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11

There is Raki, now a father of two boys living down in Monaco (Monte Carlo). Over the years, wanderlust has carried him across Italy, wanting to find the joy and freshness of living that he's felt, being with Maleficent. He's picked up Italian, and learned how to become a travelling merchant, selling various trinkets and toys from town to town.

He's fallen in love with a pretty girl, Vittoria, whose olive skin and forthcoming candor makes an alluring beauty. She told him some of the goods he'd been selling were duds, and if anyone caught him on this, he'd be in major troubles.

Where he is shy, she is confidently outgoing.

Where she faces insecurity, he advises her in gentle confidence.

And eventually, finding the scenery of Monaco promising, despite the political instability of the region, they'd settled into a glamourous home which overlooks the port and the waters, and it's a perfect spot for Raki as a merchant, because tons of foreign goods are delivered every day, and he can trade those off for reasonable prices elsewhere – which earns him more than enough to live comfortably with his family.

He is 36-years old now, and yet.. not even the joy he feels now can eclipse his memories of her. The woman who first touched his heart. It's difficult to explain – it isn't as though he's unhappy or dissatisfied to be with Vittoria, but at the same time, there is an incompleteness.

She would ask him why he stares out the windows some nights, or wander off on walks by himself to the forested regions. He'd never have a good answer, besides that he wants moments in solitude to contemplate somethings.

Because he is afraid of mentioning Maleficent to her. Afraid of telling her all the feelings Maleficent's brought out in him, that he doesn't feel with her. Afraid of ruining their marriage with jealousy for another woman.

When he finds himself lost amidst the trees, he would half-heartedly wish to see the coloured smoke of the cauldron again, and feel the mystery of stepping into the precipice of another realm, where anything seemed possible. A childish wonder, that he can only look upon now with a regrettable nostalgia. He doesn't recall the last words he's exchanged with her – except that it felt like a goodbye, and the intoxication of her promise.. living together with him one day, happily.

He tells his children it's good to have dreams, and to imagine them as real as the skies they see, the very ground they stand on now. As you get older, life's harshness can deprive you of innocence, but the fondest memories of the past thrives on.

He watches over them, making sure that they are happy.

When they ask him if he has a Dad and a Mum, Raki tells them yes – everyone has one, even the mammalian animals. That is how life goes on, even after they eventually die, for children are a living memory that their parents, and their parents before them have existed.

"And if you don't have any children?"

Then others may remember you fondly, and the good things that you've done. Or eventually, you'll be forgotten.

/

One day, after a week of deliberation, Raki tells his family about his visit to France to see an old, treasured friend. He does not mention Maleficent's name – only the fact that without her, he would not be here with his family today. It would be a private journey to reconcile his present with his past, and find an answering resolution to the haunted moments Vittoria would see in his eyes.

"I hope you'll find what you are seeking," she tells him, tearfully smiling.

He takes off on horseback, with some cash and a few days of rations.. not knowing when exactly he'd come back from visiting his memories.

The path is misty under the morning rays, a fuchsia sun under a teal dawn. He'd pass by trees where his mere presence sets the perching birds off into the skies, and the birds would appear like shadowy butterflies heading somewhere into the distance. The days travelling become alive, pregnant in vividness as he doesn't speak a word – he still remembers his kiss, with her, like electricity in his body when everything else disappears outside of her sensation.

At nights, his body would ache noticably after hours of riding; when he's moving, he is kept going by the promise embedded in his heart, and when he's resting, he's restless for the next day to come, so he can go on looking for her.

Finally, at night, his horse gives in from the constant trotting, and his rations run out, so Raki has to make a brief detour to Paris, where he sees smoke rising from within the city walls, and a few people fleeing down the opposite direction.

"What's happening in Paris?" he asks a panicked old man.

"It's Maleficent! She's wreaking havoc inside the city, and I for one am not about to die at her hands, believing in His protection. If I were you, I'd run as far, far away from here."

But Raki heads forth anyway, dismounting his horse and tying it to a nearby tree.

"It's your funeral, boy! Have you lost your mind?"

".. I have to find her," Raki goes, running to the gates.

/

The night skies seem to bleed red, and Maleficent turns her attention to the Notre-Dame Cathedral – densely packed with over half the population of Paris. The others have went to St Germain-des-Prés, or St Chapelle in the centre of the city.

Since this is where the King and Queen are sheltered, the faeries have devoted themselves primarily to the defense of this church – they're watching over the other shelters too, but France will have no future without the royal bloodline. Even if the new ruler is successfully able to take over rulership, the country's political power will be cut short, not to mention how devestating the blow will be to the people's morale.

Maleficent isn't aware of the royal presences in the cathedral. She does notice however the charms which have been cast to protect the borders of the Notre-Dame – it's those three blasted winggirls.

"Maleficent!" Flora yells, floating over the spires. "How we pity you. You only know hate in your heart, and you seek to inflict as much suffering and destruction upon us all. Why? What have we ever done to you to deserve your wrath?"

"Everything.." Maleficent clasps her hands tightly, as if they're wrapped around the throat of everyone. "This world is ugly to me, and all its inhabitants. You want to love someone, only for them to betray you and leave you in the end. You reach out to people, only for them to find you repulsive and disgusting. The pretty roses have thorns that prick the tender fingers of the wounded – of what value such a reality is, it is absolutely worthless. God has certainly fucked up on the first day of creation, and like the flood of Noah, I will wash away the mistakes- uaghghh-!"

A great pain throbs in her head, and Maleficent is on her knees, clutching her skull. It's like something is threatening to burst out of her shell, and the faeries look on, almost with bemusement at her suffering.

Her black horns seem to glow with malevolent energy, and some of her white hair seeps out, and she feels the urge to vomit.

But when she opens her mouth, it is green fire which pours out, scattering over the square, setting ablaze the wagons, the parked caravans – rapidly consuming them into ash. It takes her a while before she regains her composure, shuddering after a primordial outburst.

"She's out of control," Merryweather says, nodding to Flora.

"Any minute soon, the other faeries will come," Flora goes. "If this keeps up, we can take Maleficent down once she loses control of her powers like this. Nobody is able to control magick well under rage."

"DIIEE-!"

Maleficent wills the cathedral crashing down. The ground shudders, and the basilica rumbles deeply as its very foundations are being attacked, crushed from within.

Everyone within it is screaming, as the tapestry windows crack and fracture, and the chandeliers, tumbling forth and back, threaten to fall – groups of people, whimpering, kneeling tightly around the knees of the priests, who are reciting verses from the Book of John as a final comfort: "But to all those who have received Him, those who believe in His name, He has given us the right to be God's children, who shall not perish, b-but have Eternal Life-"

The priests' pantings betray their fear in-between breaths.

A mother holding her infant tightly to her breast – shielding her child from the horrors gleaming from out the cathedral walls.

The three faeries are descending down towards Maleficent, whose fingers are curling up, and whose legs seem to be taking root into the ground. Their protective charms on the Notre Dame are like parchment against an iron sword.

Maleficent sees them come. She jolts them with electricity, hoping to shock them in their path – but to no effect (the faeries aren't grounded).

Flora immolates the ground where Maleficent's standing, and the witch is quick to leap away before she takes the brunt of the flash incineration, even though bits of her limbs have been set alight.

Merryweather dashes behind the witch, and sprinkles blinding pops of light all over her – resembling the cascade of firecrackers.

"Aaaghh-!" Maleficent is dazed, her arms covering her face. The effect is like flashing lights upon someone prone to seizure. She crumples onto the ground, wailing, convulsing, tears welling out her eyes.

The Notre-Dame cathedral manages to hold steady, thanks to its arched construction, even though the windows have shattered over the organs, and some candles have fallen – and the Cardinals, remembering the ancient crypt spaces below, organise to get everyone down to where it should be more safer, women and children first, should the cathedral withstand more damage from the witch.

Now the three faeries dance over the downed Maleficent, in a sort of formation, concentrating on re-erecting their impotency field upon her.

She can feel it pressing down – her body is going to sleep, just like then, and in a matter of seconds, she'll be reduced to a helpless marionette on the ground, at their total mercy.

"Let it go, witch," they chant, "let it go. Soon your vengeance and hatred shall be no more, as it has no place in our world. Let everything go."

When Maleficent tries to bring herself on her arms, the ground seems to inch ever closer upward.

"Mama.." she groans. "I don't want to die. I don't want to die.." It's difficult to recall what her mother looked like. She never felt much affection for her parents, except when she was so young, and all she could do is cry when she felt sad.

"Tell us, poor thing," Flora goes, "why should we let you live then?" Even though the look on the fairy's face suggests there isn't any real answer for that, at least, not one that will satisfy her.

And then, there is Raki, wandering from around a corner – he's heard the sounds of destruction, the distant pops, and followed the sights of smoke and fire, over to the Notre-Dame where he finds the one person he's been looking for.

From the distance, he recognises her by her horns, but she is so badly rumpled that he wouldn't be able to recognise her otherwise. He is panting, out of breath from running this way. But he summons one more breath anyway, just to yell out her name.

Because she is not a monster. She is hurting.

"Maleficent!"

..

And she, her cheeks touching the cold stone, glances in the direction of the boy who's loved her – a grown man now. Even if she doesn't see him clearly, and his voice has grown deeper, she feels a warm resonant pang in her chest,

(he's come back, he remembers me)

and she is falling through the air, her heart bursting from an overflow of memories both beautiful and bittersweet –

"I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.."

"Because I am Maleficent," she goes, looking up at them with a renewed dignity, the Earth trembling beneath her. "For all your haughtiness, you self-righteous pipsqueaks will never understand me."

And in an explosion of force, she blows them all away, sending each of the faeries crashing into distant buildings.

She gazes at Raki, alone now in the square, and he's jogging towards her. He's so handsome; his hair has grown long, and his bodily stature is leanly muscular. Nothing else matters – she's happy enough just to be able to see him again, after all this time.

"Raki.." Maleficent's appendages reach out to him – he is eeked out. No longer do they even remotely resemble arms; they're like overgrown branches of a tree, covered with thorns and black petals.

"What's happened to you Maleficent?" he asks, worried. "What was that going on before?"

"I.. I tried to save Aurora," she tells him, croaking. "But I was too weak, and too late to do anything. And.. I'm supposed to be dead after my execution. I only wanted.. it to be happier. I'm sorry Raki. I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you sooner, I'm sorry I hurt everyone who comes near, and I'm sorry everything turned out this way.."

She is sobbing, her body giving in onto his shoulders, him holding her. "I'm so sorry.. please don't hate me, like everyone else. Even if.. I'm no better than a monster in the end – don't I too still have the right to live and find happiness..?"

A long beat in the chill of the night, with all the fires smoldering away into fading embers.

"Maleficent," Raki says, feeling how warm she feels, "you aren't a monster." And he leans in and holds her lips to his, and despite the lingering taste of ash from her tongue, he finds it a beautiful kiss, and his heart is fluttering, as it did when he was a boy.

They kiss, forgetting the destruction around them, and he finds a feeling of wetness – her tears, pouring down onto her lips, her eyes wide shut, her mind's eye vividly seeing the blue skies, of the young Charles as she first found him, staring out at that sunset, and the forest she took him to,

and the fields where she danced with Raki, and the jovial feeling of visiting those exotic cities together- the way the balloons sailed into the skies, when he slipped and let go of the strings – oh my God, my heart is melting, I can't take it,

She tries holding him close to her, and when she pinches his back by accident with her thorns, and she feels him wince in her mouth, she decides to lean back, onto the ground, take him with her – and before they know it, he's on top of her, the night sky perfectly silhouetting him.

"Put your hand on me, Raki," she tells him, breathing heavily, notioning at her breast. So he does (they're soft), and her appendage gently rests on his hand, and he is trembling – feeling the thumps of her heart underneath, the constant rise and falls of her chest. "Can you feel it beating? I wish.. I've always felt so much, in my heart. If I could open up my chest, and press my very heart upon yours, I'd.. you'll feel how it aches, and all the scars it's felt through the years.."

"Get away from her, Raki!" Flora's voice, like a thunderous command, as she and her brethren flutter back onto the scene, along with the whole host of other faeries gathered here, like a swarm of bees.

"She's seducing you!" Fauna pips, recalling the scene with Maleficent and Charles, back at the castle. "It's her charms, you don't really love her!"

Raki looks up, shamefully interrupted, his hand getting sliced from the thorns. He doesn't know what to say, besides that it feels like getting caught in the act by his older brother.

"You.." Maleficent gets Raki off of her, and rises up on her feet, sheer vengefulness bubbling up. "You fuckers don't know anything!"

"We know enough, Raki is your next victim of your darkness," Flora goes – it's as if she's answering for all the other faeries, like she's the goddamned voice of this hive mind.

"He's someone who I love.. and who loves me back. Are you going to twist everything to make me EVIL?!" The swelling rage is too much for Maleficent to restrain, to the point where the energy seems to crackle out her limbs. "I've lost so many things over my life – but I know, you won't fucking take my Raki away from me! Non, NEVER!"

And she finds herself bursting outward – her whole body, engorged on her emotions, swelling out uncontrollably like the urge to vomit, her screams becoming deafening shrieks. Her barky exterior breaks open from the inside, revealing her guts and muscles, black bile spewing out and all over, spraying the faeries (and a very frightened Raki) nearby.

Maleficent's body is reforming. Scales begin to appear over her revealed organs, and her appendages lengthen and sputter to form sharp wings. As her neck stretches, her face splits outward to reveal teeth, and a snout.

Her very awareness is now blinded by viking rage and hate, over everything surrounding her.

The black wyvern, towering almost as high as the Notre-Dame, who moments earlier was the person Raki loved, but now he's running away from. The beast who wishes to annihilate.

Inside the basilica, everyone is paralysed with terror at the great shadow that is out the windows. The priests clutch the pendants to their hearts, "No.. no!" and a few people faint right onto the floor – the living nightmare too much for them to take.

"Oh my goodness.." Flora mutters.

June 2017

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