He is born just before morning, under a sky littered with stars that might have fallen from Aditi’s earrings and jewels. The loudness of his first cry is enough to wake his father from drowsing and because of it; nearly all the days after he is able to understand words and their meaning his mothers like to tell him that the Sun rose early that day, just for him. Perhaps it is true. Perhaps not. He could ask his brothers Shani and Yama if he truly desired to know, since they cannot lie; but that rather takes the fun out of imagining the possibilities.
His mother names him Revanta, brilliant, and he likes to think that perhaps there is some truth to the story that Aditya rose early just to have a look at his newborn son.
“You have talent with a bow. Better than any of your brothers did, at your age.” His father comments, just loud enough to be heard over the wheels of his chariot. It is too warm to sit near Aditya himself, heat and light pouring from the Sun with every breath his father takes. It is difficult enough to look at him even in passing, but Revanta tries his best whenever Surya addresses him.
“You honor me, pita.” Revanta smiles in return, trying not to shift restlessly in the chariot. He is too young just yet to join his father in hunting demons, but at midday the world is pleasant enough. The heavens arc around them and if he looks past his father’s shoulder he can see the great darkness beyond this world; separating this planet from the realms of gods. Below the shining wheels of his father’s chariot, Revanta knows, is the world humans and spirits inhabit. Strange and vaguely amusing to look at, from so great a distance. A part of him wonders what it might be like to venture down and join them, see how they live and if their homes have more color closer to the ground than is shown from up high.
An idea occurs to him then and Revanta chances a look at his father’s face. Surya’s attention is focused directly ahead, his voice light and teasing as he calls something to Aruna; his charioteer. But Surya looks, to Revanta, as though he is in a good mood.
“Pita,” he raises his voice to be heard once his father is no longer talking with Aruna; smiling when that curious gaze falls upon him. It burns, honestly; to be directly under Surya’s stare. Even a few seconds tests the limits of his body’s tolerance as heat and light bore into his skin. Quite easy, Revanta supposes, to see how Shani bhaiyaa was born so dark when his mother had done her penances beneath the Sun’s zenith for months.
“Bhadra is a master of the bow.” Revanta presses, knowing that every moment of his father’s attention is precious. Aditya might give light and life to all creation by simply existing, but he cannot linger over any one thing for too long. “Might I learn from her, and what arts she deigns to teach in the process? Shani bhaiyaa has his mace,” he continues helpfully, searching his father’s blinding features for any reaction. “And Yama his noose. I do not think myself well suited to either.”
“If she is willing.” Surya answers at last, after a moment has passed and he has looked away to give Revanta a reprieve from his sight.
He tries not to sag in relief, or grimace at the prickly feeling of his own skin now that his father is looking elsewhere. Perhaps he does not cover it up as well as he thinks, because a heartbeat later one of his father’s shining hands offers him a jar of salve.
“For the burns.” Surya tells him, voice deliberately neutral.
Revanta accepts, equally quiet as he applies the soothing balm to the worst spots.
“Out with it.” Bhadra, his half-sister, is every bit as intimidating as Revanta pictured her to be; with all their father’s distaste for those who do not get straight to the point. They’ve left Utathya and his hermitage behind; now surrounded by the wilderness he can admit to being fascinated by it.
“I wished to learn how to use a bow.” Revanta tells her honestly, trotting dutifully alongside her as he tries not to look everywhere at once. “And to see the world for myself.” He adds, before Bhadra can quirk her brow at him.
She does it anyway, features set in an echo of knowing disapproval that Shani bhaiyaa had perfected before either of them had been born. Her footsteps slow and Revanta mimics her gladly; happy to observe her every move for now.
“You might have come out and said it without playing your game.” Bhadra mused, studying the area around them. “Father can hardly keep you at home forever, since you are growing quickly.”
“I did not wish for him to think I was only being lazy.” Revanta admits, then squawks when his sister lightly knocks the butt of her spear against his calf.
“Have a little faith, bhai.” Bhadra smiles, quick and easy before it fades a second later. “Our father is hardly likely to deny you the chance to learn something new. And so long as I’m not needed elsewhere, you’ll have a teacher.”
It is easier to smile, after that. Though he cannot help but ask, “Do you think she’ll need you? Maa Durga, that is?”
“That is up to Her.” Bhadra answers blithely, “Now pick up your feet.”
The horse is unlike anything Revanta has ever seen; tall as, if not taller, than the seven which pull his father’s chariot. Its coat gleams white and shines regardless of weather or shade, each of its seven great heads alert and aware of their surroundings. The long tail flicks at something Revanta cannot see, but he is too taken with the being’s presence to wonder at it.
“Do not.” Bhadra warns him in a low voice. Which, of course, means that he must.
He hears the sigh his sister lets escape only vaguely, approaching Uchchaihshravas step by careful step the great stallion paws at the earth and he takes that as a sign to pause. They consider one another for a long moment and Revanta gives the other his gentlest smile. It earns him a snort from at least three of Uchchaihshravas’s heads and another flick of the long white tail, but he is allowed to approach without being bitten.
“Soft.” Revanta murmurs after he strokes one head’s long neck with care, studying his new acquaintance with awe.
“He rose from the Ocean of Milk,” Bhadra comments from her spot on a fallen log, watching them both with faint exasperation. “Of course he would be soft.”
Revanta glances her way but does not let her words dull his wonder over meeting the father of all horses. As he brushes the thin mane from one head’s eyes some part of him longs to know what it would be like to ride on the stallion’s back.
“Shall we be friends?” He asks with all seriousness, tuning out his sister’s chuckle. It is not a sound she often makes, which ought to make it precious; but she is laughing at him so Revanta decides to ignore it for now.
Uchchaihshravas’s many eyes are keener than many of the animals he’s met, during his short stay upon the earth. Although the stallion does not speak, whether by choice or lack of ability; something in that patient stare seems close enough to perhaps.
It is good enough.
“I sent you to learn from your sister,” Aditya muses, doing a poor job of hiding a smile as Saranyu offers slices of apple to each of Uchchaihshravas’s heads. “And you return with quite the surprise.”
“There were many surprises to be had.” Revanta informs him mildly, still riding the rush of excitement brought on by traveling with his friend. “We’ve learned to work together,” he adds, knowing that he owes something of an explanation to his father. “And I’m used to taking care of him. Might he stay, so long as he is willing?”
Saranyu laughed, delighted, and Surya glanced her way; thoughtfulness making him pause.
“…if he is willing.” His father said at last, glancing at him from the corner of one bright eye. “Though I suspect you will both be out riding again before evening.”
Revanta bit at his bottom lip to keep from laughing.