“I am Rajveer of the Guhilas of Mewar. I belong to the kshatriya caste. I was born in mighty Chittor a couple of centuries before the advent of the Mughal emperors. My warrior father was killed when I was twenty-four, and my mother followed him on the funeral pyre. I was head of the family with three wives but no children – at least not from my first beloved wife.”
“I didn’t know Hindus could have more than one wife,” the young woman said.
“I could afford them. My father had only one, but since Charumati kept having miscarriages, she suggested I take a second and then third wife. I married Akshita after my father’s funeral and Enakshi three years later.”
“No, I don’t drink human blood unless I’m in the middle of a battlefield. I know it tastes better than animal blood and gives me more strength, but I couldn’t bring myself to have it again. I don’t need to suck anyone dry to feel fine, but I still don’t like the thought of draining another human being.”
“Cool.” She smiled at him. “Keep telling. So you were head of the house and had three childless wives. What happened? Did Emperor Akbar destroy your home or what?”
“Ah, no.” Rajveer looked at the waning crescent and concentrated on the past again. “I was born two centuries before him. I lived in Chittor, capital of the kingdom of Mewar. There was this foreigner hanging around the fort with what I assumed was his daughter, since she was much younger than him. He said he was a shaman from the west – he called himself a druid – and was seen mostly at night. I was on watch duty when he walked to me and talked to me. He could read my mind and showed me his power…”
“So what did the druid promise you?”
“You heard of druids?” He stared at her in wonder. She knew nothing of his country, but knew about Bran’s?
“Ancient sorcerers of the Celts… shamans of northern Europe who clashed with the power of the Greeks first and the Romans later. My geography and history of this world aren’t perfect, but I seem to know more than you do!”
She shot him an impish smile and he looked away, embarrassed. He should have followed Bran and Kaylyn away from Hindustan. He felt cut out and lost and wasn’t sure he fit in anymore.
“Anyway, the Celts are long gone now. I wonder how one of them became a vampire, though.” She shrugged. “Because that’s what he was, right?”
He sighed. “Yes. Although he didn’t really say it this way. He told me he’d found a way of living forever. That if I was so afraid of never having children, he could make me and Charumati live forever and get out of the whole series of rebirths.”
“Oh, reincarnation.” She nodded thoughtful, but it sounded an alien concept to her.
“Well, the bulk of our prayers is directed either directly or indirectly at breaking the bonds of karma, escaping the snare of rebirth, restoring the original serenity of the undivided self by reuniting it with god. Except karma and dharma are linked, and there’s no real escape…”
“But he made you think there was.”
“Yes! I had already tried all the rituals and pilgrimages and everything I was supposed to do, and from what Bran said, it looked like I’d be immortal, invincible, and would be able to protect my women for the rest of my life.” He sighed and looked at the moon. “I should have asked more questions before consenting to receive his gift.”
“He called it a gift?” She scoffed. “Feeding on people’s blood? Although, as a warrior yourself, you were used to killing people…”
“But not to feed on people’s blood! He gave me strength and longevity, but the price…” He shook his head, dejected. “Not that I really kill anyone, not in one sitting, but still…”