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8. Malgara

Not even his closest comrades could read the expression on Prince Malgara's face when, for the last time, he gazed upon the brother who had shared his boyhood. The battlefield was quiet now; even the cries of the injured had been silenced by healing herb or yet more potent sword.

After a long while, the prince turned to the yellow-robed figure standing by his side. You crowned him, Venerable Bodhidharma. Now you can do him one more service. See that he receives the honours of a king.

For a moment, the prelate did not reply. Then he answered softly. He destroyed our temples and scattered the priests. If he worshipped any god, it was Siva.

Malgara bared his teeth in the fierce smile that the Mahanayake was to know all too well in the years that were left to him.

Revered sire, said the prince, in a voice that dripped venom, he was the first-born of Paravana the Great, he sat on the throne of Taprobane, and the evil that he did dies with him. When the body is burned, you will see that the relics are properly entombed, before you dare set foot upon Sri Kanda again.

The Mahanayake Thero bowed, ever so slightly. It shall be done according to your wishes.

And there is another thing, said Malgara, speaking now to his aides. The fame of Kalidasa's fountains reached us even in Hindustan. We would see them once, before we march on Ranapura

From the heart of the Pleasure Gardens which had given him such delight, the smoke of Kalidasa's funeral pyre rose into the cloudless sky, disturbing the birds of prey who had gathered from far and wide. Grimly content, though sometimes haunted by sudden memories, Malgara watched the symbol of his triumph spiralling upwards, announcing to all the land that the new reign had begun.

As if in continuation of their ancient rivalry, the water of the fountains challenged the fire, leaping skyward before it fell back to shatter the surface of the reflecting pool. But presently, long before the flames had finished their work, the reservoirs began to fail, and the jets collapsed in watery ruin. Before they rose again in the gardens of Kalidasa, Imperial Rome would have passed away, the armies of Islam would have marched across Africa, Copernicus would have dethroned the earth from the centre of the universe, the Declaration of Independence would have been signed, and men would have walked upon the Moon.

Malgara waited until the pyre had disintegrated in a final brief flurry of sparks. As the last smoke drifted against the towering face of Yakkagala, he raised his eyes towards the palace on its summit, and stared for a long time in silent appraisal.

No man should challenge the gods, he said at last. Let it be destroyed.

7. The God-Kings Palace | The Fountains of Paradise | 9. Filament