Kira has a foul mouth and Algernon angers easily. Like her mother, Kira has a well-earned reputation for promiscuity that complicates her adult life. Like his father, Algernon is prone to violence. Their character flaws not only define them, but also render them with humility well-suited for spiritual service.
At the time that Sylvia Ravenwood became pregnant with the twins, her relationship with Cyrus had soured. She blamed her husband for their poverty, insisting that laziness lay at the root of every financial failure they faced. As their marriage deteriorated and violence replaced tenderness, Sylvia’s chronic flirting with other men, and her reputation as an unfaithful woman, led Cyrus to conclude that the children she carried had been conceived by someone else.
This was the social situation into which Algernon and Kira were born. Sylvia felt upset that her second born child was another boy, but delighted in Kira’s delivery and favored her from birth. Cyrus had no interest in Algernon, other than taking out his frustration and rage on the boy. Algernon grew up believing that he was neither loved, nor worthy of being loved – a stigma that forever haunted his experience – except for the loyalty and care that he received from his sister and their brother, Garrick.
Unbeknownst to either of her siblings, Kira experienced long-term sexual abuse by her mother. By the time Garrick smuggled them onto a northbound train to escape the dangerous dynamic of their home, Kira had grown ripe for a predator’s picking. At the Temple Elsbireth, where Garrick had believed they would be safe, Kira suffered ongoing exploitation. Priestess Alba maintained a personal harem of young women, into which she lured Kira into a lurid world of licentiousness with other members of the priesthood – men and women alike.
Algernon, who’d been bullied as a boy, seethed with resentment. He channeled his anger into martial and academic excellence, rapidly becoming the highest-achieving initiate to ever enter the Sacred Community. His quick tongue, acrid wit, foul temper and penchant for violence left him with few friends. As his martial skills increased, even high ranking members of the priesthood began to fear him.
Kira’s precocious sexuality and Algernon’s violent temper led to their eventual dismissal from the Sacred Enclosure. Neither are permitted to return.
As young children, Kira and Algernon were very close. They not only lived under the same roof, they slept in the same bed, shared the same bathtub and would sneak off to an isolated cove of Broken Wing Lake to go swimming on hot summer days. In harmony with Tamarian custom, they shared a single plate when eating and always fed each other. Any time either one of them got into trouble at home, the other did, too.
Kira learned how to manipulate their mother, so that when Algernon received a beating from their father – sometimes deserved, but often not – Sylvia intervened, more to please her only daughter than to defend her second-born son. Sworn to secrecy concerning her sexual abuse, Kira never mentioned the inappropriate conduct to anyone, believing that this was not only normal, but that she somehow deserved to be treated this way.
At the Temple, however, as whispers about her profligate conduct reached Algernon’s ears, he refused to believe that Kira had been compelled to act against her wishes. He began to disdain and disown her, despite Kira’s pleading for help. That arrogance cost him, dearly.
Later, when Sister Astrid approached him for help after Kira ran away from the Sacred Enclosure, Algernon struggled to accept the truth that she’d turned to the sex industry as a means of supporting herself. Yet the strength of his childhood bond overcame not only that ugly reality, but also that Kira had become an opium addict. Algernon, in Astrid’s company, risked his life by entering a war zone to find his twin sister and bring her back home.
Forgiveness and grace restored the close relationship they’d enjoyed as children, but it took many months for the two of them to re-establish trust.
A reader may ask, “Why are these rather ugly themes important enough to explore in a novel?” I believe it’s necessary to examine human experience in story form, where conflicts can be vicariously experienced without anyone actually getting hurt. Thoughtful readers will reflect on the negative circumstances and draw their own conclusions about how best to resolve interpersonal issues. With Kira and Algernon, my desire is for readers to understand that love is a powerful, transforming agent. The bond that holds these siblings close has greater purity than romance, where sexuality complicates the relationship. Algernon once told Kira, “I don’t need a reason to love you. I just do.”
This type of acceptance reveals an idealistic desire in my soul for the way things ought to be, rather than how they are. I suspect that many readers wish their own siblings cared for them to the same extent, and that’s what makes the relationship between Kira and Algernon so compelling.
During her time as a sex slave, Kira fell into despair and frequently longed to die. Being rescued by Astrid and Algernon introduced her to the concept of grace in a powerful and profound way. Because she’s plumbed the depths of her own depravity and received forgiveness, Kira has also learned how to forgive. This is the central tenant of her faith. She follows the Temple liturgy with her brother and has come to admire Brenna for the strength of the Lithian woman’s spiritual convictions. The positive change in Kira’s character has been slow, but profound.
For Algernon, faith is a complicated matter. He wrestles with many doubts about how the spiritual and unseen are manifest in the material world. While he’d like moral issues to be clear cut, he often finds himself in situations where spiritual clarity eludes him. He recognizes his unworthiness for the priesthood, yet has established a successful ministry at Kira’s side among the sexually exploited in Marvic, Tamaria’s capital city. The pimps and drug dealers fear him and have learned to give him a wide berth, which permits Kira to work with women who are seeking an escape from that industry.
There are some who prefer simple, uncomplicated faith that moves powerfully through the experience of each character. I’ve learned, however, that belief is not easy. The truth path is hard to find and stands in opposition to the momentum of society at large. This is one reason why Kira and Algernon experience so much opposition to their chosen ministerial exploits.
While the contempt of ordinary citizens living in the city has moderated over time, Kira still deals with the unholy stigma of her past, which casts doubt in the minds of many about the unique ministry in which she’s engaged. Likewise, Algernon endures scorn from conservative men who suspect his interest in sex trade ministry is because he participates in it. That’s not true, but the persistence of such prejudice is difficult to overcome.
Hobbies and Interests
Kira is very skilled with her hands. At the Temple Elsbireth, she learned how to weave beautiful baskets from wild grasses. She is also an accomplished seamstress who designs and sews her own clothing. The frugal necessity of her upbringing is steeped into her soul to such an extent she won’t buy new clothes based on the fashion she sees in stores. Instead, Kira selects fabric and mimics what she’s seen for a fraction of the retail price.
This thrifty ethic has also made her an effective manager of money. Kira invested her inheritance shrewdly and in time, became modestly wealthy for a Tamarian. While some people presume that she made her money dishonestly, in truth, Kira simply earns more than she spends.
Gardening served as an escape from the rigorous demands of Temple life. Having grown up in a small farm, Kira learned how to manage soil and cultivate plants at an early age. This skill complimented her financial prudence, as much of her homestead’s annual food budget comes from the extensive garden she maintains on the property.
Algernon became interested in astronomy and cosmology as a boy. Avoiding light pollution is one reason he prefers living on Superstition Mesa to the greater comfort and convenience of city life. At night, when the sky is clear, he can study the sky using a small telescope. Like his older brother, Algernon enjoys reading books, particularly nonfiction titles dealing with science.
Evaluating his upbringing led Algernon to vow that he would never mistreat a child. Having known from experience how trauma impacts a child’s perspective, he makes an effort to listen, to play and laugh with them, and as a counter to his indoctrinated upbringing, teach young minds to think for themselves. While he has a fierce temper, Algernon is astonishingly patient and tender with little ones. For this reason, he’d been entrusted with teaching martial arts to initiates and remedial mathematics to struggling students at the Temple. Over time, he became a favorite of the young people, leading to much jealousy among elder members of the priesthood.
Kira develops very strong attachments to the people she loves. For a long time, she confused feelings of friendship for sexual attraction and associated physical contact with a true expression of devotion. Her low threshold of permitted contact made her vulnerable to the predatory sexuality of other people. This, coupled with her twisted upbringing led Kira into a very adult relationship with Astrid just as the girl blossomed into womanhood. Astrid truly loves Kira, but the power imbalance in their relationship created resentment. Not only did Kira dislike Astrid’s control over her life, she also genuinely likes men and felt that she should be free to pursue other lovers.
After getting pregnant during her time as a sex slave, Kira experienced a miscarriage. This experience changed her perspective. Facing the responsibility of raising a child before she felt ready weighed heavily on her heart, and after this, she began telling people she’d chosen to be celibate. Deep in her soul, Kira longed for the committed intimacy that her eldest brother shared with Brenna, and later, felt discouraged that Algernon found love while she had not.
Algernon, who suffered from the same difficult upbringing, faced a slightly different struggle. Despite not being sexually abused as a boy, his mother’s manipulative refusal to extend affection, her outright contempt and the fact that she nursed Kira through early childhood while depriving Algernon of the same maternal comfort, left him with desire he could not sate. Algernon finds women with an hourglass figure irresistibly attractive, but unlike his promiscuous twin sister, he so terrified everyone around him that as a teenager at the Temple, he frightened young women away.
Bronwyn, whose heavyset body offers the comfort he desperately needs, struggled for a very long time to trust him. Her experience was made worse by the mutual attraction between Algernon and Brenna’s very pretty and “not-so-little” sister, Cynthia. The choice Algernon had to make between these two young women proved exceedingly difficult for him.
Kira has pale eyes and naturally platinum blonde hair, the latter being unusual in Tamarian women. Her athletic build, strength and stamina serve well in the martial arts, where – like Algernon – she is formidable. Daily stretching, work-outs, a high amount of physical activity and a healthy diet keep her very fit. Confident in her appearance and highly charismatic, Kira feels no envy of beautiful Brenna or any other woman in a physical sense. She tends to quickly become the center of attention in a crowd, not because she’s extraordinarily pretty, but rather, her uncanny ability to discern how to make others feel comfortable and valued enhances her natural beauty.
Algernon shares a similar complexion and eye color with Kira, though his hair is an ordinary blonde. He is unremarkable in size for a Tamarian man, and his slender build misleads his adversaries into thinking that he’s weak. Years of hard labor on the farm, coupled with a runner’s build, great stamina and the trained ability to use multiple muscle groups in tandem while fighting makes him much stronger and more capable than his enemies perceive.