Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 6
Leonard peered at the scribbled text, then blinked a few times and rubbed his eyes before coming to the conclusion that it was not written in any language he was familiar with. He turned his gaze to the picture instead. He took in the austerely sketched features of a man standing with an arm outstretched, the palm open and facing upward as if holding something out for the viewer to pluck from it. The base the figure was mounted on was lined with what looked to be runes and seemed to be edged with water, but it was difficult to be sure.
Leonard shifted his gaze from the book to his fellow book viewers. Wilhelmina’s brow was wrinkled and her lips formed inaudible words as her eyes moved over the text. Masha stood at Wilhelmina’s shoulder, eyes darting between the book and the woman next to her with such eagerness and anticipation that the air around her almost shimmered with it.
“Where was this?” Wilhelmina asked as she flipped through a few pages with more of the same unfamiliar language committed to them before returning to the one Masha had found.
“Behind one of the bookcases!” Masha replied in astonishment. Wilhelmina looked unamused by this, but said nothing, continuing to stare at the page, tracing her finger over the line as she mouthed the words.
“Do you know what it says?” Leonard inquired, the all-too-familiar flare of curiosity burning in his chest, making his heart beat faster. The women exchanged a glance.
“Yes, it’s High Pallorian, an old version of our written tongue,” Wilhelmina replied.
“So do you know where this is? What does it say?” Leonard inquired, leaning closer to the text, as if his interest and proximity to it would somehow grant him the ability to read it.
“This text says, ‘Aid will be at his feet when dear friends meet in dire need.’” Wilhelmina’s fingers retraced the words as she spoke them. “I know this statue, but it’s been as thoroughly searched as the rest of the grounds. I’m not entirely certain what he means, but this is Dysseus’s hand. This must be the journal the rumors referred to, where Dysseus supposedly recorded secrets and details regarding the portal.” Her hand lingered on the page with a tenderness Leonard had only seen in librarians cradling the spines of lost or forgotten books deemed treasures.
“You sound a little skeptical about the amulet being there,” Leonard noted. Masha’s eyes snapped up, watching Wilhelmina almost hungrily, waiting for her to speak.
Wilhelmina was a moment in answering. “I’m not sure what to think or believe at the moment. However unlikely the possibility, there’s no reason not to be sure for ourselves. This statue is in one of the underground chambers.” She tapped the depiction of the statue with a delicate finger.
“This place has underground chambers too?” Leonard blurted without thinking. The idea of passages beneath stone structures belonged in the adventures he’d read or seen in a movie. Basements he’d seen, but not underground chambers likes the ones brought to mind in a place like this.
Wilhelmina and Masha exchanged another glance. Masha looked at Leonard and held a hand to her mouth like she was trying to hide a smile. She turned back to Wilhelmina swiftly, casting Leonard the occasional glance out of the corner of her eye.
“Yes, there are a number of tunnels and chambers beneath the house and part of the grounds. There is a natural underground waterfall, and this statue is in a chamber near it,” Wilhelmina explained without missing another beat.
“We shouldn’t waste any time.” And with that, Wilhelmina grabbed the book from the table before turning away from it and walking between Masha and Leonard towards the doorway. As she passed him, Leonard realized he was becoming quite fond of the scent of water lilies.
Wilhelmina hesitated after passing through the door and into the hall, casting a glance over her shoulder to the stationary Masha and Leonard, cocking an eyebrow and tilting her head in a beckoning gesture. Leonard and Masha exchanged a glance before they both started after her at the same instant, Leonard hesitating long enough to fall in step behind Masha.
With Wilhelmina leading the way, the trio retraced their steps to the entry hallway, walking around the staircase and down another hall. Leonard was no longer sure of their path after the sixth unexpected turn before they descended the second staircase they’d come to. This one was much more worn. There was also a shift from cut stone to natural stone and earth. They were deep within the ground. Torches along the walls lit their path.
Leonard trailed behind the women and their waving skirts, occasionally catching Masha’s eye when she turned to look at him over her shoulder before turning away and scurrying closer to Wilhelmina. At one point, Wilhelmina grabbed a lantern hanging from a wall before turning a corner where the ground began to slant into a decline. Leonard could hear the faint sound of rushing water. It grew louder the farther they went.
Leonard was sure they’d walked at least a mile or two on their journey to the statue beneath the Pond home before they turned another corner and were greeted with a breathtaking waterfall. He had never seen one underground, and it was beautiful. The lake pooling at its base had a blue-green hue that put Leonard in mind of a lagoon and mermaids. The water seemed to shimmer with a light of its own as it cascaded over the rocks.
Wilhelmina never paused, though Masha seemed almost as captivated as Leonard. They both halted at the water’s edge, letting the roar of the waterfall fill their ears as mist settled over their skin and left a slight damp to their clothes.
“This way,” Wilhelmina called from a carved entryway on the other side of the chamber, to the far left of the waterfall. She was focused on the task at hand, or perhaps had seen the waterfall enough times to be immune to its wonder, or a bit of both.
Leonard and Masha followed obediently, both unable to keep from lingering for a last look as they passed through the entryway into the smaller chamber. They were greeted with a relatively shallow pool near their feet, meeting the base of a statue standing across from them.
Leonard recognized the life-size version instantly. The drawing was incredibly accurate, managing to somehow capture the sternness of face, the rigidity of stance.
“I’m not sure what to search for, or where to start searching,” Wilhelmina said as she circled the edge of the pond and began examining the statue closer with a scrutinous gaze. Masha followed suit on the other side.
Leonard, however, was staring into the pond, which seemed to have gone mostly unnoticed by his companions, but he couldn’t take his eyes from it. The pond was shimmering with a similar luminescent blue that had prompted him to lean over the pond at the house on Mockingbird, which seemed like a lifetime ago.
“I wonder why it’s doing that?” he’d posed the question aloud without thinking, causing Wilhelmina and Masha to shift their attention to him. Leonard was on his knees at the edge of the pool, searching the shallow waters.
“What do you mean?” Wilhelmina asked in confusion, her brows knitted as she turned away from the statue and approached Leonard.
“You don’t see the light in the water?” Leonard jerked his head up as he searched first Wilhelmina’s and then Masha’s face for recognition, but found none. Wilhelmina shook her head and knelt next to him. “I think there might be something down there,” he said softly as he squinted and leaned closer.
“Do you think you could reach it?” Wilhelmina asked with a strained calm in her voice.
Leonard rolled up his sleeve and hesitantly reached his arm out over the water before submerging it. He reached for the shadowy object he could see between the flickers of brightness emitted from the water. He’d expected the pool to be cool, but instead there was a pleasant, warm, tingling on his skin.
“It feels like my fingers keep slipping through it, I don’t understand,” Leonard remarked, puzzled as his fingers closed over nothing, though he was certain there was something there. No matter how he moved or tilted, or how far he reached his arm into the water, whatever was there seemed to always be just beyond his reach.
Wilhelmina shifted next to Leonard and opened the aged book that had led them there. He could hear the pages turning as she rifled through them while he continued his attempt to grab hold of what was lurking in the pool.
“Leonard, I’d like to try something,” Wilhelmina finally said as she began rolling up a sleeve of her chemise.
“What did you have in mind?” He pulled his arm from pool and turned to her.
“Would you guide my arm to what you see?” Leonard frowned for a moment. It sounded like an odd suggestion, but since it was easy enough, and there was nothing to risk by trying, he nodded and held out his hand for Wilhelmina’s.
Her skin was impossibly soft to the touch, putting Leonard in mind of flower petals. He gingerly took hold of Wilhelmina’s forearm, slowly immersing it into the glowing pool. Leonard still wondered that neither woman could see the radiantly shimmering lights.
Leonard guided Wilhelmina’s hand to the same place he’d been reaching in an attempt to grasp the object in the pool. He could see her fingers as they moved through the water and finally closed around something. Wilhelmina gasped and turned to Leonard, their eyes shining at each other as she pulled her hand from the water, dripping fingers unfurling to expose an amulet, pulsating with blue light.
Click here for Part 8!