Warning: femslash. Muriel longs for more power and seeks out a sorceress who may prove too much for her to handle.

This Muriel/Maleficent fanfic is dedicated to NyssaSaraLee. This is your birthday present, dear friend. Since you adore Muriel's character I thought I would have a go at her despite not having seen the Hansel and Gretel film yet. I might come back later to make some changes when I have seen it.

If you enjoy stew and squirrel jokes, look no further. The subtext is very much not subtle. Staffs, shoes, snakes, hair, the world is just too full of sexual connotations. The plot is flimsy.

To readers who are not Nyssa an equally heartfelt: Enjoy.

Maleficent, her castle, Diablo, Muriel and both of their minions do not belong to me. Nor do their rosy-green-grey cheeks, the sweetness of their smiles, the elegance of their hands, the cruelty of their actions.

A warm thank you to the brothers Grimm for penning down all those blissful fairytales.

xxxxx

Grand witch Muriel had learned from experience that when approaching a person possessing magic you need not bother yourself with announcing your arrival. They tend to know of your presence before you reach the door. They also tend to let you know immediately how dearly they do not wish to see you. Such a greeting usually involved an attack of the violent, near deadly sort. When met with a negative reaction it did not do well to scurry away in fear. Muriel herself had developed into an expert on 'keep on marching whatever happens around you'. It also helped to be in complete power and prepared for anything. She held a firm grip on the wand she kept up her sleeve. In a situation as this one your knowledge of defensive spells was invaluable. And surprisingly not needed in this case. She ventured onto the shabby drawbridge. She kept her stride as ruthless as before. The greatest danger she had to face so far was where to place her footing. Granted a wrong step would be fatal with such plunging depths lurking for her on either side. She stepped onto the threshold unscratched and with a tentative placing of the feet. It was rather uncommon for a gate this large to have a threshold. Suspiciously so. Her growing annoyance sored to new heights since this action triggered nothing. The gate remained shut. Muriel's eyes skimmed the building. As many witches' residences the castle in question made a completely desolate impression. The only sign of life was a raven circling high. She hardly believed her eyes as she saw her own hand rise to knock the door. Truth be told she was left with no other civil option. To announce herself with an explosion was not called for when you had not met before. It could be interpreted as a token of ill will. Sorceresses were easily provoked. You don't want to create a new enemy. When you hope for someone to back you up, you need to go about things differently. This called for a speck more tact than the customary witch approach, particularly used when in contact with humans. The joy she found in ruining their houses and terrifying the inhabitants to death. While not as pleasant as her scaring humans routine, rounding up followers did get you places. She rarely felt nervous anymore at seeking out a new challenge.

The tingling feeling of being in the line of fire that usually thrilled her nearing a witch's castle had reformed and upgraded itself into a loud pounding of the heart as a welcome of any sort stayed out. She rapped the door powerfully expecting it to creak and crumble when confronted with enough willpower. The old, tattered, moldy thing was hardly worthy of the noun door. But it did not creak and it did not give way. She considered a forceful persuasion by magic not as strong as to crash the entrance but just strong enough to blow the door open.

xxxx

"So I did catch you at home."

The woman on the throne sat as erect and stern against the stones that she could well have been part of it. Muriel approached her from the side. She had found the entrance to this room quite by chance. After forcing the gate open and crossing many forgotten passages a solid wall lit up and turned translucent like a ghost. When she stepped through she found herself here. The door behind her, she noticed, had been completely walled up long ago. To her right a flight of stairs led to a pit below and before her she saw the throne and woman en profil. She could well imagine a storm raging through this room. It had before, the damaged walls were proof of that. It was drafty here. She could not see these walls ever perish no matter how crumbled the sturdy pillars were or how violent the storm. It certainly was the strongest room Muriel had ever seen. It was also far too grand to contain only two people. She scanned the room. There was no one else. She could not imagine it being like this all of the time. For one there were traces of bonfires in the pit below and weapons scattered onto the floor.

She concluded she was expected. The woman bent her head over the papers on her lap. She ruffled them and cleared her throat.

"You caught me as surely as a fly would catch a spider by entering her web." She rose from her throne. Her eyes crept up to meet Muriel's person. As the Mistress of All Evil she did consider it her duty to at least receive other creatures of evil when they came knocking.

"I assume you have come for this." She held a paper in her long and elegant hand. Now Muriel had seen her fair share of evil. Appearances never did much to impress her. Besides she had been informed in great detail and at length of Maleficent's looks. She been warned for the horns and indeed her intimidating height which she, herself considerably tall, had expected to be exaggerated but now found it wasn't. She had even been warned of her skin-colour and the fierceness of those red lips. A description of her eyes had reached her ears. But not of what she found in those eyes. Hell. Maleficent's most unsettling characteristic to Muriel was nothing as striking as her powers or horns, it were her gleaming yellow eyes. Specifically how alive they looked. Their gleeful glance was maddening. Someone could have told her that. Nothing could have prepared her for that.

"As a matter of fact I do." She did not bother with any kind of addressing. Was it Miss, Mistress, Lady, Queen Maleficent, your majesty, Maleficent the magnificent. That sounded horrid. Muriel, reluctant to acknowledge any other as so-called superior, put such ego stroking pleasantries aside.

Maleficent's rather rude guest, instigating conversation like that when she should wait for her host to address her first, was masked as a human. A dark slender and attractive look. Maleficent thought it unnecessary to hide herself but that was Muriel's choice. She might feel more at liberty in her ruse. She could not be so stupid as to think Maleficent would not know what she was.

There was something familiar about this witch. That vicious warmth of a ruthless and dedicated killer. A quite pleasant radiance really. Maleficent knew witches. It wasn't difficult for her to sniff out a witch's magic. She would recognize them anywhere. They do tend to look alike. They were vile beings. Show-offs too. Their powers were not particularly great but they used what they had to kill for fun in most inventive if unsettling ways. Their greatest magic was nowhere near as complicated or highbrow as a curse. She knew this specimen to be the grand high witch herself on the simple account that she would be the only one who had the audacity to seek Maleficent out. If only witches showed some sign of decorum. The lowly humans for example addressed her with respect and when they barged in like this they had the decency to bring an army with them. Of course all of these formalities were rooted in a deep fear. One thing witches lacked was a healthy dose of fear. This shortcoming tended to get them killed. Witches wrongly assumed they have less to fear of Maleficent. Because as creatures of evil they considered themselves to be on the same side as her. Witches were not her subjects, but they were her inferiors.

When she was certain her contempt toward witches showed on her face, Maleficent tapped her nails to the paper indicating the block letters: WANTED.

"You use a contrary method of tracking someone down. The very kind of posters you are being hunted down with." Ingenious. She had to admire the witches for showing such nerve.

"It works." Muriel was tempted to crack a smile, but it was too soon for that. The challenge had just begun.

"So some scared villager ratted me out. What a surprise. I am truly shocked they would want me out of their lives. My my I trust you rewarded the unlucky traitor handsomely, and after you ate him you have now come to claim your prize."

Maleficent waited a moment for Muriel to present her speech. She did not speak. Maleficent supposed her silence was part of some controversial tactic. Or she had failed to recognize her cue.

"I presume you are one in a leading position, the self-proclaimed grand witch." Maleficent did not care about her name. It did not matter. If you had seen one witch you had seen them all.

"None other." Muriel remained calm and confident in her unplanned silence. She felt intimidated and the last thing she wanted was for Maleficent to know that.

Maleficent's form lingered in the proximity of her throne while talking. She did put the word tall to shame. "I don't believe we have met before. I have however the misfortune of having heard of you. Despite what you may be led to believe I don't live entirely cut off from the world. Has the witch community become so desperate you need my help?" People only ever came to her when they needed her magic or wanted to destroy it.

"You might benefit from my plans."

"No." The word sounded almost tender. "Your goals of invincibility and immortality are childlike wishes."

"You have something better?"

Typical witch thinking there, always out to get everything for themselves. They want to suck the last drop of power out of you.

"There is a conflict brewing."

"And what conflict might that be?" The tone did not invite an answer.

Maleficent strode forwards, taking in the witch closely. Muriel tried not to be too impressed by the icy way she conducted herself and those chiseled features. She held out her hand, handing Muriel back the parchment. "I decline."

Muriel's stomach knotted itself together in some unknown fear. She reached out herself, slower than she expected. Maleficent's fingers brushed hers or she brushed Maleficent's.

"You are making a mistake."

Grand and formal as the handing back gesture was Muriel came to herself a second later thinking, Was that it? She asked herself, did you expect lightning flashes? She did.

Muriel did not take her exit cue in much the same way she had not taken her introduction speech. Maleficent called for a handful of minions to show her out.

"You should not have taken the trouble of seeking me out. Remove yourself from my land and restrain yourself and your kindred from seeking my presence ever again."

Her creatures dragged themselves out of the doors, cracks in the walls and floor. Muriel had waited for them to show. The absent guards who should have let her in or protect the castle and attempt to keep her out. Maleficent was not the type who was about to answer her own door. What else do you have minions for? She heard the guards stammer some excuse for never being where they should be. "I'll deal with you later. Get the girl and show her out." Muriel's eyes widened she had not been called 'girl' in ages.

She could not see why an enchantress of her caliber would chose to live in seclusion with these miscreants. They were perfectly incapable servants. It wasn't as though she could not keep better company. Muriel had to make do with what she got, this woman could summon demons. Why she did not get herself other subjects was a question Maleficent asked herself on a daily basis. These creatures messed up everything. The answer was that her gloating and scheming would be less enjoyable if a greater number of intelligent creatures surrounded her. Hell forbid anyone who would question her. She had one partner in crime and that was Diablo.

"A near impossible to reach castle on a cliff," Maleficent sighed to herself. "eternal tempest and lightning surrounding it, there is only so much you can do to keep people away."

Muriel drew her wand like a dagger to the five monsters coming for her and blasted them into oblivion.

"I am not taking no for an answer."

"I believe that to be your problem, mistress Witch.

Maleficent had turned her back on her. The audience was over. She thought this had nothing to do with her. Muriel could not stand how powerful this woman was and how weary of life she sounded.

"What will they do when they run out of witches? Target other child murderers."

"I will not fight your quarrels. You lack proper motivation." Conviction on the other hand this witch had plenty of.

"You lack an opportunity to show your true potential. For hell's sake you curse children over slight errors of state to keep yourself busy." Muriel took a gigantic risk by criticizing her. This was true enjoyment.

"Will you be gone?" Maleficent's tone of voice could easily be confused with shouting. "There is no reason for an alliance."

"How little reason do you normally need to burn a village to the ground?"

"I have reasons behind most of my actions. They do not however concern witches."

"Oh but I would like to know." She grinned a Cheshire. This base behavior evoked a smirk with Maleficent.

"You would do anything for a crumb of power."

"Your power makes you lonely. I experience the same thing. The more power I receive… we all have to make sacrifices." She did not even bother to sound sincere. "I seek to unite all those frowned upon, forced to live excluded as you and I." This tactic had little luck of succeeding with Maleficent, since she clearly lived here of her own choice. But there could be harm in trying so Muriel went for it. She wanted to make an impression on the woman and prove just how evil she was. She knew how to promote her selfish make-believes to attract more witches and she knew how to justify her by-human-standards crimes. She wondered if she should she try and scare her. That was the ultimate challenge after all. To frighten the Mistress of All Evil. If only. Muriel was intrigued by the flights of fancy that were taking over her mind. "Power always creates a distance. You can try to fill the hole by using that power to your advantage. But time and time again you find yourself alone."

"You are in no position to draw parallels to me. There are those fairies who can change themselves into a squirrel and then tell me we have the art of shape shifting in common. One shared talent does not make us alike. Don't be a squirrel or I might do something terrible to you." As Muriel had foreseen, although there was truth in the loneliness that was being inflicted upon Maleficent, this was an dead track for now.

Muriel held out the poster again, offering it back.

"I am no witch." But what if you were, Muriel thought. She would make a glorious witch. "You can come up with your own solutions. A quick scare, that is what witches are skilled at. I am not tempted to mix in your affairs." She spoke lazily and set the paper aflame. The specks of ash it left behind flew onto Muriel.

She nudged her pretty head pleasantly and smiled. "Join me. If just to trample one castle. To enjoy being evil."

Maleficent opened her mouth when a new patch of miscreants entered their soon to be battleground - The witch had a fighting spirit. Maleficent could see this turn into some sort of challenge. -

"Well?!"

"Mistress," grunted a minion. "we err found this."

"You came by broomstick," She snatched the broom from her minions' paws before Muriel could take a leap at it. "how quaint." Muriel could not make out if Maleficent was mocking her or not.

"We hmm hmm persewe"

"persuaded them" His mate continued.

"The two witches standing outside?"

"yes yes, Mistress, into leaving the stick."

"to us"

"yes."

"Those goons couldn't do that." She had brought her most trusted colleagues with her. They weren't nearly as talented as she was but they could not be overpowered by these clumsy things.

"They have." Maleficent was smiling broadly. "Why do you think they were in such a small number to receive you? You should come better prepared to take on the Mistress of All Evil." Muriel picked up a haughty twitch of her lips. A proud woman, of course. You made that title up yourself, didn't you? An accusation that would make for terrible consequences and was best left unspoken. She wanted to steadily provoke her, not have her kill her on the spot.

"It will be safest for me to keep this." The broomstick disappeared. Muriel glowered.

"I will have you. I came to find a strong ally and I am not leaving without. "

Maleficent laughed. "You will have a powerful enemy."

She had refused her offer too many times. Muriel would take her by force. She flung herself towards the sorceress. She was struck in the face by lighting. The witch gasped. Maleficent caught a glimpse of a broken face before Muriel turned her head away, cracked her neck and then she witnessed the witch's face in all its glory. The strange anger induced cracks faded again. Muriel fashioned herself a grin. She was in mid attack when she was struck down completely.

Having witnesses her reintroduction to the floor Maleficent looked down on her with half closed eyelids. "Is this all you had to say to me?"

Muriel got up as quickly as she could. She scowled. She had enough of the lightning erupting staff. She tossed it out of Maleficent's hand by flicking her own wand, causing not a small bit of surprise on both sides. She lunged at Maleficent who caught her by the arms. She stretched Muriel against her. She had taken her wrists in her hands, raised them high and took the wand from her by sliding it up into her own hands. Maleficent kept her hold on her. Her stringy unyielding figure loomed over the witch. Muriel struggled hard, she kicked the other woman and when at long last she believed she felt Maleficent's hands slip from her wrists, a set of red coloured talons gripped her waist. The single handed grip on her wrists stayed relentless. The other arm slid its way around her corset. Her spells muffled before they could take form.

"You don't want my help. You just want a dragon." Maleficent talked to the top of her head and her shiny brown hair.

"Take her to the dungeon."

She smote the witch into the pit where a growing group of goons gathered. Muriel landed violently on her back. The teethy brown-grey collection leaped into action as for a celebration. "Don't jump on her, I want her alive." There were ropes and monsters everywhere for a moment. The next she was tied up entirely. They hauled her to her feet. So this is what it was like to be taken captive. The only thing she had to keep her focused on the moment was the banging at the back of her head. As she was forced through the dark hole door leading to more stairs she felt her spirit come shamefully close to unconsciousness.

xxxxxx

Muriel dwelled in a stunned state. Her sole company in this conscious state of sleep was the darkness around her. The dark was something she was accustomed to. In fact her current lair consisted for a great deal out of darkness. Witches live and thrive in the dark. They inhabit caves, castles and gingerbread houses, but that was a disturbing option Muriel preferred not to dwell on. Witches feel most comfortable in an environment where they can make other people's fears come true. Muriel herself was a dark forest type.

The thick cool air of the dungeon made her pleasantly lightheaded. She could feel at home here, in different circumstances. Witches did not take well to being kept in captivity. A situation that mixes witches with dungeons tends not to have a pleasant outcome for the non-witch party. Muriel did not feel particularly troubled or threatened by what was to come. Her confidence had not faltered because of the complications Maleficent added by overpowering her and locking her up. A witch was in control at all times. She trusted her intelligence and cunning to come up with a suitable plan when the ideal moment presented itself. She had a penchant for improvising. It had been the stem of many of her most original and cruelest crimes. Besides Muriel could appreciate a challenge. She so rarely encountered one these days.

It is almost a luxury when your body feels too numb to notice the chains from which you hang from a wall. She was not particularly bothered by being imprisoned. She could even forget she was imprisoned as long as the room remained dark. She could nearly convince herself she was sleeping. Her sole discomfort, that which made her reluctant of being held there for hours on end, was the sting provided in her right foot. Her tormentors had pulled her up so high against the wall that her shoes only just touched the floor. She cursed her itching footwear. All she wanted was to wriggle her high heeled shoes off but then she would lose what little grip on the floor she had.

Maleficent took her time not caring about her prisoner. Muriel had long since past the point of patient waiting. Her mind now lulled away into dullness. In places like this time becomes like dust. It is omnipresent and irrelevant. There was no way of or point in keeping track of lost meaningless moments. She only had the occasional rumblings of thunder and lightning flashes to distract her. Even those did not stay a novelty for long. Such disconcerting omens were nothing out of the ordinary in this place. They did therefore not indicate anything. She wondered at the emotion behind a particularly loud crack of a lighting flash upstairs that possessed the relentless strength to reach down into her prison –the white light struck her face painfully-. The flash could be absent of meaning or it could be the product of Maleficent's jubilations or frustrations. In the slight possibility of it being the former Muriel found material to keep her mind entertained a while longer. Any sound of the creatures scrambling and sorceress yelling upstairs was muted by distance and darkness. Only the noises of the endless storm carried down. Maleficent could be screaming or laughing away above. Muriel profoundly wished she was doing something. If she was merely sitting or walking up and down her throne room as every other day, Muriel would take that as a personal insult. Of course there was no way to know.

Stingy and regular footsteps reached Muriel's ears. Maleficent was approaching the dungeon. The witch struggled in her chains. She felt she should at least make an effort at this point. She did not hear the door open. She ceased her futile chain wrestlings when a spindly black silhouette was painted against the dusky grey beyond the door. A torch lit itself in Maleficent's presence. It carried a green flame. A shimmer of buttery yellow spread across the wall. The room instantly became more foreboding.

Maleficent 's intense eyes registered that her prisoner had taken on her true form in her current state of being stretched out and strapped to a wall. The satisfaction of her victory shone through in a small almost undetectable smirk as she entered the dungeon. The light blazed fiercely. Maleficent placed herself before her prisoner. Her hands folded regally over her precious staff's sphere. She took every detail in with obvious glee. Muriel formed not an altogether repugnant sight, in comparison to other witches she had encountered.

"How is my guest?" Maleficent would call her a guest. How civil she remained to one chained up. There was a viper waiting to strike in that guise of benevolence.

The snake's stare was upon her. Muriel suffered through the tension untroubled at first. She enjoyed being looked up at by her own witches and feared by humans. Neither of those sentiments would be shared by Maleficent. She felt on display before this identity.

At Muriel's lack of response Maleficent stepped forward. The lights dimmed at her will to a more tolerable intensity. Muriel had to hold her breath in surprise at how sudden and how close the woman stood to her. She knew how unpredictable those behaved who lived secluded. They avoided physical contact whatever the cost, the cost usually being the other person's death. In Maleficent's case being on her own made her do whatever the hell she wanted. Her hand reached for the witch's face. Muriel hissed to take the situation back in her own hands or at least give one of them that impression.

Maleficent seemed tickled by the frightening hiss that erupted from her ghastly black mouth. This witch was too used to people being scared of her and every well practiced act she had in her repertoire.

A cold hand grasped Muriel's chin, Maleficent's monstrous face gave nothing away but a narrowing of the dangerous eyes. The appearance of witches was definitely more crooked when angered. Maleficent watched Muriel's anger peak in her blazing blue eyes. She imagined many had succumbed to the strength of those bright eyes. Her spider-spindly fingers traced the uneven skin of the witch's jaw and cheeks. Muriel decided this creature could get a staring competition if she kept scrutinizing her like this. By the time that thought formed Maleficent was no longer looking at her eyes. Her gaze drifted away to the porcelain cracked skin she had set out to touch. She noticed Muriel's violent hissing had left a speck of black slime behind at her mouth. Maleficent took the fabric of her sleeve between her fingers and wiped it carefully away. She suspected the witch would soon resort to other unbecoming rebellious acts of those held in powerless situations such as spitting on her captor. Maleficent drew herself up to her full height again. Allowing Muriel a good view of her long neck. Muriel could no longer meet her gaze due to the difference in height combined with the strange diagonal angel Maleficent moved into, but she would not let her eyes release this figure. She had to break her. Maleficent stood by her prisoner's side. Her face hovered down to rest on the side of Muriel's head. The touch of human hair brushed against her cheek. For a moment Maleficent was at peace. Muriel shook her head away, the only body part she could properly move. She would bite too if she had a good chance to. She heard a chuckle from Maleficent who reached up to lengthen or unwind the chains hanging above the witch with a simple spell. She drew her hands away. The chains hurriedly rolled down.

Muriel fell down abruptly. She slid down the length of Maleficent's black robes. Her irritated foot came in too sudden contact with the floor below. She cried out. She realized how sore her throat was. She quickly removed her shoe. It was not an easy task. The feeling returned very slowly to her limbs. She had most certainly twisted her ankle. She rubbed her foot as she would when she was trying to make someone feel sorry for her and thus trick them into approaching her. It still felt like make-believe. Only her foot really did hurt this time. She did not think for a moment that the Mistress of All Evil would fall for something as pity. She would have to come up with something better than a bruised foot. Her only hope lay in getting the sorceress to come near her again. It would have to be a physical fight for her to stand a chance against Maleficent's powers.

When Muriel looked up her eyes went to the bench by another wall. The bench was for captured persons of standing. Maleficent felt more obliged to make a good impression with them than with a witch. She had not been given that privilege. Maleficent looked absolutely frigid but her eyes sparkled at Muriel's realization of the bench being out of her reach. Such little torments was what Maleficent enjoyed most. Depriving her of the comfort of sitting or to give another example induce a mean prick from a spindle. Maleficent had moved away from the witch. Her black cloak swished back to where she first stood. For a moment Muriel believed she would leave. Panic rose. She had a chance now she had her hands free. She tried to stand. If she failed Maleficent would leave her there to continue trying and failing until she returned. She had to gain her attention before she turned away from her. She would not let her leave and not give her prisoner's predicament another thought.

"You didn't take any more prisoners."

"No." She could sense a hint of a smile.

"You must not like witches much. Did you kill them all?"

"Those who insisted on perishing by my hand." She had the most graceful straight stance Muriel had ever seen. Maleficent gave an interpretation to talking with your hands that was entirely her own. Her body would not move an inch. She could have been a statue. Only the hands would waver at times to accentuate her words. The effect was hypnotizing.

Muriel shrugged in indifference. Her thoughts did not go out to her kin. They were focused on her own survival. "So you say. "

"I have no need for a coven in my home. One witch is quite enough."

She had fallen again but believed she had masked this weakness well by keeping the conversation going. Maleficent leered down at her. "I am not entirely coldhearted, Muriel." Not only had she defeated her colleagues, she had acquired knowledge of her name as well. It had not been theirs to give. Muriel would have a talk with any unfortunate survivors later. On a lower lever she contemplated what Maleficent would do to her. Subject her to witch trials. She deemed that exceptionally cruel, maybe that is what made it likely. However it involved too much social contact for Maleficent's taste. Death was a possibility. A fair price for challenging her on her own ground. Not that she intended not to struggle. She would beat this sorceress to a pulp.

Maleficent took her leave. Knowing very well that Muriel would do everything in her power to stop her. "You know who I am, you know of my reputation, listen to me!"

Muriel pounced forward until the chains stopped her and forced her to crash down. She took hold of what she could reach of Maleficent's long robes which had a lot of fabric dragging behind for effect. Without her wand her powers were significantly lessened. Her pounce on Maleficent had appeared almost comical. Maleficent stood and watched. Manners would dictate she spoke now. Needless to say she did not. Muriel overestimated herself. After years of playing with villagers and wild witches she believed herself all-powerful. It was almost endearing.

The fabric Muriel was holding slipped from her grasp, spelled to do so. Maleficent paced up and down. Muriel watched her. She felt a conflicting tension rise. Whose turn was it to poke the other? The moment did not ask for a direct approach. She would have to craft a plan with more cunning. Long-term plans weren't her forte. She liked to have immediate results. Maleficent saw the witch lurk at her staff. Similar to a witch's wand a staff served to amplify one's magic. It is a highly personal object tightly tied to its mistress' magic. Maleficent strode to the bench. She placed her staff there to rest against the wall safely out of Muriel's reach. She did not want the witch to burn her hands, which undoubtedly would happen when she attempted to take it.

She approached the fallen witch. She was just as imposing without the staff as with it. In the same manner she was still equally imposing when she indulged the witch by leaning down.

"You are under the false impression that we have something to discuss." In this shade her face appeared as ashen as the skin of a witch.

Muriel grabbed her snake neck. She pulled her down further with one of the nastiest grimaces Maleficent had ever seen in her considerable lifespan. Maleficent crouched down before her. It was a stiff movement. Muriel wanted to know if she was always this rigid. She had the kind of body that came with a natural stiffness. The witch enjoyed the suspicious look given to her. She tilted her head with a confident self-awareness. Her lips lightly touched Maleficent's. It was not before she had done this that she felt Maleficent had waited for it to happen. Part of her had been holding its breath until this moment. Indeed the green skinned monster kissed back. The hand Muriel kept in her neck remained as forceful as before though its intent had changed from overpowering an enemy to keeping her close. A brief thud could be heard when Maleficent's knees met the floor. Muriel forced her clenched jaw open. Maleficent's mouth managed to be more sour than any apple. She made an involuntary face and had to keep herself from pulling away. In admitting this weakness she had handed her control of the situation over to the straight-backed woman kissing her. Her tongue, not as cold as her skin, was a possessive one. Muriel's hands dug forcefully into her shoulder blades to gain back said power. She was torn somewhere between holding onto her and pushing her away. She tried to force her lower to the floor. The feel of Maleficent stayed impassive under her pressure applying hands. Her form unswayed, stronger than steel it seemed. It did not give in. She rather gave the impression she had nothing to give in to. Muriel bit her thin lower lip. The witch cringed at how sour it was. She had one gratifying piece of knowledge that made her persevere. The taste of her mouth was not the most agreeable either. A kiss from Muriel was enough to make the bravest humans run screaming for its life and provide it with nightmares and trauma for what time it had left on this miserable world. Both women broke away from the awful taste. She would not have thought Maleficent to be out of breath by looking at her, feeling her rapid breath on her skin told her otherwise.

"Well." said Maleficent. She sat down, her legs folded. Her hands rested in her lap. She was still positioned higher than Muriel. The witch studied her face from this nearby. Her primal fascination went to her sharp jawline. She wondered how such narrow bone structure could be so hard and unyielding. The elegance of her glass cut features enhanced by her point of view. They do say evil is pretty. She doubted whoever coined the phrase was thinking of Maleficent at the time. She could think of a hundred better suited adjectives to describe the Mistress of All Evil and none of them would be considered pleasant according to humans. To witches however her powers and appearance were a dream come true.

Maleficence sat there patiently waiting for Muriel to make her next move. The witch had not removed her hands yet from her waist. Maleficent was aware of the fact that when Muriel traced her from shoulders to waist by the end of their embrace, she had been searching for her wand in the folds of her dress. It was of no use. Maleficent was no fool. She did not have Muriel's wand on her. She did not mind Muriel not knowing that. The woman was as belligerent as her kisses. The witch nipped forward for her lips to caress Maleficent's jaw. Her arms deliberately reached around her completely. The hands joined at the back of her waist no doubt exchanging chains. Wrapping her up in spare chains would not help her cause, but she had to give her points for trying. Her next move would be to wind a chain around her neck and strangle her. Maleficent stood up. The chains slid from her making it clear they opposed no threat to her, nor did Muriel.

Maleficent walked over to the bench for more fortunate prisoners who were allowed some rest. The kiss left a bitter aftertaste. She took her staff in hand and sat down. Holding her staff while seated she was the image of power and of a perfect hostess. She helped herself to some tea. The cup simply appeared in her hand. She did not offer any to her prisoner of course.

She was pleased Muriel's pasty skin did not melt away to a more humanly complexion. She was in no mood to be intentionally seduced. Instead she witnessed one hell of a glare coming from the witch.

"What is the matter?"

"My foot is sprained." Muriel sneered.

"Never mind." Maleficent sipped her tea.

Muriel muttered something along the lines of "better start caring or be damned for all eternity." She was rubbing her foot again pretending she had hurt herself as much as she actually had. Maleficent shifted in her spot fascinated by her prisoner. She glanced over at the discarded shoe. Muriel took the other one off as well. Her dress breathed with her. The feathers enveloping her shoulders wavered at her neckline. Maleficent had not allowed herself to be this distracted since that time Aurora's mother asked her over for tea. The then fresh young bride to king Stefan, kind and solemn and delicately beautiful, believed it would be in everyone's interest to befriend the scourge of the country. How well that had turned out. She had been reduced or elevated, in any case kept at a distance, last time they met with a 'your excellency'. The real cream in her treatment as a stranger was offered by that one sentence in which fonder feelings shimmered. "And you are not offended?" Why yes, your majesty I was. Maleficent had counted on her to say something of the sort. It was so like her to publically show compassion to the most evil creature in the kingdom. How the people must have adored her for this bravery. Ah well that was in the past. She had made sure she broke her heart in return by repaying her 'kindness' with a curse.

Maleficent calmly drank her tea. This moment did feel like a conversation though there was no talking. She had even inched closer to the edge of the bench. She was pleased to see the witch had not given up on her occasional defiant hiss approach. When her cup was empty and disappeared, her hand clasped the edge of the bench in suspense. She slowly rose to leave.

She pulled up the abundant chains again with a small gesture of the hand. This chased Muriel closer to the wall but she could remain seated. A courtesy from the Mistress of All Evil.

Maleficent stood pensively beside the door, her hand holding the key. She looked behind her at Muriel once more before the torch light extinguished itself. Only the faint poisonous glow of her staff remained before that too dimmed. The door was locked.

xxxxx

It is, or it should be, common knowledge that when captured witches are at their most dangerous. As the body weakens they become more inventive and vigorous. So far that promise held truth. They would abandon any shred of moral they might against all odds possess. Maleficent was damned if she did not take a moment for herself to have a taste of this and possibly exploit it.

It was near dawn when Maleficent glided over, where others would have to climb, the stairs to her private chambers in the high tower of the castle. She faced the ice cold wind unchallenged. It could do wonders to clear her mind. Diablo flew out of the darkness of the sky. He perched upon the back of her wrist. It was his habit to bid her goodnight.

"Did you find more witches? No. No matter." She tapped his beak. "You may find some tomorrow."

Her pet flew away before she reached the arch. He was whimsical like that. She usually woke to find him napping on her bedpost. He had done such excellent work today rounding up the witches. It had proven a full day's work to clear her land. The two witches positioned nearest to her castle had been caught first, at Muriel's arrival. Maleficent's goons had been sent out at the time to track down the other witches under Diablo's watchful eye. The high witch had stationed all witches under her power in the wide proximity of Maleficent's residence. She had thus provided Maleficent with the most fun evening she had in ages. It had not been a stretch to drive Muriel's fellow conspirators out of her land. She had kept the finest specimen. The one responsible. She surely deserved a reward or, leaning on the extravagant side, a thank you. Certainly Diablo agreed with her on that. Maleficent would think up a suitable reward the next day. She was after all renowned for her excellent choice in gifts.

She passed through the void of an absent door leading to her chambers. She did not glance at her humble and gloomy room. It was not territory another would dare enter. She slipped out of her elaborate yet comfortable gown- the only garment she deemed fit for her figure and standing- and retired to bed.

It was one of those rare occasions in bed she found herself strangely annoyed by the softness of her own skin. She had to give up on sleep after a while. It was clear to her she would find no rest this night. She flung her long legs out of bed. She reflected as she sat on the side of her bed, looking onto her folded knees. Her thoughts went to the staff standing motionless by her bedside. She could curse the witch. Cursing someone to share your bed ranked pretty high on the ladder of Evil. She did feel such an act would be degrading to her person and might end up fracturing her self-respect. Maleficent rose from her bed. She donned her robe back on. She left her staff behind. Why waste a perfectly good spell when a simple order would suffice.

Diablo greeted her by the arch. He had foreseen her return. The raven settled onto her shoulder. He ruffled his wings impatiently making an excited impression.

Maleficent's creatures were not unused to her stalking the night and visiting the prisoners when sleep eluded her. They stayed well clear of her. Even so she could sense discord amongst them. Diablo screeched as they reached the prison cell.

"Calm now." Maleficent tucked him away with a gentle touch. "We mustn't get too excited lest we be disappointed."

The Mistress of Poise entered the already open cell. She found Muriel on the floor again. She sat as near to the door as the chains allowed her. She yoked the chains from time to time to see if they truly did reach as far as they could. Maleficent greeted her with a small nod acknowledging her presence in the bloody mess she had made from her prison.

"I told them not to come near you. They never listen."

"They are idiots."

"Yes."

Muriel's magic seemed less exhausted than on their previous encounter. A healthier skin-colour had returned to her cheeks and most cracks had faded. Perhaps she changed her appearance to look less conspicuous, but then Maleficent already knew her at her worst.

"You got the remaining guards in quite a dither." She looked at the torn up victims at Muriel's feet. A witch and her petty pleasures. Muriel licked the stew from her fingers. She had persuaded the guards to break the lock on the door and share their food with her. She got her hands on the guard's stew and his hands had fallen off. Another had lost its head when he approached her. It was all rather tragic really.

When dealing with humans Muriel would spin tales of innocence. She would put on the performance of a lifetime. With minions this did not work, they were far too fond of tormenting the innocent. They would however believe anything. They were the most susceptible creatures to trickery. You could undo the few certainties they had with one sentence. If you doubted their orders they would start doubting them too which quickly amounted to them breaking down completely. Really you just had to tell them what to do. It is what they are used to. And then lunge at them when you lured them close enough.

"How is your foot?"

"Better."

"It won't do you any good to rely on tricking my goons to set you free." Maleficent was clearly smiling under her iron tone of voice. "Get up."

She wouldn't be surprised if those stew and blood stained fingers had been nibbling on the remains as well. Those were Diablo's dish now.

"Why have you come?"

"I came to make you an offer."

"My freedom." Muriel joked.

"Yes, your freedom. That is a thorny issue. You see, dear, your kin abandoned you. There will be no counterattack to free you. They would not dare come back. You have however won my admiration by inspiring others to unite and follow you. To stir this much loyalty in witches is practically a miracle. Regretfully there is no true devotion amongst witches. Not even, or should I say especially not, to their high witch and leader. If you return to them, you shall return in disgrace." Muriel recognized she had failed in this endeavor of recruiting Maleficent to her cause and it had cost her. But only in the eyes of her fellow witches. She did not see it as defeat. "We can both imagine what they would do to you. If you leave this place to fend for yourself you cannot stay hidden from witches and man alike for long. The peasant mobs will hunt you down." Muriel's reaction she stayed out. She felt another option coming.

She cocked her head. "Perhaps I went in to provoke the beast and the others will return when I have tamed it."

Maleficent burst into laughter.

"Your witches believed I owned a dragon. As anyone else in existence they could see the appeal in keeping one. You were going to win me over and if that failed the others would try and steal the creature from me. It was a very poorly thought-out plan. You are the only one who was aware that I am the dragon."

Muriel took that as a compliment. "Were they terribly shocked?"

"I don't turn dragon for anyone who would like to see."

"Then they presented no challenge to you?"

Maleficent arched an eyebrow. "What makes you think a loose dragon would be easier to control than I am?"

"I am talented with animals." Muriel deflected, more or less truthfully. She had not taken on any animals greater than a hound.

Maleficent knew the grand witch's powers were no greater than any other witch's. Yet she would not crush such admirable confidence as Muriel's.

"I don't consider myself to be unfair." She paced the small span of the prison. Muriel searched for legs to show underneath those robes.

"Name your price"

"Price." Maleficent bared her teeth in a smile. "It is not a price. You gave me pleasure. Let me give you something in return. You are to stay here under my protection. That is what you came for isn't it? To save your own skin."

The dragon presented an eternity of being locked up as a gift. This was a skilled creature of evil. Muriel did not feel inclined to inform about what gruesome fate was to be hers if she refused. Death obviously.

"It shows good manners to give me payment for an eventful day. I have no choice but to accept. On one condition."

Maleficent sighed a sigh completely opposite to a resigned sigh. "Oh conditions are they here already?"

"No more dungeon."

Maleficent bent down to cup her face, stroking her chin between her thumbs. "I believe you know my price." She mocked.

"It would be unwise of me to decline such a handsome payment." Maleficent glared at the returned mockery.

As she predicted witches had no moral standards.

"If you feel for this… I do insist you stand up."

Maleficent grasped her wrist, pulling her up. The redundant chains snapped. Muriel stood if somewhat shaky.

Maleficent was of half a mind to push her wrists against the wall. But she had promised no more dungeon. She was a woman of her word.

She let go of the witch allowing her to find her own balance. The witch was happy it seemed.

"Come along." Maleficent waited by the door. The command was vaguely directed at both Muriel and Diablo. Diablo let go of his bloody gains and flew to his mistress.

Maleficent guided Muriel out of the room. The witch had put a good fright in Maleficent's servants. They shied away from the door to let them pass. Their mistress held a hand in the back of Muriel's neck. Her fingers knotted in her hair. It was an affectionate echo of Muriel's grip around her own neck earlier. Maleficent smiled like a snake, a coy smile but still frighteningly snakelike. She did not nor would she later comment on any preference regarding Muriel's appearance. The witch could take on whichever form she happened to prefer. Maleficent offered her assistance up the stairs. She slipped her back her wand too. Diablo greeted them to Maleficent's chambers by one of his most malicious grins. It was then Maleficent knew who Muriel had reminded her of. Her beloved pet.