Virtual Season 3, Episode 11

The Once Upon a Time Virtual Series
presents
Virtual Season 3
Episode 11
“Once Upon a Dream”

Executive Producer: Silverbluemoon
Story By: RebelByrdie and Silverbluemoon
Written By: RebelByrdie
Illustrated By: Emclainable
Edited By: NotEvilDear-Wicked

Advisors and Consultants
Characterization: Rushemiiaah
Research and Development Assistant: Archaeomedic

This series is Rated M for language, violence, drug references, and adult situations.
It is not intended for all audiences. Please use discretion.

Publication Date: 03/27/2015

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KI-Once Upon a Time, there was a kind King and a beautiful Queen, and they lived in a peaceful, prosperous paradise of a kingdom. King Stefan and Queen Leah had truly found their happily ever after. Except. Except they did not have a child. Many years passed, and their nursery room, decorated with glowing golden suns and shining silver moons, remained empty. Finally one night, while the winds blew from the west bringing a storm that smelled of lightning and rain, Leah wandered into the castle’s gardens and fell to her knees. She wished, with all of her heart and soul, for a child as the clouds cloaked the starry sky. The Blue Fairy, the oldest, most powerful and kindest of all the fairies, heard Leah’s wish through the storm clouds and could not deny the wish. She appeared before the Queen and promised that her wish would be granted; she and the King would have their child.

Nine months later, as the first rays of the spring sun shone through the grand stained glass window of the Queen’s chamber, a princess was born. The King and Queen were overjoyed, the kingdom rejoiced, and even the fairies celebrated the babe’s birth. All were joyful and sang the praises of their benevolent royal family. All but one. The fallen fairy did not celebrate. The dispensable sorceress, whose name brought terror and woe when it was fearfully whispered, was not joyful. Maleficent saw the birth not as a blessing, but as an opportunity to spread her evil.

On the day of the babe’s naming and presentation, there was a lavish gathering. The royalty, the nobility, the gentry, the small folk, and even a large envoy of fairies had gathered to welcome the Princess of the Dawn, Aurora, to the world.

One person was not invited, but she attended anyway. Maleficent appeared in a swirl of brimstone, ash, and black smoke that blocked out the window’s light and made people choke and cough.  Queen Leah pulled her daughter, dressed in a flowing white satin and lace gown, to her chest. Men pulled their swords and ladies swooned. King Stefan stood, strong and brave, to protect his True Love and their baby.

Maleficent_final

Maleficent, her lips glowing pink from the blood of unicorns and virgins, crept along the main aisle as people drew away, dragging their ladies and children back from the vile woman. Her staff, twisted oak topped with an orb made from the stolen tears of her victims, tapped against the polished marble floor.

What do you want, Witch?” Stefan’s baritone echoed through the otherwise silent chamber. His knights, shining in armor with their weapons at the ready, waited for their king’s signal.

Maleficent laughed at the sight. She threw back her wild golden curls and cackled, sounding off like the screech of a rabid beast.

Why, I’ve come to honor the Princess, of course. Such an auspicious day, I can’t imagine why I wasn’t invited.” She paused and pursed her lips in a mock-pout. “I suppose the messenger lost his way to my Fortress.”

The fairies, floating in a protective circle around the Queen and Princess, shuddered at the mention of her hellish haven.

You’re not wanted here, Maleficent.” Stefan all but growled. The rattle of metal from his loyal soldiers backed up his words with deadly intent.

Oh.” Maleficent tossed her hair again, “but I come bearing a gift for little Aurora.”

No.” Leah’s word was barely a whisper, but it seemed to echo as loud as her husband’s words.

Maleficent’s eyes glowed with unholy fire. “Yes.” She raised her arms, and the shadow on the floor seemed to belong to something more like a beast than a woman. “Before the sun sets on her seventeenth birthday, the Princess will-” She closed her eyes as if to consider her diabolical options, “prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and fall into a deep sleep from which she will never awaken!”

The gathered crowd gasped in horror.

Seize her!”

Stefan’s brave knights surged forward, but Maleficent dissolved in a swirl of smoke as black as her heart with an insane cackle of malevolent glee.

Leah clung to her child as tears slid down her face. Aurora looked up at her mother with nothing but innocence in her newborn blue eyes. She had no idea, no understanding, that her bright and beautiful life had just been cut brutally short with a few words.

Fear not,” the Blue Fairy comforted, shimmering for a moment before appearing as a full-sized woman with gossamer wings and a smile on her face. “There is one power that can break any curse, no matter how terrible. True Love’s Kiss shall save Aurora.”

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KI-Aurora had heard the story, her own story, so many times. Hundreds of times, perhaps more? She walked through the Forbidden Fortress and could not help but think of the tale. Emma Swan had said that her story was known even in the other world. She was a Disney Classic, whatever that meant.

I mean, every kid in the world knows your story, well sort of. I mean, Mulan is famous too, but that’s a different movie.”

She had wanted to know more, but Emma had only shaken her head and advised her that it was too complicated to explain and that she would “blow a fuse” if she attempted to explain it all.

That was something of a running theme in her life, things being too complicated to be explained to her. Like why, exactly, Maleficent had cursed her. She had heard the story from servants, tutors, her parents, her aunties, and there was even a movie, whatever that was, but she didn’t understand why. She walked around Maleficent’s library and couldn’t help but think that it looked like any other library in any other castle. Well, it was perhaps larger and more focused than other libraries. There were countless books and scrolls about magic, but nothing seemed overtly evil. There were no books bound in human flesh and written in blood, just dusty tomes that would not have looked out of place in her father’s study or her own childhood classroom.

Another room held what looked like an apothecary’s shop, it was full of bottles and tubes, herbs hung on hooks to dry and a cauldron hung over a cold fire pit. She read over the bottles’ labels, but there was nothing that seemed poisonous or even dangerous; there wasn’t a vial marked sleeping curse or drought of death. For an evil sorceress’s lair, it was a bit underwhelming. She found a bed chamber with a large unmade bed. There was a burnt-down candle on the side table and a decanter that might have once held water or wine. There was a sitting room with an opulent fireplace and more books.  There were a few decorations but again, it seemed almost plain. Where was the torture dungeon? Where was the pit full of eaten peasants’ bones? Where was the evil dragon sorceress that she had feared her entire life? This fortress, forbidden to all but the sorceress herself, seemed almost homey. Especially, Aurora smiled, with Seraph around. Well it might have been homey, once, but now it was drafty, dusty, and desolate. Aurora looked around and saw a chessboard, apparently abandoned halfway through a game. She wiped her fingers through the dust and picked up one of the black pawns from its place on the board. Her aunts had taught her how to play chess as a child, and she had been atrocious at it. She’d had little patience for the strategy and deep thought involved in the game. It had been a nice way to pass a long winter evening, though. She had never imagined that Maleficent would do something so human as playing a game of chess.

“It isn’t what I expected, honestly.” She voiced her thoughts for holding them inside any longer might cause her to explode.

“What did you expect, exactly?” Mulan arched a dark brow and looked at her curiously.

Aurora shrugged and placed the pawn back in its place on the board. She wondered, surreptitiously, if Mulan knew how to play the game. “More evil, I suppose. I grew up hearing horror stories about the Mistress of All Evil. She cursed me when I was a baby. Honestly, this Forbidden Fortress doesn’t look very different from my childhood home.” It really didn’t.

“Perhaps,” Mulan said with little inflection, “we should look beneath the surface. Evil sometimes wears a false face.”

Aurora couldn’t help but think of Lancelot and Cora. Cora, who ripped out hearts and took people’s faces. She shivered and brushed that memory from her mind as they walked a circuit of the most lived-in rooms one more time in an already familiar path. They looked for anything of use, and as they came back to the sitting room once more, Aurora was sure that the whole search was for naught. This room, complete with two throne-eque chairs and a collection of weapons on the wall, seemed like the most likely place for magic, but nothing seemed especially impressive or powerful. The thing that did catch Aurora’s eye, though, was a tapestry.

The tapestry captured Maleficent in her fearsome dragon form as she terrorized innocents.

“Emma said she slew her—threw a sword into her dark heart, but,” she shivered, “the darkness, the fire and brimstone. It frightens me.”

tapestry_final

There was a castle in one of the dragon’s wings and a crypt in the other. Aurora shivered.

“Dragons are fearsome, but Maleficent is well and truly dead.  She won’t hurt you anymore.  Even if she was still alive, I would not allow it.”

Aurora turned her attention from the tapestry to Mulan. She was leaning against the mantle, her face serene and expressionless. It would be easy to think her emotionless, but Aurora could see the protectiveness swirling in the other woman’s dark eyes and beneath that, pain. Mulan easily spoke of the former, but she would never mention the later. Mulan wouldn’t stop, wouldn’t sit, wouldn’t rest, until Aurora did so, and perhaps not even then. The stubborn woman wouldn’t even admit that she was hurting.

“I’m tired.” It was not a lie, exactly, but Aurora was more concerned about getting Mulan to stop than she was of her own sleep. To illustrate her point, she sat heavily on one of the chairs and then sneezed at the poof of dust that came from the cushion. “Where is Seraph?”

Mulan raised a questioning brow and Aurora smiled a little sheepishly. “The unicorn.”

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KI-T_crophe fortress was large and was of the Western style of castle, cold and drafty, ugly in her own opinion, though she did not voice this.  Mulan was glad she didn’t, especially when Aurora mentioned that her childhood home was so similar.  As her father had told her time and time again, one need not unsay what had never been said.  Another thing she didn’t dare say was that she did not trust the unicorn.  Maleficent’s corporeal form might be dead, but that did not mean that the threat was gone.

For the moment, though, the unicorn made Aurora smile—something she did rarely—so Mulan would remain silent on the matter. Silent but vigilant. They were under a roof, as were the horses, so making camp was simplified. Mulan was grateful for it. She was weary, and perhaps too weary to be an effective guardian.

She knelt by the large fireplace and mechanically built a fire with the wood that had been stacked beside it years before.  The unicorn clip-clopped into the room when the fire began to pop.  It sought warmth out the same as any other creature, Mulan reasoned.  She had pushed the two padded chairs, more like thrones, together to give Aurora something like a bed to sleep upon. Neither of them were remotely comfortable with the idea of the Princess sleeping in Maleficent’s bed. Aurora didn’t seem to mind this arrangement, as she curled up in the chairs and sighed, seemingly as happy as a cat in a basket. Mulan found a cloak, a deep purple winter cloak with a warm fleece lining, to spread over Aurora.

Her body ached fiercely and she had to admit, if only to herself, that hacking through the vines and thorns may not have been the best decision she’d ever made. Not that she had a history of making wise decisions. Mulan chided herself internally. She took one last look around the room and eased herself to the floor beside Aurora’s makeshift bed. She pulled her boots off, a luxury she rarely indulged in, and stretched out her legs towards the fire. She rotated her neck and winced at the pain it caused. The bones inside snapped, crackled, and popped like firewood, and she clenched her teeth together to keep herself silent. Aurora was trying to sleep, after all. She pulled out her sword, undoubtedly dulled by her attack on the vines, and her sharpening stone. She could not afford a dull blade when they were resting, very literally, in the heart of the enemy’s territory. She moved slower than usual, her shoulder, back and chest muscles heartily protested the movement. She couldn’t, or perhaps didn’t care to, remember the last time she’d been so sore. Either way, she wondered if Maleficent had a bath of any sort. She would merrily behead a man if she thought it would lead to a bath house. Well, not just any man, she corrected herself, but certainly a bandit or thief. She’d kiss the unicorn if it meant a cup of real tea. She wrinkled her nose at that thought.

“Do you see the three women on the far left?”

The question made Mulan jerk, and were her fingers not toughened from years worth of callouses and scars, she would have cut herself on the blade of her sword.

Aurora was pointing at the tapestry that hung over the mantle. Mulan looked up at it and located a trio of women in the group of people running from the dragon. She tilted her head to get a clearer view. “I do.”

Aurora sighed, “They remind me of my Aunties. They really raised me, you know. Mother and Father had to send me away to keep me safe from Maleficent,” she paused, “and spinning wheels.” She shuffled around, and Mulan could hear the chairs creak with her movement. “So I stayed in the Forest Palace while they stayed in the Royal Palace at court. They only came to see me once a year, on my birthday. It was to keep me safe, but it was rather lonely. My Aunts kept me company. They were my entire world. They were also, as I found out just before my seventeenth birthday, fairies tasked with protecting me. They gave up magic and flying and being with their own kind just for me.”

Mulan stopped sharpening her sword and smiled softly. “They raised you well.”

Aurora chuckled, the sound musical to Mulan’s ears. “They tried. My parents sent gifts, servants, everything a girl could want in lieu of their presence. I was horribly spoiled and doted upon by everyone. Looking back on my childhood, I was a bit of a terror.”

Mulan smiled and tried to imagine a small Aurora with her hair in pigtails, running about causing mischief. The image wasn’t hard to conjure in her mind, perhaps due to her own childhood outbursts.

“They loved me, though, truly.”

Of course they had, how could they have not? Aurora was all too easy to love.

“I haven’t seen them since before, well, the curse.” She chuckled again, “Both of them, actually. Before, just before. I think they must be in Snow and Emma’s realm, the one with no magic in it. I think that Flora may have learned to bake better cakes and Fauna must have learned to sew properly by now.  I think they are happy.  They must be.  Do you think they remember me now?”

She was crying, and though the Princess was trying to keep herself, calm, Mulan could tell. The woman’s tears struck her heart like crossbow bolts and she ached to wipe her tears away. When one slender hand reached out over the arm of the chairs, Mulan all but dropped her sword and wrapped her hand around Aurora’s and marveled that, despite the differences, their fingers and palms fit perfectly together.

“I have no doubt that they remember you. The only mystery is how they could ever forget you, curse or no.” Her sword lay on the floor, and she leaned her head against the side of the chairs. Their hands were still linked, and though Mulan knew she should stay awake and guard her princess, her eyes slid closed and she drifted to sleep.

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KI-F_cropalling again.  It was a dizzying descent that seemed to go everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Aurora was swept up in the tide of a sea that had no name, no shore and no bottom. She fell into the indistinguishable gray world of mist and echoes.  Images, only distinct enough to be ominous, brushed against her like blowing curtains in the breeze. It sent chills down her spine and started a fever in her brain at the same time.  Phantom images of a thousand nightmares assaulted her.  She kept walking though, she was compelled to, she couldn’t seem to stop herself. It was not the room of fire and she was not scared, exactly. It was hard to explain with words, even feelings seemed to fail her. It was a foreign world, yet she felt oddly at home, as if she belonged to this sleeping realm, or perhaps it belonged to her, it was difficult to find the line between her own self and the world she found herself in. She walked on, being lead as if by the hand, towards a realm she had never been.

The stomping of a thousand boots drew her attention for a moment as the swirling fog gave way to a foreign landscape torn to shreds by armies whose banners she’d never seen and screams in a language she’d never heard.  Blood, fear, swords and fire-a nightmare. She turned round and round as she frantically searched for the safety of the gray fog. She didn’t like this, was it a dream?

Ping!”

Though she did not know the language, she knew that this was a name. Aurora turned and her breath caught. The men around her were clad in black with touches of color that represented rank. She didn’t know how she knew that, she just did. A man screamed again, sword in hand, and then grabbed another, far more slender man.  The man, Ping, tuned and Aurora almost collapsed in shock.  She knew those eyes, the twist of the mouth, the arrogant way his shoulders were squared. She knew him, only Ping was no him. He was not a man, he was Mulan.  She watched, her feet frozen to the corpse-strewn ground,, as the man and Mulan fought side by side against overwhelming odds. Their enemies were large, clad in gray and armed with viscous looking swords, axes and maces. They rode horses and screamed as they cut through the foot soldiers. Ping, Mulan, and the other man, Mulan called him Shang, fought with their backs pressed to each other. Mulan’s sword, the one she sharpened every night, sliced and cut through men, sending blood and flesh flying. Aurora knew that this must be a memory, a nightmare from Mulan’s past, but she could not help but fear for the woman. She reached for her, but her fingers slid through Mulan’s shoulder like a shadow.

Mulan.” Aurora couldn’t imagine seeing such a thing in her sleep night after night.

The hoard thinned out, more men laying on the ground then running at them, and  Shang turned to speak Ping, but as his mouth opened, an arrow came flying-

Aurora looked away, unwilling to see more carnage, unwilling to spy on Mulan anymore.  She had no right to pry into the other woman’s mind, she had no right to invade her nightmares, just as she had no right to comfort the much younger Mulan, who called herself Ping, as screamed in fury on the battlefield as the man named Shang died in her arms.

She looked back, because she had to make sure that Mulan was unharmed, physically, at least. Others had gathered around her as cannon fire from the ridge above the battlefield drove the enemy back. A squat man looked at the gathered soldiers then reverently took the dark red cloak from the dead man’s body and handed it to Mulan, and then all the men bowed to her.  The cloak, Aurora realized, was not only Shang’s, but the cloak of a leader, a commander of men, of soldiers.

The cloak that she had never seen Mulan without. The cloak that she had torn to ribbons to use as bandages.

Aurora felt tears build up in her eyes and she turned and ran. She wanted to be done, she wanted to go home.  Oh how she wanted to be home with her Aunts, safe and sound.  She ran into the gray and other nightmares, other people’s nightmares, assaulted her. Then she heard it.  

Aurora.”

Her name floated through the mist.  She ran towards the sound. It was Mulan calling her back from the realm of horrors she had fallen in. Mulan rescuing her, again. Mulan.

She did not wake up, though, the light she ran to wasn’t the crackling fire in the Forbidden Fortress. The Gray gave way to a familiar room, a room from her own own memories.  Her Aunt’s room, she had spent countless hours here. This had always been her happy place, her safe place, her home. It was exactly as she remembered it.  There were three neat beds and a large work area full of half-finished projects, books the odds and ends of life. It was warm and smelled of happiness, cinnamon and lemon candies.

The table by the fireplace was occupied by three women, three faces that Aurora knew as well as her own. She drew in a breath and they turned, and she felt new tears wet her eyes, tears of joy.

Aurora!” The first to her feet was, as always, Fauna. Her yellow dress barely had time to swish as she rushed over, her dark hair, usually tied back, swung across her tanned face.

Flora, dressed in a warm berry-colored dress, came quickly after.

Merryweather rose gracefully and came over, her creamy orange dress stood out beautifully against her dark skin, smiled at her. “Our Princess.”

She found herself in a huddle of arms, surrounded by her Aunts, hugged close, cherished, protected, loved.

Whatever,” Merryweather tilted her face up so they could see eye to eye, “are you doing here?”

She sniffled back a tear, “I don’t even know where here is, Auntie Merryweather.”

The Netherworld,” Fauna answered quickly.

The world between wake and sleep, the realm of dreams,” Flora clarified.

She had missed this, this unit of women who finished each other’s sentences without missing a beat.

But what are you doing here? Why aren’t you in Storybrooke with the other fairies and people?”

They stepped apart, but Flora still had her right hand and Fauna had an arm around her shoulders. Merryweather got a fourth cup, the same cup she’d always drank from at home, off the shelf and poured her some tea. “I’m not sure where Storyrbooke is, Aurora dear, but the reason we’re here is very simple.”

Fauna sighed and Flora sniffed and Merryweather continued, “Maleficent.”

Flora and Fauna pushed her to sit down and Merryweather started to pull out cookies and cakes, as if it were really tea time.

How odd.” She wondered if it was fair that she was getting dream cakes while Mulan was dreaming of war, “We-I’m actually in her Fortress now.”

Her aunts exchanged a look and she knew that her initial ‘we’ had not been missed.

With Maleficent?” It was a quiet, probing question from Fauna.

Aurora shook her head, “No. She’s gone. I still don’t understand how she kept you here, though.”

The three women sat.

Well,” Fauna hummed for a moment, “We’re not here, precisely.”

It’s difficult to explain,” Flora added.

Perhaps we should tell you from the beginning,” Merryweather said with a small smile.

Aurora picked up a small vanilla cake, her favorite, sipped her tea and settled in for a story. Her Aunts told the best stories.

The night we took you home to your parents.”

The night before her seventeenth birthday, Aurora remembered it well.

We traveled to Maleficent’s Fortress to speak with her, to ask her to lift her curse.” Merryweather continued. “We had asked before, but hoped that the years had mellowed her temperament. She was sitting in a chair by her fireplace, staring into the flames.”

She seemed lost in thought, but she wasn’t,” Fauna took over, “surprised to see us.”

She must have grown used to our visits over the years,” Flora said with something that sounded almost like regret in her voice. “Because she was expecting us.”

Her aunts had visited Maleficent? How odd. Aurora had never known that.

She had the spinning wheel there already with a pile of gold thread bundled in an old basket. She was half-drunk on wine. For a moment I thought we would be able to convince her,” Fauna sighed, “but she didn’t want to be convinced.”

Merryweather’s sigh echoed Fauna’s, “We were fools for thinking that she might have changed.”

She trapped us,” Flora piped up, her voice growing a little loud with temper, “She wrapped us in the gold thread-it was enchanted-and trapped us. We were able to stay together, but we were powerless, frozen, we don’t even have our wands. We were tangled into a tapestry and had to watch as she disappeared and we knew-” Flora stopped abruptly.

We knew” Merryweather picked up, “That we had failed to protect you.”

Aurora frowned, “Trapped in a tapestry” She said it mostly to herself. Surely they couldn’t mean. “You’re trapped in the tapestry!” She stood, now excited. “We’re at the Fortress. I didn’t see three people that looked like you in the tapestry. I saw you. There must be a way to free you. To break this curse.”

It’s not,” Fauna retorted,

A curse,” Flora finished.

It’s more of a spell, darling, to keep us captured. The gold thread was made from straw magically, it’s an old sorcerer’s trick, so her magic was twisted into the thread. The only way to break the containment would be to counteract it with thread made of light magic.”

They started to fade and Aurora realized that was because she was starting to wake up.

No!” She didn’t want to go, not yet, not when she had just found them again. The gray mist closed in and the room, with it’s warm fire and familiar decorations, began to fade.

Flora!” She screamed as if she were a child again, “Fauna!” She reached for them as she was dragged back through the gray.


“Merryweather!” She jerked awake, yelling her Aunt’s name.

Mulan, still holding her hand, jerked awake too. The warrior jumped to her feet and wasn’t awake enough to think to cover her wince and hiss of pain. She picked up her sword and immediately looked around. The room’s only other occupant was Seraph, who looked at them with dark eyes for only a moment before settling back down to sleep.

“A nightmare?” Mulan looked at her with concern on her face. “The fire room again?”

Aurora scrambled out of her makeshift bed and went to the mantle. She balanced her hands on it and rose to her tip-toes to get a better look at the tapestry.

“They’re in the tapestry.”

Mulan blinked at her, but did not otherwise react. “The tapestry?”

She wasn’t sure how to explain it all: the dreams, her aunts, the magic, but she looked around the room and saw the spinning wheel in the corner. Not the one she’d pricked her finger on, but perhaps the one that had spun the gold thread. She looked back to the tapestry and realized she saw glints of gold, in the dragons wings, in the fire, in the hand rising from the water.

“Maleficent trapped my Aunts in the tapestry with magical thread. We need to free them. We need good magic.” She moved away from the fireplace. “Something to help them escape.”

If Mulan thought she had gone mad, she did not show it. “We have already scoured the castle and haven’t found anything magical, and good magic would be in short supply here.

Aurora wanted to stomp her feet, to protest and scream that they needed to save her Aunts. She wanted to throw a temper tantrum, which was what princesses did. Only, Aurora knew, she wasn’t a princess in a hidden palace anymore, and her Aunts were counting on her.

“There must be something.”

Seraph, obviously annoyed with their human antics, blew out a huff.

Aurora turned to shush the little unicorn then she paused. Unicorn. She didn’t know much about magic, but she did know that unicorns were made of pure magic-good magic.

“Seraph!” She hugged the unicorn around the neck, “I could kiss you!” She turned to Mulan. “Unicorns are made of pure magic-good magic. If we take some of his mane and tail hairs and sew around my aunts, we can free them.

She plucked a single strand of the unicorns hair and looked at it. “But it’s so thin.” She looked at the spinning wheel, “I don’t know how to spin.” She had never, ever been allowed around a spinning wheel, after all. She was at a loss, she wanted to help them so much, to be the hero instead of the damsel for just once, but she did not know how. She felt tears prick at her eyes and flushed bright red. She would not cry!

“I know how to spin.” Mulan’s voice was quiet and for a moment, Aurora thought she imagined it. Whether she believed her or not, Mulan unsheathed her belt knife and cut a swatch of Seraph’s tail away.

She walked across the room and dragged the spinning wheel closer to the fire. The wood groaned and grated against the stone as she dragged it.

“I didn’t know you knew how to-” She wasn’t sure what to say, be feminine? Be a lady? Sew? Mulan was a woman, but she was so different, Aurora found herself tongue tied.

Mulan looked at the fire. “There was a time in my life that I trained for things other than war.”

She started to tread Seraph’s hair into the wheel. “All the women of my family learned to how spin and weave silk. My grandmother, my mother, my elder sister. Even if I didn’t particularly like it, I learned. It was what was expected.”

Aurora had learned more about Mulan’s past in this night then she had in all of their time together. It was hard to reconcile the images of Ping on the battlefield and of Mulan at a spinning wheel with her family. How did those pieces fit into the puzzle that was the woman before her?

It took a few false starts, then Mulan fell into a practiced rhythm at the wheel. Her hands, so fast and strong in battle, moved with a different sort of grace and skill. Aurora watched, speechless, as she twisted the unicorn hair into a silky thread.

“Do you think this will be enough?”

Aurora nodded, “I just need to find a needle.”

It wasn’t hard to find a needle, in fact Mulan had one in her supplies. Mulan insisted that she, instead of Aurora, climbed up on the chair to get the tapestry down from the wall. Aurora watched her, and wasn’t sure which scared her more, the idea that Mulan would fall and hurt herself, or that she might drop the tapestry into the fire somehow. Neither happened, of course. Mulan brought her the tapestry with no problem at all.

Aurora arranged herself and the tapestry side by side, but not too close to the fire. The tapestry was heavy, and even more ornate and detailed up close. She found her Aunts, faces frozen in the cloth and ran her thumb over them gently. Maybe sewing wasn’t as grand as fighting with a sword, but if she could really free her Aunts then in some small way, she would be a hero like Mulan.

She sewed carefully, made her stitches small and concise. She edged around their figures carefully, afraid that even one errant stitch could steal a finger, nose or wing. The gold threads glowed and after she sewed around Flora, the gold threads pulsed red.

She smiled, and then felt a warm hand on her shoulder. “Keep going.” Mulan’s encouragement made her feel ten feet tall, and she started sewing around Fauna. Yellow sparks popped off of the tapestry.

“One more to go.” Aurora felt Mulan’s fingers gently squeeze her shoulders in encouragement. She used the last bit of thread sewing around Merryweather. She tied off the last stitch and held her breath. For a moment, nothing happened. Then there was a pop in the air and orange smoke rose from the clothe.

The three women appeared out of the cloud. Aurora cried out in joy and leapt up. Mulan stood, stock still, shocked and surprised at what had just occurred.

“You did it.” Flora smiled.

“We knew you could.” Fauna added.

“We’re so proud of you, Child.” Merryweather’s smile was brilliant.

“Wait a minute,” Fauna shouted, “You’re not Philip.”

“Well of course she’s not, you ninny.” Flora replied.

Aurora stepped back. “Forgive me. Mulan, this Flora, Fauna and Merryweather, My Aunties and Fairy God Mothers. Aunties, this is Mulan. She and Philip save me from the curse.”

Mulan inclined her head, “Wise Women.” There were tales of fairies in her own land, and she knew to treat them with the utmost respect.

Their greetings were cut short by Fauna’s shrill whistle.

Flora clapped her hands over her ears, as did Aurora.

Before anyone could ask why the fairy had done such a thing, a small locked box on a shelf started to shudder, and then it exploded as three wands flew across the room to their rightful owners.  A cloud of fairy dust, which Maleficent must have stolen and hoarded, poofed out of the box as well.

The fairies wasted no time or magic. They conjured lit candles, a feasts worth of food and, best of all in Aurora’s opinion, two large and comfortable looking beds.  Perhaps she was spoiled, but she hadn’t asked for anything.  Her Aunts hadn’t taken no for an answer.  They all but pushed Aurora and Mulan, who was quieter than usual which was saying something, into the beds. Aurora laid drowsily, and Mulan stiffly, as Aurora recounted their adventures.

The fairies reacted with shock, disgust and fear at the mention of Cora.

“Cora!” Merryweather spat the word as if it were a curse word.

“The Queen of Hearts!” Fauna shook her head.

“A heartless monster.” Flora groused.

Their reactions were just a little better when Aurora told them of how Hook had given her heart to Cora.

“Oh, sweet girl!” Fauna rushed to her. “You are so very lucky. The things she could have done to you.”

“The things she could have made you do,” Flora added with a shudder.

“Considering what she did to her own daughter-” The other two gave her a withering glare, and the orange-clad fairy said no more.

“She may have been all of that, but she did tell us that we have a chance to save Philip.”

“And if there truly is a way, we are honor bound to try,” Mulan added, breaking her silence.

Aurora regarded Mulan and, for the first time, noticed how she looked rather like Flora. Not exactly, but close. They had the same dark, almond shaped eyes and straight dark hair.

“But magic,” Flora said, “can’t be used”

“Lightly,” Merryweather cut in. “It is dangerous, and this quest you wish to undertake is not something to be toyed with.”

The three fairies shared a look, and Aurora wondered, not for the first time, if they could communicate with their thoughts.

“There is a way.” Fauna perched on the foot of Aurora’s bed. “Do you remember the stories we told you? About The Lost Kingdom?”

Aurora nodded. “I do! More than that, Auntie Fauna, I met Sir Lancelot himself!” Well, she was sure that Lancelot had been himself for at least part of the time she’d known him.

“And how does he fare?” Flora asked.

“Cora,” Mulan said shortly, “killed him.”

Merryweather, who sat on the left side of Mulan’s bed, only sighed. “Yet another falls to her evil.”

“What does the Lost Kingdom have to do with saving Philip?” Aurora asked. She curled up, her arms wrapped around her knees. It felt, almost, like being a child again.

“The Lost Kingdom was home to many powerful magic practitioners, some very good and some very evil, and there are artifacts that are more powerful still.” Merryweather stood and walked over to the tapestry. She held it aloft with her magic. “You see, the quest is here, My Dear. Maleficent craved the dark powers of The Lost Kingdom, and researched for it carefully. You would need to request an audience with the Lady of the Lake, then gain the approval of The Last Paragon, then the permission of the Sun to enter Round Room to get the artifact, if it hasn’t been stolen already.”

“But what artifact, Aunties? What could possibly bring Philip’s soul back to his body?”

Fauna smiled. “You should know, Aurora, it’s only your favorite bedtime story.” Aurora regarded the tapestry and realized that it had been in front of her the entire time. The green cord wrapped around the sword on the tapestry.

“Gawain’s Green Cord.”

“The one that made him invincible?” Mulan asked, then shrugged, “Philip liked to tell stories by the fire.”

Aurora and Mulan looked at each other. “A quest.” Mulan said the word with a hint of excitement in her voice.

Aurora couldn’t help but smile, “To Camelot.”

“In the morning, Ladies.” Merryweather waved a wand, and the candles and fire dimmed. “For now, you both need to sleep.”

“But I’m not,” Aurora’s words melted into a yawn, “tired.”

She looked to Mulan, but the exhausted warrior had already fallen asleep. Her face had relaxed, and Aurora snuggled onto her side, facing Mulan. “Okay, maybe just a nap.” Her eyelids slid closed again and she fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Decorative Line

KI-T_crophe sun rose and the beams broke over the forest and shined onto the high balcony. Mulan welcomed the sun the same way she had done for years, with the slow and graceful katas of the tai chi that her father had started to teach her when she had been barely able to toddle. It was both a martial art and a form of meditation. She flowed easily between the stances, mindful of her breathing and concentration. Her muscles protested and her ribs ached but she moved anyway, forcing the pain away. The morning air felt good on her skin. She practiced in only her loose pants and her breast wraps. A light sweat had broken out over her skin, and she relished the feel of her body bending to her will. She had found a bath, and had been pleased to find that though the water was cold, it was fresh and plentiful. She had come outside with her skin still damp and her thick hair sopping. She had re-wrapped her breasts and started her mercerizes, two habits so ingrained in her that she had barely thought of them. Since her armor was ruined, there was little practical reason to wrap her chest to flatness, but she had done it anyway. It was not necessary, but she felt odd and uncomfortable otherwise. She didn’t think about it extensively, because that would lead her mind down that uncomfortable path and stir up old feelings. She would need all her wits about her for their quest, she could not be wrapped up in her past or the emotions that thinking of it brought forth.

tai chi_final

Camelot, she had heard of it even in her land. They had no map, save for the tapestry, and only vague instructions, but a quest to complete.  It was the stuff of legends.  Honestly, though, she would rather see Aurora go through a portal to Emma Swan’s Kingdom.  It was, according to the blonde, safe there.  There were modern things that Emma had tried to explain, and no ogres.  While Mulan had no idea what television was, she did find an ogre free existence quite appealing, especially where Aurora was concerned.

She knew better then try to talk the princess into staying behind with her Aunts. No, the woman had declared this to be her quest too. Mulan wanted to tell her that she had nothing to prove and that she was a princess, not a warrior. She knew, though, that everyone had something to prove, sometimes if only to themselves. She knew that. She had the scars that spoke of her own journey to prove herself.

Each scar had a story and her body was its own tapestry of stories. She could feel her scarred skin stretching and she breathed out, pushing the memories away. She had to focus on the here and the now. The past was gone and the future was uncertain. Today, though, she knew, held promise and opportunity, she just had to seize it.

Decorative Line

KI-F_croplora, Fauna and Merryweather watched Aurora as she watched Mulan. Merryweather worried her lip as she pondered all that they had learned.

“I don’t think she realizes at all.” Fauna whispered.

“Not yet, at least.” Flora added.

No, Merryweather knew very well that Aurora hadn’t realized what had happened. She clung to the idea of Philip, something her parents had instilled in her since the childhood betrothal, and hadn’t quite opened her eyes to see what was very literally right in front of her.

Aurora watched the warrior do her mercerizes with her eyes wide open. She barely seemed to breath.

“Do you think they’ll figure it out?”

“I think the Warrior already knows, but she is too damn stubborn and,” Fauna rolled her eyes, “honorable to confess her feelings, not when they think Philip can be saved.”

“So why don’t we,” Flora crossed her arms over her chest, “simply tell the that it is impossible. Magic cannot bring back the dead. Philip is well and truly gone.”

“Because they need time.” Merryweather smiled at their Princess as she watched the Warrior. “Time together to realize what is so painfully obvious to everyone else. Time to know each other, time to laugh and cry together, time to realize that true love is right in front of them.”

“They need help,” Fauna said with a huff.

“Well, I didn’t say that we wouldn’t help, dear.” Merryweather grinned. “We just have to be a little subtle.”

“This is a dangerous game,” Flora warned.

“No more dangerous than what comes next,” Merryweather said, her eyes distant.

“You don’t think-” Fauna sighed, “of course you do. You believe in all of that old nonsense.”

Merryweather watched Aurora rush to the Warrior’s side to offer her a clean cloth to wipe her sweat away with. “The old nonsense becomes clearer and clearer everyday, and we will need every hero and True Love pairing we can find if we want to survive it.”

The three of them stood and spoke no more. They simply watched the Princess they had raised and loved as their own slowly but surely fall in love with a woman warrior.

Decorative Line

KI-Aurora watched Mulan pull her silk tunic back over her body almost self consciously. Her back and torso were muscled and lean, and though there were scars they did not take away from her beauty, they proved that she had fought long and hard, that she was a warrior worthy of every honor a kingdom could bestow. She was a knight, a champion, a hero. Aurora wouldn’t know what to do without her.

“I think we can make good time: you, me, the horses and Seraph.”

Mulan leveled her gaze, “You want to take the unicorn with us?”

“Well of course you must take the little dear with you.” Flora chimed in, “What would we do with him?”

Mulan opened her mouth, as if she had an answer, then closed it without a single word.

“Besides” Fauna added, “He’ll be happy to help you carry the supplies. You’ll need food and a tent and extra clothes and oh goodness, just so many things.”

“And those clothes,” Merryweather looked over the two of them, “simply won’t do.”

Merryweather waved her wand over Aurora, and her now very ragged dress reformed into a sturdy traveling gown of the same color. Her slippers were replaced with fawn colored boots, the same as the trim of her dress. “It isn’t precisely glamorous, but it is more fit for adventuring.” Aurora’s hair, freshly scrubbed from her own time in the bath, coiled into a braid and then wrapped around her head like a tiara.

Aurora spun a quick circle, obviously pleased with her new clothes.

“And don’t,” Flora added, “forget a good traveling cloak. She looked around and flicked her wand at the tapestry.  The gold thread pulled itself out of it and coiled into the air. A white cloak, fastened with three ties at her chest, was quickly embroidered with the gold thread. It formed beautiful lotus flowers. “The gold thread may have been a little naughty, but we’ve repurposed it. It should keep you warm and dry.”

Fauna stepped closer and pulled the cloak’s hood up over Aurora’s head, “and safe.”

Merryweather looked to Mulan. “And as for you. That,” she shot a look at the mangled chest piece that Mulan could no longer wear, “is just out of the question.” She flicked her wand and conjured a gleaming set of armor. The chest piece was curved, slender and obviously made for a woman’s form. “It is as light as your former armor but three times as strong.”

Flora came closer and waved her own wand and the armor was engraved with characters in Mulan’s own tongue. “And mixed into it is the same metals from your old armor so you will still carry your homeland with you.”

Fauna flicked her own wand. “And your cloak.” Her old cloak, previously ripped to shreds and wrapped around her, pieced itself back together with the gold thread. The seams rippled and formed an elaborate dragon design. It fell across Mulan’s shoulders and the woman bowed, saying a simple, “Thank you.”

Then Aurora shared a look with Mulan, “Are you ready?”

Mulan nodded, “For Philip?”

Aurora smiled, “For Philip.”

They rode back out of the Fortress, re-energized and ready for their quest as the fairy trio watched from the Fortress door, sly and knowing looks on each of their faces. Mulan and Aurora would not find Philip, but hopefully they would find themselves and each other. After all, that was what quests were really all about.

. . . To Be Continued in Episode 12

Total Word Count: 8174 words

2 thoughts on “Virtual Season 3, Episode 11

  1. Very nice episode! But damnit I keep missing the updates. haha

    So I’ll go on reading the next episode right away 🙂

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    • @Kris So great that we can now follow it on ff.net and AO3 and get notifications that way 🙂

      Also, another good chapter. I’m in favour of shifting focus to the different characters and pairings. Mulan and Aurora’s arc is becoming more intriguing with every scene.

      Thank you.

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