When the breath is leaving its place, the moment of dying seems an age, and pain like the stinging of a hundred scorpions is experienced.
The Garuda Purana.[i]
“Let me go, Nay—”
The Princess lay dying on her big bed, on which the red sheets embroidered with nine- toed dragons were changed hourly.
Lord Nay Schone Naye knelt on the worn thin teak planks by her bedside, clasping her bony hands in both of his.
The veins on her twisted hands now looked like earth worms.
The skin was marked with many irregular brown age spots.
How different her hands were now from the soft full rosy fingers tapered like candles that he used to love holding in his own, in those days when even holding hands between childhood sweethearts was forbidden.
She tried to raise herself up slightly on her elbow, but did not quite succeed.
“It is time. I am so—”
She meant to say “tired,” but she did not know if she actually said it.
Her husband of thirty five years could not speak for Sorrow.
All this love, all this money, all his collected good karma, and they could do nothing.
He shook his head from side to side.
“I have to leave. Let me—”
She had not the strength to say more.
“At least,” she whispered close to his ear, “activate the—”
She tried to raise her hand limply to tell him to order all the people crowded into her death chamber to leave.
Nay let go of his wife’s hands briefly to shoo out all the courtiers, all the sycophants, all the lap dogs and lap bitches.
What did they come for, Princess Pakhan Pabavani thought, to see the last dramatic show at court? To see my dear husband—
She could not finish the thought.
But she mustered the last of her formidable will.
She had selected her esteemed and kind husband through an archery and a modern weaponry competition that was global in its scope.
Nay had won everything.
Later she had found out his Intelligence Score test results.
He was intelligent enough in everything to instantly understand whatever she beamed to him telepathically.
She had selected him for Love, for Loyalty and for Obedience.
She needed her commands to be carried out instantly.
In Hsipor in Birm when they had been under threat, obedience had been important.
It was important now also outside Birm, where they had been now for these last thirty five years.
When would all these Travails end?
She had been so in love with him from the first moment when she saw him from a distance, from behind a diaphanous silk screen, that she had not had him tested for . . .
The fawning minions did not want to leave.
Their son Dawood Dinyar David or David Dawood Dinyar or Dinyar David Dawood (she often got the order of her words wrong now), lagged behind all the rest and looked like he wished to remain in the room.
But Nay shoed him out too, flapping his hands and almost clapping them in front of his eyes, before he realized the sound might startle his dying wife.
David left, making a big production as he stomped out of the small room at the top of the seven-tiered tower.
He had never believed that Nay was his biological father, and in those days the testing of swabs from inside the cheek, and blobs of saliva to find out who had truly “kissed” his mother, had fallen into disuse.
Nay’s skin color was not dark, but he wasn’t exactly fair either.
David’s was darker.
Nay heard the huge iron key of the bed chamber turn rusty in the key hole.
Then he heard the loud clank of the big key, one lan long, as it fell onto the cobblestones of the courtyard below.
He had suspected this from the moment David was four.
And in between then and now David had done many despicable evil things.
But now, all Nay could think of was his beautiful wife, dying.
He rushed back to the bed and had not even time to take her hand again, when she whispered,
“Nay, activate the—”
He did so at once.
A large tongue of fire licked with a hot whoosh into the room as the teak door caught fire and caved inwards.
Naye leaned over to give his dead wife one last kiss, but he was too late even for that.
All her Avatars leaped out of her thin body and flew out of the room, screaming, their long black hair streaming.
Some were in human form, some in animal and bird form.
There was one snake which slithered out.
Naye himself had not known there were so many, but his wife had always believed in Abundance, and, he knew, had a fecund imagination.
And of course, all she had to do was imagine them to make them real.
The baby boys and girls and the children saddened him the most.
There was even one transparent naked fetus, bloody umbilical cord still dangling.
Naye did not realize that he was changing into his primary avatar Kamrahn Kama also.
As he leaned towards Pakkan Gyi, her primary avatar, Acrilisa, emerged naked, long- legged.
Lord Naye could not adjust to the fact that Acrilisa was an exact copy of the nude form of his wife, when they had first been married.
To him, Acrilisa looked like one of the King of Death’s Mara’s daughters, come to tempt him and copulate with him, even as his wife’s body grew cold on the bed.
Acrilisa planted her feet squarely on the bed, straddling the Princess’ dead body.
Then she grasped Lord Naye’s reluctant but now young hand, and placed it on her left breast, which she swore was more erogenous.
Naye tried to withdraw his hand in horror, but she held it with the grip of a fierce She-Garuda.
The long incurved claws bit into his now youthful strong hand and drew blood.
And he remembered, too late, that as a Dragon, he, Nay Schone Naye was now married to Acrilisa, not to Pakhan Gyi, who had been born under the Goat sign and with whom he was always highly compatible.
What now? he thought, Married to my mortal enemy!
He thought how stupid he had been when Pakhan Gyi had asked, “What will you say when you meet my young avatar at last. ‘Now what?’”
Facetiously, he had said,