Eventually, the men seemed to reach a consensus on strategy and way forward. Bharadvaja pulled Vadhryasva away and asked the latter to accompany him for a walk.
Dabhiti turned to Payu and said, “You certainly have a very important role to play in the future, Payu, one that could forever alter the course of Arya land.”
“Yes Purohit, I do. And I will not fail you. I have been working with my father on ways to consecrate weapons, which I have no doubt will be extremely useful during what is now an inevitable war with the Vrcivans.”
Author’s note: The above is a reference to the Samgrama Sukta or the Battle Hymn - RV 06.75. More of this in the chapter on the Hariyupiya war.
Later that night, Menaka was discreetly taken to Bharadvaja’s quarters. The seed of Divodasa was sown that night. The Panchala visitors stayed on for few more days under the pretext of serving and learning under their spiritual and political mentor; however, the underlying reason was to stay there till they were sure Menaka had conceived.
On the eve of their departure, a programme of music and prayer was held. The visitors retired for the night, reassured they had found the solutions to the problems they had come with.
And then tragedy struck. It must have been sometime well in the night that Payu and Bharadvaja woke up to the screaming of the ashramites (inhabitants of the hermitage). Rushing out of their quarters, they found the visitor quarters in flames. Some of the ashramites were desperately trying to quell the fire while a few men were struggling to enter the rooms in order to rescue Vadhryasva, Menaka and Dabhiti.
Payu plunged himself in the rescue efforts. After an ordeal that lasted over an hour, the ashramites were able to rescue Vadhryasva, but not Menaka and Dabhiti, their bodies charred beyond recognition.
A much burned and totally shocked Vadhryasva kept turning to Bharadvaja and muttering “Why, why?”
Nobody was sure how the fire started, but the consequences of the loss would prove to be profound. Everything the visit had been able to achieve had been overturned in a matter of one hour. And worse. What was left was a rajan, mentally scarred forever, without his beloved and without his guide and mentor.
Bharadvaja repeatedly counseled Vadhryasva not to allow himself to be engulfed by his grief and loss. This was not the time for the janapada to lose its rajan as well. There was so much at stake, and Vadhryasva would have to figure a way to deal with the setback and loss.
It is how one deals with adversity that separate the leaders from the led.