Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part XIII

To read from the beginning, click here
To read the previous chapter, click here

I was not about to let the Martian prince walk all over me. I raised my chin and looked at him defiantly. His eyes glinted as he smiled smugly. A spark erupted. I knew how to subdue him. I looked back at the star in the gilded cage and its uncharacteristically flat appearance surprised me. I looked back at the prince and I realised what the glint in his eye was. It was not his eye at all that was glinting.

My hands were chained and my body bound. I was surprised he thought that could stop a Prabhas. Maybe it was a commentary on my performance so far, I had been helpless and foolish.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part XII

To read from the beginning, click here
To read the previous chapter, click here

I rose up but paused to look at my body. My eyes were open and looked back at me with sentience. Our eyes met and the lips turned up into a smile. I felt a connection with myself and it did something to me. Something akin to falling in love, of being loved and needed.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part XI

To read from the beginning, click here

To read the previous chapter, click here.

When I opened my eyes, I was on my bed and surrounded by my anxious parents. It was morning but the curtains were drawn and the room was shaded except for sunlight peeping through the chinks.

I lay back quietly, unwilling to talk. My mother fluttered around me, speaking fast and informing me that the Rajguru had managed to overpower the prince and some of the Daits who had been lending their power to him. The prince was being confined. On losing the Dait power, he seemed to have just shriveled and collapsed.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part X

To read from the beginning, click here.

To read the previous chapter, click here.

Do I consciously reach a destination or am I taken there? I was in a windy place, but I was not on any planet, let alone Saturn. My star was with me, subtly rubbing against my fingers, spreading warmth in this cold place. What held me in place, I don't know, because I seemed to be in the midst of some spatial storm. I had nothing around me except the winds and then I realised that I was being held by the winds, as if my father was carrying me. "Be careful, be watchful. Conspiracy in high places," the wind seemed to whisper.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part IX

To read from the beginning, click here.

To read the previous chapter, click here.

My father came with me to visit Manas in the hospital the next morning. Prince Ajat was there when we got there, leaning over Manas. Hearing us enter the room, he straightened up smartly and looked at us with a sad smile. "Pawan sir," he said with reverence to my father. My father nodded and pointed to Manas.

"Still unconscious. I tried reaching out to his memory, whatever is left of it. But it is beyond me..." He looked at me and smiled. "I wish he had chosen me to reveal it... I have always felt special respect for him."

My father nodded and it occurred to me that he was very emotional. I clutched his arm.

"You were in the room that day," my father said and looked at Prince Ajat.

He nodded and then shook his head as if in response to some question that my father would ask. "I was mesmerised. I don't know what happened. When we were found there, I was on the floor, totally knocked out."

"You were but a young boy. You couldn't have withstood their power... But your presence also made a difference... The Sacred Shell seemed to have gone willingly. Do you think...?" my father left the question hanging but Prince Ajat seemed to understand the purport of the question. "I would never have done a thing like that! Not voluntarily!" he added softly and his expression became pensive and vulnerable. My father placed a hand on the prince's shoulder and nodded.

"I will leave now sir," the prince said and headed for the door. He turned to look at me and asked, "This evening?" I nodded happily.

Once he was gone, I explained to my father about the invitation. My father nodded and then turned his attention to Manas. He sat down and I saw what him blowing gently to let the breeze take away all negativity from my surroundings.  he would do this whenever I was unwell. I thought it worked only because I believed something was happening. How could it help Manas who seemed beyond help?

For some time nothing seemed to happen. Then I saw tears flowing out of Manas's eyes and his hand moving gently on the bed. My father reached out and touched him. I felt my own eyes well up. I had never known they were close, I had never seen Manas till that day he came to pick me up. I had always thought my father a loner with not many close friends. But I saw a different side of him today. It mattered to him, I could see.

Except for that comforting touch, nothing much seemed to be happening. I drifted off and my mind was on the upcoming meeting with the prince when my father suddenly stood up. I followed him silently, his grim mood evoking slight fear. We reached the gates and found the prince still there talking to the healers. One of the healers saw my father and bowed. My father nodded and asked the man, "Were you able to talk to him?"

"No, sir. He has remained in coma."

My father's expression turned inscrutable as he said, "I know what happened. He spoke to me." He turned to the prince but Ajat preempted him and said, "Please come with me, sir, we have to discuss this with the king. Shakti, I will see you in the evening?"

Before I could say anything, the prince whisked my father away. I had several classes lined up so I went back to the ashram where my tutors kept me busy. As the sun rose up in the afternoon, I saw my mother enter the ashram and walk towards me hurriedly. "Have you seen your father?" she whispered to me when I was given a short break.

"He was with the prince, but that was in the morning..." I said.

She frowned. "I got a message from him... It's ok, you go on," she said and left me abruptly. I was called by the fire wielder and the heat demanded great attention from me as I learnt to work around it as a defender and with it as a wielder. It didn't obey me easily, sensing the cold inside me. But the light aided it and at the end of the session, I at least knew what to do. When I sat down to review the class, I realised how I could have managed the heat better when I was imprisoned in Mars. This one session won't be enough. I should do more sessions with my mom.

Which reminded me of dad. I quickly telecalled my mother to find out if my father had returned home and saw many people gathered in my room. I thought all was well and felt relieved, but as my mom answered me, I could see her looking flustered. There were no signs of my father.

The prince, Amrit and Rajguru were there. There were a few others too. My mother looked at me and quickly wiped her tears. My father hadn't returned and was not answering the calls. Manas had been again arrested for suspected foul play (what!).

I withdrew and instead went to the room directly. I got to hear more of the same thing. Catching a quiet moment, Ajat came to me and whispered, "I am so sorry!"

"He was with you and the king!" I asked him searchingly.

"Yes, he was telling me all about it but I think Manas played with his memory again. He started blabbering and became distraught. I realised that he was getting agitated and needed rest. I asked my bodyguards to escort him home, but he seems to have given them the slip and vanished! They were scared to tell me and I got to know of it just now! I will have the guards severely punished..."

I frowned, thinking of my father escaping the guards. He would have vanished like the wind. Was Saturn where I should look for him? I felt a sense of dread. My earlier experiences with meeting my relatives had led to their sharing their energy with me and leaving their bodies forever. I sat down and felt tears flowing. Ajat put an arm around me and said, "Don't let yourself go. You are strong, you are our hope. I will send wind wielders to look for your father," he said.

I looked at him gratefully but shook my head. "I must do that." I felt a cool breeze touch me and my soul followed the direction in which it blew.

(Continued here)

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part VIII

To read the previous chapter, click here

To read from the beginning, click here.

I was assigned a team now. While my security was to increase, my training was to redouble and some led by Rajguru's son Amrit were to research history to find out more about the earlier Shakti, her powers and how to reach her.

I was escorted out by an elite group of warriors wielding all kinds of power. Prince Ajatshatru walked with me, still full of questions and gratitude. I was flattered and hard put to respond to him without blushing. "I was 16 when your uncle vanished," he said regretfully. My mind started calculating our age difference immediately. I had been 9 years at the time. I wondered if the prince was married or betrothed and felt some of my enthusiasm deflating.

"Why was your uncle unable to escape but you did?" he asked me as we reached the gates.

I wanted to tell him about my star, my guide, my friend, my weapon. Something made me feel it was a secret that I could not share with so many people within earshot. I hesitated as I looked at him. He raised his hands in surrender and said, "I understand. You will have your ways..." I smiled at him and thanked him for his understanding. "Mmm... Would it be too much if I asked you over for dinner tonight, just as a mark of gratitude?" he asked in a voice that set my heart singing.

But Amrit, who was around, said, "My father wants her to come home for dinner tonight." I felt disappointed and I saw the prince looking disappointed too. "Well then, tomorrow night," he said and I nodded, feeling excited. He smiled as if my accepting the invitation was all that mattered.

I wanted some time to myself but till bedtime, I was with my mother first and later the Rajguru. Both revisited my kidnapping and escape in detail, but had little success in finding anything of value. "The Daits are getting very bold but even after this incident, we don't want to launch a direct attack. Now that I know the Sacred Shell is not with us, I understand the reason for our weakness. We were not only entrusted with it, but we also have our powers linked to it. The fact that we can still resist them in wars is a blessing we cannot take for granted. We have to now speed up to retrieve the Sacred Shell as well as free Mars of the Daits."

I felt the weight of his words on my shoulders and looked down, feeling helpless again. I had been there on Mars but my thoughts had been only of escaping. As if the Rajguru sensed my mood, he laid a kind hand on my shoulder. "You did what you could." Then he sat back and I saw sorrow and pain in his eyes. "I feel very sad about Manas and cannot believe that he turned out to be bad. The king says that the Sacred Shell vanished at around the time Tushar did. Ajat was there with Tushar and Manas and they seemed to have gone to the sanctum sanctorum where the Sacred Shell was kept. Without my permission. So the king was afraid that the blame would fall on his son and kept the matter hidden all these years."

I looked at him in wonder. "Is that really possible?"

Rajguru shook his head. "It wouldn't have been possible, but the king played a deep game. If the Sacred Shell had been stolen, then I would have been alerted. But it was handed over. Ajat's presence may have something to do with making the handing over seem natural since he is the king-in-waiting. Any theft would have caused a reaction. But handing over..." He became silent and thoughtful. "I must think this over. You must also be tired. Take some rest," he said gently and saw me off at the gate. 

My mother was to share the room with me that night and she was very keen to stay with me. But mercifully, one of her childhood friends landed at the safe house I was staying in and insisted on taking my mother away to her house to catch up on old times. I waved a hearty bye to her, relieved of getting some time to think of the developments peacefully.

Almost as if on cue, my father tele-called. He wanted to know all about Manas's role in my uncle's being captured by the enemies. I didn't have much to tell him except those few disjointed words and he remained thoughtfully silent. "I always suspected there was some foul play," he said softly. His voice shook. "Why didn't you get Manas arrested, then?" I asked, puzzled.

"Because Manas always swore his innocence and maybe weaved some magic so that I was always a little confused about the events back then."

"Where were you at the time? I thought you were with him?"

"No, and even Manas wasn't supposed to be with Tushar at that time... Manas and I were together and then Manas flew like the wind. I followed him, but by the time I reached, Manas had already got to Tushar and..." My father's voice trailed. "Let me think back on that day some more," he said and let me go.

My mind was in a whirl as I lay back thinking of all that I had heard that day. Of course, Prince Ajat's face also kept flashing, sometimes distracting me completely. I wondered why I had felt so hesitant to speak out about my star though a part of me wanted to boast too! I looked around to see where it was and was amazed at how it seemed to act on its own, appearing and disappearing at will.

I heard my name being called and this time, I was more alert. But I also sensed that this was different. In a moment, I realised that this was Manas's voice. I felt anger surge through me and Manas's voice wavered. But he made an effort against my will and whispered, "I am weak, my powers have been taken away. I have just a few minutes before I lose it all. Please give me your time and attention, there is something you have to know."

I was no proof against such a request so I inhaled to keep a hold on my emotions. "I am innocent," he started and hastily added, "I was not supposed to be with Tushar that day. Your father and I were in the woods nearby when I felt something tugging my mind. I rushed to find Tushar and Ajat in the sanctum sanctorum. I tried to stop..." His voice became feeble. "Some power overpowered me. I went blank... When I regained consciousness, I was alone there." Now his voice was unable to reach me but he sent me a dark image of uncle Tushar lying on the floor staring at Manas, who was standing over him. And then Tushar's body started vanishing. Just then my father entered and tried to hold Tushar back. But Tushar waved a bye and left. My father turned on Manas and the image vanished.

I felt tears running down my cheeks. I felt I may have wronged an innocent man. After hearing the doubt in my father's hand and hearing Manas' version, I felt he at least deserved a hearing.

I got up and rushed out to help Manas in whatever way I could. But there were protective charms that held me back. I couldn't even tele-call my parents or the Rajguru. Not knowing what to do, I let my aura rise and went searching for the golden light that had reacted to me. There it was, shining and warm in the dark night. I rushed and joined it, compelling it to acknowledge me and found myself back in my room with Amrit standing in front of me. "What happened, Shakti?" he asked.

I was baffled but quickly blurted out that we had to save Manas. He didn't even ask why. He just vanished. A few minutes later, the Rajguru was in my room with tears in his eyes. "Thank you, Manas is like a son. I could never forgive him if he had been a traitor, and never forgiven myself if we had destroyed him unfairly. I was unhappy with the precipitate reaction to your report, but I think I was more shocked about the Sacred Shell than him." He sat down with his hand on his brow. I felt guilty of having over-reacted too.

"Is Manas... How is Manas? Will he regain his powers?"

Rajguru shrugged. "The science of removing someone's powers is still inexact and so we can only hope that we would have botched it up. We may have temporarily bound it, but I am hoping we wouldn't have destroyed it fully. His ability to remember that day and why he never spoke about it may give us some direction. Let's pray for the best."

(Continued here)


Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Lady of Light - Part VII

To read the previous chapter, click hereTo begin at the beginning, click here

I was crying in my mother's arms when we were summoned by the king. My parents had arrived post-haste on hearing of my kidnapping and safe return. While my mother consoled me my father was busy capturing Manas, which wasn't easy despite many power wielders including the Rajguru putting their power behind him. He seemed to be weaving a  web around their minds, weakening their skills. He was also in my mind, constantly pleading with me to believe in his innocence. "I didn't harm your uncle. I wasn't aware he was still alive. We thought he was dead," he said.

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