Excerpt: 1857 Dust of Ages Vol II

‘There is a way that does not relinquish hope, turns in the right corridor,

Goes down into the darkness to the old, lost things…’

‘Corridor on the right.’ Ruth looked from the small door of the zenana to the stairway. ‘Leads into darkness.’

‘Literally, it would be to climbs down into the darkness,’ Shiv puzzled over the words.

‘Climbs down,’ Ruth looked at the staircase.

‘But the stairs lead up, not down.’ Shiv tried to follow Ruth’s mind.   At the base of the stairs was a small platform made of marble slabs, same as the stairs.  After ten steps, the narrow stairway curved at a dangerous angle and ended on the upper storey.

Ruth went down on her knees and began tapping the platform excitedly. The enclosure echoed with the dull thud of the stone. ‘I am sure there is something here,’ Ruth whispered.

‘Of course, the zenana. Full of intrigues…’ Shiv muttered as he too went down and began examining the stone slabs closely. The stonework on the floor was solid. After a few minutes, he gave up. ‘I think this is too fanciful.’ Shiv shook his head and gave up.  He put his hand against the wall another latticed window to rise. The metal strap of the wrist watch struck against the wall. Ruth and Shiv froze as the metallic twang resounded through the silence. They froze at the sound.

‘This isn’t stone,’ Shiv whispered in shock. ‘This is… metal.’

Excitedly Ruth rushed to kneel beside Shiv and began tapping the wall trying to mark out the part of the wall that emitted the metallic clang. Shiv followed suit; and in a few minutes, they had marked the section, almost fifty inches high, that was emitting metallic sounds. A clever coat of colouring camouflaged the section with the rest of the wall. The latticed window with a view of the township, the stairway leading to the upper storey – these were enough to distract attention.

‘What a woman! What a clever, clever woman!’ Ruth muttered.

2-the-plan-final2

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Excerpt 1857 Dust of Ages: A Desperate Plan

Sharing one of my favourite scenes in the book :-). Those who have bought and read it, please tell me which one is yours?

From the hilltop, they saw the domes of the palace reflecting the light of the sun. Further downhill, the town was shaking off the vestiges of slumber and coming to life. The birds perched on the temple top fluttered at the sound of the tinkling bells and rose against the red and ochre of the morning sky. The winds of early spring carried the nip of winter.

The little group of riders stood spellbound.

‘Most beautiful time of the year. One short month of spring,’ Richard exhaled.

‘A short respite between winter and the blistering heat that is to come,’ Meera gazed at the scene as her voice reduced to a murmur. Standing next to her, Richard heard in fascination. ‘Soon we would be worrying about drought. And then rains. Floods, epidemic, death. It’s only this… this short time that the land is… this… this beautiful.’

‘And yet it’s so important to you.’

‘Yes,’ Meera’s dark eyes met Richard’s brown ones with uncommon seriousness. ‘It’s harsh. But I haven’t known anywhere else. This place, this way of life, we know only this.’ Meera took in a deep breath as if drinking in the scene in front of her. ‘All I do know, Captain Smith, for me Navgarh is… jaan se badkar.’

 There was silence as the landscape absorbed the words of its ambitious and troubled Princess and witnessed the fascination of the man beside her.

Read more on Amazon

(CT) Chapter 9: Little Steps

Hello and here is an update on Chandrataal. Btw, so many of you read and say its a good story but never share my stories (Unforgettable, It could happen this way and Chandrataal) in any best stories list 😦 . 😀 not a complaint. Just wondering. As long as you are reading, I would write.

Also, any who downloaded dust of ages and did not get it, please, please write to amazon at once. they can’t do this. Just send a screenshot to me so that I also can inform them. and If you have read Dust of Ages – please comment on Vol 1 and Vol 2 on Amazon and Good reads. I did send a free copy to Juhi, Jyothi, and Sarika. Now comment to win the next volume, Silence of the Dolls.

Another thing. I have another blog called vandanashankerwrites.wordpress.com where I review books, translate etc. visit it if you have time and suggest books I could review 🙂

And now without further delay, presenting Chapter 9: CT

Once again the days in Chandrataal settled back into peace and quiet. After her talk with Anjili, Khushi had felt a shift in her thoughts and emotions.  Her anger and disappointment with Arvind Malik settled into a regret. Though she couldn’t think of his as her father, Khushi often found herself wishing she could have met the man. After finishing the portrait of the bearded Raizada ancestor, she had turned to Arvind Malik’s portrait. The frame had suffered some wear and tear and one corner was chipped. The paint was scraped off in places. Khushi had borrowed Arvind’s photograph from Anjili and set down to work. Each little stroke of brush brought the portrait live. One morning, she had walked into the gallery to find Arnav in front of the portrait. He looked lonely – standing stiffly in the semi-lit gallery leaning on his walking stick

‘Do you like it?’ She asked hesitantly.

Her words had an immediate effect. He stiffened and straightened before turning around and giving her a once over that she had found so annoying that first night they had met. And at once she understood. It was a defense mechanism. He thought she had been watching him, in his vulnerable moment. That annoying look was supposed to disconcert the pity that he expected in the eyes of the onlooker.

‘Does it come up to the standards of Chandrataal, Mr. Raizada?’ Khushi willfully raised her eyebrow challenging him to comment on the painting.

A slow smile lit the handsome face beating away the morning blues. ‘Fishing for compliments, Ms. Gupta? You know the wonderful work you have done.’

‘Good to hear that, Mr. Raizada, from someone who says he doesn’t care about these paintings and yet spends his morning look at them,’ Khushi donned her painting gear and began the preparations for the day.

‘Don’t count too much on it. I just came to check the value I would be getting from your work.’ Despite the cold words, a smile lingered at the corners of his mouth.

Khushi mixed the colors giving him a sidelong glance. ‘Really? Then I promise Mr. Raizada, I will do full justice to every penny you are spending on these. In return, you must admit that you do care.’

‘And to what end, Mr. Gupta? What purpose would my admission of feelings for these paintings serve.’

‘Well, for one. We could be friends. You know I love these paintings and find it very difficult to be friendly who says he doesn’t care about them. ’

His eyebrows rose and the smile appeared no longer, subtle or sardonic. It reached to his eyes and Khushi, for once, stood mesmerized at what it could do to it normally grumpy face. ‘So that’s the reason we haven’t been friends till now, Ms.Gupta? Because I said I didn’t care about beautiful things?’

‘Of course,’ Khushi brushed aside the words meant to embarrass her and stuck to her guns. ‘That’s the reason we haven’t been friends. Come on, admit it.’ His obvious enjoyment loosened her tongue. ‘ok, I would even give the permission to call me, Khushi.’

‘And how can I refuse such incentive. Alright Khushi, I do admire these paintings a lot though loving them would be stretching it a bit too far. And please forgive me for saying that I didn’t care.’

‘Only if you forgive me for the last week, Mr. Raizada,’ Khushi said immediately. ‘I was not eavesdropping.’ Somehow it felt important that he did not think badly of her. ‘I had just stepped out and…’

‘I know,’ he interrupted the apology. ‘I was angry that day. I didn’t mean what I said.’

Both stood a while, looking at each other. There was not much to be said. This feeling of openness between them was too knew. Smiled seemed to fill a few moments till they started feeling foolish. Arnav straightened once again and shrugged. ‘So, see you at the breakfast.’

‘See you at the breakfast, Mr.Raizada,’ Khushi nodded, reluctant for the encounter to end. But he moved towards the door and she turned to the painting. The tap of the walking stick stopped abruptly and she turned back. He was standing at the door, waiting for her look at him. ‘Its Arnav, Khushi.’ And he left.

Anjili looked at Khushi inquiringly at Arnav’s words. ‘Come, Khushi. Hope you a good morning session.’ She had not missed the undercurrent of uneasiness when Arnav and Khushi were in the same room.

‘It was good. Thank you.’ Khushi shrugged and took her space.

The breakfast was remarkably quiet in the absence of the kids. ‘Off to school,’ Anjili told them. ‘You two must eat. I had my breakfast with them. You two seem to be in a good mood today.’

‘It’s a beautiful morning.’ Khushi pointed out to the scene outside the window. The light of early morning danced on the mountains, illuminating them sharply against the azure skies.

‘Then its time, you stopped seeing it through windows, Khushi. Go out, go to Chanderpur. You have been scooped here for two months.’

‘Not scooped up, Anjili,’ Khushi took a bite of her toast. ‘But yes, I must go to Chanderpur. There are some people who my mo..my family knows. I should pay them a visit sometime.’

‘No good, is it Arnav? She says she knows people in Chanderpur. But she hasn’t even been there to meet them.’

‘Why, Khushi? Anyone would say we are making you work too hard,’ Arnav shook his head in mock disappointment.

‘In that case, I shall take the day off today and go. That is, if you don’t mind,’ Khushi sat back and looked at the brother and the sister as they smiled. It was a pleasant morning indeed.

‘Great. I have some work. Need to meet someone. I can give you a lift.’ Arnav offered. ‘We leave in say two hours and comeback before sunset.’

‘Yes, my lord.’ Khushi answered at his high-handed tones and joined Anjili in giggling as Arnav shook his head and let the girls have fun at his expense.

For more of my work:)

Happy new year :-)

Wish you all a very very happy new year. And a special reason to celebrate. Over 150 copies downloaded from amazon :-). Everyone who has downloaded please leave comments on Amazon and Goodreads.  First 10 reviewers of vol 2 on Amazon and Goodreads get vol 3 free.

Thanks a lot, Meenuk for your wonderful review (Please email me your address for the free copy of the volume).

Updating Chandrataal this weekend. In the meantime, an excerpt from 1857 Dust of Ages: The Desperate Plan

‘Shiv! You must come here. The view… the view… is breath-taking,’ Ruth’s normally deep voice rang with a strange sort of shrillness.

Shiv walked out quickly, wondering if she had really chanced on a secret passage. But her gaze was fixed on the window, next to the staircase. Bhushan stood against the window, startled by Ruth’s sudden outburst. He looked out of the window to see what had caught her attention. Disturbed by her fixed stare, he tried to shuffle away.

‘Look out of the window, Bhushanji. See how beautiful Navgarh looks,’ her arms flayed, but the movements were jerky.

The scene looked strangely familiar. Shiv knew he had seen it somewhere but couldn’t remember where. Outside the window, the scenery was similar to the one they had seen through from the larger window in the Queen’s room. What was he missing? Shiv felt Ruth’s excitement, but all he saw was Bhushan standing against the window.

Ruth, on the other hand, was fumbling with her camera, as if getting ready to click a picture.  Slowly, she raised her hand.

And all of a sudden, things fell into place. On the display screen, it was not the startled man standing against the window or the scenic landscape of Navgarh. It was a picture they had seen earlier, of the majestic old woman, standing against the window and the staircase, looking straight into their eyes.

Ruth took a deep breath, calming herself and adjusted the settings to click a picture of a confused looking Bhushan Kumar, who had no clue of what was happening.

Read on for more

For more pictures that inspired and stayed in mind, related to this series visit my Pinterest board  –    https://www.pinterest.com/vandanasaxena/dust-of-ages/

We can also be in touch on twitter at @vandanashanker