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I must be hallucinating. Kaka can’t have hidden powers from me for two decades.

“Things are going to change now, Baba,” Kaka said. “You’re not going to survive this, let alone the world without power. It’s already happening. I should’ve expected such an event when the tome awakened last month. You’re the heir. It won’t draw violence to me. But, to you.”

“Can we stop beating around the bush and get to the point?” Danny asked, but got no reply. The book’s pages turned slowly, showing colourful illustrations of strange creatures with Sanskrit text bordering them. Much to Danny’s surprise, the monsters not only looked familiar, but he knew their names as well. Words flashed in front of Danny's eyes like on a HoloScreen, but they were in Sanskrit and somehow Danny understood them.

Bali, son of Virochona
Banasura, son of Bali
Chir Batti, ghost light of the grasslands
Hidimbi, dweller of forests, true wife to Bheem

New words accompanied every image, and Danny’s brain urged him to remember them even though he hadn’t read or heard any of these names before—besides Bheem. He was a super-athlete named after a mighty warrior from the epic Mahabharata.

“I’m sorry, Kaka,” Danny said, as the warmth weighed on his body. He could feel his grip on consciousness fading. “I didn’t mean to talk to you the way I did—”

“Stop it.” Kaka cut Danny off mid-sentence. “You’re not going to die. The book and I will ensure you live through this.”

More familiar names from stories and pop culture appeared, like Naga and Ravana. It was the last name where Danny’s interest piqued. He recognised the accompanying image. It had ten heads and skin as dark as night. Ravana was the king of Lanka and served as the villain in the Hindu epic, Ramayana. Using the last of his strength, Danny reached out towards the shape.

“No!” Kaka barked, his voice full of rage and sorrow. He forcefully turned the page. “Your father chose him and died for it. You will NOT do the same—”

Danny didn’t hear him finish his sentence. Darkness washed his surroundings away. Consciousness didn’t leave Danny. Instead, it felt like a bad transition in an old film or TV show. A black expanse dotted with stars, ringed planets, and swirling luminescence replaced the basement. Danny didn’t feel fear. Instinct told him that the weighty warmth would keep him safe.

Danny saw Earth in the distance. He recognised the blue and swirling clouds from many satellite images. A red sphere floated between him and home. He identified it as Mars. While studying his surroundings, Danny realised he was floating in the GBelt and had company. The illustrations from the book sat atop the larger rocks, staring at him.

“Is this real? Or have I died?”

“Neither.” The answer made him jump. The sweet-as-honey voice radiated from a pulsing sphere of golden light floating next to his head. It didn’t elaborate, but since Danny could hear it, and sound didn’t travel in a vacuum, he was sure the surroundings were a hallucination. “Your consciousness is within the Asuran Veda’s index. I assume you know why you’re here?”

Danny wasn’t sure why, but he understood the reason for his presence. “I’m here to form a contract.”

“You mortals, and your need for contracts and rules.” The orb sighed. “Most of the prisoners would prefer friendship or a temporary escape from their eternal solitude.”

The word prisoners hung in the air, much like the floating words Danny had seen earlier. Now as he got a closer look at the giant, glowing figures, he realised they were bound to the asteroids with chains as black as the empty space between the distant stars.

“I’m the Asuran Veda’s guide,” the voice said. “You may call me Maya. Who would you like to meet first?”

Danny almost said Ravana. Kaka’s last words had filled him with doubt. He saw the giant, hulking figure with ten heads and twenty arms. All his eyes glared at Danny. Anyone that had grown up in an Indian household had probably heard the story of the Ramayana. The demon king of Lanka had unfathomable power and wealth. He looked familiar for a second reason. The powerful arms reminded Danny of the supervillain Rakshasa’s spectral limbs. He had seen the vids; they gave him incomprehensible offence and defence. It had surprised the entire world when Vish cut him down with his chakrams of light.

“Someone strong,” Danny answered.

“Strength is relative and a matter of context,” Maya said, flying forward. Danny followed in his safe cocoon of warmth, watching demons and monsters from Hindu mythology float by. Danny spotted a scantily clad beautiful woman floating close to Ravana. Further along stood a horned and fanged entity that didn’t seem to belong in the mix. Next, he spotted a giant fat man with food littered around him, snoring atop his asteroid.

Kumbhakarna
Embodiment of Sloth and Gluttony.

The giant’s muscled arms and giant belly left Danny thinking of an obese tank or bulldozer, but the word sloth worried him. In the Ramayana, Kumbhakarna was Ravana’s youngest brother. He slept most of his life away and only awakened to eat, often killing the kingdom’s subjects in the process.

“Everyone here is powerful in one way or another.” Maya continued. “What manner of strength they grant you and how it develops will depend on you and how you nurture your relationship with them.”

They passed more beautiful, half-naked women. Some stood covered in blood, the others appeared to have rolled in soot.

“Chedipe and Curel,” Danny whispered. He knew the second word meant witch but struggled to place the first. Given her fangs and the blood dripping from her mouth, Danny assumed she had vampiric powers. The instinctual knowledge and understanding of the creatures baffled Danny. However, knowledge and understanding didn’t always come hand in hand. Even though their names felt familiar, Danny knew little of their origins.

A lion-headed figure caught Danny’s attention. It had several sets of arms like Ravana and exuded ferocity. He was tempted to ask about the creature until their eyes met. Even though they hadn’t spoken or met, it looked as if the creature was already looking down on him. The figure floating on an asteroid behind him intrigued Danny, too.

Holika
The One Loved By Flames

Even though Danny didn’t understand how the Asuran Veda worked, he didn’t doubt that the woman would give him some sort of pyromancy. Even though the ability overlapped two categories, he coveted—Control and Projection—Danny didn’t want it. Fire was too destructive, and those who wielded it had a history of violence and madness. Hero or villain, the League kept a close eye on all pyromancers and assigned them a high threat level.

They were approaching larger asteroids with multiple residents when an odd figure caught Danny’s eye. He was considering turning back as the figures felt unfamiliar and the masses suggested they were the lesser creatures. Even though Kumbhakarna came with the term sloth, he felt like the best choice of all the other options. Danny was sure he'd get incredible strength and durability with him. He wondered whether the powerset would also come with the ability to heal by sleeping. Then his eyes met a creature sitting on the smallest of solo asteroids. As they stared at each other a pulsing warmth flowed through Danny's body. The sensation reminded him of when he touched Druid's staff.

The creature had a face but no head. In fact, its physiology made no sense at all. A giant eye sat in the centre of what should’ve been the chest, and an enormous mouth opened below it, flashing sharp teeth. Scraggly brown hair surrounded the lips, looking more like a mane than a beard. The thick muscled arms suggested the creature possessed strength. However, its legs were short and stubby.

As Danny struggled to recall the monster’s origins, Sanskrit text appeared in front of his eyes.

Kabandha The Cursed
Devourer and Fearmonger

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J Pal

  • London

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