Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 26

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 25

Photo by Kahlid Almasoud

Wilhelmina’s arms unraveled and drifted towards the floor, her hands becoming weights holding her to the spot. Her eyes widened a fraction, but she gave no other sign of surprise, shock, or really any emotion.

“Etta?” Wilhelmina sounded like she was tasting the word, measuring its placement in the information she was being fed.

“Mina, I want to trust you, I want to tell you all the truth I know, I hope you can believe that….but I’m in the same situation you are, not knowing for sure what is going on, and who is responsible for it,” Osric practically pleaded to his sister. Leonard thought the man was about to actually throw himself on his knees before Wilhelmina, but Osric remained wrapped in the shadows, leaning against the bench.

“Stop calling me, ‘Mina’ if you would be so kind,” Wilhelmina replied, a small but cutting bite in her tone before pressing on. Osric’s face remained shrouded in poor light and Leonard was unable to read his reaction to Wilhelmina’s words.

“If things are as you say for you, as they are for me, then how do you recommend we proceed?” there was something like a challenge in Wilhelmina’s voice as she spoke, eyeing her brother in his dark corner as if she saw his every muscle twitch. Leonard was curious himself, but he remained silent, feeling more than ever like an extra.

“Blast it all if I know!” Osric said in a rush as his limbs came to attention and he resumed his uneasy pacing in a room too small for it. Leonard was strongly reminded of a caged lion, watching the large man ruffle his hair, practically growling in frustration.

“Then we have an even larger problem, because we need answers,” Wilhelmina indicated herself and Leonard, who flushed and stood a little straighter at being included, “and we don’t have time to play truth and information chess!” the pink tint to her cheeks further emphasized her exasperation.

Osric looked taken aback by her outburst, frozen mid-step in his pacing. He turned to Wilhelmina, his face darker now despite being in more light; it contorted in a way that put Leonard in mind of a snarl, and he was certain that nothing good would come from what Osric looked like he was about to say.

Leonard wasn’t sure what made him do it, and he had no conscious plan of what he was about to do, but without hesitation, he moved forward to stand between the sibling, on neither of their sides.

“Perhaps I have a suggestion….” Leonard offered gently, his arms raised in a placating gesture. The fuming brother and sister exchanged a heated before each nodded in turn, biting their tongues visibly. Leonard had to bite back an out of place chuckle at the thought of having caught a lion’s tongue as he watched Osric swallow his retorts.

“Do tell, Leonard,” Wilhelmina said with a note of impatience, but not unkindly. The blue of her eyes looked strangely illuminated in low lit room, it was almost hypnotic, and Leonard had to tear his gaze away from hers, smiling at what he took as her approval and desire for him to continue.

Leonard look from brother to sister again before saying, “What if I start asking and answer questions? I was pulled into this yesterday, um…by Palloria standards anyway. I’m pretty sure I’m the most in the dark person here, but at least one, if not both of you, needed my help,” again he looked from Wilhelmina’s feminine features, to Osric’s hard jaw and shaggy mess of hair; so alike, so different.

“Now, Wilhelmina has done a lot try and get me up to speed on things, but, there’s no way to do that effectively in one night; I take that as I have some of the bare-necessity information about why we’re here, and what we need from here…I also have my own inquiries, but I will do my best to keep to the most pertinent questions.

“If any of us want to get to the bottom of this, however many versions of ‘this’ there is to figure out, we have to start somewhere, and that includes everyone to be willing offer at least a little bit of trust…what do you say?” Leonard asked.

After a pause, Wilhelmina broke the silence, looking at Leonard meaningfully as she spoke, “I have one condition, and then I will agree.”

Click here for Part 27!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 25

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 24

Osric looked truly surprised at the question, his eyes large and round, his mouth popping open as he looked from Leonard to Wilhelmina.

“I-I would have thought that was obvious…” Osric’s voice drifted away, his glance darting in Leonard’s direction, searching for some sign of understanding before returning to Wilhelmina. Her arms were crossed again, though in more leisurely fashion than before; no longer as if she was trying to hug her anger into submission. She waited silently for Osric to answer.

“I wasn’t sure who I could trust, and there was no time to waste in giving you the antidote. If you slipped into too long a sleep, it was possible you’d never wake. Rather than squander time attempting to suss out the truth, I elected to give it to you myself, quietly, to be certain that you…that you would recover…” Osric grasped his hands behind his back, head slightly bowed with his gaze now on the floor in front of Wilhelmina’s feet.

Despite the sincerity in his explanation and tucked into the creases of his pained expression, to Leonard, it still seemed like Osric was hiding something. From the unsatisfied look on Wilhelmina’s face, she was having similar thoughts. She let her continued silence speak for her.

“What else do you want me to say?” Osric finally entreated, his arms held out inviting her answer. His brow was furrowed, eyes beseeching. If Leonard had not been a man to trust in his first instincts, he might have believed that Osric was truly confused by Wilhelmina’s skepticism.

“Please, don’t insult my intelligence by pretending you aren’t keeping something back,” Wilhelmina said sharply. Her face had a stormy quality to it, a darkening on the horizon that was rapidly moving in. Leonard felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

Osric seemed to be frozen in place, surveying Wilhelmina as the cogs in his mind turned.

The miserable look returned to his face, crumpling under some unseen weight. “I still don’t know who to trust, Mina…it’s been years, and all I’ve managed to find has only led to more questions and uncertainty.” He rubbed his temples and sighed with obvious frustration.

Leonard couldn’t help but find himself curious to see how Wilhelmina would react to being addressed with a nickname; he also recognized in Osric, a man ashamed of what he had to say.

“Is that all?” Wilhelmina asked gently but sternly, ignoring the familiar moniker and further exhibiting her shrewdness as she narrowed her locked stare with Osric. The large man squirmed marginally, shuffling his feet and switching his weight more than was necessary, hands now clasped behind him. Leonard was sure he was clenching and unclenching his hands, the way Osric’s shoulder muscles continued to tense and relax at intervals.

With another heavy sigh, Osric moved to a bench that had been hidden by shadow in a dark corner of the poorly lit room. He propped himself up against it and crossed his arms over his chest, eyes turned to the floor. His face was partially cast in shadow, like a cloak of darkness around him.

“At the time, when I realized your illness was actually attempted poison…I-I had reason to susp-….” Osric cleared his throat and tried again. “I had reason to suspect….certain people that were close to you, had access to you, obviously. But…you must understand how convoluted things have become, I-“

Osric shook his head and rubbed his right temple before crossing it again over his chest. Another pained sigh wrenched itself from Osric’s mouth before the rest of his words fell out, “I’ve never had proof, nothing to act on, only suspicion and a hunch…but, I have reason to believe that…oh damn it all, that it was Etta that tried to kill you…”

photo by Kahlid Almasoud

Click here for Part 26!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 23

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 22

Wilhelmina froze in mid step, hovering over the threshold from the dreary courtyard to the hallway Osric had already entered and was walking down. Her eyes narrowed on Osric’s retreating back before taking on a distant look as her eyes flicked back and forth with furrowed brow, as if searching for a memory. Leonard halted at Wilhelmina’s shoulder, puzzling over her reaction to Osric’s words.

Taken aback only a moment, Wilhelmina regained her composure and was soon on Osric’s heels, lengthening her stride to gain the most ground without actually seeming to rush. Leonard tried not to scurry in his eagerness to stay close to Wilhelmina; being worlds away from home, even the woman he’d met only the day before had become an anchor of safety to which he could only barely resist clinging.

“I’d like an explanation, Osric” Wilhelmina politely demanded to the tall man’s figure as it moved steadily away on long legs. Even with her lengthened stride, it took her more than a moment to come within a couple of arms’ length of her brother. Leonard dashed along behind her, no longer caring if he looked silly rushing.

The hall they were traveling was growing darker and damper as they went. There was an eerie quality to their surroundings that Leonard could not explain, prompting him to do his best to stay within reach of Wilhelmina.

“Osric.” Wilhelmina repeated his name like another crack of her vocal whip.

“I only meant that it is good to see you better than the last time, you were incredibly ill,” Osric eventually said over his shoulder, still not bothering to slow down or even check to see that they were still behind them.

“When did you last see me, then? Because when I last saw you, I was certainly not ill,” Wilhelmina pressed, just missing the back of one of Osric’s heels with a forward step of her lengthened stride.

Osric did not reply, but turned down another hall, this one with a weak light at the very end that flickered on occasion. It made Leonard think of something from a horror movie or a nightmare; he was not scared, but he was all the more glad to have Wilhelmina near. He impulsively gripped the hilt of the sword at his hip tighter. He almost laughed at the manic though of using it, but it did settle the uncomfortable stirring in his chest as they continued.

It wasn’t until they had tramped through a doorway into a windowless room, passing the flickering light at the doorway that Osric turned around and looked as if he would answer his sister. She stood facing him with her arms crossed, her lips pressed closed. Leonard wondered if she was literally biting her tongue to keep from saying something more.

There was something darker in Osric’s face, now. Leonard recognized the face of someone with uncertain information and that was unsure of their true allies; he’d seen that same look on Wilhelmina’s face; he’d seen it on his father’s.

“You couldn’t have been more than ten. You were delirious when I-when I delivered the medicine, from Krosis.” Osric swallowed a couple of times, his hands behind his back, eyes downcast for reasons were beyond and baffled Leonard.

“You…you brought me medicine?” to Leonard, it was hard to tell if there was more confusion or incredulity behind the awe.

“Yes. You would have died without the medici-without the antidote….” Osric’s miserable glance finally met Wilhelmina’s.

photo by Ioan Sameli

Click here for Part 24!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 22

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 21

“I should have known,” Osric muttered under his breath. The intelligent glint in his eyes reminded Leonard yet again of Wilhelmina, and he was sure he could see the taller man’s mind churning within.

“So you haven’t been working with her?” Wilhelmina kept an even tone and a straight face, mincing no words and wasting no time cutting to the chase. Her arms were crossed as she cast her own appraising look over her brother, weighing his every word and move, Leonard was sure.

The siblings stared each other down, the tenuous strand between them straining to pull them back together even as is it threatened to snap. The air between them seemed to crackle.

Leonard was uncertain what Osric could be so suspicious about concerning them, and it was indeed the weight of suspicion that hung over them. He continued to glance between the feminine and masculine features that were as similar as they were unique.

“Work with Etta?” Osric’s brow, if possible, furrowed more, the line of his jaw becoming harder. There was confusion written on his face and a shadow of something else. “What would I be working with Etta on? And why?” He crossed his arms across his chest, waiting for Wilhelmina’s answer.

“You’d know better than I,” Wilhelmina replied. Leonard thought there was something acidic in her tone. Another tense moment of silence passed in the strange group under the even stranger sky.

“Leave us. Go check the wards and perimeter,” Osric said over his shoulder to the two armed men he’d arrived with. The men exchanged a brief glance with each other before leaving without a word or glance at the unexpected visitors.

“Who is this?” Osric asked, thrusting his chin in Leonard’s direction.

“A Letterman, of course,” Wilhelmina answered casually.

“Of course he’s a Letterman, you came through the pond. But I don’t recognize him,” Osric replied, his tone taking on an edge as he inspected Leonard more closely with narrowed eyes and slight tilt of his head.

“Leonard, Leonard Letterman,” Leonard supplied before Wilhelmina could answer. He couldn’t explain why, but he felt he should introduce himself. Plus, so far he was feeling like the equivalent of the rucksack on Wilhelmina’s back, except he’d already served his most useful purpose, taking Wilhelmina through the pond to Krosis.

“Gerard’s son,” Wilhelmina added, still studying her brother’s face with her sharp, blue eyes. Something flashed across Osric’s face for the barest of moments at mention of this detail; so quickly, in fact, that Leonard was uncertain if it had been a trick of the oddly muted light.

“So, what brings the Letterman and you to Krosis?” Osric inquired, returning his attention to Wilhelmina. Leonard wondered why Osric seemed to stress Wilhelmina’s appearance over his own, not that it matter to Leonard personally, but it made him curious.

Wilhelmina looked back at Leonard for a moment before sighing and turning to Osric before replying. “It’s difficult to know where to start, but I have a few questions for you first, if you don’t mind.” Wilhelmina added a soft, placating smile.

Osric stood up straighter, moving his hands to his hips, flirting with his hilts as he considered, an edge to his features. “Ask away, but I cannot promise that I will answer.”

“Can I expect honest ones?” she looked unapologetic about the question, her face impassive as she waited, arms still casually crossed.

Osric looked to Leonard like he was about to retort sharply, but something stilled him and Osric inclined is head slightly as he answered. “I give you my word as a Pond that any answer I give, will be the truth.” His lips quirked into the barest shadow of smile that Leonard felt accentuated the man’s regal features.

“When did you last see or speak with Etta and concerning what?” Leonard tried not to look surprised by Wilhelmina’s steadfast and direct question, wasting no time. It made him begin to worry there was more of a time constraint than Wilhelmina had yet to mention; then again, it could just have easily been her natural way.

Osric considered the question, though Leonard couldn’t say if the consideration was whether to answer or trying to recall.

“We had a…disagreement, a few months ago. She left here in a bit of a rage and I haven’t heard from her since. The last thing she said to me was a threat and the need for keeping certain information to myself.” Osric’s eyes almost glittered as he watched Wilhelmina for reaction and reply. Leonard’s eyes flicked between the two, searching for any sign he could find. More than ever he felt out of place and useless.

“What did you disagree about?” Wilhelmina’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly. The energy around her seemed to vibrate to Leonard; it told him they were on the precipice of learning something of important.

Osric was in no hurry to answer, his gaze roving over the pond, the walls, the sky, and the two visitors in silence with a small, almost sad smile. “What does it matter to you? I find it hard to believe you’ve summoned a Letterman to come to Krosis to ask about a disagreement I had with Etta.”

The hairs on the back of Leonard’s neck stood on end; there was something in Osric’s choice of reply that struck Leonard as odd, though he couldn’t place exactly what. Instead, Leonard continued to defer to Wilhelmina, waiting to see if she would press Osric for an answer or move on to something else. So far, it was still uncertain whether they were dealing with friend or foe, and what either could mean for them.

“I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t of importance, and I have confirmation that it is Etta’s actions, at least in part, that bring us here. We are looking for more information on the matter. We also intend to locate and liberate people that we have reason to believe have been abducted from Palloria and are being held here against their will, and bring them back with us.” Wilhelmina eventually responded.

“Thus, we find ourselves here and inquiring about your last interaction with her,” she added. Leonard noted that she had not yet shared what they had found out after learning of Jarra’s betrayal. He was certain she was waiting for proof of Osric’s desire to assist them and that he could be trusted fully. This made him wonder how Wilhelmina was truly feeling, being fact-to-face with her older brother.

Again, Osric took his time to reply, considering all that Wilhelmina said, taking in the sight of their packs and weapons. The sight of the sword strapped to Leonard’s waist seemed to amuse him, which did not escape Leonard’s notice.

“I think we need to have a serious and more…open discussion, which means we should retire to a more closed area, such as the war room, so if you will please follow me,” Osric flashed them an unreadable smile, devoid of true warmth but not wholly unfriendly. Without waiting for reply he turned on his heel and proceed for the open doorway.

Wilhelmina exchanged a look with Leonard that he could not read, except for the mix of confusion and curiosity that he recognized in himself. She then turned to follow her brother, who was waiting for them in the break between the strange stone walls.

Before he turned to show them where they were going, Osric leaned close to his younger sibling and gently said, “You’ve certainly grown up well since the last time I saw you, and look to be in much better health,” a heartening if slightly devious smile on his lips.

photo by Dennis Jarvis

Click here for Part 23!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 21

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.

from Flickr by Peter Broster

Click here for Part 22!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 20

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 19

Wilhelmina’s determined face softened enough to grant Leonard an encouraging smile as she led the way out of the kitchen. Masha trailed behind them like a lost puppy, causing Leonard to wonder what she would be doing while he and Wilhelmina sought answers in Krosis; though, not for long, he was too absorbed with what he and Wilhelmina would find when they passed through the pond.

Leonard’s heart kept time with their footsteps as they wound their up to the outer chamber of Wilhelmina’s rooms to retrieve their packs…and weapons.

They both checked the contents of their rucksacks, Leonard’s full of the clothes that he’d placed there last night, but it has also been stocked with fruits, breads, and other wrapped foodstuffs. There also looked to be a couple of small books tucked in that he thought he recognized from the stacks Wilhelmina had sorted through the before, as well as a sleeping roll.

“I filled it this morning,” came Masha’s small voice behind Leonard’s stooped form. Leonard smiled at and thanked her over his shoulder before rising and slinging the pack over his back.

“I hope you don’t mind, I didn’t have enough room in mine for everything and there was sufficient room in yours,” Wilhelmina added as she adjusted her sword belt after donning her own pack.

“Not at all,” Leonard replied, trying to arrange his own weapons around his pack, unsuccessfully. It wasn’t until Wilhelmina had come to his assistance that Leonard was properly outfitted. She made a point of showing him how to fit his quiver, pack, and bow on his back and still be able to use them if necessary.

Leonard swallowed and tried not to focus on the weight of the sword at his hip and the wild thoughts of possibly needing to use it. He kept imaging scenes from movies, the clashing of steel and fall of bodies after been struck down, pained faces spewing blood along with their last breaths. He shivered.

“If you’re ready, we should go.” Wilhelmina was waiting in the doorway, an unreadable expression on her face. Masha stood beside her, the younger woman’s outline quivering as she darted glances at Wilhelmina while chewing on her bottom lip.

Leonard squared his shoulders and followed the women out of the room and down the hall, turning down a different set of hallways than the ones he had begun to recognize. It felt strange to find himself wanting to cling to this place when it wasn’t much more familiar than where he was headed. What was stranger was his lack of homesickness, but Leonard chalked that up to not being gone long.

The small procession made its way through various halls, around corners, and finally down a much smaller staircase than the one in the entrance hall.  The dust their footprints disturbed informed Leonard of the stairs’ little use, at least in recent days.

They had only just left the stairs behind when Wilhelmina reached for the handle of an aged wooden door. She pulled it open and Leonard was greeted with shafts of light so bright that it temporarily blinded him.

After blinking furiously and through partially squinted eyes, Leonard passed through the door and out into the foreign sunlight, and the luscious garden basking in the warm light. Birds and other forest creatures announced themselves in their various; chirps, rustlings, caws, creaks, and more, a song by and for nature.

While Leonard took his time taking in the beauty of the garden, Wilhelmina pulled Masha away and the two women conferred privately. Leonard tried to focus on the bird song and the wind through the stately trees instead of the sniffling he was certain came from Masha in between the soft murmur of conversation.

He ventured further into the garden until he found himself at the edge of a small pond. It was shimmering and glowing with the same luminescent blue and purple lights he’d seen before. Something about the glittering surface comforted him in an inexpressible way, calming the nerves that had been causing his heart to attempt to free itself from his chest.

“Leonard?” Wilhelmina stood next him on the edge of the pond, looking at the water with a mix of apprehension and excitement.

“Now or never, right?” Leonard could hear the oddity in his tone, a voice not quite his own.

Wilhelmina nodded, checking the various weaponry strapped to her lithe form before speaking again. “There’s no telling if we will be greeted when we arrive, or what sort of reception we can expect, as I’m sure you know by now. That being said, I ask that you please allow me to do the talking and stay a step behind me.”

Leonard nodded mutely and reached out for Wilhelmina’s hand. She looked from the glassy surface to Leonard’s waiting palm before placing hers in it. A gust of wind filled Leonard’s nostrils with the scent of water lilies, making his heart flutter.

“On the count of three, then?” Wilhelmina asked, her intelligent eyes turned to Leonard. They stared at each other for a moment, neither daring to move. Again, Leonard nodded, repressing the urge to tighten his grip on Wilhelmina’s hand.

“Alright then. One…”



photo by Annika Nyberg

Click here for Part 21!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 19

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 18

Leonard had trouble finding sleep again. His mind had been burning with questions and possibilities since the moment he’d seen the letter with his name on it, which seemed a lifetime ago as he lay here, in a foreign world on the verge of adventuring into another. But now, after such an abrupt awakening adding even more intrigue to the ever blossoming mystery, his mind had wings, soaring through possibilities, taking him further away from the land of dreams.

He tossed and turned in the plush bed, rearranging his pillows and pulling the blankets up to his face, curling his body around the excess material as he waited for sleep to come over him. One of Leonard’s last thoughts before slipping back into the arms of sleep was the sensation of being a child again, waiting for Christmas morning.

However, it wasn’t the painful anticipation of present opening that wakened Leonard when morning arrived, but the whispering of his name and a gentle shake of his shoulder. He awoke with a jolt, blinking furiously at the unexpected light that met his sleepy eyes as he turned towards the yelp of his waker.

A red-nosed, red-eyed Masha stood frozen at Leonard’s bedside, a weak and sheepish smile on her face. “Breakfast is ready, Mr. Letterman. Miss is downstairs waiting for you,” she said hoarsely before giving a brief nod and disappearing from the room.

Leonard shook his head and blinked a few times to shake off the last vestiges of sleep. He looked around the unfamiliar room as he rose from the bed, reaching for and pulling on his shirt and boots. The hallway door was now unlocked and ajar, marking Masha’s entrance and exit.

Hesitantly, Leonard leaned out into the hallway, looking up and down each way before turning to the left and heading in the direction, he believed, of the kitchen. He was as anxious about finding the kitchen in a timely fashion as he was uncertain how he would feel once he arrived. Wilhelmina had made clear her desire to leave as soon as possible in the morning, but now that the time was here, Leonard had to admit he was more than a little apprehensive about what they might find in Krosis.

His footsteps echoed off the stone when he left the carpeted hall as Leonard tried to swallow the lump in his throat that throbbed like his heart. Things felt even more surreal as he imagined having to use some of the defensive moves Wilhelmina had taught him the previous evening. Only his sore body confirmed that it had not been a dream. Finding himself at the top of the staircase from the day before, Leonard slowed his pace.

He was half-way down the stairs when a figure appeared in the corner of his eye, at the mouth of the hallway towards the kitchen. Wilhelmina was wearing clothing very similar to what Leonard had on, black pants meant for traveling, a light gray shirt, and tall black boots; he thought she looked far more comfortable in her attire, standing with her hands on her hips as she waited for him to finish descending the staircase.

Her long, dark hair was braided, wrapped, and pinned to the back of her head, leaving only a few inches of the braided tip to dangle near her collar bone. Leonard couldn’t help thinking she looked quite fetching as she stood there, bright eyes denying their interrupted slumber.

As Leonard reached the bottom step, Wilhelmina turned without a word and disappeared down the hall and into the kitchen. He followed her, equally silent, down the hall and into the homey room filled with the smell of fresh baked bread.

photo by Karen, flickr

“Let me know if there is anything else Masha, or I, can get for you,” Wilhelmina said as Leonard approached the table where she sat. An empty plate was waiting for him in the seat across from her, the middle of the table laden with plates of eggs, bacon, toast, and sausage; a steaming mug next to his plate smelled spectacularly of coffee.

“This looks just fine, thank you,” Leonard replied as he took his seat, trying to push away the feeling that this was some sort of last meal. He spooned a little of everything onto his plate, munching a piece of toast first as he eyed the map Wilhelmina had spread in front of her on the table. They had looked over it the night before.

“Unless you have any other ideas, once we’ve finished eating, I say we check our packs and head out. No use wasting any daylight in Krosis, it’s weak enough light, we don’t want to try finding our way around in deep dark,” Wilhelmina reasoned.

Leonard tried not to choke on his toast at the thought of leaving so soon. He took a sip of his coffee, the refreshment surging through him, warming his insides.

“What do you think we will run into when we get there?” Leonard asked as Masha appeared at his elbow and refilled his mug, eyes darting to Wilhelmina and back again to the task at hand before darting off again.

“It’s hard to say. Not knowing all of the facts about the current situation, it’s as likely we will find an ambush as allies,” Wilhelmina answered simply, seemingly indifferent. “We go prepared for either,” she affirmed.

Breakfast didn’t last long. The inhabitants of the table were in no state for large meals, their hearts and minds too full of thought. Leonard only managed to pick at his plate and drain another cup of warming coffee before Wilhelmina finally stood, indicating it was time to go.

“Are you ready?” Wilhelmina asked, turning to look at Leonard as he got to his feet. Her eyes reminded him of the lights he saw glimmering in the pond before finding himself in Palloria.

“As I’ll ever be.”

Click here for Part 20!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 18

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 17

Leonard stayed where he was, unable to return to his own chamber and bed as if nothing had happened. Waiting until morning didn’t feel like an option when his mind was now awake and churning with even more questions.

“If you insist on speaking before morning, then please be so kind as to wait in the outer room. I will return shortly,” Wilhelmina called over her shoulder before exiting through the door with a farewell flick of her nightdress hem as she turned the corner.

With Wilhelmina’s words in his ears, and without the commotion and drama of the scene to distract him, Leonard became acutely aware of the fact that he was standing in the woman’s bedroom, alone. He hurried to the door that led to the outer chamber, where they had discussed plans at length only hours before, but the feel of cool air on his exposed chest as he moved caused him to turn back to his own room first.

Leonard retrieved and donned the shirt he’d discarded before slipping into sleep and retraced his steps to the outer room through the connected inner doors; his door leading to the hallway was still locked and he was uncertain if there was a way to unlatch it from inside.

He paced the length of the room for a few moments, uncertain of how long it would be before Wilhelmina’s return. Leonard paused each time he passed the door that Masha had thrown closed behind her, wondering if the young woman had wept herself to sleep, or if she was still huddled alone with her thoughts and tears.

Eventually, he reclaimed the chair he had used earlier, and continued to wait for Wilhelmina’s return. He wondered where she was, whether she had gone down to see Jerra and issue a sentence…his thoughts turned to the plan Jerra had laid out, including Leonard’s own kidnap. Something inside Leonard shivered and sickened at the idea of what Etta could possibly want with him and he shook his head to rattle such thoughts into silence.

At last, Leonard heard a familiar tread and the rustling of soft material before the hall door opened. Wilhelmina looked unsurprised to see Leonard waiting for her, but she look drained; her steps were slow and clumsy as she neared the desk before collapsing into the chair next to Leonard, her face peaked as she turned to him.

“I sealed the portal on this side, as it should have been. Now, no one from Krosis can enter, not without my knowledge and permission, at least,” Wilhelmina answered before Leonard could inquire, her voice thick with exhaustion. Her unblemished features appeared to be cracking beneath the strain of the day, soft lines appearing around her eyes and lips.

Leonard nodded mutely in response and ignored the impulse to reach out and squeeze the woman’s hand, uncertain if it would be welcomed or considered intrusive.

“Come, Leonard, we must both get what rest we can before the day starts, so out with it. What would you like to know?” Wilhelmina asked with one slender hand propped beneath her chin. Her normally sharp eyes had a bleary sheen to them as she stared at Leonard, waiting for him to respond.

He cleared his dry throat and swallowed a couple of times before Leonard was finally able to ask, “What will happen with Jerra?” He’d intended to ask a series of follow-up questions to further fill in some of the gaps in his knowledge and understanding about what he had learned this evening, but his voice halted after the weight of the first had fallen from his tongue.

Wilhelmina released a sigh the wind would have been envious of, massaging her temple again before answering. “Honestly, I don’t know, yet. Even though there are extenuating circumstances, a trusted confidant committed treason, and that cannot be taken lightly. Most likely I’ll prolong the need for anything more than containment until some semblance of order can be restored here. We’ll deal with all of them at once, when we have all of the facts.”

Leonard wasn’t sure what he had expected or wanted to hear, but he was satisfied with what he did. It certainly sounded like the fairest way to handle things, waiting until all evidence was in, all sides of the story told before appropriate, fair action would be taken.

“We will do all we can to find out if Jylla truly is still alive, and bring her home, along with everyone else, anyone else, there against their will,” Wilhelmina interjected into the silence that had joined them, no longer sounding ready to lay down her head and sleep for ages. Goosebumps broke out over Leonard’s skin.

“Do you believe Etta really has Jylla? Is keeping her there, alive?” Leonard knew he had to ask, had to know what she believed.

“At this point, I wouldn’t put it past Etta. And for Jylla and Jerra’s sake, I hope it’s true. But I fear what purpose she is being kept for, what anyone there is being kept for….” Wilhelmina’s answer chilled Leonard’s marrow. He swallowed audibly, palms sweating as he tried to shake away the feeling of a nightmare from a distant memory gnawing the edges of his mind.

“We really should sleep, Leonard. We have many long days ahead of us, and there is no telling what kind of sleep we will be able to catch.” Wilhelmina pushed herself from her chair with effort. As guilty as Leonard felt about keeping Wilhelmina awake, he was hesitant to leave, content in her presence…and a little unnerved by the hazy memory trying to force its way into clarity.

Still, he knew she was right about them needing sleep, and he was too embarrassed to admit his unsettling sensation and desire for company, so Leonard rose and followed Wilhelmina by the door to the adjoining room. She led him through her bedroom and into his own, checking the handle of the hallway door before returning to the threshold to her bedroom.

“We can speak more in the morning, Leonard. In fact I’m sure we will, at length, before we leave. If you need anything though, just knock. Pleasant dreams,” Wilhelmina said softly, her blue eyes reddened with exhaustion, before giving him a small smile and closing the door.

Leonard turned back to his bed, tucking away the impulse to check under it for monsters as he tucked himself between the sheets again to wait for morning.

blog post pic
original photo here

Click here for Part 19!

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.

photo from Flick, by Steve Snodgrass

Click here for Part 18!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 16

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 15

Wilhelmina’s eyes grew wide and she exchanged a significant look with Jerra as he placed the compact mirror into her palm. She ran her fingers over it, careful to keep it closed.

“Is it”- Jerra’s affirmative nod left the remainder of Wilhelmina’s question unspoken.

“It was lost…” her voice sounded far away to Leonard, even though she was standing right next to him.

“Not lost, Miss. Stolen, hidden, and found again,” Jerra replied, his voice creaking, eyes flickering between the ground in front of him and Wilhelmina’s face. “It was in Krosis.”

“How did she get this?” Wilhelmina asked, her eyes narrowing as she looked to Jerra.

“I don’ know, Miss. I only know she give me tha’, told and me how to use it, gave orders through it” he said miserably, hanging his head further as he spoke. Silence stretched itself throughout the room, tucking itself into every corner.

“Um…could someone maybe explain? Otherworlder here, a little confused.” Leonard waved with a nervous grin at the pairs of eyes that turned to him. Wilhelmina cast Leonard yet another of her appraising looks. Even then, she seemed far away to him, lost in the forest of her own thoughts.

“Forgive me,” Wilhelmina started, looking between the old man in irons and the shirtless Leonard next to her.

“This,” she held up the small, closed mirror, “is a speaking glass, long thought to have vanished. It allows you to speak through the glass across great distances, including through the portal. You speak with the reflection of the person holding the glass’s partner.

“It seems Jerra here,” Wilhelmina continued with a brief but venomous glance to the named man, who flinched at the way she spit his name out, “has been utilizing this to speak with and act on orders from Etta, which also confirms that my sister is not in danger, but is most likely the cause of it.” Her expression darkened, soft features growing harder than they seemed capable of becoming.

“Out with the rest, Jerra.” Wilhelmina crossed her arms as she waited, mirror still closed in her hand, reminding Leonard of the way she had clutched the amulet in it hours earlier.

“Masha and me, we was talkin’ about the Letterman, and the amulet in the ki’chen. She told me how you found it. So, when there was a momen’, I slipped away and spoke to her through the glass. Told her about them both.” Jerra seemed to grow even smaller as he detailed his betrayal.

“She told me to bring the amulet to the portal, and then someone would be through to-to take…to take Mr. Letterman,” he admitted despondently. Leonard exchanged a bewildered glance with Wilhelmina.

Me? What could she want with me?” Leonard exclaimed, looking from Wilhelmina to Jerra as he tried to rein in the alarm rising in his chest.

“I swear, I don’ know. I just did as she told, Miss,” Jerra answered, emphatically shaking his head as he looked at Wilhelmina with a pained expression.

“Why did you do as she told you?” Wilhelmina asked, piercing the man with her words as much as with her stare. Leonard watched her outline shake with restrained emotion. Jerra’s weathered face looked ancient, his lower lip trembling slightly as he held his questioner’s eye.

“She…she told me my lil’ lass wasn’ missin’, tha-that she was in Krosis and, she told me tha’, I’d get her back, if I do as she say.” His voice cracked and his eyes started to leak, pleading as he added, “I’m sorry, Miss! I just had to try…”

Wilhelmina paused a moment before asking the same question crossing Leonard’s mind, the harshness gone from her tone, “how did you know Etta truly had her? Jylla went missing nearly four years ago.”

Jerra nodded towards Wilhelmina’s hand. “I saw her, in the speakin’ glass, just over a year ago.”

original by David Goehring

Click here for Part 17!