Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 13
“Yes, Leonard Letterman, he arrived earlier this afternoon after receiving my letter,” Wilhelmina replied as she attempted to usher Jerra further into the room, but he remained steadfastly anchored to the floor a step inside the doorway with mouth agape, eyes glued to Leonard.
“Wha’, Miss? This afternoon? How?” Jerra seemed unable to form more than a two-word sentence. The man’s attention was starting to make Leonard uncomfortable and self-conscious.
“Jerra, what’s wrong?” Wilhelmina asked, reaching out to touch the older man’s arm, her brow and voice knit with concern. “You look like you’ve seen a specter or something.”
Wilhelmina’s hand on his arm seemed to shake Jerra from his frozen state. “Oh, wrong? Nothin’, Miss, nothin’s wrong. Just, just amazed is all.” He patted Wilhelmina’s hand, much like an old relative might, before allowing her to steer him to an empty chair in front of the desk, though he didn’t sit.
“You’re sure you’re alright?” Jerra nodded and settled into the chair offered him as if to prove it. Jerra’s eyes continued to flick towards Leonard, even as he turned to Wilhelmina.
“So-uh, how did he get here? I don’ rec’nize him,” Jerra asked conversationally, but Leonard noticed that the older man kept gripping his weather-beaten hands in gesture that did not look natural him. Jerra shifted in his seat.
“Leonard is Gerard’s son. Leonard received my letter instead, and found his way here. Leonard is the new Letterman and has agreed to help us.” Wilhelmina chest surged with emotion and she turned to smile at Leonard. He felt incredibly appreciative of her warmth and gratitude and hoped he could live up to her unspoken expectations.
“Tha’s- Tha’s sure lucky, Miss, him showin’ up and able to help. Wha’re schemin’ from here?” The magnet pulling Jerra’s gaze back to Leonard seemed to weaken enough for him to taken in the mountain of articles, items, and weaponry scattered over and around the desk. Leonard thought he saw worry in the aging eyes, different than Masha’s, who was still sniffling in her chair, occasionally looking to Wilhelmina as if she might disappear.
“We plan to leave for Krosis in the morning. It’s the only way left that we, that I, can find the answers we need. I was giving Leonard some background information so that we can consider any options we may have when you arrived. I’ve been doing that most of the afternoon in one way or another,” Wilhelmina answered. Something about her demeanor seemed too casual to Leonard and he wondered if she was having similar misgivings concerning Jerra.
“Goin’ to Krosis, eh?” Jerra directed the question to Leonard, his voice creaking like old branches in a high wind.
“Me and Wilhelmina, it seems,” Leonard replied, reassured by the gentle nod of her head in agreement.
“You, Miss?” Jerra’s eyes grew so wide Leonard expected to hear the snapping sound of bent branches and broken bark.
“Of course me. Why does everyone seem to find it an absurd notion?” Wilhelmina crossed her arms loosely and glanced from Jerra to Masha.
“I think it’s a splendid idea,” Leonard heard himself say, causing three pairs of eyes to swivel in his direction. “I could be biased,” he smiled sheepishly around at them all before making himself busy with the front of his new shirt.
“Thank you, Leonard.” He was certain Wilhelmina was holding back a smile, her lips continued to twitch, and her eyes were bright as she looked at him when he raised his eyes.
“I didn’ say nothin’ ‘gainst it, Miss. I’s su’prised is all,” Jerra grumbled in placation, but his words fooled no one. Leonard wondered if the man was as emotionally attached to Wilhelmina as Masha evidently was.
“Good, then we’ll hear no more of me not going,” Wilhelmina said triumphantly brushing her hands together as if clapping the dust from them.
“Now, it’s time to get down to business. We can fill you in more over dinner, Jerra,” Wilhelmina continued as she reclaimed her place behind the desk, between Masha and Leonard. “But for now, we need to focus on the plan.”
Wilhelmina handed Leonard a map and started pointing to different areas labeled there, explaining where they would appear on the Krosis side, and where they wanted to head once they arrived. There was a debate about whether or not Orsic would welcome their presence, which was important in deciding on their best course of action.
Leonard was still unnerved by Jerra’s almost hungry leer as he watched over and listened to their discussion, nodding along absentmindedly, but soaking up every word. He moved and said little, contributing nothing to the conversation, his eyes darting between Leonard and Wilhelmina as they spoke.
During a lull in talk, Leonard and Wilhelmina busy studying a map, Masha rose from her chair. She seemed to be regaining some of her strength, her eyes no longer as wide a dinner plates, though still sniffling occasionally.
“I’m going to start fixing something up for dinner, Miss. It’ll be evening before we know it,” the young woman said softly. Wilhelmina patted the woman’s arm before nodding in an encouraging way, thanking her as she passed by to exit.
“I’ll go too, see if I can’ help the lass with cleanin’ or carvin’ somethin’,” Jerra said as he pushed himself up from his chair. Wilhelmina watched him follow Masha out of the room before returning her attention to Leonard and the map before them.
He was uncertain how long they were at it, but Leonard was sure he had never crammed so much information into his mind in one day before. Entire histories and texts worth of information relayed to him, and most of it important in one capacity or another. Leonard only knew he was infinitely grateful when Masha poked her head in sometime later to announce that it was dinner time.
Wilhelmina led the way back to the kitchen, Masha and Leonard trailing behind like broken satellites that failed to orbit properly. They were mostly silent on the trek, only their footsteps and the familiar sound of the women’s skirts in the empty halls.
As they walked over the threshold of the homey kitchen, Wilhelmina promised Leonard that they would practice with weapons after dinner and a brief rest. Leonard did his best not to halt at the doorway, to ignore how difficult swallowing was for a moment or two, to take a seat at the waiting table and focus instead on the enticing odor filling the space.
A hearty meal, a well-earned rest, and a crash course in weapons training later, Wilhelmina showed Leonard through the halls until they reentered the carpeted corridor. He followed her past her own chamber to the door on the right of the next nearest set, the door across from the room Leonard had obtained his journeying attire. Wilhelmina’s skirts whipped around the edge of the door as she waved him inside.
Leonard was surprised to find the room was already lit, welcoming him to crawl onto the waiting bed which looked as comfy as a cloud to him. He was sore after his practice sparring with Wilhelmina and couldn’t wait to get more familiar with his mattress; his body ached from using muscles he hadn’t utilized properly in years and from taking a walloping from Wilhelmina’s staff as she had attempted to teach him some defense basics.
“If you need anything, knock on this inside door,” Wilhelmina said as she gestured to a door on the wall that their room shared. “We lock the hallway door entrances these days. I’ve put you here so that it will be easier and safer to communicate at night, should the need arise.”
Leonard watched her exit the door, waved at Wilhelmina in return as she gestured before closing the door. He listened for a click that was the locking of the door handle. He hadn’t decided if it made him feel more or less safe, but resolved not to care as the phantom call of the mattress pulled him to it.
Leonard slipped off his shirt, kicked off his boots and socks, and fell back onto the bed. He pulled his legs up with a groan and tucked them under the plentiful, layered blankets.
Exhausted as Leonard was, he had assumed he would drift off the moment he’d made proper contact with the bed, but it was not the case. Instead, his mind tried to review and process each turn and twist the day had made. From the moment he’d picked up the letter with his name on it to that moment in a strange, but cozy bed, each remembered second was as surreal as having lived through it.
The thought flickered in Leonard’s mind that he might awake in his own bed and find he’d had a magnificent dream, or was the victim of a brain tumor. Leonard turned on his side and away from such thoughts.
It felt like Leonard had only just started to drift into a luxurious sleep when a shout ripped through the air and through Leonard’s heart as it wrenched him from his slumber.
Click here for Part 15!