THE RETURN OF THE RAVANA THE PYRE OF QUEENS BOOK 1
Mandore, Rajasthan, 769 AD: Ravindra-Raj, the evil sorcerer-king, devises a deadly secret ritual, where he and his seven queens will burn on his pyre, and he will rise again with the powers of Ravana, demon-king of the epic Ramayana. But things go wrong when one queen, the beautiful, spirited Darya, escapes with the help of Aram Dhoop, the court poet. Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2010: At the site of ancient Mandore, teenagers Vikram, Amanjit, Deepika and Rasita meet and realise that the deathless king and his ghostly brides are hunting them down. As vicious forces from the past come alive, they need to unlock truths that have been hidden for centuries, and fight an ancient battle ...one more time.
Chapter One: Conspirator
As the winter draws to an end and the heat rises again, the winds begin to blow across the Thar Desert, great clouds of dirty orange dust billowing out of the west. The men go muffled in scarves when they must go outside at all, and the women throw the loose end of their dupatta over their heads, so that they look like colourful insects, swaying in the mirages. The arid lands seem to leech away what little colour there is; the pallid shrubs become coated in sand, the tiny mud houses and canvas tents muted into the same hues as the desert itself. Only the people lend colour, to feed the heart and lift the spirits above the dirty, smoky, lung-clogging air of the towns.
It has not rained for months, nor will it for many more. The rains come only once a year in any substance here, torrential downfalls at the end of summer that make those caught out in it stagger as they dance in relief that the monsoon has come at all. This winter has been drier than most, and the old folk are whispering of worse to come. When the skies are orange with dust, it is always a bad year, they say.
It certainly hasn’t been a good year. The third year of the reign of Devaraja Pratihar, son of Nagabhata, had seen his capital, the heart of the Gujjar-Pratihar empire, shift to Avanti, leaving the old capital of Mandore in the hands of his third wife’s son Ravindra-Raj. The desert folk said the gods were displeased at this turn of events and had cursed Mandore. The court and all its hangers-on had followed Devaraja to Avanti, leaving Mandore lost in dreams of the past. Traders were fewer, and houses that had once thrived were now empty to squatters and stone-thieves. The more reckless said that Mandore’s curse was embodied in Ravindra-Raj himself, whose cruelty and oppression drove his own people to flee. They said the once proud town was being strangled by Ravindra and his many offences against the gods.
Madan Shastri, commander of the Raja’s soldiers, watched Ravindra out of the corner of his eyes uneasily, as he committed more such offences. Ravindra was not a man you looked at directly, if you wanted to keep your eyes. As he was currently demonstrating.
‘Speak, Gautam! Speak!’ Ravindra-Raj roared, as he pressed a searing iron to the chest of the prisoner again. The room filled with a smell like cooking that made hardened courtiers wince. The man screamed silently, his mouth making the movements but his lungs seemingly incapable of inflating. His whole naked form was a mass of welts and burns and cuts. If one didn’t already know who he was, the man was unrecognizable. Even if mercy were now shown, he would never be the same. True mercy would be to slay him swiftly. Shastri longed to end this, but one did not come between Ravindra and his pleasures. He looked away, only to be met by a sight almost as unpleasant " the smiling jowls of the Raja’s son, Chetan. The prince was a big man, larger even than his father, muscular, slab-like, but his thoughts and words tended to wriggle like eels... Read More