I’m sorry that this week’s chapter is so short, but I don’t have much choice. I either combine it with next week’s chapter, and leave you hanging for a week to find out what happened, or I combine chapters twenty-two and twenty-three for a more satisfying read next week.
I prefer doing the latter.
So, here is Chapter Twenty-One of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony in all its brief glory.
If you haven’t started reading The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony, with only one week left, now is the time! You can find the first chapter here. If you just have to find out how it ends right this minute, there are links to purchase it in a variety of formats at the end of each chapter.
Henrietta woke with the early morning sun streaming through the hole in the roof, bathing her face in its light. She’d hoped she’d dream again, that her vision of her end would have shown itself to her again, and that it would have changed.
But her night had been devoid of dreams, and she didn’t know if Mendleson’s leaving changed anything.
She stood up and stretched. Lindyral hadn’t given her much more than a thin mat to sleep on. It was better than the ground, with which she was all too familiar lately, but it still left her shoulders and her back sore.
She looked around for Lindyral, and couldn’t find her anywhere. She saw a plate on the table, and it held a loaf of bread and a vine of berries. She sat down to eat.
Putting berry after berry into her mouth, all she could do was think about Mendleson. After her conversation with Lindyral, she found herself wishing she hadn’t driven him off. Her heart still ached because of it. More than once as she ate, she caught herself crying.
She choked the tears back each time. “Dammit Henrietta,” she told herself after the third time. “You are not going to spend the day crying over your decision.”
She finished the bread, and then stood up. She looked to the hearth. The coals were cold. Lindyral had seen to that before she stepped out.
No. It was obvious Lindyral was not coming back.
“I guess I got what I wanted,” Henrietta said. It’s not what I wanted. It’s what I asked for.
She didn’t have a pack, but where she was going, she didn’t need one. “Less than a day’s walk,” Lindyral had said. “Up the trail until it ends.”
What surprised Henrietta at first was that it was the same place her vision had her going. It seemed she hadn’t changed her fate at all. Perhaps, she thought, this is what it would have been all along had I not met Mendleson.
The tears came again, and she wiped at her eyes. I can’t think about him. Think about the other possibility.
To become a Fate. To be able to touch the world in a more direct way, to help people, the idea excited her.
She stepped out into the early-morning mountain sun and moved toward the trail at the top of the meadow that sat behind the hut. It was only near the stream where the ground was rocky. Elsewhere around the hut, the ground was covered in grasses that came to her thighs.
She thought about what Lindyral had told her while she waded through the grass.
“Becoming a Fate isn’t the easy decision that it sounds like. You don’t get to chose the lives you touch. You don’t get to have contact with them unless they seek you out, and you will rarely, if ever, talk to another Fate. You will be alone—like the rest of us.”
“That doesn’t sound as bad as death,” Henrietta had said.
“It doesn’t? To never be able to talk to your love? To always remember the chance at love that you had and didn’t take? I know what’s been in your heart, and I am not sure that you would cherish becoming a Fate.”
“Then why tell me about it?”
“So that you can make a choice. You came to me for advice, and it is my charge to provide it. I cannot tell you what to choose.”
“I have time to choose?”
“If you are at the Standing Stone as the sun drops below the horizon, you will be given a choice. Think hard before then, for whatever choice you make, it cannot be undone.”
Henrietta had asked more questions, until Lindyral told her that she would not answer another.
And now she was entering the forest on her way to the stone that she’d seen in her dreams all her life, and she found herself wishing Mendleson was with her. This time, the tears came, and she let them. There was no one to see.
* * *
Henrietta emerged from the forest and onto the plateau, and she still hadn’t made her decision. Her tears were gone for the moment, and she was happy for that. It let her look out over the edge of the plateau to see the world below, and the view took her breath for a time.
Because the sky was clear, she could see Berelost in the far, far distance. Closer, she could see the rivers and the lakes surrounded with trees. She saw farmland and roads. She felt almost like she could see the whole of the world.
She could also see the sun as it neared the horizon, a blazing orange ball that would herald her new life, or her death. It wouldn’t be long, either. She had, at most, half an hour before the sun touched the horizon and began to sink out of sight.
She turned around, and for the first time with her own eyes, she saw the Standing Stone, the monolith, that she had envisioned since she was a girl.
It was hexagonal in shape. Its rounded top towered above her, some fifteen feet or more in height. Glyphs covered each of its black granite faces, glyphs she did not know how to read. It had been imposing in her dreams. Here, in front of her, it inspired a sense of awe. Her mind could not have brought words forth to describe the sense of ancient power that it radiated. There had been none of that in her vision.
What had Lindyral said? ‘You only need embrace it, and say the words.’
But in its presence, she could not remember the words. Even having seen it, she wasn’t sure she wanted to say them, anyway.
She thought she heard something in the trees, the snap of a branch, and she turned to look in that direction, but among the late evening shadows that inhabited the forest, she could see nothing that moved.
She turned around to watch the sun, to wait for it to complete its daily journey across the sky, to wait for her doom, whichever doom she chose. She knew it would happen tonight.
Fear crept through her. No matter what happened, she would lose what she was, she would lose her sight, and she would no longer be able to look forward along the branches of a life. If she chose to become a Fate, she would live for generations, but she would forever be denied another chance at a real life.
“If only I hadn’t driven Mendleson away,” she said softly. “I would have liked to say goodbye.”
And, she realized, she would always be haunted by that mistake.
The bottom of the sun touched the world, and she knew the time had come at last. She would have to chose, and she didn’t like either choice.
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