Paratpara Parighosh was led to the Grand Assembly of Wizards... in shackles, and in dishonour.
He was no ordinary man, nor just any wizard - Parighosh was the finest sorcerer and a mighty occultist; steeped in knowledge, and proficient in the magical arts. He was invincible in debate, and undefeated in wizardly encounters. No man could ever better him, nor withstand his dazzling powers... except one - Vishnusharman, Parighosh's Guru and mentor.
But alas, all brilliant minds have a flaw, and Parighosh too had his own shortcomings.
Intoxicated by his achievements, and vane in his monumental amour propre, he become increasingly arrogant, his warped mind birthing ambitions that were dreadfully scrofulous... Aspiring mastery over all creatures, rule over the Three Worlds!
Driven by this malicious desire, he sought greater supernatural powers, growing progressively evil and malevolent... abandoning his vows as he began to secretly practice the dark arts, quickly becoming proficient in witchery... and finally sought the ultimate objective - immortality... drinking the virgin-blood of a Royal Prince!
Fortunately for all mankind and the Magical Fraternity, as Parighosh worked on the delicate calculations of the darkest moment of the new moon, the flash when the pathways separating the human and the magical worlds, the natural and the supernatural, would fleetingly merge, momentarily unleashing the Dark Powers... unnoticed by him, a tiny drop of sweat from his brow fell upon the palm-leaf on which he had scrawled the figures and drawings, obliterating the final decimal point, and a digit... making his meticulous calculations utterly worthless...
Thus, when the Royal blood touched his lips, Parighosh instantly lost all his diligently acquired knowledge and magical powers, transforming into a hideous, bloodthirsty ogre!
Parighosh fled, hiding by day and hunting by night... relentlessly pursued by Vishnusharman, seeking refuge in the Enchanted Grove of Eternal Night... Warding off capture with the help of the black arts he had mastered, and which he still retained.
The Grand Assembly let out a collective gasp at the horrifying spectacle... the terrifying apparition that was led into the hall - the once handsome Parighosh now an ugly, deformed ogre; the proud wizard, now chained and shackled.
Surprising the assembled wizards, Parighosh bowed low and in a supplicatory tone prayed for mercy, "O Master, I was your favourite disciple, how can you be so harsh on me? Isn't my present state, my inhuman form enough punishment?"
"Yes, indeed," replied Vishnusharman, an astute and sagacious solon, a sapiential Magus, President of the Grand Assembly of Wizards, "you were my most gifted pupil and my favourite... and therefore I had honoured you with the title 'Paratpara' - Greatest of the Greats. But your present state is your own making; you turned evil in your greed for power, forgetting your learning and your vows. As for your punishment, well, this august Assembly has decided to banish you to the Nether World, to live there for the rest of your days. You shall henceforth be known as Satana, the Evil One, and despised by all!"
"O Master," Satana pleaded, "I surely do not deserve so harsh a punishment... but if you so deem fit, at least tell me how may I free myself from this curse and regain my human form."
Vishnusharman was silent for a few minutes, smiling in his wisdom and then pronounced in orphic metre:
"Vestal Milt from a Royal Fount, upon his coming of age;
Born under the shadowed Moon, when the brightest twain signage.
Invincibility and powers magical the Regal Seed bestow;
Upon the drinker the orchis yield, eternal youth restore."
"That's impossible," exclaimed Satana in horror, "where can one obtain a prince who's beyond nonage and still remains a virgin?!"
"What you deserved is eternal damnation," thundered the ancient wizard Bahulacharya, "be grateful that this Assembly of the wisest has let you off most leniently. You neither deserve mercy, nor your earlier human form!"
And as the assembly murmured their approval, Satana let out an evil laugh, freezing the blood of all the assembled wizards...
"Fools, do you really think you can banish me?" he bellowed, "Imprison me in the chthonic regions with your pitiable magical powers? I shall return even before thirteen moons have passed, and you shall all regret this day!"
Vishnusharman stamped the ground thrice with his staff, signifying the end of the session, and the guards led Satana away, screaming and cursing... vowing vengeance, promising to return and wreck havoc on all those present. And especially, destroy the kingdom of Poorvendra, Maharaja Jaindranarayan, the brave king, wise and benevolent, undefeated in battle and well versed in the art of wielding magical weapons, who on Vishnusharman's urgent pleas had entered the magical grove and overpowered the evil ogre with the magical Sharpastra (Lasso-Lance).
Golden Stob, Silver Stob
~ 1 ~
A Hundred Years Later...
Pennons and streamers fluttered in the light breeze along the tree lined avenues of the capital, and atop every building; the Royal Standard adorning each street corner. The Royal Palace aglitter, and the whole city lit with colourful lamps...
It was a joyous occasion - the month of the Royal Prince's birth. He would turn eighteen on the fifteenth of the month, in just four day's time. And he would also be officially appointed the Crown Prince, the Coronation scheduled for his birthday.
The king, Adripati, Maharaj Keertivarman, and the queen, Maharani Suvarnamati, were beside themselves with joy, and pride. Their little-one would soon become an adult, and heir to the throne... what greater joy could there be for any parent?!
A month-long Royal Holiday had been declared, and the whole country was celebrating. The grounds of the Lotus Palace (the summer seat of the Royal family) - a breathtakingly exquisite wooden structure, large and imposing, set in the centre of the lotus lake - had been thrown open and a great monthlong banquet organised. People of all walks of life - rich or poor, noble or commoner - from all over the land were free to come and feast - eat and drink to their heart's content, witness the Royal Coronation and then return home bearing the lavish gifts that the King, and the newly crowned Heir Apparent would shower on every citizen!
Like his name, Kandarpavarman was indeed the very incarnate of the Lord of Love - handsome as the full Moon in a star-lit sky, lustrous as the morning Sun.
A strapping youth on the threshold of manhood, Savitashri, Yuvraj Kandarpavarman was the very epitome of everything royal. Elegantly handsome and regally gracious, the Prince was tall, broad-chested and strong armed; exceptionally brave, and dauntless in battle. A skilled archer and an accomplished swordsman, he was also an ace horseman and a fearless hunter. A connoisseur of everything fine - the arts and music; he was magnificently gentle and benevolently kind.
It was late afternoon, and young Kandarpavarman sat lounging on the terrace of his private palace... utterly bored.
He had been forbidden from venturing beyond the limits of the city, and - No Hunting Expeditions - especially in the terrifying jungles beyond the southern borders...
It was the King's strict orders, and so, for the past eleven days Kandarpavarman remained within the confines of his own palace grounds... Passing the days with his dear friends, sons of lords and nobles for company... talking and playing games, gambolling around the sprawling grounds... surrounded by chamberlains, chasseurs and pages to quickly, and quietly, satisfy all his needs and wishes... and those of his companions.
But those eleven days was like a lifetime for the young prince, and he was growing progressively restive...
The young body may be shackled by imperial command, but the spirit of youth, his imagination, remains always unfettered. For the young soul each restriction is a new challenge, setting his mind soaring with exhilarating new ideas. And his father's orders about no hunting expeditions, which led to his present boredom, caused the young prince to seek out newer thrills.
"Shatrunjay," he addressed the Prime Minister's son, his best friend and constant companion, "did you find out?"
He already knew that the gifts that his parents would shower upon him would be wonderfully magnificent, but he, like any excited young person, was curious to know what those gifts might be, not so much the presents the Queen would give, but that of the King... especially for the Coronation.
"Prince, my Lord," replied Shatrunjay, "I did enquire, and everything is being kept strictly secret... but," he smiled with satisfaction, "I did gather, apart from the countless robes and rare gems, fantastic new creations of the craftsmen from distant lands, the King, your father has also acquired a magnificent thoroughbred for your coronation, a stallion of exceptional beauty and power!"
"And for your birthday you shall have, besides many other things, a harem full of nubile young lads and lasses..." grinned Shoorasen, the young son of the General of the Royal Army, himself already a captain in the Royal Cavalry, "and there's no way you can refuse this time, leave them untouched like in the past. Each one of them is an exquisite specimen of the land they come from... and each, exceptionally desirable!"
"Hah, what use have I for such enslaved lovers, without free will or choice," cried the prince with a dismissive wave of his hand, "I shall only lay with that person, who my heart shall steal!"
"Who can tell the future, my dear Lord..." smiled young Mayurendra, a breathtakingly beautiful boy barely into puberty, a powerful Lord's son, "for when you spy one of these new lads, maybe the arrow of Cupid will finally pierce your heart!"
"Are you hoping that the Prince will pass a few of them onto you, like in the past," simpered Agnimitr, another Lord's young son, eyeing Mayurendra slyly.
"And what about you," retorted Mayurendra, "after merely fourteen summers you're already a stalwart in the art of love. Haven't you already chosen a few of those exquisite boys, the ones you'd like the Prince to give you?!"
"Friends, please..." said Shatrunjay, calming the boys.
"The joys of the first encounter should always be special..." remarked the prince with a far-away look in his eyes, "indeed, you may all have those new slaves too, I shall happily bestow them upon you, untouched and unsullied! But pray," he turned back to Shatrunjay, his eyes gleaming with curious excitement, "where is this horse, and from whence did he come?"
"I've heard that it comes from that distant peninsula south of the great Mittanis..." Shatrunjay replied, "the finest that Dussrath, the renowned Mittani dealer of steeds ever had!"
"And where is he now?" asked the prince, leaning forward.
Shatrunjay hesitant, looking away.
"Go on," the prince exclaimed, "why do you pause, where is he?"
"The King wouldn't be pleased if you set eyes upon the horse before it's presented to you..." the teen replied.
"You are my friends, how shall the King ever find out?" questioned the prince looking around at his companions."Or, do you mean to say that I can't trust you, huh?"
The young boys remained silent, heads bowed.
"Where is this amazing creature being kept?" the prince asked again, impatient.
Shatrunjay looked up, "Under... under the care of Arunoday, the Royal Stable Master..." he whispered with quivering lips, the tone fear laced.
The prince clapped his hands and almost instantaneously a young chamberlain materialised from the woodworks, bowing low.
"Ask the Master Chamberlain to send word to the Lord Master of the Stables, say that I desire to see him," the prince instructed.
The chamberlain bowed low and withdrew.
The young boys waited in silent discomfort, each lost in his own fearful thoughts... wondering what the prince was planning... Whether they had made a mistake in revealing the details of the King's secret gift to the Prince... apprehensive of the consequences.
"My Lord," bowed the Master Chamberlain sent to summon Arunoday, "the Lord Master of the Stables is here..."
Kandarpavarman nodded, sitting up.
"Your Lordship wished to see me?" bowed the ancient Arunoday coming out onto the terrace.
"Yes," smiled the prince, coming straight to the point, "I've heard that a magnificent stallion from across the seas has been acquired for a very special occasion, and I wish to see the creature."
Arunoday stood shaking all over... how could he reveal the secret of the King, and yet, how could he possibly deny the Prince?!
"Don't fear," the prince assured the man with a smile, "His Majesty will never get to know that you've shown me the horse, but I must see him this instant!"
"Sir... my Lord..." the Lord Master hesitated, "he's untamed, still not fully trained, and as yet, unbroken."
"Breaking him in is my job, and as for his training, I'm sure that what little time he's had with you is enough to discipline even the most savage brute..."
There was no way that Arunoday could refuse the prince, not after that brief observation. With an apprehensive look at the assembled teens, he bowed and withdrew.
"You aren't planning to venture out?" asked Shatrunjay in a low whisper, fearful.
The prince graced him with an enigmatic smile, but did not answer.
"Dear Prince, my Lord," Shoorasen beseeched, "you know your father, the King's command..."
The prince smiled once more, nodding.
"Prince," cried Agnimitr, "it was on Rajguru Kovidhacharya's advice..."
"Yes, I'm aware," replied the prince, even before the boy could finish, "the stars in my chart form a peculiar conflux, and there have also been some odd sightings in the night sky over the eastern horizon, some weird omen. The stars do portent great glory, of course, with terrible risks associated, and therefore the Rajguru feels that all unnecessary risks should be avoided... and that I should not leave the capital city, nor venture into the southern woods till my coronation day, especially alone," he smiled, "And I have no intention of disobeying the Royal Priest and Court Astrologer!"
"Then why do you want the horse brought here?" asked Shatrunjay.
"I want to see him... everyone says that he's magnificent, and so did you, just now!"
Shatrunjay let out a groan, shaking his head.
"My Lord," pleaded Mayurendra, "why have him here now, you will be seeing him in just a few day's time, when he is presented to you at the Coronation!"
"Yes, but I want to try him out..." grinned the young prince, standing up.
"But you just said you won't disobey the King and the Priest!" exclaimed Agnimitr in shocked surprise.
"I won't," replied the prince with a wide grin, "I don't intend to venture out beyond the city limits, and surely not alone... you'll accompany me!"
"PRINCE!" they exclaimed in collective horror...
to be continued...