The Isle of the Lost (Page 19)

Flounder kept going. “And the mermaids give undersea tours all year round without taking a penny. Even in the busy season!”

Ariel’s sisters nodded indignantly, their shimmering tails splashing water all over the table from the bathtub. Cogsworth slapped a hand over his eyes, while Lumiere squeezed his arm in support.

Ben nodded. “Well, that is certainly something worth further consid—”

“And if I might add, living without magic has taken a toll on our nerves,” sighed Merryweather. “Flora can’t sew, Fauna can’t bake, and I can’t clean without our wands. You’ll find our petition at the end there, dear boy.” Flora shoved it into Prince Ben’s face, and he sat back in his chair, surprised.

Fauna chimed in. “While we appreciate all that the Fairy Godmother has done, we can’t see why just a little magic might not be useful?”

“But is there really any such thing as a little—” Ben began.

Pongo sat up. “And not to sound weary, but Perdy and I are a bit fatigued after caring for one hundred and one Dalmatians,” said Pongo in that rich, elegant voice of his.

“If only there were one hundred and one hours in the day.” Perdy yawned. “I could at least sleep for five of them. Imagine that.”

Mary the mouse nodded sympathetically, patting Perdy’s paw with her own.

A blur of blue appeared in Ben’s face. “To put it bluntly, Prince Ben, this blows,” said Genie, who blew him a mocking kiss.

The dwarfs applauded wildly.

Ariel’s sisters tittered, and now the water in the tub was roiling like a small tsunami. Cogsworth left the chamber in a huff, and even Lumiere motioned for Prince Ben to cut the meeting short.

If only Ben knew how.

The room began to dissolve into absolute chaos, as the sidekicks and dwarfs began to shout at one another, while the good fairies kept on complaining about the back-breaking work even ordinary chores now entailed, and all the rest of the company advocated for relief from their own grievances.

It was hard to pick out one from the next, Ben thought, as he slunk down in his chair, trying not to panic.

Breathe, he told himself. Breathe, and think.

But it was impossible to think amid the ruckus in the room. The mermaids complained that the tourists left their trash everywhere; the dwarfs whined that no one liked to whistle while they worked anymore; Pongo and Perdita barked about the stress of having to pay for one hundred and one college educations; and even Genie looked bluer than usual.

Ben covered his ears. This wasn’t a meeting anymore. It was an all-out brawl. He had to shut it down, before people started throwing things—or mice.

What would my father do? What does he expect me to do? How could he put me in this situation and expect me to know what to do?

The more he thought about it, the angrier he got. Finally, Ben stood up. No one cared.

He climbed on top of his chair—and still nobody noticed him.

That’s it!

His father told him to be kingly, and kings were heard!

“ENOUGH!” he yelled from the top of the table. “THIS MEETING IS ADJOURNED!”

A shocked silence filled the room.

Ben just stood there.

“Why! I never…” growled Perdy. “How rude! To speak to us in such a way!”

“Impertinent and ungrateful, that’s for certain,” sniffed Flora.

“Why, that does it!” said Grumpy. “Where’s King Beast? We’re not deaf! Don’t you know your manners, son?”

“My word, we’ve never been treated so poorly!” Merryweather fluttered.

The dwarfs and sidekicks left the room, shooting Ben wary glances as they filed out. The mermaids huffed and made a point of sloshing water on the floor, as Lumiere was left to drag them away, shaking his head. The mice turned their noses up as they walked past without so much as a squeak; the Dalmatians held their tails high; and even Dopey gave the prince a silent, hurt look.

Ben hung his head, embarrassed by his actions. He had tried to lead like his father, and he had failed. He hadn’t been able to table the petition, and he hadn’t been able to inspire confidence in the King’s Council. If anything, he had made the situation worse.

Which is why I would make a terrible king, Ben thought, as he climbed down from his father’s council room table.

He hadn’t proven himself.

He’d only proven one thing—

That Prince Ben wasn’t fit to the wear the royal beast-head ring that was currently on his finger.

Mal was standing alone in the corner, nursing her spicy cider, when she noticed two figures trying to sneak their way toward the buffet table to grab a couple of cans of expired sodas. It was Carlos, of course, and Princess Blueberry. Evie didn’t look any worse for wear after spending time in Cruella’s closet. She wasn’t even bleeding! There wasn’t a scratch on her or even a run in her stocking. Ugh. Carlos must have helped her somehow, the ungrateful little twerp.

Mal sighed.

Foiled again.

Just like her mother, whose own curse had failed.

Were they destined for failure forever?

This party was a bust. It was definitely time to go. Even the evil step-granddaughters looked tired of pretending to hate being chased by the rowdy pirates.

Mal tossed her empty cider cup on the floor and left without a backward glance. She spent the night rearranging her neighbors’ overgrown lawns, swapping lawn gnomes, mailboxes, and outdoor furniture. She amused herself doing some light redecorating by toilet-papering a couple of houses and egging a few rickshaws. Nothing like a little property damage to make her feel better. She left her mark on each house with the message Evil lives! spray-painted on the lawn, to remind the island people exactly what they stood for and what they had to be proud of.

Feeling as if she had salvaged the evening, it was with some surprise and not a little shock that when she rolled home to the Bargain Castle, she found her mother awake and awaiting her.

“Mother!” Mal yelped, startled to see Maleficent sitting on her huge high-backed green chair in front of the stained-glass window. It was her throne, as it were—her seat of darkness.

“Hello, dear,” Maleficent’s cold voice said. “Do you know what time it is, young lady?”

Mal was confused. Since when had Maleficent imposed a curfew? It wasn’t as if her mother cared where she went or when she came home, now—did she? After all, the woman wasn’t called Maleficent for nothing. “Two in the morning?” Mal finally guessed.


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