Hello! I haven't written anything for years and I'm trying to get back into practice. Serving up some tart Disney fluff with thwarted romance, classic love triangles, at least one decent action sequence, and happily ever afters.

A Little Transformation

"Nothing has really changed."

Maleficent watched Aurora and Phillip waltz effortlessly across the room, trailed by clouds of winking fireflies. Diaval sat beside her on a stone bench, his eyes fixed on his mistress's expression, his voice reassuring.

"In the last week," Maleficent began, each word enunciated with impeccable clarity and unconcealed disdain. "The King of Ulstead fell victim to my old curse. The Dark Fey revealed themselves. There was a war. I was blasted into dust and resurrected by a power I never knew I possessed. I transformed the Queen of Ulstead into a nanny goat. And now, Aurora—"

She faltered.

Phillip had lifted her daughter and was spinning her in circles. Aurora shrieked and laughed in mock outrage, her eyes bright and her young cheeks flushed pink. Phillip set her down and she immediately launched herself back into his arms. A crowd of fawning pixie and human spectators cooed, warbled, and clapped with approval.

"Aurora is married," she finished, a bittersweet lump rising in her throat.

"All that doesn't sufficiently qualify as change?" she asked sourly.

"Nothing important has changed," Diaval clarified, stubbornly unperturbed by her bad temper. "Aurora doesn't love you any less now that she's married to Phillip. You still have her, you still have me, and you still have the Moors."

Across the room, King John rose from his high-backed chair, tapping a spoon against a glass. The musical tinkling was swiftly taken up by others. Phillip obligingly dipped Aurora backward and kissed her, generating a tipsy wave of awwws and multiple explosions of enchanted petals. A troupe of luminescent water sprites began a new tune on their tiny silver harps and the couple resumed dancing again.

"You think all kisses mean true love and happy endings," Maleficent said dismissively, finally pulling her gaze from her daughter. Baiting Diaval was always a welcome and usually successful distraction from unpleasant or perplexing emotions.

"I've seen too much to believe that now," Diaval answered, falling easily into their familiar bickering. "But maybe they should. It would be a better world." He crossed his arms and leaned back comfortably. "Anyway, you seem to be warming to Phillip."

Maleficent sighed.

"Phillip acted bravely and honorably today," she answered reluctantly. "I suppose it would be a shame if he contracted leprosy. Maybe. For now."

"There you are," said Diaval encouragingly.

"One wedding won't erase generations of hatred. The fairies and dark fey have good reasons to be angry and mistrustful. The humans won't change overnight."

"You'll help them and so will Phillip and Aurora," countered Diaval. Always observant, he nodded discreetly to their left.

Beside an ivy-and-rose wrapped column, the king's captain of the guard Percival chatted closely with the jungle fey Shrike. Percival was clearly captivated by the attractive warrior and Shrike—though awkwardly gripping a flute of champagne as if for the first time (and it probably was)—did not appear entirely unreceptive.

"Perhaps it won't be as difficult as you think," Diaval added, raising an eyebrow. He grinned.

Maleficent rolled her eyes.

A sprite fluttered over to their bench, dreamily strumming its thimble-sized harp. Maleficent flicked it across the room with a spark of green magic.

She had had quite enough of sentimental spectacle for one evening. She rose to depart.

Diaval stood too, quickly, as if he had been waiting for the moment.

"Mistress, let's dance!" He brushed his palms against his dark trousers and held them out to her. He looked eager.

"You can't be serious." She stepped back, dismayed that even Diaval seemed to have lost hold of his senses. "You can't even dance!"

"I certainly can," he said, offended. "I've been practicing with Aurora."

Maleficent was astonished. And very slightly irritated.

For a creature whose true form was a bird, Diaval possessed an uncanny knack for picking up human customs. It was an occasionally useful and frequently vexing talent. Useful because he could explain to her the social niceties she found so mystifying and inconsistent at times. Vexing because learning them came far more easily to him than it did to her. Not that she often had a strong desire to learn human pastimes, she reminded herself.

"It's a bit like flying—well, with legs," he coaxed. "I'll show you. And if you don't like it, we'll stop. Right away."

She stared dumbfounded from his outstretched palms to his hopeful dark eyes.

"Or," another male voice suggested, "you could just go flying."

Diaval and Maleficent turned their heads.

Borra, the hot-headed leader of the desert fey warriors approached them. He bowed his head in a modest gesture of respect toward Maleficent but there was little else submissive in his manner. Ignoring Diaval, he gestured to an open terrace and the night sky beyond it.

"Perhaps you would better enjoy-"

He was interrupted by sudden loud cheering as King John joined the head of a conga line of shuffling wallerbogs. Udo and a cluster of elegant white-robed tundra fey-bewildered but too polite to decline-were swept stiffly behind him.

"Some fresh air," Borra finished delicately.

"We were about to—" attempted Diaval.

"Not dance," finished Maleficent.

She swept past them both in the direction of the terrace.

"I'll just wait for you here then, shall I?" Diaval called awkwardly after her, his words swallowed up in a gust of wind as she spread her wings and thrust them strongly downward.

Borra watched Maleficent swiftly ascend into the dark sky, a small smile playing on his lips. Then he too brushed past Diaval, overlooking the other man's surprised reaction and opening his own broad raptor-like wings. He lifted quickly into the air, following the direction Maleficent had chosen.

Diaval observed, a little forlornly, as their figures rapidly disappeared into the night. Without the ability to turn back into his raven self, he felt strangely grounded. And he felt, too, a vague suspicion he had somehow just been insulted.

A high-pitched buzz swooped into his right ear.

"Ahem, if you're looking for a partner…" suggested a tiny, prim voice. The pink pixie Knotgrass hovered into view in front of Diaval's nose, extending the back of her little hand.

A second buzz whizzed past his left ear.

"He doesn't want to dance with you, he wants to dance with someone charming and pretty," sniffed the green pixie Thistlewit. She tossed her curly ringlets behind her shoulder for emphasis, fluttered her eyelashes, and extended her own hand.

"He wanted to dance with Maleficent," hissed Knotgrass, shoving her companion out of the way. She beamed a smile at Diaval, who took a nervous step backward.

"Well, Maleficent didn't want to dance with him, did she?" said Thistlewit nastily, launching into a full attack. "Oww!" she added, as her curls were yanked.

"Ooof!"

"Stop that!"

"If you ladies will excuse me..." began Diaval, taking another, hastier, step backward.

"Since Maleficent's flown off with the handsome fey he should at least dance with someone!" Thistlewit squealed. Her arms cartwheeled in the air as Knotgrass pinched her nose.

Diaval halted.

"I wouldn't call Borra handsome," he said, with more insistence than he intended. He crossed his arms uneasily.

The pixies paused mid-fight. They looked at one another. They looked at Diaval.

"Poor dear," tutted Knotgrass, releasing Thistlewit's nose. She shook her head sympathetically.

"Borra," Thistlewit declared solemnly, "is absolutely delicious."

"Ten out of ten," agreed Knotgrass sadly.

"Have you seen his muscles?" asked Thistlewit, clasping her hands to her chest.

Diaval's mouth fell open.

To be continued...