The two Devas stared at the boy in stunned silence. Janaka was the first to speak. “The son of Sage Vishrava?” He turned to Vyasa. “Why wasn’t I told that the King of Lanka has an heir?”
Vyasa shook his head helplessly. “Sire, I didn’t know. My sources never revealed that King Pulastya had a grandson.” He looked at the boy’s eyes again. There was no mistaking his eye color. “And certainly not an Asura grandson.”
“How would your sources know if we never told them?” Mahish chuckled. At Vyasa’s startled look, the Asura smiled. “We are aware of your sources. They only relay the information that we allow.” The boy stood silently, listening intently to the exchange. His sharp eyes absorbed the shock on the Devas’ faces.
“How did this happen?” Janaka could barely contain his horror. The kings of Lanka came from one of the most illustrious Deva bloodlines in Bharat. To see it contaminated by Asura blood was appalling.
Mahish replied, “Vishrava has taken a second wife.”
“But after the death of his first wife, Vishrava renounced his claim to the throne,” Vyasa exclaimed, shaking his head in protest. How had his sources missed this piece of critical information? “He even vowed to remain celibate.”
“Well, even the most celibate man can be swayed by extraordinary beauty.” Mahish laughed. It was amusing to watch the Devas squirm at Lanka’s potential change in allegiance. “Vishrava married the eldest daughter of King Sumali. They now have four children. Ravana is their eldest child.”
“Sumali’s daughter?” Vyasa repeated. The princesses of Daitya were renowned in Bharat for their beauty. Mere mortal men couldn’t resist their charms. But they were still the daughters of an Asura king who hungered for more power. This new alliance didn’t bode well for the kingdom of Videha. “And what of Prince Kubera?” The younger son of Pulstya was second in the line of succession to the throne of Lanka. Unless the birth of Ravana had changed that.
“The line of succession remains the same now that Vishrava has children.” As Mahish continued to speak, King Janaka looked at him in horror. “Ravana is the heir to the throne of Lanka. But if Pulstya passes before Ravana comes of age, Kubera will rule in Ravana’s name.” Mahish caught the look that was exchanged between King Janaka and Vyasa. “Yes. Therein lies the dilemma.”
“You fear harm will befall the boy before he comes of age?” Vyasa said softly. “And if it does, Kubera ascends the throne.”
“Yes. That is why I am here,” Mahish replied. He turned to look at King Janaka. “And that is why I will help you. But I must have your word that you will protect Ravana with your lives.”
King Janaka could feel Ravana’s penetrating gaze. He tried not to squirm, as he raised his hand. “I have heard your plea for help. I must speak with my advisors before I make a decision.” He nodded to one of his guards, who left the throne room and returned with a young woman. “My staff will escort you to your quarters. Please rest and refresh yourselves while I sit in deliberation on the matters we have just discussed.”
Mahish nodded, somewhat disappointed. It had been foolish to hope for an immediate response. “As you wish. Thank you for your hospitality.”
Once Mahish and Ravana left the throne room, Vyasa turned to Janaka. “Sire, shall I call the others?”
“No,” Janaka said grimly. “I have no need of their counsel. But I would hear your thoughts.”