The Isle of the Lost (Page 51)
She stopped at a pair of doors twice the height of a grown man.
“This is it. It’s here.”
She looked at Carlos, and he nodded, holding up the box. She saw that he had switched it off some time ago. “We didn’t need it anymore,” he said, looking right at Mal.
Jay nodded to her. Even Evie reached for her hand, squeezing it once before she let it go again.
Mal took a breath. She felt a chill up her spine, and goose bumps all over her arm. “This was Maleficent’s throne room. I’m sure of it now. I can feel it.” She looked up at them. “Does that sound crazy?”
They shook their heads, no.
She pushed open the doors, taking it all in.
The darkness and the power. The shadow and the light. Ceilings as high as the sky, and as black as smoke. Windows spanning whole walls, through which Maleficent could manipulate an entire world.
“Oh,” said Evie involuntarily.
Carlos looked like he wanted to bolt, but he didn’t.
Jay’s eyes flickered across the room as if he were casing the joint.
But Mal felt like she was all alone with the ghosts.
One ghost, in particular.
This was where her mother used to rage and command, where she had shot out of the ceiling as a green ball of fire to curse an entire kingdom. This was her seat of Darkness.
They pushed farther inside, Mal at the front. Carlos and Jay and Evie fell like a phalanx of soldiers behind her, almost in formation.
The black stones beneath their feet were shiny and slick, and the entire room was haunted by an aura of deep malevolence. Mal could feel it; they all could.
This had been a sad, angry, and unhappy home. Even now, the pain of that time burned its way through Mal, deep into her bones.
There was an empty place in the middle of the room where her mother’s throne used to be. It had sat upon a great dais, flanked by two curving sets of stairs. The room was round and ringed with columns.
A great arc cradled the place where the throne had once sat, guarding an empty spot. The tattered remains of purple tapestries moldered on the walls.
“There’s nothing left,” Mal said, kneeling on the one dark spot that no longer held a throne. “It’s all gone.”
“You all right?” asked Jay, who was nervously blowing on his hands to warm them.
She nodded. “It’s…” she faltered, unable to find the words to describe what she was feeling. She had listened to all her mother’s stories, but she didn’t think they were real.
Not until now.
“Yeah,” he said. “I know.” He shrugged, and she realized he’d probably felt the same way when they were in the Cave of Wonders. Mal knew Jafar and Iago talked about it all the time, but it was hard to imagine, hard to picture a world beyond what they knew of the Isle.
It had been, anyway.
Now everything was different.
Jay sighed. “It’s all real, isn’t it?”
“I guess so,” Mal nodded. “Every last page of every last story.” Even the curse, she thought, for the first time in hours.
Someone has to touch it.
Evie has to touch it, and sleep for a thousand years.
“So, where is it?” Carlos asked, looking around the cold stone room.
“It has to be here somewhere,” said Evie, turning to look behind her.
“Maybe we should split up,” Jay said, a glint in his eye.
“Think,” Mal said. “My mother was never without it. She held it even as she sat upon her throne.” Mal moved back to the spot where the throne no longer stood. “Here.”
“So where would it be now?” Carlos frowned.
“It wouldn’t be where anyone else could touch it,” Evie said. “Try asking my mother if she’ll let you touch any of her own Miss Fairest Everything memorabilia.”
Mal flinched at the word touch.
The curse was waiting for all of them—or at least, one of them—just as the Dragon’s Eye was.
“But she’d want to see it, of course. From her throne,” Jay said. Mal nodded; they’d all seen Jafar orient himself in his kitchen, directly behind his stack of coins.
“Which would be—” Mal spun slowly around. She could picture her mother sitting here, clutching the staff, feeling powerful and evil and well, like herself as she reigned over the kingdom.
She shook her head.
My mother would have no problem cursing any of the people in this room for ten thousand years, let alone one.
“There. Look!” cried Evie, spotting a tall black staff with a dim green globe at its top against the far wall.
It was, just as they had predicted, exactly in Mal’s line of vision from the missing throne, but raised by some sort of magical light a good twelve feet into the air. Far out of the hands of any interlopers—and yes, where it could not be touched.
There it was.
It’s really here. The most powerful weapon of all Darkness.
Evil lives! indeed.
“It’s right here!” Evie was closest to it and reached for it eagerly.
She shot her hand up into the air, extending her fingers. The moment she did, the Dragon’s Eye began to shake, as if something about Mal herself was prying it loose from the very light and air that bound it.
Evie smiled. “I’ve got it—”
Mal saw Evie’s hand curl toward it, almost in slow motion. The scepter itself seemed to glow, as if it were beckoning Evie toward it.
Everything around Mal seemed to blur until she could only see Evie’s small, delicate fingers and the bewitched Dragon’s Eye, just beyond her grasp.
In a split second Mal had to make the decision: could she let Evie touch it and be cursed into a deep, death-like sleep for a thousand years?
Or would she save her?
While betraying her own mother’s wishes, and giving up on her own dream of becoming something more than a disappointment?
Was she content to remain only a Mal her entire life?
Never a Maleficent?
She froze, unable to decide.
“No!” cried Mal finally, running toward Evie. “Don’t!”
What just happened? What was she doing? Why couldn’t she stop herself?
“What?” asked Evie, shocked, just as a familiar voice boomed from the Dragon’s Eye.
“WHOEVER AWAKENS THE DRAGON WILL BE CURSED TO SLEEP FOR A THOUSAND YEARS!”
Maleficent’s voice was coming from the staff even now, echoing and reverberating around the room.