Happy Festival of Lights to everyone celebrating #Diwali this weekend. Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and hope over despair.
Growing up in India, and when I was little enough to follow tradition without asking too many questions 🙂 Diwali meant waking up at dawn, followed by the dreaded ritual oil-bath. Wearing new clothes, we’d pray to the Goddess Lakshmi (my namesake) to bring us good fortune. Then, it would be asking elders for blessings, before feasting on sweets. In the evening, we’d light candles, diyas and burst fire crackers.
Today, I am celebrating Diwali with YOU 🙂 before I dive into completing book 4, in the Many Lives Series – Redemption. The vampires have not made this one easy, so wish me luck!
To celebrate the Festival of Lights, I am also sharing an excerpt from Untamed, book 3 in the Many Lives Series. In keeping with the spirit of Diwali and Halloween, it seems appropriate to share the mythology behind the new world in the Many Lives Series.
Wishing you and your’s a happy and prosperous Festival of Lights 🙂
-Excerpt from Untamed (Many Lives Series, Book 3)
Synopsis of Untamed: Leana only ever wanted to be 100% human. An unexpected encounter with the Hugging Saint of Bombay forces her to face the wolf inside… with unexpected consequences.
How had I not known that Bombay was a ‘humans only’ city? How did I miss that? All my life, I’ve wanted to be completely human. And now I am surrounded by them. Except I’ll never be like them.
If only I was not born to the parents I had never known, I would—
No, don’t go there. Don’t go wishing for something you can never be. Just keep him talking; keep him distracted so he doesn’t guess what you are here for.
“So was it just the bunch of you kids who survived the storm?” I ask.
If he’s surprised that I am asking him about that, he hides it well. “There were others, grown-ups too, but we didn’t meet them until many years later,” he replies.
“How did you grow up, then? Who took care of you? And all this…?” I gesture to the land we pass by. Land filled with low-rise buildings, children playing by the beaches. “How did all this come about?”
“It’s all thanks to Brahma, the founding father of this new world.”
“Brahma?” Of course I’ve heard about him, whispers of how he had helped rebuild the city. But I’ve never heard the story first hand.
“Tell me more,” I say. “How did he save the city?”
“A few months before the tsunami hit, Brahma, then a young soldier in the army, was on a leave of absence, in Bombay. One day when washing his hands in the Banganga Tank—” Seeing the question on my face, he explains, “It’s an underwater spring at the Walkeshwar temple in Bombay.”
“How many temples are there in Bombay, anyway?”
“Too many.” He chuckles. “We love our temples, it’s where we come together to not only pray but to reassure ourselves that we are together on our shared journeys. That we are not alone.” He pauses as if gathering his thoughts. “Anyway where were we?”
“Brahma,” I prompt him.
He nods. “Oh, yes. So Brahma is strolling by this beautiful spot. He is in a contemplative mood, wondering what’s the point of all this combat? He is gazing into the water, sitting by the edge of the pool, soaking in the quiet, when he feels really thirsty. So, he cups the water from the pool and drinks from it.
“The water is fresh and sweet. So he returns for one last sip, only to sees a tiny fish in his cupped palm. To his surprise, the fish talks to him.
“It begs him to save it, saying that it would return the favor.
“Brahma asks the fish how something so tiny could save a man like himself?
“The fish replies that there is a tsunami on the way, bringing with it floods which will wash away all living things, and it was here to save Brahma.
“Despite his misgivings, Brahma takes the fish home and puts it in a pot.”
A talking fish? It’s just an old story of course, but somehow I almost believe him.
“And then?” I urge.
He continues. “Within a day, the fish outgrows the pot, and he has to move it back to the tank. The fish keeps growing, so he takes it to a lake. Soon the fish outgrows the lake, so he takes it to the open sea. Within a week, the fish is large enough to fill the entire shoreline of the city, and it asks Brahma to build a boat, for the storm is almost upon them. By this time, the skies have darkened with angry clouds, building up, churning crossly.
“Brahma calls all the recruits in the city to help build the ship. When the waters rise, the ship rises with it. The fish advises Brahma to find three women who he thinks he could spend the rest of his life with, and bring them to the ship.
“It tells Brahma to choose such women as represented by the three worlds—heaven, hell and earth—for together they would be creating a new city for future generations.
“So he chooses Gayatri the prostitute, Savitri the chef, and Vidya the schoolteacher. When he brings them back to the boat, he finds that the massive fish has reached out to women in the city, asking them to bring their children to the boat to be saved.
“And thus Brahma finds himself with three women and twenty-one children, all born the week before the apocalypse struck.”
“Three humans, twenty-one babies, and one ship!” I exclaim. “Then there’s you and the other kids.”
“Twenty-four of them and nineteen of us kids made it out alive,” he agrees. “Not to forget the big fish, now,” he chuckles.
“And did it survive the storm too?”
“Oh! Yes, the fish towed them to safety, away from the city, toward the middle of the ocean where all was calm. They waited till the tsunami blew itself out, before they returned.”
“To a destroyed city?” I ask.
“To the original seven islands that made up Bombay. All through the twentieth century, the city had grown, unchecked, to become one of the most populated urban areas—and among the richest—in the world. Overnight, all that craving for money and power was washed away. Nature had taken revenge for the centuries of greed the citizens had indulged in. By the end of 2014, when the waters receded, there was no more big city. All that remained were its original seven islands. As it had been in the beginning.”
The boat lurches, jerking me out of the images his words have trapped me in.
“Not far now,” he says, beginning to gather his lamps.
“Wait, what about Ruby? And Vikram?” I burst out, asking the question that’s bothering me all through our conversation. “If you were part of the original group of survivors you’d have met them too, wouldn’t you?”
If they’d lived, Ruby and Vik would be older than him. They’d be in their eighties. It’s strange to think I am meeting someone who has lived across so many generations. That the eyes he’s looking at me with could have looked at my grandparents too.
He looks at me strangely, and I wonder if I’d given myself away. Have I revealed my connection to Ruby?
“Yes” he says, “I met them. Brahma rescued them, gave them shelter. It’s he who advised them to set up the first council. It’s he who made Vikram the first Mayor of Bombay.
“But I never got to know them well. After Brahma’s death, Vikram took over governing the city on his own. I must confess that I didn’t always agree with the decisions he and his council made.”
“The refugees,” I say.
He nods. “I couldn’t agree with their keeping people in need from entering the city. And definitely not with their way of governing, the introduction of the Identity card to track everyone. The constant indoctrination of what is right, what to do, how to behave. How to take care of your kids. They bribed people into doing what they wanted.”
He pauses and I ask, impatient, “Bribed them how?”
“By offering them a safe clean city, one with almost no crime.”
“Seems like a good deal to me. A perfect solution.”
“Too perfect. One for which they must pay a big price. The price of choice. Of freedom.”
He cuts the air with his palm, an impatient gesture. Running his hand down his luxuriant grey beard he says, “but we’re not talking about the city. We’re talking about you, Leana. About Ruby and Vikram.”
The way he says their names with mine in the same breath. I know now he’s made the connection. Knows I am Ruby’s granddaughter. But some part of me almost doesn’t care. I want to know more.
“What happened then?” I ask.
I am holding my breath now; I want him to complete his story. Need to know how it ends.
“What happened to what?” he teases me.
“To Brahma, Ruby and Vik?” I say.
“When the waters settled back, the fish towed them back to the islands, letting them off on a small hill at the southernmost tip of the city. It was the only space with enough fresh water and food to sustain them over the next few years.”
“How did Brahma provide for all of them?”
“Brahma knew how to survive. Being in the army had taught him that much. So there, with his new tribe, he stood next to the ancient temple of Lord Shiva, a thousand feet above sea level.”
“Was that the only thing to survive? That temple?” I ask.
“That, and the temple of the Mother Goddess, Mumbadevi, after whom the city of Bombay is named, emerged unscathed from the tsunami.”
“So, at least in destruction, nature had balanced out the masculine and the feminine?”
I don’t realize I have said that aloud until he says, “Wise, aren’t you? Yes, you can look at it that way too.”
“As you well know, the post tsunami years weren’t easy, for it was as if the storm was only the start. Soon after, the effects of global warming accelerated.”
He pauses. “The survivors of the storm had to face up to something much bigger. Mutation. As a result of the nuclear leak in the city from the tsunami, humans exposed to it mutated to hybrids. Shifters. And they may not be the only species to have emerged from this, either.” He half mutters this.
“Vampires?” I blurt out.
I have to ask him, to confirm I haven’t been imagining the signs.
He doesn’t seem surprised that I know. “Yes, recent arrivals. They are smart, savvy. Their leader is a scientist. Someone who has lot of money for research. He’s astute enough to have already struck a deal with the Council to keep them off his space.”
“And the humans. They survived the tsunami, though, didn’t they?”
He nods, “Though we now face the threat of extinction, for the radiation also rendered many sterile.
“A lot of us have died without children. It’s one reason humans have begun mating with shifters, the only way to propagate bloodlines.”
When he stops, I know it’s my turn. It’s as if we are trading words in a twisted relay race, each of us reading from a puzzle that has already been solved.
“And yet.” I swallow. “Yet, Bombay doesn’t welcome shifters.” My voice tapers off, but my mind is racing with questions.
“They are selective about who they let into the city. About who they take on as partners and spouses. For now, there’s Bombay 2, or Shifter Town as it is called.”
“So that’s the way, is it? Disband the refugee camp, but instead, house those who don’t belong in… a ghetto. Exchange one prison for another?” I ask.
Hearing him, hearing my own words, I begin to despair. Why do humans insist on drawing these false lines of separation? Why do they seem to thrive on division? Will I even be allowed into the main city to see my cousin?
When I look at him, the question in my eyes, he pauses, looking at me thoughtfully, “In fact, it makes me wonder what you are doing here. What are you up to, Leana? How long do you think you can hide that you have the sword?”
He stares at me, a wise, knowing look on his face that sears through me. I blink, but can’t look away. I am trapped in that all-seeing stare of his.
The hairs on my forearms stand on end, and I know then that he knows what I know. He knows who I really am.
And he wants the sword, that’s clear too.
And that I cannot give it to him.
“Your stories are amusing, old man, but now that you know who I am, I have to kill you,” I say.
Want to find out what happens next? Start the series with FERAL, Book 1 in the Many Lives Series.
He was her destination, she just didn’t know it. When Maya leaves her mate Luke to go to Bombay and search for her blood family, she discovers secrets from her past… secrets that will change her life forever. Get Feral,for just 99c Click NOW to get your copy: http://smarturl.it/FeralMaya
Continue with TAKEN, Book 2 in the Many Lives Series.
Three years ago Jai allowed the only woman he loved to walk out of his life. But Aria’s back now. Except her life is in danger, and this time Jai will do anything, even break his vow to protect Bombay city, to keep her safe. Click NOW to get your copy: https://books2read.com/TAKEN
New release: UNTAMED, Book 3 in the Many Lives Series.
Leana, the first wolf hybrid of her bloodline, only ever wanted to be 100% human. But when she loses the only man she has ever loved to vampires, she knows the fight to save Bombay from this deadly new threat has just begun; and Leana must play the central role in it. Click NOW to get your copy: http://smarturl.it/UnTamedLH
Praise for the Many Lives Series: “ I was sucked in to it. I heard nothing. I kept reading and reading i cant stop. Thanks for writing beautiful books xx”