Home > Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)(12)

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1)(12)
Pierce Brown

“Let her sing,” he says to Podginus, not bothering to hide his fascination.

“But, my lord …”

“No animal but man throws themselves willingly into the flames, Copper. Relish the sight. You’ll not see it again.” To his camera crew: “Continue recording. We will edit out the parts we find intolerable.”

How futile his words make her sacrifice seem.

But never has Eo been more beautiful to me than in that moment. In the face of cold power, she is fire. This is the girl who danced through the smoky tav with a mane of red. This is the girl who wove me a wedding band of her own hair. This is the girl who chooses to die for a song of death.

My love, my love

Remember the cries

When winter died for spring skies

They roared and roared

But we grabbed our seed

And sowed a song

Against their greed

And

Down in the vale

Hear the reaper swing, the reaper swing

the reaper swing

Down in the vale

Hear the reaper sing

A tale of winter done

My son, my son

Remember the chains

When gold ruled with iron reins

We roared and roared

And twisted and screamed

For ours, a vale

of better dreams

As her voice finally swells and the song runs out of words, I know I have lost her. She becomes something more important; and she was right, I do not understand.

“A quaint tune. But is that all you have?” the ArchGovernor asks her when she is through. He looks at her but he speaks loudly, to the crowd, to those who will watch in the other colonies. His entourage chuckles at Eo’s weapon, a song. What is a song but notes unto the air? Useless as a match in a storm against his power. He shames us. “Do any of you wish to join her in song? I implore you, bold Reds of …” He looks to his assistant, who mouths the name. “… Lykos, join her now if you wish.”

I can barely breathe past the stone. It chips my molars. Tears stream down my face. No voices rise from the crowd. I see my mother trembling with anger. Kieran clutches his wife close. Narol stares at the ground. Loran weeps. They are all here, all quiet. All afraid.

“Alas, Your Excellency, we find the girl alone in her zealotry,” Podginus declares. Eo has eyes only for me. “’Tis clear her opinion is an outlier’s, an outcast’s. Mayhaps we should proceed?”

“Yes,” the ArchGovernor says idly. “I have an appointment with Arcos. Hang the rusty bitch lest she continue to howl.”

6

The Martyr

For Eo, I do not react. I am anger. I am hatred. Everything. But I hold her gaze even as they take her away and fit the noose around her neck. I look up at Bridge and he quietly takes the gag from my mouth. My teeth will never be the same. Tears build in the Tinpot’s eyes. I leave him and stumble numbly to the bottom of the scaffold so Eo can see me as she dies. This is her choice. I will be with her to the end. My hands shake. Sobs come from the crowd behind me.

“The last words, to whom will you speak them before justice is done?” Podginus asks her. He drips sympathy for the camera.

I ready for her to say my name, but she does not. Her eyes never leave mine, but she calls her sister out. “Dio.” The word trembles in the air. She is frightened now. I do not react as Dio climbs the scaffold stairs; I do not understand, but I will not be jealous. This is not about me. I love her. And her choice is made. I do not understand, but I will not let her die knowing anything but my love.

Ugly Dan has to help Dio climb the gallows; she’s stumbling and senseless as she leans close to her sister. Whatever is said, I do not hear; but Dio lets loose a moan that will haunt me forever. She looks at me as she weeps. What did my wife tell her? Women are crying. Men wipe their eyes. They have to stun Dio to pull her away, but she clings to Eo’s feet, weeping. There is a nod from the ArchGovernor, though he doesn’t even care enough to watch as, like my father, Eo is hanged.

“Live for more,” she mouths to me. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out the haemanthus I gave her. It is smashed and flat. Then loudly she screams to all those gathered, “Break the chains!”

The trapdoor beneath her feet opens. She falls, and for one moment, her hair hangs suspended about her head, a flourish of red. Then her feet scramble at air and she falls. Her slim throat gags. Eyes open so wide. If only I could save her from this. If only I could protect her; but the world is cold and hard to me. It does not bend as I wish it to bend. I am weak. I watch my wife die and my haemanthus fall from her hand. The camera records it all. I rush forward to kiss her ankle. I cradle her legs. I will not let her suffer.

On Mars there is not much gravity, so you have to pull the feet to break the neck. They let the loved ones do it.

Soon, there is no sound, not even the creaking of the rope.

My wife is too light.

She was only just a girl.

Then the thumping of the Fading Dirge begins. Fists on chests. Thousands. Fast, like a racing heartbeat. Slower. A beat a second. A beat every five. Every ten. Then never again, and the mournful mass fades away like dust held in the palm as the old tunnels wail with deep winds.

And the Golds, they fly away.

Eo’s father, Loran, and Kieran sit by my door through the night. They say they are there to keep me company. But they are there to guard me, to ensure I do not die. I want to die. Mother dresses my wound with silk my sister, Leanna, stole from the Webbery.

“Keep the nervenucleic dry, or you will scar.”

What are scars? How little they matter. Eo will not see them, so why should I care? She will not run her hand along my back. She will never kiss my wounds.

She is gone.

I lie in our bed on my back so I can feel the pain and forget my wife. But I cannot forget. She hangs even now. In the morning, I will pass her on the way to the mines. Soon she will stink and soon she will rot. My beautiful wife shone too bright to live long. I still feel her neck cracking against my hands; they tremble now in the night.

There is a hidden tunnel I carved in my bedroom long ago in the rock so I could sneak out as a child. I use it now. I leave out the secret path, climbing stealthily down from my home, so my kin never see me slip away in the low light.

It is quiet in the township. Quiet except for the HC, which makes my wife die to a soundtrack. They intended to show the futility of disobedience. And they succeed in that, but there is something else in the video. They show my flogging, and Eo’s, and they play her song throughout. And as she dies, they play it again, which seems to give the video the wrong effect. Even if she were not my wife, I see a martyr, a young girl’s pretty song silenced by the rope of cruel men.

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