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.