"He's not going to be pleased." Malcolm cast a look over the aftermath of their chaos - a splatter of papers and scrolls.
Four knocked out Shambala guards were slumped at the entrance. He exhaled deeply, "This was a mistake."
"Perhaps we are in the wrong room?" Gopi said.
"This is the royal archives room and as per my Information this is where the suitors' challenge had been put," Malcolm said.
"The prince is not going to be happy," Malcolm said moodily.
"You're being melodramatic." Gopi a commander, was far more at ease.
"I don't understand why the prince needs the challenges in advance. He is competent enough to win anyway." Gopi continued.
"Careful! Any word against the prince would be treason." Malcolm had a stern expression.
Gopi rolled his eyes. He was apprehensive about their whole stealing the challenge mission right from the beginning. Anbir had got tipped off by some internal source from Shambala that the blueprint of the challenges was stored in the archives.
Hence, he sent his minions to get them. The royal ball was the right opportunity for that. Everyone was busy in the Ballroom and they had a perfect opportunity to nick the challenges. However, someone probably tricked him. There was nothing in the archives and now they had to clean up the mess.
Revati looked at herself in the mirror while a maid brushed her hair until it shone like spun gold. She was wearing a ball gown in demure peach which enhanced her rosy cheeks.
"I can't breathe!" Toshani cribbed making Revati turn her head towards her.
Maria was tightening the chords of her corset while Toshani struggled.
"My lady if your stay still for a minute it would not be so hard," Maria said.
"I don't want to wear this. Why can't I wear my normal breeches and tunic?"
"Your mother will have a fit if you enter the ball dressed like that! " Maria said.
Revati smiled at her younger sister who was pretending to have a fainting spell.
Revati walked towards the window and looked out. This part of the castle overlooked the city main street. She had seen almost all princes arrive with their entourage. She had not seen their faces, but she knew their countries by their flags and banners.
15 nations vying for her. She was not sure if she was even worth it!
"A rather disappointing showing, don't you think?" Prince Rajendra was saying, as he returned with two goblets in hand, giving one to Toshani.
"Mother doesn't know right?" She whispered.
"Don't worry cousin, I have taken care" Rajendra grinned.
Although Toshani was of age to drink. However, her mother the queen frowned If she caught Toshani sipping alcohol.
According to her Toshani was already a handful without adding the alcohol effect.
The ball had been wretchedly boring until now. She had walked down in her glittering pale blue dress holding her cousin brother Prince Rajendra's arm.
After smiling for no reason at everyone, finally, she was sitting in a corner looking at a bunch of elves singing.
"Here I was, expecting the dance from the fairies, instead we have that " prince Rajendra cribbed.
He nodded at the next table which was occupied by Prince Leonard of Anatolia.
"What do you think about him Toshani?"
"He looks like a potato," she remarked. She was tactful enough to speak in low and discreet tones.
Rajendra chuckled, shaking his head. His youthful, handsome features were overcome with a careless kind of smirk. "Does resemble one, doesn't he - that big head of his? Which one do you like?"
"It's not my svayamvaar, I don't care about any of them," Toshani replied though her eyes had been searching for prince Rudra ever since the ball had started. She did not find him anywhere.
"Have you met prince Anbir, the cousin? He seems to be a royal pain in the ass! hasn't left Revati's side even for a minute." Rajendra asked.
Toshani looked at them dancing. Revati and Anbir both with matching blonde looks. They looked striking together and she recalled Anbir was Rudra's older brother.
Her interest was piqued.
"Why is the pain in the ass? Is he nasty?"
"He is a show-off, however, that's not the point."
Rajendra bent his head and whispered conspiratorily to avoid being overheard.
"His father king Tarekdeo has been attacking other kingdoms and has left an unsavory list of war crimes. Among them the humiliation and enslavement of all those who resisted him. He has gobbled up their southern neighbors so rapidly in its latest greedy expansionism. He is as cunning as he was ruthless, and in all his years spent waging war, he had not yet lost a battle."
Toshani's eyes seemed to turn their way, her nose wrinkling with the stray feelings of disgust.
"So why did father invite them for the svayamvaar?" Toshani was curious.
"All qualified princes and kings have been invited. If we did not invite them it would be, an act of hostility. No one wants to provoke the Vatsaya king."
Rajendra said and took a sip from his goblet.
Toshani wondered what kind of person prince Rudra was. He did not seem aggressive like his father thought he was nasty with his head stuck in the cloud-like all obnoxious princes.
She affirmed her feeling that she did not like him. Though she could not explain why she was looking for him among the crowd of guests.
"Brother if you will excuse me. I need some air."
She moved away in a flutter of silken gowns.
Her dark hair had been braided and twisted into an elegant but remarkably simple bun to the side, her tight corset accentuated her small breasts, though they were making her breathless.
This was not her ball in which she needed to stand out, and she could not have been more relieved to bid her time in a corner. Nobody would notice her missing if she temporarily removed herself from a party that had been growing rapidly tedious, as far as parties went. She was tired of feigning interest and awe at talks which made her bored.
Besides, the currently contesting suitors of bordering states were interested in Revati, not her.
She passed fragrant flower bushes and marble fountains lining her way. She trailed her hand along with a familiar hiding place around a nearby bench and, finally, withdrew her concealed deck of cards.
She took her seat on the bench and began shuffling the deck in her hands, perfectly at ease in her peaceful solitude.
"I see I'm not the only one taking sanctuary here," intoned a casual voice.
She turned around to face the voice.
"Prince Rudra!" She exclaimed on encountering the familiar face.
"What are you doing here?" She asked.
His smile had a way of being naturally charismatic - probably to do with his easy assurance and the suggestion of subtle humor in his eyes.
"My lady," he added.
A bow followed, perfectly adequate, though there was something a little satirical in its performance. He looked her over. It was the deck in her hands drew his comment first.
"Do you often prefer to play by yourself other than rescuing cats?"
The intrusion was unexpected, but not wholly shocking. These grounds, though secluded in their way, were never meant to be cordoned off to those of the main event. Part of her did mourn the premature loss of her, as he described it, sanctuary.
She had to admit that she would not mind his company though it had nothing to do with the tall cut of his frame, his broad shoulders, or the sharpness of his jaw.
"Only when the game doesn't require a partner, My Lord," she replied.
He seated himself on the bench and observed her building a tower of cards.
"I wonder what his highness is doing here all alone?" She asked without looking up.
"I wonder the same, my lady, why would a lady take efforts to dress in a pretty dress and then miss the party."
"The party is insufferably boring! " she said.
"I would agree with that. I was expecting some pretty fairies however I had to put up with those shrill elves."
"That's exactly what my cousin Rajendra said. What is this fascination with fairies? Is this some new fad?"
"They are pretty...although... I don't care much about them now." He replied gazing at her.
He reached for a few errant cards.
He let out “May I?" slip out before he grabbed a few cards.
She did not protest, but her gaze followed the back of the cards as he made his claim.
She broke the remainder of her deck in two and offered him half, wordlessly setting it within closer reach.
"Do you always carry around a deck of cards, or did tonight's party, in particular, inspire you to come appropriately armed?"
"Oh, I don't carry them," she answered. To demonstrate, she reached outwards with an ankle and pressed her heel against an otherwise unassuming flagstone; immediately the piece of the walkway upturned itself, revealing a small and inexplicably clean repository, currently emptied.
"Wow! A hiding place! How interesting! " he remarked.
" This palace seems to be full of mysteries. What another manner of dangerous things, do you have hidden away in this palace?"
"Few things to kill my boredom, I assure you I have no hidden treasure," she replied, innocently.
Prince Rudra was placing four cards upon their sides, like a square, each supporting the one prior.
He glanced at her, a smile lingering in turn. "Still, boredom must have been very prominent, indeed if it prompted you to hide away with your cards."
"Should I apologize for the mediocre entertainment?" She asked.
"Not at all. The entertainment was excellent, " his lips twitching a little. He placed a card carefully at his base.
"My brother seemed very taken with all the festivities, in any case. I think he was impressed. Did you meet him?"
"Only in passing, but I know his highness has been very delightful." She replied recalling his pompous behavior.
She bent her head forward and knit her brows. "Is he often that way? Delightful?"
"I take it you're surprised," said Rudra thoughtfully.
"My brother is very pleasant and delightful usually. If he is successful in marrying your sister. We'll get to see more of each other." He said pleasantly.
She was not sure how to answer this.
"Yeah, that would be nice" she replied.
"You don't seem very happy about it." He said putting the last card on his structure.
"Well done." She said looking at the tower he had built.
"Thank you," he said, looking proud.
He reached out and took a single card from the bottom, which caused the entire structure to crumble and crash.
"It would be a waste not to put these cards to further use, after the lengths you've gone to in hiding them here. What do you say to a game of bluff?"
"Sure, why not? Shall we have stakes?" she answered cheerily, between sorting out her cards."Stakes? How mercenary," Rudra commented, though it was clear that this was meant to be a joke."Certainly. Perhaps, if I win..." He quieted, thinking before his smile returned. "If I win, I'd like you to tell me more about the challenges.""Are you trying to wriggle out information from me to make your brother win?" She asked."I want him to win so that we can be related and get more opportunities to meet." He gave his most dazzling smile which quickened her heartbeat."But that would be duping. Your brother should win fairly." She spoke."Hmmm, perhaps I should change my stakes. How about if I win you tell me just the first challenge?""It's still unfair." She replied." You just need to tell me what the challenge is. I am not asking for the key to solving it. It's still fair." He insisted.She pondered over a moment."Ok. And if I win...I want you to tell me something about you, which no on
Rudra strode towards the noise which he had heard while playing cards with the princess."Malcolm! What are you doing here?" He asked the Vatsaya guards who were dressed in formals for the party."Prince Rudra! We were just returning from an errand for his highness." Malcolm replied while Gopi rolled his eyes."I think I know what that errand might be," Rudra said wryly.He did not approve of his brother's erratic ways to win the contest. However, Anbir was headstrong and would do whatever he wished."This way he'll get disqualified before the contest commences." Rudra thought.He went back into the party which was wretchedly boring as described by Toshani.At the thought of her, he sought her around in the crowd. She was dancing with someone he did not know, and she had a scowl on her face.He smirked.She was amusing. Though he could not point out why he was so taken with her. It was like being pulled by a magnet. He just watched her glide around the dance floor.He joined his brothe
"Fifteen contestants, fifteen greatest warriors, princes and kings have gathered here to vie for my daughter's hand" King Suchihero paused."It truly an honor. The ancient system of Svyamvaar was established to choose the best man for a princess. There are 5 senses, 5 elements, 5 continents on this blessed Earth. Hence there would be 5 challenges. They will be revealed as we proceed." The first contest was taking place in a hall which was the size of an average auditorium. There was a central stage where the contestants were seated.The highest pavilion, near it, was filled with the royal family. Then the guests, and courtiers.Rudra shifted in his seat. He was not interested in the contest really. He was scanning the pavilion for Toshani.Anbir bristled in anger having to appear for such a childish contest for the foolish king but he restrained himself. As per his father's order, he had to win.The oracle took over from the king as she approached the stage to brief the contestants a
Bhairav leaned against a snowy boulder. The chilly air felt like little needles on his exposed cheeks. He had been trekking for hours. It was not always like this.Long ago before the ice age, Kailash was full of greenery, tropical trees, and plants. However, it changed along with several other things on Earth. At least it did not have wild animals now, only snowy emptiness.Peering through the fog he tried to ascertain his location. The Citadel would be right after the giant Shivling.Shivlings were representations of the infinite, with no beginning or end. The Shiva himself.He clutched his staff and started further.*******Rudra was waiting for Toshani at the stables. He hoped he was in the right place. She did not precisely stipulate where.A young stable boy of about 15 approached him and asked him to accompany him.Rudra nodded and followed the boy.The boy took him through a labyrinth of walkways, finally arriving at what looked like a haystack somewhere in the stable.He stopp
Toshani was feeling like a tour guide. Rudra was fascinated by everything, he wanted to visit every shop, try out every eatery, and struck a conversation with random people."Rudra you must not talk to everyone like this. We'll attract attention" She reprimanded him.Rudra was happily strolling on the cobbled road. They were in the middle of the market area. It was crowded with merchants and shoppers."I thought you were the fearless one." He spoke."I am fearless, not stupid!" She replied."Hmmm so tell me what the most fascinating thing about your city is?" He asked casually munching on a stick of kababs which he had bought from a vendor."Isn't it enough? You have seen almost everything!" Toshani grumbled.They had been wandering around for hours and she was tired.He just grinned at her. His eyes were suddenly caught by the glowing pagoda of a temple in a distance.He stared at it spellbound."What is that?" "That is the temple of Aditi.the mother goddess of Shambala," Toshani rep
Anbir was swimming through the lake. He had been swimming for hours through the weeds and fishes. He no idea how to find the pearls. It would take days to scan the entire lake to look for a tiny pearl.He broke through the water surface to catch some breath. There were various water lilies, swans, and ducks floating on the lake surface."Of course! The swans!" He suddenly recalled Sarasvati the Goddess of wisdom resides on the swan. The pearls of wisdom were not in the lake, they were with the swans floating on the lake!He swam back toward the bank where swans built their nests. He just hoped that he was not wrong or too late.He found a flock of swans, but he had no idea how to look for Pearls. Anbir started looking through the nests for pearls or any clues for the pearls."Are you looking for the pearls of wisdom?" A sweet voice asked him.He turned back but did not find anyone."Well, I am here." The voice called again."I must be going crazy" Anbir muttered."Well, if you don't w
When the universe was created by "Brahma" the creator God. He had several "mind-born" children. Mind born means born from his mind.Kashyap was one of the “mind-born” sons of Brahma and part of a prominent constellation Saptarshi (The seven).Brahma ordered Kashyap to go to Earth and marry 8 daughters of the celestial king Daksh for Earth was new and barren, devoid of any life.Kashyap married the 8 sisters and each wife bore him different races of children.His chief wife Aditi's sons were called Aditya.Second wife Diti's sons were called Daityas.The third wife Manu bore him manavs (humans)Fourth wife Danu bore him Danavs (demons)And so on. These children went on to produce different races and species on Earth. Everything was going peacefully when Brahma created Heaven. The Adityas and the daityas fought fiercely among themselves to rule the heavens. But daityas were evil, they were winning by deceit.To save her children Aditi gave her power to her sons the Adityas.The daityas
Rudra was lying on his bed staring at the ceiling and daydreaming about Toshani when a worried Malcolm arrived in his chamber. "My lord, we need you."Annoyed at his broken daydream Rudra turned towards Malcolm."What happened now?""The Prince....he is not waking up," Malcolm replied, fear exhibiting on his face.Rudra sat up immediately."What do you mean not waking up? What happened to him?" He did not wait for an answer and scrambled off the bed pulling on his robe. It was not late night but most of the people in the palace were either asleep or going to sleep.Rudra rushed into Anbir's chamber. Gopi their other guard was sitting near him bending on his body shaking him awake.Gopi turned towards Rudra and bowed slightly.Rudra approached the sleeping form of Anbir. He seemed to be sleeping blissfully a slight smile on his face."He looks fine to me. What's wrong?" Rudra asked the guards."He isn't waking up my lord, it's time for his energy potion. He had ordered me to remind hi