Version 2.0 : Devasena + Amarendra Bāhubali

Hi, you guys!

The header image must have warned you, nevertheless, I must give out these two explicit warnings.

  • This is a same-timeline-different-location story which runs parallel to scenes from the movie (you know which one). Accordingly, I declare here that this is intended as fan-fiction only.
  • I hope you read this after watching both movies. It’ll be perfect that way. (you can call this a rule)
  • You can read my other work on these two here, right now or after reading this one. However you prefer.

Not gonna spoil it with more explanations.

Jai Mahishmati!

When the Skies Cried…

“Rajamata? Is all of this happening within your knowledge?” asked Kattappa. His face was sober and his hands could not stop their trembling. He felt his existence crumble around him into tiny, tiny shards.

He spoke. “Let me grasp your feet and beseech you, Amma. Please, ask the Emperor to retract his order,” he begged. Sivagami Devi’s face was stoic. She did not answer. Her eyes were focussed on some imaginary target.

“Even if the world is turned upside down, Bāhubali would not have erred. He is the son you raised, Amma,” he attempted to remind her. He searched his mistress’ expression for a sign, any sign. There was still nothing. “He was nourished by your milk. Your teachings – “

“Bāhubali must die,” came the ominous reply from the stony face. Kattappa gasped. His sword hand shook like leaves in a strong breeze. ‘I cannot comprehend any of it,’ he thought.

An internal struggle began. He clasped his hands together and questioned himself how he was to carry out the Emperor’s command.

‘I simply can’t. There is no question of it,’ replied his heart.

“I cannot, Amma. I simply cannot,” he said out loud, echoing his heart’s words. The oath of his ancestors swept through the room like a whisper in the wind. His sword hand clenched the scabbard of his sword. He drew it out and rose up to his full height. The years of servitude imparted by his family should not be thrown away like a wasted piece of paper.

Sivagami saw the gleam of Kattappa’s sword slide into place at her feet. She looked up.

“As punishment to my refusal, please, cut my head off,” said the Royal Slave. Her eyes moved back to her distant spot. She had expected that he would refuse. Something in her cracked and oozed. The blood rushed into her palms and her eyes still remained cold.

“Will you kill him, or shall I finish him off?” asked her numb lips. Kattappa reeled back half a step in shock. Then arrived the tears. They spilled onto his cheeks like twin rivers.

“No, Amma. That sin shall not be yours. I will do it. I will do it myself,” he swore. His head hung to his breast and his shoulders seemed to have dropped to his hips. The Queen Mother moved not a muscle, but, the remaining two swept away as Kattappa left taking his sword.

Bijjala tapped his moustache with his one remaining hand. Bhallaladeva assumed his mother’s still form.

“Is this Dog to be trusted, Bhalla?” asked his father.

*

The contraction rippled through Devasena’s pelvic bones in a burst of pain. She bit her lower lip to stop herself from crying out. This boy is going to take a lot of her to be born. The thought filled her with such joy that she couldn’t breathe for a second.

Her companion, Karthiga, looked worried. Devasena gave her a rueful smile.

“This pain is a requirement for babies, Karthi,” she told her. She returned a bashful smile. ‘Poor child, she didn’t have to stay by my side when we left the fortress,’ thought Devasena. The young girl’s devotion had touched her these last few months.

The old midwife asked Karthiga to get more hot towels. She left her mistress’ side. Contraction after contraction broke through Devasena’s lower body. In a few minutes, it was impossible not to utter a soft scream in reply to the child’s every movement.

“Try to bear it, Amma,” consoled the old lady. Sweat dripped onto her forehead, and Karthiga kept wiping it off with a cold compress. The sound of raised voices from outside the door of the hut reached her ears.

*

“What are you saying?” boomed Amarendra Bāhubali. He did not need this complication when he was awaiting his child.

“Yes, Lord. I saw it with my own two eyes! Kattappa Ayya is in danger,” panted the young man.

The two or three friends of Amarendra who had been sitting with him leapt to their feet.

“Is this true?”

“What should be done?”

By then, a small crowd had formed around the man they called God. Every eye was fixed on his in pure confidence. Amarendra’s heart lurched. His Mama needed him. On the other hand, his unborn son needed him too. He tried to conceal the uncertainty in his eyes. An unsuccessfully suppressed scream interrupted his musing from the hut behind them.

In a flash, he was filled with all the power in the world. His love was there. Devasena would be there for their child. He felt the baby’s hold on his service draw into Devasena’s hand.

‘I’m right here,’ she seemed to say, invisibly.

He swiftly turned around and stepped inside. When his emotions shivered at the sight of Devasena lying weak and hunched in pain, he chose to ignore it. Enormous trust in their love shook off all fears.

“Devasena,” he called. Her lovely eyes opened and looked to his. He knelt beside her and caressed her cheek.

“Mama is in danger. I need to go to him, Devasena,” he spoke rapidly, lacing his words with his begging for forgiveness. Devasena immediately started lifting herself off the bed. His hand supported her and she assumed a half-sitting position. Her hair was plastered to her scalp with sweat.

Her eyes searched for something next to the bed, behind them. Karthiga handed her what she was looking for. Amarendra’s breastplate and the sword of his ancestors. The horse-head hilt gleamed in the lamp light.

“Here,” she said as she filled his hands with the tools of a warrior. Her eyes never clouded with worry or disappointment as he was feeling of himself. A ferocious pride oozed out of them.

“He promised to hold our child as he is born. Bring him back with great caution,” the warrior’s wife told her Amarendra. He nodded.

As an afterthought, he paused and looked at her once again. In a second, he had held her cheek and placed a loving kiss on her forehead. In a second second, he had said, “Take care” and left the room. The steel in his eyes lingered in hers for long after he had gone.

*

Amarendra had been shot. Multiple arrowheads were stuck into his back. The Kalakeyas had not been foreseen. His old Mama was hurt as well. The short respite was in no way enough for either of them. Their enemies were moving somewhere close to them, and they had to get up on their feet with their backs to each other.

Amarendra twitched his hurt limbs.

“Listen to me, Bāhu. Just for me, you are risking your… Leave me and go. Leave me to die. Please, heed what I say,” begged Kattappa’s voice from his right. Amarendra chuckled through his bloodied mouth.

“I want to leave you, oldie. You promised to hold my child. I have promised her that I would bring you back safely,” he started. The pause scared Kattappa.

“Bāhu?” he called.

“So,” spoke Amarendra in a pain-drenched voice. “If you remain quiet for a little while, I can carry out my duty,” he finished with a tearing sound. He had pulled out one of the arrowheads embedded in his body.

Kattappa watched his beloved child struggle towards him. The tears had quietly cascaded down his cheeks again. ‘What am I to do?’ he thought, wildly. The plan to trick him into saving his Mama had worked admirably. And Kattappa was beating himself up about it.

There are some things which never reach you when you want them so badly. And some things which burrow themselves into the palm of your hand when you’re looking the other way. There are a third category of things which you need to do, but, you don’t want to. It was horrorifying when they work out so easily.

The reeds binding his hands were being razored by the arrowtip. Blood oozed over both their hands.

“How will I ever tell you? Bāhu, Bāhu, I will grasp your feet and beg you. Leave me. Leave me, Bāhu!” his yells filled the area.

*

One last push, and Devasena’s son came into the world. Her eyes flitted between unconsciousness and consciousness. Light and dark. Her baby wriggled somewhere close to her skin.

But, she couldn’t hear him. She felt herself get alert in a snap. The midwife towelled off some of the placenta on her baby. Karthiga supported her shoulders.

“Why isn’t he crying?” she demanded in a frenzy. “Show me, show me,” she repeated until he was put into her lap. His eyes were closed and his chest more still than she would have liked. Her precious boy who had kicked like a motor in her womb was as still as a statue.

The fear crept into her slowly, but, in seconds, she found herself bawling. She rubbed his tiny palm in her own vigorously. The midwife put her ear to his chest and listened.

“Make him move!” she screamed.

*

“Are you afraid for me, Mama?” Amarendra asked with his crooked half-smile. Kattappa was incoherent, choking up in his throat.

“As long as you are with me, there hasn’t been born a man who can kill me, Mama,” he declared with his laughing lips. The small metal sliced through the last of the reeds in a snap. The choking in Kattappa’s throat turned into a roaring inside him.

*

The wail arose after the most tense three minutes of Devasena’s life. The relief flooded into her in as quick a pace as the fear had done. She peered closely into her child’s face immediately. His eyes were screwed up tight and he cried.

A little uneasy, she spoke softly to him. All the pain of her body was ignored and the midwife moved off to deliver the placenta and clean her lower body.

“There you are, my darling Mahendra,” she cooed. Her voice became inaudible through his cries. They rose in volume steadily, but, surely. Her forehead beaded with fresh sweat.

*

The sheer volume of the incoming Kalakeya fighters did not deter Amarendra Bāhubali. Slashes of his sword and the sound of Kattappa Mama’s fighting beside him were the only things that registered in his mind.

One last nick of his sword snapped the rope that had been used as an exertion of force to the palm tree. The tree snapped up in backward force. The grotesque tower of Kalakeya bodies pinned to the old tree stalled the onslaught. The enemies gazed in horror and wonder. The clouds rumbled in reply. A golden shaft of lightning split the skies and struck the tip of the old wood.

Somewhere, a baby boy cried his loudest. The fire enveloped the branches quickly. Everything was lit up by an ominous kind of sunlight.

*

Mahendra’s voice cracked open Devasena’s world. She didn’t know if she should be awed or afraid. His eyes hadn’t opened as yet. She begged him to open them and look at her. She enveloped him in her warmth. The contact did nothing to reduce the screaming.

*

“Mama!” called Amarendra. The men he was fighting with struggled against his iron limbs. His sword had never moved faster before.

Kattappa Mama moved in a zombie-like manner. His arms wanted to drop the sword he was holding. But, he forced determination into his palms with the image of his honoured mistress. The one child who had admired and respected him was fighting with his back to him. He could never do this face-to-face.

‘Go, Kattappa,’ an alien voice urged him from his insides.

‘This act strips you of your honour as a warrior,’ spoke his conscience and he submitted to it. He took his steps towards the man he had embraced as nephew.

‘This act strips you of your honour as a protector,’ came the second verdict. The salt drops on his face seemed never-ending.

‘This act strips you of your oath as Royal Slave towards this man of the Royal blood,’ fell the last words.

The sword hand rose up and the tip of his sword pierced flesh. Bāhubali’s sword swept past him as he lost his grip.

*

Devasena started wailing herself. “I don’t know what to do! Tell me what – “ she paused.

Mahendra had fallen dead silent. Somewhere, a sword cut through a man’s body.

She looked into Mahendra’s eyes for the first time. A strong current waved through both of them. His dark eyes properly locked eyes with her. She gazed in wonder at the person they had produced. Somehow, she choked up.

The tears re-appeared on her cheeks instead.

“Oh, why? Why?” she kept repeating to herself as her boy calmly watched the proceedings.

The midwife was rattled at the scene. The newborn she had just delivered and who had driven the entire village to attention with his screams lay at his mother’s bosom. Much too adult-like in his expression.

“Maybe you should feed him, Amma,” she started to say.

Something about the two of them struck her dumb, then. She signed to Karthiga and they both left the room. The atmosphere of the village had changed abruptly. The woman and the girl were puzzled. People started milling around them.

A plaintive voice, trembling with emotion arose in the background of the grave crowd.

Nera nera chupulake,” sang Devasena to her Mahendra.

(With your looks)

Karigi kadili neekai, bira bira vachitine…”

(I melted and running for you, I quickly came)

Tadi tadi kannulatho…”

(With tears and tears in my eyes)

Neepai vaali soli, tamakamu telipitine…”

(I beheld yourself, and revealed my feelings)

Na mathi maali doshamu jarigeo Vanamaali, yeddu ninnu podichepaapam antha nadenuraa… ” The words hung like a blade.

(My stubborn mind is the reason for this mistake happening… oh darling, the bull has hit you… the sin is mine alone…)

The people hung their heads like sunflowers at the end of the day. No one dared to look into the other’s eyes. Their Goddess was putting their son to sleep.

Kanna nidurincharana kanna nidurinchara… “ Devasena’s voice broke at the last note and she cried along with the baby. There was no meaning to these emotions, but still, they curled into each other and trembled. The air felt dry and heavy at the same time.

Her door opened. Karthiga stood there, silhouetted in the doorway. It was the darkest part of the night.

“Amma,” she called. Devasena sat up with Mahendra in her arms. Silence endured.

“They say that, that.. Ayya is killed,” she stammered and fell to her knees sobbing. Mahendra set off the crying for all the people in the village. Devasena sat absolutely still. She rose from her bed, held up her child.

The shadow of the Mother Goddess silently rose up close behind her. One step after the other was placed, and she did not know how. The people, her people trailed after her in droves as she walked out of the village.

Sometimes, her foot faltered and her body faced the danger of falling. But, she kept her steps steady. Mahendra screamed life into her limbs.

*

Sivagami Devi, the Queen Mother, felt her hands wetted. The deep red colour was still warm from the body it had come from. Her fingers tingled.

“Can we ever wash away these stains, Amma?” Kattappa asked hoarsely.

“Kattappa!” she shouted at the defeated figure in front of her.

“You have committed a mistake, Sivagami!” Kattappa yelled. His accusing finger was pointed directly at her, dripping with her child’s blood. His anguished eyes tore her heart apart. The Queen Mother’s throne vibrated of its own accord.

“What a terrible mistake have you committed?” It was a rhetorical question. “You hadn’t understood Bāhubali. You thought he was against you,” he cried. Her neck snapped upwards in shock.

“I was there. Right where he lay. The Emperor arrived,” he narrated.

“He spoke the following, ‘Rajamata! Mad-mata! I had her believe that you tried to kill me, and had her command your own death!’ He said that to the lifeless body of the one son who lived by your word, Amma.” The sobbing did not stop. There was no more reason for the sobbing to stop. Ever.

“At the grasp of death, he did not speak of the wife he had vowed to nor his unborn child. Do you know what he said?” Her slave asked.

Sivagami turned her glazed eyes to him.

“He told me, ‘Take care of Amma.’”

*

Devasena appeared at the bottom of a flight of stairs. Where she had renounced palace life. Where the people had welcomed her, along with their God and his unborn son, into their big hearts and homes. Mahendra snuffled like a puppy. She placed her right foot on the first step, like she was instructed to do when she had stepped into that palace as the wife of the Prince of Mahishmati.

The people did not follow her ahead. It was not their place. Cries and shouts rose up to the Throne Room doors. The heavens rebelled along with them. A bolt of lightning struck again as she appeared.

Kattappa and Sivagami looked to the dark eyes of the newcomer. The steel imparted onto Devasena’s vision by Amarendra spit fire into the air.

Kattappa raised his empty hands to his Goddess.

“With the hands into which you wanted to put your child and elevate this unworthy slave to the station of your father; with those very hands have I killed your husband, Amma!”

The End

I know, I know. I’m sorry. Please purchase a new box of tissues.

I felt that I should have heard Devasena’s side of this incident. Seeing as she was going through the birth of their child at the time her love became forever lost to her, it was necessary to write this.

Lots of tissues thrown your way,

Priya

PS : Sorry I took this long to post a normal post.

Kattappa’s Defence

Hi everyone!

I’ve been working on my novels, as promised. So, I hadn’t much time or content to write because I’d also simultaneously working on my next book idea (which is very damaging to the current book, if you ask me). So really, I hadn’t much to report except hush-hush information for which blogging about would be the bad option. But, I recently found a post so remarkably stupid, that I had to land here and defend what is probably my most favourite movie saga ever, the Bāhubali Saga.

I had come across this post on Facebook and Google Chrome suggested sites.

bahu

The link can be found here.

To summarise the accusation,

  1. Kattappa was watching the messengers from Mahishmati asking for Devasena’s hand in marriage to the Queen Mother’s ‘son’.
  2. There was a covered sword right behind the speaker, the one that Sivagami sent belonging to Bhallaladeva.
  3. Kattappa should have realised that this was obviously not Amarendra’s sword, because he knew that the horse-head hilt sword was with him throughout their journey.
  4. Kattappa should have realised then that Sivagami had asked for Devasena to marry her other son, not Amarendra.

The Defence

This is going to be in parts so that the dumbest of the dumb can comprehend the story.

Technicalities

Most of the readers and watchers had had these reasons figured out.

  1. Amarendra had two swords as seen in the movie itself. A different sword was presented to him with great ceremony as a child. Both him and Bhalla got those. The sword Sivagami sent with her messenger was Bhalla’s. And Kattappa technically assumes that it is the one that Amarendra had left behind.
  2. Kattappa assumed the usage of the Raja Kadgha, the ornamental swords that princes carry, especially in the royal court, in the matter of Kshatriya Vivah (i.e.) the type of wedding conducted when the groom is unavailable. And since he knows that Amarendra’s Raja Kadgha was not with them, he assumed that Sivagami sent his Raja Kadgha.
  3. We know the existence of this Raja Kadgha by several examples : the sword presented as a child, the one held up to defend Devasena’s honour when Sivagami orders her arrest as she refuses to marry Bhalla, the one that cut off Sethupathi’s head, and the one that he lays at his mother’s feet as they move out of the Fortress.

I will still maintain that these are technicalities only. I am willing to even ignore these strategic displays of different swords during the course of the movie. Amarendra could have been portrayed as using his horse-head hilt all the time, and I’m going to pretend that there weren’t any scenes involving his other sword.

The Real Reasons

  1. Let us assume that Kattappa did NOT see that sword which was brought for the Kshatriya Vivah (like it is shown in the actual footage, the sword is covered). In normal cases, no royal orders a Kshatriya Vivah to be conducted unless a case of emergency is comprehended. Kattappa would also assume that the Queen Mother of Mahishmati had such respect for an intended bride as to ask for her hand in marriage, and not force an in-absentia wedding. And since he never heard the messenger actually voice a Kshatriya Vivah, that conclusion would never have been reached.
  2. Another important fact which would have blocked the thought of a Kshatriya Vivah would be because the ceremonies of that Vivah are reserved for emergencies only, mainly when the warrior groom is away fighting a dangerous war. Even if he had had doubts about which son was the intended groom, as the Royal Slave, Kattappa would have known that Sivagami would never order a Kshatriya Vivah for either of her sons. Because neither were off fighting or comprehending any kind of danger. She had only done so because she had a guilty conscience for having undermined her older son. She had been feeling low as a mother that she had refused him the throne. Also, a feeling of insecurity had prompted such an order.
  3. If one assumes that Kattappa DID see that sword, owing to reasons stated above, it would have been perceived as one of the gifts for the bride.
  4. If we think that Kattappa saw that sword AND thought it was Amarendra’s Raja Kadgha, it is perfectly valid. Again, the rules of Kshatriya Vivah state that it is to be performed when the groom is away in war. Hence, he would be carrying his war sword with him. Hence, the Kshatriya Vivah would be conducted with his ornamental Raja Kadgha only.

There you go. That was all I could think of. And to hell with those idiotic haters! If I could stop you right from where I am, I would strangle you guys through my computer screen!!! Argh!

Love and lots of hate for some people,

Priya.

Amarendra Bāhubali + Devasena

Hi Readers!

I am writing after a long break, I know. Three things I would like to say here,

  • I am not returning from hiatus.
  • The story and plot are fully mine; whereas I have borrowed some characters from the world-famous Bāhubali franchise. Accordingly, I declare here that this is intended as fan-fiction only.
  • I hope you read this after watching both movies. It’ll be better that way. (but, it’s not a rule)

I’ve missed you badly, WordPress. And I am going to continue missing you. But, here is a short (long?) story for all the fans of Bāhubali out there.

Without further ado, behold the world of Amarendra Bāhubali.

Jai Mahishmati!

When Love is All…

“So, what you do you think?” asked Devasena. The fingers on her hands entwined with each other and shivered slightly. The woman in front of her frowned as she held Devasena’s right wrist.

“Shh,” she told the impatient Yuvarani. The veins of her wrinkled hand popped slightly as her grip tightened. The other hand counted rapidly off her fingers.

“Let her count in peace, Amma,” Karthiga whispered in Devasena’s ear. She nodded, but kept up the furtive rhythm on her foot. The many bells of her anklet chimed. A whiff of cool air from the fan Karthiga was waving towards her, made some hair at the back of her neck stand up. She forced herself to relax. The woman was ancient; she should be respected for her age and wisdom.

At once, Devasena stopped her foot-tapping. She let her fingers ease out of their tight hold.

That day had been very eventful. She had woken up at dawn for her usual prayers and had hoped that her husband would return. Her Amarendra Bāhubali was not at their home. He had started running drills with the new recruits for the Royal Army a week ago. Kattappa Ayya was his constant companion since. The prayers were followed by a nasty bout of vomiting. After a tense mental calculation, she had sent for the healer. Amarendra would have turned grave if she had so much as sneezed in his presence. She missed his warming presence. A flurry of emotions shook her as her thoughts strayed to him.

Her husband. It was disarming to call him husband even to herself. It was two months since their wedding, but she hadn’t quite wrapped her head around it. Devasena felt her mind scramble for sanity as she remembered the journey of their love. A neglected simpleton whom she had taken pity on. She laughed quietly. He was everything but a simpleton. The forced stoop to his shoulders had been easy to spot when they had met. But, the simpleton’s ‘Mama’ had vouched for him and she had quelled her doubt. One thing after the other proved that the ‘retarded’ Shivudu was no ordinary man.

“Amma,” interrupted the healer.

She opened her eyes immediately. Her senses fully alert, she managed to stop herself from physically shaking the frail woman.

“Tell me, Ammamma,” she asked softly instead.

In reply, the old woman smiled with a mouth having no teeth, and nodded at her. Devasena leaned back in her chair in a daze. Slowly, her lips widened and a red flush filled her cheeks.

“You have to be careful, Amma,” began the old woman. She held up a hand, and cut her off.

“Ammamma, I will listen to all you say.” She nodded to show her assent. When the woman frowned slightly and held the cup of her palm to her ear, she comprehended her partial deafness.

Devasena bade Karthiga close the door of the room. She raised the volume of her voice to speak to the old woman.

“I will do all that you say to take care, Ammamma. But, you have to give me your word for something,” she started.

“Anything, Amma. Tell me,” she swore and touched Devasena’s feet reverently. She immediately pulled her feet backwards.

“No, no. You are elder to me, Amma,” she admonished and gave her a seat.

“Please do not tell anyone of this right now. I ask you to do this for me,” Devasena begged.

“Of course, Amma. It will be like you ask.” The old woman held her hand and promised her.

“Now you can tell me what I should do.”

Karthiga brought forward a scroll and began to write down all that was said. After the healer left, Devasena asked Karthiga to remain quiet as well. Her prudence at being the Yuvarani of Mahishmati had kept the excitement at bay all along. Only when she had been left alone did the amazing news envelop her.

She was going to be a mother. The thundering heart inside her ribs had caught up to the fact. A small ache revealed itself and her arms wanted to be held in Bāhubali’s arms. His mischievous crooked smile filled her mind. The tingling in her arms intensified.

Her seat felt uncomfortable suddenly, and Devasena leapt to her feet to walk circles about the room. The pale blue silken curtains ruffled in the breeze for the evening had fallen then. One hand curved over her stomach. She looked down at it and smiled.

She retired to her bedroom and ate the food which had been set out by Karthiga. The girl was beside herself in excitement. And since she had been forbidden to talk to anyone about it, she chattered at Devasena. The pillows were fluffed and the sheet smoothed over the bed while Karthiga made a list of possible names for a possible baby girl. Her presence was soothing and she made Devasena giggle.

“What if it’s a boy, Karthiga?” she winked and asked her. The girl paused and dropped the cup of water she had been holding with a clatter and a splash.

“Oh no! I didn’t think of that at all!” she wailed in apparent distress. Devasena laughed happily at her expression.

“It’s all right, dear. Make another list,” she suggested.

“Yes, you are right, Amma. We can start with the Lord Shiva’s names! It will be perfect!” she had recalled the excitement over her horror. Devasena remembered Amarendra calling himself Shivudu when they had met. Lord Shiva. It would be perfect, she told herself.

‘What am I thinking? Amarendra does not know yet!’ her mind scolded her.

Karthiga kept up the flow of male names till she dismissed her. She had helped her remove some of her heavier jewellery pieces and draped a soft saree around her mistress in order to sleep comfortably.

The lights had been dimmed for only a few minutes when the room turned cold. Every night she had spent alone in Mahishmati had been alike. Her eyes moved to Bāhubali’s pillow. The sight of the empty side of the bed did not help. She sat up and pulled her knees up to her chin.

In her mind’s eye, she saw herself in their verandah. Her new pink saree fell in soft folds around her body. Amarendra was climbing up the steps towards her. The sun was setting softly right behind him. She checked her hurry and waited. Their eyes met. It arrested all motion and they simply stared. His eyes broke the spell and roved over her. The slight quivering in her limbs caught his attention and he started to climb faster.

He was a few feet away when she started to move. She let herself fall into the arms he held up at the right time. Something akin to ice flooded her veins as his fingers tangled in her hair which fell onto the small of her back. Her wrists locked themselves around his neck. The news she had been keeping filled her cheeks with a blush so deep that she placed her cheek against his. She didn’t want to look at his eyes directly.

“Tell me,” his voice rumbled through the whole of his body and she shivered.

“You,” she said.

“Me?” he asked.

She pressed her fingers into his shoulders. He tried to pull her away from his body to look into her eyes.

“No,” she ordered him. His hands stilled.

Her mouth breathed at his ear.

“You are going to be a father, my Amarendra,” she said softly. She let him loosen her grip and look into her eyes. Everything about him smiled. His eyes, his voice, his scent. The happiness oozed out of every pore of his body. She felt herself warmed to her core.

Back in her cold bed, Devasena hurt. She would tell him when he came back, she decided. Curling up into a foetal position, she dozed off.

Devasena dreamed.

The lotuses from her favourite pool spilled outside the bowl she had arranged them in. She had ridden long and hard for them. Her room was filled with their perfume. She wandered to the window when she had finished.

The sound of the fountain from the Kuntala palace courtyard was amplified to every corner of the palace. It was designed that way years ago. It was her home. It had been her home for years. When she had been a child, her sweet mother used to feed her food sitting next to the fountain. She smiled at the memory as she watched the droplets scatter into the air.

A soft song was heard as her sister-in-law walked inside. Music always accompanied her and Devasena felt all the sores of a day’s hard riding leave her body. They smiled at one another.

“Lie down and rest yourself, dear,” she said lovingly.

“I’m fine, Akka,” replied she. They had always felt their bond closer than that of sisters-in-law; she felt like her real sister.

The comforting thought shook her awake in the Mahishmati fort like good dreams often do. The sound of birds twittering at the windowsill aided the awakening. She cursed herself for the dream though. The truth was that she never admitted to herself the uneasy feeling her presence in the gloomy fortress caused her. There were only two souls inside the oppressive fort walls whom she trusted. Her Amarendra and their Kattappa. She knew no one else. No one knew her.

It had unsettled her, but she had never alluded to it. The vows he had made to her had rooted her firmly to his side. His love watered the roots consistently.

“Amma, you have to eat more than that,” chided Karthiga.

“Stop babying me, dear,” Devasena rolled her eyes.

“No, eat more,” said Karthiga and she ladled more dal into her bowl.

“I can’t. I’m nearly full,” she said.

“I don’t care. If Ayya was here, what would he say?” she glared. Devasena laughed.

“He wouldn’t know what you were hinting at. He’d probably never notice,” she replied.

“I will tell him word by word until he comprehends,” Karthiga retorted mischievously.

“You crazy girl!” said Devasena in alarm.

“You ought to tell him, Amma. He would celebrate a big festival if he knew!” she exclaimed.

“Just think of all the sweets and music and – “ she trailed off into wondrous thoughts.

“Silly Karthiga! Go and do something else.”

The girl jumped out of her reverie at the sound of her mistress’ voice and blushed before walking away with the empty dishes. Devasena was restless. Her young companion had reminded her of her dream from the previous night. If only Akka were here, she wondered. She would wait on her hand and foot. She would forbid her from even lifting up a finger. The idea of keeping her in one place amused her.

There is someone else who would be overjoyed at this, she reminded herself. The Raja Matha’s perfect circle of a face swam to the forefront of her thoughts.

Sivagami Devi. Her Amarendra’s mother. She sighed. She should have been by their side. She would have felt more at home in that grim fortress if Amma had accepted her. One warm look was all she had wanted. Even then, one loving motherly look was all it would take. One hand raised to bless them would be enough.

Amarendra had believed that his Amma would love her as much as she loved him. Little did they know then that she would give them both up. She would choose her pride over her love. Devasena had often thought that it was her who had transformed the palace of her dreams into an oppressive dwelling.

She turned restless. Her head snapped up from its bent position.

‘What is the matter with me?’ she thought. ‘This is the matter of Amarendra Bāhubali’s child. Who am I? Yuvarani Devasena of the Kuntala race. What am I waiting for?’ she asked herself. She rose and called to Karthiga.

“Amma?” Karthiga asked.

“Tell the guards to get the chariot ready. I am going to the Army Headquarters,” she ordered. Karthiga flew outside the door as soon as she heard her words.

Devasena’s bangles clicked together as she wrung her hands. She put on her soft slippers and waited. With Karthiga accompanying her, she went towards the chariot.

“Where to, Amma?” asked her driver Nallu.

“You sit in the chariot. I’m driving,” she replied.

“But – “ started Karthiga. Devasena knew that she was going to allude to her condition and hurriedly shook her head. Nallu was perplexed at the girl’s interruption because he had been asked to step aside from the driver’s seat several times by his mistress. Shrugging, he stepped into the back.

Devasena got hold of the reins. The horses cantered like the winds were chasing them. It was a short ride because their residence, the residence of the Commander-in-Chief of the Mahishmati Royal Army was quite close to its headquarters. She passed the reins to Nallu and bade Karthiga wait there with him.

With every step, there was singing in Devasena’s ears. She forced herself to watch her feet. She knew that Amarendra would be in the training yard behind the building. So, she did not bother to walk to the door. The guards saluted her as she passed. When she reached the archery range, the guard running the drills there stopped the entire body of soldiers.

“Wait just a minute, Amma! I will bring your favourite bow!” He made to run back to the building. She stopped him with a raised hand. Her head shook and she greeted the soldiers with a Namaskara as she walked past them.

The sword-training section was right ahead. The singing in her head swelled to include the music of her Amarendra’s voice.

“You see how I twist the sword away from the enemy?” he fairly shouted to the watching trainees.

“Like this?” There was a clanging sound as a sword was dropped.

“Let us show them again, Krupa,” he said.

The group had converged around him in such a way that she was not visible to the centre of the ring. Some of the boys at the outer fringe spotted her and bowed. The circle slowly parted and silence grew.

“You have to hook your sword in a lock-grip around the enemy’s. That is very important. Do you see?” he was saying. There was no murmur of assent. Puzzled, he looked up to see Devasena standing there.

“Devasena?” he called.

“I do not wish to interrupt – “ she began to say.

“You never interrupt me,” he said, confusedly.

“Amma, when did you come?” boomed a voice behind her. Kattappa rushed up to the scene.

“Soldiers, what disrespect are you showing?” he demanded.

“No, Ayya. I should not disrupt. I will watch the training till it’s over,” Devasena said.

“But, Amma,” said Kattappa.

“I will wait here,” she said. Amarendra began to speak.

“Devasena!” he called. He gently obtained the sword that his partner was holding with an apologetic word.

“Will you join us?” he shouted to her. Her eyes sparkled with pleasure. Within seconds, the pallu of her saree was wound around her waist and the girl who fetched water for the trainees found herself guarding a heap of heavy jewellery. He was holding out the sword hilt-first to her.

The metallic sounds of their swordfight filled the area. The trees around the courtyard swayed with an unnatural breeze. They used the flat of their blades to demonstrate their moves. Bāhubali paused often to describe a particularly clever move of Devasena’s to the trainees. She glowed with pleasure at the incredibly proud look on his face.

All the while, she was having trouble breathing coherently around her husband. It was getting in the way of her prowess.

‘He’ll never stop teasing you if you give in to that!’ yelled her brain. She trimmed her focus hard.

For a change, Amarendra found himself fumbling a lot. His wife used a counter trick to resist him twisting the sword off her hand. Despite his best efforts, her sword stayed on and his slipped loose from his grip for a second. He immediately stopped and had her demonstrate it to his soldiers. A strong rush of pride enveloped him as she did so.

After about an hour of sparring, they stopped. A huge cheer rose from the soldiers for their Commander-in-Chief and his Yuvarani. Kattappa beamed happily from his view on the verandah. The girl brought her jewellery back to her with a cup of water. She flabbergastedly ran away when Devasena offered her one of her rings as a token of thanks.

Amarendra laughed at her shock. She gave him the water to drink. He gulped down a few sips and gave her the rest with such a look of mingled pride and love that her breathing hitched.

“What?” she asked him.

“Nothing. I wish we did this everyday,” he said wistfully.

“What is stopping us?” she demanded.

“Will you really come everyday?” came his question with an eager look. It was then her turn to laugh.

“If you want me to, I’ll be here,” she replied, putting her hand in his.

For a second, he glanced down at their fingers entwined together. He started leading her away from the crowd. A soft breeze came up and the sunny courtyard turned cooler when some clouds blew up across the sun.

“I wouldn’t say everyday,” he said.

She felt stung.

“You don’t want me around everyday?” she questioned.

“Hear me out, first. Today was wonderful. But, it reminded me too much of the day I first met you – “ he began.

“And what’s wrong with that?”

“Devasena, if I think of that day, I’d get d-i-s-t-r-a-c-t-e-d. Obviously!” he replied looking into her eyes.

“Oh, that,” she said, colouring softly.

“Wait one minute here, all right?” He seated her at the roots of the banyan tree and went to speak to Kattappa Ayya. She watched his hair blow back in the wind and smiled to herself. It had gone on long enough. She would tell him as soon as he came back to her. Right there. Right then.

She stood and waited for him. His profile slowly turned and started walking back towards her. She wanted to run and fling herself into his arms. She would scream the happiness at him from right there, she decided. He was only a few feet away.

Time to move, thought Devasena. She took a few jogging steps in Bāhubali’s direction. He smiled at her. He has no clue of the news I bring him, she giggled out loud. Her right foot struck a small protruding rock and she tripped. Of everything that flashed through her mind, she chose the nagging in her arms to fold themselves across her abdomen, protecting the baby.

Amarendra watched Devasena jog towards him. ‘Am I not coming right to her? What impatience!’ he thought as he moved faster. Suddenly, she was falling forward out of balance. The only thought that struck him was when he had held her waist to stop her falling during their boar-hunt in Kuntala. His hands shot forward by instinct to hold her back by the same waist.

“Could you not be careful?” he asked of her when she had steadied. When she did not reply, he went on, “What? Are you going to accuse me of pretending to be a simpleton again?”

She found her mind reeling for a minute. Amarendra was speaking to her and she paid no heed. Her arms were still around her waist. His arms rested lightly on the palms she had placed on either side of her hip.

“Don’t you feel that this is a sword-wielding hand n – “ he was saying when he noticed that his hands weren’t actually on her soft waist. Her hands had wound themselves around her waist and had blocked his own from holding it.

“Devasena, what happened to you? Don’t you remember that you should raise your hands to your head if you find yourself falling?” he asked in scandalised tones.

“So that you protect your head from smashing?” he continued.

She breathed out very slowly. Her arms loosened and caressed the small bump of her belly.

“Are you even listening to me?” Worry and uncertainty laced his voice.

Devasena was recovering from the scare she had had. Her baby would be safe, she thought with relief. He would be fine, her mind told her. With a rush of affection, she realised that it was going to be a boy. ‘How silly had I been to think otherwise?’ she thought. Her heart still thumped nervously. Her surroundings came back to her all at once.

“It’s going to be all right. All right,” she crooned under her breath, both to herself and the baby.

Amarendra’s touch disappeared from her body. She looked up at him. He seemed to be lost for words. A calculating, questioning look appeared in his eyes. He cocked his head to one side and gestured towards her caressing hand.

She smiled. He was surprised by the wink her eyes offered. Dawn alighted into his eyes and they widened with pleasure. Devasena wound one hand around his neck and pulled him closer. He waited with a bated breath.

“You are going to be a father, my Amarendra.”

The End

I very much enjoyed writing this one and I look forward to writing more. I am particularly interested in Bhallaladeva’s background. Let me know in the comments if you guys would like to hear about that! 😀

Update : Check out part two, here.

Love,

Priya
PS : This pair is my current obsession! ❤

PPS : Do you see the level of craze I have over them? 😀 🙂 ❤