4 - the older prince

Arthini simply couldn’t sit still. She had sent a bird courier a week back to Pratihara, asking her sister Vardhini to come to Vihara. She knew she couldn’t plan a coup like this all on her own. She might be prominent and influential, but she wasn’t as practical as her sister. Vardhini had defied all rules for royals. She had married a non-royal. She had made her career as a dancer and singer when it was a profession that was looked down upon. Someday, her son Shailendra would take over Pratihara.

Arthini had often wished she could be more like Vardhini. She envied her courage, her ability to gamble on her future. She often thought about…him…

She shook her head to dismiss the topic. Why pick on a healing wound? A new bird courier had reached saying Vardhini and her husband would reach Pratihara in three days. She should prepare for them and their entourage.

Punyaraj sauntered into her rooms, holding another ancient text. She eyed him in exasperation. So much to do, and here he was, lost in his own world.

“What is it now?” irritation creeping into her tone.

“There is this phrase here in ancient Greek…I don’t quite understand the context…”

“Do I look like your teacher?” she eyed him critically, “You know six languages, and you come bother me with this?”

“Can’t you just translate?” he looked at her steadily.

She glared, and put her hand out asking for the book.

Σας εύχομαι γνώριζε πόσο μου αγαπημένες σας.

Πάνω από τα βουνά έχω μείνει πίσω, πάνω από την πεντακάθαρη θάλασσα. Η ίδια η Αθηνά δεν μπορούσαν να μου μακριά από εσάς.

It wasn’t so hard a translation that he needed her help; she knew he could’ve easily read it himself.

I wish you knew how much I treasured you.

More than the mountains I've left behind, more than the clear seas. Athena herself couldn't take me away from you.

“What didn’t you understand?” she asked, trying to figure out if this was more than an exercise in futility.

“Well…he says he treasures her more than the mountains of his homeland…”

“SO?”

“But he isn’t home. Shouldn’t he treasure her more than his memories of home?”

Arthini felt her face harden at his argument. Here she was, foolishly thinking that maybe he was suggesting something more than pure academic translation, and… Foolish, sentimental girl! She plucked the book out of his grasp and flung it towards the door.

“Get out” she said softly.

“You didn’t have to do that” he eyed her gravely.

“You didn’t have to be this unemotional, crazed nut” she smiled sweetly, “But you are. And hence I had to throw this away. Pick it up and leave my rooms…bloody fool…”

“Arthini!”

“Arthini what?” she blazed, “Arthini who? Arthini, the wife of the recluse. Arthini, the mother of no heir. Arthini, always defined by the failure around her. I should’ve left when I had the chance to…”

She had collapsed onto an easy chair, spent by her outburst. He eyed her silently, but didn’t leave.

“I never stopped you” he said at length.

“Yes, and that is my misfortune” she half squawked in mirthless laughter, “My husband didn’t even try to stop me for the sake of society. That’s how luckless I am.”

“Arthini…”

“Get out.”

“I wanted you to be happy.”

“You wanted me to be non-existent. I said get out!”

“I have never seen you happy”

“That’s because you can’t make me happy” she smiled cruelly, “You don’t have it in you. For a master of languages, you’re extremely slow. I said GET OUT!”

The End

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