Tiger’s Destiny Extended Scenes Between Kelsey and Lokesh
February 1, 2014
I loved giving my readers all this background on Lokesh but my editor felt that it was too much like a Batman villain sharing his whole evil plan just before he gets caught. We moved some pieces to other places but some of it might be new for you.
Extended Scenes Between Kelsey and Lokesh
I stiffened my bearing and announced disdainfully, “I am not fond of immodest clothing. Surely you recognize that I am not some garish strumpet who will hasten to obey your every whim. Are you truly wanting an ally or are you only interested in a concubine?”
He blew air out of his nostrils and said, “Perhaps I am interested in both.”
I turned to him bravely and thrust out my chin. “Ah, but isn’t the pursuit often equally as pleasurable as the victory? A woman can be,” I played with the necklace at my throat, “enticing without being vulgar.”
He nodded watchfully. “Make me…mantou.”
I closed my eyes and wished for whatever the heck kind of food it was he asked for. A plate shimmered and solidified. It was full of steamed buns like dim sum I’d had once at a Chinese restaurant.
He picked one up and broke it open. The fragrant smell of spicy meat filled the air. He passed half to me and told me to eat. I bit into the soft bun. It was delicious. After seeing I would eat it, he popped the other half in his mouth and chewed. “It is exactly the same as chef used to make for me as a boy,” he said. Taking the plate with him, he moved back to his side of the table.
“What exactly are mantou?” I asked, trying to distract him from his recent tantrum.
He chewed and pondered my request. As he picked up another bun he smiled, his anger seemingly gone for the moment. He answered, “Chef told me that when my father’s army, the Shu army, returned home from a victorious battle against the barbarians, they couldn’t cross a certain river. It was wide and fast. One of the barbarian traitors told them the river god was angry and required the sacrifice of fifty men. They were to be beheaded and only the heads were to be thrown into the river. The captain of the Shu army was not willing to sacrifice his men and instead had fifty cows and horses killed. Their heads were thrown in instead and the men crossed safely.
“When they returned home, the Chef made dough shaped like heads and stuffed them with meat filling to celebrate their triumphant return.” He leaned forward and grinned blackly, “The word mantou means barbarian head.”
I swallowed, pushed the curry away, and slid the crepes closer. “Is that the time you grew up in? During the Shu dynasty?” I asked, persevering.
“It was not called the Shu dynasty. Haven’t you studied history at all?”
My cheek burned and itched where he’d slapped it but I refused to rub it and acknowledge the pain. “I don’t know much about Chinese history. Besides, I thought you were Indian.”
“Why do you wish to know these things?”
I sipped my water and said, “If we are to have a son, I’d like him to know his heritage. I already know he’d be half American.”
“A fact I’d prefer to eradicate from my mind.”
“Then tell me more about your background. Aren’t you proud enough of your own history to pass it on?”
His face became mottled red and he spoke between clenched teeth. “No one will judge me or my progeny and find them lacking.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Alright. Then tell me.”
He considered me for a moment then threw his napkin on the table. “Very well.” He sat back in his chair and began. “I was born the eldest illegitimate son of the Shu emperor during the time of the Three Kingdoms. My mother was an Indian slave girl who was captured in a caravan in the year 250 CE. She was beautiful so the emperor took her for himself and raped her. She died by her own hand a year after my birth.
“My father, in an uncharacteristic act of human kindness, took me under his wing and taught me what it meant to have power. He said that a truly powerful man listens only to himself because he can trust no other, takes what he wants because no one will hand it to him freely, and uses weapons others fear to wield. I watched his example carefully over the years and learned his lessons very well. He carried a piece of the amulet and taught me of the power it had.”
I blinked and lowered my fork, the delicious crepes forgotten.
Continuing, he said, “He told me I would only be able to wield its power if he died without an heir. From the moment I learned of the amulet’s existence, I lusted after it and thought of nothing else. When I was a young man, war came to our empire and for the first time we were on the losing end. Desperate, my father tried some last minute bargaining and offered to take a barbarian leader’s teenage daughter as his bride. He hoped that this would save his empire. I was disgusted by this. He’d become weak, fearful. He was not the man who inspired fear in others any longer.
“His barbarian bride bore him a son and as the boy grew, I was dismissed from my father’s side. No longer did he confide in me. No longer did I have a claim to the empire. I vowed then that I would take the life of my half-brother, and then I would kill my father. I was ten.
“When my brother was seven, and I seventeen, I took him out hunting. Dismissing the guards, we rode out following the tracks of a stag. It was an easy thing to push him from his horse. I rode back and forth over his body using his own horse until he was quite dead, killed his horse, and took his broken body back to my father.
“I told the emperor that the horse had thrown my younger brother and then went wild, trampling him until he was dead. Reassuring him, I said that the beast that killed him was now dead by my own hand. The fact that he believed my lies was a testament to how weak he’d become.
“A few months later, I slipped a knife between my father’s ribs while he was sleeping and took the amulet. He didn’t even wake. When I ascended the throne, I immediately had my father’s barbarian wife killed and took the rings of the empire. My father had worn one and the barbarian princess wore the other one, the one he’d given to my half-brother upon his birth. It was a symbol that he was to be the next emperor.”
He twisted a ring on his right index finger. “This is the emblem of the Shu Empire and this,” he wiggled his pinky finger, “is the ring of the crown prince. The ring my half-brother wore.”
I swallowed my revulsion and asked, “How long were you the emperor?”
“Not long. My father’s weakness had become an excuse for other warlords to constantly try us in battle. When I saw my armies fleeing the enemy in cowardice, I sent those who were still loyal to hold off the invaders long enough for me to escape. I had no interest in ruling from my father’s seat of power. By then I was only interested in obtaining the other pieces of the amulet.”
“Which piece belonged to your father?”
He pulled the amulet out from under his shirt and pointed to the top piece. “This is the one my father held. It is the piece for air.”
“Air? You mean each piece represents a different element?”
He raised his black eyes to stare into mine. I felt my soul shrivel as if it was cowering away from his gaze. “You do not know the power of the pieces?” he asked.
I paused, then made a decision. He obviously knew more about the amulets than we did anyway. “No. Kadam thinks his piece helps him to heal and we know they turned Ren and Kishan to tigers, but that is all we know. Do you know more?”
“Since you have told me what you know of the amulets, I will indulge you. Each piece has certain characteristics and when they are joined together, the power magnifies.”
“Deflecting my arrows away from you. That was the air piece. Right?”
“Yes. When I caught you in a whirlwind at the Baiga campground, I also used the air piece.” He leaned forward. “You were wearing Kadam’s amulet at that time then? That’s why you healed?”
“Yes,” I answered smoothly.
He grunted and sat back in his chair. “We will discuss more of this healing tomorrow.”
“Will you tell me about the other pieces of the amulet as well?”
“Perhaps. If you please me. I have no time to escort you back tonight. Guard!”
A man appeared and I rose with a flourish and bowed my head towards Lokesh slightly upon my departure. He seemed distracted and I was grateful for his lack of physical attention on my person.
I’d tried to summon food through the Golden Fruit while in my room and it didn’t work which meant it was closer to the dining room than it was to my bedroom.
This piece was difficult to find. I searched many years for information on the amulet and finally was led to Burma, now called Myanmar. An old Buddhist monk knew of the amulet’s origins but other than admitting he knew of it, would say nothing more. I kidnapped him and tortured him until he shared his information. My skills in the art of inflicting pain were rudimentary at the time but still, I was effective, if not practiced. Unfortunately, my subject died long before I had extracted all the information I sought.”
“What did you,” I swallowed thickly, “learn?”
“The monk told me that a few centuries before the birth of his teacher, there was a great battle. All the powerful kingdoms of Asia gathered together to battle a demon. A goddess arose with two faces, one face was dark and beautiful, and the other was bright and more glorious than the sun. She led the armies of Asia against the armies of the demon. They were victorious, and, as a result, the goddess blessed each kingdom with a gift.”
“Yes. She took the amulet from her neck and broke it into five pieces. She gave one piece to each kingdom and admonished them to keep secret its origin and to use its power to help and protect their people. They were instructed to pass it within their family to the eldest son.
Again, he was pleased with my being forthcoming and offered to tell me about the third piece of his amulet. We sat by the fire once again and he stared into the flames as he spoke. “The third piece of the amulet took me five hundred years to find. Shortly after I’d found the second piece, I realized that my life was prolonged. I had physically aged to the point where I looked like I was fifty but then stopped. I was still strong. My limbs were still flexible. My muscles, hard. I’ve since discovered that though my natural state is to look fifty, I can alter my form to appear to be a young man at will. Often I choose the age that will help me to accomplish my aim.”
Finally, while researching in India, I stumbled across some letters sent between the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya and Seleucus the Victor. Chandragupta and Seleucus had frequently met in battle prior to 305 BCE but then, not a year later, they signed a peace treaty. Seleucus gave his daughter to be the Emperor’s wife and the Emperor sent five hundred battle elephants as a gift.
“Seleucus had served under Alexander the Great and had taken over his East Asian territories after he died. I thought it might have been possible for his armies to be a part of the battle against the demon. I skimmed through much of their correspondence until I found a reference to a mountain being moved. Seleucus had offered lands that bordered the Indus River in exchange for goods and soldiers and after reading the letter Chandragupta replied, ‘It is easy for you to offer us more and more land when the very mountains can move at your command, but I will consider your offer if you will agree to level the mount that blocks the view from my palace.’”
“It sounds like little to go on,” I remarked.
“It was. But I was hopeful. In my research, I found that Seleucus had been born with a birthmark that was passed down to his sons and grandsons. It was in the shape of an anchor. His mother had told him that it appeared because his real father was the god Apollo and that the birthmark was the sign of his favor. Whether true or not, Seleucus believed he was destined for great things and as a young man quickly rose in the ranks of Alexander’s army. By the time I was looking into his progeny, the area was ruled by the Saffarid Dynasty, comprising modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran.
“I began looking into his family and found a historian who happened to know someone with the birthmark of Seleucus. The man knew nothing of the amulet but told me that many years after the death of Seleucus, his wife Apama, returned to her Persian hometown of Susa. I journeyed to this town and found several people who either had the birthmark or knew of it. It took me several years to find it, but I was finally led to an ancient grandfather whose children said he claimed to be one hundred and twelve years old but there were whisperings that he was much, much older.
“When I questioned him, I knew he was in possession of the amulet. His eyes gave him away. He realized my intent and used the power of his amulet to shake the ground but he was weak, more feeble than I. By this time I’d learned I had the power to freeze water. I froze his entire body in an instant and with his earthquake still rumbling, his body slid from the chair and broke apart into scattered pieces. I shoved aside his cold remains and pulled the amulet from his neck. This ring was his.”
“Is every ring you wear a token, then? A remembrance of someone you killed?”
His grin reminded me of the leer on a skeleton. “Perhaps someday, I will share with you the story of each one.”
He pulled a large ring from his thumb and tossed it casually to me. It was made of thick yellow gold and had a kind of molded edging surrounding the smooth oval gem and around both edges. I rubbed the flat surface. “What is the stone?”
“It’s beautiful.” The blue surface had a marbled appearance. It looked slightly like a weathered map. I handed it back.
He nudged it over the knuckle of his thumb. “When I joined his piece to mine, I felt the rush of power fill my frame. I was invigorated and knew I’d found the earth piece. Eagerly, I tested its range and the scope of its power. Adding it to my collection enhanced the other two. I found I could call predators of the earth, air, and sea and that they would do my bidding.”
“Like the sharks.”
“Exactly. The earth piece also allows me to shift rock, bring precious gems to the surface, and cause tremors. After that piece, I knew the next one was in India and was likely to be found by a descendant of Emperor Chandragupta. You must know now how excited I was to find both of the remaining pieces in one family.”
This was right after Ren and Kishan rescued Kelsey.
“No,” I pulled him back, “don’t let me off so easily. I betrayed your trust and I’m sorry.”
He kissed my forehead. “You were doing what needed to be done. Don’t give it a second thought. I trust you absolutely. A little slap isn’t going to change that,” he added softly.
I lowered my gaze solemnly. “Thank you for believing in me.”
“Anytime. Besides, it didn’t even hurt. In fact, it felt sort of like a butterfly’s wing.”
I folded my arms across my chest. “Oh, really?”
“Yep.” He jostled my arm. “You must be getting weak. I think you need some long workouts when we get home,” he teased.
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