Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 34
No one spoke for a moment, absorbing the news. It was abruptly broken by a snide tone.
“And what reason have we to believe that?” Ursa snapped as she sat back in her chair, arms locked over her chest in a vice grip.
Osric took his time answering. In that period he continued his staring contest with the table, not looking up as his fingers tapped inconstant rhythms against the wood. Eventually, voice gruffer than usual, he said, “There is reason to believe that Etta is the one responsible for poisoning Wilhelmina as a child. There wasn’t anyone else who traveled between here and Palloria, except the Letterman.”
Leonard noticed that almost everyone’s attention shifted momentarily to him. He tried not to squirm out view.
Osric noticed too and plowed on. “Lacking other possibilities and motives, we should review what we’ve heard from Etta and compare it with what we know to be true from own eyes and knowledge.” He made a point of locking eyes with Wolfhart for the space of a breath.
“From there, we can attempt to choose our course of action,” Osric finished with a look around the crowded table. Most everyone seemed to be pondering this information with subdued expressions and the occasional shadow of reservation.
Ursa, on the other hand, looked like a natural disaster about to unleash its fury. Her pale face was turning a brilliant pink that was soon becoming a mottled reddish hue. Leonard was put in mind of a volcano preparing to unleash molten rivers onto the unsuspecting landscape.
She launched herself to her feet, mouth open and ready to spew lava-coated words. Osric mirrored her motion and quelled her with a harsh stare. “Go to the armory, work out your anger. You and I will talk later.”
Ursa scoffed and tried to speak again but Osric cut her off “- I promise, I will listen to all of your thoughts and reservations. I swear I will take them into consideration as well, and then we can all reconvene at a later time. But for now, Ursa, I need you to go, or I can see that we will get nothing done.”
It was evident by the pained expression on his face that this decision bothered Osric, but he would not be swayed. Ursa eyes were bright and terrifying from the wrath she was holding in. Leonard expected her to detonate any moment. Instead, she silently fumed her way around the table, passing Wolfhart and Nox, furthest away from Wilhelmina, and through the door without a look back.
There was a moment of silence while most of the tension in the room dissipated like a kettle’s scream as it’s removed from the heat.
Leonard peered around the table; Wolfhart kept darting borderline mutinous looks in Osric’s direction, but remained otherwise silent and unaffected; Nox and Xandi remained as they’d always been, calmly observing with muted expressions making it impossible to discern their possible thoughts; Coppa looked bemusedly around the circle of faces, searching for at least some of the same answers Leonard wanted; Wilhelmina was the only one who seemed to be swallowing a distorted version of joy, tucking it away behind her mask of thoughtful consideration with only a mild slope of her lips to suggest otherwise.
It was again Osric that broke the silence. He cleared this throat and said, “We all have stakes in this. As I’ve said, we must work together, be willing to trust each other. Everyone is encouraged to speak their minds and share their voice, but in the right time. Outbursts will serve no useful purpose, and we cannot quibble as we go over every little thing.
“So, to the matter at hand,” Osric turned to Nox and Wolfhart. “Let’s start with you. Where might we be vulnerable given this new information, and what do we know for fact about our current situation and intel?”
It wasn’t long before Leonard was lost and overwhelmed by the waves of information that crashed into him. It was all the more difficult to keep everything straight given his utter lack of knowledge and context.
He felt like a mannequin overseeing the others’ conversation, unable to contribute or do more than dumbly nod along as if he understood what was going on. Osric occasionally smiled at him in a reassuring way, but Leonard didn’t know what exactly he was being assured of; so, he continued to look at whomever was speaking, glance around at the others’ faces, and either nodded or shook his head in minute movements as the conversation wore on.
All sense of time was lost to Leonard, as much from being in a foreign world that moved at a different pace as from his lack of an adequate timepiece. Eventually, enough had passed that Osric at last brought attention to it.
“I think we could all do with some peace and refreshment. Some nourishment and time to reflect,” he said as he rose from the table.
“I will show you both to rooms,” Osric directed at Wilhelmina and Leonard, who stood and swung bags over their shoulders. To what remained of the original table group he said, “I’ll find and speak with you all individually soon.”
Leonard’s stomach clenched and churned with every step as he followed Osric through the labyrinth of dripping stone hallways; the dark and gloom was only marginally chased away by the flickering torch in Osric’s hand. Leonard’s mind was buzzing with doubts, nagging him about every scrap of information that had been discussed but he couldn’t properly recall; peppered with questions about what he was still doing there and whether he would become more asset or liability.
“Here you are Leonard.” Osric’s voice surprised Leonard as much as the abrupt halt, which caused him to crash into Osric’s solidly built frame. Waving off Leonard’s apologies, Osric opened the door and gestured Leonard inside.
The room was considerably smaller than any of the rooms Leonard had seen in Palloria; it wasn’t much bigger than a sizeable walk-in pantry, but it had a surprisingly homey feel to it just on walking in.
“Someone will be along shortly with something of sustenance. And I will be in to speak with you privately at some point, if you don’t mind.” Osric waited for Leonard’s nod of approval before reaching to pull the door closed. Looking over Osric’s shoulder to Wilhelmina standing in the hall, face cast into deep shadow from the low light, Leonard noticed a withering glare directed at her brother; it seemed she was less than pleased at the prospect of Leonard and Osric speaking alone.
But it was gone in a flash, and Leonard wondered if it might have been a trick of the light, because Wilhelmina gave him a small but encouraging smile and a small wave before the door hid her from sight.
Click here for Part 36!