In India, a young girl named, Kshama (forgiveness) is involved in a feud that has consumed her village since before she was born. Kshama has lived her entire life scared of the ones they call the "Outsiders" But soon her life is going to be thrown into the strands of fate, for she will soon find out that there are deep secrets that connect her village and the outsider's. She will become intertwined with a man named Arihant (one who kills his enemies) a man who lives with blood thirst and seeks t
The day was only just beginning, but the sun beat down with such a blaze that the sound of the locus was overwhelming. To the tiny village that set by the river of Ganges, the days seemed to drag on. Kshama walked towards the well, carrying two wooden buckets, one in each hand. Looking out into the plain that they called the Indo-Gangetic plain, a warm wind hit her face like a slap. The cool water would feel amazing in this hot weather.
Even though she knew she had chores to do her mind seemed to be elsewhere, something her father constantly criticized her about. Lately she had been experiencing strange feelings, about home about her family, generally just about her life. Today was a peaceful day and although it seemed that it would stay that way something told her that she should stay alert, she had learned from past experiences that letting your guard down could get you hurt or even killed. Pulling up the bucket of water she brought it over the edge being careful not to spill any on her new sari. Setting it on the ground, she grabbed the other empty bucket and placed it into the well. When that was all done she carried the water back to her home, where she set them inside the doorway. Her mother was busy watching over her other children; Kshama smiled thinking about her three younger sister’s. Charu was the oldest being the age of eight. Next came Lali then their youngest sister who was only two years old named, Hita. Her older brother, Sujit and her father, Ekanga, were out helping a friend repair his house that had been destroyed during the last raid from “The Outsiders”. At the thought of it, Kshama’s stomach rolled. Remembering always made her sick, and a frantic feeling would wash over her leaving her flesh taught and prickly underneath her blouse and sari.
She hadn’t worn any shoes to the well since the floor of their house was the same as the path to the well, she didn’t see the need. So she went back outside and around the side of the house to where she cold hear her sibling’s voices. They sounded so happy, and she wasn’t surprised when she saw her mother sitting beside the stone steps, stitching one of her father’s old and tattered shirts, while her three sisters chased each other in the morning sun, running away from Charu who seemed to be the chaser until they were tapped on the shoulder then that either Lali or Hita would then become the chaser.
Kshama remembered playing the game with her family, enclosed in their back yard that was overgrown with native plants, along with her mother’s decorating that included pottery and flowers such as Orchids, wild tulips that were originally from the Himalaya Mountains and many assortments of lillies.
Her father and mother along with her older brother would play along, even though she was sure that her father had told Sujit to let her win on more than one occasion.
Kshama saw her mother smile at her, and ran into the back yard grabbing Charu by the waist and putting her on her shoulders. Her mother was a beautiful women, she always wore light colored blouses with dark sari’s etched with gold colored thread. Her hair was still as black as night, and always well oiled until it gleamed and shined in the sun’s rays. Walking over to the discarded shirt her mother had been working on, Kshama sat down and took over the stitching, being very precise to follow her mother’s example.
Suddenly, like a rainstorm in the drought season, a strange feeling over came her. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end and out of extinct Kshama looked up, just in time to see a man in a black hood rush out from behind their old Hazelnut tree. Behind that there was nothing but the wilderness of the plain, since their house was located on the outskirts of the village. Letting out a scream, Kshama ran towards her mother but before she could get there she was grabbed by the arm and pulled back, almost falling to the ground. She fought against her attacker violently trying to kick at him, when his arm wrapped around her neck she sunk her teeth into his skin until she could taste blood, then was flung to the ground with such a force her teeth chattered. Jumping up as fast as she could she ran towards her mother who was now being held by two men, she looked over to her right and saw her younger sisters also being restrained. The man who she had bitten came up behind her and roughly grabbed her around the waist and threw her over his shoulder, she kicked and screamed with all her might until she realized that because of the force of the fight she was showing she was now falling, the pain cut through her head and she could feel her neck snap under the pressure of her body hitting the ground. She tried to force her eyes to stay open and the clouds that began to fog her mind to go away. But her mother’s screams began to fade away and she could hear her sisters calling her name from a far off distance, then oblivian found her taking her mind and her aching body to somewhere quiet and the best part was…there was no pain.
Arihant strained to twist his body in time to catch the falling girl, but he heard her hit the ground and he clenched his teeth when he saw her lying on the ground her neck twisted abnormally and her eyes fighting to stay open, then nothing. Just cold stillness that seemed to consume her body and give her a deathly look. Damn!
He bent down to scoop her up and heard a woman’s cry that unbelievably held to much venom and demand that he stopped instantly, inches away from the girls body. Stomping over to the enraged woman Arihant looked down into her face since he easily dwarfed her by a foot or two.
“Woman, you will be quiet and cease this screeching fit!” he demanded in a gruff tone. But instead of seeing the woman back down in fear like so many did, she looked him straight in the eyes and squared her shoulders straining her arms against the two men who held her.
“You will release me leave this place, and maybe my husband will not hunt you down and gut you for laying you filthy outsider hands on his family.” She practically hissed. Ariahnt was so astounded that this little woman would talk to a man that way. Who did she think she was? Tightening his fits at his sides so he wouldn’t strike her out of fury he looked to the two men holding her and a sneer formed on his face as he commanded the house be burnt.
“Let this remind you where your place is. And as for your husband, I will take great pleasure in killing him. But first he will know what it is like to hurt, to truly feel his heart being ripped from his chest.” His eyes seemed to flash with emotion as he raged on.
“I am taking the girl, I will do with her as I please and when I grow tired of her I will return her to you the same way you took care of one of mine.” With that he turned away from the now hysterical woman, and gathered the still unconscious girl into his arms. He ordered his men to release the woman and the children and as they departed from the village the same way they had entered, he could hear the crackling of the flames and smell the burning smoke as it filled the air, polluting it with its thick blackness that seemed to devour the sun. He could hear a bell ringing in the distance and turned, the village was just a speck in the distance now, no doubt that the people of the village were desperately trying to put out the fire before it spread from house to house. Looking down into the hated face of his captive, he just prayed that she hadn’t broke her neck, he wanted to be the cause of her pain, wanted to inflict it upon her himself. Not some act of clumsiness and a little hellion that couldn't just swoon like any other girl, oh no she had to be a fighter. A smile formed on his face, this was good the more of a fight she put up the more revenge he could take. He wanted noting more than to spill her blood, to inflict humlitiation and watch the father of this girl mourn her just like had done with his Nephew. he closed his eyes, feeling the rage course through his body he tried to calm himself, knowing that they still had quit a journey back to the village.
"Arihant!" yelled an older man, who had been one of the men that held the girls mother. His name was Kanan, and he was the brother of Arihant's departed sister, his son had been Narsimha. Arihant thought of this man as his blood brother and together they had made a promise to Kanan's wife and Arihant's sister, Ela, that they would take revenge for the murder of her only son, Narsimha.
HIs sister had been his world, his protector, after their parents had died. She had taken care of him and has treated him with such love and devotion that Arihant had gone mad when she died. After Narsimha's death his siter had taken ill, and she always seemed to be far off. Not even her husband could get through to her. One day Kanan had appeared at his home door and told him that, Ela, had vanished. Frantically they looked for her, searching eveywhere they could think of. When they finally found her, it was too late. She had killed herself with one of Kanan's many knives. she lay there on the floor of their home, her wrists slit and her life blood draining from her body. She hadn't wanted to live not after her only child, the baby she had fed from her very breast had been ripped from her life forever and not able to go on she took the only way out from the pain, kill herself.
Arihant rubbed the back of his hand across his face, wiping the sweat from his forehead as he carried his captive into the village. He really didn't know what he was going to do with her, it was easier to think about revenge until the time came to inflict it and now he was totally lost. How did he even begin, he wasn't the violent type, for years he had tried to prepare himself for this day for when he could take revenge for his sister and his nephew. Looking down into the still face of the young woman he abducted, and his heart clenched, but it was his right, his battle, to take revenge. Forcing all things from his mind he concentrated on the anger trying to regain the rage and hatred he felt towards the Sarin family. Especially Ekanga, the man who was to blamed for his hurt, his madness. That was it, that was the nerve to hit that made his heart beat so loud he could feel it pulse through his entire face, could feel the heat created from his anger. The way his head swam with the velocity of his emotions. Every one in his village gathered around him, making almost like a mob around him, angry voices shouted at him hands clawed at body in his arms. He wasn't alone with his hatred, the whole village shared his pain and wanted blood for blood. Finally he made it to his tent and went inside, somewhere no one would dare enter with out his invite. He discarded her roughly on a cot that served as his bed and walked briskly out of the tent, now he had to find out what to do with her. And he knew just who to go too.
Kshama tried to force herself to stay in the darkness, to keep herself in the nice safe oblivian where she had been for what felt like a life time. She felt warm and the occasional movement of someone moving near her made it so that it was easier for her to keep her eyes shut. But instantly her body was jerked forward, away from the warmth and the security, and thrown onto something that felt cold. Fear tried to jerk her back to life, back to the world where she knew that she would be placed back into, where their was death, destruction and violence. Unlike the black nothingness she had found herself in, a place where her mind had hidden away from all the bad things she was sure had happened to her body. She didn't want to feel the pain, didnt want become one again with her body. She liked her mind hidden in the darkness where everything was quiet and peaceful. A sudden jolt shot through her body, making her stomach feel like it was being ripped down ward in her body twoards her feet. Her heart started to race and her legs went dumb with sensations. what was going on? this was her bodies way of telling her mind to wake up. No! she cried, her voice echoing off the walls of her mind. NO! but it was too late, she could feel her senses starting to work, the pain thate seared her head, her neck. Everything ached! o god, no it hurt so bad? Then the fog in her mind began to clear and imagegs of what had taken place before she was thrown into her haven of darkness began to flash in her mind's eyes. She could see her mother screaming, the flames licking at the house, engulfing it in it's heated fury. Her sisters were hanging on to her mother's neck, burrying their faces in her blouse. Then along with the images came a light bit of noise, soft at first then growing into piercing screams and cries. She could hear her mother yelling her name, screaming at the men to let her go, to let go of Kshama. She had to get away from these imgaes, had to wake up and go back to her family, to find her father and take care of her sisters and mother! Now she had a reason to wake up, a reason to pull herself out of the darkness she had gladly hidden herself in.
Her eyes fluttered open, the light was so bright that she squeezed them shut as hard as she could. The aching in her neck was exchruating, but she managed to bring her arm up and bring it over her eyes. She was able to open them then letting the light pass her arm little at a time until she put her arm down and could squint without her eyes burning. The only thing she could see was shapes and shadowy figures, forcing herself to close her eyes then open them again severel times she began to see more clearly. The first thing she noticed was that she surrounded by mud plastered walls. Looking up she saw a thatched roof, and a few weaved baskets scattered around the room. Sitting up, carefully because even the littlest movement caused her body to scream in protest, she threw her legs over the simple bed where she had apparantly been discarded. The floor of the hut was cool, and looking outside the door way she could see that night was getting ready to settle over the land.
"Great...now im never going to get home!" her voice was dry and raspy, and using it made her realize that she was really thirsty. Her eyes scanned over the room looking for something that would be used to hold water. She caught a glance at herself when she stood up at what once was her beautiful red skirt that matched her dark red Sari. Her yellow blouse was also covered in filth, Angrily she tried to cast away the dirt with her hand but it was useless. Making a sound of digust, she walked around the room frantic to find a way out. Movement coming from the door way caught her by suprise, and she gasped when she saw that the man whob just entered was the same man who had picked her up and dropped her. Instead of fear, like any rational girl would feel she felt anger. She wanted to know who he was and why he had kidnapped her! Picking up her skirt in on large hand full she stomped over to him, keeping her head held high and her chin up. Something she thought she might regret later.she walked up to the man who seemed to tower over her and she couldnt help but stare at his appearnce. His skin was very tan and his eyes dark. He looked fierce and stood a good foot abover her. His mouth was a straight slit on his face, a sure fact that he was not happy. Kshama wondered when the last time that mouth had ever smiled, judging bu his hard features she would guess a long time.
"Where am I? who are you and why am i here?" she demanded forwardly, looking him straight in the eye.
"What?" Kshama almost laughted. Almost. He looked like he was taken completly off gurad, like no one had ever asked him a question before.
"It was a very simple question...."
"Questions...i do believe there were more than one" he answered bitterly as he moved her aside and walked further into the hut.
"Are you going to answer me? i want to know why you kidnapped me!"
He remained silent.
growing with frustration Kshama decided that since she couldn't get any answers from him she would find them elsewhere, and find a way to escape while she was at it. turning her back on him she went to walk out the door when she was grabbed from behind and tossed back upon the bed with such a force that her already sore body cringed with pain.
"Shut up!" he yelled turning to face her. "I don't think you understand what it means to be a captive, let alone my captive." he dropped down to look her in the face bracing her arms against the side of the bed, bringing his body menacingly close to hers. He could hear her gasp of surprise and see the fear flash in her eyes.
"You are not a guest in this village, you are hated here and if you step foot outside this hut, i cant and wont protect you from what can and will happen to you! do you understand?"
Kshama shook her head, since she was afraid that her voice would betray her. She promised herself right then and there that she would no let him or anyone take control over her.
"And even if you could escape where would you go? he goaded, standing up to pace the room.
"Back to my family!" she about cried, but it came out in a raspy whisper.
"Ya, like they would take you back!" he laughed. "You've been abducted into the village of your most hated enemy, kidnapped by their leader and taken back to his home, where you were discarded upon his bed"
"His bed" she stuttered then looked him up and down her mouth opening and closing like she was gasping for air. "Your home!" she jumped off the bed.
"They will take me back! My family loves me, they would never betray me!" she screeched, now furious.
"You are dead to them, or soon will be!
At that threat Kshama ran at him hitting him with her fists as hard as she could. Arihant caught her wrists in his hands and gripping them hard her threw her down to the ground, where she landed in a heap at his feet.
"I am your master now, i will do with you as i please. You have no family anymore, nor do you have a name. You are a piece of my property and nothing more. You will only speak when i tell you too and you will watch what you say in my presence or you will be punished severely." with that he turned from her and stalked away from her disappearing out the door. The girl's sobs haunting him as he walked through the darkness out of his hut and into the street where the usual carts and people gathered. Taking a deep breath he stalked towards Kanan's hut. He would know what to do....again.
When Arihant returned from Kanan's home, and entered into his own dwelling. His eyes immediatly started searching for the girl. It didn't take long to find her. She was still on the floor, crumpled up into a tiny ball. Her head was hung low and her long hair that had been braided was now hanging loosly down her back. She was sitting on her knees bent over and holding onto her wrists.
"Woman!" he whispered harshly, and was astonished when she rose and walked over to him. "Give me your wrists." when she did he bound them together with a piece of rope, then tying in to the post of his bed he pulled it tightly making it so her wrists were practically connected with the post itself. Satisifed with the binding he crawled into his bed, fully clothed and shut his eyes. He doubted he would get much sleep but it was better to try then not at all. This was going to be a very long night.
Kshama made herself an empty shell, trying not to feel anything. If she was going to escape she was going to need time. And the best thing she could think of was to just follow along with the whole captive slave thing. She sat there on the floor for so long she could no longer feel her legs, having been sitting on them for quit some time. But she didn't care. The sting of the man's words still hurt. Would her family take her back? she tried to stiffle the tears that threatened to fall. Just then she felt a presence behind her and wasnt at all suprised when his stern voice commanded to her from across the room. So quietly and emptily she stood up and walked over to him. Her mind screamed in protest to fight back when her wrists were tied, but she remained silent. She knew this was wrong, she knew that she had every right to fight against him and her body strained to fight against the ropes. Instead she slowly dropped to her knees and sat there, in the darkness with only her captors breathing to fill her senses.
How could this be happening to her? tomorrow she would start on an escape plan but tonight all she wanted to do was sleep. It wasn't everyday that she got taken away from home and thrown into the rough hands of an "Outsider". So closing her eyes she leaned her head against the post where her hands were tied. This was going to be a very long night, indeed.
The next morning Kshama awoke with the light from the sun shining through the opening of the door way. Straightening her spin to stretch she felt it crack in many places, moving back into place. Letting out a sigh she flexed her fingers trying to get some feeling in her now tingling joints. She was so uncomfortable it was ridiculous and she instantly got mad. This whole situation was ridiculous, she didn't even know why she was here! Just then The Outsider walked into the hut carrying a knife. Her eyes widened in fear, was he going to kill her quick or did he really intend to torture her?
Seeing the girls fear and her eyes grow to that of a native fruit that grew on the trees right outside the hut, Arihant was filled with rage. How could he treat another human being like this? He was brought up to always respect other people, man or woman. Even though it was different from other villages he still believed that woman were the missing piece of a man and completed ones life. That loved completed life. Looking down into the eyes of the frightened creature tied to his bed, her wrists raw from the courseness of the rope. What would his mother say? would his sister truly be happy at the revenge he was planning to take?
"You said you wanted to know why you are here!" he spoke gruffly. Striding across the room to where she was seated on the floor, he knealt down infront of her and brought the knife closer to her face, letting the blade gleam in the sun. He cut the rope that binded her hands letting her rub them in an attemot to regain feeling. Once again he had seen the fear flash in her eyes. Noticing them for the first time he saw that her eyes were an amazing shade of green. They were like the leaves of the the dhatura, a widly known plant known for its fatal posion. The color of it was not a dark green but more bright. He saw what a beauty he had taken. Her hair was long and black, her skin tanned and smooth. Her eyes were large and shaped like almonds, full lashes made her eyes stand out amongst her face. Her face was square, cheekbones high making her look all the more exotic. freckles accomadated her cheeks, lightly but visable enough to make him want to run his hand down her smooth skin. Yes, what a prize he had.
Kshama felt her heart beat faster as the man who had treated her so poorly stood in the door way and stared at her. What was he thinking? it made her mad and she tried to hide her eyes but something about him made her want to be bold. To show him she was not afraid. So she stared at him, making her eyes connect with his, no matter how intimidating he was to her.
"We are enemies!" he practically growled, almost like a statement but more like he was trying to convince himslef.
"Yes, but why me?
"Your family has destroyed my life, has taken away everything i have ever loved." he whispered harshly, his voice shaking and raw.
"No, because of your father, who murdered my nephew ." looking away he shut his eyes tight, figthting the anger that ingulfed him. He felt her hand against his cheek and it felt like a hot flame against his cheek, making him jerk back away from her. He paced across the room staring at her ever so often.
Kshama stood up and walked over to him, his eyes on her the whole time. Something told her she should be afraid to stay where she was. But this man had been hurt, and she felt guilty. She remembered the man he mentioned. His name had been Narsimha. She remembered when he had been taken captive, she had watched as her village prepared for his tortureous death. Everyone chanted and yelled, demanding blood for all their trials that had been caused by the outsiders. She had taken her sisters back to their house and tried to pre-occupy them while the mob of her villagers took advantage of an innocent life. He had been caught while trying to help save another on of them, one who had been badly beaten down and stumbled while fleeing. Kshama watched from a near by building looking for her younger sister, Lali who had been with her in the village when they were attacked. The outsiders never killed her people, but always caused trouble and stole things, like their food and livestock. She watched Narsimha turn around and run back for the man, he had thrown him over his sholder and ran from the uncomimg men of villagers. he had placed the man safely within the care of his fellow people and before escape he was hit with an mace, that had been thrown and cracked him in the skull. Kshama hoped that he had died, but had come to find out that he hadnt and as soon as he woke up he was going to be made an example of. Her father had boasted that night about the capture of the outsider and how he had brought him down. He had told them that they would have nothing to fear after this, that this was to be sent as a message to the outsiders that they no longer would take their harassment. That night Kshama had snuck out of her little house and quietly snuck around their little town to where the large man was being held. She had but on the darkest Sari she had and covered her face with one of her mother's black silk veil, so her face was well hidden except for her eyes. Barefoot as usual she stalked twords the prisioner. There she talked to the man, bringing him a drink of water from the well. She also had given him a drug that she had made from the plant of the Ishvari. A large amount of this plant was known to be fatal. In small amounts it could cure high fever, So stealing it from her mother's garden she had taken it to Narsimha. She offered him the plant, and refusing at first he discarded her with an angry gaze.
"Please, take this!" she had said putting it up to his lips, he had thrashed his head to the side refusing the mixture.
"I want to help you." she said, her voice anxious.
"Why would you want to help me? your one of them? If you want to help me then let me go!" he had raged at her. Kshama had wanted to let him go, she knew it was the right thing to do so what was holding her back?
"If I help you, you can never speak of this...ever!" she whispered harshly. She moved to sit behind him where she started to work on his ropes. The knots were tight, and her fingers ached by the time she got the first one off. The whole time she tried not to think about what she was doing. But something was driving her forward, something was telling her that what they were going to do to him wasn't right! The outsider had never killed anyone, sure they had burnt things, stole things and some people had gotten hurt but no one was ever killed. She wanted the fighting to stop. she wanted to live in peace and never worry about wether or not she would be harrassed and forced to hide. There was no more hiding after tonight. If it meant that she went with this man back to his village and had to straighten things out with who ever was their leder, then so be it.
"If i do this i want the feuding to stop. You will take me back with you?"
"Are you crazy?"
"No I'm tired of hiding and all the fighting and i want it to end."
"Fine, i will help you since you are helping me." he said in a somewhat annoyed tone.
"What is your name?" she asked while she worked at the rope around his neck that held him rigid againt a post.
"Narsimha" his voice was deep, it seemed to fit him. Kshama couldnt help but notice event though he was dirty and badly in need of a few bandages that he was a handsome man .
"Lion among men." she stated, and when he shot his head up to look at her she tried not to smile "Your name, Narsimha. It means lion among men."
"Yes, but how did you know that?"
"i know alot of things that dont make sense. Call it one of my many gifts" at that the rope around his thick neck loosened and he rolled his head around in a circle, his hands reaching up to rub his sore stiff neck." Kshama went to work on the rope that binded his feet but she felt an arm touch her on the shoulder and looking back at Narsimha she moved aside to let him work on the knots himself. She knew his pride was badly hurt expecially becasue he was being resuced by a woman who was supposdly his enemy. Finally when he was free of all restrictions Kshama helped him to stand. He was heavy against her and alot taller.
"Maybe this would be easier if i gave you a horse." Helping him to lean against a wall she rushed off to get her mare, Madhu. (Honey) Madhu was stalled in a shed like building along with her father's and brother's horse. Her mare was dark in color her nose scooped and her tail held high in the air, she was pure blooded Arabian and she was fast. Kshama loved to take her out at night for rides ion the plataeu where she could run wild and free. But now Madhu was needed to help save the outsider's life.
Kshama returned with her mare and helped Narsimha swing onto her strong back. Even from loosing so much blood he was strong.
"Come let's go" she said gripping Madhu's reins and leading her away from the village. As Kshama reached the border of her village she heard shouting coming from behind her. Turning she saw torches and shadows running after them. She recognized the one man's voice and her heart instantly fell...it was her father."She looked up into the face of the outsider her eyes wide and unsure. Quickly she handed him the drug and he took it willingly.
"Thank You" and with that he kicked Kshama's mare and took off running. Kshama stumbled back but caught herself before she fell. Was he crazy? he would surly be killed. Then it hit her like a knife through her heart. He was using himslef to distract the men so she could escape. wringing her hands together kshama held back the tears that threatened to fall.
"May you be protected" and with that she ran back to her house where she snuck back into her room. she had laid there in the dark thinking wondering about what would happen now. The next day she had learned that the man had been caught trying to escape, he had stolen a horse and before he could flee was killed and brutally tortured that night. No one in her family mentioned that he had stolen her horse nor did they say anything else.
"Narsimha." she said simply, looking up into the man's face.
His face seemed to loose its color and his mouth twitched "What did you say?"
"Your nephew, his name was Narsimha or Lion among men"
"How did you know?"
"I tried to save him. He told me his name."
"Liar!" he hissed
"No, its true!" she cried up at him. Quickly before he could reject her she told him everything about that night. He just stared at her with unbeliving eyes. His face an expressionless mask. when she was done he walked to the door and stared out into the sun.
"If what you say is true, then My nephew died quickly and painlessly." he said his voice filled with hope.
"Im not sure, but i like to think so."
"There is much i need to discuss with someone, i will return. Do not leave this hut, or something bad WILL happen to you." and with that left her.
Kshama waited in the hut for a long time, she sat on the bed staring out the window. Her mind was flustered with all that was going on. Looking down at herslef she felt disgusted at all the filth that covered her body. Her once beautiful clothing was ruined and faded. Just then she looked up to see a woman standing in the door way.
"My name is Ramani, i was told to help you bathe if that is what you wish." she said plainly her eyes focused on the ground.
"That would be.."
"Come" she said and stepped outside the hut.
Kshama followed her and put her hands above her eyes to block the powerful sun. Getting a good look at her surroundings she saw plants and trees surrounding the little hut. rocks had been laid to make a path like feature leading into the dwelling. the path split in two ways one way twoards the heart of the village where she could hear buzzing voices and animals. the other path seemd to be more serene and led down a stone path.
"Come" the woman demanded again taking the stone path down the hill. Kshama wondered where they were going, but a bath sounded so nice she really didnt care." so she complied.
When they finally reached the end of the path Kshama's body practically crawled with anticipation. The stream flowed smoothly and the water danced with the sun, its rythem mezmorizing. Kshama was handed a dry cloth and a bundle of new clothes. Then the woman named Ramani walked away giving Kshama the privacy she so badly needed. Undressing quickly she stepped into the water allowing it to consume her body and rinse away all dirt. It was amazing, she breathed in a sigh and looked up into the bright blue sky. Hurrying along with washing the dirt off of herself and feeling that she was as clean as possible she walked away from the water and onto the bank of the stream where her clothes were laid out upon a rock. quickly dressing she look at her reflection in the water and combed her fingers through her hair, cathcing the knots and working them out. she was fully dressed in her new clothes that were a light shade of blue and a drak blue sari, when Ramani returned. Still the girl would not look at her and Kshama could sense that there was somethig well hidden about the girl, but that something was dying to burst out and let ittself be known. walking slowly twoards her Ramani's jaw was set and her eyes were directed once again twoards the ground.
"I am to take you back now." she said solemnly
Nodding in agreement Kshama followed her back up the stony path. it was an awkward silence that hung around them, making the trip back to the hut awkward and almost unbearable. But by the time she was back inside the tiny dwelling and Ramani had gone she took a deep breath and allowed herself to think more clearly.
"I dont have time for other people's problems...I have to find a way home." Thinking that this was her chance to escape Kshama walked over to the door where she was able to peer out side. The only problem was she had no idea what way was home. Exasperated she hit her back against the door frame, leaning her head on it's hard surface. A shadow appeared in front of her, blocking the sun in the door way. She looked up into the face of her captor, for an instant she thought she saw something other than hatred in his eyes, something she couldn't explain, but it made her heart beat faster.
"You enjoyed your bath?" he asked not moving, his body inches away from hers. His presence was exhilarating but it was also somewhat nerve racking.
"Yes, very much thank you" she said shyly, directing her gaze towards the floor, where it seemed easier to breath. Why was he watching her so intently? It was starting to be overwhelming.
"Don't thank me" he said gruffly and shoved past her.
"For years i have done nothing but hate you, your family your whole tribe. But now I'm unsure what i should be feeling. There are many of my people that think that i should kill you and get it over with, to take revenge for one of our own. And a part of me believes that too." he took a threatening step towards her, watching her body cringe. But unbelievably her chin held high and her eyes were fixed upon him, arrogantly watching him. " But now as i think about my sister and my nephew, and if the story you told me wasn't a lie"
"It wasn't a lie" she stated. Now she had the courage to walk over to him, her feet seemed to carry her over to him even though her mind was screaming to stay back. what was with this man and why did he make her feel this way? He held her very life in his hands and yet still she felt as though he was the one that was in trouble.
"It's not a lie" she said calmly. "Narsimha, may have died but it was not by my hands, nor yours. You have been totrtured by the death of your nephew and your sister." she looked up into his cold eyes. "I have been eaten away by guilt, knowing that i could not save him. Believe me or not i tried, and i regret that i failed." She was stunned by the look of dread that covered the man's face. She could see all the anger melt out of him and his body relaxed.
"Im so sorry about what had happened, i wish i could have saved him. I had asked him to bring me back with him. I wanted to confront your people and tell them that i was tired of all the fighting and i wanted it to stop. I want to live a happy and peaceful life, not one that im constantly looking over my shoulder in fear that i might be kidnapped or killed!" Her voice was practically a scream now her face was flushed with rising emotions.
"Is that really what you want?"
"Yes, i want to be able to relax instead of always being on my guard."
"Then im the one that is sorry, for even though you may be telling the truth you can never return home..." his face darkened and his voice seemed far off.
"what....what do you mean?"
"You have been kidnapped and brought into another world, your family will not take you back, that i am sure of."
"How do you know...you.."
"I sent a messenger to them with a ransom Just this mornig.The sun is already hidden behind the horizon"
"Maybe he got lost...i mean.."
"Samir does not get lost."
"Samir?" the name pondered on her lips, then like things usually did, the meaning came to her. Wind. This name meant wind.
"Face the fact, girl, you are no longer part of their lives. They think of you as dead and gone." his words were sharp and they seemed to cut through Kshama like a knife. she stared at him in disbelief. just when she thought things were going smoothly and that there might be some hope for escape, this man would turn on her, Cutting her with his harsh words and what she knew was the truth. Her family probably did think of her as dead, she knew her mother would miss her but she also knew that as law of her village she would never be allowed to return. Once again her anger was directed at the main feud that consumed her village and the one she had been taken too. Why did they hate each other? she had asked elders in her village and they would all turn away from her telling her that it was best to leave the past burried with their ancestors. Kshama knew that her great great great...well she didn't really know how many greats but one of her grandfathers had been the founder of her village, He had been almost like their leader and everyone still to this day looked up to him. She still remembered his name,Ankit. even though she had the odd capability of knowing diffrent words and their meanings she still had no idea what his name meant, and that bothered her. Kshama fully believed that someone's name was a big part of who they are, like her own name. She knew that it meant forgivness, but she didn't yet know what her purpose was in life.
"I will tell you that tomorrow i will talk to my village and we will decide your fate. Your only options are to live here peacefully as one of us and marry one of the men of the village or to die as an outsider. This is not your choice, it will be decided by the elders of my village." with that he left her once again. pushing himself away from his bed where she sat. he stalked out the door and was gone before Kshama's heart had even beaten three times. this was ludicris, why must she be forced away from her family and her life to either die or become a slave for the rest of her life. She wanted to cry but she straightened her back and held back her salty tears. This was not a time to show weakness, she had to be strong and in order to do so she would need rest. So she laid down upon the bed where she sat and closed her eyes. Tomorrow her fate would be decided.
That night Kshama dreamed that she had returned to her village. Somehow she had gotten away and had run back to her family. But when she had gotten there she was nothing other than a memory. She screamed and no one could hear her. She stood where her house use to sit, now just ashes and rubble. She watched her family mourn her death, they really did think she was dead. Her father looked older somehow, his face drooped covered in wrinkles that made him look ten years over his age. Her mother's eyes were blood shot and red, but she didn't cry. Her sister's were quiet, there was no laughing no playing. Her brother tried his best to go on with his normal ways but there was always a far away look in his eyes.Then she saw a piece of paper in her mother's hands. Her mother was frantic, this was her ransom letter. Moving closer she watched as her father tore the note to shreads, declaring that Kshama was dead and gone. Her mother cried then her body wretching with powerful sobs. Her father gathered her up into his arms and held his wife, his daughters weeping at his side, and his only son standing quietly in the corner. this image started to fade out of focus and Kshama tried to reach her father but then everything started to spin around her. Blackness engulfed her and next thing she knew she was sitting up in bed, in the little hut where she was being held captive. It was a dream, she had dreamed it but it had felt so real? Taking a deep breath she laid back down on the bed and closed her eyes.
The next day seemed to go on, it seemed like it would never end. Kshama sat in the hut, waiting for her captor to come back and tell her what her fate would be. She hadn't been allowed to attended and instead she sat in the hut brooding, one man was placed at the door way but no matter how many questions she asked him he would look at her let alone answer her. Then a shadow formed on the floor of the hut and when she looked up into the door way she saw the man who had captured her. His face was distorted in what looked like an attempt to hold something in.
"You are to live in the village."
Kshama let out a deep breath, she would keep her life and things were looking up.
"But you will marry me."
Then her heart sank, maybe she hadn't heard him correctly. Marry a man that hated her? no way!
"We will be married tonight, in the village in front of everyone." his voice was shaky and his face was ashen, but he turned away from her and left her yet again." As soon as he had disappeared, four young women came into the hut, three of them were smiling and the other one who Kshama knew as Ramani was once again diverting her gaze towards the floor. They were going to help her get ready for her wedding. Kshama felt like she was in a daze as she was stripped and claened and re washed. Was this really happening? No, it couldn’t be! Then she looked into the eyes of the woman named Ramani.
“Ramani, why do you disregard me the way you do? I’m sure that I do not know you and I am not here of my own free will.”
“Is it true that you tried to save Narsimha?” she said, finally bring her eyes to gaze into Kshama’s.
“Yes, it is true. Did you know him Ramani?”
“He was my betrothed.” She stated then looked away. “Thank you, for trying to save him.”
“I only wish I would have succeeded.”
“What is your name?” Ramani asked. “If you are to become part of our village we should at least know your name.”
“I have no name, I am no longer part of my family hence forth I have no name.” she said sadly. She knew that her name would always be Kshama to her, but to her new village and her new home it was only right that she would be reborn into their society and therefore she was going to need a name.
“Your husband will pick out a fine name for you.” Something about that statement made Kshama feel like her life was screeching to a halt right before her eyes.
"This will be a good thing, Arihant. You will see in time that the only way for you to move on with your life is to confront your fears."
"Im not afraid of that girl."
"No, but for so long you have lived with hatred inside you that it has poisoned your body. I believe that this young woman is the antidote for your suffering."
"Yes, you are right of course. i will respect your choice."
"That is what your mind is telling you to say, but tell me, my son, what does your heart say?
"My heart?" Arihant brought his hand to his chest where he could feel his heart beating rapidly. This man before him was the most respected elder in his village. He decided the lives of many men and women who were unsure, and by taking the path set before them by the the elder they now lived in serene happiness.
"Why are you so unsure about this woman?" the elder man asked his wrinkled face almost hiding his dark and knowing eyes. Before Arihant could speak the man raised his hand to stop him. "I see, you have not treated this woman properly. You feel that she will resent you and that scares you?"
"Yes." he said embarrassed
"Good" Arihant shot his head up fast to lock gazes with his elder
"You should feel bad about treating this woman poorly, but i know you have enough sense and enough courage to face your mistakes. You will be a good husband. Tell me what is her name?"
Arihant groaned out loud bringing his hand to his face. what was he getting himslef into.
Kshama shook, her body convulsing against her own will. Her wedding had been nice, and nobody had regarded her with the hatred she had so feared. But what was to happen now? She was now the wife of a very powerful and respected man, what would be expected of her? Knowing her rightful duty as a wife Kshama tried to mentally prepare herself for what was about to come....her wedding night. She heard footsteps behind her and turning she saw that it was Ramani.
"I have brought you something for your wedding night." holding out her hands she saw a white cloth dangled over them. It looked so soft that she was afraid to touch it with her rough hands. Holding it up it was a simple white nightgown, but it somehow looked and felt diffrent then the ones she used at home. At home she only wore the most modest of night gowns that her mother had bought for her. This one was thin and felt sinnful, it looked like something out of a fantasy.
"Do not be scared, this night is not something to fear but too look forward too. Our village believes that the union between a man and woman is a beautiful thing." Seeing that her words brought a scarlet blush to Kshama's cheeks Ramani laughed. "What have they taught you about this?"
"My village sees it as a necessity for a wife to do with her husband and that it is her duty to please her husband no matter the pain and the hurt."
"Oh innocent girl, you have been taught all wrong." taking Kshama's hands, Ramani told Kshama of how it was in her village and watched as the girls eyes seemed to loose their glossy shine."
"But i heard that it will be painful."
"The first time yes, but only briefly. I can not prepare you anymore than i already have. But Kshama remember this, Arihant is a kind man no matter how he has treated you. The pain he has suffered has made him seem hard on the outside, but inside is a man who will treat you like no other." walking to the door way she looked back one last time. "You are a lucky woman." after that she disapeared into the night, leaving Kshama all on her own with nothing but her thoughts to keep her occupied. then feeling a presence behind her she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath.
"My wife." his voice rang in her ears and Kshama tried to hold back her tears. She would not give in so easily.
"Husband." she returned and turned around to look at him. he stood in the door way, not with an arrogant posture like she thought he would. No he stood there like a normal man, his shoulders straight and his body leaning against the frame of the door.
"Tell me,wife, do you fear me?"
"No" her answer was short and brief and totally caught him off guard.
He walked twoards her.
"What is your name?" he suddenly asked.
"That is your choice, i am no longer the same girl from an enemy village, but your wife and therefore it is your choice." she said solemnly.
"Do you think me a monster? You have the right to your name, i will not change it just because i can." he said angerily. "I did not want to know your name because i was bent on revenge and i didnt want to jepordize it. But, my dear wife, please tell me your name."
"My name is Kshama."
"Kshama?" the name seemed to melt on his tounge.
"What is your name?"
"One who kills his enemies." her voice was barely a whisper.
"How do you know this?"
"I'm not sure. It's just something that i've always been able to do. People tell me their names and the meanings just come to me. Well not all names, just certain ones."
"Well it has been a long day and im sure your exhausted." taking her hand he led her to the bed. Kshama breathed easy, because Arihant helped her into bed then giving her one lst look he walked away leaving her in peace. She knew it was going to be difficult but she wanted to make this man love her. Right now she felt like he was doing her a favor, and keeping his distance. She understood that he was confused and that because for so long he had hated her and her family that making him show affection for her was going to be a job. But her heart seemed to beat faster when he came around, and she always seemed to anticipate his touch. she wanted a marriage of love, even though that wasn't very common among her people she had seen how it was between her parents. It had been a bethrothed wedding and her mother had never even met her father before their wedding day but somehow they had made it work. Kshama closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep, somehow she was going to make hers work too.
"Kshama wake up." It was Ariahnts voice that envaded her sleep. rolling voer to she looked into the face of her husband. He was kneeling beside her bed and there was a look on hisface that made her instantly come awake.
"what is it?" she hurridly asked.
"Would you like to see my village?" he asked
"Yes, but...what time is it?"
"Early morning, i have to go to the other side of the village and help a friend rebuild his roof and thought that maybe you would like to visit with his wife, Dayita."
"Sure give me just a second to get ready." throwing off the covers she slipped her feet to the floor and rubed her fists over her eyes.
"I'll bring in some water for you to wash with, then we will leave. Can you ride?"
"Yes and Arihant...thank you." that said he nodded and walked out the door. Kshama threw her arms in the air and stretched. when she looked back up she saw Arihant walk in with a wooden bucket filled with water and something draped over his arm.
"Ramani has taken a liking to you, when i saw her last nigh she gave me this. I dont know much about women's clothing but i think you are going to like these." handing them too her he watched as her face lit up.
"I'll only be a minute." she said delightedly. then grabbing the clothing and the bucket of water she rushed back over to the bed putting the bucket on the floor and laying the cloths out on the bed.
'Do you have a brush?" she asked shyly
"Yes, in the desk in the corner, bottom droor on the right." he said and walked out of the hut. Thinking to himself Arihant's mind swam with things that were going to have to happen. No longer being a bachelor he was going to have to make some changes. Kshama needed things, his house needed to be change to help accomodate her. Maybe this was that something that he felt he had been missing for so long. Before he let his mind wonder too far Kshama appeared in the door way. her long black hair hung down her back in waves of onyx, and it made the yellow dress and orange sari almost spring to life. The bright warming colors emphasized her tan skin, and her green eyes danced in the light from the lantern he had hung outside the hut. Even though it was morning it was still dark out and the sun was just starting to light the horizon, giving the land a bluish tone.
"I have something for you, consider it as a wedding gift." he said and led the way towards a building behind the little hut. Kshama followed him and realized that the building they were walking towards was indeed a stable. It wasn't as large as the one at her old house, but it looked like it could accommodate about half a dozen horses or so.
"I have only known you for a few days, and i have not treated you very well and now i find myself bonded to you for the rest of my life"
"You don't have too...."
"In my village we take marriage very seriously. It's not just a commitment but a blessed union between two people." stopping he turned to look at her. "Wait here." he said then disappeared into the stable. Kshama wanted to follow him, her body ached with anticipation, but she also knew that she should obey her husband. she turned her gaze towards the door and watched in disbelief when Arihant led out a small grey dappled Arabian horse. Her mane and tail were black and her nose was shaded along with her sensual eyes. Her face was was scooped like all true blooded Arabian's were and her slender body moved with grace and defiance.
"She's beautiful." Kshama gasped and walked over to her taking her bridle in both hands and bring her face down towards hers. bringing her forehead to rest on the horses warm skin she stroked the horses neck and talked softly to her.
"She is now yours, you can name her what ever you please. I just ask one thing of you."
"Yes of course." she spoke it like she was out of breath, this was the nicest thing anyone had done for her. Especially someone who had hated her for so long. this was the first sign of affection and she took it as something else...forgiveness.
"Do not act restlessly and wind up breaking your neck." with that he disappeared into the barn and brought out another horse, this one was dark with a long mane and tail. The Arabian had big round intellegent eyes. Arihant patted the horse on the neck then walked over to Kshama and offered her his hands that were linked together like a stirrup.
"I wish i could have gotten you a saddle, will you be able to ride like this? our destination is not that far away and the pace will be easy going." Ksham put her slippered foot into Arihants hands and let herself be lifted onto the mare's back. Kshama was then glad that the clothes ramani had given her consisted of breeches and not just a skirt. No doubt that would be too revealing to sit astride an animal with Arihant close by. Even though at her old home she often would ride Madhu bareback in a skirt, but never where anyone could see her. Her father had forbidded it, she wasn't allowed to ride where people could see her, unless a specail occcasion and she would then have to sit side saddle, it was the proper way. Taking the reins in her hands she squeezed her feet against the horses sides and motioned the horse into a walk. It was gentle and smooth, the way the mare's head bobbed up and down with everystep made the ornaments on her bridle jingle with every step. the sound was invigorating. looking back Kshama's breath caught as she watched Arihant swing effortlessly on the back of his own horse. The horse pranced a bit until it was allowed to start walking. It's gait looked smooth and wild, and Kshama squuezed her legs gently agaisnt the mare's sides bringing her into an easy trot. Ariahnt was smiling behind her, even though she couldnt see him she could feel it. She watched as Ariahnt came up beside her, his mouth pulled into a deep grin. His black hari was oiled and fashioned the way all men wore it, his tanned skin pulled tightly on his face showing structured cheekbones and a proud brow. Kshama wanted to sigh, indeed her husband was handsome, but could she possibly make this man lover her? she paused with a moment of doubt.
"I see you sit a horse very well."
"Yes, it has been a long time since i have last to ride a horse. Expecially one so fair. She is gorgeous Arihant thank you."
"Yes, well let's see how she is when she streches her legs, up for a bit of a canter?"
"Oh yes." Her heart was pounding wildly in her ears, racing with excitment and anticipation.
"We will take the path that borders the town so we do not disturb early wanderers of my village."
"I dont't know the way" she shouted ,her horse now pranicng under her as she held her back. Arihant's horses did the same beside her, his leg touched hers as their hroses pranced beside one another. A laugh escaping her, she was issuing a challenge.
"Ah so you think you can beat me Kshama mine? Alright then, to the end of the road there is a tree that grows to the left side first one to pass it wins. That will bring us only a mile or so from our destination."
With that said Arihant loosened his reins and his horse lunged forward, it's hooves biting deep into the ground. Kshama leaned low over her mare's neck whispering into her ear. what she said was lost to the wind, because with one good pat on the mare's neck she burst across the ground her feet thundering against the earth. The path was now lighted just enough for kshama to see where she was going. She manuvered her mare easily and when she was right behind Arihant she waited untill the right moment, when a bend came to the trail she cut hard to the right running her mare along the inside of the turn and right past Arihant.