Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 35
Leonard turned away from the door, resisting the temptation to pull on the circular handle to be sure it would open. He focused instead on the walls, littered with shelves of books and papers, and the single-person bed tucked into the far corner. None of the texts or furniture had the opulent touches that were present in the various rooms he’d seen in Palloria; it made the room friendlier to Leonard.
There were no windows, and the only door was the one that Leonard had entered through. The chamber was lit by an oil lamp attached to the left wall, just over the foot of the bed; the bedframe was some strange dark wood that Leonard could not name, and the mattress a well-worn but cozy enough affair, which Leonard sank down onto.
He set his pack on the mattress behind him when he noticed his bow and weapons belt leaning against the wall, all its occupants in their places. He was up on his feet seconds later, reaching out to touch the hilt of his sword, the curved edge of his bow, to be sure they were his. Once satisfied that all was accounted for, Leonard turned his attention to the books.
He ran his fingers over the spines cluttering the shelves creaking from their weight. Most of them were in languages he could not read, some of them he could not recognize at all. Leonard paused to scan the titles of those he could decipher; most looked to be history books, atlases, or notes on flora, tools, and weaponry. There were a couple of titles that might have contained some form of fiction, but a knock on the door pulled Leonard’s attention away.
His heart sped up. He hadn’t even had a chance to wonder what Osric might want to speak with him about, yet.
The knock came again, this time in a friendlier rhythm, as if it was trying to convince him to open the door.
Leonard took the two short steps to reach the door, pulling it open an inch with a perspiring palm. Instead of finding stately Osric, Leonard found Coppa’s youthful grin.
“What are you doing here?” Leonard asked, holding the door further open in his surprise. He poked his out into the hall a moment and saw that it was empty, except for the sharp-featured, slightly-freckled face in front of him.
“Well, I-I fancied a chat with yeh, a brief one, if you don’ mind.” Coppa grinned sheepishly, his eyes flickering to the open space over Leonard’s shoulder. The sincere expression in his face settled things; Leonard stepped back and gestured Coppa inside.
With two people now in the room, it was considerably smaller and no longer looked able to contain much in the way moving bodies. Leonard shut the door and propped himself on the narrow foot of the wooden bad frame; it supported his weight without protest.
Coppa tucked himself up against the many shelves lining the right wall, across from Leonard, but within arm’s reach in the enclosed space. His tipped ears peeked out beneath his auburn hair, but there was a downward tilt to them.
“So, what did you want to chat about?” Leonard asked as he leaned forward with an elbow on his raised knee, foot propped on the lowest rung of the bedframe under him.
“I noticed you didn’ say much earlier and, well, I wanted to see what kin’a chap yeh are, since we’re set to be workin’ together and all,” Coppa said with a nervous chuckle and a smile that reminded Leonard of a child’s. The young man seemed genuine, searching Leonard with a curious expression on his face.
“Is there something in particular you wanted to know?” Leonard asked, unable to suppress his amusement at his unexpected visitor.
“How long yeh known the Lady Pond?” Coppa tried to sound nonchalant, riffling through the pages of a randomly selected book while pretending not to be waiting for Leonard’s response.
“Not long,” Leonard replied warily, following the auburn-haired imp’s every movement in search of explanation. When he seemed in no hurry to reply, Leonard added, “Is there a reason you ask?”
Coppa’s eyes leapt from the page and locked onto Leonard’s; it was then that Leonard noticed that not only did Coppa have green and yellow eyes, but his pupils were vertical like a cat’s. He wondered how he’d missed that before.
“Look, I like yeh, Leonard. I think you’ve the makin’s of a good mate and”- Coppa began, but Leonard interrupted, unable to help himself.
“I thought you came here to see what kind of person I was.” Leonard smiled as he said it to make it clear he was joking.
Coppa returned a pained smile that had more than a spoonful of pity sprinkled over it. “Leonard, I think you’re a genuinely good person, comin’ all the way here to help strangers…yeh don’ even have a clue what this place is like yeh- well, lads don’ generally volunteer for Krosis duty if they’ve another place to go,” he said pointedly.
He licked his lips before continuing, the book he’d been pretending to look through clutched absentmindedly in his hands. “What I’m tryin’ to say is, I believe why you’re here, and I’m here because of that.”
Leonard felt a pinch in his forehead from his furrowed brow as he tried to decipher Coppa’s words into something that made sense. He was saved the need of forming a question just yet, because the other man continued.
“You’re probably drownin’ in information so I don’ blame yeh if you’re ready to go along with whatever the Lady says, and I’m not tellin’ yeh to necessarily go against her or anythin’! I’d just like to encourage yeh, as a mate, to listen. Listen and make your own decisions.” Coppa finished heavily. His strange eyes glowed, giving him the appearance of a misshapen ginger cat.
Leonard was still absorbing these words when Coppa spun and replaced his pilfered book before making for the door.
“Wait, you”- Leonard said in a rush to his feet, grabbing Coppa’s shoulder to prevent him from slipping into the hallway.
“Please, just think about what I said. Have to go for now, but I’m sure we’ll talk more soon,” Coppa said, cutting off Leonard’s words. He clapped Leonard on the back convivially before breaking the hold on his shoulder and gliding into the hall.
Leonard thought about going after Coppa, but as he pulled the door further open, he found the hallway completely deserted. Shaking his head, Leonard closed the sturdy door again and returned to the bed.
He was starting to wonder if the encounter had been some strange dream when another knock shattered the silence; this one was not a friendly knock. Whatever had happened before, it was certainly not Coppa on the other side of the door this time.
After a second’s hesitation, Leonard retraced his steps to the door. He grabbed the handle, bracing himself, then pulled it open.
The pale and disgruntled Ursa met his surprise with a shove of her shoulder as she invited herself inside.
Click here for Part 37!