Nemesis of Kalinga – The Asoka Trilogy Book 3 – Who will be remembered as the greatest Samrat of the land of the Aryas?

The commotion caused those in the pavilion to turn to see what the noise was about.
Between the pillars that held up the domed ceiling,Kanakdatta caught sight of his friend.
“Asoka!” he called, to get his attention.
The Samrat’s dreamy eyes did not register the call. It did not take long for Kanakdatta to
climb up and get a clearer view of his supine friend. Asoka’s eyes were red rimmed and
hazy. There was the distinct smell of wine in the air, as well as another peculiar odour. Two
women sat beside the Samrat,massaging his shoulders, giggling, and touching him in places
they should not.
“Asoka!” Kanakdatta called loudly above the noise.
This time the Samrat opened his eyes.It took a while for recognition to arise in his eyes.
“Kanaka?” he finally said in surprise.
As the two women moved away, Kanakdatta noticed a smoking pot lying to the side and
realized the strange smell in the air was opium. “What is all this, Asoka?” he asked, looking
around in surprise.
“You….you caught me unawares.” Asoka’s voice rasped. “I did not know you were
coming tonight.”
“Opium? Wine? Where is Asandhi, your wife?’
For a moment, traces of guilt crossed Asoka’s face before turning into lines of anger. He
stumbled to his feet. “Who are you to ask me anything?” he demanded loudly. “And why
are you here?”
“I bring news,” Kanakdatta said, hiding his mortification. “But are you in a state to hear
it?”
“And who says I am not?” Asoka stepped forward, and suddenly sank to the ground. One
of the two women ran to him, and supported him in her arms.
“You make your own case.” Kanakdatta folded his arms. “What in the world is all this?
Who taught you?”
Asoka pulled himself to a sitting position with an arm around the woman’s shoulders. “Do
not look at me like that, Kanaka. These are my women. This is my palace. I am the Samrat.”
“Who showed you all this?” Kanakdatta looked around again. “Was it the women of your
harem?“Does your wife know?”
“Silence!” Asoka shouted angrily. Pushed away the women supporting him, he slowly
rose and stood rocking back and forth in the breeze that blew off the river. “Do not speak to
me like that.”
“Then how should I talk to you?” asked Kanakdatta.
“Tell me your news and leave,” Asoka snapped.
“This is all the Prime Minister’s doing!” Kanakdatta held his ground. “Don’t you see
Asoka? He is making you a prey to the baser vices so that actual power rests in his hands. He
is using you.”

“Silence !” Asoka yelled, his bloodshot eyes gleaming furiously.

Kanakdatta realized that what he had said had not registered in Asoka’s drugged brain.
“State your news,” Asoka muttered.

Kanakdatta sighed. There was little he could do while Asoka was not in a clear frame of
mind. “I sent my spies to Kalinga to gather news, as the Prime Minister asked. You will not
believe who they saw while infiltrating the Kalingan capital.”
“Who?” Asoka murmured, not really interested.
“Devi,”
“What!” Asoka’s manner suddenly changed. He backed up and collapsed on to the chair
like a ragdoll. Kanakdatta stepped forward, worried he had hurt himself in the earlier fall.
“It can’t be true,” Asoka sighed, his head moving from side to side in a flowing cadence.
“My men saw her with their own eyes, Asoka. They brought me with the news, and I
came immediately.”
“We saw her burnt body with our own eyes, Kanaka,” Asoka whimpered.
Kanakdatta noticed there were tears in Asoka’s eyes. “My lead man knows what they saw.
He knows her face as he has been in my service since my days in Vidishanagri.”
“How can it be, Kanaka?” Tears trickled down Asoka’s cheek and fell on the silken
cushions, forming a wet spot. Kanakdatta walked forward and placed his hand on his
friend’s shoulder.
Suddenly, Asoka flinched and pushed the arm away. Kanakdatta was taken aback.“You did
not see her yourself, did you?” Asoka asked, his face suddenly blank.
Kanakdatta shook his head. “But I trust my man’s word.”
“But my mind does not trust your’s,” Asoka retorted angrily. “Why are you doing this,
Kanaka?”
“Why?” Kanakdatta folded his arms. “If Devi is really in Kalinga, we should send for her,
bring her here.”
“I don’t believe you!” Asoka looked his old friend in the eye. “I saw her body with my
own eyes.”
Kanakdatta took a deep breath. “The body was badly burnt,” he said. “It could have
belonged to any woman.”
Asoka leaned forward and grabbed Kanakdatta by the collar but Kanakdatta did not fight
back. “The body had unburnt pieces of Devi’s clothing,” he snarled. “And her ornaments.”
“That could have been easily staged.”
“By whom? And why?”
“The Prime Minister, Asoka.” Kanakdatta spoke hurriedly. “It has to be him.”
Slap! Asoka’s hand moved swiftly across Kanakdatta’s cheek. Even in his drunken state, the
slap was powerful, and Kanakdatta stepped back a pace. He rubbed his cheek and looked at

Asoka in surprise. What has gone wrong in you, my friend? he wondered, staring at the
unrecognisable figure before him.Suddenly, rage engulfed Kanakdatta.
“You dare blame the man who placed me on this throne?” Asoka shouted angrily.“You
dare blame the man who brought victory to us?”
“Look around you, friend,” Kanakdatta pleaded, pointing to the women, the opium
smoke. “This is no throne you are sitting on. This is an illusion.”
What has the Prime Minister done to Asoka? Does Kanakdatta speak the truth? Is Devi
really in Kalinga? To find out, read ‘Nemesis of Kalinga’ Book III of the Asoka Trilogy

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