Turning to a lesser guard, the disciple guard ordered, “Take them to the cells. One has been prepared for the potential Cursed. Put Brother Stephen and Sister Ruth in another.”
A slimmer man pushed Brother Stephen toward the door. Sister Ruth quickly fixed my veil and headdress in place before we walked outside. I felt the guard’s eyes on my back the entire way as he took us to the long stone building. As we entered, I almost choked on the dank humid air that filled its every inch.
The guard opened a door. “You are in here,” he said to Brother Stephen and Sister Ruth. Sister Ruth squeezed my hand gently as she passed. I squeezed hers back. The guard shut the door behind them and said, “You will be given your orders soon.”
He walked to the next door. It was already open. Inside there was a bare mattress on the floor, a curtained-off toilet and basin, and a high window, with bars. My heart fell. I was to be trapped.
“Quarters fit for a Cursed whore,” the guard snapped, his voice dripping with disdain. He flicked his head toward the room, silently ordering me to get inside.
I stepped forward, and the door slammed shut behind me. I could hear the dripping of water from behind a wall to my right, which was separating me from what I assumed was another cell. I stood in the center of my cell for too many minutes to count before I walked to the makeshift bed. I sat down on the hard, stained mattress and leaned my back against the rough wall.
I closed my eyes trying to chase away the distress that was threatening to rise. I reminded myself of why I was there. I had to be strong. People were depending on my strength. My family was depending on me.
You will not fail. You will not fail your family . . . not again.
So I kept my eyes shut, chasing the claws of fear from my mind.
I was here.
To marry the prophet.
And that was simply that.
A large wooden door opened and the guards threw me forward. My legs gave way at the unexpected push and I fell to the ground. A searing anger flooded through my veins. My hands balled into fists as I forced myself to lift my torso off the ground. I tasted blood in my mouth and realized I had hit my lip as I fell. I barely felt it. Every damn part of me felt numb. It felt as if no time had passed before the guards had come for me again.
I’d passed out. When I’d awoken, I was being dragged back to this building.
I struggled to see in front of me; my matted hair and beard covered most of my face. A flash of white caught my attention just as the door behind me slammed shut. I knew the guards had left me, but I wasn’t alone. I could feel someone else was with me.
I pushed my hair aside. I flinched at the bright light above me, but tried to focus on that flash of white. After four blinks, the shape of a person came into view . . . a person I knew as well as I knew myself.
Or at least that was what I used to believe.
Judah sat on some high steps at the end of the room, a smirk on his face. His arms were draped casually over his bent knees. His long, brown hair was groomed, and his beard was now the length that I always wore mine. My stomach fell. I had been holding on to the vain hope that our people would see through his disguise. But he looked exactly like me. Sitting before me now, a small proud glint in his eyes, he knew I was seeing it too.
Judah’s plan had worked.
Judah was Prophet Cain.
Spurred on, unwilling to forfeit the will to fight, I made my weak arms lift me until I was sitting up straight. I breathed heavily, my energy depleted, but my eyes never left my brother.
His hard, unyielding eyes never left mine.
A confusing mix of emotions swelled inside my chest. Judah was my brother, born into this life as I was. We were made to be the leaders of The Order. We were taken from our parents when we were young, too young to remember them. All we’d ever had was each other. He was my lifeblood, my best friend . . . he was my twin. But as I looked at him now, he felt worlds apart from the brother I kept in my heart. The twin to whom I was once so close was drifting away from me. I knew how to stop it, but I just . . . couldn’t.
“Judah,” he said, his voice echoing off the thick stone walls. Despite my tiredness, my head snapped up.
He’d called me Judah. His delusion was worse than I’d feared.
My body vibrated with anger at the sound of his own name coming from his mouth. I licked along my dry cracked lips. I swallowed, just to allow some liquid into my throat, and rasped, “Cain.” Judah’s dark eyes flashed with fury. It only urged me further on. “Cain,” I repeated. “My name is . . . Cain.”
Judah’s smirk dropped and his entire body tensed. I slowly placed my hand over my chest. “I am the prophet . . . not you . . . not . . . you . . . ”
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