The Immortals Siva
She Enters His Life
left, around the fountain at the centre of the courtyard. It had then taken a
sharp right turn past the shepherd standing at the entrance of the garden.
But where were this shepherds sheep?
Shiva continued to look down the path that the chariot had taken to the
parking lot. Next to the chariot stood another man who had just walked into
the temple complex, but had inexplicably not entered the temple itself. He
turned to the shepherd and appeared to nod slightly. Before Shiva could
piece together the information from his observation, he felt her presence
once again. He turned immediately to see her walking down the steps, with
Krittika silently behind. On still finding this rude, caste-unmarked,
obviously foreign man staring at her, she walked up to him and asked in a
firm but polite voice, Excuse me, is there a problem?
No. No. Theres no problem. But I feel that Ive seen you somewhere
before, replied a flustered Shiva.
The lady was not sure how to respond to this. It was obviously a lie but the
voice was sincere. Before she could react, Krittika cut in rudely. Is that the
best line you can come up with?
As Shiva was about to retort, he was alerted by a quick movement from
the cucumber seller. Shiva turned to see him pulling out a sword as he
tossed his shawl aside. The shepherd and the man next to the chariot also
stood poised in traditional fighter positions with their swords drawn. In a
flash Shiva drew his sword and stretched out his left hand protectively, to
pull the object of his fascination behind him. She however deftly side-
stepped his protective hand, reached into the folds of her angvastram and drew out her own sword. Surprised, Shiva flashed her a quick, admiring
smile. Her eyes flashed right back, acknowledging the unexpected yet
She whispered under her breath to Krittika, Run back into the temple.
Stay there till this is over.
Krittika protested. But my lady…
NOW! she ordered.
Krittika turned and ran up the temple steps. Shiva and the lady stood back
to back in a standard defensive-partner position, covering all the directions
of any possible attack. The three attackers charged in. Two more jumped in
from behind the trees. Shiva raised his sword defensively just as the
shepherd came up close. Feigning a sideward movement to draw the
shepherd into an aggressive attack, Shiva dropped his sword low. He hoped
to tempt him to move in for a kill wound and in response, he would have
quickly raised his sword and dug it deep into the shepherds heart.
The shepherd, however, moved unexpectedly. Instead of taking advantage
of Shivas opening, he tried to strike Shivas shoulder. Shiva quickly raised
his right arm and swung viciously, inflicting a deep wound across the
shepherds torso. As the shepherd fell back, another attacker moved in from
the right. He swung from a distance. Not too smart a move, as it would
merely have inflicted a surface nick. Shiva stepped back to avoid the swing
and brought his sword down in a smooth action to dig deep into the
attackers thigh. Screaming in agony, this attacker too fell back. As yet
another attacker joined in from the left, Shiva began to realise that this was
indeed a very strange assault.
The attackers seemed to know what they were doing. They seemed like
accomplished warriors. But they also seemed to be in a bizarre dance of
avoidance. They did not appear to want to kill but merely injure. It was due
to their circumspection that they were being beaten back easily. Shiva
parried another attack from the left and pushed his sword viciously into the
mans shoulder. The man screamed in pain as Shiva pushed him off the
blade with his left hand. Slowly, but surely, the attackers were being worn
out. They were suffering too many injuries to seriously carry on the assault
Suddenly a giant of a man ran in from behind the trees carrying swords in
both hands. The man was cloaked in a black hooded robe from head to toe
while his face was hidden behind a mask. The only visible parts of his body
were his large impassive almond-shaped eyes and strong fleshy hands. He
charged upon Shiva and the lady as he barked an order to his men. He was
too large to battle with agility. But his slow pace was compensated by his
unusually skilled arms. Shiva perceived from the corner of his eye that the
other attackers were picking up the injured and withdrawing. The hooded
figure was performing a brilliant rearguard action as his men retreated.
Shiva realised that the mans hood would impair his peripheral vision.
Here was a weakness that could be exploited. Moving to the left, Shiva
swung ferociously, hoping to peg him back so that the lady could finish the
job from the other side. But his opponent was up to the challenge. As he
stepped slightly back, he deflected Shivas swing with a deft move of his
right hand. Shiva noticed a leather band on the hooded figures right wrist.
It had a sharp symbol on it. Shiva swung his sword back but the hooded
figure moved aside effortlessly. He pushed back a brutal flanking attack
from the lady with his left hand. He was keeping just enough distance from
Shiva and the lady to defend himself while at the same time keeping them
engaged in combat.
All of a sudden the hooded figure disengaged from the battle and stepped
back. Even as he retreated, his swords continued to point menacingly at
Shiva and the lady. His men had disappeared into the trees. On reaching a
safe distance, he turned around and ran after his men. Shiva considered
chasing him but almost immediately decided against it. He might just rush
into an ambush.
Shiva turned to the lady warrior and inquired, Are you alright?
Yes I am, she nodded before asking with a sombre expression. Are you
Nothing serious. Ill survive! he grinned.
In the meantime, Krittika came running down the temple steps and asked
breathlessly, My lady. Are you alright?
Yes I am, she answered. Thanks to this foreigner here.
Krittika turned to Shiva and said, Thank you very much. You have helped
a very important woman.
Shiva did not seem to be listening though. He continued to stare at
Krittikas mistress as if he were possessed. Krittika struggled to conceal a
The noble woman averted her eyes in embarrassment, but said politely, I
am sorry, but I am quite sure that we have not met earlier.
No its not that, said a smiling Shiva. Its just that in our society, women
don fight. You don wield your sword too badly for a woman.
O hell! That came out all wrong.
Excuse me? she said, a slightly belligerent tone creeping into her voice,
clearly upset about the for-a-woman remark. You don fight too badly
either for a barbarian.
Not too badly?! Im an exceptional sword fighter! Do you want to try
O bloody hell! What am I saying? Im not going to impress her like this!
Her expression resumed its detached, supercilious look once again. I have
no interest in duelling with you, foreigner.
No. No. Don get me wrong. I don want to duel with you. I just wanted
to tell you that I am quite good at sword-fighting. I am good at other things
as well. And it came out all wrong. I rather like the fact that you fought for
yourself. You are a very good swordsman. I mean a swordswoman. In fact,
you are quite a woman…, bumbled Shiva, losing the filter of judgement,
exactly at the time when he needed it the most.
Krittika, with her head bowed, smiled at the increasingly appealing
Her mistress, on the other hand, wanted to chastise the foreigner for his
highly inappropriate words. But he had saved her life. She was bound by
the Meluhan code of conduct. Thank you for your help, foreigner. I owe
you my life and you will not find me ungrateful. If you ever need my help,
do call on me.
Can I call on you even if I don need your help?
Shit! What am I saying?!
She glared at the caste-unmarked foreigner who clearly did not know his
place. With superhuman effort, she controlled herself, nodded politely and
With that, the aristocratic woman turned around to leave. Krittika
continued to stare at Shiva with admiring eyes. However, on seeing her
mistress leaving, she too turned around hurriedly and followed.
At least tell me your name, said Shiva, walking to keep pace with her.
She turned around, staring even more gravely at Shiva.
Look, how will I find you if I need your help? asked Shiva sincerely.
Momentarily disarmed, she remained silent. The request seemed
reasonable. She turned towards Krittika and nodded. You can find us at Devagiri, answered Krittika. Ask anyone in the city
for Lady Sati.
Sati…, said Shiva, letting the ethereal name roll over his tongue. My
name is Shiva.
Namaste, Shiva. And I promise you, I will honour my word if you ever
need my help, said Sati as she turned and climbed into her chariot,
followed by Krittika.
Expertly turning the chariot, Sati urged her horses into a smooth trot.
Without a backward look she sped away from the temple. Shiva kept staring
at the fast disappearing profile of the chariot. Once it was gone, he
continued to stare at the dust with intense jealousy. It had been fortunate
enough to have touched her.
I think Im going to like this country.
For the first time in the journey, Shiva actually looked forward to reaching
the capital city of the Meluhans. He smiled and started towards the rest
Have to get to Devagiri quickly.
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