In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. Psalm 77:2
Cold water thrown on my face forced me awake. I was still sputtering when rough hands grabbed my arms and hauled me from my cell. I vaguely realized that my shackles were no longer attached to the chain against the wall. They must have unlocked it while I was asleep. The robed guards made haste up the narrow staircase and showed no compassion whenever I stumbled. What surprised me most was the silence. There were no jeers or mockery. Wherever I was going, I knew I was about to encounter something ominous.
Once we reached the main corridor, soldiers were lined up against the wall at attention. If not for the occasional breaths taken, I would have sworn statues adorned the halls. Finally, we reached a set of wooden doors ornately carved with snakes and thorns encircling a tree. It eerily reminded me of the trees I saw by the stream of tears.
When the doors opened, I was suddenly grateful that the guards had ahold of my arms. Otherwise, my knees would have buckled without the support. Sitting on a lavish throne was Ringmaster. At first, he didn’t take notice when I entered the room. I could only stare with disgust as my former siblings stood on either side as his personal body guards. Others that I recognized from the Lost Circus now served as Ringmaster’s personal entertainment. There were a few serving food on platters. I felt sick to my stomach.
Then Ringmaster nonchalantly turned to look at me. His cold stare belied the passionate hatred he had toward me. I know he would have no qualms of having me killed. He shooed the servers away and beckoned me to come closer. Of course, the guards pushed me forward before I could resist. I nearly stumbled over my feet, but I dared not give Ringmaster the pleasure of seeing me on my knees. With stony resolve, I asked, “Ringmaster, what are you doing?”
All around the room, guards and servants took in sharp breaths in unison. Before I could see it coming, Harper had come out from her corner and punched me by the time I finished my question. The metallic taste of blood flooded my tongue. When I spit out the fluid, I was surprised a tooth had not fallen out.
“That is no way to address the Prince,” seethed Harper. I was clearly confused until Ringmaster began to speak. “A long time ago, this country was once ruled by a King, but He abandoned His people. Originally, I was head of the Royal Court, but I chose to stay with the people of Slaven. I am merely picking up where the King left off…Now I will rule as the Prince of this country.” I was reeling from that information, and Ringmaster was drinking it all in.
The possibility of Harper knocking out every single tooth didn’t deter me from exclaiming, “You are a LIAR! Father was never the one who abandoned us! We are the ones who forgot Him!”
Tell them about Me. Tell them the Truth. My heart skipped a beat at the Comforter’s words. I turned away from Ringmaster and looked straight at Harper. “Do you remember the letters I received from the King? He adopted me into His kingdom.” I took a calming breath before I continued. “Harper, His last message to me was to tell you that He loves you. He wants to make you new and adopt you.” For two seconds, I could clearly see that Harper was welcome to the idea, if not eager. Then it was gone.
When Ringmaster began to laugh, I felt like a failure. Did I wait too late to tell Harper of the truth? Should I have been more aggressive with talking to my siblings and the people of the Lost Circus about Father?
“Mel…ody, to answer your question I have decreed that anyone affiliated with the former King will be interrogated to find His whereabouts.” Ringmaster cleared his throat, “Now that you have had a few days to think things over, I want you to tell me where we can find your King and the locations of other followers similar to yourself.”
I scoffed at Ringmaster. “Even if I did know where Father is, I would not tell you. Same goes for the others in Elyon’s kingdom. I will not sell them out.”
“So be it,” said Ringmaster with deadly precision. He clapped his hands, and the large double doors opened. Two guards dragged in a man who appeared to be of middle-age but his facial injuries obscured so many of his features it was very hard to tell. “You remember Kilik, right? Well, he was the Chef for the Lost Circus.” My blood ran cold as I woodenly looked at the beaten man. Despite his sturdy figure and his past as a war machine, bruises and lashes covered his entire surface. Even his eyes were nearly swollen shut from repeated beatings. He had to have been beaten down by multiple people simultaneously. Despite all that, Chef looked at me with a lopsided smile.
I tried to run to him, but the guards wouldn’t let me within five feet of my old friend. My eyes burned with unshed tears. The Prince stepped away from his throne momentarily to stand between Chef and I. As he looked at me with a smirk, he made me an offer. “Reject your King and pledge your allegiance to me, and I will release Kilik. If not, then there will be consequences…”
Completely speechless, I stared at Chef in horror. We both realized the gravity of the situation, yet Chef used the reserve of his energy to say in that familiar accent of his, “Lion of Judah is True King.” I nodded in affirmation as tears coursed down my cheeks knowing that my friend may not survive past this day.
Prince clapped his hands again and said, “Guards, shoot her.” At first, I felt relief. Yes, my friend won’t die because of me. Then that moment of joy was taken away as I watched in horror as a weak Narcissa stumbled into the room and crumpled to the floor after the soldiers threw her down. I lunged toward her with all my might, but Harper held me back. I don’t remember what I said or did, but I remember hearing the cocking of the gun before the trigger was released. Narissa’s eyes became lifeless instantaneously before her body dropped to the floor.
A second shot rang out with equal impact as I stood there helplessly sobbing against Harper’s shoulder. I don’t know when it happened, but Harper switched from constraining me to consoling me. The sight of Chef and Narcissa lying lifeless on the ground was unbearable. They shouldn’t have died.
“Take her to her cell,” commanded Prince. I stared at Prince as he said those words forlornly, and his eyes and tone said one thing: “This is your entire fault, Melody.”
I numbly followed my captors to my cell. Once I entered, I realized this was different from my first one. There were no windows or any source of light. It was created for total isolation. I was once again joined to the chain attached to the wall. Harper was the last person to leave since she had the keys, but as she looked back one last time I could see confusion reflected from her eyes. Then she left.
I was in complete darkness, and I just felt dazed. It hit me all at once. Narcissa was murdered. Chef was butchered. My body began to shake convulsively as it began to sink in. “Father, I feel so alone right now.” I closed my eyes to try to wish it all away, but I suddenly felt two strong and scarred hands hold onto mine. Immediately, I knew that the Lion of Judah was by my side. The tears came out in full force as He sat there crying with me. I dared not open my eyes. I didn’t want to be alone as I mourned for my friends. My heart was completely shattered, and I think only Father truly understood how that felt.