The Hidden Twin

The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule Page B

Book: The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule Read Free Book Online
Authors: Adi Rule
What is the secret of the merchant and the tailor?”
    I grow weary of this game. Everyone knows this story. “They are twins.”
    â€œTwins?” He arches a feathery brow. “And why should that be kept secret?”
    I snort in derision. “For a high priest, you are awfully unfamiliar with mythology.” One of the priests in black lashes my head with a stritch whip I didn’t know was there, slicing my ear. Warm blood oozes under my hair. I can’t lift a hand to rub it, and its tickling bothers me more than the pain.
    â€œPardon me,” the Onyx Staff says lightly. “I didn’t catch that.”
    You don’t have to enjoy this, you wicked old beetle. I don’t say it aloud. Instead, “The merchant and the tailor are not human twins, and so do not bear the mark of a priest on their foreheads. They are the offspring of a human being and an Other.”
    â€œAh, fairy tales,” he says to the others. “Children’s stories. Isn’t that what these are, Beloved?” He holds the storybook up as the group murmurs hesitant assent. “Drivel with no place in a court of law.”
    This isn’t a court of law. For one thing, there is no judge, jury, or scrivener. There is no list of charges signed by an officer of the Commandant. There is only the Onyx Staff.
    The high priest lets the storybook fall to the floor with a thud. “Yes, as children, we all heard the old stories of Other princes and princesses, and as adults, we abandoned them. After all, this is the modern age, one of machines and locomotion and equality. Surely we have outgrown fairy tales. Yet…”
    At his pause, the priests shuffle their feet nervously.
    â€œYet,” the Onyx Staff continues, “to this day, twins are marked with a priest’s razor so that we may know them as human and good.” He turns to me. “Beloved, what is a redwing?”
    â€œIt is a type of flower,” I say, “that can cure forty-seven different ailments.”
    My answer is technically true, but the priest in black flicks his stritch whip again anyway, now across my back. The crack is more impressive than the injury this time, but I don’t want to press my luck further. Next time it could be my eyes.
    â€œYou are absolutely right to scorn such a question, my dear. I doubt these learned people need such a thing explained to them.” The Onyx Staff takes a step, his white robes catching patches of brown light. “Of course, everyone knows redwings do not exist. The beings known as Others have not lived in Caldaras for a thousand years, isn’t that right?” He spreads his arms and smiles at the gathering. “In any case, surely no one who gave birth to a creature as monstrous as a redwing would allow it to live.”
    â€œSurely not,” I say darkly.
    â€œBut,” the Onyx Staff goes on, his voice suddenly quiet and eerie, “despite what ‘everyone knows,’ there are those of us who remember a different story. We remain vigilant, beautiful in the eyes of our god.”
    The Beautiful Ones.
    Now the Onyx Staff addresses me. “You do not bear the priest’s mark, Beloved, and we know you to be a twin.” A few contemptuous exclamations rattle the thick air. The Onyx Staff looks to one of the purple-robed priests. “Brother Bonner, would you step forward, please?”
    My kidnapper detaches himself from the shadowy group and slouches toward me. Not too close. I resist the urge to spit at him.
    The Onyx Staff speaks in a calm voice. “This is the brave young man who discovered the unmarked twin in our midst—the monster.” He turns to Bonner. “All of Caldaras owes you a debt of gratitude, Beloved. Now, if you could do us one more service.”
    Bonner nods. “Anything, Your Benevolence.”
    â€œI would like you to answer a question,” the high priest says. “How can we identify a redwing?”

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