Sweat droplets kept on multiplying every second on faces as fire roared and fought with ceiling above. An elderly woman was sitting with her legs folded, chanting mantras and pouring ghee into the fire while her two devotees sat on both side of her passing things she ordered. Two young women with their bulged belly were sitting quitely, with closed eyes and listening to sound resonating around. A long silence followed before they hesitantly opened their eyes and saw elderly woman drawing some signs on paper, trying to decipher its meaning.

”Both of your babies are healthy, ” The elder woman said under her breathe.

”One is a girl and the other is a boy, ” she continued.

Both of them bowed their heads in respect and slowly got up leaving the room.

”Pophecy is about to come true. ” She said and turned back bowing down to the female diety. Two of her disciple held her hand and gently led her to bed nearby.

With lantern in each of their hand, they were slowly walking down the narrow passage. The mud walls were painted with different symbols; one like a caterpillar coming out of coccon, another of a swastika and so on. They hung lantern on side wall after reaching at the door, unlocked it and stepped outside taking a deep breathe.

Feet ran toward their wife as soon as they saw them coming out of the door. A stout man leaned forward wiping off sweats with his shirt. And then gently picked her up using his arms that looked like pile of apples. She kept refusing and saying, ”stop! There are people. ” He smiled and softly in her ear said, ”but you are mine. ” She then curled up in his arm, threw her arm around her neck and settled there. On their left side was a lean man who held his wife shoulder and started walking carefully with her.

They descended towards their home, walking through a dense forest before reaching a crossroad. Their homes were on separate ways from there but just few minutes apart.

”Okay, shiv. I will see you tomorrow. ” Lean guy with a mole darker than black hole above his lips said giving a warm smile.

Shiv turning back with wife in his hand smiled a rainbow, ” see you tomorrow laxman. And take good care of my sister in law. ”

Both nodded and walked toward their homes. Shiv called one of the boys playing ice and water near their house. He handed him key suggesting pointing at the door of his one storey hut. He got inside and put his wife on bed taller than her. He then took off her slipper and handed her a glass of water.

”Do you need anything? ” He asked softly while gently pressing her feet.

She shook her head and smiled, ”I will rest a bit. ”

Making sure she was comfortable on bed he headed outside and called the boy from before, ”Ganesh! ” Boy came running towards him and stood with quizzled expression on his face. ”Take this. ” He handed candies to him and immediately ganesh ran away. ”Give it to your friends too. ” He shouted.

”How is Parvati? ” A woman with doko(basket) on her back filled with leaves and grasses asked.

”She is fine. We just came back from Mata so she is taking rest. ” He replied.

”God bless her. Such a lovely woman. ” She said and kept walking towards her home.

A little girl tugged on shivs kurta and stretched her hand forward signalling on her palm. Shiv scratching his head bent forward and said, ”I have a better idea. ” Soon children formed a circle around him. He put three children on each of his arms and one on his each shoulder. He picked them up like feathers and starting going round and round like a helicopter fan. Children started giggling and bursting in laughter, enjoying the swirling around.

On the other side there was a couple sitting in darkness inside their hut. Their eyes barely meeting each others and heart that kept sinking with thought running in their mind. ”I don want this child. ” Woman said looking at wall.

”What are you saying Sati? ” He said gulping his spit.

”You know very well what I am saying, ” she said with her eyes welling up and her hand searching for his. He saw her hand and grabbed it quickly.

”I will talk to Shiv. He will not let any bad thing happen to our baby. ” He said looking into her eyes reassuring himself of his words.

”He is the protector of this village. Why would he listen to you? ”

”He is my bestfriend. ” He said looking into her face finding empathy from her.

She smirked and said, ” you worked for him. Just accept we are different and rules are different for us. Even today he took his wife in his arms and we walked, he is built different. ”

”You are being illusioned. I trust him. ”

”Your father also trusted his father and that costed your brothe- ” she stopped before completing the word and a choking silence filled up the house. His hand slowly got away from hers and he went to the kitchen area. Utensils kept crying while he served some food on his plate.

Months kept passing by as due date was arising they again had to visit Mata. Fire was hot as sun and rituals again took place in similar fashion. They kept their eyes closed facing the volcanic heat in front of them. Once again there was silence and their eyes fluttered open and looked at surrounding. A beautiful old woman reading new signs and her two disciple fanning her because of heat. A big black figure in back with her reddish tongue out, four arms emerging out, a severed head held by left top arm and a vessel collecting droplet of blood from severed head on lower left arm and a sword held in upper right arm and lower right arm in a blessing mudra. Light of fire fell on few spots illuminating cracked mud walls and writings in sanskrit that was harder to understand.

”Nine days, ”She mumbled.

Both pregnant women looked at each other in confusion, waiting to be explained.

”In nine days the goddess will come and so will her lion. They together will reck havoc to asura that rule giant mountain, ” She said looking at the paper on her lap.

”Sorry to interfer, ” sati said itching her throat. ”But when is due date? If you could tell us. It is very hot in here I don feel so good. ”

Parvati clinched her shawl and kept glancing at Mata in hope of some answer.

”Both of yours baby will be born on same day. And that is nine days from now, ” She said looking at them with a smile.

They bow down to her and said Namaste before leaving. Sati asked Parvati to keep walking on as she wanted to talk to Mata in alone.

Outside both of their husband were waiting for their wives to come out and give them date.

”Do you think of me as your friend? ” Laxman asked.

”No, ” Shiv said taking a pause looking at Laxmans sunken face, ”I think of you as my brother. ” He pats on Laxmans shoulder.

”Can you give me a promise? ” Laxman said in a low breathe his head fixated on ground.

”What is it Laxman? ”

”Just. Can you? ”

”Yes. Of course. I give you my promise. Just say what is it about, ” shiv said with his widened eyes fixated at him.

”I know- I know you are protector of village like your ancestors. But. For once, do you promise to protect my child? ” He said clinching his both hands and rubbing them together.

Shiv puts his hand on Laxmans cold hands and told, ”you are my brother and I promise with my life to protect your child no matter the condition. ”

Laxman lets out a sigh and gives a faint smile. Shiv stood there looking above at sky, slight breeze hit on his face as he kept waiting for his wife. Door creaked and parvati walked out slowly, shiv stooped towards her aid and held her in his arm. They both smiled at each other and he kissed her on forehead. Parvati nodded to Laxman as Laxman said Namaste to her bowing down. Laxman kept looking at door hoping sati would come next but she was not to be seen.

”She is talking with Mata. She will come soon, ” she said with a soft nightingale voice to which air danced on her words rhythm.

”I will take a leave then. ” Shiv said looking at Laxman. And he holding parvatis shoulder kept walking slowly.

”What happened to you? ” Parvati said looking into his eyes.

”Nothing, ” shiv said flusterting with words.

”Hmm ” she focused on road and with her corner of eye kept looking at his not so usual serious face. She asked him to wait and they sat near a tree.

”Tell me, ” she kept her hand on his and laid her head on his shoulder.

”Today, Laxman took a promise from me, ” he said.

”What was it? ” She asked.

”That I would protect his child, ” he said.

”Well you are his best of friend and a protector of this village. So it is natural. ” She said getting her head up and looking at him.

”No. I just remembered. This is one of those year which comes once a decade or two and takes away the new light. ”

Parvati clenched his arm and snuggled up to him. ”Then promise me. You will protect his kid and others too. There will be no more losses in this village. ”

He spreaded his arm and took her in kissing her forehead.

”I believe in you, ” she said hugging him tighter.

They stayed there for a while before a throat scratch disturbed their world and they looked up to see Laxman and sati in front of them.

”Let us go. It is about to get dark, ” Laxman said with a smirk.

They got up flustered and they started to walk towards their home.

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