The Isle of the Lost (Page 44)
“NEXT RIDDLE!” Mal demanded, just as a ferocious wind blew at them. Carlos was beginning to get the feeling the bridge had more than a few ways of getting rid of unwanted visitors. He swallowed.
They needed to hurry.
Or rather, he did.
“Carlossssssss. Next quessssssstion.”
“Like a rose in a blizzard
It blooms like a cut
A red smear
Her kiss is death,”
the gargoyles hissed in their eerie unison, turning to face them, claws raised. Their muscles flexed and their tails whipped, their forked tongues raking their fangs. It looked as if they might pounce at any moment.
Once again, the bridge began to shift beneath their feet.
“‘Her kiss is death,’” echoed Carlos. “It has to be about my mother. Is that the answer? Cruella De Vil?”
The bridge began to shake even harder.
“But it is about your mother!” said Evie, suddenly. “A rose in a blizzard, it blooms like a cut…her kiss…it’s about what color lipstick she wears! Cruella’s signature red!”
Carlos was dumbfounded. “It is?”
“A red smear—see? It means it’s something she puts on. Oh, I know what it is!” Evie said. “The answer is Cherries in the Snow! That has to be it; it’s been everywhere this season. I mean—judging from what’s been thrown away on the Dumpster barges.”
Mal rolled her eyes. “I can’t believe you know that.”
The wind whipped up again, and the four of them locked hands, holding on to one another for support. They pressed their shoulders together, bracing themselves against the gale.
Evie cursed. “It’s not Cherries in the Snow? I could swear that was it. Red with a pinkish undertone. No, wait—wait—it didn’t have a pink undertone, it was darker. Redder. A ‘true red’—what did the magazines call it? Frost and Flame? No—Fire and Ice! That’s it! Cruella’s pout is made of Fire and Ice!”
The gargoyles paused, their eyes glowing. They stood in place as the mist once more congealed around the bridge, then thinned to reveal another new section.
Carlos relaxed. Jay whooped—and even Mal clapped Evie on the back as they advanced across the bridge.
One more answered question, and the way would be clear.
“Ask your last riddle!” Mal charged them.
The gargoyles looked crafty.
“Carlosssssss. Last quesssssstion.”
Mal looked at him encouragingly.
Here it goes, one last time.
“Dark is her heart
Black like the sky above
Tell us, young travelers—
What is her one true love?”
The creatures hissed in unison, and as soon as they finished speaking, they walked toward the four, teeth shining, claws raised, wings flapping. The gargoyles would tear them to shreds if Carlos answered incorrectly—the four of them saw that now.
Carlos had to get it right, not just to cross the bridge but to keep them all alive. “‘Dark is her heart’—they must mean Maleficent, right?” He turned to Mal. “But it could mean any of our mothers.”
“My mother has no true love. My mother loves nothing and nobody! Not even me!” said Mal, with a slight pang that Carlos knew all too well.
“Don’t look at me. I don’t even have a mother,” Jay said.
“Beauty!” Evie called out. “That’s mine. I know…it’s a little cliché.”
But the gargoyles were not interested in anything anyone had to say. Coming closer, parting the mists, their tails swishing: “WHAT IS HER ONE TRUE LOVE?” they demanded, looking from Evie to Carlos to Mal to Jay.
“My father?” Mal ventured.
Carlos shook his head. If Maleficent was anything like Cruella, she hated Mal’s father with a vengeance. Cruella had forbidden any questions about his own, no matter how curious Carlos was, how much he wanted to know. As far as Cruella was concerned, Carlos was hers alone. Maleficent had to be the same.
The gargoyles were nearly upon them. They were taller than Carlos had realized, maybe eight or nine feet. They were enormous, and their weight made the bridge groan beneath their every step.
Carlos didn’t think even the periodic tables could help him now.
“WHAT IS HER ONE TRUE LOVE?” the gargoyles asked again, extending their massive wings. When they flapped, the mists swirled about them.
“The Dragon’s Eye?” Mal guessed. “That’s all my mom cares about.”
“Being the Fairest One of All!” Evie shouted. “Her, or me. In that order!”
Jay just shrugged. “I can’t help. I’m pretty sure the answer isn’t Jafar, Prince of Pajamas.”
At first it looked as if the gargoyles were shaking their heads, but Carlos realized it was because the bridge was rumbling so much. Everything was quaking, and the gargoyles were nearly upon them. His teeth began to clatter. Evie lost her balance and slipped, almost falling over the side, but Carlos caught her in time. Jay held on to a crumbling post and held out his hand so that Carlos could hold on to him, forming a link to Evie.
“Hurry! Somebody’d better come up with something,” Jay grunted. “I can’t hold on much longer.”
Evie screamed as she dangled off the bridge, Carlos clinging to one of her blue gloves, which she was slipping out of, one finger at a time.
“THINK, MAL! What does Maleficent love?” Carlos yelled. “She has to love SOMETHING!”
“WHAT IS HER ONE TRUE LOVE? ANSWER THE RIDDLE OR FALL INTO DARKNESS,” the gargoyles intoned.
“Diablo?” Mal screamed. “Is it Diablo?”
In answer, the bridge buckled under her feet, and Mal slid down, only by luck managing to hold on to Jay, who was anchoring everyone. The entire castle was shaking. Stones flew down from its ramparts, and the towers threatened to crumble on top of them.
The bridge began to sway dangerously.
“Wait!” screamed Jay. “You guys! They’re not talking about Maleficent! They’re still talking about Cruella! Quick—Carlos—what is her one true love?”
Carlos couldn’t think. He was too scared. He couldn’t even put a sentence together. And he was even more frightened by what the answer would be.
Maybe that was why he hadn’t guessed right, this time.
I can’t bear to say it out loud.
Jay’s voice echoed. “CARLOS! WHAT IS YOUR MOTHER’S ONE TRUE LOVE?”