I have wanted to write a realistic novel but my introvert nature and lack of exposure has made it an almost impossible task. But I let my pen take its course without planning and have arrived at the start of a fantasy novel. I have given it below. I intend to take it on as my novel project and finish it.
There behind the locked gates was a story seeking to be set free. A story that will tell how to live beautifully. A story that will change lives for the better and show to succeed against all odds and achieve fame, fortune and happiness. Yes, everyone can be famous, fortunate and happy in their own little ways. It was no fairy tale but one of rage, courage, cunning deceit and terrible battles of great bloodshed. It was no mere story but a lesson all must learn. Outside the longing golden gates of heaven were arrayed a hundred thousand horsemen. Soldiers of fierce repute guarding Ujwal Nagar, the treasure city, heaven on earth. The gates longed to be opened and embrace a visitor even fleetingly. The gates unopened for thousands of years. The gates adorned with large blue diamonds, topaz, sapphire, rubies and other rare gems. The gates echoed the heart of princess Jwala of a million beauties. It was said that beauty radiated from her every pore and hence the epithet. Her eyes were greenish blue, the hue of a far away beautiful calm ocean. Yet they seemed to jump about in mirth like a restless furtive rabbit. Her sharp nose and ears gave relief to her perfect oval face. Her lips were soft as a petal of a blossoming flower. They were curved in mirth most times except for the occasional frown. She had a smile that could tear the hearts of a million gods and as many mortal men. She was a goddess among mere mortals. She alone feasted on Ambrosia the nectar of gods that were said to be sent from the high heavens. She never knew her parents for they had moved on to higher worlds without waiting for her to grow up. Her childhood was a series of the world’s best nannies and tutors. She though inquisitive had never stepped outside the city gates. Neither has any other person stepped out nor has anyone come in. The doors cried from never being opened as did Jwala, she wept at times yearning to be free of the city. A city where everyone saw her as a goddess. A city where none dared to look in to her eyes. A city where there was no crime. A city where everyone was rich. A city of many treasures that many a warring kingdom and tribe had tried to conquer, but perished far before even reaching its gates. The city was surrounded by other guarding cities whose sole purpose was to protect this city. There were so many other cities and kingdoms whose fates were decided from within the city walls of Ujwal Nagar.
Jwala immersed herself in trivial pleasures chatting and playing with her confidantes who were from the most respectable families of the city. But she was also asked upon to intervene in the important affairs of kingdoms outside her city gates but under their control. It seemed like a game to her. She decided on who were to be kings, which nobles to be rewarded and who is to be punished. Approved vital developmental projects and withheld resources from those who were trying to go against them. She was veritably a goddess controlling a vast portion of this earth. She was guided in all of this by the aged wise counsellor Shantanu. He was a picture of grey. Grey hair, moustache and beard. A short simple beard. A grey skin pale, withered and wrinkled. Yet he radiated the energy of a youth. He was smart as the all observant sun and calm as the ever reflecting moon. He had been with her since her childhood. She respected this man but he too bowed to her and treated her as a goddess. He encouraged her to think freely and take her own decisions. Off late he has been subtly removing himself from the affairs of the state and allowing her to take charge. Of all her confidantes Jwala took partiality to Mitra, the daughter of Shantanu. Not only was Ujwal Nagar heaven on earth, it tried to mould the kingdoms within its rule to be rich and prosperous. But far removed from the centre of power there were a few kingdoms oppressed and exploited by middle men owing allegiance to Ujwal Nagar.
All subjects inside Ujwal Nagar had no complaints and were happy. The only person who was not that happy in the city was the princess herself. Shantanu had ruled as a regent when Jwala was a kid. Though she had grown up now, the official coronation of her as the queen was yet to be done. They were waiting for a suitable suitor for her to be married to, though all the power would rest with the queen. Shantanu has begun making preparations for that event recently. He has summoned the youth from the noblest of families to be approved by her. She has read several tales of love that she wanted her marriage to be like that. Full of love with someone conquering her heart by his charm, bravery and gentle nature. She was therefore despondent. She had everything but her heart yearned for the things she cannot have, love and freedom. She rarely ventured out of her palace even inside the city. Every drop of blood running in her veins yearned to step out of her palace often and seek the love of her life unbeknownst to him that she was a princess. She thought for a while and decided that may be it can be done. She had to talk to Mitra about it. If she agrees then they can take the proposal to Shantanu. There was a small flutter of hope inside her heart.
She was in her music chamber clutching the Veena but not playing it. She had dismissed all her confidantes as she wanted to be alone. She was a person who had everything. Yet why did her untamed heart not accept the role planned for her. She knew she was deemed a goddess by the people here. She also knew there were bigger gods above her. She has heard tales of the outer world from her tutors. The tutors themselves belonged to the city and thus had never stepped outside the city. They taught her these tales from books they had read. Everything the city needed was available within its walls. They carried out agriculture and mining within these walls. They mostly exchanged orders and information with the outside world through carrier pigeons. Rarely goods did pass from the outside world to here and vice versa through windows in the walls. The soldiers in horses outside where from the guardian cities, five of them that surround Ujwal Nagar. These cities consisted of mostly soldiers. From birth till death they were trained for and played the part of a soldier. The people outside Ujwal Nagar considered those living inside them as gods. They called it the city of gods. The guards had one leader, a general, Harsha. He was a fierce, strong, skilled and brave man in his middle age. He was clever and cunning. He not only had the job of protecting Ujwal Nagar but also had to enforce order and control in the regions under the city’s control. He was also entrusted the task of widening the ever expanding empire of Ujwal Nagar. Jwala did not know him personally but knew him by reputation. She frequently corresponded with him through mails delivered by pigeons. Earlier mostly Shantanu conversed with Harsha but nowadays she has been directly conversing.
The Veena was made with the best teak wood and the strings with gold. It was said to have been given by the goddess of wisdom herself. When Jwala plucked its strings all the people in the city and the animals and birds in it swoon with delight. There were forests within the walls where lions, tigers, deers and elephants roamed. When Jwala played the Veena and sang the lions forget to roar, the elephants hustle silently and the ever jumping rabbits stand still in joy. Today in her semi sadness the Veena plucked the heart strings of Jwala and music beyond heavens poured. The Veena had such power that the music echoed not only within the walls but also in all the kingdoms under Ujwal Nagar’s control. The wide empire under the city’s control was popularly known as Ujwala. Jwala despite feeling semi sad like this at odd occasions was mostly filled with mirth playing with her confidantes or involving with the affairs of the state. Despite being treated as a goddess she knew she was a mortal. She realised that among all mortals she must be the most fortunate and happiest. She mused that if she were thus there must also be a person most unfortunate and unhappy.
The sun was lowering its vigil on this earth and as it was bending low rain clouds covered most of it. The bluish skies turned orange and crimson flowing dim rays in to the room where she sat. The slanted rays coming through the window touched her beautiful skin and danced on it. It was twilight and Jwala gently stopped playing the Veena. She heard the rustling of tree leaves as the wind gathered speed. The climate outside beckoned her to come out and enjoy. She stood up from the elevated platform and gently stepped down to the floor. She moved like a breeze and came to the hall where all her confidantes were waiting. She singled out Mitra with a gesture asking her to come outside with her. Jwala was no gentle goddess. She was temperamental and can go in to flights of fury. She was so used to having her way since childhood. She was as stubborn as a mule at times. She rebuked and chided her confidantes so harshly that many of them were in constant fear of her. She was the picture of an arrogant self too over absorbed with herself. When she acted this way with those around her and the citizens of the city they reacted like she was entitle to it. The only ones who dared to speak against her and then too gently were Shantanu and Mitra. She was well versed in all the arts including martial arts. Once she compelled Shantanu to let her go hunting and killed lions, tigers, deers and elephants by the score beyond what was normal in a hunting expedition. Whenever there rarely was the punishment of a feathery flogging, where the whip was made of softest feathers to cause minimal pain, she insisted on administering the punishment herself. She liked love stories but equally liked stories of violence and gore. There were writers within the city who specialised in supplying her with such stories. When she throws a tantrum the whole earth below her trembles with fear. She liked formulating battle plans with Harsha and extending her empire. She once had Harsha flogged with a real whip outside the gates where she could watch. This was because Harsha had refused to attack a hostile city because there might be too many civilian casualties. Harsha accepted the punishment with grace thinking that he deserved it. In fact his respect for the princess grew manifold after this. Jwala realised it too.
They arrived in the open courtyard. Mitra was a great beauty yet looked so ordinary near the heavenly beauty of Jwala. Both were lithe and lean where required and amply endowed elsewhere. Both were young in their twenties. A mild drizzle had begun to knock at the earth in minuscule drops incessantly. A soft and chilled breeze billowed their exquisite silk dresses. Jwala was wearing a dazzling silver and gold brocaded dress. Mitra wore a simple blue silk dress. After walking for a while Jwala stopped and turned to Mitra.
Jwala sighed deeply and said, “Oh, Mitra, my one friend closest to my heart, there is something that is bothering me.”
Mitra took Jwala’s hands in to her own and said, “What bother can a goddess have. Half the world is under your control. Command and your wish will be done.”
“Steps are being taken for my marriage. I don’t want to marry a complete stranger even from the highest of society. I want to be in love and then marry.”
“You will select the match. Father has been clear on this. Interview them and test their prowess and finally select the one you love.”
“I don’t want that. I want to marry someone ordinary who doesn’t know I am a princess and loves me head over heels just for myself. For that I need to go in to the city incognito as an ordinary person.”
Mitra remained silent for a while and then said, “It is tricky but can be done. You have to convince my father first though.”
“I have already summoned for him. But I wanted to tell you first.”
“Oh, my beloved, you have been pining over such a trivial issue. Of course it is your marriage and you have dreams about it.”
The drizzle slowly began to take the shape of a full fledged rain. Guards came to hold a small canopy over both their heads but Jwala shooed them off. She liked the rains, to be soaked by the elements. She wondered if her plan would be successful and if she would fall in love and be loved by a person just for herself. All of the books she read were about love and war. She can never be a direct participant in war but can vicariously wage wars through Harsha. Love was the only thing then lacking in her life. It seemed though that too will be remedied soon. She was indeed the happiest and most fortunate person on this earth. She didn’t want to fret today over the freedom she lacked. Not even gods can have everything they want.
Shantanu entered the courtyard and walked towards them with a brisk pace. His appearance was that of an old man yet his agility was that of a youth. It had begun to get dark with the sun finally resting for the night.The rumbling thunder and sudden flashes of lightning seemed ominous signs of a rough night ahead.
“Mitra, I don’t want to tell him this. Will you do this for me.”
Mitra nodded her head in affirmation. When Shantanu came near them Mitra took her aside and told him of Jwala’s plans. Then both turned and came near Jwala again.
“Your highness what you ask can be arranged. But there is something else. With your wedding and coronation plans I think you should meet with the wise woman,” said Shantanu.
The wise woman was a shrivelled up, wrinkled old lady living in the hills in Ujwal Nagar. She never came down the hills except when being summoned to the palace. Ordinary folks queued up the hills to consult her. She was said to be more than a thousand years old. She was also said to have been the princess of the realm like Jwala. Then something happened that made her retreat to the hills. No one knew the complete true story of the wise woman though. Jwala had been taken to the wise woman as a kid and cried the whole time being frightened by the old lady. From then on she had steadfastly refused to meet the old lady. Now she was overjoyed at Shantanu’s acquiescence to her plan. She didn’t mind meeting the old lady, though a shiver went up her spine at the thought of the old lady.
Jwala nodded her head. She had enough of prancing around in the rain. Today she was joyous for other reasons. She recalled all the stories of love and the countless love poems she read. She was about to experience it herself. How would her mysterious lover be? Tall or short, fat or thin, clever or simple, handsome or earthly, there were a dozen questions and thoughts swirling around in her mind.
Shantanu said, “I took the liberty of already summoning the wise woman. She is waiting in the palace.”
All of them headed back to the palace. There in the great hall, near the end of it, looking out through the window was a short, frail, all shrunken and wrinkled up figure wrapped in a pale black dress.
Without turning the wise woman said, “Welcome my child. There is great joy in your heart. You will succeed in your quest and find great joy but only for a while. Did you see the weather today. It will grow worse and not just you but the whole city will suffer. Vengeance shall drive the city gates to be breached to spell doom for all.”
“But how is that possible as there are a hundred thousand soldiers guarding at all times. Even more men can be summoned from the guarding cities. There is no force or army capable of defeating us,” said Jwala.
“You discount the force of love too lightly my dear. When you fall in love shortly you will understand,” said the wise woman and walked away from the window towards the palace gates leaning on a cane with her bent and crooked back.
Jwala and Mitra exchanged puzzling looks while Shantanu had gone pale and had a thoughtful look about him.
I plan for this novel of mine to be a veritable self help book too with actionable wisdom.