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.

Warjuna: The Erahuz Dominion

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“You cannot break us!” the man cried, and then screamed, mustering every ounce of his energy to suppress the pain. He was tied to a pole within the horse stable, naked but covered in dirt, and being whipped by the soldiers of Bhoja.

“Scream all you want,” said a soldier, spitting. “No one is going to hear you die.”

“Shall we cut off his tongue, my Lord?” asked another.

The man they were addressing to, Diwakardas, was a man of royalty. Dressed in a heavy outfit of blue cotton and brown silk, he was seated upon a haystack and cutting open an apple. He appeared to be calm, nonchalantly watching what his men had been inflicting upon the leader of the Union of Kathu.

“Now I understand why the likes of you don’t get married,” Diwakardas said, biting into a slice of apple. “You have nothing to lose…but I’m not complaining. Politics can be such a game.”

“…you cannot break us…” said the man tied to the pole, now losing consciousness.

“Of course, I can.” Diwakardas spoke in a matter-of-fact way. “Anything made can be broken, Erahuz. That would start with my men first breaking your bones, then they will peel the skin off your body….” and Diwakardas became alert.

There were sounds of a crowd gathering outside the horse stable; angry voices rose in protest. Soon enough, they were trying to break down the closed doors .

Diwakardas looked at his men, exchanging petrified glances amongst themselves.

Warjuna: Before the Sorcery-2

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Kanha gazed at the snake that slithered away quietly, and then looked at Puvara who twitched and twisted on the ground as life slowly vacated her body. She was still within no time, her face pale, and the dagger that was tied to her leg now revealed itself.

“May you find respite in your next life,” he spoke gently. For a commoner, the meaning of the words would have been lost somewhere between a curse and a blessing.

***

It was well past midnight when he returned to his hut; the flickering lamp that hung from the ceiling had cast a spell of dim light and darkness in the small room. The thin, old man Ebbyan – his foster father- was seated upon the only cot in the room, waiting for Kanha.

“They sent another one, didn’t they?” he asked in a wavered voice.

Kanha smiled, partly out of compassion. “Father, I believe the time has come for me to leave,” he said.

Sighing, Ebbyan leaned against the wall.

“All this while I went in search of my assassins before they brought trouble to Bishamda. Father, I can no longer put you or the people of this village at risk. This cannot be allowed to continue.”

“So you are going…going to Mathura?” Ebbyan asked, his voice choked, his eyes closed so that tears would not stream freely.

Kanha looked at the flickering lamp; his eyes had the brightness of a star in the night sky. His smile suggested it was time Mathura was brought to its knees.

Warjuna: Before the Sorcery

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Dressed in a loose lower garment that was tightened around the ankles, and a cotton headband to tie up his long hair, the lanky teenager barely broke a sweat while running through the crowded alleys of Bishamda.

The elders smiled at the sight of Kanha while the men scoffed; surely the boy had got into some kind of trouble. Young women, enchanted by his sandalwood perfume, turned around to catch a glimpse of Kanha leaping over the vegetable vendor’s cart. They smiled admiringly, only to be cautioned by their mother’s glares. “Keep your eyes off that boy!” they cried in unison.

Soon, Kanha was outside the village, no longer protected by the warmth of fire-lamps but engulfed by a cold breeze and the shine of the moon. Barren land stood to all sides, but his gaze was fixed at the heavens. Smiling, he watched a luminous streak of white light travel through the tiny crystals that were embedded into the night sky.

“We are fortunate to be witnessing this,” said a voice, and the woman removed the hood of her cloak. Puvara was much older than Kanha, strikingly beautiful and watching him with lusty eyes.

Kanha, however, was still admiring the starlit night sky. “Yes, we are,” he said, awestruck in his words.

Puvara lost a little of her smile; she was not used to being ignored. She moved closer with the intention of seducing him. First, she would kindle that fire within him, overwhelm him with passion that would drive him insane, and then she would reveal her prowess with an Aranian dagger.

“Watch your step,” he whispered, still without looking.

There was a faint hiss, and Puvara let out a piercing cry before dropping to the ground.

Warjuna: Supreme Authority

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It was true that Shcyba was chosen by the blood priests to lead the desert campaign. He was, after all, the fiercest warrior in their tribe. During the length of the campaign, he often gutted enemy kings as an offering to the giant stone deity back in their village: the three-headed beast known as Ithmanukh. But Shcyba had been acting strange lately, and it was by no means comforting news to the fifty-thousand odd men he commanded.

The lone tavern inside Esk-Debari was stuffed with the soldiers of Hayacree. The attendants, a handful of the locals, stood petrified behind the serving counter.

Mabathi, one of the generals under Shcyba’s command, choked on his wine and spilled it on the floor. His bearded face was contorted in query, shock, and amusement all at once.

“What did you say?” he asked just about loudly to gain his men’s attention. “Gosto samakh!” he said, raising a hand to suggest everything was alright.

Agrushai leaned forward. “He is going to build a shield for the walls of the palace,” he said in a low voice, and then leaned in closer. “The stones for the same…will fall from the night sky, he believes.”

Mabathi’s mouth was agape, and then turned into a set of pressed lips.

“I know what you are thinking, my friend. But let us not ignore his leadership; Esk-Debari is now ours, and so is the desert. Shcyba has earned his right to be heard not once, but a thousand times over.”

Mabathi drowned his wine silently, his eyes fixed on Agrushai.

“Fourteen nights, he says,” Agrushai said. “There will be a storm of blue fire near the ruins of Eblish. Let us wait until then.”

“…insane…” Mabathi mumbled, gesturing an attendant to refill his earthen mug.

“And there is one more thing,” Agrushai said. “Henceforth, we are to address him as Qa-ajash.”

Mabathi took a deep breath, his lips still pursed.

Qa-ajash or supreme authority.

Warjuna: The Hunters of Pancharsh

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The sky was blocked out by giant trees, allowing thin rays of sunlight to stream through and illuminate the forest in ambient tints of green and gold. At certain places the colors took a darker shade, and at some, it was mere darkness – a place where one would expect dangerous creatures to dwell. As though under the effect of an enchanting spell, there was a strange silence that prevailed in this forest.

No chirping birds.

No grunts of the wild.

It was without warning that Garuda and Tridayu landed inside, raking up leaves from the ground. These celestial beings, half human – half eagle, stood tall and strong and possessed a surreal glow around their bodies. They watched their surroundings carefully, and then crouched having spotted what none other would have.

Tridayu went air-borne, his hand materializing a golden spear out of thin air.

A colossal Drusharja python shot out of the ground, its eyes gleaming green, its fanged mouth aimed at Tridayu.

Warjuna: Kasan

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The night was young.

The winds were ice cold.

The settlement of huts, protected within fences made of dried wood and loose stones, stood isolated within the meadow. The fire-torches had been put out intentionally; word was that a Hayacree platoon had been spotted not too far away.

A tiny lamp flickered inside one of the huts, barely revealing the family of four and the outsider. The mother huddled with her little girl inside a thick blanket, choosing to stay in the dark corner. The teenager and the father, wearing thick tunics, sat closest to the lamp facing Arjuna.

“Avanti does not care for us, but they don’t harm us either,” said Ballum, the father.

The teenager, however, did not hold back his words. “That’s only because they find their virgins here,” he hissed.

“Kasan!” the mother warned from the darkness behind.

“He speaks no lie,” Ballum reasoned in a gentle voice.

The boy continued. “Raja Suraathana is nothing but a eunuch who lives off the glory of his forefathers. Avanti’s riders and soldiers work for their lords now, pimping their way around and harassing villagers like us,” and he took a brief pause, his gaze dropped to the flickering light. “I want to be a fighter like you. I must become capable of protecting my sister.”

Arjuna chose to remain silent.

“We save that for another time, Kasan. A bigger threat awaits us tonight,” Ballum said and then turned to Arjuna. “You have fifty-seven men, and what I saw were close to a hundred of the Hayacree, or maybe even more. Tell me the truth, stranger: what are our chances?”

Arjuna gestured Ballum to stop, his ears straining to catch the faintest of sounds.

His eyes met Ballum’s.

“They are here,” he said, and then stubbed out the burning wick with his fingers.

 

 

Warjuna: The Suparnas – I

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Waves gently lapped up against the rocks of the grand mountain, making the little white birds to flutter around and then settle into one of the many trees that sprouted from the sides of this gigantic life bearing structure. Situated in the First Ocean, Mount Sumer stood at over twenty-five thousand feet above sea level, embedded into the backdrop of a blue sky that held a few white clouds.

The sun provided pleasant warmth.

The air was cool and calm.

The part-human, part-eagle beings named Suparnas flew around the mountain harmoniously. A convocation of younglings burst out from behind an edge, maneuvering themselves at a near reckless speed before drifting into a large crevice in the mountain. The six of them landed playfully as they tried to trip over each other, laughing at the expense of those who had tumbled and hurt themselves.

“You are to pay for this, Barasu…” said an injured Ehaka, eyes closed, enveloping himself with his wings that were yet to mature.

“Hurt by a mere fall, have you, Ehaka-the-brave?” teased Yui, the daughter of Vayupran.

“Who goes there?!” a voice boomed.

The younglings gasped in unison, unaware of the giant figure that stood in the distant darkness of the crevice. Slowly emerging into the light, it revealed to be Krathuna – the chief guardian of the dungeon that was built into the depths of Mt.Sumer. The giant, muscular Suparna narrowed his eyes at the younglings, his wide wings spread out to show how he could effortlessly wrap all six of them inside it.

“You, I know you,” he spoke looking at little Barasu. “Are you not supposed to be helping your father in the mines of Nishi?”

“…yes,” Barasu replied, taking a nervous backwards. “…I will…in sometime…”

Prakasa, the oldest of the younglings at sixteen, asked: “Tell us, o elder, do we really hold any prisoners in our dungeon?”

Krathuna squinted with one eye, coming forward with a stoop to have a better look at Prakasa. “So the son of Balakali is a curious one, is he not?”

“…I..did…not…mean to…” Prakasa stuttered, not bothering to complete his words.

“I will share with you a secret of nature,” Krathuna said rising himself to his giant form. “The calm you see around Mt.Sumer has lasted for over thousands of years, and let me assure you that is not the way nature works.”

“What does that even mean, o elder?” Yui asked innocently.

Krathuna thought for a while, and then walked past the younglings who made way for him. He reached the wide opening of the crevice and gazed at the First Ocean, the sun glistening off his golden skin, the wind gently fluttering his feathers.

He seemed to be addressing himself when he said: “The calm you see around Mt. Sumer has lasted for over thousands of years, and let me assure you that is not the way nature works.”

Warjuna: The Visions of a Conqueror

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Shcyba, the towering, well-built Hayacrian, walked into the official chamber which was once held by the king of the land – the king who was nothing but a bloodied mess once Shcyba had ripped out his throat. The message to the people of Esk-Debari had been loud and clear when their king’s body was found beside the common well: there was place for only one supreme authority in the desert.

At present, Shcyba showed none of the traits of being that authority.

He was a merely a shadow of the man he was a few days ago. His twelve generals and their lieutenants watched him walk without intent, aloof and barely paying heed to their presence. He finally stopped moving and stared at nothing on the stone wall.

“There, ” Shcyba said pointing his finger. “There was a…seat waiting for me. ”

The men stood perplexed, exchanging glances.

One of Shcyba’s most trusted generals, Agrushai, walked upto him. “Did you not sleep well?” he asked in a very low voice.

“…I cannot be sure… ”

“Spare me your valuable time, Shcyba. I want to know if I can be of any help. ”

The Hayacrian leader looked at Agrushai indifferently, and then contemplated before giving a slight nod.

*

“…a vision you say?” Agrushai asked.

They were inside one of the many chambers of the palace. Shcyba was wandering about the sun-lit room, slow paced, occasionally sitting down on the expensive mattress on the floor, at times standing by the wooden window to gaze at the vast desert that never kept to one shape owing to the wind.

“…a vision, yes, because I know the difference between reality and a dream,” Schyba replied.

Agrushai kept himself in check, but was certainly disturbed at Shcyba’s odd demeanor. The mellow that had replaced his gruff voice was difficult to digest. His wandering eyes were no longer bloodshot and resolute as they were previously. There was no doubt something terrible had happened to him during the capture of Esk-Debari.

“But where is this place you speak of?”Agrushai asked. “How do you expect us to find it?”

“Bharata,” Shcyba replied, reading out of his thoughts. “We will have to march south-east…across the desert…past the mountains…”

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