This is Dandakaranya, the dark dark forest. A daily ingest of bala and atibala kept us alive through this tiresome journey through Angadesha and Kaamashrama. The sage population is pushing south by the day, they have spread across the plains and now into these southern forests. Fights and skirmishes between the forest dwellers and the sages happen everyday ; the sages have weapons, Vishwamitra himself is a sage warrior. The northerm kings like Janaka and my father aids the sages, the Pulastya king Ravana I have heard secretly helps the forest dwellers. The forest is dark and dangerous , feels like the air is impregnated with a war ,waiting to be born.

I was surprised at first when Vishwamitra asked us to trumpet the bows in the middle of the night. Tataka, a haughty middle-aged women came shouting at us from the top of the hill we were climbing. She was very annoyed at the disturbance, still she was beautiful.

“Kill her”, the sage shouted “do not get mesmerized by her beauty, she is an enchantress, a yakshi and she instigates these forest people against us”

“Oh great sage” I asked “I am here to preserve dharma as you and father had said, isnt it against my dharma to kill a women and it sure is against my heart to kill such a beautiful thing”

“Your father has left me in charge of you both” Vishwamitra said “my word is the dharma, now teach her a lesson”

Tataka, the enchantress sensing danger charged at me with rage. I was terrified and accidentally released the arrow which pierced the space between her full, rounded breasts and killed her instantly. The forest suddenly became beautiful , it was as though Tataka hived in herself the entire beauty of her land , which she was releasing now forever. I felt a vacuum in my stomach , I crouched there wailing.

The sage says she was evil and he says this all the time. He was very happy that I killed her and gave me and Laxmana some powerful weapons and deadly arrows. I have started admiring the sheer power of these weapons, it makes me feel all powerful and the sage promised us more if we continue the good work. At times, I feel the sage was right, Tataka must have been evil and I did the right thing by killing her. But still, she was a beautiful enchantress.

The boys went on to kill Subahu and decimate Mareecha at Vishwamitra’s ashram. The journey to the heart of darkness had begun.