This week’s chapter of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony is Chapter 20. After this week, there are only two weeks left until you learn the ultimate fate of Henrietta and Mendleson.
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Henrietta walked down to the edge of the stream and found a rock to sit on. She stayed in sight of the cottage. She worried a bit about the wraiths, wondering if they would come for her here, but felt that she was safe for the moment.
She looked up at the sky and found it clear. The stars shone as bright as she could remember having seen them, and they were a comfort to her. There was possibility in them, and certainty. They hung in the sky, every night, always in the same pattern as they moved through their slow progression.
She remembered back to a time when she had listened to her grandmother tell her that the stars were the eyes of the Fates looking down on them. Henrietta had wondered which one was her fate. The memory grew hazy. She couldn’t remember exactly what her grandmother had said. Just an admonishment against looking to the stars for her fate.
But since then, Henrietta had always wondered, when she looked up, which was hers.
Having met Lindyral, though, she no longer thought the stars were fates. The stars were too constant and distant for that to be possible. She couldn’t imagine one of them interfering in her life, or interfering in Mendleson’s.
It has to be that woman, she thought. What I can’t figure out is why. Why is it so important that I lose my sight here in the mountains? Why do I have to come here to die?
Behind her, the dim light escaping the cottage flared up, causing her to turn just as Mendleson fell backward through the door.
Why did that woman have to make me responsible for his death, and why does she now have the stones to tell me that it might have saved his life?
Mendleson didn’t get up right away, and a tingle of fear ran through her. What happened?
She stood and shouted out to him. “Mendleson!”
He rolled on to his side, and she breathed a sigh of relief. He pushed himself up to his feet, and when he started walking her way, she sat back down on the rock and waited for him.
When he was near enough she didn’t have to shout, she asked, “What happened?”
She could only see an outline of his face in the starlight as he shook his head. “I don’t know,” he said. “I asked her a question, and she got angry with me. The fire flared up, and for a moment, she no longer looked human.”
“What did she look like?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t describe it.”
He made as if he wanted to sit down next to her. She moved to make room for him. When his body pushed up against hers, she felt a different tingle than the tingle of fear.
“What did you ask her that made her so upset?” She let her hand fall so that it touched his thigh.
“The last thing I asked was if she was the Oracle of Arabeth, but I don’t think that was the only thing that made her upset.”
“What do you think it was, then?”
“I kept pushing to find out about my friends back home,” he said. “She wouldn’t answer me. She said she wasn’t my fate.”
She could feel his warmth, and she snuggled in closer to him. The air around them felt chilly. “Did she say anything else?”
“She told me I had to come for you if I wished to see you live beyond the taking. I didn’t understand that at all.”
Henrietta’s breath caught in her throat. I can live!
Then she thought about what that might mean, about what her vision meant for Mendleson. “Leave me now, Mendleson. Save yourself. I may get to live, but I’m sure that you’ll die.”
He turned to face her, and even though they were shadowed, she thought she could see his dark green eyes as they took her in. “If she’s right, I have no place to go. My home is in ruins.”
“That doesn’t mean you have to die for me. Everyone I’ve ever loved has died. My mother, my aunt, my grandmother, and now my uncle. And every one of them died trying to protect me.” She reached up and touched his stubbled cheek, let her hand slide around behind his neck. “I don’t want that fate for you, too.”
“What about what I want?” he asked. She could feel his breath on her lips. “I don’t want you to die. I realize now that my wife’s death was not my fault, and I’ve accepted it, but if you think for a moment that I wouldn’t do everything within my power to save your life, you’re a fool.”
She didn’t know why, but his assertion made her feel warm inside, not angry. “A fool?” Am I really a fool?
“Yes. If you push me away, you’re a fool. Let me in. Let me help you.”
Henrietta just couldn’t imagine doing that. She pulled her hand from his neck and leaned away. “I can’t, Mendleson. I can’t see you hurt.”
“Then, please, come inside and talk to that woman. She thinks you can live beyond the loss of your sight. At least listen to her for me. What harm could that do?”
“Only if you promise me one thing.”
“Promise me that once I’ve heard what she has to say, you’ll leave.”
“No,” he whispered.
“Promise me, Mendleson. Promise me you’ll go live another life, or I won’t go listen to her.”
He stood up and backed away from her. “I can’t do it,” he said. She could hear the anguish in his voice. She hated it.
But she couldn’t let him die for her. She stood, too. “If you don’t promise me, I will walk out into those woods and let the wraiths take me.” Mother! Grandmother! What do I do? I’m hurting him, but I can’t let him die for me!
After tortured moments, he bowed his head. “I promise,” he said, and then he turned back to the cottage and left her standing at the edge of the stream.
She ran after him with a thought toward holding him and telling him that it would all work out, but when she caught up to him, he resisted her touch.
Her heart ached, as she knew instinctively that she had managed to create a barrier between them that hadn’t been there before. Somehow, she had thought she’d feel better about convincing him to leave, but instead there was now an emptiness in her heart that she hadn’t known had been filled.
They walked back to the cottage together in silence, and just about as far apart as they’d been since their meeting at the festival.
* * *
Back in the Fate’s hut once again, Mendleson tried to stay as far away from the woman as possible. He was grateful that the Fate took Henrietta across the room so that the two of them could talk together without being overheard.
He kept telling himself, as he sat at the table watching them, that he should leave now, but he couldn’t make himself do it. He’d given up far too much already to leave before he was sure Henrietta had listened to the woman and would do what was necessary to survive.
And as he watched them talk, he dreamed about her, thinking that maybe a day would come when he could be with her, thinking that he could find her again after he left.
She completely befuddled him. He’d thought she had accepted he would be there until the end after what had happened in the barn, and then at her uncle’s home. He thought, when she woke, she would be grateful, that she would finally see what he’d come to see.
But she hadn’t. She maneuvered him into a corner so that he had to give in to her demands.
And that had angered him. She was so stubborn, and for a woman given such an incredible gift of sight, she was blind. Blind to his need, and to her own.
They’d been weeks on the road together, and still she kept working to make him leave despite her obvious desire for him to stay.
She is the same as me. She can’t accept that she’s not responsible for the fate of others. He chuckled darkly to himself, and Henrietta turned her head to look at him, before turning back to the Fate. Her Fate.
Mendleson stood, then. I’ve done all I can. It’s time for me to go.
With one last look at Henrietta, who didn’t turn away from her conversation, he stepped out of the hut into the dark of the night, unsure of where he would go next.
* * *
“You can’t change the future through your actions,” Lindyral said. “If you want a different future, my daughter, you must change your heart.”
“I don’t understand,” said Henrietta. “How can changing my heart affect the future more than changing actions?”
“Every action that you take ultimately flows from your heart. In the short term, you can take an action that goes against your heart’s desires, but your heart will ultimately undermine that action and your fate will not change.”
Henrietta heard Mendleson chuckle from behind her, and she turned momentarily to look at him. He didn’t seem to be chuckling at her. The look on his face was dark. She ached to walk over to him, to tell him he didn’t have to leave. But this is for his own good, isn’t it?
She turned back to Lindyral so that she wouldn’t waver in her decision.
“But what about my heart must change? How do I avoid my Fate?”
“You cannot avoid me, my daughter. I must take your sight and pass it on to another.”
“But Mendleson said you knew how I could live beyond that.”
Henrietta heard a chair scrape, but didn’t turn around. She didn’t want to look at him again. Then she heard his footsteps, and knew he went outside. She knew he left.
She wanted to jump up, tell him not to go, to come back, that she was wrong. But she wasn’t. It was better for him this way.
“That,” said Lindyral, “is unfortunate.”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Your love for him, and his for you, that was the easiest path to what you seek. I had hopes that you could change your heart, that you could learn to love and receive the sacrifice of others, and that you could do so without blaming yourself.
“Your aunt died because your uncle would not sacrifice of himself for her. Your mother blamed herself for your aunt’s death. And you, you blame yourself for it all. Your heart is closed to real help from others.”
“But I can’t let him die for me!”
“It is of no matter, anymore,” said Lindyral, with a look of concern and sadness on her face. “He is gone.”
“No,” Henrietta said.
She jumped up and ran to the door. She went outside into the night air and yelled at the top of her voice. “Mendleson!” Again and again, her voice echoed into the dark. He had to have heard her, but he didn’t return.
For the first time since her mother died, she felt a real sense of loss, a hole in her heart, an emptiness where something had grown these past few weeks. Tears stung her eyes as she continued to cry out for him. “I’m sorry,” she said.
She felt a hand on her shoulder, and after several more cries, she acknowledged the hand. “What have I done?”
“What you have always done,” said Lindyral. “Come inside, and I will tell you of another possible way, but the result may not be what you want.”
Henrietta followed her inside, a little bit of hope amidst her misery. “How is it different?”
“You would become a Fate.”
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Read Chapter Twenty-one of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony!