Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 4
“Your guess would be as good as mine,” Wilhelmina answered, punctuating her sentence with another sip from her cup. “Where would you like me to start? I’ll do my best to answer your questions.”
Leonard opened his mouth, ready to finally release the torrent of questions he’d been holding in, only to find that he wasn’t sure what to ask first. He was still absorbing all that he’d been told. He had to keep reminding himself that this wasn’t a movie he could turn off or a book he could step away from. Unless he’d drowned in that pond, this was very real, and danger was crackling at the edges.
He wanted to know more about his dad and what he had done for the Ponds, to trace down what had happened, but if Wilhelmina had only seen him once, Leonard doubted she would have many details. Besides, that was more out of personal desire and curiosity than information he needed in order to be useful, at least at this point.
“The portals…” Leonard let his voice trail off and the word hang in the air like the open question it was.
“The portals,” Wilhelmina repeated with a soft nod. She took another sip of her tea before replacing her cup on the table.
“Long before anyone thought to keep accurate histories, before the city was as big as it is now, before this house was built, there were no portals and there was only a man named Dysseus Pond.
“A portal appeared one day. It was described as a rip in the air, in the world itself, the torn sides became a shining white and blue light and started to swirl in a circle around it. It grew large enough for a cargo-loaded wagon to drive through.
“A robed figure stepped through it, as tall as two men. He was from Krosis, where they’d been studying how to travel from world to world. People of the city thought perhaps they wanted to learn or trade with them, a mutually beneficial relationship, but it was about conquest.
“The robed figure led a troop of twenty Krosisian soldiers through the portal. They started pillaging, grabbing everything they deemed of value, including people. Dysseus was no warrior, but he was strong, smart, and had some training in combat, so he charged in, attacking Krosisians that were trying to drag people off into the portal. He saved many people that way.
“The short version is that, while saving one woman from being dragged through, Dysseus noticed a blue shard pulsating with light on the ground near the portal. On impulse, he picked it up, and somehow used the shard to destroy the Krosisian soldiers and sealed the portal against entry from the other side.
“This, of course was not known for certain until much later, when our scientists and sorcerer’s alike had begun studying the portals, the shard, and eventually Dysseus and the Ponds that came from him. For reasons still not understood, only the Ponds have been able to utilize the shards and control the portals, or to do so without harm to themselves.
“Since then, the Ponds have guarded the portals, eventually on both sides. Scouts were sent, a base on the other side eventually erected, and this is how we know what we do about Krosis and its people. Regardless, it’s been dangerous.
“We learned that the Krosisians were opening portals to other worlds as well, and doing what they attempted with Palloria. The ransacking of items was horrible enough, but it was the people being taken that was the greatest worry.
“As mentioned in Thaddeus’s day, there was an issue with the portal between here and Krosis. Sometimes it would work properly, others not, until it eventually stopped working, though it remained open. That is when Jeremiah fell through the pond and met Thaddeus. The sorcerers and scientists, as well as the sentries and soldiers on both sides were able to communicate again, thanks to the Lettermans.
“It looked like we were getting close to answers and possibly a solution, but then Etta disappeared, and things changed after that.” With another weary sigh, Wilhelmina finished off her now cool tea.
Leonard swallowed the remainder of the third delicious scone he’d been devouring, licking up the last few flaky crumbs from the corners of his mouth as he tried to digest it all. It was difficult to sort out the part of himself that was as enthralled as a child hearing a spectacular tale, from the part that was trying to absorb details of an all too real and significant history.
His head felt heavy, and he propped it up with an arm on the table. It was so much to take in, yet there were still more than enough questions waiting. Leonard wasn’t sure he’d ever be prepared to put his knowledge to any test in the near future.
“What changed? Who has the shard now? Does that pass to the eldest Pond? What about the Pond on the other side of the portal, do they have a shard? How does that work? Does it do anything if the portal won’t work?” Leonard had opened his mouth and intended to begin slowly, perhaps even commenting on the history Wilhelmina had laid out for him. Instead, he was as surprised as his companion at the rush of words that came out.
Leonard smiled sheepishly and leaned back against his chair. He hadn’t noticed that he’d been, literally, at the edge of his seat and leaning as far forward as he could manage without falling out of it.
Wilhelmina flashed him a knowing smile before rising from her chair and returning to the kettle and stove on the far side of the room to make some more tea. Leonard had kept her talking for a long time, and their conversation felt like it was just beginning.
“Dysseus Pond scoured the ground and found three more shards of the portal, soon after sending the Krosisians back through it. These three were smaller than the one Dysseus originally found.
“The shards give the wielder the power of the portal, which doesn’t explain much until you understand what the portal is made of, but we don’t have time for that kind of lesson, so I’ll keep to the most pertinent information.
“The smaller shards allowed for transport through the portals, to open and close them, and even to move them, which is how we’re able to enter Krosis. The portal on the Krosis side was in the middle of a courtyard, so we moved it to a far more discrete location and built our base around it.
“The portal on this side was eventually moved to one of the rooms inside this house, after it was built. They started soon after the attempted invasion. Dysseus was treated and hailed as a king, though he wouldn’t accept the title.” Wilhelmina returned to the table with a teapot and refilled both of their cups with the steaming, minty, brew. She took a long sip before continuing.
“The largest shard was more powerful, obviously. The wielder could channel the power of the portal itself, that’s light, time, space, magic…it’s an incredible, indescribable force, and it can be directed and used as a weapon, at the behest of the wielder, as Dysseus did with the Krosisians.
“Dysseus guarded the portal, traveling back and forth, along with others, on some of the first scouting missions, after he’d secured a map and successfully moved the portal to a safe location. He kept all four shards at first, the largest as an amulet around his neck. One of the smaller ones was studied, again after this house was built and a proper lab was at hand. The others were made into amulets similar to one he wore. He kept those until there was use for them.
“He gave the second smaller amulet to his second son, and gave him the task of protecting the Krosis side, keeping guard of the portal and those who passed through it. The larger shard was passed down to his eldest son, and so on to the eldest Pond that would become in charge of the Pallorian side of the portal, which included continuing the study of the shards and portals.
“It’s all very convoluted and difficult to follow at some point, with some Ponds having as many as seven children. But the important part is where they are now.
“Etta had the largest with her when she disappeared, which I’m sure comes as no surprise. The shard being studied disappeared that same night. The smaller amulet slated to stay with the Pond on the Krosis side went to my brother, he was a year younger than Etta, and six years older than me.” Wilhelmina’s tone changed almost imperceptibly, but Leonard could hear something straining at her vocal chords, a twinge of emotion that she was so used to hiding, he almost missed it. It was cooler, more detached.
“The last amulet was said to have been lost, or stolen. There are many theories and tales of where it may be, but the most credible is that Dysseus secured it somewhere in this house. That is one of the things Masha is scouring the library for, anything that may point to where the amulet might be. Assuming, of course, that it hasn’t been taken as well.” Wilhelmina sighed before returning to her tea.
Leonard waited a moment before blurting out the first thing that came to his mind, “so….you have a brother?”
Click here for Part 6!