Chapter 7: Back To The Beginning

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"Ye didn't think thin's would be 'at easy, did ye?" Rumpelstiltskin's disembodied voice asked.

I ignored his slight jibe and continued walking, tightening my grip on Eno's leash. If he'd have released me from the dungeons the proper way, I wouldn't be making my way to the palace like this right now. Instead, I'd have been finding a way to talk to Gretna in the hopes of accusing Luria of her treachery and having her atone for what she'd done.

Part of me hated the fact that I'd been branded a traitor. Then again, she must have thought things through to the letter. Perhaps she'd thought I'd be the perfect scapegoat, which I'd unfortunately become. I vowed I'd have my due when the time came. First, however, I needed to make it back home and make myself presentable. Once I achieved that, I'd then find a way to gain an audience with the queen.

"Ignore me all ye want, Deary. It's not goin' to change how thin's are."

"What do you want?"

Rumpelstiltskin chortled. "What I've wanted from the beginnin'. A deal."

"I told you, we aren't having one."

"Oh, no. 'At's not how this works. I told ye 'at. I got ye outta the dungeon. Ye should thank me fer what I've done fer ye."

A snort of derision escaped me. "Yes, you did. I'll give you credit for that. It wasn't fair that you sent me to Gwendolyn, however. Seriously, who does something like that? You know I must make my way to the queen."

The dwarf appeared and walked beside her. "Ye must and ye shall. Now, however, is not the time."

I came to a complete stop and turned to face him. "Why not?"

He stopped walking and smiled. His chin rose with determination.

"Ye have thin's ye must finish first."

My eyes narrowed. "I know I do. Why do you think I'm headed back home?"

Rumpelstiltskin pursed his lips. "No, no, Deary. Not 'at. Ye must finish yer quest first. If 'at mangy cat hadn't interfered ye would have finished what yoo'd started. But 'at's neither here, nor there. A slight detour, this is. Nothin' more."

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. "Y—You sent me to Gwendolyn on purpose?"

The dwarf grinned and curled his hands into tight fists before planting them across his hips. He stuck his right leg out and leaned forward.

"'Course, I did. We may not have a deal, but all thin's come with a price. If ye will not make a deal right now, ye must do everythin' ye can to fulfill my every desire."

His gloating manner filled me with suspicion. If I'd have known he'd get me out of the dungeon like this, I would have said no, then and there. Hindsight always comes too late, however. What was done, was done, however. I'd accept whatever the crafty dwarf had up his sleeve, but we would do things my way.

Eno trudged forward and sniffed Rumpelstiltskin's boots. He raised his head and barked at him.

The dwarf hissed and straightened, moving forward with the intention of kicking the dog.

Avoiding Rumpelstiltskin's foot, Eno bounced back and forth in front of him. His barks grew louder by the second.

"Why don't ye go back to where ye came from?" Rumpelstiltskin said, and snapped his fingers.

Eno and his leash disappeared in the blink of an eye.

I stared at my empty hand. "What have you done?"

"Fear not, Deary. He's home and safe. The witch and her son will take care of him."

The apprehension roiling within me intensified. "You've been keeping an eye on me," I whispered.

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