Soul Warrior by Falguni Kothari
CHAPTER ONEPRALAYA: THE CATACLYSMAsht Dveep, off the coast of Madh Island, North Mumbai.The present.
“We have visitors, my lord.”
Karna paused perusing the Times of India on his tablet, and cocked a brow at Lavya. Pale and lean, his friend and housemate loomed just inside the door to the den, hands folded in a neat Namaste. Irritated, but not at the interruption, Karna sighed, wondering why he bothered reading the news at all. Daily bulletins had become standard—or substandard, depending on one’s viewpoint. Climate change, economic disasters, terrors and terrorists all held front-page positions, every fugging day.
And what else could one expect in the Age of Kali? It was the age of sin, tsunamis and stock options in this currency-ruled realm. Not that the Gods had ever—not once in his almost eight-thousand-year career as humanity’s soul guardian—asked him to interfere with, subvert or reverse any of the realm’s natural or man-made calamities. His duty required only that he keep the world free of supernatural evil.
Karna stretched, his spine separating from the fiberglass chair like Velcro ripping. He was shirtless to battle the unrelenting October heat and though he’d queued up his sun-bleached, shoulder-length mane, sweat dampened his forehead, nape, armpits and back.
And therein lay the rub, he thought, coming back to the dos and don’ts of his duties. Being “asked” not to meddle in human affairs only made him more determined to help the helpless. At times, he managed to contain the disasters, and all was well in the Cosmos. But sometimes, his actions worsened the fate of the mortals, as well as his own. Like when he’d tried to repair the deficient ozone layer with his god-powers a couple of years ago.
Blasting the stratosphere with a load of solar radiation to augment the emissions from his godsire’s Celestial abode had been a solid, scientifically vetted idea. The extra UV rays he’d discharged from his fingertips had accelerated ozone production, and for a while he’d believed the crisis slowed, if not solved. But the hyper-paced oxygen cycle had also amplified energy output, creating miscreant solar flares, a couple of which had whipped across the Cosmos and breached the lower regions of the Higher Worlds.
Needless to say, the atmospheric fireworks hadn’t amused the Celestials or Heaven’s ruling Council. And as punishment for his hubris, Karna had been saddled with an annoying quirk—his body temperature was now directly proportional to his emotions—specifically, high-voltage anger. And stoicism did not come naturally to him.
“Whoever it is, tell them I’m indisposed,” he said, turning back to the tablet to scan a news report about a recent grisly murder near Hyderabad. He wondered if asuras were
Protecting the Human Realm from the demon race was a fulltime, energy-sucking occupation. He just wasn’t in the mood for idle chitchat, heavenly politics or an unasked-for performance report. And from the surging energy levels he sensed wafting out of the living room, one or all three outcomes were assured as his visitors were definitely from the Higher Worlds. The heightened electromagnetic pulse wasn’t the sole indication of uninvited Celestial company—his friend and aide my-lorded him only when heavenly protocol needed to be followed.
“I doubt the excuse will fly with the Patriarchs or the Matriarchs,” said Lavya, coming to stand on the other side of the massive black onyx desk dominating the chamber.
Karna went rigid with shock when he heard who his visitors were. The entire Council gracing the Human Realm all at once was highly unusual. Not just unusual—it spelled cataclysmic.