The Isle of the Lost (Page 33)
Mal told him about the forbidden fortress hidden on the island and where it might be and how they had to find it.
“Nope I’m not going to Nowhere! I’m staying right here,” Carlos said, crossing his arms.
“You’ll do what I say, you little…” threatened Mal.
Carlos opened his mouth to argue, but thought better of it. In the end, it was Maleficent who wanted to reclaim her scepter, not just Mal; and if word ever got back to the Mistress of Darkness that he had opposed or hindered the search in any way, he might as well start calling himself Slop, because that’s what he would be.
“Okay fine, I’ll go. But only if Evie goes too,” he said.
“Evie?” asked Mal. “You’re coming, aren’t you, lovely?”
Evie sighed. “Fine,” she said. “Fine. I guess I’ll come. Beats looking in the mirror all day for flaws.”
“So we’re good, then?” asked Jay. “Four of us looking for the Dragon’s Eye?”
“I guess so. And I guess I want to know what this thing really did,” said Carlos. “If it really did burn a hole in the dome and let magic into the island.”
As if in answer, the machine beeped.
Mal nodded. “All right, then, let’s go. We’ve got a library to break into and a map to find.”
“Not just yet,” Carlos said, raising a hand. “We can’t go anywhere until my chores are done. And it’s laundry day.”
Her mother was a famous beauty in a land of famous beauties, and so it was only to be expected that Princess Audrey, daughter of Aurora, was gifted with the same lilting voice, lovely thick hair, swan-like neck, and deep, dark eyes that could drown a prince in their warm embrace.
Like a kitten scenting catnip—or perhaps like an isle of banished former villains sensing magic—a young prince could hardly be expected to resist such sparkly, dimpled charms. In point of fact, Princess Audrey, like her mother before her, was exactly the sort of princess who gave princesses their rather princessy reputation—right down to her very last perfect curl and the last crystal stitched into her silken gown.
And so it was to Princess Audrey that Prince Ben went the next day, to lick his wounds and seek some comfort after the disastrous meeting of the King’s Council—like the discouraged, catnip-seeking kitten he was.
“It’s such a mess,” he told her as they walked around the garden of the “Cottage,” as Aurora and Phillip’s grand castle was nicknamed after King Hubert had declared that the forty-room palace was a mere starter home for the royal newlyweds. “Starter home?” Aurora had said. “What are you possibly imagining that we’ll start? A shelter for homeless giants?” The king had not been pleased to hear it, but Aurora was a simple girl and had lived as Briar Rose for eighteen years of her life in an actual cottage in the woods, so she found the castle more than spacious enough for her family. (And at least one or two stray passing giants.)
“So what happens now?” Audrey asked, looking perfectly charming with a flower in her hair. Naturally, it happened to match the silken lining of her dusty-rose bodice. “Surely even a prince can’t be expected to do everything right the very first time he tries?”
Easy for you to say, Ben thought.
A dove alighted on Audrey’s shoulder, cooing sweetly. Audrey lifted one pale-pink nail, and the dove nuzzled her gentle fingertip. Ben found himself looking around for the royal portraitist.
Somehow, even the sight of his beautiful girlfriend wasn’t enough to lift the prince’s somber mood. “Dad says I have to hold another meeting to fix it. He’s disappointed, of course, and he’s had to send conciliatory gift baskets of his favorite cream cakes to everyone who was there, so he’s not in the best mood. You know how much he likes his cream cakes.”
“Frosted or unfrosted?” Audrey asked. “And with currants or chocolates?”
“Both kinds,” Ben said, sighing again. “More than a dozen each. Mom thinks it’s the only way to make peace, although Dad was kind of annoyed to give away so many of his favorite treats.”
“They are rather good.” Audrey smiled. “And everyone does love cake.”
Ben wished Audrey could be more understanding, but her life had been charmed from the beginning as the pampered princess of two doting parents—especially Aurora, who been separated from her own mother and forced to spend her formative years in a fairy foster home, under the threat of a deadly curse. “My daughter will never know anything but love and beauty and peace and joy,” Aurora had declared. And she had meant it. So it wasn’t hard to see now why Audrey couldn’t understand how Ben could ever disappoint his parents. She never had.
And she never will, he thought.
Like almost everything in Auradon, Audrey was perfectly sweet, perfectly gentle, and if Ben were honest, sometimes perfectly boring. There were other colors, aside from pink and pale turquoise. There were other animals, who liked to do things other than coo and cuddle. There were perhaps also other topics than gowns and gardens and balls and carriages—no matter how good the custom paint job on the latest chariots was.
“I don’t even know what those sidekicks are so upset about,” Audrey said. “They’re so adorable, and everyone loves them. Why would they bother with things like wages and hours and”—she paused to shudder—“credit?” She stroked the dove. “Those aren’t lovely things at all.”
He looked at her. “I don’t know, exactly. I’d never thought about it before, but I can’t stop thinking about it now. I’d never imagined that anyone in Auradon didn’t live exactly like we do, in our castles, with our servants. And our silk sheets and breakfast trays and rose gardens.”
“I love rose gardens,” said Audrey with a smile. “And I love the ones with topiaries shaped like adorable creatures.” She giggled in delight at the thought, and the dove on her shoulder chirped back agreeably.
“They said I was rude,” he lamented. “And I was.”
“The elephants are my favorite. With those cute little trunks.”
“But I didn’t have a choice—they weren’t listening to me. They also said I lost my temper.” He hung his head, ashamed of the scene he had caused.
“But also the hippos. Such lovely teeth. It’s such a talent, really, to prune a bush into the shape of a hippo. Don’t you think?”