A/N: I watched the "Mistress of Evil" movie on the day it was out and . . . I hated it. Which shouldn't be a surprise to me, I mean, I didn't even like the first movie!
Won't give my reasons because the list would be too long, so anyway, I felt like the new material could be used for something. Consider this my way of dealing with things. Sorry for any typos - non-native english speaker here.
Hope you enjoy!
Part 1 of 2: Lonely as a cloud
After rain comes the lull, or at least that's what human verses say through songs, tales or fables they insisted on telling for generations to come—a custom they learned from the Dark Faes, Maleficent was to learn later, and hence such 'fairy tales' became so common in the mouths of the poor that not even the nobles could ignore them. From scaring adventures to impossible romances—all in themselves captivating enough to survive the ages. Maleficent knew that her own life would be adapted to each century's view of what was proper, what was good, what was wrong and what was ultimately evil.
The Dark Fae wouldn't let her tale to be lost to convenience, however. They were nothing like humans. They were once friends and guardians to villagers, godparents to children, providers to the weak and alone and abandoned, and the lessons of hospitality were taught from them. But humans resemble parasites that cause the worst calamities, and multiply as insects, as adaptable as reptiles, and they destroy the nature that is kind to them as grasshoppers destroy the wheat on the fields, and they betray each other without thinking, unlike the dogs they seem to be so fond and that are so loyal to their owners, and they kill with the mercy a starved lion would to a fat prey after hours of hunting.
And the Dark Fae fell ill because of them, and reached near annihilation—betrayed by those whom they so loved before anyone else.
To survive, the Dark Fae took the pain and death and molded it to their will, shaping it as the iron is by the heat of the forge. They became tribal as humans once were, and nested in the four corners of the world, and adapted to snow in the mountains, to the scalding sun of the desert, to the rain of the jungle, and the echoes of the forest—living inside hidden caves as the world that had once been theirs now belonged to the humans they had once saved.
Dangerous those Dark Fae became, as abrupt as the good willed thoughts any human might had of them. Peace was replaced by war and then blood and suffering and darkness.
For three centuries the Dark Fae hid, for decades they planned on their return and for three days a war was raged on. On the night following their last battle, the Dark Fae returned to the cave they held home to celebrate as their ancestors once did. Following one out of many ancient traditions, a large animal was sacrificed in honour of the one whose bravery and power had brought joy to the people. The animal in question had been an ox, cooked into a very strong stew and served to the guests. The Dark Fae would reunite themselves on Sanctuary—a semi-circular, curved bank of seats. Below them, in the centre, a level circular area in which a large bonfire was lit—directly beyond to the right, a Tundra Fae of name Udo was surrounded by little ones of many different ages, barely stopping in their seats as they listened to the tale of the guest of honour, the one the celebrations were dedicated to, the one to win the war and bring peace—the Phoenix Reborn—Maleficent of the Moors.
"Mistress of All Evil" was as she was known to humans, a result to Ingrith's efforts. Despite the horrors Ingrith herself had committed, it was expected that humans wouldn't admit that one of their own had been a monster capable of destroying anything to prove a point. Ingrith was obsessed and that was her downfall.
It had almost been Maleficent's, too, and it irritated her to know that she shared so many similarities with the former queen.
"We must kill them all!"
Shrike, a Jungle Fae, impersonated each character dramatically, and as she proceeded to mimic Queen Ingrith's pompousness, a collective laugh was heard around the bonfire. The Dark Fae were wild yet exceedingly welcoming. They would give great value to moments in which all would gather themselves around the fire and listen to stories—a favourite pastime to the little ones, as well.
Maleficent allowed herself to watch in new fond affection as the events of her life were summarized on a play—Diaval had explained how such were common among humans, and as humans traditions had been learned from the Dark Fae, then this was to be just one of them.
Mistress and servant sat side by side, closest to the bonfire than anyone was allowed, the noblest place to be given to a fae, according to their ever so surprising traditions. Since the celebrations were in the name of her deeds, Maleficent chose not to argue over such odd notions, for it seemed easier to go along the traditions of her people to later try to understand them. She had no wish to disrespect them, and she knew that she could easily do so given few words spoken inappropriately to her, or maybe for no reason at all, taking how inept she was to understand social interactions, even if they were from her own kind.
So far, no incidents willing to test her temper. The play had been rather amusing and the little ones seem to enjoy it very much. Maleficent refused to ruin their joy over a sense of disarray for traditions she failed to grasp.
"The Dark Phoenix embraced Sleeping Beauty with her wings—" Udo spread his own white wings, having in his arms one of the little ones, a girl who resembled Aurora by her blond hair, and whirling her in the air to later hug her to his chest protectively. The girl, along with the other little ones, laughed out loud, enjoying all the attention, "—and fell to the ground!"
Udo closed his wings, creating a wind curtain that met the children's astonished gasps. Their eyes were wide, attentive and curious.
"What happened then, Udo?", "Was she hurt?", "Where did she fell?" the children asked eagerly.
"The Dark Phoenix laid across the garden—" Udo went on with his tale, "—and soldiers and warriors stood there in the battlefield, shocked and frightened and silent . . . " Udo opened his wings, revealing the little girl safe in his arms, and those who were not paying attention were forced to, "But Sleeping Beauty was alive! The Dark Phoenix saved her!"
And the children celebrated. Udo smiled openly at their joy, and allowed the little girl in his arms to return to her siblings and friends.
"What happened to the Queen, Udo?" asked one of the little ones, the smallest, his voice as shy as his own self.
Udo sat down on the floor with the little ones, his robes forming a circle around him. The openness had the little boy who made the question to sit on his lap, and the other children shifted closer to him as well, and he spread his wings on instinct as to have the other little ones resting under his protection.
"The Queen was defeated," Udo then looked at Borra, who also participated in the night of stories, "Borra and I went to her for justice, as tradition demands."
Shrike placed crown of flowers on her head, and raised her chin. She pressed a forefinger to Borra's chest, faking an authoritarian voice, "You cannot hurt me, you fiend! I'm the Queen of Ulstead! You cannot touch me!"
"Silence, human!" Borra snapped at her, and Shrike pretended to fall on her knees, her body shaking exaggeratedly. Her wings covered her body to demonstrate her position of fragility and she would beg in a shaky voice, "No, please, have mercy!"
The children, very much like their parents and any other expectants, laughed at Shrike's dramatizations. Maleficent would limit her reactions to a slight shake of head, a smile taking over her lips nonetheless.
"And what did you do to her, Udo?" asked one of the children, "Did you kill her?"
Udo shook his head, "No. Tradition dictates the most powerful fae to choose her punishment—" he paused and turned his gaze to Maleficent, who felt slightly unnerved before the eyes of the many little ones who were now staring at her with an admiration and acceptance that she would never get used to. But what could she do against them? It had been a lie all along—she absolutely loved children.
She simply didn't know how to act around them.
"—which means that the Dark Phoenix chose to turn the Queen into a goat."
There was a two to three seconds of silence, until the children finally understood what had been told them . . .
. . . and then started to ask many questions.
"A goat?!" then "She can turn humans into animals?" then "Can she turn me into a lion?"
Udo laughed, "Why, I'm told the Dark Phoenix turned Diaval, who was born a raven, into a wolf, a horse, and even a dragon!"
"And a bear!" Diaval exclaimed proudly from his seat, "Do not forget the bear!"
The children were amazed, "Diaval! Diaval! Diaval!" they shouted, and many got up, including the little one sitting on Udo's lap, and literally flew to him. Diaval barked laughs, many little ones on top of him asking so many questions he could never answer because he couldn't understand half of them. Some asked him to turn into different animals, others asked him to turn into a phoenix so they could ride on his back.
But Diaval depended on Maleficent's magic and will, that none of that would do. She simply watched as there were so many little ones jumping on Diaval, as her servant managed to hold two in his arms at the same time. He has always been extremely good with little ones, and would never mind their unreserved attention.
"A little aid, mistress?" Maleficent heard Diaval plead, and no real despair came from him.
And his mistress, understanding his proposal, failed to contain a smile.
"Into a lion."
And her golden magic left her fingers, and went to Diaval, who from man became a lion of dark fur and a pompous mane.
"Big kitty!" the smallest of the children gasped in delight and Maleficent's laugh sounded glorious and open and free, and her heart was filled with a familiar flame she hadn't been brave to know for a long time.
Night progressed so diverse and unlike anything Maleficent could imagine, yet equally delicious, far simpler than the strange human costumes she had faced at Aurora and Philip's castle. Faes were creatures of improvisation and creativity, which was by necessity, since they had no free access to magic the way Maleficent always had. Everything she ever needed, her imagination would take care of. Nature knelt before her power, and even though it took her a few years to learn how to master such ability, it had always been absurdly natural to her, like the breathing of a baby when born.
As for her people, life was never easy, and so they improvised. Tunics and armour were made out of leather and cooper, utensils and tools made of clay and wood and rock. Their nests were birdlike, stuffed in fur and leather and wool—immensely large and filled of all sorts of things. Faes liked to collect trinkets to decorate their nests with, and so when someone would visit them, they would share the stories behind such peculiar objects. It was also a way of courting a potential mate—by offering them trinkets they might like. Mated pairs attach to their clothing whatever might remind them of their mates—a female fae, if mated to a warrior, would carry a shiv (crafted by her mate) under her belt, or wear a bracelet made of the same material her mate's armour was.
In true, those trinkets could be pretty much anything, as each trinket spoke volumes of the fae who wore them.
Take Udo as an example, wearing long silky robes, always white like his hair and wings, reflecting the softness of his personality and making him so approachable to the little ones who simply worshipped his stories—he was one of the wiser males of the clan, and the kindest of them. Maleficent was not surprised to learn that four of the little ones there hearing of his stories were, in fact, Udo's own children.
Shrike, however, was much wilder, her dark skin painted in red, her arms covered with the typical marks of the wars she fought—she was a warrior, fearless and perhaps a little reckless, strong-headed and fair-eyed. She was so adored by the little ones for her victories, and didn't mind sharing them—it amazed Maleficent that such an aggressive warrior showed such patience with little ones.
Maleficent was so much more practical when she was young, wearing jewellery made out of the simplest things: from tree branches to rocks found by the river. After the betrayal, after the curse, she grew cold and her depression was the black of her robes. She was left with a cloak of night, her skin like the moon, lips like the rose that was blooming at dawn. Her long hair, always loose in the wind, was bound by snake skin, her shoulders adorned with claws of black and brown bears, and trailing where her wings had once been—covering her body like a sea of feathers—was a velvet cloak. On her hand, a staff to hold her steady and controlled the magic that had become unstable due to her emotional state, and to secure her aim—holding memories of her curse.
The dark tones she did not abandon, not even after the return of her wings, and small bird skulls adorned the rings on her fingers, a staff resembled her own horns, and dark feathers tied to her hair, now falling down her back in long, dark brown trances. Ravens were the thought when dressing herself—she was fond of them, as she was of Diaval, the ever constant in her life, and they represented her personality better than anything she could try.
She glanced at her servant, who was holding two goblets.
"Thank you," She accepted the goblet from his left hand and took a sip from its content—mead, another delicacy invented by the faes to which Maleficent had shown great appreciation for. As the noise around her was so loud that she barely could listen to her own voice, so to speak to her servant, Maleficent had to whisper closely. It was late at night, and the little ones had already retired to their nests with their parents.
The party didn't seem to want to end though. The Dark Fae were beings of eccentric passions. In addition, there was a lot of music, summed up by the beat of drums in a tribal rhythm that was accompanied by dances around the bonfire. Faces glowed in the light, revealing the different designs, in colour and shape each fae would show with pride—'marks'—permanent lines printed across their skin, each of different significance, expressing the fae's personality just as the trinkets they used to decorate their clothes and homes with. Maleficent had been offered help if she was to choose a design to mark her skin, and she, not knowing how to decline such a proposal, made it clear that she was thinking of a proper design still.
The truth was that she wouldn't know if she should consider it. Reserved as she was, although not exactly shy either, her clothing would barely show her skin—it would make no sense to print symbols on her body if no one would see them, and she would definitely not mark the skin on her face. She had worn war paint on the day of the battle against Ingrith, but the mark was gone after her death and resurrection.
Which symbol to choose anyway? Udo had told her that each symbol expressed the life of each fae, something that mattered to them, often their mate, their little ones, or any defining moments of their life. Maleficent could think of something related to Aurora, but pastel tones didn't match her personality at all.
Ink inserted into her skin was out of the question—for now.
Maybe a few trinkets would do. She would need to ask Aurora once she was to visit her back at the castle.
It would be, without doubt, an interesting conversation.
"Is . . . are those eggs?"
Maleficent was again drinking from her goblet when she heard the question asked out of nowhere. The sound of drums and laughter was quite loud, and she had to turn her attention fully to Diaval to understand the context of his question.
"There, mistress," the fae followed the target of her servant's curious gaze, trying to figure it out what her servant was talking about, "Those are eggs, yes?"
Diaval sounded too excited, always reminding her that he was, in essence, a black bird. Maleficent did not understand the reason for such enthusiasm, however. Her servant spoke of two eggs, in colours that interspersed between red and blue, and of the female fae wrapping them in a wool blanket and pressing them against her chest in a gesture of absolute love. The fae and whom Maleficent concluded to be her mate, taking how his arm was wrapped around her shoulders and his lips kissed her forehead, were talking to two other fae pairs, happy and peaceful, probably being congratulated for such beautiful pair of eggs.
Maleficent smiled softly at the scene and a pull on her heart left her a little breathless. It was an earning she had been ignoring, a want that had not been seen as possible before, a wish that had been forgotten against her will, which was there to set aflame what her heart truly craved for.
There was nothing unusual about the sight, though, just a mother protecting her unborn children, and Maleficent turned to Diaval once more, frowning slightly at his pleased expression, "What about them?"
The Dark Fae were overly protective of their little ones. Maleficent knew now why she would worry so easily for Aurora, and if her servant saw or felt something different about that mated pair and their little ones, Maleficent wished to know, so she could intervene before it was too late.
She had indeed promised her life to protecting those who couldn't.
Diaval eased her very clear worries, "Your species lays eggs!" he said in disbelief, and yet Maleficent failed to find amusement in such a discovery.
"Is that a problem?" she wondered, and her servant sighed, too exasperated taking his not so reserved nature when in friendly conversation, even more so when addressing her—perhaps an effect of the goblet of mead in his hand as well.
"Not a problem, mistress. I was merely under the impression Dark Faes were as humans, who carry their children on their wombs," Diaval explained, "Were you aware—"
"Days ago I was never told about the existence of others like me, Diaval. How would I know?"
Diaval frowned, "The Three Pixies never mentioned—"
Maleficent scoffed, "How would they know?" and her servant rolled his eyes kindly, his mannerisms rather adorable—exaggerated, but adorable, "It does makes sense, however—" she spoke, and went back to her goblet of mead. The liquid was cold but seemed to warm her lungs. She needed to know its form of manufacture. Maybe Udo could answer her. He had been very kind when teaching her about the ways of their people. She returned her gaze to the bonfire, the memories flashing before her eyes, "—as we are descendants of the Phoenix."
"You, the purest," Diaval added matter-of-factly, "A beautiful black bird like myself."
Maleficent felt her cheeks burn, a consequence she blamed on the mead, and immediately raised a questioning eyebrow at her servant. Diaval smiled, more affectionate and kind and demure, like the Diaval she was so used to, "A toast to that?"
For seconds that were similar to decades, the fae got lost in the kindness of her servant's eyes, on how the flames from the bonfire seemed to dance in the edges of his skin. Diaval raised his eyebrows dramatically, expectant for a positive answer, and Maleficent gave in—their goblets touched, Maleficent taking only a shy sip, Diaval fully finishing his mead, then refilling it with the small jar beside him. Dinner had been served, each small group of faes around the fire having their own jars of mead, goblets, a clay bot filled with fruits, unleavened bread wrapped on linen cloth, and small bowls in which the stew had been served. Maleficent was the first to be, as the most powerful in the clan, and so it was her honour to have the best part of everything the clan produced.
Such logic didn't please her at all.
"Indulging on their joy won't hurt, mistress," Diaval was drinking from his goblet of mead with the additional of some grapes in his other hand. He offered Maleficent a few and said, "They are celebrating in your honour."
Oh, she knew—how, you may wonder, to ignore a celebration solemnly dedicated to the tales of your life? Parallel conversations were all around, and many involved the tales of her life. Maleficent abhorred this kind of unwanted attention, which was not new, as they treated her with the same reverence and kindness when she first found solace on their sanctuary.
The only thing that helped on decreasing the feeling of being ultimately out of place was the presence of her servant. Aurora being so away for the first time, a queen and a wife who didn't need a mother hovering over her every step, felt very raw to her heart and vivid to her mind and painful to her pride, though it did not torment her dreams as she had deduced it would when first told of her daughter's engagement to the prince. Diaval would not serve as a poor substitute because the place he occupied in her life differed from the place Aurora occupied, and there was no reason to blend them in.
And why deny it—she enjoyed her servant's company. He never merely served as messenger or spy, having those tasks as his very first, yes, and the very reason she turned hm into a man, to give his speech so he would report anything he knew. Over the years of servitude, Diaval came to represent the remnant of a conscience to pursue her thoughts. Perhaps his insistence on contradicting her actions would have made her face in a mature and rational way what had in fact happened during that fateful dinner at Ulstead. But that did not make her regret turning her servant into a human after being cowardly attacked by one of Ingrith's servants. As much the figure of a raven was melted into the moonlight, Maleficent had not been in the strength to fight soldiers obviously prepared to take her life. Yet again, when by herself alone before the people she had never known, the longing, which she thought was only due to her daughter, drifted her thoughts to the unknowns.
So to invite her servant to join her was not an afterthought. Diaval had expressed no surprise, stating that an invitation would be useless as he was not letting his mistress out of his sight anymore.
She had smiled at his words—to later be mocked by him because her smiles were so rare Diaval jested about recording them on scrolls for future generations—and they flew together to the cave where the faes had built sanctuary. The Dark Fae didn't pay mind at Diaval out of respect for Maleficent, and the raven man worked as a diplomat for not being foolish enough to question the faes who seemed to ignore him entirely.
The little ones however were quite inquisitive about the essence of what he was—a raven man who once had been a wolf, a horse, a bear, a lion and a dragon.
He was adored by them, and he adored them in return.
The onset of a headache so ever present, a sighed left her lips, and the fae accepted the few grapes from her servant's hand. They tasted a little bitter against her tongue, a drastic contrast to the mead, but to her, the combination was very pleasant.
Not as a question, but an observation, as her discomfort would not go unnoticed, especially by the person who knew her the longest—Diaval was able to read her like a human would do to their scrolls. Rather annoying for sure, yet his intentions had never been less than kind.
With that in mind, she eventually confessed to him, "They are . . ." but no words would fit a plausible description her people singing and dancing and laughing and eating and drinking, all so enthusiastic. How different they were from her. As much she ought to protect them, from the expectations laid on her shoulders, there was not feel of belonging—never in her life there was. Maleficent was 'Guardian' to the Moors, 'Mother' to Aurora and 'Mistress' to Diaval—but to travel beyond as for integrating on their culture, so different from her own, and to see herself as their 'Dark Phoenix', was to not know who she ought to be.
The thought alone felt impassive, and no end was to it.
" . . . joyful?" Diaval completed the thought, and jested about it, "An interesting contrast to you, yes."
"I can smile," Maleficent argued, not knee on to humour, "Often do, as I recall you saying."
"True enough," Diaval retorted, "But after the children retired, you have been miserable and refused to touch the food so kindly cooked for you."
That was a fact—although the stew had been devoured, the fruits and the unleavened bread would have been abandoned if not for Diaval, while the mead was shared between them.
And having the truth thrown in her face had Maleficent further irritated. She pursed her lips, and resumed to eating her grapes in silence.
A behaviour that made Diaval smile, "I miss them as well, Mistress. Little ones such as them are indeed the heart of celebrations like this," he spoke casually now, and with great affection, very similar to the way he spoke of Aurora, "And they seem to love the lion form as I do."
"They love those willing to play with them," and her fondness for little ones was bluntly exposed by a smile that fought the apparent coldness of her voice.
"They admire you as well, Mistress," noting that Maleficent was sceptical, Diaval held a knowing look, "Some of them asked you to instruct them on flying. And you taught them how to leap in the air."
"Their techniques were flawed, and they could harm themselves, so I . . . assisted."
Maleficent had struggled to find proper words as justifications, and Diaval was shaking his head, "No one would judge you for caring, Mistress." he said, "I have not when you—" he stopped when a few giggles reached his ears, and interrupted his line of reasoning. Maleficent quickly realised that they were being watched by a group of faes who were sitting very close to her and Diaval. They were all very young, near Aurora's age, and very beautiful.
They were also all women.
Diaval responded to their giggles with a polite smile, "A beautiful night, yes?" but the young faes laughed openly then, and began to whisper quickly to each other, a subtle blush washing their seemingly ethereal features.
The raven man turned his back on the faes as he shifted uncomfortably on his seat. He brought his goblet to his lips while murmuring complains under his breathe.
"Friends of yours?" Maleficent wouldn't wait patiently till he spoke—there was a must on knowing who those faes were and why they found her servant worthy the jest and foolish giggles.
"No, and it is not the first time I caught them . . . laughing at me," there was a frown on his brow, contemplative, and he rambled on his thoughts, "Again I cannot seem to understand their behaviour. Is is inevitable of them to laugh at guests or these young ones are being rather . . . particular? I thought the Dark Fae appreciated birds, taking we are so alike. Maybe ravens are an exception? Do you know if so, Mistress?" He took a glance at her in the end of his rambling, and noted how she didn't seem to be paying attention to his words. That frustrated him, but out of respect, he wouldn't let his feelings to be clear so bluntly, and called for her first, "Mistress?"
Maleficent had distracted herself with a sip from her goblet of mead. In her mind, thousands of thoughts.
It was strange to think that her servant seemed as versatile in human customs as talking and even behaving at the table, but when it came to faes, he was blind as a bat, as he didn't have any chance to observe them as he did with the humans.
And even though Maleficent knew of her people little more than her servant did, she could easily read through the laughter of those young faes.
And a strange fire burned in her chest, like the wood that fed the fire that warmed that night of typically cold winds, with the moon half revealing itself through rain-laden clouds.
Lighting rushed across the sky, and the faes celebrating were startled, their eyes quickly searching for signs in the sky. Maleficent felt the old burning sensation behind her eyes, which turned green from gold. She reached out for her staff, which had been resting by her side, and clenched a fist around it, erasing the remnants of greenish magic escaping in veiled fury.
"Mistress?" She heard her servent call out for her for a third time, and forgotten was her anger, giving place to pettiness. Little was known how faes were jealous and possessive creatures, even if they don't realize it most of the time, to the point of becoming egotistical if the object of their desire, so close and so dear, was eyed by others. A passionate result from creatures unable to ignore any of their feelings as much they wouldn't simply let go of their motivations—either they solved their problems immediately, or said problems would torment their minds for the rest of their lives.
"You say it is not the first time they laugh at you," her tone was dry, and the mead in her mouth did little to sweeten her words. Diaval did not understand her motives.
And neither did she.
"Those faes?" Diaval asked, and when Maleficent chose to just stare at the bonfire, Diaval accepted her silence as enough of an answer, "Nothing but harmless laughing, Mistress. I see no reason for it but—"
"There is, in fact," Maleficent interrupted him, emotions flowing through her voice like the wild hitting the waves in the middle of a storm, "They are flirting with you."
Diaval's eyes widened, and he nearly jumped in his seat, "Flirting?" He exclaimed, and when his mistress didn't deny her accusations, he leaned back in his seat, and the truth settled in on his mind, although the reasoning was nothing more than a blur, "How could they think of that?"
"Indeed," Maleficent spoke, and her tone was bathed in a sarcasm she didn't fully realize the extent, meaning and feelings behind, "How could they."
"—in true they are beautiful—"
"—and any male would be fortuitous to have them by their side—"
"—but they remind of Aurora—"
"The little beastie herself."
"—and so it would be wrong to have one of them as a mate—"
"—specially with those wings of theirs!"
No answer was for this. It was new information, a raven attribute, she deduced, because his logic didn't make much sense to her.
"Their wings?" sarcasm vanishes to curiosity. Her own wings stretched a little. Diaval followed the movement with his eyes, a common reaction since he first laid his eyes on those pair of wings, "What about them?"
Diaval lowered his voice to a whisper, as if telling a secret, "They are not properly preened!" Maleficent said nothing, signalling her servant to continue. His tone became pragmatic, "Mistress—a raven does appreciate wings, yes, but they must be well cared for. Like yours!"
Her voice also became a whisper, her eyes glowing a more natural green, "My wings?" she asked.
"Well, yes, they are," and his smile became as loving as his eyes, which did not even blink as they admired her features in awe, "Infinitely, more beautiful than any wings I have ever seen."
A beat of heart went by, and eyes found again solace and distraction on the bonfire.
Diaval was a bold creature. Loud and passionate and overwhelmingly caring, but he never even came close to disrespect and crossing any boundaries. His actions were anticipated by questions full of worry, for, naturally, it was what his mistress wanted that mattered to him the most, and never what he as a servant thought it was best.
As she stopped counting the years, and the words of her curse became a nightmare to torment her, the concepts of what she wanted as a mistress and what he cared as a servant mingled, and a certain understanding was built between them. He would talk and she would listen, actually listen to him, whenever he had the feel to express his thoughts or simply comment on hers, and she might or might not give a word or two. When he realised that their conversations could calm her down if the right words were said, he would find excuses to talk all the time time, and she had fun with his not so concealed strategy. His goals didn't involve manipulating her will, however. He cared for her state of mind as a servant wasn't supposed to.
But that never stopped him, and neither would she. If he talked too much, she would simply glare at him, as turning him into a raven resulted on him pestering her with berries and nuts—sometimes shiny stones from which she crafted rings—because if his mistress wasn't on the mood to listen to him, then he would try to help her in any other ways he could.
That's the most unsettling thing when it comes to her servant—that he was so willing. He cared like no one dared to. Ultimately, he didn't fear her. Humanity did. Stefan, when their first met, was shaking in fear. Moorish creatures never dared to approach her—most fled her presence. The three pixies who raised her showed envy, the fear of being surpassed. The very reason of Ingrith's hatred was her fear. Even Aurora feared her when she found out about the curse. Diaval looked at her, his mistress, with wonder, curiosity, and never fear.
One would think he had when she first turned him into a man. But he held her gaze, chin high, eyes narrow, and was more concerned with his 'beautiful self' rather than fearing the dark being in front of him.
And he would argue with her. He would dare to say—to her face—that she was wrong.
Or over dramatic.
He would spot flaws on her plans, and complain about the weather and the forms she chose to turn him into, and make sarcastic remarks about her denial on loving the little beastie. She would then contradict on his logic if only to annoy him, as much to save her pride. It was a no return point when she found herself irritated whenever her servant didn't seem willing to bicker with her. Those situations of pure freedom and domesticity brought a sense of normalcy that comforted her. He was not human, even if he appeared to be one, and his actions, words, gestures, the warmth emanating from his body . . . his very raspy, piercing voice always reminded her that he would never be afraid of her as much she should never fear him. Not because he couldn't hurt her, but knowing he never dared to think of something like that, like Stefan had, it warmed her heart.
Trust was not an attribute owned to people.
Trust is earned.
Diaval has achieved much more than that.
Maleficent thought it was fair to let him know, "Thank you," she said, and the meaning behind her words was capable of shaking the very core of earth, "For preening them."
For wings were a fae's life and to touch them required the reliability to a beloved one, the faith of the fae whose wings will be touched, the certainty to be so intimately touched, and the audacity to allow yourself such intimacy. To be trusted in such a significant way by someone who had her wings stolen once was a sign of respect. Diaval became aware of that the moment his mistress didn't consider a single hesitation when requesting his help on preening her wings.
He never questioned being offered such freedom, knowing that she would not be ready to talk about such matters, and perhaps never would be. He didn't mention the way she allow herself to rest after he preened her wings, neither complained about the hours he spent doing so. To look at her wings and praise them, as he knew that forever they would be what his mistress loved the most, he would not be drawn to carelessness. Had someone look at her wings and see them so beautiful, she would be afraid—threatened, attacked, violated by just one look, just a smile, just a word, a simple compliment.
Diaval made her feel anything but that.
For he knew his mistress, and she would never thank him for something she was not really grateful for. And her wings, such precious possession, and having her to see them as beautiful, recognising the beauty of his work as well acknowledging the importance of his thinking . . .
The grin on his lips was ridiculously proud.
"Stop smiling," a scold, so to speak, requires annoyance, which was none from her part, and that made Diaval's smile grow even bigger that it seemed his face would split in two. Maleficent's following words came in a warning, also in need of seriousness, "Diaval—"
"I must thank you, instead, Mistress," his voice dissolved into kindness rather than playfulness, his smile alive more than ever. And as Maleficent remained still, questioning loud on her mind, her servant clarified his reasoning, "For trusting them to me."
He had achieved a lot more than she was willing to admit.
A loud and powerful voice drew everyone's attention around the bonfires, breaking the cheerful atmosphere, and interrupted parallels conversations. Borra, the Desert Fae, stopped close to the bonfire, so that his figure would stay in focus and make it easier for everyone to hear his voice. His pose was dominant, and his hardened gaze called for order, and the scars covering his muscles demanded respect. He carried the archetype of the strong warrior devoted to his people, but who would not show much sympathy for his victims, much less patience for those who would argue with him, probably because he could not argue without raising his voice, like a child when crying for their mother. Borra was known to be as crude and unscrupulous, although kind to the little ones he seemed to resemble in manners.
To allow himself, however, to speak to the people, something that would not generally intimidate him, but would require the kind of eloquence that no one there would bind to him, meant that was he was to speak to the people was of utmost importance.
And that's what made the people devote their gazes to him and pay full attention to what he was about to say. There was only the sound of fire burning the wood that warmed the people, and perhaps some parallel murmurs, so few that they were insignificant. So many eyes upon him did not intimidate Borra, as almost nothing could indeed frighten him, breathed from his chest and his wings spread, growing his figure taller and stronger for those who watched him from afar.
"Brothers! Sisters!" he spoke out, "We are gathered here to celebrate—the war is finally over and the Dark Fae are free!"
His words made the people raise their goblets of mead and shouting words of victory, and the musicians played the drums quickly. Faes were beings easily influenced by speeches of strength and honour, and that was too taught to the humans they once loved so much.
Borra raised both hands, and silence settled again on the Sanctuary, "Never before could we celebrate where tomorrow was not feared by its uncertainty," he continued, and walked around the bonfire, and would look at the eye of all the faces as if personally talking to their very souls, "Despite the losses, we know that the names of our lost brothers and sisters will never be forgotten, and their spirits will join the stars as well as the spirits of our ancestors!"
Another round of celebration flocked around Sanctuary, wilder faes beating their fists onto their own chests, and more drums, and more shots in victory, and this time, Borra raised his voice above those around him, and his words had such an effect that the people fell silent before them.
"But that also means our population is scarce! Our numbers are small, for the loss of the centuries and the wars!"
It felt like a warning, a treat, a plague. The people around the bonfire seemed to nod and mutter, and their voices decreased in volume. There was a certain rebellion and sadness in their expressions. Maleficent, though so recently acquainted with her people, would always mourn the loss of souls to iron and the 'red dust'.
'Red wedding' was how that event became known.
And much feared by all kingdoms.
"It is a tradition of old—" Borra's deep voice returned, and his face gradually rested on Maleficent, as if explaining to her exclusively, aware she was unfamiliar with the many traditions of her people, "—that when the population decreases, that the Dance takes place, and due recent events, all would be allowed!"
A sudden enthusiasm engulfed the people, and literally all there starting to talk to each other, and the sadness of moments ago was replaced with the hope and joy that seemed to bathe their deeds at every second of their lives. Maleficent took notice on how they would rejoice at the simplest of things, and didn't know if it was due their own nature, or the fruit of a life of so much hardships that any good things should be celebrated, for they would be so rare.
". . . the Dance?" Diaval whispered to himself, feeling utterly lost.
"Mating rituals," Maleficent quickly explained, having listened to his confusion, and Diaval seemed to pause.
Then, "Oh." His voice lost the joy and freedom from the previous hours and a frown took place on his brow. Maleficent literally felt something was wrong, the change on his demeanour being to dramatic for to be something simple.
She would've turned to him, however, and asked what was bothering him, had Borra not resumed his speech and silence returned among the people.
"That being said, my brothers and sisters—"
Borra interrupted his speech and turned to Maleficent in the goal to approach her. The fae straightened her spine and lifted her chin, not wanting to show her confusion at the fae folk. Borra didn't frighten her, but he was unpredictable, just like any other fae, and she only knew him for a few days, and she felt deeply uncomfortable when anyone she didn't trust approached her. It was a natural reflex. It took years for her to be able to trust anyone—she wouldn't trust a man out of nothing even if he was of her own kind, especially when he treated her like a weapon to be used against the humans in the first time they met.
Borra himself was not afraid of her either. And so he approached, and immediately Diaval rose from his seat, standing between the warrior fae and his mistress, who did nothing but watch the scene unfolding before her. But Borra smirked at the raven man, daring to defy him. Diaval would not back down—indeed, he stepped forward, facing Borra with a deep frown, tight lips and chin high, proud and brave. His mistress valued her personal space above many things, and he knew how much the presence of any man, fae or human, seemed to bother her due to the painful memories of her trauma.
Thus, Diaval would never allow anyone to make Maleficent feel uncomfortable. He regretted not intervening during that fateful dinner with Queen Ingrith, who was obviously testing the Dark Fae to her limit. He respected that his mistress had full capacity to defend herself, she was the most powerful fae, but at that moment he acted on sheer instinct.
No one would touch Maleficent against her will.
Absolutely no one would make her suffer again.
"May I pass, shape-shifter?" Borra avoided the use of his name on purpose, the wish to insult very clear.
Diaval swallowed hard and a stressed huff left his nostrils, like a wolf protecting his pack, a horse challenged by a rival, a bear whose territory was invaded, a lion when choosing a victim, or a dragon when prepared to breathe fire.
A raven would already have plucked Borra's eyes out his skull.
"You may speak from where you stand."
Maleficent's voice brought Diaval, whose eyes would follow Borra's every movements like a predator to its prey, back to reason, even though it was no use stopping him from facing the warrior. One might expect a warrior to admire physical strength and courage, and Borra may have looked impressed if he considered Diaval as anything more than a servant who should not interfere on matters that weren't his.
And so, he bowed his head in a reverence, and said loudly and clear, "I am here, Dark Phoenix, as Borra of the Desert Fae, to humbly ask for your wisdom."
What you may call an ingenious silence ruled over, and maybe some murmurs if one was willing to pay more attention to their surroundings, a cricket singing into night, and perhaps the waves of the sea hitting the rocks, coming and going in an endless symphony that was increasingly fed by the force of the wind.
Maleficent could call herself paralysed for lack of adjective or better description. Not only for the unusualness of Borra's request, but also for his formality and respect and delicacy that Maleficent, again, would not associate with the warrior.
"Wisdom," She only managed to repeat the word mind could register before it stopped. She tested it on her tongue, sought her limited knowledge on the fae people for guidance, but seeing that the responses would only result in suspicion, she decided to turn for Udo's guidance, "Clarify."
The Tundra Fae stepped forward and bowed his head on a short reverence, and his smile was complacent as he placed a hand on Borra's shoulder, mentioning him to raise his head, which he did, "We wish to begin preparations for the Dance, and would like your deference on when."
"The Dance," She felt foolish for being only able to repeat words, but of all things considered, this definitely didn't cross her mind. It was worse that the fae folk looked at her expectantly, eager to hear supposed words of wisdom. She instinctively searched for Diaval's gaze, and noted the tense muscles of his jaw, protectiveness emanating from him, softer than the warmth from the bonfire so close to them. It grounded her a little, it calmed her heart down, and she tried to erase any doubts before making a decision, "To be be forced upon the people?"
Udo shook his head, "Not by force—by right. Dark Faes cannot bond without love. As our leader, you are to choose an specific season for us to choose a mate. With heats happening at the same time, pregnancies and eggs would soon follow, and more little ones would be born, ensuring a stronger generation to be raised."
"I take such tradition is not usual, as you now come to me," Maleficent commented, "Why is that?"
Udo tried to explain, "To lay eggs, or even mate, at the same season, was not allowed to all, only the strongest, to guarantee the born of a strong offspring, and even those were limited to just one or two eggs."
"So the weak were not allowed to love?" Diaval's voice sounded rasp and low. Maleficent shared of his tumultuous thoughts and frowned back at Udo and Borra, and the latter barked at the raven man.
"Do not you dare question our methods, crow!" Borra's wings spread open, like a alpha male marking a territory when he felt threatened by imposing his presence, "You are not one of us!"
"He is one of mine!"
A voice echoed through the walls of the cave, and another lightning streaked across the sky, higher than the first, and a light wind struck the fires, but not quenching them, but threatening them.
"And he's a raven, not a crow."
The colour of her eyes returning to the wild green instead of the threatening stormy gold and the dread of her enemies or anyone who disrespects or threatens those whom she praised in her heart—for when Maleficent loved, she loved with all she had. And those who defied her, let trembling by her feet be the only thing done to it.
"Educate yourself and know the clear difference."
Light laughter could be heard around the fire, the younger ones thinking of the scene as if another spectacle. The reverence that Borra had shown to Maleficent was slowly fading, giving way to his usual aggressiveness and impulsive spirit. Udo, in turn, sighed deeply, and his absurdly calm and gentle nature succeeded in changing the course the talks were taking.
"I hope we can resolve this issue without incidents," he turned to Borra, "Is that not right, my friend?"
The warrior grumbled a complaint which added nothing to the conversation. He was like a beast being tamed.
"I meant no disrespect," Diaval said, and Udo nodded in acceptance to his sincere apology.
"Difficult times call for difficult decisions," Udo turned to the people, and raised his voice, "A concept known by all of us! It was safer to control our family's growth when future was uncertain. But now the danger is gone—"
"—you wish to expand and strengthen the clan," Maleficent finished the sentence, as their reasoning would fit her understanding.
"Humans hunting us at every corner made it impossible to do so," Borra grunted, his gritting teeth bared in a hiss, "But as long this 'peace' remains, there is nothing stopping us."
Maleficent narrowed her eyes, and regarded the warrior but for a second to then ask, "And why would I choose whenever the people should form a bond or not?"
And Udo responded as if it was obvious, "You are the Dark Phoenix. Traditions demands we defer to your wisdom."
To say Maleficent was uncomfortable was an understatement.
She knew the fae folk respected her—they had given no sign of any different thinking. But this? The children supposedly admiring her, men bowing their heads to her wisdom and women smiling at her servant, desire in their eyes—the kind of attention never sought, much less thought she would have. Leadership was not in her blood. Protectiveness? Yes. Revenge? No doubt. So it was anger and rage, and strength and fire, and passion and love. Wisdom, however, had never been found in her actions. How could her people think otherwise. No matter how willing and eager they were for her to learn about the culture she was denied as a child, Maleficent saw no use on them coming to her for anything other than protection.
The mistakes in her life were enough proof.
She looked at Diaval, the cloud of hardness gone, the old warmth and understanding pouring into apprehension. Maleficent pressed her lips, and turned to Borra, who was now frowning, his eyes interspersing between her and Diaval with an expression of pure confusion.
The headache was getting worse.
"Spring is still on its beginning," she said, "As most living creatures, it would be natural if the people were to find their mates as other living creatures do."
To her relief, an air of approval washed over the people, and they toasted at her decision.
Maleficent knew that she would never adapt to this kind of open personality.
"That would be a suitable analogy," Udo nodded approvingly to Maleficent, who returned the gesture, even though she wasn't sure what she was doing.
"What does it take to participate?"
Diaval's question didn't only catch Maleficent by surprise. Borra also looked at the raven man strangely, and so did Udo, who also didn't seem to understand.
"Answer him," Her voice came out in a harsh order, and Borra bared his teeth in response.
Udo was the one to respond, "Having lived more than sixteen seasons, and obviously having no mate. Which reminds me," Udo turned his face to a small group of faes, Shrike among them, and shadows of query fell over Maleficent's face when she saw Shrike nod at Udo, a shared secret between them.
The Tundra Fae turned to Maleficent, "We were discussing this matter earlier and would like to know if it would be wise to mate outside the community? Taking your relations with humans and non fae creatures, do you think it would be wise to mingle?"
It was an unusual request, and Maleficent was now sure that it has been made out of the self interest, "If the mate is willing to respect our traditions, then I do not see why forbid it."
Udo smiled, "Good. Then it is settled," He turned to Shrike again, "You can court that general of yours now, cousin."
Laughter spread around the bonfire along jokes and murmurs, and Shrike was obviously flushed under all the paint on her face. She grabbed a rock and throw it at Udo, but he deflected it easily.
"I take hybrid pairings were not previously allowed for a reason," Maleficent commented and Udo let out a sigh loaded with regret.
"Considering how dangerous it was to even try to talk to humans, no. Also, some of us weren't . . . receptive to the rare hybrid offspring of faes and non-faes."
"And now they wish for the wisdom of the same hybrid offspring?"
A round of gasps was overheard.
Maleficent didn't blink an eye. She wasn't ashamed of her blood. Why would she be? Her human mother died while giving birth to her daughter. Her Dark Fae father was later killed while fighting a group of hunters, and their child, Maleficent, abandoned in the Moors. She never understood why till now. Why the Three Fairies never mentioned of her kind. Why they only sought for her power. Why she was the most powerful of them all, and why only near extinction they swallowed their pride and decided to save her life.
Now—it made sense.
The irony was on her.
She was the fucking irony.
"You're not a pure Fae?" Borra's voice coming out a little louder and higher than usual, so much was his surprise, and the astonishment of all Dark Fae present.
Maleficent had never shared the secret of origins to anyone—not Diaval, her eternal confident and conscience, nor Aurora, her beloved daughter. There would be no reason to entrust such information to them, not due any lack of trust, no—there was no one she trusted more. And nothing would change the way they would look at her, yet, she honestly didn't need anyone's pity. But she didn't hide such out of shame, although she knew that such could and would be used against her in judging her apparent sympathy for humans—even if her affection was strict dedicated to Aurora, and perhaps Philip, if she was in a good mood.
The only time she felt ashamed of herself—and even then it was a battle to admit it—was when Aurora asked her to wear the veil that would hide her horns, but she knew the young queen intended no harm, and recognized the efficient damage-containment strategy when facing of what others would call a tragic reaction, and she would call it comical one: the screams the cries of the villagers along with their torches and pitchforks. Another effect of Ingrith's vile rumors, and usually Maleficent would care nothing if the entire world cursed her name, knowing that she could do nothing to change their minds—the tale of Sleeping Beauty was a story to be told through countless generations. What those generations would not know was of how succeed the birth of the 'dragon witch' who bestowed the princess with a curse, as much they would never know that she shared blood with them.
They weren't worth the headache.
"My mother was human."
Diaval, from his part, stared at his mistress with bewilderment, and the words came out of his mouth before they could stop them, "Well, that's something."
And Maleficent simply replied, "Try not to sound so repulsed."
Diaval's dry chuckle carried a touch of indignation, "I'll ignore you'd even consider that."
Meanwhile, Borra and Udo stared at her. Maleficent noted their attitude, as well remembered her bickering with her servant was being watched, and ignoring the frown Diaval offered her, asked the people, "Is that all you wish of my wisdom?" the word felt sarcastic, yet no one seemed to mind that trait.
The warrior, angrier than ever, and the storyteller, ashamed as one could be in his situation, bowed their heads in respect, and said together, "We are sure so, Dark Phoenix."
Maleficent raised from her seat, grabbed her staff, and hit it on the floor once.
"Let the Dance begin."
Faes usually retreated to their nests three to five hours before sunrise. They didn't need as many hours of rest as other creatures, and they certainly weren't lazy like humans.
The Dark Fae Cave was situated beyond the farthest shore, where the sea was wild and pillars of rocks were surrounded by the wreckage of ships that had either dared to try to dock there, or had been carried by the waves and the wind. It was majestic—hundreds of chambers adapted by the four existing fae species to make them feel at home.
Desert Faes lived by the edges of canyons, and their nests were hidden in side crevices. They were very well concealed, and paintings of various colours surrounded their inner walls. They had a duty to keep the people—they were warriors because they were the strongest and the fastest.
Tundra Faes lived closer to the sea because of the damp breeze, and northern ice caps surrounded the entrance to their nests, which were shrouded in furs. They were responsible for clothing and armour.
Jungle Faes made their nests from leaves and twigs, shaped into what looked like large bags hanging from the ceiling of the cave where food was planted and harvested, making it their responsibility to grow crops and healing herbs.
Maleficent was the only remaining Forest Fae, the Dark Phoenix, the leader of her people, the Protector, and so when she had to set up her nest, the hardest thing was finding a suitable place.
The other faes were extremely kind to offer her their own nests. She made it clear she wouldn't take their homes from them, but accepted help when it came to finding her own. Nothing seemed natural to her—either it was too small, or too big, or too wet, or too dry, or too cold, or too hot.
On the verge of giving up, Maleficent sat by the fire and was having breakfast at the sound of Udo's stories to the little ones when she felt a light touch on her shoulder . . .
Diaval had not spoken a word about her current search for a nest.
And it was Diaval who led her to a lower part of the cave. They flew briefly, falling, as far as Maleficent recognised as a hidden clearing hidden behind a waterfall. Trespassing the waters had her stuck by the sight of an old tree, the largest she had ever seen, perhaps the largest on the entire face of the planet.
Truly, an extraordinary imperfection. The allure was matched by the backdrop of shy waterfalls, as the tree itself was worn by time, without leaves or fruit, and whose branches twined to the edges of a cliff.
It looked like a forbidden for trees and its poor condition made it look melancholic. The interior reminded her of an old castle. She could smell the ocean in the distance and hear the people to the south. The sunlight would be shy but not completely unknown and the temperature was warm, even though the sky was partially cloudy.
"How did you find this place?"
The tree had a large hollow and the pair managed a way inside.
Diaval, who just watched as his mistress seemed to check the condition of the tree, sounded quite casual, "A little bit of luck, I suppose."
Maleficent did not believe him for a second, "You are always with me," she quickly deduced, "How would you find this place without—" the answer was simple, seen through her servant's tired eyes, and her voice came out in a whisper, "Diaval."
This vain creature who insisted on bickering with her in front of anyone, this man whom her daughter saw as father, this spirit of the night who was faithful to her more than anyone else, this dear friend who spent the time he could take to rest simply so that she could rest.
"Anything you need, mistress," He bowed his head and Maleficent shook hers, managing to laugh at such a gesture.
"You shouldn't have," she told him.
"And what kind of servant would I be if I didn't?" He asked rhetorically.
"A wise servant," she scolded him. She was exasperated, not angry. She couldn't actually remember when Diaval really got on her nerves, not even when her wings had been stolen, her curse given a few days, and her hatred burning all the time.
He had always been very grateful to her, she did save his life, and she knew that if anyone had been careless or insensitive, it had been her, in her eternal battle with herself, for not giving in, for not indulging, for simply denying everything her heart cried out.
Diaval, in fact, never judged her for it.
And she . . . felt strongly about him. What to make of those feelings, she didn't know, of so unsure and dangerous they were, and the safest route to a fae whose matters of the heart felt more frightening than the burn of iron.
"It is . . . interesting."
Diaval felt like she was judging his work, and his raven nature spoke louder, "I know it's not perfect. The view is very beautiful but—" and then he wouldn't shut up, "—maybe there is a better place—" and Maleficent was amused by his sudden nervousness, "—there must be other places—"
"Diaval, do be quite."
He lowered his head, nodding twice, "Yes, Mistress."
"We have a lot of work ahead."
"And I was offered help."
Diaval looked up, and away was the sense of servitude, close to that of a twenty-year-old intimacy, "You, accepting help?" He jested, "Did you hit your head?"
It turned out that she didn't need to ask for help. On the same day, the Dark Faes came and helped her. Maleficent didn't question them—she gladly accepted the kindness and such goodwill.
Which resulted in a busy afternoon. The faes, mostly women, came in and out her nest all the time. Each species did something different.
Desert Faes were the first to arrive. They offered to paint the walls with drawings that told the stories of her people, and one specific drawing of the Dark Phoenix. Maleficent didn't mind, although she made them promise her they wouldn't use bright colours.
Maleficent used her magic and restored the tree, giving it life again, strengthening it and eliminating any unwanted little visitors. She knew this was their home, but the law of the strongest was the law of nature.
She was restoring a crack outside trunk when felt a little hand pull on her grown. Looking down, she saw a little Desert Fae.
The smile was on her face before she could prevent it.
"Can I help you?"
The little one had a small piece of coal on her hand and asked, "Where would you like me to paint the raven man? Mommy said I could paint him if you wanted to."
Inevitably, Maleficent thought of Diaval, who had taken responsibility for organising the nest, for when the Jungle Faes arrived, they brought several things with them: food, utensils, pots, goblets, tools—a fae even gifted her with a harp, as Maleficent was not pleased with the loud sound of the drums—it resembled the sound of wartime, and so she did not want them in her nest. As Diaval knew his mistress' likings and dislikes—after so many years together how could he not—and Maleficent realised she was too busy restoring the tree outside to think about how to organize the nest inside, so she gave Diaval the task. The Jungle Faes then proceeded to follow his instructions, which were always didactic, and he masterfully directed the faes in their doings, and the fate of their gifts.
"Too small," Maleficent heard Diaval's voice from inside the nest, "I understand the need for a window, but how use this if not large enough to be considered a window?"
Maleficent barely tapped her fingers, and her magic caused the crack in the nest wall to grow larger into a round shape, with small vines by its edges. Maleficent's face was revealed to Diaval and the fae beside him who gasped, impressed by the use of magic so casually.
"Mistress, there you are!" But Diaval, already accustomed to his mistress's antics, was cheerful, and then proceeded to hang the curtains on the new window.
Smiling, Maleficent turned to the young fae, "What about a raven, then a wolf, a horse, a dragon, a bear and a lion? Would you be able to do that for me?"
The little fae's eyes shone in delight—she seemed to love a challenge.
"I can!" She said, "You will like them very much, I promise!"
By the sunset, Tundra Faes arrived. They brought with them furs and blankets, gowns, leather bracelets and belts, jewellery made of feathers and vines, and golden adornments for her horns. Udo dug a hole into the ground to build the bonfire that would be there, as usual to the other nests, so that the light was evenly divided. The bed, lined with the fur of three different animals, was hidden behind a curtain of red silk—Maleficent, though now more sociable, still held her privacy a great deal.
And when the moon was but a thin smile, Maleficent collected a few flowers, breathing magic inside them, and hanging them to the ceiling as candlelight . . .
. . . it was the first nest to bring her a sense of belonging. When she lived in the Moors, she never really had a fixed place to live. She changed places depending on her mood, her first home being a tree on the edge of the abyss, from which she had watched Aurora play so many times, to the point that she saved her life when she fell from that same abyss.
It was ironic to live in another tree by the edges of another abyss.
She didn't know if Diaval had noticed the resemblance, but she was just as grateful . . .
The moon was a large grin, and its light entered the tree by the edge of the abyss.
The raven man stopped on his tracks and quickly turned to his mistress, "Yes?"
Maleficent cleared her throat, then inquired him, "What is this about?"
This was the unusual behaviour of her servant, who from all the courage and dedication natural of his being, from being overly protective when facing Borra, from the shyness in proposing toasts, even from the small discussions about the quality of young fae wings, all of that, as the nights and days went on, whenever they returned to the nest to rest, and he became human again, in contrast to the burning hearth, the fire that seemed to be within him went out.
Absolute silence was impossible as they nested there, on the edge of an abyss, at the dawn of a waterfall, and the sound was comforting to her as she slept. But without the usual calm nature of her servant, Maleficent found herself alert and apprehensive. Diaval respected her need for silence, when and only it was required. When not, he would always finds a way or another to start some kind of conversation—he always commented on the situations where they were, or what they saw, or what they felt.
To hear only the crickets singing and the water falling into the abyss was uncomfortable, and Maleficent simply knew that she could find sleep if she did not know the why on such depressing state.
She didn't know how to approach him, however, since her servant seemed so focused on whatever tasks he seemed to have found himself. She opened the curtains and revealed the furs of her nest and sat by them, staff in hand, and she watched her servant take a stick to poke at the wood that fed the flames of bonfire in the centre of the nest. She watched as he turned to make sure the windows of the nest were closed. She watched as he would walk in hurried and nervous steps. She watched as he would nervously rub his hands on the fabric of his pants, his head low to his feet.
She lost her patience when he almost dropped the jars that he had meticulously organised by the fire.
The raven man opened his mouth on a reflex and closed it another, pressing his lips into a thin line. His chest heaved in a lost breathe that ended in a tired, sad sigh. He shook his head at what seemed to be his own thoughts, and said, "Nothing of any consequence, mistress."
Maleficent contemplated him, "The last time you said that you referred to Aurora's engagement. How was that without any consequence?"
He gave her no response. Obviously his thoughts had importance but not enough to make him talk. Even though she wished him to do so, as during dinner that night, Diaval seemed farther away from her in all the years they had shared together.
"What is it, pretty bird?"
She watched the roll of his eyes at the pet name given by Aurora, yet tiredness and sadness lingered. The small, fond smile that followed shared similar symptoms, though kindness never left. She couldn't say that it had ever abandoned him—kindness was part of him, the most alive, his true self, and denying it would be the same as his death—for it would only end with his death.
The shadows hovering over the rest of the flames of the fire burning in front of them served to reveal his features, but not to tell what was behind them. His mannerisms had been limited to an extreme. His head was bowed, and his left hand fingers rubbing those of his right hand, restlessness and nervousness, and to say things her heart never heard.
"Just feeling tired, Mistress," he said in a nonchalant way so uncharacteristic of him that it was starting to annoy her, "Surely after a day of duties, one could hardly not feel—"
A tone that carried an order that made him shut his mouth and obey and sit by his mistress' side by the very edge of her best, the space of one person between them.
"What is it?"
The softness of her, and the honest concern, built a sense of intimacy that ripped his heart into beats that increased with speed every second. He licked his suddenly dry lips, and still not having the courage to look at his mistress, who was looking at him in waiting, expecting responses to her inquiries. Her servant was unable to find them and tried to distract his gaze in order to gather enough courage.
The nest was not short of options, not decorated with many things, not as he remembered humans used to love and brag about, and as ravens did it with shiny things, but the details were diverse enough to get one's attention. There were pots filled with fruits and vegetables, linen cloths wrapping unleavened bread and jars of mead; there were furs covering the large bed made of large tree branches; there was the bonfire in the very centre of the nest; there were the flowers magically set against the ceiling, a magical light shining from their pollen, and there were the drawings painted by a little fae of only seven springs and who had more talent for details than any of the paintings that Diaval had ever seen adorning Aurora's and Philip's castle.
And that same little fae, with such a sweet smile and freckles all over her face, red hair and coloured wings like bow decorating the sky after the rain, she who had said goodbye to Diaval with a kiss on the cheek, had painted him in his many forms.
He knew the significance of such an act by noticing the figure of Aurora beside his own, her blond hair and blue dress being the first thing anyone would notice when noting the drawings made on the walls of the nest.
And he was so moved, almost cried in fact, to realize the importance of himself in his mistress's life. He would never ask for more, he was glad to be by her side, to see her smile, and to be allowed to take care of her well-being, so trusted by her, to be appreciated so sincerely and uniquely.
Which made the whole current situation irrelevant.
And yet he did not seem able to rest his own mind, which so treacherously filled his chest with agony and jealousy and insecurity.
He had earned his place in her life. Why insist on wanting more, knowing she would never love him?
And why be selfish in not wanting her to find someone of her own kind to love, even if it is like iron severing his wings?
He was distracted without much success, speaking his own thoughts, the least fussy, talking about the drawings that decorated the walls around him.
Maleficent had thanked the drawings by blessing the little fae who made them with a brush that would not need ink, neither falther with time. An outstanding gift according to the little fae's parents, yet Maleficent still thought it didn't suffice her talents. The details of the figures were so rich that sometimes Maleficent found herself admiring them for longs periods of time—they held the memories of her life, travelling in flashes of colour and joy and sadness. Sorrow and regret was found in the tiny drawing of a blue flower, the same species that served as candle lights to her nest. The death of one of the Three Pixies was the death of the Moors, a noble sacrifice in the name of the good of the people would be honoured for the centuries to come.
"Thank you," She heard her servant said, and he had again found great grace in his own hands, in nothing else clarifying about his intentions with that conversation.
Maleficent frowned, " . . . is that all?" she asked, as patience had never been a favourite trait, even though she had been willing to watch over the little beastie for 16 years to make sure her curse would be fulfilled—today she knew it was only a way to distract herself from the great misfortunes of her life, and how she realised that harming Aurora wouldn't harm Stefan. As king, what he loved most was his crown—it was for power that he abandoned his wife to a deathbed, caring only to impose his power on himself and the nobles of his court in numerous failed attempts to invade the Moorish kingdom. And when Maleficent realized it was a war of wounded pride, she made of Stefan's life a living, and humiliated him before his soldiers, and defeated him before his vassals, and laughed while he was kicked by a wall of thorns.
Which left her with the curse on the child that would in no way affect the welfare of her father. Maleficent began to see herself in the child, abandoned so relapsingly that not even a kiss of her parents could save her.
The kiss came from the one who cursed her, the one who wouldn't allow herself to express such love explicitly.
One could apply such an analogy for the rest of her life.
Reciprocity was never part of it, anyway.
"Tomorrow . . . " Diaval tried to express himself, and it seemed difficult to him, his awkwardness and lack of eloquence and boldness being uncomfortable to the point that Maleficent was on the verge of losing her temper, " . . . tomorrow the Dance happens."
The fae blinked twice, bewilderment sweeping over her, and said, "Indeed," with nothing more to add other than stare at her servant without understanding wherever this reasoning came from and wherever in hells that conversation would lead.
But Diaval knew very well the consequences of his actions, and what he lacked was boldness to face them. For what he had to lose was greater than any possibility of change in their relationship, however great the reward was.
"Do you consider it?" he asked, and this time he invoked his fearless nature, or as others said ravens had. He looked into his mistress's eyes, and lay awaiting an answer, realizing however how she did not seem to understand what he meant.
"Consider what, Diaval?" she asked.
He didn't find immediate words. He was lost in eyes that looked so beautiful as what humans had named emeralds, brighter than the most precious of gemstones, the so-called diamonds, which reflected outwardly a fragility that was challenged by its indestructiveness.
The analogy was no wonder. Eternal would be the memory of his mistress in his life, and indestructible was the love he felt for her, who in turn, despite appearing to be indestructible, was fragile and required care as much any treasure a king or queen might keep safe in their vaults.
"A mate," he answered, finally, for it was what he had always wanted to be to her, from the first moment, when the need to care and serve was born, diverting the sense of servitude completely, but without the malice of men. But the memories would be eternal in her mind. Suffice for her to understand that as painful they were, they were not indestructible like diamonds.
"Forgive me," Diaval tried to mend what he would call a disrespect rather quickly, noting his mistress's silence at his words, "I didn't mean—"
"There is nothing to forgive," She cut him off, not harsh, just straight to the point, "Your questioning has no meaning, however."
Diaval wished he could look away from her so she wouldn't interpret the pain behind his voice.
"You don't consider it then."
Life sentences usually come after a fair trial. To condemn oneself to a life without a partner's love was unacceptable to most forms of life, animal, magical, and especially human. Without relationships there was no continuation of life, no prosperity of society, and no happiness for the people. For Diaval, it was always a quest for survival, the continuation of an endless cycle to which he would only be a pawn among several pieces much more relevant to the world than he was.
Falling in love with Maleficent modified how he saw the world around him, not only because she gave him the ability to do so, but because Maleficent became the reason he wanted to see the world differently.
For without her, what would he be? Nothing more than a raven, and that he would not be able to accept it, not after so many years by her side. For ravens mate for life, and in his heart he belonged to her. He would give anything for a chance to make her see him in the same light, or something close to it, but not if the price is her pain.
He would die before he saw her suffer.
"Who would I consider?" His mistress was naturally ignorant of his feelings, and seemed offended by the mere suggestion of taking a mate for herself, "Borra?"
That name made Diaval's jaw tighten and his gaze fell back to his own hands, "He seemed interested," he murmured, in the attempt of not seeming to care, when in fact that was all he thought, the reason for his sudden sadness and stillness. As much as his chest ached, as much as his heart broke, his lungs heaved as if they were drowning, for if his mistress found love with the strong fae warrior, what could he say, or feel, if not happiness for her happiness? He would love her for the forever the rest of his life was, and his happiness was in the smile on her face, no matter the reasons behind it, to who it was directed to, or who caused it.
But it hurt the distaste in which his mistress would speak of such matters. And if the first name in her mind was of a warrior for whom she had no interest in, what chance would have Diaval, being so close to her?
"He is a brute," his mistress' tone continued indignant, as if irritated by simply thinking about the possibility, "I have no use for those who do not trust those I do."
That made Diaval pause and raise his eyes to her. Surely Borra didn't express any thoughts of fondness and civility toward Diaval, keeping a safe distance from the moment they were presented to each other. But that wouldn't prevent his mistress of choosing him, would it?
Why? Diaval thought to himself. Borra's opinions on a servant would matter to Maleficent? However close their relationship had become over the years, a mistress shouldn't care if any potential mate had no respect for her servant.
It isn't so as servitude went on?
Diaval ought to ask, "Mistress—"
Maleficent didn't allow him, and asked instead, "Does this probing has a destiny or your intention is to annoy me?"
Her fingers drummed on her staff, the most obvious sign that her patience had come to an abrupt and cruel end.
Diaval lowered his head, and his voice sounded less than a startled whisper, "Forgive me."
Maleficent sighed beside him, long and deep, and the air coming out of her lungs joined the pain of her past and the present of her traumas.
"Love doesn't always end well," she repeated what she once told Aurora, which also came to be what she has been telling herself over the years.
Diaval frowned, puzzled, yet his gaze remained down, "It did to Aurora," he reminded her. He hoped for the moment when she saw herself as worthy of something so beautiful. He wished for her happiness more than anything he ever dared to wish for himself, and he would give anything to have a glimpse of the moment she would find the peace she seemed so much to seek.
"The little beastie was blessed to be loved by all who meet her," Maleficent said in a touch of her ever-present skepticism, "I'm not her."
It hurt Diaval to hear his mistress' voice turn so low in despicability, and his heart ached for her. She sounded like she was trying to convince herself, or at least as if she had spent many years trying to convince herself that love was not what she wanted and definitely not a need of her very soul.
"Anyone would be honoured to have you," Diaval, in turn, sounded like he was defending her honour. He was not determined to make her accept the possibility of a mate—that was her choice alone and he would kill himself before he dared of thinking of taking anything from her. Yet, he wanted to make her understand that she was more than worthy of all the love in the world, "And certainly you—"
"I never needed a mate before," Maleficent told him with conviction, "I wouldn't need one now."
A frown tool place on Diaval's face. He felt slightly offended his mistress would insinuate that, to him, happiness could be only found on a mate. Sure in nature that was the belief, and human society followed the same thoughts, but Diaval saw in romance a beauty too much greater than the simple act of perpetuating a legacy—it was a choice to love, to care, to build and to share.
Choosing solitude instead wasn't a sin. Great deeds could be achieved in or out of love. His mistress was scarred, and she knew. The denial of a mate was, without a doubt, related to the traumas, yes, but he was well aware she had no immediate need for another. She knew very well how to take care of herself—it was indeed what he most admired about her, the way power flowed through hands so gracefully, how she held her chin high in pride and fear of nothing, a beauty that none could match, snow-white skin, rose lips, eyes bordering on the shades of one leaf in spring and another in the fall, and her soft yet sharp voice that could make him tremble, and her wings so magnificent and large and long-feathered and black in color that he had the unbelievable privilege of preening them. His mistress was magnificent as the name bestowed upon her, and if allowed Diaval would spend hours simply memorizing every detail of her endless perfections. Her fragility was present on the only necessity of her life: Aurora, and after three chaotic days, having the young queen see her as a mother was what stilled Maleficent's heart. As for the romantic love of tales, Maleficent seemed to easily dismiss the idea of sharing her life with someone else.
"I didn't mean it like that," Diaval made sure to explain.
Maleficent arched an eyebrow, "What did you mean then?"
Diaval was unable to look at her, and took his time, and she allowed him gather courage enough to speak again of what his thoughts were about.
"You adore little ones," he recalled, not necessarily shy, nor too daring, yet on the verges of a whisper, "Don't deny it."
To his surprise, his mistress didn't even try, "Is that a misdeed?"
Diaval's eyes widened, "No!" he exclaimed, his hands waving in from of him, shielding his body not from upcoming spells, but from a challenging gaze, "No, no, no, uh . . . "' his cheeks burned and his throat was dry, "I was . . . wondering if, well . . . " his voice was small and his hands trembled, " . . . maybe . . . "
"Maybe what, Diaval?"
His mistress was exasperated, any traces of patience long ago, although no anger resided on her demeanour.
After a beat of a heart, Diaval raised his eyes to pour into hers, and the weight of his honesty took her breath away as he finally asked, "Have you ever thought of little ones of your own?"
He . . .
. . . Did he really?
"Diaval . . . "
Of all possible things, Maleficent was irritated by such a simple question. She thought he was sick, or needed help, or that he had seen something that deserved her attention.
Never had he asked her about something so intimate. He had asked about her will, yes, but of her past he knew when she told him about it, the result of his respect when not pressing her with undue questions.
And indeed, if he'd dared to ask her this at any other time than the present, Maleficent would have turned him into a raven. Not a worm. Not a wolf or dog. Not even when he confronted her about she handling of his questions—"Mistress, every time I say something you don't like, you change me!"—she didn't think of turning it into anything but his natural form. Not even in her darkest moments of anger and sorrow. For she would never target him for her pain. The target had been Aurora, and the regret she felt was immediate, even though it took years to admit it. To Diaval, she never wished any ill. It would make no sense to harm a creature whose life she had saved.
But it was still surprising, as now, in the face of a totally unexpected question.
Maleficent sat there, wide-eyed, and said nothing for what seemed like a long, ardently quiet time.
Then, "Me . . . as a mother?"
Of little ones? Small faes with wings that need preening and horns barely grow?
And she as their mother?
"Don't be so flabbergasted, mistress," Diaval said, "Aurora sees you as the mother she loves so much."
"And I love her," she proudly stated, "yet it wasn't me who sang her to sleep. It was you."
That was an accusation.
Diaval swallowed, and proceeded on blabbering explanations, "She would cry for hours whenever a storm happened, and no one would do a thing about it! What else was I supposed to do?"
His mistress' eyes were playful, to his confusion, as he didn't seem quite sure in how to read them. Jests and mirth had many paths of taking place according to her.
"You did well," but his mistress was kind, and polite, whenever she felt worthy of being.
There was a time, days after her curse struck her heart, that she would watch the little beastie all the time, knowing that the three idiot pixies would kill her for their mere carelessness. They complained all the time, but would sigh at the treasures promised by the king as long as they cared for the daughter he never tried to love, a child he simply saw as a symbol of the conquest of his crown. Maleficent, such was her hatred, took upon herself the responsibility not to let the girl die cruelly, for cruel enough was the curse. Little things, such as feeding her the milk of flowers and singing her to sleep, she had Diaval do it, even though she knew she could do it herself, first because the three stupid pixies would not even realize she was the one to do it, secondly that Aurora would not be frightened at her, so innocent the way she was.
This inevitably created an incorruptible bond between the girl and her servant. He would treat her as his child. Ravens were easy to love, and they took care of each other. Maleficent thought to warn him, so that her servant would not develop any attachments for the girl, for they only cared for her well-being so that one day she would die, as meaningless as that might be. Diaval either told her that he was just obeying her orders, or that he found the three pixies to be so stupid that it was a matter of honour to do a better job than theirs. Maleficent had laughed at this, because nothing else she could do.
When Diaval stopped hiding that he enjoyed playing with the girl, Maleficent was unable to forbid him. She would spends her days watching them play, always in the shadows, far enough away not to be noticed. Aurora loved her pretty bird. He had been an excellent caretaker, and Aurora found in him a first friend to her walks in the woods, a guest to her tea parties, a listener to her stories. She would copy his grin like a mirror, and on her grace was reflected the grace of a raven flying through the skies. Diaval had in the young queen the little one he swore to protect at all costs and Maleficent couldn't fault him at all. The beastie swept their hearts with her innocence and warmth and they loved her greatly.
Loving Aurora, however, made Maleficent understand that she would have to accept all the people in her life. So she would avoid snapping when the three stupid pixies offended her with absurd comments; she had agreed to join Philip's family for a dinner that turned disastrous; she didn't kill Ingrith, for the young prince's pain was already too much, and his pain would mean Aurora's pain, and in the face of a massacre on their wedding day, Maleficent would not add salt to the open wound.
But it wasn't her love for Aurora that made her accept Diaval. She accepted him for himself. For the things he did, for the courage he showed, the affection he felt, and the passion of his will and words. He was a principled creature, her beloved raven, and Maleficent would never fail to admire all he had done for her.
To admit what he had done was also to admit what she had failed to do.
Maleficent was not ashamed to do so. Being a mother was not simply loving a child. Maleficent considered herself lucky that Aurora had forgiven her for the curse, for allowing her continue in her life, to continue to protect her, and her heart rejoiced more than ever before when the young queen claimed that she, Maleficent, was her mother.
As to the rest—children—she did not believe would be good enough for them.
"I'm not . . . " She tried to articulate and it weighed on her chest, not her pride, having to admit the following, "To be a mother would require a lot more than I can offer."
Diaval naturally disagreed.
"You give yourself too little credit, mistress."
A short laugh formed in her chest, and she asked, "Do I?"
Diaval gave her a very elaborate list, which required a prior thought that made Maleficent want to question his motives, "You're kind and protective," he began, and it was as if the sincerity in his voice not only made her believe him, but it made her recall each moment in which she demonstrated said attributes, "Loving too, despise the way you act against it," the pair shared a small smile, "Any child would love you as their mother."
Maleficent's smile turned fond, her eyes revealed in warmth, similar to the one she gave him when he, so hurried and worried, ran to her as she returned from the Dark Phoenix form, "Silver tongue," she said and Diaval's smile turned into a grin of playfulness.
"I only speak the truth, mistress," He said.
And she believed him, "Is that what you wish?" she couldn't help but ask, as the matter seemed of so much importance to him. People usually judge the wish of others based on their own. Ravens were creatures of family, against the beliefs of men who thought of them as ill luck. Ravens represented honour and devotion and playfulness. Surely the adjectives to define her servant himself, and so, if he wished for his mistress to build a family, what of him? Did he wish for one?
And why such thought would gawn the bones of her chest, squeezing her broken heart to beat faster?
"What I wish?"
Diaval didn't understand her, and Maleficent regretted ever asking him of this. She suddenly had no wish to continue.
"Children," but he had kindly spoke his mind to her, and so she owned him the same kindness, "A mate."
Surprise shook Diaval to his very core and he raised from his seat beside her, walking past the burning bonfire. He sounded conflicted, not offended had Maleficent first deduced, and was talking fast and with a firm voice.
"I'm happy here with you."
More than anything.
"There is no place I'd rather be."
For by her side he would be happy, but eternal happiness would be if she could accept him as more than a servant.
He turned to her and the passion in his eyes startled her, "I'm here because I want to be."
Maleficent pursed her lips, unsure in how to give voice to her thoughts.
Against her better wishes, she spoke, "Isn't a mate to a raven the most important thing?"
"Well, yes," Diaval replied almost too rapidly, "The survival of our species."
Maleficent narrowed her eyes at him. Such words wouldn't do. There was no true belief in them.
"Families do not necessarily involve survival," she said, "Or so I was told. By you, nonetheless."
When she was complaining about why Aurora would need a husband if the survival of her species wasn't in question, and then Diaval told her that marriage to humans had nothing to do with survival, but love and passion and all the foolish things his mistress didn't believe in.
"I must serve you, mistress."
A flare of fire was born inside the core of her heart. Doubts awoke in there, darkness in undue questioning, magic singing in her ear. Pride was weeping and wounded, and a certain humiliation was growing, fast and cunning, and Maleficent fet forced to act.
"You don't own me anything, Diaval," she spoke, and her voice raised in volume for the first time since that conversation took place, "You've paid your debt."
And if before she had feared that he had been offended by her words about wanting to have a mate, the mere insinuation that his honour had been repaid without his knowledge certainly offended him more than anything else.
In other words, Diaval looked horrified.
"I certainly did not!" he exclaimed passionately, "You saved me from Queen Ingrith's guards! I have this debt to repay!"
Maleficent tightened her grip around her staff. So the warmth and affection to hear from her darkest thoughts, the boldness to tell her when she was wrong, the respect shown for her power and individuality, and the care in preening her wings, all of those were only a result of his sense of duty?
"It may never happen," she tried to reason, and her servant scoffed at her. Certainly not the first time. How many times had she told him things he did not believe to be true, for either the truth was bluntly espoused on her face and actions, or he knew her to the point of knowing what she said was far from the truth.
Now, he didn't seem to care for anything but his own thoughts.
Needless to say, Diaval didn't give a fuck about duty.
For it wasn't about duty.
"So be it," he said, and it seemed he was contradicting his mistress' logic out of spite, "It doesn't matter."
Maleficent did not understand such disregard for something so prized by any sensible creature: the freedom to love. To share one's life with someone to the point of having children was so absurdly important and essential to the life of a raven that the fact he refused to pursue it, giving way to a duty that was no longer his own, made no sense. Maleficent would never take his opportunity to be happy with someone else, even if it cost her so much to give in. She was selfish, she would not deny, and giving up what her heart claimed as her own wounded her pride. It took time to learn to accept that Aurora was no longer a little girl who needed to be taken by the hand. She wouldn't know how long it would take, or if it would ever happen, to accept another woman in Diaval's life. For that would result in having to learn to be polite to said woman, to pretend smiles and give into 'small talk', and ultimately not being able to do anything but watch as everything that Diaval had offered her all these years was devoted exclusively to someone else. The mere thought made her want to kill said faceless woman, but she pushed such thoughts away as quickly as they came into her mind.
She had no right to take from her servant the opportunity to find love.
"You need to be free to find a mate, Diaval," she articulated, and even if she didn't want, in her heart, to convince Diaval to accept freedom, it was only fair, "You can't serve me and care for her at the same time."
Her servant ignored her logic and his reason completely.
"I can when you are her!"
And only realized what he had said when it was too late.
". . . what?"
And he panicked.
"I said silence, Diaval!"
And in silence he stood, and his shoulders fell in already declared and accepted defeat. He put his hands over his face in clear, agonizing despair, and no cry was heard. He was ashamed, not of his feelings, but of having expressed them so bluntly and deliberately, as if they didn't matter as much as they seemed. He was foolish for nurturing them to the point that they became too much for his chest, too much to be kept secret, and as they were revealed, he felt the fear of rejection erode his soul, and a deep hatred of himself was born. He would never forgive himself for such a mistake.
The mistake of falling in love.
"I'm not a raven."
And he wondered then the point in denying it.
"Neither I am, no more since you gave me the ability to think as— "
"—as a man?"
It was a challenge. It sounded like a challenge. His mistress, when she felt trapped, returned the logic of aggression. To the harshness. It was in her nature to be straight to the point, and she hated long discussions. She had no patience for it, and she would not mold herself to others who were unwilling to say what they wanted.
Diaval was used to it.
And he was not afraid of her. And comparing him to the men who hated her was an insult. And his mistress knew that very well.
"I'm not like them!" he exclaimed, "Turn me into a worm, a dog or a stone statue, but do not compare me to them!"
Maleficent's resolve crumbled, and she seemed to recognize the error of her words, but her pride would not let her easily apologise.
Instead, she repeated the melancholy, "Love doesn't always end well."
Diaval took the last bit of courage he had to approach her in two steps, and was surprised to find not the disgust he once imagined, even though he knew that his mistress would not ridicule him for how he felt. She didn't when he expressed affection for Aurora, and wouldn't do it now.
He feared she would hate him, that her traumas would make her never want his presence with her, by her side, which had been sincerely enough for all those years when his love grew and grew in his chest.
But he didn't find hate.
He found disbelief.
And a fear similar to his.
His mistress, the love of his life, was not afraid of him, but afraid of the love he offered her. For she had been convinced for so long that she would not find such, that now that she apparently did, the foolish love of a raven, she was unable to know how to react.
"I won't try to convince you," he said, "Neither would I impose anything."
He knew she would never love him. Yet he wouldn't let her doubt what he felt. Because he wasn't ashamed of how he felt. He was proud! It was a noble feeling, the love of a raven, and he had showed such love through the years with understanding, devotion and adoration.
His pride would not allow his mistress to doubt such love.
For it was all he had.
"Ravens mate for life," he stated, simple and straightforward, and his mistress' eyes shone with the firelight, oranges like the honey of the sweetness of her soul, "We love those we love," his voice was as passionate as the love he felt for her, "And we don't need more than that."
Maleficent had not yet said a word to him. She was watching him, and seemed to be surprised by his sudden change in behavior, from someone so in love to who seemed ashamed.
"I know you won't—" he couldn't bring himself to finish that sentence. A knot formed on his throat just to think about it, so he reformulated the phrase as if trying to appease his own pain, "—I'm happy as a servant. I don't need more."
This time, he was the one who seemed trying to convince himself that the romances of told tales were not something he needed with every fiber of his being.
"And if I find another?"
She had the right to ask—to test his resolve.
And the passion turned sad, sure of the rejection, a tired sigh into a final sentence, "I want you to be happy."
Not his desire, but the truth in him was unsettling. There was no lie there. And that terrified her. For all her life she had made herself learn to deal with the envy of others—their grudges, their fears, their vanity and greed—for the sins of men were not immune to the faes.
Diaval never lied to her. He never tried to deceive her, never felt fear nor resentment nor envy. Never at her. She couldn't tell about others, but she doubted so, knowing the simple creature he always was.
And to have him there confessing his heart, revealing his soul, and asking absolutely nothing in return, apparently having long ago resigned himself to a fate that would not have had her, the love of his life, by his side in the way he wanted . . .
"Please, don't hate me," he begged and his voice broke, "Turn me into a raven and we can just pretend I never—"
It was a reflection, the first of which was her mind, disturbed by thoughts of abundance but very disordered, could think of. She didn't understand, couldn't understand, didn't seem logical to her, didn't seem possible, it was beautiful, it was scary. They were not the same. Their personalities and thoughts differed so much. They had known each other for so long. His feelings were so unexpected.
How come she had never noticed?
His eyes showed feelings Maleficent could no longer witness.
She stood abruptly.
And walked past him without saying a word.
"Mistress, where are you going?"
And the anger, a long time friend, came back to full force.
"I don't own you any explanations."
And she left the nest and flew away.
And ignored the cry in her chest.
And she was no longer there to hear a plea:
" . . . please, don't leave me here!"
A/N: Thanks for reading! Second chater coming soon!
PS: For those wondering why I would write Maleficent's mother as human. Well, 'Maleficent' original script had her as the hybrid child of a demon and a fae. I really liked this concept and decided to explore it again, but with the twist of Maleficent's mother being human. It adds an irony to everything and helps me add some light on why Maleficent, being basically a Messiah to the Dark Fae, was only sought by them out of interest, aka, when they needed her power.