Deep Redemption

Page 39

Rider’s eyes filled with such guilt that it almost made me cry. But I held strong. “How . . . I do not understand?”

Sister Ruth crouched behind me, laying her hand on my shoulder for support. I glanced at her and saw the confusion on her face. She had no idea what was wrong. I faced Rider again, watching as he struggled to shift into a sitting position, his torso black and blue. The pain in his taut face made me want to go and help him, but I was paralyzed.

I could not move.

Rider fought to breathe as he moved his bruised limbs, only finding relief when his back hit the stone wall. Right then, I saw Rider in his true form. He was beautiful. But then again, I had thought that when I saw this exact face many days ago.

“How?” I repeated, forcing myself to hold Rider’s dark gaze.

“He . . . he is my . . . brother,” he confessed, pain racking his face. This time I knew it was not physical pain. It was emotional. I remembered what the sister had said earlier. The prophet ordered them to truly make him pay . . . “He is . . . my twin. The . . . prophet is my twin brother . . . and he has renounced me . . . He has thrown . . . me to the dogs.”

Sister Ruth froze behind me. I heard her breath catch in her throat. I glanced up and saw her eyes grow huge at Rider’s revelation. Before I could ask if she was alright, she dashed out of the room.

“Where are the guards?” he suddenly asked, a panicked edge to his raspy, low voice. I could not look his way. It hurt too much to look him in the face.

“They are away right now. The prophet called a meeting.”

When I made myself face Rider again, his eyes were steadfastly on me. “Harmony,” he whispered brokenly. He lifted his hand and held it out for me to take.

This time the tears did fall. Because although I was looking into the exact eyes and face of the prophet I despised, Rider’s trembling hand helplessly reaching for mine was the single most devastating moment of my life. Fear was written on his face, fear that I may reject him . . . the man with the face of the man I hated most.

My fingers twitched as I stared at his hand. I wanted to take it, but as I looked back to his face, I asked, “I . . . I do not understand. Why are you in here?”

Rider’s face fell into an expression of utter rejection and despair. I watched his hand fall to land on his leg. His shoulders sagged in defeat. His eyes drifted downward and his skin paled. If there was ever an image of a man destroyed it was this. My heart tore into tiny fragments as I watched the hope leave his broken form.

The cells quieted, but I could hear Sister Ruth and Brother Stephen near the door. I knew they would be listening in. They would want to hear whatever Rider would say. “Rider?” I pressed, my voice a soft whisper. I waited for him to speak, my head pounding. I had to force myself to stay back near the door of the cell. But it was hard. Rider looked so lonely, slumped on the hard floor, that I wanted nothing more than to take him in my arms. Even more when he looked up, and with tears tumbling down his cheeks, rasped, “You are so beautiful, Harmony. I know it isn’t what you want to hear, but it’s true.” I swallowed back the momentary happiness those words made me feel. Because those words, from Rider’s lips, did not pain my heart the way they usually did.

Rider sighed and looked down at our gap in the wall. “I thought it when we would talk through that gap.” He lifted his hand and looked at his palm, rolling his fingers closed as if he was imagining my hand was still in his.

“Rider,” I said again, inching just that little bit closer. His hurt was like a magnet to me, and only I held the power to comfort him.

But I needed answers first.

Rider’s head dropped, but after a long breath, he said, “I am Cain. I am the destined prophet of The Order. Prophet David’s true heir.”

The air froze around me. “What?” My hand went to my mouth in shock.

In the same monotone, lifeless drawl, Rider continued. “I ascended a while ago, and came to New Zion with my twin to take the mantle of leader of our people.” His face contorted into an anguished expression. “I was never very good at it,” he said more softly, gently. He shook his head and a small huff escaped from his lips. “But Judah, my brother, was. He guided me. He was the puppet master, pulling my strings.” Rider paused, lost in his thoughts. “I did not realize that until today.”

I edged closer still, my body gravitating toward his as he shared what had led him to this hell. “I kept disappointing him, my people. I couldn’t get anything right. I . . . ” He trailed off, muscles tensing. “I didn’t like some of the practices that Prophet David had taught us. I didn’t share all of the beliefs that the prophet was meant to endorse. Ones vital to many in our faith.” His eyebrows dragged downward. “I . . . I couldn’t let them keep hurting people. I couldn’t keep hurting people. I had to stop them.”

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