Escape from the Isle of the Lost – Melissa de la Cruz

Mal made her way across the sparkling campus of Auradon Prep, taking in the sound of chirping birds, the warmth of the sun against her face, and the sight of the tall castle walls shining with early morning dew. Although Mal wasn’t about to burst into song at any moment like some of the princesses and princes who filled this place, she might as well have been singing in her heart. They’d made it! Mal, Evie, and Jay were seniors now—Carlos, who was a junior, still had one more year to rule the school—and in a few months, they would graduate. They would be free to make their own futures, forge their own paths—the world was their pearl-bearing oyster. As Mal greeted her friends who were milling about the lawns, she recalled their days on the Isle of the Lost. Not so long ago, Mal had spent her free time spraying graffiti on posters featuring King Beast’s face with her signature tag: EVIL LIVES. Not so long ago she had been proud of the many, many ways she was wicked. At Dragon Hall, she had been famous for her pranks, locking first-years in their Davy Jones lockers, starting epic spoiled-food fights in the cafeteria, and threatening everyone with Maleficent-style curses if they dared defy her. But it turned out that being evil meant feeling small and petty, while being good meant being brave. It meant facing your fears and standing up for the people who depended on you. Being good was so much harder and so much more satisfying than being bad. It felt good to be good. Who knew? Now Mal was Auradon’s hero and protector, ready to transform into her dragon self to defend the kingdom against any villain or monster that would threaten its shores. Life had been calm since Uma had disappeared during Cotillion. There had been no sign of that turquoise-haired sea witch so far.

Mal’s childhood rival had dived deep into the waves, and had not been seen since. But Mal liked to keep watch anyway. You never knew where or when the enemy would strike. “Any sign of her?” she asked the guard, who had been stationed by the coastline to check. “Not today,” the guard replied. “Good,” said Mal. • • • When she arrived at the meeting for the Royal Council, she was the first one there. Today she was dressed simply in a matching black-and-purple shirt and skirt, her long purple hair tucked behind her ears. Gone were the days when Mal would stomp into class or any assignation at the last minute, snarling and annoyed. She was the future Lady Mal now—bad fairy heritage, irreverent attitude, battered thick-soled boots, and all.

She wanted to make Ben proud of her, and, in turn, show the kingdom she was proud to wear his school ring. Still, Mal’s unexpectedly prompt appearance seemed to surprise Lumiere, who was still fluffing cushions and helping Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts set out the tea service. “Oh! Mal! You’re early!” said Lumiere with a bit of a frown. As the head of the king’s household, he didn’t like to be caught with his candelabras down, so to speak. “Don’t mind me,” said Mal. “Anything I can do to help?” “No, dear. Please, be our guest,” said Mrs. Potts, bustling over with two heaping plates of scones and pastries, almost dropping them in her haste. “Here,” said Mal, taking one of the plates away from the overburdened cook and placing it in the middle of the table.

“Thank you, dear,” said Mrs. Potts with a relieved smile. “We don’t have much time!” fretted Cogsworth, who was opening drapes and letting light into the conference room. “The kings and queen will be here shortly! And Fairy Godmother runs a tight ship. She’ll turn us all into pumpkins—or worse, back into furniture—if things aren’t perfect!” “Oh, Cogsworth, you worry too much!” Mal laughed as she helped Chip pour tea into everyone’s cups. She knew Cogsworth was simply being his normal, nervous self—Fairy Godmother was far too kind to turn anyone into furniture. After they were done with the tea, she helped Chip fold the napkins the way Lumiere taught them, so they resembled ladies’ fans on the plates. At last, the room was ready, and at the appointed hour, Mal took her seat as Cogsworth held the door open for King Beast, Queen Belle, King Ben, and Fairy Godmother, who all filed in. They were already deep in discussion. “I think it’s a wonderful idea,” Ben was saying.

“She’ll be so thrilled.” “I thought she might,” said Fairy Godmother, who looked as polished as ever in her pink ruffled shirt and powder-blue suit. Ben grinned and took his seat next to Mal. “Oh, the tea looks lovely, Mrs. Potts,” Fairy Godmother said, as she picked up her cup. Cogsworth audibly sighed in relief. “One lump or two?” asked Chip, appearing at her elbow, as Mrs. Potts beamed behind him. “What’s going on?” whispered Mal to Ben. “You’ll see,” he promised, reaching for a scone.

King Beast and Queen Belle, who had recently returned from another all-kingdom cruise—they had become very fond of those—looked deeply tanned and relaxed. Ever since handing over the reins of government to their son, the retired king and queen were only brought in to consult with the Royal Council. Ben had the final word on every decision. Ben let the assembled group eat and chat for a moment before calling the meeting to order. “Mal, I’m sorry we started this discussion without you, but it’s come to my attention that some members of the Royal Council would like for you to do some diplomatic visits around all the kingdoms of Auradon,” he explained. “I think you would do an amazing job. What do you think?” “Oh!” said Mal, sitting up straighter. “That sounds…exciting!” “I thought you would say that!” Ben smiled at her, but then his brow creased. “Although it does mean a lot of travel,” said Ben. “And frankly, I’ll miss you.

” In the back, Mrs. Potts swooned while Chip giggled. “Ben,” said Mal, taking his hand at the table. “I’ll always come back to you.” Ben smiled back and squeezed her hand. He had grown up so much since the crown was first placed on his head. He was their leader, fair and firm, and so handsome that she still blushed when he looked her way. “I’ll be waiting,” he promised. Fairy Godmother cleared her throat. “It’s important that our future Lady Mal see as much of the kingdom as she can.

She didn’t grow up in Auradon, and it would be good for her to observe the customs of the country.” “I agree,” said Queen Belle. “The people are curious about Mal and excited to show her how much they appreciate all she’s done for Auradon. I know in Northern Wei, they’re planning a dragon dance parade in her honor. And in Corona, a festival of sky lanterns.” King Beast beamed. “What wonderful news! Dear, do you think our next cruise could take us to Northern Wei as well? I’ve never even seen a dragon dance myself!” “I’ll make sure of it,” said Queen Belle. “Then it’s settled,” said Fairy Godmother. “I hope it’s not too distracting from your studies, my dear. But here is a list of kingdoms for your itinerary.

” She pushed a piece of paper across the table in Mal’s direction. Mal felt her heartbeat speed up in excitement. It was true—she hadn’t seen very much of Auradon at all, and the chance to travel the world sounded thrilling after a childhood spent trapped on a remote island. So many things to see! So many people to meet! She glanced at the list. Agrabah, Camelot, Northern Wei, Olympus, East Riding, Corona…and everywhere else, from Tiger’s Head to Triton’s Bay. So many wonderful places to visit! She couldn’t wait to eat beignets with Princess Tiana’s family and sip nectar and honey with the gods and goddesses in their palace in the sky. Every kingdom and region in Auradon was represented on her itinerary. Every region, that is, except one. Mal looked up from the paper. “Did we forget to add the Isle of the Lost to this list?” she asked.

“The Isle of the Lost?” echoed Fairy Godmother, as if she couldn’t quite believe her ears. King Beast and Queen Belle shifted uncomfortably. King Beast coughed, and Queen Belle added two more lumps of sugar to her tea. When she brought the cup to her lips, it rattled against the saucer she held underneath it. “The Isle of the Lost is Mal’s home,” Ben reminded everyone. “Yes, it is,” said Mal. It was her duty to represent the island as much as she could, to remind everyone that there were noble hearts everywhere, and that even villain kids could grow up to be good. “And the Isle is part of Auradon, right?” “Technically,” Fairy Godmother admitted. “Unfortunately,” groused King Beast. “Now, now, dear,” said Queen Belle.

“Then shouldn’t I visit the Isle as well?” she said. “Shouldn’t I go there as part of my official itinerary? I don’t want them to think they’ve been forgotten.” It was already so easy to dismiss the kids who were imprisoned on the island, punished for their parents’ evil deeds. If Ben hadn’t felt sympathy for them in the beginning, when he made his first proclamation as king, who knew where she would be now? Certainly not in a plush room in the palace eating warm scones on a porcelain plate. Most likely scrounging for leftovers in back alleys like every other Isle kid. “Of course not,” said Ben. “We can’t forget the Isle of the Lost.” “Let’s not make a hasty decision just yet,” said Fairy Godmother. “Why don’t we discuss it again at the next meeting of the Royal Council? Give us a little time to think it over.” “Absolutely,” said Ben with a smile.

“Besides, I’d take any excuse to have more tea and scones from Mrs. Potts.” ay and his opponent battled up and down the mat, crashing against the walls and over every obstacle. Once the slyest thief in all the Isle of the Lost, Jay had found that it was just as much fun to score a goal in tourney or win a battle at R.O.A.R. as it was to swipe a scarf from a merchant on the plaza. Maybe even more fun, since no one chased him around angrily afterward. Whenever he put on his team’s yellow-and-blue face mask or picked up his sword for another round of swords-andshields practice, he forgot that he had ever spent his childhood in a junk shop on a remote island.

All he cared about was victory, his world narrowing to the points he scored against his fearsome opponents. He leaped and attempted a strike, but was deflected. His opponent rushed forward and made a hit. The referee called the score. Now Jay was behind. They went back to their places on the mat, and this time, Jay waited and let his rival come to him. He didn’t have to wait for long, and was on the defensive again, blocking strikes and cleverly dodging any attack. At last, he found his advantage, twirled around, and landed a direct hit. The buzzer sounded, signaling that time was up, and the referee blew his whistle. “That’s the game,” the ref called.

“It’s a tie!” “Good one!” said Lonnie as she took off her mask and let her long black hair fall on her shoulders. She shook his hand. “Thanks, Captain.” Jay grinned as he removed his mask and gloves. There was a round of applause from a group lined up along the courtyard, watching them. “Excellent work!” said one. “Brilliant!” said another. “Bravo!” said the third. Jay squinted in their direction. He hadn’t noticed them at the start of the match.

He’d been playing for himself, not to impress anyone. “Who are they?” he asked, as he put his equipment away. “Coaches,” said Lonnie. “It’s college visiting day, remember?” Jay did not remember. He never kept track of dates or read announcements or e-mails. Life was too short, and he had too many fun things to do, like play video games and eat pizza. “Go over there! They definitely want to meet you,” said Lonnie, gently pushing him in their direction. • • • The first coach was a muscular gentleman in a black-and-gold vest, voluminous white pants, and gold shoes with curled tips. He wore a grand white turban with a ruby in the middle and a gold stripe running around it. “Jay!” he said heartily, as if they were old friends.

“I am Coach Razoul, formerly captain of the guard at the Sultan’s palace. But now I head up the athletics program at ASU—Agrabah State University.” “Nice to meet you,” said Jay, bowing to the coach. The coach bowed in return, seemingly pleased that Jay remembered Agrabah’s customs. “You must come and visit us sometime. Have you decided where you will continue your education? Would you consider coming home?” Jay startled at that. While his father was from Agrabah, Jay’s home was the Isle of the Lost. But he didn’t want to embarrass Coach Razoul. “To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought yet.” Graduation was still a few months away.

He didn’t have to decide where to go to college yet, did he? Definitely not. “Jay!” said the next coach, a big bear of a guy who wore the green livery of Robin Hood’s men. “Coach Little John here, from Sherwood Forest University. We’d love to see you play for the Arrows.” He handed Jay a card. “We’re ranked number one in the league.” “For archery,” said Coach Razoul, wagging his finger. “Not R.O.A.

R.” “Not yet, maybe,” admitted Little John. “But with players like you, we will be.” Coach Razoul gave the archer a condescending smile. “In Agrabah, your dormitory will be a palace! Every meal is a feast, and if you rank first in your class, a genie will grant you three wishes!” He pressed a gold-foil-covered catalog into Jay’s hands. Meanwhile, Little John handed Jay a tote bag filled with Arrows merchandise—a water bottle, a bow and arrow, and a sweatshirt with the school’s motto—STEAL FROM THE RICH; GIVE TO THE POOR— embroidered on the front. The bearlike coach smiled affably. “Stealing was your hobby, wasn’t it? You’ll fit right in!” he said. “Stealing? Well, in the past maybe. Not anymore.

But thank you so much,” said Jay, as he accepted the loot. Not to be outdone, Coach Razoul presented Jay with a treasure chest of riches—robes with the Agrabah State University crest, new golden slippers, and a genie lamp. “It’s just an oil lamp, no genie in it,” said Coach Razoul with a laugh. “Yet!” “Don’t listen to them,” said the third coach, a cheerful apple-cheeked woman in powder-blue wizard robes with a pink bow that tied the hood under her chin. She looked vaguely familiar. “Hello, Jay! My sister tells me so much about you! You must consider playing for us! Everyone knows MIT is the best college in Auradon. Our alumni include Professor Yen Sid, as well as Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather!” Magical Institute Training was the top college in the kingdom, taking only the best and brightest from Auradon Prep. Students needed an almost-perfect SAT (Salagadoola Abracadabra Test) to be considered. “MIT!” said Jay. “I’m not sure I have the grades?” “Oh, we work miracles at MIT, don’t worry,” said Fairy Godmother’s sister.

She waved her wand, and a small white carriage loaded with treats—athletic duffel bags, sneakers, and a new face mask, sword, and gloves—appeared next to the treasure chest and tote bag. “Think about it.” She winked. “Come home to Agrabah,” said Coach Razoul, shaking Jay’s hand once more. “Join our merry band,” said Coach Little John, slapping him on the back. “Come to visiting day and hang out with the team.” “Visiting day?” asked Jay. “What’s that?” “Oh, you go on a little adventure with the students, see what Sherwood is like, check out the scene,” said Little John. “I think you might enjoy it.” “I think I just might,” said Jay with a grin.

“Great! I’ll send you the information,” promised Little John. At last, the coaches left to talk to other players. Jay gathered his stuff and jogged back to Lonnie. “Do you want any of this?” “I’m good. I met with them last week,” said Lonnie. “They even spoke to my parents.” She picked up the tote bag. “Let me help.” They walked out of the training courtyard together, Jay straining under the weight of the treasure chest and the carriage full of treats. “Did you decide where to apply?” he asked.

“I’m not sure yet if I will. I might play R.O.A.R. professionally instead. But if I do decide to go to college, I’ll definitely choose one that would prepare me to join my mother’s army. I’m going to be a general like her one day,” she said proudly. “Cool,” said Jay. The only inheritance he’d receive from his father was a decrepit junk shop on the Isle of the Lost.

But Jafar had been the Sultan’s grand vizier once, the power behind the throne. Perhaps one day Jay could have that same kind of stature, but without the greed and the obsession with Aladdin’s lamp. As if she had read his thoughts, Lonnie asked, “What about you?” “Me? I’m just glad I didn’t have to steal any of this,” he said truthfully. Until this moment, he hadn’t really given much thought to his future. It felt like he had just arrived at Auradon Prep. He was sad to think that soon there would be no more tourney games, no more living with his friends and seeing them every day. Sherwood sounded like a fun prospect—he would definitely have to visit, see what it was like. They were all growing up so fast. Time was speeding along too quickly. One day he was just a street rat from the Isle of the Lost, and the next he was a top recruit at MIT.

Wait until he told his dad! Except Jafar would probably insist that Jay steal all the school’s magical secrets. Some things never changed. s Evie sat at her trusty sewing machine and worked on a gorgeous graduation gown for herself, she felt a flutter of sadness in her chest. When she was a kid growing up all alone in a damp and moldy castle, Evie had wanted nothing more than to have a group of friends—to play with, to laugh with, to depend on. But Mal, Jay, and Carlos were more than friends—they were family. Even though their parents had been just as successful at raising children as they had been in executing their evil schemes (read: total failures), the four of them had always been there for each other. But now high school was ending, and graduation would be here before they knew it. It felt like they were all going their separate ways. Mal had told Evie about her official tour the other day—she would soon be traveling all over Auradon to learn more about the various kingdoms and their people. Jay was always off training with his R.

O.A.R. team, and when Carlos wasn’t studying, he spent most of his time with Jane. Evie missed her friends. She felt a tear come into her eye and almost pricked her finger on the needle. She sighed and put the gown away. It was going to be a deep sapphire blue to complement her hair, with a red ruby heart in the middle. Usually the joy of dreaming up and creating a beautiful dress to wear for a fancy event filled her spirit, but today she just felt melancholic. “What’s wrong? Are you crying?” asked Doug, looking up from Mal’s desk, where he was practicing his trumpet.

She smiled sweetly at him and brushed away her tears. “No, not really. I was thinking that everything is happening so fast. Didn’t I just arrive at Auradon Prep? Now we’re graduating.” “Time certainly flies,” he said. “Even my hair is longer!” She chuckled. Doug had been growing out his hair so that it was shaggier than usual. “It really is!” “Do you not like it?” he asked worriedly. “I love it!” said Evie, clasping her hands. “You look very dashing.

But…” “But…?” Doug asked, setting down his trumpet. “But things are ending,” said Evie. She hung up her graduation gown and admired its sweetheart neckline and puffed sleeves. Just a few more flourishes on the sash and the dress would be done. “I don’t even know where I’m going to live when I graduate. I just realized I don’t have a home here. Where am I going to go?” She couldn’t return to the Isle of the Lost, of course, but after she left her room at the school dorms, there wasn’t anywhere else she could go. Doug shook his head. “Auradon is your home.” “I know,” said Evie.

“But I’m not like the other kids. I’m not from here.” “We’ll think of something,” said Doug, a serious look on his face. Evie nodded. “I would love to have a place of my own. But who knows what next year will bring?” “Hopefully not Uma,” said Doug. “Roger that,” said Evie, shuddering. “But I am hoping next year brings more villain kids to Auradon. You know, to study. Like the four of us.

” Doug smiled. “Isn’t Ben doing that?” “Sort of,” said Evie. “He definitely wants to recruit more kids from the Isle to apply to Auradon Prep. Except…” “Except?” Evie smoothed the fabric on her gown. “Well, we’re just not getting the response we thought we would.” “How many people have applied from the Isle of the Lost so far?” asked Doug. Evie turned back to him. “How many?” “Yeah.” “One.” Doug’s mouth quirked in amusement.

“One?” She nodded. “Just Dizzy, who was invited to apply, and actually still has to be selected by the admissions committee before her registration can be confirmed.” Evie was sure Dizzy would be accepted, but of course nothing was guaranteed until Fairy Godmother sent the enrollment letter. Doug crossed his arms against his chest. “Just Dizzy? Really?” Evie let out a rueful chuckle. “I know. Isn’t that sad? There’s got to be a way to get more kids from the Isle to apply.” “How many spots are open?” asked Doug. “Good question. I’m not sure, but I think Auradon Prep would take more than one, since they want more students from the Isle to apply.

” “Then what you need,” said Doug, putting his trumpet away in its case, “is a recruitment strategy.” Evie looked at him thoughtfully. “Intriguing. Go on.” “The kids from the Isle of the Lost will probably be too intimidated to apply, unless they get encouragement from kids like them who are already doing well in Auradon.” “Kids like us, you mean?” asked Evie, her mind whirling with ideas. “Exactly. Once they hear more about how you, Jay, Carlos, and Mal have grown at Auradon Prep, they’ll be inspired to join you guys. Maybe it won’t be so scary if they know they’ll be welcome here.” “You’re right,” said Evie, clapping her hands.

“So let’s show them! I’ve got to find Carlos, Jay, and Mal!” Evie ran from the room, excited to get started. She was halfway down the hall when she realized she’d forgotten something. Just as quickly, she ran back into her room and kissed Doug on the forehead. “You’re a prince. Thank you!” “Just a dwarf, really, but I’ll take it,” he said, hugging her back.

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