The Isle of the Lost (Page 49)

“Or dwarfs?” asked Evie.

“Or children?” guessed Jay.

“No,” Carlos said, quieting the others, pointing to something in the dark distance. They followed the line of his gaze, seeing at first a pair of green glowing eyes, then another and another.

“Goblins,” said Carlos. “This is where the goblins live. That’s why the ceilings are so low and the corridors are so strange. This isn’t a place for humans,” he said, and when he finished, the air filled with a terrible, raucous laughter, the sound of claws tapping and teeth grinding. The box had led them right into the goblins’ den.

“Super,” Mal said.

“Yeah, good work,” Jay snorted.

Evie just glared at Carlos.

And these weren’t the friendly, enterprising goblins of the wharf or the rude ones from the Slop Shop. These were horrible creatures that had lived in darkness without their mistress for twenty years. Hungry and horrible.

“What do we do?” Jay asked, cowering behind Carlos, who had flattened himself against the wall of the corridor.

“We run,” Evie and Mal cried, one after the other.

They ran toward the only open passageway, the goblin horde shrieking in the darkness, following behind them, their spears beating against the walls.

Jay shouted, “I guess they don’t get a lot of visitors.”

“Maybe they should stop eating their guests,” Carlos said, nearly tripping over what he hoped was not a bone.

“That door!” Evie said, pointing to a heavy wooden door. “Everyone in!”

They hurried through the doorway, and Evie slammed the door after them, throwing the lock and sealing the goblins out.

“That was close,” said Mal.

“Too close,” Jay echoed. The goblins could still be heard on the far side of the door, cackling and tapping it with their spears.

“Maybe they just like to scare people?” Evie said. “I heard they were mostly harmless.”

“Yeah, mostly,” said Carlos, sucking his hand where a spear had almost hit it. “Let’s not wait around to find out.”

When it sounded as if the goblins had gone, Evie cracked open the door. She made sure they were alone before she nodded to Carlos. They continued down the narrow hallways finding nothing but empty chambers until she spied a light shining from a hidden hallway. “Over here!” she called.

She walked toward the light excitedly, thinking it might be the Dragon’s Eye glinting in the dark.

And stopped short—because she was standing in front of a mirror.

A dark, stained, cracked mirror, but a mirror nonetheless.

Evie screamed.

“A monster!” she said.

“What is it?” Mal asked, following and looking over Evie’s shoulder. Then Mal screamed too.

Carlos and Jay bumped up next.

“A beast,” Evie yelled. “A hideous beast!”

Evie was still screaming and pointing to her reflection. In the mirror, an old woman with a crooked nose and wearing a black cape pointed right back.

The hag was her.

“What’s happened to me?” she asked, her voice, rough and quavery. Worse, when she looked down, she saw that her formerly smooth skin was saggy, wrinkly, and dotted with liver spots. She looked at her hair—white and scraggly. She was an old beggar woman, and not just in the mirror.

She wasn’t the only one.

Mal was frowning at her reflection. She had a warty nose, and her head was mostly bald except for a few white strands. “Charming. It’s got to be some kind of spell.”

Jay shook his head. “But—once again, and let’s say it all together now—there’s no magic on the island.”

“There was a moment—for a single second—when my machine burned a hole in the dome, and I think maybe that was what did it.”

“Did what, exactly?” Evie asked, looking spooked.

“Brought Diablo back to life, sparked the Dragon’s Eye and the gargoyles and the Cave of Wonders, and probably everything that used to be magical in this fortress,” said Carlos. “I mean, maybe. Or not.”

“I don’t know, I don’t think I look THAT bad,” said Jay, who grinned at his reflection. He was chubby and pasty, bearded and gray, and looked exactly like his father. He too was wearing a black cloak. “I look like I got my hands on a whole lot of cake in my life, at least.”

“Speak for yourself,” said Carlos, who was frightened to see that in old age he resembled his mother, feature for feature: knotted neck, high cheekbones, bug-eyed glare. “I think I’d rather face the goblins than this.”

“I’m with you.” Evie couldn’t look at herself for another moment.

She began to panic; her throat was constricting. She couldn’t look like this! She was beautiful! She was—

“Fairest,” agreed the mirror.

“Not the voice!” Evie shouted, before she realized what, exactly, she had heard. Because this time, it wasn’t her mother doing her Mirror Voice, as it so often was.

It was an actual Magic Mirror. On an actual wall.

They all turned to the mirror, whose human-esque features had appeared as a ghostly presence in the reflective glass.

“Fairest you are, and fairest you will be again,

If you prove you are wise

and declare all the ingredients needed

for a peddler’s disguise,”

said the Magic Mirror.

“It’s a word problem!” said Carlos, gleefully. He loved word problems.

“No, it’s not. It’s a spell,” Jay said, looking at him like he was crazy.

“I knew it!” said Mal.

“What’s a peddler’s disguise?” asked Jay.

“Obviously—it’s this. It’s what’s happened to us,” said Mal. “Evie, do you know what goes into making a peddler’s disguise? It sounds like if we can name all the ingredients, we can reverse the spell.”

“Not us,” Carlos pointed out. “Evie. It says, you know, the Fairest.” He looked at Mal, suddenly embarrassed. “Sorry, Mal.”

“There’s nothing fair about me now,” Evie said. “But I have heard of the Peddler’s Disguise, though.” Her eyes were back on the glass, still riveted by her awful looks in the mirror.

“Of course you have. It’s only your mother’s most famous disguise! Remember—when she fooled Snow White into taking the apple?” said Mal impatiently.

“Don’t pressure me! You’re making me panic. It’s like, I used to know it, but now I can’t think of anything except her.” Evie pointed at her reflection. “I’m paralyzed.”

[X]

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