The Isle of the Lost (Page 8)

Carlos glared at the two of them, in spite of himself.

“There’s a party?” Evie asked shyly. Carlos had forgotten she was standing right next to him, and he jumped at the sound of her voice.

“Eavesdrop, much?” Mal said, snarling at her although it was obvious Evie couldn’t help it, as she was standing right next to them.

Before Evie could protest, Mal sighed. “Of course there is. The party of the year. A real rager, didn’t you hear?” Mal looked her up and down and shook her head sadly. “Oh, I guess you didn’t hear.” She mock-winced, looking at Carlos conspiratorially. “Everyone’s going to be there.”

“They are?” Carlos looked confused. “But you only just told me to have it—” He quickly got the message. “Everyone,” he agreed.

Evie smiled. “Sounds awesome. I haven’t been to a party in a long, long time.”

Mal raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I’m sorry. This is a very exclusive party, and I’m afraid you didn’t get an invitation.”

With those parting words, Mal went ahead of them into the classroom—she was in their next class too, of course (her EQ was legendary)—and left them to each other.

“Sorry,” Carlos mumbled. “I guess I was wrong, Mal doesn’t just talk a big game.”

“Yeah, me too. The party sounds like fun,” Evie said sadly.

“You want to see what I’m making?” he asked, trying to change the subject as they settled into their seats. He took out of his bag a black box, with wires and an antenna poking out from one side—the same contraption he’d been fiddling with earlier. “I made it from some old magician’s stuff.”

“Sure.” Evie smiled. “Hey, is that a power core? It looks like you’re making a battery, right?”

Carlos nodded, impressed. “Yeah.”

“What does it do?”

“Can you keep a secret?” he asked, whispering.

Evie nodded. “I keep them from my mom all the time.”

“I’m trying to poke a hole in the dome.”

“Really? Can you do that? I thought it was invincible.”

“Well, I thought I could maybe try to get a signal with this antenna here. It’s actually an old wand, and I think if I hit the right frequency, we might be able to bring some of the outside world into the dome, and we can watch something other than that hairy old beast king telling us to be good, or that channel that only sells shackles.”

“I sort of like the Auradon channel,” Evie said dreamily. “Especially when they feature the Prince of the Week. They’re so dreamy.”

Carlos snorted.

She looked from the boy to the battery. “Frequency? But how?”

“I’m not sure, but I think if I can break through the dome, we’d be able to pick up Auradon’s radio waves—you know, Internet and wi-fi signals. I’m not exactly sure what the frequency is, but I think that’s how they get all those channels and stuff.”

Evie sighed again. “What I’d give to go to Auradon. I’ve heard that everything is so beautiful there.”

“Um, I guess. If you’re into that kind of thing,” Carlos said. He didn’t care about princes or enchanted lakes or chirping animals or cheerful dwarfs. What he did care about was discovering more of the online world, a safe virtual refuge, where he’d heard you could even find people with whom you could play videogames—that sounded like fun, as he never had anyone to play with.

There had to be something more to life than kowtowing to the cool kids, organizing his mother’s fur coats, and hiding from her tantrums.

There had to be. Although right now it wasn’t just his mother he had to answer to. If Mal was serious, which it looked like she was, in the next few hours he somehow had to figure out how to throw the party of the year.

Meanwhile, across the Sea of Serenity, which separated the Isle of the Lost from the rest of the world, lay the USA—the United States of Auradon, a land of peace and enchantment, prosperity and delight, which encompassed all the good kingdoms. To the east lay the colorful domes of the Sultan’s seat, where Aladdin and Jasmine lived, not far from where Mulan and Li Shang guarded the imperial palace. To the north was Charming Castle, owned by Cinderella and her king, next door to “Honeymoon Cottage,” the forty-bedroom palace that Aurora and Phillip called home. And to the south, one could spy the lanterns of Rapunzel and Eugene Fitzherbert’s divine domicile, near the spot on the coast where Ariel and Eric had made their under-and-over-the-sea royal residence at Seaside.

But right in the center was the grandest castle in all of Auradon, with lavish turrets and balconies, its highest towers flying the proud blue-and-gold banner of the good old USA. Inside the magnificent building were many ballrooms, great rooms and state rooms, a formal dining room that could seat hundreds, where everyone was made to feel like a pampered guest, and a wondrous library that held all the books that were ever written.

This was all fitting, of course, because this was Castle Beast, home of King Beast and Queen Belle, the seat of Auradon. Twenty years ago, King Beast united all the fairy-tale lands into one under his crown; and for the past two decades he had ruled over its good citizens with strong and fair judgment, and only occasionally a tiny bit of his beastly temper.

Belle had a calming influence on the hotheaded Beast: she was not just the love of his life but the pacifier of his moods, the voice of reason in a gathering storm, and the mother of his only child.

The jewel in the crown was their handsome son, fifteen-year-old Prince Ben. There had been no fairies at his christening to bestow gifts, perhaps because he did not need any. Ben was as handsome as his father, with his strong brow and chisel-cut cheekbones, but he had his mother’s gentle eyes and keen intellect. He was a golden boy in every way, with a good heart and a winning spirit—captain of the tourney team, friend to all, destined to rule Auradon one day.

In short, he was the very sort of person that the people of the Isle of Lost despised. And, as on the Isle of the Lost, magic was no longer a factor in daily life in Auradon either. King Beast and Queen Belle stressed scholarship above enchantment, exhorting the young people to work hard instead of relying on fairy spells or dragon friends for help. Because Beast was the most powerful figure in all the kingdoms, when he proposed the new work ethic, nobody argued against him. It was indeed a new (once upon a) time for the people of the fabled fairy-tale lands.

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