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The balcony was where Queen Subuddhi had spent most of her time ever since she had been married to the King Birat.
She enjoyed listening to the rush outside the palace while she made strands of cotton for religious occasions.
The day Queen gave birth to her first son- Sishir, she had planted a Mimosa tree.
The tree grew fast for years and dropped fragrant flowers in the spring.
In the spring when it shed flodwes, she gave birth to her youngest son Basanta.
Both of them had brightness like sun on their faces. Every visitor who had seen them didn’t leave the palace without admiring them.
She was not able ask for anything for anything more than her two sons.
Few weeks after Basanta's birth, she got devastated when she found out she was unable to lactate all of a sudden.
Because King couldn’t see his child malnourished and starved, so he conducted search for a woman who had healthiest breast milk in the entire realm.
Basanta didn’t have to starve much long because King's men found a woman named Rohini.
Sishir also got fond of Rohini and the tales she told.
Even though she was not a beautiful woman, her service was going to be very valuable to the two princes.
After her arrival, Queen got to spend little to no time to spend with her children. She was not envying Rohini by any means but she couldn't bear being separated from her own children.
One thing giving her some reason to stay calm was a sparrow which had just laid eggs on the branch of the mimosa tree. She watched both father and mother sparrow take care of the eggs for many days.
Realizing about Queen's loneliness, King Birat told Rohini to accompany her.
Rohini obeyed and went to the balcony.
"See, the eggs are hatching." Subuddhi pointed at the eggs which were moving. Tiny beaks popped out of the shell and then came the whole small bird.
Two eggs hatched but rest did not.
Rohini also joined in her fascination towards birds.
Those two women talked for days by watching the mother and father bird feed their children.
One day, the mother bird didn’t come. Queen was worried because the children were hungry.
Father sparrow somehow managed to get food for them but replacing a mother was no joke.
"Poor mother, maybe a hunter killed her." Subuddhi showed her sympathy.
Next day, father bird brought a new female sparrow to his nest.
New mother raised them for few days but soon began to peck them.
One day, when father sparrow was out hunting, she pushed the baby birds from the nest.
Queen was saddened to see it happen. And she was devastated when she realized this could happen to his children as well.
Even though King had given word to him he would not marry any other woman than her, situations could change if she died because a King needed a Queen anyhow.
What if new Queen kills my babies or puts them in hardship? She couldn’t keep this thought out of her mind.
This lead Subuddhi to go in depression. She would not eat for days.
Her children began to grow and her fear grew bigger.
Eventually, she fell ill.
King panicked and called many alchemists to the palace but none of them could cure her.
With all hopes gone, King Birat requested Rohini to bring the best alchemist or best medicine she knew.
Rohini obeyed him and began her quest.
After many days of walk, she reached to another kingdom.
Rohini headed straight to the royal palace. None of the guards dared to stop her.
She went to Princess Maya's palace.
Rohini said to her, "Princess, she is getting ill and nobody has suspicion on me. Should I kill her soon?"
"Do it slowly." Maya said, "Make it look like illness, not poisoning."
"Your father has good relation with King Birat. Because of the political ties between these two houses, Birat will be compelled to marry you to keep the alliance strong." Rohini said, "Soon you will be Queen."
Maya smiled then gave her a potion, "This will kill her in a month."
Rohini left the palace and went straight to King Birat's palace where she fed Subuddhi the poison.
Queen died a month later.
Sishir and Basanta, who now were grown up enough, could understand what had happened.
They were feeling demise of their mother.
The incident took them into a state of trauma.
King Birat could see what was going on so, one day, he called both of his sons to his bed chamber.
He had thought of a way to make his sons' pain dull.
"Mother is not coming back." Birat said, "But don’t worry because there are two of you. Promise me that you two won't part no matter what. Promise me you will never fight and promise me you will take care of each other."
"We promise." Wise children said.
"Whenever you are missing your mother sing this song:
Whoever listens this will get garland of gold,
Whoever sings this will get garland of rose,
Mother is hearing this song from heaven,
Make this news reach to every realm by a raven."
Those sons memorized it.
A Pret- demon, was flying near the palace when he heard the song.
Pret was captivated by the song even though he couldn't understand it.
He kept on flying near the palace whenever the children sang the song to memorize it.
Even though Pret had not gone inside rooms of the palace, he used to peek in through the window to see those children sing.
Pret stopped coming regularly to the palace when the children stopped singing the song after few weeks.
Children had gotten over grief of their mother's death.
Perhaps they forgot the song.
In coming months, King himself forgot the song. He even forgot he had made a song because of the responsibilities he had on his shoulders.
Deceased Queen's house was showing hesitation on helping King Birat's kingdom's nose diving economy.
One day, they cut the ties with him altogether. Every major house backed away once Queen's house no longer supported them.
A promise he had made to Subuddhi was becoming tough to follow. When his advisors told him there was no other way to stabilize the kingdom other than marrying again then King took it seriously.
Few months later, he got married to Maya. And the kingdom started to get prosperous against because of support she had brought from her house.
At first, she treated the children like her own.
But it didn’t last long.
Because they were not her own children, she started to get annoyed by them. Even their sound of playing ball made her grind her teeth in anger.
Her contempt towards them increased each and every day for more than three years.
Even thought King Birat had married her, he had not treated her like his wife till now. King had not misbehaved with her by any means but he was not willing to accept her like his own wife.
This meant he never spent a single night with him.
Queen Maya couldn’t remain childless.
She desired to be a mother and also craved for her child to be the king.
Sishir and Basanta were nothing for her other than two children who were barricading her from maternity.
Queen had already shown those children how much she hated her.
She had beaten them many times till they bled but none of those children ever complained to their father.
Instead, those innocent children used to apologize.
Queen Maya had put them through many hungry nights. But those children did not complain about their hardships to their father.
"You are our mother. We will obey what you say." They always greeted her with smile.
But Queen's heart didn’t melt. Instead fire of wrath grew in her head.
She would not sleep for many nights.
It was one of the sleepless nights when she saw something moving outside her bed chamber window through the veil.
"Who is this traitor who got in Queen's bed chamber?" she yelled and removed the curtain.
She almost screamed when she saw Pret.
Pret told her not to scream.
"For long, I used to come here to hear two children sing." Pret said.
"I will make them sing. Please let me go." Queen cried.
"Those children sang the song by their pure hearts. I want to eat their hearts. I can't even touch them because of spells the priests have put on them." Pret explained, "Give me their hearts and I will make your child a king."
The offer came as a boon to her.
Maya could have stopped herself from shaking hands with devil just by calling priests but she intended to get rid of those children so agreed.
The next day, Pret disguised himself as those two children.
Pret went on to kill King's Advisor.
He also injured Queen Maya in their disguise.
Maya stayed injured, in her bed, for many days.
In the meantime, King had imprisoned Sishir and Basanta.
King came to her and said, "Maya, I never treated you like my wife. Now I accept you as my wife."
She didn’t talk to him.
King panicked and said, "Maya, talk to me. Tell me what you want. I promise I will do it for you."
"You promise?" she asked.
Remembering Pret's offer she said, "Send the children to forest, kill them and bring their hearts to me."
King was devastated but he couldn't take his word back.
"You have tricked me, Maya. Before this day I was unwilling to accept you as my wife. But from now on I will be unwilling to accept you as a human." King said and stormed out of her chamber.
Slaved by his own vow, King Birat ordered his soldiers to do what Queen had ordered.
Soldiers wondered how King could come up with such a horrifying jest only to realize he was in his seriousness.
Later in the same night, those two children were taken to the forest by soldiers.
None of them let those children knew what they were up to. They only told him they were banished from the palace.
Soldiers took them out of their cages in the heart of forest. One of them took out a dagger but couldn’t be brave enough to touch them.
"We believe you are innocent." Soldiers said, "Queen wanted your hearts but we can't take blood of innocent in our hands."
They returned back to the keep after saying so.
In the way, they killed two fawns, took their hearts out and gave it to Queen Maya.
She gave those to Pret, who disappeared after eating their hearts.