Gateway to Aethera | Wynonna Grimm Book 1

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Chapter 7

A certain young master sat before a large stack of official letters, of which he had yet to address in his study. The loud crackling of the burning fireplace only served to further distract him from his work. The public unrest within the Rymioeran empire was growing out of control and the diplomatic tensions between the Bythalni and Valtheurn territories were becoming increasingly hard for him to handle on his own. He kneaded his temples to soothe his throbbing headache. At the rate things were going, he could only await with hopes that his father returned with good news from the capital. It had been over half a year since Lord Fiayrel Val Roristun-Bythalni had departed for Kaiudth to appeal to the council and since then Raeuikyn had only received word from him on the rare occasion.

Sighing in resignation, he looked up at his carefree companion that lay sprawled across his lounge, shaking his head disapprovingly at him.

“Xylari,” Raeuikyn called out to his longtime friend and brother in arms, but said man simply furrowed his brows and turned away from him.

Xylari!” he called out once more, this time raising his voice a bit louder in an attempt to awaken him from his slumber, but his friend didn’t so much as flinch this time.

“Lilith!” he finally snapped at him in anger upon realization that he was being blatantly ignored.

On that note, the man frowned in irritation and wearily opened his eyes. It had been a long time since he had gone by that name and Raeuikyn himself was more than well aware that it bothered him to be addressed as such. Propping himself up, he lazily directed his attention towards the lord of the manor.

“Was that really necessary?” Lilith glanced towards the door warily, taking a moment to sound out any unsuspecting listeners, so as to corroborate that Raeuikyn’s outburst hadn’t been overheard by unwanted ears.

“Well it got your attention, did it not?” the young lord retorted to which Lilith simply replied with silence.

“Now that I’ve managed to get through to you, I think it’s about time we address the matter at hand no?” Raeuikyn gritted out, just barely managing to maintain his composure.

“Which is?

“How long you plan on sticking around this time?”

“No need to discuss. I leave first thing in the morning,” Lilith waved him off dismissively.

Denied. Lilith you know very well that I need you here right now, not running around with Silver guardsmen enforcers,” Raeuikyn tried to reason with him, suddenly feeling his stress levels begin to rise once again.

“And what exactly is it that you need me here for? I’m but a mere executioner, not a government official. Unless you need me to decapitate someone for you then I’m sorry to say that I’m of no use to you,” he drawled lazily in response.

“Lilith, you know that I’m in a difficult position right now and you’re the only one other than me who can handle state affairs should I need to depart for any of the other territories for any reason,” Raeuikyn continued to press him relentlessly.

Ah, but see I’m not the only one though. There’s always your cousin Aoith,” Lilith smiled tauntingly at his companion.

“In that case, please allow me to rephrase that. What I meant was, you’re the only one responsible enough that I actually trust to leave in charge. Please Lilith, as a favor to an old friend can’t you at least do this much for me? We’re both well aware of the fact that Aoith is incompetent imbecile, who can’t be trusted for the life of anyone.”

“You really don’t hold back when you ask for favors do you?” the man simply looked at him dryly.

“So, can I take that as a yes?” Raeuikyn groaned in frustration at how difficult the man was being.

“Do whatever you want,” Lilith laid back down in an attempt to procure more sleep, without sparing Raeuikyn another glance.

“Thank you,” Raeuikyn exhaled deeply in a mixture of both exasperation and relief.

Of course, to his misfortune, not long after Lilith closed his eyes, someone knocked on the door, once again disturbing his much sought after sleep. It was at that point that Lilith felt a vein in his forehead pulse in growing irritation.

Send them away,” he hissed at the lord of the manor with pure and unbound acidity to which Raeuikyn simply dismissed with an eye roll.

“Enter,” he called out, ignoring the daggers currently being shot in his direction by his oh so dearly beloved brother in arms.

“Master Raeuikyn, Master Xylari. Apologies for the disturbance,” the man who called in bowed respectfully before straightening back up, waiting for further instructions.

“Speak,” Raeuikyn redirected his attention to their guest.

“The leader of the search party has returned along with the others. Requesting permission to proceed with the interrogation of the prisoner,” the man bowed his head in respect as he awaited further instructions.

“Have Oquwen handle it. I want a detailed report when it’s done,” he ordered.

“As you wish. Then, I’ll take my leave now,” he nodded in response.

Raeukyn paused for a moment before calling out to his vassal who had already reached the door.

“Hesil, I’ve changed my mind. Disregard that order. Xylari and I will personally attend to that matter. You may attend to your duties now.”

“Understood,” the servant complied and without any further questions, the man quietly removed himself from the room.

With that being said, Raeuikyn pushed back from his seat and proceeded to stretch the tension out of his stiff shoulder blades. Suddenly he couldn’t help but feel relieved at having found the perfect excuse to take a break from his tedious duties as the heir to the Bythalni name.

The young master took a journal from a stack of books piled up on his desk. He then aimed the leather-bound book in the direction of his lethargic acquaintance before ruthlessly launching it towards the back of his head, only for it to stop midair in its trajectory. The victim of the young master’s childish antics sat up calmly and slowly stepped forward to pluck the object from the air before setting it down on the coffee table.

“Are we leaving, or do you wish to continue throwing random objects at me?” he inquired whilst giving his companion a meaningful look.

“Going,” Raeuikyn grumbled under his breath and he made his way to the door.

As big as the Bythalni manor was, for those who were well acquainted with the place, it didn’t take long for the two men to reach the stables only pausing for a moment to instruct the guard standing watch to follow them. As they made their way to the end of the row, Lilith impromptuly reached out and latched onto Raeuikyn’s arm. The young master who was stopped out of nowhere, took a moment to look at him in confusion.

“You ask the questions; I’ll handle the rest,” Lilith answered his unspoken question, without bothering to wait for an affirmation as he resumed his pace.

Now standing before the gate that held their prisoner captive, Lilith wasted no time in unlocking the door and making his way into the stable.

Lilith quickly assessed the situation while he taking in the sight before them and nodded in approval. The girl was slumped over in a chair and already seemed to be frightened out of her wits, which would make things a lot easier for them. With any luck this wouldn’t take too long.

Meanwhile the other party in question was sweating bullets despite the cold weather. Cursing the fact that she was in the care of a grim reaper that seemed to have no useful skills other than that of sending off the dearly departed, Wynonna couldn’t help but wonder who she might have pissed off in her previous life, that bad luck seemed to follow her just about everywhere she went.

Honestly what good is a grim reaper for, if he can’t even teleport my sorry ass away when I need it? she wanted nothing more than to cry out in despair.

Lilith stared at the many emotions fleeted across the woman’s face in fascination. It was the first time he’d ever come across someone with such a high level of transparency. He even began to doubt there being a remote possibility of this woman being a spy. Based on the ridiculous expression on her face alone, it was clear that she looked completely and utterly lost.

But it was her physical appearance that knocked some sense back into him. It was not uncommon for undercover mercenaries to be hired for their physical appearances. The more average they looked, the easier it is for them to blend in amongst a crowd and this woman in particular was about as average as they came. Even so, he couldn’t help but admire her. If it really was an act she was putting up, then he needed to reflect on his own acting skills, because she had already outdone him by a mile without having even spoken a single word.

With one last look at her contorted expression, he stepped aside to make room for Raeuikyn.

The guard that had followed them from behind, swiftly placed a chair at a safe distance away from the prisoner in front of his master before retreating into the shadows. Raeuikyn made no comment and sat down without hesitation. Tilting his head as he observed her reactions, he languidly crossed one leg over the other and leaned forward, propping his elbow up on his knee while moving to rest his chin on the palm of his hand.

“Hello,” he greeted pleasantly, to which the woman simply shivered in response. Wynonna stared at him blankly, as she knew for a fact that the current circumstances certainly did not warrant for her abductor to be smiling at her so nonchalantly, but wasn’t like she was going to go and point that out to him either.

Out of the corner of her eye she caught Sixteen Forty-nine’s shadow making his way around the three men to her side, which helped give her some kind of reassurance. If she was going to have to put up with this crap, she should at the very least have someone to translate what the deranged man in front of her was saying, she thought to herself. Directing her attention back to the man sitting before her, she avoided looking too much in Sixteen Forty-nine’s direction so as to not draw suspicion.

“I’m certain you’re already aware of who I am, so why don’t we just make this easier on ourselves? I assure you that whatever offer your employers have made, I can easily counter that offer and what’s more is that I won’t hold you accountable for whatever crimes you might have committed in Bythalni. In essence, what I’m offering you is immunity,” Raeuikyn prodded her gently to garner a reaction from her.

Wynonna was no imbecile, and even though she didn’t understand a word that was coming out of the man’s mouth, it was as clear as day that this man was trying to play the role of a good cop before her. Had she not been kidnapped, she would’ve almost even felt sorry for him as it did him no good to continue blabbering onward seeing as how every word and syllable emitting from his piehole sounded like greek to her ears.

It was at this time that Sixteen Forty-nine took the chance to slowly move behind her. It had taken him a great deal of effort to make his way towards his charge. Despite currently not being visible to others, his footsteps could still easily be heard if he was not careful. Standing on a pile of hay most definitely wasn’t doing him any favors either.

“He thinks you’re a mercenary,” he whispered quietly into her ear, thankful for the loud ruckus the guards passing by outside the stable walls were making.

Noticing her lack of reaction, Raeuikyn’s smile froze. It seemed like they were going to have to do things the hard way after all he deduced.

“But of course, if it’s a matter of loyalty, then I’d advise you to think things through carefully. I’ll have you know that I can be quite generous to those who do right by me. Besides, it’s not like an unfounded sense loyalty will feed you at the end of the day now will it?” he stressed impatiently.

Though he personally hated having to resort to such underhanded methods such as bribery and even more so violence, Raeuikyn was still the heir to the Bythalni dukedom and thus was not above that. With his title came many responsibilities of which he had to uphold. One of which responsibilities was to protect his people at any cost.

Lilith who was witnessing their interactions couldn’t help but feel growing respect towards the tiny woman that was practically glued to the wooden chair. As pathetic as it was to admit it, most would have already caved at the first sound of money being put on the table, him included. There weren’t that many people left in Rymioera who were driven by a code of honor and loyalty, so it was quite unusual to come across someone that couldn’t be bribed. Which is why even if she had given in easily, he wouldn’t have blamed her.

Raeuikyn frowned in displeasure. He really disliked the prospect of having to use force to get information out of prisoners, but the woman continued to remain dead silent, to an extent that you’d think he’d been speaking to a wall throughout the whole time.

“Stay calm,” Sixteen Forty-nine continued to reassure her, “No matter what, don’t say a single word.”

Wynonna heeded his advice and maintained her composure. It would do her no good to reveal her panic. Showing fear would only make her look guilty in the face of whatever these men suspected her of.

This act, of course, did not go unnoticed by Raeuikyn. At the sight of the woman’s demeanor relaxing, the smile was completely wiped from his face. He then concluded that they weren’t going to get her to open her mouth anytime soon at that rate― meaning that they would end up having to resort to alternative means after all.

The young master called Lilith over with a wave of his hand and leaned back against his chair, not bothering to conceal his impatience any longer.

Lilith, who had been waiting for the signal all along, swiftly took matters into his own hands. The guard he’d given instructions to earlier, immediately procured a metal bar for him.

At the sight of the exchange between the two men who had been standing in the background, Wynonna felt a chilling sensation. The man who now possessed a piece of metal, ran his fingers along its length and pressed the palm of his hand down on its end. Moments passed and much to her horror the metal began to emit a bright orange glow where he had pressed down.

Despite Sixteen Forty-nine’s earlier attempts at calming her down, Wynonna began to tremble like a leaf. The man slowly began to make his way towards her with an eerily tranquil expression, her eyes widened in terror at the proximity between her and the hot iron rod currently aimed in her direction.

She had no doubt in her mind that he had every intention to try to poke her with the damn thing. Wynonna realized that she could no longer sit still and thus spared no time in throwing all caution to the wind.

“Wait!” she protested loudly in alarm, flinging her arms up in a submissive stance.

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