• Casey Dunn

Portrait Writing: Sadashiva Worshipped by Parvati

A short story inspired by the painting Sadashiva Worshipped by Parvati, attributed to Devidasa.

The conflict had risen to a fervor by noon. Olive was just arriving to the field when the brave Summer Knight dismounted his steed and engaged Titus the Lonely in combat. The battle had been scheduled for several days and most of the town had camped out to make sure they had a good spot to spectate. Olive was not as lucky. She had to finish laundry and prepping dinner for the ladies return. But even still, she snuck out to see the last moments of the conflict. Both hills looking down on the grassy ravine were filled to the brim with people young and old, blocking Olive from getting to close. She found a tree at the southern most end of the field and sat against its trunk. She listened to the sounds of war as she picked apart little pieces of grass.

Celebratory cheers and dismayed shrieks erupted from the crowd with every death. At least she assumed they were deaths. The war had been going for the better part of a year and Intwood was making strong advances. It was doubtful that Harbourwood could last till Spring. Supposedly the Queen of Intwood was kind and judicious. It didn’t really matter, nothing would change about daily life other than the name of the god she was supposed to pray to.

The sunlight occasionally snuck through the dark green leaves and into her retinas. There was something comforting in not having to watch the people die. It left more to the imagination. A man walked offering snacks and drinks. Olive bought a chocolate roasted duck and picked at it as murmurs of a commander’s beheading rustled through the crowd. Would they build a statue in his honor? she thought. It seemed unlikely, most of the gold and bronze would go to Intwood as penance for being on the losing side. Any other materials would need to be used to rebuild infrastructure after the city was sacked. If Olive was the caretaker of a poorer family she would be concerned.

The Lornpart property stood at the top of Beaker Hill. It was notorious for its cherry orchard that ran along the southern cliff. Before the Lornpart family built their manor, the cherry trees had supposedly covered the entire hill. At least that’s what rumors said. If those stories were true, the last person to see the orchard at its pinnacle died over two hundred years ago. But that’s how Harbourwood was, a town built on the memory of a long ago past. Perhaps its demise would bring new life. Suddenly a silence shot through the entire crowd. It was strange, it held weight. Olive listened, something was happening, but it was far off. Those people around her, even those quite a bit closer were all waiting as well. It must be that the conflict had ended and everyone was awaiting the result.

But then a woman began crying, sobbing. She was further away from the battle than Olive. She couldn’t have known anything. Or did she, maybe she had been told something, knew something in that way that one sometimes does. It seemed doubtful, but then a man in the branches above Olive began weeping as well. Whatever was happening was very wrong. Olive stood and scanned the horizon. There was nothing. No. That’s not true. To the south. What is that? Olive thought. And then she recognized it and tears filled her eyes. The salt water streamed down her cheeks. Some flooded between her lips and back into her mouth. The rest dripped down her neck and plopped into the grass and soil. Feeding the earth. Just as her blood would.

The war, it was not a war, it was a slaughter and Olive was next.

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