The Whispering Dwapara 2 - Sample Chapters
Updated: Jan 12
Beneath the valley:
Sprinkled with bright silvery moonlight, the valley was covered with a cursed Asurai uproar. The birds were crying from their hidden nests and the humming trees were trembling silently. Screeching hard, thousands of bats rushed down beyond the forest of humming trees towards the Pataal Loka. They were all summoned, just like all other Asurai powers on the earth. A black shadow started to slowly gulp the moon, and the alarming sounds of the bell from Vedgarh engulfed the seven hills.
At the abyss, the Pataal loka was bustling with the sounds of celebration. It was Chandra Grihan (Lunar Eclipse): an occasion when all the black powers of the world rise and swear their allegiance to the darkness. But Asura-king Narkasura had one more reason to celebrate. The Asura-guru Kalchakra was supposed to conclude his ages-long penance of lord Bhairav (Shiva). He was supposed to return with unconquerable astras. Along with Narkasura, hundreds of thousands of Asuras and Daityas waited outside the cave for his victorious return.
Holding a giant axe on his tightly packed biceps and broad shoulders, Narkasura looked up at the brightly lit Vedgarh atop the peak. He towered at a height more than twice that of any asura there. His scarred forehead furrowed, his throat growled, and his broad hairy chest tightened with the will of vengeance. His face glowed with the dream of drowning Vedgarh, and subsequently the entire universe, forever in the darkness.
Drunk red with the lust of overwhelming powers, he looked around with a growl. There stood his Asura-senapati (Lord Commander of Asura army) Maharathi Vibhatsa with his dark yellow canine teeth visible through the bruises of his burnt, rotten cheek. Behind him was an array of Asuras, Daityas, and Rakhtbeej Asuras (the superior asuras who multiply with every drop of their blood touching the ground). The commander of Rakhtbeej Asuras, Maharathi Kantak, stood at the gate of the cave. His knee-length, black, curly hair hid his half-burnt face with one bloody red eye popping out of his skull.
The full lunar eclipse was approaching closer. The drums started pounding, and hundreds of thousands of Asuras started growling and dancing around the crying buffalo tied helplessly in front of the cave. Their skull garlands clinked along with them. With burnt, scarred faces, and long, black, messed up curly hair, they were all dancing and crying madly, waiting for Kalchakra’s return.
The moon had eclipsed completely; Narkasura looked at the door of the cave holding his breath. Within moments, the stones at the door parted, and Kalchakra emerged from the cave. With his mud-laden dark hair crawling on the ground, he emerged slowly, holding his giant two-faced axe in one hand. His dark red eyes were stuck on the buffalo. He had to sacrifice her head in the yagya kunda to conclude his penance.
“Ardh-AtiMaharathi Kalchakra!” Narkasura cried seeing Kalchakra, the most menacing Asurai warrior after Ati-Maharathi Meghanatha, son of Raavan from Treta yuga.
(Ardh- AtiMaharathi means a half AtiMaharathi warrior. An Ardh-AtiMaharathi is equivalent to twelve Maharathi warriors).
“Hoo! A-hoo!” All the Asuras shouted with the next moment, beating drums and spikes.
With the next moment, Kalchakra raised his axe and cut the buffalo’s head with a swing. It fell in the burning Yagya Kunda. The flames subsided with the spraying blood. The fumes turned dense and black and started forming a dark cloud above the Pataal Loka. “Asura-Megha!” Kalchakra roared seeing the cloud (Megha).
“ASURA-MEGHA!” All the asuras shouted together. For them, this dark cloud was the symbol of rising Asurai powers in the universe.
Joining his palms, Narkasura looked at the Kalchakra. Both smiled. Kalchakra had to invoke the weapon he had earned from his penance. It was still a mystery to everyone; Narkasura trembled with everyone in anticipation. Kalchakra’s victorious smile peeking from his black wrinkled face said that he had earned something unconquerable. With his palms joined, Kalchakra closed his eyes, and his loud chants trembled the dead abyss with Bhairava mantra.
ॐ क्लीम वीम रूम ध्रुमग़नीम ह्रीं वटुक भैरवाय नमःस्वः
Om Kleem Veem Room Dhrum Ghneem Hreem Vatuk Bhairavaay Namah Swaha
Closing his eyes, Narkasura joined his guru. His broad, hairy chest shivered with every corner of the Pataal Loka as he chanted the Bhairava’s mantra. All asuras joined them in chanting within a few moments. Their intensity increased with every chant of lord Bhairava’s mantra.
Om Kleem Veem Room Dhrum Ghneem Hreem Vatuk Bhairavaay Namah Swaaahaaaa!
Thousands of bats filled the valley with their screeches, and thousands of wolves and hellhounds howled in fear. The bustles from the Pataal loka traversed all the way up through the forest of humming trees to Vedgarh. After a long wait, Kalchakra stopped chanting; the valley got silent. The lingering chants were trembling the mountains. Moments later, Kalchakra opened his eyes and forwarded his hand towards the sky. His lips were still shivering with the Bhairava mantra.
Seconds later, the sky trembled with thunderbolts; a giant shining sword of the shape of a half-moon appeared on Kalchakra’s palm. Hundreds of thousands of Asuras stood there with dead silence. The sword was infallible and the deadliest in the universe… the sword was lord Shiva’s Chandrahas Khadak. A proud smile swept across Narkasura’s face. He looked at Kalchakra; his body was trembling with overflowing excitement. Kalchakra raised lord Shiva’s Chandrahas Khadak high, and the valley once again trembled with the cries of joyous Asuras. The asuras started growling madly, some chose to rip the buffalo’s body while others just danced around; their guru had earned a Shastra (hand-held weapon) no one after Lord King Ravana had earned in the history of the universe.
“JAI KAAL BHAIRAVA!” Kalchakra roared in his crushing voice, marking the end of his ages-old penance. His tightly packed biceps swelled as he raised his hands towards his army. “THE TIME HAS COME! The time to burn Vedgarh and all the realms of mankind. Time to burn every sacred Vedic scripture. The time has come… time to engulf the whispering dwapara with the dark Asura-Megha of Kaliyuga!
At the upper edge of the pataal loka, yet deep down in the dark valleys, there was a corner lit brightly with a little more than a thousand huts surrounding a ruined stone structure. The howling wolves, hellhounds, and the screeching bats didn’t let anyone sleep; the flickering, glaring oil lamps made the village shine like gold in the dark. It was the first realm of men, nearest to the gateway to Pataal loka: Rudragarh.
“They have started to move, Guru Vedadhar!” A bald man, middle-aged and average-built with precious ivories and pearls hanging on his chest and round belly, spoke.
Guru Vedadhar smiled, and the silver half-moon tilak on his forehead shone with the moon emerging out from the dark shadow of the eclipse. His long white hair fluttered freely over his half baldness in the wind. “Hmmm…! The surroundings are giving the definite signs that Asurai army is ready.” He said, covering his crushing cough with his palms; it left blood sprinkles.
“How much time do we have?” The fat man whispered, gazing at his red palms and lips.
“I don’t know about my time, Narayan … but Rudragarh doesn’t have much before the Asurai army reaches here.”
“Do you think Yuvraj Virat will be ready by then? Do you think he’ll figure out his truth… and will fight for Rudragarh?”
“I do not know that either!” Vedadhar mumbled.
“Why can’t we just tell him? It has been a few days since he has arrived here!”
“We have discussed this earlier as well, Narayan!” Vedadhar said with wide eyes. “For him, it is important to figure out his truth on his own. Otherwise, he might never realize his potential!”
“And what if he can’t do it before your time…?” Narayan’s words choked his throat.
Wrinkles emerged on Vedadhar’s forehead. Looking at the silently breathing village, he steamed out a deep breath. “With Yuvraj Virat… or without him… Rudragarh will stand… and fight… and win!”
The stone ways were dark and empty, and the houses were lit mildly with flickering lamps even past midnight. The winds were violent, and the atmosphere was cursed. The birds were crying, and the horses were neighing hard in fear. Amidst the roaring thunderbolts, the chants of sacred Gayatri Mantra coming from some corner of the palace was the only relieving factor protecting the people from the inherent fear and insecurity. This was the longest lunar eclipse in centuries, and everyone prayed to the gods to be merciful. The howls of the wolves from the valley signified the intensifying dark powers, the royal army was on standby for any surprise attack.
Amidst the rushing servants, chanting Rishis, and flapping curtains in the palace, there was one corner that was silently soaked in darkness. There was an eight-edged star formed with wheat flour at the center of the dark room. A blood-drenched head of a buffalo was placed at its center, and numerous incense sticks were burning around it. Eight human skulls were placed at all the edges, soaked red with dry sindoora. Sitting in front of the buffalo’s head, Sairandhri was lost in her ritual. Covered with sindoora from the head to the toe, she was throwing her head madly in all directions. Her open hair was fluttering, and the garland of human skulls she wore crackled with her movements. Her black saree was dripping with red sweat, and her giant eyes were burning red in excitement. With a sword in one hand and a cymbal on the other, she was filling the room with her intensifying chants of Bhairava mantra:
“Om Kleem Veem Room Dhrum Ghneem Hreem Vatuk Bhairavaay Namah Swaha.”
“Om Kleem Veem Room Dhrum Ghneem Hreem Vatuk Bhairavaay Namah Swaha.”
“Om Kleem Veem Room Dhrum Ghneem Hreem Vatuk Bhairavaay Namah Swaha.”
2. The Homecoming
Forest of Humming trees:
“Om Bhur Bhuvah Swah|Tat sav… Om Bhur Bhuv… Om Bhur… AAAAHHHHH!” Partha shouted, opened his burning red eyes, and threw his fists hard on the ground. Shivering and drenched with sweat, he looked around with a bouncing chest. The bright sun was floating in the clear blues of the sky, and the nut-brown forest was engulfed with the hums of the meditating trees. His knees shivered with the anger of losing everything he started. Growling like a hound, he kicked and broke his wooden kamandal and threw away his bow and quiver. “HAAAAAAAAHHH…” he cried again. His hands gripped his muddy and messed up hair tightly; his biceps swelled, and his fist tightened. He wanted to crush everything he could get his hands on; that didn’t seem like an easy task with his own hair. His stomach trembled with hunger and his dried throat itched with thirst; the quest for Brahmastra seemed perpetual. The confidence that brought him to this place vanished with the flesh from his body. The bones and joints peeking from behind his dried and wrinkled skin forced him to give up. Moments later, he knelt and started sobbing; his joints crackled. He somehow got the feeling of moving on the wrong path. Throughout these days, he remembered the instructions from Guru Drona hundreds of times and had made sure he doesn’t miss anything. But his inner self was still crying that something was missing… something was terribly wrong. Maybe he didn’t belong to this quest… maybe he didn’t deserve Brahmastra.
Tears came rolling down his eyes and mingled with his drooling saliva. He had spent countless nights in this humming forest but had not achieved anything. Throughout the days of his penance, a sense of incompleteness and losing his path shockingly engulfed his thoughts and forbade him from concentrating. He was the one who earned almost all basic celestial weapons at Gurukul, along with Naga Astra, on his own. But finding Brahmastra didn’t look possible. It was getting difficult for him to spend one more night in the forest. He was unable to bear the weight of Guru Drona’s belief in him anymore. Failing the internship and losing a term looked easier to him now. He was even ready to face the mockery among his classmates for escaping the penance without completing it or dying.
He closed his eyes and apologized to his father… and to Guru Drona. With a heavy heart, he rose again. He had made his choice… he was going back to the Gurukul. He didn’t know the way forward, but he was sure to get some direction in Gurukul. His legs felt too heavy to walk towards the kingdom’s gates; it felt like losing a battle. But sometimes… losing is the only feasible choice.
Gurukul- Spandan Lab
Spandan lab was silently busy. With Krishnan gone to Vedgarh to attend the council, the acoustics projects were on hold for the day. Srishti loved this silence in the lab; it helped her concentrate better on her assignment.
Ever since she had shifted her botany project of designing the Recombinant DNA of artificially synthesized Tulasi and Yarrow plants to the Spandan lab, she had been disturbed several times due to the ‘critical priority’ of sonic celestial weapons project. She never understood why Guru Vashishtha asked her to shift to Spandan lab; she loved performing her experiments in the botanical garden in silence. The fresh winds from the white mountains and the tweeting birds worked best for her concentration.
“Spandan lab has all the resources for your project… and you will be in close proximity with the best minds of Gurukul!” Guru Vashishtha’s words echoed in her mind. She never requested this movement but had no option other than obeying Guru Vashishtha. He was right though. Spandan lab was always bustling with the scholars, professors, and gurus working on their respective projects, but she missed the enchanting plant fragrances of the botanical garden.
After spending almost two years on this project, the fear of this being a dead-end project was gradually developing in her mind. She needed her friends, especially Partha, to help her through the episodes of frustration and fear. She wanted to sit with him at the edge of the cliff and talk endlessly. She hated Partha for leaving to his penance without having a word with her. She disgusted him for a few days, but then gradually developed a subtle affection towards him. She missed Partha’s much-needed inputs on Acoustics in her research, but she was happy about him… and prayed to gods for his successful return from the penance.
Wearing her mask and glasses, she gazed inside the microscope and suddenly got stunned. Her breath got stuck in her throat, and her jaw dropped momentarily. She got up to check her notes; her earrings clinked as she abruptly bent down to gaze back inside her microscope. As she rolled it to look more carefully at her plant specimen, a confounded smile peeked from the side of her shivering lips. Her heart pounded, and tiny tear droplets emerged on her face. With moist blinking eyes, she looked around. She was desperate to share the news with someone, but there were no familiar faces.
For the last two years, she had been working on this project to combine the DNAs of Tulasi and Yarrow plants into a single RDNA with the medicinal properties of both. But these DNA mingling required a host plant. For her experiment, she used the rare Sanjeevani plant as the host. She injected the artificially optimized DNAs of Tulasi and Yarrow plants into the Sanjeevani plant and hoped that they combine to form the desired RDNA. But miraculously, an almost impossible genetic reshuffling happened among Tulasi, Yarrow, and Sanjeevani plants, forming a completely new RDNA that no one was aware of.
Packing her bag, she got up with shivering knees and a fluttering heart. She had to rush back to the Ayurveda center… she couldn’t wait to meet Guru Vashishtha.
Gurukul- Ayurveda Centre:
“You have developed the RDNA of Tulasi, Yarrow, and Sanjeevani plants?” Guru Vashishtha gasped from behind his dense white beard. His eyes opened wide with excitement. “How is that even possible?”
“I am not sure, Gurudev! Maybe an accident.” Srishti’s face shone like the bright golden sun sprinkling the central lawn of Ayurveda center with pleasant morning warmth. “I was trying to use the Sanjeevani plant as the host to replicate the RDNA of artificially synthesized Tulasi and Yarrow molecules. But before the cloning of their DNAs, the genetic reshuffling happened between Tulasi and Sanjeevani molecules, and I got an entirely new RDNA of the combination of all three plants!”
“A genetic reshuffling between Tulasi, Yarrow, and Sanjeevani plants! It’s miraculous!” Vashishtha exclaimed again, holding his white chunni from blowing away with the pleasant wind. “Do you understand the meaning of this? This can be a breakthrough in the field of medicines!” He said, bubbling with joy, and turned towards his chamber with hurried steps.
“Yes, Gurudev!” Srishti gasped and started following him. Her belly behind her golden bordered white saree trembled with excitement. “It can be quick heal for the major wounds!”
“Not only that!” Vashishtha said unlocking his chamber.
The Ayurveda center was calm and warm today with very few scholars. As they entered Vashishtha’s chambers, the fragrance of medicinal herbs and ages-old books engulfed them. “Sit!” Vashishta said and rushed to bring a huge book from the shelf.
“Miraculous Plants!” Srishti murmured the title as Vashishtha wiped off the dust from the hardcover and opened the chapter of the Sanjeevani plant.
“Sanjeevani, or Selaginella bryopteris, literally means ‘One that infuses life’.” Vashishtha read out loud using his index finger as a pointer. “Apart from relief from Dysuria, heatstroke, and jaundice, Sanjeevani is also known to benefit coma patient through inhalation.” Vashishtha gasped.
“Yes, Lord Hanuman brought Sanjeevani to bring lord Lakshman back to consciousness during the epic Lanka war in Ramayana!”
“That’s right!” Vashishta said and turned the pages forward. The next chapter he opened was titled ‘Tulasi’. “Tulasi leaves have miraculous healing capacities with tremendous antiviral and anti-fungal properties, while yarrow works as a vital support for the entire body,” Vashishtha said and closed the book.
Srishti was aware of all this but was still unable to understand the reason behind Guru Vashishtha’s over-excitingly joyous face. Developing and cloning the RDNA of Tulasi and Yarrow plants was her Botany research subject for the last two years. It was only a couple of months back when her research was moved to Spandan lab and she decided to use the Sanjeevani plant as the host for the RDNA of Tulasi and Yarrow plants. She knew that the RDNA with the combination of Tulasi, Yarrow, and Sanjeevani was something new… and was definitely a reason to be excited about, but Vashishtha’s level of excitement looked exaggerated.
“Gurudev!” She said looking at Vashishta. “Am I missing something?”
“Yes!” Vashishta said. “The RDNA you have prepared can be a great medicinal supplement for our soldiers in the upcoming war. If developed properly, it can reverse the impacts of dark celestial weapons and venom within hours. And… above all… it can be a potential lifesaver for Guru Drona!”
Srishti skipped a couple of breaths. She was aware of the benefits of these plants, but they were not enough to resurrect Guru Drona from the coma and the terrible wounds he had got. The image of the last time she went inside Drona’s chamber still lingered in her memory. The musty smell of the aged wound and dried black bandages turned her stomach. She knew that the wound was not healing… she knew that Guru Drona might never open his eyes again. “But… Gurudev…” She said. “The effects of these plants are not strong enough for the wounds Guru Drona has got…”
“I know…” Vashishtha interrupted her. “But the effects of the medicine can be magnified artificially.”
Srishti’s lips twitched with doubts.
Vashishtha smiled. “Hear me out!” He gasped. “Have you ever heard the genetic reshuffling between Tulasi and Sanjeevani plants?”
“No,” Srishti mumbled.
“But it has happened miraculously… when you shifted your experiment to Spandan lab!” Vashishtha got up excitingly from his seat and started moving around the table. “My experience says that the sacred sounds of holy mantras at the Spandan lab have played a significant role in this miraculous reshuffling. If we continue developing and cloning these RDNAs with the constant supply of sacred Vedic sounds, we can come up with a stronger medicinal version of these plants… a medicine that can be a potential cure for Guru Drona.”
Srishti’s eyes opened wide. “Can sounds impact the genetic structures of organisms? Can we magnify the medicinal impacts of these plants with artificially infused Vedic sounds?”
“We have been doing this for thousands of years!” Vashishtha smiled. “That’s what the healing mantras are for. Right from Satya Yuga, the Gurus and Rishis have been performing healing yagyas for medical benefits… be it for getting offspring… or be it for reversing the impacts of pandemics.” He said excitingly and handed over a copper sheet engraved with a mantra on it.
ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे
सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॥
Om Try-Ambakam Yajaamahe
Mrtyor-Mukssiiya Maa-[A]mrtaat ||
Meaning: I surrender myself to lord Shiva, the three-eyed fragrant lord who is the increaser of prosperity. Like a fruit freed from the bondage of the stem, may we be liberated and freed from the death and mortality.
“Maha-mrityunjaya mantra!” Srishti’s face glowed.
“Yes, Maha-mrityunjaya mantra: Lord Shiva’s most powerful mantra to heal the illnesses and defer death,” Vashishta spoke. “We will need to prepare and clone the RDNA of Tulasi, Yarrow, and Sanjeevani plants amidst the sacred sounds of Maha-mrityunjaya mantra.”
“How can we do that?” Srishti wondered. “We don’t have a laboratory or apparatus to do this experiment on such a large scale.”
“I know!” Vashishtha said. “I need to have a word with Lord Bhishma to get additional funding for this, which shouldn’t be a problem. You leave the arrangements on me… and start preparing for the experiment.”
“Gurudev… where should I begin?” Srishti asked with a wrinkled forehead. Her eyes danced as she spoke. “Tell me more about the experiment… the steps I need to follow… and a high-level outcome expected from it.”
Vashishtha smiled. “You need to do this in three steps:
a. Get the frequency charts for optimally chanting Maha-mrityunjaya mantra from Spandan lab. Prof. Krishnan can help you with that, I will put a note to him. See if you can chant the mantra at those frequencies. If not, get a frequency amplifier.
b. Prepare the RDNA of Tulasi and Yarrow plants and seed them to the host plant: the Sanjeevani plant
c. For the genetic reshuffling to happen, expose the host plant Sanjeevani to the chants of Maha-mrityunjaya mantra. Keep on doing this until we get the charged RDNA with desired genetic structure.”
“Understood!” Srishti said, writing down everything in her notebook. “One question!”
“Instead of Spandan lab, can I plan to do this experiment at the old Shiva temple in the botanical garden?”
Vashishtha smiled. “Yes, you can. But why?”
“Chanting Maha-mrityunjaya mantra with Shiva linga in front will increase its impact manifolds. It will help me better concentrate on the mantra.”
Vashishtha’s face glowed with pride. “You have my consent.”
3. The Songs of War
This was not the first time Aniruddha had spent the entire night burning his lungs by the window. He was not much a one for sleeping. He never liked the bustles in the valley, but yesterday’s one looked like an apocalypse to him. In Gurukul, he had read about how menacing Asurai powers can become during Lunar Eclipse; the furors last night trembled him to his core. But the black eclipse was over now, the crying wolves were back to the cavities, and Vedgarh was silent and gray with the rising sun. Covering his yawn with his palm, Aniruddha closed the heavy leather-bound book of the Aryan dynasty with an anxious heart. His hypothesis of king Devrata being the mastermind of the entire fiasco still lingered in his thoughts.
“So… you now know everything about Aryan history!” Jagannath said, entering the room.
“At least as much as you know… if not everything.” Ani got up, smiling. He felt his toes tingling with numbness.
“Even that is enough!” Jagannath chuckled. “King Devrata has called for an emergency council… and you are expected there.”
“A council at this time?” Ani wondered. “Thanks, Kaka! I’ll be back this evening!” He said and moved out of the library. With heavy steps, he walked towards the council chamber. His eyes were red and swollen and his head felt bulky, but he didn’t want to miss this council. Things felt silent and cursed; the white silk curtains on the way didn’t flutter, the birds on the parapets didn’t sing.
The small council room was filled with murmurs of anticipation. Major Singh sat in his neatly ironed white shirt with a brightly shining black mustache, followed by Prof. Krishnan in his cream shirt with a black bow tie, still drowsy and red. “He came all the way from Gurukul so early in the morning… was the council planned?” Ani wondered and went ahead to take the seat next to Krishnan. Nishchhal sat next to him; the fragrance of his lavish sweet powder spun Ani’s head. The badge of Chief Negotiator shone proudly among his shining diamond jewels. Shishupal sat next to him wearing a simple saffron kurta; his face had the familiar pride shining with the scars. Next to him was Lord Bhishma. It was his first council without the badge of Lord Commander. Like an old, wrinkled tree standing calmly among the newly sprouted seeds, he sat there silently, covered with his silver pearls and beard, gazing at the new generation taking over the council. He didn’t look as majestic as he used to be. A fortnight in Gurukul had taken a huge toll out of his lord commander aura… and had made the wrinkles on his face more prominent. Seeing Aniruddha, he smiled. The next few moments passed in awkward silence.
And then, the hallway echoed with Sairandhri’s anklets, and all the spines in the room got straight. Moments later, Devrata entered holding Sairandhri’s hand, with a body droopier than usual. The wet patches of sweat filled his white chunni and the pearls clinked on his wet hairy chest. He was not wearing the crown. Sairandhri helped him take his seat and stood behind covered with the red veil. Ani neither understood nor liked her presence in the royal council. He wondered why no one ever questioned her presence here. The sweet and musty penetrating smell which she and Devrata brought, filled Ani’s head with disgust; he struggled hard to understand whether it was the perfume… their sweat… or both.
“Greetings everyone!” Devrata muttered. The dampness of the day shone on his forehead. “I have called this urgent council to share some news… a saddening news.” Silence engulfed the room again as the king looked around. “Our protectors found Shalvaak dead and rotting inside his cell this morning. No one knows exactly when he died.”
“WHAT!” Major Singh exclaimed.
“Wha… ha… HOW?” Krishnan almost jumped from his seat.
Sighs filled the room; a few hands trembled… a few foreheads moistened… a few eyes widened.
Devrata lowered his head and mumbled. “He died due to Kalika. We found multiple snake bites on his body; the protectors had to burn his body to avoid any infection from spreading in the kingdom.”
Aniruddha skipped a couple of breaths. He knew that Shalvaak was murdered; he felt like thumping the table hard with disgust. He was cursing himself for being unable to meet Shalvaak. Shalvaak was the only one who had the courage and the knowledge to confirm his hypothesis about Devrata. “O, God! Just when I start believing in you…!!!” He cursed.
“This is a huge security breach… how did this happen?” Shishupal exclaimed. “An important person lies dead inside the royal prison for a few days… and nobody knows!”
All eyes moved towards Major Singh… who was trembling red with anger and disbelief. He knew it was a big blunder… and none other than him would be held responsible for it.
“And Shalvaak was due to present his case in the council hearing… now we’ll never know his side,” Bhishma exclaimed with the next moment. “We have to find out how it happened… and find out fast!”
“I’ll have this checked,” Singh mumbled.
“Yes… get it checked. I will look forward to your findings in fifteen days!” Devrata almost grunted in a shaky voice.
Aniruddha found the tone a little rude. He was unable to decide whether the shivering king was angry or scared. With side-eyes, he looked at the king brooding over the security breach; “Such a filthy man!” He thought. With Shalvaak, the king had crushed the sprouting rebellion in the kingdom forever. The council became awkwardly silent. Everyone was looking at Major Singh with side-eyes. Attack on Guru Drona, Pawan fleeing the kingdom, and now this! It was a huge blow to Singh’s credibility; the poor man had nothing to say. With his eyes stuck on the floor, he was breathing heavily.
Moments later, Devrata broke the silence. “Yesterday, we saw this century’s longest lunar eclipse with a great uproar in the forests. The phoenixes have brought some terrible news from beyond the valleys. Asuras have started moving… their number is far more than the last great war… in millions. I am yet to receive words from our rangers in the valleys.”
“What?” Aniruddha snapped. His eyes froze with the news. The council sighed once again.
“What is their current position? Are they in a position to attack soon?” Bhishma asked with furrowed brows.
Aniruddha looked at Bhishma, and then at Major Singh. Their snapped eyes showed that they were not aware of the news. Major Singh was especially shocked… and as a Lord Commander, insulted. For obvious reasons, the king should have discussed the matter with him first before disclosing things in the council. Aniruddha felt bad for Singh… but he wanted to focus on the king first.
“We’re not sure about their current position… but they are far ahead of us in terms of army strength. If what I have heard is true… our war is already a lost cause, Grandfather!” Devrata said in a shaky voice.
“What have you heard!” Bhishma growled. “And who sent those phoenixes? Were they from the rangers?”
Devrata’s hands trembled. Sairandhri stood frozen behind the veil.
“They are more than a million, grandfather! And a lot of them are Rakhtbeej warriors! Maharathi Vibhatsa and Maharathi Kantak are le
ading the army… and…”
“Their Guru Kalchakra is back from his ages-long penance… stronger than ever!”
“WHAT! Kalchakra!” Bhishma exclaimed. The wrinkles on his face deepened.
“Who is Kalchakra?” Singh asked. Aniruddha kept gazing at the king; he had also heard this name for the first time.
“Kalchakra is the Guru of Asurai clan,” Shishupal said, taking a deep breath. “He had been in penance for decades. Legends say that he is the fiercest warrior of modern times. When he last fought ages ago… he earned the title of an Ardh-AtiMaharathi warrior.”
“Equivalent to twelve Maharathi warriors!” Aniruddha muttered. A shivering chill touched his spine.
Shishupal nodded. “None other than guru Parshurama can stand against him in a straight battle.”
“And Narkasura has united all the black powers including Daityas under his command. Narkasura is a Maharathi warrior himself. How ca
n we face them with just 25,000 men… that too without Guru Drona!” Devrata’s throat almost choked.
“Hmmm…” Bhishma mumbled. His face was blank. “The situation is worse than I thought.”
“Our ground forces are ready for any attack…” Major Singh pitched in… trying desperately to be a part of the conversation. “We have five thousand men trained for using Sonic weapons… a thousand of them can fly the jetpacks as well. Even if they attack tonight, we have enough arms and ammunition to respond.”
“This is not some men to men fight… Major Singh!” Bhishma said… and all nodded. Shishupal sighed, and Nishchhal giggled. “Our enemies are Daityas and Rakhtbeej Asuras. When they’ll strike in millions… all our arms and ammunition will vanish within moments.”
“And Kalchakra alone is enough to wipe out the entire realms of men,” Devrata mumbled.
“We can still defeat them,” Bhishma responded. “We need Astras… AtiRathi and Maharathi warriors… and we need much stronger walls.”
All nodded again. Singh went
“Lord Bhishma!” Aniruddha mumbled. “Why can’t we ally with Vanmanushas again… as we did under Lord Devdutta!”
“Vanmanushas don’t exist anymore
!” Devrata interrupted. “You are sitting in royal council as the brightest Gurukul alumnus… and you don’t know anything about our own neighbors… and our enemies?”
All eyes moved towards Ani. He was shocked by the sudden and rude reaction from the king. He was expecting at least some discussion in the council. “Apologies… king Devrata!” He mumbled. “But I understand that such big civilizations don’t get wiped out forever. Shouldn’t we at least try to search for them…”
“Are you suggesting to find out the lost
Vanmanusha tribes and ally with them?” Devrata exclaimed. “Then why don’t you recommend bringing in the Ashwa-Yodhas (flying Pegasus warriors) of Gandharv and the Hellhounds of Rudragarh in the army as well… they fought for us in the last war!” His cheeks and lips shivered together.
Aniruddha looked at Bhishma with disbelief. Bhishma signaled him to be silent.
“Son!” Bhishma pitched in. “I strongly recommend declaring the emergency in the kingdom… and start preparing our army for the war. There are several smaller tribes in the valley… I assume more than 20,000 tribesmen are there in our valleys. We will need to summon them immediately…”
“We won’t do anything, Grandfather… u
ntil we get a formal confirmation from our rangers in the valley.”
“But the rangers had already informed you! They sent the phoenix… right?”
“I am afraid, grandfather… the phoenixes that sang the songs of war didn’t belong to the rangers.”
“Then who sent those phoenixes?”
“I’m not sure, grandfather!”
“Hmmm…!” Bhishma’s lips twitched.
“But we can’t just sit and wait!” Major Singh pitched in again. All nodded with him this time. “At least we can start our preparation while we get the confirmed news from the rangers.”
“I think… Major Singh is right, son!” Bh
ishma supported him. “We need to start our preparation.”
“I don’t want to scare the people and the students of Gurukul based on some news brought by unknown birds,” Devrata said. “We’ll wait for the news from the rangers.”
“But wouldn’t that take a few more days out of our preparation time? There’s no harm with starting the preparation!” Singh exclaimed.
“I, too, agree with Major Singh and Lord Bhishma, my king!” Shishupal said calmly. “If we have to start our preparation, this is the time. We should not take the threat lightly. The phoenixes have sung the song of war… there has to be some reason behind it.”
“This is still too early!” Devrata interrupted in a slurred voice and got up. His eyes looked drunk and bloodshot. “We will wait till we get a confirmation from our rangers.”
“I would strongly urge you to reconsid
er.” Singh said strongly.
Devrata raised his hand. “There won’t be any reconsideration. We’ll wait till the confirmation comes from our rangers. Till then… I want you to focus on finding the culprits for Shalvaak’s death. I’m also waiting for your reports on attack on Guru Drona and Pawan’s escape from the prison. Of all the Lord Commanders this kingdom has seen, none has witnessed so many security breaches under one’s command!”
Singh got terrified… but had to gulp his anger. His chest rose and fell rapidly. With snapped eyes, Ani looked around in the council. He was not the only one who was shocked by the king’s attitude.
“And Aniruddha!” Devrata turned towards Ani. “I want you to read about our kingdom… our surrounding geography, and about Asuras… before next council. We should know about ourselves… and our enemies first.” He said and turned towards Sairandhri without waiting for any comments. Sairandhri mov
ed forward to support him. “The council is adjourned!” He said getting up, and left the room with S
Ani stayed there with other council members, stunned with king’s strong and vocal form. Devrata was in a rush to adjourn the council; he wondered why. Seeing Devrata in this form was hard to believe, but he agreed with him about knowing self and the enemy. He was also shocked on the king’s firm stand to postpone the preparation against the asuras. Why would the king announce the asurai movements in the coun
cil and then do nothing about it? Why did he announce it in the first place? “To shift everyone’s focus away from Shalvaak’s death!” Ani smiled. Everyone was now concerned about the giant Asurai army and the war preparation. With this council, Shalvaak was a lost cause… and so was Ani’s year-long analysis to prove Devrata’s guilt.
Lost in his thoughts, he turned towards Major Singh; an honorable fanatic, insulted and shivering red with widened eyes filled with millions of questions. Ani felt bad for Singh, who was unknowingly surrounded by trickery and deceit. All the protectors, rangers, prison guards, and the whisperers were supposed to report to him; yet he was unaware of the Asuras’ position and Shalvaak’s death… which was somehow know
n to the king. Singh looked like the king’s new pawn in the royal politics. The best way to overpower an honorable man is to attack his credibility; Devrata had started off well with Major Singh. For the first time, Aniruddha was seeing Major Singh silent and helpless… something that used to be Devrata’s signature a few days ago. Ani too, felt helpless in front of the king. He had clear proofs and theories against the king… but no one to listen to them. He had already discarded all the analysis that he had done. He had new things to read… and new possibilities to explore.