Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 8
“Going to Krosis? What do you mean?” Masha’s whispery voice trembled. Her eyes were glued to Wilhelmina’s form as it stooped over the table, continuing to arrange and rearrange the items before her.
“Exactly as it sounds, Masha. We need to prepare for the journey. As much as we can, anyway,” Wilhelmina replied without looking up.
“But…you’re not going, are you?” Masha’s eyes were wide and unblinking, her face as strained as her voice as she waited for an answer.
“Of course I am,” Wilhelmina answered, selecting a book from the stack she’d brought. Though Leonard was not well acquainted with her, he heard something that sounded off in Wilhelmina’s tone, but he couldn’t place it. He looked from Wilhelmina to Masha and felt sympathy for the younger woman, who looked like she was on the verge of being sick or passing out.
Masha’s shaking hands reached out for the table to steady herself, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to find what she wanted to say next. Leonard was unnerved by Masha’s obvious fear and turned to Wilhelmina, waiting for her say something more.
“Leonard cannot go alone.” Wilhelmina looked up and turned to Masha before continuing, “He doesn’t know the first thing about Krosis, or Palloria, and we don’t have time for that kind of lesson. He’s going to need my help,” she added, turning to Leonard for a moment, as if to confirm this with him.
“Also, I must know firsthand what is happening in Krosis. There’s no way to know what we will be walking into,” Wilhelmina continued as she turned back to Masha. “I need to be there.”
Masha looked like she was having trouble breathing or finding words for reply, but she nodded meekly. Wilhelmina gave her a soft smile before her attention was recalled to the books, maps, and blank page in front of her. Quill at the ready, hand hovering over the top of the parchment, Wilhelmina shifted towards Leonard.
“We need to gather what we need tonight so that we can leave first thing in the morning,” Wilhelmina began, her hand moving across the page to scribble a few things down in list fashion. Leonard recognized the hand from the letter he’d gotten and it gave him a warm feeling in the pit of his stomach. He saw Maps, Weapons, Amulet, and Necessary Literature & Documents on the parchment. His felt his stomach clench.
“Weapons?” he let the question hang in the air, awaiting Wilhelmina’s answer.
“I’ve mentioned that I, we, find ourselves in a dangerous situation. I feel it prudent to be prepared for the eventuality that we may find ourselves in circumstances that may require force. I take no joy in the prospect, but I will not willingly go, or send anyone else, into this without being properly outfitted. That includes arming ourselves with whatever means we are capable of wielding.” Wilhelmina’s tone was as hard as the gaze she fixed on Leonard as she spoke.
He swallowed and licked his lips, able to think of only one reply, “What kind of weapons?”
“We’ll visit the armory after we’ve finished here,” Wilhelmina said as she gestured to her list and the space between them, which Leonard took to indicate their conversation. He exchanged a look with Masha from across the table and wondered if his pallor was becoming as peaked as hers.
“What are we preparing for, or to do exactly, once we get there? I mean, I don’t even know how to get there, you’ll have to show me which pond to go through, let alone where we’ll be on the other side.” Leonard was a little surprised at the evenness of his voice when he felt like he was plummeting head over heels down a steep hill.
“That’s why you’ll have me and these,” Wilhelmina waved again at the table littered with items. “The pond should take us to the courtyard of the stronghold we built on the Krosisian side. I cannot say for certain what we will find, but that’s where Osric should be, whatever part he may play in this.”
“What do you believe?” Leonard asked her. If he was going into this with her, Leonard wanted to know what she thought they might be walking into, any and every possibility she imagined.
“At best, he could be waiting for word from this side, waiting to inform and aid. At worst, he and Etta are working together, for what purpose, I couldn’t begin to say.” She looked wounded at the possibility of being betrayed by both of her siblings. It made Leonard wonder about the part his own father may have played, unwittingly or otherwise, in what had led to their current predicament.
“And the plan is to, what? Get there, look around, hope we’ll find allies and answers? What happens if they’re waiting for us and they’re not allies?” Leonard tried not to sound dubious, but the plan sounded highly dependent on the fact that they would find a helpful welcome on their arrival.
“We, unfortunately, do not have many other options, Leonard,” Wilhelmina explained in and even tone. “There is no other way for us to make it safely to Krosis, and it’s the safest place for us to arrive there. We don’t want to find ourselves stranded in certain areas, it’s not what we Pallorians generally think of as a hospitable place.”
Wilhelmina’s eyes were the only indicators that she felt more than determination. Her pupils were large with fear or excitement, or both. Leonard was sure there was a healthy dose of dread swirling inside her, but he accepted her fortitude and plan as the best they had.
“What about the ‘necessary documents’ and all that?” Leonard asked, citing another item from Wilhelmina’s written list.
“Books, letters, other writings and information we may need. We can’t foresee the future, but we can plan to bring things that seem most likely be called for at some point. I’ve included some of the last letters of correspondence between Krosis and Palloria, the book with Dysseus’s writings, a brief guide to Krosis, written by various individuals who traveled there. Information about their lands, the city.” Wilhelmina’s hand hovered over different items around the table as she spoke. Leonard nodded at each one, taking it all in.
Wilhelmina’s hand moved back to the parchment and added another item to the list, Clothes. Leonard looked down at his uniform and glanced over Wilhelmina’s skirts. While Wilhelmina was sure to have a closet full of other garments, Leonard hard come unprepared for any part of this, which included a wardrobe change, and a lack of attire appropriate for adventuring into foreign worlds.
“We should have a wardrobe of clothes for the last Let-, for your father. You look about his size, I’m sure you could find something that would fit,” Wilhelmina interjected into Leonard’s thoughts after following his gaze.
He nodded, though he wasn’t sure how he felt about wearing his father’s old clothes. Then again, he had few other options.
“Masha, would you please take these up to my chambers and grab a couple of rucksacks to pack things in? I will take Leonard to the Armory and then show him the wardrobe.” Wilhelmina rose from the table as she spoke. She still held the amulet in her left hand. Leonard wondered why she hadn’t placed it around her neck, as it was meant to be worn, but decided not to ask. At least, not yet.
Masha nodded mutely, watching Leonard with desperate eyes as he got up from the table to follow Wilhelmina from the kitchen. He couldn’t be sure what she was asking of him, but there was a pleading look in her gaze that Leonard couldn’t shake from his mind, even after he’d turned away.
Wilhelmina walked swiftly, purposefully. She was a woman on a mission and hardly slowed her step to be sure Leonard had followed her. It didn’t take long to greet the entrance hall again before ascending the stairs, this time take a left at the top, instead of a right, the direction of the study Leonard knew.
They made their way through a series of turns and twisted hallways, passing chamber doors and tapestries on the walls without a word.
Click here for Part 10!