Study Guide

Beneath a Marble Sky Chapter 18

By John Shors

Chapter 18

Curse of the Living

  • Being jailed is the pits. Jahanara enters a deep depression.
  • Jahanara manages to nurse her father back to relative health, at least.
  • Ladli is awesome: she plays a prank on Aurangzeb and puts a fangless cobra in their bed to scare the poop out of him. He assumes that Jahanara did it, and he is not happy.
  • Aurangzeb decides to take out his anger on the Hindu Rajput kingdoms in the Thar Desert. Okie dokie.
  • Jahanara and her father's imprisonment drags on, but at least they're able to improve the condition of their cell to a considerable degree with gifts from influential nobles.
  • Ladli even manages to secretly gift the prisoners a peregrine falcon, which they name Akbar.
  • As the months pass, Jahanara and her father grow to love Akbar dearly, but they decide to set him free so that he can be happy. Thankfully, he decides that their cell is his home, and he returns every night.
  • Aurangzeb continues to battle enemies on almost all fronts. There's unrest in Agra ever since he took the throne: he's raised taxes to fund his military campaigns, tons of people have died in battle, the artists are leaving, and the kingdom is going broke.
  • After five years, Jahanara is visited by Nizam. He has managed to escape Alamgir's forces (they'd been holding him captive and forcing him to fight) by playing dead during a terrible battle.
  • Nizam's able to tell Jahanara that there are rumors that the guy who built the Taj Mahal is being forced to build a mosque in Bijapur—a Deccan city—along with his daughter. Some also say Isa is dead, so Jahanara is crushed and unsure of what to believe.
  • Father insists that it's finally time for Jahanara to escape.
  • Father tells Nizam about hidden caches of gold throughout the Red Fort, which they use to bribe their jailers.
  • Jahanara is super torn about abandoning her father, but he's insistent upon her escape, and she is desperate for her family. They have a tearful goodbye.
  • So, Jahanara disguises herself as a woman of the night and walks out of her prison with Nizam dressed like a lord.
  • Jahanara and Nizam get through the guards and flee on horseback toward a boat waiting for them on the Yamuna.
  • As they float down the river, Nizam warns Jahanara that their travel will not be easy across the desert.