"I wish to speak to the emperor now." The defiant voice of Vishakha echoed all over.
The usually forbidding chamberlain weakened at the determination she showed. He backed an inch or two, looking steadily at the lady who boldly intended to disturb the sleep of the emperor at this dead of night.
"But, noble lady, the emperor.." He was cut short as Vishakha stepped up the volume of her tone, enough to wake up the emperor from his sleep.
"He is no longer capable of emperorship if he sleeps even for a second more. The doors of the royal palace of Pataliputra can never close upon a grievance of a citizen. Either wake him up yourself or let me in. I shall brave any silly punishment if you, coward are afraid of it." Vishakha shot back with a ferocity of a lioness, which nobody known to her had witnessed.
Lathika trembled a little at the change in her usually gentle mistress. But then pulled up herself and stood by Vishakha with the same defiance.
As his courage deserted him, the chamberlain mutely stepped aside, allowing Vishakha to enter into the inner chambers of the emperor.
Vishakha's frame shook with anger as she noticed the emperor awake all the time. She saw him in the dim light of a flickering lamp. His usually bright face was clouded with in a dark feeling which Vishakha interpreted as guilt.
"Your Majesty, the great emperor of Akhanda BhArata (unified India) is fast asleep with his eyes open?" Vishakha spoke in mock respect. "History has taught us what happened when a blind emperor sat on the throne. There was bloodshed and destruction everywhere."
The emperor looked up and replied, "The same history has proved that the righteousness prevails. Vishakha Devi, have a seat."
"Then the emperor is also aware of the fact that the same righteousness was not on the blind king's side." Vishakha was quick to retort. Lathika followed her timidly and l;aid a hand on the shoulder of her mistress.
"Vishakha Devi, " the young emperor spoke after some silence. "If you accuse me of being blind and unrighteous, I shall tell you that righteousness does not condone murdering an innocent woman. The woman who was the Queen of this empire. My mother, the Queen Durdhara. Can anyone on this earth revere a person who killed his mother?" Vishakha could see the intense pain on his face.
"BindusAra," She replied using the name of the emperor. Tenderness replaced the sarcasm in her tone. "You have greatly misjudged the Master. If this is what you think about the great architect who envisioned and shaped your empire, this Akhanda Bharata, you are greatly mistaken. "
Her voice grew intense as something struck her. "Bindusara," She stood up from her seat and hurried closer to the emperor. "Tell me the truth. Swear by your Parents and tell me. Did you order to set fire to the Ashram of the master?". Not waiting for his reply, Vishakha looked up in despair. "What sin did this land commit to witness this henious crime? What have you done My King?" She collapsed to the ground.
Bindusara rushed to support her. "Vishakha Devi, listen to me. I did not do anything of that sort. Believe me, I swear by my parents. I swear by you who was like a mother to me and by all my subjects. I swear by everything that is dear to me. Believe me, this kind of a murder is not what I am capable of. "
Vishakha calmed down and let the emperor seat her on a couch near by. After Lathika went to get water, he came closer to the earshot of Vishakha. "I think I can now make out who caused this Noble Vishakha, I assure you the person would be brought to justice."
"Emperor, first attend to the funeral rites of the master. Console the bereaved disciples and inmates of his Ashram. Assure them of your support. It does not speak highly of you to sit in darkness while the father of your empire has left the world. Prove you are worthy of this inheritance." Vishakha spoke in a beseeching, yet firm tone. With the master gone, she knew she had the responsibility to make Bimbisara realize the true weight of the responsibility he bore.