Chapter 5: A Cat In Sheep's Clothing

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The light dissipated. I found myself standing in the middle of a crowded courtyard.

People fluttered to and fro, eager to rummage through the various merchandise random vendors were selling. Voices echoed around me, all slowly rising in tone. The unexpected crescendo caught me by surprise.

"It takes some getting used to," Myrah said.

I glanced in her direction. "Where are we?"

Her cheeks turned a bright red. "Please, do forgive me. Considering we were going to be attacked by a pack of unruly bandits, the small coin hanging around my neck was the only course of action for me take."

Understanding bloomed inside my head. "Yes, but where are we?"

"I'm afraid I've teleported us to Irena."

The information I needed to understand where we were niggled at the back of my mind. Try as I might, I couldn't put a finger on what my mind tried to tell me.

"We're sixty miles away from Gwendolyn."

I frowned. "Which means?"

She offered me a small smile. "It'll take us about a day and half, maybe two, to make it back home."

My face blanched. I turned over everything I needed to do inside my head. In tossing me out of the dungeon at random, Rumpelstiltskin had ensured that my quest to keep the queen safe and sound would take forever. She was safe, for the moment. At least I wanted to believe in that fact. With her sordid plans disrupted, it would take Luria much longer to come up with a better means to kill the queen.

Unless she's already done so. Which means I'm already too late.

Myrah approached and settled her left hand across my right shoulder. "Are you okay?"

Tears pricked the backs of my eyes. "No," I whispered.

The corners of her mouth tilted downward. "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to make things harder for you. My only thought was to get us to safety."

I raised a hand and waved it in the air in dismissal. "It's okay. I get it. We would have been minced meat by now."

Myrah's stomach grumbled. Her face turned a deeper shade of red.

"Sorry," she said. "The mention of minced meat made me realize I've missed dinner."

It was my turn to feel embarrassed. "I'm sorry."

"It's nothing to worry about, I assure you. Why don't we head to The Stuck Pig? My friend works there. She'll be able to help us with grabbing something to eat while we figure out the best course of action in our getting back home."

I nodded. "You seem quite sure about the fact that we'll do so."

Myrah smiled. "Yes, I am. Besides, there's nothing like filling your belly during an hour of need."

Unable to help myself, I grinned. "Lead the way, then."

She turned around and headed in a western direction, weaving in and out of the surrounding traffic.

I trudged after her, intent on keeping up with her fast, agile steps.

Several minutes later, we found ourselves standing in front of what looked like a rundown tavern. A cast-iron sign hung above the establishment. The large pig with a polearm driven through its middle swung back and forth in slow motion. It rattled on its hinges every time the wind picked up, however.

Myrah pushed the door open and stepped inside.

I followed in her wake. Warm air brushed against my cheeks. The scent of baking bread and honey mead caused my stomach to rumble.

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