Fight fate, or succumb to destiny?
In the dark Age of Kali, the Soul Warrior alone stands guard over the Human Realm, protecting its denizens from evil-willed asuras or demons. When a trick of fate appoints him guru to a motley crew of godlings, he agrees to train them as demon hunters against his better judgment. Suddenly, Lord Karna is not only battling the usual asuras with sinister agendas, but also rebellious students and a fault-ridden past.
Spanning the Cosmic realms of mythic India, here is a tale of a band of supernatural warriors who come together over a singular purpose: the salvation of Karna’s secret child.
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PRALAYA: THE CATACLYSM
Asht Dveep, off the coast of Madh Island, North Mumbai.
“We have visitors, my lord.”
Karna paused perusing the Times of India on his tablet, and cocked a brow at Lavya. Pale and lean, his friend and housemate loomed just inside the door to the den, hands folded in a neat Namaste. Irritated, but not at the interruption, Karna sighed, wondering why he bothered reading the news at all. Daily bulletins had become standard—or substandard, depending on one’s viewpoint. Climate change, economic disasters, terrors and terrorists all held front-page positions, every fugging day.
And what else could one expect in the Age of Kali? It was the age of sin, tsunamis and stock options in this currency-ruled realm. Not that the Gods had ever—not once in his almost eight-thousand-year career as humanity’s soul guardian—asked him to interfere with, subvert or reverse any of the realm’s natural or man-made calamities. His duty required only that he keep the world free of supernatural evil.
Karna stretched, his spine separating from the fiberglass chair like Velcro ripping. He was shirtless to battle the unrelenting October heat and though he’d queued up his sun-bleached, shoulder-length mane, sweat dampened his forehead, nape, armpits and back.
And therein lay the rub, he thought, coming back to the dos and don’ts of his duties. Being “asked” not to meddle in human affairs only made him more determined to help the helpless. At times, he managed to contain the disasters, and all was well in the Cosmos. But sometimes, his actions worsened the fate of the mortals, as well as his own. Like when he’d tried to repair the deficient ozone layer with his god-powers a couple of years ago.
Blasting the stratosphere with a load of solar radiation to augment the emissions from his godsire’s Celestial abode had been a solid, scientifically vetted idea. The extra UV rays he’d discharged from his fingertips had accelerated ozone production, and for a while he’d believed the crisis slowed, if not solved. But the hyper-paced oxygen cycle had also amplified energy output, creating miscreant solar flares, a couple of which had whipped across the Cosmos and breached the lower regions of the Higher Worlds.
Needless to say, the atmospheric fireworks hadn’t amused the Celestials or Heaven’s ruling Council. And as punishment for his hubris, Karna had been saddled with an annoying quirk—his body temperature was now directly proportional to his emotions—specifically, high-voltage anger. And stoicism did not come naturally to him.
“Whoever it is, tell them I’m indisposed,” he said, turning back to the tablet to scan a news report about a recent grisly murder near Hyderabad. He wondered if asuras were involved.
Protecting the Human Realm from the demon race was a fulltime, energy-sucking occupation. He just wasn’t in the mood for idle chitchat, heavenly politics or an unasked-for performance report. And from the surging energy levels he sensed wafting out of the living room, one or all three outcomes were assured as his visitors were definitely from the Higher Worlds. The heightened electromagnetic pulse wasn’t the sole indication of uninvited Celestial company—his friend and aide my-lorded him only when heavenly protocol needed to be followed.
“I doubt the excuse will fly with the Patriarchs or the Matriarchs,” said Lavya, coming to stand on the other side of the massive black onyx desk dominating the chamber.
Karna went rigid with shock when he heard who his visitors were. The entire Council gracing the Human Realm all at once was highly unusual. Not just unusual—it spelled cataclysmic.
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A Fictional Mythology:
It can’t all be true! Is what I’d think listening to my grandmother and her masseuse tell tales of goddesses and warrior princesses and the women of ancient India, every morning through my childhood. It was a ritual—the massage and the message: to take pride in my culture and my gender. I suppose that’s why I love stories so much. I love listening to them, watching them, reading them, and now writing them.
My grandmother and the masseuse introduced me to my culture’s mythology, which is so vast and intricate that I still haven’t read or know every last tale, even now. Not only is the body of work large, it exists in multiple versions. Told from the good side and bad side, told from the winners POV and the losers, from the male perspective and the female.
The mythology that fascinates me the most is that of the Mahabharata, the longest and oldest epic in the world. The story is of two warring factions of the same family, fighting for an empire they both think they deserve. (War of the Roses or Game of Thrones much?) Of course, with the Mahabharata being an ancient Indian epic, it is loaded with philosophy, socio-political history, religious ideals—all of it garnished with metaphor. They say its creator and orator, Vyasa, thought up and recited the pseudo-history in one long sitting—never to be repeated. And his pupil, Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, had to write it down as he spoke it, or the world would forever lose the story.
When I began writing, I knew I’d write my version of this mythology that had once begun my day. The challenge, though, was how I’d present it to my readers. Did I want to simply steal a part of some myth, and write it anew with different characters or a different setting? Did I want to retell the whole epic in my own words, in a modern way? Or retell it from an unimportant character’s perspective? And so on and so forth.
I finally settled on telling the story of my favorite tragic hero, Karna, the son of the Sun God (think Achilles) and of Princess Draupadi (possibly Helen of Troy’s prototype?) who should have been his wife but instead became his enemy, and the cause of the most bloodthirsty war of their age.
In Soul Warrior, I have not so much as reimagined the Mahabharata as much as used it as backstory for my imagined plot. And apparently, I’ve done this well enough that my mother, who is well-versed in the myths of India, asked me whether a certain character from my book was part of the original Mahabharata.
Ladies and gentlemen, it can’t all be true. But when veterans can’t tell apart myth from fiction, I believe my work is done.
Falguni Kothari is a New York-based hybrid author, and an amateur Latin and Ballroom dance silver medalist with a semi-professional background in Indian Classical dance. She writes in a variety of genres sewn together by the colorful and cultural threads of her South Asian heritage and expat experiences. She’s published in India in contemporary fiction with global e-book availability, and will launch her mythic fantasy series, The Age of Kali, in November of 2015. When not writing or dancing or being house-wifey, she fools around on all manner of social media, and loves to connect with readers.