Tag Archives: The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony

Fragments Delay, Future Releases, and Other Notes

First, I want to say that I am very sorry that Fragments is not out, yet. It’s the longest book I’ve written so far, twenty-eight percent longer than Shattered, and it’s taking me time to work through it. Back in May, I started formatting the paper edition, and quickly decided that I needed to do another edit of the book, which took longer than I thought. The book is better for it.

I submitted the files for the print edition last week, and I had planned to release it next week, assuming all went well. Unfortunately, all is not well. I discovered that the font I planned to use on the cover and some of the interior, while listed as public domain, may not have been stolen by the “author” of the font, and thus not public domain at all. There seems to be some question, but if there’s a question, I’m not going to risk infringing on someone else’s copyrights. So, I’ve had to redo the lettering with a font that I DO own a license to, which means I will have to order another proof, and that will delay the book by at least another week. I am going to wait and check the proof that’s already on it’s way before ordering the new one, so that I can catch all the other issues that might have cropped up. That said, the target date for Fragments is now August first, give or take a few days.

This latest delay won’t have a huge effect on future releases. I expect Zombies Bought the Farm to be released around the third week of August, and Minders to release around the middle of September, with the sequel to Grim Repo in October. I’m not placing a date on Reworked, yet, because it’s not finished, and it will need a lot of time to edit. It looks to be about thirty percent longer than Fragments, despite what the word meter says.

Finally, I’m looking for a new tile for The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony. My wife and I talked about it, and we’ve both concluded that, as cool as the title is, it doesn’t fit the book. The book is a fantasy romance book, and nothing about the title indicates that the romance between the characters is a significant driver of the story. If you’ve read the book, help me out. I can’t, for the life of me, come up with a title that fits. Please send me your suggestions. If you suggest a title and I use it, I’ll send you a free book of mine (your choice).

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: The Final Chapters

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover

Today is the day! Below are the final chapters of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony.

I wrote the first nine or so chapters in a rush, and then bogged down for the next few chapters, and it took me a couple months to get through them. But the final few chapters came to life in a rush, too.

I was pretty pleased with it, but it hasn’t sold quite as well as I would like. I’m not going to let that stop me, though. I’m going to start another novel next month in the same vein – something with fairy-tale overtones and a strong romantic plot. I’d tell you what the title will be, but I recently decided to change it because my working title is all sorts of bland.

Now, obviously, if you read this, you will no longer need to buy the book to finish reading it, but if you liked it, I’d really appreciate a purchase from one of the vendors listed at the end of the chapter. I’d also really appreciate a review, if you’re so inclined, either in the comments here, or at your vendor of choice.

If you are just discovering The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony, GO HERE to read the first chapter.

There will not be another Free Novel Wednesday after this. Nobody commented (except spammers) and it didn’t generate the sales I had hoped it might. I’ve also learned that I don’t write novels faster than I can post them, and that’s the biggest reason why there won’t be another. I just can’t keep up.

I will have another free novella for subscribers to my email list sometime between now and the end of the year. Back in April, I gave away copies of Zombies Ate My Mom to my mailing list subscribers. The next one will be a new novella called A Tower Without Doors.

Now, without any further delay, the final chapters of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony





In the dark of the night, despite the light of the stars and the moon, Mendleson decided he wouldn’t stray far from the hut. As angry as he was at Henrietta, the thought of leaving her still tore him apart, and he just couldn’t make himself give up.
He reached the trees on the other side of the stream and then sat down just inside the tree line, leaving himself with a view of the hut.
When she came out, calling for him, he almost went to her. He could hear the anguish in her voice, and his body stood, and even took a step, but he wrestled control of his body away from his emotions.
She wanted this, he thought to himself. She wanted me gone, and now I am.
And when she finally gave up and went back inside, he let himself slide down against a tree, where he spent long hours pondering his decision before sleep stole over him.
Sunlight woke him as it broke over the top of the mountains. He was damp from early morning dew. There was a chill to the air, brought by a light breeze, but the sky was cloudless, and he knew the day would soon warm him.
He cast one last look at the hut before turning to head downstream.
He walked perhaps twelve feet before a short, older woman stepped out from behind a tree. He stumbled to the ground in his effort to avoid running her over.
“Careful,” she said. “You don’t want to hurt yourself.”
She put out a hand to help him up, and he took it.
As soon as he had a good look at the woman, he let her hand drop, and he backed away.
Her head was shaved, covered in a tattoo of a tree, much like Lindyral, but this wasn’t Lindyral. This was another Fate. She had a bird for an earring like Lindyral, but this wasn’t a raven. He looked closer at it.
“It’s a nightingale,” she said.
“Who are you?”
“The Oracle of Arabeth,” she said.
Something about her unnerved him. She felt familiar. “You’re not the Oracle, you’re a Fate. Why are you here?”
She nodded. “I’m your Fate. Lindyral should not have let that piece of information loose. As for why I am here, you came to me. I should be asking why you are here.”
“I didn’t come here for me. In fact, I was about to leave,” he said.
“You don’t have any questions for me?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I do have questions, but they seem a bit pointless, now.” He kicked at a stone embedded in the ground.
The woman frowned. “Are you so sure?”
“She made me promise to leave, to save myself. But I’m not sure anymore what my life will be without her.”
The Fate lifted herself onto a fallen log to sit. “I see,” she said. “And a promise will stop you?”
“She made it clear.” Last night, she made it clear she wants you back. He ignored the voice in his head.
“Then there is nothing else you would ask of me?”
Mendleson thought about it. He’d had so many questions last night, and now, he had the opportunity to get them answered. Why aren’t I asking those questions?
“Yes,” she said. “Why aren’t you asking them?”
“You can read my mind? You know what I want to ask?”
“Yes, but I can’t answer any question you don’t actually ask. I’m here to help you, Mendleson. You and Henrietta.”
Mendleson understood the familiarity, then. It was a family resemblance, a matter of carriage. “You’re Henrietta’s grandmother.”
“I may have been, but I have no ties to her anymore.”
“You gave her the vision that had her meet me.”
The woman’s eyes went wide. “Please, do not speak of it.”
“Why not? Why did you do it?”
“Please, I do not want Lindyral to hear of it.”
Another voice broke in. “It is too late for that, Essorin.”
A look of fear crossed the woman’s face as Lindyral stepped out from behind a tree.
“Please, I didn’t mean to…”
“But you did. You interfered with my charge. You sent her the vision to meet with this man, didn’t you.”
Essorin nodded slowly. “It didn’t harm anything, and it gave Mendleson a choice.”
“What?” Mendleson asked, but the two Fates ignored him.
“It didn’t harm anything? It only threw off all my work, and you knew it would. Henrietta would have jumped at the chance to become a Fate, had you not interfered. Instead, I had to expend far more of my energy than I should have to convince her.”
“That’s not what she wanted,” Essorin said, seeming to recover herself. Her voice grew stronger as she spoke. “You never gave her a choice from the time she was born. She wanted love, and you took it away at every opportunity.”
“Love was not her destiny, and you know it. You knew it when I gave you the choice. You repay me like this?”
Essorin hopped off the tree and stood toe to toe with the taller Lindyral. “I was told when I was made that my task was to guide our charges, to give them opportunities to change their fate. You have never done that for Henrietta. You took every opportunity away from her. You made certain that she would only choose the way you wanted her to choose. What would Clothoro say if she knew?”
“You dare!”
Mendleson tried to get their attention. “Excuse me.”
“I have been tasked with overseeing the sighted for a thousand years,” Lindyral continued, completely ignoring Mendleson. She seemed to have forgotten he was even there.
“Maybe it’s time for a change,” Essorin said.
Mendleson was scared. He remembered the rush of the fire when Lindyral had grown angry at him. He didn’t want to be around when the two of them started using more than words to fight.
“Excuse me,” he said, raising his voice.
Lindyral turned on him. “You are not welcome here. Your part in this is over.”
Essorin pushed her out of the way, and Lindyral, surprised, tripped backward over a stump. “If you wish to save her,” Essorin said, “you must get to the Standing Stone before sunset, and you must get her to admit her love to you before the stone. If you can do that, when the wraiths come, do what they ask.”
“What will they ask?”
“I cannot tell you that,” she said. “I can only tell you that you must be strong and unwavering in your love for her, or you both will die.”
Lindyral was getting to her feet behind Essorin. She had a dark look on her face.
“One last thing,” he said. “Would I have died in the storm if I had not met Henrietta?”
“It was a possibility.”
“Watch out!” Mendleson said, as he saw Lindyral reach up behind Essorin, to grab Essorin by the hair. But it was too late. Lindyral put an arm around Essorin’s neck, and there was nothing the shorter woman could do.
“If this is what you wish,” Lindyral said, “If you wish to die for her, then go. Die for her.”
The two Fates vanished, leaving Mendleson standing alone in the forest.
He didn’t hesitate. He did have a chance to save her after all, and he knew what he had to do. He hoped he could get there in time and could somehow convince Henrietta to admit that she loved him.
His heart pounded just thinking about it. He hadn’t imagined a few weeks ago that his life could change so much. He hadn’t imagined that he could fall in love again, but he had. He had, and she was in danger.
A thread of fear ran through him that she would be too stubborn to admit it, too stubborn to risk his life to save hers.
“No,” he said. “Don’t think that way. If you get there, you’ll find a way to save her.
He ran out of the woods, splashed across the stream, and entered the Oracle’s hut. It was empty. Henrietta had already left.
He ran out the door, found the trail, and followed it, hoping he could catch her before twilight.


* * *


At first, nothing happened. She’d expected the wraiths to show up and take her the moment the sun touched the horizon, but the plateau remained empty.
She walked over to it, put her hand on it. The stone was still warm from the sun. She felt a small tingle in her fingertips as she ran them across the runes that were carved into the surface.
She heard a noise among the trees again. A tremor of fear ran through her. This is it, she thought, and she turned to face the wraiths she knew were coming.
I’ll stand my ground. I won’t show fear.
The plateau was empty.
“Hello!” she called. “Hello?”
A few slow seconds passed. She could hear her breath in her ears. The sun had sunk lower, and the light was beginning to fade.
With a crash of branches, someone broke free from the treeline near the path and ran out onto the plateau.
Her breath caught in her throat. She could only see the outline of the man, as he stood against the backdrop of the sun, but it couldn’t be anyone else.
He ran toward her, and she took a few steps forward. When he’d crossed about half the distance between them, she heard his voice call to her. “Henrietta! I made it. I know how to save you!”
Just then, dark shapes appeared at the edges of the plateau, just as they had in her vision. Mendleson stood, outlined by the setting sun, in just the spot where she knew they would overwhelm him.
“Mendleson!” she screamed. “Run!”


* * *


The path to the Standing Stone proved more arduous than Mendleson had anticipated. He’d been able to run at first, but it went uphill very quickly. Between rocks, fallen trees, and the general steep rise of the path, he didn’t think he was catching up to Henrietta at all.
When the sun had sunk low in the sky, he began to despair of getting there in time. He feared that he would arrive on the plateau and find her corpse at the foot of the Stone.
And then he worked his way around a bend in the path to find a last climb ahead of him. He hoped he wasn’t too late.
As quickly as he could, he climbed the last rocky slope. When he got to the top, he stood among the trees that ringed the edge while he caught his breath and looked for Henrietta.
He found her, standing near a massive monument of a stone that nearly tripled Henrietta’s height. Its black faces were covered in runes of a sort, and in the glow of the setting sun, it appeared to shimmer with a strange sort of energy. He had a feeling that it was waiting for something, or someone.
And then Henrietta called out. “Hello! Hello?”
He waited for a moment, looking around, looking at her, taking the vision of her in. He had loved his wife, and he dearly and truly missed her, but the weeks he and Henrietta had been on the road had forged something even stronger in him, and he hoped between them. Watching her, as her half expectant, half fearful face glowed in the last light of the sun, only brought home to him that his original goal, to help this woman because he had failed Mirrielle, had become a desire to help this woman because he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
He ran out onto the plateau.
“Mendleson?” she asked, an almost unbelieving tenor in her voice.
She probably doesn’t believe it. She thought I left.
“Henrietta!” he yelled across the distance between them. “I made it. I know how to save you!”
Henrietta stiffened, and a look of fear came over her. She wasn’t looking at him, she was looking past him.
He turned around and saw for the first time the view beyond the lip of the plateau. It would have taken up all of his attention, but for the movement at the edges of the treeline, and the dark shapes that emerged.
Wraiths. I’m too late!
“No. No, I’m not.”
He turned and ran for Henrietta. He only had to reach her before the wraiths, he only had to get her to declare her love for him, he only had to trust that she did love him.
As he took the first steps toward her, she took a step back. “Mendleson!” she screamed. “Run!”
He looked around and realized that the wraiths weren’t coming for her, they were coming for him.
He put all his effort into running to Henrietta, but the wraiths were too quick. They swarmed over him, their hissing voices telling him to stop, telling him to give in. “Mendleson,” they said, almost as one, “will you give what you must for her?”
He struggled against them, but they were too strong. He was without his sword, having forgotten it in his rush to catch Henrietta. They weren’t attacking him like the others had before. They were holding him, their cold hands on his arms binding like shackles.
“Will you give what you must?”
Through the swarm of wraiths, he caught one last sight of Henrietta, and she had tears in her eyes. She saw this, he thought. This was her vision, her fate, our fate.
How can I change it? How can I get her to declare her love?
And then he remembered what Essorin had said. Do what the wraiths ask.
He relaxed in their grip. This was why he had come. “Yes,” he said. “I will give anything for her.”
“It is done,” said the chorus of hisses.
A hand came up to his face, the palm, covering his eyes.
At first, there was no difference. But all too sudden, pain lanced through his eyes and into his head. This is when I die, he thought.
“Henrietta!” he shouted, hoping she could hear him, hoping he was really speaking and not just imagining it. “Henrietta, I love you!”
He saw a burst of light, for a moment, and then everything went black and time stopped.


* * *


Henrietta stood and watched as the wraiths closed in on him, just as she had seen. He had tried to run to her, but the wraiths quickly surrounded him, and he had stopped.
In her vision, she had always seen herself, standing, watching, until they left him and came for her. She had let it happen.
Only, the first time, it was different. She hadn’t felt anything for him. Now, watching it for real, watching it happen in front of her, she felt her heart breaking, knowing that there was nothing she could do.
And she didn’t understand why it hurt so much. Others in her life had died, her mother, her aunt, her uncle, her grandmother. Each one had hurt, but they had mostly hurt because she blamed herself for their deaths. Her grandmother had tried to tell her different, but Henrietta had known better.
This time, she couldn’t blame herself. She’d done everything she could to drive him away, to make him leave her, even at the end when she didn’t want him to go. Even when she needed him.
Yet, here he was, by his own choice. She shouldn’t feel any responsibility. It shouldn’t hurt this much that she knew he was going to die.
She took a step forward without understanding why.
Another step.
Her heart beat so that she could feel its pressure in her neck, behind her eyes.
Another step.
You must change your heart. A voice in her head. A voice who had never said those words to her. It sounded like her grandmother.
One more step.
What am I doing? I can’t stop these things. But, somehow, it didn’t matter. She decided that she couldn’t allow him to sacrifice for her. And this time, the why of it had changed. This time, she knew she only wanted him to live, not for herself, but for him. Not because she would blame herself, but because he deserved to live. Because he had already helped her.
“Henrietta!” His voice called out to her from amidst the blackness of the wraiths.
And it was then that she realized why it hurt so much. It was then that she broke into a run, that she defied her vision of herself standing, waiting.
“Henrietta, I love you!”
She ran as if her life depended on it, but she already knew she would die. She ran to hold him one last time, to feel his touch.
She struck the back of a wraith as hard as she could, hoping she could break through to Mendleson. “I love you, Mendleson!” she cried as she collided with it. “I’m coming!”
She caught a glimpse of him laying on the ground, his eyes closed, as the wraiths turned to ward off her attack. She felt defeated, but she fought even more.
She punched one in the face, and felt the bones in her hand crack as she made contact. She didn’t care. The pain in her hand could not compete with the pain in her heart.
She hit another, breaking yet more bones.
She felt herself grabbed from behind, her arms pulled back. She tried to kick out at the dark monster in front of her, but missed.
She could see him better now, but she couldn’t tell if he was breathing.
“Mendleson! Please!”
And then the sobs came. Great wracking pains followed by tears. She could hardly catch her breath. The cold arms that bound her, and held her in place, held her up. If they hadn’t, she would have fallen to the ground.
“You killed him!” she managed to say between sobs.
They ignored her, and spun her around so that she could no longer see him.
Instead, through her tears, she saw the Standing Stone, lit from within, the glyphs shining as if they were on fire.
The wraiths brought her to it. She didn’t fight them. She couldn’t fight them. Even at the end, when she had changed, when she had seen what she’d done, even then, she hadn’t changed her fate. I love you Mendleson.
And there, she decided what her answer to the Stone would be.
The wraiths stopped their movement toward the stone when she was close enough to reach out and touch it. Standing so close, the light from the glyphs was blinding. She had to shut her eyes.
“Touch it,” she heard from a hissing voice. One of the wraiths behind her had spoken. “Touch it.”
Henrietta didn’t understand why it was different in this place, why they didn’t just put a hand to her forehead like before and take her sight. And she didn’t understand why she had to touch the stone.
But she did as they asked. The stone was cold and smooth under her fingers, like glass.
There you are, said a voice in her head. I have been waiting for you.
“Waiting for me?” she said between sobs.
Come, don’t cry. You have choices. For the second time, she thought it was her grandmother speaking in her head.
“I don’t want choices,” she said. “I want Mendleson to live.”
For yourself?
“Oh.” I want to spend eternity with him, was her first thought, though she knew it was impossible.
Are you sure you wouldn’t rather be a Fate? You could live forever.
“I do not want to live forever without Mendleson.”
Done. I am proud of you.
The wraiths pulled her away from the stone.
“Wait,” she cried out. “What does that mean?”
She didn’t get an answer.
A wraith stepped between her and the stone. It put a hand up to her forehead, and it began to draw something out of her, just like the other times. As she slipped away into blackness, she thought she heard her grandmother’s voice one last time. The gift must still pass.
But her last thought was of Mendleson. I’m coming, my love.




Henrietta opened her eyes. She hadn’t expected she’d feel them open when she was dead. She hadn’t expected, really, to open her eyes at all. The Fates were often clear as to what happened in life, but not a Seer that had ever been known was able to see beyond it.
Which explained why…
Which explained what? She couldn’t remember what she had just been about to think. She tried for moments to remember, but wherever that thought was going to lead, she had lost the strand.
She sat up. Around her, she saw a familiar space. A small hut where she’d met the Oracle.
“I’m not dead,” she said.
Was it a dream? Another vision? She didn’t think so. It had seemed too real. The pain, too great.
And then she remembered. Mendleson, dead at the hands of the wraiths, and she started to cry. She realized, in that moment, that he had accomplished his goal, that he had set out to save her, and had succeeded. But at what cost, Mendleson? What cost to you? What cost to me?
She missed him already.
A hand touched her on her arm, and she jumped off the pallet she had been sleeping on. Her heart raced.
She hadn’t even noticed the man sleeping next to her. She hadn’t noticed Mendleson sleeping next to her.
Instead of slowing down, her heart raced even faster.
She rushed back onto the cot and hugged him. He was warm. “You’re alive!”
She kissed his forehead as he began to sit up. The blanket slid down his bare chest. She pulled him against her and felt his skin upon hers. Her tears of sorrow became tears of joy.
She pulled back a bit to look at his face.
He opened his eyes for the first time, and she gasped.
His eyes were white. “You’re blind,” she said.
She ran her hand through his hair, and realized she didn’t care.
“It’s all right,” he said. “It was the price I paid for you. I would have given a lot more.”
He put his fingers to her lips, quieting her. He found them easily, which surprised her.
“Henrietta,” he said, “don’t be sad. They didn’t take everything. I am blind when you are not near me, but when you are close, I can see all that I need to see.”
Henrietta was confused. “What do you mean?”
He lay back down and pulled her down with him. He put his hand on her bare back and massaged it. His other hand pulled her head to him and he kissed her, warm, strong, and deep. A spark seemed to exist between them, a connection that she didn’t understand, but it ran down the length of her body as his legs pulled hers to him.
“When you are close,” he said, pulling away only far enough to let the words come out, “I can see you.”


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
Barnes & Noble

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Twenty-one

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
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.


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
Barnes & Noble

Go here to read the final chapters of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony!

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Twenty

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
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.

If you haven’t started reading The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony, yet, 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 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.”


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
Barnes & Noble

Read Chapter Twenty-one of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony!

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Nineteen

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
Today’s chapter of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony is chapter nineteen. There are three more weeks after this week. I’d really like to hear what you think of Free Novel Wednesday. The only thing that will keep me doing this after Moony is over are your comments. Otherwise, I’ll find something else to put up here on a weekly basis, like pictures of cats.

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.





“She sleeps,” said the witch.
Mendleson lifted his head from the table where he had been sleeping. “Is she all right?” He looked to where Henrietta rested across the room. He started to get up to go to her.
“Sit, do not go to her,” said the woman, motioning for him to stay seated. “She is out of danger, for now.”
A wave of relief swept through him, until the last part of her statement reached his ears. “What do you mean?”
“Only that she will wake, and she will be fine, until the wraiths come for her.”
“I don’t understand. You said they wouldn’t come here.”
“And they won’t, not while I am here. But I cannot stay here forever, and neither can the two of you.”
Mendleson had no desire to stay near this woman. “I had only thought of staying long enough to see her well and to ask for your help.”
“I have given help, have I not?”
“You have, and I am thankful. But that was not the help for which we sought you.”
The witch turned her head a little, and the obsidian raven in her ear sparkled in a stray shaft of light. “Then why did you seek me?”
“We hoped you might tell us how she could avoid her fate.”
The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Avoid her fate? That is not something easily done.”
“But she’ll die,” Mendleson said.
“We all die. Now, later. Death is not something one can avoid.”
“But she’s still young. Isn’t there something we can do?”
The witch stood and went to the fire pit. Mendleson noticed for the first time that it was lit, and a pot hung over it. It smelled like a spicy vegetable soup.
The woman bent down to it, grabbed a bowl from a pile of them that lay nearby, and ladled soup into it until it was full.
“Aren’t you going to answer me?” Mendleson asked, indignant at being ignored.
“It is not something that can be answered until I have talked to her.” She came back to the table and set the bowl in front of Mendleson.
Mendleson stared at her. “But you can help?”
“Eat up,” she said and wandered back across the room.
“Please,” he said. “Tell me you can help.”
The witch turned around and looked at him, her eyes gold in the light of the fire. “What makes you think you need help? You young people fight and fight and fight your fate. You do not seek to understand it. You do not think to ask why. Eat your soup.”
She turned away from him, ending the conversation.
He sniffed at the soup and his stomach rumbled. “I’ll try to understand, if you’ll help me,” he said before he stuck a spoonful of soup into his mouth.
It felt warm and soothing to his tongue, and it had just enough pepper to bring it to life. He swallowed and let it slide down his throat to his empty stomach. The tension in him left as the soup found its destination. Quickly, he spooned more of it into his mouth. Before he knew it, the bowl was empty.
He glanced at Henrietta. The witch hadn’t yet removed the mud from Henrietta’s face, and it gave her a look similar to the primitives he’d seen on the slave ships that occasionally stopped for supplies back home. They never stayed long. He’d wondered where they came from, and where they were being taken, but he had never had the opportunity to find out. He didn’t think anyone in town had ever asked.
“When will she wake?” Mendleson asked.
The witch was sitting by the fire, knitting something from a dark red yarn. It was too small, yet, to get a sense of its ultimate shape. “Soon, I should think,” she said without looking up from her work.
“Thanks for the soup,” he said. “It was delicious.”
“You’re welcome. It seems to have helped your mood, too.”
It had. Mendleson felt much more content with the situation. The witch would tell him what he needed to know once Henrietta awakened.
“Tell me of your wife,” said the witch.
“My wife,” he said, reflecting back. “She was beautiful. Auburn hair, a freckle to the right of her right eye. She was everything to me. We’d known each other from childhood. Her mother died when she was young, and for a long time, her father tried to keep us apart.” Curiously, Mendleson did not feel sad as he thought back to that time.
“He didn’t succeed,” she said.
“No. Well, he did succeed, until he too passed away just about the time Mirrielle came of age. I asked my parents to take her in, but they would have nothing of it. They said they could barely feed us. I didn’t realize until later that was the reason behind her father’s attempts to keep us apart. He wanted her to marry into a wealthy family.”
The witch grunted, but said nothing.
“So I went to Mirrielle with a plan, and we ran away down the coast to where I learned to be a fisherman. It wasn’t easy at first, but I seemed to have a gift for it. Eventually, I was able to purchase my own boat, and then my own land.”
The witch looked up. “You’re telling me about you. I want to hear about her.”
Mendleson nodded, wondering what exactly the witch wanted to hear.
“She cared for our land, a small farm, while I was out fishing. I didn’t see her as much as I would have liked. Especially later.”
“Was she happy?”
Mendleson thought back to the times he would see Mirrielle. She always had a smile on her face when she saw him. But when it was time for him to go to sea, she sometimes urged him to stay, to help her on the farm. “She seemed happy. We loved each other.”
“She didn’t want you to go fishing.”
Mendleson shook his head. “Sometimes she begged me to stay.”
“Why wouldn’t you stay?”
“The sea called to me. I made a good living from it.”
“Yet you gave it up when she died.”
Mendleson stood up, knocking against the small table. “How did you know that?”
The witch kept knitting. His outburst did not even cause her to flinch. “It is my business to know.”
“How is it a witch’s business to know something about me that I haven’t told you? And if you know that, then you know what she was like and you don’t even have to ask me.”
She slowly turned her head to face him, and she set her hands in her lap. “First, Mendleson, I am no more a witch than you. Witches deal in nature and how nature can be used to corrupt or cure the ailings and failings of men. I am altogether different.”
“What are you?”
“She is one of the Fates,” said Henrietta. Her voice was week, but she was sitting up. “Lindyral, I think.”
“Hen,” Mendleson said, forgetting the conversation.
He ran to her and knelt beside her. “How do you feel?”
“I ache, I’m hungry, and my face itches.”


* * *


Henrietta suffered the cold damp cloth without complaining. The woman, the Fate, had put mud on her face which had dried and caused it to itch. Henrietta didn’t complain because she was alive, and Mendleson was with her.
While Lindyral ministered to her, Mendleson filled her in on how she had come to be cared for by a Fate.
A Fate. Henrietta had never thought to meet one. They were beings of myth, hidden pullers of strings, legends in stories handed down from one Seer to another. It had to be more than coincidence that the only one she had ever cared to learn about was Lindyral, who was said to be the caretaker of the Seer’s Gift. She had never learned that Lindyral was any more accessible than the rest of the fates.
When Mendleson told her of her uncle’s death, sadness superseded her wonder at finding Lindyral. She remembered the times she had spent with him after her mother had died, after his wife had died. They hadn’t been completely happy times, but they had been better than the alternative.
And he had been the only man in her life since that time, or even before that time. She couldn’t even remember her father.
She had guilt, too, that she was responsible for his death. If she hadn’t come this way, if she hadn’t involved him in her troubles, he would be alive right now.
She had to close her eyes. She could feel tears trying to come, and she didn’t want them. She didn’t want Mendleson to notice.
He noticed anyway. “Are you alright?” he asked, interrupting his story.
She shook her head. Lindyral pulled away from her.
“Don’t blame yourself, Henrietta,” he said.
She opened her eyes, and saw him looking at her. How does he know that I’m blaming myself? “I’m not,” she said.
He put his hand out and ran it through her hair. His strong fingers on her scalp soothed her. She wanted him to pull her close. “Good,” he said, “because you’ve been telling me the same thing for weeks. You didn’t make his decision to come to your rescue for him.”
“But I didn’t have to bring them here,” she said, unable to keep her thoughts from escaping. “I could have gone somewhere else.”
Lindyral dabbed at her face with the cloth again. “Don’t be so sure that you could have done anything else, young Seer. You have long sought to avoid your fate, yet you are still here.”
Henrietta pushed the woman’s hand from her face. “What would you know about it?” she asked. But she knew as soon as she said it how foolish the question was. Of course Lindyral would know what she had done. Seers were her responsibility.
Fortunately, Lindyral didn’t answer her directly. “Be assured, Henrietta, that your uncle had his chances to avoid his fate, and he made his choices.”
Henrietta hated having to be told that. If what Mendleson said were true, Mendleson and her uncle did not have to risk their lives at all. They could have let the wraiths take her sight and her life. Mendleson could have saved himself by doing nothing.
She examined him, the gray-green flecks in his eyes, the sun-browned skin that was now covered in dirt, the slightly flared nostrils, the way the corners of his mouth now seemed to want to turn up where they used to lean down.
“Mendleson hasn’t had choices to make,” she said.
“He hasn’t? He’s been making choices since he met you, dear. You’re so wrapped up in your need to suffer alone that you can’t see that others want to help you.”
“But I’m going to die in the next few days!”
“Are you so sure? Can you see past the loss of your sight?”
“Of course I can’t see beyond it, but I have never heard of any Seer surviving the loss.” Could it be possible? No. It can’t be. My mother, my aunt, my grandmother, they all died.
“And because you have never heard of it means it can’t happen, so you gave up on your life and never let anyone get close to you.”
And now, she felt tears on her face. “I didn’t want anyone to feel like I felt after my mother died.”
“Don’t cry, dear,” said Lindyral. “It’s admirable to want to spare others the pain you felt. But what was the price of your desire? How would your life have been different if you had made different choices?”
Henrietta wondered what would have happened if she’d never left her home, never stayed in Berelost, never went to the edge of the sea. Would her fate have changed? Would Mendleson’s life be in danger now?
“I tried to make different choices,” she said, “and it didn’t get me anywhere.” Her hands were trembling. She put them to her knees in an effort to still them, but it didn’t help much. She looked to Mendleson and sought out his eyes. “All my efforts at making choices only served to drag Mendleson into my fate.”
“Would you trade what you have known with him for the knowledge that he would be safe from sharing your fate?”
Henrietta looked deep into her heart, and it didn’t take her long to know that she would not trade those moments, the shared closeness that had developed between them. They were a part of her now, and she couldn’t imagine giving them up. “Yes,” she lied, knowing she wouldn’t ever have to make that trade.
Mendleson’s eyes narrowed, unhappy with her response.
“Look at him, Henrietta,” said the Fate. “Could you really trade the moments in the barn, the night you shared, knowing that he would have had a different fate, knowing that he might now be dead had he not gone with you?”
“What?” she and Mendleson asked at the same time. They had both turned to face the Fate.
She smiled, causing the raven in her ear to shift. “Only speculation on my part. I am no Seer. But you are so sure that the fate he now shares with you is worse than the one he would have had if you had never met.”
“No, do not question me on this. You can only see the branch of the tree as it stands. It is all the power a Seer has. Once a different branch has passed, it is unknowable. If you had never met with him at the festival, he might still have been home when the storm that overtook you at Berelost knocked his home to the ground and nearly washed the whole town from the coast.”
Mendleson gasped, and Henrietta felt shivers run through her limbs. “It’s gone?” he asked.
The Fate nodded. Mendleson’s skin went white. “My friends…”
“I would not tell you, even if I could,” she said. “I should not have said as much as I have. I will pay for that.”
Henrietta’s heart went out to him. She knew he had friends there, and he’d left them for her.
And now, her mind rebelled at the possibilities. If she had left him there, he might have died, but he might have lived and might have helped his friends. But she had taken him from that fate, just by following a vision she had been given.
“Who gave me the vision?” she asked. “Which one of you are responsible?”
“Don’t play coy,” she said, standing up. “The vision that led me to meet Mendleson at the festival. Who gave it to me? Was it you?”
“I do not give visions, child. You know that.”
“I only know the stories. If it wasn’t you, then who was it?”
“Why does it matter? Your meeting likely saved his life.”
“You don’t know that.” Henrietta was truly angry. “He might have saved other lives. He might have helped his friends. Whoever sent me that vision robbed him of that possibility.”
Lindyral shook her head. “He still had choices, dear. He could have chosen differently.”
Henrietta stamped her foot on the packed earth floor with a less than satisfying thud. “Did he really have a choice?” she asked, then she turned and left the one room hut. She couldn’t handle being near that woman any longer.


* * *


Mendleson watched Henrietta’s exit in a state of shock. He knew he should go after her, keep her from wandering too far, but he had his own questions for Lindyral.
“Were you telling the truth, or just making a point? Would I have died?” he asked her. His legs wanted him to stand up, to follow Henrietta, but he refused to give into them.
“Like I told the Seer, once a branch has been followed, there is no way to know for sure what would have happened had the other paths been followed instead. Could you have died? Yes. Would you have? There is no way for me to know.”
“What about my friends?”
The Fate chuckled. “You are not my charge, and I am no messenger. I do not know the fates of your friends.”
“No,” she said, standing and turning to confront him, all traces of chuckle gone. “I am not all-powerful. I am a single Fate, not all of them. My charge is to see that the Gift is passed on from Seer to Seer. What happens to you is none of my concern.
“If you wish to see her live beyond the taking, you should go to her.”
Mendleson turned to go, frustrated that she wouldn’t answer him. He seethed inside. He wanted to rush home to help his friends, to find out whether they even lived, but his need for Henrietta had grown, and his desire for her to live pulled at him with equal strength.
Something else bothered him, and he turned back to face Lindyral. “But aren’t you the Oracle of Arabeth?”
The flames in the fire-pit flickered as a great rush of wind entered the hut, causing strange shadows from the Fate to flash across the walls. She rose up, almost floating, and for the first time, she did not seem even remotely human. “Leave this place!”
Mendleson stumbled backward, fell through the door and out of the hut, to land on his back amongst the stones that littered the ground. His heart pounded in his chest, and his limbs trembled. He looked up to the stars and took a few deep breaths while he pondered what had just happened.
He couldn’t make any sense of it at all. He hadn’t thought much about what might happen when he left to follow Henrietta, but he never imagined that he wouldn’t be able to go back to his home, to his friends, after it was over.
It hurt, but not nearly as much as he thought it should. And even though Henrietta had said he could be there helping people, when he thought about it, he didn’t feel like that’s what he should be doing.
No. I should be with Henrietta. That’s what feels right. I just wish I knew how to help her, and that Fate, the Oracle, doesn’t seem like she’s interested in helping at all. In fact, he thought, it seems our being here might be just as much her doing as anything else.
Which frightened him. He knew why he tried to help Henrietta initially, and he thought he knew why he hadn’t given up trying to help. But now, I can’t even trust that my feelings for her are my own.


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
Barnes & Noble

Read Chapter Twenty of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony

Free Novel Wednesday – The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony: Eighteen

The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony Cover
By now, you should now the drill. I’m late getting this up today, and I’ve still got writing to do, so I won’t be writing too much about this chapter (like I ever do that, anyway).

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.





Mendleson fell to his knees, nearly dropping Henrietta. His body wouldn’t let him go even one step farther. The ravine and the wraiths had defeated him. He had failed Henrietta. Another wraith would come, and this time, he could not stop it from taking what it wanted.
He laid Henrietta down in front of him and reached out to caress her face. Her cheeks were cold, even in the warmth of the mid-afternoon sun.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more,” he whispered.
He pulled the sword out in case the wraiths chose to come after them while he rested. “Of course, if they don’t give me a chance to rest, I’ll hardly be able to swing it.
“I just wish I knew where the damned Oracle was,” he said. His voice echoed from the walls of the ravine.
When the echo died out, the only sound to answer was the bubbling of the stream. It soothed him, whispered him to sleep, whispered that everything would be all right.
But he knew it lied. It couldn’t be all right. Henrietta was going to die here, next to him, and he would be able to do little, if anything, to stop it, unless the wraiths gave him time to rest.
He allowed himself to lay on the ground, holding the sword to his chest, and closed his eyes. He decided he should take whatever time he could. A few minutes, an hour, the rest of the afternoon. “The Oracle can’t be much farther.”
“You could not be more correct,” said a woman’s voice from above him.
Mendleson opened his eyes and tried to sit up, but the sword had suddenly grown heavy, and it held him down.
A figure stood over him, shrouded in a dark cloak. Its head blocked the late afternoon sun, leaving the face in darkness. He struggled against the sword, but it would not budge. “Go away!” he shouted, thinking the figure a wraith. “Leave her alone!”
The figure knelt, changing the angle of the light and allowing a ray of it to reflect off the face inside the hood. A woman, not a wraith. “I thought you were bringing her to me. Is this not so?”
Mendleson stopped struggling. Even with the bit of light that illuminated her face, he still couldn’t get a good look at her. At times, the shadows made her seem about the age of Henrietta, but a slight shift of her head would cause her features to appear like they had seen many more winters than even Henrietta’s uncle. “You’re not a wraith,” he said.
She laughed. “I should say not. They cannot enter my land.”
“Then are you the Oracle?” he asked.
“Some call me so.”
“Then you knew we were coming?”
“I am no Seer, young man. I did not know you were coming until you crossed the boundary.”
“Can you help her?”
“It is within my ability,” she said.
Mendleson thought it a strange answer. He turned his head a bit, hoping to get a better look at her, but her face continued to shift its appearance. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“I do not know if I should. Does she even desire help?”
“Of course she wants help,” he said. He pushed at the sword again, but it still held him in place.
“There is no need to struggle,” she said. “I will not hurt you.”
“But you won’t help her.”
“Do not misconstrue my words young swordsman. I have not said that I will refuse help. I have only said that I am not sure if I should supply it. You struggle against the powers that rule this world. I must weigh what it will cost me if I interfere.”
Mendleson gave up his struggle against the sword. “Please.”
The woman smiled. “Much better. I will consider it. Put that hunk of iron away and come with me.”
The extra weight of the sword melted away, and he found he could move. He stood slowly. Every muscle shouted at him to stop, but he ignored the shouts and forced himself up from the ground. He slipped the sword back between his pack and his body.
The woman had already started up the ravine.
“What about Henrietta?” he asked.
“Bring her,” she said without turning around.
Silently, he cursed her. You could help.
She continued moving away from him, and he decided he’d better get on with it before he lost her. He bent down to pick up Henrietta, readying himself for the aches he knew he would feel.
But when he picked her up, she had lost all her weight. She encumbered him only as much as a large pillow might.
Witch. The word floated through his mind. Fear welled up within him.
He looked down at Henrietta’s pale face. He blocked off that well of fear and refused to allow it to take over. The Oracle was Henrietta’s only chance.
If she doesn’t help, he thought as he took his first step to follow the woman, I swear I will make her pay.


* * *


Mendleson carried the unnaturally light Henrietta inside the small, round, stone hut the witch called home. A bit of light streamed in through openings in the walls that he hesitated to call windows. It showed him only a single room, a fire pit in the center, a pallet against the wall for sleeping, and a table and two chairs hugging the opposite wall. Where the walls did not host pallet or table, shelves adorned them, and the shelves held jars and pots and tools that Mendleson could not name.
The witch pointed to the pallet. “Set her there.” Then she went to the wall and started searching through her jars.
Mendleson crossed the room with Henrietta, and then bent down and laid her gently on the bedding, which proved softer than it looked. He brushed away a lock of hair that had fallen across her face. He wanted to bend down and kiss her, touch his lips to hers.
How could this have happened?
He whispered to her. “Why did you try to leave last night? After…”
“After what?” the witch asked.
Mendleson turned to find her standing over him. “It’s not important,” he said.
“How can you know whether it’s important? What did you do to her that made her leave?”
Mendleson stood up and faced her. She had removed the hood, and for the first time, he saw her face clearly. Her skin was youthful, like he had thought, but her eyes shone ancient and black. Her head bore a tattoo of a tree instead of hair. A branch of that tree trailed down the side of her head and onto her ear where it circled the lobe. She wore an ornament on that lobe that appeared to be an obsidian raven, creating the illusion that a raven was sitting on the branch.
“Thank you,” she said, and then pushed him aside and bent down to minister to Henrietta.
“Why didn’t you just ask me to move?” he asked.
The witch ignored him. She dipped her fingers in a jar of something that looked a lot like mud to Mendleson, and then spread that mud on Henrietta’s face, her forehead, her eyelids, so that none of her skin remained visible.
“How does that…” he began.
“Quiet,” she said, waving her mud covered hand behind her.
Mendleson decided he didn’t need to know right at that moment. If the witch was going to help Henrietta, he’d do whatever she asked of him.
From behind her, he could see more of the tree tattoo. It had several branches, all bare of leaves, and the trunk ran down her neck. It reminded him of something he’d heard in a half-remembered child’s tale, but he couldn’t place it. He wondered if his exhaustion was playing tricks on his mind.
He moved across the room and pulled out one of the chairs from the table. The legs scraped loudly across the stone floor, and he looked up to see if the witch had reacted. If she had, he couldn’t tell. Her hands were moving slowly over Henrietta’s body, as if they were searching for something.
He let himself settle onto the chair, keeping an eye on the witch.
For all he could tell, she didn’t seem like she had any intentions of hurting them, but Mendleson had never heard anything good about witches, and Karl’s reluctance to send them to her only served to reinforce his wariness.
The witch began chanting in a low, deep voice that did not seem to match her speaking voice. It was slow, somber, and soothing. Mendleson felt his eyelids drooping.
He pushed off sleep as long as he could, but in the end, his exhaustion got the better of him and drew him down into an uncomfortable, fitful slumber.


* * *


At first, Henrietta wandered alone in a fog that hung thick and cold in the air. It clung to her skin like cobwebs. It reminded her of a dream she’d had, but could not place.
The ground was flat, almost barren. In hours of wandering, she had not come across a single landmark that she could use to mark her progress in her journey. The light hadn’t changed, either. She expected it should be near dusk, with the number of hours she had traveled, but the light was as even, filtered, and gray as when she first found herself in this place.
Something troubled her about that. She couldn’t remember arriving, or even where she had been just before. She felt something had happened, that she’d lost something, or nearly lost something, or someone. But her memory was just as hazy and empty as the foggy land she found herself in.
She probed at the haze, but nothing came to the fore. She needed a reminder, and she had nothing.
She continued to walk, in the hope that she would eventually find her way out of the fog. She resolved to keep walking until her legs gave out, until she needed to sleep, but after hours of wandering, she still wasn’t tired.
She put step after step behind her. While she walked, she tried to think of what brought her to this place, and could come up with nothing but shadows.
“Why did they come this time?” A voice intruded into the silence, one she thought sounded familiar. “And why were you outside, looking like you were leaving?”
She spun around, and couldn’t see anyone within her sight, just the gray fog in all directions. “Where are you?”
“Did they come because you were leaving, Henrietta?” the disembodied voice asked. “Or did you decide to go somewhere else? What hurts the most is that you left so soon after I thought we had finally understood each other.”
“Who are you?” she asked. “What do you mean?”
“No,” the voice said, as if it hadn’t heard her. “What hurts the most is that you’re hurt.”
“I’m not hurt!” she shouted. “Where are you?”
The voice did not answer her.
“Hello?” she asked. “Who are you?”
She waited, but did not receive any answers. The voice was gone, wherever it had come from, leaving her confused. Who are ‘they’? Who was speaking, and why did he think she was hurt?
She felt fear start to worm its way into her chest. “What’s happening to me? Where am I?” She hoped the voice might answer her, but after her voice faded, no other sounds broke the silence she had previously been used to.
After several minutes passed with no change, she decided to press on through the fog and hope she could come to an end of it. The crunch of her footsteps on the loose ground comforted her.
She wondered for quite a while where the voice might have come from, and if it would come again. She kept listening for it. She somehow trusted that voice. But when she had traveled for several more hours and had not heard the voice again, she began to think she had imagined it.
Just when she had convinced herself that she had imagined it, she heard the voice again, only this time in a whisper. “I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.”
Her heart skipped. She whirled around again, looking for the speaker. He seemed so close to her, but she saw nothing. “Where are you? Please, show yourself!”
Again, she waited, calling out every couple of minutes, hoping the owner of the voice would show himself. But the fog remained unbroken, and she remained alone. The more she thought about it, the voice had sounded sad.
“Just tell me where you are,” she said. “I can help you!”
She could only hear the beating of her heart. The voice was gone again.
She resumed walking.
Step after step, she walked toward the unchanging horizon that extended only a few yards around her.
Until a barren tree, its branches twisting through the mist, appeared in front of her. A leafless oak tree, she thought. Leafless and lifeless.
But it brought her hope. The creeping fear that she was wandering in circles subsided. A different unease filtered through her. Something about the tree made her wary.
She approached it slowly, eyes exploring it, looking for any sign of life, any sign of danger.
As she stepped in under the canopy of branches, the fog cleared away, its cobweb touch no longer fouling her. A raven squawked, and she looked up to see it standing on a branch near the trunk, looking down at her with beady black eyes.
“Who are you?” she asked it, but it only stared at her, apparently deeming its one warning squawk sufficient.
Choosing to ignore the raven for the moment, Henrietta looked about her and the tree, hoping to find evidence that this tree would lead her to others. But the tree appeared to live on an island in the fog. She could see no other trees beyond it.
From behind her, she thought she heard a woman singing softly. She spun around to meet this woman, but found only the tree and the raven. The song still sounded like it was coming from behind her. She spun again to find nothing but the fog.
“Show yourself,” she said. “I can hear your singing.”
The song continued, unbroken. It soothed her, and something else happened. She felt herself growing weary. Her legs ached with the effort from walking.
She thought it odd that only a minute earlier, she had felt no sign of fatigue.
“Who are you? The song is beautiful.” Henrietta waited again, but still did not receive an answer.
She turned to face the tree again. The trunk looked like a good place to rest. She went to it, set her back against the trunk, and settled to the ground.
Come back, Henrietta. She thought the words were in the song, but when she listened closer, she heard only a wordless song.
She looked up to the raven. Her eyelids had grown heavy from the moment she sat. She thought they tricked her. A woman sat on the branch the raven had previously occupied. She was bald, but for a tattoo.
She blinked, and saw the raven sitting there again.
Close your eyes.
Find your way.
More words. They reached out to her, called to her.
She fought to keep her eyes open and focused on the raven. She wanted to see if it would change again. She thought she should recognize the woman, but recognition evaded her.
The sky grew dark.
She could no longer keep her eyes open. She thought she saw the raven smile as she let them close.
Who are you that sings? Henrietta asked in thought. She could not make the words come out.
But it didn’t matter that the voice didn’t answer. Her mind emptied, and the wordless song pulled her down into a dreamless sleep.


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
Barnes & Noble

Read Chapter Nineteen of The Sacrifice of Mendleson Moony