Weak sunshine filtered in through the window of his carriage. Vishamadeva looked out, only to realize that Maharaja Dhananjay and Maharani Padmini were waiting for him. Hurriedly, he placed the silver crown of Lok-Sevak, his burden, over his head and stepped out. Even at this age, he had the aura of a powerful warrior and a true yogi. Tall and strong, his muscular body was wrapped in a white shawl that was draped over the shoulder, with bare minimum jewellery. Since birth his black hair had a silver tint – a very rare hair colour.

He had a long grey beard, but his body showed no hint of ageing or weakening. Many referred to him as Shvetaveera – the heroic one in white. As his bare feet touched the ground, a gust of wind rushed through the air and the sages opened their eyes realising the arrival of a pure soul.

Vishamadeva bowed and touched the feet of the seven sages. The sages blessed him, “Chiranjeevi bhava!” Wish you eternal life. Dhananjay followed him. The sages blessed, “Ayushman bhava!” May you live long.

Padmini gracefully moved and touched their feet. The sages blessed, “Sada Saubhagyavati bhava!” Good Luck always.

Simham folded his hands and bowed his head from where he was standing. The sages nodded and silently blessed him. Vishamadeva brought his palms together in respect and uttered, “O Divine Sages, nothing is hidden from you. Maharaja Dhananjay and Maharani Padmini have started their married life. They seek your godly blessings and words of wisdom. Shower them with your blessings and guide them.”

The seven sages together raised their right arms with palm facing towards the couple and gave them silent blessings. Vishamadeva continued, “Bless them with a worthy heir to the kingdom, the 108th Dhruvanshi.”

Sage Vashistha smiled, flamboyant eyebrows capping streaks of light coming from his piercing eyes. He spoke, “O Great Dhruvanshi and Noble Queen – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesha – the Trimurti have showered their blessings on you. The Queen is already carrying the heir to the kingdom. She will give birth during Shivratri next year.”

Dhananjay and Padmini exchanged stunned glances. As the news sank in, their faces lit up in happiness. The jubilation felt by the visitors knew no bounds. All of them could barely control their delight at this wonderful news. Sage Agastya’s words were even more astonishing. “The time has come for the Wielder of the Trishul to be born. The 108th Dhruvanshi is destined to wield the Trishul.”

Wielder of the Trishul! No one had wielded the mighty Trishul, since legendary King Satyavrat had received it from Lord Shiva. Centuries had passed, but it had remained unmoved. The prophecy from the Saptarishis would spread like fire across Dhruva-Lok, and beyond.

The joy of the newly married couple skyrocketed, hearing two such great news in such a short span of time. They could barely decide on how to respond. Gratified, both Dhananjay and Padmini fell at the feet of the sages. “But…”

Sage Vashistha became quiet and looked concerned. He closed his eyes. His mind was in turmoil. Vishamadeva knew something more was coming. He pursed his lips hard. He knew that the curse would change everything.

A worried Padmini rose in alarm. Her heartbeat raced. Her lower lip was pursed between her teeth. An expression of fear enveloped her face. Their happiness vanished.

Sage Vashistha opened his eyes and said, “Nakshatra (constellation) are aligning in a manner which has never occurred before. It will be changing from Dhruva Nakshatra to Ugra Nakshatra around the time of birth.”

Sage Gautama read the visitor’s concerned faces. He explained, “Dhruva Nakshatra occurs when all the seven moons of Dhruva-Lok are visible in the sky at the same time. That is a rare sight. Even rarer is Ugra Nakshatra, which happens when the shadow of Dhruva-Lok falls on all of them. Seven lunar eclipses at the same time happens only once in a century.”

“Do you know about the Navgraha?” Sage Jamadagni asked. Dhananjay shook his head mutely. Padmini remained silent. As the daughter of a royal priest, she knew about the Navgrahas.

“As you know there is no other planet orbiting the sun in our solar system. So, the sun and seven moons are the eight grahas. The ninth graha – Shesha – is a comet. Whenever it pays a visit, it is considered Uttam Nakshatra,” Jamadagni said. “What does Shesha represent, Divine Sages?” Padmini asked.

“It represents the Shesha-naag on which Lord Vishnu rests. It passes Dhruva-Lok once in a millennium in a non-periodic manner. Shesha implies the ‘remainder’ – that which remains when all else ceases to exist. Its arrival marks either the change of Yuga or the arrival of a Lord Vishnu’s avatar. King Satyavrat was born in Uttam Nakshatra – which is the rarest of nakshatras,” Sage Atri answered.

Dhananjay’s chest swelled with pride. King Satyavrat, a Dhruvanshi, was indeed an avatar of Lord Vishnu. Simham now understood the symbolism of the outside hut at a distance. It represented Shesha. But both Dhananjay and Padmini wondered why the sages were explaining Nakshatra in so much detail.

After a momentary silence, Sage Vashistha continued with his prophecy, “If the child is born in Dhruva Nakshatra, he could become the saviour and bring prosperity to this entire Lok. But if the birth takes place in Ugra Nakshatra, he could be the destroyer.”

Saviour or Destroyer! All eyes snapped to attention. The words made Padmini strangely uncomfortable. She closed her eyes as tears filled in them and threatened to spill. The wind picked up, and sent a chill through her. The surroundings suddenly felt cold and hard. Dhananjay’s feet trembled.

Vishamadeva’s heart skipped a beat. Yet, he remained calm. He had come prepared. Sage Vashistha added, “This change of Nakshatra will happen at midnight of Shivratri next year.”

There was a frightened calm for a long time. The thought of a destroyer sent shock waves to everyone present. It was a kind of prophecy no one had ever heard before.

A gust of wind swept the area and wrapped its icy fingers around them. Questions were flying fast and furious in their heads. Still, no words were spoken. Confused and short of breath, Dhananjay finally asked, “What does it mean, Divine Sages?” Sage Bhardwaja replied, “We have both Light and Darkness inside us. The alignment of different graha controls our thoughts and behaviour. Which part – Light or Darkness – prevails, decides destiny! Your son will have the power, how he acts will determine the future.”

Padmini scrambled for words. At last, she asked the sages in a shaky voice, “W-w-why will the Trimurti bless us with a child that is destined to d-d-destroy everything?” A tear managed to escape the corner of Padmini’s left eye. Her mouth felt dry, lips bloodless and lungs short of air. Sage Atri answered, “Creation and destruction is a cycle which goes on and on. The beginning could be the end, or the end could be a beginning – that depends on perspective.”

“What is born, shall die. What is dead, shall never die! Whatever happens, it will be the wish of god.” Sage Vishvamitra completed the answer. There was a long silence. Sage Bhardwaja eventually said, “Difficult choices lie ahead. May the gods bless you all.”

Sometimes, seeking answers only unearths more questions. Dhananjay had no idea how to respond. Whether to rejoice or mourn – he couldn’t decide. At that moment, he wished he hadn’t come. Sometimes not knowing is better than knowing!

“May the Holy Trimurti give us the strength to face the testing times ahead and guide us through the difficult choices we may have to make,” Vishamadeva said with a brave smile. Many secrets were sealed in his heart. One could close all the doors to it but there was always someone knocking on them. Memories were not going to stop haunting him.

The seven sages smiled at him knowing that this Lok-Sevak was born to make tough choices. “Tathastu!” Amen. They all said it together and closed their eyes, in dismissal. The weather turned gloomy and the wind stopped blowing. Even the birds had stopped chirping. It felt as if life had been sucked out of the atmosphere. An eerie calm enveloped them.

As they turned back to their carriage, the tension on their faces was palpable and increased with every passing second. No words were exchanged. What could they do, except wait! Nothing is more terrifying than the fear of the unknown. It was the longest walk of their lives.

Excerpted with permission from The Wielder of the Trishul: Deva-Asura Katha – Book I, Satyam, Leadstart Publishing.