Palanquin

Iruvapuri was invincible. But they hid from the secret that was their daughter. Read on, for the story of Charumati.

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1. The General

            The soldiers clad in their cotton dhotis and vests walked quickly and surely on the path that was just barely a path. The smell of incense, the rustle of the silk curtains of the palanquin, the soft tinkles of the princess’s anklets… everything intruded on the forest’s aura. The parakeets perched on the branches above, cocking their heads as if shocked at the decadence.

            Decadence it was… three score foot-soldiers, a dozen horsemen, ten servant-maids, one of the generals, and the princess herself. Decadence was a necessity when a party of such size was travelling. The horses were brushed till their manes reflected the sunlight, their shoes polished to a glint. The soldiers walked tall and straight, taking their duty as their life.

            The general kept watch, his hawk-like eyes checking under the shadow of every leaf. It wasn’t a dangerous part of the trip. It was a forest in their own country, danger had yet to begin. But he could never be too careful. Not with the crown jewel of Iruvapuri, the princess Charumati.

            Even in the midst of a forest she was at peace, not tensed by the roars that occasionally sounded out, not frightened during the nights as howls and lightning surrounded the camp. She didn’t speak to the palanquin bearers. She didn’t demand anything, or behave like her younger sisters.

            The general remembered that she had always been very reclusive, hiding away reading the patras of the ancient sorcerer, never attending any of the festivals or the celebrations. Even as he watched her, she was playing with some string in her hands, her bangles clinking against one another as the web around her fingers grew more intricate.

            As they walked, he occasionally cast a glance towards her hands, the spider’s web that she was creating within them. The white threads overlapped in perfect symmetry, taut and in whatever direction her nimble fingers wanted them to be.

            The next time he looked the string was glowing like iron fresh out of the fire. As the wind blew through the curtains of the palanquin, he felt the heat of the string on his face, little prickles of pain dotted his cheek. But the princess still worked on the string, turning into a pattern of a rose, an absent-minded smile on her face.

            Sorcery, he thought. So that was why they were sending her so far away, their own daughter, to the country of some foreigner for the sake of some measly peace treaty. Iruvapuri was invincible, but they hid from the secrets of their daughter. 

 

*Dhoti - a garment worn by male Hindus, consisting of a piece of material tied around the waist and extending to cover most of the legs.

*Patra - It's a sanskrit-origin word, in this context, it refers to a type of scrolls. Patras were usually in the form of pages bound together, and before that leaves on which there was writing.

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