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Devasena's Crusade

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Amarendra Baahubali was busy sending off several guests who had attended their baby shower. His brother-in-law, Jayavarma and his wife had left to Kunthala. Only Kumara Varma was staying the night to attend the next day’s temple pooja.

When Amara finally retired to his room, he found his wife Devasena, leaning on amass of pillows on their bed. She was munching on some of the treats gifted to her in the baby shower. He could see that she was waiting to talk to him. She was waiting to rehash the nearly disastrous events that happened today in their baby shower. But he was not quite ready for it.

Disrobing into more casual clothes, Amara opened their windows more to allow the cool breeze to waltz around in their room. The cool air did nothing to calm his racing mind. The only thing that would calm him was to settle the doubts circling his mind; that would happen only if he spoke to his wife freely. It was not like him to hesitate to get counsel from his wife, but then why was he stalling? What was preventing him from opening up his mind? As usual, the choice to dwell was taken away from his hands.

Amara saw Deva trying to reach the goblet of water near the bed, but sadly the swell of his kid prevented her from reaching it. Laughing silently, he took the goblet of water and handed it to her. He raised an amused brow, when she drank the water ravenously like one would consume water on the parching desert sands.

Deva was prone to rapid changes in mood like any other pregnant women. She exploded on seeing his amusement, “What! Do not laugh! You are not tired from carrying your kid. God knows why I married a freakishly strong warrior! This one is also freakishly strong like his papa. Do you know that your baby’s favorite pastime is kicking my ribs? Not to mention all the rest room breaks!”

Amara wanted to burst out laughing but he valued being alive. So he tried to control his laughter with all his might. He sat near her, rubbing down the area on her stomach making soothing noises, where his kid was going on a rampage on trying to break out her womb with that incessant kicking.

“The baby is kicking more. Are you encouraging him to kick harder?” clutching her heavily pregnant stomach, Deva spluttered furiously. “Ah…! He is kicking harder. Have you both developed signals to communicate?”

Amara could control no more. He burst out laughing. Soon he had tears of mirth running down his cheeks.

“As I can see, I’m your perpetual corner for entertainment,” Deva looked sullen.

Catching Deva’s pouty lips with a quick apology kiss, Amara quickly settled with his head on her lap. Threading her fingers through his luscious locks, she waited for her brooding husband to speak. As soon as he entered their rooms, she could almost hear his pensive mind racing. She had done her part in distracting him; it was up to him to start their conversation when he was ready.

“Why did you say that I should become the King in the baby shower today?” Amara questioned with his head burrowed in her lap.

Deva’s hand paused for a second in his hair. She gloomily responded, “It was a test for your mother, Amara. It was a test in which your mother spectacularly failed.”

Sitting up rather quickly, Amara interrogated, “What?”

“Your mother fears you. Believe me; she fears the power you have among the masses. I witnessed her fear for the first time when she saw the crowd cheering for you in the coronation. Then I see it every day, when she witnesses the obedience and the reverence with which all the soldiers serve you. You may not try to acknowledge it my dear Amara, but you have all the soldiers and the masses under your disposal. If my observation is clear, most of the ministers too.”

“What are you trying to say Deva?”

“Yes. I am saying about the same thing – the same thing which you are now actively trying to force out of your mind.”

“No.”

“Think my dear husband. Think this from a third person point of view.”

“No.”

“Yes, my husband. It is the truth.”

“No! Mother won’t believe that. She won’t, will she?”

Deva smiled sadly.

Amara looked pensive for a few moments. He could not believe that Mother thought that about him. His mother, the women who had raised him as her son, doubted him. He raged, “How Deva? How could she think that I have plans to usurp the throne just because I’m popular among the masses and soldiers?”

“Your following is more than enough for you to usurp the throne, Amara, if you decide. Your mother knows that. She seems like a wise woman but someone had made her believe that you have such ambitions. Fooling your mother like that with such false information could be done only by an insider, one whom she already trusts.”

On seeing Amara’s astonished look, Deva continued, “And I do believe that someone is your uncle, Bijalla. You have always told me that he does not like you. Why not use this opportunity to drag your reputation in mud, when your mother is already angry with you?”

“How Deva?”

“Bijalla made her believe that you are plotting for the throne, Amara. Because of that, she did not contest against your demotion. Because of that, she left without saying a word when I asked you to claim the throne. If she had believed otherwise, she would have mocked me. Mocked me that I did not know how my husband operated. Probably, she would have confronted you; saying that your wife has such foolish demands.”

On hearing Deva’s thoughts, Amara felt like his mind would explode. It seemed implausible but it was true. He knew mother would never resist taking a jab against Deva. If Mother had not believed that he was plotting for the throne, she would have definitely mocked Deva for requesting him to do such a thing.

“I really do not want to believe your theories, Deva. I thought our problems were salvageable. You do realize you are speaking against all my family, right?” Amara paused. “But I realize your theories are the only things which are making sense as of now. This is horrible. Just because I do not like this, does not mean it is not true.”

Deva nodded emphatically. Her husband, Amarendra Baahubali of the Mahishmati Kingdom, the defeater of the unconquerable Kalakeyas and the menacing Pindaris, looked downtrodden. At first, his mother, Rajamatha Sivagami Devi had only refused to talk to him because of his choices. But recently the situation had escalated to the point in which his mother believed that he was actively plotting against the King. Deva knew his mother’s fallacy was weighing him down. Trying to provide what comfort she could, she scooted closer to him. Gathering her close, he rested his chin gently on top of her head.

Amara mulled over the issue for a very long time. He tried to sort out his thoughts so he could approach the situation logically. The long silence was interrupted by his query, “Why would Uncle Bijalla go through such an elaborate plan Devasena? He has no reason. His son is already the King!”

“Please tell me my husband is not that naïve. Please tell me you did not believe in their drivel today about demoting you, so that you can spend your time more with your pregnant wife.”

Amara nodded wearily.

“For some reason, they – yes, they – Bijalla and Bhalla, because I do not think Bijalla can operate alone. They do not want you in higher positions,” Deva theorized. “Do they think if they derail you from your status, you will be liked less? Or are they doing this just to insult you? Or are they thinking if you are annoyed, you would do something unwise? This is the part which is unclear for me, Amara. They have known you for so long. They would know you wouldn’t react to the demotion. They could have done your demotion earlier on seeing the reasons they provided. Why did they do this today? Not before?”

Amara thought about this for a long time. He took a big gulp of water, with the hopes of calming himself. But it did not work. Looking out at the night sky, he said somberly, “You are right. I’m not the one targeted today by my demotion. If it was so, it would have happened earlier. My demotion could have been done privately but it didn’t happen. So they wanted an audience. They didn’t do it in the court because it could have been opposed by the ministers. They wanted a specific audience. Today’s crowd was their perfect audience. We had all our family. Someone was targeted today –”

Deva’s eyes widened as her husband paused meaningfully.

Amara had obviously reached to the same conclusion as hers.

“Why would I be their target, Amara?”

“Your irascibility made you their target, Deva. Now, just listen before you get worked up. Don’t you agree that sometimes you let your rage determine your actions? For example in Kunthala, Mahishmati’s minister behaved bigotedly when asking your hand for the prince, I agree. But was it that necessary to insult both my brother and my mother severely for the minister’s actions? After reaching Mahishmati, Mother’s promise made you furious, I agree. Was it that necessary to needle her manners?”

Amara took a deep breath. He placed both his hands on her shoulders to comfort her and concluded, “Think rationally, Deva. They set the stage for demotion today, hoping for your predictable outrage; hoping that you will spar with my mother again.”

“Why would they want that, Amara?”

“So that, Mother will leave this place angry; So that, we will have no chances of reconciliation with her; So that she cannot recognize they were falsifying their information about us. It was their plot in front of a perfect audience – just mother and you, without any ministers present. We fell for it hook, line and sinker.”

Devasena couldn’t comprehend about what had happened. It made her ill that she had worsened Rajamatha’s suspicions with her request. Diverting herself from her thoughts, she questioned, “Why didn’t you say that my temper irked you earlier?”

“It is a part of your charm, Deva.”

“A part of my charm? What is that like your naivety being a part of your charm?”

“May be; May be not. I am not perfect. You are not perfect either. But you are pretty damn close.”

Looking at her husband’s smoldering eyes that directed his powerful gaze at her, Devasena chuckled. Only her husband; only her powerful preposterous husband would insanely flirt with her, no matter what the situation was. He was the same scamp as before. Her cheeks colored remembering that he had directed his arrows at her jhumkas when they were fighting with the Pindaris.

“My delightful darling, focus!” Devasena admonished Amara with a firm slap on his chest.

Amara chortled at his wife’s antics. He quickly sobered remembering the elusive situation that life had dealt to them.

Pulling her close, Amara stated, “Do you know after you said that I should become the King, I was offered endorsements? People are willing to back me up if the need arises. They said that I have already got the political alliance of Kunthala from our marriage; We would offer more stability to the Kingdom; We already have a baby on our way. Bhalla is still not married. They said that mother is delaying Bhalla’s marriage to settle the dust that arose from your vehement refusal to marry him.”

On seeing Deva’s flummoxed look, Amara added, “We cannot change anything that had already happened, Deva. All the dices have been rolled already. I cannot see how we will convince Mother to see the contrary. Our actions are being monitored closely, Deva. I don’t think we should do anything now.”

“Yes. If we do anything proactive we might already worsen the situation. Bhalla and Bijalla are playing with us boldly, as they have the support of Rajamatha Sivagami Devi. They already took your post. We are now aware that we are being played. I will work on my temper and you should keep your mind wide open. We cannot afford to make any more mistakes with the baby on the way.”

“Yes. We will discuss this in the morning with Kattapa.”

Devasena accepted and asked about Kumara Varma’s whereabouts.

“Kumara has retired early in his chambers. Tomorrow the function in the temple starts at early morning, so you should have your rest too.”

“Ah! Amara, Your son is kicking. He is hungry. Feed me.”

“Yes, my beautiful hormonal wife!”

“What did you just say?”

“Short temper!”