VERNA HARGROVE: Kindred Spirits
(Glorious Companions #2)
With the passing of her elder husband, nineteen-year-old Kenana finds herself queen of Adah—and heavy with child—a child who may or may not be human. Born of daughters of man but sired by fallen angels, the Nephilim are powerful creatures—powerful and often evil.
Raped by such a fallen angel prior to her husband’s death, Kenana is tormented by the thought of what may be growing inside her. And as she is about to give birth, Kenana receives some unsettling news: a massive army is gathering, an army determined to remove her from power, an army composed of mighty Nephilim warriors—and led by a traitor. Only one man can stop the coming destruction, the true king of Mesopotamia—a man who also happens to be her true guardian angel.
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READING SAMPLE BELOW:
“If the council approves,” said Prince Gad, a handsome young man dressed splendidly in ornate protective armor made of leather and hammered metals. “Let us crown her royal highness, Princess Kenana, as Queen of Adah.”
The gentlemen in attendance, princes and noblemen, priests and generals, murmured amongst themselves. All were seated amicably in the great throne room of the Palace of Ur, surrounded by heavily armed warriors. On the walls of the great room were the heads of many fearsome beasts, frozen in time, lips raised in ferocious snarls, fangs barred. Princess Kenana averted her eyes.
Those poor creatures were made to look ferocious, she thought, to justify their destruction. To make the hunters look braver than they were. Further proof that man is more animal than the animals they destroy.
From the front row, a well-dressed man was doing more than murmuring. He was gesticulating vehemently to an older nobleman sitting next to him. The angry man could have been as handsome as his younger brother, Prince Gad, if not for the fury that creased his face. This was Prince Ham, Kenana’s deceased husband’s oldest son.
Finally, Prince Ham stood, and as he did so, he withdrew his curved scimitar and turned it easily in one hand. A nonthreatening gesture, certainly, but one that was obvious: He was a man of war. A man of action, and he was used to getting what he wanted.
“What gives this foreigner, this woman, a right to rule over us?” he demanded. And as he spoke, he lifted the sword and pointed it at his younger brother. Kenana knew such swords were very heavy, and yet Prince Ham held it steady with one hand.
He is a strong man, she thought. Strong and stubborn and prone to violence. A wicked combination.
But Gad would not be intimidated by his older brother. Kenana knew that the younger prince had strength of his own. “As you are well aware, my brother, our father’s own brother has recently died without leaving behind any offspring or wives, thus clearing the way for the next in line.”
“The next in line is—”
Gad cut off his furious brother. “The next in line is our father’s widow, Princess Kenana.”
“But I am our father’s eldest son,” said Ham, spitting the words. As he spoke, he emphasized each word by slamming the point of his sword into the flagstone. “And I will reign King of Mesopotamia.” He turned and faced Kenana, who sat impassively on the throne. She was used to Ham’s outbursts. “And I will not have the thrown stolen from me by a simple farm girl.”
Ham had worked himself up, his chest heaving, pushing against the restraints of his dress armor. Kenana regarded him with little warmth. She held his gaze until he turned away.
Kenana saw that Prince Gad regarded his brother with something close to sympathy. But not enough sympathy. He turned to the group of legal representatives from the various temples, all sitting together off to the side and looking dignified.
“Gentlemen, please advise my brother of the law of the land.”
An elderly man, wearing a long white robe embroidered with gold thread, pushed himself up slowly with a gnarled cane.
“Mesopotamian law allows the widow of a King or Prince to rightly ascend to the throne upon the death of her husband,” he said, his voice surprisingly strong, reaching the ears of all those in attendance. Now, as he spoke, he looked at Ham. “I’m afraid, good prince, you have no claim to the throne. Not while Princess Kenana lives. You, of course, are second in line. That is unless she marries after a full year of mourning.”
Ham had his supporters, and he had made sure to bring them along on this important day. Grumbles and hissing filled the back of the throne room. When the temple representative had sat, Prince Ham regarded Kenana again, cold fury in his eye.
He will kill me, thought Kenana. He will kill me the first chance he gets, and
reclaim the throne.
Kenana was used to others wanting to kill her. Just last year, a Nephilim, a giant sired by fallen angels, had wanted her blood. Prince Jubal’s head servant Asher, who had been a common slave as a boy, had saved her. A slave she had set free and had not seen for many months. Asher had been, in fact, a Goel, one given the powers of heaven to protect those on earth. Little had Kenana known that he had made it his life’s mission to watch over her. Now he was gone, and she missed him more than she thought possible. Her heart was nearly broken.
But for now, the prince’s cold stare meant little to Kenana. He was a simple man that she was sure he she could handle. He then smiled, lifting his lips and showing her his teeth.
Like a dog.
You will not be the first to want me dead, young prince, she thought. Nor will you be the last.
As if reading her thoughts, Prince Ham sheathed his sword in frustration and turned away.
At this point, her nomination to Queen went to an official vote, and Prince Gad asked each member of the council for approval. One by one, the heads nodded solemnly, and Kenana breathed a sigh of relief.
“It is official, then,” said the young prince, smiling. He looked at her. “All Hail Queen Kenana of Adah, may she rule in peace all the days of her life.”
The council repeated Gad’s words, and Kenana found herself blushing mightily. As was expected of her, Kenana pushed herself up slowly from the gilded ivory throne to address those in attendance. Slowly, because she was heavy with child. She felt the men’s eyes upon her. In particular, upon her massive belly, which contained what surely would be an enormous infant.
If only they knew, she thought.
“Thank you, everyone,” she said. “And as queen, my first directive is to appoint an interim ruler.” There were stunned gasps from the crowd. “As you can plainly see, I am heavy with child. So heavy, that I will surely give birth any day now.” She paused again, and some of the looks of confusion had vanished. They understood. “With that said, I have taken the liberty to consult with the legal representatives, and they have assured me that it is within my rights as queen to appoint an interim replacement. Of course, one that must be approved by this esteemed assembled court.”
Kenana paused and looked them all in the eye. Her gaze then settled on her deceased husband’s youngest son.
She said, “I choose Prince Gad to replace me until I am fit to rule again.”
The younger prince looked up sharply at Kenana, his mouth dropping open almost comically. Kenana was pleased to see that many of the men in attendance were nodding in agreement. His older brother, however, stood motionless, furious. His face reddened to a dangerous point.
Kenana looked again at the younger prince. “Do not be so surprised, Prince Gad. I have known you to be fair and just, honorable and wise. Although you are technically my stepson, I am honored to call you a dear friend. You will be a fine ruler.”
The young prince collected himself, strode over to her, bowed deeply, and took her hand into his. He kissed it lightly, as was custom.
“It is an honor, my queen. And I shall honorably hold court until your return.”
“May you have peace in your land,” she said.
Prince Ham suddenly lunged forward, drawing his great, curved sword. Soldiers were at Kenana’s side in an instant, their own swords drawn. Ham stopped in mid-lunge and, to his credit, appeared stunned by his sudden lack of self-control. He lowered his sword and backed off a few paces. The soldiers, however, continued to surround her and Prince Gad.
Kenana strode fearlessly forward and stood tall next to the fuming older prince. “Esteemed gentleman of the court,” she said loudly. “I present to you Prince Gad, interim ruler of all Mesopotamia. Do I have your concurrence?”
The votes came instantly and loudly, followed by cheers and applauding.
Prince Ham looked out over the assembled nobleman and generals, scholars and healers, and then sheathed his sword loudly and stepped forward into the crowd, shouldering his way through.
Kenana turned to the young prince. “May El be with you,” she said.
Gad leaned forward and whispered, “I have something to ask you, my queen. But in private.”
“Then I shall see you tonight,” said Kenana, and threw her cloak around her shoulders and stepped off the platform, trailed by a small legion of loyal soldiers.