by true love's kiss."
"Why couldn't you just kiss me?"
He halted. Did she just say that? Did that mean…? He looked down to her face, so full of trust and love, but now was not the time. He said nothing, but pulled her close so he could hold her.
The group bolted into the throne room, and Phillip set Aurora down. There was no sign of Maleficent.
"Why did you bring her here?" Merryweather whispered to the Prince. "It's not any safer."
"I don't know. More people watching I guess. Where else were we supposed to go?"
She shrugged. He had her on that one.
Aurora saw her parents and was immediately filled with love. The looks on their faces were of loneliness and longing. She ran to her mother, threw her arms around her neck, and kissed her. "Oh mother! My beautiful mother!" She cried.
The queen was speechless as happy tears came from her eyes. The king hugged both the girls and petted Aurora's sunshine hair.
As the reunion was taking place, Hubert stepped over to Phillip. "I see how it is. Can't be without her for a minute, can you? She's really something special, isn't she? Even more beautiful then I could have imagined."
Phillip was only half paying attention. He took glances about the room and grasped his sword, ready for attack.
"My boy, what's on your mind? You should be celebrating! What are you so worried about?"
As if he had summoned her, there was a sudden flash of lightening in the middle of the hall. Green flames sprouted from the ground and a tall shadow began to grow.
Aurora ran back to Phillip to find solace in his arms.
Maleficent looked over the crowd, specifically the royals. "My my, it's been sixteen long years. They've been kind to you, your majesties."
Neither the King nor Queen uttered a word.
"And you." Maleficent narrowed her eyes on Phillip. "You've finally grown into your shoes."
Phillip glared hard in response.
"Oh dear, if looks could kill." She grasped the orb on top of her staff. "You thought that you could stop my spell that's been in place for sixteen years?" She smiled sickly. "You clever little boy! Breaking your curse and preventing the Princess' to come true. How very clever indeed. I congratulate you." She gestured to the window, where the setting sun could be seen. He didn't look. As the last light disappeared into the horizon, she raised her hands. "You've won." Then she brought the end of her staff to crack the marble floor. "SIXTEEN YEARS! I've waited all this time for my revenge! I even went to great lengths to make sure you wouldn't interfere! Well, make a fool of me will you? Now, both of your curses shall come true! And true love's kiss will do nothing to save you!"
"No!" Phillip cried as he grasped Aurora fiercely.
"Stuck in forever dreams that are never sweet,
Within a feathered cage your heart shall beat.
With power of storm and might of thunder,
I curse you to an avian form and eternal slumber!"
Phillip felt the rippling pain shooting into his body before Aurora's head lulled back and she collapsed against him. He gently laid her on the ground as he fought back the pain. He grasped her hand and held tight until his transformation was complete. As a tiny bird, he fluttered over and pecked Aurora on the lips. Absolutely nothing happened.
Maleficent cackled madly. "All that work for nothing!" She taunted.
"Seize her!" The king shouted in vain, but the witch had already erupted into flames and vanished. Her laughter echoing in the void she left behind.
The king and queen both knelt by their beloved daughter, afraid to touch her. The crowd in the hall was silent in mourning.
"So," Hubert said looking down at his son. "That was the curse?"
Phillip flicked his tail, a gesture to mean yes. The little bird hopped over to his princess and nudged her cheek with his feathery head. A large tear collected on his cheek as he felt ashamed. He was supposed to protect her. He was supposed to break the spell. And yet, here they were, cursed forever.
The queen stretched out a hand towards Phillip, but he didn't acknowledge it. "It will be alright dear. Don't blame yourself, we all know you did your best."
No, he didn't. And it filled him with disgust. He nudged his beloved, praying for her forgiveness.
Regret would solve nothing, he understood, and he turned all of his regret, disgust, shame, and sorrow into rage. While the royals and fairies fretted over Aurora, he burrowed under his cape that still lay on the floor.
"Phillip?" Merryweather questioned.
As he had hoped, his sword had shrunk as he did. He grasped it in his talons, burst from the cloak, and soared off toward the windows.
"Phillip! No, stop!" Flora cried, sensing his anger, but she was too late. The prince was gone.
On wards he flew, fighting wind and rain. A storm was brewing, no doubt being caused by Maleficent's pride of victory. His little wings beat rapidly until he could get to the forest for cover. Once there, the canopy provided a bit of protection, but he kept up his harsh pace.
Other animals and birds called to him, begging him to hide, to turn back, but heeded them not. He only had one thought in his mind:
Killing the witch that ruined his life.
Soon, he came upon the thorny bushes that vaulted into a tunnel, acting as a walkway to the castle. Phillip swooped through the barbs and soared under the drawbridge. He kept low, out of sight from guards and Diablo. He circled the castle once and heard music and shouting from a window. What he found inside terrified him.
The devils that had tormented him during his captivity were dancing in circles around a hellish green fire in a great hall. Their shadows projected on the wall as black figures, utterly bizarre. Above it all was Maleficent, sitting on her throne like the devil himself.
Phillip tucked himself into the window sill to stay out of sight, but kept his eyes glued to the wicked witch. She smiled, amused, softly stroking her raven. She looked like a fat cat that had just hungrily devoured a rat. Phillip sneered at her smug face.
After about an hour went by, she finally stood. Her sharp voice echoed off the walls so that even he could hear it.
"Well my pet, it's been quite the day." She grinned. "I shall retire for the night…and for the first time in sixteen years, I shall sleep well."
'I beg to differ.' The Prince thought with malice. His eyes followed her heinous form as she left the hall. Gliding from window to window, he watched Maleficent ascend to a high tower and close the door. She abandoned Diablo outside, he noticed.
Inside the tower window, he saw a green light ignite, and he waited in the shadows. Breathless moments went by as he kept watch, barely even blinking. Diablo had fallen asleep, and then finally, the green light went out. His chest rapidly beat as his patience was tested. He had to wait until she was asleep, or his plan, if you could call it that, would never work. He closed his eyes and breathed heavy for as long as he could bare.
Silently, the vengeful Prince swooped up to the tower where his enemy laid, unaware. His sword clutched tight in his talons, he peered into the dark room, only illuminated by the faint starlight. He slipped through the bars and spotted her on the bed, lying still, her arms at her sides. As soon as his eyes landed on her muted green skin, his heart burst with excitement. Utter and complete hatred blazed in his eyes. It would only take a moment. His nose flared and as if he was moving thorough water, his blade slit through her cloak, into her throat.
Instantly, the witch was awake, grasping her wound and breathing hard. He had missed her carotid artery and jugular vein, but punctured her trachea.
"You…you disgusting creature!" She hissed with a fading voice. "I'll show you!" She raised her hand and instantly, he was filled once again with a familiar pain. Maleficent had lifted the curse on him! He was transforming back into a human.
Once again, he reclaimed his human form. He found Maleficent kneeling by her bed, struggling with a long and painful death. He could see the red stain on her hand.
She spoke again. "There, your petty little curse is lifted. But good luck trying to leave here like that! There's no way out!"
"Maleficent," He addressed her in a dignified manner. "Why?"
"Why…what?" She hissed.
"Why do you hate us? Why did you curse us? Just because you weren't invited?"
"No you simpleton!" She coughed. "It's much bigger then that! It's always been more...I'm not so finicky to be obsessed over something so frivolous...I was once Aurora. Blessed with beauty and wit…loved by everyone…but I was cursed, by a jealous fairy. A fairy of all! I was faced with a hundred years of slumber, or to be awakened by true love's kiss…" She slipped farther towards the floor as her voice became even more faint. "I had my prince. My love…but he never came. A hundred years passed and I awoke in an abandoned castle…only to find that he had married another wench and the family now ruled my kingdom…"
Phillip listened, fascinated as everything began to make sense.
"With nothing else to lose…I sold my soul to the devil and decided to wreck havoc over that traitorous family."
"Is the great grandchild of my forgotten lover."
Phillip stood in silence as this new information rolled over in his head.
"Now you know…but it doesn't matter. You will die in your escape from this place...and Aurora will sleep forever…I win…" With a final breath, her head rolled back on the stone. Phillip watched in trauma as her body slowly evaporated from the floor, leaving nothing but her cloak.
All at once, the adrenaline from the last few hours dissipated and he found himself on his knees, stifling his sobs with his hands. He, a Prince, was a murderer. He shook his head, trying to rid himself of the guilt. It had to be done. Aurora would have died if he hadn't. But nothing could change the fact that he had just killed the most powerful person on the earth. His sword sat mere feet away, returned to normal size, but completely black with sin.
He clasped his hands together in a desperate prayer, "Oh Holy Father…please forgive me for what I have done! Sendest away this guilt and pardon my shame, for my rage and vehement self-righteousness drove me to this act…Please Father…Please forgive me…" In his sorrow, the black film of his weapon disintegrated and the sword was restored.
He finished his prayer, a peace falling over him. Now the boy was instilled with a new resolve, to prove Maleficent wrong. He would escape, and he would find a way to break the spell over Aurora. But how, was the question. He was in the tallest, most highly guarded area of the whole castle. He had a weapon, but no shield. He was also very naked. He could try to sneak out, seeing that Diablo was asleep, but as he peered out of the window of the door, he saw a guard not too far away, stalking back and forth.
Going to the other window, he examined the way he came. The walls of the castle were steep and slick, and after the base, the foundation curved inward and continued down into darkness. As far as he could tell, the only way of this island-like castle was the draw bridge. If that was it, he would need some sort of disguise. Well, some form of clothes for that matter. He looked around the room and found the bed that Maleficent had been asleep on, with black covers. Maybe he could use them as a cloak to hide? He rifled through her bureau drawers only to find some unmentionables and other trinkets he could only assume were evil. It was looking to be hopeless.
Then he spotted her vestment on the floor, and her staff next to her bed. He gathered the black and violet cloth and studied it. It was stretchy, and thick. Besides the neck, it was in good repair. As much as he couldn't believe what he was doing, he slipped the garment over his head, finding it to fit surprisingly well. An insane idea popped into his head, it was just a matter of time to pull off his trick.
Phillip looked over the items on Maleficent's dresser once again. He applied some sort of black powder under his eyes, to give him the illusion of darkness, much like the witch had. Finally, he adjusted his collar and raised his chin. It could work. It had to work. He grabbed the staff from the wall and tucked his sword into the folds of the robe. He took a deep breath and opened the door proudly.
The motion caught the attention of the guard down the hall. He blurted gibberish and ran at him with spear lowered.
"Halt your attack, you fool!" The disguised prince pointed.
The goblin indeed stopped and looked at him confused. Diablo fluttered to wakefulness and squawked at the intruder.
Phillip raised his hand gracefully to the bird. "My pet," he mimicked, "even you have fallen for my disguise."
Diablo obeyed the gesture and hopped on his arm, up to his shoulder.
"M-my lady!" The wicked creature stuttered.
"Never mind, go on with your business." He waved the guard away.
Phillip continued through the castle, slowly in a saunter as he had seen Maleficent travel. As he passed the minions, each one looked in awe, but said nothing. They saw the cloak, the staff, and the raven; it had to be Maleficent.
He reached the throne room where hundreds of ghouls were still dancing and drinking. The celebration stopped as he delved deeper.
"Pay no attention to me." He raised the staff. "Today is a day of celebration, I expect no less of you then to be in the loutish manner that you are."
A pig man spoke up, "My lady…?"
"Ah yes, my form. An idea struck me in my sleep. One last piece of my plan is yet to be put in place!" He made a fist. "I shall set off tonight, and be prepared to meet Stefan in the morning!"
The minions turned to each other and shrugged, deciding that Maleficent could do whatever she wanted after all.
Just when the Prince reached the threshold of guards, the first goon that he had run into bolted into the room. "The Mistress has been killed! Her blood is all over her bed and the floor! Kill the intruder!" He pointed a grisly finger at the Prince.
Phillip had just enough time to withdraw his sword before the small army was upon him. They swung clubs, axes, and maces. Spears and arrows flew past his head and stabbed his body. Even Diablo pecked harshly at his head. He fended off many attackers with his sword, whirling it around, and he deflected on onslaught of strikes with the staff, flailing it about. He was inundated though, beaten from all sides. The Prince despaired as he felt blood from his multiplying wounds soaking into his cloak. Maleficent was right…he would die here.
While he fought, the end of the staff careened through the air and hit a stone pillar with a crack. The onslaught of assault stopped instantly. Phillip looked to the faces of the ghouls to see them staring in terror at the staff. He observed it too, to find a large crack in the glass orb.
"Give us the staff…and we'll let you walk out of here." One spoke up.
That was a lie if he had ever heard one. Instead, he gripped the rod tightly. "Not on your life." And he sent it viciously down to shatter on the ground.
Like a giant tremor, he was over taken by a great power, burning down into his bones. His hair stood on end and he smelt his flesh burning. Lighting had struck and coursed through him, the bearer of the staff. As soon as it had come, it was gone, leaving him lying breathless on the floor.
Once he gained his strength, he sat up and looked around. He was now surrounded by gargoyles. Mere statues of the beasts he had been fighting. Each held a face of terror as their eyes glued to the staff. Then a rumble erupted, shaking the castle. With the magic in Maleficent's staff released, the fortress was beginning to collapse. Hurriedly, he targeted the exit and ran as fast as he feet would carry him.
He bolted over the draw bridge right as the castle gate rolled shut, then the inside towers collapsed in on themselves. Phillip dove to the solid ground of the mountain before looking back. He sat under the arch of the thorns. All that was left of the gruesome castle was a pile of rubble. Slowly, a fog rolled in and hid the remains from sight.
The bloody prince lay on his back, exhausted and fighting for breath. The branches above him sprouted to life with beautiful white roses. Maleficent's magic had finally wore off, he supposed.
He strained, but sat up, looking back to Stephen's castle, were the sun would rise in a few hours. Aurora would be awakening from her curse now, now that there was no magic left. He supposed he should get back…but it was so far! With soft sigh, he remembered the cottaged about half way, and aimed to recuperate there.
He tucked the sword back into his cloak, and used the broken staff as a walking stick. Now that the gremlins and the witch had been defeated, the forest seemed a lot less penetrating, even in the dark of the night. The prince ambled along, knowing the woods relatively well by now.
As he traveled, he heard the crunching of twigs behind him. He looked, only to find a deer with great horns staring back at him.
"This isn't my cloak," he provided in his second language, "I stole it."
The deer seeming understood and came closer to the human, walking with him. Phillip came to appreciate the animalistic connection he had with the woods. If not for anything else, at least he had company.
Not too long after the deer, a snowy owl glided over head, swooped around and perched peacefully on the buck's antlers. The prince was stunned. Was it just because he had once been apart of the forest? Maybe, or maybe they could sense the deed he had just completed. It was evident to anything with a good sense of smell; he reeked of blood. This was their way of thanking him for ridding their home of the greatest threat.
The buck and owl stayed with him all the way to the cottage. Then, the deer curled up outside and waited while the owl flew off to continue it's hunt.
Inside, Phillip peeled the rancid robe from were it stuck thickly to his skin. He winced as the forming scabs ripped off and he began to bleed anew. He left the cloak in a pile on the floor. Then he went to lighting candles and a fire in the fireplace. As he turned, he caught his image in the mirror, and paused. The boy didn't recognize himself, not with all the blood. Horrified, he stepped closer to observe the damage, he knew it was bad, he could feel it, but seeing it all made the pain sink in. He winced as a sharp sting shot up his leg. Lodged in his calf was an arrowhead. Immediately he felt weak and fell down to one knee, but he quickly recovered, motivating himself to help himself. He scavenged the cottage, looking for whatever he could use, such as old fabrics and a bottle of distilled vinegar. To his delight, half a loaf of bread had been left on the counter. He added that to his pile and took a seat in front of the fire.
He took the fire poker and placed it on the coals to heat up. As much as he didn't want to, he knew he would have to use it. First, he started with the arrow head. Carefully, he wiggled the jagged stone free and pulled it. Once the wound was opened, it seemed to hurt so much more! He took one of the fabrics, dosed it with vinegar, and held it to the wound. It burned, but he held fast. Phillip could feel his head already swimming, and he wasn't nearly done treating his wounds. Regardless, he tied the cloth tight and prepared to clean the rest of his wounds.
He managed to cleanse his skin from the staining fluid before he had to lay on his back. Phillip watched the flickering flames as his heart pulsed in his ears and he saw spots. All he wanted to do was close his eyes and wake up healed, with Aurora in his arms. But he knew that wasn't going to happen. He just had to tough it out.
He ate some more bread before going to work again. This time he got through wrapping some of his lesser wounds before he vomited. He felt sore even leaning back on his arms, the pain was so intense. Maleficent had made sure the effects of the spell were lasting, and they sure were. He knew he wasn't going to last much longer, but one thing needed to be done before he could consider going back. He had to cauterize five lacerations. The worst was in his leg, were the arrow had pierced through, another, on his chest, dangerously close to his heart. He could feel two very large lesions on his back, but those would have to wait. Two wounds lie on his stomach, crossing over each other, and the final injury was on his head. He was unsure were it was exactly, but the blood from it persisted down his cheek. It took many long moments for the prince to gain the courage to grab the poker, and when he did, it shook in his hand. Whether from weakness or fear, he was unsure. Carefully, he pressed the smoldering metal onto his skin, wincing as it sizzled. Really, it wasn't the most painful thing he had experienced this night, but there was nothing else to focus on. He pulled the iron away, unsure if he had really done it right. The skin was white and looked to have stopped bleeding. Content with his job, he tied a cold wet bandage on the burn to soothe it.
There were only four more to go.
The others followed suit as the first, seemingly more painful the closer he came to his head. Finally, he looked at his bloody hairline and couldn't find the strength to cauterize the hidden wound. Instead, he dressed it with two layers, one with a vinegar saturated cloth, the other, a dry cloth, tied tight. Now he was ready.
But then, the strength to stand was gone as he laid on his side, his eyes closed. Oh how he was tired. He kept telling himself to get up, that his quest wasn't over, but just thinking about moving made him sore.
He laid a moment, thoughtless, breathing deeply. The image of Aurora focused in his mind. She was stepping down the stairs in her sapphire dress, her sunshine hair was still slightly mused from her slumber. A look of anxiety was on her face.
"Where is Phillip?" She asked, looking to each of the royals.
"He hasn't come back yet."
"Come back? Where has he gone?"
"Well, seeing as the curse on you has been lifted..." King Hubert answered, "I suppose he went to see Maleficent."
"As a bird?! Why, he could have been killed!"
The Queen stepped up and held her daughter. "Oh darling, don't fret! If the curse has been lifted, he must have been successful!"
"I can only fear the worst…" Tears slowly rolled down her cheeks. "He would be so vulnerable when he changed back! I just can't imagine him being okay…"
Even in his imagination, her tears stabbed him to his core. Phillip clenched his teeth and sat up. He would go back, but not like this. He made his way over to the chest where his borrowed clothes had been kept. Most articles had been returned to the Padre, but a pair of black pantaloons and a white tunic remained. Unfortunately, there was nothing for his feet, but he didn't mind. He strapped the sword back onto his waist with a leather belt, and used the broken staff as a walking staff. He hesitated, but carried Maleficent's coat on his arm. No doubt the king would like to have it as proof that the witch was dead.
He emerged from the cottage to see the stag waiting for him. Phillip rubbed the animal's head and placed his burden upon it's back. With the absence of the arrow head from his leg, it was much more painful and difficult to walk, but he was thankful for the large deer that caught him, despite not being strong enough to carry him.
Once they reached the edge of town, the stag shook the cloak off, nudged his companion, and turned back to the woods.
As Phillip walked into the town, he noticed that lanterns hung in the windows of the cottages down Main Street, even though it was late into the night. He couldn't help but think it was for him. The metal staff clinked upon the cobblestone road, and it sounded loud and obnoxious to him. A little ways into town, a guard spotted him and ran to his aid.
"Are you the Prince Phillip?"
"Yes," he answered in a haggard voice.
"Don't worry, we'll get you to the castle." Then he whistled.
From the dark streets came the clomping of horse hooves. At first, he thought it was another of the king's men, but then he noticed the pattern of the steps. A white stallion with a black mane raced into the lantern light towards his owner.
"Samson!" Tears welled up in the young man eyes as the horse ecstatically jumped around him, whinnying happily. Phillip dropped his trophies and held out his arms. The horse walked to him and nudged him with his head.
"I missed you too, buddy." He hugged the animal's neck and petted his silky pelt.
"Your majesty," one of the guards coughed.
Phillip looked to his steed, who was ready to be ridden. He stepped on the stirrup, but wasn't able to mount do to how weak he was. The guards caught him and helped him, Samson tugging on his tunic from the other side. Samson took off in a race to the castle, but slowly when he found his rider clinging to his neck.
"Keep going." He urged. "It's been along time, that's all." He lied. Even so, the horse rushed the Prince through the town.
At the castle gate, the guards let him pass without slowing down. The main door opened and the prince slid down carefully, while Samson helped him balance on his feet.
"Stay here, okay?" He pet his muzzle.
Samson nuzzled his face and let him go.
Phillip's steps were unsteady and hard to watch, yet he refused any help. He had come this far, he could make it.
In the throne room, the scene wasn't exactly as he had been expecting. Stefan sat with his head in his hands. His own father sat on his right, half asleep, and empty wine bottle at his feet. And the queen sat daintily with her head down, asleep. As soon as he entered the room, Stefan blinked up at him.
"Ah! My boy! You've made it!" He stood to greet him, but Phillip knelt instead.
"Your highness," he raised the cloak and staff in his hands. "I bring Maleficent's vestment and staff as proof of her demise...and also as repentance for my failure to protect the Princess."
King Stefan took the items from his outstretched hands and handed them to a servant. "Phillip, we are just glad you are alright. You have gone above an beyond anything we expected you to do. I can never repay you for this." He clapped his hand and pulled him into a embrace.
"Where is Aurora?" He asked, his guilt not moved.
By this time, the queen had awoken and had moved towards he husband's side. "Why, we moved her to the south tower, to sleep."
This alarmed him. "She's still asleep? But I lifted the curse! She was supposed to wake up!" He stood and started towards the tower, stumbling. Yet again, servants tried to help him up, but he pushed away from them, not saying a word. The royals followed behind silently, worried as they saw the blood seeping through his shirt. The queen sent for a healer, hoping that Phillip wouldn't refuse medical treatment as well.
Phillip took the last steps to the tower and pushed through the threshold. He stopped, broken. He sank to his knees, his eyes never leaving his bride.
"It cannot be."
Aurora lay still as a grave, the color from her features gone as in death. Yet, in his eyes, she was painfully beautiful, and tears fell from his cheeks.
The three fairies stood opposite of him, surprised at his sudden appearance. "Phillip…your injured…" Flora whispered.
"It doesn't matter." His voice was hollow. He abruptly sent his battered fists onto the ground. "No! No! NO!" He screamed as his eyes flooded with sorrow. "The only thing I've wanted in life! For the last four years, I've striven to keep this from happening! Even in death, Maleficent still won! She still won…" He lowered his head to mourn. "And I've lost Aurora forever…"
Fauna approached him and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Phillip, don't give up yet." She urged.
"We altered the spell, just like when she was a babe. True love's kiss may still work."
Hearing that, Phillip stood and went to his Princess. He sat at the edge of her bed and looked at her dollish appearance. Scared, he reached out and touched her cheek with his stained fingers. The royals gathered at the door and watched in apprehension.
"My darling," he whispered. "We've come so far. Forgive me for allowing this to fall upon you, and if you do awake…I promise to love you forever."
Delicately, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers in a sweet caress. His nose brushed against hers and he marveled in how utterly soft they seemed. He pulled back and waited, unable to breathe.
Slowly, her eyes flickered open. She was fogged with confusion, only for a moment. "Phillip…" Her silky voice sang.
"Rose…" He breathed. Then he fell forward and laid against her chest.
She chuckled and held him, thinking that it was a gesture of relief. Then she felt a wetness on his back. "Phillip? Are you alright?"
He didn't answer, as he had passed out.
"Healer! He needs a healer!" She cried as she sat up and turned him over so that his head rested on her lap. She then noticed the bandage on his head.
The King and Queen approached the bed. "We've sent for a healer already, all we can do is wait."
She played with his hair as she spoke, "What happened? Why is he in this condition?"
The King answered, "He has slain Maleficent. After the curse set in, he flew out the window. Many hours passed, but when he came back, he presented her cloak and staff…and then demanded to see you."
"Oh Phillip!" She cried, holding him closer.
"The healer is here." A servant opened the door and let a man in.
"Oh thank goodness!" The queen sighed.
"If the majesties wouldn't mind leaving the room…" He spoke coming up to the patient. "Except, the Princess may stay."
Many hours passed. Morning came and went. It was well into the afternoon when Phillip finally awoke. First thing he noticed was how warm he felt, and comfortable. When he opened his eyes, he found himself in a bed, a very nice bed. He was surrounded by lush purple curtains and buried deep in blankets and pillows. Movement to his side made him realize there was someone else nearby. Luckily, a wave on blonde hair set him ease in a moment.
"Hello." The Princess smiled tracing the side of his face gently.
He smiled. "This seems familiar. Have we done this before?"
"A few days ago, yes. But I believe this time you are in worse shape then before."
He attempted to sit up, but only fell back to the bed in pain. "That is absolutely true."
"Where are you sore?"
"All over." He simpered. "I don't think there is anything you can do to help."
She slid his arm out from under the blankets and massaged his wrist and fingers. "Nothing?"
He grinned at her cheekiness. "I may have been wrong."
She then moved her hands down to his forearm and kneaded his muscles, but she was gentle because of his wounds. He looked at her endearingly as she traveled to his shoulders.
Phillip winced as a throb went through his head.
"Oh, I'm sorry, did that hurt?"
"No, it's my head…I think I got hit with something." He touched the tender spot.
Aurora placed a kiss on his injury. "Better?"
"Yeah…but, my forehead hurts."
She grinned and pecked his skin.
"And my eye, right here." He pointed.
Again she delivered a kiss to his brow.
"And my cheek…"
"…and my lips…"
Her ebony lashes lowered as a tender look came over her. Her digits brushed the sensitive skin of his mouth as her head tilted just a little to the side. Phillip's eyes closed in respond to the sensual touch and his own fingers curled around the fabric of her dress.
It was a simple touch at first, barely even a brush. Then the caress grew stronger as their desire for intimacy flourished. Phillip's hands tangled in her hempen locks as Aurora braced herself against his brazen skin. The warmth of two breathes melding…two hearts beating, finally love had found a way.
They hesitantly broken away, but they're foreheads remained close.
"I love you." Phillip whispered.
"I love you too." Her voice was warm and tender as she intertwined their hands together. "You've waited long enough to hear that, have you not?"
"I would wait forever." He answered earnestly. "For you have my heart, and will hold it always."
"As you have mine."