I’ve decided to add a new feature here. Free Novel Wednesday. Of course, you saw that in the title of this post. For at least the next twenty-three weeks, I’m going to post one chapter of a novel each Wednesday, consecutively, until the novel is available for free in its entirety. I’m starting with The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony.
I had originally thought of putting up a ‘written for the blog’ novel as a serial, but with Fragments still needing my attention, I decided I’d turn to a different book, one that I really wish more people were reading.
This is an experiment, of course. There are links at the end of the chapter where you can purchase complete copies of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. One of my hopes is that you’ll like the book so much that you can’t wait to read the rest and will purchase a copy of the book for yourself. But even if that doesn’t happen, I really love this story, and I want people to read it.
I’ll shut up now. What follows is synopsis and chapter one of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony
Fisherman Mendleson Moony lost his family in a fire. Four years later, he still mourns and has given up the sea to farm his land.
Henrietta Swooth, the Seer that has lived across the road from him for the last three years, has a secret. She knows the time and place of her death, and she must soon leave to meet it.
A vision sends her to the summer festival, where she and Mendleson talk for the first time, When he touches her hand, everything changes, and not for the better.
Mendleson comes away with a desire to save her. She comes away knowing that his attempts to save her will see him dead at her side.
Can Mendleson overcome his loss to find love again? Is it already too late?
In the mind of Mendleson Moony, the mid-summer festival was an utter waste of time. He ought to be home, working his small farm, or down on the waterfront trading his services with the fishermen who had a need for someone who could help mend boats or nets. Anything other than frolicking and celebrating for an entire day.
Around him, the town-folk cavorted and competed, heedless of his distaste for the entire affair. Contests abounded. Archery, races, tests of strength. Merchants had their wagons and carts set up to sell their wares. A dozen boars roasted over an enormous fire pit. Children raced in and out among the adults’ legs with orders to slow down going unheeded.
A large, flat area remained clear. Musicians were setting up near it. The dancing would start as soon as the roasted pork had all been eaten. Mendleson looked forward to the dancing the least.
“Mendleson,” a man’s voice called out to him. “I didn’t think you’d come.”
Mendleson turned around and found his friend Paulus approaching him from the thick of the crowd. Paulus wasn’t very tall, but his thick body contained more power in its muscles than most other men. He liked to show off his muscles, preferring to go without shirts whenever he could get away with it. He wore a shirt to the festival, though, surprising Mendleson.
“I almost didn’t,” Mendleson said. “Only the promise of a free meal brought me out.”
“That and the girls, right?”
Mendleson shook his head. “You know…”
“I know. I’m sorry.” Paulus reached up and put a hand on Mendleson’s shoulder. He looked Mendleson straight in the eye. “But you’re my friend, and I worry about you wasting away out there on your farm. You need company, my friend. You grow more and more into a ghost.”
“It’s only been…”
Paulus interrupted him. “It’s been four years, Mendleson. You need to move on. You need to find another wife.”
Four years? Has it really been that long? It seems like yesterday.
“There are plenty of women here that would be happy to have you, too,” Paulus continued, while sweeping his arm out to cover the festival goers.
Mendleson looked around, and for a moment, he entertained the idea, but could not see one woman who he thought would be interested. “Point some out. I don’t see any,” he said.
Paulus laughed. “Fine. I’ll point them out, but first, let’s go find the ale. I can’t be doing this without something to wet my throat.”
Paulus led him off across the field toward the carts bearing large kegs. While they walked, Mendleson worked back through the years and discovered that indeed, it had been four years since he’d come home from fishing one day to find his home burned to the ground, his wife and young son burned with it.
He could remember every detail like it happened yesterday. He’d seen the smoke on the horizon as the boat landed, and he didn’t think much of it until he started making his way home. About halfway there, he realized it was near his land and began to worry. When he arrived, he found his neighbors working hard to quench the flames, but there weren’t enough of them.
He looked around and didn’t see his wife, Mirrielle. Upon realizing she wasn’t there, he tried to run in to find her, but his neighbors held him back. The house collapsed into rubble only minutes later while he cried out for her, again and again.
After the rubble cooled, they found Mirrielle and his son Josua, huddled together. He’d resolved right then to never put to sea again.
He rebuilt his home and started to farm his land in earnest. He gave up fishing.
And Paulus is right. That was four years ago.
They reached the ale carts. Paulus paid for mugs for the both of them, then lead Mendleson to a bench where the two of them sat and sipped their ale.
“There,” Paulus said, pointing at a woman in a burgundy colored dress. She kept her dark brown hair up, and her hands close to her body. She was talking with two other women. One of the women said something, and the three of them tittered.
“Melissa Stander?” Mendleson asked.
“Right,” Paulus said. “She’s a widow, and I hear he did not leave her a pauper.”
“Not her. She was friends with…” Mendleson didn’t want to say Mirrielle’s name aloud. Just seeing Melissa brought back memories. “I didn’t like Melissa then. She’s far too vapid.”
“Fine, not her, then. How about Jessica Breach?”
Mendleson took a sip of his ale before answering. “Who’s that?”
“Over there by the pork roasters.” Paulus said. “I hear she’s nice. Her father was a merchant, but not a good one. He tried to marry her off to a Lord from Isundry, but couldn’t afford the dowry.”
“The short one?”
“In the green dress and blonde hair.”
Mendleson thought she was pretty. Petite, thin boned, and delicate. For a moment, he entertained the thought, but couldn’t imagine her helping with the farm.
“You must be kidding,” Mendleson said. “Her father raised her with the idea of gaining a position at court. She wouldn’t last a day on the farm.”
Paulus nodded. “True. How about her?”
Mendleson looked where Paulus pointed and found himself looking at Fredetta Jointer. Mendleson punched Paulus in the shoulder, causing Paulus to nearly spill his ale.
“What’s that for?” Paulus asked. He couldn’t keep the hint of laughter out of his voice.
Mendleson laughed for the first time. It felt good. “Everyone knows she’s a shrew. Her father couldn’t give her away to slavers. I wouldn’t even want to live in my own house!”
“It would get you back out fishing with me where you belong.”
“That it would,” Mendleson said, his mirth fading.
“It’s not your fault.”
“I still should have thought… Look, forget about her. There’s got to be someone here who can satisfy you.”
Mendleson stood up and drank the last of his ale. “Thanks for your help, Paulus. I know you’re right. I do need to find someone. I just can’t forget what happened. I can’t forgive myself for failing her.”
Paulus stood, and pulled Mendleson around so they were face to face. “Mendleson, my friend, you have to forgive yourself. It wasn’t your fault. There was nothing you could do. It was an accident of fate.”
“Fate? How could it have been fate? What good has come out of it?”
Paulus didn’t answer, and Mendleson knew why. Nothing good had come out of it.
“Thanks for trying to help,” Mendleson said. “I know you’re right. I do need to put it behind me, but maybe I’m not ready yet.”
Paulus nodded. “Look, they’re taking the boars off the spits. Let’s go eat. I promise I won’t point out any more shrews.”
Mendleson chuckled, and motioned for his friend to lead them forth. Maybe he’d feel better with food in his belly.
* * *
Henrietta Swooth muttered to herself as she walked the road to the mid-summer festival. She had no real desire to go. In her three years living in the little cottage that looked out over the cliffs and onto the town below, she had not attended the festival.
But she had seen herself there. Something important would happen, and so she went. She’d learned long ago that events would conspire to put her in the places she saw herself if she tried to avoid what her visions showed her. What made it all hard to deal with is that she rarely knew why she had to go. The meaning behind her visions of herself remained a mystery.
This wasn’t the case when trying to see things for the women that came to visit. She could almost always determine their fate and the reasons behind it. Sometimes, she could even see how they could do things differently to avoid the fate given to them.
But for herself, her options remained opaque.
So she found herself walking the mile and a half between her home and the festival grounds, dreading what was to come. She tried to prepare herself, as she walked, for the overwhelming number of visions that would assault her as she touched people, as she brushed them, or they her.
She looked to her right, where she could see the Western Sea, and the orange-red sun that hung low on the horizon. She’d waited until just about the right moment to leave. Her vision had her at the gathering at twilight. She didn’t want to spend any more time there than necessary.
She heard the music, first. Horns, drums, and a great deal of singing, much of it out of key. It made her long for her home near the mountains.
“Put that out of your head, Henrietta,” she said to herself. “You left home for good reason.”
She topped a rise in the road and saw the festival ground laid out below her. Oil lamps were already lit and waiting for the sun to set. It appeared to her that most of the town had turned out.
She took a deep breath. “It’s only for a short time, Henrietta,” she said. Then she worked her way down the hill to join the festival.
When she first entered the grounds, she thought she might go unnoticed. Most everyone concentrated on the singing and dancing. She wandered the perimeter, looking for the place where she’d seen herself. She had time, so didn’t hurry.
Which was a mistake. Three young women noticed her before she even walked twenty paces. Of course, it was always the women. The men never acknowledged that they noticed her. In her experience, men had a healthy fear of her visions. Henrietta had always thought that their reluctance was because men needed the fiction that they were in control. Surrendering to fate seemed difficult to impossible.
The women here accepted her, though. They sought her out, once it was discovered what she could do. They seemed more willing to want to work with fate, instead of against it.
Well, most of them. The women approaching her, though, had other ideas.
“Henrietta, I must ask you something.”
Of course, it would be that vapid girl Melissa who wanted to know her future. I wonder what she’ll ask me this time.
“Melissa, it is good to see you,” Henrietta lied. The men suffered her here because the women liked her. She couldn’t afford to upset any of them, lest the men drive her out. “What must you ask?”
“You said you saw a man coming for me, that he would be here by the end of the summer.”
“It is not summer’s end, yet,” Henrietta said.
“I know, I know. I just wondered, with the festival and all, there are quite a few merchants from out of town. Would any of them be the one you saw?”
Well, that is a change, at least. She’s given thought to accepting less than a Lord for a husband.
Henrietta looked for the merchant carts and found them, but she couldn’t see through the crowd to find who manned them.
She sighed, then held out her hands. “Take hold of my hands.”
Melissa smiled and reached for Henriatta’s hands.
Henrietta closed her eyes, which wasn’t strictly necessary. She just didn’t want to watch Melissa while lying to her. She made a show of seeing the future, but as always, the girl’s future was as empty as her mind.
It scared Henrietta, too. More and more often, she could see nothing in the future for the women that came to see her. She broke her contact with Melissa, not wanting to think about what it meant.
“I still see the man you hope for coming by the end of summer,” she lied, “but he is not here.”
Melissa’s shoulders slumped in disappointment.
Henrietta understood how Melissa felt. She secretly wished for her own man to come calling, to help her give a child to the world, like her grandmother had done. But it would never be.
She looked around the festival, hoping to find some way to escape these three girls. Her gaze passed over a man she knew only from a distance. A neighbor that lived within sight of her home. She had never talked with him before, but she’d seen him working his fields, his muscles running with sweat and a permanent air of seriousness set upon his face.
Of course, she’d heard the story of what had happened to him. The women that came to her told her everything. She had locked eyes with him once, across the road, and she’d thought for a moment he might have an interest in her, but he looked away just as quick. The pain in his eyes had been near palpable.
And he was sitting right near where her vision had told her she had to be.
“Excuse me,” she said, making a hasty decision. “I must go talk with someone.”
Melissa ignored her, but Melissa’s friends seemed to be a little put off. Henrietta didn’t care. Now that she’d made her decision, she would walk over to Mendleson Moony and see what happened. Likely nothing at all.
* * *
“Hey, look,” Paulus said. “Here comes your neighbor.”
Mendleson looked to where Paulus pointed. Indeed, it was his neighbor, the Seer, Henrietta Swooth. As always, she looked resplendent. Her blonde hair was bound back, but allowed to cascade onto her shoulders. The gown she wore, black with a purple trim along its arms, fit her slight frame perfectly.
When she’d arrived in town only a year after his wife died, all the single men he’d known had talked about her, wondered how she’d bought the cottage that looked over the town and the sea.
Of course, the wondering stopped as soon as wives and girlfriends started to talk of their meetings with the Seer.
Mendleson often wondered how that day would have changed if the Seer had lived across the street when his home, his life, burned. He’d thought about visiting her more than once, but in the time they’d lived across the road from each other, he’d never managed to speak a word to her.
Then Paulus hit him. “What about her? I bet she’d make a good wife for you. You’d always know what’s about to happen.”
“I don’t think it works that way, Paulus.”
“How do you know? Have you ever asked?”
Mendleson shook his head, and looked up. The Seer was almost upon them.
“Well, ask her. I need another ale.” he said, then laughed and left Mendleson to stand there.
Mendleson turned to follow him. He did not want to be alone with her.
“Mendleson,” she said to his back.
Just the one word, his name, stopped him. He couldn’t move any further. He’d never heard her speak before. Her voice was arresting, almost magical.
He turned to face her, but couldn’t open his mouth to speak. This close, she was as beautiful as he’d thought, and younger. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-four or twenty-five. Of an age with his wife, had she lived.
He shook his head. I don’t want to think of that. He made to turn and leave.
“Don’t leave,” she said.
“We’ve lived as neighbors for three years,” she said. “I think it’s time we at least said hello.”
Mendleson couldn’t argue with that. “You’re right, of course. I’ve been remiss in welcoming a neighbor. I’ve had a difficult time of it lately.”
“I know,” she said.
Mendleson wasn’t sure she meant to say it aloud. Her thoughts seemed to turn inward for a moment, almost as if she nursed some kind of hurt within her, too. “Here,” he said “Let’s at least sit on the bench.”
She nodded. “Yes, let’s sit.”
Mendleson put his hand out to help guide her to the bench. He didn’t even know why he did it. It was something he would have done for a lady he was trying to court. But he wasn’t trying to court her. The gesture felt right, though.
Henrietta avoided it deftly, though, sitting on her own.
He withdrew it and sat next to her. I wonder why she did that?
For a while, they sat next to each other and said nothing. Mendleson let his gaze wander among the sights of the festival. The sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon. The bonfires lit the dancers in a flickering light that seemed almost unearthly.
He stole a glance at her and found her looking at him. Staring. In the low light, it was difficult to tell what color her eyes were.
“Why did you really come over here,” he asked.
“I don’t want to tell fortunes tonight,” she said. “If I wander around by myself, the women will come up to me, one by one. Each will ask me to tell them their future, and I can’t refuse.”
Mendleson was puzzled. “Why can’t you refuse?”
“How long do you think they would let me stay if I refused them? They suffer me because I indulge them.”
“Is that why you’re here? Did another town run you out?”
She laughed, but the laugh held little joy. It made him feel warm inside, nonetheless. “No,” she said. “I’m here for—other reasons.”
“What other reasons?” he asked, and regretted it immediately. The smile she’d had on her lips faded.
“I’d rather not talk about them,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, no. I understand.” Just like I don’t want to talk about that day.
They sat in silence for a couple minutes, listening to the music, watching the dancers. He stole glances at her, and he caught her stealing glances at him.
She intrigued him. He could tell there was pain in her past, or something akin to it. It’s probably related to her being a Seer. Not every town accepts them.
“It must be lonely,” he said.
“Sometimes. Though, at times, I find myself wishing everyone would leave me alone.”
“The women, they come to me, all of them wanting good news. Wanting to know of long lives for their children, or wealth for themselves, or any number of silly things. They think I can give it to them, but I can only tell what I see. I don’t decide their fate. It’s—difficult when I have to give someone ill news.”
“Does everything you see happen? Does it come true?”
She shook her head. “Things don’t always come true the exact way I see them. Fates can be changed, visions misunderstood.”
Fates can be changed? “Tell me,” he said. “If you had been here, could you have warned me of the fire, of…”
Henrietta stood up, and Mendleson thought he’d angered her somehow. He reached out and grabbed her hand. “Please, don’t go. I didn’t mean…”
A flash, a spark, something, raced between them at that moment. His heart seemed to open up. At the same time, her eyes grew wide, and terror crossed her face.
She pulled away from him, stumbled backward, then fell to the ground.
Mendleson stood up and went to her. What did I do? What did I say? What happened?
“Here,” he said, “let me help you up.”
“No,” she said. “Stay away from me. Stay away.”
If you can’t wait to read the other chapters, you can get the eBook (or a really awesome paperback) from the following retailers.
Read Chapter Two