This is Chapter 6 of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. I’m putting up a new chapter of the book for free each Wednesday, and after another seventeen weeks, you’ll be able to read the entire book for free.
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Henrietta’s eyelids flipped open and she found herself staring up at a ceiling that looked familiar.
“So, Henrietta, it seems you’ve found a savior.”
She absolutely recognized the voice. “Gretta.”
Henrietta brought her elbows underneath her and pushed herself up. The room was exactly as she remembered it. When she looked at Gretta, she found the older woman hadn’t changed much either. Her hair still hung straight and shoulder length, though there was a little more silver above her ears. Her smile was as welcoming as ever.
“How is it that you didn’t come stay with me instead of at that awful inn that Rupert runs?”
“You know the innkeeper?”
“Of course, dear. He sends me work at least twice a week. Can’t seem to keep his customers from getting hurt. Now answer my question.”
If there was one thing Henrietta remembered about Gretta, it was that Gretta could badger information out of a stone. With her, it was usually easier to just spill the seeds. “I didn’t want to bring my trouble on you.”
Gretta laughed. “Nonsense. You didn’t want me getting my fingers on that man of yours. He’s something special.”
Henrietta shook her head. “He’s just a friend…Wait. Is he here?”
“He’s in the other room, sleeping off the draught I gave him.”
“Sleeping off the… Gretta. How did I get here?” Henrietta remembered a wraith coming for her. It had her in its grip. It was pulling something out of her. Then nothing. Her memory ended.
“Your friend brought you here, strapped across a horse. I’m not sure what happened to either of you. A knock on the head for you, perhaps, but he had gashes all over him, and he lost a lot of blood, I think. It must have been some fight.”
Worry overcame her. “Is he alright? He’s not…”
Gretta reached out and patted Henrietta’s shoulder. “Don’t you worry. He’s fine. He’s got me to look after him.”
Henrietta relaxed. She wished she knew what had happened. But as long as he didn’t die because of her.
“How long will he be out?”
“A few hours, I should imagine. Enough for the salves to do their work.”
Henrietta tried to push herself up. “Time to leave, then,” she said.
Gretta held her down. “Woah, not yet. Not until I know you’re recovered from that knock on the head. Besides, like I said, your man won’t be awake for hours.”
“He’s not my man,” she said. Why does it feel wrong to say that?
“I think he would differ. He seemed far more concerned with you than with himself.”
“He thinks he can save me,” Henrietta said softly.
Gretta’s eyes went wide at that and she sat on the edge of the bed. “It can’t be your time, can it?”
Henrietta nodded. “I can’t see beyond the summer.”
Gretta leaned over and wrapped her arms around her. Henrietta closed her eyes and tried not to cry. She felt just like when Gran had wrapped her up as a child, before Gran’s time had come.
“I can’t believe the fates would be so cruel,” Gretta said as she sat back up.
Henrietta shook her head. “They aren’t cruel, Gretta. They just are. Every person, every living thing, has their part to play.”
“But we can all change our part. You’ve told me as much yourself.”
“Not us. Not me.”
“I don’t understand,” said Gretta.
Henrietta took a breath. She’d been told by her Gran not to reveal the secrets to any who weren’t Seers, but at the moment, she didn’t care. She’d tried to accept what she knew would come, but Mendleson kept interfering.
There was an attraction between them that could perhaps grow into more, given enough time. The kiss in her vision. Is that all she would be allowed?
She needed help, and Gran was long dead.
“What my Gran told me is that there are a limited number of Seer’s at any one time. Their gift is that they can see the possible futures. They can see the fate of people so that they might change it.”
Gretta nodded, but did not speak.
“Gran told me there are two prices the Seer must pay for her Sight,” Henrietta continued. “The first is that the Seer learns of her death on the day she receives the gift. The second…”
“The second is what?” Mendleson’s voice came from the doorway.
Henrietta turned and saw him leaning against the door frame for support. His face looked whiter than normal, and he seemed a little wobbly. “Mendleson…”
Gretta said at the same time, “You should not be up.”
“What is the second price, Henrietta?” he asked. As wobbly as his body was, his eyes were steady.
“Seer’s can not change their fate.”
Gretta stood up and went to Mendleson. She led him to the bed and forced him to sit. This allowed Henrietta a chance to study the man that brought her here.
He wasn’t wearing a shirt, but with the number of bandages Gretta had applied, he didn’t need one. He was more bandage than skin.
Once Gretta had him sitting, he asked, “Then what is it that I have done these last three days? Haven’t I changed your fate?”
Henrietta didn’t know what to say for a moment. He had changed her fate. Just talking to her on the festival night had changed it slightly. It put him in the middle of it. It changed his fate more than hers.
Or, was it the other way around? Was it I that changed his fate? Am I responsible for this?
“I wish I could talk to Gran.” she said.
She hadn’t realized she said it aloud. “She had more time to learn. She had more knowledge about the gift than anyone I knew.”
“What would she know that you don’t?” he asked.
“She would know whether you are correct. Did you change my fate already? Or is it I that changed your fate? Is the vision I had of your death due to my attempt to change my fate?”
His eyes grew soft with concern for her. “Don’t you even think that. I didn’t have to reach for you. I didn’t have to follow after you. How could your vision of my death be your fault?”
“I came to your town to try to avoid my fate. I thought that if I stayed away from anywhere that remotely looked like my vision, I would be safe from it. Why is it that Gran got to live to be an old woman, yet I must die before I’ve even had a chance to live? I hate my gift.”
The tears came. She hadn’t meant to say that. She’d never told anyone how she felt. She had never before come close to saying it aloud. She’d kept it from herself for so many years.
Gretta bent down to give her a hug and comfort. “There, there,” she said. “We’ll figure this out.”
Henrietta wished she believed her friend. She wished it was Mendleson that had put his arms around her.
* * *
Mendleson felt awful. His head was woozy from either the tea the healer had dosed him with or the blood loss. He ached everywhere.
But it was good to see that Henrietta was awake and that she appeared to be much better off than he. He’d silently congratulated himself as he stood in the doorway, nearly falling over, for keeping her alive for another day.
Of course, he’d then made a fool of himself by practically falling onto the bed when Gretta had pulled him over. She apparently expected him to be asleep. He took a little pleasure in frustrating her.
He hadn’t quite managed to follow all of the conversation, but he’d followed enough. He couldn’t accept that she had put him in danger. I made choices. My fate is my fault.
He couldn’t accept that he hadn’t changed her fate. If he hadn’t stepped in, she would be dead now. Not sometime in the future.
When Gretta hugged Henrietta, Mendleson found himself wishing that it was he providing her comfort. Whatever she thought, he had made her his responsibility. Of course, he could barely keep upright at the moment.
“What’s there to figure out?” Henrietta asked, after she pulled away from Gretta’s embrace.
“Yes,” Mendleson said, remembering the burning lump he’d left on the floor of the inn. “What is there to figure out? I killed that thing. I know I did.”
“You can’t kill them, Mendleson. I told you that.”
“It was a burning lump when I left it. There was hardly anything left.”
“Even if you did kill it,” Henrietta said, “There are more than one. Another will be sent, if they aren’t already on the way. That might not have even been the same one.”
“Then what do we do? How do we change your fate?”
Henrietta pounded the bed. “By the Fates, Mendleson, don’t you get it? My fate can’t be changed! This,” and she waved her arm around the room, “you sitting here hurt, this is all part of it. I’m not supposed to die in this town! I wasn’t going to die that first time! You have to get away from me!”
He thought of another tack. “What if I can’t?”
She calmed down a bit. “What do you mean?”
“What if I can’t leave? What if I try? Won’t something bring me back? What if it’s too late?”
“How can that be? You just have to go.”
“Really? Like you tried to do last night? Like you tried in Porthead?” Mendleson watched the color drain from her face. “Both times you’ve tried to leave me out of it, events conspired against you to bring me back into it. Did those wraiths show up to kill you, or to keep me with you?”
No one spoke while Henrietta digested what he said. He didn’t believe it true, but he was sure she would. I’ll use anything I can in order to keep my promise.
“Wouldn’t it be safer for both of us,” he said, “if you just accepted that I was coming with you while we figure out how to change your fate?”
“I’m so sorry, Mendleson. I never meant to do this to you.”
“Why are you so sure it was your fault?” he asked.
“You were never in my vision of my end until that night at the festival.”
He wanted to reach out and wipe the tear from her eye that he saw there. “I still don’t believe that means it was your fault.”
They fell back into silence again. Gretta stood between them, looking first at one, then the other, apparently waiting for something.
“Now that’s settled,” she said, “would you allow me to give you some advice, Henrietta?”
“I may not be a Seer, but I am an old woman who happens to be a healer. I’ve met quite a few people and learned quite a few things. I had the opportunity, once, to treat a man that was on his way to visit the Oracle of Arabeth.”
“Who is that?” Mendleson asked.
“When he told me, I had no idea who he was talking about, either, so I asked him the same thing you just asked me.”
“Arabeth is near my home, but I haven’t heard of this Oracle,” said Henrietta.
“He told me that a Seer in his village had told him to seek out the Oracle for an answer to his question. I can’t do anything but imagine that this Oracle is a Seer.”
“Henrietta,” Mendleson said, “Maybe this Oracle could help us find a way to change your fate.”
“What about your fate?” she asked. “Aren’t you worried about it?”
“My fate, too,” he lied. He wasn’t worried about his fate at all. If he died saving her, it would be a fair price for his atonement.
“But, Arabeth,” Henrietta said. “The mountains. We’d be traveling directly toward where my vision tells me I will end.”
Mendleson hadn’t realized that. “It seems there is little choice. We either continue as we have, fighting it all the way, and find ourselves forced there, or we choose to go and hope we find help before the end.”
More silence followed as they mulled it over in their heads. Eyes met, glances were exchanged. Mendleson hoped she’d decide soon. He wanted to lay down and go back to sleep.
“You’re sure you want to do this?” Henrietta asked.
Mendleson nodded. “I’ll fight to keep you alive as long as there is breath in me.” It sounded silly to his ears, but he’d said it, and meant it.
“Will he be ready by tomorrow, Gretta?”
Mendleson didn’t give Gretta a chance to answer. “I’ll be ready.”
Gretta sighed. “Then you’d better get back into your own bed and sleep off that tonic I gave you.”
Mendleson tried to stand, and had to wait for help from Gretta.
“Tomorrow,” he said as he left. “And don’t try leaving without me. I can’t fight another one of those things right now.”
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