Once Upon a Time - An Anthology of Historical Short Fiction

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
Fablery Publishers have always looked to be different in their approach to telling tales. Their first anthology was a collection of the best stories from a contest held over nearly a year across ten different genres, each month focusing on a separate genre. The end result was a wonderful collection of taut stories, Ten Shades of Life, that had a lovely book launch in Bangalore and received rave reviews (individual links to reviews at the end of the post in the link) from all those who purchased it.

Trippayar Sahasranaman Priyaa Roshan Radhakrishnan Aarush Deora Karthik anthology Nethra A
Click here to get your copy
So when they announced they were looking to try something different once more in their next anthology contest, I was more than eager to take part. 
This time around, they were looking to give even more freedom from the regular constraints of the short story to the authors. Rather than fill up a book with twenty to thirty short stories that end before they can even begin, Nethra (who heads Fablery) increased the word limit putting the onus of developing the characters of the story upon the authors.

Moreover, the focus was on a genre which required more skill and research from the authors as well - historical fiction. That meant that the authors had to find out the past of the characters and the lifestyles of that era before they could look to formulate a story around that time.

In the end, after four of the best stories that arose from that competition were selected, editing and rewrites were incorporated by Nethra to make each story more plausible and enjoyable for the reader.

Rather than bore you with my words, I present to you here both previews and an excerpt from each author's story in Fablery's new book "Once Upon a Time - An Anthology of Historical Fiction"

1. "Quartet of the Town" by Trippayar Sahasranaman Priyaa:  
Bassanio vows to make the aristocrats of London pay dearly for the peace they took away from his family. He unfolds the loopholes in the prevalent system of insurance and architects a plan to swindle money from his rivals. Yet, fate has something different in store for all of them... 


“Catherine, please tell me the truth. Who was with you that morning?” asked Bassanio in a soft voice holding onto Catherine’s shoulders. Catherine’s face turned pink and her hands started to tremble. Her chest moved heavily inward and outward yet she did not say a word. 
Bassanio’s anxiety refused to give in to her mettle. “Has someone tricked you into something? Look at your head,” he said running his palms over her scalp on which the hair that has just started to grow back. Catherine nodded. 

“Look, I never wanted to hurt you, and if I was angry I would have left you to the hands of the senate at the scaffold itself. Please tell me,” and as he said so his voice began to crack and his eyes shrunk as if he was bearing the excruciating pain of his heart in them.

Tears rolled down Catherine’s face. She sat down with a vacuous look on her face. As she gulped down her saliva, her hand ran over Bassanio’s chest and then got hold of his head. 
“Forgive me, but I will have to go back to them. It’s for your good and our good. I will tell you everything,” she said.

"The Treasure of Gods" by Karthik C: 
In the story "The Treasure of Gods", the author takes you on a quest to find the divine gold which brings out virtues from outlaws and vices from Kings. A tale of destiny causing the rise and fall of Kingdoms will no doubt alter history, for better or for worse. 

“What is the latest news from the frontline?” asked Rudra Deva, King of Kakatiya dynasty.
  “Alauddin Khilji and his army have made base at the outskirts of our capital, Warangal. We were able to hold our ground and push them back. But frankly your grace, I am not sure how much longer we can sustain,” said Ramachari, the chief minister.

  “I agree your grace. Ever since we unearthed the Syamantaka mani from the mines of Kollur, our dynasty has been put on the spotlight”, said Madhava Chandra, the King’s royal adviser as he continued, “It has been ten years and we have been waging wars against other plundering armies.”
  “We have incurred huge losses in guarding the Syamantaka mani and Alauddin Khilji is hell bent on obtaining it. He calls the diamond as his Kohi-noor, the mountain of light. His army is huge. I think the time has come to surrender it to him. It’s better for the Kingdom,” said Ramachari.
  “Enough! I will not let anyone possess what rightfully belongs to us. The largest known diamond in existence is my family’s heirloom and whatever the stakes, I will guard it till my last breath and that’s the end of it,” said Rudra Deva as he stormed off to his bed chamber.

Among the darkness of the night, a shadow moved stealthily leaving behind bodies in its path. The silent assassin made his way into the secret chamber which held the vault containing the Syamantaka. With tremendous confidence and ease the shadow opened the heavy iron door of the vault. The diamond rested in its purple velvet pillow, shining. It was time to move it from its comfortable niche.
The next day Rudra Deva was found murdered in his bed. Alauddin Khilji claimed to be in possession of his beloved Kohi-noor and his army left Warangal.

"The Woman of the Night" by Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan: 
When the young Prince begins to assert his rule upon his countrymen, he is hailed as a worthy successor to the throne. However, from within the palace, various plans have been set in motion to destroy the Prince's resolve... plans that all lead to the doorstep of a young prostitute. "The Woman of the Night" shines an alternative light on one of Europe's most famous kings while also making you ponder on a question that is relevant even today in our own society- "Who is the real victim of a moral crime?"


Princess Margaret listened to the words that the maidservant had overheard while serving the Count and his secret Council. Her royal guard stood by, his expression stoic as he stroked his flowing orange beard. In contrast, the Princess gritted her teeth in anger with every word that passed her ears. After the servant genuflected and left, she turned to the royal guard. Her eyes blazed in the dim light of the flickering candles.
“Patrick. All this while, I thought it was me. I thought I was the reason for the change we have been witnessing. But it is just a common whore.”
“Mademoiselle, it is possible that these are mere rumours. Lies spread by your husband’s uncle. I have always had my doubts on his role in the barons uprising. This council is angry because they are being rendered ineffectual by your Highness now. This is their way of breaking him down. By striking those that he loves best… you.”
Margaret walked up to Patrick and stood in front of him, their faces inches apart.
“You came from Provence beside me as my royal guard on the decree of my father. You have watched me grow up and know my capabilities. I ask you now, not as your Princess but as a friend I trust more than anyone else – do you believe the changes in the prince are because of me?”
“Don’t! Just don’t!” Margaret screamed angrily. “All I want is an honest answer, Patrick. I have just found out that my husband, who preaches morality and justice to the country, is cheating on me with another woman. Thy pity I do not desire. Give me the truth.”
The royal guard stared at her for a few moments before he finally looked down and shook his head. Margaret nodded.
"I want you to find that woman before they do, Patrick. I want you to get her here to me."
"As you wish, Mademoiselle."
"I am not done, Patrick." She said angrily. "No one should know of this. No Count. No Council. I want her brought before me and beheaded. I want her head on a plate!"

"The Black Secrets of the White Dream" by Aarush Deora: 
It takes only one man to alter history - one man whose decision will affect what generations of mankind shall come to believe. The fate of the world's most beloved monument - the Taj - had once rested with one man - Holden Gatsby, an ordinary professor. So what had happened when he found himself in a hostile city with the key to the black secret of the white dream?

East India Company Headquarters
Send someone. Matter of utmost importance. Ignore at own peril.

The Palace of the Immortal King

“As you know the company is short on personnel. You are the only one qualified for this job. Whatever this is, it has something to do with the stone...”
“But going there would be signing on my own death sentence. Of course, you’ve heard of Aurangzeb!”
“Doctor, this is not a negotiation. This is a matter of utmost importance.”
“Says who! Some A.L. from miles away and you believe him?”
“Maybe you didn’t see the letter closely enough, doctor,” and he pushed the envelope into Gatsby’s desperate fingers. Gatsby fumbled with it and gasped in horror when he saw the letter closely. 
Each and every syllable of the page long letter had been inked in blood. 
The Chairman answered the question in Gatsby’s eyes, “We got it checked. It’s human...” There was a long pause after which the Chairman said, “This is not a negotiation, doctor.”

If you liked what you read, here is the best part:

Happy reading.


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