Disclaimer & Notices: See the Prologue.

AN: I apologize for taking a bit to post this chapter. Things are starting to get a tad busier at work. I'm just waiting for when I'll be six days a week again. :( I hope y'all like the update. Still have several chapters to go before we inch into the war. My mind is already drawing out battle scenes. Phew. Thanks again for all the support. Enjoy!

Guest: I'm lovin' that you're loving it! :) Thank you for the review. Hope you love this chapter too.

Alumina: lol. No worries! You and I both might be guessing what this Dragon Stone thingy is. Don't you assume I have it all figured it out either. lol. It's more fun when the story writes this stuff for me. You'll have to let me know later how the story compares to your ideas later. :) Thank you again for all your wonderful reviews. Stay well!

Started: November 30, 2014

Series: One Shot

In Love and Into War

By Red Hope

Chapter 7

Darden was relieved to get off duty after an ugly morning. He waited until he was relieved by another guard then he quickly left the castle. Normally he would go directly to his rundown home. However, Darden was antsy from a stressful day. Nobody waited for him at home since he was alone, besides one bastard son that was with his mother in another village.

After a headshake, Darden made a left down a busy street. He was headed to the tavern closest to his home. He could go for a drink and meal before settling in for the night. In moments, he entered the tavern, which had a few other patrons. From the talks, it was obvious people were buzzing about the pending war. Darden was relieved he would remain behind in the castle rather than marching off to the Moors.

Taking a seat at a small table, Darden waited for the barmaid, who arrived shortly. He gave a quick order and was happy to see a tankard pushed in front of him in minutes. The ale was damn good tonight, and he gulped half of it down in a flash. The ale's warmth was inviting and smoothed out the tense lines in his face.

The tavern's front door creaked open and many of the patrons gazed upon the tall, dark beauty that closed the door. Most patrons went back to their food, drinks, and conversations. However, Darden curiously gazed upon the woman and appreciated her hourglass figure. He liked how her green eyes shined in contrast to her black and gold dress.

The woman scanned the interior of the tavern and located an empty spot rather close to Darden. She slid into the seat with ease and smiled when the barmaid approached her. She simply ordered a wine, nothing else.

From the corner of his eye, Darden stole glances of the dark beauty on his left side. He imagined the woman was married, but he finally noticed her left hand only had a yellow stone on her middle finger. He was remotely surprised. Perhaps she was a widow. It was hard to believe no man laid claims on her.

After a few minutes, Darden tore his stare off the woman. He drank more of the ale and noted how busy the single barmaid was with the crowd.

"What is your name, sir?"

Darden twisted his head to the left after the woman's silky voice tickled his ear. He was unsure if he had been asked the question, but it was true. "D-d-darden, m'lady." He dipped his head in respect.

"I am Rose."

Darden mirrored her smile. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Rose." He shifted in his seat so he could see Rose better. "I have not seen you here before."

Rose tilted her head, which caused the tavern's firelight to gleam yellow in her eyes. "I am not from here... merely visiting family." She then indicated his attire. "You are a soldier?" Before she had an answer, the barmaid arrived with her wine and Darden's meal. Rose decided to move and took her goblet of wine to Darden's table. "May I?"

"Of course." Darden was pleased by Rose's interests. He took a metal fork to his food. "I am a guard in the king's castle."

Rose smiled, slyly. "How exciting."

"It has been lately," Darden admitted. He chewed crudely on the chicken.

"Because of the war?" Rose sipped on the wine.

"Quite so." Darden was talking between mouthfuls. "We have captured the Queen of Merawin." He thought he saw a green spark in Rose's eyes, but he wrote it off as the light.

"So you are one of the guards watching her?" Rose tempted. She crossed one long leg over the other.

"I am the guard in charge of her, actually." Darden could hardly help boasting about his role.

Rose chuckled and replied, "I can see why too."

Darden smiled. For a beat, he took in Rose's beautiful features. Her cheeks were chiseled like she was royalty or nobility. Her black hair loosely hung past her shoulders. Her lips were impossibly ruby red, most likely from makeup. Darden watched as she slowly arched her right eyebrow.

"Are you a married man, Darden?"

Barely catching himself, Darden managed to swallow his food safely. "I am not, m'lady."

Rose smiled rather broadly and huskily whispered, "That is excellent news." She noted his plate was almost clear. "Perhaps you can show me where you polish your long sword at night?"

This time Darden choked on his last mouthful. He coughed a few times but a heavy swallow of ale eased his throat. He made a clearing sound twice before he replied, "You are… that type of lady?"

Rose leaned closer and winked at him. "I am any type of lady that you may require, sir."

Darden blinked and softly checked, "Then you are for hire."

Rose laughed at him. "Hardly." She revealed a grin. "I am just a lady that loves a man with a sword and knows how to wield it correctly."

Darden breathed out and felt his body burn further with desire. "Then let us not waste time." He opened his coin purse and slapped the appropriate coin on the table, including Rose's wine. Darden guided the dark beauty from the tavern and into the cool evening.

Rose remained at his side. Her sensitive ears picked out a few low flaps of wings overhead in the darkness. She smiled knowingly.

"My home is not far." Darden turned onto a smaller street. He passed a few homes then started up the two steps to his front door. He retrieved a key and worked the lock.

Rose waited on the street until Darden called to her. She tore her eyes off the raven perched on the opposite house's roof. She ascended the steps and entered the chilly, dark house. She left the door open to allow some light until Darden lit several wall candles.

Darden turned after lighting a grouping of candles on the dining table. He smiled and held out his arms. "Welcome to my humble home."

Rose smiled and met the soldier halfway. "This is perfect."

Darden curiously considered what Rose meant by that.

"Now, about your sword…" Rose's tease rumbled in her throat. A very sly grin pulled across her lips as Darden leaned into her.

Darden felt Rose's breath close to his lips. He smelled her honey, sandlewood scent that encouraged him closer. Just as his lips brushed hers, he was sharply choking from a strong hand around his throat. In a heartbeat, Darden was lifted off the floor and staring down at Rose's pale features and those vibrant green eyes.

"Wwwhat… you…"

"There is just a question dying to get out," Rose taunted. She gave a low laugh then threw Darden, who crashed into one of the chairs by the table.

Darden groaned and cupped his head. He heard Rose say something, but the words made no sense to him. He lifted his head and focused on Rose, who was changing into somebody else, or something else.

Rose grew impossibly taller. Black horns started materializing above her head as her hair lightened into a soft brown. Her features were paler in the light now. The most astounding were the wings forming behind her back, and she promptly unfurled them in a grand display.

"Maleficent," Darden hissed. He staggered to his feet with the sword unsheathed and pointed at the dark fairy. He hardly recalled her wings this morning, and they made her much more imposing.

"You are terribly quick," Maleficent jabbed. When he came at her, she disarmed him in a fluent motion. She saw how the blade briefly brightened when it was close to her skin. Damn these humans and their iron, Maleficent mentally swore.

Darden went crashing to the floor again. His movements were slow. In a beat, Maleficent had her hand around his throat again. He was held against the floor and not a single limb could move after yellow dust had fallen over his body. He could only move his eyes and lips.

Maleficent rolled her fingers slightly and allowed her nails to dig into his skin. "Tell me where they are keeping Queen Aurora." To her right, she heard soft wings rustle then a low caw. But Maleficent kept her focus on the guard.

"Go to Hell, you cunt," Darden sneered. He howled when her nails cut into his skin. He shut his eyes. Then he felt his right index finger lifting up on its own accord.

"Tell me," Maleficent calmly ordered the thick headed guard. Her Fae magic was pouring off her body now and covered Darden. She ignored Diaval, who had transformed into a man.

Darden was stunned by the man appearing in his house. He parted his lips, but instead of words, he screamed from the pain in his right index finger. He felt his finger continue to bend backwards so painfully then it suddenly stopped but remained bent.

Maleficent revealed her fangs in a dark smile. "I will slowly break every bone in your body." She found Darden focused on her again. She knew how well humans responded to pain.

Darden was petrified by Maleficent. Her blazing green eyes harnessed his fears. He gasped as his middle finger started to lift up. "In the tower," he pleaded. "She is in the west tower with no window." Yet still his middle finger bent backwards with an initial strain and paused there.

"What will he do with her?" Maleficent demanded.

"I do not know," Darden hastily replied. However, his answer was inadequate, and his middle finger bent backwards very slowly. He screamed from the pain. "Please!" he begged between a scream. "He will kill her… after the…" Darden screamed again and shut his eyes. "War."

Diaval swallowed hard after the man's suffering. He walked away, his back to the pair. He refused to watch Maleficent torture the human.

"How does King Hubert plan to take the Moors?" Maleficent tempted next.

Darden hastily opened his eyes. "I do not know," he breathed. Yet his middle finger continued pushing backwards against his will. "God, please!" Darden heard the cracking of bone. "I swear on Jesus's blood… I do…" He wailed in pain and rasped, "Dooo not… know… God, please."

Now Maleficent believed him and released his two fingers from the magic. She tilted her head and asked, "Why does he want the Moors so much?"

Darden blinked the tears from his eyes. He weakly replied, "For the riches… the treasures."

Maleficent leaned in closer and sunk her nails deeper into his neck. She enjoyed his pained whimper. She felt blood ooze around her fingers. "What of the Kingdom of Merawin?"

Diaval turned his hide sidelong as he wondered too what the fate was for the Kingdom of Merawin.

Darden was breathing hard, but he quickly answered, "King Hubert wishes to take it from Queen Aurora."

Maleficent smiled and gave a deep laugh. "He has chosen the wrong kingdoms to condemn." Sharply she jerked her hand off his neck. She then rose up and towered over the paralyzed man.

Diaval faced his friend. He breathed out a sigh of relief. They barely gained any new information about King Hubert. However, it was to be expected since Darden was merely a guard.

Yellow magic fell from Maleficent's right hand and drifted over Darden. She watched as he floated off the floor and lifted into the air. "Diaval," she softly ordered him.

The man raven understood and approached the pair. He retrieved Darden's sword first and sheathed it after he removed the scarab. Next, he removed Darden's leather uniform, which he tossed onto the table.

Darden was left only in his trousers and tunic. His feet were even bare. His cheeks glistened from the nearly dried tears. "Please… do not kill me." His stomach knotted after Maleficent's lips curled into a wolfish smile.

"I have no further use for you." Maleficent raised her hand and green magic pulsed once from her palm before it surged forward. She allowed the Fae magic to cover Darden fully before commanding it to switch to Diaval.

Diaval closed his eyes as his human body started to shift. First his face sunk in slightly then his nose shortened greatly. A scar formed across his brow. His lips thinned out. His hair became much shorter and quite brown. He was a bit taller and his hands bigger. After the magic withdrew, he opened his now hazel eyes.

Darden gaped at the perfect mirror image of himself standing next to him. "My God," he whispered in awe.

Diaval had a slight smirk. He too continued to be amazed by Maleficent's magic.

Maleficent gave a deep laugh and looked from Diaval to the guard. "Now, what were you saying earlier about going to Hell?" She took a step closer, her fangs quite apparent. She easily pictured Darden pressed so tightly against Aurora, holding her, and threatening her life. It flared Maleficent's temper further.

Diaval shifted on his feet after the color drained from the human's face. He understood Maleficent's hatred for most humans. However, he refused to stand by this time. "Mistress…"

Maleficent faltered and lowered her right hand. Rarely did Diaval still call her that now that their relationship had changed in the past two years. He was free, but he remained at her side.

"Perhaps a curse would serve a better purpose than death," Diaval offered.

Maleficent clenched her jaw and considered his request. She cut her green eyes from Diaval to the human and hotly whispered, "Very well." Again, she raised her right hand and Fae magic floated from her palm. "Your charm is that of a rat." Slowly the green magic drifted across the distance and started coating the human little by little as Maleficent weaved the curse. "You shall learn the life of your true brethren. You will live in the facieses of your masters and eat their trash." Her eyes grew brighter still. "For one full moon cycle, you will live as you truly are… if you can survive your feline hunters." Suddenly the green magic snapped backwards and vanished into her hand.

Darden gave a low moan as he fell to the floor. His body shrunk and vanished into his clothes.

Diaval looked from the pile of clothes to Maleficent then back to the pile. He kicked at it and hit something. He slightly jumped when a rat scurried out from the tunic.

Maleficent chuckled at Diaval's reaction. Her eyes honed in on the rat that raced over to the sealed front door. With her magic, she opened the door and slammed it shut after the rat left the home.

"Ratden," Diaval joked. He was grateful that Maleficent had performed the curse rather than killed him. Like Maleficent, he knew that if Darden survived the curse then he would return to human. By then, he could possibly be jailed for abandoning his post as a guard. He could only continue his life by leaving the city and starting a new life somewhere else.

Maleficent seemed calmer now and focused on Diaval. "You remember the plan?"

"Yes." Diaval bowed his head, slightly. He hesitated and reached up to brush a loose strand from his face. However, his hair was now short, and it was odd to him.

Maleficent smirked. She had learned it was Diaval's worry tell sign. "What is it?"

Diaval sighed and checked, "Should I not inform her who I am?"

Maleficent had considered it earlier, and they had already made an agreement. Obviously Diaval was still concerned about keeping Diaval's identity a secret. "She wishes to do this on her own terms." She drew her wings in closer. "We will let her."

"To a point," Diaval insisted.

"To a point," the fairy softly agreed. She turned and started for the front door. "I will return to the Moors. I leave her in your care." Maleficent had faith in Diaval's skill and intelligence. As she approached the door, green magic floated around her and each step changed her into Rose again. "Be safe, Diaval." She peered over her shoulder and softly added, "Thank you… for caring." Maleficent opened the door and slipped out of the house.

Diaval watched his friend go. Once the door latched shut, he had a sad smile. "Always." He then scanned the interior of the house. "Dirty human," he muttered. He sighed and went about getting use to the place. Diaval considered what Aurora was doing right now. Hopefully it was more interesting than Diaval's current situation.

In the castle, Queen Aurora was giving her best Maleficent glare to the healer, who was poking at her head a bit too much in her opinion.

"How has it been feeling?"

"It was better," Aurora tersely replied.

The healer sighed, dramatically. The swelling had gone done. He faced the queen, who was seated on the bed. "Is your headache gone?"

"Not yet," Aurora admitted. "It is better but…" She recalled how by the end of Nine Men's Morris, her dull headache had flared up. She rested for awhile and that seemed to settle it again.

"You must rest more," the healer encouraged. He was rummaging through the medical bag. "How else can you hope to defeat King Hubert?"

Aurora blinked and peered over at the healer. She was unsure if she misheard the soft words. "Beg your pardon?"At that point, she tried recalling his name.

The healer went still and turned his serious features onto the queen. "Do you take me for a fool, your majesty?" He only received a blank stare so he huffed, shook his head, and continued looking for the medicine. "Your mother was extraordinarily intelligent and clever."

Queen Aurora had a heavy furrow in her brow. Suddenly the healer's name popped into her mind. "And what do you know of my mother, Irwin?" She gave a soft glower at the healer's bemusement.

"Perhaps more than you know about her." Irwin withdrew from his bag. He held out a pouch of medicine for the queen's headache. "After your mother was betrothed to your father that was the day I resigned from my position as High Physician."

Instantly Aurora's eyes widened once she realized Irwin was most likely a healer for her mother and grandfather. "You knew my mother."

Irwin placed another pouch in the queen's lap. He closed his bag and started to the door, which he rapped on loudly. He turned to Queen Aurora. "I delivered you at birth as I did Queen Leila." Before the guard could hear them, Irwin softly bowed and added, "My queen." Irwin turned and left the dumbfounded, young queen on the bed.

Aurora watched the healer leave. She stared at the heavy door that boomed shut. "By the gods…" She realized that Irwin most likely left the Kingdom of Merawin after King Stefan ascended the throne. Whatever solace Irwin hoped to find in the Kingdom of Cadalerd was nearly gone.

Aurora opened the pouches and studied the contents. One was for directly for her headaches and the other had tea. Aurora smiled at the tea. It would help sooth her tonight. As she smelled the herbal tea, she considered all the things Irwin knew about her mother. Sadly, Aurora only knew her mother through stories from others. As she learned more about her mother, she wished she was still alive to help her. However, Aurora believed King Stefan's insanity aided in her mother's death. She hoped she had a chance to speak to Irwin again.

After a moment, Aurora slid off the bed and decided to request hot water from the guards. She would take the headache pill with the tea. Soon, Aurora was resting on the bed with the Iliad again and sipped on hot tea. Already the medicine aided her. It had been a long day even though she felt as if little had been accomplished. However, if she earned Princess Morgan's favor then perhaps Aurora had a chance.

After a candlemark, Aurora moved under the sheets. She silently thanked the princess for bringing her a nightgown too. She refused to pack one when she left the Kingdom of Merawin. It was unnecessary weight in the rucksack.

The Iliad found a home on the nighstand, beside the empty teacup. Aurora curled up on her side and drifted off under the soft torchlight. Her fading thoughts were on Maleficent, who came to save her today and instead bowed to Aurora's plea. There would be much to discuss before and after the war. Right now, everything required action, and Aurora believed in the importance of an advantage, especially if she were to best King Hubert.

Such thoughts about the pending war troubled Aurora. Her last, darkened thoughts pulled her into troublesome dreams. Aurora shifted often under the sheets and woke up a few times. She eased her racing heart then would try to sleep again. She reminded herself that she had the Moors on her side.

Aurora had Maleficent.

This time the dreamscape brought Aurora outside of the great stone church within her city's walls. With her head tilted, Aurora gazed upon the three stained glass windows that climbed high above to the roof. On the center window was Christ, nailed to his cross. Depicted on the left and right windows were angels, who mourned for Christ.

Queen Aurora lowered her head and stared at the church's sealed doors. She went up the four stone steps and grabbed the thick bronze ring. In that instant, she noted her leather covered hand and forearm. Aurora was fully armored in new leathers with a bronze sword at her side. She was prepared for a battle soon, very soon. However, she was first drawn into the quiet church.

The beautiful church had over twenty wood pews on either side with a central aisle going up to the altar. The interior ceiling was made up of thick wood beams that arched upward to the sky. Painted wood shields were fastened to various beams and held each ruler's name through the generations. Stained glass windows lined the walls and allowed the afternoon sunlight to shine on the pews. From above, six large bronze lanterns hung from the ceiling and lighted the smaller, side aisles.

To the right, a short marble pillar held a bowl of holy water. It drew Aurora to it, and she dipped a few fingertips into the water. She signed the cross from her forehead and over her chest. Slowly, Aurora closed the distance between her and the altar. Softly metal clanked from her movements. Once in front of the first marble step of the altar, Aurora genuflected to the altar then completely knelt on the first step.

Queen Aurora bowed her head, rested her hands on her leather knees, and started to whisper soft prayers to God. She prayed for the Kingdom of Merawin. She prayed for the Moors, even if God held no powers over the Moors. Then she prayed to God that he would watch over Maleficent, even if the fairy ignored God. In Aurora's eyes, any help they could gain was important to them.

A side door creaked and brought Aurora out of her prayers. She lifted her head once the priest hurried over to her. She received a quick bow from him before he explained his interruption.

"Your majesty, she has come to see you."

Queen Aurora sensed her pulse jump. She noted the glow from her green bracelet. She raised her eyes and read the alarm in the priest's eyes. "Send her in, please and leave us."

"But, your majesty, she is-"

"It's okay," Aurora promised him. She received his nod and watched him hurry to the front door this time. For a moment, Aurora returned to her prayer. Distantly, she heard the front door reopen again and soft footfall made Aurora finish her prayer. She whispered a gentle amen before she signed the cross again.

Behind her, Aurora sensed the dark presence of her counterpart. She stood up from the step and faced the tall, dark fairy that had become her protector. However, Aurora had learned to be her own protector in the past moons. At that thought, she rested her hand on the sword hilt out of habit.

Maleficent halted her visual scan of the church's interior. It was all quite extreme in her mind on how humans celebrated their God. Slowly her eyes settled on Queen Aurora and a green shine brightened in her eyes. Just as her lips parted with cold words on her tongue's tip, she was cut off by Aurora's soft voice.

"Thank you," Aurora started, sincerely. In a heartbeat, she disarmed Maleficent's initial anger.

Maleficent blew out a low breath. Her chest continued to noticeably rise and fall from her heavy breaths. "You are not right to do this."

Aurora clenched her jaw but held her position. "I will not apologize for my plans." She sighed and blinked back the forming sting in her eyes. "But I do apologize how it has hurt you." She swallowed and added, "How I have hurt you." Aurora saw the upset flicker through Maleficent's cold eyes. She had learned to look for Maleficent's emotions after years of practice.

"You should have at least informed me," Maleficent snapped.

Aurora lowered her hand from the hilt. "And if I had… would you have let me go?" She took Maleficent's silent glare as an answer. "I had to do this on my own." She approached the angry fairy. "I am not a youngling anymore."

Maleficent stood quiet and studied the queen's aged features. She knew that Aurora had grown into an adult. "I know this."

"Do you?" Aurora countered. She held her spot in front of Maleficent. "You have known me since I was born. For many years, you watched me as a child." She tilted her head and softly added, "I am not going to wander off this cliff and fall to my death."

Maleficent flexed her taut jaw, which shown from the line across the bottom of her jaw. "This is hardly the same."

Aurora sighed and bowed her head. "Perhaps." She peered up again. "Perhaps not." She nearly reached for Maleficent's wrist yet lowered her arm again. "I am trying to protect our kingdom." She saw some of Maleficent's resolve crack. "I am trying to protect you," she softly added.

"I am the Protector of the Moors," Maleficent coldly reminded, "Not you." Her features were dark, and eyes flashed green. "And I have sworn to protect you."

Aurora's frustration mounted at Maleficent's roadblock. She hoped for better. "I can take care of myself," she snapped. Her words barely cut through Maleficent's armor, and she growled. Aurora stomped off with fisted hands. She approached a stained glass window, which depicted a beautiful angel in flight.

"Shall I leave you in King Hubert's hands then?" Maleficent retorted. She folded her arms and turned in Aurora's direction. "Perhaps you are solely counting on me to free you." She was clearly angry that Aurora had knowingly used her. "Or perhaps you have a backup plan in case I might be… indisposed."

Aurora shut her eyes and took a few steady breaths. She tilted her head back and studied the stained glass. Slowly her ire started to calm, and she thought her way through the conversation. It was true that she had planned for Maleficent to free her from King Hubert. She counted on it because she knew her chess pieces so well. After a sharp swallow, Aurora turned part of the way and met Maleficent's dark gaze.

"Will you hate me for this?" Aurora's kept her composure, mostly. "Will you think me like King Stefan?" In days, she saw Maleficent change from a calm and secretly loving creature to a very dark and angry one. Aurora knew it was by her hand.

Maleficent stayed silent for several moments and attempted to look at the situation for what Aurora was attempting to do. Even though Aurora had gone behind her back, it was indeed to protect the Moors and even the humans in the Kingdom of Merawin. They were hardly actions of King Stefan.

"No," Maleficent huskily replied. "King Stefan would have attacked the Moors himself… not protect it."

Aurora closed her eyes and was thankful for that much response. However, it hardly changed the fact that she had hurt Maleficent and also used Maleficent as her escape passage. She turned to the stained glass and stared at it. She then heard Maleficent's quiet approach from behind her.

"You betrayed me," Maleficent stated. "I do not pretend to understand such human games as these." In some ways, Maleficent too was naive

Aurora turned to the fairy. "It was not my intent. I wished to tell you, greatly." She studied the cool amber eyes above her. Still the green flecks glowed in Maleficent's eyes. "You would have not let me face King Hubert."

"You have nothing to prove to me," Maleficent argued.

"Yes, I do," Aurora sharply replied. She took a deep breath. "Even to myself." She saw bits of Maleficent's resolve crack further. "I am not a youngling… a peasant… or naive girl." She started to breathe harder. "I refuse to stand by and watch an iron net fall upon you again. I won't allow somebody like King Stefan to cut your wings, strike you down, and nearly kill you simply because I could do nothing about it." She gritted her teeth but still her eyes stung against her will. "I refuse this time," she snapped, "And every time after this."

Maleficent took a step closer, entering Aurora's space. She cupped the human's flushed cheeks and lowered her head until their foreheads met. She brushed her thumb across Aurora's angular cheek that had formed after Aurora grew out of her teen body.

Aurora placed her hands on Maleficent's hips that were silky from the golden brown robe. She gritted her teeth in hopes it would keep her emotions at bay. Memories from Maleficent's capture in the castle from years ago surfaced and made her stomach dip in upset.

"Beastie," Maleficent soothed. She wiped the few tears off the human's cheek. She wished to tell Aurora that nobody could protect her because she was the Protector of the Moors. Yet, it was untrue because nobody had protected her from King Stefan.

Aurora closed her eyes and allowed their connection to calm her. She hoarsely whispered, "I wish to be a warrior like you." She squeezed Maleficent's hip. "To look after each other."

Maleficent opened her wings and drew them forward so that she and Aurora were hidden in them. "Many wars are won with words rather than magic and iron, Aurora." She lifted her head and tipped the human's head up.

"No," Aurora argued, "They are won by smart and decisive leaders."

Maleficent frowned because perhaps it was true, especially with human wars. She brushed her fingertips over Aurora's rosy lips. "And you are both, beastie." She knew how heavily the ugly politics between the kingdoms weighed on Aurora. "I greatly admire you." She found crystal blue eyes upon her. "For all you have done and accomplished as a leader." She cupped Aurora's red cheeks and stated, "We would not have come this far if it was not for you." Maleficent shook her head. "The gods know I would have burned the Kingdom of Merawin to the ground if it was not for your intelligence and skill to change the humans."

Aurora lifted her hand and took Maleficent's into hers. Their bracelets emitted a green magic that amplified their connection further. They continued merging Maleficent and Aurora's dreamscapes into something half real and half magical.

"Thank you," Aurora whispered. She cleared her scratchy throat. "That means a lot to me."

Maleficent gave a low hum and kissed the human's forehead. "Just as it means a lot to me what you have done for the Moors… and myself."

"Always," Aurora lovingly promised. She and Maleficent pressed their foreheads together and calmed the storm through their true love.

Maleficent raised her head and brushed a stray lock from Aurora's face. "Have you found anything out?"

Aurora blinked a few times and cleared her emotions. She straightened up and met the fairy's concerned gaze. She decided it was a good time to test the waters again. "King Hubert is after something called the Dragon Stone." Aurora saw something cross Maleficent's features very quickly, but it was gone. "This is according to his daughter, Princess Morgan." She waved her hand a little. "She told me some story about a great battle between a dragon and her ancient descendant."

Maleficent had distantly listened to Aurora. She focused now and held onto Aurora's sides. "What did she tell you about this stone?"

Aurora tilted her head and replied, "That it gives the bearer god-like powers." She nearly tempted to ask Maleficent, but she waited for Maleficent to speak about the stone. She sensed nothing was coming from her friend so she let it go, for now. "King Hubert is putting his kingdom on the line for this stone."

Maleficent withdrew her wings but stayed close to Aurora.

"I feel as if I am missing something," Aurora explained. "He is far too confident for this bloody war."

Maleficent shook her head. "What do you hope to learn that your spies have not told you?"

"I am unsure but…" Aurora bit her lip for a beat. "I just have this feeling he is hiding something."

"Perhaps the Dragon Stone," Maleficent joked.

Aurora rolled her eyes and affectionately squeezed Maleficent's hip before she freed herself. She went back to the stained glass of the angel. "Know thy enemy." There was no better way to know King Hubert than to be in his castle, even for a bit.

The dark fairy grasped Aurora's taut, leather covered shoulders. She remained behind the human and also studied the stained glass of a human with wings. "You believe in their one-god?"

Aurora rolled her shoulders and softly replied, "It cannot harm to ask for all the help we can gain." She tempted fate by leaning into Maleficent's body. However, her focus was on the stained glass. Aurora pointed at it and asked, "Do you know what this is?"

Maleficent raised an eyebrow and bluntly replied, "A window." She enjoyed Aurora's quiet laugh.

"I meant the image."

Maleficent sighed and peered down at Aurora's profile. "King Stefan told me bits and pieces about human religion." She lifted her eyes to the window. "However, he failed to mention any humans with wings." She found it peculiar.

Aurora smiled at Maleficent's choice of words about humans with wings. She turned to Maleficent, which broke their contact. "It's you."

Maleficent dropped her gaze from the image of a winged human to Aurora. She parted her red lips to argue it, but Aurora was a step ahead of her.

"You're an angel." Aurora turned partially and pointed at the image. "Just like her." She lowered her arm. "You're a guardian spirit."

Maleficent was uneasy and weakly pointed out, "She lacks horns."

Aurora smirked and glanced between the image and Maleficent. "Well, not all angels can be as beautiful as you." She chuckled at Maleficent's befuddled look. It was quite unusual to see on Maleficent, and Aurora thought it was cute. She spun on her boot heels and whispered, "You look the same way when you fly above the clouds."

Maleficent realized it was true. She remained silent and considered exactly what an angel creature was in human religion. Aurora said something about a guardian spirit, and she imagined it was similar to a fairy godmother. She wondered how Aurora could think so highly of her after how she cursed Aurora as a baby.


Aurora heard the undertone of emotion for the first time. She moved into Maleficent's now open wings. She and Maleficent hid away in Maleficent's large, brown wings. She was held close to Maleficent as they reconciled their mixture of hurt and love.

Maleficent's brushed the human's ears, and she whispered, "Do not ever do this to me again."

Aurora reached up and clutched the base of Maleficent's horn. "I swear I will not betray you again." She meant it.

And Maleficent believed it.

For awhile, the pair remained in each other's arms. They had grown as physically close as they had emotionally and mentally. However, it was Aurora who wished to take the last step to bring them romantically close. Even though it was a last step it was also the largest and hardest step. Maleficent saw all the risk involved in it. Aurora was hardly blind to it, but she knew it was worth it.

Aurora only stirred after Maleficent went stiff in her arms. "What is it?"

Maleficent lifted her head off Aurora's golden locks. "Balthazar is calling for me."

Aurora was confused, but she lost her chance to ask anything. Maleficent was already starting to dissolve in front of her. "Wait…"

Maleficent still held onto Aurora even though she was fading from the dreamscape. "Be safe. Do not risk your life further." She had Diaval under Aurora's nose for good reason.

Aurora felt frantic to say goodbye. She hastily pushed forward and stole Maleficent's lips before they were completely gone.

The dark fairy was stunned by the sudden action, but she quickly returned the kiss. Just as a passionate burn started, she lost Aurora to reality. Their connected dreamscape broke, and Maleficent sat up quickly under the moonlight. She had fallen asleep on the grassy ledge, her favorite spot away from everything. Well almost everything because some fairies could still find her, and also ravens.

Balthazar hollered again up to Maleficent. His call was urgent, and he impatiently slammed his spear on a large boulder. His head was tilted back and gaze locked on the ledge high above him.

Maleficent groaned and took her staff that was near her head. She stood up and stretched her wings before she hopped off the ledge. She floated down to the ground and landed beside the Doru.

Balthazar shifted on his feet as he spoke in his ancient tongue. "You must come to the Great Tree."

Maleficent frowned but nodded. "I will meet you there." She could tell Balthazar rather show her right now rather than simply explain it. She lifted into the night sky, and her wings carried her deeper into the Moors. She would meet Balthazar by the Great Tree.

For those few minutes of flight, Maleficent replayed her heated kiss with Aurora before their dreamscape cut off by Balthazar's arrival. She still felt the searing burn across her lips as if it had been real. She could only wonder what else hid beneath Aurora's charismatic exterior. Maleficent pushed it aside, for now because she had to focus on the Moors and Balthazar's concerns. Hopefully it was hardly serious even though it was at the Great Tree, which was the heart of the Moors.

To be continued.