The figure in the shadows

After the futile battle of khANDava, which to us was like the decline into the sufferings of the kali age, we had climbed into the tower of parIkShit. Having been driven away from there by fate we had landed in rAjagrAma, ever shadowed by that ghoul of malapaTTana. We wandered long ago like a performer of the kapALa vrata in the forests around the dasyu shAla. kR^iShNa-mukha, khara-mukha and mala-tvacha were seated on the wall at the rim and laughing loudly. We ran into the niShada and asked him what lay beyond the yonder mist. He told 4 stories and the wheel of kAla raced ahead. Down a deep tunnel-like alley were projected the laughing three-some. We saw them in deep, and then they vanished into nothingness. Then the niShAda smiled and said these bhrAtR^ivya-s will be washed away like the rivals of sudAsa being washed away by the paruShNi. But then there will rise the dreadful one, the ghoulish one; the dream will show it. We went on a long ride on our ashva and crossed the stream of go-mUtraka.
We saw sujAtA and asked her the following cryptic question: “What will your number be and when will it come ?” She replied: “it will be two and end at dvAdashAnta. I will inform you in the most subtle of ways.” She did so recently.
We saw the kaushika and asked him: “When ?” He said: “When you are burning in battle I alone shall be beside you, even as the vaishvAmitra-s around rAmo bhArgava.”
We saw kalashodbhava-suma~NgalA and asked: “what is your number ?” She said: “It will start just before dvAdashAnta. As for its full extant do not ask.”

Then we stumbled into the senior bhArgava. He said: “the third hero has broken forth, but why do the two ghouls chase their victims like the beings sent forth by the kAshyapa to slay the bhAradvAja?”

We were nearing the end of a train journey. It was similar to the end of another such journey at the end of the mirth and joy of dashAnta. It ended and we went up the steep rock face near giri pAda that lay on the opposite side of the city from the kumAra gR^iha. We saw vidrum then — in a few days the flow of kAla had swept him aside as the flood on the paruShNi bore the enemies of sudAsa. We survived, and emerged victorious in battle. But then after getting down from this journey we did not know who would be swept away.

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