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Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Twelve

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
This week, with Chapter Twelve of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony we pass the halfway point. It’s all downhill from here. Oh, and hey, look! It’s up before Noon PST!

I find myself wishing that some of you reading would make comments. I don’t know if anyone is reading, or if it’s just the comment spammers that come by and boost my visitors and page reads. Wait – that’s not true. I did have one person say they were enjoying it. It’d be nice to hear from others!

If you need to start from the first chapter, you can find it here. If you need to read the rest of the book right this minute, there are links to purchase it in a variety of formats at the end of each chapter.

 


Twelve

 

Mendleson liked the feel of Henrietta’s head against his back, her arms around his stomach. He wished the storm would take its leave so that he could spend his concentration on the feel of her. Instead, he pushed the horses through the gale and the sheets of water, looking to find shelter.
He didn’t want to shelter too near the city for fear the magistrate had authority outside its gates. But the storm would soon force him to find shelter, he knew, or it would kill them both.
Knowing they would need both horses, if he managed to rescue her, he had asked Perry to get the other ready and wait for him to return with Henrietta. The kid had agreed without even asking for coin when he heard what Mendleson planned. He had even wanted to come along, but Tara had heard and put a stop to that nonsense.
Mendleson rode out into the storm, praying he could catch up to them before they turned off.
When he found them, his heart had stopped. They were fighting already—fighting wraiths. He kicked the horse into a gallop, pulled out the club he’d borrowed from Tara out and swung it as he crashed through the guards and the wraiths. He pulled Henrietta up onto his horse after swinging the club down onto the head of a wraith, knocking it back, then turned the horse and galloped away.
He had to keep a hold of her so that she didn’t slide off. He didn’t want her arms around him for fear of being hindered should he need to fight.
When they stopped at the inn to get the other horse, Henrietta refused to climb down to get on it. “I’m too tired,” she said.
Instead, she put her arms up over Mendleson’s head, shackles and all, then slid them down around him. He didn’t protest.
They tied a lead to the other horse, and left Tara and Perry standing in the shelter of their stable.
Now, in the fury of the storm, the horses were exhausted and frightened. Every boom of thunder threatened to panic the horses and tumble he and Henrietta to the muddy ground.
When he felt they had passed beyond the immediate influence of Berelost, Mendleson started looking in earnest for a place to shelter both them and the horses. He needed a farm with a barn or a stable, a place they could hide for the few days that Henrietta insisted the storm would assail them.
He feared the storm would kill them. He also feared that the wraiths would appear again if they stopped.
And that, more than anything, frightened him. There were more than one. The black shadows, only outlined by guttering lamps and flashes of lightning had brought the fear back to him. They’d gone so long without seeing one, he’d begun to think they’d managed to escape.
“Mendleson,” Henrietta shouted over the sound of the wind. “We’ve got to stop. We’ve gone far enough.” Her shout sounded strained.
Lightning, and then an immediate report of thunder caused his horse to rear and almost throw them. He dropped the lead to the other horse in his effort to not fall off, and it ran into the darkness.
Once their horse settled down, he concluded Henrietta was right. They had to stop somewhere, soon.
“The next farmhouse,” he shouted, “we’ll stop and ask for shelter.”
He didn’t hear a reply, so urged the horse onward.
A few minutes later, as they came around a bend in the road, he spied a darkened farmhouse in the distance, and rode toward it. Beside the house, he thought he saw a stable, and hoped he’d find feed for the horse, maybe hot food and a mattress for them to sleep on.
As they approached, however, he saw scorch marks around the windows in the stone walls and soon discovered that the roof had burned away. The farm was lifeless, like his own farm had been when he returned from the sea that day.
The memory rushed through him to fill every nook in his mind. The pain, the sight of Mirrielle, Josua, it all came back.
He shook his head, trying to clear it, trying to push it away, but failed. Someone had lived here in this home, and it had burned, and they were gone. They were all gone.
He kicked the horse into a gallop.
“What are you doing?” Henrietta yelled over the gale.
“I can’t stay here!”
“We have to, Mendleson! We need shelter!” She sounded weak, desperate.
But the memories. He couldn’t make them go away. He couldn’t lock them back up in whatever box he’d managed to hide them in the last couple weeks.
“The house, it burned, just like…”
“Please, Mendleson! I need to rest.”
He turned around as best he could to look at her. In the dim light the storm let through, he could see she was worn out. Her hair, normally vibrant, hung limp in the rain to cover her face. She couldn’t even use her hands to brush it away, chained together as they still were around his waist. She couldn’t keep her shoulders straight. She could barely even sit up, and he suspected if she wasn’t chained to him, she would have fallen already.
He eyed the burnt out house once more, then took a breath and directed the horse to the stable. Whatever pain he felt at staying here, he would endure for her.
Fortunately, the disaster that fell upon the house spared the stable. The door was open, the animals gone, but the roof still held, and they were able to ride in, out of the fury of the storm.
Once inside, Mendleson slipped out from under Henrietta’s arms and let himself down from the horse. He helped Henrietta down and to a nearby stool. He tied up the horse in a stall, then searched for feed. He found a bucket that had a little left in it, but it wouldn’t last out the storm. He hoped it hadn’t turned. He gave it to the horse anyway.
While looking for the feed, he found a ladder that led to a loft. He tried to climb it, but his legs ached from the ride, and he found himself at the end of his energy and gave up. It can wait.
Instead, he found the cleanest stall in the barn and brought Henrietta over to it. She slid down against a wall. He went to the horse, retrieved his pack, and brought it to the stall. He delved into it and pulled out his blanket. The oiled leather of the pack had kept it mostly dry. “At least something went right,” he muttered.
Henrietta didn’t even respond.
He bent down and put a hand to her cheek. She shivered under his touch.
“Come on,” he said. “We have to get out of these clothes and let them dry.”
“What?” she said, perking up a little. “No, just let me rest.”
“No, you need to get out of them or you’ll get the chills. I’ve got a blanket. It’s dry and will keep us warm.”
Her head came up so that her eyes could look at him. “Us? What are you after, Mendleson?”
“What?” he asked. “I’m not after anything but keeping us alive.” He was so cold and tired, he hadn’t even thought of anything else.
She looked at him, and for a moment, he thought he saw disappointment on her face. But when he looked harder, he couldn’t see anything but exhaustion, and he decided it must be a trick of his mind. She’d pushed him and pushed him, and despite what Tara had told him, he saw little evidence that Henrietta had changed her mind.
“Fine,” she said. “I trust you, but we have a problem.” She held her hands out, and he realized immediately what it was. There was no way to get her clothes off completely while her arms were still shackled.
He looked around the stable, hoping to see a tool he could use to pop the pin or break a link in the chain, but he couldn’t find anything. The stable had been stripped of most of the useful items.
He came back to her, and ultimately, they decided to remove her garments as much as possible with the shackles still on. Her top hung from the shackles, but it would at least keep the moisture away from her.
He pulled all but his underclothes off and hung them from the wall of the stall.
As he came back, he averted his eyes as best he could, and in the low light, it was easy not to see the detail of her body, but he still felt stirrings within him that he hadn’t felt since Mirrielle died.
And that thought killed any of those feelings.
He stepped up next to her with the blanket, helped her to lie down on the straw covered floor, and then lay down next to her and pulled the blanket around them both. Her skin was cold and clammy on his, but his couldn’t have felt much better next to her. He wrapped his arms around her to try to speed the warming.
After a while, their bodies filled the space under the blanket with enough warmth that they both stopped shivering.
“Mendleson,” she said.
“What?” he asked.
“Thank you for coming to get me.”
“You’re welcome, Henrietta.”
A warmth moved through him that had little to do with their bodies being so close together.

 

* * *

 

Henrietta woke to the snapping sound of a fire. Around her, she could see the flickering light it threw off as it danced, but she couldn’t see the actual fire. She began to stand up, but stopped when the shackles, and the still damp clothes hanging from them, reminded her that she only had the blanket for covering—when they reminded her of what had happened, and what hadn’t.
The memories insisted that Mendleson had slept next to her, their skin touching, his warmth feeding her, the hair on his chest tickling her back, his arms holding her tight without straying where they shouldn’t. But she couldn’t see him.
“Mendleson?” she called out.
She heard footsteps, and then he entered the stall. He was wearing his pants, but his shirt was off. She had little choice but to admire his chest.
“You wake,” he said.
“Where’s your shirt?”
“Hanging by the fire with your…”
For anyone to see? She didn’t yell at him for it. They did need to get them dry. “Come help me up. I want to move near the fire.” It’s cold under this blanket without you to hold me. She didn’t want to say that aloud, either. She was grateful he had saved her from the magistrate and whatever fate he had planned, but she wasn’t going to encourage him any further.
He bent down and very carefully helped her up. They managed to get her standing without exposing too many parts he shouldn’t see. Together, they stepped out of the stall, and she saw the fire in the middle of the stable. He’d set stones in a circle to keep the fire from spreading. He had a line running across the stable, from one stall post to another, near enough to the fire to get the warmth, but not so near as to be dangerous. His shirt and coat hung from it, as well as her lower garments.
“How did you get it lit?”
“I had flints in my pack. That, straw, and a few stored pieces of wood in this place.”
She sat down near the fire so that she could feel the warmth.
“How do you feel,” he asked.
“Better,” she said. She was still cold, but much of her fatigue had bled away while she slept. “Hungry.”
Mendleson nodded and sat down next to her. He reached into his pack and pulled out a bundle of dried pork, which he handed to her. “Here, this should help.”
“Where did you get this?”
“Tara stuffed it into my pack as I was leaving. She seemed to feel guilty about something.”
Henrietta took a bite of it. Salty and dry, but it was better than nothing. “She felt guilty about turning me in,” she said after she finished chewing.
“Turning you in?”
“She sent Perry to warn me as soon as she saw the magistrate outside, I think. But I also think once the magistrate came in, she told him where I was.”
“You don’t seem upset at her.”
“She tried to help. It didn’t work out. She couldn’t risk her inn over me.”
Mendleson looked up at her, his eyes dark, but bright at the same time. “I don’t see why not,” he said.
“You wouldn’t. But then, you don’t have a lot to lose, do you?” As soon as the words escaped her mouth, she wished she could take them back. The wound in his heart spilled out through his eyes before he could look away.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that,” she said.
“What else could you mean?” He didn’t look at her. “You still want me to leave. Fine. When the storm lets up, I’ll leave.”
Dammit, Henrietta. What do you want? She wanted to reach out to him, but the shackles made that awkward. She’d have no way to keep herself covered. “I only meant that you didn’t have anything tying you to your home, that you were free to do anything. Tara, she’s got Perry to think of…”
He turned back to her. “But what about my family?” Tears streamed from his eyes. “What about them? I had them.”
On instinct, she withdrew her shackled hands from under the blanket, not caring that the blanket slid down, and put them over his head and around his shoulders. She pulled him close so that his head was next to hers, and she locked his gaze with hers. “They’re years gone, Mendleson. You only have the memories. You have to move on, go forward. Live your life.”
“The memories eat at me,” he said. “I could have saved them.”
“If you had been there, could you really have saved them? Or would you be dead, too? A fire like that, in the middle of the day, they weren’t asleep. If they could have escaped, they would have. You would have been trapped, too, or you would have watched helplessly.”
“But…”
“You were out at sea, Mendleson, where you were supposed to be. It wasn’t your fault. You have to move on.”
The tears had stopped, but his eyes were still moist. His breath on her was warm. She had a sudden urge to lean forward and kiss him, but she resisted. She had no idea what he’d think.
“I’m trying to let them go. I’m trying to leave that all behind. It’s why I’m still here even though you keep pushing me away.”
“I thought you were here because you were trying to save me to atone for how you think you failed your family.”
He didn’t say anything for a moment. She thought maybe she’d said the wrong thing again. Then he said, “I was.”
“I don’t understand.”
“At first, you were right. I thought I might atone for my failure if I saved you. But then, after the second, or maybe the third time, it became…” He stopped, and then looked down.
She grew acutely aware that the blanket had fallen away to expose her breasts, but she ignored the urge to try to cover herself. “What did it become?” she asked.
His eyes came up to meet hers again. “Tara told me that you love me. Is that true?” he asked.
What? Tara told him? Is it true? Her heart fluttered in her chest. She didn’t know how to answer the question. “What did it become, Mendleson?”
He moved a little closer. Their noses were almost touching. “You keep pushing me to leave, to save myself from you.”
It’s true, but not any more. “You keep saying that. Tell me why you continue to stay with me.”
“It became about saving you for me.”
Her heart split. She pulled her hands from his shoulders and put them on his head and pulled his lips to hers. They were rough from the weather, but so warm. He seemed to want to pull away at first, but a moment later, the tension in him evaporated. His tongue probed at her lips. She let her tongue meet his, and it was so soft, gentle, yet strong. She had imagined kissing a man for most of her life, yet had never imagined this.
He put his arms around her and pulled her tight to him, so that her breasts were against his chest. The hair tickled her nipples at first, and then she forgot about it in the depths of their kiss.
Time passed, she didn’t know how much, and then their lips parted. Neither of them said a word for long moments as they stared into each other’s eyes. He seemed to be waiting for something.
“I don’t know what love is,” she said. “But I do know that I don’t want you to leave.”
“Good. I’m not leaving,” he said.
“But my vision, my fate, your fate. If you stay with me, you’ll die. I don’t want that either.”
“Henrietta. You’ve seen how I am just thinking about Mirrielle. How do you think I’ll be if I let you go, too? We’ll find a way. You can always change someone’s fate. The fact that I’m now tied to yours only proves that yours can be changed. Why do we even have to go to that place? Why can’t we go somewhere else?”
At his question, the part she’d been missing, the idea that she had just been able to touch while the guardsmen had her, finally took shape in her mind.
“Mendleson, we can’t go anywhere else.”
“Why not?”
“The wraiths only appear when I am not on the path to my fate. As long as I move toward it, they leave me alone.”
He leaned in to her again and gave her a tender kiss. “We’ll find a way,” he said. “I won’t let you die.”

 


 
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.
 

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Read Chapter Thirteen of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony
 

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Eleven

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
With another Wednesday comes another installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. This is chapter eleven.

I owe my then nine year old son some thanks for helping me out with this chapter, chapter ten, and chapter twelve. I was struggling with this section of the book. I was writing the book from an outline, except for about four chapters (which turned into six) where I had written “stuff happens here.” When I got to this point, I had no idea what happened, and I asked my son what he thought should happen, and he told me I should put a storm in it. When he said that, my brain started percolating and the empty chapters filled themselves.

If you need to start from the first chapter, you can find it here. If you need to read the rest of the book right this minute, there are links to purchase it in a variety of formats at the end of each chapter.

 


Eleven

 

Mendleson lay on the bed, his eyes shut against the stray rays of light that made it past the curtain’s defenses, and tried to sleep. Sleep eluded him, however, as his mind wrestled with his abrupt departure from Henrietta.
He repeatedly tried to tell himself that she was right, that he was better off not helping her. If her vision was true, if his fate, were he to remain with her, meant he would die, then he would certainly be better off. He’d be alive.
But fates could be changed. She’d said so. That he was now in her vision, where he had not been before, meant that his fate had changed, at the very least. Of course, if he didn’t go with her, that would change his fate.
And she would die.
If that was her fate, if she was supposed to die, was it his responsibility to save her? She didn’t seem to want him to save her. But at times, it seemed like she had no desire to die.
His eyes popped open. “And I don’t even understand why it matters to me,” he said to the wood-beamed ceiling and the memory of Mirrielle. “At first, it was atonement, Mirrielle, but now? Now, I don’t want to leave her, and I don’t even know why.”
He slammed his fist into the mattress and sat up. As tired as he was, he would never get to sleep.
He slipped out of the bed, dressed, and picked up the purse Henrietta had given him. He shoved it in a coat pocket before slipping out his door and into the hallway. He went down the stairs and into the common room, half hoping to see Henrietta, and half hoping to avoid her.
He looked around, and didn’t see either her or her friend Tara. He discovered that not seeing her disappointed him a little. The feeling didn’t stop him, though. He went out through the door and into the streets of Berelost, hoping to walk off his restlessness.
The wind had picked up a bit while they’d been inside the inn. Alone, it wasn’t enough to make him think of a storm, but a glance at the sky showed the cloud cover had grown angrier and darker. It did look like rain would begin to fall soon.
He walked, letting his feet carry him wherever they might. He didn’t really see much of the city as he walked. His thoughts remained focused on his strange relationship with Henrietta and his desire to risk his life for the woman who he’d known for so short a time. He found himself wishing Paulus was along for the trip. His friend would have advice for him. He always had advice.
But talking to Paulus was impossible now. He had to figure out whether to leave Henrietta to her own devices, or not, without the help of his friend.
He chuckled quietly to himself. It’s all Paulus’ fault I’m here in the first place. If Paulus hadn’t dragged me to the festival that night, I’d never have met Henrietta. I’d never have touched her hand.
After a short time, he found himself near the river again. The fishing boats had tugged at him when he and Henrietta had first come this way. He had wanted to go and visit them, visit the fisherman, see what fishing a river was like. One thought had led to another, though, and he found himself remembering the last time he’d docked his boat.
When he looked toward the boats, he expected them to be gone, but instead, he found the fishermen tying them up, lashing them tight to the docks. The water in the river looked rough, where earlier it had been fairly placid. The wind must be whipping down that passage at a good pace.
He looked across the river to the market and found that people were closing up shop. The square, where before it had been packed with people, had emptied. Perhaps a storm is coming, he thought.
He looked around one more time and decided it would be prudent to return to the inn. He hadn’t come to any conclusion regarding what he should do about Henrietta, or why he was so reluctant to leave, but he didn’t want to be caught out in whatever storm the citizens of Berelost thought was coming.
As he walked back to the inn, the wind pushed at him from behind. Leaflets and other bits of trash flew by him, and he picked up his pace. The storm was growing in strength almost as quickly as some of the storms that came up out on the sea where it could be sunny one moment, and an hour later, you could be hanging on to the rails of your boat for your life.
He turned the last corner before the inn, and came to a stop.
Six guardsmen stood outside its door, and a seventh man stood in front of them, issuing instructions. This seventh man, he had seen earlier that morning, and his being here could only mean that he had eventually put Henrietta’s real name to her face. This time, her life hung in the balance, and her fate had nothing to do with it.

 

* * *

 

Henrietta woke to the sound of someone pounding on her door. Mendleson, why don’t you just come in?
After a moment, and a few more thumps, she realized he couldn’t. She’d locked the door. She tried to blink the sleep out of her eyes. She still felt exhausted. She couldn’t have been asleep long.
She wondered, as she swung her legs out from under the one blanket she’d left on the bed, how she felt about Mendleson choosing not to go. A part of her wanted to sing, but another part was still terrified of taking responsibility for his death.
“I’m coming,” she said, loud enough she hoped, to be heard over the incessant banging.
She didn’t have to get dressed. She had slept in her clothes.
“Ma’am!”
That’s not Mendleson. “Perry?” She unlocked the door and opened it. Tara’s son stood there. His eyes were wide, and he quickly glanced down the hallway toward the stairs. “What are you doing waking me up?” she asked.
“Mama told me to come get you and hurry you out the back. The magistrate is here for you.”
Henrietta held onto the door as she swayed a bit. What now? What do I do? Mendleson? “Where’s my friend?”
“He left. Mama says we have to hurry.”
Left? She looked around her room and spied her pack at the end of her bed. “Where did he go?” You weren’t going to leave until tomorrow! She left the door and went to get her pack.
“I saw him walk out the front door. I don’t know where he went.”
“He didn’t take his horse?”
“No, Ma’am. Hurry, please!”
She slung her pack over her shoulder and raced back to the door. Where did you go, Mendleson? Why did you leave me?
She knew why. She’d pushed him to go. Now was not the time to cry about it.
She moved toward the stairwell, but Perry reached out and pulled at her shirt. “No, this way.”
“Where?”
He started down the hallway toward the back of the inn. “We have another set of stairs back here.”
Henrietta tried to think back to when she’d spent considerable time with Tara. She had never seen a staircase back here, and Tara had never mentioned it.
Henrietta followed him, and when they reached the end of the hall, Perry pulled open a closet door, and stepped inside. She entered behind him and found that it wasn’t a closet door at all, but a tight set of stairs. Darkness filled the stairwell, though there was a bit of light at the bottom.
“Shut the door,” said her guide.
She reached back and pulled the door closed, enveloping the top of the staircase in complete darkness. The only light was the light at the bottom.
As they descended, she kept her focus on that light, occluded now and then by Perry’s bobbing head. She felt out each step with the toe of her shoe before taking it.
As they neared the bottom of the stairs, she wondered what she’d do next. Take the horse, ride east out of the city. Go home.
Home. A word, a place, she had tried not to think about in the years since she’d left. The monolith she saw in her vision, she knew it was supposed to be only a couple day’s ride into the mountains.
Why am I even going home? Why am I not riding away from it?
She reached the bottom step. Perry had stepped out from the hidden staircase and around the corner, out of her sight.
She emerged into a small room. It had two doors, not counting the stairwell. One that led, she thought, into the kitchen. Another, she guessed, led out back to the stable. It was how Perry had managed to surprise her in the kitchen.
A hand reached out and gripped her arm as she took her second step into the room. She looked and found the hand was attached to a guardsman, one of the magistrates men.
“There you are, witch. You’re not going that way.”
She tried to pull away, but she was so tired, she barely had the strength to make the man move even a step with her.
“No, none of that. The magistrate would speak with you.”
“Just let me go. I’ll leave. I was only passing through on my way home.”
The man laughed. “Now, I can’t do that. The magistrate says to bring you to him, and that’s what I’ll do.”
She tried to pull away again, but the guardsman’s grip on her arm only strengthened, causing pain to explode from the area.
“Don’t do that again, or I’ll break it.”
She gave up her struggle and let him drag her through the door and into the kitchen, where she found Perry in the grasp of another guardsman. She could see Perry trying to fight the man.
“Let her go,” he said. “She didn’t do nothing to you.”
“Quiet, kid. It wasn’t me she did something to. Be good, and your Momma won’t get in trouble for harboring a fugitive.”
Henrietta reached out and patted Perry on his head. She wanted to tell him everything would turn out fine, but she didn’t believe it.
The guard marched her out through the kitchen and into the common room where the rotund magistrate stood waiting with Tara.
“There you are,” said the magistrate. “Your attempt to fool me earlier didn’t work, as you can see. Where is that man you were with? He’s not a very good liar.”
“He left.”
The magistrate laughed. “Why am I not surprised?”
Henrietta wanted to reach out and hit him in his mustache, but the guardsman still held her arm tight. “Why don’t you just let me go? I’m only passing through on my way home.”
“You were warned to never come back. Now, here you are. You knew the consequences, yet you flouted our laws to sew more discord among our people. If I were to let you go, how can I know you just wouldn’t try to return again?”
“Because I’ll be dead in a couple weeks,” she said under her breath.
“What?”
“I said, because I’ll be dead in a couple weeks.”
The magistrate’s eyes lit up and he smiled. “If I have my way, you won’t live even that long.” He looked at the guardsman who held her. “Take her outside. I’ll be there in a moment.”
The guard pulled at her arm and forced her to stumble as he set out to follow the magistrates orders.
“I’m sorry,” said Tara. “I…”
“It’s fine, Tara. You did what you had to.” And Henrietta meant it. Tara had risked her livelihood to send Perry to try to help her escape. It might still be at risk, since Perry had been caught.
The guard pulled her along and out the door into a blast of wind and a darkened sky. The first big drops of rain began to fall. She couldn’t take any satisfaction in being right about the storm.
Why did I think coming back through this place would be safe? Why did I go this way?

 

* * *

 

Mendleson waited inside an alcove he found and watched while the magistrate and two of his guardsmen went inside the inn. The other four stood just outside the door. He had little illusion that he could take the guardsmen by himself, but he thought if he could follow them, find out where they were taking her, he might be able to do something.
He was having trouble figuring out what that something might be.
Minutes passed while very little changed. Maybe she’s not there. Maybe she left already. He didn’t put much hope in that thought. She had to have been as tired as he was. No, she was there, and she was probably asleep. They’d find her in bed, helpless.
Unless Tara lied to the magistrate and said she wasn’t there. Would Tara do something like that for her, for someone she hadn’t seen in three years?
The door opened, interrupting his thought, and Henrietta stepped through it, propelled by a guard. She had her pack on her shoulder. They hadn’t taken it from her.
He felt a drop of water fall on him and focused his eyes closer. It had started to rain. He hadn’t noticed while he watched, but it had grown dark enough that it looked like early evening. He looked up, and saw the clouds had thickened, grown angrier, and were black with moisture.
Moments later, the magistrate walked through the door, followed by the last guard. He had a look of glee on his face. He gave instructions, and one guardsman took Henrietta’s pack while another placed her arms in shackles. The guardsmen surrounded her then, and the magistrate led them away from the inn. Their path would take them right past his alcove.
He slid back as far into the shadow as he could, hoping they wouldn’t see him.
As they passed, he saw that Henrietta had her head down. She must think I left her. He wanted to call out to Henrietta, to tell her he was coming, but didn’t. Instead, he worked furiously on a plan. He’d have to hurry, once they were out of sight.
When the procession had turned a corner, he ran out of the alcove, ignoring the rain that was now coming down even harder. Puddles were already forming where the cobblestone lay unevenly.
He burst into the common room where he found Tara standing with a look of despair in her eye.
“Mendleson,” she said. “I tried to get her out, but they were too quick.”
He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter now. I need my pack and the horses, and something I can use for a club.” A sword wouldn’t be any good. He’d never trained with one. An axe would work, but he doubted they had one here.
“You’re going to try to save her?”
Her question made him stop to consider, but only for a moment. He knew what he had to do, whether it was because of his earlier need to redeem himself, or from his other surprising feelings for the Seer. “I’ll do what I can,” he said.
“Good. She loves you, you know.”
“I’ll worry about that later. I don’t have any time to waste.”
He ran up the stairs to get his pack. He heard Tara call out to Perry.
She loves me? He thought as he opened the door to his room. But all she does is push me away!
The pack was in the middle of his bed where he left it. He stared at it for a second, lost in thought. Figure that out later, you oaf. She won’t live long enough for it to matter if you don’t get moving.
He grabbed his pack, then ran out of the room and down the hallway toward the stairs and the horses. He hoped he was making the right decision. He hoped she wouldn’t hate him for it.

 

* * *

 

Henrietta could not remember a time when she felt more miserable than she did right at that moment. The shackles on her wrists chafed. The rain, while not seriously cold on its own, had soaked her through, allowing the beating of the wind to chill her to the bone. Her hair hung, wet and matted, into her face. Through it, she saw flashes of lightning light up the sky, followed soon after by the sound of thunder that crashed down and echoed off the walls of the city.
The guardsmen kept to a circle around her, but only touched her to push her along.
She wished she’d had visions of this moment, visions that might show her how she would escape to meet her fate at the monolith. Please, show me a way, she thought, but nothing came to her. She wished she had touched the hands of the guardsman that had put the shackles on her. She might have seen something that could help her.
Though, with her end so near, she might have seen nothing at all.
And with Mendleson gone, the chances of anything happening to save her were slim. No. I’ll have to figure this out for myself.
Unbidden, a snort erupted from her. What does it matter? I’ll die either way. Why did I ever come this way?
“We must hurry,” she heard the magistrate say, though his voice sounded far off through the wind. “This storm is picking up quick.”
She felt a hand push her in the back, forcing her to quicken her steps.
Another lightning flash. Thunder exploded overhead and through the streets.
She looked up and off to her left. Another lightning flash lit up the area, except for a tall, dark figure.
When the light faded, it was gone. She thought she heard one of the guards start to say something before the thunder crashed over them.
She reached up to try to brush the hair out of her face. I saw it, right? She proved only partially successful at clearing her face of hair, but it was enough to get a better look. She strained to look into the storm darkened streets as they walked.
Flash.
This time, two figures, walking with them.
Wraiths.
Crash. The thunder rattled her while fear settled into her belly. They had come for her again, after all this time. Why?
The answer eluded her. She could feel the shape of it, could touch it, even, but she was too tired and too scared.
“I’ve got two weeks!” she yelled.
The guard pushed her from behind, and she stumbled, only half on purpose. She fell to her knees. Anything to get the guardsmen to stop for a moment, so she could be sure, so she could figure out a way to run.
Why are they waiting?
A guard kicked her. “Get up!”
She looked up. They weren’t all paying attention to her. They were looking around.
Flash!
She was looking another direction this time, and saw two more black shapes. She didn’t think they were the same ones.
For a half a second, she thought she heard the sound of horseshoes striking the cobblestone. The thunder obliterated any chance of knowing for sure.
Another kick to her back, harder this time.
She stood, but not because of the kick. The time had come. She would run, if she could. The next flash of lightning.
She didn’t have to wait that long.
“We’re surrounded,” she heard a guard cry out.
The guardsmen drew their long-knives and turned away from her to face the dark.
She wanted to run, now, while they were turned away, but she knew that wouldn’t work. She might run right into the claws of a wraith. Patience. Wait until they are fighting. She could feel it coming.
The sound of horseshoes echoed down the street, unmistakeable this time.
A strong gust of wind tore through the group, almost blowing her over, and then it was time. In silence, the wraiths set upon the guards, trying to reach her, trying to retrieve the gift.
The guardsmen slashed out at the darkness, sometimes hitting their targets. Only the men screamed. One by one, they started to fall to the claws of the wraiths that they couldn’t see.
Flash!
A horse bore down on her. It crashed into the melee, trampling guards and wraiths alike. She couldn’t see the rider, didn’t know who had come to save her, if they had come for that purpose.
The horse slowed beside her, but only slowed. A hand came down to reach for her.
Another hand reached for her from behind. A shadow of a club came down on the person, or the wraith, behind her and the hand released her.
The man on the horse was strong and pulled her up behind him with little effort. He spun the horse around and urged it to gallop down the dark, storm-washed streets.
“Thank you,” she said.
“You’re welcome,” he said.
Mendleson. He’d come back for her. He hadn’t left after all. And despite the conflict she felt over her responsibility for his impending death, she realized she was glad he had returned.
She put her head on his back and rested it there while they raced their way out of the city. It felt right.

 


 
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.
 

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Read Chapter Twelve of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony
 

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Ten

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
So it’s Wednesday on Thursday. The Independence Day holiday yesterday destroyed my mind and I completely forgot about doing anything important, like getting you your the next chapter of Moony.

We had some good fun, though, and the weather was nice, too. Blue sky for what seems like the first time in weeks.

So here it is, Chapter Ten of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. A day late, but better than forgotten until next week.

If you need to start from the first chapter, you can find it here. If you need to read the rest of the book right this minute, there are links to purchase it in a variety of formats at the end of each chapter.

 


Ten

 

The inn that Henrietta led them to looked old and weather-worn to Mendleson’s eye. Like the rest of the buildings in this strange city, it leaned out over the street, giving him the impression that it was near to toppling over on him.
When they climbed down from their horses, a dark-haired young boy, perhaps twelve, ran out from the inn and reached for the reins. “I’ll take those,” he said.
Mendleson looked to Henrietta, and saw her give the horse over to the boy. “You’ve grown, Perry.”
“Ma’am?” the boy asked, his voice breaking as he spoke.
“You don’t remember me? I suppose it has been a long time, then. Is your mother here?”
“In the kitchen,” the boy said, clearly confused by Henrietta.
“Thank you,” she said, pulling a coin from her purse and handing it to the boy, who smiled.
Mendleson handed the reins of his horse to the boy, and got a frown when he did not produce a coin, too.
“She has all my coins,” he said.
The boy glanced at Henrietta, and when she nodded, his frown flattened, but did not entirely go away. The boy led the horses away, leaving the two of them standing at the doorway.
“You’ve been here before?” he asked.
“His mother was a friend.”
“Was? Are you worried that she’s not anymore?”
Henrietta’s shoulders came up, and she raised her head and began to walk into the building. “There’s no reason she shouldn’t be a friend.”
Mendleson reached out and tried to grab her arm, but she walked forward with a purpose, and his hand slid down to touch hers.
She stopped and gasped.
Mendleson knew what he’d done wrong before she told him, and he tried to let go, but she grasped his hand tight and wouldn’t let him pull free. She turned to face him. Her eyes were open, the irises rolled back into her head far enough that he could not see them. They stood that way for only moments, though it seemed he could have planted next year’s crops in the time it took her to come out of it.
Her eyes closed, and when they reopened, he could again see the dark of her eyes. She glanced down at his hand, which still held hers, but she made no immediate effort to pull away. He was glad of it. Her hand felt small and warm in his. Soft.
“What did you see?” he asked.
She blinked, then looked out to the street. Mendleson followed her gaze and found people were watching them. Not many, but enough.
She dropped his hand. “Nothing new,” she said. She pushed open the thick wood door of the inn and stepped inside.
“Are you coming?” she asked, her back still to him.
Mendleson quickly stepped through the door, and she let it shut behind him.
Inside, he found the interior of the inn in much better shape than the outside. The wood tables were polished, clean, and in good repair. The floor was clear of debris, and the walls, where they were lined with wood, were varnished and free of the soot he’d become used to in the more run-down inns they had stayed in. It felt like a home. He wondered at the clash between the run-down exterior and the well cared for interior. Why would the owner not take care of the outside, too?
Henrietta strode through the main room, past the few patrons who had risen so early. Most of them looked well off, and certainly not the kind of patron he’d expected from the outside. It baffled him.
When Mendleson caught up to her, she had stopped just outside the kitchen door. The smell of morning cakes and sausage seeped through the door, giving Mendleson’s stomach cause to rumble. “This place is so well cared for on the inside…” he said before being interrupted as the door swung open.
A woman, a head and a half shorter than Henrietta, stepped through the door carrying a tray with the cakes and sausages he had smelled piled onto it. She looked very much like the boy who had come to take their horses.
“Out of the way,” she said, her voice powerful and commanding.
Mendleson stepped aside and let her pass. Henrietta had done the same, and the woman swept between them, leaving the two of them to look at each other. A fleeting emotion, irritation, or perhaps surprise, passed across Henrietta’s face as the woman passed without so much as a greeting. Whatever emotion had overcome her control for the moment was buried before Mendleson could say for sure what it was.
Mendleson turned to watch the woman as she moved through the common room, setting food out in front of several of the early morning patrons. She had words with each of them, but didn’t linger long with any particular patron.
After she emptied her tray, the woman returned. She kept her face free of emotion, but when she said, “Into the kitchen,” he could hear the conflict within her.
Once the three of them were inside the kitchen, she set the tray on a free table top, and then went to Henrietta and gave her a hug. Then she stepped back and said, “How dare you come back here.” Her voice seethed with anger and fear.
“I had to,” Henrietta said.
“You had to do nothing of the sort. You know what will happen to you if they find you.”
Henrietta nodded. “I know, but I truly have no choice. I’m going home, Tara.”
Tara put a hand to her mouth, and then stepped forward and gave Henrietta another, much longer hug. “Surely not so soon,” she said.
Henrietta patted the shorter woman on the back. “Weeks at most, if not days,” she said. “It is the way of things.”
Tara stepped away from the embrace. “But how can that be? You’re still so young.”
“I’ve known for a long time.”
Tara turned to face Mendleson for the first time. She looked him up and down, seeming to appraise him like she would a cow, or perhaps a side of beef. “So who is this?” she asked once she finished.
“I’m Mendleson,” he said, even though she hadn’t directed the question at him. “I’m helping her.”
Tara turned back to Henrietta. “Since when did you need help?” she asked.
Mendleson found Henrietta’s eyes looking at him now, though her appraisal was different. He thought he saw sadness in it, and something else he could not quite make out. “I didn’t ask for it,” she said. A chill had crept into her voice that he hadn’t heard for days.
There. She was still trying to push him away, still trying to protect him from whatever fate she saw for him. But I can’t let her push me away. I can’t let her die. I promised.
Henrietta turned back to Tara. “But, he has been useful.”
Useful! Anger boiled up in him, causing him to clench his fists. His fingernails bit into the palms of his hands. “I’ve saved your life more than once.”
She stepped into him, and looked up, just a little. “How do you know, Mendleson? How do you know that your interference saved my life? Until you became involved, I knew my fate, and it was not at my front door, or in the hallway of that inn, or any other place on this journey.”
“My interference? You came to me at the festival. I didn’t set this course. Before that moment, I had little interest in you.” Even as he said it, he found himself wondering how it had happened. He couldn’t keep his curiosity contained. “Did you do something to me? Did you put some sort of spell on me?”
Her hand rose up and slapped him, almost before the last word had left his lips. “How dare you.” Her voice raised only a little in her anger. “I am not a witch, Mendleson. You know that.”
“Do I?” He thought back to that moment at the festival when they had touched. His life had changed in that moment. From that point, all he’d wanted to do was protect her. “I thought I wanted to protect you because I’d failed with Mirrielle, but now I’m not so sure. We touched and my life changed because of it.”
“Keep your voice down,” Henrietta said.
“Why? You keep trying to push me away. It’s all you’ve done since that night, yet you tied a rope to me that even a typhoon couldn’t break.”
“Just how did I tie a rope to you? You’ve been free to leave me alone since that day at the festival. You’re free to go even now. I don’t need your help, Mendleson.” She was staring right into his eyes as she said it.
He tried to probe their depths, but whatever warmth he’d thought he’d seen growing there was gone. He didn’t even know what he’d done to bring about the change in her.
The thing that really surprised him was how his anger turned to ashes as she spoke. She seemed to truly mean what she said. She didn’t want him. Why am I here?
The answer that had brought him to Berelost, that he was trying to save her, no longer felt like enough.
A silence stretched between them for long moments. Tara looked back and forth between them, but said nothing. The tension Mendleson felt between Henrietta and himself seemed to hold the brash woman back.
Henrietta reached into her pack and her hand emerged with the purse. She held it out to him.
“What’s this?” Mendleson asked.
“For your trip home.” Her hand shook.
“But…”
“Don’t worry, Mendleson. I have means.”
He reached out and took the purse from her, taking care not to brush her hand again. He reached in and pulled out a silver durin, turned away from Henrietta and handed it to Tara. “Could you find me a room? I need to rest.”
As she put the coin into her pocket, Tara said, “Of course.” Her eyes still flicked toward Henrietta, as if she were asking permission.
When Henrietta said nothing, Tara said, “Come, follow me,” and then stepped out of the kitchen.
Mendleson turned to follow her, then looked back. “I’ll be here until tomorrow, if you change your mind.”
“Take care, Mendleson,” she said.
Mendleson stepped out of the kitchen and let the door shut behind him. He’d thought closing the door might cut the rope that tied her to him, but he could still feel it pulling at him. He wanted to rush back in, tell her he wasn’t leaving her, no matter what she said she wanted.
But as he followed Tara up the stairs at the back of the inn, he resolved that he would try to forget her. He hoped it would be easier than trying to forget his failure to save his family.

 

* * *

 

Henrietta watched him walk out the door, the money purse in his hand, his pack slung from his shoulder, and felt a void envelope her. She felt a desire to reach out and stop him, pull him back to her, take back every word she’d said. She didn’t want him to go. She wanted him near her.
But she steeled herself. She had to make him leave in order to protect him. She’d brought him into her fate somehow, and it was her responsibility to get him out of it. She couldn’t let him die to save her when she knew there wasn’t a chance his sacrifice would save her. The vision hadn’t changed. The wraiths would still come for her, even as he lay dying at the top of that foggy plateau.
She wanted to touch him, one last time, to see if she had changed his fate. She’d hoped their hands would meet when he took the purse from her, but he had been careful not to touch her. I should have reached out for him, she thought, then chided herself for thinking it. If I reached out, he wouldn’t have left. “Better to let him go and not know the answer,” she said aloud in an attempt to convince herself that she had made the right choice.
It didn’t work. She could almost feel the rope Mendleson described, stretching out through the closed door, pulling at her to go to him. But she stayed in the kitchen, out of sight of the patrons of the inn.
“Why are you crying, Ma’am?”
Henrietta looked around and found Perry standing there watching her. He’d snuck into the kitchen without making a sound.
“I’m not crying.”
“But the tears,” he said.
“Tears?” she asked, while moving a hand up to her face. “There aren’t any…” She stopped when her hand discovered her cheek was wet.
She scrambled to come up with an excuse while she wiped the tears away. “Oh, I’m just so happy,” she said, trying to smile. “I haven’t seen your mother in such a long time.” She hoped Perry would believe her.
Perry looked around, and then came back to her. “My mother’s not here,” he said.
“No, dear. She just stepped out to take my friend to his room.” My friend? When did that happen?
“Do you need breakfast? I can help you find a table. Mother doesn’t like customers in the kitchen.”
Henrietta did smile, this time for real. She hoped it meant the end of her tears. “I’m not exactly a customer,” she said. “I’m a friend, and I need to speak with your mother. I would like something to eat, if you have it. I’ve been on the road a long time.”
Perry smiled and went to work, gathering up a plate and dishing up pork and bread. Henrietta watched him work, remembering back to when the boy had been mostly a nuisance, getting under his mother’s feet. He’d grown up quite a bit in three years.
Tara entered the kitchen just as Perry handed Henrietta the plate. The smell of the food caused her stomach to rumble in anticipation. She hadn’t eaten since the previous evening. She went to reach into her purse to get Perry another coin, only remembering at the last moment that she’d given it all to Mendleson. “I’m sorry, Perry. I seem to have misplaced my purse. I’ll have to get you another coin a little later.”
“No you didn’t,” he said. “I saw you give it to that man.”
“So I did,” she said, surprised he’d seen that. He’d stabled their horses pretty quickly. “I promise I’ll get you another coin before I leave.”
Tara took Perry by the shoulders and pushed him out into the common room. “Go clean those tables,” she said.
Perry turned a bit to look at Henrietta, and smiled at her before leaving the kitchen completely.
“It seems he likes you,” Tara said when the door had swung shut.
“What? I hadn’t even thought of that,” she laughed. “He’s grown so big.”
“It’s been three years,” Tara said. “Boys grow like weeds.”
“Yet it seems you’ve managed to tame him.”
Tara laughed. “Mostly. He still has his days where I’m lucky to get him to feed the horses without a struggle. Come, I’ll get you something to wash down that pork and we can talk.”
Henrietta took a seat at a small table in the back of the kitchen that Tara reserved for eating quick lunches out of sight of her customers. “But it’s still near breakfast. Don’t you need to watch the room?”
“Perry’s out there. He’ll let me know if someone needs help, and I’m not letting you out of this kitchen without knowing the real story behind this man you brought with you. Water, or wine?”
Henrietta sat her plate on the table and took one of the chairs. There were only ever two chairs. “Wine, I think. I need to calm myself so I can sleep.”
Tara stepped away for a moment, which gave Henrietta time to sample the food on her plate. The bread was warm and soft, the pork, not too salty. She wished for a moment that Tara would take her time so that she could eat more of it before having to talk about Mendleson.
Unfortunately, after Henrietta had only put a few bites into her mouth, Tara returned carrying a goblet that contained a dark red wine. Tara set the wine on the table in front of Henrietta, then took a seat across from her.
“Tell me about him,” Tara said.
Henrietta swallowed the food that was in her mouth before speaking. “He’s just a farmer that lived across the road from me.”
“Just a farmer? I know you, Henrietta. You wouldn’t drag ‘just a farmer’ along behind you.”
“I didn’t drag him. Not intentionally, at least. I haven’t been able to get rid of him.”
“Until now.”
Henrietta nodded, then put another bite of pork into her mouth and ate it before continuing. “I’m close to my time, Tara. A couple weeks at most before I lose my life and my gift to another. I’ve known since I can remember how it would happen. The details have grown clearer over time, but I had always been alone when it happened.”
“You saw this in a vision?”
“Yes. Every Seer knows their end.”
“There’s no way to avoid it?”
“I tried. I came here, first, thinking that if I wasn’t where I saw the vision happen, it couldn’t happen. Others can change their fate, why can’t I?
“But then, you remember what happened. I left and went west, to a small town on the coast. Still, the vision never changed.”
“How often do you see these visions?”
“Every few months or so. They’ve grown more numerous as my time grows short. I’m seeing it every few days now, if not more often.”
“So your vision hasn’t changed?” Tara asked.
“It did about two weeks ago, right after I met Mendleson for the first time.”
“I thought you said he lived across the road from you.”
“We never talked. Before I became his neighbor, his wife and child died in a fire while he was away. He has hardly been off his farm since.”
“How did you end up meeting?”
Henrietta paused to eat another bite of pork and followed it up with a sip of wine. “The Fates brought us together at the local summer festival. I had a vision that showed me meeting someone there, though I couldn’t see who it was. So I went. He was sitting on a bench near the area I had seen in my vision, and we struck up a conversation.
“When I went to leave, he reached for my hand and touched it. I had the vision of my end again, only this time, he was in it. I tried to run away from him, tried to change it back, but I couldn’t get him to leave me alone.” And then, a little softer, she said, “He just kept saving me from them.”
“I don’t understand,” Tara said. “If he keeps saving you, why do you want him to go?”
Henrietta felt her tears start to come again, and she wiped at her eyes to forestall them, with little luck. After a moment, she gave up. “In my vision, he dies, Tara. He dies, and he still doesn’t save me.”
Tara stood up and stepped around the table to give Henrietta a hug. It felt good to have the comfort. It didn’t stop her tears, but her muscles relaxed a bit in her friend’s embrace.
“I just wish I knew why I’m crying,” Henrietta said.
Henrietta felt her friend chuckle before Tara pulled away to look her in the eye. “It’s obvious to me, Henrietta. I think that rope he complained about is tied to your heart. You don’t really want him to go.”
“That can’t be it,” she said. “The Fates couldn’t be so cruel as to give me something like that so close to my end.”
“Of course they could be so cruel. You told me long ago that it’s not in the nature of the Fates to concern themselves with the fairness of their designs.”
“I can’t…” Henrietta began.
“You don’t know what you can do. I think it’s funny, in a way.”
“Funny? How?”
“You’ve known your whole life how it would end. You’ve spent years preparing yourself for it. Now, they’ve turned your plans, whatever they may have been, upside down and you don’t have any idea how to handle it.”
Henrietta picked up the goblet from the table and finished off the last of the wine. She wished she had another full goblet. She’d drink that down, too. Her friend was right. It had a certain sort of humor to it. “It’s a cruel joke, if you ask me.”
“You don’t have to let him go.”
Henrietta’s eyelids felt heavy. She stood up and felt the weight of her travel trying to drag her down. “I can’t let him stay. I can’t let him die.”
“You once told me that the future is uncertain, that fates can be changed.”
“Not the fate of a Seer.”
“How can you be sure? You’ve already seen a change in your vision. How do you know it won’t change more?”
Henrietta shook her head. I’m not really considering letting him come along, am I? But she was. She wanted him with her. “I don’t want him to die.”
“Maybe he won’t.”
What am I thinking? I’ve seen it? “Tara,” she said, “I appreciate your ear, but I think I’m just too tired to even think right now.”
“I should stick you in his room.”
“Please, no. I need time to myself.”
“A room to yourself then. It’s the least I can do for you. I’ll put you across the hall, though, in case you decide you want to visit him.”
Henrietta felt herself grimacing. She had forgotten how forward her friend could be. “Don’t tell him.”
Tara laughed. “I promise he’ll hear nothing from me.”

 


 
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
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Amazon
CreateSpace
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Read Chapter Eleven of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony!

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Nine

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
I am slowly becoming resigned to the fact that I will never get these up early. Especially during the summer. I have the kids home all day, now, and I have to get new writing done (I’m about to finish up another SF story), and I just forget until the afternoon.

If you aren’t sure what the heck I’m talking about, each week, I’m uploading a chapter of my novel The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony for you to read, free. You can read all of them, starting from the first chapter if you wish, and it won’t cost you a dime. After I’ve finished putting them all up (I’m not doing the math today), you’ll be able to read the whole thing for free.

If you can’t wait that long, or if you would like to support my writing, you’ll find links to the various stores where you can buy The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony or any of my other titles.

 


Nine

 

Over the next three nights, Mendleson could feel he was getting better. The minor cuts and scrapes had ceased to pain him. Only the major ones, the large tear on his side, and two others on his back, caused him any discomfort.
Henrietta had to apply the herbs to at least one of the three each morning after they’d come to a halt. Despite the pain it caused him, he found he didn’t mind her ministrations. He didn’t know if she was aware of what she was doing to him, but each day, he found it harder and harder to remain stoic while she attended to his wounds, especially during the moments when she was unwrapping the bandages.
One of the days, they’d found another inn to sleep at, but it had been full of rats and had an underlying musty smell, even in the heat of the summer. He hadn’t slept well at all. When he mentioned to Henrietta that he wished they’d slept outdoors, she had agreed.
The other two days, they’d had to find spots deep in the forest and away from the road to sleep the day away. He had worried about bandits, but she told him not to worry. His worry, it had turned out, had been for naught. No one came and stole their things or accosted them while they slept.
So when they reached the border city of Berelost a couple hours before sunrise, he had hope that they could find an inn that would allow him to get a good day’s sleep.
They emerged from the forest into a large clearing that surrounded the city. It was dotted with darkened homes. In the distance, lamplight lit the thirty foot tall city walls. They were a relic of the distant past when wars raged across the lands and each city had to look to its own protection.
Mendleson had never seen the city before. “I would have thought they would have abandoned the walls long ago,” he said to Henrietta.
“The memories in Berelost are long, and they do not look much to the future. The wars were hard on them.”
“You know this place well?” he asked.
“I spent a year here, before I moved to Porthead.”
“Why did you leave?”
“They asked me to,” she said.
Mendleson thought about asking her to elaborate, but decided against it. She didn’t sound like she wanted to talk about it.
As they approached the walls, they found the immense gate shut.
They sat atop their horses and waited at the gate for several minutes, but the guards were either asleep, or ignoring them in the hope they would go away.
“Do you want to see if they will let us in?”
Henrietta pulled at the reins of her horse. “No, there are only a couple hours at most before they open the gate. No need to bother them.”
Mendleson followed her, while wondering at her quick dismissal of his idea. He couldn’t imagine that asking would cause that much trouble.
Henrietta found a place away from the wall that was sheltered by a hedge. It had a nearby fence where they could tie up the horses.
Mendleson couldn’t contain his curiosity. “Why didn’t you want to ask them to let us in?” he asked while they tied their horses to separate fence posts.
“First, we’d have to tell them who we are, and then somehow convince them our mission was urgent.”
“It is urgent,” Mendleson said. “I need to find a bed.”
Henrietta finished tying her horse and went to sit up against the hedge. Moments later, Mendleson finished with his horse, and he walked over and sat next to her.
“Do you need a bed so much that you’re willing to risk getting tossed from that bed?” she asked.
“What are you talking about?” Mendleson ran his fingers through the grass.
“Remember how I told you that they asked me to leave? They warned me to never come back.”
Mendleson looked up. He could see the outline of her head against the glow created by the lamps along the walls. She was looking at those walls. “What did they say would happen?”
“They accused me of inciting lawlessness.”
Mendleson laughed. “You?”
“As I said, they prefer to look to the past. Their current status as just another city eats at their hearts.”
“Let me guess. You told someone important of their future, and they didn’t like it.”
Henrietta laughed for the first time since they’d left Gretta’s. Her laugh had a musical quality to it that warmed him and, for a moment, reminded him of better times. “Hardly,” she said. “I told an unscrupulous street vendor that I saw him in prison in the not too distant future. I had no idea what would land him there. I assumed it was his various tricks that would find him a free bed. Instead, he decided to try to kill the magistrate.”
“He didn’t succeed?”
“No,” she said without the laughter, “which is how he only ended up in prison, and I ended up leaving with the gate shut behind me.”
Mendleson looked out over the darkened landscape and contemplated what happened to her. After minutes of silence, he said, “You don’t think your vision for his future prompted him to fulfill that destiny, do you?”
“Are you asking if I think I should have withheld that particular future from him?”
“Do you?”
“The Fates are fickle and hard to decipher, even in the most obvious situations. If I had withheld that future from him, would I have caused him to do something else that landed him in prison? By telling him, I gave him the opportunity to change his ways and perhaps avoid prison. He made a different choice.”
“But if you hadn’t told him,” Mendleson said, “you might not have had to leave Berelost. You might not have come to Porthead.”
“But the Fates might have found another way to drive me toward my destiny. The vision I’ve had of my death since I was six has not changed in all these years—not until I met you. Even then, all I managed to do in my effort to avoid my fate is put you in the middle of it with me. My fate hasn’t changed, no matter what I’ve done.
“Are my visions given to me in order that I may try to change them? Or are they given to me so that I may tell the person involved so that they can try to change things? I can’t make that decision Mendleson. It’s not my decision to make.”
Mendleson looked at her again and saw she was staring straight ahead. He could see the slight crook of her nose as a silhouette. He found himself watching it, hoping she would turn it in his direction, hoping she would look at him. You confound me, Henrietta. You do everything you can to push me away, yet I’m drawn to try to save you as if you were family.
He didn’t even want to think about what that meant for his memory of his wife and son. He’d hardly thought of them in days. Upon realizing it, he felt his spirits sink, but they did not sink as far as he thought they should. Some other spirit buoyed them against the weight of his wife and his son.
For a moment, he felt like reaching out and hugging Henrietta to him. He needed her contact, but he refrained. It won’t do to get involved with her in that way, Mendleson. If she’s right, you’ll be dead in a few weeks or less.
But what if she’s seeing it wrong? What if she’s misinterpreting it like she did with the street merchant?
Mendleson couldn’t come to any conclusions while they sat next to each other in silence. After an hour or so, the sky grew lighter, and in the distance, he saw the gates to the city open.
“This will be my first time in a city,” Mendleson said as he untied his horse.
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll only be here a day.”

 

* * *

 

Henrietta told herself, over and over as they entered the city, that she would make it through without any trouble. She felt confident they would make it through. In order for her vision to come to pass, they would have to. It was the “without any trouble” part that she worried about.
She’d lived within the stone walls, thicker than the length of a horse, for a year. She had to work to hold back those memories as she passed through the gate in the early morning light.
Berelost lived in its memories of previous glories. It had stood for centuries, dividing the kingdoms on either side, standing apart from them, until the day those two kingdoms became one. That new, unified kingdom spent all its might for three years on Berelost, and finally cracked it. Even now, a lifetime later, they remembered what they had been.
She led Mendleson through the still shadowed streets. She looked back over her shoulder and saw that his mouth hung open and his eyes constantly moved from one sight to another. She caught herself smiling and turned away, hoping he didn’t see it.
She did look around herself. The two and three story buildings loomed over the street, closer than she remembered. She knew people lived in them, above their shops, and that they weren’t really trying to crush her, but she couldn’t rid herself of the feeling that the city knew who she was and it didn’t want her there. Even after three years, her memories of this place clouded her perception of it.
She quit looking around and concentrated on her path through the maze of streets. The main road they had entered on did not drive straight through to the heart of the city. It meandered about, visiting many of the burroughs, until it finally reached the river that separated the eastern half of the city from its western half, and gave Berelost its reason for being.
Buildings could not be built out into the road at ground level. The law required that builders had to leave enough room for carriages to pass each other at any point. Above the ground floor, the builders were allowed to build as they pleased. As a result, the buildings hung out over the road, almost like their purpose was to block out the sky.
Henrietta looked up through a gap above her and saw that the morning was not dawning blue and bright, but cloudy and gray.
“Mendleson,” she said.
He stopped his gawking and pulled up next to her. “I don’t like this place,” he said. “It makes me feel like I’m in a barrel.”
“You might have to get used to it,” she said.
“Why?”
“The sky, it has clouded over. There’s a storm coming, I think.”
“A vision?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No vision, just experience. They sometimes get late summer storms here that last for days. The year I lived here, rain fell and the wind blew for nearly a week. I couldn’t go outside for fear of losing my footing.”
“What should we do then? We can’t stop moving, can we?”
“I don’t know. We might not have a choice.”
She watched Mendleson rock his head back and yawn. “Should we just push through?”
“You’ll fall asleep on your horse. No, we need to rest.” She patted her pack. It was almost empty. “We need to purchase more supplies, too.”
She kept them moving, passing denizens of the city as they stepped outside their doors to head off to work, or to open their shops. The streets grew more and more choked with people as they drew close to the river.
When they reached the mall along the riverfront, it was already crowded, making it difficult to maneuver their horses with any speed. Over the top of the crowd, she could see the three bridges that spanned the murky channel of water. North of them, the docks were already busy with people readying their boats for trading voyages up and down the river.
She looked back and caught Mendleson looking that way, an expression of longing on his face.
“Do you miss it?” she asked him. She had to raise her voice to be heard over the noise of the mall.
He turned to look at her. “What?”
“Do you miss your boat, miss going out on the water?”
He stared at her for a moment, then glanced back over his shoulder at the docks. “No,” he said, finally, shaking his head. “It was another life.”
To Henrietta, he sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
Then he changed the subject on her. “Where are we going?”
She wanted to ask what he meant about it being another life, but decided to let it lie until later. “An inn on the other side of the river. I have a friend there.” I think.
“Then lead on,” he said, a hint of anger in his voice.
She couldn’t figure out what she’d done to upset him, but decided the mall was not the place to ask. It probably didn’t help matters that they were both tired. She wasn’t meant for traveling at night and sleeping during the day. She almost hoped they’d have to stay in for a couple days due to the storm. But then, she didn’t want to risk having the wraith appear. She didn’t want to risk having Mendleson foolishly try to save her again.
As she rode through the crowd and brought them across the middle bridge, a solid stone monstrosity wide enough for an army to cross, her thoughts turned to ways she could prevent Mendleson from helping her. Not one of the ways she could imagine had a real possibility of working.
Trying to leave while he slept seemed possible, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. The only way it could succeed is if she left him without his horse and without the money to purchase another. The problem was that it would leave him stranded, far from his home, with possibly no way to return.
It didn’t help, either, that she liked having him around. Except for the times when his mood grew sour after she brushed up against his previous life, either intentionally or on accident, he was easy company. He didn’t talk too much, didn’t press her for visions about his future. Of course, she’d already told him of his future.
She looked back at him. He had his head down, letting his horse follow hers. He’d stopped looking around and appeared to have sunk inward. She wanted to reach back somehow and put her arm around him, help him deal with his past. If only I knew how.
A man shouted at her. “Watch where you’re going!”
She turned around to find that she’d almost ridden her horse into a portly man dressed in a black suit, the jacket of which strained against the man’s middle. Streaks of gray ran through his dark hair, and he wore a mustache, the ends of which hung down below his chin.
She recognized him and her heart skipped a beat. He hadn’t changed much in the three years she’d been absent. Fates! Why do I have to run into the Magistrate? “I’m sorry,” she said, turning her head away slightly, as if ashamed. She hoped it would be enough. She hoped three years was enough.
His eyes searched her. Please don’t recognize me. She hoped the dirt of the road, the unwashed nature of her clothes, the undone state of her hair, would be enough to make her unrecognizable. She felt Mendleson come up beside her.
“Do I know you?” the magistrate asked.
“No,” she said, trying to act meek.
Mendleson leaned out in front of her. “Excuse my wife, sir. We are just passing through, and she is new to riding.”
The Magistrate’s gaze drifted to Mendleson as Mendleson spoke, but as soon as Mendleson finished, it flicked back to Henrietta. “Well,” he said, his eyes not leaving her, “perhaps you should lead her through the city, then.”
“Yes, yes,” Mendleson said. “I shall do that.” He took the reins of her horse from her, and started to lead her on. “Let’s go, Mathilda.”
She kept one eye on the Magistrate for as long as she was able, while trying to hide her relief and surprise at Mendleson’s quick thinking. The Magistrate turned and watched them go. He clearly recognized her, but couldn’t place her face.
She waited until they were around a corner before she pulled her reins back from Mendleson’s grasp.
“So who was that?” Mendleson asked.
“The Magistrate.” She watched alarm grow in his face.
“Should we just leave the city?”
Henrietta thought it over, and realized this might be her chance. The wraith would come for her wherever she was. She could save Mendleson this way. If only I’d thought of it while the Magistrate stood right next to me. “We could leave, but by nightfall, we’d be exhausted. The horses need rest and feed. We still have to purchase supplies. I think we have to risk that he won’t remember me.”
“But he does remember you,” Mendleson said. “It was clear from the way he couldn’t stop looking at you.”
“He remembers my face. He didn’t connect it with who I am, or he wouldn’t have allowed us to ride away.”
“But what if he does figure it out? What if he has already and is looking for us? I think we should go, now.”
“Mendleson, Berelost is a large city. Even if he makes the connection, he will have difficulty finding us before we leave.”
Mendleson turned away from her for a moment. He had to go along with it.
When he turned back, he said, “Only for the morning. You’re right, of course, we do need sleep, but I don’t think we should stay any longer than we have to. This place feels dangerous to me.”
That’ll be long enough. “This way, then,” she said, pulling her horse back into the lead. “We’ll go to the inn, sleep until midday, then pick up supplies on our way out.”
A gust of cold wind blew through the street, whipping her hair about her head. She looked up and saw the clouds above them had grown thicker and darker. If only the storm will stay away.

 


 
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Read Chapter Ten of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Eight

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
Every Wednesday, I’m uploading another chapter from a novel that I’ve written, in order, so that eventually you will be able to read the book for free right here on this website. Today, it’s Chapter Eight of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony.

It’s going to take another fifteen weeks for the entire thing to be posted here, so if you just can’t wait to read the rest (or if you are enjoying it and want to support me), there are links to purchase the book from different places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble at the end of each chapter.

If you need to start at the beginning, you can find the first chapter here.

Enjoy!

 


Eight

 

Mendleson thought it fortunate that they were taking the trip in the middle of summer. They could travel light without the need for tents and heavy blankets, and the sky stayed clear, allowing the stars and the moon to light their way.
They followed the road out of town, still continuing south along the coast. He knew they would have to turn east at some point, as he was vaguely aware that Arabeth lay in that direction.
But he’d never been so far from home. Riding along the coast, it didn’t look much different from his home. The moon reflected off the sea whenever it wasn’t blocked by dunes or bluffs or the trees that grew on them.
The trees were the biggest difference. There were so many more of them dotting the hillsides. He didn’t think there was room for farmland in any direction for miles.
On occasion, they passed a solitary home, the windows dark while its occupants slept.
Most of the time, when not keeping an eye out for wraiths, he watched Henrietta’s back. He wondered what she was thinking, and he pondered the possible reasons she had grown so angry with him.
She couldn’t possibly have feelings for him. Not after three days. She kept trying to get rid of him. She’d even tried to leave while he slept.
Even if she did feel something for him, his memory of Mirrielle would come between them, wouldn’t it? But when he thought about it, he realized he hadn’t dreamed of Mirrielle since meeting Henrietta, and he only thought of Mirrielle when Henrietta brought it up.
Are you telling me something Mirrielle? I’m not ready.
“Mendleson.”
“What?” He looked up and found that they had come to a road that lead east, and Henrietta had turned down it while he’d been… What was I doing exactly?
He brought his horse around to follow her, and waved a mental goodbye to the sea.
“I hope Paulus came looking for me and took care of my animals,” he said.
“What?”
“My animals. My horse, the sheep. I hope someone found them and took care of them. I feel like I won’t see them again.”
“You’ll see them again.”
“Will I? Will I even go back there again?” He thought about Paulus. Hugh. “Damn.”
“What?”
“They’re probably all looking for us.”
“They’ll look for you. Me, they’ll assume I got on the coach.”
In the starlight, all he could see of her was her silhouette.
“Why are you so melancholy of a sudden?” she asked.
He looked back over his shoulder, and the sea had disappeared. “I’ve always lived near the sea, even as a boy. It’s a part of me, and I’m leaving it behind.”
She didn’t say anything for a moment, and Mendleson began to think she wouldn’t say anything at all. The only sound was the thud of the horses hooves on the packed dirt road.
She surprised him when she spoke again. “When I left my home, I think I felt much the same as you. I feared I would never return. I feared I would miss the trees and the stone.
“And, for a while, I did miss them. But I found new things to see and love. The sound of the waves as they break upon shore, the view of the sea, the sound of the wind as it roars off the water.
“You will find new things, too, if you choose not to return. Do not mourn your past. There is always a future.”
Mendleson liked listening to her, even if the last bit sounded like rote Seer wisdom. Her voice had a soothing quality to it, when she chose to use it.
“Do you believe that?” he asked.
“Believe what?”
“That there is always a future.” As soon as he finished, he wished he could have the words back. He knew the answer she would give, and he felt like fish guts for making her think it.
Before she could respond, he said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have asked that.”
“No, it’s all right,” she said. “You weren’t asking about me.”
“No, I wasn’t.” he said.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
He thought back to the memory, the days after, the years since. They still hurt, even though he now felt like he had a purpose for the first time since the moment he’d discovered Mirrielle and Josua dead at the center of his burnt out house.
“Not right now,” he said, and let his horse drop back behind hers. He hadn’t thought about them deeply for days, but the night-time ride gave him ample time to think.

 

* * *

 

Henrietta called a halt to their ride as they entered a small village just after dawn. Children were already up and playing in the gaps between the houses. Men readied themselves for the fields and other professions.
It had a small inn, and she found herself knocking on the door while Mendleson tied up their horses. She looked back at him while she waited for the proprietor to open the door. He hadn’t said a word since she asked if he wanted to talk about his future. She suspected, however, it wasn’t his future he mulled over, but his past.
That question had somehow caused him to revert to the man he’d been for the four years prior to the festival.
The door opened, and she found herself confronted by a man that appeared to be three times her age. His head grew only a white fringe of hair around its crown, and his nose hooked down so that it nearly obscured his upper lip. His bones looked ready to split his skin if he sat or moved the wrong way.
“What’s this, you bothering us so early with your bangin’?” he asked.
“I’m sorry,” she said, trying to look contrite. She had thought he would be up and about with his guests already. “My…” she looked at Mendleson, “husband and I need a room for the day.”
“For the day? What sort of folk are you that you need a room for the day?”
“Just travelers. Please sir, we’ve been riding all night, and just need a safe place to sleep.”
A hand reached around the door and pulled it open wider, revealing a stout woman that stood more than a foot shorter than the man. Her girth more than made up for the difference.
“Give the dears a room old man,” she said. “They look exhausted. Have your husband…” Henrietta heard a cough behind her, but didn’t turn around, “…take the horses around back to the stable.”
“Thad, go take care of those horses,” the woman said. She reached out her hand to Henrietta. “Come in, dear. He’s just ornery in the morning.”
Henrietta took her hand. As the woman pulled her into the inn, Henrietta looked over her shoulder and saw Mendleson leading the horses away. I hope he has the good sense to play along.
The woman led her into a dining area that looked to take up most of the first floor of the inn. It was empty of patrons.
“Do you not have many guests?” Henrietta asked.
“Some days, we have several, other days, none. Last night was one of the latter. Those days makes Thad testy. Here, sit a moment.”
She pulled out a chair for Henrietta, and Henrietta sat in it, despite not having much desire to sit. She hadn’t ridden a horse so far in years, and she felt sore all over, but mostly in the parts she was sitting on.
“Would you dears need to eat something before I show you a room?” the woman asked.
“What do you have?”
“I could heat up bread and broth right quick. We weren’t much prepared for guests this morning.”
Henrietta sighed. She’d much prefer eggs or salted pork. “That’ll be fine,” she said.
Mendleson came into the room from the back carrying their packs. He set the packs down next to the table, pulled a chair out, and sat down much like Henrietta imagined Thad would sit. “Why are we sitting? I just want to lay down and sleep.”
“She’s making us something to eat.”
“A slab of roast?” he asked.
Her mouth watered. “Bread and broth.”
“That’ll do,” he said, crossed his arms on the table and laid his head on them. Henrietta had an urge to reach out and run her fingers through his hair, but she kept her hand to herself.
They waited that way until the woman came out with a tray. On it rested two steaming bowls and a plate with bread. Mendleson lifted his head up.
She set the tray on the table, placed a bowl in front of each of them, and set the bread plate in the middle.
“Let me know when you dears are ready for your room, and I’ll take ya up.”
“Thank you.”
The woman walked away and left them alone.
“So,” Mendleson said in a low voice, “why did you tell them I was your husband?”
“I thought it would forestall strange questions.”
“You could just as easily have said I was your guardian, like we did last time.”
“I didn’t want to let them know what I am, and I wanted us in the same room.”
“Why?”
“In these small towns, Seers can be overwhelmed with requests for visions, if they’re not run out of town. You never know what will happen.”
“No,” he said. “Why did you want us in the same room?”
“To save money,” she said, not wanting to examine her motives. She didn’t want to admit to not knowing why she did it. She didn’t want to admit to the possibility that she did.
“We have plenty of money,” he said.
“Just eat. We’ll discuss it in the room.”
He stared at her. She stared back, and for a moment, she thought she could see into his mind, and into his past. Then he broke eye contact, picked up his spoon and scooped broth into his mouth.
They finished their meal in silence. When they were done, the woman appeared out of nowhere, as if she had been watching them.
“Are you ready for your room?” she asked.
“Please,” Henrietta said, and stood.
Mendleson stood, too, then picked up their packs.
They followed the woman up a stairwell near the back of the inn and then down a hallway until she reached the end. She opened a door on the right, then stood there while they entered the room. It looked nice for a room in a village this small. Henrietta suspected it was their best room.
It had a bed, a wash basin, and a rocking chair. A poorly executed painting of the Fates hung above the bed. Henrietta looked back at the woman. Does she know? But the woman wasn’t looking at her. She was instead engaged in getting payment from Mendleson.
“Ma’am, would you mind waking us just before dusk,” Henrietta asked.
The woman closed her fleshy fist around the coin Mendleson had just placed in her palm and looked up. “Of course,” she said. “Just before dusk. Will you want something to eat before you leave?”
Henrietta looked to Mendleson, who was looking at her. She couldn’t read his expression. “That would be nice,” she said. It would certainly be better than eating on the road.
“I’ll see to it, then,” the woman said. “Have a good rest.” She turned and walked down the hall.
Mendleson closed the door. She saw him eye the bed, then the window. The window had curtains, but they weren’t at all thick. She watched him go to the bed and pull a blanket off.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
He took the blanket to the window. “I’m going to cover the window.” He hung the blanket up on the curtain rod, and the room grew much darker.
He went back to the bed, took hold of the other blanket and pulled it off.
“What are you doing now?”
In the darkness, he looked puzzled. “I’m going to lay this out under me so that I don’t have to sleep directly on the floor.”
Henrietta felt her heart beat a little faster. “You don’t have to sleep on the floor. There’s room for both of us on the bed.”
She could see his head turn as he looked between her and the bed.
“Are you sure?”
She imagined laying next to him, feeling his body against hers. What will it feel like to touch him? To feel his warmth so close? It was possible he would be her last chance to find out what a man felt like so close.
“I’m sure,” she said. Really? But she wanted it. She wanted to know.
He put the blanket back, then went around to the other side of the bed, putting it in between them.
He unlaced his shirt, and she found herself watching him. As the shirt came away, it exposed the bandages he wore underneath. A stray sunbeam caught one of them, and she thought she saw red where blood had soaked through.
Damn. She had forgotten about his wounds. “I should not have let you carry those bags,” she said. “Sit down.”
“What?”
“I think you ripped open one of the wounds. Come over here and sit on the bed next to the lamp, and I’ll tend to it.”
She went to the nightstand and lit the lamp, bringing the light up enough to see. He came around and sat down. Up close, she saw that two of the bandages were red with his blood.
She searched through her pack until she found the herb packages Gretta had stowed inside. She took out two of them, and brought them to the bed. Gretta had thought to wrap the packages in additional bandages, for which Henrietta silently thanked her.
Looking at the wounds, she decided the worst one was the one on his side. She reached around him to get at where the bandage had been tied off, which brought her face close to his chest. She could smell him, and far from being unpleasant, it made her want to lay her head on his chest.
She almost did before she remembered what she was doing and untied the bandage. She had to reach around him more than once to unwrap it, and every time, it brought her in close to him.
When the bandage was completely free, she looked down and saw the damage the wraith had done to him, and she hissed. It was far worse than she had imagined. There were cuts all over his torso. “How did you even manage to ride today?” she whispered.
“I didn’t ride on my belly,” he said.
She found the wound that was bleeding the most. It was a six inch gash on his side, just below his ribs.
She went to the washbasin, which she found full of water. A couple cloths were next to it. Henrietta silently thanked the woman for seeing to their needs. She picked up one of the cloths, dipped it in the water, then went back and knelt down in front of Mendleson.
She wiped the blood away from the wound and saw that it had only pulled open enough to bleed a bit and make a mess. Mendleson didn’t move under her ministrations.
“Doesn’t this hurt?” she asked.
“Of course it does,” he said.
“Then why don’t you move?”
“If I moved, everything else would hurt.”
Henrietta laughed, and she had to pull her hand away from him until she could stop.
“Why are you laughing?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “You’re just so contradictory.”
“I don’t understand.”
She looked up into his eyes, and they were watching her. “You sit here, not moving, in order to avoid additional pain. Yet you insist on coming with me wherever I go, knowing that my vision says your path will end in your death.”
His eyes kept watching hers, but he didn’t open his mouth to say anything. She wondered what he was thinking. She wondered if, perhaps, he was thinking about his wife.
“I’m sorry,” she said, looking away. “Maybe it isn’t that funny.”
She reached over and grabbed a packet of herbs. She pinched some out, and then began packing them into his wound. He did flinch, then. After she finished packing the wound, she wrapped the bandage around him again.
His closeness seemed different this time. More comforting, less exciting.
“No,” he said. “You don’t have to be sorry.”
“But…” she tried to protest.
He put his fingers to her mouth to stop her. “We’re both tired. And you are right. It is a contradiction, but it’s not one I’m sure I can explain.”
He stood up, walked around to the other side of the bed, then climbed on it, and lay on his back.
Henrietta took the bloodied cloth to the washbasin where she set it to the side. She picked up the other cloth, dipped it in the water, and wiped her face.
The washbasin had a mirror above it that let her see Mendleson lying in bed while she cleaned up. With his wounds and the long horse-ride, she realized she’d have to wait before she could discover what it meant to be a woman. I wonder if Gretta was laughing when she told me he had to avoid anything strenuous. Did she know what I might do?
She searched through their packs until she found a nightgown. She looked at Mendleson and saw he had his eyes closed. She stripped off her clothes as quickly as she could and slipped into the gown.
She climbed into bed, blew out the lamp, then lay her head down. After a moment, when Mendleson hadn’t moved, she rolled to face him, and she moved in close enough that she could breathe in his scent while she slept.

 


 
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Read Chapter Nine of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Seven

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
This is Chapter 7 of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. I’m putting up a new chapter of the book for free each Wednesday, and after another sixteen 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.

 
 
 
 


Seven

 

Henrietta felt much better now that she had confessed her weakness to Mendleson and Gretta. To have her fear and frustration out in the open seemed to have lifted a burden from her, or at the very least, made it lighter. She didn’t have to carry it alone anymore.
She still couldn’t sleep. Instead, she spent the night worrying the wraith would come for her. She had thought herself so composed, back in her home, when she had planned to travel to the mountains alone. I wonder if I would have made it. Would I have turned tail and run again? Is that why the Fates brought Mendleson into my life?
The thought only gave her another topic to keep her awake. His plan sounded good, but how would it really work out? Was there a way to change her fate? Was there a way to change his?
But what really bothered her was that she couldn’t keep the picture of his face out of her mind. The way he looked at her, concern without reverence or fear. He cared about her, and she knew he thought it was an opportunity to correct for not saving his wife. Henrietta didn’t care why, though. For the first time since her Gran passed away, someone cared, and it wasn’t because of what she could do.
Henrietta was surprised at how long the morning took to come. She had thought it late when she tried leaving him, and with all that happened, she imagined the morning sun couldn’t have been more than an hour or two away.
When it did come, she still hadn’t slept, and felt so weary that she didn’t want to get out of bed.
But she forced herself out anyway. She dressed in her other change of clothes and stepped out of her room. She smelled eggs and biscuits cooking, and followed her nose to find Gretta in the kitchen, humming.
“Have a seat,” Gretta said, pointing to the table.
Henrietta took a seat, and moments later, Gretta put a plate and a fork in front of her. Henrietta loaded her fork with eggs and stuck them in her mouth. She felt them slide down her throat to warm her up.
“You look like you didn’t sleep,” Gretta said while sitting down across from her with her own plate.
“I didn’t.”
“Any particular reason?”
“First, I worried the wraith would show up here, but later, I started thinking about Mendleson.”
“He cares for you.”
“Does he? It seems that way, even to me. But I wonder if he’s just helping me because of his wife.” Henrietta took a bite of her biscuit. Gretta had buttered it for her already.
“He’s married?”
Henrietta shook her head while she tried to swallow the biscuit. “No,” she said once the biscuit was down. “Not anymore. His wife died in a fire a few years ago, along with their son. I’ve heard that he blames himself for not being there to save her.”
“Where was he?”
“He was a fisherman. I think he was out on the water fishing.”
Gretta looked thoughtful. The two of them ate in silence for a bit.
“So tell me about the festival,” Gretta said, breaking the silence. “Why were you there? I’ve never known you to attend those things.”
“I don’t, usually. But I had a vision of myself going to the festival, so I went.”
“What happened there?”
“Some women wanted me to see for them right then and there, but I couldn’t see anything. I managed to escape and found myself next to Mendleson. We struck up a conversation, and then he asked me if there was any way he might have saved his wife.”
“That’s why you think he’s helping you.”
Henrietta nodded. “I moved to leave. He reached out and grabbed my hand, and I had the vision. I’ve tried everything I could think of to get him to leave, but he’s so stubborn.”
Gretta chuckled. “Henrietta, you had a vision of yourself going to the festival. You were supposed to meet Mendleson. You were supposed to have that vision. Why are you so certain your vision means doom?”
“The wraiths attack him, and when they come away, he’s motionless on the ground. What else could it mean?”
“Henrietta, you’ve been alone your whole life.”
Anger welled up within Henrietta. Why would Gretta say that? “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Do you know what love is?”
“It’s what happens when two people like each other so much they can’t bear to be apart.”
Gretta laughed. “Love, Henrietta, is when a man drags a woman halfway across town to get help for her while he nearly bleeds his own life onto the street.”
No. “But we hardly know each other.”
“And what makes you think knowledge is a requirement for love?”
How can this be? I don’t believe it. “If love is involved here, it’s the love of his wife, not of me.”
“It may have started that way, but I can only tell you what I saw. I saw a man who had more concern for you than for himself. He may not even know it yet. Most men are too thick-headed to understand what’s happening.”
“But…”
“Don’t argue with me just for the sake of arguing. I’m an old woman, Henrietta, and I’ve seen the many relationships people have when their loved ones are dying. Listen to your heart, not your Sight. Try to understand what it’s saying to you.”
Henrietta finished the last of her breakfast. Could she be right? What does it matter if she is? There’s not enough time. I can’t let him die for me.
She stood up. Her legs felt stronger from the food, but still weary. “Thank you for the breakfast, Gretta.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to wake Mendleson. We should be on our way.”
Gretta came around the table and gave Henrietta a hug. “I don’t think so,” she said. “Mendleson won’t wake for hours, not after the draught I gave him finally took hold. And you need sleep, too.”
Henrietta yawned. She did need sleep. “What about my things? Are they still at the inn? I should go get them.”
“I’ll have Brode retrieve them.”
Gretta couldn’t be right. It’s only been three days. Love doesn’t happen that fast, does it? And what does it matter? I don’t love him.
Then she thought about the kiss in her vision that had seemed so real. Maybe there’s something to what Gretta says. But how do I listen to my heart?

 

* * *

 

Mendleson found Henrietta sitting at the end of his bed when he woke. He had no idea how long she’d been there, but it felt good to see her. He remembered a conversation taking place at some point. He had a vague memory of convincing her to let him protect her, but he couldn’t quite figure out if it had been a dream or not.
Seeing her sitting there watching him indicated that maybe it had been real, after all.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
Mendleson hadn’t even noticed, but after her question, his aches impinged upon him.
“I’ve felt better. That wraith nearly got the better of me, didn’t it.” It certainly felt like it. If he didn’t remember the thing going up in flames, he wouldn’t have been surprised if it had won their battle.
“From what Gretta tells me, you’re lucky to be alive.”
“It’s not luck,” he said, and chuckled a little before the pain of it stopped him.
“What do you mean by that?”
“It’s fate, isn’t it? I can’t die until your vision says I do.”
Henrietta shook her head. “It doesn’t work that way.”
“It is dead, isn’t it?” he asked.
“I don’t know. It won’t matter. Like I said last night, there are others that will come for me.”
Mendleson sat up, despite the pain, and swung his legs out of the bed. They were bare. He silently thanked Gretta for not removing his underclothes. “I guess I’m not going far without my clothes.” He looked at her. “Don’t let that give you any ideas. I’d follow you without them.”
She laughed, which brought his spirits up. He could not remember hearing her laugh before. “I’m sure you would. I’ve done everything I could to get rid of you.”
“You haven’t tried to kill me yet.”
Her smile fell. “I’m trying to prevent your death, Mendleson. Not hasten it.”
Mendleson looked down at his feet and flexed his toes. They were about the only part of him not bandaged. “I’m trying to do the same for you.”
“Why? Because of your wife?”
“Partly,” he said. “but I’m not sure anymore. I’ve saved you twice already. Why can’t I just get on a horse and head home?”
“Why don’t you?”
He looked back at her, saw her hair, her eyes that seemed so open, yet hid so much. Why don’t I? She was at once, so strong, yet so vulnerable. “I don’t know why,” he said. “It just feels like I should stay with you.”
“At risk of your life?”
“I made a promise to myself, Henrietta. I promised myself I wouldn’t let you die.”
Henrietta stood up. “You shouldn’t have made that promise, Mendleson. You should have left well enough alone.”
“Maybe I should have. But it’s too late now, isn’t it? We’re on this course, and we have to sail it.”
Henrietta sighed, then walked to the door. She opened it and made as if to step out, then turned to face him.
“You know what Gretta said?”
Mendleson shook his head.
“She told me she thought you were in love with me.”
“How is that possible?” he asked. “We’ve known each other three days.” It’s not possible is it? Could I love her? No.
“That’s what I told her, but she seemed certain.”
They stared at each other, he sitting on his bed, covered in bandages, her standing at the door, beautiful as ever.
“It doesn’t matter, does it? Even if I was in love with you, you can’t say the same thing about me, seeing as how you’re always trying to get rid of me.”
Mendleson watched her for a reaction, but she held her face still. “Of course not,” she said. “You’re too bull-headed for me. You should get ready to go. We have a long ride.”
She turned and walked out the door, shutting it behind her with a loud bang.
“Wait! Where are my clothes?”
She didn’t come back to answer him.

 

* * *

 

Henrietta did not know how he had just made her so angry. I’m only trying to protect you, you oaf. He’s right anyway. How could it be love after three days of running and sleeping. I hardly know anything about you, either.
She let herself fume in silence until she ran into Gretta. “Do you want to see if that fool is ready to go? I don’t think we should stay another night.”
“What’s wrong, Henrietta?”
“Nothing.” Apparently, she hadn’t quite controlled her anger yet. “If we’re going to do this, I think we need to get moving, and he’s sitting around in there without any clothes on.”
“You didn’t tell him where they were?”
“I’d like you to examine him first. I don’t want him dying on me.”
“Oh, he’s fine, as long as he doesn’t exert himself too much for a few days.”
“A few days?” What if we’re attacked again?
“He should be good to ride. Just don’t make him carry you to any more healers. I’ll let him know where his clothes are. Brode has the horses out back.”
“Thank you,” Henrietta said.
Gretta left, and Henrietta made her way to the back of the house where Gretta had a stable.
Henrietta found Gretta’s husband in the stable grooming horses, only they weren’t the horses from the coach. The coach was missing, too. “Where is the coach?”
Brode made Mendleson look small. Henrietta could imagine he would appear to be a giant in the right lighting. Which made it all the more amusing when she talked with him. “I haven’t seen you in a while, Brode.”
“I saw you,” he said, and rushed over to envelope her in a hug. His voice sounded like a child’s. “You’re lucky your friend brought you here, I think.”
“What happened to our horses?”
“Gretta had me sell them, and the coach, too. She said where you were going, you might be better off with more speed, so we bought these.”
Henrietta didn’t have any eye for horses. They all pretty much looked the same to her, but she nodded anyway. “She’s probably right.” Though I’m not in any hurry to hasten my death.
Brode dug into his coat pocket and pulled out a purse that jingled. “This is yours, too. Leftovers from selling everything.”
She took it and found it was heavy. It would probably be more useful than the coach.
Besides, this way, you won’t have to sit next to him and talk for the whole trip. She couldn’t decide whether that was really a benefit.
Mendleson stepped outside, a bit gingerly. Gretta followed him, carrying a pair of packs. Henrietta found herself wondering if leaving right now was a good idea. Perhaps they could wait another night.
“Are you sure you can do this?” she asked as Mendleson and Gretta entered the stable.
“Gretta assures me they’re just flesh wounds, and that now they’ve scabbed over, I’ll be fine as long as I don’t exert myself too much. I’ve had worse injuries.”
He looked around, then out through the stable door where dusk was just beginning to arrive. “We travel at night?” he asked.
“At least tonight,” she said, feeling defensive.
“It’s probably a good plan. At least we’ll be awake when they attack us.”
Gretta handed the packs to Brode, who draped them across the horses. “There are a few packages of herbs in your pack,” she said to Henrietta. “If any of his wounds break open, pack the herbs in the wound and dress it again.”
Henrietta nodded.
“He should be mostly better in a few days. Today and tomorrow will be the time to take the most care.”
“Thank you, Gretta, for everything.”
“I appreciate the thanks, but there is no need. You helped me long ago,” she said, looking at Brode who was helping Mendleson into his saddle. “I am only returning the favor.”
Henrietta leaned in and hugged Gretta. “You deserve my thanks anyway,” she said. Even if you’re wrong about love.
Henrietta mounted her horse without too much trouble.
She looked at Mendleson, wondered if she should say anything, then decided against it. Putting her heals into the horse, she directed it out into the early evening. She didn’t wait to see if Mendleson followed.
She took a deep breath, inhaling the smells of salt air, knowing it would be the last time she smelled the sea.
Mendleson rode up next to her. “I’ll miss that smell,” he said.
She surprised herself. For the moment, she felt content. She was on her fated path with her fated company. It felt right.
Until she remembered where it lead, and her contentedness fell apart to shatter on the road.

 


 
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 The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Chapter Eight