Budh first came upon her on a moonlight night. Every Wednesday, the merchant visited the temple in the village to give thanks to the divine for his prosperity. On the way back, Budh liked to stop by the riverbank and enjoy the peaceful nighttime scenery. It never failed to lift his heart.
This night, however, a low, droning sound caught his attention. A minute later, he realised it was the sound of a voice, hoarse and nearly inaudible. Hurrying to the source, he found that it was a young woman, half unclothed, covered in mud and lying on the riverbank, nearly insensible. She murmured a prayer under her breath, but did not seem to realise that help had come at last.
As Budh pulled off his own tunic and tossed it over the woman to cover her upper half, he felt sick. Clearly, the woman had been travelling with a party that had heard about the bandits in the mountains. The woman must have dressed in men’s clothing for safety, she still wore long leggings. The bandits must have suspected, however, because they had torn off her top, exposing her breasts, proving that she was a woman.
They must have killed the rest of her party. But how did she come to be here? Budh looked up at the mountain that overlooked the little river. He could see it now. Mad with grief, fearing for her life, surrounded by bandits who sought to rape and kill her, she must have taken the only escape route she could – by jumping into the river.
At the thought, Budh felt a great swell of pity. Taking the woman into his arms as gently as he could, he started to walk back to the village. The elders would know how to help her.
‘I’ll take care of you, I promise.’
She didn’t react, still murmuring her prayer.
From the halls of a tyrant enamoured of a dancing girl with a deadly secret, to a village where the unquiet dead are exorcised with food, to moonlit forests where goddesses meet with demons, this collection of twenty two short stories serves up tales from Indian mythology—with a twist.
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net, with thanks.
[music| Firework: Katy Perry]