The fire crackled. Fiery blazes fluttered as a whiff of wind whizzed past the sages seated in a circular pattern. Hymns reverberated in the air. The king fidgeted with his oval-shaped ring and stared at the fire. The smoke emanating from the consecrated fire stung his eyes. But he didn’t flinch. The melodious voices of the sages was at its zenith. Their hands moved in synchronization as they poured ghee into the fire. Their eyes shifted to the agitated king. Their firm voices quivered as they watched the king’s eyes turn red.
Hours passed. The king clenched his fist at the sight of the dying embers.
“Where is my child? You had promised to gift me a heir,” the king thundered.
Their throats went dry. Everything seemed hazy. The king wielded his sword and darted towards them.
“He is going to behead us,” whispered one of them.
“Killing us will not give him a child,” spoke the other.
“Who is going to explain that to the half-witted king?” another sage collapsed to the floor.
Holding each other’s hands they stood still.
“King Drupad hurting us would not yield any fruitful results,” sage Yaja spoke.
His pleasing tone failed at assuaging Drupad’s anger.
“You failed to deliver your promise,” Drupad was about to pounce on the sage when a lightning flashed across the sky.
The clouds drifted away. A glint of light fell on the land dispelling darkness. Flames emerged with a vigour enough to set everything ablaze. Everyone stood rooted to their place unable to comprehend what was happening. Time seemed to slow down. Their breathing patterns altered. Drupad felt his heart beat against his chest. A smile danced on the lips of sage Yaja prophesying the occurrence of auspicious times.
A young man walked out of the fire. Drupad rushed towards the man and embraced him.
Clasping the man’s shoulders, Drupad looked at him in admiration. Sage Yaja placed his hand on the man’s head and blessed him. Drupad bowed his head and sought forgiveness for his previous indignation.
“My son Drishtadyuman,” Drupad trumpeted the birth of his heir.
Women dressed in colorful attires danced to the beat of the drums. It rained flowers. Drupad was about to leave when he heard a jingling sound. He turned and took a step back. The flames parted as though the drapes unfurled giving way to an enchanting woman. Her lotus petal shaped eyes glowed filling the land with radiance. Her anklets chimed as she descended the stairs. Her lips parted in an appealing smile. Drupad grunted and swished his sword in the air.
“You must accept her,” Yaja’s voice was firm.
“Guide Draupadi to the palace,” Drupad walked away without looking at her even once.
A wry smile played on Draupadi’s soft lips. She bowed her head in acceptance. She was ready to face one of the many battles life had in store for her marking the beginning of a new era.
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