It’s Day 14 of this 30-day writing challenge. So far, I’ve been able to follow a sequential story progression but I admit that I’m stuck. I don’t know what the next logical scene should be. So, I thought that I’d jump forward in the story and try writing an “out of sequence” scene today. Here goes:
The fire blazed higher as Mahish poured the ghee onto the embers. King Janaka could feel its heat on his face. There were two ornate mats on the ground in front of the fire. He sat down on one of them, while Queen Sunayna sat on the other one beside him. Vyasa stood on Janaka’s right side, holding a large bowl.
“This is absurd,” Janaka muttered, and shifted uncomfortably on the mat. Was sitting on the ground really necessary? He could have just as easily sat down on a cushion for this ceremony.
“Sire, please,” Sunayna whispered, as she glanced at Mahish. The Asura was standing on the other side of the fire, with his eyes closed. She could see the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed deeply. “He may hear you.”
“And what if he does?” Janaka snapped, before turning to scowl at Vyasa. “Please tell me why I agreed to do this. How will some demon fire ritual produce an heir?”
“It’s called an Agni Yajna, Sire,” Vyasa offered, watching Mahish with obvious interest. He looked down to study the contents of the bowl in his hands, but Vyasa didn’t recognize most of them. “The Devas used to perform them as well. I can still remember my grandfather performing one.”
“I know what it is,” Janaka huffed, slightly outraged by the indignity of sitting on the ground. He didn’t know what had possessed him to agree to it. “What I fail to understand is how throwing ghee and demon herbs into a fire will produce an heir.”
“We must be patient, Sire,” Vayasa replied. It was entirely possible that the king would stand up and walk away in the middle of the ceremony. Offending their Asura guest was the last thing Vyasa wanted to do. “What harm does it do perform a simple ceremony? You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.”
Mahish walked around the fire to Vayasa and reached into the bowl. He picked up a fistful of herbs, and held them to his forehead before throwing them into the fire. The flames crackled, as a silver mist emerged from the fire. Sunaya watched the mist, mesmerized as it slowly encircled the small group. When her skin began to tingle, she closed her eyes and started slow, rhythmic breathing.
On a table to the right of Vyasa sat two small bowls. Mahish picked one up, swirled the contents and offered it to Janaka.
“What is this?” the king asked, reaching for the bowl. He sniffed the cloudy liquid and shrugged. At least the demon brew wasn’t offensive to the nose.
“Havana samagri. It’s a mixture of special herbs from Mahishuru,” Mahish replied, stirring the second bowl. He studied Sunayna’s face before carefully balancing the bowl in her lap. Janaka didn’t notice that his wife was in a trance. Manish continued, “They promote fertility.”
“How?” Janaka asked, before his eyes widened with the realization. “Must I drink this?” He held the bowl gingerly, frowning slightly. Although the bowl emitted a fragrant aroma, the murky liquid didn’t appear visually appetizing.
“Yes,” Mahish said, turning away from the king to reach for a cloth. He smothered a grin before turning back to the couple. “You must drink this every night before the fire for thirty days.”
“And after thirty days?” Vyasa asked, relieved that the king remained seated on the mat.
Mahish tilted his head towards the king. “King Janaka will perform a final penance.”