(my contest entry for the theme Fantasmo)
The temple bells rang in unison, the dark clouds competing in their race across the night sky, the heavy masses crashing into each other. The Chenab had swelled to dangerous levels threatening to drown the entire province of Moong. The people hadn’t witnessed such a deluge in the past. Was it a celestial sign? Suddenly lightning tore through the firmament, its infernal wrath turning tall treetops to ash. Locals ran helter-skelter to the mountains to save themselves from the wrath of the Rain God.
However, the head of the province, Ghatananda placidly resting in his cosmic mansion was least bothered. His king Porus was busy in the battle of Hydaspes against Alexander and he held control over the entire province. The Macedonians had given him precious stones he had never seen in this part of Bharat, just to betray his King and he had readily agreed. A womanizer to the core he sat on the self-made singhasan that he called it as the two daasis served him food and drinks. Soon he would have his palace.
Today he was to have his wish fulfilled… Vishakha was to visit him. She was the famous concubine of the royal court in Magadha, everyone raved about. Her flawless beauty lay unmatched for miles and he had put a lid on his concupiscence for days in anticipation of unleashing it all when the treasured beauty would serve him. He had finally gotten his chance through a sepoy who got it done after giving away 50 gold coins. He held up the bejeweled necklace he had specially commissioned for her slender neck he yearned to lay his hands on… the very imagery sending him into the throes of carnal pleasure. He chuckled all blood draining into his loins watching the sand clock pour out in desperation…it was almost due.
He gestured everyone to leave the place and blow away the torches outside… only the two in his chamber remained. He then picked up a special potion he had ordered for Vishakha… He couldn’t let a mere paramour have the upper hand here, could he?. He would relish her to his heart’s content and then at dawn he would let her relics flow merging in with the Chenab.
Suddenly a violent fulguration made its way again brightening up the small arched footbridge leading to his chambers. The not so still pond papered with water lilies and bordered by green thickets of reeds provided adequate contexture as Vishakha announced her ingress. Ghatananda stared spellbound by the nymphic allurement before him.
The damsel with trinkets shimmering to glory, sashayed to the tune of the lashing torrent, her eyes shining blue embers. Her supple skin shone with the staccato brightening… her kukri attached to the graceful hip screamed danger. Her smile as she grew closer showing the perfect pearls surrounded by the maquillage… her fragrance the perfect aphrodisiac as she placed a perfect finger on his chest.
“Oh, my lord…” She purred in a tone enough to canoodle a stone as Ghatananda held up the shimmering Carcanet. “…to what do I owe this… largesse…?”
The only remaining torches withered away in the stormy draft as a flabbergasted Ghatananda lay mesmerized anticipating the coital union…
Right then she planted a kiss on his unsuspecting lips and moved away. Ghatananda didn’t know what hit him as seizures engulfed him. His throat constricted as he turned blue, froth pouring out of his orifice… He barely lasted a minute.
Vishakha stood up as she picked up the jewelry tucking it into her belly beads that hid the congenital snake imprint. She was promised a bijoux by Chanakya, the great man who envisioned a unified Bharata and she was one of his chief warriors.
As she walked out of the chamber slaying the two guards effortlessly, she felt victorious. An exotic humanoid… a Vishkanya nurtured by Chanakya since her childhood Vishakha walked unperturbed towards the waiting palkhi…ready to take on the next assignment for her mentor…
The trumpets bellowed, the percussions, the Mahahi and Saptatantri veena., the jhallari and the ghanta all played together, their cacophony ringing in the victory of the new king of Bharata.
Skandagupta strode majestically in his war armor having defeated the Central Asian Hunas… his greatest victory ever. He was all set to govern a true monarchical imperial state just like his forefather Chandragupta. It didn’t matter that he had forced himself on the throne or that he had butchered his cousins and their supporters.
Skandagupta too had his secret sect of the imperial army away from the prying eyes of the neighborhood kingdoms or enemies. The army of lethally trained women warriors… The women were selected at birth based on the celestial signs believed to be the indicating premise.
Visalakshi the leader of the sect was the blue-eyed beauty who could single-handily fight ten male warriors and could yield a sword as a Kshatriya epitomized. She had immortalized the special fire arrows which were also laced with her poison that could kill with a mere touch.
She seemed a harmless enchantress who swayed her full hips laden with jewels to hide the ophidian mark she was born with. The enemy never knew what hit them.
But she had eaten the forbidden fruit…she had fallen in love with… Skandagupta. He had reciprocated as well and they had their clandestine interludes often away from the prying eyes of the soldiers and the karmakers (servants). As they had once reached the pinnacle of passion in the corner of the royal garden, beneath the bright blue sky he had kissed the mark on her hip marking her as his. He promised to be betrothed to her elevating her status to queen…
That evening she had awaited his presence in her chamber anticipating the royal proposal. But Skandagupta didn’t come… ever again. He settled into connubial bliss the same week with a blue-blooded bride Lakshmi.
He visited a grief-stricken Visalakshi later. “…My dear Visu… no one can pleasure this body the way you do… I hereby elevate your status as my Lorette…” he declared boisterously.
Visalakshi was not the one to take the insult lying down both figuratively and literally. A warrior woman scorned, she joined hands with Purugupta, Skandagupta’s only living half-brother whom he had unceremoniously ousted to claim his right to the throne.
Putting her stellar swordsmanship to best use she enthralled the audience to a demonstration playoff and accidentally beheaded Skandagupta… ending the rein of a dynamic but ruthless leader.
Vishudhi gyrated to the mridangam beats in total sync with every infinitesimal change of the singer’s tone and vibratos. The raaga ‘Hameer Kalyani’ echoed through the assembled audience. The royal guests of the new monarch of Vijaynagara empire Sher Shah of the Deccan sultanate were enthralled by the expressive dance-drama by the royal courtesans.
Visudhi the lead dancer stretched the varnam as she studied the king, the lecherous gaze in his eyes burning into her soul. He had invaded the kingdom and captured the court of Raja Harihara ending Krishnadevaraya’s lineage. Visudhi smiled crinkling her blue orbs full of recrimination.
As envisioned Visudhi was called the same night to the Shah’s special zenana and he was blown over by her wanton salacious skills. “You…. my jaan are the perfect Jannat…” He had exclaimed amidst the torrents of passion.
What the intoxicated ruler failed to notice was beneath the precarious veneer rested an incubus waiting to be emancipated. Visudhi was inducted into his harem.
A staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu Visudhi drove in energy secretly worshiping the Lord. She had to wait for the right time to avenge the massacre of her innumerable countrymen.
The occasion arrived on a full moon night… a year after her first meet with Sher Shah. She had a sudden surge of energy and Sher Shah was without his coterie and soldiers as he strolled the royal gardens with his favorite mistress.
Suddenly a canopy of dark clouds caused them to rush for shelter in anticipation of a heavy downpour.
“My jaan, looks like the baarish is going to hit us soon…”
“Shehenshai alam… let us move to that velarium… it will save us from the rain onslaught and you can rest amidst the beauty of nature…” She battled her eyelids knowing the action would catch him in her net.
A besotted Sher Shah followed her blindly to the cove and as he lay on the bed of bougainvillea, they undressed each other. Just when he touched the raised calloused viper on her hip, she struck her venomous fangs her long toxic nails she was naturally endowed with.
“Here is your Jannat, you swine…” She screamed as his grotesque body contorted.
Sher Shah went lifeless in less than a minute and Visudhi jumped into the flowing Tungabhadra… her mission completed.
Nazma ran across the royal chambers… the queen, Mumtaz Mahal had just delivered her 20th son. The boy had mean cobalt eyes exactly in coordination with Nazma’s gaze. The Mughal emperor Shahjahan gifted Nazma a priced pearl necklace.
Later that night Nazma who was born Vikasini, stared into the mirror in her modest quarter as she stripped for her nightly ritual. She had to freshen and rush to the queen’s chamber for taking on the night duty of caring for her newborn. The queen had weakened and had been sick and Nazma wondered if she could endure any more childbirths. Nazma’s facsimile at her had sunken eyes but today the blues glowed brightly. She turned around touching the raised portion of her delicate hips. The viper smiled back at her… She was born with it.
Her mother, a measly maid in the royal household had told her. “…Vikasini, my child this is a precious gift… we worship Lord Shiva and this is his blessing to you… He is always with you. You are born with special powers to use them only when the time is ripe…from today you shall be Nazma and serve the royalty directly…. Be discrete and strike when the iron is hot… remember you have been born for a purpose…”
Today her plan started to take root. This was no ordinary child and she would see to it that he was raised the way she wanted. And from that moment she was the foster mother for young Aurangzeb…
Throughout his childhood and adolescence, she not only got him adept in warfare under her watchful eyes but also rancorously empoisoned the boy against his brethren. As a result, Aurangazeb was barely twenty-five when he slew his brothers and imprisoned his father before taking over the throne. The moron didn’t even realize he had ended his clan. Attacks always didn’t have to be direct!
Her mission had been effectuated. She was barely into her forties when she knew she wouldn’t last long. She made Aurangazeb promise to cremate her after she passed, it was her last wish to him.
Afreen Mirza was burning in rage threatening to turn her surrounding into ashes. They had to escape the manor lock stock and barrel disrupting her little world of toys and friends. All she had known and wanted was a simple make-believe cosmos where eventually her knight in shining armor would come along making her the queen of his kingdom and heart.
Everything had gone kaput. Her father Mirza Najaf Khan the commander of the right flank of the Mughal Imperial army was taken prisoner by the British. Her brothers and an older sister who and had joined the cavalry stealthily to fight alongside were also felled.
Afreen along with her other siblings and mother accompanied by the trusted entourage negotiated their way through the dense forest close to Hampi. While the troupe hoped they wouldn’t end as meals for the wild, Afreen could only think of regaining the lost glory to her family and also her motherland.
They reached the Hampi ruins in the stark darkness after a peripatetic month filled with travails. They had lost about 20 members to complex health afflictions so far. The pouring rain fanned the flames of peril with her mother, her sole anchor, falling to deadly yellow fever.
A frustrated Afreen ran towards the Hampi ruin center that night and wailed her heart out. Her blue eyes blazed in anger with the British. Suddenly an electrifying firebolt struck lighting up the terra firma and she felt her body transforming. She was no longer the docile 14-year-old weakling. Her skin tightened and the faint mark on her hip got pronounced while she transformed into a damsel, superlative in hoyden
Power gushed within her matching the debouch of the Tungabhadra and she resolved to fight the goras to reclaim her motherland’s lost glory. She was no longer Afreen… she was Varisha… the lightning.
Premonition shoved her to dig around, and she recovered a coveted sword already knowing how to wield it. A strong stallion approached her tenaciously howling his way, his abundant mane ferociously untamed and their tips glistening with unshed rivulets. Mounting it on autopilot, she flew across the river towards the eastern ghats. After days of traveling, she reached Burma where her father remained incarcerated. The East India Company also had their booty stashed in a secret office in Burma…
The guards were caught sitting ducks and before they could recover from the bewilderment of watching a nymph warrior they were slain. She not only rescued her astounded father and his contemporaries but set a fire using her palms to create the sparks. Invaluable documents of land ownership of the British Raj in United Bharat were turned to ash.
As the prisoners escaped, they saw the gigantic green ball of fire levitate towards the sky that also struck the foundations of the British empire for years to come.
Young Manikarnika Tambe was practicing horsemanship and fencing under the able guidance of her guru Tatya Tope. None of the boys in the pathshala could match her skills and prowess.
“Is there anyone who can beat Mannu in the next bout…?” Tatya announced. “…I promise a special gift of these pearl kundalas…”
He scanned around with an air of pride over his favorite protégé’s unmatched aptitude across arenas… when, there was a commotion. A little girl around the same age as Mannu dressed in a warrior suit emerged from the gathering and bowed to the revered teacher.
“Please accept my humble pranam, guruji…I accept the challenge but I do not want the Kundalas if I win…” she squared her chin
“What is it, child? What do you want then…?” An amused Tatya looked at the little girl with a firm set jaw and blazing blue eyes that could drown anyone in their depths.
“I want to live with Mannu tai, train with her and serve her for the rest of my life…” the young girl spoke, determination personified.
Tatya nodded and signaled the start of a match. Within five minutes, the decision was made as the bout ended in favor of the new girl. As promised, she started to live with Manu and her father as the latter’s foster daughter. She was Veerya who even accompanied Manu to the royal palace when she married Gangadhar Rao and became Lakshmibai, the queen of Jhansi.
The British Raj had spread its tentacles deep into the provinces with archaic and disputable rules. Gangadhar Rao died and many other small kings were defeated in different battles.
One day Veerya took up a mission. She covered herself with a superior armor that Lakshmibai had gifted her… It showed off her suave gracefulness but hid her lethal personality and the crawling reptile mark on her hip.
Veerya made her way stealthily to the camp where many European officers lingered with their subordinates, on an invitation by Rani Lakshmibai as a political peace offering.
Veerya looked upward towards the sky as twilight approached bringing with it the gloomy clouds and sudden unseasonal rains. In the mayhem that ensued, Veerya twirled like a hurricane destroying everyone and everything that came her way.
In the next hour, the entire contingent comprising decision-making officers was killed but a stray bullet caught Veerya right in the chest.
“Jai Shankar…” She muttered as she fell. “…forgive me Manu… I will take your leave…”
The brave woman didn’t live to see her dear friend Lakshmibai fight and hold on to Jhansi for years till her last breath.
Vaashini Mukherji stared at her mentor Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, her wide blue orbs filled with annoyance. She didn’t respect Gandhiji or the other satyagrahis. Non-violence was not for the brave, she argued toeing in line with her master.
The Indian National Congress had stood divided into the methods of fighting the British. Her rage against the invaders had blinded every rational thought. She believed India was in dire need of socialist authoritarianism… only then would the public be aroused from their perennial slumber.
The same week Netaji was jailed for protesting against the Black Hole and destroying the Holwell Monument.
“Sudipto…” Vaashini called out to her friend as they continued scooping the earth to make a transit tunnel to help Netaji escape. “…Be careful as you approach the brass wall… it’s a trap door and we have to get it opened… any wrong move and we may either get caught or fall to our death…”
“…Don’t you worry Vaashi… you are here so we will be safe…” He chuckled. She had excavated the major volume so far and went on as if a new soul had taken over her lithe body.
She rubbed the sweat from her brows as they took a little break and stretched revealing her birthmark… it was a strange green snake-like image that Sudipto had always teased her about. He was the only one privy to her occult features.
He went to get something for dinner when he was caught by the guards and beheaded…
Vaashini went on like a maniac and finally, after about a week a raised tunnel lay hidden ready for Netaji to escape.
On the day, however, rain pelted the makeshift passageway and the muddy tunnel wall had softened. The entire raised structure could take the weight of only two individuals. She helped Subhash Chandra Bose and his nephew escape to Germany, while she stayed back in their place.
Fearless Vaashini faced over a dozen British soldiers slaughtering half of them and grievously injuring many others before she succumbed.
Vallari rubbed away the sweat from her brows. Her face had been covered with black paint except for her cerulean eyes now concealed using cosmetic contact lenses. An apotheosis of physical strength and concentration, she lugged swiftly and noiselessly along the forest covering.
The Nilgiri forests were covered with dense fog with pockets of the miasma shriveling the olfactory bulbs to oblivion. The extremists were known to be taking refuge in the camouflaged terrain.
Special RAW agent Vallari along with her comrades had been assigned to pulverize the gang hidden deep into the forest.
“Tango… position Agent V…” her earpiece crackled to life. “…target closing in…”
Vallari’s vigilance piqued up as she took position. The clothes specially designed for her were like a second skin and now began to itch especially in the area around her hip which had a bright green congenital snake tattoo. Vallari had chuckled at the surprised reaction of the RAW doctor during the mandatory examination.
From a distance, she saw the soft smoke indicative of a settlement and stilled. She knew what she had to do.
She smirked inhaling the inundating vitality. The raging covering of dark clouds hovered above her making its departure towards the settlement.
Within moments, the lightning struck…
Vishkanya: The Poison Damsel (Sanskrit Viṣakanyā) is a literary figure that appears in Sanskrit literature as a type of assassin used by kings to destroy enemies. The story goes that young girls were raised on a carefully crafted diet of poison and antidote from a very young age, a practice referred to as mithridatism. Although many would not survive, those that did were immune to other poisons and their body fluids would be poisonous to others; sexual contact would thus be lethal to other humans. There also exists a myth that says a Vishakanya can cause instant death with just a touch.
Kshatriya: Kshatriya is one of the four varna of Hindu society, associated with warrior aristocracy.
Kundala: Kuṇḍala (कुण्डल) refers to “ear-rings”, according to the Śivapurāṇa
Holwell monument: Black Hole of Calcutta, scene of an incident on June 20, 1756, in which a number of Europeans were imprisoned in Calcutta (now Kolkata) and many died. John Holwell one of the employees of the British East India Company had erected a tablet on the site of the ‘Black Hole’ to commemorate the victims but, at some point (the precise date is uncertain), it disappeared. Some books state it was all a myth!