Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 20
Leonard wondered if Wilhelmina was able to see the spectacle that was the same lightening against a purple sky with a blinding, warm light ready to swallow them. He felt her fingers grip his hand tighter as they turned end over end as they neared the orange and yellow glow.
A moment later, Leonard found himself sprawled on a patch of long-dead grass on the bank of a small pond, Wilhelmina’s hand still safely in his own as she lay on the ground beside him. It didn’t last long.
In the blink of an eye, Wilhelmina was off the ground and in a crouch, her hands reaching for the hilt of the daggers tucked into her boots. Leonard had not known they were there until he saw them at the ready in her hands. He thought she looked like a tiger preparing to pounce.
Leonard sat up slowly and surveyed their surroundings. The sky overhead was the color of burnt paper tinted with rust-colored, cloud-like bunches painted across it. The ground beyond the few feet of dead grass they were on looked like dehydrated soil, black and completely lacking in nutrients.
Beyond and around them were what looked to be walls of a slightly darker color than the sky, making it easy enough to blend in with the addition of weak and distorted light.
His nose wrinkled as he breathed. There was an acrid stench to the air, burnt and decaying; there couldn’t be more of a difference between this place and where they had been moments before. Leonard was surprised there was a pond at all.
“Wha-“ with a quick movement of her hand to indicate silence and a hard stare, Wilhelmina cut off Leonard’s question, her eyes returning to a space to her right. Leonard crouched beside and peered around Wilhelmina in the direction her focus took.
It was then Leonard that realized there was a break in the wall, forming an open walkway. His eyes flicked back to Wilhelmina, who continued to stare, unblinking, at the opening, waiting. Leonard looked at the hilt of his own short-sword, but was hesitant to take it.
“Come out!” Wilhelmina demanded, her harsh voice startling Leonard; it was barbed and snapped like a whip. Leonard wasn’t sure who she was talking to, having seen and heard nothing to indicate someone else nearby himself, but he trusted Wilhelmina, so he looked over her shoulder at the entryway, and waited.
To Leonard’s surprise, a moment or two later, they heard the rattle of moving armor before one, two, three, figures appeared. The tallest lead the way, each with their well-armored hands on hilts of their own long swords.
Wilhelmina stood as they approached, keeping the daggers in her hands as she rose. After sparring with her the night before, Leonard had no doubt in Wilhelmina’s ability to strike each of the approaching men with her daggers before their larger swords had been released from their sheaths.
Leonard stood beside Wilhelmina, waiting for some indicator of what to do. He tried to remain calm, but the dark and decaying atmosphere gave him little assurance. He gulped, but made sure to stand up straight, with his own hand ready on a sword he’d barely used, attempting to project a casual but ready demeanor.
As the men neared, Wilhelmina seemed to recognize at least one of them. Leonard watched her gaze narrow on the tallest, a man with a mop of shaggy, dark-blond hair that hadn’t seen a good wash in some time. He was muscular and fine featured in a way that put Leonard in mind of Wilhelmina. Leonard waited to see if his suspicion would be confirmed and elected to stay silent until Wilhelmina asked something of him.
“Wilhelmina?” asked the shaggy-haired leader, stopping a few paces away from Leonard and Wilhelmina.
“Osric,” Wilhelmina nodded, stating his name as a certainty and not a question. Osric nodded in reply before raking his gaze over his sister and her companion. Leonard was not unfamiliar with the appraising gaze cast over him; it was incredibly similar to Wilhelmina’s, though less piercing.
“How did you know we would be here?” Wilhelmina asked, suspicion heavily written in her narrowed eyes. Leonard remained silent, watching the siblings’ first true meeting and feeling like an intruder.
Osric’s brow crinkled, his confusion evident. “We have proximity sensors around every pond and portal we have access to. We responded to an alarm at this pond. How would we have been notified before?”
Wilhelmina looked unconvinced, but she proceeded amicably, leaning over just enough to sheath her daggers as she said, “It seems we have much to discuss. When did you last hear from Etta?”
The name broke over Osric’s face like a punch to the jaw. His eyes darkened and his teeth clenched, nostrils flaring as he composed himself, not breaking his eye contact with Wilhelmina.
“What does she have to do with this?” Osric’s sneer was difficult to miss. There was something venomous behind his words.
Wilhelmina turned and exchanged a look with Leonard that he was not sure how to decipher, but he was sure that this had not been what Wilhelmina had expected.
“More than either of us could predict, I imagine,” Wilhelmina finally answered with another weary sigh.
Click here for Part 22!