The Isle of the Lost (Page 25)

That was the Maleficent way.

Mal knew there was no exception made for daughters, not when you were one of the all-time most villainous villains of the Isle of the Lost. You didn’t get to be number one by being merciful, or even reasonable.

Not when you were one of the evil elite.

Maleficent wanted the Dragon’s Eye back, which was great, and all, and Mal totally got it; but actually trying to find out where it was on the island—now that was something else entirely.

So, yeah.

It wasn’t as if Diablo were any help. All the raven did was caw when Mal poked it. “Where is it, huh, D? If you’re back to life, then it can’t be far, right? But where?” He’d poke her eyes out if she got close enough to let him. That stupid bird had always wanted her mother all to himself; and to him, Mal wasn’t even a threat as much as a nuisance.

Still, it was more than just a bird that was haunting her now.

Maleficent’s threats were hard to shake. As always, her mother knew exactly where to strike. She could find her daughter’s soft spots as easily now as when she had been a baby wearing one on the top of her own head.

Don’t you want to prove yourself to me?

Prove that you are worthy of the name I bestowed on you, Maleficent!

Mal turned over in her hard, squeaky bed, restless.

Yes, Mal was named for her mother, but her mother liked to say that since Mal had shown so far that she was only a tiny bit evil, Mal could only have a tiny bit of her real name until she proved herself truly worthy of her dark fairy heritage. Which was ridiculous, really, if you thought about it. Mal didn’t exactly have an army of evil resources at her command. She made do with what she had to work with—stolen paint cans, hapless high school kids, a closet full of old mink coats and fur traps. Sure, maybe she wasn’t encasing whole castles in hedges of thorns, but then every villain had to start somewhere, didn’t she?

And if she had let Evie off the hook at the end of the night, that wasn’t her fault either, was it? It wasn’t like you could put a time line on this kind of thing. Good scheming took a little planning, didn’t it?

Mal turned over again.

It was still quiet in the Bargain Castle, which meant Maleficent hadn’t gone out on the balcony yet to harangue and humiliate her subjects. When Mal finally slid out of bed, slithered into today’s purple everything, and tiptoed out of her bedroom, she noticed that the door to her mother’s room was locked, which meant Maleficent was not to be disturbed under any circumstance. She was adamant about getting eight hours of “evil sleep” and recommended a healthy diet of nightmares to keep the claws sharp.

It had worked for her so far, hadn’t it?

Mal brooded on her mother’s warning as she hurried down the crumbling staircase.

The Dragon’s Eye was cursed, as Maleficent had told her, which meant that anyone who touched it would immediately fall sleep for a thousand years. That had always been her mother’s specialty—putting people to sleep against their will. Of course, that hadn’t exactly worked out during the Sleeping Beauty debacle, but that didn’t mean that the Dragon’s Eye staff would be any less powerful now. When Mal found the scepter she would have to take care not to touch it, and then to figure out a way to somehow bring it back without awakening the curse.

If it still works.

If I find it.

If it exists at all.

As Mal picked up her backpack, she only felt worse. Even dumping an extra spray can into her bag didn’t lift her spirits.

Maybe Jay was right.

Maybe this whole quest was too silly to even embark on. She didn’t know where to begin to find her mother’s lost weapon, no matter how powerful it once had been.

Who was she to think she could find something that had been lost for so long? Maybe she should just forget about it and go back to her usual routine of tagging and shoplifting.

Besides, it wasn’t as if anything Mal could do would change how her mother saw her. Even if she did succeed in finding the Dragon’s Eye, Mal knew she couldn’t help who her father had been, and in the end that was what Maleficent could never forgive nor forget.

The one thing Mal herself could never fix.

So why bother?

Why try?

Maybe she should just accept it and move on. That’s what her mother expected from her, anyway.

To fail. To disappoint. To give up. To give in.

Just like everyone else in this place.

Mal pulled open the castle door and set out for school, trying not to think about it.

Like many nerds before him, Carlos liked school. He wasn’t ashamed to admit it—he would have told as much to anyone who bothered to ask. Since no one did, however, he reviewed the argument himself.

He liked the structure and the rules of school. He liked the work, too—answering the kinds of questions that had answers, and exploring the ones that didn’t. While there were parts of school that were torture, like when he was forced to run the length of the tombs in gym (why practice fleeing on foot when they lived on an island?) or when he had to work with assigned partners (usually the kind who teased him for not being able to run the length of the tombs in gym), the other parts more than made up for it.

Those were the good parts—the parts where you actually used your brain—for which Carlos liked to think he was better equipped than the average villain.

And he was right.

Because Carlos De Vil’s brain, by way of comparison, was almost as big as Cruella De Vil’s fur-coat closet.

That’s what Carlos tried to tell himself, anyway, especially when people were making him run the tombs.

His first class today was Weird Science, one he always looked forward to. It was where he’d originally gotten the idea to put his machine together, from the lesson on radio waves. Carlos was not the only top student in the class—he was tied, in fact, with the closest thing he had to a rival in the whole school: the scrawny, bespectacled Reza.

Reza was the son of the former Royal Astronomer of Agrabah, who had consulted with Jafar to make sure the stars aligned on more than one nefarious occasion, which was how his family had found their way to the Isle of the Lost with everyone else.

Weird Science was the class where Carlos always worked the hardest. The presence of Reza, who was every bit as competitive in science lab as he was, only made Carlos work that much harder.

And as annoying as everyone found Reza to be—he always had to use the very biggest words for everything, whether they were used correctly and whether he was inserting a few extra syllables where they might or might not belong—he was still smart.

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