Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 43

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 42

Leonard froze in mid-step as he listened to the knocker finish their polite but determined series of taps. Since his back was to the door, he slowly turned to peer over his shoulder, uncertain of what he should do next; he could only hope that his indecision met with a better fate than most deer caught in headlights.

The minutes of silence stretched on until enough time passed to warrant yet another succession of knocks, this set with a shade more impatience added to the end of each rap. Still, Leonard remained motionless like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, afraid that movement would break the spell of stillness and trigger a reprimand.

Would they give up and leave? Should he answer? Try to hide? Leonard’s options flitted through his mind as he remained peering at the door over this shoulder.

The next insistent and less friendly sequence of knocks made Leonard jump and turn toward the door, deciding he had no choice but to open it. He expected the now impatient person to let themselves in at any moment but desperately hoped that they either weren’t rude enough to, or that there was some locking mechanism he had not noticed that would keep them out.

Just as Leonard took a breath and intended to reach for the door, he froze and turned back toward the bed. Jerra’s note. His own note. Both sat there, waiting for just anyone to read. Leonard grabbed and folded the notes as fast and neatly as possible, then tucked them into his boot.

He gave the bed a cursory glance to be sure there was nothing else that might provoke undesirable questions. The mess was easy enough to explain with most of the truth; he’d had trouble finding an item in his bag.

Leonard nodded then retraced his earlier steps to the door, just in time to pull it open and interrupt the knocker with her fist raised in mid-rap. In that moment, Leonard wasn’t sure who was more startled.

Wilhelmina lowered her hand immediately and then gently but firmly pressed the door open enough for her to slip inside. She yanked the door from Leonard’s grasp and shut it with a muffled thud. She turned and took stock of the room before turning her attention fully to Leonard.

Leonard’s mouth was uncomfortably dry. He fleetingly wished he hadn’t already finished his tea.

What were you doing? Why did it take you so long to answer?” Wilhelmina whispered emphatically, speaking fast and closing in on Leonard until his back was literally to the wall.

“I-I must have zoned out, maybe nodded off a minute. I’m sorry I didn’t hear you,” Leonard replied, flustered as he struggled with relief and dread. He elected not to ask why she was whispering, but kept his voice low too.

The scrutinous look Wilhelmina gave Leonard made him gulp and want to curl up under the blanket on the bed like a child hiding from the monster under it. Her narrowed eyes threatened to slice him open and find all he was not telling her.

I beg yeh not to show this to Wilhelmina, lives are at stake. She’s not what yeh think, an’ her aims isn’ what she says they are.

Leonard tried to swallow but his throat was too dry.

Wilhelmina flicked her eyes to the door then said, “I haven’t much time now, since you took so long to answer. Has Osric been to see you, yet?” She asked casually, no longer threatening to dissect him with her eyes, but Leonard found nothing casual about her question, not anymore. He told himself he’d ask himself why that was, later.

Leonard shook his head, brow furrowed as to voice the question of his confusion.

“Then I imagine he’ll be along any minute. When he left me in my room, he said he was going to check something in the kitchen before coming to see you.” Wilhelmina’s reply hardly provided Leonard with the answers he’d hoped, and instead raised more questions; he vaguely wondered if it were possible to become physically ill from having too many unanswered questions, because he thought he might be closing in on the limit.

“Has anyone else come by? Spoken with you?” Wilhelmina’s voice still soft, mostly likely in attempt to avert possible eavesdroppers, but Leonard felt her question like crushing blow knocking the wind out of him.

Leonard was unsure what to say or to admit about who had come by, so he stalled. He gestured to the tray and evidence of his meal and rasped, “well, there was a young ah, woman-girl, the uh, the young lady came by with, um, tea and stuff.” Leonard wanted to kick himself.

Wilhelmina glanced over her shoulder and confirmed the presence of the tray with a brisk nod. She turned back to him, her face expectant as she waited for Leonard to continue.

“Wolfhart,” Leonard blurted as if he’d just remembered. He’d decided it would do no harm to admit his less than enjoyable conversation with Wolfhart. The man’s disdain and utter lack of confidence in Leonard would hardly be a secret.

When Wilhelmina remained silent, Leonard continued, “yeah, he uh- he came by and pretty much told me to go home because I wasn’t useful anymore.”

Leonard waited, expecting Wilhelmina to defend him in some way. He tried not to feel her momentarily downcast eyes like a jolt to his nervous system.

Everyone is useful in one way or another,” Wilhelmina began, reaching out and grasping Leonard’s shoulder. Somehow it was devoid of real warmth, and the look she gave him was more reminiscent of pity than encouragement. “It would be difficult to bring someone along who is less familiar with, well, skills necessary to our task. It would not be impossible, but more difficult for some in the group than others. Don’t take his words to heart, but do what you feel is best.” She gave his shoulder a friendly squeeze then released him.

Leonard was not comforted by her words, no longer secure in his belief that she wanted him here. Though some of her words sounded encouraging, there was an edge. He couldn’t escape the impression that Wilhelmina wanted him to leave, but he didn’t know why. It didn’t make sense to him.

Her next words cut off his train of thinking.

“Anyone else?” when Leonard looked confused Wilhelmina followed it with “did anyone else come by, or was that everyone you spoke with?”

Leonard pretended to pause and think a moment before shaking his head. Though his gut clenched, something told Leonard to admit nothing more.

“You’re sure?” Wilhelmina pressed, her face coming within an inch of Leonard’s.

“I’m sure. Just the tea lady and Wolfhart.” Leonard smiled weakly.

“No wonder you were so lost in thought that you didn’t hear me knocking,” Wilhelmina said with a feeble smile of her own, the slight reprimand coated in apparent compassion.

A noise in the hallway that sounded like muted voices and boots effectively ended their conversation. Wilhelmina turned to the door and pressed her ear to it.

She whispered to Leonard as she braced herself to flee, “I’ll be back later to talk more. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of questions. Remember, tell no one about the shard.” Wilhelmina waited for Leonard’s nod before cracking the door barely enough for a child to traverse and somehow disappearing through it like vapor.

The scent of water lilies followed the snap of the door closing.

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Please stay tuned for Part 44!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 42

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 41

Leonard sat further back on the bed so that he could lean his head against the cool stone. He closed his eyes and sat there without moving until the dizziness lessened. His heart kept an erratic beat in his chest, as if to further illustrate to Leonard the extent of his unpredictable situation.

He eventually opened his eyes to study the note yet again. Taking a moment to adjust to the nearly illegible script, he read, subconsciously hearing it as he imagined Jerra would impart it to him:

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Whatever yeh believe to be true, I beg yeh not to show this to Wilhelmina, lives are at stake.
I can’ tell yeh all, in case the wrong hands or eyes find it.
If yeh’re the man I think yeh are, like yeh’re da’, put yeh’re trust in others ‘sides Wilhelmina. She’s not what yeh think, an’ her aims isn’ what she says they are.
Tell Osric abou’ the shard, they need to know she has it. If yeh don’ wan’ ta get between kin, then tell Nox.
An’ when yeh need to find the missin’ Pond, look for the map the doesn’ belong and study it close. Don’ let her go with yeh.
Can’ say more.
Watch yeh’re back.
-Jerra

No matter what Leonard tried to tell himself, he couldn’t escapes the sensation of the floor repeatedly being pulled out from beneath him; a fall and a nasty scrape would be bad enough, but Leonard felt more like he was plummeting down an abyss, scraping, scratching, and slamming against the sides as he descended. As time passed, he expected to look down and the find marks.

The more he considered the note, the sicker Leonard felt. His stomach roiled as he thought about sharing the contents with Wilhelmina, and he instantly rejected the idea. Whatever was going on, Jerra had claimed that there were lives at stake. Leonard had seen nothing that warranted such a potentially hasty step, even if it did make him squirm more than ice down the back of his shirt.

Leonard had never been an overly secretive person; he kept certain personal thoughts to himself (as common decency alone demands), but he generally didn’t have information that was relegated to certain contacts. In fact, other than any sensitive work-related material, the last couple of days had been the most Leonard had every dealt in secrecy.

There were many things that bothered Leonard about the note and its contents. One of the top contenders was the fact that this was not the first warning to involve Wilhelmina. The mention of motives other than those that Wilhelmina had claimed had moved her to call for help further sank Leonard’s heart in an icy sea of doubt and dread; going under was all too likely.

He’d also been warned to watch his back, again not for the first time.

With the frenzied movements of a drowning man trying to save himself, Leonard launched to his feet and resumed his pacing; it was much more difficult to keep to an unhurried pace when he so desperately wanted to outrun his thoughts.

After many dizzyingly successive turns, Leonard tried to slow his pace to one question per step.

Who put the note in Leonard’s pack? If not Jerra, then who? And why? (turn)

Could the note be trusted? What could Jerra hope to gain by lying? Did the lives at stake include Jerra’s daughter? (turn)

Why would Wilhelmina lie? Why did so many people seem to think that Wilhelmina’s motives were questionable enough to warn Leonard? Did Ursa know something? Is that why she seemed to have such a problem with Wilhelmina? (turn)

Why was it so important to tell someone that Wilhelmina had the shard? Why tell Nox? And why did Wilhelmina really ask Leonard to keep quiet about the recovered shard? (turn)

Did it have anything to do with Leonard’s father? Why hadn’t his father told him about all of this? Where was his father now? (turn)

What about Etta? Would Leonard actually be able to find her when the time came?

On and on he went. His thoughts were so loud that Leonard didn’t hear the knock on his door the first time. It wasn’t until Leonard’s second pass near the door that coincided with a louder and more distinctive knock that he was startled from the track he was wearing into the floor.


Click here for Part 43!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 41

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 40

Leonard paced with a plodding tread, stretching out the moments between turns in the barely-four-small-stride length room; too quick or too long a gait would make him dizzy from the rapid turning. One hand waited impatiently at his hip while a finger of his other hand tapped his chin to the beat of his steps in a thoughtful tempo.

He puzzled over the things he knew, the things he didn’t (of which there were many), the quandary of emotions thumping in his chest. He asked himself countless questions, tried to examine things from every angle before eventually integrating his own desires into consideration.

In the end, the necessary decision was clear.

With a heavy but determined heart, Leonard reached for his pack as he took a seat on the bed. His back and gluteus maximus thanked him for the stretch and time pacing as much as their more pleasant placement on mattress over stone floor.

Leonard’s fingers fumbled with opening the bag and sifting through its contents in search of paper of some kind, and an adequate writing utensil. He found everything he needed after emptying more than half of the pack; Leonard maintained that the pen and ink had hidden themselves like a game of hide and seek and had only relented after many mutterings and threats of upturning the bag entirely.

He thought about replacing the items strewn across the bed before attending to the task he intended, but decided he would rather this task be behind rather than waiting for him. So, Leonard prepared a pen (after almost breaking the nib and ruining half of a piece of paper with trying to fill and write with it properly, not being used to pens that pexels-photo-211291.jpegrequired manual refilling or practiced hands), and set to writing.

Occasionally, Leonard paused in his scribbling to listen for footsteps near the door, anticipating Osric’s visit with every passing second. He was oblivious to how long he’d been waiting in here, but three visitors and plenty of time on his own was longer than Leonard had expected. At this point, he was almost hoping to miss any knocker that may come to his door next.

At last, Leonard thought he was done.

With a solemn sigh, Leonard nodded his begrudging approval after reading through his note again; part of him screamed about how cowardly it was to sneak out like a thief in the night with only a note left in his place instead of bringing the option (and ultimate decision) to the group as a whole; another part assured him that his absence would only make this conclusion easier on those that would include him for reasons not related to usefulness; plus, he wouldn’t hesitate to return if they asked for him, if they needed him. He would be only too happy.

It wasn’t that he was giving up, which he repeated furiously to himself in hopes he would believe it, because he didn’t want to give up. He wanted to stay and see this through more than anything, not least of which to uncover the truth regarding his father; but Leonard acknowledged his lack of vital skills or useful information and refused to allow his deficits to become a liability to anyone.

Placing his note on the nearest bookshelf, Leonard turned to the bed littered with items. He sedately began to gather and replace them in the pack before realizing that his chaotic search had made it impossible for everything to fit properly, or with any semblance of order.

Leonard sighed again and upturned the bag. Everything came tumbling out in disarray, clothes, papers, books, food, supplies Leonard hadn’t realized or remembered had been tucked into it. Something about the bag disgorging such an eclectic and unexpectedly large pile of things put Leonard strongly in mind of Mary Poppins.

As he started sorting the stackable materials from the abstract, Leonard noticed an inconspicuously folded piece of paper. It wasn’t among any other papers or books and had no writing on the outside to indicate its purpose or subject.

Curiosity took hold of Leonard’s attention and he turned away from the pile on the bed and set to unfolding the paper. It was a small, ripped piece of paper, obviously written in haste by an unmercifully untidy scrawl.

Leonard read over the contents and signature four times before believing what his eyes were telling him; it was a note from Jerra, for Leonard.


Click here for Part 42!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 40

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 39

He also had the growing impulse to cry, something Leonard hadn’t done in many years; he wasn’t ashamed by it, though. The growing stress and frustration of the overwhelming unknown of the past two days was enough to make anyone weep, not to mention Leonard’s multiplying qualms and Wolfhart’s harsh, if true, words.

Leonard pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes, resting his elbows on his now pulled up knees, the back of his skull pushed up against the cool stone of the wall. He wanted to melt into the surroundings, maybe become a piece of furniture…useful furniture…

He thudded his head against the wall, trying to knock those thoughts from his mind, but more just seemed to creep in through the cracks. With a frustrated growl Leonard wrenched his hands away from his face and dejectedly glanced around the room.

Its homey feel seemed to have left with Wolfhart. The shadows looked more menacing than sleepy sweeps of a painter’s brush along the walls; the walls themselves now seemed to crowd him instead of enveloping him like a cozy blanket.

The glint of his sword’s hilt caught Leonard’s eye. He ruefully wondered if it would do any good to practice the few things he’d learned. Wilhelmina had said that endurance and muscle memory were some of your greatest assets in a fight.

Leonard soon dismissed the idea; it was entirely too likely he would hurt himself or destroy something in the small space of the room, not to mention he highly doubted Wolfhart would be impressed by any number of hours Leonard may put into practicing at this point. He also had a notion that Wolfhart would find fault with him even if Leonard had been a skilled fighter, but it gave him not comfort.

He wrenched his gaze from weapons and Wolfhart from his thoughts. Leonard’s gaze shifted around the room again, looking for a focus for his mind as much as his eyes.  Sometimes he followed the creases where stone met stone from one corner to the next. Eventually this calmed him enough for pieces of other recent conversations to bubble up.

Such as Coppa calling Leonard his mate and a good man, words that warmed Leonard’s heart in his disheartened state; Coppa’s imploring Leonard to make his own mind up about things. Leonard mulled that one over that for a while. He settled on wishing that Coppa had stayed to explain further, if not to deter less welcome company.

Leonard’s thoughts turned to Ursa. He would have preferred that even she had stayed longer too. She wasn’t the most welcoming of people, but even she seemed to have the makings of a friend; she had vowed to help him after all, whatever that specification was supposed to imply.

Leonard’s shoulder warmed where Ursa had squeezed it, like she had only just removed her hand. Leonard moved his hand to that shoulder, imagining giving Ursa’s hand a grateful squeeze of his own. It brought him more comfort than he expected, enough to further loosen the cords of despair compressing his chest, giving hope more room to maneuver and grow.

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photo from Flickr by IceBone

He had no idea how long he’d been sitting on the hard floor, but it was long enough that

his limbs were starting to ache and protest. Leonard rose slowly to his feet, letting his body stretch itself from its previously crumpled form.

 

He stepped away from the wall and took a deep breath as he stretched his arms behind his back, the muscles of his chest pulling as his back cracked, easing some of the tension that had been there. Then he shrugged and shimmed his shoulders to loosen them as well.

Finally, Leonard felt like he might be in a place to make some decisions, and maybe work out a plan.


Click here for part 41!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 39

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 38

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photo from Flickr by Andria

“Do you know how to use these?” Wolfhart gruffly asked, holding up the sword then using it to point to the weaponry. He continued to rotate the grip in his hand, occasionally swiping the air with lazy strokes.

Leonard kept his eye on the sword’s tip, but his heart relaxed enough that he could take in air again, perhaps even let out some words.

“I uh- well I’m not exactly skilled, but I learned some basics. Haven’t had much time to practice, though,” Leonard admitted, unsure if he was being wise but feeling it would be useless to lie to someone with Wolfhart’s expertise; Leonard’s inexperience would be evident in seconds if Wolfhart asked him to spar…or decided to test Leonard by surprise, which he feared was more of Wolfhart’s style.

“You’re honest. I can appreciate that,” Wolfhart’s deep voice rumbled, his head nodded once. “And you’re under no illusions about your skill. Good.” Something chilly crept into Wolfhart’s voice.

Leonard was painfully aware that Wolfhart still had the sword, now holding the blade against the palm of his open hand, peering closely at it from different angles. He took another swipe at the open space between him and Leonard before replacing the sword in it sheath with a swift snap and leaning it against the wall again; Leonard tried not to sigh audibly in relief.

“What do you think you are doing here?” the burly man asked as he turned away from the weapons.

“What do you mea”- Leonard began in polite confusion before being cut off.

“What use will you be to anyone?” the man gruffly questioned. He took a menacing step towards Leonard, who couldn’t resist backing up until he met the wall. Wolfhart moved closer until he was essentially towering over Leonard, blocking his view of everything in the room except the intimidating figure only a breath away.

“Well?” Wolfhart demanded.

Leonard felt like a goldfish, opening and closing his mouth dumbly; words were impossibly hard to find and form.

“As I thought,” Wolfhart said cruelly, crossing his arms and shifting so that he wasn’t as close to Leonard, no longer looming over him like a nightmare. “You are a liability. Osric will say all we need is to train you up, assign someone to look out for you, but it will make us vulnerable. If someone is too occupied making sure your neck isn’t snapped, they’ll miss something.

“Lettermans serve two basic, essential, purposes,” Wolfhart continued, holding up a finger for each point. “To travel between worlds, and inform. You can do one. But an ignorant Letterman is nigh useless. One that can’t even fight, well….”

Leonard felt Wolfhart’s words like a whip’s stinging lick. He wanted to protest, defend himself, say something, but the harsh words sounded too much like Leonard’s own fears to merit rebuttal. He settled for trying to keep his heartbeat steady and doing his best to swallow his hurt.

More than anything at that moment, Leonard wanted to be alone.

Whether he sensed Leonard’s desire, accomplished what he’d set out to do, or he’d merely finished his ruthless say, Wolfhart’s beard twitched in what might have been a smirk, and he turned towards the door. The hinges groaned as it opened.

Standing in the entryway, Wolfhart waved mockingly and said, “Thanks for the pleasant chat,” before exiting and pulling the door closed with a resounding thud.

Leonard’s knees shook and he collapsed to the floor. His stretched his legs out in front of him as he miserably recounted Wolfhart’s words. At each repetition, Leonard tried to insert a string of replies regarding his usefulness, that he could learn to fight, that he wouldn’t be a liability, but each sounded flimsier than a straw man.

He leaned his head against the wall, shut his eyes, and tried to suppress the urge to scream.


Click here for part 40!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 38

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 37

It was instead, a young woman with white eyes and skin to rival Ursa’s in its paleness that barely reached Leonard’s navel. She had a simple smile on her face and held out a tray with a annie-spratt-227757.jpgmodest meal and a mug of some liquid with a sweet scent; the refreshments that Osric had said would be along.

“Uh- Thank you,” Leonard said with an uncertain smile as he reached for the tray, unsure if she could see him.

Her dainty fingers released the tray into Leonard’s hands. He was about to turn and place the tray on his bed when a voice as soft as feather pillow halted his movement. “Dip in the tea, much tastier,” she said with a big smile, pointing without looking at what appeared to be a large hunk of bread on Leonard’s tray with.

“Thanks,” he replied lamely, returning her smile. She saved him the struggle of finding something else to say by turning and skipping down the black hallway, seemingly without a care. She too was soon swallowed by the darkness.

Leonard shook his head with a chuckle and shut the door with his foot after reentering his room, his hands occupied with holding the tray level; the mug was filled nearly to the brim and in danger of spilling over.

He lowered the tray carefully then took a seat beside it with equal caution and examined his meal. Besides the bread, there looked to be a couple of pieces of some sort of dried fruit that Leonard had never seen before and was sure did not grow on his own world.

Leonard tore off a piece of the bread, then tore it in half. He popped the first piece into his mouth and chewed the rough and mostly tasteless morsel, unable to keep from making a face. He looked at the piece in his waiting hand and dipped it into the mug while he swallowed the last bits in his mouth, hoping his delivering friend was right about the tea making it better.

With a shrug, Leonard ate the other piece; the difference was night and day. The sweet scent of the tea translated to a rich and satiating flavor that tickled Leonard’s tongue. The bread had soaked up the tea the way sponges do water, making each bite a rush of flavor. He broke off another piece and dunked it, grateful to his unnamed benefactor of a more pleasant meal.

Leonard was reaching for the mug, intending to try a sip of tea on its own, when another knock shook the door. For a brief moment he thought it might be Osric, but the rattling of the door from the force of the knocker convinced him otherwise.

He rose slowly and inched towards the door, which continued to shake from another forceful series of raps. Leonard cleared his throat and took a deep breath before pulling the door open.

Wolfhart’s untamed and alarming appearance loomed in the doorway, pushing the door open with a boorish shove. Leonard was forced to step back to allow him in or be shoved backwards. Wolfhart closed the door with a heavy thud, surveying the room briefly before turning to Leonard.

“You know, it’s more polite to wait for an invitation before entering someone else’s room,” Leonard said, unable to help himself as the mountainous man glared at him.

After a solid minute of hard staring, Wolfhart severed eye contact and turned to the weapons tucked in the corner. Leonard’s heart beat faster as the other man pulled Leonard’s sword from its sheath. Wolfhart weighed it in his hand, shifting it deftly from one hand to the other.

Leonard’s heart found its way into his throat.


Click here for Part 39!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 37

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 36

Though he had not asked Ursa to stay, Leonard was so surprised at her cavalier entrance as if she belonged there that he shut the door as if he’d invited her in himself. He was still trying to shift his thoughts from Coppa’s enigmatic visit when Ursa demanded his attention.

“So you’re the Letterman, huh? How long did you say you were in Palloria before coming here?” Ursa was right next to Leonard as he turned from the door, causing him to jump half a step back. They were standing so close he could feel the warmth of her breath as surely as he could feel the weight of her stare.

Being nearly the same height as Osric, Leonard had to look up slightly to look Ursa in the face. He took another causal half-step back, the better to take in the overwhelming presence before him. She stood with her legs wide, anchoring her to the spot like she expected someone to attempt to thrust her from it. Her arms were crossed in their characteristic shield over her chest.

“Well, I was there for an evening, maybe later afternoon or so….stayed there overnight, and then came here first thing in the morning,” Leonard answered. He reminded himself that he’d done nothing wrong and had no reason to be defensive, but Ursa’s accusatory scrutiny made him uncomfortable.

“And how long have you been corresponding in some way with anyone from Palloria?” from her tone, and a shrewd look that reminded him of Wilhelmina, it was evident that Ursa believed she’d caught Leonard in some sort of falsehood.

He was surprised to find that Ursa’s skepticism of him hurt and tried to brush it off; they were practically strangers, after all. He also declined to remind her that Osric had given everyone a brief summary of his and Wilhelmina’s arrival.

“A day? I got a letter on my route yesterday, which led me to a pond, that was afternoon my time, and the pond took me to Palloria. As I said, I was there for the afternoon, the evening, and the earlier morning hours, and have been here ever since.” Leonard tried to keep his tone even, hoping to invite conversation that would sow a seed of confidence instead of suspicion.

Ursa did not relax her posture, but her face took on a shape that Leonard was unfamiliar with at that point; she softened the most austere edges of her expression; her lips were no longer the flat line of a tug-of-war rope being pulled at both ends, her eyes no longer narrow slits with daggers at the ready. She almost looked like a different person, certainly a shade more approachable without the threat of decapitation emanating from her.

Before speaking again, Ursa examined Leonard by sight from head to toe, like she was searching for something tucked into a pocket or behind his ear. It gave Leonard to urge to start patting his pockets for something he hadn’t realized was there.

“Why did you decide to come?” her tone was not unkind, more concerned or curious than derisive. Her head had a slight tilt to the side.

Leonard was stunned into silence for a few seconds. He would never get used to the question when it had such an obvious, humane, answer. “I was asked for help…”

Ursa nodded in approval, though Leonard had the impression that he’d somehow answered more than the question she’d voiced. She uncrossed her arms and reached out to put a sizeable hand on Leonard’s shoulder.

You, I will help,” she vowed, voice low and sincere. Her fingers gripped his shoulder with a gentle squeeze before retracting. “Keep sharp, we’ll get through this, yet,” she added before turning on her heel and pulling open the door.

“What’s that supposed- Wait!” Once again Leonard found himself scrambling to follow his visitor into the hallway, throwing out words like hooks in hopes of reeling them back. But Ursa would not be caught; by the time Leonard had stepped into the dark hall, he’d lost sight of the ghostly figure.

Leonard scratched and shook his head. Giving way to his frustrations for a moment, he reentered his room and shut the door with considerably more force than was necessary. Leonard crossed his arms over his chest and leaned heavily against the door.

He had only just started to review his recent brief and strange conversations when another knock interrupted him. Leonard jumped away from the door, the vibrations from the would-be entrant giving him as much of a start as the interruption.

With a steadying breath and a sigh, Leonard went to open to door. Surely it would be Osric this time.

He was wrong.

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Click here for Part 38!