Chapter 8: Unfortunate Circumstances

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Pentin, a short, yet stout man, stepped forward. He leaned forward, his head peering around the corner of the open carriage doors. Clearing his throat, he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

"Forgive me, Milady. Kent's been sent on his way already. He left about an hour ago."

Another growl erupted from the back of her throat. "What's taking so long, then?"

A grimace appeared across Pentin's face. "I'm not sure. You don't think them's bandits might have—"

Luria's eyes opened wide. "Bandits?'

Pentin nodded. "Aye, ma'am. There's bandits in these hills."

The corners of Luria's mouth curled downward. "No one ever mentioned bandits."

Embarrassed, Pentin ran a hand through his brown curls. "It's common knowledge—"

She glared at him. "Do I look like I have knowledge of what these hills are like?"

"N—No."

Luria waved a hand in dismissal. "Head off in search of the fool. I refuse to wait here a moment longer."

Pentin licked his lips and nodded. He straightened and turned, walking in the direction Kent had taken hours ago.

Furious, Luria settled back against her seat. Her mind focused on getting to Gwendolyn as soon as possible. The fact that they'd lost a wheel along the way irked her. It angered her further to know they weren't that far from the city's gates.

"Carriage troubles, Deary?" Rumpelstiltskin's disembodied voice quipped.

Startled, Luria glanced about, pressing a hand to the center of her chest. "What—Who are you?"

The dwarf chuckled. "Don't ye know?"

An unexpected burst of wind fanned her face. She cowered against her seat.

"N—No," she whispered.

"Ack. Aren't ye up fer a bit o' fun?"

Luria swallowed past the lump that had formed at the back of her throat. Gathering a hold of her wayward emotions, she straightened. It wouldn't do to show her men she was afraid of something she couldn't see.

Rumpelstiltskin laughed. "Made up yer mind, did ye?"

She squared her shoulders and said, "I recognize your voice."

"I'm sure ye do. Have ye decided what ye want to do?"

"In regards to?"

"Oh, ye know, Deary. Ye know. Shall we have a deal?"

Luria clenched her teeth together and shook her head. "I told you, we'll have no deal. Tell me your name. In fact, I demand it."

"No, no. It doesn't work like 'at. If ye want answers, ye must play."

A frown settled between Luria's brows. "Play?"

Rumpelstiltskin appeared. He sat on the seat adjacent to hers. The dwarf crossed his legs and clapped with delight.

A look of horror spread across her face. She detested the sight of the misshapen little man. Thoughts surfaced in the confines of her mind, yet she had a hard time in claiming them.

He grinned. "Yer tryin' to figure thin's out. I like 'at. Will ye figure it all out in due time, I wonder?"

"Why have you come?"

The dwarf held out his arms in supplication. "Because ye have a need. One I can take care of."

Luria tossed back her head and laughed. "I doubt that."

Rumpelstiltskin's mirth dissipated. "Ye doubt me."

She nodded. "Yes, I do."

He pursed his lips and stood. "Hmmm. 'At will not do. No, no. Not at all," he said, and clapped his hands together.

The ground shook, rattling the carriage. Screams echoed all around them.

"What are you doing?" Luria cried, pressing herself against the seat.

"Showin' ye who ye are dealin' wit'. Soon, ye shall not doubt me anymore."

With a flick of his hand, Rumpelstiltskin lifted the carriage into the air, taking the men with it. A knowing smile flashed across his lips.

"To Gwendolyn, we go!" he said, and clapped his hands once more.

A dark cloud descended upon the men and the carriage. It sucked them higher into the air, tossing them to and fro.

The men cried out with alarm, doing their best to maintain their holds upon the vehicle.

Inside the carriage, Luria cowered in a corner. She scrunched her eyes closed and clamped her lips together. With every bump the carriage took, her stomach churned. Luria tucked her chin against her chest, holding a hand against her lips.

Rumpelstiltskin glanced in her direction. "We're almost there, Deary. Don't ye fret."

Unable to help herself, Luria leaned forward. A steady stream of vomit burst from her lips. Chunks of undigested food flew in every direction. Several pieces landed in her hair.

"Oh, god!"

Luria gasped, curling her arms around her middle. She emptied the contents of her stomach completely and continued to dry-heave until she found herself gasping for air. Her body crumpled, several minutes later. She landed, face down, in the middle of the vomit-covered floor.

A look of delight spread across Rumpelstiltskin's face. He sat on the edge of the seat, his clothes pristine and free of vomit. Rumpelstiltskin raised his head and closed his eyes, drawing in several deep breaths.

"Ahhh," he said. "'At sure brin's back mem'ries of home."

Luria shifted, peering up at him through one open eye. "You're despicable!"

He glanced down at her. "'Course, I am. Yoo'll thank me some day fer it, too."

The carriage spun several times before coming to a complete stop. Its hinges creaked from the sudden impact.

The dwarf leaned forward. His eyes bored deep into hers.

"Now, I've brought ye exactly to where ye wanted to go. When I call again, Deary, we must have a deal. Is 'at understood?"

Luria pushed herself into a sitting position. She flicked several chunks of food stuck to her hands aside. Her mouth tightened with displeasure.

Rumpelstiltskin reached out to pat the top of her head. "I've faith yoo'll do what needs to be done when the time comes," he said, and disappeared, leaving her behind to deal with the onslaught of her ordeal.

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