The Isle of the Lost (Page 21)
“What’s with the rude raven?” he asked, chomping noisily on the snack, his fingers turning a fluorescent shade of orange.
“That’s Diablo. You know, my mom’s old familiar. He’s back.”
Jay stopped chewing. “He’s what?”
“He’s back. He got unfrozen. So now Mom thinks the spell over the island might be unraveling, somehow.”
Jay’s eyes grew wide.
Mal looked away and continued, “That’s not all. Diablo swears the Dragon’s Eye is back too. That he saw it glow back to life. You know, her scepter, her greatest weapon, the one that controls all the forces of evil and darkness, blah blah blah. She wants me to find it, and use it to break the curse over the island.”
Jay let out a loud laugh. “Well, she’s really gone off the cliff into the deep end to take a swim with the killer alligators, then, hasn’t she? That thing is hidden forever and ever, and ever and ever and—”
“Ever?” Mal smirked.
Mal turned away, wanting to change the subject. “Do you ever think about what it’s like over there?” she asked, nodding toward Auradon.
Jay scoffed. “Yeah, horrible. Sunny, and happy, and…horrible. I thank my unlucky stars every day that I’m not there.”
“Yeah, I know. But, I mean—you never get sick of this place, like you want a change?” she asked, brooding.
Jay looked at her quizzically.
“Never mind.” Mal didn’t think he would understand. She continued staring into the night. Jay continued munching on his cheese curls and fiddling with some newly stolen costume jewelry.
A memory came flooding back to Mal. She was five years old and was in the marketplace with her mother when a goblin tripped and fell, spilling his basket of fruit everywhere. Without thinking, she had started picking up the fruit, helping the goblin gather it all. One by one, she picked up the apples, dusted them off on her dress, and placed them back in the basket. Suddenly Mal looked up from where she was crouched. The market had gone silent, and everyone, including her mother, who was rotten-apple red and fuming, was staring at her.
“Get up this instant,” her mother had hissed. Maleficent kicked the basket, and the apples all fell out again.
Mal obeyed. When they got back home, her mother locked her in her room to think about what she had done. “If you’re not careful, my girl, you’ll end up just like him—just like your father—weak and powerless. AND PATHETIC!” Maleficent had bellowed through the locked door.
Little Mal had stared into the dingy mirror leaning precariously on her vanity. Fighting back tears, she vowed never to disappoint her mother again.
“We have to find it,” Mal said to Jay as an icy wind whipped up from the sea below and pulled her from her memory. “The Dragon’s Eye. It’s here.”
“Mal, it’s not poss—”
“We have to,” Mal said.
“Eh,” Jay replied shrugging his shoulders and turning toward the window to go back inside. “We’ll see.”
Mal took one last look out at the horizon to the bright, sparkling speck in the distance. She felt a pang in her gut, like longing. But what for, she couldn’t say.
—Cruella De Vil,
Jay left the Bargain Castle behind him. It was the very end of night, the time when it was just turning toward morning—when it was still dark, but you could already hear the mournful call of the vultures scavenging their way across the island. He shivered, retracing his steps through the grim backstreets and alleyways of the town, past the eerily bare trees and broken-shuttered buildings that looked as abandoned and hopeless as everyone who lived there.
Jay quickened his pace. He wasn’t scared of the dark; he depended on it. Jay did some of his best work at night. He’d never get used to the way the island felt in the darkness, though. Jay picked up on it most when everyone else was asleep, and he could see the world around him clearly, for what it was. He could see that this town and this island and these bare trees and these broken shutters were his life, no matter what other life his father and his peers had known. There was no glory here. No magic and no power, either. This was it—all they would ever have or be or know.
No matter what Mal thinks.
Jay kicked a rock across the crumbling cobblestones, and an irritated cat howled back at him from the shadows.
She’s so full of it.
Mal wouldn’t admit it—their defeat—especially not when she was in a mood like tonight. Mal was so stubborn sometimes. Practically delusional. In moments like these, Jay had clearly seen the effects of a raised-by-a-maniacal-villain upbringing. He couldn’t blame Mal for not wanting to tell her mother no—nobody would—but really, there was no way that Maleficent’s scepter was somewhere on the Isle of the Lost, and even if it was, Jay and Mal would never find it.
Jay shook his head.
Eye of the Dragon? More like, Eye of Desperation.
That raven is bonkers, probably from being frozen for twenty years.
He shrugged and rounded the corner to his own street. He tried to forget about it, half-expecting (and half-hoping) Mal would probably do the same. She had her whims, but they never seemed to last. That was the good thing about Mal; she would get all worked up about something, but totally drop it the next day. They got along because Jay had learned to just ride out the storm.
When he finally made his way through the last of the puzzle of stolen locks, chains, and deadbolts that guarded his own house (thieves being the most paranoid about burglary), he pushed the rotting wooden door open with a creak and crept inside.
One foot at a time. Shift your body weight as you step. Stick close to the wall….
“Jay? Is that you?”
His father was still awake, cooking eggs, his faithful parrot, Iago, on his shoulder. Was Jafar worried about his only son being out so late? Was he worried about where he’d been, or who he’d been with, or why he hadn’t come home until now?
Nah. His father had only one thing on his mind, and Jay knew exactly what it was.
“What’s tonight’s haul?” Jafar asked greedily, as he set his plate of food down on the kitchen table, next to a pile of rusty coins that passed for currency on the island. The table was where Jafar practiced his favorite hobby: counting his money. There was a good-sized pyramid of coins on the table, but Jay knew it wouldn’t satisfy Jafar’s greed.