Krishna and Radha accompanied by Asita and Siddhartha’s disciples, Malkyar, Balthasar and Gaspar, traveled about Magadha, and their reputation for bringing good luck spread throughout the countryside. Wherever they went, animals gave birth, miraculously it seemed and donations for the travellers became larger and larger, as the pecuniary interests of the supplicants that approached them required an investment with the gods that blessed their presence. Wherever a large temple loomed over them, priests gathered to denounce Krishna and Radha as frauds, but the voices of those who had given offerings to the couple and their elephant Siddhartha proclaimed the veracity of their holiness. There were those who claimed to have been blind and their sight restored, the lame to walk and the lepers to have become whole. The trappings on Maya’s harness became more elaborate and gilded, the robes richer, and the retinue swelled. Even Malkyar, Balthasar and Gaspar were worshipped.
By chance, they appeared before a great palace, and the Queen who resided there, asked her servants to investigate the great commotion that accompanied the arrival of Krishna and Radha. The servant slipped from the palace and arrived at the town square, and using the pretext of shopping for fresh mangoes for the Queen, asked about the presence of the obviously rich newcomers.
She was told of the miracles that followed the grace of Krishna and Radha and returned to her Mistress to inform her of the arrival of these miracle workers in the town. The Queen was more than intrigued by the powers of the newcomers, for she was barren, and had failed to provide her husband with a male child.
“We shall invite them to dine with us!” she declared and sent for her herald. The Queen was the youngest of seven daughters, and had been betrothed to her husband at eight years old. The raja already had three wives, but he only had eyes for his youngest wife. She was fully fifteen when they wed, and once he had tasted of her sweets, he lost all taste for the delights of her elders which caused a great deal of resentment. This was especially exacerbated by the fact that none had borne a child to the raja, and she was the only hope for an heir. And miraculously, she became pregnant. While still pregnant, she learned that the other three were planning to kill the child, for they all felt they would still be capable of producing an heir, if only the Raja would turn away from his young wife and direct his attention to them. In order to protect her child, the Queen employed a midwife whom she could trust to spirit away the child and out of the hands of his stepmothers. The secret birth was interrupted by the three step-mothers and the midwife fled before their entrance before the Queen could even determine whether her baby was male or female. Unfortunately, though the child was safely spirited away, the midwife died that same night in a terrible accident. There was no report of the missing child, and the Queen dared not press too diligently lest her secret be revealed. She pined for her lost infant, and her mood became terribly melancholy, much to the delight of her rivals, and she could not bear the thought of making love to her husband again.
She allowed him his matrimonial favours, but her heart had collapsed. The King also became depressed by his favourite wife’s apparent malady, and he turned to angry sexual dalliances with the other wives. The first and oldest of his wives conceived and died in childbirth as did her progeny. The other two, no longer able to balance their machinations to curry favour with the missing wife became bitter rivals, and the second oldest died from drinking a poisoned cup, though no one but the Queen suspected the remaining elder wife. This woman delighted in eating, and choked one day while at supper, and none could save her. Eventually the Queen regained her desire and bore another child, a son. But he died in childbirth. There was another, who died at three days old. And another. The Queen was disconsolate, and yet did not lose her passion for her husband. But for some reason the gods ensured she no longer carried a child. She was barren. She knew she could not reveal her secret to her husband, but she also knew that the gods would not forgive her until she had done so. She was in a constant state of anxiety and she knew that soon her husband would seek a younger wife to bear him an heir, and she could not bear the thought of him taking another.
So, upon hearing that Krishna and Radha were blessed with the power to bring forth young amongst the infertile, she decided to invite them to dinner and bestow as unimagined blessings upon them as she possibly could, in exchange for an heir to the throne. So her herald descended into the town and, bearing a suitably royal gift, invited Krishna and his entourage to a great banquet the next afternoon. No expense was spared, and the whole town was invited to join at the lesser tables.
Like triumphal conquerors, Krishna and Radha rode in on Maya, followed by Siddhartha tended by Malkyar, Balthasar and Gaspar. Behind them came their devout followers, dressed in fine white linen bearing gifts for the Raja and his Queen. As a wedded couple, though they were not, Krishna and Radha presented themselves to the Raja, who had heard through his own servants the purpose of their visit. He was as eager as the Queen to receive the blessings of fertility accorded to those who honoured the sacred couple. Krishna and Radha were seated at the table as guests of great esteem, and the entertainment began. Musicians, dancers, jugglers catapulted themselves into the space before the royal table one after another in the grandest of spectacles. And as a feature, a magician.
Krishna cried out in delight as he recognized Amar the Amazing. A glance from Amar told Krishna to remain silent and keep their previous meeting a secret. Puzzled, Krishna watched. The words had not changed. Amar had performed this trick a thousand times and could spout the words without thinking, wave his hands without conscious effort, and all the while remain aloof from his own actions. But to those who were in the audience, Amar the Amazing presented a mystery far beyond any they had experienced.
Amar’s voice rang out and echoed back from the walls of the palace courtyard.
“I, Amar the Amazing, will perform…” he paused, at the place that he always paused for effect, “…The Indian Rope Trick!”
The crowd murmured. Amar held up a great coil of rope.
“This rope,” he displayed it to all, “This rope will be called to the heavens by the gods! Once called to heaven, I will select a volunteer to test the rope! Who would like to volunteer?”
Krishna scanned the crowd for the apprentice, but he was nowhere to be seen. No one volunteered to come forward. “No one is brave enough to climb to heaven?” asked Amar, “No one?”
Krishna felt the urge to volunteer, but he had no reason to want to ascend to heaven again. Once was enough.
“Then I, Amar the Amazing will select someone,” he held out his arm and walked about the open circle around him until his arm pointed and his eyes fixed upon Radha. “This lady here!” He bowed to Radha. “If you be so kind, madam?”
“Well, I-” Radha faltered only for a moment, then smiled and stretched her hand out to Amar, and he led her into the open circle.
The crowd broke into applause.
“And what is your name?” he asked loudly.
The crowd applauded.
“Radhaa, of course!” marvelled the magician, “Who else could help me to send the magic rope into heaven! Will you blow on the tasseled end of the magic rope, Radhaa?”
He held the rope to Radha’s face. Radha nervously took a deep breath and blew on the rope.
“Ah, such sweet breath!” marveled Amar, “but we shall require a greater wind than that!” At that moment a breeze arose and spun through the courtyard, grasped the end of the rope and pulled it momentarily skyward. The crowd murmered at the magic and applauded.
“Now I will perform the sacred rites taught to me by my father, and he by his father, and so down from the very beginning of time, when this rope was made by the gods!”
The wind died as quickly as it had appeared and Amar waved his hand over the end of the rope. He began chanting and one hand held the rope as the other pulled it up through his grasp. As he passed the rope upwards, it slowly pushed straight up into the heavens. The crowd murmured and gasped as the rope stretched higher and higher. The end disappeared into the branches of the sacred kadamba trees that lined the palace courtyard, and still the magician pushed the rope higher. Soon he had but an arm’s length of rope remaining, and slowly, he lowered this last section of rope to the ground. Only a small loop touched the ground. Amar paced about the rope, raising his arms to the heavens, Slowly the rope rose of its own accord and hung in the air, the last end at chest height as if hanging from the sky itself.
“The end of that rope,” cried the magician, “is now at the foot of heaven!”
Murmurs flowed through the crowd as everyone speculated on how the trick was done.
“And dear sweet Radha will now climb that rope and ascend to heaven itself!”
The crowd rumbled, then applauded.
Radha grasped the rope. The magician cupped his hands to give Krishna a leg up.
“Can you climb?” asked Amar aloud.
“I think so!” replied Radha hesitantly.
Amar cupped his hands for Radha to step into and he lifted her as an elephant would lift a feather and she pulled herself up the rope cautiously and disappeared into the branches of the sacred tree.
There was silence. A brief wind blew the branches and the great tree shimmered in the sunlight. A cry of amazement rose from the crowd and the magician addressed the crowd.
The rope suddenly lost its tension and fell in a coiled heap on the ground. Cries of protests and protection poured from the crowd. The magician held his arms out for silence, and then tapped the pile of rope with his great wand. Where the rope was once coiled, a pair of huge King cobras rose, hooded and faced the crowd. A wave of fear swept through the villagers, and the magician allowed them a few heartbeats with their fear, and then threw a huge bolt of silk cloth over the giant snakes. When he reached down, retrieved the cloth and folded it, the cobras had vanished.
The crowd aahed.
“Now, I shall call on the gods to return the sweet Radha to us!”
He shook out his shoulders and arms and wailed in the same ancient language he had used a thousand times before. He lifted his great magic wand and waved it wildly about, causing members of his audience to scramble away as he danced across the courtyard like a demented daemon. Like a man possessed, he thrashed about the sacred tree with the wand. The crowd was disturbed, but before they could become indignant over the indignity done to the royal tree, body parts began to rain down from the flailing branches.
Women screamed and children cried out. Men growled. The grisly spectacle of Radha’s dismembered body parts lying in the dust appalled one and all. The magician darted about, gathering the arms, legs and other body parts, and plopped the parts one by one into a very large blue ceramic jar. Amar, as usual, seemed to be relishing the consternation of the crowd, and made a great show of cramming the cut-up corpse into the container. The last to be jammed into the jar was Radha’s forearm.
Her rings glinted in the sunlight and the Queen suddenly shrieked as he held the limb aloft. Even Amar had not expected such a reaction and he froze in mid performance. The Queen flew from her seat and demanded that Amar give her the arm. He was in a terrible quendry, for he could not very well refuse a royal command nor could he stop before he had reunited the different parts of Radha in the jar. Both Krishna and the Raja left their seats, surrounded by a bevy of brahmins. The crowd became unsettled and restless.
“Please, please!” cried Amar to the Queen, “I must finish the ritual or the child will be lost!”
“Give me that hand!” ordered the Queen hysterically.
“I cannot!” cried Amar, “She will perish!”
The Queen grasped the hand in Amar’s possession and with her free hand, turned the rings on the fingers.
“My rings!” she cried, “Those are my rings!”
The sultan wrapped his arms about the Queen and he too recognized the rings. “They were a wedding gift fo the Queen!” he roared, “How did you get them?”
“They are not mine!” declared Amar, “They are Radha’s!”
“My baby! Shrieked the Queen, “You have chopped up my baby!”
“No, please!” protested Amar, “I can bring her back!”
By now, the palace guard had entered the fracas, and those that were not involved in keeping the growling crowd back seize Amar.
Krishna moved quickly to the King. “You must let him proceed! If he does not Radha will never return!”
The King stared for a moment into Krishna’s eyes, and Krishna’s will became his.
“Release the magician!” he roared, “Everyone stand back!” With that he peeled the Queen’s fingers from the wrist of the severed forearm, and handed the limb to Amar.
“Your life is in the balance!” he said sternly.
Amar gulped, his confidence momentarily dissolving. Once he had the arm firmly in hand, he recovered and paraded about the widening circle to establish a perimeter holding the limb aloft.
Fully recovered, Amar stuffed the last of Radha into the jar. He capped the jar with a large lid, and then facing the crowd, smiled broadly, and tapped the lid three times with his wand, and then with a flourish, lifted the lid from the jar.
Up popped Radha, whole and beaming. The Queen, pulled away from her husband and ran joyfully to her reincarnated daughter, and, arms tightly about the girl’s chest, lifted her from the jar.
The crowd cheered wildly. The musicians immediately struck up a great raga and clattering gold and silver coins landed at the Amar the Amazing’s feet. Krishna joined the Queen and Radha, and they hugged each other happily.
“Great Mother, I thought you were dead!” cried the Queen to Radha.
The Raja stood hands on his hips.
“Will someone please tell me what’s going on?” he demanded.
“..and so, after the marriage, that’s how I became the crown prince of Magadha,” said a beaming Krishna.
“But how did you know how to find me?” asked Miri.
“I offered the ferryman a reward.”
“Ah!” said Miri, “I wondered why he kept coming up with mechanical problems every time I was ready to board, then had them repaired every time I decided to go downstream! He delayed me two days!”
“I paid him double!” said Krishna.
“You must stay with us!” said Radha, My mother and father would be happy to put you up!”
“Alright!” said Miri happily, “I will, but I must send the herdsmen back to Shambhala with supplies for Maitreyi!”
“My procurer will see that they are fully stocked!” said Krishna, “But I understand that the price of your cargo is worth a thousand times more in Alexandria and Rome than here. I shall give you the supplies for Maitreyi, and we will be partners in commerce. Fifty-fifty!”
“Sixty-fourty!” said Miri.
Done!” declared Krishna with a laugh.
“For me,” Miri added suspiciously.
“Of course!” said Krishna.
Sylvanius had fallen in love.
Or at least he thought he might be in love. From all other accounts he had heard he was pretty sure of it, though he had never been in love before, this seemed as though poetry would be appropriate.
He cleared his throat.
“My love is like the red, red rose,” he began. His cheeks flushed.
A smile crossed Parvati’s lips. Her dark eyes twinkled at him and he lost his train of thought. It had been a supreme effort for him to gather the nerve to ask to be Parvati’s husband. She had four others and had turned down as many offers each week as that. But he could not take his mind from her. He had presented himself scrubbed and in his best cotton at her door. Thankfully there were no man’s shoes placed outside her door, so he knocked.
Parvati’s mother had answered the door, and when she saw the nervous young Yavadana on her verandah, she cackled and slammed the door shut. Sylvanius, a little non-plussed, remained glued to the spot, unsure of his next step, wondering if perhaps he had better leave before he completely embarrassed himself. As he found out, he had a long way to go before the ultimate embarrassment descended upon him. Parvati’s brother stuck his head out of the door.
“What do you want?” he asked.
“Is Parvati in?” Sylvanius replied meekly. As the brother looked him up and down, Sylvanius felt the prickle of sweat drip from his temple and into his eye. It stung and he began to twitch.
“What do you want with her?”
“I…” Sylvanius began. His throat seemed to turn to desert sand and his voice caught in the parched larynx. He drew himself up and in one quick breath, he spurted his purpose. “I want to marry your sister!” The brother collapsed into raucous laughter, apparently unable to contain himself, and, slamming the door shut, disappeared. From inside the house he heard the sudden laughter of female voices that tapered off, but after a heartbeat of silence, began again. The door opened again.
It was Parvati’s brother.
“You have a gift?” he asked.
Sylvanius held out a teak box he had carved himself. Though it was latched, inside was a large handful of pearls and a brass jar of pepper. The brother took it from him and, slamming the door, disappeared with the gift inside. Sylvanius was more uncomfortable now that his gift had been delivered. He began to wonder if Parvati was even in the house. A great squeal told him someone was, but the laughter that followed dropped his confidence down to greatly less than zero.
After an interminable wait that actually seemed longer to Sylvanius than anyone that might have seen him standing on the threshold, the door opened slowly, and to his great relief, Parvati stood in the entrance holding his gift. He had never seen a vison so lovely as the dark-skinned Parvati. Deep brown eyes as soft as a fawn’s showed him a universe he had never experienced. Her red lips parted in an amused smile that invited his to join them, revealing teeth as white as the ocean caps in the afternoon sun. Her long straight silky black hair was drawn back to reveal the luscious unblemished curve of her neck, the red and gold sari wrapped about her as though the cloth was as enamoured with her voluptuous curves as he.
“You have the mangala?” asked Parvati.
Sylvanius held up the red and black beads of the marriage necklace.
Parvati beamed and Sylvanius basked in her magnificence.
“Come tomorrow and we will consult the astrologer!” she said and closed the door.
Sylvanius was crestfallen. He had somehow imagined he and Parvati would fall into each other’s arms and made made passionate love. She would grab him by his robe and pull him into the deep dark brown and red interior of her taravad complex and they would heave and squirm in a ball of oiled lust on the smooth stone floor. Deflated his shoulders sagged and had he a tail, it would have hung limply and sadly between his legs as he trudged home.
“You have the money?” asked the aged astrologer, “It is best to get the business out of the way before we start!”
Sylvanius produced several coins and counted them out. Satisfied, the astrologer stroked his white beard and, after lighting joss sticks of sandalwood, offered supplication to the four directions and a number of obscure gods, then closed his eyes and prayed, his eyes closed and his lips moving silently.
Sylvanius stole a look at parvati and their eyes locked. There was a mischievous twinkle in her eye, despite the fact she was several years older than her suitor.
“Very good!” declared the astrologer, making Sylvanius jump. “You were born in the first house on the Tithis of Purnima of Khumba, were you not Parvati?”
She smiled, and her smile melted Sylvanius completely that he missed the question the astrologer asked him. Even when he finally understood the question, he had no way of answering for he was not clear on the relationship of the months in Kemet to the months in Keram. He finally narrowed the day down to five days before the summer equinoz on the day of Hebmes and he had lived twenty three years. His mother had told him he was born in the hour of Auset, which was also the ninth hour of the day. The astrologer was becoming increasingly frustrated with the Yavana’s rather strange and imprecise measurement of time. The fact that this took place over the ocean and unimaginable distances away further complicated the session. The trouble was, the calculations were stretching both Sylvanius’s memory and the astrologer’s grasp of the state of the physical world.
Finally, the astrologer seemed satisfied and drew out two charts in chalk upon the stone floor upon which the three of them sat. Your Janma Rashi indicates you are, as you would say, are a Gemini, that is at your birth the moon rose in that house. At that time,” the astrologer paused to check his calculations, “The planet Venus was in the ascendant also.”
He examined his calculations again. Matched with what I know of Parvati, I would say..” he paused in amazement. “Five children in the fifth house!”
Parvati burst into laughter and covered her mouth to stifle her amusement, to no avail. Sylvanius smiled in embarrassment.
“Please, this is serious!” said the astrologer petulantly. “You must pay attaention!”
“I am sorry!” snorted Parvati. “I will settle down!” She collapsed into nervous laughter. Her laugh was musical and infectious and Sylvanius broke down and began to laugh as well. There was no stopping the hysterics, for both Sylvanius and Parvati were reduced to babbling school children while the astrolger tried his best to maintain his dignity and composure.
They were married a week later.
The fact that Parvati had three other husbands was not as problematic as it would seem at first. Two were sailors who returned at quite distant intervals, and the first had disappeared five years earlier. This, in fact had affected her status in the community for having only two sporadic and one absent husband did not advertise her desirability in a positive manner. Her sister, less attractive, had six husbands all of whom filled her nights with ecstasy and her chest with magnificent gifts. Sylvanius more than made up for her absentee husbands for he was not only young and exotically handsome, but an ardent and attentive lover, and his infatuation had increased Parvati’s status considerably. Other men in the village became more interested in sharing her bed.
Some of the Greeks at the ship were aghast at the situation of having a woman who did not remain faithful, and no hearth that they could call their own, but passion, as it usually does overcame logic and the sailors slowly became accustomed to the local traditions.
“You know, you have spent quite a bit of time with your new wife,” said Polydeuces, “Yet you seem tired each morning! Are you sleeping well?”
“When I am asleep, I sleep like a baby,” replied Sylvanius.
“Your work is suffering,” said Polydeuces flatly.
Sylvanius was irritated by the statement and did not reply.
“And your coffers are diminishing!”
“Is it your business, uncle?” snapped Sylvanius.
Polydeuces frowned at his nephew’s outburst. “Truth cuts deep!” He stood up painfully, arthritis slowing his transition from sitting to standing. “I am going to the beach and speak with the fishes!”
“Uncle, I ¾” Sylvanius lapsed into silence and Polydeuces ignored him.
It was true. His love for Parvati had distracted him from his purpose. He wished that she could come and live with him. That way he could attend to her as well as the rebuilding of the Heart of Isis. He sat down dejectedly and closed his eyes.
“Why so glum?”
His eyes snapped open.
Miri stood radiant on the threshold of his room. She glittered in her gold trimmed red sari. Her smile was broad and all encompassing. She held her arms out to him, but he was immobilized by shock at seeing her before him.
“I am sorry,” he said at length, “What do you want?”
Miri frowned. “You are not happy to see me, Sylvanius?”
“I¾” he could not finish, for this apparition was so much more spectacular than his previous vision, and yet, the physical world about him seemed solid and real. He thought he might be dreaming.
“Where is my ship?” Miri asked.
“I¾” began Sylvanius, “I have dismantled it.” He replied.
“What?” Miri demanded.
“We had to replace the rope and the damaged parts!” he explained, “I can show you!” He started forward, afraid he had joined Polydeuces in the twilight world of the gods. Miri was surrounded by a heady aroma of sandalwood and cinnamon. He stopped obeside her and stared intensely at her.
“You’re real!” he said finally.
Miri laughed. “Come here, you moron!” she grabbed him and gave him a wonderfully soft hug. “Show me the ship!”
That night a great feast was held on the beach. The arrival of Miri and her elephants had created a great stir amongst not only the inhabitants of Yavanadana, but the surrounding region. She was now a princess of Magadha, and people from miles around came by to pay their respects and offer presents to this beautiful visitor from the North.
Sylvanius was grateful for Miri’s return. Her arrival meant he could devote more time to Parvati and leave the reconstruction of the Heart of Isis to Miri. Not only that, that night Parvati came to him, as did most of the village. Miri was delighted by Parvati and welcomed her as a sister, insisting she take a seat of honour beside her and placed Sylvanius where Miri could ask him the thousand questions about his adventures. She, in turn told her own tales and the drinking and dancing lasted until the early morning.