Gateway to Aethera | Wynonna Grimm Book 1

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Chapter 5

Wynonna struggled against her captor to no avail. Her heart pounded fiercely in terror, as the adrenaline kicked in. Slowly her awareness of her surroundings dulled as she became overwhelmed with her desperation to escape, but the one that held her in place would not relent, only strengthening his grip on her even more.

Loud shouts could be heard as she was dragged towards the clearing in front of the house. Roughly shoved into the dirt, she was forced down onto her knees as a group of hooded figures emerged from the trees surrounding them. Trembling in fright, Wynonna frantically attempted to free herself once more, only for the hand that was holding her still to push down even further, nearly crushing her collarbone in the process. She cried out in agony as the blinding pain caused dark spots to dance across her vision.

At that exact moment, Sixteen Forty-nine burst out of the house in a complete state of alarm. When he witnessed Wynonna’s figure kneeling on the ground, he froze in shock and could only watch on at the events unfurling before him powerlessly. Sixteen Forty-nine was petrified to say the least. To him it only seemed like it was yesterday that he had been working behind a desk filing paperwork, and as such he had never had to face off in a hostile situation like the one that had presented itself before him.

Even now that he worked as a soul retriever, a retriever did not necessarily have a need to know of any form of self-defense. At the end of the day, reapers all handled their tasks from behind the scenes, obscured from the eyes of the living.

That said, even if he wanted to help Wynonna, he was unable to because to put it simply, Sixteen Forty-nine was just a common reaper. Without any special skill sets other than that of reaping. It wasn’t like he could use his scythe in an actual fight because ultimately a grim reaper’s scythe was practically useless in battle as it was reserved strictly for the reaping of souls. It was a tool that was meant to cut the chains binding a soul to its body, therefore the scythe itself wasn’t capable of touching anything that is tangible to the living. For lack of better words, it would simply pass through.

Rushing towards Wynonna’s side, he bent down beside her and proceeded to attempt to diffuse the situation.

“Miss Grimm,” he lowered his voice, as he tried to get her attention.

Wynonna shifted her neck to look in his direction only to have her head yanked back to face forward. The man holding her still, barked an order but she could not understand a word coming out of his mouth. Tears brimmed the rims of her eyes as her head throbbed in pain, the grip on her hair tightening each time she made a sudden movement.

“Miss Grimm, I need you to listen carefully to what I’m about to say,” Sixteen Forty-nine’s voice was strained as he attempted to speak to her in collected manner, “I know you’re frightened right now, but you’re going to have to do exactly as I tell you to until I figure out how to get you out of this situation. Do not try to fight them, because trust me when I say this, things can and will only get worse. They’re stronger than you and could easily kill you without so much as blinking an eye. Nod if you understand.”

Despite the stinging sensation in her eyes, Wynonna blinked back her tears and clenched her jaw as she slightly lowered her head in response.

Two sets of black leather boots made their way into her line of sight. A cold hand grabbed her chin harshly and raised her head to meet the eyes of its owner. Her vision was still slightly blurry and daylight had nearly come to its end. Unable to make out the faces of those before her, Wynnona was left to squint into the darkness to try and make out the figure before her with more clarity.

A deep melodious voice emitted from the person before her, speaking to her in a strange tongue that to her ears sounded like the sound of a waterfall― fluid yet concise, its volume rising and falling with each syllable and consonant.

By contrast, the one who knelt by her side to provide her with a modicum of comfort through his presence alone, understood every word that was spoken before him. Scanning his surroundings in vigilance, Sixteen Forty-nine quietly listened to their conversation.

“Was there anyone else inside?” the man who held Wynonna’s face addressed the male standing behind her, without so much as bothering to look up at the person he was speaking to, seeing as how he was unable to get a response from the woman.

“No, my lord. I swept the entire house,” the servant replied to his master, completely unaware of the reaper’s presence ― who sat not even three feet away from him.

“There could have been others,” the man who stood rigidly beside the servant’s master, remarked offhandedly with arms crossed over his chest.

“Tie her up. Take a group of men and have them search the surrounding area. The rest of us will ride tonight, we can interrogate her when we arrive at the manor. You can catch up to us later,” the leader declared dryly, suddenly losing interest in their newly acquired captive. Releasing the disheveled woman’s face, the man wiped invisible dirt off his hands with a solid white handkerchief that he proceeded to discard on the ground without a moment’s hesitation.

Wynonna, whose blood circulation was being cut off in her legs from having knelt for too long, felt herself being yanked onto her feet. It was only then that she got a good look at the people surrounding her in the dim lighting. Some of them had withdrawn their hoods as they went about their tasks in a busy manner. Wynonna’s blood ran cold when she finally noticed a distinct trait that they all seemed to share in common.

Their ears.

Unlike her own which were rounded, every single one of her captors had pointed ears.

She suddenly started regretting not knowing what it was that she was really getting herself into when she agreed so easily to the grim reaper’s initial offer to bring her back from the dead without a second thought.

Stumbling over her own feet, Wynonna was pulled along forcefully behind the bald man who had captured her. His large physique obstructed her vision so she could not tell where it was that she was being led to. Without a warning he halted abruptly, and she was unable to prevent herself from ramming into his back at the last minute. Contorting her face in pain, she scrunched up her throbbing nose that she’d nearly broken upon impact with his shoulder blade.

Once he’d moved out of the way, Wynonna was finally able to catch sight of why exactly it was that they had stopped. Within the darkness of the shadows stood a massive creature. The first thought that came to her mind at the sight of it was ‘Pegasus’. But as the mammoth of a creature stepped further into the light, she noticed that the winged monstrosity that stood before her resembled anything but the mythical creature of legend that she had originally compared it too. Black leathery skin covered its muscular frame. It snarled at her in warning; its sharp teeth glinted in the dim lighting. Where it’s hooves should have been, large toed feet were in place, decorated with four-inch claws that looked just about sharper than any blade she’d ever seen.

The reptilian beast circled around her as though it were sizing her up, with a predatory gaze.

A guttural sound resonated from its chest as it neared her, yet the man who stood a foot away from her paid it no mind. Yanking both of her wrists together, he tore her attention away from the steed, and proceeded to tie her wrists together with a long rope. With one final knot, he tightened the rope to the point that it began to cut into Wynonna’s skin.

Taking the longer end of the rope, he then approached the beast that was still eyeing Wynonna hungrily as if she were a juicy piece of steak. Patting the creature on its head until it calmed down, he took the rope and secured it to its saddle.

Her captor then simply walked away leaving Wynonna alone to her own thoughts. When she was sure no one was looking she directed her attention back to Sixteen Forty-nine.

Now what? How the hell do we get out of here?” she hissed at Sixteen Forty-nine who had stood beside her the whole time. Still facing Sixteen Forty-nine she slowly moved herself as far away as possible from the creature that still had his eye on her.

“Give me a second. I’m still trying to figure things out,” he fidgeted uncomfortably, “Even if I were to untie you right now and we were to try and make a run for it, there are too many people surrounding us. Not to mention Miss Grimm, if you hadn’t already noticed, these people aren’t exactly human. Not only would they be able to catch up to you within mere seconds, but they could literally tear you apart limb from limb as easily as if you were made of cookie dough.”

“Good to know,” she glowered at him spitefully, her words laced heavily with malice.

“W-well anyhow, I think it’s best you cooperate with them for now. I’ll try and do what I can,” he blurted out frantically under her fierce gaze, when he noticed another figure approaching them rapidly.

“This conversation isn’t over,” she growled at him one last time in warning, as an older looking male approached them, making his way towards the beast that Wynonna was still attached to.

She watched as the fully grown male climbed onto the animal with ease and adjusted his grip on the reins. He fumbled with a few straps before straightening back up and sheathing his glaringly sharp looking sword. Then tugging on the rope attached to Wynonna, the man shot a few words at her in a gruff manner. Although she couldn’t understand what was said, she assumed that he was meaning for her to get on but Wynonna could only stand there with a bemused expression. She wondered how it was that he expected for her to get on with her hands all tied up the way they were. That alone, of course, is ignoring the reptilian creature that still looked as if it would very much like to take a chomp out of her, should she go anywhere near it.

“Uh, Miss Grimm? If I may?” Sixteen Forty-nine cleared his throat off to the side quietly, to catch her attention.

“He means for you to walk,” he translated guiltily, to which Wynonna answered with a hateful glare in his direction.

“Oh this day just keeps getting better and better,” she grumbled under her breath.


Wynonna took another tumble to the ground and felt her knees scrape against the rocky terrain. If it hadn’t been for Sixteen Forty-nine who had been supporting her weight throughout the whole way, Wynonna would have probably collapsed from exhaustion ages ago and just been dragged along by the overgrown lizard. As the grim reaper helped Wynonna back onto her feet, a low-pitched whistle resounded over the thundering of heavy footsteps. The herd of beasts all slowly came to a stop.

More yelling could be heard as men dismounted from their steeds and began to wander about. The sun had begun to peak indicating the rise of dawn, causing the shadows of the forest to begin their retreat.

“What’s going on?” she whispered to Sixteen Forty-nine wearily, who merely guided her to the nearest shaded area, in silence and helped her sit down.

“They’re setting up camp for a while. Wait here,” he instructed her before taking off his cloak and slipping it over her shivering body.

Wynonna wrapped the cloak around herself even further without a fuss, not caring if the young boy could feel the cold air or not, as her frozen limbs felt as if they could fall off at any given moment. No one seemed to be paying any attention to her either way, so it wasn’t like they’d take any notice of the black cloak that had appeared seemingly out of nowhere on the girl’s body.

As Sixteen Forty-nine roamed about, Wynonna closed her fatigued eyes for what felt like a brief second before the reaper had already made his way back. Lowering himself to sit down next to her, he slipped something into her rope bound hands without a word.

Curiosity won the best of her as she slowly unwrapped the small bundle of cloth that he had placed in her palms.

“Eat,” he responded to the questioning look in her eyes as she took in the sight of preserved piece of dried meat.

As unappetizing as it seemed, Wynonna had not eaten in ages and as such, that small piece of meat to her might as well have been a luxurious five star meal, as she had inhaled the meat not even a second after muttering her thanks to the reaper. Sixteen Forty-nine waited until she’d finished her ration before speaking once more.

“Miss Grimm... it would appear that our situation is a lot more dire than I’d initially presumed,” he informed her slowly, allowing her some time to process the new information that presented itself before them.

Wynonna schooled her expression and retreated further into the shadows. Not waiting for an answer, he took that as a sign to continue.

“Since the last time I came to Rymioera, there have been a lot of changes and with it unrest within the major dukedoms of the empire.

“And currently the cottage, which I had previously occupied, lies right on the boundary between two of the largest dukedoms within the empire. It also just so happens that many enemy raiders have been spotted around that area prior to our arrival.”

“In other words?” she breathed out unevenly.

“They think you’re a spy,” he disclosed without beating around the bush.

“So, I’m screwed,” she surmised blandly.

“Not if I can figure out how to get you out of here before they put you on trial,” he insisted despite how helpless the situation looked from any outsider’s point of view.

“Hey kid. What the hell is this place?” she rubbed her face in frustration suddenly feeling completely drained of energy.

Taking a few moments to answer, Sixteen Forty-nine struggled with forming an appropriate response that would not startle the poor human out of her wits. In the end, he decided there was no point in delaying the inevitable and came out with the truth, hoping that she wouldn’t take the news too terribly.

“Miss Grimm... Do you believe in Fae?”

“What like faeries?” Wynonna blanked for a moment, not having expected that to have come out of his mouth out of all things.

“No, not faeries. Fae,” he corrected her.

“Yeah... no. I don’t get it. How is that any different?” she frowned in confusion.

“Fae is what you could refer to as a generalization of a group of organisms. Just as there are mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles, there are also Fae.”

“So, what you’re trying to say is that Fae doesn’t refer to a species, but to a class of organisms?”

“Not technically. It’s not really as simple as that; if anything the answer would be yes and no. It’s a bit confusing I know, but you could say that Fae is simply a term that refers to all organisms that possess the affinity to manipulate aether, whether it’s innate or learned. And even within Fae there also exist the subclasses of mammals, amphibians, birds, and reptiles but this is keeping in mind that there are also subclasses of these organisms that don’t classify as Fae.”

“Okay, you’re losing me here kid,” Wynonna sighed in frustration as the conversation began to flow in a direction, she got the feeling, that she really would not like.

“Alright take the mount that you’re tied to as an example. The species of the creature is that of a Triouken. The Triouken race is what you would classify as Fae, but it’s subclass would also fall under that of a reptile. Now take an ordinary lizard without the ability to manipulate aether. That lizard would not classify as a Fae, but it does as a reptile.”

“In other words, anything to do with aether is Fae.”

“Uh, somewhat. I guess you could say that. If it helps you understand it better, then sure.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but let me get this straight, because to me it seems like what you’re really trying to get at with this mini lesson, is that rather than taking me to a place where I could live out the rest of my life comfortably without any worries, you’ve actually whisked me away into a land of faeries?”

“Not faeries, Fae-” he protested defensively only to be cut off.

“Same shit,” she raged onward, only just now realizing the severity of her situation. If she really was in some kind of magical, more fucked up, version of Neverland, then it’s safe to say that there was a good chance she could easily end up kicking the bucket for the second time in her lifespan and who knew if the next time wouldn’t be the last time? There’s a good chance that the next time she died, she could very well end up staying dead if her new little reaper friend wasn’t around in time to save her ass.

“Listen here you little shit. Frankly, I don’t give a damn if you’re underage or not anymore. So, help me god, that if I don’t make it out of here in one piece, I promise you that I will raise hell for you in the Spirit world. I may be human but that doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of handing your ass back to you on a silver platter. Understood?

“Y-yes,” Sixteen Forty-nine nodded furiously, not bothering to correct her about his age, having been somewhat thrown off but the firm resolution in her gaze.

To hell with all of this, Wynonna thought to herself.

She may have been gifted with the worst luck ever known to humanity but there was no way she was going to stand still and let life screw her over for the second time around. This time she was going to take back control of her life and live however the hell she wanted to without worrying about debt collectors banging on her doorstep at the early hours of the morning. Or working late shifts just to scrounge up enough money to pay her bills, whilst living on a day to day basis. She was going to survive no matter what it took and make the most out of her new life in this world.

Magical creatures be damned.

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