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Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Six

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
This is Chapter 6 of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. I’m putting up a new chapter of the book for free each Wednesday, and after another seventeen weeks, you’ll be able to read the entire book for free.

If you need to start at the beginning, you can find the first chapter here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of each chapter.


Six

 

Henrietta’s eyelids flipped open and she found herself staring up at a ceiling that looked familiar.
“So, Henrietta, it seems you’ve found a savior.”
She absolutely recognized the voice. “Gretta.”
Henrietta brought her elbows underneath her and pushed herself up. The room was exactly as she remembered it. When she looked at Gretta, she found the older woman hadn’t changed much either. Her hair still hung straight and shoulder length, though there was a little more silver above her ears. Her smile was as welcoming as ever.
“How is it that you didn’t come stay with me instead of at that awful inn that Rupert runs?”
“You know the innkeeper?”
“Of course, dear. He sends me work at least twice a week. Can’t seem to keep his customers from getting hurt. Now answer my question.”
If there was one thing Henrietta remembered about Gretta, it was that Gretta could badger information out of a stone. With her, it was usually easier to just spill the seeds. “I didn’t want to bring my trouble on you.”
Gretta laughed. “Nonsense. You didn’t want me getting my fingers on that man of yours. He’s something special.”
Henrietta shook her head. “He’s just a friend…Wait. Is he here?”
“He’s in the other room, sleeping off the draught I gave him.”
“Sleeping off the… Gretta. How did I get here?” Henrietta remembered a wraith coming for her. It had her in its grip. It was pulling something out of her. Then nothing. Her memory ended.
“Your friend brought you here, strapped across a horse. I’m not sure what happened to either of you. A knock on the head for you, perhaps, but he had gashes all over him, and he lost a lot of blood, I think. It must have been some fight.”
Worry overcame her. “Is he alright? He’s not…”
Gretta reached out and patted Henrietta’s shoulder. “Don’t you worry. He’s fine. He’s got me to look after him.”
Henrietta relaxed. She wished she knew what had happened. But as long as he didn’t die because of her.
“How long will he be out?”
“A few hours, I should imagine. Enough for the salves to do their work.”
Henrietta tried to push herself up. “Time to leave, then,” she said.
Gretta held her down. “Woah, not yet. Not until I know you’re recovered from that knock on the head. Besides, like I said, your man won’t be awake for hours.”
“He’s not my man,” she said. Why does it feel wrong to say that?
“I think he would differ. He seemed far more concerned with you than with himself.”
“He thinks he can save me,” Henrietta said softly.
Gretta’s eyes went wide at that and she sat on the edge of the bed. “It can’t be your time, can it?”
Henrietta nodded. “I can’t see beyond the summer.”
Gretta leaned over and wrapped her arms around her. Henrietta closed her eyes and tried not to cry. She felt just like when Gran had wrapped her up as a child, before Gran’s time had come.
“I can’t believe the fates would be so cruel,” Gretta said as she sat back up.
Henrietta shook her head. “They aren’t cruel, Gretta. They just are. Every person, every living thing, has their part to play.”
“But we can all change our part. You’ve told me as much yourself.”
“Not us. Not me.”
“I don’t understand,” said Gretta.
Henrietta took a breath. She’d been told by her Gran not to reveal the secrets to any who weren’t Seers, but at the moment, she didn’t care. She’d tried to accept what she knew would come, but Mendleson kept interfering.
There was an attraction between them that could perhaps grow into more, given enough time. The kiss in her vision. Is that all she would be allowed?
She needed help, and Gran was long dead.
“What my Gran told me is that there are a limited number of Seer’s at any one time. Their gift is that they can see the possible futures. They can see the fate of people so that they might change it.”
Gretta nodded, but did not speak.
“Gran told me there are two prices the Seer must pay for her Sight,” Henrietta continued. “The first is that the Seer learns of her death on the day she receives the gift. The second…”
“The second is what?” Mendleson’s voice came from the doorway.
Henrietta turned and saw him leaning against the door frame for support. His face looked whiter than normal, and he seemed a little wobbly. “Mendleson…”
Gretta said at the same time, “You should not be up.”
“What is the second price, Henrietta?” he asked. As wobbly as his body was, his eyes were steady.
“Seer’s can not change their fate.”
Gretta stood up and went to Mendleson. She led him to the bed and forced him to sit. This allowed Henrietta a chance to study the man that brought her here.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt, but with the number of bandages Gretta had applied, he didn’t need one. He was more bandage than skin.
Once Gretta had him sitting, he asked, “Then what is it that I have done these last three days? Haven’t I changed your fate?”
Henrietta didn’t know what to say for a moment. He had changed her fate. Just talking to her on the festival night had changed it slightly. It put him in the middle of it. It changed his fate more than hers.
Or, was it the other way around? Was it I that changed his fate? Am I responsible for this?
“I wish I could talk to Gran.” she said.
“Why?”
She hadn’t realized she said it aloud. “She had more time to learn. She had more knowledge about the gift than anyone I knew.”
“What would she know that you don’t?” he asked.
“She would know whether you are correct. Did you change my fate already? Or is it I that changed your fate? Is the vision I had of your death due to my attempt to change my fate?”
His eyes grew soft with concern for her. “Don’t you even think that. I didn’t have to reach for you. I didn’t have to follow after you. How could your vision of my death be your fault?”
“I came to your town to try to avoid my fate. I thought that if I stayed away from anywhere that remotely looked like my vision, I would be safe from it. Why is it that Gran got to live to be an old woman, yet I must die before I’ve even had a chance to live? I hate my gift.”
The tears came. She hadn’t meant to say that. She’d never told anyone how she felt. She had never before come close to saying it aloud. She’d kept it from herself for so many years.
Gretta bent down to give her a hug and comfort. “There, there,” she said. “We’ll figure this out.”
Henrietta wished she believed her friend. She wished it was Mendleson that had put his arms around her.

 

* * *

 

Mendleson felt awful. His head was woozy from either the tea the healer had dosed him with or the blood loss. He ached everywhere.
But it was good to see that Henrietta was awake and that she appeared to be much better off than he. He’d silently congratulated himself as he stood in the doorway, nearly falling over, for keeping her alive for another day.
Of course, he’d then made a fool of himself by practically falling onto the bed when Gretta had pulled him over. She apparently expected him to be asleep. He took a little pleasure in frustrating her.
He hadn’t quite managed to follow all of the conversation, but he’d followed enough. He couldn’t accept that she had put him in danger. I made choices. My fate is my fault.
He couldn’t accept that he hadn’t changed her fate. If he hadn’t stepped in, she would be dead now. Not sometime in the future.
When Gretta hugged Henrietta, Mendleson found himself wishing that it was he providing her comfort. Whatever she thought, he had made her his responsibility. Of course, he could barely keep upright at the moment.
“What’s there to figure out?” Henrietta asked, after she pulled away from Gretta’s embrace.
“Yes,” Mendleson said, remembering the burning lump he’d left on the floor of the inn. “What is there to figure out? I killed that thing. I know I did.”
“You can’t kill them, Mendleson. I told you that.”
“It was a burning lump when I left it. There was hardly anything left.”
“Even if you did kill it,” Henrietta said, “There are more than one. Another will be sent, if they aren’t already on the way. That might not have even been the same one.”
“Then what do we do? How do we change your fate?”
Henrietta pounded the bed. “By the Fates, Mendleson, don’t you get it? My fate can’t be changed! This,” and she waved her arm around the room, “you sitting here hurt, this is all part of it. I’m not supposed to die in this town! I wasn’t going to die that first time! You have to get away from me!”
He thought of another tack. “What if I can’t?”
She calmed down a bit. “What do you mean?”
“What if I can’t leave? What if I try? Won’t something bring me back? What if it’s too late?”
“How can that be? You just have to go.”
“Really? Like you tried to do last night? Like you tried in Porthead?” Mendleson watched the color drain from her face. “Both times you’ve tried to leave me out of it, events conspired against you to bring me back into it. Did those wraiths show up to kill you, or to keep me with you?”
No one spoke while Henrietta digested what he said. He didn’t believe it true, but he was sure she would. I’ll use anything I can in order to keep my promise.
“Wouldn’t it be safer for both of us,” he said, “if you just accepted that I was coming with you while we figure out how to change your fate?”
“I’m so sorry, Mendleson. I never meant to do this to you.”
“Why are you so sure it was your fault?” he asked.
“You were never in my vision of my end until that night at the festival.”
He wanted to reach out and wipe the tear from her eye that he saw there. “I still don’t believe that means it was your fault.”
They fell back into silence again. Gretta stood between them, looking first at one, then the other, apparently waiting for something.
“Now that’s settled,” she said, “would you allow me to give you some advice, Henrietta?”
Henrietta nodded.
“I may not be a Seer, but I am an old woman who happens to be a healer. I’ve met quite a few people and learned quite a few things. I had the opportunity, once, to treat a man that was on his way to visit the Oracle of Arabeth.”
“Who is that?” Mendleson asked.
“When he told me, I had no idea who he was talking about, either, so I asked him the same thing you just asked me.”
“Arabeth is near my home, but I haven’t heard of this Oracle,” said Henrietta.
“He told me that a Seer in his village had told him to seek out the Oracle for an answer to his question. I can’t do anything but imagine that this Oracle is a Seer.”
“Henrietta,” Mendleson said, “Maybe this Oracle could help us find a way to change your fate.”
“What about your fate?” she asked. “Aren’t you worried about it?”
“My fate, too,” he lied. He wasn’t worried about his fate at all. If he died saving her, it would be a fair price for his atonement.
“But, Arabeth,” Henrietta said. “The mountains. We’d be traveling directly toward where my vision tells me I will end.”
Mendleson hadn’t realized that. “It seems there is little choice. We either continue as we have, fighting it all the way, and find ourselves forced there, or we choose to go and hope we find help before the end.”
More silence followed as they mulled it over in their heads. Eyes met, glances were exchanged. Mendleson hoped she’d decide soon. He wanted to lay down and go back to sleep.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Henrietta asked.
Mendleson nodded. “I’ll fight to keep you alive as long as there is breath in me.” It sounded silly to his ears, but he’d said it, and meant it.
“Will he be ready by tomorrow, Gretta?”
Mendleson didn’t give Gretta a chance to answer. “I’ll be ready.”
Gretta sighed. “Then you’d better get back into your own bed and sleep off that tonic I gave you.”
Mendleson tried to stand, and had to wait for help from Gretta.
“Tomorrow,” he said as he left. “And don’t try leaving without me. I can’t fight another one of those things right now.”

 


If you’ve read this far, and you just have to read the rest right now, you can get the eBook or a really awesome paperback from the following retailers.

E-Book Paperback
Amazon
BN.com
Sony
Kobo
iBookStore
Smashwords
DriveThruFiction.com
Amazon
CreateSpace
Barnes & Noble

 
Read Chapter Seven of the Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Five

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
And late again, although this time, due to the Memorial Day holiday, I spent most of today thinking it was Tuesday until my son informed me otherwise. One of these days, I’ll figure out that I should prepare the chapters ahead of time.

This is the fifth installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. I’m putting up a new chapter of the book for free each Wednesday, and after another eighteen weeks, you’ll be able to read the entire book for free.

If you need to start at the beginning, you can find the first chapter here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of each chapter.

 
 


Five

 

Clouds hung around her, blocking her views of the other peaks. She looked out over an abyss from her perch on the edge of the plateau. Behind her, she knew, stood the monolith. She didn’t have to turn around to know it was there. She could feel its energy reaching for her, beckoning her to come closer.
She knew she would give in, eventually, but she would put it off as long as she could. She’d seen this vision a hundred times. She knew how it ended.
But she felt something different. Another presence. An arm around her waist.
She looked to her left, and found Mendleson standing next to her, content, a smile on his face that held no hint of sadness.
She, too, felt content. This was how things should be.
No.
He turned to look at her. His sun-darkened face gave her hope for the first time.
No!
Something was wrong, though. She knew what was coming. Why was he so happy? Didn’t he know?
She opened her mouth to tell him, but she couldn’t. The words wouldn’t leave her lips.
He leaned forward, taking her partly open mouth as an invitation, and kissed her. It was the first time. Her heart exploded in her chest.
And she started to cry. She knew it would be the last time.
She tried to push him away, but he held her tight, and in truth, she didn’t want it to end. She wanted the kiss to last forever. She felt connected to him, a part of him.
No! Stop! Run away!
She felt them before she saw them. Wraiths. They had come for her.
She pushed Mendleson away and ran for the Monolith.
The wraiths appeared from the mist surrounding the mountain top. They circled around her and the monolith. The circle closed on her.
She was ready—and sad.
Mendleson stood, raced toward the wraiths. He swung a sword among them, knocking them down.
Run, Mendleson!
The wraiths turned away from her to deal with the threat. They converged on him, ignoring the sword. There were so many, she couldn’t see him through their black cloaks.
They came away from him, and returned to circle her. Through the cracks in the circle, she could see him where he lay, prone, not breathing. Dead.
“Noooo!” Henrietta shouted, waking herself from the vision. Her heart beat rapidly in her chest, and her muscles were tense, ready to fight. Ready to fight for him.
“Are you alright?”
His voice comforted her. He was still with her, still alive. She looked to where she knew he had been sleeping. The moonlight pouring through the window showed he had propped himself up with an arm, and the blanket that was draped over him had slipped down to expose his chest. She had a fleeting desire to climb out of bed and put her fingertips on his chest. After the kiss… Could it really be like that?
She wanted to find out, but resisted. It would only make it harder to do what she knew she had to do.
“A bad dream,” she said. “Go back to sleep.”
“Right,” he said, and continued to look at her for a bit, before resting his head on the blanket he had rolled up into a pillow.
In the dark, she couldn’t see his eyes, but she imagined them looking at her like he had in the vision. She wanted him to look at her that way. Wanted to feel his lips on hers.
But the vision seemed clear. He would die if she remained with him. She couldn’t let him continue on with her.
But how to make him go? How do I escape him?
They’d driven the coach hard through the night, taking turns resting. It hadn’t been nearly as good as a real sleep, but it kept them going.
It was near morning when they reached the town. They had argued again when she told him he should leave. He refused, again arguing that they were nowhere near the mountain she saw in her vision, so there was little danger for him.
Once she had given up arguing with him, they decided to continue on through the day and get as far as they could from the wraith. He suggested it might look for her in the next town. She thought it might not matter where she was, but didn’t push it. Distance might help.
So they continued on through the day, passing through a couple smaller coastal towns until they came to a significantly larger town that had more than one inn.
The only money they had on them was hers, and it wasn’t a lot. They decided to share a room to conserve her money, and when they entered the room, he immediately took two blankets and made a place for himself to sleep on the floor.
Where his breath had now slipped back into an even, quiet rhythm.
She waited a bit longer, making sure he had fallen asleep. While she waited, her thoughts drifted back to the vision, and how it had changed since she’d first had it as a little girl.
It had frightened her, then. It brought her awake, crying. But back then, it was only her, surrounded by the wraiths. She didn’t even remember the monolith appearing in that early vision.
She had talked with her grandmother about it. Her grandmother had seemed both joyous and sad at the same time, and Henrietta had picked up on it.
“Why are you both happy and sad, Gran?” Henrietta had asked.
“Ah, Henrietta, so perceptive. I am happy because you are like me, a Seer. You will know the ways of things before they come to pass.”
“But why are you sad?”
Her grandmother had bent down then, and hugged her while whispering into her ear. “I am sad because you have seen the end of your days, as it is with all Seers. Do not tell others, as this vision is yours alone. Others will not understand.”
“Is it a long time away?” she had asked, suddenly more frightened than when she thought it was just a dream.
“I cannot tell you. Your time is your time, and it is given only to you to know.”
“Gran, do you know when you will die?” Henrietta had asked, then.
Gran had pulled away from her, and looked her in the eye. There were tears dripping down her weathered cheeks. “I do, child,” she had said. “I have known since I was about your age.”
Mendleson rolled over underneath his blankets and broke her out of her reverie. She had thought then that she would live as long as Gran, for her vision of herself had seemed so much older. She hadn’t understood, when she was six, how quickly time sped along.
Henrietta forced herself out of bed and put her feet to the floor as gently as she could. She didn’t want to wake him.
She looked at her trunk, which Mendleson had carried up the stairs on his own. There’s no way I’m carrying that back down. She’d have to leave most of her things here, but her time felt so close, she didn’t think she’d need them anymore.
She opened it, and one of the hinges squealed. She looked at Mendleson, fearing she’d wake him again, but he didn’t move. Thank the Fates.
She dug through the trunk and pulled out two sets of clothes. She also withdrew her purse. She removed enough money from the purse for Mendleson to pay for breakfast and a ride home, and put it next to the wash basin. He wouldn’t need any for the room. The proprietor of the inn had required them to pay for that up front.
She took the pillowcase off her pillow and stuffed one change of clothes into it. She changed into the other, a violet dress that fit her well, but was loose enough to allow her to run. The money purse, she stowed in one of the dress’ inner pockets.
She looked through the rest of her possessions, and could not think of another item that she must take with her. Then she looked at Mendleson.
A desire to kiss him for real flared up within her, but she tamped it down. She couldn’t afford to have him wake. She couldn’t afford to tie him to her further. It wasn’t fair to him.
She picked up the stuffed pillow case from the bed, turned one last time to Mendleson, and whispered, “Thank you.”
She opened the door, and stepped out into the hallway, closing the door behind her as gently as she could.
She shivered. The hallway felt cool, colder than she would have expected.
She turned down the hallway, took three steps, looked up, screamed.

 

* * *

 

Mendleson didn’t dream like he’d grown used to over the past four years. His dreams were blissfully free of the fire, of finding his wife and child crushed and burnt under the center beam. Neither did he dream of the dark thing coming to kill Henrietta.
Instead, he dreamed of Henrietta in his arms, he dreamed of holding her tight, caressing her hair. He dreamed he was the wall between her and a world that wanted to take her away from him.
Until she screamed and jolted him from his sleep.
“Are you all right?” he asked, turning to look at her. She was sitting up in the bed she had to herself.
He had thought about sharing the bed with her, when they first saw the room. It was large enough. But he decided against it. He hadn’t wanted to give her another reason to argue with him about whether he would stay or go.
“A bad dream,” she said. “Go back to sleep.”
“Right,” he said. He watched her for a moment, hoping she might say more. But when she didn’t say anything else, he put his head back down on the rolled up blanket that served as a pillow and tried to go back to sleep.
When sleep finally came again, his dreams had changed. The dream of the dark thing, the wraith, had come back. The wraith chased Henrietta, and Mendleson couldn’t catch it. He couldn’t stop it. He raced as hard as he could, but it was faster. He caught up with her, and Henrietta turned and screamed.
Mendleson woke again, breathing hard. He looked up at the bed, wanting to reassure himself that Henrietta was safe, but the bed was empty. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her trunk. It stood open.
He heard her scream again. Not a dream.
He jumped up and ran for the door, shedding the blankets as he went. He ripped open the door and looked down the hallway. A lamp at the end of the hall lit Henrietta and her attacker enough so that he could see the wraith.
It had Henrietta on her knees, its left hand about her throat. Its right hand hovered above her head, separated only by a couple inches and a ghostly light.
Mendleson didn’t stop to wonder what it was doing to her.
“Leave her alone!” he yelled, and launched himself at the wraith.
The wraith looked up just as Mendleson crashed into it, and the two of them fell to the floor. The wraith plunged its claws into his side. Mendleson could feel the fire of them, but he ignored the fire, and punched it in the face as best he could.
It felt like punching mud. Every strike sunk in, but didn’t seem to do much damage. The wraith struggled under him and tried to free itself. It disengaged its claws from his torso and tried to bring them up to his neck.
Mendleson caught them and pinned them to the floor before they could tear out his throat.
The two of them were stuck there for a moment, neither having an advantage they could press. Mendleson stared into its face for a moment, but in the near dark, he could see little of its features.
He looked for Henrietta, hoping she might be able to help him, but he saw her shadow slumped on the floor.
Rage and loss overcame him. “Not again!” he yelled. He looked up, saw the blackness of the stairwell. He kicked himself over, pulling the wraith with him, and threw the wraith down the stairs in one motion. He followed it down as fast as he could, taking the steps three at a time in the near dark, and slamming into the wraith at the bottom.
He threw the wraith out into the common room, which was mercifully empty of patrons. Mendleson picked up a chair, and was about to swing it at the wraith when the wraith came at him in a rush of cloak and shadow.
It knocked him down, and he dropped the chair. It reached for his throat, but Mendleson kicked out again, throwing the thing off him.
How do I end this?
They both got to their feet, and Mendleson found himself circling the wraith.
“You won’t have her.”
It hissed at him. “You can’t thwart fate.”
Their circling brought the wraith in front of the fireplace. The low glow from the still hot coals gave the wraith an orange aura. It also gave Mendleson an idea.
“I can certainly try,” he said, then rushed the wraith.
It stuck its arms out, claws extended. Mendleson crashed into it, shoving it back. He ignored the arms and just kept pushing it backward, backward, and into the open fireplace.
Its cloak caught fire immediately, exploding in a huge burst, encasing the wraith in flame. It let out a high pitched wail that hurt Mendleson’s ears. It spun around, trying to put out the flames but it was already too late.
The wraith dropped to the ground and writhed in decreasing movements until all that was left was a burning mass.
A man rushed forward carrying a bucket of water, and in the orange light, Mendleson recognized the innkeeper.
The innkeeper doused the flaming mass with water, and the fire went out. He stamped on it with his foot, extinguishing the last of the flames, then turned to confront Mendleson.
“What in the Seven Hells was that?”
“It’s a…” He remembered Henrietta. “Henrietta!”
Mendleson pushed the innkeeper aside and rushed up the stairs.
Henrietta still lay slumped on the floor. He rolled her over so that she lay face up and saw that her chest still moved as she breathed. In the dim light, it was hard to tell, but her face looked pale.
He ran back to the room, found his shirt and put it on, ignoring the blood that dripped from the rents in his skin. He found the money she had left for him, and pocketed it. “You won’t be free of me that easily,” he said under his breath as he went back into the hall.
He bent down, and picked her up, slinging her over his shoulder. “I’m glad you’re not very heavy,” he said. He picked up the pillowcase that held her belongings and went down the stairs.
At the bottom, the innkeeper confronted him again.
“You owe me for the damage in there,” he said, pointing to the common room.
Mendleson dug into his pocket and selected a coin at random. He didn’t want to argue, and he needed information. He held the coin up. “Tell me where I can find a healer.”
The innkeeper looked at the coin for a second, then rose up on his toes. “That’s hardly enough.”
“We can stand here arguing about whether it’s enough, or you can tell me where a healer is and take the money. I don’t know if that thing has friends.”
The innkeeper looked at him for a moment before worry overcame him. His eye twitched, and he jerked his head to look at his common room, then back to look at the coin.
“Fine,” he said, and reached out for the coin.
Mendleson held it out of his reach. “The healer?” He wished he felt up to punching the man for wasting his time. As light as Henrietta was, he couldn’t carry her forever. Especially not with his blood leaking all over.
“Down the South road on the left. Her name is Gretta.”
“Thank you,” Mendleson said, and dropped the coin into the man’s outstretched hand.
He carried Henrietta out to the stable and found the horses, but they’d been unhitched from the coach.
He didn’t think he had time to get the coach ready to go, so he draped Henrietta over the back of one of the horses, then lead it out of the stable. He found the South road, and followed it. As he lead the horse, he grew more and more tired and a bit dizzy. He knew he was losing blood. He hoped he would manage to keep enough in him to find the healer.
A great deal of time passed, he thought, before he found the healer. His vision had grown blurry. He knocked on the door, then sat down to wait. He heard footsteps, and the door opened.
“Who’s there?” he heard a female voice say. “Oh, I see.”
She reached down and pulled him up. “You’ve been in some trouble,” she said.
Mendleson couldn’t respond. He was too tired.
“Brode! Brode! Come here, I need your help.” Then quieter, to him, “Come on in, and we’ll get you fixed right up.”

 


 
If you’ve read this far, and you just have to read the rest right now, you can get the eBook or a really awesome paperback from the following retailers.
 

E-Book Paperback
Amazon
BN.com
Sony
Kobo
iBookStore
Smashwords
DriveThruFiction.com
Amazon
CreateSpace
Barnes & Noble

 
Read Chapter Six of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Four

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
I’m sorry this one’s a little late. I spent the morning reinstalling Windows on the computer Wendy uses after the system drive failed, and I completely forgot that today was Wednesday, until just now.

So, here is the fourth installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. I’m putting up a new chapter of the book for free each Wednesday, and after another nineteen weeks, you’ll be able to read the entire book for free.

If you need to start at the beginning, you can find the first chapter here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of each chapter.
 
 


Four

 

Henrietta stood for a moment, trying to take in what happened. The wraith was the easy part. It had come for her, like she knew it would. She just hadn’t imagined it would be so soon.
She hadn’t expected to be saved. Not from a wraith. And not by Mendleson, of all people. She didn’t know where he had come from, as she’d only had eyes for the wraith as it held her in place and brought its terrible claws toward her eyes.
A rock had come down while she waited for the end, driven by a pair of hands, and smashed the wraith’s skull. It fell away, its claws ripping the flesh of her neck. She felt at her neck, felt the scrape marks. They stung, but she didn’t feel the blood she expected.
Of course, she couldn’t die here. Or, at least, the chances of it were not great. Her death would happen someplace else.
Rage had overcome Mendleson. He smashed at the wraith again and again until at last, he tried to stand.
He did stand, for a moment, before she saw that he was falling backward, toward her. On instinct, she reached out and caught him, kept him from falling to the stone pathway.
It left her view open, and she could see past him, to the open cowl, where it was obvious her attacker was not a man. He must not have realized what he was saving me from.
She held him up until he caught himself and got his own feet under him.
“What… what is that?” he asked.
Once Mendleson had control of himself, she let go. “It’s a wraith.”
“A wraith?”
She nodded. She didn’t want to go into it here. I have to leave. She looked out to the road and saw the coach sitting there, waiting for her.
“I have to go.”
She went back into her house to get her trunk.
“Where are you going?” Mendleson asked. He moved to help her with the trunk.
“I don’t know. I can’t stay here, though.”
Together, they brought the trunk out to the coach and strapped it on to the rack. She was grateful for the help.
“Why not?”
“The wraith. It will come for me until I’m dead.”
“But it’s dead. I killed it.”
She shook her head. “No, you didn’t. It can’t be killed. It will wake and come after me. I don’t know how much time I have left.”
She looked back at her home. “I’m going to miss this place,” she said. The way the sun sets on the horizon, my tree, my garden, the quiet. “You’ve been a good neighbor, Mendleson. Go hide in your home and don’t come out until morning.”
She climbed up into the driver’s seat.
“I could come with you.”
Her vision came back to her, and terror leaped into her chest fully formed. “No! You can’t do that.”
“Why not?”
“Just go home. Thank you for your help, but please. Go home and hide.”
He pulled the coach door open and jumped inside.
“I’m not going home until I know why you were so afraid of me the other night,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t scare me. I…” Movement by her house caught her eye and interrupted her thought.
The wraith was trying to stand. Too late. I can still drop him off later. I can still change it.
“Shut the door, Mendleson.”
“What?”
“Shut the door! It’s waking up.”
It had pushed itself to its knees. She assumed it had knees. She didn’t really know what they were beyond what she had gathered from stories heard at her grandmother’s feet.
She heard the door shut, and she urged the horses into motion. For a moment, she worried they wouldn’t accept her, that they were some sort of ethereal creatures.
But they moved, and the coach lurched and picked up speed. Just horses.

* * *

For what felt like half the night, Mendleson rattled around inside the cabin of the coach while Henrietta drove the horses as hard as she could. It gave him time to think and reflect, but like the bumpy ride, his thoughts were disjointed and disconnected.
The interior of the coach seemed far more luxurious in the dark than he would have imagined a hired coach would be. The walls were embossed in leather, and the seat felt well cushioned. If Henrietta hadn’t driven the horses so hard, it might have been a really nice ride as far as coach travel went.
Once inside and they were on their way, he thought for a while about what that thing was. He’d never seen the like, but he suspected few people ever had. That Henrietta knew about it, knew it wouldn’t die, that scared him. Has she seen them before? Is that why she moved here in the first place? Did she know it was coming?
Of course, they weren’t questions he could answer on his own. He’d somehow have to convince her to answer them if he was to protect her.
His mind went quiet for a moment.
I am going to protect her. He knew it.
He tried to argue against himself. What about that thing? How are you going to protect her if you can’t kill it? How are you supposed to fight something that won’t die?
He didn’t know the answers. But the answers didn’t matter. She needed his help, and he wouldn’t fail her. I’ll find a way.
An hour or so later, he looked out the window on his right to find the moon had risen. In the near distance, he could see it reflecting off water. The Western Sea. She’d driven them down through the town and south along the Coast Road.
He tried to think of where they might be, how close to the next town, and realized they wouldn’t reach it for hours yet. How long have we been running?
He opened the side window. The salt air spilled into the cabin. Whatever chill had come with the wraith was gone. The coolness of the air now came from the sea.
“Henrietta!” he yelled.
She didn’t respond, so he repeated his call.
“What?”
“You need to slow down! You’ll kill the horses!”
He didn’t hear an answer, but after a minute or so, he could tell she’d eased up. The coach slowed, the ride grew smoother.
After a few minutes, he leaned out the window again. “Stop the coach,” he said. “I need to talk to you.”
“We need to keep moving.”
“It’s got to be miles behind us by now. It can’t travel that fast, can it?”
Several moments passed before he heard an answer. “I don’t know.”
“Then just stop long enough so I can climb up next to you. I think we really need to talk.”
“Fine.”
The coach slowed to a stop, and Mendleson stepped out and shut the door. He climbed up to sit on the bench next to her. As soon as he was sitting, she got the horses moving again.
“So what do we need to talk about?”
“Where are we going?”
“South.”
“I know that.”
“I don’t know where I’m going. I’m just running.”
He tried to get a look into her eyes, but she turned away from him. “Why are you running? Why was it trying to kill you?”
She didn’t answer.
“If I’m going to help, I need to know what’s going on.”
She did turn to look at him then. Moonlight reflected off her eyes, but he couldn’t tell whether he saw anger or tears. “You are not going to help me. I can’t allow that to happen.”
“What?”
“You’re getting off in the next town, and we’ll never see each other again.”

* * *

Mendleson looked upset, but Henrietta didn’t care. She could not have his death on her hands.
“What do you mean we’ll never see each other again? You need me.”
Henrietta hated sitting next to him, hated having this conversation. None of the women had ever questioned her insight. Of course, Mendleson doesn’t know why I’m trying to rid myself of him.
She looked deep into his eyes, lit as they were by the lamps that burned on the side of the coach. The worry she saw there made her wonder. She surprised herself by wondering aloud.
“You’re not trying to help me because of your wife, are you?” she asked.
He sat back and looked away. She tried to guess what he was thinking, but could not conjure anything specific.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think so. I’m not sure.”
He turned back to her, and she did see tears in his eyes. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. She hadn’t realized how vulnerable he was to thoughts of his wife.
She opened her mouth to say something, but words wouldn’t form. I’m sorry? It seemed too little.
“You were home the other day when I came by and knocked on the door,” he said.
She nodded. No point in lying to him now.
“I only wanted to apologize for whatever it was that I did to frighten you.”
She looked ahead, pretending to watch the road ahead. “You didn’t frighten me.”
“But you looked so scared after I touched your hand. I thought for sure…”
“You didn’t frighten me.” Why won’t I tell him? He knows what I am. The only answer she could come up with was that she didn’t really want him to go. But she did want him to go. She felt certain of it. She wouldn’t allow herself to be responsible for his death.
“If I didn’t frighten you, then what happened? Why did you hide from me?”
She decided she’d tell him, in the hope it would frighten him away. She turned to face him again. He looked so earnest.
“When our hands touched, I had a vision.” she said.
“A vision?”
She didn’t want to talk about it. It was too close to the vision of her own death that she had when she received the sight. She’d had it drilled into her that she should never reveal that vision. But here she was, about to reveal it to a man she hardly knew. A thought came to her.
“I saw you with me, and I saw you die,” she said. She felt proud of having told him of his part in her vision without revealing the whole thing.
“How do I die?” he asked. He didn’t seem afraid at all.
“Wraiths, in the mountains.”
He appeared to think for a moment. She liked watching him think. He may have been a fisherman once, but he wasn’t one of those that frequented the taverns along the waterfront.
“You were afraid for me,” he said. “You think that if I stay with you, I’ll die.”
“You will die. I saw it.”
“But you told me at the festival that your visions don’t always come true. You implied that they can be worked around.”
“I did say that,” she said. “And that’s why I want you to leave. It’s the easiest way to work around it.”
He reached out to her. “But if I leave, you’ll die.”
She shied away from him. He seemed to realize what he’d done and let his hand drop.
“I’ll die, anyway, Mendleson. It can’t be helped. I’ve known from the day I received the Sight how my end would come.”
“That’s horrid.”
She shook her head. “It is the way of things. I wish it could be different. I wish I had more time, but knowing my end is the price of the gift. There is no way I can escape it.”
“There’s got to be a way. If I can avoid the fate you’ve seen for me by just leaving you, then you should be able to avoid yours by just never going where you saw your end.”
“Mendleson, it doesn’t work that way. For me, the threads of fate will be constructed in such a way as to place me where I need to be. There is another Seer coming into the world, and she needs my Sight.”
Henrietta couldn’t believe how comfortable with the whole thing she was making herself sound. It frightened her to her core.
“But…”
She cut him off. “No. I already tried to circumvent my fate. I came here, and in doing so, I tied you to me. You were never in my visions before.”
They rode in silence for a while. She stole glances at him as often as she dared, but he looked out to sea.
I wonder if he misses the sea? I don’t have the right to take the possibility of returning from him.
The road began to curve, following the coastline, to the south east. More and more trees sprouted up to her left, high on the hills. They were leaving the more arid lands to the north. And she was getting tired. She’d been awake since the sun had risen.
“Henrietta,” Mendleson said, causing her to jump a little in her seat.
“What?”
“I dreamed of that wraith the last two nights.”
She jerked her head over to look at him. “You what?”
“I dreamed of that wraith, or something much like it each night since we touched at the festival. I knew it was coming for you. What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Tell me about it.”
“It was just a dream. I don’t remember a whole lot about it except that wraith, it had to be the wraith, was chasing after you. I was chasing after you, too.”
She thought about it for a moment. Is it possible? Did some of my vision spill over our connection?
“You’re right,” she said. “It was just a dream.”
“But it couldn’t be just a dream. I dreamed of that thing, and then it showed up. That must mean something.”
Finally, she gave up trying to reason with him. He obviously had no regard for his own safety. “Look, Mendleson. You are leaving me when we reach the next town. I will not be responsible for your death.”
“You’re not responsible for me. I’m not leaving.”
“How can you be so stubborn?” She wanted to cry, but wouldn’t let herself.
“Why are you in so much of a hurry to die? I can help protect you.”
Then the tears did come. She couldn’t stop them. “I’m not in a hurry. I just don’t have a choice.”
“Then I’m staying, at least until we come to this mountain where you see me die. If we’re still alive, then I’ll leave.”
She wiped at her eyes, trying to clear the tears. She didn’t know what to say. It might work as well if they waited until they reached the mountains before he left. As long as he never went to the plateau in the mountains where the monolith stood.
They wouldn’t have long, but for the first time in her life, she’d met a man that didn’t fear her, and she didn’t want to let him go.
The coach rolled on in silence for a while, until he noticed her yawn.
“Give me the reins. I’ll drive for awhile. You climb in the cabin and sleep.”
“But…” Another yawn cut off her protest.
He stopped the coach and she climbed into the cabin and lay down on the seat. It didn’t take her long to drift off into dreams, but not a one of them was sweet.

 


 
If you’ve read this far, and you just have to read the rest right now, you can get the eBook or a really awesome paperback from the following retailers.
 

E-Book Paperback
Amazon
BN.com
Sony
Kobo
iBookStore
Smashwords
DriveThruFiction.com
Amazon
CreateSpace
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Read Chapter Five

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Three

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
This is the third installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. Every Wednesday, I am putting up a new chapter of the book for free. Eventually, after another twenty weeks, you will be able to read the entire book for free.

If you need to start at the beginning, you can find the first chapter here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of each chapter.
 
 


Three

 

The next day, Mendleson made sure the work he did on his farm kept him in sight of Henrietta’s house. He felt sure she was still there. He couldn’t explain it, even to himself.
He also couldn’t explain why, of a sudden, he felt so obsessed with her. They hadn’t spoken a word to each other before the festival. The way she left their conversation, and her complete absence since, certainly seemed to indicate she had little desire to speak to him again.
“It’s only because I want to apologize,” he said to himself as he dug at a particularly persistent weed. The weed somehow seemed a metaphor for his obsession with the Seer.
He pulled on the weed, putting his weight behind it. After a brief struggle, the root of the weed finally gave up and pulled free, depositing Mendleson on his back.
“Great,” he said, then sat up and tossed the weed into the waiting cart.
He looked across the way again. Henrietta’s home hadn’t changed since the last time he looked.
“One thing I can thank you for,” he said. “I haven’t dreamed of the fire the last two nights.”
No. Instead, I’ve got this other dream. He thought back to night of sleep he’d had, again interrupted by a dream of something dark coming for her. He couldn’t shake the feeling Henrietta was in danger.
What really irked him was that the Justice seemed to think there was little amiss. There weren’t any signs of distress in her house. There was nothing to indicate she hadn’t just gone somewhere for the day, other than the message from her to the grocer, and the Justice dismissed that.
Whatever help she needed, and Mendleson felt sure she needed help, he decided he would be the one that would have to give it to her. He was not about to let Henrietta’s house burn with her inside it.
As evening approached, he was growing tired of watching. He still refused to stop, but he was beginning to think that maybe she had left for good without the coach she had requested.
He stabled the horse and went inside to make his evening meal. Some bread and a vegetable stew. He didn’t even heat the stew that long. He wanted to get back to his watch.
He dug out the center of the bread, forming a bowl, and poured in the stew. He grabbed a spoon and took the whole thing out to his front steps to sit and eat.
Dusk had come while he prepared the meal. He dipped the excess bread into the stew and took a bite. It wasn’t all that warm, but he didn’t care.
A lone tree in her garden blocked his view of her door, but he could see the window.
At first, he couldn’t place what was different about the window. In the near dark, it was hard to discern details.
But after a moment, he figured it out. Her shades are closed. The Justice had opened them when they went into the house. Were they closed all day? Or just now? He thought back over the day, but didn’t remember. He thought maybe they had been shut all day, but he somehow hadn’t noticed until now.
Or she came home and shut them while I was cooking.
It didn’t matter really when it happened. What it mean was that she was still around.
He set his meal down on the step and stood up. I’m just going over there to apologize. But in his heart, he knew there was more. He wanted to make sure she was alright, that she wasn’t in danger.
As he started walking, he caught a dim light that flickered behind the shades. She’s home. He picked up his pace.
As he approached the road, a cold breeze came from the north, carrying an almost wintery chill. He shivered. The breeze carried a sound with it. Horses.
Mendleson stopped and crouched down behind a large stone that had marked his property for as long as he could remember. No man or horse could move it.
He had no idea why he hid. The breeze, the sound of the horses. It didn’t feel right, and he heeded his feelings.
Moments later, a quartet of horses rode down the lane pulling a coach behind them. The coach, painted black, seemed over-large and sinister. Lamps on either side of the driver’s bench illuminated the area around it. The driver seemed a big black shape, a shadow.
Something about it frightened Mendleson, and he wished for it to pass on by. But he knew it wouldn’t.
It pulled to a stop in front of Henrietta’s home in a rush of noise and scattering dust blown by the breeze.
The driver climbed down, took a step toward Henrietta’s home, then stopped and turned to look back at Mendleson.
It knows I’m here. He ducked behind the rock. I’m not here, I’m not here.
Tense moments passed while he imagined it coming for him, imagined it reaching out and grasping his forehead and crushing it.
He heard it turn, and take steps away from him.
He knew what it was. It was the thing in his dream, and it wasn’t here for him. It’s here for Henrietta.

* * *

When Henrietta closed her shades early in the morning, she knew she would be taking a risk, but it was less of a risk than having someone see her through her window. And she certainly didn’t want to remain stuck hiding in the cellar the whole day.
“Two days for a coach,” she said. “Unbelievable.”
But there was nothing for it. If she had to wait, she had to wait, and hide.
She spent the day going through her things a little more carefully than she had the day before. She had time.
She set the things she wanted to take out on the table. Figurines, little pieces of artwork, letters, books, clothes. Anything she couldn’t bear to part with. By mid-morning, the pile had begun to spill off the table, and she realized it wouldn’t do. She couldn’t take everything, even if she wanted to.
She went to the window and peeked through the shades. Mendleson was out working his farm, near the road. A little excitement flowed through her. She knew exactly what he was doing, and it made her happy enough for a moment that she smiled.
She scolded herself. “You know what will happen to him if you don’t get rid of him, Henrietta. Forget about him.”
But she couldn’t. It didn’t hurt that she liked to look at him. He was a strong man, kept his thick hair cropped short. The pain of his tragedy was written on his face, but she remembered when he smiled while talking to her at the festival. I can’t let him do that again, or I’ll never want him to leave.
“Henrietta, stop thinking about him. Get back to work.”
She forced herself to leave the window and go back to sorting what she would take with her.
She started with her needs. Clothes. Her tools she used to See. She didn’t really need those, she knew. They were mostly props, and not actually necessary to See. Where she was going, she didn’t think she would need them. But one never knows. Besides, the ball, eight inches round and pure crystal, had belonged to her grandmother. She couldn’t part with it.
Once those were in, she still had some room, so started adding her books and other things. A comb her mother had given her. A beautiful figurine of the sea goddess given to her by a woman she’d helped to avoid a terrible fate. Henrietta couldn’t remember what the fate was, but she adored the figurine.
She looked over her trunk, and then sat in a chair.
“Who am I fooling?” she asked herself. “I’ll be dead in a couple months. I won’t need any of this stuff.”
But she couldn’t part with it.
Her work was done. Now, all she had to do was wait for the coach, and then she could leave, and Mendleson would be safe from sharing her fate.
She went back to the window to watch him.
When she saw him, her heart caught again, like it seemed to do ever since their conversation. “I didn’t mean to put you in danger when I came here,” she said as if he could hear her. “I was only trying to escape my fate. I only wanted to live as long as my grandmother.”
“Of course, I should have realized I couldn’t escape it.”
She sighed, then went and sat in her reading chair. She stared at the trunk, and tried to decide where to have the coachman take her once he finally arrived. The only destination she could settle on, however, was away.
When she woke from her inadvertent nap, she realized it was almost evening. She cut the wick on a candle short, then lit it. She hoped the little bit of light wouldn’t leak through her shades too much.
Her stomach growled. She hadn’t eaten since morning. She went through the groceries, and pulled out some bread and some smoked pork. She couldn’t afford to cook and have the fire signal someone was home.
The pork tasted salty, more than she usually preferred. If she were staying, she’d have a talk with Hugh about it, but for now, she had little choice.
“I hope that coachman arrives in the morning. I don’t want to have to sit in here another whole…”
A knock at her door interrupted her monologue. She blew out the candle, hoping it wasn’t too late.
She went to the window and peered through it. On the side of the road, she saw a big, black coach, lit by some lamps. Her fear that Mendleson discovered her subsided. The coach had arrived early.
“Time to leave.”
She went to the trunk and shut it, then dragged it across the floor to the door.
She opened the door, and then stood, frozen. It was not a coachman at her door. What stood at the door was the stuff of her nightmares, the stuff of her visions.
Her fate stood, two heads taller than her, a black cowl hiding a face that wasn’t a face. It had no eyes. She thought she could make out a mouth among the shadows.
It’s lips moved. A sound came out. “It’s time,” it said.
“No,” she whispered.
The thing’s arm shot out and grabbed her by the throat. Sharp talons tipped its fingers and dug into her flesh. She could not move for fear of having her throat ripped out.
“It’s time.”
The wraith, for that’s what it had to be, brought its other arm up to her face and toward her eyes.

* * *

Without thinking about what he was doing, Mendleson reached down and dug a fairly large stone from the ground. When it came free, he hefted it a couple times and decided it would do. For a moment, he wished he had a real weapon, a sword or something. But the stone was all he had. I’m no swordsman, anyway.
He peeked out from his hiding place behind the monstrous rock. The shadow man moved with a measured gait toward Henrietta’s front door. It was not looking at him. The horses seemed calm and reserved.
I hope they stay that way.
He moved out from his hiding place. Making as little noise as possible, he snuck across the road while keeping the horses between him and the shadowy figure. The horses looked at him, but did not seem bothered by his presence.
He snuck around to the back of the coach and peeked around it. The shadow man had just passed Henrietta’s tree. Mendleson waited for it to move a little further along before stepping out from his hiding place.
He worked even harder at being quiet. He didn’t know why, but he had a feeling if the shadow man turned around on him, he might not live through the experience.
The cold breeze picked up a little as he moved, making him shiver.
The thing was almost at her door. I have to make it to the tree. Quiet, Mendleson. Quiet.
Step after step, he moved closer to the tree. It blocked his view of the window, but not his view of the shadow man. A couple more steps.
Then he was behind the tree, hidden from the shadow man. Maybe fifteen paces from Henrietta’s door. Close enough to help her, but far enough away to go unnoticed if she didn’t need his help.
The shadow man knocked at the door. Its rap, rap, rap sounded distant in the strange, unseasonably-cold breeze.
It waited. Mendleson waited, while watching from behind the tree. His muscles felt tight with anticipation. He hadn’t seen Henrietta in two days. He needed to see her, but he feared for her. He feared this man.
Why am I waiting? Why don’t I just rush him?
Because he might just be a coach driver arrived early.
His argument sounded hollow. But he couldn’t be sure.
The door opened, and he saw Henrietta, her face illuminated by a candle that she held. His heart thumped in his chest. The candle light somehow made her beauty even more manifest.
And for a moment, he thought everything would be alright. He thought that it was the coach driver, come to take her where she wanted to go, and his heart fell. He wouldn’t get the chance to see her again.
Then her eyes went wide, and the same look of horror that he’d seen at the festival crossed her face again.
Mendleson heard the shadow man speak, a hissing sort of voice. “It’s time,” he said.
He couldn’t hear Henrietta’s reply, but her lips seemed to say, “No.”
The man’s arm reached out and grabbed her throat.
Mendleson started running, holding the rock up high. I’m too late! He’s going to kill her before I get there!
But the shadow man didn’t seem to be choking her, not yet. It was just holding her in place. It brought its other arm up and moved it toward her face.
Mendleson raced as fast as he could, and just as he arrived at the shadow man, he brought the rock down with both hands, smashing it into the his skull. The skull seemed to cave in, almost as if it hadn’t been completely solid, and then Mendleson’s body collided with the shadow man, knocking them both sprawling.
The shadow man’s arm came free of Henrietta and started to grasp at Mendleson. It had sharp fingernails or something. Knives on the end of its fingers. They dug at his flesh, but Mendleson didn’t care. He brought the rock down again on the man’s head.
The claws dug deeper.
Again, he brought the rock down. The shadow man shuddered, and then relaxed its grip on him. The claws came loose.
Mendleson could feel drips of blood on his skin where the claws had penetrated. He paid them no mind.
Excitement rushed through him, the brief fight energizing him. He brought the rock down once again, just to be sure.
He pushed himself up, then stood over the shadow man. Its hood had come free, and for the first time, he saw one of the things hands.
It hadn’t been a man, not at all.
His chest felt tight, and it became harder to breathe. He backed away from it, stumbling over one of its outstretched legs.
He didn’t fall to the ground. A pair of arms caught him. Henrietta’s.
“What is that?” he asked, short of breath.

 


 
If you’ve read this far, and you just have to read the rest right now, you can get the eBook or a really awesome paperback from the following retailers.
 

E-Book Paperback
Amazon
BN.com
Sony
Kobo
iBookStore
Smashwords
DriveThruFiction.com
Amazon
CreateSpace
Barnes & Noble

 

Read Chapter Four

 

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Two

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
Here is the second installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. Every Wednesday, I am putting up a new chapter of the book for free. Eventually, after another twenty-one weeks, you will be able to read the entire book for free.

If you missed the first chapter, you can find it here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of the chapter.


Two

From the moment Henrietta began to talk to Mendleson, she knew she could grow to like him, perhaps more. The incident with his wife was a barrier, of course. He obviously hadn’t recovered from it and blamed himself. Her heart thumped in her chest, even when he asked questions that strayed too close to subjects she’d rather not think about.
But he owned a warmth and a protectiveness that appealed to her.
If only she didn’t know how her life would end. If only she hadn’t learned it the day she had come into her Sight. If only I could live with the ignorance of the unsighted.
When he asked the question of her, asked if it would have been possible to save his wife, she’d pulled away. She knew then that he still held tight to the memory of that tragedy. She knew nothing good could come of continuing the conversation.
But he reached up and touched her hand, like she’d longed for him to do, but had refused to allow.
Her normal vision clouded, and her Sight took over at his touch. What she saw horrified her.
The monolith stands, stark and black, blotting out the night sky. The wraiths are on the plateau, coming for her. Coming to take her Sight. Coming to take her life.
A man appears and shouts something she can’t hear. A man that looks strangely like Mendleson. The wraiths turn and converge on him. Circling.
They pounce. She thinks she should hear him screaming, but hears only silence. They come away from him, and turn back to her.
He is laying on the ground, not moving.
The contact with Mendleson’s hand broke, ending the vision, but she had seen enough. The vision had begun like the one she saw when she gained her Sight. But now, it was different.
“Here,” he said. “let me help you up.”
The horror of what she’d just seen washed over her. “No,” she said. “Stay away from me.” She couldn’t let him die, not for her. “Stay away.”
She scrambled to her feet and ran. People were looking, but she didn’t care.
“Henrietta,” she heard him yell. “Stop, I’m sorry!”
She ignored him. She couldn’t let her vision happen. It was the wrong vision. It couldn’t be true. She didn’t want to be responsible.
I should never have come here.
She ran all the way home in the darkness.
When she shut the door behind her, she locked it, then lit a candle. She pulled her shades, then sat down at her table to think.
“How could this happen,” she asked herself. “How could he insert himself into my vision. It was my vision!”
She could only come up with one answer—she’d done it herself by coming to this town. “I should not have tried to avoid my fate.”
She looked around the small home that had been hers for the last three years. Nicknacks, pots, and books lined her walls, overseen by a portrait of her grandmother. She put her head in her hands and tried to focus on what she should do. Tried to evoke another vision.
Her sight left her empty.
“Fine,” she said. “I know what I should do, now. I know what I did wrong. I’ll correct it. He doesn’t deserve that fate.”
She wrote a note for the grocery boy to take with him when he came. She knew what the vision meant and knew what her lack of visions for others meant. Her time was near. She couldn’t see beyond her death. The end of the summer or early autumn.
She got up from the table and started sifting through her things, noting what she’d have to take and what she’d have to leave behind. She wouldn’t be able to take everything.
After a moment, she grimaced. Do I really need to take anything?
But she couldn’t make herself leave it all. Like she’d told Mendleson. Fates could be changed. Even mine?

* * *

Mendleson lay in bed thinking about his encounter with Henrietta, and no matter how he turned it over in his head, he couldn’t figure out what he’d done wrong. He’d only touched her hand, and she had pulled away violently. It was an innocent gesture, and she had reacted all out of proportion to it.
So why do I feel like I wronged her?
He couldn’t come up with any answers.
And the look on her face. It was like I’d suddenly turned into a monster.
It puzzled him until he finally fell asleep.
When he woke, he remembered dreams of Henrietta Swooth. Dreams that he didn’t understand. Dreams of her in trouble, running from something dark and foreboding. He remembered chasing after her, but she ran from him, too.
He climbed out of bed, ate a breakfast of bread and bacon, then went out to work his fields. He resolved, while eating, to put Henrietta out of his head. She was a strange woman. He’d thought there might be possibilities with her, but after her reaction to his touch, after she ran away, well maybe he’d been wrong.
He stepped out his front door, but couldn’t help glancing across the lane toward Henrietta’s home. The shades were drawn, and he didn’t see any movement. Don’t be a fool, Mendleson. It’s still early morning.
He went to his barn to get his horse into its harness. As he opened the door, he realized that Henrietta had given him one thing without trying. She’d given him a night free from nightmares of Mirrielle.
The day’s work proved hot and draining. The sun bore down on him, its heat a relentless opponent. He looked up occasionally from his work and didn’t see a sign of her, which was unusual. He often saw her outside in her garden.
But her shades remained shut throughout the day. Even the grocery boy came and delivered sacks of groceries, but he left them on the porch to bake in the sun.
When he finished for the day, he went inside and cleaned himself up. He didn’t know when it happened, but sometime during the day, he’d decided he should go and check on her and apologize for upsetting her. He couldn’t get her out of his head. He hoped an apology would do the trick.
He found himself standing on her doorstep only a little while later. His stomach buzzed with butterflies and his heart thumped in his chest. The woman did something to me. She must have. Yesterday, all he could think of was his wife. Since he’d talked with Henrietta, all he could think of was her.
The groceries still sat on the porch, ensconced in a burlap sacks. Maybe I’ll help carry them in.
He knocked on the door and waited.
A minute passed. Two. He knocked again. More minutes passed.
“Henrietta,” he called out. “Your groceries are out here in the sun.”
He knocked on the door again, then put his ear to it. He heard nothing.
Mendleson gave up after a few minutes more, after it became obvious there was no one home. He told himself not to worry. She just had a call to make in town, or something. It’s not because of you.
He descended the steps from her porch to the stone path that led through her garden to the lane. He turned back to look, and for a moment, he thought he saw one of the shades in the window move slightly. He watched for a bit. When it didn’t move again, he turned back to his own house.
That night passed even slower. He couldn’t get the dream from the night before out of his head. It left him with a feeling that she was in danger. He thought that’s what his dream was telling him.
He tossed and turned until he decided, late in the night, that he would skip his work in the field to try to figure out what happened to Henrietta. She could be safe and hiding from him, or something could have happened. He wouldn’t let the opportunity to protect her pass him by. He wouldn’t let it happen again.
When the morning came, he was up soon after dawn. He ate, then went back to Henrietta’s where he repeated the performance from the previous evening.
He decided to make the journey down to the town and find out if anyone knew of her whereabouts. She could be staying with someone down there just to avoid him.
He saddled his horse and began his ride. A half hour later, he hitched it to a railing outside of the grocer. The smells of the waterfront overwhelmed him, like they always did these days. The fresh salt air, tainted with the strong odor of fish, reminded him of what he’d given up.
The men working the docks cursed loud and incessantly. Mendleson found himself missing the companionship of those men. Of course, the men still working the docks and boats at this time of day were the lazy ones. The better fishermen had already put out to sea for the day. Paulus would be among them.
Mendleson stepped out of the cacophony and into the grocer, who had just opened for the day. The door, when it shut behind him, blocked out most of the noise.
“Mendleson,” said a rotund man who stood behind the counter. “I don’t see you much these days.”
“How are you, Hugh? I don’t have much need to come by.”
“The farming must be treating you well.”
“I’m not hurting for food, though I could use help harvesting it.”
Hugh laughed. “What brings you here?”
Mendleson stepped up to the counter. “What can you tell me about Henrietta Swooth?”
“Why would I know more than you? You live across the way from her.”
“She buys her groceries from you, Hugh.”
Hugh nodded, causing his jowls to shake. “She does buy groceries from me. My boy delivered her order yesterday, as a matter of fact.”
“I saw. They sat on her front porch, and were still there when I woke this morning. She doesn’t answer her door.”
“Well, now. That’s odd.”
“Why is that odd?”
“She sent a note with my boy, asking for me to send for a coach.”
“A coach? Did she leave already?”
Hugh squinted. “Why the sudden interest?”
“We talked the other night at the festival.”
Hugh smiled. “Finally, though I’m not sure why you’d pick her.”
“No, it’s not what you think. I said something. I’m not sure what, and she left, offended. I only want to apologize.”
“That woman is a bit odd. My wife swears by her viewings, though, and she pays on time.”
Mendleson wanted to reach out and slap the grocer. “Did she leave already?”
“What? Oh, why, no. There’s not a coach due for another two days.”
Mendleson slapped the counter.
“Why are you so upset?”
Mendleson couldn’t tell Hugh about the dream. It hardly made sense to Mendleson. “I just want to make sure she’s all right. I just want to apologize. Look, thanks for your help, Hugh. Tell your wife I said hello.”
“It was good to see you down here. I’m sure everything is all right.”
Mendleson left and went in search of the Justice. He’d want the man with him when he entered Henrietta’s home. He couldn’t keep the thought that she was in trouble out of his head.

* * *

“When will that man get the hint and leave me alone?” Henrietta asked her empty room when she saw Mendleson approach her house through the crack in the shades. This time, he had the Justice with him.
For a moment, her heart warmed. It seemed obvious he was worried about her, but when she thought about her vision it only made her more frustrated. How can I get rid of him? His concern would result in his death. She couldn’t allow that.
Whatever she wanted, she couldn’t let him find her now. Time to hide.
She went to the rear of her little home and pulled up the cellar door. She climbed down into the hole, the darkness of her cellar swallowing her up. She could only hope they wouldn’t be too thorough in their search.
She worked herself into a corner, out of the way of the light that would poor through the cellar door when they eventually opened it. I hope there aren’t too many spiders down here.
She heard the door above open, and then the shades. She could tell light flooded the room above as little rays poked down through the floorboards, illuminating the dust that came free with every step the two men made.
A thump landed on the table. Maybe they brought the groceries in.
“Well, it looks like you’re right, Mendleson. Something certainly happened to her. Are you sure she didn’t just go to visit someone?”
“I’m pretty sure,” said Mendleson. “Hugh said his delivery boy brought a message from her. How could he have done that if she wasn’t here? Why wouldn’t she bring in her groceries?”
“What did the message say again?”
“She asked for him to send for a coach.”
“Maybe the coach arrived already,” said the Justice.
“It didn’t. Hugh said there wouldn’t be another coach for two days.”
Two days? I have to pretend to be somewhere else for another two days? She wanted to curse, but held her breath instead. I can wait two days.
“Curious. You didn’t have anything to do with her disappearance, did you?”
“Why would I?” Mendleson said. His voice sounded indignant to Henrietta’s ears. “Why would I come and get you to search for her if I had something to do with it?”
“I just have to ask.”
The Justice walked to the rear of her home where the cellar door was. The door opened, and Henrietta crouched down, trying to make herself as small as possible. She hid her face in her dress.
“Is there a lamp in here?” the Justice asked.
She heard Mendleson moving around in an apparent search for something. He stopped. “How about a candle?”
“That will work.”
Mendleson moved to the cellar door with the Justice. The Justice lowered his hand into the room, followed by his head. He apparently didn’t want to climb down. Henrietta prayed he wouldn’t change his mind and kept herself as still as she could. She also prayed he would hurry. Her legs were starting to cramp.
After a few moments, the Justice withdrew, taking the candle with him. The door shut. “She’s not down there.”
“Then where is she?” Mendleson asked. She could hear the confusion in his voice. It was mixed with something else. Anguish?
It didn’t matter so much, as long as he remained safe and ignorant of where she was.
The two men milled around a bit longer before eventually leaving.
Henrietta stood, rubbing cramps out of her legs. “Two days,” she said softly.
She climbed out of the cellar and shut the door behind her. She brushed herself off, then looked at the table. On it, her groceries waited.
“I can do it,” she said. “I can wait two days.”

 


 
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