Gateway to Aethera | Wynonna Grimm Book 1

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Chapter 8

“What did you say?” the man froze in his movements but received no response from a frightened Wynonna who still had no clue as to what the hell it was that was coming out of his mouth.

Eyeing the hot piece of metal in his hand cautiously, Wynonna gathered up enough courage to speak once more.

“Please, just... just wait,” she tried once more to communicate with the man, much to Sixteen Forty-nine’s dismay. Wynonna suddenly found herself wishing she had played charades more often as a child, feeling rather foolish at having resorted to randomly waving her arms around like a lunatic.

Sixteen Forty-nine wanted nothing more than to burst into tears at that point. This human was too troublesome. The one thing he had asked her not to do and yet she still went ahead and did it. She was going to drive him mad if she didn’t shut her mouth any time soon. The grim reaper despaired as he continued to watch her drag them both down to hell.

Lilith lowered his weapon of choice and shared a brief look with Raeuikyn. It seemed like they now had a rather inconvenient dilemma on their hands.

“Do you recognize it?” Raeuikyn inquired, somewhat perturbed by the display he had just been witness to.

“It’s not an official language of Heuior,” Lilith answered.

“Nor is it one of the seven continental languages. Perhaps it’s from the Isles of Palir?” Raeuikyn offered.

“Does it matter? She could easily be pretending not to understand us,” Lilith pointed out.

“As much as I’d like to agree with you, I think we should keep in mind that I mentioned monetary compensation and yet she didn’t so much as flinch. Let’s also not forget her strange clothing,” he reminded him without looking away from the prisoner, who was still eyeing the metal rod with alertness.

“That... actually would explain the blank look on her face,” Lilith conferred, suddenly feeling a bit disheartened for having given the woman so much credit before, for her so-called acting skills.

“The one thing I can’t understand though... Is what business an islander could have on the borders of Bythalni and Valtheurn?” Raeuikyn mused out loud, as he analyzed the young woman once more. Even though he suspected that she might have nothing to do with Valtheurn after all, he couldn’t completely absolve her of all suspicions simply because she spoke in a foreign language. As Lilith had stated earlier, the woman could most likely be feigning ignorance.

Raeuikyn blew out a puff of air in frustration and stepped outside with Lilith following closely from behind. Folding his arms across his chest, he rested his back against a wall as he pondered on how to deal with the matter at hand.

“So, what now?” Lilith spoke up after a moment of silence.

“Now... we have one of two possibilities. If she really is a rat, then I doubt she’s going to speak any time soon, if she won’t be swayed by money. But then, if she really doesn’t have anything to do with Valtheurn, then we may or may not have just kidnapped and imprisoned an innocent woman,” he appraised their current situation.

“In other words, we’re at a dead end,” Lilith surmised.

“Well in the meantime, we need to keep an eye on her, but as a gentleman I don’t exactly feel all that comfortable with leaving a young lady locked up in the back of my stables. Not to mention, Mother would have my head if she were to ever hear word of it,” his eyes gleaming with an indiscernible expression, as he properly looked over in his friend’s direction.

“How noble of you,” Lilith raised an eyebrow somewhat warily at the spoiled young master’s unprecedented bout of chivalry.

“I agree, but as you are well aware, I’m currently too busy with work at the moment to take the time to look after a mere prisoner which means―

No,” Lilith cut him off, instantly registering exactly where Raeuikyn was trying to go with this conversation. He’d already been forced to prolong his stay and being saddled with having to look after a little girl on top of that, was something that he was, most certainly, not looking forward to. Raeuikyn took no offense to his immediate dismissal, instead his face lit up once again as a light bulb suddenly went off in his head.

“In that case, really the only option we left is...” The young lord’s voice drifted off as a mischievous smile made its way back on to his face.

Hesil,” They chimed in unison as they came to a consensus.


Wynonna was confused to say the least. Shortly after her, very much unwelcome, visitors took their leave, she soon found herself being dragged around again by a servant who all but burst in and swooped her out of the stables like a hurricane, before throwing her into an empty room. Hearing a clicking noise after the door had been shut behind her, she registered that she’d been locked in from the outside.

Taking in her new surroundings, Wynonna noticed just how cramped the room really was. Barren with the exception of a small wooden dresser and a unipersonal cot, the cold and dank room was about the size of a standard walk-in closet, really limiting the amount of movement she had at liberty. Slowly lowering herself on the edge of the worn-out mattress, Wynonna took a moment to close her eyes in an attempt to calm her nerves, the floorboards creaking beneath her weight.

“We’re alone now. Are you going to explain to me what the hell is going on now or are we just going to continue playing the silent game?” she peered over at the grim reaper who was currently sulking on the opposite side of the room from her.

“I only asked for one thing from you. Just the one and not even a second had passed before you went quite literally broke your word,” he reproached.

“What did you expect me to do? The man was pointing a burning piece of metal at me for crying out loud!” she defended herself aggressively.

“I would have stopped him!” he launched back at her, practically seething in anger, his stomach churning as his stress levels reached a new all-time high.

“And how exactly do you suppose you were going to go about doing that? Tackling him from behind? Or perhaps putting him in a chokehold? Kid I don’t know if you’ve looked at yourself in a mirror lately or not, but height-wise you look more like the stereotypical elf that I know about, than the elves that were standing right in front of us. What’s more is that even if you had been able to do something, all you would have accomplished was exposing yourself,” she reasoned with the inconsolable reaper who still looked like he was about ready to tear her a new one.

“In any case, what’s done is done. Rather than wasting are breaths arguing about this, shouldn’t we focus on how to get me out of here instead? Or at the very least figure out what’s going to happen to me from now on? “

At this Sixteen Forty-nine finally calmed down. She was right, he thought to himself. Getting all riled up wouldn’t change anything. He’d already come this far, and he wasn’t about to let his efforts all go to waste either. Her survival still depended on him and in order to get her out of this mess he needed to maintain a level head.

“They’re trying to isolate you,” he informed her reluctantly.

“What-” she started off but didn’t get to finish her sentence before her words were cut short by the sound of soft footsteps making their way towards the room. Shutting up immediately, she scurried to move further away from the entrance.

A click could be heard as the door was unlocked and slowly swung open to reveal the figure of the servant that had confined her in the dusty old room in the first place. The man scanned the room with close scrutiny before stepping inside with a small bundle of cloth in his arms. Overlooking the guarded countenance of the woman that was currently plastered against the far end wall, he lowered the bundle in his arms and set it down on the edge of the bed.

“Tauje,” he commanded before taking a step back and standing still, folding his arms over his chest as though he was waiting for something to happen. It was clear that he was expecting something from her, yet Wynonna had no clue as to what it was that he wanted. An palpable silence soon enveloped them.

Tau-je,” he reiterated once more somewhat irked now at seeing her immobile state, this time placing more emphasis on each syllable.

“T-tao shay?” she spluttered in confusion, still unwilling to part with her most recently made acquaintance, ‘Sir Moldy Wall.’

Open it,” Sixteen Forty-nine mouthed the words to her from the side, observing the unimpressed look on the man’s face nervously.

Hesitantly reaching towards the bundle, Wynonna glanced up at the man’s face once more, to which he simply responded by nodding his head towards the bundle as though he was urging her to hurry the hell up already.

Grasping the coarse outer layer of the bag, she hurriedly pulled the bundle towards her before scooting back to her original position.

Hesil frowned at her actions, feeling relatively insulted at having been regarded as some kind of foul brute. Her reservations against him were plausible considering she was currently being held prisoner against her will, but with the way the woman’s eyes kept darting back and forth between the object before her and himself, you’d think he was some kind of carnivorous beast.

Despite his discomfort, he chose to brush it off. His job was simply to keep an eye on the woman as his master had instructed. Even so, he couldn’t help but feel as though Master Raeuikyn was once again pushing his responsibilities onto others. It wasn’t like Hesil particularly minded, after all he would always be willing to serve his master without question, but it really was a bit unbecoming for the future heir of the Bythalni dukedom to rely on others so often with such important matters. He’d watched over the young master from a young age and had grown up alongside him. Therefore, he couldn’t help but constantly worry that someday someone would take advantage of his master’s shortcomings.

Moreover, the individual that particularly bothered him was the most was Lord Xylari Viroklaris. He couldn’t fathom how the young master could be so trusting of a man of unknown origins. He’d long suspected that Master Raeuikyn and Lord Viroklaris had made each other’s acquaintance, during the young master’s stay in the capital throughout his adolescence and somehow managed to maintain contact with the man without his knowledge. Nevertheless, he wasn’t in the position to give his opinion on such matters and as far as he knew, after all these years Lord Viroklaris had yet to commit any act that would bring harm to his master or the Bythalni family. It was solely for this reason, that for the sake of his young master, addressing Lord Viroklaris as ‘Master Xylari,’ came at no cost for Hesil― though albeit reluctantly.

Wynonna slowly unraveled the outer layer of fabric to reveal the contents held within. Her eyes blinking with uncertainty as she eyed the garments within.

Noticing the woman’s curious gaze, Hesil immediately understood the unvoiced question that was written all over her face.

“Uniform,” he answered, not caring if she understood his words or not. She was going to have to learn to rely on herself from now on. From his understanding, her identity in the eyes of Masters Raeuikyn and Xylari was still unclear, therefore he wasn’t going to bother waiting on her hand and foot, not that it was in his personality to do so anyhow. However, this did not mean he was willing to have her leech off the Bythalni Manor’s resources either. If she wanted bread, she was going to have to work for it like everyone else, prisoner or not.

Having said all there was to say, Hesil took his leave without sparing her another glance.

Once she deemed that the coast was clear, Wynonna looked towards Sixteen Forty-nine in hopes that he’d be able to enlighten her in regards to the events that had just transpired. Detecting the multitude of questions that Wynonna was on the brink of firing at him, Sixteen Forty-nine took the opportunity to speak before she beat him to it.

“It’s a uniform. For what I’m not sure, but I’m guessing we’re going to find out sooner or later,” he relayed the information to her.

Wynonna stayed silent for a moment. She honestly didn’t know what to think anymore. Everything was all out of sorts and it was starting to look like her current situation wasn’t going to get any better. Sitting there on that shabby mattress, it dawned on her that despite all the ups and downs, she’d led a pretty good life before. At the very least back in Salem she’d had a home and although not many, at least she had one loyal friend despite the age difference. So, what if she’d been drowning in debt? At the very least then, she was fully aware of her situation but now as laughable as it is to have to admit it, her future in this strange world was looking quite grim.

Speaking of grim, she still did not know what to make of the grim reaper before her. It was clear that he was helping her for his own gain, but to what extent? Sooner or later he’d be gone too, and she’d end up alone again for the second time in her life. The only difference was, that this time it would be in an unfamiliar environment, with unfamiliar people, who spoke an unfamiliar language.

Looking outside the barred window of her room it was evident that night had fallen and soon the temperature would drop once more. She doubted that she would be able to get any form of sleep that night. Seeing the stilled form of Sixteen Forty-nine who’d kept quiet during her thought process, Wynonna realized that she wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what the future held for her and strangely enough, she didn’t blame him. Even though he was responsible for everything that had ensued since the day he had mistakenly taken the wrong soul, for some reason she couldn’t find it in herself to hate him. If anything, she was already used to it, that is... the not having anything ever go right for her. Which is why she hadn’t been as upset as she should’ve been the instant, she’d discovered that she had died.

“Hey,” Wynonna finally broke silence.

“Yes?” Sixteen Forty-nine replied immediately, relieved that she’d finally spoken after having gone quiet for so long.

“Teach me a few words,” she requested from him, her tone of voice firm, leaving no room for dismissal. She figured that if she couldn’t do anything to change her circumstances, then at the very least she’d do what Wynonna Grimm does best.

Adapt.

That night, the pair stayed up teaching Wynonna basic words in the official language of Rymioera. Aside from that Wynonna also spent the majority of the time memorizing all the important aspects she would have to engrave into her heart about the Rymoieran culture that she’d need in order to navigate the uncharted waters they had navigated into.

Before long daylight came and with it Bythalni Manor came to life once more. Wynonna’s eyes were bloodshot from both the lack of sleep and having to strain her eyes in the dark, all night long with the moon as the only light source. The aftereffects of the long journey it took to get to the manor’s estate, finally kicked in as her sore muscles creaked at the slightest of movements. Rubbing the stiffness out of her neck, she blinked furiously to relieve the dryness of her eyes.

“What time is it?” Wynonna wondered out loud, her voice having gone hoarse from all the dust that had accumulated in her lungs and the biting cold that had seeped into her bones throughout the night.

“Here,” Sixteen Forty-nine pulled out a small object from the inner pocket of his cloak, which he tossed in Wynonna’s direction.

Wynonna scrambled to catch the metal object, only for it to slip through her fingers and land on the bed. Picking up the round object, she was finally able to take a good enough look at it to recognize it’s form. It was a pocket watch, encased in gold, with ornamental engravings on its lid. Running her fingers on its elaborate markings in admiration, she looked up at Sixteen Forty-nine who simply nodded at her, giving her the go ahead to open the piece of clockwork.

It had been a gift, one of the very few he’d received during his existence as a grim reaper. Though he felt apprehensive about parting with the antique, he figured that it was better than nothing seeing as how he couldn’t risk having her walk around with electronics.

“Try not to lose it, will you? That watch alone is worth more than anything you could ever afford with your entire life’s earnings.”

Grasping the weight of his words, Wynonna suddenly felt as though the clock she now held could burn a hole into her hand at any second. Who would’ve thought that such a tiny piece of metalwork could be so valuable? Sending an aggrieved look in the grim reaper’s direction, she wanted nothing more than to beat some sense into the damn brat for having, so carelessly, forked over such an expensive item.

Unbeknownst to Wynonna, whilst she was currently debating on where to store the outrageously expensive item she’d just been handed, another figure was rapidly approaching her room.

Like every other morning, Hesil was always the first to awaken in the Bythalni Manor. Running a household was no easy feat and he had little time to spare for the most part. His daily routine generally consisted of making sure that all household matters ran smoothly and that all employees of the manor were performing at their utmost best, so as to not trouble the Madam with such tedious tasks.

Having served the Bythalni family for so many years, Hesil had learned through trial and error that in order to properly manage a household, strict discipline was needed and as such over the years he had become less tolerant when it came to mistakes. Even so, despite how busy his schedule was, that day he was left with no choice but to wake up even earlier than usual to handle the household’s newest addition as per his young master’s request. Therefore, one could say that his mood at the current moment wasn’t exactly doing so well.

Making his way to the abandoned northeast wing of the servant’s quarters, he now began regretting having placed their ‘guest,’ so far away from all the other members of the house. His decision at the time was solely based in consideration of his young master and the Madam’s safety. It was only now that he came to realize that having to wake up even earlier than what he was used to every morning and still have to travel all the way to the dwelling in which the young woman would reside, was going to be quite the inconvenience.

Straightening his attire, he removed one of his gloves before approaching the door to the prisoner’s room and proceeded to tuck the glove within the inner pocket of his outermost coat. He then placed his bare hand on the cool metal door handle and withdrew a small amount of aether from his reserves. It was common knowledge to all those that inhabited the manor’s estate, that all of the locks within the Bythalni manor were crafted with the intent of only reacting to the signature marks found in the aether of those who were given the necessary permissions by the Master. As such the only ones capable of bypassing the restrictions on the locks of every room within the manor, were the members of the Bythalni family, Lord Viroklaris, and the manservant himself.

Concentrating the aether into his arm, he allowed it to flow downwards and directed it towards the palm of his hand, releasing just enough to allow it to make contact with the handle. After hearing a satisfying click, he knocked on the door to announce his arrival and waited a few moments for the sake of decorum before turning the handle and making his way in.

Much to his disappointment, he wasn’t all that surprised to find that the woman had yet to change into the clothing he’d personally presented her with. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he sighed in frustration.

“Get dressed,” he ordered, but once he noted the blank look on her face it was clear that she hadn’t registered anything he’d said once again.

Taking that moment to sneak out the door, Sixteen Forty-nine mouthed to Wynonna to change, signaling to her that he’d be waiting in the hallway before ducking around the man and slipping out the door. Hesil, who was ignorant to these actions, attempted to communicate with Wynonna once more via gesturing towards the bundle of clothing that rested beside her before pointing at her own clothes in hopes that she’d manage to catch his drift.

The moment the man stepped out into the hall and shut the door behind him, Wynonna hurriedly stripped down to her underwear and replaced her own clothing with the new ones that she hadn’t even so much as given a second glance at, after receiving them. Struggling with figuring out how it was that she was supposed to properly done the strange garments on her body, she concluded that it didn’t really matter considering there was a pissed off elf that was still waiting outside her door. Deciding to just wing it, she tossed on whatever she could and sloppily tied the ends of what she presumed was the outer piece of her dress-like long coat into a loose knot. Nearly tripping over her own feet, she rammed into the door with a soft thud.

Managing to regain her balance before opening the now unlocked door, she felt somewhat grateful that the man had been considerate enough not to barge back in. Still hunched over, Wynonna stepped out into the hall and attempted to straighten back up as a final effort to preserve the last bit of dignity she had, only to come upon a mortifying discovery.

She was stuck.

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