Gateway to Aethera | Wynonna Grimm Book 1

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Chapter 9

Noticing Wynonna’s current predicament, Sixteen Forty-nine internally face palmed at the sight of her bent over position. It was evident that the girl had clearly thrown her back out.

Hesil ― who was still oblivious to what was going on ― was puzzled as to why the woman before him was hunched over.

She couldn’t be that timid, could she? he pondered in bemusement. And thus, a deep misunderstanding was born without Wynonna’s awareness.

The woman in question, felt her face burn in embarrassment at the awkwardness of her situation.

After a moment’s consideration, Sixteen Forty-nine finally decided to put her out of her misery. No matter what the case, he was still over a good three hundred years older than the girl and choosing to ignore her suffering would be immature even for him. Stepping around the towering male who was still confused as to why the female foreigner was bowing towards him, Sixteen Forty-nine grabbed onto the back of Wynonna’s attire and yanked it towards him.

Wynonna yelped in pain as her spine popped in several places. Sending a glare towards the devilish brat who’d mercilessly straightened her back without a warning, Wynonna grumbled under breath. Sixteen Forty-nine simply shrugged in response and chose to ignore her complaints.

Take the high road Wynonna, he’s still a kid, she rationalized, completely unaware that her current thoughts aligned with the reaper’s own just moments prior.

Hesil on the other hand simply chose to ignore the strange woman’s antics and signaled for her to follow him. Walking through a series of narrow hallways and up several flights of stone stairwells, Hesil led the girl to the manor’s library.

Upon entry, Wynonna’s jaw dropped at the massive interior of the place. Wall to wall shelves lined every corner of the library from floor to ceiling and rows of walnut wood bookcases filled the surface area of the ground floor. Soft rays of sunlight poured in through the high glass windows of the second floor.

Making his way to the supply room, Hesil pulled out the bucket of soap and water, that he’d had one of the maids prearranged for him earlier, along with a duster, a rag, and a wooden mop. Shoving the items in Wynonna’s arms, the man clicked his tongue and gestured towards the floor and the wooden tables. Even Wynonna who couldn’t understand speak his tongue, was able to understand the universal language the man was currently speaking. It was a language that she― as a part-timing veteran― was quite familiar with.

To put it simply, he had basically just instructed her in not so many terms to get her ass moving and start cleaning.

As it turns out, even in fairyland I can’t escape from cleaning up after people,Wynonna smiled bitterly.

With a defeated look, Wynonna hauled the supplies to the center of the first floor and got straight to work. Just when she thought the man would leave her alone to her business, he unexpectedly made his way towards an empty table that was positioned in a location that gave him a good view of the entire first floor. Unlocking the top drawer attached to the desk, Hesil pulled out the Bythalni family ledger and began to review the monthly expenditures.

Feeling the man’s critical gaze land on her occasionally, Wynonna knew there was no way in hell he’d let her get away with slacking off. Ultimately, she was left with no choice but to concede.

After having thoroughly wiped down nearly every piece of furniture in the entire room, Wynonna took note of the strange characteristics of texts that were stored in the library. Each and every book that she’d laid her eyes upon was encased in a strange leathery material that looked quite different from the average leather originating from cattle hide. Glancing over to make sure she was at a safe distance from the man who’d been observing her every move, Wynonna poked Sixteen Forty-nine who’d been wandering around by her side with a bored expression.

“Kid,” Wynonna hissed in his direction when she realized she’d failed to evoke a response. Peering over her shoulder to make sure a certain someone wasn’t watching, Wynonna swatted at the daydreaming reaper with her towel to draw his attention.

“What?” the reaper grunted in reply, somewhat peeved at having been touched with a dirty old rag.

“What’s this?” she pointed towards one of the books she’d just finished dusting off.

“A book,” he stated matter of factly.

“I know that, ya smartass. I’m talking about the cover,” she emphasized in exasperation.

“Triouken leather,” he responded blandly, to which Wynonna immediately removed her hand away from the book as though it had caught on fire.

Fuck! I thought they were used as transportation though?” Wynonna exclaimed in horror.

“Well they are now. But before they were domesticated, they were widely hunted for their meat and the production of leather. Nowadays, Triouken hunting is banned in the Rymioeran empire,” Sixteen Forty-nine elaborated.

“You’re telling me people ate dragon meat?” Wynonna’s eyes nearly bulged out of her head, in disbelief.

“It was a well-known delicacy,” he shrugged.

Loud scraping of metal against parchment interrupted their conversation. Wynonna flinched in reaction and looked over her shoulder cautiously to make sure she hadn’t been caught whispering. However, after confirming that her warden was currently more preoccupied with the stack of documents before him, Wynonna figured she should hurry along and finish cleaning. By the time she was done, Wynonna was utterly drenched in sweat and could swear that she was going to have to crawl on both her hands and knees just to get back to her room later. Setting the mop aside, Wynonna tugged on the neck area of the upper layer of her thick garments. The heat was stifling.

Panting in exhaustion, Wynonna made her way over to the man of the hour who’d had his nose glued to the inside of a book, while she was working her ass off like a dog for the past three hours. Tapping on the desk to grab his attention, Wynonna hunched over and slapped the rag onto the table.

“Ta-da!” Wynonna exhaled through her nose as she waved her arms towards the room before him to indicate that she’d successfully completed her task. Hesil, on the other hand, simply stared at her. None too impressed, he quietly picked up the rag she’d willfully tossed on the table. Setting his writing utensil down, he then grabbed Wynnona’s right arm and placed the rag back into her hand. Silently motioning towards the second floor of the library, Hesil picked up the document that he’d been reviewing before he’d been rudely interrupted and resumed his work.

Getting the gist of what he meant, the smile on Wynonna’s face froze.

Oh fuck my life, Wynonna groaned in despair.

The wind howled as a troop of men marched forward into the frozen landscape that had become of the wetlands of Nasiyr. The beginnings of winter had frozen Nasiyr, making it easier for those who ventured into it to maneuver its once swampy lands. At the head of the troop walked the heir of the Bythalni household alongside Lord Viroklaris. It had been months since Raeuikyn had sent men to infiltrate the Valtheurn territory. After relentlessly searching and investigating every noble of the Valtheurn house, they had finally broken through to the closest aide of the head of the household. It was only shortly after having arrived at the manor, that Raeuikyn had received word that the person in question had agreed to a meeting. Not long after interrogating the islander woman they had encountered deep within Nasiyr along it’s border to Valtheurn, Raeuikyn and Lilith were once again forced to venture deep into the forest’s wetlands along the edge of the Aleian Lake.

“Halt,” Lilith ordained, raising his left hand, signaling the others to stop at a standstill. Tendrils of shockingly white hair peeked out from beneath the hood of his black cloak, as they danced along the wind’s tune. His eyes surveyed the landscape before him once more. Nodding in satisfaction, he finally deemed it safe to dismount his beast. The frozen grass crunched beneath his feet as he landed safely on the ground. Raeuikyn followed and rested a palm against his triouken before moving to stand alongside his companion. The rest of the troop followed his lead and dismounted. The herd of triouken beasts retreated into the shadows forming a protective barrier around the men. Making sure not to stray too far away from their elven companions in order to keep an eye on them, they occasionally growled in warning at the rogue creature that strayed too close to the circle.

The silver guardsmen awaited in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Before long, soft footsteps could be heard at a distance. A hooded figure approached them at a rapid pace alongside two armed men. The silver guardsmen unsheathed their weapons in anticipation. As the three figures drew closer to the circle, the guards relaxed in recognition. The two men that walked on either side of a scrawny male, bowed in greeting towards Lord Raeuikyn and Lord Viroklaris.

“Your grace,” the scraggly man, sandwiched between them, dropped down on one knee immediately upon recognizing the emblem of the Bythalni family on Raeuikyn’s cloak.

“Raise your head,” Raeuikyn ordained, “You have valuable information for us do you not Mr. Shudlar? Time is of essence, therefore I’m sure you can understand as to why I’d rather not waste time on pleasantries.”

“Ah yes… please forgive my impertinence,” the man started nervously, wringing his bony hands together as he rose back to his feet, “Your eminence, before we agree to anything I have a few terms and conditions of my own.”

Raeuikyn’s eyebrows traveled northwards at the man’s brazenness but chose to allow it and dipped his head almost imperceptibly in assent.

“The first is that I want safe passage for my family to Bythalni,” Shudlar squared his shoulders assertively, putting up an air of false confidence.

“Won’t your master find it strange that the family of his closest aide is residing in Bythalni territory?” Lilith sneered in disdain at the man’s stuttering.

“Not particularly,” fear flickered in the Shudlar’s eyes as he regarded the executioner, “As far as the Valtheurns know, my family is as of recurrently residing in the capital.”

“Let me guess, they’re not in the capital are they?” Raeuikyn intervened perfunctorily.

“No,” he confirmed tentatively, gauging the young Bythalni heir’s reactions,“I relocated them to a village off the coast, a few months ago.”

Raeuikyn raised an eyebrow in slight admiration of the man’s foresight.

“Given the information I’ve accumulated over the years about the Valtheruns,” Shudlar continued stringently, “I deemed it unsafe for my family to continue living in close proximity to the Valtheurns, so I made sure to take the necessary precautions. Especially with the current events that have taken place.”

“And what are those circumstances? Please, do tell,” Lilith’s gaze sharpened calculatingly which did not fail to escape the man’s notice.

“Not yet,” Shudlar stiffened at the realization that he was being baited and responded gruffly, “First, I wish to know of your decision.”

Lilith studied him intently, before assuming a lax disposition and chuckled in amusement, “I’ll send a few men out to collect them in two days’ time. So do we have a deal?”

The man nodded hesitantly in affirmation.

“Pleasure doing business with you, Mr. Shudlar,” Raeuikyn smiled ruefully.

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