Chapter 8: Unfortunate Circumstances

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The whirlwind deposited me in the middle of the large lavender-filled meadow. My shoulders slumped with defeat. Rumpelstiltskin wasn't making things easy for me.

"What on earth could be so important that you'd bring me back here?" I asked.

Rumpelstiltskin materialized in front of me. He pushed several stray curls off his forehead.

"Remember 'at dragon?" he said.

My eyes narrowed. "Yes."

"Ye need to take care o' 'at."

"How?"

He shrugged and pursed his lips. "I can't tell ye 'at, Deary. It's up to ye to figure 'at out."

I stamped my foot against the ground with impatience. "Is this really necessary?"

"It is. I've thin's to do. People to see. This is one o' thin's 'at needs to get done. Ye are the only one who can do it."

"Yeah, I get that. It's just . . ." Understanding settled upon me. "You can only point me in the right direction."

He grinned and nodded.

"Something's keeping you from doing all this yourself."

His grin disappeared. A hardened look spread across his face.

"Aye. Sounds about right. Now, why don't ye go find 'at friend ye made not too long ago? Maybe she'll help ye find the dragon," he said.

A dark cloud enveloped him. In seconds, he and the cloud disappeared with an audible pop.

The sudden burst of wind shoved my hair across my face. I growled with frustration.

"This so isn't fair, Rumpel!" I cried, shaking my fist in the air.

His disembodied voice echoed all around me. "Yoo'll do just fine, Deary. Follow the markers."

"Markers? What markers?"

The silence around me thickened. He'd disappeared for good, it seemed.

I glanced at the sky. Darkness would descend soon. If I didn't hurry, I'd be caught out in the wild with no one to give me a helping hand.

Myrah and Elba had been sent somewhere else after we'd held hands and teleported ourselves out of the inn. Where they were now was a concept my mind refused to fathom. If memory served, per what Myrah had previously mentioned, I was sixty miles away from Gwendolyn. Surely, it wasn't that hard of a trek to get there?

I released a pent-up breath and turned toward what I assumed was a northern direction. Fear coursed through my veins. Deep inside, I hated the fact that I was alone. That no one else was around to help me with this unexpected quest. Perhaps Rumpelstiltskin had meant it to be this way.

Does he want me to prove my own mettle? Is that why he's sent me here?

I shook my head to clear it. Without another option allotted to me, I moved forward. Time was of the essence. If I didn't do what needed to be done, I'd never make it back home in time to thwart Luria's plans. Defeated, but not by a long shot, I headed for Gwendolyn, determined to make the most of this convoluted quest Rumpelstiltskin had saddled me with.

***

"Damn it!" Luria growled. "What can't any of you do anything right?"

Her attendants mumbled with displeasure, unsure of what to do. The carriage had lost a wheel. They were now sitting beneath a scorching sun several miles from the outskirts of the city.

Luria pinched the bridge of her nose between a thumb and forefinger. "Send someone along. Have them fetch one of the king's guards. Perhaps they'll be able to get us moving soon enough."

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