Govinda (The Aryavarta Chronicles)

Govinda (The Aryavarta Chronicles) by Krishna Udayasankar

Book: Govinda (The Aryavarta Chronicles) by Krishna Udayasankar Read Free Book Online
Authors: Krishna Udayasankar
Tags: Fiction/Literary & General
from the banquet hall, where the feast was still in progress. He would have to join them soon. But before that he had to see
     to an unavoidable task.
    ‘You sent for me, Father?’
    Dhrupad turned around. Shikandin looked every bit the prince he was. His hair was no longer wild and matted; instead, it fell
     sleek and straight down his back, in sharp contrast to the white linen tunic he wore over his pleated lower robes. He had
     no sword, as was the etiquette expected at a banquet, and so had swapped his baldric for a belt, which he wore over his tunic.
    Dhrupad felt neither happiness nor pride at the sight of his son. A grimace was all he had to spare as he coldly declared,
     ‘The alliance we’ll make through Panchali’s marriage can secure the future of this kingdom. Dhrstyadymn finally has the chance
     to rule a great nation, perhaps even a unified one. I won’t have his destiny compromised by your folly or your treachery.
     Is that clear?’
    ‘Yes, Father.’ Shikandin’s eyes shimmered their usual green-brown; his face remained impassive. It irked Dhrupad no end.
    ‘I have recalled Yudhamanyu, the boy you claim to have fathered, from his training. Henceforth, he’ll stay here under my watch.
     If I sense even a hint of betrayal on your part, even a whisper of your past treason, he’ll suffer the consequences more than
     you will. It may be too much to bear for a motherless son …’
    Dhrupad looked at the younger man with expectation. Surely, he would show some emotion. But all Shikandin said was, ‘Yes,
     Father.’
    The brief interaction between father and son would have ended there, but for the small glint of metal that escaped from under
     the high neck of Shikandin’s tunic. Dhrupad felt his heart speed up as he realized what it was. Before he could help himself,
     the images came flashing, hard and strong – the desperate princess at his doorstep asking for his help, the rage in her eyes
     at being turned away, the curse she had spewed before leaving, never to be seen again …
    He drew in a deep breath at that thought, even as more memories followed, filling his mouth with a bitter taste. Shikandin,
     all of seven years old, saying, ‘But, Father, they are people, too,’ staring wide-eyed as those heathen Firewrights had been
     executed in public, and then the day he had found the fine beads and brought them to Dhrupad, saying excitedly, ‘Father, look
     what I’ve found …’
    Dhrupad felt a fresh surge of anger rush to his head. The wretch of a boy had not done one right thing as a youth and certainly
     nothing as a man. His folly had been somewhat bearable when he was a child, for Dhrupad could give vent to his anger with
     a few well-chosen strokes with the flat of his sword, but Shikandin was a grown man now. A part of Dhrupad toyed with the
     idea of ordering his guards to take his son down to the dungeons and whip him, just to see pain, any emotion really, in those
     stone-cold eyes. The temptation passed, pushed out of his mind by the thought of the banquet that was on, of his daughter’s
     imminent wedding and its political implications, all weighed by the same ambitious pragmatism that had guided Dhrupad’s every
     decision as a prince and as a king. He settled for barking out, ‘And take that damned thing off! How many times have I told
     you not to wear it! Now, get out!’
    Shikandin bowed, stiff and formal. Then he strode out of the room and did not stop till he was a long way from Dhrupad’s private
     audience hall. Pausing for a moment, he tucked the chain of beads into his tunic so that it did not show, but he did not take
     it off. He knew better than to waste time on trying to please his father – thatwas something he could never manage to achieve no matter what he did. He also knew better than to feel hurt. His father’s
     offences against him paled in comparison to what others had suffered at Dhrupad’s orders.
    A burst of merry laughter from the direction of the

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