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 29

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 28

Leonard gaped at Osric, his mouth hanging out, heading shaking at the impossibility. Leonard couldn’t understand why Osric would say it if it wasn’t true, but it just wasn’t possible. He searched for Wilhelmina’s face in scope of his blurry vision, finding a paler version than usual, her mouth also agape. She too was shaking her head at the impossibility.

“I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but that’s what we need to find out,” Osric said, turning to Wilhelmina, imploring her with his eyes. “We have a lot of talking to do,” he added with a hard look and disquieting undertone.

When she’d finally unfrozen, Wilhelmina put a hand to her brow and began shaking her head emphatically. Leonard thought he heard her muttering the word “no” but he couldn’t be sure. He felt all the more lost and confused, like the floor had complete disappeared from under him, leaving him scrabbling in free fall hoping for anything to cling to on the way down.

Leonard jumped when the weight of a hand rested on his shoulder. He almost knocked into Wilhelmina, the owner of the hand, with his jarring movement, but steadied after recognizing her touch. Though she looked like she’d aged, Leonard still saw the fierce strength in her gaze, which soothed his anxious thoughts.

He took a slow, deep breath, eyes still locked on Wilhelmina, who nodded at him as he exhaled. The feeling started coming back to his legs, and though his arms still pricked and tingled, they didn’t feel quite so heavy anymore.

“What did he say?” Leonard heard himself ask a little hoarsely, his throat dry. He cleared his throat and swallowed a few times before trying again, sounding much more like his usual self, if a little shaky, “What did my father say to you the last time you saw him?”

Leonard shifted his body and attention to Osric, searching his face for any and every answer that may make itself known. Osric stood in the far corner, where his pacing had taken him, with his hands clasped behind his back.

“He didn’t speak much. That’s part of the strangeness. He hasn’t been fulfilling his duties in the usual fashion for some time now, but Etta’s been explaining it away with one thing and another. Though at this point, I don’t know how much to believe…” Osric’s voice tapered off and his eyes went out of focus. Leonard was sure he was recalling and reexamining everything his older sister may have said to him for a long time.

“When is the last time you saw Gerard in Palloria?” Osric asked Wilhelmina with a shake of his mane, his eyes coming back into focus.

“The last time Gerard was in Palloria, to my knowledge, was the last time Etta was in Palloria, again to my knowledge. And that, was around ten years ago Palloria time. I was still recovering from being sick…or poisoned, as the case stands,” Wilhelmina said, finishing with an indignant huff as she crossed her arms.

Osric’s eyes widened before his furrowed brow overtook them. He slowly shook his head, much in the same way Leonard had moments previously, though Leonard couldn’t imagine what would shock anyone as much as the possibility of their dead father being alive.

“How can that be?” Osric asked the room so softly that Leonard almost missed it.

“How many years has it been, Krosis time, since you came to Palloria with medicine for me?” Wilhelmina inquired, cutting into whatever swarm of thoughts Osric was losing himself in. The shrewd countenance had returned to her features; it was comforting to Leonard to see.

“Nearly five,” Osric replied darkly. The siblings exchanged a meaningful look that was lost on Leonard. He looked between the two of them, hoping one of them would explain the increased anxiety written on their faces.

Leonard tried to remember how to breathe, to send the proper signals from his brain to his heart and lungs to keep him pulling oxygen into his body, and expelling carbon dioxide. At every turn, there was another endless series of questions in need of answering before they could move forward. Each moment held within it the capacity to shatter previous notions of truth and understanding; Leonard wasn’t sure he wanted to be on an adventure anymore.

Pushing aside thoughts of his familiar mail route worlds away, Leonard managed to ask, “What fresh hell does that mean for us?”

Wilhelmina and Osric held each other’s gaze for an infinite moment. Leonard’s heart kept the seconds between his question and their reply.  Finally, Osric looked at him.

“It means, there’s a very good chance that someone is tampering with the power of the portal, or the shards…we need more information, more certainty and facts, but…if the differences in time between our worlds has been intentional, we could be in even more dire circumstances than originally thought…” Osric searched Leonard’s face as his voice died away.

Within the space of his next heartbeat, Leonard felt his legs give way beneath him. The stone floor rose absurdly fast to meet him.

photo by Alexander Wilds

Click here for Part 30!

Fiction Friday: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 15

Previously: The Legend of Leonard Letterman, Pt 14

Leonard sat up in bed, rubbing his tired eyes in attempt to wake them up. His heart was racing, adrenaline pumping through his veins, but sleep still clung around him in attempt to lure him back. Shaking his head, Leonard rose from the bed and paused, listening hard for any sound.

The stone walls weren’t exactly thin, but as he approached the door sharing a wall with Wilhelmina’s room, Leonard was sure he could hear sounds of a scuffle and the grunts of someone being bested, a sound he recognized only after his own practice with the dark haired woman in the next room.

A crash that included splintering wood and weight meeting stone with force, accompanied by raised voices and shouts, sent Leonard bursting through the door and into the next chamber, unsure what he would find, or what he would do.

Leonard plunged into a well-lit bedchamber, also lined with bookshelves and tomes like the outer chamber, to find broken bits of chair at his feet and two bodies struggling near the door on the opposite side of the room. He hurried towards the scuffle and saw Wilhelmina in a white nightgown, her dark hair in a long plait, wrestling with the pinned Jerra.

“Now, Masha! Be quick about it!” Wilhelmina called over her shoulder to a pale Masha standing in the doorway. She nodded once, cast a hurt, confused look to Jerra, and then hurried out through the next chamber’s door.

“Where’s she going?” Leonard’s voice surprised Wilhelmina as she was focused on Jerra, who was still attempting to throw the woman off him with more energy and strength than Leonard had believed the elder man capable of.

“The barracks at the gate, so this traitor, can be properly restrained and questioned,” she hissed, her eyes flashing like bolts of lighting, threatening to set fire to what they struck.

“What happened? Can I do anything?” Leonard asked, looking around the room and feeling useless.

“Grab your sword and cover him while I hold him until soldiers arrive,” Wilhelmina answered briskly.

Though he was sure Wilhelmina had things under control, Leonard did as she suggested and retrieved his sword from the adjacent room. It felt more familiar in his grip now as he returned to Wilhelmina’s side and held the blade a foot above Jerra’s neck, ensuring the old man’s stillness in either life, or death.

“What happened?” Leonard repeated, even as he listened for footsteps and, perhaps, the clanking of armor to announce Masha’s return.

“I can’t speak to his full purpose, yet, but he tried to take the amulet while I slept.” Her voice chilled the room, making Leonard aware that he was shirtless and barefoot.

“I bound it to me so that no one can remove it from my neck but me,” she continued, the amulet in question dangling inches below her throat.“It seems I was right to take such precautions.” Her voice grew softer, her eyes harder as she spoke, glaring at the man beneath her.

Leonard was still trying to find more to say, possibly form his next question, when the clink of metal and heavy tread of many feet met them, ushering in Masha accompanied by four soldiers.

“Chains,” Wilhelmina demanded, her hand outstretched to one of the waiting men in light chain mail and gray armor. The closest obliged, passing the irons at his hip to the Fury before him.

Once the manacles had been secured to his wrists, Wilhelmina finally stood, arms crossed, as two of the soldiers grabbed Jerra by the arms and hoisted him to his feet. He looked even older now, withered and dying under the scrutinous eyes around him.

“I trusted you.” The words pierced the air like a bullet as Wilhelmina stared at Jerra. The room crackled with energy and carefully contained ire. “Speak!” her voice rent the air and nearly every soul in the room quivered.

“I-I’m sorry, Miss,” the old voice whispered at last, his head hanging as he stared at the floor.

“You’ve been responsible for the disappearances, haven’t you?” Wilhelmina questioned, looking only for confirmation, which was given by a sullen nod of the prisoner. She closed her eyes and took a steadying breath. Leonard wished he could read her thoughts.

“What else have you told her? How? What was your plan?” Leonard looked at Wilhelmina, his still partially sleeping mind trying to catch up. He felt like he’d walked into the middle of a conversation instead of watching one unfold from the start.

Jerra looked at each soldier securing him to the spot he stood, then to Masha who was silently observing from a corner of the room, to Leonard standing awkwardly still holding his sword, and finally to Wilhelmina. Jerra shifted his arms, attempting to reach into his worn doublet. The soldiers on either side stiffened, hands ready on sword hilts.

The wrinkled hands produced a hand mirror. The chains binding his wrists together clinked as Jerra held out the object for Wilhelmina to take.

original by David Goehring

Click here for Part 16!