Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 33

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 32

He took barely two steps until he was looking down on Leonard and Wilhelmina, surveying them with a glare. Standing this close, Leonard was acutely aware of how tall the other man was, who seemed to even have an inch or two on lanky Osric. Leonard was eye to chin with him.

Leonard swallowed with difficulty as the hazel eyes of the older man continued to bore into him. A scar ran down the right side of the man’s face, growing out from his gray hairline in faded scar tissue, down until it met the curve of his chin. Leonard found himself wincing at his earlier rush for action, the judgmental way he’d viewed Osric’s response, even if the words “come up with a plan” still sliced at his nerves like razorblades. He swallowed again, and still there was only silence to accompany the unyielding gaze.

At last, the man’s lips parted to release a grave and gravelly voice. “Would you so willingly and recklessly send friends, family to be tortured, killed, when you knowingly lack information and possible tools necessary to be of any help?” there was no accusation in his voice, which surprised Leonard. Instead, there was only a deep and weary sadness clinging to space his words had taken up, and in the forest of his eyes.

Leonard’s insides withered. He felt like an impulsive teenager trying to race off and save the day, or someone too young to understand the importance of patience. Though he was tempted to point out that his family was one of the ones taken, as Leonard looked at Wilhelmina, and even Osric and the strangers in front of him, he knew he’d never be able to send them into danger…at least not without knowing it would be worth it, which it would have to be.

The older man nodded silently at some change he saw in Leonard’s face before turning his hard gaze to Wilhelmina. Leonard looked over as well and saw her standing with her arms crossed and jaw set, but her face had a crumpled look to it that illustrated her own second thoughts.

“Good. When there’s plan, I will help you,” he said approvingly with a nod before turning and reclaiming his seat. The younger version with black hair did not look pleased.

Osric beamed momentarily at each face in the room, then clapped his hands together and said, “Well then, let’s have introductions. Then we’ll work on that plan.” The last part Osric said to Leonard pointedly, and with a sincerity that moderately calmed the urgency in Leonard’s veins.

“Here we have,” Osric started, nodding in the direction of the gray head, “Nox, his son, Wolfhart. Both are the best strategists and fighters this side of Krosis.” The woman with white-blonde hair rolled her eyes while Nox inclined his head in acknowledgement, but his younger version remained as still as a statue, complete with stony expression.

“That lad there is Coppa,” Osric gestured, with a tilt to his lips, to the chestnut-haired young man, who looked like a mischievous character, emphasized by the slight point to the tip of his ears.

“Coppa has a knack with any kind of technology, and can engineer or fix almost anything.” Coppa rubbed the nails of his left hand against his tunic then blew on them with a carefree expression and an impish wink. Leonard thought he heard Wilhelmina chuckle softly.

“Coppa is also studying with Xandi,” Osric continued, this time pointing to the woman with her hair wrapped around her. “Xandi is a gifted sorceress.” She gave them a thin smile as she stroked the black river of hair that flowed across her chest. It was impossible for Leonard to tell how old she was; every time he blinked, her features appeared older or younger, never constant enough to form a true mental image of what her face looked like, but always with the same regal countenance. Leonard’s mind filled with questions and curiosities he wished to ask her about, but his attention was recaptured by Osric speaking again.

“Last, and certainly not least, we have Ursa. Her stealth and reconnaissance abilities are unmatched. She’s also an excellent, experienced fighter, particularly close quarters.” Ursa looked much happier after her own introduction.

“Everyone,” Osric said to the group around the table, “this is Wilhelmina and Leonard.” There was a pregnant pause, the seated occupants looking expectantly from one face to the other before settling back on Osric’s.

He took a deep breath before saying, “Wilhelmina is my younger sister, from Palloria, and Leonard, is the Letterman.”

From the expressions around the table, it was most unexpected news.


Click here for Part 34!


Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 32

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 31


Leonard drew comfort from the hand tucked in his that pulled him along since the owner seemed to know where they were going, or possibly could see better in the dark. Whatever the reason, Leonard was glad that Wilhelmina was undeterred by the pitch black hallway leading them to further into the unknown.

For a while, Leonard could only hear the shuffle and tromp of their paired feet, which echoed slightly off the walls. At some point it sounded like there was a soft, steady, drip to be heard between the footfalls. There was a dank quality to the air the farther they walked, and eventually a gentle downward slope to their path that caused Leonard the slightest hesitation when placing his feet.

They’d been walking long enough for Leonard to start wondering whether they were in a corridor or a tunnel when a dim and distant light could be seen up ahead; between their steps also came the steady rumble of voices that grew louder as they neared.

Leonard’s pulse quickened at the sound. Wilhelmina’s fingers twitched in his hand.

The darkness of the passage they’d been traversing had acclimated Leonard’s eyes enough to the dark that he was partially blinded when they found themselves outside of a room with an open door as the source of the light. His head gave another nasty throb, reminding him of its recent contact with stone.

They could hear the voices more clearly now, but it seemed like there were at least two people speaking at once at all times, though the pairings seemed to change. It made the tangled mess of words difficult to separate and absorb into any meaningful message.

Osric halted at the door to give Wilhelmina and Leonard a measured look before squaring his shoulders and entering the room with a low, “this way,” to them.

The many-tongued conversation paused immediately when Osric stepped into the room. His presence was soon followed by a raucous greeting, which abruptly ceased the moment that Wilhelmina and Leonard appeared at Osric’s shoulder. At some point, Wilhelmina reclaimed her hand.

Leonard squinted marginally, resisting the urge to raise his arm and shield his eyes from the blinding light. The room looked far smaller than its dimensions suggested, the space largely filled with a battered but sturdy looking table surrounded by mismatched chairs in similar condition, most of which were occupied.

Five pairs of eyes grew wide as they surveyed Wilhelmina and Leonard. They looked to be of a variety of ages; the oldest seemed to be a man sitting at the corner of the table with gray hair knotted at the base of his skull; the youngest appeared closer to Wilhelmina’s age, a man with chestnut hair and sharp features who had turned in his chair to gape at them.

There were three men and two women. The remaining man looked like a younger, wilder version of the eldest, his long hair dark and untamed, left to entangle itself in the scruffy beard that reached his chest. The women looked like inverses of each other; the younger had hair so blonde it looked white, cropped short in a fashion similar to Osric’s and blending into translucently white skin, giving her a ghostly appearance; the other had her long, black hair plaited and wrapped around her shoulders like a scarf with golden beads threaded through it, her dark skin emanating with an ineffable glow.

Osric held up his hands to deter interruption. “My companions do not understand why nothing has yet been done about the information we recovered regarding the portals and the taken.”

Though obviously riddled with questions and shock at the unexpected arrivals, Osric’s statement had an even more surprising effect on the seated group, which seemed to push all focus on who the visitors were from their minds.

The man with iron gray locks rose slowly from his chair.

Click here for Part 33!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 31

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 30

A chill had crept into the room that had little to do with the temperature. The light shivered again.

“Am I to understand that you’re opposed to coming up with a plan?” Osric crossed his arms over his broad chest. He eyed Leonard with a pompous air that Leonard was certain was more bravado than anything else.

“Plans are good to have, but not when you’re too busy doing the planning that the acting on it part gets left out,” Leonard retorted, glaring back at Osric.

It took Leonard more than a moment to place where the anger pounding in his chest had come from; not only was there a possibility that his father was somehow, inexplicably, alive, but few if any efforts had been made to rescue him, or the others being held against their will. The blood in Leonard’s veins boiled like a molten river.

“Neither of you understand!” Osric countered as he launched himself to his feet and renewed his pacing. Each footfall felt like a jab in Leonard’s side, nudging him onward.

Leonard opened his mouth to reply, but a small hand gripped his shoulder, effectively freezing his tongue. Wilhelmina reassuringly squeezed his shoulder again before rising to her feet as well. The argument that had roused him now made much more sense as it was take up anew.

“You see! I’m not the only one that finds it hard to believe that nothing has been done yet. We can’t wait forever. There must be something, Osric,” Wilhelmina nearly pleaded, her voice a painful swirl of emotions, but with iron at its center.

Osric continued to pace and rubbed his forehead as if he hadn’t heard her, deftly side-stepping Wilhelmina each time he found her in his path. At last, he turned with a dramatic sweep to face them. Osric gave them a measured look before nodding and striding towards the door.

“Come with me,” he said, reaching one of his large hands out to Leonard, who was still on the floor with the wall at his back. Leonard hesitated for the space of a breath before grasping the taller man’s wrist and allowing himself to be pulled to his feet effortlessly.

“Where are we headed?” Leonard asked as Osric pulled open the heavy chamber door and entered the dark corridor, pausing after a stride to wait for his companions. Leonard’s legs felt a little shaky but seemed likely to support him. He leaned against the wall to steady himself as he made to gather up his satchel and arms.

“You can leave those here for now. We will either return here or have your things brought to you when needed,” Osric called from the hall. Leonard caught Wilhelmina’s eye, his hand hovering over the satchel’s strap.

Wilhelmina considered before setting aside her bow and her sword belt, but Leonard noticed that she did not relieve herself of all the weapons she had brought, such as the ones tucked into her boots. She also kept her own pack safely slung over her back. Leonard followed her lead; he grabbed up his own bag and left all else behind, then tailed Wilhelmina in to the hall.

Osric said nothing of their still laden shoulders, but turned and continued down a side hallway that Leonard had not realized was there in the shadowy corridor.

“Where are we going?” Leonard whispered as he blindly stumbled after Osric’s footsteps. Out of the darkness, a soft hand slipped into his and pulled him along.

“To enlighten you,” Osric called darkly from up ahead, his voice echoing off the empty stone hall.

photo by Ioan Sameli

Click here for Part 32!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 30

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 29

“You can’t just go tearing off into the city’s heart! You know nothing about this place, and I won’t let you get yourself killed, or worse, while you get yourself lost. Especially not without better intelligence than we have,” a deep voice stressed to whisper commandingly, only partially succeeding at both.

I will go where I see fit, Osric. Someone needs to straighten this out and I won’t be left behind waiting, left in the dark!” a woman whispered back, far more effective at replying in both a whisper and commanding tone.

The voices continued to murmur to each other, but it didn’t make much sense to Leonard, who heard them as if they were far away. Any of the words he did managed to catch seemed to float around in his mind, but never anchored into fully coherent messages.

Leonard was sure the voices sounded familiar, and in a far off way, he knew that what they were talking about mattered. He also became aware of his cheek against cold stone as he lay prostrate. An unbidden groan escaped his lips, head throbbing murderously at his first attempt to shift his position from the unforgiving ground.

The whispering stopped, replaced with the shuffling of feet. Leonard moaned again as he tried to move his arm to life himself from the ground. Before he’d managed to realize he felt nauseated and maybe should lay back down, there were hands on either side of him, gently assisting him to shift into a sitting position; his head gave another unceremonious throb that sent him falling sideway while cradling his head. The hands held him in place with his back against the wall.

Eventually, Leonard became aware that the murmuring had started up again, but there were longer pauses between each muddled message. He leaned his back against the wall and tried to concentrate on the words floating around his head.

“Leonard? Leonard, how are you feeling?” it was a woman’s voice, but it sounded watery and muffled. Leonard’s head continued to pulsate. He wasn’t sure he wanted to open his eyes, he felt dizzy just being propped against the wall.

“Imkaywhappen?” the string of smashed together and half completed words fell out of Leonard’s mouth in a rush of wheezy air.

“I didn’t quite catch all of that, but I do not think ‘okay’ is any way to describe the situation at hand,” the woman’s voice said near Leonard’s ear. Though everything still felt fuzzy and he had not yet opened his eyes, Leonard was able to recognize Wilhelmina’s voice as hers at last. Small comforts, he told himself through the pulsating of his head.

“You’ve been out for a while, so don’t move too fast,” Osric’s deeper voice sounded in Leonard’s other ear. Leonard felt the weight of the larger man’s hand rest on his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. To Leonard’s surprise, it also made him feel a little better.

With great effort and much trepidation, Leonard slowly opened his eyes, though quickly shaded them from the only lamplight with his hand, grateful for the dimly lit room. “What happened?” he asked after a moment, resisting the urge to shake his head to clear it for fear of angering his gently pulsing head.

“Well, we were discussing the direness of our circumstances when…well, you hit the floor- I tried to catch you, mate, sorry about that. But you just sort of…shut off, blacked out. We were actually going to ask you what happened,” Osric answered.  Though he attempted to sound lighthearted, Leonard could see the uncertainty Osric felt; his drown together eyebrows and worried gaze were telling enough.

“How long have I been out?” Leonard asked, trying not to cringe from the answer. Collapsing for any amount of time after the mention of things getting more dangerous didn’t sound like the best way to contribute to a mission or an adventure to Leonard.

“It’s hard to say for sure in here, but an hour or two, I’d wager,” Osric replied as if reporting that the sun was shining that day, and it was of no consequence. Leonard could tell the minimization of time was for his benefit.

“It was enough time for Mi-Wilhelmina and I to get each other caught up on a few things, get a little reacquainted,” Osric added with a soft smile in his sister’s direction. Wilhelmina did not return the smile, but her eyes were brighter.

“Oh?” Leonard asked, slowly looking from Osric to Wilhelmina.

Wilhelmina nodded and said, “We weren’t able to revive you, and so thought it best to use the time we had to go over a few important things. Osric is now more knowledgeable about what’s be going on in Palloria, and I was learning about the situation here in Krosis. We were just discussing what actions we might need to take-“here Osric cut across Wilhelmina.

“Actually, we were having a disagreement about that,” he said with a hard look at Wilhelmina, who seemed unabashed, but remained silent, allowing Osric his say.

“What is it?” Leonard inquired, still shielding his eyes, but no longer needing to squint at his companions. Now that he was more conscious, he was becoming aware of the rising tension between Wilhelmina and Osric and couldn’t help but think that he woke up just in time.

“Osric was explaining to me that there have been some disturbing reports coming in concerning the nature of the portal and shards, mainly what powers then and allows them to work as they do. There is a high likelihood that those that have been abducted have been put to use, in one way or another, to keep them working.” Wilhelmina’s voice drained of color as she shared this information with Leonard, who felt his heart grow painfully cold.

“But…but they’re alright aren’t they? Maybe hurt but, we just need to go and find them, right? Destroy whatever machines are being used, break everyone out and then return everyone home?” Leonard searched both faces for any sign of hope, but he recalled the argument that he’d awoken to, and his heat sank even further.

“It’s not that easy. Everyone has been getting false information from Etta, Wilhelmina and the Palloria side, as well as me and the base here. Only recently have some of the more disconcerting reports made their way through, so it’s been slow work trying to piece the truth out, as well as any possibly compromised people. But we are going to form a plan,” Osric insisted when Leonard’s face hardened.

“You’re telling me that there’s a good chance that the people that have been abducted across various worlds, including Palloria, are being used to somehow power the portal shards, something that really doesn’t sound good for anyone’s health, and we’re going to ‘come up with a plan’?” Leonard was unable to dampen his incredulous tone.

The lamplight flickered.

photo by Stefan Klocek

Click here for Part 31!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 28

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 27

“I don’t know if I’d call it a burning question, but I’d like to know how you came to be here, Leonard Letterman.” Osric looked right at Leonard as he said his name. The shaggy-haired lion had as much curiosity in his eyes as he did amusement on his lips, though there was a foreboding quality to the long stare Leonard kept locked with him.

Wilhelmina remained silent, her eyes roving from one man to the other as they spoke, narrowing almost imperceptibly in Leonard’s direction.

“Well, the short of it is, I found a letter with ‘Letterman’ written on it while on my route. I found my way to some big house and then went through a pond on the grounds and found myself in a study of Wilhelmina’s,” Leonard answered, unable to keep the corners of lips from lifting up, or his voice from becoming lighter.

“How long have you been the Letterman?” Osric asked before Leonard could decide whether or not to continue.

“Oh, um-a day? Two days?” Leonard answered skeptically, looking to Wilhelmina for some sign of confirmation, but she continued holding herself nearly as still as a statue, and certainly as silent as one. “It’s hard to say, but my yesterday was essentially becoming the Letterman…and finding out what that means,” he added, returning his focus to Osric,

The man seemed to be suppressing his surprise, but he could not keep his eyebrows from disappearing under his shaggy locks.

“How is that possible?” Osric asked after a prolonged pause in their conversation. His eyebrows had returned from their hiding place to form a darkly furrowed brow line.

“Well, my father died before he, apparently, had a chance to tell me about…all of this,” Leonard answered, gesturing to the room around them and the situation they found themselves in.

Osric’s demeanor looked darker, his mouth slightly open as he shook his head without seeming to realize he was doing it. “Who is your father?” he asked, eyes now in danger of disappearing beneath his eyebrows.

“Gerard,” came Wilhelmina’s unexpected answer from her place against the wall. She had not moved, but her eyes were now focused on Osric, waiting for his reaction. “His father was Gerard Letterman.”

Osric resumed his pacing again as he absorbed this information, which obviously meant something to him. Leonard’s heart pounded forcefully in his chest as he watched Osric swiftly turn on his heel at each corner of the small room and waited for him to speak. In the back of his mind, a small voice asked Leonard if he really wanted to know the answer to Osric’s palpable agitation.

At last, Osric turned around with a different pained expression on his face than before; there was more frustration and anger muddled in with confusion.

First, he looked to Wilhelmina with a sardonic smile, shaking his head before saying, “I suppose there won’t be a need for continued secrecy between us, little sister. I will share all I know without hesitation or reservation because it will be the only way for us to work together and fix things.” Leonard heard the carefully controlled ferocity within each calmly spoken word.

Wilhelmina was too surprised to look pleased, her lips slightly parted, eyes wide. Her arms loosened from their frozen placement and she shifted away from the wall, still at a loss for words. Suspicion began to cloud her features, but Osric turned to Leonard and spoke first.

“Leonard, I-I don’t-“ Osric stopped abruptly and rubbed his temples a moment before putting his hands on his hips as he faced Leonard and tried a different opening. “How long ago did your father disa-die? How long ago did you say he died?”

Leonard felt like someone was sitting on his chest and it was becoming uncomfortable to breathe. Osric’s question, and correcting himself, didn’t make sense. He felt chilled, but he was starting to sweat, perspiration trickling down the side of his head, palms slickening by the second.

Leonard licked his lips before answering, the salty taste of sweat making his stomach churn. “Twelve years.” It came out raspy and hoarse.

Osric nodded as if this confirmed something to him, but remained silent, taking up his pacing path yet again. Leonard’s arms felt heavy as he moved the few inches that put him in Osric’s path, halting the taller man from his silent brooding.

“Tell me.” It was a demand as much as it was a request, Leonard’s voice small but strong.

Osric took a step back from Leonard, clearing his throat and casting a look in Wilhelmina’s direction before answer, “I saw Gerard Letterman myself, not a week and a half ago, Krosis time. Even with the distortions and time issues we’ve had between here and Palloria, it’s impossible for Gerard to be dead.”

photo by Thomas Hawk

Click here for Part 29!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 27

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 26

Photo by Kahlid Almasoud

Osric looked like he would object, but seemed to think better of it and snapped his mouth closed before nodding and exiting the room with a passing, “just poke your head out, then.” The chamber door closed with a resounding and solid thud, the iron handle clanking with its release.

Leonard barely had time to react to the man’s sudden departure before Wilhelmina said, “my one condition is that you must swear that you will not tell Osric, or anyone about the shard we found.” Her voice was barely above a whisper, and it was hard, sharp.

She leaned close to him, further than he thought was necessary given their proximity, the volume of her voice, and the thick door behind them. Leonard opened his mouth to ask a question but Wilhelmina held up her hand to silence him, casting a suspicious glance at the door before returning her flaming blue gaze back to him.

“Leonard, you must promise me this,” she reiterated even more vehemently. Leonard’s brow crinkled as he leaned away from Wilhelmina’s conspiratorially proximity.

“But why? I mean, we don’t have to just throw it out there, but if it comes up, why hide it?” Leonard managed to ask in a rushed whisper, ignoring Wilhelmina’s attempt to halt his query. He decided that he didn’t necessarily have a problem with keeping that knowledge between the two of them, but he wanted to understand the reason before entering into any form of possible skullduggery.

“Tell me why it’s worth it to start off an attempt to establish trust with a possible ally, with a secret? A condition of any kind? Don’t you think it negates the equally trusting each other part, just a bit?” Leonard’s insides squirmed as he spoke, but his conscience needed a reason and demanded to be heard, even at a whisper.

The look on Wilhelmina’s face strongly put Leonard in mind of his mother when she would rather reply with ‘because I told you so’ but knew that it would only gain her more instead of less pestering. Finally, whatever inner conflict she seemed to be having, resolved.

Wilhelmina leaned in towards Leonard again, pinning him to the spot with her now trademark stare as she hissed, “I need you to understand and trust me when I say that, if we reveal to the wrong people that we have the last portal shard, and are now in Krosis, we could be putting any number of people in unspeakable danger, not to mention ourselves. We’ll be useless to everyone if we’re killed or captured. We cannot let this shard fall into the wrong hands.”

Wilhelmina’s hand fluttered over the middle of her chest where Leonard was certain the amulet rested while hanging around her slender neck. He considered her words silently, his eyes out of focus and far away even as he continued to stare at Wilhelmina’s hand.

Eventually, Leonard nodded his acquiescence without another word. Wilhelmina glowed at him momentarily before turning to allow Osric back into the room, and the conversation. Leonard tried to relax his jaw when the ache in it signaled that he had been clenching it unawares.

“So, are we now to begin this trust building exercise of inquiry exchange?” Osric asked with a hint of sarcasm as he reentered the chamber, rubbing his hands together as he looked from Leonard to Wilhelmina.

Leonard nodded, smiling reassuringly even though he suddenly felt like a bug under a magnifying glass on a sunny day. He hadn’t meant to make himself an integral part of whatever mission they were trying to accomplish, but he seemed to have stumbled into it anyway. With neither sibling willing to be the first to offer information worthy of an ally to the other, someone needed to be the mediator; he could already feel Wilhelmina waiting to weigh every word he chose to give to Osric against every useful; syllable gained in return.

“How should we start, then?” Wilhelmina asked agreeably, though her smile had a more frozen quality to it than Leonard remembered there being before.

The three of them exchanged silent, thoughtful glances before Leonard spoke up.

“Osric, what’s a burning question you have? If I can, I will answer it. We’ll go back and forth from there, switching off who asks a question and who answers,” he proffered, feeling more stupid by the moment, but trying to retain the veneer of confidence; he was a mail man, not a mediator, and definitely not an actor…

There was a tense moment where it looked like Wilhelmina might object, but she held her tongue and inclined her head to her brother. Osric nodded his approval and resumed his pacing after checking that the door had been properly closed again, tapping one large, slender finger against the tip of his chin with every other step.

Wilhelmina briefly glanced at Leonard before folding her arms in front of her chest and leaning against the nearest wall to await Osric’s first question.

Click here for Part 28!

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!