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Bolly! I need to speak with you my child.� Bolly rolled her eyes as she descended the long winding staircase, her oversized sari dress trailing behind her. Her father, the great King Ashana, was the oldest king in all of the three kingdoms of Bollyworld. He was also the wisest among the three rulers and knew that soon, he would no longer be able to run his kingdom. His health was giving way and he did not know not how to tell

his 17-year old daughter that one day she would need to take his place, and that day was sooner than Bolly could imagine. Bolly walked towards her father, who was sitting on a cushioned chair in the gigantic foyer of the palace in which they lived. The King was reading the paper, his half-eaten breakfast in front of him, and heard Bolly’s humming voice drifting down from the staircase.

Hearing the familiar sound, the King looked up. Today, the King was planning to talk to his daughter about serious matters - matters about the state of the Kingdom, and his ailing health. He tried many times before to talk to Bolly but she either ignored him or pretended she couldn’t hear what he was trying to say. “Bolly” said the King. “There is something I need to discuss with you my child.” “What now Baba?”’ replied Bolly, smiling at her father. “Baba- why do you have yet another gray hair in your beard?” The King looked into the innocent eyes of his daughter and thought to himself, “Maybe I will wait another day.” “Bolly, a letter has come for you.” said the King. “From whom?” asked Bolly, as she gazed out the window into the clear pink and blue skies of Bollyworld. Bolly smiled at the Sun, who smiled back at her. “From Daman,” said the King. “It looks like a reminder, specially ad-

dressed to you, that his big gala is tonight. It seems that he wants to make sure that you are going. He has been looking for his wife, you know.” “Oh dear God” said Bolly. “Baba, I have no interest in marrying Daman. He is so corny.” Bolly’s father looked disappointed and said nothing. “Oh Ok Ok, I’m going.” said Bolly. “I know how much you love those silly royal parties, But the minute he starts lining the girls up, I am leaving. OK Baba?” The King smiled and shook his head, and looked back down at his paper. Bolly strolled down the jeweled, paved path in the corridor next to the palace. It was early on Saturday morning, and there were only a few servants working the Garden here and there. As she passed her favorite mango tree, she saw Mina strolling and playing with the animals. “Good morning Mina!” cried Bolly. Mina, a girl from the village, who Bolly treated just like a little sister. Mina turned towards Bolly and exclaimed “Good morning my lovely Princess! How are you?” “I have been waiting all morning to play with and the animals! “

“Bolly, will you take me on elephant ride today?” asked Mina. “Of course, my lovely Mina. I will play with you all afternoon, but I just need to have a quick chat with The Sun now. I promise I won’t be that long!” said Bolly. Bolly continued to walk deep into her father’s garden, reaching the forest.

She continued to walk as the paved walkway ended and grew into patches of trees, all part of King Ashana’s estate. There was no chance of her running into any humans here, for no one other than she and her father resided at the palace, and the gates of the King’s estate were guarded by the Dragon-Lions, graceful and powerful creatures, not to be trifled with.

As Bolly got further down the path into a secluded cove, she looked behind her to make sure no one was nearby. She found an opening where the branches let a bright ray of sunlight through. At this time of day, the ray of sunshine came in at a steep angle, and so, only a relatively small beam pierced through.

“The sky was filled with dust. and the Gods flew into our land to take away all the souls of the war.”

Bolly stood before The Sun. “Well my princess did you rest well last night?” he asked. “My Sun....I had nightmares,” said Bolly, “I dreamt of a great war. Many men died and the land was left in shambles. My father was no where to be found and his crown was floating in the river.”

“Bolly, I’ve told you on many a morning, those are just dreams, fantasies that your mind makes up to keep itself occupied while your eyes are closed and your body is resting. The reason you have so many nightmares is because your head is full of worry, and you haven’t yet learned to calm your mind... Listen to your father... he knows best

and can teach you many ways of the world.” Bolly frowned, but tried to change topics. “Oh my dad doesn’t know anything about wars...he’s too old.... Anyway, I have to go to a gala tonight. Which I guess means that I should have started getting into my sari now.”

But it was at that moment that something shifted, and the world changed. She could no longer feel the beam of warmth on her cheeks. She opened her eyes, and it seemed as if the leaves in the trees around her had suddenly grown dense like a great green fog. She looked around and there were no longer rays of sunshine peaking through the canopy of branches. She called out, “Sun? Where are you?!� But there was no response, for only through the light could the Sun speak

to Bolly and Bolly to the Sun. Bolly heard a strange sound, unlike any other she had ever heard before. It sounded like the hiss of steam engine. She looked around in the unnatural darkness and could see only branches and more branches. But then, one of the branches moved.

One...then two...then three, then several more. And then she saw eyes with vertical pupils, and nostrils closing and opening, and then tongues, slipping in and out of mouths with jagged jaws. And all of these parts were approaching her, and she found herself in the midst of many smiling faces gazing upon her. “Hello therrrrre, little Princess,” rattled one of the smiling faces. “What are you doing walking alone in the forrrrrrest at this time of day?”

Bolly was startled, but composed herself enough to speak softly. “It’s not a forest, it’s my forest.” “Who are you?”

Bolly could now make out the outline of the great green snake amongst the leaves, for red stripes rippled down the scales of its back. The multiple heads – Bolly had quickly counted that there were ten – were held suspended by ten long necks that met at a thick fleshy trunk, then extended as one long slippery body, ending in a rattle. “Come closer Bolly!” hissed the snake. “I am here to tell you a secret!”

Bolly could barely move with fright. “This garden belongs to my father!”

“My father is King Ashana. We reign over all of the lands along the Eastern border of Bollyworld.” Bolly spurted now with more boldness. “How did you get through the gates, and where did you come fr--?” “Eeeeeeasterrrrrn borrrrrder!” the Serpent erupted. Bolly was completely disoriented, as his pierce got stronger and closer. The Serpent spoke again: “Ahhhhh, so you know that there is a borrrrder to Bollyworrrrrld. Very good, verrry very gooooood,” he rumbled on. Closer and closer did the Serpent get to Bolly until he hovered right over her, with his jaws wide open.

With each hiss, more faces began to emerge, until they filled the entire tree. They began to grin and talk to each other, arguing about who would take the first bite of Bolly’s arm.

“Do you know what lies beyond the borrrrrder?”

“Well my Princess, what lies beyooooond the marble gates of the East? Have you ever asked your father, the King, what, and whoooooo, resides outside of your beautiful Bollyworrrrrld?” For a brief moment, Bolly forgot her fear, and thought to herself: “Beyond Bollyworld?”

What could be beyond Bollyworld, and who? She had always assumed that the Eastern border was simply where the Sun slept and

then awakened, where he started his day-long walk across the sky to the Western Border where he lay to rest at night and dissolve, only to rise again in the East the next day. That is the explanation that the Sun had given her long ago, when she was just a toddler.

Distracted for this moment, she didn’t notice that the many heads had started speaking with each other:.. “I want the firrrrrst bite. You can have the second.” “I spoke to her first, I get the flesh in her neck, you can have her arrrrrrms.” “Sssssweeeeeet, sweeeet skin. I bet it tastes like cane ssssugarrrrr.....”As they argued and the rattling grew louder and louder, one of the heads suddenly swooped down with its fangs open to bite Bolly’s neck.

Bolly instinctively put her right arm up. The fangs sunk into her forearm, blood erupting and spilling onto the purple grass. “Sun! Sun!” she cried. “Where are you?” But no rays of sunshine could pierce the leaves and branches of the surrounding trees. The other Serpent heads heard Bolly’s cries, and stopped arguing amongst themselves. They realized that the first bite had been taken. Each of them hissed in indignation, but wasted no time in coiling back, ready to spring forward to get their share. Bolly closed her eyes and braced for the rows of teeth to sink into her. She waited a moment. And then another moment, but she didn’t feel anything. In fact, her arm, which was bleeding quite freely now and hurting badly, no longer had any fangs penetrating it. She opened her eyes and saw a glowing blue light all around her. Through the intense light, she could now see each head of the Serpent looking at her, no longer grin-

ning or hungry, but rather... utterly terrified. For around each of its necks was a brilliant blue hand, squeezing like an iron vice, pulling each neck slowly away from Bolly. Bolly looked for the beings attached to those hands but couldn’t see any bodies. She was sure that there must have been five or more men standing behind the great Serpent,dragging each head away. But there was no one. And suddenly the Serpent was jerked violently away and thrown up into the air and out of the Garden. To where, Bolly did not know. Bolly fell to the ground and buckled over in pain. And then she saw the violet blue glow again. She looked up, and saw the outline of a human form. “Who are you?” she cried “I can’t see you, it’s too bright!” she called out, covering her eyes with her unwounded arm.The glow diminished a little, and Bolly took down her arm. It was a man with bright blue skin, wearing a golden crown and dressed in a dhote.

It was a blue god, and the gaze from his intense, beautiful eyes burned themselves into Bolly’s mind. Suddenly, in what seemed to be a whisper, but louder than any roar that Bolly had ever heard from any creature that resided in Bollyworld, the man spoke. “I am....Krishna.”

And then, he was gone.

ISSUU-Graphic Novel Chapter One Print Ready