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The Star-Touched Queen

Check out our episode here! The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

In Bharata, no one believes in ghosts because the dead never linger. Instead, they believe in reincarnation. Maya is attending the funeral pyre of one of her father's wives, Padmavathi, but no one is really interested, not even her father, the Raja, who is discussing war with a courtier. Mother Dhina, the iron fist ruler of the harem, hisses at Maya to stay in her place. She and Mother Shastri like to gossip and usually, it doesn't mean much, but this time, they're talking about Maya. Mother Dhina says that Maya’s horoscope brought bad luck to Padmavathi, that her kind of bad fortune only attracts ill luck so she might as well have killed Padmavathi herself. Mother Shastri says the Raja should get rid of Maya and mentions rumors about her, like snakes bowing to her and her shadow never staying in one place. Maya leaves them to their gossip and walks through the gardens. The sun feels wrong on her skin, and when she looks down, she can’t see her shadow.

She's going to the archives to see her "tutor of the week," but they never teach her what she wants to know. Maya loves the archives, loves getting lost in the fairytales there and imagining herself in them. Maya doesn’t hoard these tales but always shares them with her younger half-sister, Gauri. But now is not the time for fairytales. Her tutor, who does not seem as nervous around her as all the others, wants to teach her stillness. She tries to frighten him with her smile, which usually works, but this tutor is different. Shadows surround him, cutting off the light, and he smells wrong like he is wearing someone else’s scent. As his voice lulls Maya, she sees his shadow against the wall, shifting into man and horned beast and back. He's a Raksha. When Maya is able to break free, she tells him “I don’t care for the ways of men and demons… Your lessons are lost on me.” The tutor seems like a different person after that, fearful of her now, and runs off.

Now that the tutor is gone, Maya is free to climb up in the rafters and eavesdrop on her father in his throne room. This is another reason she likes the archives. She overhears her father making a pronouncement to his courtiers. He wants to bring about the end of the war. The courtiers say they can withstand longer with only a few hundred more deaths, but The Raja is insistent. The wedding will be the end of the war. Wedding? Whose? This is quickly clarified when one courtier argues that “the moment the rebel kingdoms hear about Princess Mayavati’s horoscope, they will not go through with the wedding." Oh no. Her wedding! And it's in just a few days' time.

Walking back to the harem, Maya receives a summons from her father who is in the gardens talking to the crown-prince, her half-brother Skanda. The Raja and his son are very different, the Raja prizes wisdom, Skanda wealth. The Raja tells him that there is no difference between them and peasants, that subjects will not remember the person but the impression they leave. The Raja dismisses Skanda to speak to Maya. He knows she has been eavesdropping on his court from the rafters for years and celebrates her intelligence. He hopes that in the next life, she will be born a boy (gross) but for now, there is a duty that must be done. She must be married. In a daze, Maya finds herself back in the harem, facing the derision of the wives and her half-sisters. When she announces she is to be married, it is to shrieks throughout the harem and questions of it is to be to “a monster who matches your horoscope?" Gauri is the only one who is upset at the news. Deciding to take charge of her own future, Maya plans to escape.

Maya starts to pack when there is a knock at her door. It's Gauri asking for her nightly story. She wants to hear about the other realms, in particular the Night Bazaar, so Maya tells her a magical tale. Gauri is determined to visit one day, and Maya tells her she can only reach it on the night of the full moon. Gauri is worried they will never meet again in this life or the next, but she is hopeful that as they are sisters now, they will be again. Maya tells her that they share the same sky and can always find each other in the constellation, the Solitary Star. One last hug and Maya sends Gauri to bed. Suddenly, everything goes dark and a familiar-sounding high-pitched female voice rumbles through the room, pleading to be led somewhere. A mysterious woman grabs Maya's wrist and ice-cold pain shoots through her, but abruptly stops. She goes to the door but finds it locked by Mother Dhina, apparently at the Raja's behest. Mother Dhina hates Maya, calls her a pestilence, and blames her for the death of some of her babies. Maya’s pleas about someone being in her room fall on deaf ears.

The next night, a scratching at her locked door grabs Maya's attention. Her father has come with a gift that will free her from the marriage, a bottle of poison. He wants her to sacrifice herself so that the rules of hospitality may become null and void and his guards may dispatch the rebel’s retinue. He tries to talk to her about sacrifice and duty, that it is better to die by her own hand than by their enemy. When those tactics don’t work, he talks about Gauri, about her fate and future. He leaves, instructing her to take the poison during the ceremony the next day. In the morning, there is a flurry of activity to prepare her for the wedding. As she walks through the harem without the customary blessings of the wives, only Gauri cares. Maya asks her to look after her mother’s sapphire necklace for her. Her mind is made up. She is going to drink the poison.

The guards lead Maya into her father's welcoming hall full of rebel suitors all lined up and ready for her to choose her husband. When they leave her alone to decide, Maya takes out the vial, but before she can drink it, a stranger knocks it from her hand. He directs her to look at the rebel’s chariots before becoming a martyr, there are hundreds of soldiers hiding underneath with spears. The stranger introduces himself as Amar, Raja of Akaran. Where? Amar tells her the rebels have already begun to attack and takes her hand, helping her escape. Before they leave, something overcomes Maya and she throws the white wedding garland over Amar which marries them. He grins in reply. As the fighting spills into the room, they escape on Amar's water buffalo. Maya has never been this free.

To get to Akaran, they must travel through the Night Bazaar, a place of magic and the setting of many of Maya's tales to Gauri, but it can’t be a real place? As the dark tunnel they are travelling through opens, they see impossible creatures, ethereal animals, light and dark, a rainbow of color. Maya dismounts the water buffalo, she catches sight of Amar and in the shadows, his face glints sinister. Grabbing a stick, Maya tells him to keep away. This unbelievable situation has hit Maya full force. She demands Amar tell her what he wants from her, his response, “your perspective and honesty ... I want to be humbled by you.” Ambition pulls at Maya and she accepts Amar’s hand when he slashes it and makes his pledge to her in blood. They continue through The Night Bazaar. It is glorious, full of color, sound, smells, wonder and temptation. Everywhere they walk, the patrons and peddlers bow their heads in deference to Amar. Maya asks why, is he a guardian? Amar prefers that term, though he finds most see his occupation is to take, not to protect.

When they reach Akaran, Maya is surprised to see that “Akaran was a world completely alone.” There was so much space! In the palace, Maya meets Gupta, Amar’s dearest friend and councilor, who calls her Rani, Queen. Gupta is a little odd, but seems nice enough. He leaves them with the promise of discussing her duties the following day. Over dinner, Amar says he will test her in the usual aspects of ruling, her “fangs and claws and bloodlust ... eyes and ears and thoughts.” That night, Maya says she still does not trust her husband, and they share a bed but with all the excessive cushions piled between them.

The following morning, Maya wakes alone. Gupta is waiting for her outside, ready to lead her to breakfast and to discuss her duties. There is no formality between them as Maya asks Gupta to eat with her. Gupta tells her strange things like interviewing a snail that had slept for three years, which is absolutely critical. Maya tells him she hopes they can be friends to which he responds, “Once a friend, always a friend.” A skittering from an unknown source interrupts them and Maya correctly works out that Akaran is a place between the human and the Otherworld and sometimes things cross over, or only partially do. In the meantime, Amar is waiting in the throne room.

The throne room is magnificent but it is the tapestry covering the wall beside the dais that is truly breathtaking. Silken vines of color weave in and out but a terrible rent goes down the middle and strikes Maya like a rip inside her own being. She can feel the pull of the tapestry like it’s a hunger and notices imperfections in the stitching. Maya’s hand itches to manipulate the threads but as she reaches out, Amar stops her. He explains that each thread is a person and the tapestry is how the border between the Otherworld and human realms is kept safe. Amar offers to explain.

Thick silver threads are connected to a boy, Vikram, with two futures. Both are great and terrible in their own way; both depend on when his mother enters the Otherworld. In the silver thread, he is taken in by the king and raised as the king's son. He will be a warrior and a hero, tirelessly advocating for his people and will eventually attain peace on his deathbed after countless lives are lost. In another thread, the boy becomes a mercenary; he is never raised by the king, he must fight to survive. The peace he fights for is much more easily accomplished in this outcome. In both he feels the loss of his mother. Maya must decide which thread he will live. She has time to decide though.

Amar explains that ruling Akaran is like balancing an illusion, you need to separate the illusion of what you see and the reality of its consequences. Amar taps a marble bird and it seems to come to life but is connected to the slab by a small chain. A sword appears in her hands and Amar tells her to use her weapon. Maya brings the sword down on the bird. Amar tells her she failed his test. She did not fully consider her choices, she could have cut the chain and freed the bird, or killed its oppressor.

On the way to dinner that evening, Maya spots a charred door and hears a small whispery voice behind it. Gupta cannot see the door or hear the voice. After dinner, the voice coming from the charred door is singing and it resonates through Maya. Is the palace testing her like Gupta and Amar said it would? Maya investigates and discovers strange mirrors and paintings lining the hallways, and a beautiful glass garden. This is where Amar finds her. Amar is angry she went wandering without an escort, but seemingly for her own safety. There is still the issue of trust between them, Amar says he trusts Maya but Maya is adamant that trust is earned by actions and time, and she finds it difficult to trust her husband when she has never seen his face in full, as it is always half covered by a hood. Amar allows her to remove it to see that he has a face she recognizes, from a dream perhaps. Amar asks for some strands of her hair and fashions them into a bracelet which he places on his wrist next to a simple strap of black leather tied into an elegant knot.

Maya realizes that nothing in the palace is alive, the bird was marble, the garden glass. Muddled voices fill the palace, sometimes incoherent other times strong and loud. After breakfast the following morning, Amar waits for Maya in a marble vestibule with mirror portals flashing through different settings. He takes her to a room of stars where he fulfills a promise to give her the moon as her throne and stars to wear in her hair. They stand amongst the stars, and though the sight is beautiful, Maya considers the stars her jailers because of her horoscope. Amar tells her they are just stars, that it’s the interpreters that bind her. He instructs her on how to bind the stars with string and how to reinterpret them. When they return from the stars, there is the smell of wet fur and the sound of claws and howling. Gupta meets them and confirms that hunting hounds are in the palace but will not say who or what they are hunting.

Maya doesn’t see Amar for three days though his half of the bed shows signs of him being there. She explores Akaran and the doors to other worlds. On the fourth day in a pale white courtyard with a single huge pillar in the middle that cracks when she touches it, Amar suddenly appears and looks awful. He points to the pillar and tells her it is a reminder that none can escape death. She knows this tale and who is inside, Narasimha, and Amar begs her to tell him the story. When she is done they finally have a very passionate kiss. For the next week Maya chooses bliss over burden. Not thinking about Vikram’s thread she must pull, or why Amar leaves before dinner and returns while she sleeps, always looking tired. One evening, Amar tells her the moon is waning and she must make her decision the following day. As she walks back to her room, she hears that soft voice singing again.

Standing before the tapestry, the longer she waits to make her decision, the more the threads unravel. Maya reasons that the red thread carries too much risk, peace was accomplished more easily, but will it hold after Vikram dies? But a peace won with words and will hold better. Maya tries to pull the red thread and feels it pulse and burn her. Amar leaves her to contemplate further, she tries to pull again but nothing happens. But then the tapestry quivers and ichor seeps through the threads. Light and color and voices stream through surrounding her and in a blink the tapestry is gone. Suddenly thunder claps but the clouds disappear as soon as Maya thinks how unusual that is. She tests this and finds she is controlling the weather. But it’s not just the weather, the doors in Akaran open and close, even the ones that refused to open for her before, and there are voices everywhere.

Amar and Gupta are with Maya when she awakens. She can hear Gupta saying she’s not ready, and Amar protesting that she is. When she opens her eyes Gupta leaves and Amar explains that she is finding her power, this awakening is what makes her a true queen of Akaran. Amar explains that they rule as equals, that this power is her own and that the reason she couldn’t move the thread is because she didn’t believe in herself. Maya asks to be left alone, she can hear the doors slamming in the halls and remembers that one door... she must investigate. Later, Amar knocks on their bedroom door. It seems that their conversation isn’t over. Amar wants her to understand, Maya feels there is no trust. Gupta’s screams cut through the air and they find him shaking and his clothes look burned. Amar tells her to go back to their room. Feeling scolded like a child she storms off wanting to find a door, but not the door to the bedchamber. And she finds it.

Pushing it open Maya sees a gigantic tree standing in the middle of an empty room, with gnarled trunks and twisted roots of impossible size. Thousands of small candles enclosed in glass cylinders are nestled amongst the leaves. Touching the trunk, Maya can feel a heartbeat. Examining the candles closer reveals they are shards of mirror. When Maya touches them, she sees memories, and though they are foreign, she feels a familiarity, they are her memories. Suddenly she hears Amar calling for her. Rushing from the room with the tree, Maya makes it back to their bedchamber before he appears. He needs to leave, as he turns Maya swears she could see the snaky outline of a noose falling from the black leather bracelet he wears.

A woman’s shadow seems to follow Amar. Maya has not seen another person in the palace, so she follows and sees the dead. Gupta stands in front of them, directing them. Suddenly Maya knows why she had never heard of Akaran, there is no such place. She has in fact always been in Naraka, the realm of the dead. Which makes Amar the Dharma Raja, the lord of justice in the afterlife. Stumbling through the dead, Maya finds her way to the throne room and Amar bent over the tapestry, ripping threads out, a crown of blackbuck horns upon his head. Running away, Maya ends up back in their bedchamber, realizing her horoscope came true, she is married to Death.

The next morning Maya wanders. She finds a room with smoke and ash. When she goes in, she finds cliffs leading down to the reincarnation pool. Everywhere souls are toiling or suspended in chains. Before passing to the next life, the soul must atone for sins of the past life. Walking past cells, Maya hears someone call to her. It’s her father, chainmail peeling off his body, a dark gash near his rib cage. Her father tells her that Bharata won the war almost ten years ago. Ten years? Surely it's only been a few days! Leaving her father, Maya returns to the tree.

Maya takes one of the mirror shard memories and sees Amar bent over the reincarnation pool. She looks at another and another but doesn’t understand what she is seeing. Some though, shows Amar in the shadows protecting her as she is subjected to the abuse of the harem sisters. Pulling herself out of the visions, Maya looks into the obsidian mirror behind the tree. In it, she sees Nritti, a girl who was in some of the mirror visions whose memories Maya shares. Nritti tells her that she has been searching for her since being taken and hidden in the palace. Nritti tells Maya that now she knows what Amar is capable of, they need to get her out. Maya nods numbly. Nritti tells her they grew up as sisters, and that Death traps girls here and feeds off them. There are hundreds of trees and hundreds of girls, each one with a grim horoscope. Last time Maya got away, Nritti doesn’t know how, but she says Amar will kill Maya because he can’t stand being crossed. Nritti has to be right, which is why Gupta and Amar warned her away from all the hidden doors in Akaran. They didn’t want her to find out. Nritti tells Maya that if she brings her Death’s noose and destroys this tree, they can be free. Footsteps outside end their conversation, but Nritti’s words echo through her head. “He will kill you if you give him the chance.” Then she hears Gupta say: “Tomorrow is the new moon. You need not worry any longer. Everything you’ve done, saving her life and bringing her here … it will all be worth it… Now that she’s here, we can get rid of her the way you always wanted. I am confident of it.”

Hiding in the shadows, Maya listens to Amar and Gupta. Their conversation does not instill confidence, “I have waited long enough and I will not be denied” says Amar. When their voices fade away, she steps out. A new door has appeared in the hallway. Inside is filled with all the objects from her father's palace, including her mother’s blue sapphire necklace she gave to Gauri. She falls into memories of Gauri and knows she will steal Amar's noose that night.

Maya is nervous, Amar comes into their bedroom and Maya tries to seduce him to the bed. Amar declares his love as they lie in each other's arms. When he sleeps, she steals the noose. With it and Gauri’s necklace she leaves to find Nritti. Nritti demands the noose. It will render Amar powerless. Maya hands the noose over and as soon as she does something sizzles and snaps through the air. The great tree full of memories twists and begins to decay. Everything is on fire. Amar stands in the doorway, his face a mask of horror, his eyes glued on the noose in Nritti’s hands. He looks to Maya. Why has she done this? His lies. He hid the deaths of Bharata from her. Nritti laughs at Amar, stepping from the broken mirror. Without him, there is no more Death. She hands Maya a knife and tells her to plunge it into the tree so she can reclaim herself. Nritti and Amar fight over Maya, but eventually Maya plunges the knife into the tree. Amar begs Maya to not forget him. He loves her and his soul will not forget her. Maya looks Death in the eyes and is engulfed in memory.

In another life, Maya remembers meeting the Dharma Raja and pledging themselves to each other. They were so very happy together. Then she remembers the reincarnation, the light and the pain. She saw Amar slumped in his throne, Gupta standing sallow at his side. Amar’s order to check every birth record, every horoscope until they find her again. He has preserved all her memories for when she returns. Once she is found, he needs her to stay only sixty turns of the moon, only a handful of weeks in Naraka, and then Amar can reveal Maya's past and restore her powers. She can be queen once more.

Jolting back to the present, Maya has regained all her memories of her former self. Naraka, however, is gone. There is no Amar. There is no Nritti. A thousand questions fly through her mind, the loudest “what have I done?” Slowly the landscape becomes familiar. She is standing in cremation grounds. On her own grave. The broken bracelet of her hair lying on the ground. Her mother’s necklace and an onyx stone lie next to it. Having been ripped from Naraka, her soul was left gasping. She had felt whole for a short time and now... she knows what she and Amar had was real but she destroyed him. Catching a glimpse of herself in a puddle, Maya sees that being exiled by both Bharata and Naraka has turned her into a member of the living dead, she now wears the turmeric-yellow robes of the sadhvis. Contemplating her next actions, Maya spots something tall and bestial rising from the shadows. It is a painfully thin horse, and it talks. It wants to take a bite of Maya to discern what Maya is. She doesn’t smell human or Otherworldly, the horse calls her a false sadhvi. Maya tells the horse she is Rani of Naraka and the horse laughs. The horse is having a difficult time believing Maya. Maya says that to prove who she is, she will find the horse a soul in the Otherworld. She promises the horse can take a bite or two of Maya if she is not telling the truth. As assurance, the horse asks for some of her hair and gives Maya her name, Kamala, in return. Maya climbs on Kamala’s back. To get back to the Otherworld, they must head to the ocean.

At the ocean they meet Airavata, a tricky elephant who likes to knit clouds. Airavata refuses to let Maya and Kamala into the Otherworld because one may only enter through invitation, self-worth or sacrifice, not demands. Kamala tells Maya she can sniff out the Dharma Raja if Maya knows the area he will be in, because when Death is close, Kamala becomes alive. A memory tells Maya they need to head to Chakara Forest, so they ask Airavata for a cloud bridge to take them there. Hooking a cloud into his tusks, Airavata follows them then sinks into the water as Kamala races over the cloud bridge. Finally they reach the place where Maya suggested they go to find the Dharma Raja. They are in the human world where death is always close by, so Kamala is now muscular and her coat gleams. Airavata’s words ring in her ears: to enter the Otherworld and save Amar, Maya must release the ghosts of her past, so before going to find Amar, she wants to bury her mother's necklace in Bharata.

In Bharata, her father's sigils have been replaced. There are people crowding the streets and when Kamala and Maya approach they fall silent. When Kamala gnashes her teeth and shakes her mane, many scatter. Kamala notes she can smell their hunger. Bharata has suffered greatly. The people start shouting that the first holy sadhu is here! They haven’t been forsaken! And she has come with a holy horse (so she best stop snapping at them)! The crowd begs Maya to help them, to plead with the Raja to send Gauri-Ma to bring back their sons. Gauri-Ma is the princess with the dimpled smile and the deadly aim. Maya’s half-brother, Skanda, the new Raja, is a bloated toad. She is tempted to let Kamala eat him. It is clear that the people adore Gauri, who doesn’t wear the clothes of the harem, but instead is dressed as a warrior. She wants to go and rescue their people, but Skanda will not be swayed and tries to assert his authority. Now that they have a sadhu, it is agreed she will be the one to decide.

The palace is at once familiar and strange, a shadow of its former self. Walking in the gardens, Skanda lets Maya know he knows she is a charlatan but he will let her continue the ruse so long as she helps him. She must stop Gauri from going on a reconnaissance mission for men that can be replaced, and help him keep the illusion of strength alive. Maya will hold vigil, and Gauri and a harem wife as witnesses may attend. When Skanda departs, Kamala tells Maya she can sense the Dharma Raja but it was for a fleeting moment. He has left something in Chakara Forest. As they turn to leave, Maya feels a blade at her throat. It is Gauri. She will not allow the imposter to do her brother's bidding. Maya points out that she only heard what was said, not the actual intention. Maya tells her the plan is for Gauri to go and retrieve the soldiers as soon as their public meeting concludes while the harem wife acts as a distraction. When Gauri comes home victorious, she is to praise the Raja so he does not take retribution on the returned soldiers. Walking into the temple, Maya finds the harem wife waiting. It’s Mother Dhina.

Maya instructs Mother Dhina to start a fire in the harem, not to hurt anyone, but to create a distraction for Gauri. Mother Dhina is wary of Maya, she sees a hint of Maya’s mother in her but isn't so obvious as to state it aloud. She agrees to do as she is asked. Gauri comes riding up to Maya and Kamala and they’re off. The distraction has worked. Gauri thanks Maya for her help and Maya gives her the necklace. Maya tells Gauri she knew her sister, that she is happy and fell in love with a man who treats her as an equal. Before Maya can leave though, Gauri asks where she might find her sister again. Maya responds: in our same constellation, the Solitary Star. Recognition passed over Gauri’s face as Maya rides off.

They arrive in the forest at the place the Dharma Raja left something that Kamala calls his representatives, but Maya sees nothing though Kamala can feel them. Closing her eyes and letting go of herself, Maya can feel them, too, and hear them and see them. Just outside the shadows are three massive hounds. She then sees a vision of Nritti singing. Maya is pulled to her, but Kamala stops her because Nritti smells of blood and is luring children to her. When Nritti finishes her song, she opens her jagged-teeth-filled mouth and kisses the head of one of the children, stealing the child’s youth. She does this to a few and the rest, she instructs to go to the Otherworld for her wedding. Her wedding?!

At Nritti’s command to summon him, Amar is brought forth. His arms are clasped behind him and his noose is in his hands. He and Nritti share a kiss that holds no warmth. Amar shows signs of pain, but Nritti tells him it’s because he needs his Queen, her, to rule with him and that he should will his power to her. In a blink, Amar, Nritti, the children and the hounds disappear back to the Otherworld. Maya and Kamala need to get there! Kamala points out that Maya could sacrifice the onyx stone she had with her when she awoke as a sadhvi. Inside it is a memory. To open a pathway, she must consign the stone to the earth with blood. When Maya does, the earth opens and they step through.

The Night Bazaar is no longer there, only snarled trees and debris left behind. Kamala tells Maya that everyone fled but that she can sense Amar. They find him perched on a throne of thorns, a blank look in his eyes. Beside him, Nritti sits on a throne of bones. There is hunger in the air. Nritti speaks to beings surrounding the thrones, growing their hunger. She will allow them to satiate it wherever they please once her marriage ceremony has concluded. Nritti whets their appetite with one of the boys from the forest. As she raises a knife, Maya mounts Kamala and they run to the thrones, shouting for her to stop. Amar looks up, but sees only a stranger.

Realizing where she is, Maya dismounts and bows to Amar and Nritti. Kamala mutters to Maya that Nritti is hungry for her. Nritti doesn’t seem to recognize her though and threatens to use her as a sacrifice to the hungry beasts instead. Amar gives the sadhvi, Maya, his protection because he wants to hear her speak. Maya tells them that Nritti’s enchantment has robbed the boy of his will and that they should play a game of riddles. If she can not answer Nritti correctly, then Maya will take the place of the boy, but she must be permitted a private audience with the Dharma Raja. Nritti pulls Gupta out from behind the thrones to take Kamala away. He's looking worse for wear.

Nritti asks her riddle, “Which animal is the most cunning?” Is that a riddle or a matter of opinion? But Maya answers, “The one we have yet to discover.” There is a slight quirk at Amar’s mouth. Her second riddle, “I am clothed but cannot grow; what am I?” Maya responds “It’s either me or moss over stone.” Amar declares he is satisfied with the answers. Nritti still demands a soul, so Maya cleverly offers her her sandal, a sole for a soul. Amar accepts this but demands her to be locked up in Naraka for insulting Nritti’s honor.

Maya is locked in a room with an obsidian mirror. Amar is standing next to her and declares she is not sadhvi. Maya asks for his noose back to free them, that she knows his soul and it would not allow these atrocities. Maya gives him back her bracelet of hair and he remembers everything. Nritti enters, offers to kill Maya as a kindness and instead plunges her knife into Amar, but he is Death, he cannot die. Turning toward Maya, Nritti tries to kill her, too, but Maya will not cower. In a stolen moment, Maya is able to get to the tapestry and pulls both her and Nritti’s threads. In the cascade of magic, Maya remembers all her lost names and her past with Nritti. She sees Nritti in love with a mortal, Vanaj, who is called to war. Maya could not stop Vanaj’s thread from unravelling, so Nritti turned from her. More trouble was sown when Maya had to weigh the thread of a deva, a god, who she cursed to be reborn as mortal. Because of this decision, confidence in Maya was lost. Amar stood by his wife’s decision and declared that fire always reveals the truth, so he will put her through a trial by fire. It was then that Maya felt betrayed, but he had to try her to prove her correct and keep her safe. This left an opening for Nritti to sow seeds of doubt in Maya, telling her that Amar had turned on her. When Maya walks through the fire triumphant, she looks at Amar who is smug, but later she would call him a liar and blame him for her humiliation. They have a terrible fight and Maya climbs into the reincarnation pool and leaves him.

Back at the tapestry, Maya realizes that her life is her own and that Nritti has been manipulating her ever since she let her love's thread unravel. She pulls her own thread and untwists it from Nritti’s. Nritti finds Maya, screeching at her; she flings Amar’s noose at her and Maya catches it. Stepping through a portal to Amar she gives him back the noose and kisses him. They have found each other again. No illusion, no lies, and they are no longer tied to Nritti. The beings of the Otherworld recognize their sovereigns and turn on Nritti. Together as equals, Maya and Amar bind Nritti, restoring balance to the Otherworld.

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