Lightning. It seemed like the skies had decided to shred the land to pieces. The horses pulling the lone chariot on the highway to Pragjyotisha neighed in fear and slowed to a trot.
"Just what we needed!" Mura remarked, cracking the whip. "It wasn't a wise idea to come without the guards." His wavy hair fluttered, loosening the cloth he had wound around his head.
"The Supreme Goddess Kamaksha has her ways, doesn't she, Mura?" said Bhauma, the Lord of Kamarupa. He balanced himself against the flag post of the chariot as he tightened his silk headgear.
To Mura, his tone seemed unnaturally calm. He sighed shaking his head. They were returning from the temple of Goddess Tara in the Kingdom of Pundra. For reasons not known to Mura, Bhauma always insisted on going without guards while visiting the temples of the Goddess. Pundra, at least, was not very far away from Kamarupa and was a sympathetic kingdom.
"But Prabho, in future if you want to travel to the other temples of Shakti which are farther away, would you still want to travel without guard?"
Bhauma nodded without a trace of hesitation.
"If you say so, Prabho." Mura shrugged and goaded the horses on, wanting to reach Kamarupa as fast as they could. The skies showed all the signs of an approaching storm.
"No," Bhauma smiled, stretching his arms. Though he was in his forties, his frame commanded the physique that could daunt any warrior. "Not because I say so. Because the Goddess does. Say we are caught in the storm, that too is Her will. In time, we shall realize she willed it for the best."
It would have made a good speech for a gathering in the temple, Mura felt.
"I am not capable of that faith," he replied. "Your faith does not surprise me though, Prabho. Not everybody would have been content with a lord ship of a mere temple town over the Kingdom of Pragjyotisha."
"Mere temple, Mura?" Bhauma retorted. "It is the temple of the Supreme Goddess Kamaksha who rules the worlds. Lordship over Kamarupa means the lordship over this world."
Is that ambition or mere faith? Mura shrugged.
"For now, your nephew got a larger territory under his control. What did the Goddess give you, Prabho?"
"You, Mura. Is land everything? The people standing by me are my greater boon." Bhauma smiled. Mura swallowed as Bhauma's hand rested on his shoulder. "Don't look at me like that! People are more valuable than land, Mura. If someone is ready to stand by me from the shores to the plains of Bharatavarsha, then a part of Bharatavarsha belongs to me as well."
Mura nodded mutely. Bhauma's words always felt inscrutable. But that was the way of men who took to religion, he told himself. The road took a sharp turn and Mura tightened his hold on the the reins. His eyes narrowed at the sight of a crowd at a distance. "At this time of night?"
Bhauma did not speak as his eyes too trained on the crowd ahead on the road. "They are moving. Is it a procession of some Goddess?"
He sees the Goddess everywhere. Mura stifled a smile. The smile faded as they rode closer. This was no peaceful procession. It was a mob. "They are chasing someone!"
"Faster!" Bhauma ordered.
"They are armed!" Mura gasped as the moon came out of the cloud cover briefly. "We should be at the border villages of Pundra and Pragjyotisha." His right hand that held the whip instinctively went to the long sword at his waist. The chariot drew closer to the crowd.
One of the villagers was lagging behind the crowd. But not in fervour. "Kill them! This must be a lesson to others!" he shouted.
Bhauma asked Mura to slow down as they drew level to him. "What is the matter?"
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Abhaya - Narakasura Vadha Retold (Available on Kindle)Historical Fiction
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