Authors: Liz Braswell
Copyright © 2016 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Cover design by Scott Piehl and SJI Associates, Inc.
Cover illustration by Mike Heath
All rights reserved. Published by Disney Press, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney Press, 1101 Flower Street, Glendale, California 91201.
For my daughter, Ivy. Wake up, grab your sword, defeat the twin dragons of doubt and uncertainty, conquer the world. I will always love you.
Also, stop drinking my coffee.
Once upon a time I was in an endless dark forest. No—
, I tell you! In another world! I wandered for ages all by myself in the woods. My wife died years ago, you see. I don’t know where my oldest boy was. My little girls and lads were safe at home, I think.
Once upon a time, we were all together, in a castle, you know, but things change. Wives die and eldest sons grow up and chase after princesses and peasant girls, riding away from you forever….
A DRAGON WAS DEAD.
A giant black and purple fire-breathing dragon from the very pits of hell itself was dead somewhere outside the castle. Thorns were falling from the battlements like rain, making curiously pleasant wooden sounds on the grounds of the bailey. Many strange and dire things were happening to an ancient keep that had already endured enough unusual treatment for the past sixteen years.
The handsome prince had killed the dragon with the help of the three strange little fairies he now followed. Without them, he would have done no good whatsoever.
Without them, he would never have been able to hurl the sword magically into the one spot that would easily kill the beast. Without them, he wouldn’t have had the enchanted sword in the first place. Without them, he would have still been rotting in the evil fairy’s dungeon, waiting impatiently for a hundred years to pass so he could break his true love’s spell—as a doddering old man.
Still, the dragon nagged at the back of his mind like a mosquito. A slain dragon should be
There should be a pause, an astounded moment of silence, when he and the fairies and anyone else watching would take a breath and acknowledge the incredible deed that was just accomplished. He had no illusions that it was all due to him; still, he was a prince, it was a dragon, the dragon was dead—shouldn’t there be an intermission?
And also. There were some unresolved details about the dragon and its death. The fire, for instance—it looked like the dragon had set most of the forest alight. Was it still raging? Would it ignite the woody thorns that surrounded the castle and the village? Was the whole place just one giant bonfire waiting to explode?
Was there, in fact, any dragon body left at all, or had it turned back into Maleficent?
Had he been battling a dragon that had temporarily been in fairy form, or had the fairy transformed herself into the beast?
Was it really from hell? Or was that more hyperbole on the fairy’s part?
And yet still he climbed steps in the silent, drowsing castle. The girl who was destined to sleep a hundred years had only been unconscious for a few hours, along with the rest of her kingdom. Already the inside air had that cool, musty smell usually associated with the bedrooms of those who didn’t move much: very great-grandmothers, for instance.
The fairies’ wings fanned up tiny tornados of encroaching dust.
The dragon faded in his mind as he fought off the strange presence of magical sleep, the good fairies’ spell affecting even those it wasn’t meant for. Murky, dim halls only added to his feeling of swimming through the castle while kicking his legs toward the sun.
For that is what he attained in defeating the dragon: the girl—sunlight herself.
He first saw her in a ray of sunshine. She was dancing and singing in a forest clearing, her golden hair sparkling as it swirled around her. Her voice was the very essence of a happy, sunny day distilled into song. She was as weightless on her toes as golden motes in a drowsy beam, floating their way up to the ceiling.
Very soon now he would kiss the girl, break the spell, wake the girl—wake
—and they would marry, and there would be happily-ever-afters for all.
Or something. The fairies weren’t exactly explicit when they had come out of nowhere, freed him, helped him kill the dragon, and led him to this set of stairs that they were presently climbing.
Somehow his girl from the clearing was mixed up with fairies and witches and dragons and castles—this familiar castle, where he had been taken as a child to see the drooling baby he would someday marry. It turned out the forest girl
was the princess
—not that it mattered to the prince; he was willing to upend convention and marry a peasant for love.
This was, however,
more convenient for everybody.
As he entered her bedroom, these thoughts were discarded to the same mental pile of ashes where the dragon lay.
For there was his sleeping beauty—no peasant girl she. Now she wore the proper attire of the princess he must have somehow always known she was. A blue gown as pure as the sky, white wings of cloth above her shoulders like an angel’s. Lips closed but not tight, dreamless, without the tension of any emotion.
Phillip paused, overcome by her beauty.
Did a fairy make a noise? Did he feel some external force pushing him to hurry up with it? The dragon was dead, there were a million explanations waiting, there was a sleeping girl before him dying to wake up.
He knelt, pressing his own lips ever so softly to hers.
Immediately, his knees crumpled.
He fell, his head hitting the soft quilts and satin bolsters on her bed.
His last thought, before sleep and someone else’s dreams overcame him:
That damn dragon.
Did anyone make sure it was actually dead?
ONCE UPON A TIME
there lived a king and queen who ruled their kingdom as their forefathers had—but with even less wisdom. They hunted unicorns in the deep forests until there were none left. They banished all of the wise old men and women, witches and hermits, priestesses and shamans, who advised them to follow a more prudent path. They threw parties for neighboring kings and queens that fairly bankrupted the castle—which led them to levy even higher taxes on the poor. Then they looked around at those neighbors’ lands with covetous eyes, wishing they had more for themselves. But as it was mostly a peaceable country, they had no military recourse.
After some years the queen gave birth to a girl, which was something of a disappointment since they wanted a prince who would inherit the kingdom and become king one day. At least she was beautiful and sweet-tempered, with a halo of golden hair that made her look like a cherub. Everyone who saw the baby princess fell in love with her.
For the baby Aurora’s naming ceremony the king and queen invited everyone they knew, as well as three evil fairies who lived in the darker parts of the land. Every guest dined on rich delicacies kept warm under golden domes and they ate with golden forks and golden knives. Every banqueter was allowed to keep their golden dinnerware as well as the jeweled goblets that held ancient, priceless wine.
And all the guests gave gifts to the beautiful little baby: snow-white ponies, pillows of velvet and silk, toys carved by the cleverest dwarves.
And then it was the three evil fairies’ turn.
“Here she is, as promised,” said the king.
“Now it’s time for your gifts,” said the queen.
The first fairy laughed wickedly. “Hmmm. How about beauty? She may as well be pleasant to look upon while she slaves for us eternally.”
The second fairy said, “I’ll give her the gift of song and dance. Perhaps she can entertain us.”
The third fairy said, “I give her parents the power they wish and supernatural help they need to attain their hearts’ desire. And on her sixteenth birthday, we will claim the princess as ours.”
The three wicked fairies laughed and tittered in unsettling peals.
Hidden among the guests was one of the last remaining
fairies in the kingdom, who had kept a low profile since the banishments began.
“My lord and lady,” Maleficent said, coming forward. She was an impressive figure, young and comely. “You cannot do this. You cannot
your child to the likes of these.”