What if a soul accrues no karma?
A man rescued from the depths of the netherworlds discovers his actions carry no consequences. An emissary of Death plots revenge on the Gods. Empires are overthrown. Human virtue ebbs to its lowest. Strange alliances are made. The age of malice and war has dawned.
“Nākalam is mine by blood.” Devi wiped her husband’s blood on her robe.
“Malasāra! My eyes you have torn out, but I still see!”
“Semmaḷvarāyan shall die by this very sword!” Piraivaḷli swore.
“I hope now the curse is lifted.” Nambi said as Kannanār’s hut burned.
“Behold Patāla! Is she not magnificent?” Malasāra exclaimed.
Chapter 1 — From the depths of the Netherworlds
Malasāra stood at the edge of the crevice, his burning torch held high. The eerie darkness of Pātalalokā’s desolate plains clawed at the light, trying to smother the unwelcome intrusion. He leaned over the edge, looking for the bottom, but the flame failed to penetrate the murky void. He scoured the bleak landscape behind him once, and dropped the torch into the chasm. It fell for endless moments before it hit the crevice floor far below. A small plume of dust obscured the flame for an instant, but settled quickly.
Malasāra jumped, his heavy cloak billowed as he plummeted through the ravine. Near the bottom, he slowed, and landed lightly next to the torch. Here, the darkness seemed deeper, almost palpable. He picked up the burning wood, and raised it above his head. The fissure continued in either direction, meandering into the gloom. The seven underworld realms were all mired in perpetual shadow, and Pātalalokā was no exception.
Malasāra scratched his grisly moustache, thought for a moment and then continued along the narrow canyon to the right. Shadows ran across the walls, but were consumed again by the darkness as he pressed on. Some twists and turns later, a large boulder lay across the path at an angle, leaning against the crevice wall like a fallen pillar. It was too big to climb over, its sides steep and smooth. A twisted leg of a dusty skeleton jutted out from under the rock. A broken arm protruded on the side. Two grey skulls lay half buried in the loose sand, their fanged mandibles askew, forever frozen in a scream. I remember you. Malasāra smiled, and kicked one of the skulls. Rākshasa filth!
I must be close. Malasāra brushed the dust off his cloak, stepped over the pieces and continued on as the path grew narrower and sloped deeper down. He walked on, unmindful of the coarse debris that lay scattered about the canyon floor, small stones with razor-sharp edges. The scree crunched under his heavy step.
The path then turned and came to an abrupt end in a shallow alcove carved in the rock wall. Malasāra walked up to the receded stone, running his palm over the rough surface, and found a small bump at the centre. He threw back the hood, but it caught on his curved horns, and he shook it free impatiently.
Malasāra tapped the bump with the flaming torch, and waited. A sudden burst of flame engulfed the alcove. It burned bright for a moment, faded to smoke, and left behind a vague outline of an arched doorway. In the centre of this doorway was a small skull, and the crude etching seemed to be leering, even more so in the dancing light of the torch. Vakrā, you devious crow! Malasāra bared his teeth in a smile, two long canines brushing his lips. Malasāra unclasped the cloak and let the heavy cloth fall to the ground. He pulled out a small dagger from a sheath on his waistband, brought the sharp blade to his now bare, wide chest. He made a small cut, and drops of blood trickled down his torso and stained his antariya in a small blotch. He pressed the nick with his thumb, and smeared his blood on the skull. A moment passed, and the skull cracked. The rift in the rock widened, and swiftly streaked through the stone. It grew, until it traced the shape of the doorway that had appeared in the flames. With a great grinding of rock, it split in two and swung outwards. Loose rock fell from above, and Malasāra stepped back, arms raised above his head. Air gushed through the doorway. He smiled again, and stepped in.
Inside, a haggard man lay unconscious on a stone altar, weighed down by heavy rusted chains. All around him were scores of lamps, most of them spent, reduced to a powdery silt on the floor. The remaining flames burned tall and still, and covered the ceiling and the rock walls in a thick layer of soot. The chains were many, wrapped around the man like a shroud, some thick, some more slender, but all of them firm and unyielding.
Wan and soiled, the man seemed to have never seen the light of day for years. Muddy and caked in dust, tattered rags clothed his skinny frame, now faded to the colour of the earth. His skin was cracked, like a clay statue left in the sun for too long. But he did not seem old, his face still a picture of vague youthfulness. Malasāra walked to the altar, and examined the prisoner. He poked at the man’s chest with one of his claws, but the man did not move. Malasāra then gazed at the shackles. He lifted up the links and pulled. The rusted chains gave away with a few tugs, and the prisoner slid to the ground, still unconscious.
Malasāra bent closer over the captive, and placed his palm on the man’s chest. An instant later, the prisoner gasped to life, and colour flooded his cheeks. The layer of dust on his body rose up like smoke. He sprang up, coughing and sputtering, saliva drooling from the corners of his mouth. His eyes went wide, then shut them immediately, blinded even by the soft light of the lamps. He tried to straighten himself, but doubled over in pain, and he fell forward, clutching his chest. The chains from the altar slid and clattered to the floor. The man clamped his hands over his ears, his mouth open in a silent scream of agony. Every movement, every tiny twitch seemed to cause the man excruciating pain. He sat, head bowed, gasping with shallow ragged breaths.
“Breathe deeply, boy.” said Malasāra in a low, rough voice.
The man snapped his head up, startled at the monstrous shape that towered over him. He saw nothing but a vague outline, and slowly his eyes focused. The creature before him had a frightening countenance, its teeth bared in what it possibly thought to be a smile, its wolfish teeth glinting in the lamplight. The man fell over on his back, alarmed. He scrambled back a few paces, eyes fixed on the figure before him.
Malasāra raised a hand. “Fear not, human. I mean you no harm.”
The man blinked a few times. He looked around, at the lamps, the stone table and the now broken chains, disoriented still. “Wh...where am I? Who—what are you?” he managed to sputter out. His voice was dry and hoarse, and spoke in a raspy whisper.
“I am called Malasāra. I serve Yamā, the God of Death and Justice. I am a yamadūta, one of his many emissaries.”Continue reading at Substack ↗
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