In the Forests of the Night

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As I enter, I hear my mother sobbing.

Hearing your mother cry can be painful for any daughter. It is worse for me, because I’ve never seen my mother smile.

But I’m told she once did, before my father was killed.

He died because of a decades old family feud, cousins turning against one another and wiping out entire lineages. Generations of us have killed one another, until hating each other seems to have become reflex. My cousins killed him where he stood, without warning, without mercy.

I’m not saying that my father was a good man. He had his faults, and he liked riling up our enemy, provoking them, sometimes even killing them.

But he was, above all else, my father.

When I was young, I remember saying to my mother, ‘Don’t cry, I’ll avenge Father,’ but she had only gasped in horror and said that she couldn’t bear to lose me, as well.

I was born after my father died, after my pregnant mother was driven from our palace by a coup arranged by my cousins. She was forced to go into hiding at her brother’s house for a time.

All of us in the family are naturally strong, but my uncle has always delighted in my natural affinity for weaponry. A natural talent in swordsmanship and archery himself, he had trained me until I turned fifteen, when my cousins came looking for us again.

We didn’t want to endanger my uncle and his family, so we fled in the night, despite my uncle’s protestations, setting up house in some hole of a forest, far enough from the capital and the villages that no one would think to look for us here.

We built a tree house, my mother and I. It’s high enough that we avoid predators, both animal and otherwise. My mother is strong enough to help me with physical labour, even if she has lost the strength to face life itself.

I don’t tell her, but I haven’t lost my taste for revenge. I practise my archery in the woods every night, once my mother has safely fallen asleep. I am adept at swordplay, but my skills with a bow leave something to be desired.

It is on one such night that I first meet her.

She is walking through the woods alone, if I hadn’t seen the leaves moving at her passing, I think my arrow might have struck her.

 She stops when she enters my little clearing. I had been hiding behind a tree, looking at her surreptitiously.

I swear I made no noise, but one moment I blink, and the next – she is standing before me, looking at me quizzically.

My sword is in my hand and raised, on reflex, and we both look at each other warily. She is faster than I expected.

This close, I can see that she’s a girl, only as old as me. She’s dark skinned where I am fair, though, and she’s dressed simply, with nothing to mark her station or her identity. Her arm is half raised, as if to attack.

I think: she’s one of us.

We say nothing, looking at each other for a moment more, before she nods, and with the same startling speed as before, she bounds off into the dark forest.

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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.

[mood|indian mythology blah]
[music| Soosan Khanoom: Barobax]

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Image: Just2shutter / FreeDigitalPhotos.net, with thanks.

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10 Comment

  1. It is on one such night that I first meet her -> met her??

    as so many of our kind do. -> as many of our kind do

    okay, i lost track and got confused after
    ‘She’s one of them, Durga.’

    (this statement looks like he is talking to durga?? im not sure if tht is the case)

    1. why is the attacker talking to hero suddenly??
    2. Durga is a goddess ryt?? how can she be an asura and daughter of mahishasura…??

    i am totally confused…

    1. SSK says: Reply

      As far I know, ‘meet’ is correct because the whole thing is in present tense.

      (this statement looks like he is talking to durga?? im not sure if tht is the case)

      It is the case! The protagonist is Mahishasura’s daughter, while the man is a deva who is telling Durga she has to kill M’s daughter because it’s her duty. Makes sense now, I hope? I made a few changes since you felt it was confusing, hope it reads better now.

      1. ohh… now its clear… but not because of
        “‘It’s fortunate that I found you,’ he says. ‘I was looking for you when I found her.’ He throws me a glare. ‘She’s one of them, Durga.’”
        but because you clarified that he was indeed talking to durga.. and tht the protagonist is a girl.. i thought it was a man coz he was falling in love with durga….

        the original dialog was simpler re… ‘She’s one of them, Durga.’ wala…. provided the reader understands the context….

        1. SSK says: Reply

          Who says a woman can’t fall in love with a woman?

          the original dialog was simpler re… (…) provided the reader understands the context….

          Something only re!

          The point is that I expected it would be clear to the reader who the protagonist is, and who Durga is, from the dialogue/narration and not because I had to tell them in a comment! So I think I shall let the edited dialogue stand.

  2. but till then, till ‘She’s one of them, Durga.’ It was really awesome… good narration…. even the action sequence was “kalakku kattinattu” it was… :)

    1. SSK says: Reply

      Thank you, I’m glad you liked this! And ‘kalakku kattinattu’ – high praise, indeed! *glees*

  3. Shalu :-) says: Reply

    :-) nice …. but somewhere i got confused….maybe i mislead myself but …..whatever the reasons ….this is where i got a little confused and had to re-read two times :-D…..maybe a filler and informative sentence in between would have been less misleading ….
    “I’m on my way to practise, hurrying because I’m late, because I want to see her again, and I’m careless, walking noisily, so I miss it. Or perhaps I’m just making excuses, and he is faster than me, better than me.”

    Writing style ….. good good …..except ….too much segmentation-into commas etc in the sentences…..slows readers down ….. difficult to keep track (sometimes)….a good story is not excessively an easy read…..yet keeps its complex ishtyle …. !

    my honest comments …. :-)

    1. SSK says: Reply

      Hmm. I’d like to say you misled yourself, but then I have been told that this was a little difficult to follow. Need to work on that, I guess!

      except ….too much segmentation-into commas etc in the sentences…..slows readers down ….. difficult to keep track (sometimes)….a good story is not excessively an easy read…..yet keeps its complex ishtyle …. !

      I do admit to a love (and addiction) to run-on sentences, it’s something I’ve been trying to cure, slowly but surely. Another thing, though, is that I dislike short sentences. Makes me feel like I’m reading a first grader’s English essay. :P

      I’m glad you felt this had a complex style, even if it wasn’t easy to read! =)

      my honest comments …. :-)

      I always like honest comments, keep ’em coming, please! =)

  4. Shalu :-) says: Reply

    maybe i misled* myself ….

    1. SSK says: Reply

      Don’t worry, I got you, child. =)

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