New Release from Prism Book Group!
Daughter of the King
by Carlene Havel
A heartwarming story about the resilience of true love, inspired by a biblical account of greatness, courage, and foretold prophecy...
Princess Michal was the youngest daughter of Saul, the first king of Israel. In an age when fathers arranged marriages, Michal dared to fall in love with a handsome young musician named David, from the little town of Bethlehem. As recounted in the Bible, Michal helped David escape from her insanely jealous father. King Saul punished his daughter with forced marriage to a distant war lord. Princess Michal unexpectedly returns from seven years of exile to find a changed world. Most of her relatives are dead. David has become King of Judea. He has acquired six additional wives, one of whom is a princess from Geshur. Michal longs to have a son to reign over Israel and reestablish the rule of King Saul's heirs. But each royal wife has hopes of placing her own son on the throne. Can Princess Michal's love for King David survive war, madness, infidelity, and betrayal?
“You’re not taking my wife anywhere!” Phaltiel bellowed. He struggled to break free from the soldiers who restrained him.
“Then we will take your widow.” The soldier tossed an unconcerned glance in Phaltiel’s direction. “It makes no difference to me.” He turned to the woman standing nearby. “You will come with us.”
“I shall make preparations for a journey of how many days?” Michal struggled to keep her voice calm. The daughter of the king must not show fear.
“We cannot waste time with preparations.” Captain Osh sat straight and tall on his horse. “We will leave as soon as—”
“There must be some mistake,” Phaltiel’s chief steward interrupted. “King Saul himself gave his daughter to my lord Phaltiel.”
“King Saul no longer reigns.” Osh glared at the steward. “He is as dead as you and I will be if we fail to deliver the woman Michal soon.”
Michal addressed her handmaid. “Come, Tirzah, we will gather a few things quickly.” She felt the stares of soldiers all the way across the courtyard and braced herself for the thrust of a spear in her back.
“We have endured two days of hard riding, Phaltiel.” The authoritative ring of the Captain’s voice filled the courtyard. “Feed my men and see to our animals.”
Michal breathed deeply to maintain her composure. Was it true her father, King Saul, was dead? Was it possible her dear brother, Jonathan, was now king of Israel? Was there a rebellion? A foreign invasion? Were soldiers, like those in the courtyard, even now rounding up her sister, Merab, and her family? She knew an insurgent ruler could never risk her or her sister’s royal blood flowing into the veins of a legitimate heir.
Michal forced down her fear as she walked toward the women’s living area. She prayed for courage as she concentrated on keeping her steps steady on the tamped earth of the courtyard.
The clapping of the chief steward’s hands broke the tension. Servants grabbed water jars to fill the stone drinking trough for the military animals. Others stoked the kitchen fire and made preparations for the soldiers’ meal. Lord Phaltiel’s senior wife, Bida, stood watching the activity. Such excitement rarely intruded upon the mundane life of Gallim.
Michal quickened her steps to push through the crowd of Phaltiel’s wives, children, and servants streaming into the courtyard. Once indoors, she fought to focus on which of her few possessions she should take.
“Tirzah, fetch the coat. I’ll carry it under my cloak. Look through my old robes in Bida’s chest, and choose one which clearly identifies me as the king’s married daughter. I’ll take one additional change of clothing and my sewing box.” She looked around her. “There’s nothing else in this house I ever want to see again. You can keep everything else.”
Tirzah’s eyes widened in horror. “You would not leave me behind?”
Michal clasped her servant’s slender hand. “There’s no reason to drag you into whatever awaits me. If my father is truly dead, these men may well be delivering me to an enemy. Maybe even the Philistines.”
“Better to suffer with you than to stay in this Godless house alone.” Tirzah’s tears spilled onto her cheeks. “Please, my lady, I beg you on my mother’s bones, let me go with you.”
Michal wavered. Tirzah had been her companion since the two of them were children. “All right. You may come with us. The Captain said it was a two-day ride to wherever they came from. Of course, that may not be true. Try to get us some food to take along. Some dates and goat cheese would be best.” Tirzah brightened and brushed away her tears as Michal continued. “Anything you can learn from the soldiers or the other women may be useful. We need to know who has taken King Saul’s place and where we are going.”
“Yes, my lady. I will do as you say.”
Michal straightened. “While you do your duty, I will do mine.”
With everyone else outside—their attention fastened on the soldiers in the courtyard—Michal swept quickly through the women’s rooms. She gathered the many idols and teraphims, the superstitious god figurines that sat everywhere.
As a girl, she participated in religious activities meant to convince the king’s subjects of the royal family’s devotion to the Living God. She went mindlessly through the motions of the familiar rituals, paying no attention to their deeper meaning. The devout faith of her husband David made her more thoughtful. Yet it was only when she was thrust into a life of misery that Michal was forced to trust the one God of Israel.
Her family, alienated. Her husband, bargained away years ago. Michal stiffened her resolve against such sorrowful thoughts lest they overtake her.
She would concentrate on being grateful the soldiers did not murder her in the sight of Phaltiel and his hateful wives.
Perhaps the soldiers would kill her as soon as they were a little distance from Phaltiel’s compound. Or someone could creep near in tonight’s darkness and dispatch her and poor Tirzah in their sleep.
Michal shivered at the thought of other possibilities. The prospect of torture frightened her. A quick death would be an answer to prayer. Some conqueror might be planning a public execution of King Saul’s family. Even the ultimate humiliation of a forced marriage to an uncircumcised heathen could await her. She gathered her courage to bear whatever she must.
In the beginning of her exile, Michal feared some stranger would bring the information King Saul had successfully tracked down and murdered her beloved husband David. When did she hear the news? Their tenth month in Phaltiel’s household, a slave trader stopped to obtain water for his pack animals. From the traveler, Michal’s handmaid Sarah heard that David and his loyal followers still hid in wilderness areas, protecting isolated farms from thieves and marauders. Sarah reported to Michal how the man laughed, showing his fine white teeth, when recounting King Saul’s irrational fear of his own son-in-law.
Years passed with no new information. Then one day Tirzah was cleaning the hearth in the kitchen when the women from a band of wandering wool merchants came to warm themselves. Hearing familiar words, Tirzah realized the travelers were Judeans. Their country was now being ruled by David, they said. Everyone was prospering under his progressive benevolence. Yes, their king was that same legendary David who, armed only with a slingshot, had in his youth fought and killed the Philistine giant Goliath.
Michal was overjoyed to learn her husband had so far evaded the dark furies of her father, King Saul. She gave thanks that her personal sacrifice to save David was not in vain. Was it possible that he still survived to this day? If so, she was certain some other woman occupied her place in his warm embrace by now.
A startling thought invaded Michal’s consciousness as she prepared to go with the soldiers. Perhaps protocol would demand the presence of King David of Judea at a festival given by the new ruler of Israel. Was it possible she might glimpse her adored husband’s face once more before her life ended? She must not break down before David’s eyes if some heathen ordered her torn to pieces by a wild animal.
Michal took the worthless gods she collected and dumped them on her bed. The crude clay pieces shattered easily when she smacked them against each other. So much for Shapash. One slender figurine snapped in two when she laid it across her knee and applied her full strength to its head and feet. She took her sharpest knife and defaced the other two pieces of wood. The pagans of this house would soon see how powerless their stupid idols were.