The Isle of the Lost (Page 52)
Her mother really had left an impression behind her. What remained of her power and her energy crackled off the walls of the room, sparked to life by one accidental moment and latent until now, when it had victims to torture.
Evie’s fingers brushed the air next to the staff.
While Mal’s hand closed upon it, and when it did…
She fell to the floor, asleep.
Mal blinked her eyes. She could see herself lying on the floor of the throne room, purple hair spilling out like a stain beneath her head.
Her three companions huddled nervously around her.
So I’m sleeping, then? Or am I awake? Or maybe I’m dreaming?
Because Mal knew she was seeing something else as well.
She wasn’t in the Forbidden Fortress anymore.
She was in a palace, and there was good King Stefan and his queen and a baby in a cradle.
They were happy. She could see by the light in their faces, and by the way their eyes never left the child.
Almost like a magnet, Mal thought. I know how that pull feels.
A huge, gaily-dressed crowd of courtiers and servants and guests assembled in a beautiful throne room around them. There were two good fairies hovering above the cradle, their wands making beautiful sparkles in the air. It was all so sweet, it was sickening.
Mal had never seen anything like it, not up close like this. Not in some kind of insipid storybook.
What is this?
Why am I seeing this?
Then a green ball of fire appeared in the middle of the room, and when it dispersed, Mal saw a familiar face.
Tall, haughty, beautiful, and scorned. Maleficent was angry. Mal could feel the cold heat rising from her very being. She stared at her mother.
Maleficent addressed the crowd gathered around the royal family.
“Ah, I see everyone has been invited. The royalty, nobility, the gentry, and the rabble. I must say, I really felt quite distressed at not receiving an invitation.”
What was her mother talking about? Then Mal realized. Maleficent had not been invited to Aurora’s christening. Mal had never known this was the reason her mother hated parties and celebrations of all kinds.
But she knew exactly how her mother felt.
The desire for revenge.
Mal had felt exactly the same thing, hadn’t she? When Evil Queen had thrown her party for Evie, all those years ago and kept her out?
Mal watched as her mother cursed the baby Princess Aurora to sleep a hundred years if she pricked her finger even once on a spindle. It was some fine spellcraft, and Mal was proud of her mother’s efficiency, her power, her simple rendering. One prick of one finger could bring an entire royal house crashing down. It was a beautiful, terrible destiny. Well-woven. Deeply felt.
Mal was proud of Maleficent. She always had been, and she always would be. Maleficent had raised her daughter alone, and gotten by as best she could. If only because there was no one else to do it.
But her mother was made for Evil; she was good at it.
And in that very moment, and for the very first time, Mal finally understood that it wasn’t just pride that she felt. It was pity. Maybe even compassion.
She was sad for her mother—and that was something new.
The crowd saw a monster, a terror, a devil, a witch, cursing a beautiful princess. But Mal saw only a hurt little girl, acting out of spite and anger and insecurity.
She wanted to reach out and tell Maleficent it would be all right. She wasn’t sure it was true, but they’d somehow gotten along this far, hadn’t they?
It’ll be all right, Mother.
She had to tell her.
But she woke up before she could.
Mal blinked her eyes open. She was in the throne room at the Forbidden Fortress. Jay, Carlos, and Evie were standing around her nervously.
When she had fallen asleep she had been holding the Dragon’s Eye scepter in her hand. But when she woke up, it was nowhere to be seen.
“You’re awake! But you’re supposed to be asleep for a thousand years!” cried Evie. “How?”
Mal rubbed her eyes. It was true—she was awake. She wasn’t cursed. Why was that? Then she realized.
Prove that you are my daughter, prove that you are mine, her mother had ordered her. Prove to me that you are the blood of the dragon. Prove you are worthy of that mark on your skin.
The mark of the double dragon etched on her forearm. That had to be it. She held it up, showing the others.
“It couldn’t hurt me,” said Mal. “My true name is Maleficent. Like my mother, I am part dragon, and so I am immune to the Dragon’s curse.”
“Lucky you,” Jay said, eyeing the impressive tat.
Mal smiled proudly down at the marking she bore.
If she had been her father’s daughter, weak, human, she would be asleep by now. For a thousand years. But she wasn’t. She was strong, and awake, and had proven to everyone that she was her mother’s daughter.
And when she brought her mother the Dragon’s Eye—
“But wait—where is it?” Mal said, looking around accusingly at the trio. “I had it right in my hand!”
“Good question,” said Jay, sounding a little wounded himself.
“It’s gone. When you grabbed it, there was a flash of light that blinded us for a second, and when we could see again, it was gone,” said Carlos. He shrugged. “Easy come, easy go.”
The other three glared at him.
“Easy?” Evie raised an eyebrow, looking as tough as she possibly could.
Mal narrowed her eyes. “Jay, come on, hand it over.”
“I swear, I don’t have it!” said Jay, emptying his pockets to show her. “I planned to take it. I wanted to take it. I was even going to take it out of your own hand, while you were sacked out.”
He shrugged. “Just didn’t get around to it, I guess.”
“None of us have it,” said Evie. She folded her arms, looking annoyed. “And by the way, you knew the curse was on that staff and you had all of us come with you anyway? What was up with that?”
Mal kicked a stone with her toe. “Yeah. I didn’t really work out the plan very well.”
“So why didn’t you let me touch it, then? Wasn’t that your evil scheme all along?”
Mal shrugged. “What are you talking about? I just didn’t want you to. It wasn’t yours to touch.”
“Be honest. You were going to curse me, weren’t you? You were going to let me touch that thing and end up taking the thousand-year nap?” Evie sighed.