As the cold winds touched the Prince, he rode triumphantly on his horse followed by two soldiers. He knew, he had earned the ride, the one he waited for a fortnight and as he rode his horse, his light blue cape cut the cold wind with the warmth of his anxiousness.
Listening to the thunder of galloping horses, subjects walked out into the street to witness nature’s will. On the street mentioned two weeks ago, Prince Indrajeet waited for Lakshmi and its master. Observing the Prince filled with pride in earning his ride, a few of his subjects were worried about Lakshmi.
Their faces turned pale under the black clouds hiding the fierce burning ball behind it. The wind grew colder as Lakshmi finally approached them. On top of her was her companion Vishnu.
Resting on his horse, Prince Indrajeet raised his hand holding the demanded coin that appeared to everyone like a white dot in a dark world. While it felt as if nature had to surrender to tyranny, Lakshmi burnt like a golden flame eradicating the darkness.
As they stood facing each other, the fifteen-year-old Prince Indrajeet shouted, “Here is your price Mahout! Command your beast to bow!”
The fifty-four-year-old Mahout observed as the Prince threw the coin on the ground. Feeling his elephant’s anger, Vishnu replied calmly, “That wasn’t just my price, my Prince. It was an undertaking to enlighten you.”
With a raised eyebrow, Indrajeet shouted, “So cleaning the steps of Goddess Lakshmi’s temple while being the first one to offer prayers every morning is to enlighten me? You have failed as a teacher Mahout! Better conduct your sole business as only an elephant master henceforth.”
Vishnu smiled as Indrajeet continued, “I’ve done what you asked for and brought you the demanded coin from the temple after earning it. Now I want my ride!”
Leaning forward, Vishnu replied, “You have paid me, my Prince. Pay my companion too... if you want to play God and take his seat as you travel across your capital.”
With his eyes widened in shock and anger, Indrajeet shouted, “You know how many elephants the King owns! Do you even know that you will have to pay with your life for defying my command? I was gracious enough to get you your price and need to do nothing more! Now command your beast to bow!”
Silence prevailed for a moment while the subjects waited to listen to Vishnu. However, instead of him, Lakshmi the monumental beauty with Vishnu’s tilak on its forehead marched forward and hit the Prince’s horse with her trunk so hard that the Prince flew beyond his guards before crashing on the ground.
One of the guards immediately launched an arrow into Lakshmi’s eye while the other got down his horse to help his Prince. As the arrow pierced into her flesh, Lakshmi shrieked in pain.
The second guard raised the unconscious Prince and passed him to his companion before they rushed back to the castle. Vishnu collapsed on the ground as Lakshmi stood on her hind legs seeking help from God Vishnu himself by saluting to the dark sky.
As if Lord Vishnu commanded, the dark clouds poured and water washed the blood oozing out of the dead eye. Vishnu and a few other villagers got hold of Lakshmi to help her.
When Indrajeet opened his eyes, he could see his father standing before him. Realizing he was in his private chamber, Indrajeet barked, “I want that beast killed. I don’t care if it is the servant of Goddess Lakshmi. I’m willing to donate all of my wealth if needed to wipe out my sins for this crime.”
Looking at his son, King Bhagirath asked, “Do you think your wealth will wash away your sins?”
While Indrajeet stayed silent, Bhagirath continued, “I remained silent when Vishnu demanded his price believing that the ritual would change you.”
Gawking at his father for a moment, Indrajeet replied, “I serve the Goddess, not my subjects.”
Listening to his son, Bhagirath realized his education didn’t help after all. Approaching him, the King asked, “If you’re willing to respect an idol of our Goddess, why don’t you respect her living embodiment?”
Confused, Indrajeet shouted, “Because it’s nothing more than just a beast on which we ride into wars or travel.”
Taking a deep breath, Bhagirath reminded, “Remember how I instructed you to approach these beautiful beings?”
Recalling how he was hit yesterday, Indrajeet stated, “I would rather be hanged by you than bow to such a notorious beast.”
Without saying another word, the King left and the black clouds finally let a ray of light touch the beautiful city. Three days later, when the Prince could finally ride, he took off in his royal blue robe. This time followed by ten guards struggling to keep up with him as his light blue cape cut the cold wind with the warmth of his anger.
Though his father didn’t lend him his guards after failing to stop his adorable son, his mother helped him. Approaching the same street, the Prince waited for Lakshmi to return from the temple.
Subjects looked at their Prince in fear and as Lakshmi approached, twelve soldiers pulled out their arrows and a few aimed at the beast while the others at its master.
Looking at them with her one eye as sunlight touched them piercing through the dark clouds, Lakshmi continued walking and Vishnu observed them in silence.
As soon as they approached them, Vishnu questioned, “How can I help you, my Prince?”
With a stern look, Indrajeet said, “I demand my request be fulfilled, Mahout. If not you shall regret it.”
Vishnu smiled before stating, “As informed my Prince. You shall have to pay a price to get your ride. Shakti’s vahana doesn’t obey either of our commands if it’s not valued. So bow before it and you shall have your ride.”
Eyes burning black with anger, Indrajeet commanded, “Kill them!”
The very next moment, three arrows pierced Vishnu’s throat and he collapsed from his throne and fell into the mud whence he came from. Another four archers hit Lakshmi on her legs while five of them shot her on her trunk.
Rushing towards the nearest soldier, Lakshmi hit him with her trunk making him crash into the wall nearby. Observing one of his soldiers hurt, Indrajeet picked up a spear from his nearest soldier and shot it into her forehead in a single throw.
Shrieking in pain as the metal slid into her, Lakshmi couldn’t hold her ground and as she collapsed, Indrajeet got down his horse to mock her by bowing.
As he did, the only Sun’s ray got covered by dark clouds while Lakshmi’s fading golden flame was eaten by darkness, her eye was filled with tears and blood dripped all over her face, Lakshmi saw the Prince bowing and bowed back before closing her eye and reuniting with her master once more. Her last action, bowing to her own slayer, however, crushed the Prince to his core.
This short story is based on an experience by Vaidurya Pratap Sahi titled “The Elephant Ride”. Read the original online and support the community by ordering a paperback.
This short story has been published in an anthology of eight stories titled “Eccentric Endings”. Our artists would benefit if you could order a paperback to show your support. Order your copy now!