The city was bustling with a sense of anticipation and excitement, men and women had poured in from all over the princedom. Prince Nanjunda had turned twenty two. He looked handsome in his coffee coloured complexion, rather tall he was scholar and military strategist. He had proved himself when he repelled the invading northerners.
It was the day of Guru Purnima, the palace gossip had it that the King was to make an important announcement.
The bulge’s went, and the King and Queen arrived.
“Today to this august audience, on the day of the Gurupurnima I King krishnappa Raya announce that the first born of the Rayaramane Arasas, Prince Nanjunda Raya will receive the title Seemrakshaka Dheera and from today as Srikanta Seemaraksha Dheera Nanjunda Raya will be the crown prince of the Rayaramane dynasty. He will be aided by Kumara Dheera Chennakeshavaraya.”
MevadaKumari Rukmavati Ammani was furious, her son Kumara Kantirava was not even acknowledged.
It was twenty years now, since she had come to Rayaramane province as its bride, a land far away from her own, she was the daughter of a younger queen, and marrying into the Rayaramane clan meant she was marrying wealth. When she landed at Rayaramane, it was a different story a language unknown she had to depend except for the coterie she brought with none to call her own, and she was the third queen, the first two queens were contemporaries and she was alone.
The King himself rarely found time for her, she was just a political merger to him, a month in Rayaramane, she would see the King during the Prayer and after which she would retire to her room.
“Greetings Mevada Kumari”
Rukma looked up, that was her name Rukmavati, but nobody seemed to remember her name when people bothered to address her she was, ”Rayaramane MevadaKumari Rani” as if that was all what she was worth the daughter of Mevada.
“Yes,” the person in front of her was a young girl may be her own age fifteen or so, she was beautiful and like most women of Rayaramane she did not cover her head.
“I am Subbakka and Doddammani, sent me with food for you.”
“But the King,”
“He has gone to Bassavanuru today, with Chelvammani he had requested Doddammani to see that you are comfortable.”
Rukma found it strange that the girl not only spoke her language but referred to the older princesses by their name.
“Ammani is the way we refer to the Queens, and Doddammani is not keeping very well, else she would be with you “
“You speak my language quite well,”
“Yes, Ammani, I had a good teacher the Brahmin from Mevada taught me the language he lived in the temple of Ranganatha.”
“He is now gone as the chief priest of Uttaramutta, and his son, is here in as priest of palace temple.”
Rukma looked at the food that was brought to her, the Kings of Rayaramane ate no meat, within the palace, unlike where she came from despite of being Brahmins the members of the Royal house ate meat, but there was Roti after long, something she had not seen since she had left her home.
“Ammani, sit here, the cook will get you whatever you want, “
Rukma looked at the food, after long she was eating something that tasted like the food she age in parents home.
Somewhere Rukma felt a prisoner, this young girl came seem to tell that this was your space do not intrude into the rest of the palace.
It became a ritual for the next month, each morning Queen Doddammani, would send word, for her and together they would go to the “Durgada Devi” of the goddess of the fort temple, she slowly learnt the language and some of the customs. She taught the cook to cook her kind of dishes, the poori was something that the palace took to.
“The prahara is over, why Doddammani not come yet,”
Subbakka told Rukma that it was time of the month, when Doddammani would not venture out, but Doddammani had instructed Subbakka to escort Rukma to the temple. Five days went by, and it was time for Rukma to stay at home,
“Subbakka, get the bath ready for me,”
“Ammani, I shall ask lakumi, to draw the bath for you,” Not for the first time, it occurred to Rukma that Subbakka did not really take orders from her like she responded to Doddammani, she was polite, but she was very clear that she was no servant. She helped Rukma settle she guided Rukma, but seemed a friend but there was this line she kept.
The King still stayed away from here, again polite acknowledging her presence during the morning and evening prayers, but she never went to tours of the Kingdom when she went. It was either Doddammani or Chikkammani who accompanied him, on rare days, she supervised the Poori that was cooked or else it was Doddammani or Chikkammani who looked after the kitchen.
Then came Doddammani’s pregnancy and birth of Nanjunda, the King still away from her,
“Mevada Kumari, Rani Chikkammani would like to see you,”
Rukma was rather surprised, when she entered the Ammanni Darbara… or the queens court, her eyes sparkled at the person she saw,
“Yes, Rani Saiba, Thakursa, sent me away to fend for myself I came asking for refuge, the King asked the Queens Darbar to decide my fate since you were the only reference that I could give.,”
Rukma heaved a sigh of relief, she had awaiting his arrival for the past year, the bond that had developed between them in the palace of Mevada the daima discovering them in each other’s arms, her subsequent banishment to Rayaramane, through a face saving marriage. But he had promised her would come.
Mir Mansoor found his way to the Kings court and the Queen Rukma’s bed, it happened just one night the King and Doddammani were away on their Royal tours, and Chikkammani was visiting her parents.
“Rani Mevada Kumari, Doddammani, is having okkuta-kaituttu for the King, she has invited you to join them.”
“This is not how you go, Mevada Kumari, I will dress you for the occasion.”
“I am the Queen and I shall dress the way I want, remember you are my maid”
“Correction Kumari, I am not your maid, I am Doddammani’s friend, she put me in charge of making you comfortable.” Replied Subbakka, ”It looks like you are now more than comfortable, the King usually likes the Queens to have done their Sringara when he meets them in their chambers.”
A year and half in the palace, a night with Mir Mansoor, and fortnight later the senior queen invites her to her chamber at night…Rukma went, amazed at the turn of events. Her thrust with Mir Mansoor had left her tense..What if she had conceived?
“haa,, Mevada Kumari, join us it is Hunnime the full moon, the King loves eating in the moonlight and playing a game of dice,”
The cook came in, placed before the King and Queen just three dishes, one rice with spices in it, the chitranna, one rice with curd and seasoned with ginger and mustard, and small triangular matri like dish. The Royal dinner at Mevada was never so sparse, unless of course it was the battle field.
“ekanta” the queen called,
All the maids left and guards left. Closing the door behind them.
“Dice first or food first?” Doddammani asked,
The king said food, slowly the Queen made lumps of rice and held it in palm, the King ate off her palm, she made another lump and handed it to Rukma, Rukma ate it, in a while the King started eating off Rukma’s palm, pretending to nibble Doddammani’s palms alternately.
When Rukma woke up, she was in the Queens chamber, the King had left, Doddammani, told her get ready come to the prayer.
It was a week, later, ”Don’t you think Mevada Kumari should see something of this province that she is married into,”
“I will take her with me on my next tour,”
“Why wait till then?”
“Send her to the summer palace at Kemmangundi, You can send Mir Mansoor to protect her,”
Rukma looked up, something flashed in within, Doddammani, had her usual serene smile,
“Nagavalli, I never thought of it, I trust Mir Mansoor, and she will be safe.”
Things happened so fast, and Rukma was to leave, ’This is the cook from Mevada, can anything you want, this time of the life you get lot of craving, after a month or so send Mir Mansoor back, and pretend that you did not get your monthly flow two months, instead of three months, your child and you are safe.
“Abbakka, ” Doddammani called out
“Bande Ammani,” a young girl came in, she was ten years old, she was the one who did Rukma’s hair each morning’ “Kanda, here is a pearl necklace, wear this on your wedding day, it with blessings from the King and me, the escort is ready he will drop you to your father in Uttarmutta, you can spend some time with your father before you go to your in-laws place in Mevada.”
“Yes her father was the priest here, it was actually he who taught Subbakka and me to speak your language. Actually it is Abbakka’s mother tongue.”
Rukma felt the earth shake beneath her, “Its okay your secret is safe so is Mir Mansoor”
Rukma, in that moment realized that Doddammani Nagavalli Rayaramane was indeed was deep waters. For she returned from Kemmanagundi, and the historians had that she had given birth ot Kumara Kantirava prematurely, but she never interacted with King again, though she did go to Jamalabad palace and Kemmangundi palace retreats, sometimes under the protection of Mir Mansoor sometimes with the other queens,
Rukma never saw Abbakka again, but Rukma knew who to thank for her son, being just another Rayaramane Kumara. Yet Rukma knew how to make way for her son.
Edition 121 Indispire Prompt and I never saw him/her again, from Tanishq http://pixelatedcam.blogspot.in/