Prince Rudra yawned as he rode along with his brother Anbir, and the entourage of about 50 soldiers and staff. He was not really interested in the Svayamvaar of princess Revati.
He was just 18, too young to participate anyway. His half-brother Anbir was one of the contestants. Rudra had just tagged along to give him company.
Anbir's mother the former queen had died years ago. The current queen of Vatsaya and Rudra's mother was Queen Chitralekha.
"Rudra are you sleepy? We can take a break if you wish." Anbir said.
At twenty-two, Anbir stood a good six feet one inch tall, only an inch taller than his dad. His body was lean and muscular from his active life. Hunting, riding, and sword training filled his day, as studies in politics, arithmetic, reading, and writing filled his night.
King Tarekdeo doted on Anbir; it is said he deeply loved his former queen Jyoti until a mysterious illness took her away.
He was never the same after that. He used to wander alone in the woods, caves, met several mystics as if still trying to connect with the dead queen Jyoti.
However, his people sighed with relief once he married queen Chitralekha. She was barely a girl of 18 when Tarekdeo married her and brought her home as the mother of 3-year-old Anbir.
She was much more beautiful and graceful than the former queen. After marrying her Tarekdeo had somehow changed.
He had become overly ambitious, and bloodthirsty. He started heavily militarizing his empire, evolving into the most powerful king had become his sole purpose of life. To achieve that he had started usurping neighboring smaller nations.
There was a rumor that he was interested in attaining the powerful magical source in Shambala. Getting his son Anbir married to the princess was the start of his mission.
Queen Chitralekha supported him wholeheartedly. She was a shrewd and intelligent lady with a mysterious past. Nobody knew where she came from. She claimed to be a descendant of an old noble family brought up in isolation among female sages. However, she had suddenly turned up when King announced her as his betrothed.
She was a good queen and a good mother to Anbir, and later Rudra hence no one questioned much about her. Those who had doubts were soon pacified by her grace and charm.
When king Sachihero announced the Svayamvaar and invited royalties from different places to try their luck. King Tarekdeo saw this as an opportunity to get close to the Royal family of Shambala. As the son in law of Shambala Anbir would have the right to continue his mission easily.
Provided everything went according to the plan and Anbir won. Otherwise, Tarekdeo always had plan B.
"You have to win this Svayamvaar at any cost Anbir!" Tarekdeo had said to Anbir.
"I will surely win father." Anbir had replied.
Anbir was just like his father Tarekdeo. Ruthless and ambitious. Now they were riding towards the Imperial palace of Shambala to win the contest.
"I am not tired brother, I am simply bored," Rudra replied.
For his 18 years, Rudra was already very handsome. He was as tall as Anbir with a well-toned body, and chiseled features. Like his brother, he was a trained warrior, and still undergoing education in everything, fit for a prince.
He was supposed to leave for the higher learning center of Sage Bhargav in few months. Currently, he was accompanying his brother to the Svayamvaar to keep him motivated.
"I heard the woodlands of Shambala were enchanted but I haven't come across anything extraordinary yet," Rudra complained.
"What are you expecting to discover Rudra, a wood fairy? Or a beautiful elf?"
"Anything except these peaky insects," Rudra grumbled while swatting away an insect from his thick muscular arm.
"I hope the princess is worth the effort otherwise it all would be a waste," Anbir commented.
"As if you have a choice," Rudra muttered.
Unlike his brother, Rudra did not follow his father's instructions blindly. He preferred to question everything and was a little rebellious. However, since he was not the crown prince. King Tarekdeo was more tolerant of his antics if it did not directly threaten his authority.
"I had slept with a wood nymph once," Anbir said, being nostalgic.
"And?" Rudra asked curiously.
"They smell like moss down there." Anbir chuckled "they even taste like grass. " Anbir laughed and continued describing his conquest.
Rudra made a face. He was not interested in these trivial pursuits. He was at an age where he wanted things to be ideal.
Like waiting for his ideal love.
"So, you are still to pop your cherry Rudra isn't it?" Anbir joked.
"That's none of your business brothers! And I am not a virgin." Rudra replied clearly annoyed.
Anbir laughed loudly.
"I have heard girls from Shambala are exceptionally beautiful. Maybe you might get your chance here. We'll be staying for a month after all."
"Yeah whatever" Rudra replied and continued staring at the road ahead.
Despite their harmless bantering, both brothers adored each other. Nobody could tell that they were half-brothers. Anbir was more boisterous one while Rudra was quieter. He preferred reading and had a keen sense of observation.
King Sachihero was sitting along with his queen, and the Oracle Shrushaw.
The Oracles were Sorcerers who were appointed by most Kingdoms.
They were learned in magic, mysterious art, and used to help and advice the Kings regarding mystical issues.
The oracle for Shambala was a beautiful woman called Shrushaw.
No one knew how old she was. She always appeared as a sultry 25-30-year-old.
Her heavy-lidded eyes could entice any man however most were afraid of her and avoided offending her.
As the chief Oracle of Shambala currently, she was pouring over the profiles of various suitors who had approached to win Princess Revati's hand.
"All are accomplished brave candidates your majesty however princess Revati will make the final decision," Shrushaw said.
"In that case why are we even holding the contest? We can just ask her to choose the best." King Sachihero asked.
"Princess knows nothing about these suitors. The contest will help her decide the best among them. What I mean is that the winner will be whom her heart desires." The oracle explained.
Sachihero sighed with relief. Revati was his pride, he desired a perfect husband for his elder daughter.
She might be the future Queen someday. According to Shambala laws, the crown did not pass on through the bloodline. Rather the ruler was chosen by the people from some nominees of few prominent families.
Revati and Toshani either of them could be the future ruler as chosen by the people.
Hence technically both were the crown princess. However, not many people knew that the princess Revati was adopted. Despite that as per adoption laws, she had full right to be elected for the crown.
Now her fate lay in the balance as the 15 Princes and Kings assembled to vie for her hand in marriage.
To be continued......
Rudra and his entourage were now in the capital city of Kushan, the home of the royal family, and therefore the capital of the Shambala Kingdom. Looming marble towers grew from the city's center like white tree trunks into the heavens. The streets were lined with old trees and bright flowers. The finest artists and craftsmen worked along with them in grand shops and houses. Endless gardens sprawled across the city, interspersed with inns, eateries, and tea houses that took the form of gazebos and houses.People walking around looked happy and content. The palace had architecture like no other in the district. Several centuries earlier the royal family of Shambala had shipped in an architect from an overseas city. They wanted something exotic to inspire awe in the population. So instead of the peaks in the roof, it had gold-domed towers. It had an open porch at the front, held up with most ostentatiously detailed pillars, painted in brilliant white and blue. Inside there were no door
"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
"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