The Isle of the Lost (Page 42)

She didn’t say the rest, so Jay said it for her. “Which meant, you know, everyone.”

Carlos found it hard to look away from the black tower on the hill. No wonder the citizens of the Isle of the Lost were told to keep away. Here was concrete proof of villainy, of the power of darkness and infamy.

Malefient’s darkness.

It wasn’t just any evil. What loomed in front of them was the most powerful and most storied darkness in the kingdom.

Carlos suddenly felt it—the magnetic pull Mal had tried to describe. He could feel it thrumming in the air, in the very stones beneath his feet. Even if magic was no longer a factor, there was power here, and history.

“Feel that?” Carlos held his vibrating hand up into the air.

“I can too,” Evie said, picking up a rock from the mud. It rattled in her fingers as she held it. “Destiny,” she announced dramatically.

Jay pointed at the lightning that crackled in air above the black turrets. “Me too. I guess it’s time.”

Mal didn’t say a word. She only stared.

“Hold on, now. We’re not in any rush,” Carlos said. “We need to do this right, or—” He didn’t finish the sentence. He just shrugged.

Then he caught Mal’s gaze and knew she felt the same way.

“Look,” Jay said, yanking back an armful of overgrown vines that covered the stony steps leading up to the main ramp of the bridge. He tossed them to the side.

“What are those horrible, ugly creatures?” Evie made a face. “No, thanks. I’ll stay on this side of those things.”

Because now that the vines were gone, they could see that the entire bridge appeared to be guarded by ancient stony gargoyles. The winged gryphons glared down at them from where they perched, flanking the bridge on either side.

“Lovely,” Jay said.

Carlos stared. It wasn’t only Mal who could see her mother’s hand in every stone around them. The carved creatures sneered in exactly the same way Maleficent did, their teeth pointed, their mouths cruel.

Mal looked at them, frozen.

Then Carlos realized it was because she was paralyzed by fear. “Mal?”

She didn’t answer.

She can’t do this alone, Carlos thought. None of us can.

It’s no different from pulling each other through the mud. It’s just physics, if you think about it. It’s science.

But then Carlos tried not to think about it, because his heart was pounding so loudly, he thought the others would hear it. He began to recite the periodic table of the elements in his head to calm himself down. Atomic numbers and electrons were always somewhat comforting in times of stress, he’d found.

And the more numbers he recited, the easier it was to put one foot in front of the other.

Which is exactly what he did.

Carlos stepped up on to the first stone paver that led to the sloping bridge. Just as he did, the stone gargoyles began to flap their wings in front of them.

“Whoa!” Jay said.

“No,” Evie said. “Just, no.”

“How is this possible?” asked Jay. “There’s no magic on the island.”

“The hole in the dome,” said Carlos. “It must have sparked the castle to life or something, like a chemical reaction.” It made sense—not only had Diablo been unfrozen, but the whole fortress as well.

Carlos moved his way up the next step, and then the next, until he was standing level with the main ramp of the bridge itself. Mal and Evie and Jay now followed behind him.

The creatures growled as they came to life around them, the bridge rumbling beneath their feet. The gryphons’ horrible eyes glowed green, illuminating the fog around them, until they were practically shining a spotlight on the four intruders. The gargoyles uncurled their hunched backs, now almost doubling themselves in height.

Evie was right, Carlos thought. They were really ugly things, with snaggly teeth and forked tongues. He couldn’t look away from the hideous faces hovering over him. “This must be residue, left over from the magical years,” he said. “Whatever did this was probably part of the same power that sparked Diablo to life.”

“The same power?” Mal looked spellbound. “You mean, my mother’s?”

“Or the same electromagnetic wave.” Carlos thought about his last Weird Science class. “I’m not sure how to tell the difference anymore.”

Jay swallowed as a gargoyle leaned down, looking as if it could spring at Carlos at any moment. “Right now, I’m pretty sure the difference doesn’t matter.”

“Who goes there?” boomed the gargoyle to the right of Carlos.

“You cannot pass,” said the one on his left.

“Yeah? Says who?” Carlos took a step back, as did the rest of the group following behind him. They looked at each other nervously, unsure of what to do next. They hadn’t known about the gargoyles, hadn’t expected a fight. This was going to be more difficult than they expected, maybe even impossible.

But it didn’t matter. Even Carlos knew there was no turning back now.

“You ugly things need to move!” said Mal, shouting from behind him. She glared at the gryphons. “Or I’m going to make you!”

The gargoyles growled and grimaced, flapping their stone wings as a threat.

“Any ideas?” Carlos looked over his shoulder nervously. “We don’t have weapons or magic. What would we fight with? Besides, how do we fight something made of stone?”

“There has to be a way,” Mal said. “We have to pass!” she shouted again. “Let us through!”

“Yeah, I’m not sure that’s working.” Evie sighed.

The gargoyles glared at the children with glowing eyes, their fangs bared, their stony wings beating the wind. “You cannot pass,” they said again in unison—and just as the creatures spoke, the thick gray clouds surrounding the long stone ramp dissipated, revealing a gap in the bridge, a forty-foot gulf with nothing below but air.

The bridge was broken, virtually impassable.

“Great,” Jay said. “So it’s over. Fine. Whatever. Can we go now?”

The others just stared.

Carlos had to admit Jay was probably right.

There was no apparent way to reach the castle. They had come all this way only to fail. Even if they could pass the gargoyles, there was no way to cross the bridge since there was no bridge. It was hopeless. Their journey was ended before it had truly begun.

Carlos stepped back and noticed something carved in the stones at the foot of the bridge. He sat down to read it.


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