Previously:The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 2
“Perhaps it’s best from the start…the short version will have to do. One of my first memories was being told stories of the Lettermans and the Ponds,” Wilhelmina began. Leonard thought it was most appropriate that they were sitting near a fire, where the best stories are so often told.
“The first Pond and Letterman met by accident. Jeremiah Letterman was out exploring and came across an unusual pond with a light shining at the bottom of it. He dove in and found himself resurfacing from another that was in a very different place.
“But he wasn’t alone. Jeremiah Letterman appeared in a tarn where Thaddeus Pond was fishing. No one could say who was more surprised by the occurrence, but after the initial shock dissipated, Thaddeus extended a hand and pulled Jeremiah from the lake and invited him to sup, being late afternoon for Thaddeus.
“The story goes that their friendship ignited like a fire and they grew as close as any pair of brothers. Their first adventure involved how Jeremiah found himself in Palloria”-
“Palloria?” Leonard repeated, testing the weight of the unfamiliar word on his tongue.
“Where we are now,” Wilhelmina said impatiently and gestured towards the windows. Leonard wondered if he could see the pond where Jeremiah had surfaced from through the glass panes, but Wilhelmina’s voice soon called his thoughts back it and the story.
“The particulars aren’t important right now. They found that not only could Jeremiah travel between Palloria and the pond Jeremiah found in your world through the ponds on either side, but he could bring Thaddeus too.
“They started exploring both worlds, Lett-Jeremiah, taking them back and forth until one day, Thaddeus asked Jeremiah to try a different pond in Palloria. This one near the back of this house.
“Thaddeus had a theory. He believed that Jeremiah might be able to use this other pond to travel to the other side of the portal-“
“Portal?” Leonard couldn’t keep the word from falling out, but a sharp glance from Wilhelmina tied Leonard’s tongue and he waited for her to continue. He hoped there would be time for questions after.
“The portal to Krosis. Thaddeus’s father guarded the portal on this side, while Thaddeus’s uncle guarded the Krosis side. The rest isn’t important right now. So, Jeremiah and-later,” Wilhelmina said impatiently as she waved away Leonard’s inquisitorial stare and continued with the tale.
“So, Jeremiah and Thaddeus found that they could, indeed, travel through the other pond and visit Thaddeus’s Uncle Silas. This was fortuitous timing because Silas urgently needed to speak with Thaddeus’s father, Hayden, but had had no way to contact him; there was a problem with the portals making it difficult and dangerous to attempt to travel between Palloria and Krosis, and who knows where else.
“Anyway, the arrival of Jeremiah Letterman and his remarkable gift was just what the Ponds needed. After a lengthy discussion and some argument, it was settled that Jeremiah would take news and messages back and forth between Krosis and Palloria.
“Thus began a friendship that would become a legacy.” Leonard wondered how many times she’d told a version of this story. She seemed to know every syllable by heart.
“Many years later, when Thaddeus and Jeremiah were growing old, and each had children of their own, Jeremiah thought about the day he wouldn’t be able to travel anymore, and it upset him. Not only at the thought of losing his best friend, his brother, but that there was still need of a ‘Letterman,’ someone to travel between the worlds. Leaving the Ponds without a Letterman distressed Jeremiah.
“That is, until Jeremiah found that his son, Paden, also had the gift, and could use the ponds to travel between that world and this one. Jeremiah told Paden all about his own adventures, and his loyalty to and friendship with the Ponds.
“Thaddeus’s oldest son, Ramsay, and Paden soon became as good of friends as their father’s before them. So it went that each Letterman was said to pass down the story and first introduce their first, sometimes only son or daughter, to the Ponds.
“Each generation has done this, though not every Pond and Letterman were bosom friends, most were. Each worked together well, in the end. That is…until now…” Wilhelmina’s steady, honeyed voice, seemed to thin until it met with silence.
Leonard intended to wait until Wilhelmina broke the quiet and take up the story again, but her unfocused gaze was turned towards the window. Leonard had the impression that she was very far away in the world of her own thoughts.
Finally, Leonard could contain himself no more. He opened his mouth and out fell all the questions he could manage in one breath. “What happened? I don’t understand the ‘until now’ part. What’s going on now? What’s changed? Why was I never brought here?”
“I’m not entirely sure. I had hoped that Letterman, Gerard, correct?” she waited for Leonard’s nod before continuing. “I’d hoped that Gerard would be able to explain what’s happened. But if he’s been dead…”
“What can you tell me about the last time he was here, then? Probably the best place to start,” Leonard inquired, feeling more than ever that he’d stepped into another world…then he reminded himself that he had done exactly that.
“Well, the only time I saw him in person was by accident. Gerard was the eldest son and became our new Letterman. The eldest Pond was Etta, my sister, so she knew him more than I. They went out on rides and picnics, traveled between here and Krosis, or Krosis and your world, anywhere they were needed, or really wanted to go.” There was something cooler about Wilhelmina’s tone. Leonard began to wonder if some part of her had resented Etta’s claim on his father, or ability to pass between worlds. It was hard to say which, but it could have been both as well.
“One evening, I was near ten at the time, and it was late. I’d been sick but was starting to feel better. I was sneaking downstairs to make some toast when I heard whispering voices. They were fast, urgent. I recognized my sister, and was fairly certain it was Gerard with her.
“They were talking about the portals and needing to leave immediately. They passed by me in a blur, they didn’t notice me at all. I was up against a wall in the dark and they were focused on what they were doing, so they didn’t see me. In another moment, they were gone. I couldn’t see or hear them and wasn’t sure where they were headed, so I lost them.
“At one point I thought I must have been fever-dreaming and wandered back to bed. I was so tired. In the morning, Etta was gone. No letter, no indication of where she’d gone or when she’d return. Gerard never came back.” Leonard waited for Wilhelmina to continue, a prickling at the back of his neck signaling that there was much more to the story.
Wilhelmina began twirling and twisting a simple silver ring on her right index finger. She repeated the movements over and again until Leonard felt he was being hypnotized by them and blinked until he was no longer focused on Wilhelmina’s pale fingers.
“Mr. Letterman, before I continue I must know, will you help me?” a weary sigh had preluded the question, and it hung heavy in the air between them. Wilhelmina was asking about more than his willingness to help. Leonard was certain another question was tucked between her words and the worried creases near the corners of her eyes: can I trust you?
“Leonard, please,” he said affably before choosing his next words with care. “I’m still very uncertain about a lot of things, but I came here to help.” He pulled out the letter that had brought him here, Wilhelmina’s letter, unfolding it and smoothing the creases before reading the short lines over again.
“I’m not sure how much help I can be, not having known about this side of being a Letterman, but you asked for my help, and if I can, I will. Just tell me what to do.”
Wilhelmina’s eyes narrowed for a moment before a curt nod accompanied the rustling of her skirts as she stood. A small, yet radiant smile graced her lips for the barest of moments. Leonard sprang to his feet as well, waiting for what came next.
“Are you hungry?” the abrupt shift of the conversation caught Leonard off guard. “If you’re going to be of any help, there’s more you need to know. I haven’t eaten all day and I’m getting light headed. So if we’re going to keep discussing, would you like something to eat?”
Leonard almost asked how she could be hungry at a time like this, with mystery dangling like the ripest fruit imaginable, just out of reach. Then his stomach churned and a rumbling sound reverberated in his torso, effectively answering for him.
“Follow me,” Wilhelmina said as she passed Leonard on her way to the door. Water lilies tickled his nose again as he fell in beside her.
“So, do you think your sister is in trouble or something?” Leonard asked as they entered the stone hallway that lead to the landing of a large staircase. He followed Wilhelmina, gazing around at the elaborate front entryway that greeted them as they descended.
Wilhelmina’s reply was ominous. “The problem is, Leonard, I don’t know if my sister is in trouble, or is the trouble…”
Click here for Part 4!