Warjuna: Coming of Age -1

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Arjuna led the company on his steed, head held high, but uncertain on how he would go about his duty. He wanted to look both sides, to see Baheera and Vakur; it brought him a great deal of assurance to know his father’s lieutenants were by his side.

This was his first visit to Mirivrah – a township under the Avanti’s jurisdiction. In fact, this was his first visit to any place outside of Wagharr on official duty. The purpose was to settle an internal dispute between two ministers – Mantri Asmukh Kheri and Mantri Tavishur Gillan who were the administrators of the land. The news of their disharmony was spreading quickly; the township was divided in its loyalties and had become nothing short of a battlefield.

Nearing the gates, Arjuna glanced at its humble walls and caught a faint glimpse of the guards stationed inside the watchtowers. The red and yellow flag fluttering in the wind depicted two rearing horses facing one other.

‘Quite appropriate,’ Arjuna thought.

The guards at the gate held out their spears, but quickly withdrew having recognized Baheera and Vakur. They stared at Arjuna, and then realized he bore a striking resemblance to Raja Apeksharan- the King of Wagharr.

“Either Avanti is not serious, or the King of Wagharr has no interest in taking Avanti’s orders seriously,” said one of the guards, sizing up the young prince.

Arjuna smiled. “Well said, protector of Mirivrah. Your words are crafty. In fact, so crafty that I feel you are good with words alone.”

The guard clenched his teeth, but knew Baheera and Vakur too well to engage in a conflict with the Wagharrians.

Arjuna’s voice was firm as he said: “Respect the word of Avanti. Fear the wrath of Hanuman.”

The guards obliged without further delay as they made way and opened the gates.

Both Baheera and Vakur suppressed a smile.

The young prince was coming of age.

Warjuna: Mirivrah

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‘The issues that divide Mirivrah must be resolved at the earliest,’ said the scroll in Raja Apeksharan’s hands. His eyes inspected the royal seal on top – an extremely thin layer of hardened clay which depicted a star with a vertical sword driven through it. Setting aside the scroll, he gazed at his trusted lieutenants seated before him, all born to Debojayan descent and hence powerfully built warriors. General Bhavanu, a man of taller and leaner stature, stood a little away, arms folded with the brown cape that was attached to his back.

“Word has come Avanti,” Raja Apeksharan said. “His Excellency requires our attention to be diverted to Mirivrah – the house of Mantri Asmukh Kheri and Mantri Tavishur Gillan.”

The lieutenants did not flinch. Neither did General Bhavanu. They knew Raja Apeksharan would speak the words they had in mind.

“It is a ploy, an open one,” Raja Apeksharan continued. “Ameeran is about to turn hostile and Bar-Husha does not require the southern winds to sow seeds of intolerance amongst their own. Our focus on Dheya is essential, or this will mark the beginning of the end; Avanti will lose three of its strongholds. Can I hear your say?” he said, gesturing his lieutenants to speak.

“Being the Shield of Hanuman we bear the duty to fight, as well as the right to refuse,” said Abayesh.

“Is there an opportunity to explain the situation to His Excellency?” Vakur asked.

Raja Apeksharan shook his head.

“From what I have heard Mirivrah does not require our immediate intervention. This is a personal feud between two administrators,” Baheera said. “Would it not be enough if only a few of us went there?”

“What are you suggesting?”

“I volunteer to go to Mirivrah,” Baheera said. “I am certain Vakur will accompany on this duty as well.”

Vakur gave his consent with a simple nod, but Raja Apeksharan was yet to be convinced. “But I leave for Dheya at the first break of light tomorrow, and I cannot predict the time of my return.”

“In that case, may I suggest that our Prince Arjuna should carry the word of Avanti to Mirivrah?” General Bhavanu asked, and the recommendation took Raja Apeksharan by surprise.

In that moment everyone’s eyes darted towards an astonished nineteen year old who was quietly standing to one side of the courtroom.

Warjuna: For the Love of Kanha-2

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“…but why…” her voice was barely audible, her gaze fixed on Kanha. Her eyes were tearing up; he could sense that. Maybe she deserved to know the truth, maybe more than anyone else.

But it was not going to be easy.

Some very powerful people within Mathura knew he had escaped the dungeons the night he was born. The hunt was on ever since, but it was only three years ago they had tracked him down to this quiet little village of Bishamda. He recollected all those faces, the kind looking ones and the unkind who had come looking for him.

“There are people who want me dead,” Kanha said finally.

Diyani did not reply.

“They know I am here,” he continued. “My presence spells danger for all of you now. I leave so that you can sleep in peace.”

Diyani’s silence could have been either a reflection of her maturity or a lack of willingness to believe his words. Slowly but surely Kanha watched her absorb the enormity of his words.

“I always knew you were different. You are not like the rest of us,” she said, her gaze fixed to the ground. “Will you ever come back?”

Kanha could see the visions appear again. “I cannot be too sure.”

“Who is going to look after your father?” she asked.

“May he be at the mercy of the Gods.”

“I can do a better job than the Gods,” she said, her gaze still glued to the ground. “But only if you promise to return someday.”

Kanha smiled, then chuckled before looking at the blue sky that was ready to dawn; the hues of red marked the arrival of the sun, and the morning light now revealed Diyani’s tear drenched face.

He took a step closer to say, “I promise.”

 

 

Warjuna: For the Love of Kanha-1

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The sun was yet to rise.

Dressed in a sleeveless brown vest and white lower garment that was tightened just below his knees, Kanha walked through the narrow alleys that were bathed in an early morning blue. He held onto one end of the stick resting on his shoulder, the other end tied to a bundle that carried his clothes and food for his journey to Mathura. Knowing that these were his last moments here, he smiled as he observed the shops and low ceiling homes on both sides, built of stone and wood, and cramped beside one another.

He stopped in his tracks, and then felt it coming.

It was a hallucination, a layer of moving pictures that appeared over what he saw. And in his vision he saw these houses and shops crumble. He saw fire. He saw giant soldiers charge through this very same alley…

“Where are you going?” asked a young gentle voice, and he broke out of his thoughts.

He turned around to see Diyani, dressed in her night frock and holding a mud vessel filled with water. She was nearing nineteen, around the same age as him, but her face spoke of childish innocence which had conquered many hearts in Bishamda, his included.

Kanha noticed how her gaze travelled between his face and the cloth bundle he was carrying. There was not enough light to read the worry in her eyes, but he knew; somehow he knew everything.

“Are you leaving for good?” she asked, her voice nervous.

Kanha smiled, then nodded.

“…but why…” her voice was barely audible.

Warjuna: The Mercenary King

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Raja Apeksharan’s royal courtroom did not speak of ministers, but six lieutenants who commanded nearly a hundred soldiers each, and to train them all was a prolific military strategist named General Bhavanu. Similarly, without the presence of sufficient light and expensive decor many would have said this courtroom was the least royal of them all. But Wagharr was unlike any other kingdom, and Raja Apeksharan was unlike any other king.

‘Here is where sinners are judged,’ they said.

 ‘The mercenary king,’ they called him.

A lieutenant cleared his throat, his voice respectful. “Your Majesty, the Vahulders have travelled from the west of the sea. They claim to have come in peace, but our men have seen their soldiers.”

Another spoke. “They have found refuge in the villages of Dheya and Ameeran. The local chiefs assure protection.”

“How many ships?” asked Raja Apeksharan.

“Sixty or lesser.”

Raja Apeksharan sat back into the throne, looking at General Bhavanu. “Sixty foreign ships have landed on our soil and not a word has been reported to Avanti,” he said. “Dheya, Ameeran and the coastal settlements of Bar-Husha intend to stop paying their taxes from this year onward. For the last three months their torches have stayed bright till the break of dawn, but their men refuse to till the farmlands granted under the patronage of His Excellency. They have not responded to the summons from Avanti, neither have they presented themselves before His Excellency on the occasion of Ishptathi. They seem to be extremely busy these days. Can we find out why?”

“Esmai Wahul is a royal musician we have long ignored,” General Bhavanu said, referring to the Commander-in-Chief of Ameeran. “But he will sing for us tonight. I’ll make sure of that.”

Raja Apeksharan approved with the slightest of nods.

Warjuna: Ways of the Street

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Doors were shut in a hurry, but the curious ones peeked out of their windows. An uneasy lull descended upon the narrow alley as four sturdy boys guarded each end.

Dayshar, son of Lieutenant Baheera, stood with a smirk and clenched fists. At eighteen he already possessed the physique and strength of a trained warrior. Behind him stood his sister – Ellehsa, smiling because she succeeded in her task: to lure Arjuna into the narrow alley so that Dayshar could challenge with the young prince.

“I didn’t think it was going to be this easy,” Dayshar said.

Arjuna, strongly built but no older than fifteen, wore a blank expression. He knew this day would come; he had been prepared. This was how you gained respect amongst Wagharrians – royalty or otherwise.

His eyes met Ellehsa’s.

She slowly ducked behind her brother’s broad shoulders.

“I hate to say this, but you should have stayed inside the palace,” Dayshar said, cracking his knuckles, moving forward. “Only a fool of a prince will walk these streets without…” and he did not expect Arjuna to move like the way he did.

Dayshar was quick to release a powerful jab, but only found air. Within no time, he had already tripped and found Arjuna’s elbow behind his head, forcing him to land flat on his face.

Ellehsa watched in horror as her brother’s blood and teeth splattered across the ground.

Warjuna: Kaneev

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White sunlight broke through the clouds in the light blue sky, setting its warmth upon the humble palace on top of the hill, the rows of cottage houses built around it, and the terraced vineyards that stood beneath.

Kaneev was indeed a small kingdom, surrounded by mountains, devoid of precious minerals and metals, but having the soldiers of Avanti to guard it. That, for reasons everyone knew, was beyond a symbol of goodwill and diplomacy; it was simply because there was no match to the wines made in Kaneev, and Avanti was more than happy to lend the services of a few soldiers to protect its source. It was common saying that no celebration would be ever complete without the wines of this land.

It made a pleasant sight: thousands of people laboring across the hillside plantation, carefully tending to the ripe grapes that were meant to be harvested in the coming days. The task was back breaking, yet the workers went about their jobs quietly and with a sensitive approach.

One of the supervisors had just announced it was time for a short break, and a gentle breeze followed. Two of the lady workers, wearing full sleeved clothes, rose in discomfort with a hand to their aching backs. They were walking towards the shade of the nearest tree when they stumbled upon a little boy curdled up beneath a luscious grape bearing vine.

A closer look and one of the ladies froze while the other screamed for help. A crowd gathered within no time.

The little boy was none other than Prince Haresh Dhijil, but sans his royal attire. He lay still, covered in soil, and his eyes gouged out of its sockets.

 

Warjuna: Before the Champion-3

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“You know nothing about the enemy!” Bhavanu addressed his young students who were all fighting their designated opponents inside the Champions’ Arena.

“To recognize an enemy, you must first recognize yourself,” Bhavanu continued.

Young Arjuna dodged the arms that aimed to crush him, went low, swiveled and slapped his opponent on the ear, making him bleed. In an instant, he was pushed from behind and nearly fell over another student.

“You must first study your own weaknesses and strengths; accept them and then train to minimize your flaws.”

Arjuna took an elbow in his ribs and a stinging right hook to his jaw; he dropped to the ground, but on his palms. He was not ready to go down just yet.

“Care not for royal blood on my training ground. You are all equals here!” Bhavanu was heard saying and Arjuna did not see the foot that swung into his ribs; he exhaled, taking the impact. He caught the attacker’s foot the second time to swivel on the ground, tripping his opponent while kicking him in the jaw.

From the corner of his eye, Arjuna could see another opponent rushing in. He was on his feet within no time, but far from ready for the wooden mace that was coming his way.

 

 

Warjuna: Mathura-2

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“What has led us to this day, where we feel Mathura needs to take the path of treason to live up to its true glory,” asked Mantri Ahambuj. The young minister sat up in his bed, his words beyond his years, his voice far from suggesting any panic.

The men surrounding his bed were soldiers of the Royal Guard, silhouettes in the dark of the room. However, the man who had led them into Ahambuj’s chamber had no inhibitions about revealing himself. General Tashkarna, a robustly built warrior, was gazing at Ahambuj with cold eyes.

“Your efficiency is unquestionable, and hence you have tasted success at such a young age,” Tashkarna said. “But young you are, yet to savor pleasures from a woman, yet to embrace the heartbeat of a newborn. Join us and live a life befitting a prince.”

“I am already on your side, General,” Ahambuj said with a smile. “We are all one under the command of His Majesty Raja Kedaavar…”

“Our King is not a visionary. Pledge your alliance to His Royal Highness Kamsa Nanda.”

“Not in this lifetime, General.”

General Tashkarna took a deep breath. “Be wise and be sure of the words you speak. The future of Mathura belongs to His Royal Highness Kamsa Nanda, and there is no stopping us.”

Ahambuj smiled in reply.

Mantri, not all are being given this chance to reconsi…”

“Let us get over with this, General.”

 ‘A mighty shame,’ the General thought, gritting his teeth. “As you wish,” he said, and then stepped back as the soldiers came forward, drawing out their swords.

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