Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Painting

In the distant village of Kalishah, there was a palace in ruins where little boys and girls were scared to go and play. They would be seen gathering firewood and grazing their cattle and occasionally indulging in a game there. Among them was Badri who was very bold and who liked to play only there since he had a strange attraction towards the ruins and was often seen exploring the place.

Even though the walls had cracks and were broken at places, they had many interesting murals done by an unknown artist. As the walls were covered by dust all over, the paintings looked faded. Badri would stand in front of the huge wall, wondering about the paintings.

One day, during his exploration he came upon a wall with a beautiful garden painted on it. He was most fascinated to see the intricate details of the garden. Sadly, it was getting late and he had to lead his cattle home. So he decided to come back again in the morning for a closer look at the painting.

Badri got up early and reached the place long before the others went there to graze their cattle. In the rising sunlight, the painting looked dazzling. On the bushes, he could see dainty fairies with fluttering wings. He tried to wipe the dust on the mural so that he could see the painting a little more clearly. When he tried to wipe the dust off, a strange light appeared between his fingers. A live fairy, fluttering its wings, appeared on his palm.

When the initial shock had passed away, he lifted his palm close to his face. Suddenly, the fairy called him in a soft voice. Badri was surprised that the fairy already knew his name. Unable to size up the situation he was in, he started doubting whether he was awake or only dreaming. So, he pinched himself sharply and yelped in pain. No, he was not asleep, neither was he having any hallucination.

After passing a few minutes in silence, a fascinated Badri asked the fairy, “Who are you? Where are you from?”

The fairy smiled, “I’m a wish fairy. My name is Yagnavalika. I belong to the colony of fairies, in the city of Pearls. An evil sorceress imprisoned me on the wall as a painting.”

Now Badri was puzzled, “But, why were you imprisoned? How are you free now?”

The fairy flew away from his palm and did a somersault in midair. “It’s a long story. One day I came to Kalishah with my friends to play in the nearby gardens.”

She did a flip. Her wings fluttered leaving behind trails of gold dust. She did not stay in one place for more than a minute. Badri felt giddy, watching Yagnavalika and gave her a mild reprimand, “Do stay in one place and tell me what happened to you?”

She continued: “My friends and I were playing a new game without using our magical powers. We had loads of fun. Soon, dusk was setting in. My friends decided to return to our colony. But I did not want to go with them and decided to stay back and explore the gardens a little further.”

She paused and did another somersault. Badri was impatient, “What happened then? Did the sorceress come?”

“I flew around the garden and came across a hut which had a door of human bones. I touched the door with my wand and the door opened. I peered inside and saw Vilamba, an old hag well known in those parts. She was mumbling to herself over a big book in which she was recording something with a quill. There was a cauldron burning bright. I heard her say ‘I need the bark of a thousand year old tree and some gold dust.’ Vilamba opened the loudly creaking door and banged it shut after her. She left the hut in search of the barks. The hut fell silent, except for the sound of the boiling cauldron.”

The fairy took some breath, a twinkle appeared in her eyes. “I was alone in the hut and I started exploring it. I saw several bottles with different coloured liquids on the shelf near the stove. I flew up to it and sniffed the odourless liquids. As I pulled the cork out of one bottle, it slipped and a few drops of the blue liquid fell into the cauldron. A fire bellowed from the potion and accidentally I bumped into the other bottles in my fear. A few more bottles broke and the liquid in them dripped into the concoction. Fumes of different colours appeared and a dark cloud with lightning hovered above the cauldron. I struck the dark cloud with my wand and made a small rain of gold.

After a few minutes, the liquid turned a reddish pink and bubbles started to form in it. Just when a froth formed in the potion near the edges of the cauldron, I could hear footsteps. It was the sorceress. I quickly tried to hide behind the books on the shelf, which was on the right side to the door. There was an old box and I hid behind it. She entered the hut carrying some barks, a red pouch, and an old cat.

She stopped at the cauldron and became suspicious on seeing the broken bottles scattered all over. The sorceress let out a scream. “Someone has dared to enter Vilamba’s hut!” Just as she began searching for the intruder, the box popped open revealing a ruby pendant with a four petals flower embedded in it. On looking at the pendant, I had strange sensation that my power was draining out. After a while, I began to sneeze from the corner I was hiding in. Immediately, Vilamba removed the book from the shelf and I was caught sneezing uncontrollably.

Vilamba grabbed me by my wings and held me close to her only eye that was open. She quickly shut the box and replaced the book on the shelf. She laughed aloud making the entire hut shake.”I thought of taking her life by breaking the pendent and destroying the flower. But she shook me until I was left with no breath, as she exclaimed at her luck in catching me. She gave me a toothless grin and imprisoned me in a glass jar.

Vilamba drank the magic potion from the cauldron, which changed into a young woman after some confusion. She then snatched the bottle, in which she had imprisoned me, in one hand and left the hut. We would have walked a mile before we came across a huge palace. She entered through the back door and magically put everyone in the palace to sleep. She entered the chambers of the youngest princess and lifted her from the bed and stealthily took her away on her shoulders. She then cast a spell on the entire kingdom to be unaware of the missing princess.

That night Vilamba took her to a dark and deep maze, where the moon appeared to shine in the middle of the maze at midnight on a full moon night. She chanted a few words and converted the maze into a palace in ruins with murky murals. Though the princess kept begging, the sorceress refused to let her go and told her how she was going to gain more magical powers after sacrificing her. She then hid us among the painting so that no one could find us and warned us that a human being alone could rescue us from her. At the same time she was sure that she would kill any human who tried to rescue them. Yagnavalika has stopped her narration.

Badri was moved by the story and he asked, “All right, now tell me, how can I help you?”

Yagnavalika said, “You must hurry because Vilamba’s wait shall end in two days, for the next full moon to sacrifice us to acquire stronger magical powers.”

Badri pondered for a moment. “How can I rescue both of you from Vilamba’s clutch?”

“You’ll have to trick her into releasing us,” said Yagnavalika.

Badri queried, “How can I do that?”

Yagnavalika explained, “All the powers of Vilamba are encased in the pendant which no magical power can touch. Only a human can touch it. If you open the pendant you’ll see a big ruby stone. If you were to break it, all magical powers will vanish. Inside the broken ruby, you’ll find a flower with four petals. If you break each petal, she will lose her life slowly. So, follow her tonight to her hut and grab the pendant from box in the bookshelf.”

When night fell, Vilamba came to visit the palace. Badri stealthily followed her to the hut. He waited till she fell into a deep sleep he then entered the hut. He went to the shelf that Yagnavalika had described and removed the pendant from box. When he removed the pendant, the whole hut began to shake, and Vilamba woke up to see Badri holding the pendant. She immediately tried to snatch it back from him, but Badri ran as fast as he could until he reached the palace. Before she could utter a curse on him, he quickly broke the ruby and destroyed the flower embedded in it. Vilamba died and the entire spell was broken. Everything returned to normal.

Thus Badri rescued both the princess and the fairy from the clutches of the sorceress. Yagnavalika bade goodbye and left for the city of Pearls. Badri took the princess back to her palace where he explained all that happened and how he had rescued the princess. Everybody in the kingdom rejoiced in the return of the princess and praised Badri for his brave deeds.

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