Home > Deep Redemption (Hades Hangmen #4)(4)

Deep Redemption (Hades Hangmen #4)(4)
Tillie Cole

My fogged mind blanked out the rest of Judah’s words. But it didn’t matter. They were the same each day. My brother was whipping our people into a terrified frenzy. He was instilling fear into every minute of every day.

It was what Judah did best.

Spots flickered in front of my eyes and my lips cracked with dryness. I could no longer feel my arms at my side, and knew that I would soon be pulled under. I could feel it, coming to take me down. But I fought it. Every day I fought the effects of the punishments.

The fight in me was the only thing I had left.

“The devil’s men are coming! Our days are numbered! We must save ourselves!” Judah’s final sentence managed to filter through the high-pitched ringing in my ears. My fingers curled into fists and shook with rage.

Years ago Prophet David had preached that Satan’s agents would one day storm our commune, trying to rid the earth of God’s chosen people. Only through the prophet would heaven be achieved. Only through obeying his every word could a soul be saved. When the Hangmen invaded and killed my uncle, many of the people thought that was the end. It wasn’t. Now Judah preached that they would come again.

A loud crack of thunder exploded right above me. I flinched as it ripped me from my dark thoughts. All I entertained these days were dark thoughts. Doubt, the devil’s greatest tool, smothering my heart and soul like a cancer. The taste of salt burst on my tongue. My long brown hair stuck to my cheeks; the stifling heat bathed my skin in sweat.

I licked my cracked lips, wishing I had water. I guessed that I would be fed and watered soon. I was fed twice a day, like clockwork. Women I didn’t know would come to my cell, placing a tray of food at my feet. They would give me a specific amount of time to consume the food, before returning, silently, to take it away. On good days they would cleanse me, with a vacant, detached look in their gaze. Then I would be alone until the disciples returned to punish me. The cycle would begin again.

I had yet to set eyes on Judah.

His focus seemed to be on thrusting the commune into hysterical chaos. Spinning a spiteful web to encourage what I had refused to pursue. He wanted a holy war. He wanted the Hangmen dead.

My mind was conflicted. On the one hand, I didn’t care if all the Hangmen burned in Satan’s eternal fire. On the other hand, when I thought of the three Cursed Sisters, the three sisters that Judah would force back into submission or simply see killed, I found it hard to breathe.

Bile rose in my throat when I pictured the life they would have under my twin’s hand. Nausea followed when I pictured the Cursed Delilah’s scarred face, her shorn hair. When I thought about what Judah had done to her on the Hill of Perdition. I, the prophet, had no prior knowledge of what Judah had planned. In the aftermath, I realized that I had no idea what he was truly capable of. If someone had merely told me what happened to Delilah, I would never have believed it. But I’d seen her face. I’d seen the fear in her eyes when she had been locked in the old mill. It had happened. There was no doubt.

And I had done nothing to stop it.

My thoughts drifted to Mae and the last thing she had said to me. When I had let her and her sisters go. “I always believed in you, Rider . . . I always believed you were a good man, deep down.”

Mae’s words were imprinted on my brain. And whenever I thought about her, I was hit by a wave of pain. The way the Cursed Sisters looked at me would forever be burned into my mind. They both feared and detested me. Worst of all, Mae was disappointed in me. She had thought me better than the behavior I displayed.

She was wrong.

I had been two men in my life. I was beginning to understand that neither of them were real. They were both the ultimate pretenders. Rider pretended to be a Hangman, but always stood on the outside, looking in. Cain pretended he was a prophet, outwardly faking strength, yet drowning in fear underneath. But if both of those men were a ruse, then who the hell was I? Who was the real me?

I had absolutely no idea.

Footsteps sounded outside my cell. Light spilled through the crack under the heavy door, and the smell of food hit my nostrils. My stomach growled with the need for nourishment; my mouth salivated with its need for water.

The lock turned, and a woman walked into the darkness. Her head was bowed and her face was turned away. She wore a long gray dress that covered her body from her neck to her feet, and a white headdress covered her head. As she placed the tray on the ground, her face came into view. My eyes widened in surprise when I saw a wayward strand of hair falling from her headdress. Red. Bright red. Her cheeks and nose were spattered with freckles, and her eyes were bright blue.

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