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In Merrywinter's basket, the petite raven sees the dance of shadow and sunrays, overlapping with the dandelion seeds being carried through the air.

The faeries' cottage resides peacefully beside a flowing river, where the waters run the mill for the sake of fulling textiles – removing impurities from the cloth, so they could be made into clothes which are sold on the German market as income.

Merryweather unlatches the gate, greeting the budgies who perch upon the makeshift house mounted on a pole; some bird feed is put there every morning by Fauna, and for the squirrels who'd want to climb up and steal some for themselves, the pole is swathed with grease so their paws slip.

Inside, there is Aurora (or if you'd call her publicly, Rose) by the sunlit desk – she is intricately decorating the sleeves of the beige dress with rose-like patterns. Her calloused fingers seem to weave as if without effort.

"Why do birds suddenly appear, everytime we draw near?" she sings to herself.

Flora emerges from the supply room, with another batch of coloured thread – she's taught Aurora all she'd needed to know from a young age about clothing, and ever since, the young lady has developed a talent and keen eye for designing people's outwear. Coats, dresses, gloves, using the material bartered for from the market (or hunting on the occasion).

Sweet Aurora; her fair skin, her lips as pink as St Valentine's. Her 20th birthday draws very near, and having discovered that a heart transplant is indeed possible, the three faeries anxiously await the day they take her back to Paris, where a preserved heart matching her blood type will replace her own cursed one.

Of course, none of this has been revealed to the young lady; it is a subject that's discussed in secret between the three, when Aurora is assuredly asleep or out frolicking.

What she does know is that she is royalty-in-hiding, having been taught all the royal etiquette and the political, managerial and diplomatic sciences – she would make for a very good Queen, oui, except that an evil witch named Maleficent is out to do her and her family harm.

She's wondered over the years when she'll be returning home to her castle, and see the faces of her beloved mother and father.

"When you're old enough," Flora tells her, "and we'll vanquish Maleficent's evil."

The company of the three faeries is so benevolent and enticing that Aurora does not once disobey them in leaving – on the occasion she's wandered too far in the woods, she delightfully gets lost with dreams of romantic love before finding the faeries again. The love and devotion hinted at from the stories she'd hear of princes who slay the monsters holding princesses captive.

Now Merryweather arrives with her basket of wildberries. "Toodle-hoo!" she goes, grinning as she lays down the basket. "How's the dress coming along? I've brought home a special little friend.."

She takes out the raven, it rests in her hands.

"Oh Merryweather!" Aurora's interrupted in her weaving, shocked by the sight of the raven's weakened body. "The poor thing, she's almost dead! What happened?"

"I found her lying under the brush – covered in all sorts of soot. She must have been lying there for a long while; had I not noticed her perchance, she would have likely gone unnoticed for years!"

"She must be starving..!" Aurora thinks of a way to get food into the raven; it would be too weak to even chew.. but since it is still breathing, it can still gulp. "Flora, do you have one of those nutrition poutrices?"

"Yes, we have some- I'll go fetch them right away!" The head faerie goes into the kitchen, where she scrounges the cabinets for the reserve poutrices, stored in jars. These drinks have been brewed in the rare case of a starvation epidemic, like when blight has taken crops, or whenever someone is particularly hungry or weak. But it doesn't taste like much; Fauna has described it as drinking raw batter, with all the lumps yet to be taken out.

Flora pours a little of the poutrice into a dish, and lays the dish down on a counter – Aurora comes with the raven.

"Lay her down so she could drink – gently, gently," Flora goes, her hands conducting Aurora as she angles the raven down so its beak could touch the drink. "I hope ravens don't mind if it's a poutrice."

The raven seems to contemplate the dish.

Then it tries one peck, and finding it good, it nips at the drink more excitedly, much to everyone's delight, until the raven seems to have life breathing through it again.


I feel like a small, hapless child, being cradled under their care. How the times have passed me by, and how I envy the radiance Aurora emits in even her smallest gestures. I always see her smiling, her eyes off in innocent daydreams. If I could admit it, Aurora would be the person I ought to be, had fortune favoured me better.

The faeries have raised her well. I will give them credit for that. They shower upon Aurora their attention – I would have prefered some modicum of privacy, but the one word that I would never use to describe the faeries' relationship wtih her is neglectful.

Neglectful like my own parents had been.

Neglectful as God's eyes turning a blind eye to the suffering I've endured.

If I grew up alongside Aurora, I would have loved her dearly as my family – someone like her, borne from the womb of my sister and the fertile seed of Charles. That fact is spectacularly incredulous.

If I'd raised her, I would never want pain to befall her pure soul.

I cursed her to die at the age of 20. Because I wanted to see the look on their eyes when they do see her die, and my hatred triumphs over them in retribution.

How pathetic of me..

At night, the raven pretends to sleep, even though she's brimming with energy and wakefulness. She is perched in a cage in the stillness of the lonely knitting room, hearing the river flow outside with the occasional breeze wisping at the windows.

She manages to overhear the hushed conversations of the faeries, discussing the risks of bringing Aurora back to Paris while Maleficent remains undefeated out there.

"She could just be biding her time," Fauna says. "What if she finds us travelling in the open, and casts us into misfortune?"

"My dears, I've got that planned for," Flora goes. "I've garnered the support of our fellow faeries around the world, and the instant I send a signal upon seeing Maleficent, they will arrive and banish her into oblivion!"

"And if she catches us off our guard?" Merryweather asks.

"Well, we'll be travelling under disguise in a carriage back home. We haven't used our magic all this time; there is no way Maleficent will know it's us."

"What about that raven?" Fauna goes. "Maleficent uses crows and ravens.. I don't think we should keep it. How do we know it's not connected with her? For all we know, it could be spying on us, listening to every word we say!"

Merryweather says, "I don't think Maleficent would be that unkind to one of her servants. I think the raven must have been travelling while it was freezing, alone without its flock, and the sheer exhaustion has led it to fall.. I dunno, gosh knows how many days it's lain there. I don't want to just toss it out when we were so kind to it. It's done nothing the whole time except peck at the birdseed."

"In any case," Flora goes, "we must remain vigilent. Those 20 years without a sign from her is no assurance.. and Aurora's birthday is in two days."


The next day brims with sunlight, and after an innoceous breakfast, Aurora asks if she can take the raven out for a walk.

"Ah non..!" Fauna exclaims. "We don't know if that bird carries Maleficent's foulness—!"

"Please?" Aurora eagerly unlatches the raven's cage, and the bird feigns a feral nervousness, pretending not to trust the hands reaching out for it. "She looks scared, she needs some reassurance.."

"Why do you refer to it as a 'she'?" Merryweather asks, tucking away the napkins. "I'm just wondering – mind you, I'm no expert on birds."

"I dunno, to me it looks like a she. Even ravens have genders too."

After the faeries relent from Aurora's desires, the young lady has the raven perch on her shoulder as she waltzes out into the forest.

"Those faeries.." she goes, talking to her newfound friend. "Sometimes, I feel like they're just being overprotective of me. I won't deny that I'm frightened of Maleficent – gosh, she must be one awful creature, slaughtering innocent people, but I wonder if she isn't just a faerytale. If she really has powerful magicks, there'd be more rumours from people about her, like Genghis Khan. I'd shudder to imagine what she might do with me, if she were more real.."

The raven squawks, as if agreeing with her.

"What about you? Do you have a family waiting for you? Or friends? I think ravens always do; they must have such lively occurences for them to fly about the lands everyday – perching up in the high branches, conversations about what they've seen, exchanging their own g'days.."

Now the raven seems downcast, its gaze looms gloomily upon the distance.

Aurora comes by a toadstool, lit by a ray of sunlight, where she decides to give her legs a rest. She pulls out some breadcrumbs from her pockets and scatters some by her feet, and the raven flutters down, pecking at the scraps, the crusts and crispy whites gulped down by its mouth in one swoop.

The life of a raven seems so simple and magical in its own right; they can eat, drink, fly whenever it gets cold, and feed their young with their beaks..

Are there such things like raven princes and princesses, in a ravenous kingdom?

The romantic mood of the moment makes Aurora relax; if she kisses the raven, and it turns into a princess.. how she is wanting for a prince to come along, and swoop her to paradise.

In her dreams, she pictures the ideal man who would do so – he'd be taller than her, his shoulders broad with confidence; he'd be kind, gentle and brave for her sake, and when she kisses him, she surrenders herself in his arms as she sees the stars behind his head.

And in her dreams, she sees him slay Maleficent, the wicked dragon who keeps her prisoner, freeing her once and for all from the worrying constraints of her fairy godparents.

She remembers a half-forgotten tune from that dream.

"I know you.. I walked with you once upon a dream.." She doesn't know exactly where the words have come from, only that they feel right with the tune. "I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam.."

Aurora gets up and she dances – holding her arms to herself, just like how her prince would.

The raven glances at her, a bewildered expression on its eyes.

"Oh," Aurora goes, "I'm not being crazy – the faeries usually don't want me to meet anyone; but I fooled them. I have met someone, the prince of my dreams. He's taller than I am, and the most sweetest personality in his heart. He'll love me the way I need to be loved. Even though you can't see him, just imagine, I am dancing with him." To be a princess is to dance with your soul mate upon the clouds.

Even though no such person really exists. You always have notions of how an ideal friend or lover ought to be, hinted at by a tantalising glimpse, and sometimes you might be surprised by the person in reality. They surprise you with the variety of shades within their character, and disappoint you in the ways they cannot fulfill your needs.

She is twirling, holding the sides of her dress so she doesn't trip. She's so caught up in her motions that she doesn't notice attracting the attention of Prince Derek, who happens to be riding along on his pony.

At first sight, he is arrested by her beauty, and he dismounts his faithful steed (named Phillip) – he comes by Aurora's side, and joins her in her dance before she realises it.

"Aaah!" She shies away from this handsome stranger.

"I'm awfully sorry," he goes. "I didn't mean to frighten you. You looked like you were having a delightful time.."

"It isn't that.. you look awfully familiar. As if.. I've met you before."

"We have? Where?" Derek peers closer at the woman's eyes. "I'd like to know."

".. once upon a dream," she tells him.

Derek blushes at her statement; it may be something a daydreaming child might say, but out of her lips, it swoons his own heart. "What was that song you were singing?"

"Take my hands first."

He stares at her offered hands, like they are shrines ready to be honoured by his touch, and he takes them, and she shows him how she longs to be held, as they dance through the woods.

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

"And I know it's true," she goes, "that visions are seldom all they seem.. but if I know you, I know what you'll do – you'll love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream.."

They dance without a care for anything else, except each other's happiness, and the raven and his horse follow them avidly through the forest, until they arrive at the edge of it – before them, the hilly meadows with the sparsely pines.

Derek makes himself comfortable, laying down on the grass, sighing happily, trying to make out the horizon's infinities like he used to as a boy.

"I've never seen this before," Aurora goes, sitting down beside him.

"Me neither."

She follows his gaze, wondering what he sees – it's the same sight, but the perspectives betweeen two people can vastly differ, in more ways than one.

Some time passes.

"If I might ask, what is your name?" Derek goes, interrupting the comfortable silence.

"Huh? Oh—" His question jolts her into anxiety; if she gives out her actual name to him, she'd be forming an attachment to this stranger, and only encourage him to seek her out to his own disappointment – after all, she lives in a lonesome cottage in the woods, with her three doting faeries. "It's- I can't tell you."

She gets up, her cheeks red, but Derek grabs onto her.

"Why not?" He wishes he hadn't asked her that.

"I promised my godparents I would keep myself a secret," she tells him. "They said that people are eager to run their mouths off in rumours.. I have to go." She frees herself from his grasp.

"But when will I see you again?" he pleads.

"Never-!" She is rudely striding away from him.


A part of her is tugged at – is it really right to just leave him hanging? The one who resembles the prince of her dreams? She gulps to herself, and musters up the will to look him in the eye. "Perhaps we'll meet again someday."

"When? Tomorrow?"

"Erm.. this evening!" She just blurts out the answer without thinking, and she can't take it back.


"Yes.. I live in a cottage nearby in the woods – it's by a river, near the glen." And Aurora flutters along in the direction of her home, the raven perching on her shoulders and giving Derek a lingering glance. "Au revoir!" If we do meet again.. I don't even know your name!

For some reason, Derek feels fondness for the young lady, like she was an old friend he's all but forgotten about. He'll talk with his mother Uberta about it, and ask her if she still needs him in her affairs with the German diplomats – if not..


Arriving home, Aurora has to stop herself before entering the door; it feels like her skin is bursting in heat, from the anticipation of introducing the stranger to her home, and ultimately he'd whisk her off and away. But will he actually come? That is the question.

She fans her face with her hands, before opening the cottage door to the tangy smell of wildberry pie and onion-sauteed chicken.

The three faeries have made lunch, but their expressions are dour – as if they have brooded over a serious matter. It's something Aurora has only ever seen once or twice, in contrast with the usually jovial mood they carry.

"You'll never guess what happened to me," Aurora goes, hoping her excitement will diminish the seriousness in the air. "I met someone.. the man of my dreams!"

"Aurora!" Flora is troubled.

"I know! He has brown hair.. I was dancing, and there he was, with his cute horse – we danced together to the meadows, and- it was gorgeous being with him. He asked me what my name was, but no, I was fluttery on the inside.. I remembered what you said about meeting strangers."

"Have you seriously met with that stranger?" Flora says, as if in total disbelief.

"Of course I have! And he's not just a stranger.. he was dressed in his ermine cloak and had a glittering sheath on his pony. Almost as if he were indeed a prince. But I never got his name – only that I promised him to meet me here."

"At our cottage!?" the other two faeries join in unison with Flora.


And Aurora sits down with them, her stomach on the verge of hunger. She pauses before reaching out for a slice of pie. "I feel like I've fallen in love from just that brief encounter. Why aren't you happy for me?"

A beat.

"You are a princess, dear Aurora – and you have a kingdom to come back to, your mother and father included. Queen Odette, and King Charles. We've decided that after this lunch, we pack and head out back to the lands of France, in time for your 20th birthday, where you truly belong as royalty."

"But.." Aurora stutters. "This is all happening very fast, it's too soon. He's coming here this evening.."

"You've told us about your dreams for a prince who'd love you," Merryweather says. "See, you are already betrothed Aurora, to a handsome lad of the Frejordian kingdom – Prince Derek."

"I promised to meet him-"

"I'm sorry child.." Flora holds Aurora's hands in condolence. "But you must never see that stranger ever again."

Then the sadness hits Aurora, a tear at first, and then the rain all at once. "No.. no!" It feels like someone has poked a painful hole through her heart, and she bursts away from the table, her chair clattering to the floor. "I don't believe this! No!"

It is the first time in her life that she's known this kind of sadness – falling into a beautiful love, only to have it be taken away from her. She does not know what to do, besides running away from her protectors into her room, where she just grieves on her bed.

"And we thought she'd be so happy," Fauna goes.

Silently, perched by the windowsill, the raven cries for Aurora.

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In their eyes, Maleficent sees the orders of Charles. These soldiers, these people – who would be otherwise innocent, plan on having her heart out on a pike.

She is alone against all.

Not a familiar, friendly face.

It would be just like that time under the church's shadow, except now she has THE POWER-

Do you love me, Maleficent? Raki's words in her mind. I love you so much it hurts.. I don't want you to suffer a tragic ending.

"Maleficent!" their commander goes. "My men won't hesitate to slay you."

She restrains the impulse to smash them all.

"There are only two ways this could end," he continues. "Either we riddle your heart with holes, or you can surrender yourself to His Majesty's good grace."

She looks the commander in the eye – he's positioned behind his swordsmen, which is reasonable, given that he is their pillar of strength and morale.

"You know my name, good sir," she goes, bowing (and making tension from their already tensed weapons). "But I don't know yours."

"It's not for someone like you to know."

"Very well. After all, you'd much rather have me think of you as just the commander of this platoon, instead of another person with hopes, dreams, and desires. Likely, you have a loving family, waiting for you to come home safe from your skirmishes. All those beautiful things, which I could only dream. But since you are here as a dog on Charles's leash, with his message of death for me..

"Let me send my regards for him in return!"

And before the crossbowmen can let loose their iron bolts, Maleficent blasts an electric shock through their metallic armours, the jolt flashing between each of them in proximity, shocking their bodies within to paralysis.

Before the commander can shout "Attack!" she conjures up barbed vines from the forest's soil, which ensnare the remaining forces – the barbs injecting doses of non-lethal venom, sending them into unconsciousness.

As for the commander himself, who she's saved for last – he's panting heavily, having seen his troops fall nigh-instantaneously. He's running, and she follows the trickle of urine he's trailing behind, until she finds him trying to stand up after his stumble.

His face is awash with sweat.

He is rapidly breaking down before her, and he pleads for her to spare his life. "I do have a family.. a baby boy, if he grows up without seeing me.. please. Please don't kill me. Let me run back, I promise, I'll never lead troops to even one mile of your presence again."

"What's your name?" she asks him.


"Here is some news; I haven't killed one person in your troop. All I've done is incapaciate them for the time being."

He seems surprised.

"Oh, you're surprised that I could spare them?" she goes. "I have this power yes, and you think me a monster because of what you've been told. It's true that I've killed and resented people over the years. I won't deny that. But if I was truly a monster, then my only choice – not a choice at all rather, is to slay you all without a second's thought.

I can tell you why
People go insane
I can show you how
You could do the same

"But I am not. Once, I was a normal person like you, shunned and feared by people, before betrayal has left me corrupted with hate. It was Charles who betrayed me when I needed his love the most, and it was him who left me behind like a toy he's outgrown. You wouldn't imagine how much it hurts when you find no reciprocation to your need for love.. it's love that I see everyone striving for, everyday, whether they know it or not. The newborns cry for it from their mothers, the young ones find joy when they're held in each other's embraces.. the old people cherish their memories of love, on their deathbeds. Sometimes I see people crying out in the darkness, because love seems to have left their lives.

I can tell you why
People die alone
I can tell you I'm
A shadow on the sun

"It's love that can make real monsters of us all, and yet bring out the best, if we let it. And I know now.." Maleficent extends a hand to Solaire. "I am not a monster. I am Maleficent, and despite the pain of living, I still have a heart that beats, a heart that aches."

And trembling, he accepts getting pulled up.

"That's my regard for Charles," she goes. "He may pity me for what I've done, what I've become, but I too pity him in turn.. his own heart has been misplaced along the way, lost to royalty, and so be it with him if he wishes to love my sister. I move on from him – the only debt I have is undoing my curse on his little daughter."

Despite Solaire returning to tell Maleficent's words to his King and Queen, it seems they do not believe it. Odette thinks it is a ruse from her to let down their guard – she pressures Charles into reinforcing capital defenses, and worries about the fate of their Aurora in the faeries' hands.

A chord is struck in him though.

All this.. this tragic line of events, because Maleficent loved him in the first place. In the bedroom, he looks at Odette, recalling Maleficent's remark about Odette being her little sister, and asks her, "You were her sister once; tell me, what was she like?"

A beat.

"I did not want you to know about her," Odette tells. "I considered her a shame of my family. She was moody around me and my parents, and I'd often find her alone, adrift in her daydreams. The thought of her makes me sad, I don't know why."

Charles puts away his bedtime scrolls. "You didn't think it would be important to let me know sooner? To be fair though, I've never told you of those times.."


"Before we were introduced, I was sitting outside in the evening in the town of Gaumont. I was bored of my parents arguing over the ideal woman for me.. and there she was, approaching me in the peak of my boredom. Maleficent. She came to me.. showed me the town, the cathedral and the sunset.. we made love in the forest. I can still remember how she seemed.. almost like an angel at the moment."

He is tearing up – it seems so long ago that it happened, like it was a different, more innocent life he'd lived.

"I had this quaint feeling, like I wanted to know more about the secrets behind her eyes, in her heart. But my family dissuated me from her. She was absolutely not the kind of person who'd be my Queen. And it made me torn – I met you, but at the same time, she was there too in my mind. Even though I didn't really think much of her besides a happenstance.

"What was I to do, when the time came, and we married – and Maleficent.. I.." He sniffles. Is he about to say 'I'm sorry'?

"Please don't blame yourself for what happened," Odette consoles him, rubbing his chest. "I would have done the same in your shoes. Oh, she seemed so mad then, it was unbelievable! I'm glad that even after it was all over with my sister, you went with me. Our sweet Aurora.."

"Aurora? What does our Aurora have to do with it? It's Maleficent.. I wish.."

An indignified look comes over Odette. "You wish what? You'd rather be with that crazed sister of mine, who'd bring shame upon you, simply by being associated with the likes of her?"

"No, no Odette. I just wish if things had gone a little differently.." He pauses. "If I hadn't met her before you, there would be no pain."

Glancing out the grand windows, he sees his city of Paris is alight with diffuse colour, the sky a dark magenta above it. He remembers faint intimations of that evening in Gaumont, that joy.


Maleficent finds it difficult to scour the whereabouts of Aurora. The people know to shoo away her crows, and since the sanctity of own home has been revealed to the soldiers, she decides to move to another location, right in the heart of Paris itself, under disguise with help from her poutrices.

As long as she can obtain the ingredients for them, it should be fine, while she inquires about news related to the royalty from the citizens she encounters.

There is a little disorientation at the fact of having to mingle in with the crowd, the self-awareness of her not being in touch with society for so long – if each of them know who she really is on the inside, they would all be..

Never mind that.

What she's heard is that the good king has sent away his daughter to a hidden location, under the watchful protection of the three faeries. But where exactly? She'll have to eavesdrop on them, and so in her cottage, she devises a hamster to surveil for her.

One day, visiting the castle, she lets loose the hamster down the toilets, and upon heading home, she gets it to scour the dank, smelly pipes, until it emerges up from the royal latrines, where she has it wash itself in one of the baths and afterwards, feed on the storehouse cheeses – the hamster must be feeling like Andy Dufresne from the Shawshank Redemption.

Then she has the hamster hide in whatever nooks and crannies it could find, following Charles and Odette around in their daily routines of ordering the servants around, managing territorial disputes with the diplomats..

Soon, she overhears Odette worry about Aurora, and asks Charles if there's any way of exchanging news with the faeries, despite the risk of Maleficent finding out.

"Hmm," Charles muses. "If we send out a courier to the Black Forest, it might be possible, although it will have to be an indirect route, lest Maleficent realise."

The Black Forest! In Southwestern Germany!

With further hearings through her hamster, Maleficent hears them talk about undoing Aurora's curse, with the prisoners on death sentence getting their hearts preserved for study. And then unimportant things that she's overheard a hundred times already before.

She lingers over her hamster's seeings for a few more days, hoping she might hear more key information from them, but the poor hamster is soon caught by the royal chefs – and is thrown out with the garbage.

She's also running out of ingredients for her poutrices; fluxweed is particularly hard to come by, especially now that Spain is running trade embargos on France.

Thus, Maleficent flees the city, and with her remaining strength in the open fields, she transforms into

a raven
whose wings carry her afar
over the clouds
over the troposphere layer

(nobody will see me, knowing I am above them)

and the sky
is an ocean of fading blue
and white feathery cirrus
and doves

(sometimes the clouds resemble a familiar face)

and she glides along the
wind current
falling forward
like drug's euphoria

until the pines and firs are below her, and she circles around and around, descending below the overcast layer, her body aching from the air pressure differential.

All the trees seem endless, scattered over the horizons and hills and cliffs.

She could lose herself in the depths of this green forest – alien, vast, unknown, untouched, unseen by other human eyes. This must be the joy of every winged animal, to soar beyond the ones earth-bound.

And then she faints.

Her raven body, out of stamina and breath, tumbles down through the branches, pines and needles shaken loose, falling..


On the ground, Merryweather discovers a fainted raven, rumpled on its back – barely wheezing in and out. It is covered in layers of tan needles, spider webbing, and a coat of moss. She's gathering wildberries for her pie, and the sight of it brings feelings of pity and sorrow to her heart.

"Oh, poor raven," she coos, gently picking it up in her hands. "What terrible accident has befallen you?" She lays it in her basket, intending to carry it back home to the cottage, where 19-year old Aurora is weaving a dress with Flora and Fauna.

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From that day onward, the King and Queen bemoan their daughter's fate; if Maleficent's words are true, then it would mean that the royal bloodline will ultimately cease. But surely, the three good fairies are able to undo her magical condemning, the royal couple would ask – and the fairies would tell them, "No, it is virtually impossible. Maleficent's spell is too powerful to undo, even for all three of us combined.."

It only makes Charles brood in silence; in pain, he closes his eyes and dwells on that woman he's once idly spent his time with. Who is she, to have turned from that young woman into the wicked witch?

He's heard all the rumours over the years about the witch Maleficent, flaying people who ventured into her forest, and the occasional torment of crows, sent to villages – but he's dismissed it all as folklore superstition that's cropped up, in preference of focusing on real problems such as religious integrity (holding Catholic France pure against Islam) and the tense relations between Spain, between Britain.

He's paralysed when the memory comes back; a memory he's long since dismissed – where Maleficent, dressed in black, is crying out for his love. It was so bizarre, the moment; she looked like she was dressed for a funeral. How was he to answer her then, when he was filled with apprehension about the madwoman who chose to make a fool of herself at his wedding?

"Please.. don't forget me, whatever happens. I just want you to remember me."

He thought it was only a distractive excursion from the monotony of looking for a suitor. He thought wrong. For her, it must have meant the world, and he curses himself for involving himself with that seemingly innoceous affair.

Her resentment has lasted over time.

"Your Majesty." The head faerie, Flora, nudges Charles out of his reverie in his private chambers. "We've come up with an idea that could potentially save Aurora."

Upon hearing that news, Charles glees with hope. "Really?"

"It may not save your daughter outright, but it will provide us with a chance to resuscitate her, should she succumb to dying."

Charles's smile droops to a frown.

"It's a technique that we pioneered on one of our patients. His lungs were diseased, and when he gave in to consumption, we put him under suspended animation, so that his body shall not deteriorate while we sought to replace his organs. We were able to revive him soonafter."

"What is suspended animation?" Charles asks.

"We put him in an airtight casket, that we've enchanted so that time does not pass inside it, while it's sealed. And with Aurora, we can do the same; but it will be incredibly hard to find a replacement for her heart.."

"How come!? You're fairies, you have magic that can conjure up the wildest fancies-"

"Our magic simply cannot replace an intricate organ like the heart. If she were to lose a finger, or a tooth, we can regrow it back, bone, tissue and skin, but the heart is.. still a mystery to our comprehension, with its veins and its power to pump blood through the whole body."

"Then study the heart! I'll get the royal doctors to send you hearts to dissect.. you can't also heal my Odette's womb?"

"Not to our present knowledge, no," Flora goes.

In Odette's arms, petite Aurora is crying – her mother's face is so sad and teary, if only she were happy like she used to be..


"You lied!" Raki yells at Maleficent. "You said you weren't going to harm their child.. how could you be so despicably cruel?"

She looks away from him, almost wincing, unable to bear the shame of what she's done, despite her heart reeling from inflicting the same wound upon the royal couple.

The evening is gloomy – only the overcast sky illuminates darkly their forest.

"You saw how the scene unfolded.." Maleficent goes. "Everyone glared at me like I was a freak – which I am, Raki. Like Judas Iscariot betraying Christ's joy with a kiss, I broke in and interrupted their festivities. Charles.. Odette.. they pretended they didn't even know me! When I goaded them, Odette spilled out the truth of it all: I wasn't wanted.

"So I condemned their future, their Aurora. Now they know better than to turn their fucking backs on me-"

"You're so petty," Raki goes, tears escaping his eyes. "I thought you'd be better than that – you've hurt a child who did nothing to you. Please.. with what good heart you have left, take the curse back."


"TAKE IT BACK!" he cries, taking her aback. "Take it back, take it back take it back.." He is sobbing into her chest, and she holds him gently, and then his sobs become filled with rage, and he pounds against Maleficent with his fists – "Maleficent, let go of me! I hate you! Don't touch me!"

In her bout of distraughtness, Raki manages to squirm out of her grasp. He flees down though the trees, his steps soft and moist on the soil, before Maleficent makes a tree root protrude from the ground, catching Raki by the foot and tripping him, face flat.

Calmly, she walks over to him, and kneeling down, she wipes the soil from his face-

"Go away!" Raki screams, sitting up. "You're an evil murderer!"

It's strange – there's a difference between having a murderous reputation, and having someone actually witness you commit an evil act.

"Go away!"

Maleficent is holding him by his head and back – she's weeping. ".. we're both murderers, Raki. Where can we go?"

The resignation of it hits him; he's killed his brother, and it's no different from Maleficent killing Aurora, or another person – no matter the context. Even if it had been to save her from Zaki's bloodlust. He's tethered to her now; the one he hates, the one he's loved, and the only one who understands him.

They are outlaws, fallen leaves off a tree – lone stars separate from recognisable constellations, together drifting away in a vast, unknown space.

"Why do we end up hurting others?" Raki says.

".. I honestly don't know." Maleficent thinks about it. "People are unhappy – they're frustrated with what's happening in their lives. You want to love someone, but the closer you get to their heart, the more it will hurt when they wrench themselves away from you. For every happiness you may feel, there is an equal and opposite unhappiness underlying it. And vice versa when you decide you won't bear the pain by yourself anymore; it's easier to bring others down. You can't bear to see it when others.. like Odette and Charles, they're happy without consequence. It feels so unfair."

"But Maleficent," Raki goes, "you're responsible too for your own happiness. I know it's one of the worst feelings to be humiliated in their wake. I mean, I wasn't too happy with my older brother, and I got into rough scratches with the other kids. What would hurting them in return actually achieve? Nothing much, except to assuage your own ego – you'd just be bringing more pain in return. If I could go back to that time.. when Zaki was alive.. I'd wish I could muster up the courage just to walk away from him, and live by my own right. He wouldn't have to die.." He tears up at the horrid memory.

She considers his words, musing on her own situation. "How it could have gone so differently.."

"Yeah. Maleficent – I know you might have thought about it, but you're born of the same ilk as your sister Odette. The same blood runs through your veins. You're family, even if she left you behind."

"I know she's my family- I wish she wasn't, what are you trying to say?"

"My only love, sprung from my only hate," Raki quotes. "I don't remember where the phrase came from – it's something I remember from my literature studies, but you can change it. You don't have to hurt them. You always have that choice – you can be better than your sister; I don't think I like Odette too much myself. I feel there's this vanity in the public speeches she gives." He grins.

"Oui; she was such a vain person back then – she'd kiss up to anyone who seemed of high status, and she is a vain person now, as the Queen of France." Maleficent is liking the direction of the conversation. "It's humbling actually.. because I've always felt that I was the only person who knew what a creature she is, and I felt I had to scream it out for everyone in the royal court. For her to be humiliated and torn, with her husband!"

"Do you love me, Maleficent?" Raki asks, looking her right in her eyes. "Like you did Charles then?"

"I was hurting when you went away from me Raki," she goes. "We were so happy.."

"Let's run away. From all this. We can start it all over again.." He holds her by his chest, his voice turning into a low whisper. "If you could lift the curse from Aurora.. you could forget about Charles. He's a jerk who you mistakenly entrusted your heart to."

It's hardly crossed her mind before of the possibility of actually walking away, and start a new life with Raki, under a new identity. Even though she's hung onto her hate for the people who have humiliated her – like a nagging reminder she faces for much of her waking moments.

Because she'd face new humiliations, perhaps stemming from the very kind of personality she holds. Too eccentric for emotions, yet too stormy to cast herself as a straight thinker.

But Raki has given her a hope – the possibility she could be truly loved for herself.

"Ok. I'll need to be by Aurora's side again to do so.. I'm a little tired, Raki."


After much hesitation, the King and Queen decide – for Aurora's safety – to allow the three fairies to carry Aurora away from the castle, under disguise as peasants, who will nurture their child with the greatest care, teaching Aurora the basics of royalty as she grows up, so that she will come prepared one day to be a good Queen for France.

King Charles, feeling bitter at the sight of a black crow perched upon his windowsill, for he recognises now Maleficent's influence through them – he enacts a decree for everyone to extinguish the crows, drawing upon the already-existing superstitious fear to unite everyone behind the effort.

The witch will no longer be welcome.

So shall it be done.

Poisoned bird feed, scarecrows, slingshots and arrows – all jab against the sight of the crows. ("Maleficent must not prevail with her terror!" proclamations declare across the country.)

Then, with fearing for his daughter not subsiding, he takes the fight one step further – to slay her.

Much of the King's men are frightened by the prospect of facing Maleficent's wrath, but that is what they're trained for, no? To serve their country to whatever lengths needed.

The scouts are sent out in search of the witch, and at first, no sign of her turns up, but when Charles is advised about the rumours regarding the forest by Gaumont, he sends a full siege party with pyromancers to raze the trees down – instinct telling him this is where Maleficent resides.

Even if it means destroying the location of his private memory, and razing the landscape with smoke.

"3.. 2.. 1.. loose!" By the siege commander's call, the pyromancers set aflame the trees (which have been doused with oil) – the wind blowing drives the flames inward, threatening to devour the forest.

Maleficent acutely senses the malice being done to her home. Furious, she conjures up the waters from the pond, and sends the droplets to the burning areas, where the flames are extinguished in a bout of hissing steam.

"They will not drive me away so easily," she tells Raki, hurriedly, knowing the soldiers would persist. "But if they grab ahold of you – I wouldn't know what to do. Raki. I don't want to see them hurt you, or turn you against me."

Raki is distraught; this is the end of the dream as he knows it. "Mal.. what are we going to do?"

"I'll send you away – to Italy. I know a good friend, Antonio, a museum curator; he'll take care of you in my absence. He'll be kind to you, and will give you a full life, the kind of life I could never give to you."

"No.. Mal! What about you? Won't you come away too..?"

A beat.

"I will," Maleficent tells him. "But if I run away now, from this battle, it's not a wound I've made to them that could be brushed aside easily, threatening the life of those bastards' child. I've made my humiliation clear to them, and now they want to return the favour by extinguishing me forever. They could hunt me down to the ends of the Earth.. and I don't want to carry that doom to you. You deserve to live a beautiful life – that is the greatest honour you can have, believe me. To live amidst other people, to be respected as a human being, instead of a freak."

A portal emerges from the pond, the waters forming a shimmering gateway to the rivers of Venice. Maleficent shoves a parchment in Raki's hands – it has a portrait of Antonio, with his fuzzy beard and curious eyes. "You'll find him in the Palazzo Ducale; tell him that Maria sent you to be taken care of.. I did him a romantic favour once."

"I'm not going without you Maleficent!" Raki cries. "I won't go, I won't go!"

"Together, we have no chance. What could you do? You'll be killed if you step into battle with me – I have my magick, and that is more than enough to handle their battalions. Raki, please go- the time I've had with you will be my fondest memories. I promise, when everything is over, I'll find you. We'll live the rest of our lives as happily as we could, make money and friends, eat rich food.."

"No, you're just saying that so I won't worry-"

"I love you, Raki." A genuine smile on her face, as she caresses his cheeks one more time with her fingers. "Go now, go to that better place. I'm going to get rid of them all." She winks.

"I'm sorry I called you an evil murderer," Raki goes, holding her.

"I'm sorry I clinged onto hate for this long. Look what it's done to me already, look what's about to happen. It's revenge bouncing back-and-forth. I hope you never get hurt like I have."

You can hear the chanting cries of the soldiers from the distance; they are swarming in.

"Go," Maleficent says, and Raki hurriedly steps into the portal, looking back at her before he disappears from her sight for the next 20 years.

Then the soldiers arrive, their pikes and crossbows aimed at her, and the first thing they notice is her calm and resolute eyes.

qdesjardin: (Default)


Raki can never go back to Gaumont – to show his face, and receive the questions about his dead brother. He is a dishonoured citizen, sharing in the same evil of Maleficent's murders.

Except he does not see her commit murder.

The times he is with her – which is nearly all the time, she is his friend, his caretaker, his confidant.

She shows him how to dance, based off of what she's seen from the ravens who've peered into the royal halls whenever they celebrate. The most romantic dance, and they do it in the open fields where the over-matured grass caress their legs and swish under their feet.

To his ears, she sings a lullaby from a distant memory: "I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.. I know you, that look in your eyes is so familiar a gleam.."

Raki easily allows the miseries of his past life to slip away, like fallen petals upon a flowing river. It feels he's woken up from the nightmare that was once ago, into a beautiful dream that he never wants to fall asleep from, ever.

He is 16 years old now, and he is in love with her.

At nights, she'd show him visions from her crystal globe, of other people who are unsuspectingly under her ravens' watch – families who indulge together in their fireplace's warmth, friends who get drunk and open their fleeting thoughts out to each other, lovers whose fingers and lips and bodies are intertwined, old couples who kiss each other goodnight for what might be their last time..

It isn't that she is lonely; it's that she regrets not living amongst the common folk, and live beautiful happiness as an ordinary person. She can only observe..

And during the days, she would take him to the exotic countries elsewhere – she'd have him hold her tight, and wrap her cloak around him, and fly off into the stratosphere of heavenly blue where she'd allow him to visit Denmark, Spain, Italy- Raki would not falter in making acquaintances with the locals there, and one of his best memories is greeting Leonardo of Vinci (he's quite a nice man, and an even more amazing polymath) during a gondola ride through Venice. All the while, Maleficent disguises herself as an old peddler, watching over her boy, and simply breathing in the atmosphere.

But no matter how much happiness Maleficent and Raki have shared together, one bitter memory still rattles in her heart like a dark pebble.

That of Charles and Odette, making off with each other – leaving her behind.

In Paris, it has been announced that the royal couple would be having a child. Everywhere, people have celebrated – the loud parties held through the towns and kingdoms after the couriers have delivered the news, lasting all the way to midnight with fireworks celebrations.

"When I saw them fondling each other in bed," Maleficent tells Raki, "I had a mixture of envy and fascination. My dearest Diaval saw it all for me, every detail of it. My sister's caresses of his cheeks and his bum, like she's proudly affirming her possession of Charles. The slut! And their forms, contouring beautifully against each other, as ecstasy escaped his lips – 'Oh!' – when he finally climaxed after what seemed like hours.." (She seems to shudder along with the remembering.)

She is showing Raki the globe, where Odette's belly has swelled, and Odette is standing by the balcony, a look of expecting a bright future as she gazes out upon the kingdom before her, and Charles – he's grown a beard now! – he holds her shoulder and tells how baby Aurora will be the fated heir to the throne, alongside the royal child from Versailles.. Derek.

"Urghghh-!" Maleficent fumes, cursing as she slams the table, the vision falling into its default haze. "She doesn't deserve royalty! Or that child she reaped together with him!"

"Maleficent!" Raki has never really seen her this upset; he's sensed though that there was always that something that's cracking through the allure, like a black rose that's suddenly emerged from the soil.

Her hands clasp, fingernails digging into her palms, before she relaxes.

"I wish this hate inside me would go away.." she says. "Every time I'm alone, and I close my eyes.. I can still see all of them.. tossing garbage in my wake. I can hear them jeering my name. Raki, I know.. I know I've made such a fool of myself at that time – I wish I could forget it all. Forget who I am, and forget my love for Charles.. forget that he's turned away from me, over Odette."

Raki pauses to think. "You have potions that bring you back from the brink of death.. why don't you just make a potion that will help you forget it all? Or at least the painful memories?"

"I just can't bring myself to.. I've considered that already, and I've decided that to do so would be to run away like a coward. There are tales of cowards who run away from their haunting mishaps, try and pretend like they are different people entirely, and end up in misery. I won't do that; as long as I breathe, I vow to right myself.

"And I am having something in mind for the likes of Odette.."

"Like what?" Raki asks.

"That child she's so proud of, who has yet to be born.. I will curse it, in such a way as to torment its parents with an equal degree of anguish!"

".. you're going to.."

"To hurt their child directly, depriving it of sight or a limb, it won't be good. Alors.. their child will only live to the premature age of 20, and then.. it will die."

"Wha.." Raki is stunned – even knowing her evil reputation. "No.. no! That's not right!"

"I imagine their pain would be as great as mine." She smiles. "After all, poetic justice must be accomplished sometimes by force of will from the wronged, or otherwise I would not be languishing under this hate."

"Maleficent.. this evil side to you," Raki goes, "I don't like it. Please.. I know you could be happy again. I want to see you smile, like you did when we were travelling. Let your hate go.. I'm sorry if you were hurt so badly by your sister's betrayal, but you could rise up above her pettiness-"

"And let bygones be bygones? That I will not accept, Raki. I know you've seethed yourself against your older brother's repression, and it was mainly when you decided to off him for my sake, that you were able to breathe freely."

"That's.. he was going to-"

"You could have shouted and dissuaded him like a truly good Samaritan. But in the end, you chose the pistol – an instrument intended for death. And here we are. I do not expect total happiness for myself, but my act of retributive justice shall level myself with them. Charles and Odette, and their child along with them will know my despair, for my name is Maleficent, and I will not be sullied in vain!"

No matter what Raki tries, it's impossible to go back to those carefree times with her.

And Queen Odette gives birth – it is a girl, who is named Aurora for the aura of innocence radiating from her petite being. Charles and Odette, they are crying; their souls are irrevocably united in their newborn child, who would be a continuation of their existances.

The entirety of France cheers for the good news, and a national holiday is proclaimed, so that all of high or low estate can pay their homages to the infant Princess. Thus, on this day, does all the kingdom celebrate Aurora's long-awaited birth.

And in the royal halls, where the crowd has gathered by the public thrones, King Charles and his Queen make welcome for their friends and associates.

"Her Royal Highness," the Herald goes, "Queen Uberta and Prince Derek!"

Derek is a strapping boy of age 7. He reluctantly carries to the petite princess a gift of beautiful dolls and fairytale books, and when he quickly turns back, his mother scolds him: "Derek! Uh-uh-uh!"

So he takes great, hulking steps towards Aurora in her cradle, and he is bending his head towards her attentive face, and when he pecks her on the forehead, he goes "Uaghhh!" and wipes his mouth – much to Queen Uberta's embarassment.

Little does Derek know that this is his future bride-to-be, and that his arranged marriage with her will unite the Frejordian kingdom with France's, for a new era of prosperity.

"Oh-hehehe," Uberta goes, in her typically coy way. "This is just one of Derek's moods – he'll learn to appreciate Aurora's beauty, as she blossoms into a wonderous woman like her mother."

Odette is flattered, and while Derek is off playing with his toy knights, she does a curtsy: "It's my honour to be conveying my good looks through her."

The next guests-of-honour arrive, not through the Castle doors upon the red carpeting, but from a ray of light, streaming down from a ventilation orifice – right in front of the King and Queen. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather; the three good faeries who wander the country and heal the deathly ill with their magic.

"Oooh, she looks so sweet!" Merryweather goes, as they are cooing over Aurora's cradle. They each bless the child's life with a single gift; one of emotional harmony, one of wisdom, and one of health.

It seems all is going well.

But Maleficent has been watching through her raven Diaval, who is perched upon a candelabra. She's in the forest, gagging her throat out at the cutsy antics that all the guests have been giving Aurora.

"Please don't do it.." Raki pleads. "Their child has not wronged you – she is just an innocent baby. If you condemn their child, I'll hate you, Maleficent, for as long as I live."

It makes her pause – something has pulled against Maleficent, and she gazes upon Aurora's face, deeply considering the fate of the child who is not hers. In her own heart that she's thought has become stone hard, there's still feelings of sentimentality that almost brings her to weeping.

As if the pure innocence Aurora has, it was once hers too. There must have been goodness in herself too, once long ago, even if she can't seem to recall it. A garden of Eden that she had been cast out of, at some point in her childhood, for if it were the case she was borne from darkness, there would be no pain entirely; no light to differentiate from the shadow, to give meaning to her suffering.

"I won't kill Aurora," Maleficent declares, her hand caressing Raki. "But there must be punishment given to their unbridled joy."

So, sucking herself through the globe, a thunder echoes through the entire castle, and a huge gale blows on a spot over the carpeting, before Maleficent herself appears in front of the man who'd turned away from her, nearly 20 years ago (and counting) – Diaval perching on Maleficent's shoulder.

The entire chamber falls still with apprehension.

Maleficent is fully aware of all their pressing stares; she holds back her own overwhelming feelings, looking upon the crowd, the majestic beauty of the halls, as she advances, step-by-step, towards the King and Queen.

Only a mere few paces away from Charles and Odette – she says, "Well! It's quite a glittering assemblage, your Royal Highnesses. The nobility, the gentry, the commonfolk.." She glances at the three faeries. "How quaint, even the rabble."

Merryweather especially flinces at the remark. "How dare you..!"

Maleficent ignores them. "I really am quite distressed," she goes. "I look around at all the people who feel welcomed here, and yet when it comes to my arrival, the celebratory air seems to have hissed away. How come."

"You aren't wanted," Odette tells her.

A beat.

"Oh..? Not wanted?" Maleficent dwells on her remark, like salt over a festering wound. She analyses Odette, wondering if there is a pang of recognition in her eyes – is Odette addressing her as the witch.. or her long-pushed aside sister? "It seems we have an awkward situation on our hands. Here in front of you Odette, is someone who's watched you play chime and chipper as you've grown, all just a guise for the vanity lying at your heart's core. Since you were a petite baby, I hummed you lullabies. And in that white carriage, you went away with Charles.. when you could have reached out to me instead of leaving me at everyone's mercy. And you tell me now, I'm not wanted?! Odette, my dearest little sister?"

And a collective gasp emenates from everyone; a few women who sigh and faint from the shocking revelation.

Odette's face is of revulsion. She's trying to recollect herself from having her dirty secret spilled into the open.

"Who are you..?" Charles asks, despite knowing the answer already.

"I am Maleficent. I took you with me once upon a dream, and I still remember the salty taste of your lips. The Maleficent today is the end result of your betrayal to your sister, and she would like to bestow a gift – two in fact, out of generosity – in honour of your sweet Aurora."

She walks up to the cradle.

"Now you shall listen well," she goes; "to spare Aurora a whole lifetime of living, I will cut her life short. On her 20th birthday, when the sun sets, she will die. It will be as if she is elderly, lying on her deathbed, her last breaths rattling in and out, before her heart expires. Forever."

Odette is sobbing already – she clutches Aurora, cradling her beloved baby.

"And to make sure you don't cheat yourself out of grief – Odette, my noble sister, I curse your womb to infertility; may you never bear another child, as long as you live."

(a nerve is touched)

"SEIZE THAT INFERNAL CREATURE!" King Charles points at Maleficent, and the royal guards lunge at her.

She blasts them away with an arm's swoop, and they tumble down from a gale of electrified wind.

"You will never touch me again, Charles," she goes, cackling with the same crazed laughter of that time, before she blasts herself (and Diaval) out a window in a swirl of charcoal, leaving the royal halls without firelight.

qdesjardin: (Default)


".. and I ran away from home," Raki goes. "I got so sick of Zaki's overbearing attitude towards me, and I.."

It is his seventh cup of poutrice, Maleficent has counted, and the sky is turning blue as morning approaches. She perches her head on her hand, still listening intently, never for one instant letting her attention waver from him.

He is always interesting to watch, when he crosses his legs after each pause, or when he grows teary-eyed about missing his parents.. or when he fumes about the way things are, like he's bottled up all this stress, and he's only now letting it out by her.

He is done finally, and when she blinks, he realises just how long he's spent here in the forest – how long he's been energetically awake, with little trace of drowsiness.

"Oh mira.." he goes, "has it been that long? It's almost morning!"

He feels like a petite child again, being able to stay up all night, feeling excited by the fireplace with his papi, and then finding himself sleeping through the entire day afterward.

Maleficent nudges his chin. "I think you should return home to your brother. It seems he does care about you very much, despite how you might feel about his brittleness. When I was younger, I never used to have a sibling who cared for me, besides that I would cry and all my sister would do is waver off.."

"You had a.. sister?" Raki asks.

"She is happily away, governing the land we're on, while King Charles is sucking her tit in the royal bedroom." Her frown is scornful.

"Ohh.." Raki is trying to orient himself around this newfound fact. "Odette's your sister.."

"I doubt she'd tell anyone about me," Maleficent goes. "If you had a brother or sister whose very existance embarrassed you, would you want to tell the whole world? I wouldn't imagine it."

"But I told you about Zaki.."

"You are embarrassed about him?"

When Raki sulks, she imagines how it might be to have this caring brother watch his every move, as if in obsession about keeping your loved ones safe – safe from the likes of her. If that were her own brother, she'd never have the chance to wander off, exploring the city, the outside wilderness and forest. "How stifling it must be.." she whispers. "I wonder if there is such a thing as the perfect sibling, who can love you – not for the way you act, but the way you are. He'll be there for you when you need him, and willingly let you be otherwise.."

"Yeah." Raki is doodling on the table with some chalk – a rocket spaceship aimed for the moon, made of yellow cheese.

"Gee, I sound like describing the perfect husband as well," Maleficent says. "Though you wouldn't ever believe it, I loved Charles."

"Eh?" He looks up.

"He had a little purple mole underneath his armpit.." she continues. "He was bored while his family took him to meet the right princess, so I was there, every evening. I showed him the city of Gaumont-"

"You lived in Gaumont-!?"

"Before I had these horns, I had long, flowing black hair."

"Then.. how did you become-"

"Because I ran away after Charles got married to my sister. Because I hated everyone and everything so much – I wanted to die. And so I became like this, somehow, the witch who everyone is bound to loathe."

Raki hasn't touched her yet; it looks like her gnarly arms must hurt, like the festering sores of plague patients, so he gently reaches out and finds that it feels like scales – smooth to the touch, moist, yet bumpy at the same time.

Then he tries touching her face – the only part of her that looks normal, and finds her skin cool, and then he runs along her cheeks to her nose, and then her lips.

"Ooh," he goes. He's like a baby again, innocently and curiously fondling someone else.

"You're blushing," Maleficent tells him.

It only makes his face all the more red, with warmth, which she cradles by his cheek.

"I don't want to go back home," Raki says. "I wish I could stay here, with you instead."

"But your brother will worry for you," Maleficent goes. "And if he doesn't find you, he could easily assume that I've abducted you, and give reason for more hostilities against me."

Raki frowns. She's right.

"But you can always visit me," Maleficent goes, "whenever you need someone to talk to about your problems, or anything. I'll be right here, and I promise to watch over you. You'll never have to feel lonely again. Now go, Raki.. the people are almost awake."

As Raki walks out of the forest, he sneaks several looks behind him – maybe to have last glances at that beautiful witch, or to see the lush surroundings that she calls her home.

He finds the kingdom walls – they gleam orange with the dawn, and he allows the guards to check him before he enters, a hopeful smile in him as he arrives back in those familiar streets, more welcoming under the sunlight.

He rushes back to his cottage, where he undresses his cloak in his room, before he hears the door open behind him.

"Raki!" Zaki is so relieved at the sight of his brother, that he rushes over and holds Raki in a brotherly hug. "Raki! Don't you ever make me worry like that again! I was looking all over town for you! Where were you!?"

"I was.." Oh non – Raki can't just say he went out of town, or else Zaki will think of Maleficent. "I slept in one of the alleyways, where the guards don't notice."

"Really!? I could have sworn I checked every corner!"

"Apparently, not the one where I was staying. You might think you're sure of everything, but not necessarily."

Zaki sighs. "Yeah, you're right.. you know, I try to act so sure, but I do harbour a lot of doubts inside, if you haven't noticed already. Come, let's have some breakfast.. and then I'm going to take a power-nap."

So Zaki toasts some bagels, and brings out cheese and some tomato soup. "I was up all night, looking for you," he tells Raki, while hungrily munching on the cheese. "You couldn't imagine – my legs were shaking, and just the thought of you in harm, it kept me going and going.. I'd do anything I could if it meant you're safe."


You're blushing.

"I'm home now," Raki goes. "I'm sorry that I ran away. Maybe if you can cool it with your concerns, it'll be okay."


And so as the days pass, Raki is a studious student in school. He gets decent grades on his quizzes, and he pays atttention, especially when his teachers start to discuss the lore of the forest, and the witch Maleficent. He lively chats with the other kids during breaks.

And all the while, whenever he sees a black crow, he smiles, and remembers his encounter with her, like it's from a beautiful dream he's had, a memory that sends a blush of warmth in him. He never knew that there is someone like her, who could make him feel that way – feel understood, like she's listened to every word he's said. Never impatient, never getting annoyed with him.. never the feeling of her just waiting for her turn to talk.

But he hasn't dared venture back into her forest – he only has the occasional crow, with which he could feel her presence, as he is walking down the streets.

It isn't enough though, and he finds himself yearning to speak with her again, wanting her to touch him like the way she did, when it made him feel accepted and electric.

Some nights, instead of dreaming, he'd lie up and glance out the window, thinking of her – only to feel terribly exhausted the next morning, and Zaki would start to worry if something is bothering Raki.

"Is anyone husslin' you man?" Zaki asks. "If so, I'm here, I'll pound them and they'll learn a good lesson."

"Non, no one's bugging me."

But despite what answer Raki gives, Zaki is pressing hard down on him again, and he'd see glimpses of Zaki tailing him behind on the streets (maybe Raki is having a girlfriend?), and Raki would silently wish Zaki would go away and mind his own business.

And then he'd see a few crows come and jabber around Zaki, driving his big brother crazy while Raki runs off out of sight.

Eventually, Raki decides to meet Maleficent again.

In the morning before school, he prepares an assortment of snacks in a knapsack, and gets a cloak by his bed – and wait as the uneventful hours of the day pass him by, before it is night, and Raki feels the unbearable excitement of going out of the city walls,

out of Zaki's reach.


"Raki.. where are you going?" Zaki asks, this concerned tone in his words – he's opened Raki's door, just as Raki is putting on his cloak. It's around 11 at night, and how is Zaki bugging him at this moment, when he should be asleep already-

"Zaki..! I'm.." Raki isn't good at faking excuses on the spot, and he'd blush, choke up. "Hey, why are you up anyways?"

"Because I saw the cloak on your bed, after I've noticed some food has gone missing. You're sneaking out, aren't ya? Where? Raki, tell me where are you going? Don't worry, I know you're growing into a young adult, and I should grant you a greater degree of freedom accordingly. Just tell me where, and for how long, so I know when to look for you."

"Zaki.." Raki is trying his best to suppress a fit of giggling; it can feel ticklish when Zaki pressures him down like this. "I'm going out to a friend's. An all-night study session with her."

"Her? Raki, is that your girlfriend? Is that why.. you've been having trouble sleeping?" A smile beams up on Zaki.

"Yeah, my girlfriend – Anita." Raki pulls that name from the top of his head.

"Hey.. no worries. A girlfriend's a girlfriend, there's ups and downs with those kinds of relationships. But why so late? Why don't you visit her earlier – you could have let me known sooner – don't you think it is a bit late at this hour?"

"She prefers to study at night," Raki goes, "when her family isn't awake. I'm going to make my romantic entrance then, and-"

"Ohh.. yeah, you'll.." Zaki is nodding in approval about the idea. "So where's her place anyhow?"

"In the Northeast, along the Rue de Fleurs.."

Raki takes his knapsack, and the cloak.

"Raki.." Zaki says, before Raki leaves. "I'm really glad you're doing happily at school."


Raki is glancing behind himself – hoping his brother will not follow, hoping that the night's secrecy will shroud his pilgrimage to the unholy land, where the one he's met and remembered deeply in his heart will be awaiting him.

He is afraid that the forest is non-existant; all he could see is the black wilderness outside the castle, and then, to his delight, he rediscovers the forest's light, and makes his way through the luminiscent woods once more.

He smells the fresh pine and soil, the air noticably cool – the leaves glow gold and red this time, for the trees are wilting.

"Maleficent.." he calls out, his heart leaping, but his legs giving in to exhaustion after the fairly long trek. "You are there?" He rests his shoulder by a tree, panting, in hopes of recovering his energies.

In the coolness of mid-autumn, his face has gone chill, and he crouches down, huddling, rubbing his cheeks warm.

How long has it been since I've last met you? Four weeks? Almost the whole month..

He isn't getting any warmer.

Soon, he picks himself up, and finds the glade with the pool of water, but no smoke from her cauldron.

"Maleficent..?" he goes, arriving by the place where her 'kitchen' is at. She isn't anywhere to be found, but he softly hears the sound of her weeping, somewhere. Raki calls her name, amidst the counters, and the makeshift bookshelves with the worn-out tomes and manuscripts.

He gets closer to her weeping, until he trips over what looks like a black shroud that is draped over a mound, and he hears a voice yell "Oomphh!" interrupting the crying.

He realises that is Maleficent – she looks up, he sees her face; she's been lying on the leaf-covered ground the whole time, in tears.

"Raki..?" she goes. "You've come back to me.." She rises up, holding him tightly.

He isn't sure what to say; he just allows her to cry on his petite shoulders. Maybe she's missed me after so long.. I didn't know I meant that much to her.

"I was.." She sniffles. "I wondered why you didn't want to come back.. you looked so happy all this time, and you might have forgotten about me.. you might have even wanted to hate me all the more, knowing I was kind to you, while I killed.. your parents.."

"I thought of you," Raki goes. "Every day, I was happy to see your crows, and I relished how someone like you could exist.. to make me feel like I was being listened to. Nobody else made me feel that way.. I've always wanted to come back to you, but I had no proper reason to give to Zaki, so I could visit you again. Until now."

"I've never.." Maleficent sits down by her study chair, wiping her eyes. "Excuse-moi."

"It's alright. You looked so sad when I came.. I wasn't.."

"Wasn't expecting me to cry, or feel sad? Expecting me to stay in that calm, collected persona, like this is how I normally am?"


"I'm sorry to disappoint you, Raki," Maleficent goes. "Even witches like me, I laugh, and I smile, and I get upset and angry and.. lonely. I'm.. I have no one. You have friends, you have a brother, and I have no one but the forest, and the crows and toads to talk with. And if they do understand me, I'd hear only a chirp out of them. But at least, they won't hate me, or spit my name in disgust.

"I've always wondered about this paradox; how it is people are able to share love and respect with one another, but when it comes to me, they become like this one-dimensional caricature, where it's just their unbridled ability to spew bile towards me, if not treat me just as a distant acquaintance, or flat out ignore me in coldness."

"But all people have mainly known of you is that you're a murderer, and a nuisance to the towns nearby your forest," Raki says. "Won't you try showing to everyone that you can be kind? like you have to me-"

"That was before I've become a witch," Maleficent goes. "Every time I close my eyes, I could still see the smiling faces of all those people, and they glance at me, and their eyes show only cruelty. They were so happy at his wedding, and I show up – and I only wanted to know, if he loved me..

"And his answer? Nothing, except to leave me behind to their hatred.."

"Maleficent.." Raki goes. "I'm here, with you right now. And I don't hate you. I don't want you to hate.. you were the most kindest person to me then."

"You haven't seen me kill. Mercilessly rip the whole forms of those people into shreds, taking their lives away-"

"No-" Raki reaches out to her, touching her chest. "I know that isn't you. The real you isn't the you who flayed my parents, or all those people I don't know about. The real you was giggling when I told her about stealing a kiss from a girl after I've tripped on an apple; smiled when I remembered how warm it felt by the fireplace with my papi; you held my hand when I told you how much it hurt, those months after my parents were gone forever.

"I've always known.. you're not the witch people make you out to be. You just never had the chance to love and be understood."

Upon hearing his words, my heart imploded. My heart has always been a frail feeling, always in pain, always in search of happiness and wholeness. In my privacy, I cry about the fact that I was once innocent, like every other young child - that I too had the absolute right to love, with my mere and pere.

That my mere once held me in her arms, and I stared at her beautiful face, her eyes never wavering from me, and all I felt was pure happiness.

I felt like I was jolted back into being that young girl again, and I held him, Raki.. as if he was the only person in the whole world who could return to me that love.

I never wanted to let him go; it is too much to bear that out of everyone I've known, he was the only one who ever saw me beyond the monster that I've become.


It is a beautiful feeling of total acceptance, shared together by those two of each other.


The lucid beauty of that moment, it carries itself as an internal blushing, all over Raki's body when he returns home to his cottage – he isn't certain of how much time has passed since he's left; only the certainty that he has stayed far, far too late for just a 'study session.'

Usually, Zaki keeps the rooms alit with candles, both to deter would-be intruders from entering the lonesome cottage (while he's out searching), and also so he could find his way back in the dark.

However, the cottage is eerily black. No lights have been lit.

Raki wonders if Zaki has decided to just sleep – miraculously placing faith in Raki coming home in one piece, safe and sound, and they could argue over it tomorrow morning. It doesn't seem likely.

In the darkness, Raki tip-toes over to his room, making sure to open the door in such a way that it doesn't creak – it usually does sometimes.

He begins to realise just how tired he is; the effects of Maleficent's poutrice are wearing off, and like someone who's endured several days' worth of consecutive hard work, Raki drops his knapsack and plumps himself onto bed, without bothering to change into pajamas or tucking himself into the bedsheets.

And he slips away into blackness, his thoughts of Maleficent, along with his worries about Zaki dwindling like fading echoes.


The next day, Zaki seems unusually non-chalent about last night, and when Raki tells his brother the excuse for his lateness (that he's just thought of upon waking up)-

"Oh," Zaki goes, munching half-stale bread at the table. "I'd figured as much you'd want to just chill with Anita."

"You weren't worried I didn't come back on time?"

"I was.." An anxious beat. Zaki wipes the crumbs from his mouth. "But I realised, you're the only family I've got, and I should place my faith better in trusting that you can tough it out by yourself. Heh. I remember all those times you've told me to calm down whenever I got on your case. And I'm beginning to see why; there's absolutely no point in excessive worrying, and all I can do is what's there in front of me, in the present moment. Because if there's something truly wrong, then that's when I can spring into action. So I'm not that worried Raki, if you happen to be just a minute late, or if you happen to not be in the right place."

Hearing all that, it surprises Raki. A feeling of relief comes over him, but he is careful not to visibly sigh lest he'd trigger Zaki into imagining that he's hiding something again.

"We're all we have.." Raki goes, mulling over that sentence. "I'm glad. And.. I think I should be more grateful to have you as my bigger brother. The times when I was in deep shit, like when I got caught out under Tyrion's bullying, and you showed him on my behalf how wimpy he actually is."

"Yeah!" Zaki grins, remembering how much his knuckles ached after knocking Tyrion's jaws out.

It feels like a sentimental moment between them – even though Raki isn't feeling so sure if he's really sincere about Zaki, or if he's just saying it to go along with the change in tone.

"Anyways," Raki says, "I have an exam to take today. I have to recite the meanings behind the nine circles of Hell.."

"Oh really? Mm, I suppose I'll have to wish you good luck on it – tell me how it goes, alright?"

Except there isn't an exam.. it's just to justify going out yesterday.

And for the rest of the day, Raki couldn't concentrate on the teachings, as his worries mount that his brother might be coming by to the school, to discover about the non-existant exam, or he might start quizzing him on the names of the nine circles – of which, Raki doesn't know any of them (besides that the deepest circle is a frozen hell).

That feeling of coming to an inevitable end, the ugly revelation that will surely devastate Zaki.. is that guilt?

The only other thought he can think about-

the black crow that is perched upon a dying tree, whose bark is like her embracing arms, a sanctuary from harshness,

is finding her again in the forest.

He still remembers comforting her amidst her tears. The only person in years who's ever come by her parlour.

I'll see her again.. I must! (Maybe she can give him advice about Zaki, or something.)

Upon heading home around evening, Raki quickly conjures up a reason to head out into the forest again. He's done so well on the 'exam,' and he wants to hang out more with Anita, his 'girlfriend' who's been so sweet with him.

Raki is wolfing down the dinner of sauted chicken, at an unusually eager pace that leads to him having hiccups. All the tensions seem to come through his eating – which Zaki takes notice of.

"Hey bro, what's the rush?" Zaki goes.

"I've.. mmnh.. Anita, I just promised to visit her again tonight." Raki wipes his mouth. "I told her I'd come as soon as I can – I don't want to keep her waiting."

"Oh really?" Zaki furls his brow, in what resembles suspiciousness. "You're over an hour late, coming home. What's been happening at school?"

"I.. I was having a long chat with her," Raki says, finishing up his dish. "I lost track of the time, hehe."

"And you're leaving so soon to be with her?" It seems that whatever change in Zaki's attitude this morning, it is only temporary. "Something's up with you, I can almost smell it."

"Zaki.. what's the matter with you?"

"I thought we were brothers, Raki."

"But we are-"

"You don't want to be around me anymore. You're looking for any excuse to avoid me."

"No.. it's- Anita, I.. last night, when we were together," Raki says, noticing Zaki's expression relaxing. "Anita's lonely. She's a misunderstood outcast, and I helped comfort her. I'm not going to leave her alone all of a sudden, when she needs me the most."

The very air between them seems to relax.

"Zaki, I'm going to her," Raki says, resolute in his decision. "I'll come back home to you after, alright? Please don't worry about me too much."

He leaves the dinner table, and heads over to the doors to grab his coat and knapsack – it'll be chilly outside.

"Raki.. wait. Wait-!" Zaki rises, about to stop his younger brother from embarking on a needless excursion outside. "Please don't go! STOP! STAY HERE!"

But Raki slips out into the cold night, leaving Zaki's pleas behind as he trudges on to the familiar and uncertain path of the drawbridge, and then the wilderness, with the trees like a landmark under the cerulean dusk. His very body seems to be lulled towards the pond, the bonfire smoke – towards Maleficent.

She sits, reading from a tome, and the sight of her is a soothing balm for Raki's eyes.

"Hallo.." Raki goes.

"Hello." Maleficent slips a bookmark in-between the pages.

He is light-headed; here in the forest, he begins to feel a new sense of total relief – where he doesn't have to think about his everyday worries. Like when he loses his sense of self during a good theatre performance, or in a deep dream where his feelings flow more readily.

"What are you reading?" Raki asks her, at a loss of a real topic, just looking for any excuse for a conversation.

"Orpheus and Eurydice," she goes.

"I haven't heard of it."

"Oh, it's.." She shows him the tome's cover, which is inscribed with a combination of Latin and Greek. "A tragic tale of love. The Greek poet Orpheus had a wonderful wife, Eurydice, and one day, he lost her to a satyr—"

"That's like a man and a goat," Raki says.

"Yes, and upon discovering the loss of his beloved, Orpheus sung such sad songs to all those around him, and it made the nymphs and deities weep. So moved were they, that they granted him a chance to rescue his wife from the underworld.

"Orpheus, driven by the need to have his beloved at his side, fought tooth and nail to be in the presence of Hades, and sang his lamentations to his ears; Hades took pity upon the poet, and gave Orpheus back his Eurydice – under the sole condition that he never look back at her, until they were both at the surface again.

"The journey back was arduous, and Orpheus began to doubt if Eurydice was indeed by his side. So he risked looking back, and saw her for the last time, before she vanished forever from his existance. That about sums it up."

"Waw.." Raki goes. "That's such a powerfully sad story.."

"It's my tenth time re-reading it. Of course, it could have been written such that Orpheus and Eurydice could have had a happily ever after, but tragic endings linger more deeply in the soul. It's just how it is."

Raki is tearing up. "Maleficent.. I.."

"What's the matter, dear?" She notices Raki beginning to tremble and look peculiar, so she goes up to him.

"I.. I don't want you to suffer a tragic ending. I can't stop thinking about you, everyday. How you're so sad and lonely in the forest, with nobody who cares or loves you. And you're the only one I know who's ever been a real comfort to me. I don't care if everyone else hates you- I love you. I'm only 14-years old, my only family left is the brother who suffocates me, and I've never had a kiss from a girl. But I love you nonetheless, Maleficent.. I don't have anyone else to turn to in this life.."

It is an outpouring of emotion from the boy, out of control, and his sobbing is unbearable to witness.

"Don't cry, Raki," she goes, tenderness emerging from her.

"I love you so much it hurts.." He sobs onto her chest, clutching her with a feral intensity. She knows how he is feeling – this love borne out of hurt, out of aching pain. She lets him clutch her like a comforting blanket, feeling her gnarled limbs react to his grasp, and she puts a leaved finger by his teary eyes, his dripping nose, wiping away the wetness, like dirt and blemish from a cherished doll. "I never want to leave your side," he goes. "I'll be here, and you'll never be lonely again."

From him, it sounds almost like a futile promise, like vowing to invert the forces of gravity, or turning back time in order to change a tragic moment. No one had touched her in all these years since, and why should a young boy be any different?

Because he isn't afraid of her, for all her hatred and outward ugliness.

I killed his parents, like they were nothing..

"I'm sorry," he says, realising how he's covered her hand and dress with his snot. "I got you so dirty-"

She puts a finger to his mouth. "Shhh. Never mind that."

And in a kiss, she embraces him. Sudden and total. Blissful heaven contained between their lips. Raki finds it surprising, the sensation of her mouth, and her tongue. But he relaxes all the same, and closes his eyes, and lets himself go.

Hidden behind the trees, Zaki watches the whole scene unfold, his eyes widening to this goddamned nightmare between his Raki and that creature. All along, he's followed Raki from behind, rightfully suspecting that there's something worth hiding from his sight.

The last thing he's expected is to see the one he loves the most, falling enamoured with the one ultimately responsible for the misery wrought upon his family. Kissing like they're long-time lovers.

It's like the last foothold, crumbling away beneath him, sending him tumbling down into the abyss.

No.. I don't believe this! Tell me this isn't happening!

How can Raki betray him- how dare Raki betray him! For that witch!

"You've got him under your siren's spell, witch.." Zaki snarls, his shaking hand taking his father's hatchet from his belt. Then he runs towards them. "YOU DIE!"

Maleficent has her back towards Zaki, and she turns, just as Zaki swings his father's hatchet down – the blow glances onto her shoulder, slashing into her arm, where black bile streaks out from the injury.

"Zaki!" Raki's eyes widen in horror, realising his brother's presence, droplets of Maleficent's bile streaking onto his face.

She is howling with pain; her arm is nearly severed, and she's lying on the ground.

Zaki lands another blow on her chest, and another – he's going to sever her into itty bitty pieces, pouring every ounce of his hate into hurting her, humilating her body the same way she humiliated his dignity. And when she's begging for death, he'll shoot her in the nose with the matchlock pistol, already loaded upon his belt, but yet to be cocked.

"NO!" Raki screams. He thrusts himself upon Zaki. "STOP IT!"

Zaki's much more strongly built than his brother, and he easily tosses Raki aside. "She's bewitched you into loving her, my little brother! But I, Zaki, will put an end to this madness, once and for all! She is evil! And I'll KILL THIS EVIL!"

Ugly sounds come from Maleficent – the gurgling of her blood, rousing from her punctured innards, seeping outward.

An idea comes to Zaki, and he thrusts his bare hands into Maleficent's wounds, feeling the moist, tender flesh within, and claws inside with his fingers – relishing the scant pain that is reflected upon her face, contorting in agony, while her body writhes helplessly. He is the executioner, drawing out her death as long as he could muster.

Raki can't stand it any longer. "Evil..? You're the one who's EVIL! ZAKI! Leave her alone!" And seeing the pistol holstered on Zaki's belt, Raki yanks it out, and holds the gun towards Zaki.

Zaki pauses, his fingers still enmeshed within her. "You gonna shoot me Raki? I'm the one who's doing justice! I'm killing the one who's hurt other people without any concern! Who's taken our mother and father away! You going to shoot me, you little wimp?"

Raki pulls the trigger, but to no effect.

The pistol has been the family heirloom – it's been passed down to his father by the blacksmith, for winning top prize in a festival shooting contest. A distant memory now comes to Raki, where he's shown how the pistol's firing mechanism works.

After the pistol's loaded with the pellet and powder, you must first light the match, and hook it to the serpantine lock. Then you pull the trigger..

But Raki doesn't have a lighter on him – there's the caultron atop the burning bonfire though.

"You don't know how to even shoot," Zaki goes, taking his hands out of Maleficent, going to reach for the hatchet.

Raki runs to the cauldron, hastily putting the match to the flames, where it ignites.

Zaki's fingers wrap around the hatchet.

What's next? Put the match into the lock, and tightening it in place with the turnscrew..

"You'll end!" Zaki exclaims, crawling to the perfect position over the lain Maleficent's head.

Raki sees the hatchet in Zaki's hand, rising, rising to its peak- it's going to fall- have to aim-


The trigger is somewhat rusty, but upon being pressed, the pistol explodes, a thunderous echo rippling throughout the forest, and halting the motions of Zaki.

For a moment, nothing seems to happen, but then a grimace shows on Zaki's face, the eyes widen with a terrible shock, and then the hatchet slips from Zaki's fingers, clanging on the ground, and Zaki wavers, limping a few steps sideways before he plunges onto the pond's waters, staining with his blood.

Raki pants. The cloud of fired smoke is wafting away from him, smelling fresh and burnt.

He lingers still, feeling utterly disoriented.

And then his awareness comprehends Maleficent's torn, bleeding body on the leaf-covered ground, and Zaki, who once lived and breathed for all these years, and now he's dead.

Slain by Raki's own hands.

Slain for the sake of Maleficent, who by typical standards, has every reason to be killed.

"I.." he utters out, as a wave of anguish comes tumbling over him. He throws the pistol out, away into the dark distance. "I AM FORTUNE'S FOOL! Maahuahhhhuhh-"

Raki is laughing uncontrollably – no, sobbing at the pathetic fate he's put himself into. He is truly alone now, as a murderer of his own remaining family. If he'd come back home, people will notice Zaki's absence and it will come crashing to Raki's murder.

No, he's not alone. Maleficent..

She's so rumpled.. how could he heal her?

Raki thinks of the poutrice he's drunk from her – maybe it could heal her from such a damaged state; how else could she have kept lively in the woods? Without hesitating, he rushes over to the cauldron, and pours a cup of the mixture, and kneeling by Maleficent's side, he gently pours it down her mouth. Some of it spills out the corners of her lips.

To Raki's astonishment, the effect is immediate as Maleficent's body swiftly regenerates itself, the slice holes shrinking, and the sinews of her arm sewing up together with her shoulder again. As if Time itself is rewinding all those inflicted fatalities. The colour returns to Maleficent's face.

And when she gets up, she cradles Raki – unable to thank him enough, unable to make up for the grieving loss of his brother.


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