As they watch one of the crafts beaks away from the formation. It makes straight for them, slowing down slightly in speed and before it has come to a stop, changes shape, so that there standing right in front of them is a man with the beak of a bird and large expansive powerful wings, which even as they watch fold back neatly onto his back, that flap once cheekily and settle at his side.
He drops to his knees before them, thus bringing himself level with their line of sight and says, “So! You have arrived, finally eh?”
The three of them look at each other. “Our coming is not a surprise to anyone else except us!”
The Bird Man smiles “That is fantastic, isn’t it? It is foretold of the three coming to save our world. At every stage, we the believers of the prophecy, made sure we would be present to guide you. And ease the burden that you have undertaken.”
“Come then” he says “They are waiting for you.”
“Who?” asks Yudi?
He smiles and beckons them to get on his back, changing shape again to the mythical flying pod. A graceful boat shaped vehicle with comfortable seats.
Tiina is the last to get on. Barely has she seated herself, when with the craft silently raises itself into the air, and then with a sudden burst of speed, lifts off even further and joins the stream of other silent crafts. The space they are in is completely silent. It is comfortable and yet filled with many emotions. It is, Tiina realizes, the feeling of life thriving, of being satisfied with itself. An emotion so unknown, that it takes a little time for them to comprehend.
They look around curiously, trying to glean what manner of lives conducted their daily pursuits in such rarified environment.
They pass through beautiful gardens where children of all shapes and of various galactic races play strange virtual games and then near the crystal towers which they realized are actually made of many tiny windows glinting and as the craft ascended up the tower they could look in and see families at work and at play, families of all races and shapes, And just as they are being lulled into a comfortable sense of home and peace and happiness and everything you held dear it docked right at the top of the tallest crystal tower.
They make their way down a stream of steps which appear miraculously out of nowhere and disappear as soon as they have crossed it.
When they have all stepped off the ship, the Bird Man changes back into his more than half-human form. He walks ahead agilely, beckoning them to follow. Up the sliver path that appears in front of them and disappears again as soon as they have crossed it.
On an on, they keep walking, right to the very top of the tower. They pause, looking at a silvery iridescent globe hanging in the skies.
“What is that?” asks Yudi
“The moon” answers Tiina, a dreamy looking coming into her eyes.
“The moon?” says Rai in astonishment “It perished with earth many moons ago…” he grins as they look at him in frustration.
“Enough already!” exclaims Tiina “It sure does look like the moon, you have to admit.”
“It is a close cousin” agrees the Bird Man, who has paused within earshot “It is the moon, but not as you know it.”
“If that is the moon then we are on …” Tiina hesitates not wanting to complete her sentence, not daring to hear the answer.
“Earth” he replies affirming her suspicion.
“Earth?” she asks “But wasn’t that destroyed a long time ago?.”
“Yes it was. But you are on earth. The planet as it was in the early years of its conception. A much younger more innocent planet before it was tarnished by waves of human greed sweeping through.”
“Surely we can’t be on earth right now?” asks Yudi incredulously.
“Why not?” asks the Bird Man “You are just on a different dimension.”
“So it is earth, as it was, many eons ago” asks Yudi, trying to comprehend “We are here in the future but also in the past?”
“Well” chuckles the Bird Man “When you put it that way, it does sound confusing. But don’t worry, before this is all over, you’ll be speaking this jargon like a native.”
He continues ahead and Yudi, Tiina and Rai follow him. They enter a large area which resembles a stateroom. The walls are a sheet of glass. Massive windows with a view to the universe; and there silhouetted against the light are seven assembled sages.
In head to toe shimmering costumes they are, and arranged in the order of their ascending heights.
“So like Russian Matryoshkas” thinks Tiina, smiling inwardly.
As if reading her thoughts, Yudi whispers, “It is as if they are positioned much like chess pawns except, that they are arranged in a contemporary saving space kind of sentiment.”
She nods “As if they could at a moment’s notice, jump into each other to become one concise unit and fly away.” Yudi sniggers at that and Tiina tries hard not to chuckle aloud.
Sensing their unrest, the shortest sage, also the closest to them, looks at them and frowns. Tiina and Yudi start visibly like errant children. They shut up and endeavour to wear a more serious.
The Bird Man crosses his hands over his chest and steps forward. He bows deeply to the sages. Addressing the shortest of them he gestures towards Yudi, Tiina and Rai. “My Lord” he says “These are the chosen ones. They have come a long way to see you. Moreover, have an even longer way to go. Many adventures they still have to cover for those so relatively young. “
The shortest sage nods “What do they want?”
“The Elixir my Lord” replies the Bird Man.
The sage smiles and replies “The Elixir is not that easy to come by”. Then adds, “You know the drill Bird Man” he smiles “So let’s do it.”
“Wait a minute,” Yudi says on hearing this “The drill?”
“As you are probably aware by now, Yudi” comments the Bird Man “You are not the first. There have been many before you, and there will probably be many after.”
“Your confidence is reassuring!” exclaims Tiina.
“Gladdens the heart!” adds Rai sarcastically.
“And for the first time, the three of you are united in the same voice. How about that?” asks the sage?
“Hmm! That does surprise me!” says Rai.
“Does not surprise me at all” says Tiina.
“Really?” asks Yudi and the Bird Man in unison, surprised by the confidence in her voice.
“Sure!” she replies, “We came together for a reason. Despite all the bickering on the surface, we all think the same.”
Yudi and Rai look at her, with scepticism and Tiina falters in the face of their opposition, in her monologue.
“Uh! We are all in this together” she says “Well ok we are largely together…. Uh! more or less…ok, ok!” she exclaims. “You know what I mean. We are not that different in our thinking, even though we have our differences,” she tries to justify her earlier words.
The Bird Man finally takes pity on her “We know what you mean Tiina” he says “I was just trying to show that there is nothing like a common cause to bring people together.”
“United against opposition, eh!” says Rai
“Exactly” says the Bird Man.
Tiina nods, relieved that her words are taken in the right spirit. “I do believe that you will not need to repeat this cycle of hide – ‘n- seek with the Elixir again.” she says emphatically.
“I do hope so,” says the Bird Man “It is about time I wrote a different story. This last one has been playing out over many dimensions and many ages. It’s becoming repetitive even for me.”
“Been repeated too many times on the small screen of life!” exclaims Yudi
“Re-versioned and released, too many times on the home videos and in the cinemas of the galaxy” adds Rai in delight.
Tiina rolls her eyes “Even I could do better than that one!” she admonishes Yudi and Rai, as they laugh.
“Well here’s your chance to break the pattern” says the Bird Man turning to the three of them “So how badly do you want the Elixir?”
“Hey!” says Yudi “Let us remind you that It is not us who want it as much as Mimir and you have commanded us to get it to save the universe, as it were!”
On hearing this, the shortest sage who has been closely following their conversation, laughs and says “So Yudi you don’t want any of the Elixir for yourself. It’s only for the greatest good?”
Yudi looks slightly shamefaced “When …well I admit no, it’s not just all for the greatest good,” then adds, “If that were the case then I would be standing where you are just now!”
“So how should I perceive it?” asks the sage
“Well we are doing this for the good of the general junta, but hey!” replies Yudi “ I am not complaining if I happen to accidently gain some super powers in the process. That’s a fringe benefit. ”
“So you do want it for yourself right? And you know it can only benefit you in some form, personally?” prods the sage
“Sure this entire journey is one big ego trip!” exclaims Rai, questioning angrily “Why should we answer your questions? And that too when you are so obviously in disguise,” he looks at all the seven in the room. “It is obvious that this is all just a front” he says.
The seven of them stare back unblinking. There is no response or reaction from them. Looking at their shuttered expression, Rai realizes that they cannot expect much to be forthcoming from them.
Losing patience, he walks towards the shortest sage. Then glancing down at the diminutive figure he prods “Well, the least you can do is reveal your true self. All this subterfuge is tiring.”
Realizing that Rai is trying to get a reaction from the sages, Yudi chimes in with “Yeah! What is a bit of reality between friends eh? What do you have to hide anyway?”
His words seem to trigger a metamorphosis. There is a flash of bright lightning as the seven figures merge into one. In their place stands a figure almost dazzling in his perfection.
Tiina gasps involuntarily, for he is the most beautiful male of the human species that she has set eyes on. He shines lustrous, his blue skin radiating an iridescent sunny glow, which seems to light up the entire room.
Dressed in a flowing yellow gold garment, he wears a slim golden crown with a peacock feather on his head. There is a garland of yellow sunflowers around his neck. He is extremely tall and statuesque, filling the entire height of the room. He has four arms, one of which holds a whirring disc and the other one a flute. He folds his front two arms and bows slightly, to the assembled people in the room.
The Bird Man immediately drops to his knees before the God. Tiina, Yudi and Rai look at him kneeling on the figure and then look at each other in puzzlement. Yudi raises his eyebrows questioningly, and Rai shrugs. They are not quite sure what is happening but it is clear that this is not an ordinary everyday occurrence for the Bird Man.
Then breaking the silence, Tiina speaks “Thank you for revealing your true self,” she says softly.
The Bird Man is still completely overwhelmed. His face is writ large with emotion, his voice slightly wobbly as he addresses the three without taking his eyes off the ground in front of the God.
“You are very fortunate” he says. “There are not too many people who have seen Lord Nu Vish in this form.”
Rai asks the Bird Man “He is breathtaking there’s no doubt about that. But what is it about this form that makes it so significant?” he asks.
“It’s the universal form of the creator. The only form which does true justice to the power of the source.”
“The source?” asks Yudi, urging him to speak further.
The Bird Man nods “The one, the almighty, the omnipresent, the higher power, nature. Call it by whatever name you believe it. You will find that everything that you believe in is here, condensed into this avatar of the Lord. And this one specifically is unique. It is a form which Lord Nu Vish has revealed to very few.”
“Unique?” asks Yudi again.
“Yes. The source can assemble its universal form in different ways at different times. But this one, shown to you is more special than the others. It represents all the powers of the universe. Encompassing many different realities, it is a presence, which can be felt in different parallel dimensions at the same time. And which can stay unseen till the opportune time.”
As if tired of being the object of the discussion without taking direct part in it, the Lord interrupts the conversation. “Why do you want the Elixir?” he asks, his voice booming, filling the space they are in and ricocheting back.
Yudi and Rai, continue to look at the figure. They are yet to get over the surprise of his appearance. Yudi asks in a slightly defiant voice “Why not?”
Not wishing to let this conversation take a turn for the worse, Tiina steps in “We believe, that the Elixir will give us the powers needed to defeat the forces of evil.”
“You are reluctant to complete this mission. And yet you stay persistent to this cause?” asks Lord Nu Vish.
Tiina hesitates before replying “We have a heavy responsibility. We complain about it, but that doesn’t mean that we are going to run away from it either.”
“Speak for yourself” Yudi says in a low voice meant for Tiina and Rai’s ears only. Tiina elbows him in his ribs trying to quieten him down, while Rai conceals a chuckle at Yudi’s reaction.
Seemingly unaware of Yudi and Rai’s reaction to their conversation, the Lord continues, “You will have to work for it Tiina” he says.
“You mean a duel?” She asks in alarm
The Lord smiles for the first time “Yes a duel” he says “But of a different kind. I challenge you to a game of chess. Win it and you get the Elixir.”
“What is Chess?” she asks.
“What is destiny?” retorts the Lord.
He beckons again and there appears a chess set laid for two. Yudi and Rai look at Tiina incredulously. They realize that she is expected to pit wits with the Lord himself.
Yudi asks “Uh! Tiina have you ever played chess?”
Tiina shrugs and walks over saying “Guess there’s always a first time.”
Rai and Yudi watch on as Tiina takes her seat. The God reduces himself down to a more normal size. His latter two arms now folded back into a groove on his back. Except for a slight protuberance on the side of his body, he seems to be largely human now, wearing the normal robes of a modern day metropolis dweller.
Yet despite his attempt at normalcy, he looks just that, a God trying to fit in and not quite succeeding. Lord Nu Vish walks to the place opposite Tiina, and sits down. He looks at the Bird Man meaningfully.
The Bird Man nods and tells Yudi and Rai “I believe, we should leave now”
“Leave?” asks Yudi alarmed.
“Where do you want us to go?” asks Rai.
“Don’t worry” says Bird Man gently. “She will be safe.”
Seeing them hesitate, he says, “I give you my word.”
He leads them away to another antechamber. As they are about to leave, Lord Nu Vish hails the Bird Man “Don’t forget to turn on the music before you leave” he says.
“Of course!” replies Bird Man “Then walks up to a panel enclosed in the wall, and switches it on. The beats of Reggaeton pour through the space.
“The Lord loves Latino music,” whispers the Birdman as they leave.
“So it would seem,” agrees Yudi.
“He spends a lot of his time in Rio. That’s where he picked it up.” expounds the Bird Man by way of explanation.
Yudi is deciding whether he should make a passing comment about the partying and recreational hobbies of the Gods. The he glances at the Bird Man, who seems totally serious about his previous revelations, and thinks the better of it.
As the panel to the room closes shuts, Yudi glances through it, to see the two figures engaged in deep play already, their heads bent. The Lord is tapping his feet in tune with the music, evidently enjoying the music, his brow furrowed in conversation as he looks down at the chess pieces on the board. The aura from Lord Nu Vish has settled to a warm rosy pink and it seems to flow out and embrace Tiina. This somewhat serves to reassure Yudi and he walks into the other room.