20 February 2015

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9

Once they have packed, Aurora and her three protectors abandon the cottage – travelling by carriage through Strasbourg (where the Pied Piper recently spread dancing mania to its inhabitants) and down the Franco-German trade route, where they reach Paris by nightfall.

The raven, the faeries set free as they'd left. She soars towards the French capital before the carriage arrives, and finds her residence has been taken over by a family of five, much to her dismay. She'd been hoping to regain her vitality through her poutrices, as well as obtain her human disguise from polyjuice – it seems that is not possible anymore, and it isn't as though they'd be selling those wholesale on the market.

In frustrated anger, Maleficent pecks at the cottage window, fracturing it and surprising the family during their dinner, as she flutters away through the city.

20 years has stolen more than just time for her; if she had her full ability then, right beside Aurora, she'd appear in front of the child, and without hesitation, free her from her death – or postpone it beyond her responsibility. Alors, in this incapacitated state..

Non – that time, when she cursed Aurora, she had been so hateful that the bile in her veins seemed to burn right through her skin, that vengeful fire pouring out of her breath. It had been the force of her hatred that has kept the curse at bay from any intervention.

Her hatred that had unconsciously fueled her powers in the first place.

Does she love Aurora with as much love now, as her scathing hatred towards her parents?

Non.

Nothing changes the fact that Aurora is not her child.. or that this one act of love will never redeem her history of hatred – not for her, not in the eyes of the general people. And what should it matter anyway, when-

"Raki.."

His name escapes her beak. This boy, he's now a grown man who she can only imagine about – he must be very handsome, living prosperously in Italy. Will he still be there for her.. once everything is over?

She perches herself atop the Notre Dame cathedral, and strains her eyes to see past the horizons toward Venice. But limited her powers are, and all she sees is the dark fog.

Her heart aches, just longing to be happy with him again.

Waiting up here isn't going to make anything happen. She thinks of travelling back to Gaumont's forests, her old home, where she can rejuvenate herself in private.

Her wings feel so weak..

She arrives at the forest by morning, but it's infiltrated to its core by soldiers, who have set up a stronghold devoted to finding her.

/

In the castle at Paris, Aurora awakens to the sight of her mother and father, kneeling over her by her bed. They do resemble her, both of them – she has her mother's pouty lips, and her father's eyes and nose.

"Aurora.." Charles tearfully whispers, allowing his hand to caress his daughter's hair. Through the blur of his tears, he momentarily sees a resemblance to Maleficent, before he tells her, "You look so beautiful. You'd be any father's dream.. I'm so glad you're back in my arms."

"I know, papa."

They hold each other in a dreamy embrace – lasting as long as all the moments her parents never got to experience, seeing Aurora's innocence as a child, her mood swings in her adolescence, and the days up to her adulthood.

"How about we cook you up a hearty breakfast?" Charles asks. "You must be famished."

Aurora smiles, giving his royal highness a kiss on the hand. "I'd be delighted."

So Charles orders his servants to cook up the best meals they can come up with. Roast chicken, steamed corn and peppered perogies – all for the young lady to eat at the table, while she fills her family in with her hopes of becoming the next Queen. Every word she says is taken in like precious gold, and what stays in their mind is how Aurora reminds them of when they were young. Their futures, entrusted in her.

But the hint of sadness is there in Charles and Odette's eyes, growing more and more noticable as the day goes on, and the shadows pass by from the shifting daylight. Aurora doesn't seem to notice as she is absorbed with all the beautiful things royalty has to offer – trying on the exquisite dresses, being treated to a spa with her mere, and learning to gallop a pony in the royal courtyard.

She's so happy.

Then with all the time remaining, Charles brings in a birthday cake, with a caramel filling and a little wax figurine at the top, resembling Aurora (obviously made by the baker in haste).

He asks her if she has a birthday wish to make.

"It came true already," Aurora goes, willingly forgetting about the prince from the forest, for her heart is ballooning with love – before she blows out the candles in one breath, leaving just one candle lit.

As the beautiful day draws to its close, the sky is awash in vanilla colours, and Aurora is starting to find herself strangely tired and drowsy. She is carried to her room by Charles, whose strength has yet to fade with his advanced age, and it is a small comfort, seeing that she is in no pain, as she lays in bed, tucked in like a young child in her comfy blankets, the last golden sunlight lingering over her through the windows.

"It's such a wonderful day.." Aurora sighs, seeing her father start to openly weep. "I'm glad I got to see you and mama. I can't keep my eyes open.. I'm cold.."

"I love you Aurora," Charles goes, his hands starting to quiver. "I'm sorry I never got to see you for such a long time."

"I love you too.. I want you to.. keep that love in your heart, daddy. Please, so that.. even after I die, we can meet again in heaven."

He is shuddering now in grief, but desperate to maintain grasp on the feelings of today, he tells her, "I know."

And then she nods, one last time, before her eyes droop into sleep.

And Charles is left sobbing into his daughter's hands, no solace from outliving his only child.

..

When he comes out of her room, Odette looks on him wonderingly – if Aurora is still breathing, if the curse Maleficent unleashed on her is a sham, and the glum look on Charles's face tells her everything, and she bursts into tears, hysterically wailing, coming down on her knees on the marble floor.

The faeries come by the scene, and Charles grasps onto Flora's dress, his hands madly clinging onto that one chance – "Can't you faeries save her? Can't you!? All those years, you must have come up with a solution for her life, goddamn you!"

"Calm your senses, my good King," Flora goes, her fingers caressing his tightly clenched hands. "Despair is not the final end; we shall place her in suspended animation, as we've originally let you on, and if you have some hearts at our disposal, we can revive her to live another day – and all the days to come."

"Please.." Odette rises up from her crying. "Aurora's all we have. The hearts, we have several of them, preserved."

"Very good."

While Odette goes to fetch the hearts, the faeries enter Aurora's room, where the princess lies, her face unnaturally peaceful. Merryweather clasps the dead princess's hands together, over the blankets, and places an amathyst stone over Aurora's forehead.

Together, they chant a spell, Flora kneeling by the foot of the bed, and Fauna holding hands with Merryweather over Aurora.

A field expands from the amathyst, enveloping the unwoken beauty.

"That should keep her steady long enough," Flora says, as Charles enters the room, despondently wishing for another minute of his daughter alive.

It is dusk outside, and Maleficent is fluttering unnoticed outside Aurora's bedchambers – it is too late. If it hadn't taken her so long with making the potion for herself (the guards have been on the lookout for black birds), she might have been able to save Aurora.

What are the three faeries doing with her.. oh, they've frozen her body. Maleficent recognises the stasis field – it's an experimental technique devised by the Taoists, to hold something in place for when the right time comes. It's how the 1,000 year old Buddha came to be, but whenever she's tried it, it always results in the irreversible warping of the object. She never really saw the use for it, until now.

Most likely, they'll attempt an open heart surgery.

But the curse doesn't end with just one heart.. the very life force of Aurora has been condemned – her healthy heart gave in to darkness, and so will other hearts put into her body.

The only thing left to do is show up.

So Maleficent blinks into the bedroom and reveals herself – the scorned witch responsible for everything, the very room seemingly darker because of her presence.

Everyone is paralysed by shock, and then the faeries raise their hands in defensive postures, prepared to smite the witch dead upon the slightest gesture.

But the mournful look on Maleficent's face is disarming. She hasn't come here to jeer at this tragedy.

She notices just how old Charles has become – he has white whiskers from his beard, and though she could still make out the youth he once was, it seems that person is long gone now, replaced by this devoted father to that child.

"Maleficent.." He deigns to say her name. "You.. What do you want..? What do you want!? To see me brought low, is that it? You've taken away my dearest Aurora.."

"I.." There's nothing she could say to him that would ever change his mind. She looks at Aurora, whose eyes are closed, and then Charles – the crux of all her desires and hatred. "I wish it didn't turn out this way," she says. "Your daughter.. she is so beautiful. I saw her with my own eyes, at the cottage. She's just like how I want to be.."

"Aurora is nothing like you!" Charles goes, his voice betraying the fact that she's struck something in him. "She has kindness, she beams with happiness and joy. She's able to love.. and she's everything that you aren't!"

(everything I'm not)

"Aren't you so sure?"

For a brief moment which stretches on in subjective time, Charles sees the young Maleficent – as she was then under the evening sunlight. The haunted smile she had, the dark beauty she encapsulated, and the taste of her lips, the ecstasy of holding her when they were wet..

The rage seems to dissipate from his eyes, as a strange tenderness emerges from the recesses of his heart.

"I touched you," Maleficent goes. "Once upon a dream." She is smiling mournfully, one bittersweet tear escaping her eyes.

The faeries look on with bafflement, absolutely unsure what to make of the scene.

"Yes, you did."

And he begins to step forward, towards her, lulled as if hearing a beautiful melody not heard in over 30 years. He understands now why he's been haunted by the memories of her, as hard as he's tried to push them away from his mind.

She is the one who showed him how love can really be – to love, to be loved, to be felt jealous and hatred about, to hate her for how she's become, what she's done, and yet still yearn for her. Is it actually so simple? The one who he's felt the gamut of emotions about..

His hand seems to want to reach out to her, and she raises her gnarly appendage in turn – they almost do touch-

"It's another trickery of Maleficent's!" Flora exclaims, snapping the other faeries out of confusion, and she blasts Maleficent from behind with a jolt of energy, wracking her body. "Your Majesty, do not be lulled in by her sorceries. She's charmed you!"

Charles is interrupted from his fond feelings, and Flora continues, "She killed your Aurora! Your dearest daughter! Cursed her to die at 20! What are you doing falling in love with Maleficent?!"

Maleficent is recovering from the pain, but the other two faeries are quick to cast a field of impotency around her, putting her in a very weakened state before she could react.

To her dismay, she sees the feelings of pain and rage return to Charles. "You're right – I may have had feelings for Maleficent. But those times are long past now. She is going to pay for everything she's wrought. For my daughter's sake, and for everyone's too."

"No.. Non!" Maleficent cries out, trying to reach out to him. "Charles, PLEASE-"

Then the door opens, and Odette steps in – a brief second of apprehending the scene before her, Maleficent curled up beside her victimised daughter. It could not be any more poetic.

"Flora," Charles says, grimacing at the fallen witch, "how long can you hold Maleficent still?"

"Not for long – perhaps an hour or two at maximum."

"Before then, I'll have things ready for her swift execution."

Something breaks inside Maleficent at those words, and all she wants to do is cry for herself – there is truly no love in the world, not for her. Love is but an illusory feeling, fleeting and deceptive.

Queen Odette strides up to Maleficent and spits over her face. "Fuck you."

/

Many townsfolk gather in front of the Hôtel de Ville, the recently built administration building in a flat plaza. The black-hooded executioner is prepared with his halbard, sharpened especially to behead the witch.

As Maleficent is brought to the stake, carried by her arms, the crowd jeer and jest at her through pelted garbage, and dead crows. She keeps her eyes closed, crying, not wanting anyone to see her, but the pain of their rejection she can still hear, as if there is no limit to the fathomless depths she can crumble to.

"Burn this murderess into ashes!"

"Feed her carcass to the crows! She's slain my son!"

The memories swirl in her head, of all the times she has been humiliated and brought low by other people, an inner torment ceaseless in its violent storm.

"Hey, hey! Wake up!" The executioner slaps Maleficent on the cheek, thinking she's fallen asleep with her droopy head and shut eyes.

Then she feels her hands raised up, rope tied around her wrists and fingers, binding her helplessly to the stake. Her stomach gives in to sickness, and she retches bile over her legs and on the kindling set under her feet.

Part of the crowd cringe from being grossed out, while the others take this sight as a sign of complete victory over the object of their fear and loathing.

The three faeries are supervising their spell on Maleficent, making sure that the imposed impotency never wavers until her death. Charles, Odette and the other members of the Parisian nobility stand nearby – there'd usually be a ceremony to dignify the execution, a priest to grant last rites to the guilty, but it is an incredibly rare exception tonight, for they are about to put an end to the personification of evil.

Everyone has fallen silent, while Maleficent stares at the pretty backsides of those human curtains.

"What is about to commence within our kingdom," King Charles tells the public, "will be a great step forward for humanity to stand strong against the forces of evil, and those who willingly submit to malevolence towards our people. Now witness the sword of justice," he gestures towards the executioner, "fall over the head of Maleficent, whose brutal and ghastly crimes will continue no more."

So in the end.. my life has come to this. Look at it. It's morbid. Today I was, tomorrow I die. I'm born and I don't know why. I've lived and suffered and strived – I love, I hate, I move, I admire, I despise..

Why?

"We will grant the guilty no last requests," the magistrate declares. "Whenever you're ready, Henri."

And then I die, and no one will care. No one will ever know that I innocently giggled when my mere patted me on my belly. It's just the things you're found doing while the horde looks on that you shall be despised for.

And Maleficent sees underneath the black hood, those gleeful, beady black eyes of humanity, ready to take its last stomp upon her. The axe is raised, and the executioner holds his tongue out.

It'll all be over soon. It won't hurt (anymore).

And it won't mean anything.

And when he swings the halbard, she notices just how the elongated shaft wobbles, ever so slightly in the air as it descends, the bladed head overweight in slicing the air, expending all its potential energy into kilojoules, all highly concentrated onto that needle-width edge.

Delivered to her neck.

I hate you.

..

My life is meaningless, and every one of you, the inhabitants of my reality are equally meaningless. You're rabble who wander this life for 70 fucking years, and I'll show you how sweet Death will taste. Life is governed by chance and fluctuations, fortune be damned, but Death is the great equaliser of us all.

I destroy you. DESTROY!

A much greater force than the executioner's swing pushes back, tearing the halbard to splinters, and exploding the arms which have held the weapon.

It happens in a split-second, and then in another, the executioner's upper body cannot withstand the sudden acceleration it faces – akin to landing on hard ground after a long fall, and those beady eyes are crushed along with the rest of his skull.

Maleficent's eyes are aglow in green, and she screams out the torments of her heart, and sends everyone around her pummeling away from an explosion.

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone would just die?

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