The Isle of the Lost (Page 46)
Jay had a feeling this fortress was playing with them, offering them choices when really all roads probably led to the same place. It was time to take matters back into his own hands.
“No, wait—you don’t know where you’re going. Carlos, check your box-compass-thing,” said Mal.
Carlos brought the box up to the intersection. It beeped. “Okay, I guess maybe Jay’s right.”
“Of course I am.”
They followed Jay into the dark corridor.
Carlos held the beeping box in his hands, the sound echoing off the stony walls. It led them to a dank, cold stairway that led further downward, deeper into darkness. The air felt colder and damper and in the eerie silence came a distant rattle, like bones striking rock, or chains rattling in the wind.
“Because that’s comforting.” Evie sighed.
“The dungeon,” said Mal. “Or you might know it as the place where my mother encountered the lovestruck Prince Phillip.”
Evie’s eyes were wide with awe. It was probably the most famous story in all of Auradon. “Maleficent was going to lock him down here for a hundred years, right? That would have been fun.”
Carlos looked around. “She nearly pulled it off, didn’t she?”
Mal nodded. “If not for that trio of self-righteous, busybody, blasted good fairies.” She sighed. “End of scene. Enter Isle of the Lost.”
“I don’t know about you, but I feel like we’ve been down here a hundred years already. Let’s get on with it,” Jay said.
He was more alert than he’d been all day, because he knew he was on the job now.
It was time to get to work.
Jay found a dungeon door. Carlos held the box inside, listening for its beep. “This is the one.”
He went ahead with the box, while Jay and Mal and Evie helped each other slowly down the steps, bracing themselves against the wall as they went. There was no rail, and the treads were coated in a black moss. Every step squished in the darkness, and it felt as if they were stepping on something living and wet.
“Suddenly the whole mud river thing doesn’t seem so bad,” said Evie.
“Seriously,” Jay said.
Mal didn’t say a word. She couldn’t. She was too distracted. Even the moss smelled like her mother.
It only grew thicker as they delved deeper into the dungeon. There were layer upon layer of gauzy cobwebs, a spider’s tapestry woven long ago and forgotten. Every step they took pulled apart the threads, clearing a way forward. All of them were quiet, hushed by the lingering menace in the air as their footsteps squished in the gloom.
“Here?” Mal asked, stopping in front of a rotten wooden door hanging partly off its hinges. When she touched it, the frame collapsed, sending the wood clattering against the floor. Even the heavy iron straps that had once bound the door fell against the stones and the wood, making an awful racket.
“Maybe we shouldn’t touch anything,” said Carlos, scrutinizing the device in his hands.
Mal rolled her eyes. “Too late.”
“I think this is it,” Carlos said.
Jay hoped he was right, that the box had led them to the Dragon’s Eye.
He couldn’t imagine what Mal would do to poor Carlos if it hadn’t. And Jay himself needed to get on with the job at hand.
Mal nodded, and Jay pushed aside what was left of the door. As they entered, he couldn’t help but notice that the shattered remains of the door and its frame looked like a kind of mouth—a panther’s mouth—and they were stepping through its open jaws, into the mouth of the beast.
“Did any of you notice—”
“Shut up,” Evie said tensely. They had all seen the same thing, which couldn’t be good. That was probably why nobody wanted to talk about it.
The four of them walked inside. The room was impossibly dark. There was not even a hint of light, not a glow from a distant window or a torch. Jay reached out, looking for a wall, something to touch.
“Maybe we should find a flashlight or something in Jay’s pockets, before we touch any—” Carlos warned, but it was too late.
Jay struck something with his hand, and the room was suddenly filled with the deafening sounds of metal and stone colliding and grinding and tinkling all around them.
And just as suddenly, they were bathed in the brightest light, a glow that burst from every corner of the room. The golden brilliance filled their eyes—and before they knew what was happening, the room was suddenly filling with sand.
Sand, sand everywhere…and they were falling into it, covered in it.
Evie screamed. Mal started to thrash. Carlos lost hold of his box. Only Jay stood perfectly still.
It wasn’t a dungeon, it was a cave.
A cave filled with sand…and, from what Jay could barely make out amid the massive dunes now surrounding him…treasure.
He looked around at the king’s ransom of jewels that glittered in between the dunes. Mound upon mound of gold coins shimmered in the distance, while hills of gold coins stretched as far as the eye could see. There were crowns and coronets, jeweled scepters and goblets, emeralds the size of his fist, diamonds as brilliant as the stars, thousands of gold doubloons and silver coins. There were larger things too: great obelisks, and coffins, lamps and urns, a pharaoh’s head, a winged staff, a chalice, and a sphinx made of gold.
A king’s ransom, he thought. That’s what this is.
Evie pushed the sand away and sat up, wearing a new crown on her head, quite by accident. “What is this? Where are we?”
“I can assure you this is not part of my mother’s castle,” said Mal wryly, as she spat out some sand and blew her purple bangs out of her eyes. She stood up, brushing sand off her leather jacket. “More residue from the hole in the dome?” she asked.
Carlos nodded. “It has to be. There’s no other explanation.”
“Wait a minute, where’s the scepter?” she asked Carlos, looking around. She sounded nervous. “It has to be here, right? Has anyone seen it?”
Carlos removed a golden bucket that had fallen on his head and picked up his box from where it was balanced on what looked like an ancient golden sarcophagus. He blew sand from the drive and checked the machine again. “It’s still working, but I don’t know. It’s not beeping anymore. It’s like it lost the signal, or something.”
“Well, find it again!” Mal barked.
“I will, I will.…Give me a second, here. You have no idea what sand can do to a motherboard.…”