This story is by A.R. NITUS and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
In the serene realm of Kailash, Shiv, the sovereign of gods and demons, sat with his wife Paru on a softly swaying swing. Deep in meditation among the icy peaks for the past few days, Shiv was attentively watched over by Paru, who silently ensured his peace and adeptly managed affairs in his stead.
That evening, Narada, renowned for his meddling and cunning nature as the all-knowing messenger of the nine worlds, arrived at Kailash. Known for his strategic and often shrewd counsel, he had the unique ability to both instigate and cease conflicts among the gods and kings of these worlds, ultimately serving greater purpose. Even Shiv, the king of gods himself, relied on Narada’s ability to influence the outcomes of critical events in the nine realms.
As Narada approached with his usual all-knowing smile, Paru interjected, “Greetings, Narada! Shiv seeks solitude, and I uphold his wishes. What urgent matter brings you, defying his command?”
Narada bowed, his voice respectful yet urgent. “Greetings to the queen, and the mother of nine worlds! You know me better than anyone. Only dire news could prompt my visit. The worlds, sensing Shiv’s absence, teeter on the edge of war, even willing to sacrifice the humans by involving them, to gain the upper hand. If my lord doesn’t intervene now, the universe will soon be in chaos.”
Paru, weighing the gravity of Narada’s words, soon grasped his underlying intent. When it finally dawned on her, a grin spread across her face. Realizing he had accomplished what he came for, Narada also beamed, albeit innocently.
“Thank you, Narada!” said the queen warmly. “As usual, your solution not only addresses the conflict among the worlds, but also aids Shiv in choosing a successor from my sons. Your wisdom truly has no bounds.”
Narada, bowing, replied with a sly smile. “I’m not sure what the queen is referring to. I’m merely a messenger.” He liked staying behind the curtains, so he could influence the subjects of the nine worlds and their actions for the greater good. Had he revealed his role, the subjects would question his motives and would be skeptical in carrying out his suggestions.
After Narada’s departure, Paru summoned her sons: Prajith and Prakhand. Both were extremely capable and well-liked. While the gods worshiped the older brother, Prajith, the demons adored the younger, Prakhand. Shiv’s choice of successor would inevitably upset one faction, unsettling the balance in the universe. Hence, the lord’s prolonged meditation for a solution.
Paru instructed her sons to resolve the conflict between the gods and the demons and restore the peace in the universe, presenting a chance to demonstrate their worthiness as successors. The brothers, obedient, and eager, set off to fulfill her commands.
Prakhand, accompanied by his spirit animal, peacock, promptly journeyed to the demon world. Greeted joyously as their revered leader, he bolstered the demons’ morale with battle plans against his brother and the gods. Energized, they marched towards heaven, the gods’ realm.
Meanwhile, the older brother, along with his spirit animal, mouse, arrived in heaven, where the gods prostrated in front of him. He soon realized their reluctance for war; though determined to defend their realm, they lacked the resolve to kill the demons and their human allies. Prajith contemplated the situation. He was worshiped as the god of success by humans and gods alike. He knew the gods could triumph with him on their side. But at what cost?
He took a deep breath before explaining his plan. Although they knew what he was capable of, the gods resisted his plan, unwilling to let him confront the demon army led by his younger brother, alone. Nonetheless, Prajith stood firm, resolved to end the god-demon strife without bloodshed. As Prajith prepared to conclude the court and send a message to his brother, Narada appeared before him.
“Narada, have you been eavesdropping on us?” the wiser brother asked, greeting the sly sage.
Narada responded with a coy smile, “I’d like to be always ready to assist. I understand my lord’s wishes, and I will convey your message to your brother.”
After a deep, content bow, Narada took his leave. Though a mere messenger, he harbored a preference for who should succeed Shiv and had already set plans in motion. He trusted his favored god would triumph and prove to all, including the demons, his worthiness to inherit the throne.
Upon receiving Prajith’s message, Prakhand was incredulous at his older brother’s bold challenge to fight his army alone. Insulted by the implication of his perceived weakness, he paused his demon army’s march to ponder his next move.
If his brother single-handedly managed to win against him and his demon army, he’d no longer be revered by the demons, and by extension, he’d be the only one with no worshippers. No! He couldn’t let that happen. Regardless of the outcome of this battle, he couldn’t lose his face in front of his subjects, and his place in their hearts. After thinking all night, he made up his mind just as the first rays of sunlight started illuminating the sky.
Three days later, both the brothers faced each other in the NoManLand. Prakhand, with his demon army behind him, and Prajith, standing alone, while his subjects watched him from the heavens.
Prakhand announced to his army that he’d be fighting his brother alone as he preferred to win fairly. The demons, although taken aback, cheered his bravery and righteousness.
Narada, acting as a mediator between the brothers, laid out the rules of the fight: the fight would continue until one of them bled, and the first to spill blood would not only lose the fight but also renounce their claim to the throne.
The brothers engaged in an intense battle, lasting three days and nights, marked only by the sound of clashing swords, labored breathing, and footfalls. The nine worlds watched in silence, captivated by the duel.
As the fourth day dawned, a weary Prakhand made a misstep, allowing Prajith to inflict a slight cut on his ankle, drawing first blood. Immediately after the battle was declared over, an enraged and humiliated Prakhand, reacting impulsively, struck his older brother across the face, blinding him.
A collective gasp rose from gods and demons alike. Realizing his grave mistake, Prakhand dropped his sword and knelt, pleading for forgiveness. Prajith, despite his disappointment, without hesitation, forgave him, using the moment to highlight the perils of impulsive actions.
Upon their return to Kailash, Shiv, having concluded his meditation, was already made aware of the recent events, including Prajith’s blindness. While saddened by his son’s condition, Shiv saw an opportunity to name the successor without dissent. However, the problem of a blind king leading the universe remained, especially with doubts among his subjects about the now blind Prajith’s ability to rule, as Narada had mentioned.
Deciding to put an end to everyone’s doubts, Shiv summoned his sons, with Paru and Narada by his side.
Before Shiv could broach the topic of succession, Prakhand kneeled down. “Father, Forgive me for my rash actions. Brother has rightfully won and should be the king. I will serve him for the rest of my life, making up for my mistake.”
Shiv spoke firmly. “Rise, son. A king can’t always do as he wishes. I must address my subjects’ concerns before choosing a successor. Doubts can fuel dissent and rebellions. I can’t allow that. There’s one final test for both of you. It’s important to show your worthiness to the crown, regardless of who you think should succeed me. The first to complete three laps of the universe on your spirit animals will be crowned king.”
Prajith’s heart sank. How could he, now blind, traverse the universe on a mouse? Was this his father’s subtle way of saying he wasn’t fit to rule?
Prakhand bit his lip at the challenge. He almost protested, but knowing his father’s fairness, chose to comply. Embarking on his peacock, he left at once.
Prajith, in quiet contemplation, trusted his father’s impartiality. Believing in his own worth, he soon found clarity.
He caressed his mouse and murmured instructions. Settling atop it, Prajith directed the mouse to circle the swing where Shiv and Paru sat, three times.
Narada, touched by the scene, recognized Prajith’s profound wisdom.
When Prakhand returned, Prajith was already hailed as a king. After congratulating him, Prakhand inquired how he managed to complete the task so quickly.
Prajith, with a gentle smile, shared, “Our parents are my universe. They shaped me and helped me become who I am today. Circumambulating them is like circling the entire universe.”
Hearing this, Prakhand, along with the gods and demons, knelt before their new king, acknowledging his wisdom and leadership.