Caw! Caw! CAW! CAAAAWWW!
"What, Diaval?! What?" Maleficent waved her hand impatiently, her raven servant turning back into his human form. "Must you be so loud this early in the morning? I was hoping to watch a pleasant sunrise, not have it ruined by your incessant squawking!" she continued, half joking and half serious. But the moment Diaval had turned back into a human and the moment Maleficent got to see his genuinely terrified expression, she knew at once that something very serious and very terrible had just happened.
"It's Aurora, Mistress," the raven-man panted. "She's been badly hurt!"
For only a split second, Maleficent stood stock still, like a statue, almost unable to comprehend what Diaval had just said. But after that split second passed, she came alive with fury and power.
"She WHAT?!" the Dark Fairy roared, and half the Moors trembled in terror when they heard their queen's angry shout. There wasn't a soul there that did not fear Maleficent's vile temper. Even if she had softened up in more recent times, she was still a force to be reckoned with.
"Some of Stefan's oldest enemies have grown bold in the wake of his death and they've decided to exact their revenge… on Aurora," and Diaval needed to say nothing else before Maleficent was suddenly gone, powerful wings shooting open and lifting her skyward in faster than the blink of an eye. Then Diaval found himself skyborne as well, not as a raven, but a dragon!
In mere minutes, the couple reached Stefan's castle. It was a record trip.
"There!" Diaval rumbled, pointing his scaly head towards the south side of the castle. It was on fire.
"No!" Maleficent gave a horrified gasp. Just for one second, her true feelings became clear. Although she had hidden her terror behind a ferocious scowl, the moment she actually got to see what sort of danger Aurora might be in, that intimidating façade cracked wide open.
Maleficent felt her heart jump and twist in her chest and she immediately shot forward straight towards the damage, her own sense of safety totally forgotten in her concern for Aurora. All the iron and fire in the world wouldn't keep her away from Aurora if Aurora needed her, she had proven that once before on the night she went to save Aurora from the Sleeping Curse. This time was no different. And just like then, Diaval came speeding after, just as determined as his mistress to help protect their family.
Maleficent liked to see herself as a queen of beauty, power, grace and ferocity and, for the most part, she lived up to that image, but whenever Aurora was concerned, all of Maleficent's walls came crashing down whether she liked it or not. It was the one and only thing that could truly scare her and it worked perfectly every single time: Aurora's life being in peril. All of her reputation forgotten, Maleficent flew to the castle like a madwoman, hardly caring if she was prepared for battle or if she looked intimidating enough.
All that mattered now was Aurora, and she was all Maleficent could think of. Everything else was secondary and she wouldn't be able to relax or focus on anything else until she was certain that her daughter was safe. Nothing else mattered. Not her reputation, not her safety, not her crown, not even her own life. All that mattered was her daughter. It was true what they said, how powerful and terrifying a mother's love for her child could be. And that was something both human and fairy could agree on.
Maleficent arrived in time to see Aurora fleeing up the staircase with a band of armed and angry men shouting after her, calling out for her blood. They insisted that she pay for her father's sins and they insisted that they would not know peace, freedom or forgiveness until retribution and justice had been granted first. Maleficent felt her blood burn hotter than the flames around them as she watched these savage idiots terrorizing her innocent daughter. Were they so thick-headed that they did not understand Aurora was in the process of trying to make things better? Were they so shallow and selfish that they thought the blood of an innocent would fix things? Were they so cowardly that they would only take matters into their own hands when their target was not a mad king but an innocent little girl? Maleficent had half a mind to slaughter them right then and there!
But as strong as Maleficent's anger was burning, her love for Aurora outshone even that and she found it easy to turn away from the men in favor of going after her daughter. As much as Maleficent wanted revenge, Aurora's safety would always come first. She would rather let these men escape than chase after them and risk losing Aurora. Maleficent had already seen how revenge prioritized over safety and forgiveness could ruin a life, she did not want to make that same mistake ever again. So while she gestured for Diaval to hold off the invaders, she went after Aurora.
"Beastie!" the Dark Fairy gasped as she finally caught up with the panicked Aurora. To Maleficent's everlasting horror, the girl was covered in all sorts of cuts, burns, bruises and other injuries. Clearly, she had only just escaped the men's grasps and Maleficent's mind went numb as all sorts of horrific images of what might've caused those wounds rose up in her imagination. There was so much blood…
"Mother!" Aurora looked ragged, eyes wide and wild, but the moment she caught sight of Maleficent, she heaved a sob and launched herself into Maleficent's protective embrace. It didn't matter how old she got, Aurora would never outgrow Maleficent's hugs, or her protectiveness.
"Let's get you out of here!" the Dark Fairy said, then she quickly picked Aurora up in her arms and carried her bridal style right out the nearest window. She then cried out for Diaval to join her. They would punish the intruders later, Aurora came first. She and her safety always came first. She would never ever forgive those men for what they did, attacking an innocent and attacking her daughter, but she put her anger on hold.
Once the trio returned to the Moors, Maleficent finally had the chance to inspect Aurora's wounds closer. It was not a pretty sight and Maleficent wanted to look away several times, just because it was that gruesome, but for Aurora's sake, she stayed strong and forced herself to mull over every little last cut, bruise, scrape and burn. Aurora was bleeding heavily from a wound on her head. One of her eyes was black. There were cuts all over her face and chin. Her lip was swollen. Her nose was bleeding, though it did not appear broken. There were cuts, bruises and burns all over her limbs. And some of the bruises on her arms were finger-shaped, implying that her attackers had grabbed her so hard that it had bruised her.
Her feet and legs were also very banged up, her feet bleeding heavily from trying to flee from her attackers and, although Maleficent hadn't seen it before, one of her legs was broken. It was not a terrible break, but it pained Maleficent to see it anyway. For one, she hated seeing her child in pain. For another, this gave the vision of Aurora trying to flee her attackers that much more horror. Even with a broken leg, the girl had been struggling to get away, going so far as to limp-run up a staircase to find safety. And although Maleficent could not see any wounds through the girl's dress, she could see the bloodstains and she could only imagine what they had come from. At least in the castle, Maleficent hadn't been able to see these injuries up close, but now? Now she got to see them in all their full, bloody glory. It was even worse than she'd thought.
Maleficent felt another surge of rage rush through her body, even more powerful than it had ever been before. The anger she felt when she realized just why Stefan had stolen her wings all those years ago seemed insignificant in the face of the outright blind fury she was feeling now. She never thought herself capable of this much hatred, but here she was. Never had she ever wanted revenge on another being so badly, even Stefan! She ground her teeth and clenched her fists, trying to remain calm. But that wasn't easy to do. She could hear her heart pounding in her chest louder and stronger than a war drum. It was only the soft touch of Diaval's hand, him having turned back into a man as soon as the trio had reached their home safely, that kept her from going off the deep end and flying back to the castle right then and there to end things properly.
"I cannot forgive them for this," Maleficent managed to speak, voice sounding strained and choked just because of how angry she was.
"You don't have to," Diaval whispered nervously. Although he was just as terrified and angry, he was able to keep a calmer head. They could not go on a rampage now, not when Aurora needed them. Like Maleficent, herself, had always said, Aurora came first. She came above all else, even the desire for revenge, no matter how justified it was. Maleficent had every right to go back to Stefan's castle and torture those men to death for what they had done, but she could not do that now when Aurora needed her more. Aurora came first.
Diaval finally managed to get through to Maleficent and remind her of this and her wings wilted in understanding and acceptance.
"Very well," she whispered, voice still sounding strained, but not as angry. "We must tend to Aurora first…" then without another word, she flew away from their little home base to fetch some of the materials that she and Diaval would need to patch Aurora up.
Over the course of the next week, Maleficent maintained a constant vigilance over Aurora. Even though none of her wounds were fatal (much to Maleficent and Diaval's infinite reliefs), they were still very serious and caused Aurora great pain. There was a fear of them getting infected while healing, or healing the wrong way, and they still hurt terribly even though they were not fatal. That was the hardest part of all for Maleficent, to have to sit idly by and watch as Aurora suffered and struggled. If Maleficent had been able to trade places with Aurora or somehow share her pain, she would've done so in a heartbeat, but unfortunately, there was nothing out there that would allow them to share the burden.
But even though Maleficent could not ease Aurora's suffering beyond what various medicines and herbs allowed, the Dark Fairy still remained by the human girl's side at all times. The first and only time she had left Aurora's side since finding her under attack in her own castle had been when they first arrived back to the Moors, when Maleficent had gone out to fetch some of the materials that she and Diaval would need to patch Aurora up. And the only reason Maleficent had gone was in order to suffer through some of her feelings alone. She could bear it no longer, to remain trapped in that small undergrowth with only a worried Diaval and a nearly unconscious Aurora. In a moment of weakness, she finally fled, able to look at her suffering child no longer. But after that one lapse, Maleficent had not left Aurora's side since.
"Well, don't you two look like a pair of lovers?" Diaval remarked as he walked in, carrying more herbs to ease Aurora's pain. "It's so romantic that I'd wager Prince Phillip would be jealous if he could see you two now!" he continued to jest as he eyed Aurora and Maleficent.
"Don't be an imbecile," Maleficent snorted. She did know he was only trying to lighten the mood and this was her way of returning the favor. "She is my child, my daughter! Not a lover. Don't be a fool!" she continued. Diaval laughed softly at her before handing over the herbs. Once he was certain that Aurora had taken them all and would be feeling better soon, he gave her a quick peck on the cheek and ruffled her hair reassuringly before dismissing himself again to give Maleficent more alone-time with the girl. He had a kingdom to look after, after all, Maleficent having since made him the temporary replacement for her and Aurora while Aurora healed.
"Thank you," the human girl rasped weakly, reaching out to touch Maleficent's hand after she and Diaval had said their goodbyes.
"Shhh," Maleficent replied, caressing her cheek with a gentleness she never thought she'd ever possess. She gave Aurora a sad smile which Aurora returned. The girl was up again, no longer delirious with pain, but Maleficent wasn't sure if that made things better or worse. Sure, she was glad Aurora was awake again, but now that meant Aurora had to suffer through every pain she felt. Maleficent hated bringing that sort of torment over her child's head, even though her child was more than understanding. She knew full well Maleficent loathed to hurt her, but it was a necessary part of the healing process. Besides, Aurora was just glad that Maleficent had come when she did.
Aurora had come back here to visit her old castle and had been in the middle of heading out to find some breakfast when those old enemies of Stefan had made their appearance. They seemed to pour out from every nook and cranny of the castle. Clearly, this coup had been a very well-thought-out plan. It both terrified and saddened Aurora to realize how many people still hated her and her father and were still affected by what he had done, but she understood it. She had tried to reason with them at first, but they were beyond reasoning by then. If they were able to plan and launch an invasion of that sort, they were not going to have their minds changed by one little speech, even if Aurora was the speech giver.
Instead, they had attacked. With fist and weapon, they had lunged at Aurora with every intention of killing her. It was only her surprising strength from living in the Moors for so long that she was able to escape their grasp at all. Although they were many, they were all very weak. This was not a militia or an army. This was a ragtag band of untrained and underfed peasants.
During the chase through the castle, one of the fools had tried to literally smoke Aurora out from hiding by setting half the castle on fire and it had been during this part of the fight that Maleficent came in. It was dumb luck that Diaval had chosen to visit the castle that morning because then he was able to relay the message to Maleficent so that she could come in and help.
"If you had been even a few minutes late, I might not have lived to see this day," Aurora meant these words as a compliment, but the reminder of just how close Maleficent had come to losing her Beastie yet again only pulled a few more tears from her. And in the earlier days when Aurora's wounds were still fresh, she would slip away into unconsciousness and there was an ever-present fear that she might not wake up. Every time Aurora slipped away, Maleficent always panicked that she would not come back. Every little slip was a fresh round of terror for Maleficent.
It always reminded her of the night when she nearly put Aurora to sleep forever, only back then, a kiss was the cure. But now? It was no longer that simple. If only it were! Maleficent was sure that if her love could've cured Aurora, the girl would've been totally spotless and flawless in faster than a heartbeat. But real life did not work that way and every day was a new challenge as Maleficent, Aurora and Diaval all worked together to make sure that Aurora continued healing, and healing properly.
Maleficent bowed her head in shame and grief, all of her anger having since simmered into guilt. She was still mad at the ones who had nearly taken her daughter away from her, but the immediate and burning fury was gone. All that remained was regret and grief. But that was because Aurora came first, she always came first, and Maleficent's love for Aurora would always win out over her hatred of anything else.
"If only I had come quicker. If only I had known you were here. If only I had been able to be there and watch over you. Then maybe none of this would've happened at all…" the Dark Fairy mourned, but Aurora refused to let Maleficent beat herself up over this.
"Unless you were one of the ones responsible for that coup, you aren't to blame," she insisted, gripping Maleficent's hand tighter in reassurance. It took a while, but Aurora did finally manage to get a small smile from Maleficent and that would be enough for then. It was going to be a slow process for everyone, getting back to normal. Aurora still had to recover from her wounds and Maleficent and Diaval were clearly grappling with guilt and anxiety. None of the three of them were exactly in the best place right then, but they would get through it together, just like always. They would heal their injuries, physical and mental, and there would come a day that they were made whole again. But until then?
"Rest now, Beastie," Maleficent kissed Aurora's forehead tenderly and passionately. "We can do nothing but wait now, but I will be by your side through it all and I will be here when you wake up. I will be the first thing you see when you open your eyes again."
"Good," Aurora kissed her own hand before reaching out to touch Maleficent's. "I wouldn't want it to be anyone other than you and I wouldn't want either of us to be anywhere else."
"Neither would I, Beastie, neither would I…" And then a few minutes later, Diaval returned to their little home. He, in raven form, nestled beside Aurora's head and the little family of three slowly worked their way into an uneasy, but relatively stable, sleep.
AN: This one's for katiestrauchon1999 and StoryReader01 both. Hope it met both of your standards!