Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 5
Something flickered behind Wilhelmina’s eyes, and she swallowed before answering and giving Leonard a look of focused calm. “Yes, I have a brother, is that so strange?”
“No, it just, the way you talked, it-well, it sounded like it was only you and Etta….” Leonard let his voice trail off, hoping that Wilhelmina’s face would lose its hardened veneer.
“His name is Osric. I’ve only met him once, so we’re practically strangers,” she finally said softly, her eyes turned towards her teacup. “He has lived on the Krosis side of the portal since he was seven, and rarely has he come to Palloria since then, and I’ve never left.”
Leonard wasn’t sure what to say. He couldn’t imagine having a sibling and never really meeting them. It seemed an incredibly harsh and difficult sentence, as the second Pond, living in another world, never really knowing home. His curiosity badgered him with more questions, but Leonard had no desire to continue seeing the stony set of her features.
“So, you’re looking for the last amulet with a portal shard, and you might want my help going through the pond to Krosis?” The change in topic did not do exactly what Leonard had hoped or intended, which was to relieve the painful stiffness in Wilhelmina’s face. Instead, concern darkened her brow, and there was something like trepidation in her eyes, but she accepted the switch in subject with a nod and a barely audible sigh.
“At some point, yes. Essentially. But I’m afraid things will only get more complicated once we get there, as well as dangerous. I must be honest about that.” Wilhelmina’s stare was intense, her voice taking on a foreboding chill. Leonard wasn’t sure if it was her words or an unexpected draft that was making his skin prickle with goosebumps.
“What can you tell me about it? I mean, I assume this is the information part before we start forming a plan of some kind? There’s a lot more I need to know.” Leonard kept his voice steady, but something inside him shivered.
“Truth be told, as I may have mentioned before, I don’t really understand all that’s happened or happening.” Her voice was heavy with the admission and she paled under the weight of whatever thoughts or worries were plaguing her.
“You still know more about the situation than I do, so if I’m going to be of any more help than just getting you through a pond, I need more. A big question being, what is the goal once we get there?”
Wilhelmina continued to whiten, but she gave a firm nod of assent before licking her lips and sitting up a bit straighter in her chair.
“As I’ve said before, things changed when Etta disappeared, apparently including how time passes between Palloria and your world as well. It’s been ten years for me, but it seems it’s been at least twice that for the Lettermans. Mainly because when we last saw Gerard, he most certainly wasn’t married and had no child.
“The moment it was clear to us that Etta was not returning, the instructors here began teaching me in every way they could. You must learn to control the shards, direct them properly. I was never taught, and my natural strength in using them was never tested. There was no reason for it. No situation was conceived where another Pond would need the skills or knowledge. That changed, of course, soon after.
“I had no shard to practice with or use, so it was mainly the theory I learned. There was a great fear of invasion by the Krosisians without a shard or a proper Pond. That’s when a surge of tales related to the location of the amulet began, as well as the search, and hope in finding it.
“But one morning, I woke up and found that people were missing, important ones. My instructors, almost everyone that had been helping to find information about the amulet, gone from their beds come morning, without a trace.
“We searched, but we found nothing. Then, over the next few nights, everyone else of use or help, sorcerers, hunters, trackers, even guards. Many of the staff took to the city, driven out by the disappearances, and I couldn’t blame them, not knowing the fate of those missing, rumors surfacing.
“Masha and Jerra are all I have left. They refused to go, and have thankfully not been among those missing.” Wilhelmina beamed for a moment at their names, clearly grateful for their company. It lasted as long as a blink, and the more serious set of her face that Leonard was becoming most familiar with, returned.
“I sent my letter to Gerard soon after the disappearances started. If you send a letter through the pond, it finds the Letterman, which must be how you ended up with my letter. Unfortunately, that’s all I really know about what’s been happening.
“The goal, as you say, once we get to the Krosis side, is multifaceted. My greatest worry is not knowing what Osric knows about what is going on, or what part he may play in all of this.” Wilhelmina paled again, a ghost of the woman she’d been so soon before, filled with the joy of loyal friends close at hand.
“I need to know what’s happened and why, and of course, how to correct things and find those who’ve disappeared. I fear what purpose they may be serving. I have no proof of course, but I’m almost certain they’ve been taken to the Krosis side of the portal.” Wilhelmina visibly shivered at the thought.
“And you’d rather wait to find the amulet before going?” Leonard asked in attempt to redirect Wilhelmina’s attention, to focus it on forming a plan instead of the worry that was creeping over her.
“Ideally, yes, but I also don’t want to waste much more time doing nothing else here while there’s obviously something afoot on the other side. I’m not one to take rumors as my source of information, but there are too many unknowns for some of them not to be possible. Rumors like slavery and cruelty, apathy on the part of Krosisians towards Pallorians, or any other culture they encounter.
“I won’t continue, but regardless, I must know what’s going on if we are to set things right…whatever that may ultimately be,” Wilhelmina said thoughtfully, her brow furrowed in curious thought before blinking and returning her attention to Leonard. She looked like she was about to say something else when a sound from the doorway made Leonard jump.
He’d forgotten that they were not alone and was surprised at the appearance of another woman behind him. She looked a bit younger than Wilhelmina, with dirty blonde hair and deep set, dark eyes. Leonard assumed it had to be Masha, but she was frozen in surprise at the sight of him, clutching a book to her chest with her mouth hanging open.
“Masha, what is it?” Wilhelmina asked sharply, rising from her chair and hurrying to the other woman’s side.
“Who is that?” Masha asked, still holding the book like a lifeline.
“That’s Leonard Letterman. I’ll explain in a moment, now tell me what you’ve found,” Wilhelmina said with more than a touch of impatience in her voice.
“Oh, right,” she exclaimed, her lightly tanned complexion taking on a rosy hue as she fumbled with the spine of the book in one hand, and tried to open it with the other.
“Bring it over here,” Wilhelmina directed, lightly guiding Masha to the table Leonard was seated at. Masha lay the book on the table, peering at Leonard from the corner of her eye as she opened the tome and flipped through its pages.
“I may have found a clue to where Dyssues hid the amulet, but I wanted to show you the page and passage itself, so you could decide,” Masha explained a little breathlessly as she turned the pages with a flustered air before halting with a sound of triumph and gesturing to a few lines of hand written text next to a picture of a statue.
Click here for Part 7!