Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prologue: An excerpt from Pyre of Queens

Book:Pyre of Queens
Author:David Hair
Puffin Rs.225

.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 realize 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.


The Lost Journal

Jodhpur, Rajasthan, June 2010

The journal was right where he remembered putting it over eighty years ago—two feet below the distinctive stone tablet. It was wrapped in waterproof greased paper and leathers, in a painted wooden box that crumbled with dry-rot when he dug it out. To his considerable relief, it appeared no one had touched it since its burial. The pages smelt musty, tainted by preservatives, and the binding was frail. Some of the oldest pages, the ones at the front, were more than one thousand years old. It was to the first page, the oldest of them all, that he turned. The script was ancient, but he found he knew it, translated it mentally as he traced the lines with one trembling finger that dared not quite touch the page.

If you are reading this work, then you are very likely me. You know what I mean.

I have come to believe that certain stories develop a life of their own. They are so powerful, so widely known, so much a part of our culture, indeed of our daily lives, that they become more than mere words.

Imagine, if you will, a tale that defines a people. It has heroes and villains, good and evil deeds, its very words are sacred to us. It is like a chess set, its pieces inhabited by the same souls, game after game. Or perhaps this tale is a living thing, a script that constantly seeks actors, and when it finds them, it inhabits those actors and possesses them utterly, finding new ways to express and re-express itself, time and time again.

What must it be like, to be one of those souls, doomed time and again to live the same life, over and over? Acting out the tale, glorifying it, enhancing it, though at great cost to themselves. Their whole existence a prison sentence, their fate to again and again live as a play-thing of an idea.

But then, you know what it’s like, don’t you?

Such a story is a tyrannical god, inflicting itself upon its unwilling worshippers.

Can such a thing be? Yes it can, and I know, for I am living such a tale, and am doomed to live it over and over, forever more. And so are you.

Over and over. Again and again.

And again.

And yet again.

He focused on the brief verse that followed, and felt a thrill of unease and excitement which made him almost gasp aloud.

Time is water from the well of life

And I must draw that water with only my hands to bear it

My thin and frail fingers cupped to receive it, every drop precious

But ere I have raised it to my lips, it has drained away

One day I will learn not to spill it and I will drink my fill

And finally be free

Aram Dhoop, Poet of Mandore.

He blinked twice, and realized he’d not drawn breath since beginning to read. He panted now, refilling his lungs though they seemed to be constricting in his chest. The words were exactly those of a poem he had written a year ago in English class that had won him the Poetry Cup for that year. Even though he’d not been able to explain properly to the teachers what he had meant. ‘It’s about reincarnation,’ was as close as he’d come.

Finally he put the book down. He knew though that he would read it fully that night, cover to cover, if he could stay awake that long. Just as surely he knew that each word in it would be as familiar as if he had written them yesterday.

There was one other thing, hidden with the journal. It was a small leather pouch. He opened it, but it was empty. Still empty, after all these years. Strange, he had almost expected it to be full. His hand still remembered what should have been there—a tarnished pendant bearing a pale crystal, veined with burgundy streaks. He remembered the way it used to pulse queasily to the touch. Where the stone was now, he had no idea.

The journal was a history scholar’s dream, but he would never show it to anyone. He himself had begun writing it, over a thousand years ago. He had buried it many times too, most recently only thirty years back. It had been part of his life for centuries, though he was only seventeen years old.

(Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books India from Pyre of Queens
by David Hair)

No comments:

Post a Comment