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 doors on the ground floor, only arches. The flagstone floor had been shipped from Anatolia and it was made with a stone of soft blue hues that had never been seen in the district.
The palace had been extended over the centuries. It now had four sides around a central quadrangle and over five hundred rooms. It took a small army of servants to upkeep such a large abode, and indeed most of the rooms were never used.
However, they were all full now due to the esteemed guests, their relatives, staff, servants, etc.
"My lord seems like we are the last one to arrive." Their chief bodyguard Malcolm said.
"Most important people arrive last," Anbir replied with a flourish.
Rudra shook his head. Sometimes Anbir was too much of a show-off.
They were received by a shower of flower petals, and the King and Queen themselves. Going by the graceful looks of her majesty Rudra guessed the princess would be beautiful if she took after her mother.
"Welcome Princes to our humble abode" King Sachihero greeted them with folded hands.
"Pleased to meet you, your majesty. I am Anbir and this is my brother Rudra. As per my father's wish, I am here to win Princess Revati's hand in the Svayamvaar."
"We are grateful to have such a brave and illustrious man as a prospective son-in-law. We are truly honored by your presence. Please come in and make yourself comfortable." Suchihero said humbly.
Pleased with the welcome Anbir and Rudra entered the huge white archway.
Rudra liked the palace at first glance. Back home the royal palace of Vatsaya was equally grand. Perhaps even bigger however it was dark and imposing, with dark drapes and high turrets, it was more like a fort, unlike Shambala.
Because of its open architecture, use of white and blue marble the palace was well lighted and seemed livelier.
Rudra followed his brother towards the guest quarters.
They were given separate rooms.
His room was beige with beautiful murals on the wall, hand painted by someone who knew what they were doing. The scene depicted various mythology and battle scenes. He noticed a similar mural in the entire palace. These people loved their paintings.
The room contained a big bed, with velvet drapes, neatly made.
Two straight-backed chairs and a table was in the center. There was also a bureau with a mirror in the corner.
Purple drapery curtains surrounded a door which he assumed was a balcony. The sunlight poured into the room from the door.
Overall, the room looked comfortable and warm. He liked it.
"My lord I will be your attended for your stay. Would you like to have a bath?"
A polite man servant bowed and asked him.
"What is your name?" Rudra asked.
"Leo my lord." He replied.
"Thanks, Leo, please draw a bath for me."
Leo bowed and left.
Rudra walked towards the door which opens into a medium-sized balcony.
It overlooked a beautiful garden.
A row of trees lined the perfect lawn. In the center, there was a pond with flowering lily pads and a wooden bridge that crossed the middle so one could look down at the water lilies, the flower beds were a riot of May color.
Rudra was impressed by the pleasant sight.
After the bath, and a scrumptious lunch with his brother he went on a stroll in the garden.
He had dismissed his guards because he did not like to be followed around unnecessarily.
Anbir preferred to take a nap hence Rudra went alone. It was just after midday. The blazing sun cast a warm glow over everything. He crossed the bridge over the pond and observed colorful fishes with weird shapes wading in the water below.
He walked towards the row of trees and took a seat under them. Its leafy branches swayed with the gentle wind.
The cool breeze caressed his hair and he fell under a stupor only to be woken by a strange scraping noise.
He opened his eyes. His hand instinctively went to his sword tucked in his waist. No place was safe enough for royalty.
Not seeing anyone around he wondered if he had dreamed it. His doubts were shortly dispelled when the scraping noise was heard again along with the sweet voice of a girl.
"Come on Mr. Bushy don't make me come and grab you." A female voice said.
He followed the source and looked up. At first, he could only make out a splash of bright pink among the dense green leaves.
The figure moved and he peered again. Now he could see a mass of black curls falling over a bright pink dress.
"You know Mr. Bushy; you are getting really mischievous. Maybe I should ask father to use your bait in the dragon challenge. Though you would be less than a bite for the dragon." The figure who he had now figured out to be a girl said to no one in particular
His interest was piqued, and he wondered about the identity of this tree climber.
She moved from one branch to another and he caught her side profile. Her face was slightly lighter than ivory with a rose-colored tint to her cheek.
He stood up dusting the twigs away from his breeches still looking at the girl on a tree.
"Hi" he called out.
She was startled and looked down at him.
Their eyes met and he finally saw her face. She had a radiant face with brilliant shine, high arched nose, and the tiny, curved mouth.
The dark hair cascading down her face covered a dimple. Her brows knitted in anger or concentration he was not sure.
"Well hello Sir," she answered back.
"May I know what are you doing up in the tree? It is dangerous. You might break your neck if you fall." He spoke.
"Thanks for your concern sir, but I am a bit preoccupied right now. Mr. Bushy had climbed up and is unable to climb down on his own."
He wondered about the identity of Mr. Bushy as there was no one else on the tree until his eyes fell on a brown tomcat comfortably curled up on one of the higher branches.
"Your Mr. Bushy looks pretty content up there. You are unnecessarily being concerned."
"And what do you know of my pet? He can't climb down, and I don't want him getting injured." She snapped back.
"You were ready to feed Mr. Bushy to a dragon a few minutes back," Rudra said wryly.
"I was just trying to reason with him." She replied.
"Trying to reason with a cat! Interesting!" He smirked.
Toshani glared at the annoying boy down below. The first thing which had struck her was his dark good looks. He was very handsome, and she felt her heart hammering for the first time.
However, her admiration was replaced by dislike because of his temperament.
"Sir you are scaring Mr. Bushy. If you cannot be of any help, then please refrain from halting my work." She said haughtily and held the branch tighter.
"Oh no!" She suddenly yelped looking at something.
He followed her gaze and turned his head towards whatever made her agitated.
A frantic maid and a guard were running around looking in every bush.
"They are looking for me. If they ask just say you didn't see me ok?" She said and hid among the dense branches.
Rudra looked at her puzzled.
The maid and the guard were soon near him.
"My lord, have you seen the princess around here?" The maid asked Rudra.
He shook his head in a NO.
Which was not a lie? He had no idea who was the girl up in the tree.
The maid and the guard moved ahead, and Rudra glanced up into the branches again.
She peered down from the branches again.
"So, she is princess Revati? " he thought.
She seemed too young though. She looked 15-16.
She had managed to grab the cat and was climbing down the tree. Rudra marveled at her agility.
He held her waist and helped her jump down the last branch as she landed finally on the ground. She brushed her hair aside and he finally had a good look at her violet eyes. He had never seen such eyes before. They were mesmerizing.
She cuddled the cat in her arms and looked at him.
"Thank you for your help. If Maria would have caught me, I would have been in trouble. Mother hates it when I climb trees." She said looking up at his towering frame.
"Maria?" He asked.
"She is my governess." She replied.
"Do you like climbing trees? What else do you like to do? " He asked to lean against the trunk.
She was beautiful. He had already noticed that but up close she was exquisite.
"Lots of things, hunting, riding," She said.
She eyed him curiously. He seemed to be royalty but was too young to be one of the contestants for the Svayamvaar.
"Sirs are you here for the contest?"
"Not exactly, my brother Anbir is the contestant." He replied.
For some reason that made her happy.
"I guess I didn't introduce myself. I am Rudra, younger brother of Anbir, crown Prince of Vatsaya."
Her eyes grew in surprise.
"Nice to meet you prince Rudra" she replied.
"Are you princess Revati my lady?" He asked.
"That's my older sister. I am Toshani"
He raised an eyebrow. He did not know the princess had a younger sister.
"Interesting! " He said.
Me Bushy hissed and jumped from her arms.
She sighed and watched him slink away.
"Princess there you are!" Maria called out and came running towards them.
Toshani turned to face her.
"Princess please come with me. You have to get prepared for the ball."
King Suchihero has organized a royal ball so that all the guests would be formally introduced to the court.
"I don't want to attend the ball. They are boring." Toshani complained.
Rudra twitched his lips. He was not planning to attend the ball earlier but now he was eager.
"It's her majesty's order princess, please come along." Maria almost pleaded.
"I think you should go and not give the maids a hard time." Rudra interrupted.
She shot him an annoyed look.
"I do what I want! "
"That I could see." He smirked.
He tilted his head and whispered in her ear.
"I could see up your skirt while you were on the tree."
Her jaws fell in a shock and her cheeks turned 2 shades rosier.
"That's very nasty of you!" She glared at him angrily after he had straightened up laughing.
"I don't like you." She spoke. Gathering up her voluminous skirt she walked away stamping her feet.
Rudra's eyes followed her until she disappeared into the palace. He was intrigued by the tree climbing princess.
"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
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