Ambiance: This is a seasonal piece, click here for a soundtrack. If you find it difficult to read light on dark, click here to read the story black on white.
Don't be shy... well, be as shy as you want, there's a definite appeal in it... but, drop me a line and let me know what you thought. After you're finished, of course. Bon appetit!
by Creme Brulee
What is true lust? Juniper asked.
Sybyl, having lost all patience with Juniper a good two weeks after she was born, didnt bother to answer. Prudence, having more compassion for their ever simple sibling, smiled, but also neglected to give a response. No one had ever informed Juniper about the facts of life. Prudence didnt think it was the appropriate moment to amend the oversight.
How on earth could that be? Prudence asked.
How indeed? Sybyl turned an accusatory glare on her.
Well its not my fault! What are the chances of anyone sharing true love and true lust at the same time? Besides, I only saw what the sight revealed to me.
Well have to make do now. Sybyls tone made it clear that Prudence was to blame, whatever the circumstance. But then, she always was. It was a convenient truth for Sybyl. Weve got to get Aurora to look at the Prince the moment he arrives and then the true love spell will take hold. Shell forget Maleficent in a heartbeat. Literally. Until then, we do what we can to keep things under control.
Perhaps if we distract Maleficent? Juniper offered.
Aurora seems to be doing a fine job of that. Prudence noted. They looked to the center of the room and saw that the two women had removed themselves to a less conspicuous position in the hall, off to the side. The guests, having decided that no one was in danger of being singed or turned into something disagreeable, began to converse. The music started up again.
The King, regaining his senses, rushed to the three women huddled nearby. The Queen, listing slightly to the left, followed. She seemed unaccountably placid considering the circumstance. Perhaps her calm was reinforced by the large quantity of mead shed sampled earlier in the evening.
I want her removed at once! The king ordered in a petulant whisper.
As do we all, Your Highness. Sybyl agreed, bowing in deference to the monarch.
Then why is she still here? If you wouldnt help me destroy her at least keep her from marring this, of all days.
But Your Highness, Juniper bleated. We cant!
You mean you wont! he accused.
No Sire. She means we cant. Prudence amended.
What manner of insubordination is this? The King looked directly at Sybyl, his trusted counsel of many years.
Sybyl gave an embarrassed smile. Having been a successful over-achiever, it was difficult for her to admit error or defeat in any arena. Especially one that contained her sister Maleficent. She answered as best she could. Its nothing we cant manage, My Lord.
Juniper and Prudence stared on in amazement. Surely their sister was aware of the magnitude of the situation? They were in a room surrounded by innocent people, with spells running amok, a deadly sorceress with a grudge, and a soon to be betrothed princess acting like a common strumpet. This wasnt like anything theyd managed recently.
Prudence looked up from their agitated huddle. Where is Aurora?
The rest of the group looked up as well, then around. But she was nowhere in sight. Neither was Maleficent.
Newt toes and bat scat! Prudence exclaimed. Theyre gone!
Dont panic! And keep your voice down. Sybyl hissed. No one seems to have noticed but us.
Guards! The king yelled.
Sybyl restrained herself from clamping her hand over the kings mouth. As it was, the spell she put there would keep him quiet for some time.
The queen gave her husband a curiously amused look. He stood there looking like hed been hit directly in the jaw and might fall at any moment. She took him by the elbow, smiled wanly at the sisters and led him back to his throne.
Sybyl! Juniper exclaimed. You hit him! Both she and Prudence had seen the telltale stream of magical energy. It was visible only to the gifted.
I most certainly did not! I just... Several guards circled round them waiting for orders and looking confused.
Oh, go away! Sybyl waved a hand in irritation, another arc of bewitched energy flowed from her fingertips.
The guards dispersed with purposeful steps.
Youre using your magic in your own self-interest! Juniper accused. As Kings Counsel thats not allowed.
In this case well call it enlightened self-interest, or would you prefer we sit by and allow King Stephen to attack that plague of darkness? Who knows what it would provoke her into? Shes going to ruin everything. She always ruins everything!
That isnt entirely true. Juniper tried to reason. She was sure that there was one occasion Maleficent hadnt managed to disrupt. Juniper liked to keep a positive outlook on life in general. Her siblings made this a challenge.
Oh no? Sybyl was quick to argue. How about Thanksgiving and Solstice for every year since she was born? How about your sixteenth birthday? Forgotten that already?
Well, no... Juniper would never forget that. Maleficent, having become bored and then sullen as a result, found no end of amusement from turning all of Junipers guests into rabbits. Unfortunately, the precocious young sorceress couldnt remember, or claimed not to remember, the exact wording of the incantation shed used for the spell.
It took their parents a week to reverse the prankish magic cast by the girl, who was cheerfully remorseless about the whole thing. Juniper, whod never had an easy time making friends, had found it nearly impossible after that. She had, however, discovered that she enjoyed the company of rabbits and had kept several ever since.
I suggest that we make haste. Sybyl said. And find some method to dispatch our loathsome sibling before she decides shes not enjoying herself. We must ensure that the rest of our spell is enacted.
What about Prince Philip? Hes not arrived yet. Prudence said.
Oh yes he has. Sybyl assured her. By no coincidence unaided by magic, trumpets rang out through the hall heralding the arrival of the royal guest.
Sybyl! Juniper and Prudence exclaimed in unison. There was no mistaking Sybyls further meddling, not when the sisters could still see it streaming about the room. Very colorful was Sybyls magic.
Theres no time! We must find them!
The sisters decided, or rather Sybyl decided, that the best way to locate the missing pair was to enact a search spell. They meandered purposefully to a corridor off the main hall. They rounded a corner and came to an abrupt halt, as did their search.
There, pressed firmly against the stone wall, illuminated by the warm glow of guttering torch light, was their wayward sister. At first glance it looked as though Maleficent was under duress. A small, vigorous figure in an ivory brocade dress, appeared to be assaulting the taller woman, while simultaneously kissing her senseless. The heated grappling continued as the sisters stood looking on, slack jawed.
Aurora had decided that she really, really wasnt able to get at enough of Maleficent. Not that the sorceress was in any way hindering or resisting her fervent explorations, but her clothing, not the usual button and buckle attire, wasnt cooperating with the princess urgent attempts at entry. She broke their heated marathon kiss and was about to ask Maleficent for the key or magic word that would undo her inconveniently enchanted attire, but the sorceress dipped her head and kissed the skin of Auroras neck. This had the instantaneous effect of undoing something altogether different, and Aurora quickly lost track of whatever it was that had seemed so important to her just a moment before. She reached up and grabbed Maleficent by a horn, pulling her head, and more importantly her mouth, into closer contact with her neck, thus increasing the delirious sensation of Maleficents attentions. Who could have guessed that a fairy godmother could use her tongue like that?
Aurora was all for it. She was more than ready for it. Having been holed up in the castle for years with nothing but her three fairy godmothers, her parents, and several attendants for company. And while she did honestly love all of those people, she felt that she was ready for something new, something different. No more lectures from Sybyl about decorum. No more lessons with Prudence on economics. No more fussing from Juniper. No more adolescent fumblings with a couple of giggling handmaidens in the palace gardens. She was ready to strike out on her own, ready to forge ahead, ready for a mature relationship. And while Maleficent was possibly a wee bit more mature than Aurora had had in mind, shed do.
Shed do plenty. That was the impression Aurora got as she felt herself being lifted and held in the sorceress arms. She then felt the coolness of stone against her back as she was pinned to the wall herself. This happenstance, though sudden, was not unwelcome. Maleficent leaned in crushing her mouth to Auroras in a deep and passionate kiss. Oh yes, was Auroras last coherent thought, shed do just fine.
Seeing their youthful and innocent charge nearly disappear behind Maleficents dark cloak jolted the three sisters from their stupor. Or at least Sybyl and Prudence regained conscious awareness of their surroundings. Poor Juniper, Prudence surmised, might not recover for some time.
Cease, you virulent beast! Sybyl demanded.
Aurora, hearing the unmistakable tenor of her more rule-oriented fairy godmother froze, mid-tongue thrust. This awkward turn of events brought Maleficent to something like her senses - shed learned to tune out the judgmental tones of her eldest sibling years before, but a stiff and unresponsive tongue in her mouth got her attention.
She reared back a tad to look at Aurora who blushed a deep and curiously appetizing shade of red. Maleficent leaned forward to sample this delightful hue when Aurora spoke, Um... Youll probably call me fickle, but Id be grateful if youd, uh... put me down. Ive never been big on the whole public sex thing.
Maleficent raised an eyebrow in inquiry and Aurora answered with a tilt of her head, indicating their disapproving audience. Upon seeing her sisters Maleficent suppressed a blink of surprise, smiled pleasantly and let the princess slip gracefully to the floor. Well, well, if it isnt the righteous three.
Aurora tried to smooth her rumpled gown to no great effect. Sybyl stepped forward, took her by the wrist and half led, half pulled her away from Maleficent.
Tidy her up. Sybyl directed the others before turning back to face Maleficent. She watched a brightly colored magical sparkle dance from behind her, circle Maleficent's head and straighten the horned headdress that was slightly askew. Sybyl turned back to face Juniper. Not her! Aurora, you idiot!
Still amazed that the world hasnt gotten into step with you Sybyl? I see the years havent changed you much. Not that I expected they would. Maleficent's eyes revealed none of the casual indifference that her light tone implied.
And I see that years in seclusion have done nothing to curb your depraved appetite sister.
But my, she has grown! Juniper noted. She hadnt had to look up quite so far the last time shed seen Maleficent.
Maleficent laughed. As refreshingly transparent as ever Juniper!
Juniper cringed under the weight of Maleficents full attention, but it flitted to Prudence quickly enough. I thought that you might have developed a spine somewhere along the way Prudence. Pity. Still Sybyls loyal pet?
Prudence bristled, but held her tongue. Anyone with eyes could see that Maleficents body wasnt the only aspect of her that had grown. She was a far cry from the spiteful girl or the sulky adolescent theyd once known. Her eyes, always bright, now glittered with an altogether otherworldly vitality. Prudence was sure this wasnt the result of good diet and a healthy constitution. Or at least shed never known those things to cause a persons eyes to glow that shade of iridescent blue. What she once had read could cause such a symptom was a remarkable accumulation of glamour and spell knowledge.
Aurora wasnt interested in how Maleficent had come by her occultish good looks, she only knew that she was drawn to them. She stepped toward the sorceress. Prudence caught her gently by the arm, Why dont you see to your guests dear? Wed like to talk to Maleficent for a moment. Its been a long time since weve seen one another.
Aurora smiled vacantly and nodded. As Prudence turned her by the shoulders, Auroras head remained riveted on the dark figure of Maleficent. The sorceress returned her gaze with an amused appraisal. She found Auroras wholehearted immodesty thoroughly engaging.
As Aurora rounded the corner and disappeared from view, something like sense filtered back into Maleficents frame of mind. I really must compliment the three of you.
For what? Sybyl snapped.
For raising such a lovely young woman. Im sure Ill appreciate your labors for some time to come.
Shes not meant for the likes of you. You fiendish invert.
Its surprising that youve never run out of creative invective to underscore your deep and abiding fascination with my sex life. Could it be, Sybyl, that the absence of your own has left you with an unhealthy preoccupation with mine?
Maleficent was enjoying herself. She was also enjoying the sight of Sybyls jaw flapping like a loose shutter in a breeze. Now if youll excuse me, theres a young lady that I must see to.
Maleficent began to walk back to the great hall but Sybyl stepped in her path. Shed rallied her scattered defenses and was ready for battle. Or at least to stall, thus ensuring that the rest of their spells were enacted. The first part couldnt be working better, she noted. The Love Is Blind spell had rendered Maleficent and Aurora truly blind to anything like decent love. And Maleficent was so preoccupied with the tumultuous effects of the true lust that was racing through her system that she hadnt noticed a thing. Though that probably wouldnt last much longer (Maleficent wasnt easily distracted), theyd have to change tactics to contain her. But that was then, this was now. She looked up at Maleficent who was giving her the most irritating, superior grin. She would have liked to slap her. Have you no decency left in you whatsoever? Is there nothing that guides your life but your own selfish impulses? This is Auroras engagement party. She is going to meet her future husband. The man with whom, one day, she will rule this realm. Cant you see that nothing good will come from ruining this event? Havent you embarrassed our family enough?
Actually... no. And Id say that Im being quite generous. I had planned to have taken over the realm and extinguished a full three quarters of the people in that room by now, starting with you, of course. But in an uncharacteristically gregarious moment, I decided to postpone that entertainment. To exercise another aspect of my... considerable prowess. Maleficent had also considered that killing the King and Queen would hardly put their daughter in a desirable mood. Though the way things were going she wondered if Aurora would have noticed. It was comforting to the sorceress to know that after all of those years shut in a library, she hadnt lost her touch.
Prudence had watched her siblings face off for years. The arguments varied, but the underlying tensions were the same. The only difference in this encounter was that if Sybyl pushed Maleficent too far the result could be most regrettable, if not terminal, for everyone involved. Maleficent, she broke in. Is there some reason in particular you wish to take over the realm and destroy a good deal of the nobility from here and our neighboring kingdoms? Along with your remaining family, of course. Hasnt it occurred to you that other kingdoms are likely to take objection to such an act? And when they did declare war on you, as they most certainly would, who would administer the business of your realm? Who would defend it? That is, after all, what we and the nobility spend a good deal of our time doing.
No reason in particular really. Maleficent mused. It came to me out of the blue. Funny thing though, I dont even know why Im mentioning it, but the idea came to me on the day of King Stephens first attack on my home. Before that, Id just been planning to fry Sybyls brain in a mind meld. My horizons were broadened by each intrusion King Stephen made on my studies. I hadnt planned on killing you, Prudence, just them. Maleficent indicated the other two women with a desultory wave of her hand, but she could have easily been indicating everybody else... in existence. Youd be more amusing to torture over a long period of time. And Im not really concerned about war. I can raise an army of the dead with a snap of my fingers. Nothing to it. But thank you for your concern, its sweet, very sisterly.
Why did you go into seclusion? Prudence pressed on. She was genuinely interested and Maleficent, while often introverted and sullen, rarely passed up an opportunity to talk about herself.
Ever curious, Prudence. I told you, I was looking for the right combination of spells that would boil the tissue mass that masquerades as Sybyls brain. Only, I wanted something that would also keep her alive, just enough to be aware of her newfound vegetative state.
Oh Maleficent, how awful! Juniper gasped.
Sybyls eyes narrowed.
Maleficent continued, Yes, isnt it? So many wonderful and creative ideas occurred to me while I was there in the library. It was a veritable orgy of darkness. I was having a fine time. Ever since that christening Ive been inspired to heights of such wicked excess, well, youd be overwhelmed, Im sure.
Since the christening? Prudence was beginning to feel a distinctly different form of unease creep onto her flesh.
Yes, odd really, but the source of my inspirations seem linked with the occasion. I expect that has something to do with having sensed King Stephens insecurities which caused his ill fated and ill advised, Maleficent glared at Sybyl attempts to remove me from the comforts of my home. Ill admit that the feelings of betrayal I experienced when my own sisters allowed that insignificant bag of puss to make such a disastrous mistake - ran rather deep.
Sybyls temper overrode the small amount of caution and patience shed been able to drum up for her despicable sibling, spells be damned. So instead of saying anything, you thought youd just show up and crisp everyone, is that it? Really Maleficent, you take sullen to a whole new level. Youve always been a brooder, you never tell us whats bothering you - but we do find out dont we? And we always pay. Why should this be any different?
Dont tell you anything? Why would I bother to tell you anything? When is the last time that you listened to anything but your own voice?
Still the same old story, poor Maleficent, Im misunderstood. Nobody loves me. You used that one up on our parents, dont try it on me.
I wouldnt trouble you with a request for understanding, I know youre incapable of it. I would like to note, however, that I am the youngest child of this brood and I damn well should have been spoiled by our parents.
You were. Sybyl said. How do you think you got so rotten? You know full well wed never advise the king to attack you. Heaven forbid we furnish you with an actual reason to unleash your ill controlled temper.
You could have prevented it! Maleficent yelled.
We advise! We dont control! You know that. Theres a balance to things, expectations...
Expectation? You let that pathetic little despot send soldiers to my front door in some bizarre charade of keeping up appearances?
Its more complicated than that and you know it. For those of us whove not shirked our responsibilities...
Enough! The walls shook with the force of Maleficents anger. For a trained sorceress youre doing an uncanny impersonation of a two bit psychic channeling our mother. Its disturbing. Now, if youll excuse me, I think Im in the mood for a little dancing. The three sisters felt themselves levitated out of Maleficents path. This was no simple feat and the sisters were awed by the ease with which it was accomplished. A mature sorceress is a dense concentration of energy, even a sorceress with Junipers light hearted disposition. That energy is grounded in a connection to the earth, the source of a great deal of her power. Shes connected to it in much the same way a tree is to the ground. Lifting her, lifting them, was not childs play, it was a threat.
Oh dear. Prudence felt much better once her feet had reconnected with the solid stones of the floor. I think weve made a mistake.
You mean by not drowning her at birth? Sybyl asked.
Sybyl! Juniper exclaimed.
I wonder, Prudence continued. If a black heart with at least a glimmer of hope for love isnt better off than one that has been blinded to the possibility of it entirely. And I wonder if a black heart infused with true lust isnt preferable to one who is about to find out that the object of that lust has just met her true love?
Well not technically her true love... Juniper was interrupted as Sybyls hand clamped over her mouth.
Are you insane? Keep your mouth shut. And if you, Sybyl turned on Prudence think its our fault that that monstrosity is in there contemplating our demise, then Ill have to wonder exactly whose side youre on.
Sybyl! Prudence was amazed that her loyalty could be called into question in such a manner.
We dont have time for this. We have to get in there for damage control. Sybyl pushed passed her sisters and headed off.
At that moment, Maleficent was experiencing something more akin to incredulity than anger. She was being drawn across a crowded dance floor by a glowing Aurora who had bubbled up to her full of cheer and excitement. The warmth emanating from the young womans eyes was something Maleficent had never witnessed before. It was charming in every sense of the word. Maleficent had had trouble making out most of the stream of chatter that flowed from Auroras mouth, but it was beginning to add up to something she wasnt liking one bit.
Oh you must see him! Aurora chirped on, oblivious. Hes kind and true and so very handsome! I cant wait for you to see!
Maleficent wondered if the princess wasnt quite right in the head. And she also wondered at the rapid change in the focus of her affection. They arrived in the center of a group of people who had parted for Aurora seemlessly to reveal a young man. A dashing little sod, Maleficent thought. She heard a sigh escape Auroras lips and felt what must have once been her heart constrict. Aurora stepped forward and placed her hands in Philips, I think Ive been waiting for him my entire life! Who knew that I could find true love in an arranged marriage? What are the odds of that?
Maleficent watched the pair gaze deeply into each others eyes. The two of them glowed from the first blush of new love. While this warmed the hearts of onlookers, it thoroughly irritated Maleficent. A woman who, until that very moment, hadnt given much thought to the idea of true love. True lust was a concept that she had found much more appealing. Having witnessed the warmth in the princess bright eyes, a warmth that danced on the surface and hinted at a singularly delectable underlying disposition, shed been stirred. To see all of that squandered on an insignificant pimple, barely entered manhood, stirred her again. Not in a way that boded well for anyones peace of mind. It dredged up feelings of neglect, recalling misplaced parental affection...
Am I to understand, Maleficent began. That you, the little strumpet who not five minutes ago was trying to suck my tongue out of my mouth in the back hall, is expecting me to be giddy with delight over meeting this overdeveloped gonad in tights?
Aurora hadnt thought of it like that. Quite frankly, she still couldnt. Her mind was completely overrun by the true love spell that was making itself very much at home in her person. Everything she experienced was filtered by and through the deliriously hazy effects of the spell. So it was no wonder that she responded to Maleficent by saying, But Maleficent, Im so happy! I thought youd be pleased.
Pleasure... Maleficent loomed over Aurora. Is not a word I am willing to associate with that. She indicated the prince. You, on the other hand, Im willing to make an exception for. Dont try my patience.
The sparkling smile fell from Auroras face and eyes. Maleficent felt as though shed extinguished a rare and vital force. It affected the sorceress more than she would have liked, but she wasnt in the mood to regret it.
Prince Philip was quite a nice lad really. He stood by watching the exchange between his betrothed and the rather large spectre of darkness shed lead over with such fanfare. If Philip had learned nothing of Aurora in their brief acquaintance, it was that she was unequivocally enthusiastic.
Before Philip had departed his kingdom to attend the function, hed had the fear of death and rebirth on the lowest rung of the peasantry scared into him by his parents. He was on his best behavior. He was also high as a kite. The spell was having the same effect on him as it was on Aurora. Nevertheless, he gathered that a certain tension had developed. His soon to be wife and the intimidating woman with the impressive head gear had reached an impasse.
The prince had attended many diplomatic functions in his time. He was known to be able to bring even the most quarrelsome guests to agreement with a light word or an insightful comment. The princess, a most exquisite fiance, and her... friend, were surely in need of his help. He was about to step in when three women approached. He recognized the leader as King Stephens counsel, hed met her on several state visits shed made to his parents kingdom. Shed handled the negotiations and arrangements for the wedding.
I see weve all met. Sybyl nodded to the prince.
Maleficent turned, her eyes already narrowed in displeasure. No. And were not going to. Aurora and I are leaving.
We are? Aurora stepped forward, creating a loose circle that included her fairy godmothers and Philip.
Yes, we are. Maleficent answered.
Have I missed something? When did we decide this?
You wont care in a moment or two. Maleficent smiled at Aurora. There was something indulgent in the tone, but mostly it was condescension. The unnatural blue of the sorceress eyes began to glow gently and fine blue threads of electricity fanned out, following the arc of Maleficents long, dark lashes. Aurora found it an engaging sight, it was terrifically difficult for her to feign indifference. But she would not be seduced into compliance, however appealing Maleficent made the prospect appear. The womans eyes were simply fantastic.
Ah, ah! Sybyl interrupted, sounding not just a little smug. That wont work.
Maleficent, whod intended to hypnotize Aurora into compliance, was finding it difficult to pull her own gaze away from the princess. There was something intriguing about the woman, something that begged for Maleficents undivided attention. That smug note in Sybyls voice, however, won it momentarily.
You cannot affect Aurora with your power now. She shares true love with Philip. Im not surprised youd be blind to such an obvious fact. Look at them, anyone can see it. It was clear to us many years ago that this would come to pass and so weve protected their union. Sybyl allowed the words and all they implied to hang in the air.
Union? Maleficents mind snagged upon a weakness in Sybyls logic. It would have been unseemly, tantamount to a breech in the etiquette of their relationship, for the sorceress to forgo pointing out such an error to her eldest sibling. How can there already be a union? Theyve just met. Auroras fast, but I doubt theyve had sex yet.
They dont need to have sex you vulgar beast. True loves first kiss was all they required. Sybyls smile was triumphant. She couldnt have been more pleased with herself.
Ah... Philip spoke up. Technically, weve not done that yet.
What?! Sybyl exclaimed. The two of them had had enough time. Aurora certainly hadnt dragged her feet with Maleficent. Kiss her you fool!
The prince stepped forward, but found himself unable to move any further. He found himself unable to move at all.
Sybyl? Maleficent asked. What if I were to do... this?
On her last word, Prince Philip disappeared. There was no trace of him.
Leave you and your protected union in a bit of a bind, wouldnt it? Maleficent looked at Aurora who was desperately waving her hands in the air where her true love had once been.
Youd leave me no choice. Id have to do this. On Sybyls last word Aurora fell to the floor, lifeless.
A collective gasp escaped those who witnessed it. Juniper knelt next to the princess, adjusting her gown and the hair that had fallen across her face.
Youd rather have her dead than with me? Whos the villain here? Maleficent protested.
Shes not dead. Sybyl explained, as much for the benefit of the crowd closing in around them as for Maleficent. Shes in a state of suspended animation, from which she can only be released by true loves first kiss. That kiss will join Aurora and Philip forever and secure the safety of the realm. It has been ordained. Sybyl refrained from mentioning the rather large part that spells played in the inevitability of her statement.
Maleficent was not a woman easily cowed by fate, And if I were to do this?
Maleficent snapped her fingers. Everyone in the hall slumped to the ground. Only the sisters remained standing.
Youd save us the embarrassment of them seeing your peevish behavior. Sybyl responded.
Maleficent! Prudences eyes were riveted to the sea of lifeless bodies surrounding them.
Oh, dont worry Prudence. Theyre just waiting for true loves first kiss! With an impatient flick of Maleficents wrist, Prince Philip reappeared. He was running and looking over his shoulder with a terror stricken expression on his face. Until he tripped on a recumbent noble. He looked around the hall in complete confusion. He spotted Aurora and rushed to her.
Kiss her. Maleficent demanded. She glared at Sybyl. Ill undo whatever youve got on her when he wakes her up.
Prince Philip looked to Sybyl, the only familiar authority figure left standing. She nodded.
It wasnt so much the nod as how Sybyl had closed her eyes as shed bent her head that tipped off the ever vigilant, ever watchful and super suspicious nerve centers of Maleficents brain.
The prince leaned over Aurora and once again found himself paralyzed. It occurred to him then that Aurora, a truly wonderful and remarkable creature, had family issues that would take some getting used to.
Maleficent closed her eyes and took a deep breath. It was faint at first, tickling the delicate hairs of her nasal passages, hinting, teasing. She focused in on it, the familiar, slightly charred smell. She knew it all too well. She must have been too distracted with Auroras effervescent presence engaging her senses. It was the only plausible explanation. With the princess unconscious, her head had cleared somewhat. This was good and bad. Good because she was able to think, bad because it made room for the anger that rushed in to fill it. Spells! Hes spellbound! Hes fairly reeking with it. You! All of you!
The sisters stepped back as Maleficent closed in on them. Your spell prints are all over him. She glanced at Aurora to see if the same prints were on the princess. She found it odd that she couldnt read anything off of her at all. Given the circumstances perhaps it wasnt so odd as it was enlightening. She spun on her sisters, sparks shooting from her eyes. An unearthly glow emanated from her entire person - an unsettling effect.
In a quiet, but chilling tone, Maleficent said, Undo it.
Theres nothing to undo. Sybyl stated truthfully.
Youre already a dead woman. Ill give you an opportunity to choose your fate. It can be slow and painful, stretched over years, or short and relatively painless, over in a matter of weeks. Its up to you.
Prudence stepped forward. Threats were nothing new between Maleficent and Sybyl, but this had escalated beyond the usual squabble. This spell cannot be broken Maleficent, but there is a back door.
No. Sybyl stated. Theres not.
They all looked at Sybyl. The eldest sister became defensive. These spells were perfection! There was no need for a back door.
Juniper and Maleficents jaws dropped slightly.
Why you arrogant bitch! Maleficent was amazed. No one casts a spell without a back door. Not even me.
And it was true. To seal a spell completely was to court disaster. No one could see the full extent of any spell, even if they were gifted with the sight. A back door was always left in spells to allow the sorceress to tinker, to readjust the magic to meet the unforeseen complexities of life.
Shes right Maleficent. Prudence said. The spells are perfect. It was their application that troubled me. There is a back door. I put it there.
The sound that escaped Sybyls lips could only be described as a hiss. Traitor!
We cast the spells many years ago to preserve Aurora from her true fate, from her true love. It never occurred to us that she might also have a true lust. The sight didnt reveal that.
How inconvenient for you. Maleficent snapped. For reasons she couldnt fathom and was reluctant to investigate the sorceress found herself further irritated (yes, this was possible, she possessed an unending reserve of pique) to hear that there was some other rival for Auroras attention. Philip had been so present, so convenient, so easily terminated. Who is it?
Who is whom? Prudence asked.
Her true love. Which odious corpuscle in tights is it now?
Its you. Prudence bit her lip to suppress a grin.
Maleficent did not respond. She stood staring at Prudence, her brow furrowed. The information was doing the rounds in her considerable intellect. After careful examination, it still made no sense. Me?
Prudence nodded. Juniper smiled. Sybyl groaned.
True love? Maleficent inquired.
Yes. Prudence answered.
How dreadful. Maleficent said.
Thats what we thought. Sybyl agreed.
Still... The sorceress was in shock. At no time in her life had she been confronted with the reality of such a thing. It had thrown her off her game. She wasnt sure how she felt.
I wanted Aurora to have a choice. Prudence explained. I thought it fair to see what it was that shed want. Let him kiss her Maleficent. Give her the choice.
Im not letting him touch her. What about my choice? Seems like no one was too keen on getting my input. Just for a moment though lets put my concerns aside, that shouldnt be too terribly difficult for you... How is she supposed to have free will to choose anything under these perfect spells of yours? I could have saved you a lot of trouble, you know. What made you think Id have even a remote interest in anything so puerile, so dangerous, as true love?
We had the realm to consider. It was the influence you might have over Aurora that concerned us. Sybyl said.
Influence? You dont get it do you, big sister? I dont need influence. I have power. The air around them crackled and sparked in a clear demonstration of the sorceress words.
Its only fair to warn you, Not wishing to see her siblings go at it again, Prudence spoke. If Aurora wakes, the effects of the spells on her will be suspended briefly, but theyll be lifted from you altogether. You will no longer be blind to your love for her. If she chooses Philip, youll suffer the curse of unrequited love. Im not sure well survive it.
This just gets better all of the time, doesnt it? You know youre not likely to survive this day, so why bother telling me this?
As hard as it is for you to believe, we do care for you, Maleficent. Youve never made it easy and perhaps weve not been as understanding as we might have been, but I thought you ought to know all of it.
Maleficent considered her options. She could call it a draw, wipe her sisters from existence and begin with a clean slate. That sounded refreshing. Or she could allow Philip to kiss Aurora for the hell of it, to see what would happen. She knew what would happen. Aurora would choose the prince. Thats always how these things turned out and besides, anyone in their right mind would choose Philip. Even Maleficent could see that he exuded good intention and all of those qualities shed always attributed to the sensitive and the terminally boring. But she could see the advantage they gave someone who might be interested in something like an actual functioning relationship.
On the bright side, a side Maleficent generally avoided at all cost yet found herself dallying in over this matter, Aurora hadnt given the impression of being in full possession of her faculties. As first impressions went the princess came off as a bit of a loon. An enticing little loon. One the sorceress reluctantly admitted to feeling rather conflicted about. Maleficent considered the option of letting nature take its course. Then once the princess had chosen Philip, Maleficent could then wipe her sisters out of existence to cheer herself up. She released Philip and let him kiss Aurora.
What would have been a proprietary peck in any decent fairy tale became a rather heated affair, complete with tongues and moaning. Aurora, Maleficent observed, was no slouch in the passion department. The sisters, in varying degrees of discomfort, looked on. One of Auroras hands moved up, in what looked like a maneuver to pull Philips head impossibly closer. Instead her hand patted about the top of his head as if looking for something. The princess stopped moving. She stopped kissing too. She opened her eyes. Her brain was jolted out of a rather dense spell-fog by the realization shed just been kissing... a man. Years of training in every aspect of decorum kept her from wiping her tongue on her sleeve. She smiled politely up at the prince, That was very nice Philip.
I rather thought so too. He gushed.
Aurora craned her neck and peered over the princes shoulder. There, looming over them, stood the spectre shed been hoping for. She beamed a smile at the shadowy figure.
Maleficent was undone. Nothing had ever come close to the impact that that spontaneous, uncalculated smile had on her. A feeling she couldnt describe flowed out from the very center of her being. It radiated forth, dissolving anything untoward in its path. The toxic intrusion was washed from Maleficents heart. If shed been anybody else, shed have been giddy with the release of such a powerful force. As she was Maleficent, she only raised an eyebrow and was mildly irritated. Perhaps love wasnt such a terrible thing after all.
Aurora felt a calm come over her and she became aware of a shift in her perceptions, a deep sense of knowing. It was a curious sensation, she felt at once spacious and light within. And then she understood, knew all of the things that had transpired before shed been in a state of suspended animation and since, and a whole lot more besides. What an odd feeling, how could she know those things?
The look of confusion that had overtaken the princess cheerful expression was noted by all.
What is it? Philip sat back, lifting Aurora as he did so. Juniper comforted her charge.
Its the sight. Prudence answered for her. Ive gifted her with it so that shed be able to make a balanced decision.
Again, Sybyl hissed. You what?!
Its only fair and mostly temporary.
Whats that supposed to mean? Sybyl demanded.
It depends on her choice. Prudence answered.
If we live past sunrise I want you to know that Im never casting a spell with you again. Why on earth have you gifted an untrained human with the sight?
How else could Aurora make a decision? Under our spell shed be influenced, as shed be equally influenced by true love. Aurora, Prudence kneeled at her side. You have a brief time to make this decision of your own accord. You are a wonderful young woman with your life ahead of you, you do no less in this moment than choose your own future.
So its a low pressure kind of thing? Aurora laughed mirthlessly.
Not really. Prudence had never understood humor as a response to stress.
Aurora didnt think shed ever get used to waking up next to Maleficent. Not that one could easily grow complacent about sharing a bed and a lot of other aspects of ones life with ones fairy godmother.
She turned carefully, propping her head on her hand to observe the curious creature that was Maleficent at rest. She didnt often see the sorceress asleep. Maleficent was always up until the wee hours and woke at a ghastly hour, just after dawn. It was only after nights spent in pursuit of things other than rest that Maleficent slept in.
Aurora observed the planes of the older womans face, severe even in sleep, as the soft morning light caressed them. The scene aroused a deep affection within the princess. In the relatively short time shed known Maleficent shed become desperately attached. True love was like that.
The princess was deeply grateful to Prudence for the gift of the sight. Her fairy godmother had explained that since Aurora chose Maleficent, the sight would remain with her.
Youre going to need all of the help you can get. Prudence had sighed.
Aurora had asked her why Prudence had thought shed need such an extraordinary boost. Maleficent clearly loved her, had even committed to their relationship, so why did she need supernatural insight and knowledge?
To level the playing field. Prudence had responded.
Aurora had learned since then that Maleficent was a woman used to pressing every advantage she had. It was her nature. Keeping up with her lightening fast wit and astonishing intellect was a Herculean task. A little enchantment went a long way when dealing with a woman who was willing to use every tool in her arsenal to win even the simplest argument. It was a quality that Aurora had wondered at. She couldnt fathom where the sorceress summoned all of that energy from or why she bothered to summon it half the time. It seemed a bit extreme, sometimes absurd. Shed decided, however, after the fourth time Maleficent had turned her into a spotted newt, that the sorceress didnt like being teased about it overly much.
There were many things Maleficent didnt like. It was as if anything that came into her immediate sphere irritated her in some way. Everything but Aurora, though that wasnt necessarily a given. Maleficent was possibly the most sensitive person Aurora had ever met. She needed a lot of space.
Aurora was glad to give it to her. As long as she asked for it nicely. Shed had to explain to her harbinger of darkness several times that baring your teeth in a grimace and narrowing your eyes was not considered polite behavior. Aurora found that persistence paid off where Maleficent was concerned. And besides, it was well worth the trouble.
In her lighter moods the sorceress was a delight. To see that dark visage broken by a smile was bliss for the princess. And Maleficent could be most entertaining when she chose to be. She told wonderful tales of the many realms, earthbound and otherwise, that shed visited. She was constantly surprising Aurora by noting some small thing shed done or the manner in which shed done it in a way that demonstrated the sorceress attention and affection.
Yes, Aurora had decided that being with Maleficent was everything shed hoped it could be. And knowing that the sorceress was willing to work to make it even better, well, that ensured a future. Now, if she could only convince Maleficent to turn Sybyl back into her fairy godmother things would be that much better.
If I turn her back, Juniper would be disappointed. Maleficent had argued, craftily.
Juniper has enough rabbits. She didnt need another one.
I think Sybyl is her favorite.
Only because you made her pink. She didnt have any pink ones before.
Aurora was sure that given time, Maleficent would relent. The novelty of the Kings Counsel hopping across the banquet table in the Great Hall or nibbling on the center piece would certainly lessen with time.
Aurora sighed. So much had happened in the few months since that fateful night. She watched the corners of Maleficents mouth curl into a slow smile as the sorceress awoke.
Heavy thoughts weighing on your mind? Maleficent asked, her eyes still shut.
I was just thinking about how much everything has changed.
Its a lot to get used to.
I miss Prudence. Does she really have to live in Philips kingdom? Aurora was still having difficulty adjusting to the absence of one of her dearly beloved guardians.
If shes going to do her job properly, then yes.
I think its terrible that Sybyl talked her out of her duty all of those years ago. I mean, just because Cinderella was a peasant doesnt mean she didnt need a fairy godmother too. I really didnt need four fairy godmothers. And poor Philip! He could have ended up with me instead of Cinderella, his true love.
Sybyls always been a god awful snob. And poor Philip nothing! He would have been lucky to get saddled with you. What about poor Maleficent?
What about you?
I wouldnt have had a true love at all.
Would have served you right, neglecting your fairy goddaughter the way you did.
I should think Ive made up for it by now. Maleficent smiled a meaningful and self-satisfied smile at the princess who blushed a light shade of pink in response. And lets drop the familial references, were not remotely related and frankly, it creeps me out.
I shouldnt think such conventional trifles would bother a mistress of darkness like yourself.
Lets just say that I have my conservative moments.
Im glad you werent having any of them last night.
You didnt do so bad yourself, Your Royal Deviance.
Whos deviant? Aurora challenged. Im not the one with all of the supernatural power whos only got one outfit in her wardrobe.
You havent mentioned not liking my outfit. Besides, black is classic, you can never go wrong with black.
The color, no, but every now and again it might be nice to see you wear something else.
You dont just pluck enchanted garments off the rack, you know.
Aurora noted that the room had grown more humid. She looked up and saw dark clouds beginning to obscure the elaborate skyscape painted on the ceiling. She reached over and swatted Maleficents shoulder, Stop sulking, I was only making a comment. And I love your outfit, you know that. I just find it hard to understand why a woman with your power has fewer accessories than the simplest peasant. With your coloring you could wear anything.
What do you suggest? Pastels?
No, youd scare pastels. A rich blue, perhaps a deep violet... I know its an outrageous idea, but something with more than one color might be nice. Aurora saw the clouds disperse. It was another aspect of Maleficents personality that took some getting used to. Once or twice during mild disagreements, full electric storms had broken out in the room. Aurora always enjoyed a good storm, so it never bothered her overly much. Of course, what youre wearing now is perfection.
Maleficent smiled. Its shameless flattery, but a commendable recovery.
Flattery nothing, youre magnificent and you know it.
People say its my most endearing quality.
Aurora smiled back when she felt Maleficent reach out and touch her. Im not sure that I agree.
The sorceress warm touch sent a shiver through Auroras body that was a magic all its own.
Note: The image of Maleficent is a digitally enhanced rendition of a T. W. Dewing painting. If you're terribly curious, you can click here to surf to the original image on the Smithsonian collection site.