Home > Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality

Aru Shah and the Nectar of Immortality
Author: Roshani Chokshi


Dear Reader,

I have a confession. What you are holding in your hands (or your ears/talons, etc., etc.) is none other than a feral, hungry…story.

“What nonsense!” you say. “Obviously it’s just a story!”


Tomorrow, I’d make sure your book is in the same place where you left it yesterday—stories are living things, after all. They’re quite sensitive. There’s no such thing as “just” a story, which brings me to my next point.

Like so many of the stories I have written in the past, I consider this one a living thing and believe it is important for you to know that this story’s roots come from a living, active religion: Hinduism. One of the most beautiful aspects about Hindu mythology is that it is deeply intertwined with the sacred. As a practicing Hindu, I wanted to let my imagination take flight but also do my best to make sure that it doesn’t stamp its feet on hallowed grounds. For that reason, the majority of the deities you will meet in these pages harken back to the Vedic Age, starting in roughly 1500 BCE. Many scholars consider Vedism a precursor to what we might now call classical Hinduism. That means you won’t find deities like Durga-Maa, Vishnu, or Shiva as characters in this series.

This story is not intended to serve as an introduction to Hinduism or Hindu mythology, which is beautifully nuanced and varies from region to region. Instead, I hope you see this story for what it is: a narrow, vivid window peering out into an even brighter ocean of tales and traditions. As storytellers, we respond to what we love, and one of the things I loved most growing up was listening to my Ba tell me stories about gods, heroes, and demons. To me, this series is one long love letter.

I hope it sparks your curiosity, tickles your imagination, and, if I am so fortunate, sneaks into a corner of your heart and stays there.


With love,




Kara’s first reaction when she entered the labyrinth that hid the nectar of immortality was, well, disappointment. She’d imagined it would look like something out of the fairy tales she had read over and over until the book spines split down the middle. She thought it would be beautiful, with ginormous green mazes carved out of jungle plants where sleek panthers with glowing eyes would stalk and snarl at them from the sidelines.

But it wasn’t. It was a cave. And it was dark.

The only light came from what she gripped tightly in her right hand: Sunny, her trident, forged from a drop of pure sunshine. Nothing could penetrate the darkness except Sunny, and as the daughter of Surya, the sun god, only Kara could lead the way through the labyrinth. No enemies would be able to follow, much less attack. She’d seen to that a few days ago.

Heat spasmed through her chest. She didn’t know what to name this feeling….Even the thought of feeling guilty made her feel…guilty.

You did the right thing, her father had told her over and over.

But then why did that moment feel so poisonous? Why couldn’t she stop thinking about Aru’s face? Or the way Brynne had almost bellowed in pain? Or how Mini, the gentlest of the Pandavas, had curled around herself like she’d been kicked?

“Are you ready, daughter?”

Kara looked up at her dad. He stood tall and noble, his blue and brown eyes beaming down at her.

“I’m proud of you,” he said in his deep, rumbling voice. “You have been faced with difficult choices, and each time you have done the right thing.”

The words glowed in Kara’s heart. She was reminded all over again that Suyodhana was her dad in every way that counted. He had rescued her from a bad place. He had taken care of her when her own mother, Krithika Shah, had abandoned her.

Even so, Kara sometimes imagined a soft voice speaking to her in her dreams….

He’s lying to you.

The voice belonged to a young girl. If Kara really concentrated, she could almost see the girl’s face. Dark brown skin, braids framing her cheeks, a pair of electric-blue eyes. She looked like Sheela, one of the Pandava twins.

You’re not real, she once told Dream Sheela.

Sheela had regarded her mildly. Or maybe you just don’t want me to be real?

Kara figured that her mind was simply reaching for an elaborate way to protect itself from the truth that she’d finally met her mom and now knew for sure that Krithika had given her up. And who could blame her? thought Kara with a pang.

Krithika had moved on with her life. She had another daughter: Aru. Aru was funny and clever. Aru had the soul of Arjuna, the shining hero of all the stories. Kara had the soul of a mistake. She was a mistake, and it was only because of the Sleeper’s mercy that she still existed.

“Remember what lies ahead,” said her father now, placing a warm hand on her shoulder. “We will remake the world. We will all be together…as a family. Like I promised.”


That was all Kara wanted. She’d meant what she said to Aru the moment she broke the astra necklace. She loved her mom and sister. She was doing this so they could be together, so they wouldn’t fight one another anymore.

This was the only way.

He’s lying to you…whispered that voice in the back of her head.

Kara shoved it aside and stood up straighter. “I’m ready,” she said.

She raised her trident, and a stream of sunlight snaked through the darkness. This was the true path inside…the only path inside.

Behind her, her father’s troops held their breath. His army was a strange mix of individuals. Some of them were pale and misshapen rakshasas, burned and scarred from fights with the devas long ago. Others were pristine yakshas, whose families had lost their homes due to human encroachment. With each passing hour, more beings joined her father’s cause—celestial and woodland nymphs mistreated by human kings who had won the gods’ favor, ghosts who had once haunted the edges of cremation grounds, members of the bear and monkey races who had fought in the devas’ wars and won no glory.

Her father had promised them all that this time the nectar of immortality would not be stolen from them. This time, they would have the power. Whenever Suyodhana spoke, his followers listened. Hope shone in their eyes.

But sometimes Kara wondered what he really felt. When he thought no one was looking, Kara had seen him touch a pendant that he wore around his neck. He never took it off, and every time his fingers touched the stone, a look of pain crossed his face.

“Well, daughter?” prompted Suyodhana, snapping her back to the moment. “Lead the way. Be the hero to guide us into the new age.”

Kara fought the urge to correct him. Heroine. That was what Aru, Brynne, and Mini always said.

But heroism was nothing like what she had understood from all her books. There was no shining armor to protect her from emotions she didn’t want to feel. There was no magical horse leading her into a battle between clearly divided good and evil. Even the monsters weren’t so monstrous.

So what does that make you? whispered a doubt deep inside her heart.

Kara ignored the voice and stepped into the dark.



Aru Shah’s life was, to put it simply, an absolute mess.

Her previous pigeon mentor, Boo, was currently a flammable chick of some kind. Her crush, Aiden, had kissed her and yet was now acting like she was invisible. Her friend Kara had turned out to not only be her real-life half sister but also the daughter of the sun god. And, as if that weren’t enough for the past twenty-four hours, Kara had betrayed them, joined forces with the Sleeper to locate the nectar of immortality, and incinerated the Pandavas’ celestial weapons.

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