Sorry, all the “good” Bahubali topics are over, we are down to just the fanfic that is really more of an indulgence for myself than anything else. But you can always go back and read and comment on the good posts! They are all indexed here.
Our heroine, Anushka 2, and our hero, Rana 2, are destined enemies by their vows and their heritage, but they don’t know it. Rana 2 is the illegitimate grandson of Nassar, nephew of Rana 1. His mother fled Mahishmati with her newborn son after her husband and mother were both brutally killed in front of her by Rana 1. She raised Rana 2 to be the greatest warrior she could in the brothel city of Singapurum. And when he was 21, she told him the truth about their family past and made him swear to destroy the royal family of Mahishmati and put her blood on the throne. And to help in that destiny, she sent him as an apprentice/foster son with Sudeep, a traveling merchant whose glamorous demeanor hides subtle fighting skills. Sudeep and Rana have been traveling together for 4 years now, partners and father and son and guru and student. And now they have finally reached Mahishmati and Rana is ready to achieve his destiny.
What he doesn’t know is that his destiny may break his heart. While traveling, Rana stopped by the local trade fair in the tiny kingdom of Kuntala and joined in the fighting competition out of boredom. While easily defeating multiple attackers, he was surprised from behind by a masked fighter who easily matched him move for move. As the fight continued, he fell in love with her skill and daring. And, when she twisted her mask off as a final move to distract him at the end of the match, he lost his heart entirely seeing her face. As she fled the stadium in a carriage, he gave chase on horseback, only so that he could toss her his knife and bow to her, indicating his never ending allegiance.
But the masked woman was Anushka 2, Queen of Mahishmati! The head of the very family Rana 2 has sworn to destroy! And Anushka 2 is suffering under her own vow. In order to maintain her independence, she took a vow at her coronation only to marry a man who could defeat her in combat (knowing that such a man could not exist). She fell in love with Rana as much as he fell in love with her, but could not let herself let him win the fight. Because she had a responsibility to her people not to throw all her power to a man she didn’t know. And she had a responsibility to her family not to force her brother to take her place on the throne, separating him from his wife Avantika, Queen of Kuntala. She returned to her kingdom, lonely and sad, only to get high at dinner one night (thanks to mangos spiked with Bhang by her enemies), fall into the moat, and be rescued by Rana! Who had snuck into the grounds of the palace as part of his plot to destroy the kingdom. They are now more in love than ever, but Anushka made clear to him (without revealing herself to be the Queen) that she has vowed her loyalty to Mahishmati and is not free to marry. Rana doesn’t mind anything she says, it just firms his commitment to assassinating the Queen, taking the throne, and then offering it to his lover to do with as she wishes.
And now, at a beer hall in the merchant area of Mahishmati. Sudeep is waiting for a meeting. While Rana entered the city as a lowly tradesman, Sudeep came in with an entourage, dressed in silks and gold. Renting the largest house on the nicest street, and spread the word that he was looking for interesting objects of beauty to purchase and take back with him to his distant home. And let the word go out that he resented the taxes levied against visitors in this city, the charges inherent in any purchase, the way his 6 horse carriage was stopped from going down residential streets, his musicians were silenced by the town guards after midnight, and he was not allowed to purchase a house on the palace grounds because he was not a retired guardsman (the only ones allowed to live near the palace). It had taken effect faster than he anticipated, within a week he had received a quiet suggestion to come to this beer hall to learn about some changes that might be coming which would be favorable to his desires.
(I would definitely want him to join my conspiracy)
Now here he was, playing the part of the rich traveler with nothing on his mind but his own pleasures, and silently judging the men opposite him. They were not what he had hoped for. He was looking for scared and desperate men, ready to break out of their safe existence as merchants and traders because of oppressive laws. And these were not them. These men were weak, whining cowards. Stupid cowards, the original message had been passed with subtilty, but the meaning was lost now in the middle of confusing discussion, contradictions, over explanations. He listened patiently, trying to understand the power dynamic of the men in front of him. It didn’t make sense, they all seemed to be a team of equals, and nowhere did he spot the subtle hand that had originally found the wealthy traveler recently arrived in the city and suggested this meeting. There must be a leader somewhere, but he was not at this meeting.
Sudeep cut through the talk in front of him, “Gentlemen, I am with you. This Queen is oppressing the hardworking men who have earned their wealth. Of course, it is not my place to act directly, but if I can provide any assistance to you…..?”
The men exchanged glances, from talking over each other while listing complaints, they were now hesitating, none of them wanting to take the lead. Finally, the youngest of them responded to the glares of his elders and spoke up “Sir, what we need more than anything is a fighter. The best fighter you can find.” Sudeep raised an inquiring eyebrow. The youngest man shifted in his chair and sent pleading glances towards his elders, who avoided his gaze, leaving it to him to continue, “Sir, have you heard of our Queen? An unnatural woman, more man than woman, rough and ugly. No man would marry her, but she pretends it is because of a vow she has made, to only marry the man who could defeat her in combat. And she has been careful since that vow to only fight weaklings and old men, fooling the people into thinking no man could win. But we have a plan-” Sudeep forced himself not to show his disappointment as one of the older men suddenly leaped forward and slapped his hand on the young man’s knee to stop him. The young man swallowed his words, rethought them, and continued “we need a fighter. A real fighter, a real man. We can pay a large sum to him, but he has to be willing to do whatever needs to be done. And a stranger to this kingdom.”
(this guy. This is who they want)
Sudeep nodded seriously at the men, thought to himself, “I would never trust my son in their hands”, and said aloud, “I applaud your initiative! There is nothing worse than an unfit ruler. Unfortunately, a man like myself, only knows of things of beauty and elegance. If you have need of a dancer, or a musician, I would be happy to help you, but a fighter? No.”
It took him another half an hour of insipid conversation before he could extract himself and go out into the clear air of Mahishmati. He breathed deep, enjoying the scent of the fresh flowers and trees planted in the public park across the street. He nodded at the guardsman across the street as he started his walk back home, enjoying the luxury of a walk home late at night in a city, with no fears for his safety. And he had to acknowledge the truth that had been growing on him with each passing day, Mahishmati was a good place. A good place, most likely with a good ruler. If those men were the only ones working against her, then he would rather throw his lot in with the Queen than against her.
Not that it mattered. He knew his son. He had sworn to defeat her, and he would. But his son was a good man, he would take care of this kingdom, use the structures in place to take care of it. This people on the street, they would be all right. And those men he just met with, those evil weak men, they could be blamed for it all. A plan began to form in his head, a sudden death, a finger of blame pointed, a mob appears, a noble stranger leads it, the murderers are destroyed, and the mob acclaims their leader as the new ruler. Yes, it could work. But they would have to move fast, before whatever this plan was with the mysterious fighter came into fruition.
Rana received the coded note from his father, laying in the stable where he was sleeping in his current guise as a homeless laborer, cleaning stalls for a place to sleep, the note still smelling of the horse it had rode in on, hidden under a saddle. It was as he expected, there was no grand conspiracy, no popular uprising, just a few scared selfish men. There was a leader somewhere, that would have to be dealt with, but first he must move before them in order to prevent their plan from superseding his. He was all to pleased with this. He found himself strangely impatient. Not for the killing, that was as uninteresting as such feats of blunt violence always were to him. But for what came after, finding his love in the maid’s quarters, revealing that she was free, keeping her by his side while he took control of the mob, and raising her to rule in the palace, seeing the glory on her face when the crowd applauded her. He decided to indulge himself, no more delay, he would attack tonight.
(And then he could get a really really portrait made of her)
To think was to act, rolling out of the back of the stall into the tiny muddy stream that was the reason he had selected this stable. A quick crawl through the mud, one tight squeeze under a wall, and he was in the drainage system for the palace. He had spent the past week exploring the grounds every night, it was almost second nature to walk, pause, walk, pause, in avoidance of the guards. Until he reached the wall, a quick dive, then a swim up into the passageway. A moment when he weaved as the memories hit him, her wet hair against his cheek, her shivering body sheltered in his arms. And then pushing forward with eagerness to replace them with new memories, through the winding tunnels, sneaking behind the kitchen workers, up the backstairs, hiding behind a tapestry as a gaggle of maids tripped by, then back sneaking into the remnants of the royal tunnel to take him up within one floor of the royal chambers. Now, the tricky part. He swung out through the window into the night, crawling up the wall. He knew there was a drop below that could kill him, but he knew something wonderful waited for him above. There was a small light in the window, as though she was guiding him there. He felt his heart leap with eagerness as he reached the royal pavilion and drew his knife. The mate to the one he had given his Love before, the knives his mother had given him when he was a boy. They were both with him now, he was doing this for his mother’s past pain and his Love’s future happiness.
The chamber was silent, and bare. He tread carefully on the uncovered floors, avoiding the threads and balanced dishes placed about to alert the sleeping resident. This queen was clever! He came closer to the bed, she was stretched out with a gentle snore coming from behind a screen of hair. He raised the knife carefully, aiming it at the fragile place at the base of her neck, a gently slice and it would all be over.