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Seventeen year old Callie discovers she is an avatar of the powerful Hindu Goddess Kali and she has to save the world from Mahisha, the King of Demons. Now Callie has to accept her fate and control her powers. Before she can face Mahisha, she must find the Sword of Knowledge that the Immortals had given Kali five thousand years ago.As Callie embarks upon the dangerous quest to find this weapon, she must travel deep into the jungles of India to find a temple that time has forgotten. The Rakshakari, who are sworn to protect the Goddess, guide her on this treacherous journey, fraught with demons and mortal conspiracies.She is accompanied by the gorgeous, enigmatic Shiv for whom she feels an inexplicable but undeniable attraction. Can she trust Shiv with her life or are there dark forces at work that will divide loyalties and leave Callie at the mercy of Mahisha and his army of demons?
Ten years before, my parents and I had lived in Kolkata, City of Joy — only I didn’t remember a whole lot of joy, just heat. Intense heat and an unbearable stench. It was everywhere, rising from the open sewers in waves and permeating the air so that it stayed with you wherever you went. And all the people. I was used to big crowds and intense heat, but this was ridiculous. You could barely move, and then only at a snail’s pace. That was bad, because your first instinct was to get out of the crowds and into a secluded spot, preferably in the shade. But here on the banks of the Hooghly River in Kolkata in the middle of summer there was no escape. We were visiting the temple of the Goddess Kali, one of the oldest, most revered places of worship in the city. That morning we tried to get an early start to avoid the crowds that were expected later in the day, but judging by the number of people there already, I didn’t know how there could be any more. As we slowly made our way to the temple grounds, the crowd started to thin. I could see many people heading off toward the courtyard while a few entered the main temple that housed the famous statue. Mom had told me that she and Dad had to get special permits to enter the restricted areas on the inside. Apparently some of the worshippers did not come for the Goddess but rather to try to steal the valuable gold ornaments she wore and the ancient artifacts she held in each of her six arms. “Wow,” I said breathlessly as we approached the main temple. “This is amazing.” The two-thousand-year-old structure stood majestically, its nine spires rising up to meet the sky. The intricate carvings on the outside ran all the way to the top. Dad put his arm around my shoulder. “Callie, we’ll need about an hour with the head priest to go over our research, but you can look around, okay? Just don’t leave the main building. We don’t want you getting lost.” I rolled my eyes. “I’ll be fine, Dad. Just don’t take too long. You promised we would go to the mall after.” Just then the head priest came out to meet us. He was dressed in a cream-colored dhoti and a saffron shawl, typical attire for a man of his position. In the middle of his forehead was a vermillion circle surrounded by three white vertical lines and a Y-shape. I knew that the Y-shape meant he was a devotee of the Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva, her consort. “Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Hansen. You have arrived at last. I trust your journey was pleasant.” He greeted us warmly and deftly maneuvered his rather large frame down the stone steps that led down from the temple. He joined his hands in a namaste, the traditional Indian greeting, and bowed slightly. After we had all exchanged pleasantries, he led us back up the stairs toward the main temple. As we entered the inner sanctum, I was struck by how large it was inside. The high ceilings and curved walls gave it a cave-like appearance, while the low, discreet lighting kept the temple cool and dark. After my parents had left with the priest, I looked around first to decide where I was going to start. The main statue stood in the center of the inner temple, while several smaller ones were scattered around the periphery. Each had its own alcove and was cordoned off with thick ropes, no doubt to deter sticky fingers. I decided to leave the Kali statue until the very end and made my way over to some of the smaller ones. I came to a stop in front of a statue of Lord Shiva the Destroyer. There he was in his famous dancing pose as Lord of Dance. I liked this particular version of him, dancing on top of the demon of ignorance. I moved on to the next few statues. There was one of the Goddess Parvati, Shiva’s wife, as well as other minor gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. Finally I came to a stop in front of the statue of Kali. I’d saved the best for last. It was awesome. She was usually depicted as dark and a little frightening, but here she was, bronze and quite beautiful — if you liked strong, powerful and kick-ass women, that is. She was supposed to elicit terror in the evil-hearted, but to me she was the coolest goddess of them all. She was dressed in a beautiful sari made from red silk with gold threads woven in an intricate pattern. Her eyes were black and fierce. Around her neck she wore a necklace of skulls. They belonged to all the demons she had killed. With each of her six arms she carried a weapon. With her three left arms she carried a bow with arrows, a discus and a mace. With the right she carried a thunderbolt, a trident and her sword. Legend had it that all these weapons were given to her by the gods who created her so that she could vanquish the demon king, Mahisha. The gods had each given her their powers so that she was virtually indestructible. My parents, who were both anthropologists, talked about this sort of stuff all the time, so I was quite well versed in Hindu mythology. I stared at the goddess. She looked right back at me, her piercing eyes unwavering. I shook myself mentally, laughing at my silly imagination. As my gaze wandered down, I noticed something. Centered on the base of the statue was a rectangular engraved metal plate with the words DO NOT TOUCH. I really wanted to touch the goddess. I looked around furtively to make sure no one was watching then gingerly reached out to touch the cool stone surface of the statue. Instantly a painful jolt shot up my arm.
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