I’m sorry this one’s a little late. I spent the morning reinstalling Windows on the computer Wendy uses after the system drive failed, and I completely forgot that today was Wednesday, until just now.
So, here is the fourth installment of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. I’m putting up a new chapter of the book for free each Wednesday, and after another nineteen weeks, you’ll be able to read the entire book for free.
If you need to start at the beginning, you can find the first chapter here. If you just can’t wait to read the rest, there are links to purchase the book in many different formats at the end of each chapter.
Henrietta stood for a moment, trying to take in what happened. The wraith was the easy part. It had come for her, like she knew it would. She just hadn’t imagined it would be so soon.
She hadn’t expected to be saved. Not from a wraith. And not by Mendleson, of all people. She didn’t know where he had come from, as she’d only had eyes for the wraith as it held her in place and brought its terrible claws toward her eyes.
A rock had come down while she waited for the end, driven by a pair of hands, and smashed the wraith’s skull. It fell away, its claws ripping the flesh of her neck. She felt at her neck, felt the scrape marks. They stung, but she didn’t feel the blood she expected.
Of course, she couldn’t die here. Or, at least, the chances of it were not great. Her death would happen someplace else.
Rage had overcome Mendleson. He smashed at the wraith again and again until at last, he tried to stand.
He did stand, for a moment, before she saw that he was falling backward, toward her. On instinct, she reached out and caught him, kept him from falling to the stone pathway.
It left her view open, and she could see past him, to the open cowl, where it was obvious her attacker was not a man. He must not have realized what he was saving me from.
She held him up until he caught himself and got his own feet under him.
“What… what is that?” he asked.
Once Mendleson had control of himself, she let go. “It’s a wraith.”
She nodded. She didn’t want to go into it here. I have to leave. She looked out to the road and saw the coach sitting there, waiting for her.
“I have to go.”
She went back into her house to get her trunk.
“Where are you going?” Mendleson asked. He moved to help her with the trunk.
“I don’t know. I can’t stay here, though.”
Together, they brought the trunk out to the coach and strapped it on to the rack. She was grateful for the help.
“The wraith. It will come for me until I’m dead.”
“But it’s dead. I killed it.”
She shook her head. “No, you didn’t. It can’t be killed. It will wake and come after me. I don’t know how much time I have left.”
She looked back at her home. “I’m going to miss this place,” she said. The way the sun sets on the horizon, my tree, my garden, the quiet. “You’ve been a good neighbor, Mendleson. Go hide in your home and don’t come out until morning.”
She climbed up into the driver’s seat.
“I could come with you.”
Her vision came back to her, and terror leaped into her chest fully formed. “No! You can’t do that.”
“Just go home. Thank you for your help, but please. Go home and hide.”
He pulled the coach door open and jumped inside.
“I’m not going home until I know why you were so afraid of me the other night,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“You didn’t scare me. I…” Movement by her house caught her eye and interrupted her thought.
The wraith was trying to stand. Too late. I can still drop him off later. I can still change it.
“Shut the door, Mendleson.”
“Shut the door! It’s waking up.”
It had pushed itself to its knees. She assumed it had knees. She didn’t really know what they were beyond what she had gathered from stories heard at her grandmother’s feet.
She heard the door shut, and she urged the horses into motion. For a moment, she worried they wouldn’t accept her, that they were some sort of ethereal creatures.
But they moved, and the coach lurched and picked up speed. Just horses.
* * *
For what felt like half the night, Mendleson rattled around inside the cabin of the coach while Henrietta drove the horses as hard as she could. It gave him time to think and reflect, but like the bumpy ride, his thoughts were disjointed and disconnected.
The interior of the coach seemed far more luxurious in the dark than he would have imagined a hired coach would be. The walls were embossed in leather, and the seat felt well cushioned. If Henrietta hadn’t driven the horses so hard, it might have been a really nice ride as far as coach travel went.
Once inside and they were on their way, he thought for a while about what that thing was. He’d never seen the like, but he suspected few people ever had. That Henrietta knew about it, knew it wouldn’t die, that scared him. Has she seen them before? Is that why she moved here in the first place? Did she know it was coming?
Of course, they weren’t questions he could answer on his own. He’d somehow have to convince her to answer them if he was to protect her.
His mind went quiet for a moment.
I am going to protect her. He knew it.
He tried to argue against himself. What about that thing? How are you going to protect her if you can’t kill it? How are you supposed to fight something that won’t die?
He didn’t know the answers. But the answers didn’t matter. She needed his help, and he wouldn’t fail her. I’ll find a way.
An hour or so later, he looked out the window on his right to find the moon had risen. In the near distance, he could see it reflecting off water. The Western Sea. She’d driven them down through the town and south along the Coast Road.
He tried to think of where they might be, how close to the next town, and realized they wouldn’t reach it for hours yet. How long have we been running?
He opened the side window. The salt air spilled into the cabin. Whatever chill had come with the wraith was gone. The coolness of the air now came from the sea.
“Henrietta!” he yelled.
She didn’t respond, so he repeated his call.
“You need to slow down! You’ll kill the horses!”
He didn’t hear an answer, but after a minute or so, he could tell she’d eased up. The coach slowed, the ride grew smoother.
After a few minutes, he leaned out the window again. “Stop the coach,” he said. “I need to talk to you.”
“We need to keep moving.”
“It’s got to be miles behind us by now. It can’t travel that fast, can it?”
Several moments passed before he heard an answer. “I don’t know.”
“Then just stop long enough so I can climb up next to you. I think we really need to talk.”
The coach slowed to a stop, and Mendleson stepped out and shut the door. He climbed up to sit on the bench next to her. As soon as he was sitting, she got the horses moving again.
“So what do we need to talk about?”
“Where are we going?”
“I know that.”
“I don’t know where I’m going. I’m just running.”
He tried to get a look into her eyes, but she turned away from him. “Why are you running? Why was it trying to kill you?”
She didn’t answer.
“If I’m going to help, I need to know what’s going on.”
She did turn to look at him then. Moonlight reflected off her eyes, but he couldn’t tell whether he saw anger or tears. “You are not going to help me. I can’t allow that to happen.”
“You’re getting off in the next town, and we’ll never see each other again.”
* * *
Mendleson looked upset, but Henrietta didn’t care. She could not have his death on her hands.
“What do you mean we’ll never see each other again? You need me.”
Henrietta hated sitting next to him, hated having this conversation. None of the women had ever questioned her insight. Of course, Mendleson doesn’t know why I’m trying to rid myself of him.
She looked deep into his eyes, lit as they were by the lamps that burned on the side of the coach. The worry she saw there made her wonder. She surprised herself by wondering aloud.
“You’re not trying to help me because of your wife, are you?” she asked.
He sat back and looked away. She tried to guess what he was thinking, but could not conjure anything specific.
“No,” he said. “I don’t think so. I’m not sure.”
He turned back to her, and she did see tears in his eyes. She hadn’t meant to hurt him. She hadn’t realized how vulnerable he was to thoughts of his wife.
She opened her mouth to say something, but words wouldn’t form. I’m sorry? It seemed too little.
“You were home the other day when I came by and knocked on the door,” he said.
She nodded. No point in lying to him now.
“I only wanted to apologize for whatever it was that I did to frighten you.”
She looked ahead, pretending to watch the road ahead. “You didn’t frighten me.”
“But you looked so scared after I touched your hand. I thought for sure…”
“You didn’t frighten me.” Why won’t I tell him? He knows what I am. The only answer she could come up with was that she didn’t really want him to go. But she did want him to go. She felt certain of it. She wouldn’t allow herself to be responsible for his death.
“If I didn’t frighten you, then what happened? Why did you hide from me?”
She decided she’d tell him, in the hope it would frighten him away. She turned to face him again. He looked so earnest.
“When our hands touched, I had a vision.” she said.
She didn’t want to talk about it. It was too close to the vision of her own death that she had when she received the sight. She’d had it drilled into her that she should never reveal that vision. But here she was, about to reveal it to a man she hardly knew. A thought came to her.
“I saw you with me, and I saw you die,” she said. She felt proud of having told him of his part in her vision without revealing the whole thing.
“How do I die?” he asked. He didn’t seem afraid at all.
“Wraiths, in the mountains.”
He appeared to think for a moment. She liked watching him think. He may have been a fisherman once, but he wasn’t one of those that frequented the taverns along the waterfront.
“You were afraid for me,” he said. “You think that if I stay with you, I’ll die.”
“You will die. I saw it.”
“But you told me at the festival that your visions don’t always come true. You implied that they can be worked around.”
“I did say that,” she said. “And that’s why I want you to leave. It’s the easiest way to work around it.”
He reached out to her. “But if I leave, you’ll die.”
She shied away from him. He seemed to realize what he’d done and let his hand drop.
“I’ll die, anyway, Mendleson. It can’t be helped. I’ve known from the day I received the Sight how my end would come.”
She shook her head. “It is the way of things. I wish it could be different. I wish I had more time, but knowing my end is the price of the gift. There is no way I can escape it.”
“There’s got to be a way. If I can avoid the fate you’ve seen for me by just leaving you, then you should be able to avoid yours by just never going where you saw your end.”
“Mendleson, it doesn’t work that way. For me, the threads of fate will be constructed in such a way as to place me where I need to be. There is another Seer coming into the world, and she needs my Sight.”
Henrietta couldn’t believe how comfortable with the whole thing she was making herself sound. It frightened her to her core.
She cut him off. “No. I already tried to circumvent my fate. I came here, and in doing so, I tied you to me. You were never in my visions before.”
They rode in silence for a while. She stole glances at him as often as she dared, but he looked out to sea.
I wonder if he misses the sea? I don’t have the right to take the possibility of returning from him.
The road began to curve, following the coastline, to the south east. More and more trees sprouted up to her left, high on the hills. They were leaving the more arid lands to the north. And she was getting tired. She’d been awake since the sun had risen.
“Henrietta,” Mendleson said, causing her to jump a little in her seat.
“I dreamed of that wraith the last two nights.”
She jerked her head over to look at him. “You what?”
“I dreamed of that wraith, or something much like it each night since we touched at the festival. I knew it was coming for you. What does that mean?”
“I don’t know. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Tell me about it.”
“It was just a dream. I don’t remember a whole lot about it except that wraith, it had to be the wraith, was chasing after you. I was chasing after you, too.”
She thought about it for a moment. Is it possible? Did some of my vision spill over our connection?
“You’re right,” she said. “It was just a dream.”
“But it couldn’t be just a dream. I dreamed of that thing, and then it showed up. That must mean something.”
Finally, she gave up trying to reason with him. He obviously had no regard for his own safety. “Look, Mendleson. You are leaving me when we reach the next town. I will not be responsible for your death.”
“You’re not responsible for me. I’m not leaving.”
“How can you be so stubborn?” She wanted to cry, but wouldn’t let herself.
“Why are you in so much of a hurry to die? I can help protect you.”
Then the tears did come. She couldn’t stop them. “I’m not in a hurry. I just don’t have a choice.”
“Then I’m staying, at least until we come to this mountain where you see me die. If we’re still alive, then I’ll leave.”
She wiped at her eyes, trying to clear the tears. She didn’t know what to say. It might work as well if they waited until they reached the mountains before he left. As long as he never went to the plateau in the mountains where the monolith stood.
They wouldn’t have long, but for the first time in her life, she’d met a man that didn’t fear her, and she didn’t want to let him go.
The coach rolled on in silence for a while, until he noticed her yawn.
“Give me the reins. I’ll drive for awhile. You climb in the cabin and sleep.”
“But…” Another yawn cut off her protest.
He stopped the coach and she climbed into the cabin and lay down on the seat. It didn’t take her long to drift off into dreams, but not a one of them was sweet.
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Read Chapter Five