Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 17

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 16

“You actually saw Jylla?” Wilhelmina asked skeptically, but gently, looking to the covered glass in her hand as if seeking confirmation.

“I spoke to her, Miss,” Jerra answered, despair dripping from his lips as his eyes looked hungrily to the speaking glass in Wilhelmina’s hand. His shoulders trembled in the indifferent soldiers’ grasps and he took a few steadying breaths.

Wilhelmina looked torn between warring emotions, intelligent eyes simmering as she asked, “What did she say? How did it come about?”

Jerra’s eyes glazed over for a moment as he summoned up the memory. He licked his cracked lips and took a deep breath before replying. “I was woke one night, nigh a year or so ago, a dagger to me throat, and a whisper ta be silent or silenced. I was taken to the portal room, and Miss- Etta, she was there, waitin’.”

Wilhelmina’s uninhabited hand clenched into a fist at her side as Jerra continued. “She tol’ me someone wanted ta speak to me, and opened that,” he nodded to the innocuous object.

“My-my Jylla, she was so thin, but she was alive!” the old man’s face crumpled and he ducked his head as best he could to hide it from the onlookers as he collected himself. Leonard glanced to Wilhelmina, her face composed in a stoic mask.

“Jylla, she was cryin’, she told me- she wanted to come home, beggin’ me ta do whatever I could…,” his voice grew soft and wet, halting long enough for him to sniffle and take few steadying breaths.

“She-Etta, she snapped it closed an’ tucked it into me pocket. She said if I wanted Jylla back, I’d use the speakin’ glass and do as she say. I-I was taken back to bed and left there. I tried-I tried to speak ta her again, openin’ the glass in me room,” Jerra recounted, lip quivering a brief moment. “Nothin’, no one, jus’ blackness.”

Leonard looked to Wilhelmina and imagined he could see the many cogs in her brain turn and whirl as she considered Jerra’s story. Having known the man only a brief time, Leonard was uncertain how to read him, or the situation. He did know that elderly man’s plight disturbed him and inspired pity and empathy.

Wilhelmina seemed to be measuring the man in front of her, a look Leonard had been growing far too familiar with. Though he was grateful she had never looked at him with such a crestfallen air as she cast around herself and the old man before her.

“What have you done at her request over the past year? For what purpose?” She finally asked, her voice steady, her eyes calculating.

Jerra closed his eyes, shame carved into his face as plainly as the wrinkles left there from long years in the sun. “Information, openin’ doors…so they-it’s how it’s been only us here. Sometimes, she have me put somethin’ in their meals or drinks, make it easier ta take quiet like. Then, tonigh’…I don’ know why, I just do as she say,” Jerra dipped his head in Leonard’s direction as answer.

Wilhelmina looked away from Jerra and opened her hand to peer at the outer shell of the speaking glass, silver and metal overlay and design; simple and elegant, suiting the woman holding it.

“And you were to notify her with this when you had the amulet and could let them into Leonard’s room? By a certain time, or only once you’d accomplished your goal?” Leonard thought he knew where Wilhelmina’s mind was going. Time was slipping through their fingers like water.

“I was only ta use it when I had the amulet, an- an’-“ a sob clawed its way from Jerra’s throat and he lapsed into silence. A chill stabbed through Leonard’s thought as he wondered what would happen to Jylla if Jerra never summoned Etta.

“And if you didn’t contact her, what then?” Wilhelmina shrewdly inquired, her tone coaxing, soft, but with urgent undertones that implored Jerra to calm himself and answer.

With great effort, Jerra regained a modicum of control. “She would assume it wen’ wrong, and that I-that I would keep silent…because-“

“She still has Jylla,” Wilhelmina finished for him as he lost himself to his misery again. Leonard felt his throat and chest tighten as he watched the scene unfold. Wilhelmina nodded towards the soldiers holding the shrunken man between them.

“Take him to the cells, I’ll speak with him more later. I will decide what to do with him then,” Wilhelmina declared, dismissing the guards. They bowed at the waist and shuffled out of the room with their despondent prisoner between them. Jerra did not look back, but three pairs of eyes were glued to his retreating form.

Masha whimpered and flung herself through the door soon after. A few moments later they heard the sound of a chamber door closing home and the muffled sound of moans. Leonard turned to Wilhelmina, who was looking at the mirror in her hand.

“You should try and sleep, Leonard, the night is not yet over, there is plenty of time to rest.” He wasn’t sure if it was a suggestion or a demand.

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photo from Flick, by Steve Snodgrass

Click here for Part 18!

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