I enjoy writing tales of rebirth, taking a classic story and turning it on its head. For this story, consider this a way for Briar Rose, for the Princess Aurora and Maleficent, the Mistress of Evil, to be together in a romantic partnership. I like the thought of an unfolding story within a story, and being awakened by love's true kiss in a backwards way, without a prince.
This is an AU, blending in fantasy, present-day, a spell and at the end, release from all evil. This is an over-used concept, saving someone through the feeling of love and all that comes with it, but I hope that with the way that I alter the characters for the sake of the situations they are plunged into, I deliver them justice and plausibility. Multiple POV's, AU's, a rather lengthy one-shot, dark-themed in parts, and sensual content.
somnolence- sleepy, tending to cause sleep
All rights go to Disney, Grimm. Inspired by Calm to Bed by Masquerading as Quality.
"But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep." Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
Sleep had always evaded her for as long as she could remember. Always in the orphanage, when the other children were busy slumbering, dreaming lofty dreams about being adopted, fields of sunshine, or whatever it was they dreamed about, she was always lying awake in bed. One night she found herself awake until the dawn light threaded its way through the window-blinds, gilded bands of luminescence mocking her attempts. She began to despise the color yellow, for it reminded her of the piercing daylight that stung her eyes and roused her, just as her mind was beginning to finally drift off to sleep.
Someone once said that counting sheep was supposed to help, that the repetition of the numbers and the little animals jumping over imaginary posts would tire her mind. When one found that their only option for slumber was ennui, bed-time became a chore.
The numbers didn't work and she imagined reaching through that dream-cloud and strangling those little lambs and sheep until the only sound they emitted was a feeble death-cry. These thoughts scared her, made her tremble in her bedroom and scramble for the covers, fearing that if she was too loud with her thoughts, she would be kicked out, without a place to go.
She tried sleeping peacefully, but only found nightmares to be her reprieve. In her dreams she found herself surrounded by a forest of twisted brambles, black thorns on all sides blocking out all thought of sunlight. In these dreams she was either impaled by trees that caught little girls in their wooden grip, or tripping and falling into pits of sharp and mottled things, pointed and rotted with insecticide and maggot-infested rain puddles. Sometimes she was searching for a rose, a rose that was as red as blood, as cranberries and the lip-stick that one of the workers in the orphanage always painted on her lips. She was unsure of the significance of this flower, for in the waking-world, she despised flowers because of their frailty. If you touched the petals, the oils on your fingertips made them turn brown and shriveled. Beauty in her mind, was to be touched and cherished, held and connected with, not placed in a vase for decoration.
In other nightmares she found herself becoming larger, transforming into a creature that she knew only through picture-books, through a handful of stories she was told when she was a much younger girl. She became a dragon. This puzzled her, for weren't thirteen-year-old girls supposed to be dreaming about becoming princesses and falling in love with princes, not becoming the very thing that the prince hunted and the princess feared? She breathed lime-green fire, her breath tasting of rust and ashes, of heat and the hunger for victory. Her fingers with the nails she always chewed when she was nervous became pointed talons, claws that could slice metal, the armor of a prince foolish enough to challenge her. She awoke gasping, in a cold sweat as she searched for her bearings, physically touching her left breast to see if her heart still beat beneath the bone. A silver sword had not punctured her heart, a world-shattering scream had not slipped past a black snout, and rest was now out of the question.
There were many rules in the orphanage, rules that stated when meals were set, when one could study and what was proper dress-wear for visiting hours. However, there was no rule that stated that younger children couldn't sleep together, or comfort one another if they had nightmares. Never did she think that this loophole would pertain to her, for who would wish to share her bed? She was an outcast by choice, someone who didn't wish to put up with the foolishness of the orphans around her. There were traces of resentment in the eyes of her roommates as well as the beginnings of fear, of the bud of misunderstanding that blossomed into a garden of pure hostility. She knew what they saw: a short-tempered young girl with a bad hair-cut with a mouth set in a permanent scowl. They even had a cute little nickname for her, "Maleficent" a word that indicated doing evil or harm to others. Who had been clever enough to reach for a dictionary was beyond her understanding, but she left them alone and in return, they did the same.
All of that changed the night when, at 10:37PM, an angel gently shook her shoulder. At least, she believed it to be an angel, for she had never seen a being look more perfect. Hair the shade of liquid sunshine spilled from the girl's shoulders, coiling in loose tumbles of curl to her middle-back. In the gloom, she was unable to tell what color the girl's eyes were, but she guessed them to be blue: the blue of the ocean-tides, of an ideal summer sky. She wore one of those old-fashioned night-gowns, one with lace around the collar, and she was clutching a little owl stuffed animal, though she was obviously her age, what with the beginnings of breasts giving her chest a natural swell.
"Do you want me to sleep with you?" Taken aback at the comment, she wished to tell the angel-girl off, to fix her with the meanest glare she could muster at the moment, but she found that instead of getting instantly irritated at the girl's presence, at her innocent little question that she would have despised on the lips of anyone else, she remained calm. Instantly, she was soothed to a state of listlessness, a peace she didn't know she could find this early in the night. All of this from a few words, from an unexpected inquiry. "I can stay with you, Mage." Mage. That was her given name, the one scrawled on her birth-certificate, the name she hated and would one day change to something else, something prettier.
A question slipped past her lips before she had the chance to close her mouth, before she had the chance to shut this girl out. "Why do you care if I have someone with me?"
A rose-bud mouth became an elongated garden of flowers, and Mage now knew what the embodiment of a smile that could move mountains looked like. "Because everyone needs someone with them, someone to help them sleep."
Mage scooted over in the small mattress, feeling chagrin burn her cheeks with inner-derision. Who was she to accept the help from a girl who claimed she had good intentions? For all she knew, she would be the one to tell the older girls that she needed someone to sleep with her to keep away nightmares. Ridicule awaited her if she let this girl in, if she let her...
The moment the nameless girl slid under the covers with her, pressed her warmth and light scent of cotton and freshly scrubbed skin against her arm, there was no more room for argument, for Mage's brand of immediate distrust and suspicion.
The warmest hand Mage had ever felt in her life gripped hers, albeit gently. Long, dainty fingers that would have been perfect to grace the piano-keys with entwined in her own and sleep came over her, a rest unlike anything Mage had ever felt in her life. Gone were the nightmares, the ceaseless questions about what was wrong with her sleeping-pattern. Gone were the notions of lashing out at those she lived with. And above all, gone were the nightmares, the nights of insomnia and near hypnagogic tendencies. Rest came over her, and somnolence was soothing.
The girl's name was Dawn and she was adopted two months after that. For the rest of Mage's time at the orphanage she continued to sleep soundly, and sometimes she wondered if the girl, her only friend and flash of light and color in her otherwise dark and drab life was truly an angel, an enchantress who cast a spell of sleep over her.
Whoever said that married life came with a pinnacle of pleasure had obviously never experienced the inevitability of pregnancy. When one was married to a wealthy man and was left to their own devices, the world appeared friendlier and easier to attain everything that they wanted. Aside from sleep.
She had tried everything: baby-friendly medication, tapes that claimed they inspired drowsiness and soothing thoughts, creams, scrubs, meditations and so forth. Never had she managed a full-night's rest without getting up and pacing the floor, without feeling as if her body had been transformed into a conductor for racing thoughts that charged through her veins, like rivers of electricity.
There was one thing she had not tried, and that was a midwife. Skeptical as she was, she was willing to try anything to end her anxieties, wherever they may lay. The woman was given excellent recommendation from those who she spoke to in the neighborhood, and the background check cleared.
Insisting that she open the door herself despite how those that worked in the large estate declared it their duty to wait on her given her "condition", she opened the door. What she saw was a woman her age, a woman who could have been on the face of every magazine, commercial, bill-board and nonsensical product that was advertised. Instead she was helping a pregnant woman find the will to sleep.
'Funny how things work out.'
Golden hair framed an oval face, a face that looked as though it had seen a balance of sunlight and natural temperature in its lifetime. She wore no makeup but with the way her long lashes batted without the weight of mascara, she didn't need any. Sapphire eyes sparkled with earnest mirth, a floral dress revealed her petite frame, and there was no doubt that she was the woman for the job.
"Come in, please come in." She wasn't sure when she had last said please to anyone. Rose smiled, picked up a small suitcase and entered the house, eyeing the inside of the parlor with immediate interest. It wasn't the way that thieves looked at jewels, the way some friends of hers eyed the crystal chandelier and polished stair-way. It was the look a child reserved for admiring Christmas trees, or watching a ferris-wheel swoop into the skies at a carnival. It was a child-like interest, one that Madeline found refreshing. "I'm Madeline, it's a pleasure Ms. Rose."
Rose smiled warmly to her and shook her hand, the warmth of her palm lingering on Madeline's hand for longer than what seemed possible. "The pleasure is all mine, Madeline. Now please, let me know how I can help you." This was the second time that Madeline had heard Rose's voice, the first time being on the phone. It was a voice of tranquility, a voice that could give serenity to even the hottest temper. A voice that could inspire sleep, rest.
Madeline gave Rose full permission to do any and all methods to let her sleep peacefully, to let her rest and drift into unconsciousness for a good few hours. In return, Rose promised her that if she was ever uncomfortable with the methods of her choosing, she would stop immediately. The modest comment was made with pure intent and as Madeline's hands cradled her ever-growing stomach, she knew that tonight would be a night where she would finally sleep well after seven months.
That night as her unborn son wouldn't settle, kicking and fussing in her womb the way he always did, Rose's methods were revealed. Rose walked over to where Madeline was pacing, gripping her lower back in one hand and rubbing her stomach with the other and placed both of her hands on her middle. Madeline normally hated when people did that, when anyone aside from her husband touched her stomach. It felt like both an invasion of personal space, and a violation of her pride. If someone came up to another and just began touching their body, no matter if it was for innocent and curious reasons, being uncomfortable was an inevitability.
All of that awkwardness, that sensation that seized Madeline like a skilled thief fingering coins of the purest gold dissipated the moment Rose's hands touched her protruding stomach. Before Madeline could ask what she was doing, she was asked to lie on the bed and close her eyes, for the full effect to take place. It was an interesting position, being at a want for something and having to endure unknown methods to receive the item of choice, the nebulous desire for sleep. Madeline found that she didn't mind being ordered around in this manner, for it was of a gentle command, on a voice that could inspire poets and artists, a voice of the Muses themselves.
Whether consciously or subconsciously, Madeline cradled her stomach, feeling an immense pang of love for the child she was carrying. Gone were the months of frustration, of the illness she endured. Gone were the self-chiding thoughts on her weight-gain, on finding clothes that fit and having to eat much more than she ever had in her life. And above all, gone was any notion of resenting this discomfort, for she understood that this would grant her a pleasure more fulfilling than the treasure-trove of the world she had married into: the birth of her son.
Rose smiled down at her, opened her mouth and began to sing. Madeline had always loved to listen to others sing, especially if it was done well. The voice had to be smooth and waver in the air, on tenors and clarity that only certain people could fully appreciate. She had thought she had heard beautiful singers before in her life: she was wrong. There was a gulf between Rose's speaking voice, that soothing sound that could calm even the most cantankerous soul from her singing voice. She could have been an opera singer on a polished stage, hitting notes and filling the characters with a life and joy that had no place in the tragedy that came with the plots of operas.
For the first time in days, Madeline's eyelids felt heavy and she let them slip closed. Within minutes she was fast asleep in a dreamless place, a place she escaped from at her own pace. The clock revealed that she had been given eight hours of uninterrupted rest, a miracle with her current sleeping pattern. She cradled her stomach, murmuring softly to her son all the while wondering if he could hear his mother apologizing for blaming him for her lack of rest.
The next two months were filled with Rose's presence, a warm smile reserved for her alone, and her voice that granted her peace and rest. This young lady, whoever she was, had the ability to give you your best thoughts when she was around you. All of your previous frustrations vanished, your once scattered thoughts paused and in their wake, possibilities. Possibilities of a life of happiness and laughter, of warmth and love. Granted that was a foolish consideration as she barely knew the young lady, but the thought was encouraged, fed and nurtured with every note of the songs Madeline listened to. Somehow, it was alright to have faith in this woman for there was nothing to fear from her.
Even when she was an hour away from giving birth, Rose soothed her to a state of happy consciousness, her words a melody that made her picture her future: carrying a beautiful child around, bouncing him on his father's lap, and feeling extremely blessed with what her life had become. Blood and pain came, a pain that made her feel weaker than she ever had in her entire life. She almost gave up, but as she screamed visceral screams, Rose was there, encouraging her all the way to keep going, to keep pushing, that she could rest soon.
And then her son arrived and he was in her arms. Brown eyes gazed up at her with a curious expression, red-splotched skin settled and revealed skin as smooth as cream and never had Madeline felt so warm, so at peace in her waking world.
Without receiving her payment, Rose was gone one week after Philip had been born. She didn't accept her payment and though Madeline checked what seemed like hundreds of times with the company Rose worked for, no one knew where she had gone.
Despite Rose's absence, never had she or her son slept more soundly. What ailed her before was gone, and though Madeline wasn't superstitious she believed that Rose had been sent to her, as a type of angel of sleep, a creature of lullaby that worked a miracle in her home.
'Funny how things work out, isn't it?' She stroked her son's face and was granted comfort by singing him the songs Rose shared with her, once upon a dream it seemed.
Meredith never cared for animals. It wasn't that she didn't like them, it was just that she had no time to dedicate to raising an animal. Other people in her office took pictures of their beloved animal, a dog with a birthday-party hat covering furry ears or of their two cats in the bathtub; she had files and the occasional colorful pen-holder.
She published children's books for a living and it came naturally to her, the position of leadership. When other people tried to dress up a storyboard with a mediocre plot, she told them to refine the idea or to clear out their office right then. Six years ago Meredith had been hired, and she had given the company more money than it had seen in decades, and she had no intent of early retirement, for she lived for her work. Meredith thrived in her environment, by telling others precisely what needed to be done and for that reason she was fiercely respected and feared, respected for her ideas and loyalty to the company and feared for her forthright and brutally honest personality.
That was precisely why she couldn't keep the cat that appeared at her doorstep on a Tuesday after work. She set her briefcase down, crouched beside the cat and looked for a collar, wondering all the while about how clean the animal was. Surely in this neighborhood someone would claim their beloved pet? To her dismay there was no collar and though the animal's rib-cage wasn't protruding, something told Meredith that the animal was in need of nourishment.
"You're going to the animal shelter in the morning," she told the cat as she carried it inside. "With no offense to you, but I just don't have time for you." She served the cat some water and upon realizing all she had was chicken and peaches that could be suitable for a feline, she served that as well. The cat lapped up the water, nibbled daintily at the chicken, but instead of eating the peaches, she lapped at the juice. All the while she ate with the utmost decorum. It was then Meredith decided the cat was female, for she had never known men to take such care with their meals.
"You have the manners of a princess." Beside herself, she stroked the cat's head and the cat responded, tilting its head with the petting. The animal nuzzled her hand, and after Meredith's initial shock made her hand jerk back, the cat entwined its body around her legs, purring all the while. Any notion of finding the animal a new home was now obliterated.
Though cats were said to be both warm and passive creatures, this one was certainly the friendliest cat Meredith had ever come across. The cat trailed her through the house on the first night, almost as if she wished to observe her evening routine of making dinner, drinking a little wine, and then getting everything prepared for the next day. Meredith wondered if she should prepare herself for shredded drapes and shattered glass, but nothing indicated that the cat was in any way mischievous. If anything, the creature was more docile and better mannered than half the people she worked with.
That night as she attempted to dissuade herself from any doubts she had on the work she had finished hours ago, Meredith found herself unable to rest. She had to be out of bed by 7 a.m, showered and at the office by 9 and here she was at the midnight hour, unable to sleep. She knew that it was because she had been looking over important documents and numbers for the next quarter, all the while listing the things she had to do the following day. Her mind was on her work, on the job that she loved but at the moment her insomnia made her despise the thought of rousing herself early.
A movement at the foot of her bed made Meredith sit upright, forgetting for the moment that she had a cat. In the moonlight the cat's ochre-striped coat turned into liquid amber, creating the illusion that the animal was made of bronze. It reminded her of the cover of a children's book she helped restore, the story of Briar Rose and her prince, the prince that roused her after a one-hundred year slumber. The prettiness of the cat and the elegance with which the feline conducted herself reminded Meredith of the princess. There was an airy way Briar Rose had been drawn on the cover, with a golden-curl to her hair that matched the tone of the cat's coat perfectly.
"Briar Rose. Interesting name for a cat." Briar Rose, nick-named B.R in Meredith's mind kneaded her paws on the bed-covers, walking around and around, settling finally on Meredith's stomach. The cat began purring and Meredith knew this was a sign of contentment, that despite only meeting this strange human that evening, B.R trusted her enough to sleep on top of her, much less emit such a soothing sound.
Despite her earlier anxieties, Meredith fell into a deep slumber and was roused seven hours later, fully refreshed and free from her previous tension. That day she bought B.R a pretty pink collar with diamonds, along with everything she would ever need for a cat and then some. Two months to the date, she snapped a photo of B.R looking up at her with an inquiring expression, collar flashing with the camera shutter. The picture frame was positioned on her desk and it gave her office a personal touch, something that she never had earlier in her career.
When she was asked about the picture she was given the same line, almost on rehearsed repeat, "But I thought that you didn't like animals."
To which she replied, "I like her."
The cat made her smile and most days, laugh at her polite way of moving about the house. Meredith pet her with a gentle hand, using a tenderness she didn't know she was capable of, an act that would have stunned her siblings and mother and in return, the cat never once acted out of sorts. She was fully clawed but never once shredded anything: not her expensive upholstery nor her drapes. Meredith supposed there was a lesson in there somewhere, about her cat having the means to destroy but not wanting to. Also, B.R never made a mess of her food or did other things that cat owners complained about, such as chewing through cardboard boxes and randomly relieving themselves where they pleased. This cat was a lady and only showed her the friendliest of affection.
B.R's purring always put her to sleep, even after the most exhausting and trying day. It was a lullaby to her frayed nerves, something that inspired the deepest sleep from her, all from a cat named after a fictional character.
"Fictional or not, you're still my cat." B.R batted amber eyes up at her, curled up in her lap and fell to sleep almost instantly. Meredith nodded sagely, understanding that this was the ultimate show of trust: falling asleep in the lap of your owner. "Good kitty."
She was dying. There was no graver thought that could have been considered, nor was there any way to find closure in the situation. She was dying and no one was going to find her way out here, in the middle of the forest right before midnight.
The job had been simple enough: ambush the royal tents, steal what was necessary and then get the hell out of range of arrows and weapons. Her team was smart and they knew the easiest way to flee with some of the royal jewels in tow, tokens that would make a pretty penny in neighboring villages for trading and selling.
What Mia didn't know was that there was a trap within a trap: one of her trusted comrades told one of the guards about their plan and instead of being met with stunned looks and flashing jewels, murderous, unforgiving eyes dissected her team.
She blamed herself for not sensing the tone of betrayal in the air from her comrade. For someone who was nicknamed "Diablo" one would have thought never to trust such a creature. He was more than likely getting pat on the head and fed bread and wine while the people who considered him family were being impaled, be-headed and ran through with arrows. Chaos colored the night red, three arrows hit her heart, and Mia was dying.
Acceptance came, on wavering wings of the night. Unable to run any further, she fell face first on the earth, dirt sliding down her throat and in-between her teeth. The earth just couldn't seem to wait to make her part of it.
The leader of a once feared band of thieves heaved herself up, spitting out brown saliva tinged with red, her last actions before death. A frantic thought involving pulling the arrows out of her chest floated through her subconscious, but it was rejected immediately with the knowledge of anatomy. Once the heart was punctured, there was no way to stop the blood from flowing out, from keeping life-giving oxygen and life inside. Everything that she had become in her thirty years of life was draining into the ground, staining the snow red.
Mia nearly let self-pity consume her, allowing her the final closing of her eyes. She had never gotten enough sleep in her life and now to make up for it, death would be a welcome guest, for with it, sleep would come. But before she granted herself that simple pleasure, she refused to die like an animal.
Against her protesting muscles, against the dizziness of the blood-loss, Mia rolled, placing the weight on her left shoulder and hip, then finally on her back. Her final remaining breaths elongated in the air, becoming tendrils of smoke on this winter's night of consequence. Darkness threatened to swallow her whole and she almost gave in to the sweet thought of closing her eyes. This time, there would be nothing to wake up to, no failed attempts at making breakfast with little supplies, no plans to create, no speeches to craft from thin air; there would be cherished oblivion.
Through the nothing, a song weaved its way through the void, shifting its sound towards Mia's ears. There were flashes of light, pin-points of color on the black horizon unlike anything she had ever seen. At this time of night, the only color that she would have seen would have been from the jewels she helped steal for the sake of survival and making a dishonest living. But there was no mistaking the green sheets of light that bathed the forest in a peridot hue. There were blues and reds, violets and golds, such a deep, bright gold that it brought up a past memory of a gilded goblet encrusted with jewels, something that had bought her a month's rent in a fairly decent part of town years ago.
Mia closed her eyes, drowsiness settling over her mind like a traveler's cloak. Her temples throbbed in time to some merciless conductor's tempo, the fatal wound ached, and she didn't think her eyes would be opening again. Mia was wrong. A harmony of a voice, of someone singing to her immediate right made the eyelids that were once so heavy open again, blinking against the faint light of the wood in their attempt to focus on what was singing.
There was a creature there, something flickering like candlelight against a breeze, and it was completely coated in color. Never had she seen something more entrancing in all of her life.
Two truths were revealed: this being meant her no harm, and this creature, whatever it was, would lead her to a calm death. Mia had heard of such beings, ethereal in nature and temperament that sang to those who were minutes away from death. Legend spoke of how these creatures were so soothing to the ear and mind, that the dying faded into the afterlife with a smile. To Mia's understanding, these beings of song and light were reserved for those who had led good lives, not for petty thieves who had known how to pick-pocket before she came on her first cycle.
Despite the life she had lived, the impossibility remained that the creature was before her, and that it would mean her no harm. In what little time she had left to breathe, Mia took precious seconds to look at the being, to gaze at the one who would lead her to eternity. The creature was most definitely female, her body all curves and angles, an hourglass figure that reminded Mia not of beauty, but of the brevity of time. If she squinted, Mia was certain that she would see grains of sand falling from the creature's rib-cage, reminding her that though this creature was real and possibility was infinite, she was still dying. No amount of allure would change that.
And yet the creature sang sweet notes, a timeless tune parting her lips with lyrics, and somehow dying didn't seem like the worst of fates. With the way the music flowed, meeting Mia's aural cavity and spreading over her body with every final beat of her heart, Mia knew that the place she was going was a place without torment. There would be endless peace, a vast sky, and she wouldn't want for anything.
The being of light and song stepped forward and before long, she was kneeling directly next to Mia, in a patch of snow that remained untarnished by animal prints. Her eyes were made of the dawn's light, brimming with tears that smelt of the rain, the sweetness of the moisture in the air. Mia had no idea why a creature that made any notion of grace become a weak comparison to her was crying. Was she crying because night was coming, and the thought of darkness brought with it pain and internal fear? Mia wasn't vain enough to believe that she was shedding tears for the end of her life. What was the point in shedding tears for a woman doomed?
A translucent hand cupped her face and Mia resisted the urge to close her eyes to the gesture. No one had ever treated her so well in her living life, no lover had ever taken the time to stroke her face. Against all reason, her flesh warmed up to the minor touch, her heart racing in time to the ministrations of fingertips against her cheekbone. Death whispered in her ear, telling her that now was the time for eternal rest, for the closing of her eyelids. Mia resisted, for she wanted to tell the creature that she was thankful for the song, for a beauty that she was undeserving of.
Bands of light threaded through the creature's skin, giving off the illusion of ripples of mercury in her veins. The moonlight was faint, barely there in the ebony ether, but it revealed the gentle slant of the creature's eyes, amber eyes of liquid sunshine and warmth. Hair of iridescence fanned around the being's face without wind, highlighting the glint of gold eyes, eyes of compassion. And the being still cried, her body trembling with sobs. A grieving angel of phoenix fire, a spirit whose tears would give her rebirth into a new time and place. And she was there with her.
The creature leaned over Mia's body, hovering just above her face. Never before had Mia witnessed a sorrow painted with the instruments of beauty, a sadness that made her failing heart ache. And still the being sang just for her, luring her to sleep, to endless rest where the pain of her wounds and waking world was no longer cumbersome.
Lips brushed over hers, and just as she opened her mouth to return the kiss, the life was stolen from her.
There was much to be afraid of in this world, so much to fear and question. One of the worst fears stemmed from misunderstanding, from being left to one's own thoughts, without any hope of answers. Another fear came from being unable to stop a calamity, a misunderstanding that linked centuries into a chain of destruction and plagued a kingdom.
Aurora didn't know that knowledge yet. What she came to realize was a far more infantile idea, a rebellious thought that bloomed in a garden of melancholy. Upon walking to her reunion with parents who were as much a stranger as the three fairies that walked with her, Aurora came to terms with the fact that she didn't belong as a throne would be composed of sixteen years of lies and intangible fancies. That was why they called them dreams she considered with a stray tear, for the thoughts were meant to disappear with the dawn's blistering light. Reality was so much colder than the warmth of an imaginary lover, a lover who had come to life in the forest that morning.
The kingdom came into view, twisting spires and towers, thousands of windows upon which to look out of but hardly any doors with which to escape. It was a place of royalty, where courtiers discussed politics on hoarse voices, where wine was nurtured hourly and where multi-colored flags waved in the wind, banners of ennui and carelessness. She didn't belong there: she belonged with someone else, to a another life. Though she knew she must have been the only young woman born who would give up the life of a princess to be a peasant, she didn't care.
Later she realized how selfish she had been, and a deeper truth was revealed. But for now, it took her all her strength to walk forward, gripping her powder-blue cloak to hide her quavering fingers. Today was her birthday, a right of passage for a young lady of sixteen years, but it was also the saddest day of her life. There was still daylight, and far-off in the forest somewhere, animals were engaging in their happy lives, lives where they didn't have to marry a stranger, become something they didn't want to, and above all, be torn from everything they knew after a few hours of supposed coping. She wanted nothing more than to dance with them again, to be back in that cottage, blissfully ignorant of any birth-right.
The once Briar Rose never knew what hatred felt like, nor did she understand how anyone could hate anything. Now she understood what it felt like to loathe duties with every fiber that made up her spirit, what it felt like to hate something until tears blurred her vision. The fairies thought she was crying out of sadness; they were wrong once again.
If the fairies could read her mind, the sorrowful countenance splintering into a mask of screams and wrath, they would more than likely leave her right there to wander about the forest for the remainder of her days for such savageness surely belonged in the wild. They wouldn't have been able to believe that the child they reared for sixteen years had become this being composed of bitterness. Animosity stung the back of her throat, and Aurora wondered if this was the venom she would have to swallow as she kissed the stranger's lips, all for a kingdom that promised her to another the moment she had been born.
A gold crown was placed on her head and she glanced at her reflection, she saw what her future would become. Aurora could feel chaste lips covering her mouth, smothering her with a life of obligations after the exchanging of vows. A life where rage became her driving force and thoughts of the world's fairness haunted her waking world, a reality that would make her long for the bliss of sleep, of slumber. At least in the land where she could create her own dreams, she was safe from any fate bestowed upon her.
What she wanted was escape, a way to choose her own adventure, her own path and place in the world. If that was a selfish wish, then she wished it with all of her heart and body, her soul screaming for there to be some way for her to escape.
There wasn't a way, and that was what lead to her breakdown. She sobbed, falling before the mirror in a half bow, almost as if she were kneeling before a destiny that had been paved for her the moment she first took a breath. No amount of handsome princes and singing could allow for her to escape the necessity of her birth-right.
The fairies left her alone, and she made no move to stop them. What she wanted most of all was to be with them, but since they had given her false hope, the hope that normalcy was to be a permanent part of her life, she couldn't be around them. Yes, they made her this beautiful gown, a gown fit for a queen, not a princess who just learned of her royal blood hours before. Yes, they raised her with a tender hand and she called them dears every chance she got. However, it didn't excuse what the dress represented, she thought with a sour grimace, the thought that nothing would ever be the same.
Change was necessary, but this was far too much.
That was the end of her selfish thoughts and the beginning of a new mission in her life. The green light came and it seemed to sing to her, entrancing her to follow it, to follow it to the ends of the world itself if it so bid. There was nothing else but its pulsing light, the green hue that made her body rise, the cloak sliding from her shoulders like the weight of obligation itself. No longer was she encumbered, no longer was she destined for a life of quiet desperation and servitude to a kingdom that stripped her of her will. The light was a beacon, a peridot flash of winking light that led her up a dilapidated stair well, up a spiral set of endless stairs. The light bathed her in a jade embrace, washing over her features like a rush of winter air, clarity settling over her mind. There was nothing to fear anymore, for she was going to sleep, going to a place where the nightmares of her waking world wouldn't torment her any longer. There was going to be a land of dreams, a place where she was going to discover so much more than this world could offer her. There would be no commitments, no forced marriages, no bearing children for the sake of duty and strengthening a blood-line; there would be only sleep.
The room was dark aside from the sickly green light, a light that highlighted the only object in the room: a spindle. The point sang to her with the voice of a thousand songs, whispering that if she was only to prick her finger, if she was only to give herself the smallest cut, that her life could be redeemed by slumber.
Whispered protests temporarily snapped her from her stupor, but almost instantaneously, by her own free will that had nothing to do with a spell, she reached forward, tapping the flesh of her fingertip against the point. Sublimation was instantaneous, as was the revealing of a truth. It made her topple to the ground with the rush of epiphany, a thought that made her eyes remain open for longer than was possible with the curse on her soul.
There was someone here who she had shared many life-times with. Though that should have been impossible, the thought of her spirit being placed in different forms, both human and animal alike, memories didn't lie like those in her world had. She remembered the rush of a body beside hers, the warmth of hesitant fingers in her small hand, and the faint moonlight through a nearby window. There was a mission there, to give sleep to someone who, if she had been given the gift of more time, she would have grown to love.
Then she was called upon again, in another place and time. Her voice soothed the frustrations of a woman heavy with child, and with the songs she bid the woman to listen to, a beautiful baby boy would be born. She wanted to stay with the woman and care for her, but she was unable for reasons unknown even to her.
That was where reality twisted into the feline form. She became a cat and was met with many slammed doors and cold nights before she found a place that would welcome her inside. The house was massive, painted with black shutters and a cobble-stone driveway, promising milk and a warm place to sleep. Her purring put her master to sleep, and in return for the warm shelter and affection she found at the one named Meredith's hand, she never acted out. The fragile items in the home were off-limits, and there was never a time when she wasn't grateful, as grateful as a cat could be that is.
Something changed in her physical appearance then, and her given name became her body. Her skin was made up of translucence, of prismatic lights that shimmered in the midnight hour. She was of a species that lulled dying humans to a state of peace, a type of guardian that gave mental tranquility for the afterlife. Before her lay a thief, albeit a noble one who was betrayed by one of her own. Arrows protruded from her rising chest, revealing a fatal wound that no amount of wishing or curses could heal. She fell to her knees before the once-thief and felt tears pool from her eyes, tears of radiance that could have been turned to diamonds if they were caught in cupped hands. There was something so immensely tragic about the loss of this young woman's life, something that struck her heart with sorrow, almost as if she had been the one wounded. This woman had never known a good-night's rest and turmoil had become a constant companion, shadowing her even in her most intimate moments. What love she was shown had been for someone else's benefit, for the sake of a shared bed and shallow confessions beneath covers. She had never been truly kissed, given a kiss of life and love, without expecting anything in return.
Her mouth parted and her lips tasted flavorless skin, skin that deserved to be given only the most tender of gestures. Maybe in another life, her thoughts told her on waves of prism-light, she would find this young woman and show her kindness, compassion, and love her fully, the way that she hadn't been able to in previous lifetimes.
A menacing voice thundered over Aurora's head, and inside she screamed, willing movement and life into her limbs. For, the one known to the kingdom as the Mistress of All-Evil had once been a soul split four times, a soul that was cursed by a dragon with a violet underbelly. If the dragon was defeated, a frantic notion declared in her mind, then Maleficent would be free from the black magic that she practiced. Maleficent was as much a prisoner as she was, trapped in a curse of wrath and vengeance, of desiring a way for things to be different. They were similar creatures and they had known one another beforehand.
Covers were placed over her, a rose was placed in her hand, and never had Aurora wished for movement more in her life. The faintest twitch of her fingers over the rose, the slightest spasm in her toes, a rush of feeling to her legs...anything would have sufficed. If she could manage one small movement, the spell would break.
In this moment, in a moment that stretched out and became the longest day of Aurora's life, she tried to move. She willed for her limbs to work, for her vocal chords to thaw with the ice that had been wrapped around her throat. She willed for there to be a way for her toes to move and curl, for her hands to clench into fists. There had to be some way to break this horrid spell, a curse of immobility where dreams remained just a hair's breadth away, tempting her with fantasies of dancing with a prince.
In a far-off land, the dragon that plagued Maleficent roared to life, spewing torrents of lime-green fire out of a fanged maw. A brave prince, one who she had so foolishly thought she belonged to fought valiantly for her, swinging an enchanted sword and shield, hacking black vines to bits. He was fighting for her, but she would fight for herself now, for once in this life. She wasn't a sixteen-year-old girl who chose a life of dreams, a life of escape over being married to someone who she didn't know. She was a sentient creature who understood far more than had been taught to her in this short life. What she knew now was that the fate of her beloved rested on her being able to move, rested on her being able to give the slightest implication that she was alive and waiting for a dual spell to be broken: one that a dragon cast upon Maleficent's spirit, and the other that left her body paralyzed, awaiting...something important.
If the dragon was defeated, that gave Aurora the perfect opportunity to show Maleficent what they had previously shared. In this lifetime, Maleficent was a cruel being, one who commanded lowly creatures to do her bidding. In past lifetimes, she was kind-hearted and always strove to be as good as her human nature allowed. They had been given four chances to remain together, three of which ended in sudden departures and tragedy. The number five had never appeared more beautiful.
A piercing shriek rimmed the air with vanishing malice, and Aurora knew this was her chance to thwart the curse, to throw off destiny entirely. She longed to take control, to deter the very notion of fate? Then she had to move.
The sound of footprints clicked against the stone and Aurora knew that they didn't belong to Prince Philip. Philip wouldn't have wasted any time in striding across the room, claiming her lips for his own. He was a good person, a good heart who she thought she had loved before the truth splintered every naive thought she'd ever had. No, the person who was looming over her bedside was someone who she would share another lifetime with, if only she could move, if only she could remind the woman of what they had gone through. If magic existed and could be used for both good and sinister intent, if dragons could snap and spit green-fire, then past-lives were possible.
Against the absolution of past words, against the thought of a higher power governing her actions, Aurora willed her lips to part. It was hardly enough for someone to notice the movement, much less gauge a reaction from the creature who took her ability to move freely. Revenge crippled both parties, for Maleficent wasn't moving any closer.
A shadow crossed over Aurora's eyes, a shadow dipped with the ink of merciless fate. In the blackness of the silhouette, a tall figure hovered over her paralyzed form. Aurora could picture blood-red lips twitching in a smile, yellow eyes narrowing with the thought of avenging her now deceased master. Murder coated the air with the heat of hell-fire, bringing with it terrifying thoughts: Maleficent covering her face with a pillow, smothering and stealing the breath from her lungs, or elongated fingernails squeezing her windpipe the way an owl would the field mice it preyed upon. If Maleficent's "master" failed, then she wouldn't.
Fear made Aurora's lips tremble, a small exhalation of breath escaping her mouth. Her first breath after paralysis struck, a miracle.
The sudden weight of two hands on both of her shoulders was enough to defrost her voice, giving birth to screams. Tips of self-sharpened fingernails dug into Aurora's flesh, gripping deep enough to draw blood. Cries of protest were lost on limbo, on a body that was unable to react to the pain, to give any implication that it hurt aside from one breath, and a parting of lips. Aurora had done all she could, and though her insides were howling for movement and the profound need to exhale, nothing further could happen until Maleficent herself chose to move.
The grip was released almost as suddenly as it had come, the force of fingernails on her shoulders throbbing with the past action. All thought of pain was forgotten when a rush of heat coated the skin of Aurora's slumbering countenance. It was as if someone were holding a hand in front of her face, close enough for a palm to feel the warmth that radiated from her skin.
True love's kiss would break the spell. To her once infantile state of thought, that sounded like the most romantic notion known to earth, the thought of a loving mouth placed above hers, splintering a curse that was set in motion early in her life. Now it sounded like something directly out of a fairy-tale, the pages brimming with color and elegant script yes, but something rehearsed, a universal solution.
That was the thing about deflecting curses and their remedies, a euphoric thought told her, the thought of having a simple solution in a difficult life. A kiss was welcome, so welcome that she thirsted for it, yearning for it the way that nothing else in her lengthy frame of life would satisfy.
Aurora could see, though her eyes were still shut, the revealing of this truth and how it caused Maleficent to react. Features that appeared as if they were sculpted from jade shifted before her eyes into a visage of tenderness, yellow eyes softening as if she were the most precious person in her sight. A scarlet outlined mouth opened once, revealing a flashing of white teeth, the trembling of a lower lip representing how deeply this realization affected her. Aurora could almost read Maleficent's ambivalent thoughts. They were filled with a chaos of guilt, an inner-rage at not understanding that her spirit had been governed by a monstrous dragon, and above all, how she had somehow managed to forget Aurora, after everything they experienced together. Aurora could literally feel the shame that the older woman felt, an imagined filth that covered Maleficent's skin, infecting her blood with the poison of self-derision.
Leagues of nations would be stunned to the highest capacity at seeing Maleficent, the Maleficent who struck terror into the hearts of countless parties looking at her, the sleeping Briar Rose with a look of profound affection. Aurora imagined armor-clad bodies dropping weapons, their jaws gaping wide at the physical change that transformed the dark fairy into a creature capable of tenderness, capable of love.
A small rumble of laughter made her chest rise, dying on her lips before the sound became audible. The mental imagery of weapons falling to the ground, of slack-jawed soldiers was so amusing, that it penetrated the cocoon of the spell, nearly splitting it entirely.
A mouth brushed over her top lip, a beginner's kiss that stirred warmth into her limbs, an aching sensation enveloping her chest. Aurora took a breath, opened sleep-clouded eyes, and had her breath stolen once more by the one previously known as Maleficent.
Her world would never be the same.
The tower walls slid away, revealing a curtain of midnight, a velvet sheet of star-slumber. Nothing existed here, for the very notion of memory took care of what was taking place in the world they once belonged to. The three fairies would have no recollection of raising a sixteen-year-old in a humble cottage all to hide from a dark fairy. Instead, they would focus their attentions on their kinship and do what they could for the kingdom. The King and Queen would find themselves with a beautiful baby girl, one with hair the shade of sunlight and lips of the rose, a daughter they would name Dawn come the following year. The child that might as well have been a changeling, the past Aurora would have no place in their world any longer. The man who once danced in her dreams with movements of foolish ideals was now free, the Philip who was destined for greatness. Philip would be a just King, someone who would take the time to know his people, from the common-folk to the courtiers he surrounded himself with. He would take a bride when he was ready, not when the obligations his birth-right bid him to do so. He would recall nothing of a battle of green-fire and bewitched swords, much less a daydreaming young woman who was older than him by many centuries.
The castle was gone and any trace of the ones known as Aurora and Maleficent's existence vanished, like the winking light of a comet's tail. What remained was a black tapestry, a canvas that stated that from that moment on they would move forward as spirits, entwined by a kind fate to be together always, no matter what shade of life they were in. For now though, as they kissed one another breathless, feeling heated limbs grasp bodies that had long since desired a loving caress, they knew pure sublimation. Every unspoken word, every gesture that was unable to be acted out upon was known in their kiss, in the joining of their mouths. They knew each other in a symmetry of hearts, a joining of spirits that surpassed the thought of words, the mere notion of being able to speak of their bond. It was something purely visceral, for they were similar creatures.
Dazed sapphire eyes opened, meeting a face that was expunged of any thought of past physical abnormality. Yellow eyes became soft amber, gazing at her with an expression of bliss that could only be spoken by another joining of mouths. The kiss was every fractured thought, every semblance of the word eternity. A horned headdress shattered, revealing a coiled mane the color of the ocean at the witching hour, a black so deep it appeared as violet. Peridot skin faded into opaline, shimmering with their kisses, with every gentle melding of their mouths.
This world was theirs, the fairy-tale received an ending worthy of happy tears. There was slumber to succumb to, and they willingly fell forward into an endless dream, where the thought of strangers, of ravens and spindles only strengthened their world of somnolence.
Before, the one known as Aurora used sleep to escape and the one once known as Maleficent couldn't find rest without the other's destruction. Now, they used sleep to create a sanctuary of dreams, where the waking world's devastation wouldn't touch them. Lullaby itself reconstructed past pains, amalgamating sorrow and words unspoken into slumber.
'You're happy here?' the being once known as Maleficent asked her dozing lover.
'Yes, I am. The thought of ever after is a perfect way to end this.' Mouths met in a sleepy kiss, eyes closed and the nightingale sang a song of rebirth, of other shades of reality they would become familiar with. But for now, sleep was infinite, boundless dreams stitching together the wounds of spells, the terror of confusion.
Light permeated through the components of their created haven, radiant love coated worlds in amity, and the gift of true rest was found, without evasion.