After several weeks of austerities and abstinence, satisfied that Bheema and Arjuna had purified their body, mind and soul, Krishna took them to Khandava forest. The brothers sat cross-legged at the edge of the impenetrable jungle, and Krishna invoked their kundalini. Their atmas, souls, detached from their mortal bodies but remained connected by a pulsing silver cord, similar to a child’s umbilical attached to his mother.

In their astral state, Krishna escorted Bheema and Arjuna to meet Agni Deva. The Blue One and the Lord of Fire resorted to telepathy. The Pandava brothers saw the thoughts as soon as they formed in the minds of Krishna and Agni Deva.

“If I lent you my weapons, I’ll incur the wrath of Lord Indra.” The nagas were asuras, mortal enemies of the devas. But Lord Indra, King of Indraloka, the abode of the devas, was a sworn friend of Takshaka, the naga king, and had promised to protect Khandava.

“Lord Agni Deva, he who devours everything in his path, fears Indra?” Krishna in his astral form looked resplendent. The living energy that surrounded him throbbed with the colours of life.

“Fear? What is that?” Agni Deva consumed the living and the dead, and with each meal, the energy transformed made him ever stronger and powerful. But an unjustified consumption would lessen his power tenfold.

“Bheema and Arjuna, will carry out the deed.”

“They will pay a price; a terrible price, O Blue One.”

“Lord Agni Deva, they walk their path of destiny as it is your destiny to avail them of your weapons.”

“The victims if injured without justification will call down maledictions upon me. Even my fiery power cannot escape the potency of a meritorious tongue.”

“I shall be your parasol and consume their curses.” Krishna transmitted another thought to Agni Deva, a special message not visible to Bheema and Arjuna; a message which even the Lord of Fire will forget when he returned to his realms.

“So you utter, and so it will come to pass, O Blue One, for now I’ve discerned your scheme.”

Agni Deva transmitted the secret mantras, and the two Pandava brothers closed their eyes and inhaled. At that moment, they learned the secret to invoke Agni Deva’s weapons.

“Scions of Pandu, you will call upon these weapons but only once and only to destroy Khandava.” His task completed, Agni Deva’s lights collapsed into a pin-prick and pinched off.

“Come my friends, you’ve work to do,” said Krishna. Bheema and Arjuna opened their eyes, Agni Deva had disappeared.

In a blink, they were back in Khandava. A tight path, one that they had not noticed before, beckoned. They took a tentative step, and another and another. The jungle closed behind them and wiped out the feeble light…

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