Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 11
He slowed his pace but approached the door, trying to catch what was going on and not feel guilty at eaves dropping. It didn’t take him long to recognize the voices of Wilhelmina and Masha, not that there were too many other women running around.
“But you can’t, Miss, you just can’t!” Masha’s frenzied voice crashed into Leonard’s ears, his heart twinging at the emotion raking up the woman’s throat and given speech. He hesitated at the partially open door, his conscience fighting with his desire to hear more.
“We’ve been through this, Masha,” Wilhelmina answered with weariness and impatience.
“But why can’t you stay here? Why can’t the Letterman see what’s on the other side and bring a report to you?” Leonard could well imagine Masha’s wide, naïve eyes as she questioned Wilhelmina.
“You know, a hundred-fold, the reasons why. Not least of which being that he’s only just arrived in Palloria, he can’t very well charge off to Krosis into a possibly treacherous situation when he doesn’t know the first thing about what, or who, to look out for. I don’t care how capable he turns out to be, no one should have to venture to Krosis alone.” Wilhelmina’s last sentence was so softly spoken that Leonard almost missed it, and he was in danger of pushing the door inward with his proximity to it in his attempt to better hear the quiet tones.
“Masha, please,” Wilhelmina exclaimed wearily before releasing a sigh that was becoming as familiar as the rush of air that greeted Leonard when he opened his own front door. When she next spoke, Leonard imagined that she’d aged a considerable amount in the short space of time, her voice sounded so tired, creaking like used leather.
“What more can I tell you about the reasons? You know them all. It’s happening.”
“But…” Masha’s voice was even softer than Wilhelmina’s had been and Leonard wasn’t sure he’d be able to hear her if she continued to speak so faintly. Sure enough, he missed what Masha said next, though not Wilhelmina’s reply.
“What? Of course not! How could you even ask me that?” Wilhelmina’s voice was full of indignation so heated that Leonard was sure the other side of the door had scorch marks.
“I’m sorry, Miss! I just- I know you’ve always been curious about going to Krosis and“- Masha’s reply became more hesitant as she continued, and returned to so soft a volume that Leonard was unable to hear the rest. It was obvious that the subject was a tender one.
“My…youthful desire to be a Letterman’s companion has not clouded my judgement in this. I truly believe, I know, I need to go. There is no other way we can hope to accomplish what we need to if I remain here, just waiting.” Again, Leonard could hear the iron in Wilhelmina’s voice in her reply as she confirmed his earlier speculation; Wilhelmina, though dutiful and diligent in whatever capacity she served in the Pond household, also harbored the desire to travel with a Letterman, filled as much with yearning as reverence.
“And what will happen to Palloria with you gone? With no Pond here? What are we supposed to do if….What am I supposed to do?” Masha’s fear was tangible, even through the thick wooden door, brushing against Leonard’s cheek like the tears threatening to spill down the young woman’s face and could be heard in her quavering voice.
There was the sound of wood scraping against stone. Leonard thought a chair had been moved. When Wilhelmina next spoke, it was too softly for Leonard to hear, and he found he was glad. His conscience was nudging him to enter and announce his presence instead of continuing to lurk in the hall.
Leonard took a deep breath and nudged the door open the rest of the way open with is shoulder. The hinges announced his entry, causing both women to freeze and look towards the door, their conversation suspended. They were in chairs facing each other within arms’ reach.
“Did you find everything you needed?” Wilhelmina asked, her calm demeanor in its place, despite her pink cheeks confessing a recent outburst of emotion.
“I did at that. What do you think?” Leonard held one arm out in show of his attire, his other arm wrapped around the bundle of clothes waiting to be packed. Wilhelmina stood, her head bobbing in approval as she approached.
“It looks well suited. Comfortable?” she asked as she walked a circle around him before return to the desk, where Masha still sat unmoving from her chair. Masha glanced at Leonard, her eyes shining and wet, the tip of her nose reddish pink.
“Like it was made for me,” Leonard said before thinking, brushing off the too recent thoughts of his father like crumbs from his chin. “You said there’s a pack or something, somewhere I could put these?” he raised his armful of clothes a bit at their mention.
“Oh, yes, here.” Wilhelmina reached for one of the rucksacks near her and held it out for Leonard. He took it with a smile and a thank you, tucking his new attire into the spacious bag. There was still ample room in it and he wondered what else would go into their packs.
Silence hung in the air for a few moments, broken only by Masha’s occasional sniffle and the shifting of items on the desk from Wilhelmina looking through the stacks of papers at her elbow. Leonard had the feeling that she was trying to appear engrossed in something other than the conversation abruptly halted by his arrival.
“I hate to be the one to ask the obvious question, but, what now?” Leonard eventually asked Wilhelmina. There was no point pretending he was asking Masha, who looked like she was trying to keep herself from shivering.
“We plan for the morning.” Wilhelmina’s reply was simple, direct, her voice soft but steady. She finally looked up from the desk, locking eyes with Leonard before licking her lips, a flicker of indecision in her gaze.
“What is the plan? Do we know where we’re going, what we’re doing, where we’re headed?” He thought he may have asked some of these questions already, but Leonard still felt woefully in the dark as to what to expect come the morning. He still wasn’t even sure what to expect for the rest of the day or the night. Every hour that passed seemed determined to top the previous one in mystery and the promise of adventure, further enticement to spiral into action best suited for the tales Leonard preferred to read before bed.
“We need to go over some maps tonight, some other…pertinent information, discuss our options, whatever they may be. Before dinner, we’ll measure what level skill you have with these,” a casual wave of Wilhelmina’s hand over the weaponry benignly displayed around the desk, “and brief practice. You must be more familiar with them before we leave. Come morning, we go. If you’d like, we could start with the maps.” Wilhelmina began tugging out pieces of parchment from their tucked away places.
“Why don’t we start with the ‘pertinent information’ part?” Leonard had not missed the mention of possible treachery. He’d had a feeling there was more going on than Wilhelmina had so far mentioned, which left a cold, sinking sensation in Leonard’s stomach.
Wilhelmina’s appraising look returned in full force as she surveyed Leonard, studying him as he was sure she had studied many things before. But there was something else in her gaze; resignation.
With a nod of her regal head and a wave of invitation to bring another chair nearer, Wilhelmina said, “Very well.”
Click here for Part 13!