“Why did you do it?” The sage’s voice held resignation rather than anger. He sounded tired. He was tired.
The man on the throne smiled. “He knew the truth. He had to be silenced. The others were…. collateral damage.”
The sage stared at the man, aghast. He should not have been surprised. He’d lived long enough and seen a lot of human nature to be surprised by anything. But this man was beyond his comprehension.
“Is that why you wanted to see me?” He asked quietly. “To kill me too? I too know the truth.”
“I did consider it. But no. I have a better idea.” The King paused. “I heard you’ve taken in four new disciples.”
There was a moment of silence. The sage felt a sliver of fear pierce his heart. He was not frightened for himself. But the four youngsters did not deserve to die for his mistakes.
“Someone told me their names,” the King intoned. “Paila, Vaisambayana, Jaimini and Sumantu. Do I have it right?”
“What do you want from me?”
The King smiled. “Finish the song you composed for my victory. And that song shall be all the history the future generations will know. None shall ever know the truth.”
“You want me to lie.”
“You have already lied, old man. That song is full of lies already. I just want you to finish what you started. But there is no compulsion. Paila accompanied you here, I believe.”
The sage stared at the King, petrified, as the the full import of what he’d done penetrated to his brain.
“All right,” the sage whispered. “But remember, Yudhistira. The truth shall come out some day. You say I lied? No, O King. I have embellished the truth, it’s true. But my song remains true in facts. But I shall lie since you give me no option. But posterity is not to be fooled easily. They shall read between the lines. And people will see you for what you really are!”
Yudhistira smiled. “I don’t think so. They might conjecture, but none shall ever know. You shall take care of that.”
The sage stared at the man a long time. Then he turned around and walked out. He was bent, tired. He was a broken man.
“What have we done?” He muttered to himself. “What have we done?”
But no answer came from anywhere. And Vyasa knew for certain that he would need to bury the truth. Not even his disciples could be told. For their own safety, they had to be told a lie.
Vyasa straightened as he passed the palace gates. He was not going to be defeated. Yudhistira might force him to write a false account, but he would sprinkle enough facts in it to throw doubts in a listener. And someday, people might notice them and start questioning the story. That was the only way. But he would need to be careful. Yudhistira was clever. He should not be made to suspect the truth.
He sat down in Padmasana. He had to calm himself. He had to concentrate. He had to remember one last time the true story of the Kurus. And then, he had to rewrite it.