The Isle of the Lost (Page 37)

Mal thought Jay’s having the secret vial on hand was a pretty decent stroke of luck, which made her think that maybe they were on to something here. Maybe it was her destiny to find Maleficent’s Dragon’s Eye. “Do you have the compass?” she asked Carlos.

Carlos nodded. The box beeped, as if to agree.

According to the map they would have to walk way past the village right to the edge of the shore, and from there the path would take them to the fortress.

They set off, Carlos in front with Jay, Evie just behind, and Mal holding up the rear. She watched them walk in front of her. She knew Jay would steal the Dragon’s Eye for himself at the first opportunity, that Evie was trying to get on her good side and curry favor, and that Carlos had only joined them to fulfill his curiosity.

But it didn’t matter. Somehow, they all had a common goal. To find the Dragon’s Eye. Better yet, she wasn’t going into Nowhere alone.

Mal had her gang of thieves.

Her very own minions.

And that was progress indeed.

Her evil scheme—the big nasty one—was working.

The path away from the village and toward the shore was smooth at first, but soon became rocky. Mal began to flag. Her feet hurt in her boots, but she soldiered on grimly, now leading the way and following the directions on the map. Behind her she could hear Evie’s light steps, Jay’s stomping ones, and Carlos’s tentative ones.

“Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go,” Carlos sang under his breath.

Evie shuddered. “Don’t.”

“What do you have against dwar—Oh, right,” he said. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay.”

“So that was your mom, huh?” said Evie.

“Yup, the one and only Cruella De Vil,” Carlos said, bypassing some poison ivy and pointing it out to the rest of the group to avoid. “One-way ticket to crazy town, right?”

“She’s not so bad,” said Evie, who ducked below a low-hanging branch of a creepy oak tree. “At least she doesn’t do this thing that my mom does, where she pretends to be a Magic Mirror telling me I’m far from the fairest of the land.”

Carlos stopped in his tracks, and he and Jay looked at her, shocked. Even Mal turned around to stare at her.

“Really? But you’re gorgeous,” Jay said. “I mean, you’re not my type, sweetheart, but you’ve got to know you’re good-looking.”

“Do you really think so?” she asked.

“Nah, you’re mom’s right—you’re ugly,” Jay teased.

“That sucks that she does that,” said Carlos quietly.

“Whatever,” Evie said nonchalantly. “It’s not like I care.”

“You really mean that?” asked Carlos.

“I mean, it’s not like your mom is any different, right?” Evie pointed out. They were the children of the most evil villains in the world. What did they expect: love, joy, sympathy?

“I guess not.”

“And your dad, Jay? Doesn’t he only care about the shop?”

Jay brooded on that. “Yeah, of course. But what else is he supposed to care about?” he asked honestly.

Mal listened to their conversation, finding it oddly soothing to have other people around, for once. She’d never really liked companionship before; but then again, Maleficent had always insisted that they lived apart from the pack—superior, alone, and bent on revenge.

Lonely, Mal thought. I was lonely. And so were they.

Evie, with her beauty-obsessed mother; Carlos, with his screeching harpy of a parent; Jay, the happy-go-lucky thief with a quick wit and dashing smile, who could steal anything in the world except his father’s heart.

The gray fog surrounding the edge of the shore loomed closer. Soon they would have to walk through the mist and enter Nowhere. When they did, would they also become nobody? Mal wondered. She cracked her knuckles. Her knees began to ache.

They trudged on in silence for a while, when a sharp whistle cut through the air. It was from Jay, who had been scouting ahead. Evie took a step and crunched twigs loudly underfoot, while Carlos looked up fearfully.

Mal whistled back.

Jay jogged to where the three of them were huddled together.

“What is it?” Mal hissed.

“I saw something—in the shadow. Hide!” he whispered fiercely, disappearing behind a rock.

Carlos yelped and tried to climb a tree, the bark scratching his knees. Evie screamed softly and dove behind some blackberry bushes.

But Mal froze in place. She couldn’t move, for some reason. At first it was because she felt annoyed to think that any daughter of Maleficent would have to hide from anything. But as the shadow loomed larger and approached, she worried she had made the wrong decision.

The shadow had a pair of large horns and a spiky tail. Was it a dragon? But her mother was the only dragon in these parts, and had lost the ability to transform into one, once the magic-shielding dome had been put in place.

Then there was a moan, a terrible wailing unlike anything they had ever heard.

It was a hellhound, for sure. A creature of myth and legend, a creature of tooth and fang, blood and fur.

Then the creature emitted what could only be called an adorable purr.

“Beelzebub!” Carlos cried from the tree.

The monster emerged from the shadows, and a little black cat with a wicked grin appeared on the path. The shadow had distorted its ears to look like horns and its tail to appear as if it had spikes. But it was just a little kitty.

“You know this foul beast?” asked Mal contemptuously, to hide her embarrassment at having been scared. Her heart was still beating loudly in her chest.

“It’s just my cat,” Carlos said. “I got her when I was little.” He added sheepishly, “She’s one of Lucifer’s litter. She’s my evil sidekick.”

“Oh, cool. I got one too. You know, at my birthday party,” said Evie. “Mine is Othello, a baby parrot—well, not such a baby anymore. Othello’s got quite the mouth on him too. Not sure where he learned all those words.”

“Cool—you got one of Iago’s babies? I got two electric eels—Lagan and Derelict. You know, from Flotsam and Jetsam. They’re huge now. Monsters,” said Jay. “They hardly fit in their aquarium anymore.”

Carlos let the cat rub his cheek. “Go on, Bee. Go back home, stop following us. I’ll be back soon—don’t worry.”

“What’s your evil sidekick?” Evie asked, turning to Mal.

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