Adventure of Rudra-Pratap - ZorbaBooks

Adventure of Rudra-Pratap

Chapter 1: The Tyranny Begin

Once upon a time, in a distant land, there lived a King and his two sons. The name of the King was Shambhu Narayan Chaudhury, and his wife was Chitralekha Chaudhury, she died while giving birth to his second child Pratap Narayan Chaudhury. The elder son Rudra Narayan Chaudhury was sent to the Gurukul when he was 12-years old. It was the rule of the land to send every child, be it a girl or a boy, to the Gurukul, when they reach the age of 12. Following that rule, Rudra Narayan was sent to the Gurukul, and three years later, his brother Pratap Narayan too, went, leaving the King alone in the kingdom.

King Shambhu Narayan started feeling lonely with the absence of his children and wife. Prime Minister Satyaban was looking for this opportunity only. One day he took the lone King for hunting. After a few hours, both got tired and sat down near a riverside. It was dusk, and the sun was setting down, Satyaban looked at the setting sun and said, “You know your majesty, time is too short, you never when all the lights of your life will go away, and you will be left with eternal darkness.” Shambhu Narayan looked at him with awe, “I never knew you were such a philosophical person, Satyaban!” Satyaban smiled, a melancholic smile, and said, “That’s because you know me too little, your majesty!” Both remained silent for a few moments, and then Satyaban again spoke, “I don’t know whether I have the right or not, but there’s something I want to tell you, Your Majesty,” the King assured him to go on. “There’s a woman, a widow, a nice match for you. Think about my words Your Majesty, you’re not that old and your sons too, need the shelter and protection of a mother. If you agree, I will talk to the woman to proceed further, now the decision is upon you.”

That night Shambhu Narayan could not sleep, somehow he felt what Satyaban said was true. He is lonely and requires a companion. The King agreed to the nuptial arrangements, soon the wedding was held in the absence of the princes only. Unfortunately, they were not allowed to come from the Gurukul. The King felt sad, but soon overcame that feeling when he started traveling to different places with his new Queen. Traveling now became his passion, the Queen used to feed him a magical potion that increased his passion. Now, he started traveling alone, and the kingdom was looked after by the Queen and Satyaban.

Queen and Satyaban soon started torturing the people in the kingdom. People who were against them were put inside the bars, their lands were seized, they became jobless slaves to the queen. Some who could not stand to become slaves fled away, few hid in the woods, but most became the Queen’s slave. Inside the woods, a group of people started staying together away from the tyranny of the Queen and Satyaban. However, they were unorganized and lacked a leader. Soon their resources reduce, and so did their desire to fight against the Queen. Some submitted to the Queen’s rule, others tried to continue with their fight against the Queen and his Prime Minister.


They started waiting for Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury, who was then around 22 years and had just completed his studies in the Gurukul. Everyone in the land thought him to be the savior of the land. But the Queen had other plans for him.

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Chapter 1 B: Chandreyi’s Warning Were Ignored by Prince Rudra Narayan

It was time for Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury to return to his kingdom. He was unaware of the problems of his kingdom, far away in the Gurukul, he and his brother were having their lessons. His brother Pratap Narayan had to stay for three more years, and this separation was making Rudra Narayan sad. However, there was no other way. For 3 more years, he had to stay away from his brother, his Tez. Yes, that’s the name he had given to his brother because he was wiser than anyone in the kingdom. Rudra Narayan was having all these thoughts in the morning before leaving the Gurukul, before meeting his teacher for the last time. He looked around and saw the classes taking place; he was there even a few days ago. Time fly so quickly, he sighed!

After a few moments, his teacher came. Rudra Narayan touched his feet to have his blessing when the old man suddenly felt something, something that can’t be expressed through words. The old teacher looked at the Prince intently and said, “Son, do you want to meet your brother, once?” The Prince was astonished to hear that his teacher never had talked about breaking the rules of the Gurukul, then what happened today! No, one in the Gurukul can meet the students when the classes are going on.

The questions in the Prince’s eyes were soon read by the old man, he said, “Meet him; you never know when you will meet him again? Meet your Tez, I will call for him.” Rudra Narayan was astonished but happy; he was looking for this opportunity only. Maybe God had listened to his prayers. Soon, Pratap Narayan came, he also had the same thought, but when two brothers were in front of each other, they shrugged off their feelings. They embraced each other in a deep hug, tears were not in their control, they were unable to speak even a word. With silent tears, they bade goodbye to each other.

On his way to the kingdom, Rudra Narayan thought of crossing the woods. While he was passing the forests, he saw many people of his kingdom had settled inside the wood. They were living a wretched life in poverty. This disturbed Rudra Narayan a bit, he thought of asking someone about this. He stopped his horse near a river. He thought of having some water first before asking someone about what’s going on in the woods. When he bowed down to have some water, a little girl’s voice stopped him, “don’t drink that water,” she said. Rudra Narayan was again surprised, he asked, “Why, I am thirsty,”

“Because I told you that’s why!” said the angry and the annoyed little girl.

“And who are you? Why should I listen to you?” asked Rudra Narayan with authority

“I am your sister, Chandreyi, your stepmother’s daughter. Please, I beg you don’t drink that water.”

“How do you know who am I?” asked surprised Rudra Narayan

“Your sword told me that! Only the Prince in the kingdom can have that sword. Since, Pratap Narayan, I mean my second brother has not yet completed his term at Gurukul, then you must be Rudra Narayan, the eldest one, right?”

“Amazingly, right dear! You have won my heart with your intelligence and attention to details, but what’s with the water?”

“I live in this forest almost all the time, after my mother and that Prime Minister took over the kingdom and the whole palace, I hate living in that palace. Yesterday I saw my mother and that Prime Minister in the forest, I saw them doing something with the water, I heard your name too. My mother had magical powers and magical potions with her. She can do anything, she’s controlling the king, she can harm you, the kingdom needs you, you’re their only hope,” she said all these in one go. The Prince affectionately looked at the seven-year-old girl. Yes, they had heard of their sister, and they were quite happy about it. After all, what they lack was a sister, but Rudra Narayan never knew this girl would be so mature as her age. He affectionately stroked the hair of his sister. He said, “I understand something is wrong with the king, and something is wrong with the kingdom. Maybe something has happened to my father, which is why maybe your mother has to take charge of the kingdom. I will go to the palace and investigate everything, and whoever is responsible I will punish him, or . . . her,” Rudra Narayan said, ‘her’ after a long pause. She has never met the Queen. Developing affection for her is impossible for him and his brother. But both of them love their father, and they can’t surely hate the woman their father loves. However, something is wrong with the kingdom; Rudra Narayan is sure about that, maybe the Queen is responsible for it. Still, he can’t poison the mind of a daughter against her mother, that’s the last thing he will do.

Chandreyi was about to say something more when Rudra Narayan knelt and said, “Look, you should not say anything bad about your mother, she’s your mother, right? She loves you, child, you should also love her,”

“Even when I know she’s wrong, she’s evil. Sorry, I can’t! I am just begging you, for one thing, please don’t drink that water, can’t you listen to me!”

Rudra Narayan now stood and started taking off his clothes, Chandreyi’s eyes popped out in astonishment. Rudra Narayan looked at her and said, “Your fear must be removed, else you will always have this hatred towards your mother. Now, I am not just going to drink that water, but I’m gonna take a dip in it,” by saying this, he jumped in the water. Chandreyi cried out loud and broke down into tears.

While Rudra Narayan was inside the water slowly, every incident of the past was fading away from his mind. The time spent in the Gurukul, the time spent with his father, and even his brother. Slowly, he was losing his consciousness and was drowning in the water when someone grabbed him and took him out of the water.

Ch2: Fire Broke Out In Gurukul

After Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury had left the Gurukul, his teacher went to his chamber. Something inside him was troubling him; he could not take any more classes. He stayed in his hut for the whole day. At night he called for his daughter Rajni.

Rajni was a young girl of nineteen, who was born with specific magical powers. She could see the future if she wants, she can also take a person back to the past and can help them to revisit a particular scene or an incident. She could learn magic in no time; she was good at horse riding, archery, wrestling, and swordfight. Better than even the best student of this Gurukul, Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury.

When Rajni entered the room, the old man said, “Your words have come true today Rajni, today is the last day of our Gurukul. We have to save the teachers, and the students, at any cost! What do we do now?”

Rajni lit a lamp, she attentively looked at the flickering flame of the lamp, until it became still, and then said, “Call Pratap, now!”

Prince Pratap Narayan Chaudhury was the exact opposite of Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury. Unlike him, he was neither good at horse riding or wrestling, nor at swordfight and archery. He could not bear the sight of blood, it used to make him sick. Thus, he was never loved by his father. His father, King Shambhu Narayan Chaudhury, believed that if the king could not extend the boundaries of the kingdom through war, if the people don’t fear the king, then the king is useless. So, according to him, Pratap was useless. Pratap Narayan’s mother was long dead, it was just his brother who used to love him, and used to care for him.

Pratap Narayan was happy with that much love only. He was a bookworm and a nature lover. That’s why he learned the art of communicating with nature. He could communicate with everyone, from rivers, trees, to even insects and animals. He could communicate with them even while sleeping. He could make a non-fertile land fertile; he knew to predict the weather and also to build houses like a construction worker. He had learned some of the rarest magic not because he wanted power but because his teacher loved him for his generous nature, and had helped him to learn those magic. But Pratap Narayan has never used them, at least not for his personal benefit.

Prince Rudra Narayan’s departure was making Pratap Narayan sad. However, the news he got from the wind turned his sorrow into anxiety. It increased when he was called by his teacher, and he got puzzled when he was asked to bring a sword with him.

“You called for me, Acharya,” Pratap Narayan asked after greeting his teacher.

“Yes, I have son, I have something important to tell you. So, listen to me carefully, if you have any questions, I will answer, but first, you will listen to me without asking any questions, is that okay?” said the old man with full authority, Pratap Narayan nodded.

“Son, you brought a sword, I asked you to bring?” Pratap Narayan forwarded the sword, and this time Rajni laughed out loud, “Oh my god Pratap, you brought your sword only! Father told you to bring any sword, you have three of them, and yet you brought the prince’s sword! Now, I have to use the Chaudhury family’s sword. Look like you’re making me a part of your family, Pratap,” the last lines of naughty Rajni made shy Pratap Narayan blush so much that he felt like hiding somewhere. Even his teacher felt uncomfortable. So, Pratap soon changed the topic.

“Why do you need a sword Acharya?” asked Pratap

“So that Rajni could defend herself and others. Listen to me carefully Pratap; build a tunnel near the boy’s hostel, and Rajni would create one near the girl’s. Only you two have the power to create a tunnel in less than an hour. Take everyone inside the tunnel and leave the Gurukul immediately. I am sorry to say, but this is everyone’s last day in Gurukul. It will open again, but it will take time. Remember everything I taught you, you can guide your brother to restore freedom in the kingdom. Now, hurry up, do not delay, in your hand lies the life of many,” Pratap Narayan was having many questions in his mind, but the last line of his teacher did not allow him to ask any question, by bidding his teacher goodnight he hurriedly left his hut to create the tunnel.

“You didn’t bid me goodbye, Pratap!” Rajni said quite informally and naughtily. Pratap was surprised and ashamed at the same time, “Oh, I am so sorry, actually, I–” Rajni cut Pratap in the middle and said, “I was joking, Pratap, you are so innocent. Always be the same, and if you really like me, then in the coming years, you will have to prove your feelings for me. Goodnight for now.”

Rajni’s words were a riddle, but Pratap Narayan didn’t wait to solve it. The lives of the people are at stake, he would do anything to save them. Both Rajni and Pratap worked really hard to build a tunnel in less than an hour. However, things went a little wrong, before everyone could get inside the tunnel; Queen’s soldier attacked the Gurukul. They destroyed the sculpture, the scriptures, burned the huts of the teachers, attacked the elders, and did all sorts of vandalism that they were capable of.

Pratap defended them as much as he could with his lightweight sword. The trees and the wind helped him a lot, with their support, Pratap saved half of the residents in Gurukul. On the other hand, Rajni fought valiantly like a brave and courageous soldier. Queen’s men feared her valor, unlike Pratap; she was not that close to nature, neither could communicate with them that easily. But the way she fought hundreds of soldiers, was unbelievable. Many thought she excelled, Prince Rudra Narayan too. She saved another half of the people in Gurukul, except for her and her father. Acharya died, and Rajni was taken as booty by the Queen’s soldier.

Soon the Gurukul started burning like a wildfire has broken out in the forest. After the fire subsided, the Gurukul turned into ruins and ashes. Now, the ruins wait with the hope that one day it will again have students, teachers, and an environment suitable for learning.

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Chapter 2B: The Manipulative Queen

Prince Pratap Narayan Chaudhury was shattered because he couldn’t save Rajni at that moment, but he didn’t have time to lament, what was important for him was to save the rest of the students and teachers of the Gurukul. Unknowingly, he became their leader and led them to the forest where other people of his kingdom were living a wretched life. Among all these people, lived an old man, Rahim Rehman, the ex-Prime Minister of King Shambhu Narayan Chaudhury. After the death of the queen Rahim, resigned from his job, because when the queen died Rahim was fighting a deadly war for the King while returning he learned about the death of the queen. He decided to resign from his job to take care of the princes, give them proper guidance so that they became the ideal ruler of the land. He was against the principles of King Shambhu Narayan, who was obsessed with extending the borders of his kingdom, and hence, was constantly waging wars against other kingdoms.

So, both the princes were brought up by Rahim’s principles and ideals. When Prince Pratap Narayan found Rahim in a poverty-stricken wretched condition, tears were not in his control. He ran towards him and said, “Rahim Chacha what happened to you? Why are you living, such a life?” The old man caressed his hair and said, “It’s not the time to think about one person, son, think about all the people of your land. They need you and your brother, you’re their only hope.”

“Do you know where my brother is?” asked a worried Pratap Narayan. Rahim shook his head and said, “No, but something happened near that river, maybe that river knows.”

Pratap moved near that river and saw that it has become all black; maybe someone or something had poisoned it. There was still a part that had not become black, he moved near that to communicate with the river. The river was waiting for the prince only. When Pratap sat near the river and looked at it he saw an old lady breathing heavily. It was the river only, she said, “Dear prince I also live here, and along with your people you should take care of me as well.” Pratap said, “Of course, I will. Tell me what can I do for you?” The river said, “I have been poisoned. A very little time is left, if you don’t suck out the poison from me I will die.” Pratap Narayan knew to suck out the poison but he can’t just suck it out like that. A drop of poison on the land can destroy the whole land. But, the poison needs to be stored somewhere, and it needs to be stored in a living organism only, else it can create disaster. It’s very old magic, he had read about it in the Gurukul.

Pratap looked at his right-hand thumb. This finger’s nail was bigger than the other nails, yes, it can suck out the poison and his right hand can be the container of poison, but that would infect him with immense pain. But he had no way out, someone of his land is suffering, he had to help. He dipped down the right-hand thumb in the river. Soon, the river started healing and the water started becoming clear and clearer, while Pratap Narayan clutched his dhoti, and clenched his teeth, to bear with the pain. He felt as if someone had put his hand on fire. After a while, the water was crystal clear, but Pratap Narayan’s hand was all burned out, he somehow controlled his tears. To his surprise, the lady of the river is no more an old woman but a young lady, with long, blue hair.

“Oh, Prince! What have you done! You inflicted yourself with eternal pain! You shouldn’t have done that!” The lady almost broke into tears, Pratap Narayan smiled and said, “Don’t worry, except my elder brother Rudra Narayan, no one has much hope for me. Even with all my body parts working perfectly, I am useless to them,” sighed Pratap Narayan, and then again continued, “Do you know what happened to my brother, can you show me?” The lady said, “Yes, I can, look here,” she pointed at a place in the river. As Pratap Narayan fixed his eyes on the spot he saw everything. The queen coming with Satyaban and poisoning the water, his brother crossing the woods, his words and argument with his step-sister Chandreyi, and finally his disappearance, and slowly the blackening of the river.

Pratap, looked up, by that time Rahim had also come by his side, he was shocked to see Pratap’s hand, he said, “What happened to your hand?” Pratap ignored his words and said, “Is the queen not very good Rahim Chacha? Why is my father not in the Kingdom anymore?” Rahim told him everything that had happened in this Kingdom all these years. Pratap Narayan listened to every bit; he was astonished and hurt to hear about the despair of his people.

“What do we do now? King Shambhu Narayan has lost his mind! Our people are living a wretched life and I am helpless!” said the old man with tears. “What’s my age?” Pratap asked out of nowhere, the sudden question gave a shock to Rahim, he said, “What?” Pratap repeated, “How old I am? What’s my age?” Rahim thought for a moment, calculated, and then said, “19 years 7 months, but why do you ask that?” Pratap got excited and said, “You’re sure 7 months?” he asked, Rahim nodded, Pratap excitedly said, “Then I can do this.”

“You can do what?” Rahim looked worried; he sensed Pratap is up to something. Pratap knelt before him and said, “There’s this old magic, Acharya taught me as a prize for one of my good deeds. He asked me to use it at the correct time; I think he taught that magic to me for this day,” Pratap took a pause when Rahim asked, “What kind of magic it is?” Pratap continued, “Well, this magic allows me to make this simple forest an enchanted forest. Anyone who enters this forest intending to harm the people residing in this forest would either get burned by fire or would be turned into dust by the Earth, sucked by the water, or would get vanished in the air. No, one residing here will be harmed ever, the only hitch was it needs to be performed by someone who’s 19 years 6 months older and I am 19 years 7 months currently, and I can definitely perform this,” Pratap said the last few words excitedly, but Rahim was not that excited. He was old enough to understand Pratap hid some facts, he said, “This is not the only hitch Pratap. I brought you up and your brother, I know both of you more than your father does. Don’t hide anything from me.” Pratap Narayan was by nature emotional at this stage he became more emotional, he hugged the old man with tearful eyes and said, “The one performing the magic will not get any protection, in fact, I can’t even enter the forest only, then the magic will not work.” Rahim caressed his cheeks and said, “Where will you go, son?” Pratap smiled and said, “To my father, with hope. Although I don’t believe he will be able to answer, still I will try,” saying this Pratap looked intently at the old man’s eyes and said, “My brother will return, Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury will free this Kingdom from all kinds of tyranny. The Acharya told me about this, everything will be fine, but you will not lose hope until then. The trees, the river, they listen to me they will help you to survive. You just look out for my brother he’s your only savior.”

While Pratap Narayan was in the forests, the queen was there with the king in her bedchamber. The king was irritated because he had to return from his travel, as the queen had sent him an urgent note to return to the kingdom. However, the news here was disturbing, his beloved Rudra is missing. Rudra—the valiant warrior, the powerful, the strong, the only rightful heir of this Kingdom. He has no hope from Pratap, he isn’t a good fighter, and he is too emotional to be a King. “What are you thinking, dear?” the queen asked, pretending to be worried. The king said, “I don’t know where to look out for Rudra, you know the neighboring king may have done this, he thought it will affect me and I will kneel before him. Not at all, I will wage war” he was interrupted by the sudden arrival of the messenger. “What happened?” asked the queen, the messenger bowed and said, “Prince Pratap Narayan wants to meet you,” both were shocked by this news both asked the messenger to send him immediately. After a moment Pratap Narayan entered their chamber. “What are you doing here, you should be in the Gurukul,” said the king.

“That has been burned down yesterday? Well, I can’t be there anymore?” The queen intrudes at this point, “What! When did this happen? No one informed me, I am so sorry my king, this was not in my knowledge,” saying this, the queen broke down into fake tears. The king came near her and tried to console her when irritated Pratap broke in, “If you’re done with your romance, can we, I mean the father and the son can talk?” The queen smiled and looked at the eyes of the king and said, “See, I told you, your sons have not accepted me as a part of this family, but you denied,” said queen, the king, got angry and said, “Is this the way you talk to your mother, Pratap. I thought you may have at least learned manners at Gurukul, if not some good fighting skills-” Pratap cuts in, “Look father I am not here to discuss our dysfunctional relationship. My brother is missing, the Gurukul has been burned and the people of your land are living a wretched life, these things are much more important now, and we need to discuss and not just discuss but find a solution to these problems now.”

“The people are living a wretched life because they chose it,” said the queen, “I gave them the option to be in my kingdom and live a good life.”

“Your taxes are too high, your majesty, just a roof is not enough for them, they need food in their stomach too. After paying your taxes they don’t have anything left with them to feed their family and children. Hence, people living in the kingdom are always working, they don’t spend time with their family as they want to make sure that they have enough food to eat after paying your taxes and feed their families. You are coming up with new laws each day and none is in the favor of the people living in the kingdom, and those going against it are being locked up in your prison.”

“Pratap, someone has misinformed you, I am just controlling them so that no one dares to go against the king that’s it. People should fear the ruler, only then they will follow the ruler,” said the queen with a sly smile, she knows that this is exactly the principles of the king. The king suddenly became happy with such a comment, “Exactly, Pratap you never understand they should fear you a bit, else they will go out of your control,” said the king excitedly.

“Cool down, dear, here drink this, you will feel better.” She gave the king a glass of drink, a glass of spiked drink, or you can even say a drink with a magical potion. At this moment Satyaban arrives without any news. “Sorry, your majesty I came without any news, but this is important.” The king drank the whole drink, his desire to travel increased, he said, “I don’t want to hear anything, I have already wasted a lot of time. I have to explore so many places, queen please handle this.” Pratap got astonished, “Are you out of your mind father! Your kingdom, your people are more important to you than your travel! Have some sense father!” But the king didn’t listen and the queen parted with Satyaban, however, she returned after a while. “You are under arrest Prince, no sorry, Convict Pratap Narayan Chaudhury!”

“May I know the charges, Your Majesty!”

“Of course, disappearance, or rather, killing, Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury!”

“And you have proofs with you, Your Majesty!”

“I have witnesses. Prime Minister Satyaban and Finance Minister Tej Bahadur saw you enchanting the forest last to last night, which means a day before Rudra Narayan’s disappearance. Knowing the fact that you’re capable of doing magic, you became the prime suspect behind the prince’s disappearance.”

“You know this is a lie, don’t you, Your Majesty,” said Pratap with a smile. The queen moved forward to the prince, and whispered, “Yes, I know that dear, but this is sufficient enough to convince the people, and especially, your father. The people don’t question my logic and your father doesn’t think only. He just believes me and no one else” saying this queen moved backward and ordered her men to arrest the prince.

That day the prince was beaten publicly, in front of all the people of his kingdom, and interestingly the order was given by the king. He was convinced by the queen’s logic, and because he had more affection towards his elder son he was furious hearing the logic that Pratap did the whole thing to be the next king of this kingdom. Everyone in the kingdom knew the prince was innocent but none said a word.

That night the prince cried a lot, not because he was bleeding, not because his right hand was hurting but because he was missing his brother. He remembered those days when his brother used to caress his hair the whole night when he was upset to console him; when he used to play his flute to him so that he sleeps quickly, as he didn’t have a mother to sing a lullaby for him. He remembered the last hug of his brother, he was all alone now, he needs him desperately, but more than him, the people in the kingdom need him. They need Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury.

Ch 3 – Bhanu, Sunaina and a Vision

Six Years Later


While Prince Rudra Narayan was drowning in the river he was saved by a middle-aged or rather you can say an aged woman named Sunaina. Sunaina was the head of the cobbler’s village. Yes, you heard it right there was a cobbler’s village, the queen of the land, separated each area and its people based on their occupation. So, there was the farmer’s village, the fisherman’s village, the tailor’s village, and so on. None was allowed to migrate from one village to another. So, if a farmer felt that he would start trading things or be into business then he/she can’t move to the trader’s village or the businessman’s village. If someone migrates he/she immediately was caught by the queen’s men and put behind the bars, where they are tortured until they sign papers and submit to the fact that they would remain in their village until their death. Well, it may sound weird but that was the queen’s rule, very few could go against her wishes.


Each village had a headman or a headwoman, who would ensure that everyone does their work perfectly and nobody disobeys the queen. Now, Sunaina was the headwoman of the cobbler’s village. She was very strict; she had a whip in her right hand and a black cat in her left hand. The name of the cat was Sankar and it was very dear to her for some unknown reason.

When Sunaina saved Prince Rudra Narayan, all his memories of the past had washed away. He was a new person, and Sunaina gave him a new identity. The identity of a slave. He was named Bhanu, who lived in a very high tower in the middle of a jungle with Sunaina and the cat. He used to work all day, from dawn to dark, rarely he was given time to rest. Even at night, he was not allowed to rest; he would prepare a hookah for Sunaina and massage her feet until she had slept. Rarely did she have a deep slumber, so Bhanu had to provide comfort to her mistress almost the whole night else he used to get whipped badly. But he didn’t fear the whip anymore, what he feared was punishment because her mistress’s punishments used to be unique. However, for the onlookers, it was quite funny, but for the one facing them, it was embarrassing and painful. Often Bhanu found himself rubbing his nose on the floor almost for 3 days or chewing or rather trying to chew a stone for 8 hours. So, Bhanu always tries to make his mistress and her cat happy.

The cat was a mystery to Bhanu, it was not just given royal treatment but Bhanu was also given the cat’s leftovers to eat. Yes, you’re right, it was his food. In the beginning, Bhanu denied having that but too much work with no food in his stomach soon forced Bhanu to change his decision. He thought, “So, what it’s leftover, at least it’s food, it’s better to have something than having nothing.” With this thought, he started having the cat leftover every day. However, what the cat had every day, almost four times a day, was something that the villagers couldn’t imagine at least once a day, or rather once a year. So, the food eaten by Bhanu was not that bad!

Don’t think that Bhanu didn’t try to escape; after all, he’s the valiant Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury, even though he didn’t remember that but he had lost just his memories, not his traits. He was still a good fighter, a man with high values, but this fight was not between equals. On the one hand, there was a great fighter of all the time, and on the other hand, was a sly woman with all her magical tricks. If Sunaina had challenged Bhanu or Rudra Narayan for a swordfight she would have surely lost it. She knew that very well, so her ways were different and every time, it trapped the prince, now the slave.

However, among all these bad things there was one good thing. Every day at noon Sunaina would leave the tower with her cat and take a tour of the village. During this time, Bhanu would remain chained inside the tower. Most of the time, he had some work, assigned to him, by his mistress. However, there are a few times, when he had no work from his mistress, he would remain chained in his room and play his flute. The flute was there with him from the beginning. Sunaina wanted to break it, destroy it, but whatever, she did, the flute would return to Rudra or Bhanu.

The flute was the only friend Bhanu had, the only good thing in his life. Whenever he would play the flute he would have visions. Sometimes, he would see a girl around seven years, is crying near the river, sometimes he would see a teenager, who looked strikingly like him is practicing swordfight or archery. At times, he would see a woman singing a lullaby to a baby, who may have just learned to walk properly. Bhanu could not hear the lullaby but somewhere he believed that the tune of the lullaby is similar to the tune that he plays.

But most of the time he would see two little boys, one little younger than the other. The younger one is not that good at swordfight or archery so a man scolds him. Bhanu couldn’t hear or make out what the man was saying but he could make out that he was harsh on the younger one, which was making the older one sad. Bhanu would also see them, playing and teasing each other, both together looked very happy, as if they don’t need anyone else to make them happy. Among all, these visions one was very common. The elder brother is playing the same flute that Bhanu had with him, and is playing the same tune that Bhanu always plays. And the younger brother is peacefully sleeping, putting his head on his brother’s lap. This vision would make Bhanu happy all the time. He would play the flute, only to see the peace and calmness that was there on the younger brother’s face.

That day, however, things were different. Bhanu’s mistress has gone out; she was in a good mood, so she didn’t assign any work to Bhanu. Just chained him and moved out. “I wish I can get out of this captivity. Then I would find out about my family. But they are poor, at least my mistress told me that, else they wouldn’t have sold me to her,” Bhanu sighed and picked up his flute. He closed his eyes, “This younger boy is kinda cute. Why the man scolds him that much? Why does the sad and melancholic face of that younger boy hurt me so much? Why in fact, I see them. Who’s that girl and who’s that woman? Do I know them? Where I have seen the river, before? And who’s that man? He looks exactly like me, just a bit younger. But then he’s different from me. He is strong, confident, and independent. Not like me, a slave, whose sleep is also been controlled by someone,” Bhanu sighed again.

Bhanu looked at his flute again and then started playing it. But this time he had a disturbing vision. He saw a man of his age, maybe a bit younger is weeping badly. His whole body is washed with blood as if someone has whipped him badly. His right hand looked weird as if it got burned due to some reason. Bhanu stopped playing his flute. He was jerked by this vision. It was not just weird, but quite disturbing too. He thought not to play the flute anymore. But he felt as if the flute is alive and it just needs a person who would bring out the tune. Bhanu, couldn’t battle more, he started playing the flute again. This time the vision became clearer, the man is a prisoner. Bhanu didn’t stop his flute, now he’s also interested to know more about this man. The man didn’t bother about the wound and the blood. Yes, of course, he was bleeding badly, but it seemed that he didn’t care that much. It’s not the physical pain that’s torturing him, but it’s something more than that.

He’s saying something. Something is inaudible, but Bhanu wants to hear it. The tears in his eyes were piercing his heart. He felt like running toward him, hugging him, and wiping away all his tears. But he couldn’t, Bhanu’s helplessness is increasing, he wants to hear what the prisoner is saying, but everything is inaudible, “Why do I want to hear from you? Who are you?” thought helpless Bhanu. Suddenly Bhanu stopped thinking and concentrated more on playing his flute. Yes, he could hear a word, at least the sound of it. Now, the word is a bit clearer. “Bhai.” Yes, that’s the word, “Bhai,” what more is he saying? But before Bhanu could hear more the door opened and Sunaina entered the tower with her cat.

Ch 4 – Gargi and Rajni in the Forest

Bhanu had the vision of that prisoner again. But he could not figure out who it was, except his eyes looked familiar to him, or maybe the tears. Bhanu started having restless nights and days that resulted in mistakes that he started making in his daily chores, which angered Sunaina, but she didn’t punish him. Well, because, often magic affects your body a lot, it weakens you physically. But, Bhanu or Prince Rudra Narayan now gets beaten up almost every other day. Well, that’s not bothering him much now, what’s bothering him is a hawk, well not exactly a hawk, because a hawk can’t have that red beak. The beak of that bird was not just red but Blood-Red, as if someone has painted the lips with blood. But that’s not it, what’s even weirder is that Bhanu is now seeing this bird almost every other day. After Sunaina has gone out with her cat, the bird comes and sits on the window sill. Bhanu had tried to shoo it away a lot of times, but he had failed every time. It seemed to him as if the bird is memorizing every detail of the room. Bhanu had never seen a bird like this before.

That day was, however, different. The bird didn’t sit on the window sill, instead, it flew inside the whole roam. Bhanu didn’t say anything. “At least someone is enjoying freedom,” thought Bhanu. Before moving out of the room, the bird came and sat near Bhanu’s feet and looked at his chain for a long time, Bhanu thought, maybe the bird looked sad, but soon shrugged it off. “A bird cannot possibly be sad, can it be?” Bhanu asked himself. Before, he could get an answer the bird flew out of the room to almost to the core of the forest. There on a tree, it sat for a moment when a woman, wearing a red saree, arrived. She was around twenty-eight or twenty-nine maybe she came with a dead bird, a few dry leaves, and wood. Well, she also had a few plants and leaves with her, which were not dry. She kept everything on the ground and looked up. Soon the bird came down, and after a moment there was no sign of the bird, instead there stands another woman, a bit younger than the other, bruised all over her body. She was wearing a brown color saree, the way she was carrying the saree, it seemed it’s not just a saree or a cloth; rather it seemed to be a uniform. Both of the women’s clothes were soiled and crumpled, torn out here and there, which proved that they are having a tough life; maybe they are out for a long time. Soon, the woman, who looked younger, hugged the woman-in-red, and said, “Gargidi, I missed you. I have so many things to tell you, I can’t see both the princes going through so much pain.” Gargi caressed the other woman and said, “I will listen to you dear, but first let me cook dinner for both of us, we both are hungry. With an empty stomach, we can’t fight a battle.”

Well, before proceeding further, let’s have a brief introduction, about Gargi. Gargi’s mother died when she was very young, and her father was a Vaidya or a physician, who once went out in search for certain plants, and never returned. Since, then Rajni’s father, the Acharya of the Gurukul had treated her like his own daughter. She was quite a geek and a bookworm during childhood, she used to talk very little, and except for Pratap and Rajni didn’t have many friends. Rajni was like a younger sister to her. Rudra Narayan, the most popular student of the Gurukul never noticed her properly. But she had always noticed him, behind her books, while studying, and even while praying. It was not that Rudra Narayan was rude but Gargi was almost invisible. Even when Rudra Narayan tried to have a conversation with her, Gargi used to get nervous and stammer a lot that Rudra Narayan used to think that maybe he is causing some kind of embarrassment to the girl. Gargi was all alone in the class because both Pratap and Rajni were her juniors and belong to a different class. Gargi left Gurukul on the day Rudra Narayan left, but at a different time, on a different path.

Gargi had always wanted to be a Vaidya or a physician like her father. So, Gargi went to the Vaidya Ashram, to the East, and Rudra Narayan towards his kingdom to the North. While studying there, she received the news of the Acharya and Rajni and Gurukul being burned down, but almost a year after the incident. As soon as the news reached her she left the Vaidya Ashram, a good decision on her part because soon that too was closed. After all, the Queen thought spending on Vaidya Ashram is a waste of money. Instead, money should be saved to make the army stronger and a few more are needed for their luxury and to spend on the king’s travel expenditure.

Gargi soon found out Rajni was in a wretched condition, with only Pratap Narayan standing by her as her support. Not a good support although because he too was a prisoner then. Pratap’s condition too made her sad. Her only two friends were in a wretched condition, and the man she would steal glances secretly, he is missing.

Soon, she and Rajni set out to find Rudra Narayan. Rajni had the power to change her shape to a bird. It gave them an advantage, after three-four years-long search they found out about Rudra Narayan, now they just need a plan to free him from the wicked Sunaina. Gargi and Rajni know they will and they can free Prince Rudra Narayan from his captivity and slowly they are getting themselves ready for that.

Slightly far away in the tower, amidst the same jungle, Prince Rudra Narayan was yawning and massaging the feet of his mistress like every night, unaware of the fact in the same forest, two women are making a plan that would free him from this slavery, from this captivity.

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Chapter 4B: Bhanu Met the Girls 


“Who the hell are you?” cried Bhanu, aka, Prince Rudra Narayan, when he saw the red-beaked falcon turning into a lady in front of him. He was acquainted with only those magic tricks that Sunaina was capable of, and she was never capable of transforming herself into something else. So, Bhanu was more than surprised! Of course, he would not have been that surprised if he was still Prince Rudra Narayan Chowdhury, as Rudra Narayan was well aware of all of Rajni’s tricks. 

After a few moments of silence, Rajni bowed to give respect to her prince, and this shocked Bhanu even more. He was the one who was always crushed underneath her mistress’s feet, and here a woman is standing in front of him, showing him respect, respect that he had not even received in his dreams (if he at all had one).

“Prince Rudra Narayan Chowdhury, please accept my greetings,” Rajni said after a long time. In this situation, she had to gather enough courage to meet and greet her prince, her brother-like friend, and her father’s favorite student. However, some things are often beyond our control, and this situation is one such thing.

“Where do you find a prince here? What kind of a joke is this? Who are you? Why are you here? What do you want? Puzzled Bhanu just stormed Rajni with his questions and when he stopped Rajni breathed a little, gulped a bit, and said, “You. Are. My. Prince.” Bhanu would have again stormed Rajni with his questions when a shrill whistle is heard and Rajni ran towards the window and looked down.

Gargi was standing there; she looked a bit worried, when Rajni came near the window, she asked, “What’s taking so long?” Rajni replied, “The prince. He seems to be in a shock! I mean, I, I just greeted her as my prince, and—” hearing this Gargi slapped her forehead, and said, “Oh Rajni! Who told you to greet him as your prince now only! Anyways, don’t waste too much time talking now. Just tie the rope and help me to enter.”

Before, Bhanu could contemplate anything few events took place in front of his eyes just in a flash of time! First Rajni took a rope and tied it to one of the legs of the queen-size bed of Sunaina. She then threw the other end outside the window, which Gargi used to climb up and enter Sunaina’s room. Rajni by then had taken the shape of the falcon and went out of the room.

So, many things happened, but just in a flash of a moment that Bhanu stood still in bewilderment. Gargi too wanted to bow and greet her prince but she understood that this is not the right moment. After all, even though he is the prince, he is not a bit aware of it. First Gargi had to gain his confidence, and then she had to make her next move.

“You seriously think you will fight me with a flute?” said Gargi, suppressing her smile, when she saw Bhanu had pointed the flute like a sword as if he would fight with it if Gargi makes one more move! Ignoring Gargi’s word, Bhanu said, “Don’t move! I am stronger than you even when I am tied to a chain! One wrong move will crush you down!”

Gargi again smiled and said, “I know you are stronger than me. you are stronger than anyone else living in this kingdom. But alas, your strength can offer you freedom!” said Gargi with pity in her voice. At this Bhanu refrained himself from his attacking position and sat on the floor with despair. He sighed and said, “True enough!” Gargi gathered courage, sat opposite him, and asked, “So, now you will not fight me, right?”

Bhanu nodded and said, “I just realized, I am interacting with someone else than my mistress, and I am talking about something else than household chores. I am talking to someone. It’s been years since I had a conversation with a human being, who thinks I am an equal, and not a slave!” Bhanu paused, seriously it’s been a long time, since, he had a conversation with someone who can help him to pour his heart out. Unknowingly, Gargi became that person in a short while, and Gargi wanted this to happen only, she smiled and said, “Tell me more about you. I want to hear.”

Bhanu smiled and said, “What’s there to tell. It’s a boring life of a slave, doing works all the time, not even given an off during the nights. Only these few hours have been allotted to me. But not every day; say for today, I have to complete the embroidery on this bedsheet, else I will be punished or overburdened with work,” said Bhanu with a sad smile while showing her the bedsheet. Bhanu has just started with the embroidery, and he had only three hours in hand to finish it. It is just impossible for him to complete, but if he had a helping hand then things wouldn’t have been that difficult for him. Gargi thought of using this as an opportunity. She said, “Well, if you want I can help you, maybe with a company you can finish it, quickly.”

Bhanu was a little astonished, “Who are you? Why do you want to help me?” Gargi smiled, “Well, I am just like you, a human.”

“Well, I completely understand that you are not a shark,” said Bhanu sarcastically, “But what’s your identity?”

“My identity will not help you now, will it?” said Gargi confidently, and Bhanu could not counter her argument. So, she allowed Gargi to help her. With a little bit of small talk, and jokes, work became fun for them and within one and half hours they almost completed the work. Only at Bhanu’s end, there was a blank space, Gargi was sitting opposite Bhanu, she suddenly got up and came beside him, and quite close to him. Bhanu was little taken aback by this gesture, he looked up to her. The eye contact made Gargi, a bit uneasy, especially when she knew Bhanu is Prince Rudra Narayan Chowdhury. So, she quickly broke the eye contact, and took the bedsheet in her hand, and said, “Let me do this part for you,” by saying this she didn’t provide any chance for Bhanu to speak, and took the needle and the thread from his hand.

Soon, the blank space on the bedsheet started having a design. A design that disturbed Bhanu a lot! He felt he had seen the design somewhere. Once Pratap told Gargi an interesting fact about Rudra Narayan’s sword. Rudra Narayan inherited it from his maternal uncle, it was his great grandfather’s (from the mother’s side) sword. People in Rudra Narayan’s mother’s family believed in magic, and have always used it for others’ welfare. Hence, the sword was enchanted. None, except for the owner can have this sword with them, and the sword, just like a human has both emotion and memories.

The sword lay on the forest ground when Prince Rudra Narayan took a dip in the water, and after almost waiting for a day it vanished from there. Now, only it will come back to the prince when he looks for it with determination. When Rajni and Gargi were setting out for the journey Rajni told Gargi, if they can find the sword Prince Rudra Narayan’s memory will come back. Pratap said this to her when she went to meet him in the disguise of a falcon. He also told her that the design in the prince’s sword is an encrypted language, which only Rudra Narayan can read. Pratap even drew the design on a leaf and gave it to them. Gargi was seeing that design almost every day. Now, she remembers every bit of it!

After completing the design Gargi was about to say something to Rudra when Rajni, the falcon entered the room. Gargi understood it is a signal to get out of the room. Sunaina must be nearby. Gargi stood up, and said, “Time to go. I will come again tomorrow.”

“I will wait for you,” why Bhanu said that he doesn’t know but he felt what he had said was true. He enjoyed this time with Gargi. He never felt something like this before, maybe because he never met many people out there in the world before. Whatever it is, Bhanu felt he found a friend in Gargi, Gargi too had a similar kind of feeling. But she can’t wait for more, so she used the rope to get out of the room, and Rajni, in the disguise of the flacon untied the knot of the rope as soon as there is a nudge on the rope.

Soon, it was only Bhanu sitting in the empty room with an embroidered bed sheet in hand. Suddenly his eyes got fixed to that design. He brought it closer, he felt as if the design is saying something to him, “Why it looks so similar to me?” But before he had an answer the door opened and Sunaina’s eyes got fixed on the bedsheet, she never thought Bhanu would have finished the work. She was thinking about a creative punishment for him for not finishing his work. But to her surprise, Bhanu had finished her work.

“You finished embroidering the whole bedsheet!” asked amazed Sunaina. For the first time in six years, Bhanu was amused, he suppressed a smile, stood up, bowed, and said, “I did.” Sunaina remained speechless; she was not a great magician like Rajni or the Acharya, or even Pratap Narayan Chowdhury. If she had been a great magician, she would have either tried to penetrate Bhanu’s memory like the Acharya, revisit the past like Rajni, or at least could have conversed with the wind around her like Pratap, to know what has happened a few hours ago.

Alas! She couldn’t know the truth, which irritated her, what irritated her more was Bhanu’s mood. Bhanu even after doing all the household chores, even after being slapped twice, looked peaceful and happy. Little did she know that a storm had already entered her life! Now, it will shatter her world into pieces! Time has come to put an end to Bhanu’s life and misery. The time has come for Prince Rudra Narayan Chowdhury to rise in power once again, his land, his people, and his brother are waiting for him.

Ch 5 – Why Mother Died?

“What are you doing with that lump of mud?” asked Nilesh, Pratap’s fellow prisoner, and also his friend. Nilesh is in this prison because even though he is a farmer’s son, he wanted to try his luck with the business. During his days in the Gurukul, he concentrated more on studying subjects related to Economics and Business Relation. However, when he returned home his dreams were shattered as now the Queen has taken away the freedom of doing what one likes. Only a handful of a businessman who lives in the village of the businessmen now can do business, since, Nilesh is someone from the farmer’s village he was given the order to pursue the career of a farmer.

At first, Nilesh thought that he and his mother should move elsewhere. Since his father died when he was in the Gurukul, it was only he and his mother. However, his mother was not ready for the arrangements as she came to this land when she was very young, she grew up here, got married, had a son, this land knows every bit of her life, now moving elsewhere means leaving behind not just these memories but a self of her behind. Nilesh too didn’t want to uproot her mother to a different place that’s the last thing he would do. So, he focused on farming, he earned enough to sustain two lives, but his heart was not into it. He was getting frustrated every day. Thus, he started selling goods in that market where only traders and businessmen were allowed, but in disguise. He was kinda enjoying it when suddenly the queen’s men found out about him and caught him. Nilesh was asked to sign a paper that states he apologize for selling goods in the businessmen’s market and will never repeat this in the future.

Nilesh, however, was a man of values and self-esteem. He never thought it is wrong to follow one’s heart. Instead, he thought if one does not follow one’s heart then one betrays oneself. Hence, he didn’t sign that paper, and now he is behind the bars with the ex-prince, Pratap Narayan Chaudhury.

Pratap and Nilesh were very good friends. Even though Nilesh was his senior, Pratap never finds that age is a problem between them. So, when Nilesh asked what he is doing with the lump of mud, he smiled and said, “I made a doll for Chandreyi. Tomorrow is her birthday, and I want to give her a present.” Nilesh squat on the floor and said, “When you are making it, it must be magical, right?” Pratap paused for a moment and looked at Nilesh with a smile and said, “Nothing is more magical than love Nilesh. So, if you are asking if it is magical or not, then my answer will be yes, because . . . I’m making it with my love,” he said the last few words in such dramatic way that soon they burst out in laughter. After a few moments, Nilesh composed himself and said, “But where do you find the muds, and what are you doing with so many flowers?”

“Well, the Queen is making a new palace to carry out the kingdom’s work more smoothly. I am working on the construction site, and I stole the mud from there.” Nilesh gave a sad smile and said, “It’s your land Pratap, like mine, but see the irony even if we take a lump of mud, we will tag as thieves. We will be beaten from dawn to night so none dare to stand against the Queen,” sighed Nilesh, and then looks up at Pratap and said, “you have any news from the girls?’ Pratap spoke while continuing with his sculpture, “Not yet, but I know very soon they will come back with Bhai, until then we will have to wait.”

Nilesh now smiled and said, “I was wondering why suddenly out of nowhere a big storm hit us today? I now understand, why. You asked the wind to give you some flowers, so the wind visited our cell today, right?” Pratap winked and smiled, Nilesh asked, “What will you do with the flowers?”

“He will make colors with it,” a sweet voice is heard. It’s Chandreyi; she visits Pratap almost every day. Not even her mother can stop her and when she visits her brother no guards could dare follow her. Listening to these words, Pratap looked at her little sister, who had just entered her teens, his face beamed with joy. She ran towards him and hugged him tightly, even though his hands were muddy he didn’t take time to hug back, because by now he had understood one thing, this person will not mind getting her dress soiled, but would mind if Pratap showed formality to her.

“What doll you are making for me?” asked Chandreyi cuddling next to him. “Well, that’s a surprise dear. You will know that tomorrow,” said Pratap with a smile. “Ugghhh!!! I guess I can’t. At least not until till it’s night,” said Chandreyi with full irritation. Pratap now stopped his sculpting and said, “What happened? Where will you be?”

“I don’t know,” said Chandreyi, “My mother said I will visit the land of Vikrampur, where once her family used to live. Now it is just a forlorn land.” Suddenly these words made Pratap quite serious, he got lost in his thoughts and Nilesh noticed that. He asked, “You are aware of this place?” Pratap looked unmindfully at the wall straight to him, as if lost in his thoughts, looking straight at the wall, he said, “As far as I remember, my mother was from the land of Vikrampur.”

“What!” exclaimed both Nilesh and Chandreyi together, Pratap nodded, and said, “But how the Queen is related to this land.” Chandreyi asked, “Are our mothers’ sisters?” Pratap nodded in negation, “I don’t think so, as far as I know, she just had a brother.” Nilesh was perplexed, “Then how come it is the land of the Queen?”

“Well, she is now the Queen, she doesn’t need to always be royalty. Or has she?” Pratap’s last question disturbed everyone in the room. Suddenly the ambiance of the room became intense, everyone looked at each other with questioning eyes. After a while, Chandreyi spoke, “If we could just visit my mother’s past life, then all these problems would have been solved!”

Hearing this Pratap’s eyes sparkled, he holds Chandreyi’s arms and then hugged her tightly, and said, “You are so right. We need to know the Queen’s past. We need to find out what happened in the past. Was she always like this or does any particular event make her so dark, so cruel? I also need to know why my mother’s land is forlorn now, what happened there? Why did mother die? Did she die in childbirth? Or anything else was the reason? It may give us a ray of light to fight the Queen, or rather her tyranny.”

“Are you thinking of time travel, Pratap?” asked Nilesh. Pratap nodded, “Yes, but the problem is I am not capable of time travel, and the person who is capable of it, is too weak now to perform a magic of such a high degree.”

“I can ask Rajnidi to stay at my quarter and have some rest there. None dares to enter my quarter. So, she will be safe there, Bhai,” said Chandreyi, Pratap seemed to like the idea. He took a flower from the ground and tore a petal from the flower. Then he scribbled something on the petal with his muddy fingers and closed his eyes, to converse with the winds. After a few moments, a gush of wind suddenly hit the room, and everyone, except Pratap, got perplexed by the sudden storm. After a while, the wind started whirling around just one point, in front of Pratap. When the prince opened his eyes, he saw that and opened his hand where he was still holding the petal. He looked straight and said, “Oh dear Queen of winds, I need my friend. Take this petal to her, she will have my message. Don’t wait, time is very less, my people are suffering. So hurry my Queen, hurry!” Immediately that petal is flown away with the wind that came into the cell, so suddenly.

Pratap looked exhausted. Chandreyi and Nilesh quickly put aside the flowers and the mud and helped him to lie down. As Pratap lay down, Chandreyi caressed his hair so that he can sleep well. Slowly Pratap closed his eyes.

Nilesh looked at his soiled prisoner’s clothes, bruises and wounds all over his body, and the burned hand that looks all the more grotesque in all these years. Slowly a tear dropped from his eyes, Chandreyi’s eyes were also wet, she said, “Everything will be fine again, no?” Nilesh wiped his tears and said, “Yes. Just don’t lose hope.”

*                              *                   *

Chapter 5B: The Horrifying Past


Rajni is staying undercover in Chandreyi’s royal room for around three days now. None dares to enter her room because she has barred everyone from entering it. Even her mother is not allowed to enter that room. She had told everyone that she is working on a critical issue that can solve a lot of problems in the kingdom. Well, she was not wrong, as her kingdom is now in great danger and Rajni’s power can give them a solution.

While Rajni was taking a rest and rejuvenating her magical powers in the royal palace, Gargi was there in the jungle, and now she has come this close to rescuing the Prince. Bhanu is slowly remembering things from his past. That day he asked her whether her father is a Vaidya or not. Gargi was stunned to hear that, when she asked how he knew that he replied, “I don’t know, it just occurred to me. The design you made on my bed sheet often seems so familiar to me. I was staring at it that day and suddenly I remembered names without faces, faces without names, incidents unknown to me yet quite familiar to me.” And on the other day, there was a miracle, Bhanu suddenly asked, “Who is Tez?” This shocked Gargi greatly, none has ever known this name, except for the Acharya, Rajni, Gargi, and of course Pratap. After all, Rudra Narayan never called his brother Pratap; he always referred to him as Tez. Bhanu is Rudra Narayan no doubt about that, but he doesn’t remember anything then how come he remembers this. Gargi quickly came out of her shock and said, “Ummm . . . I-I don’t know. But why do you ask?” Bhanu kept quiet for a moment and said, “I don’t know, but I know one thing for sure whoever this person is he is suffering a lot. I don’t know why I am saying that but I know one thing for sure somehow we are connected. If I could only figure out how—”

Rudra Narayan’s Tez was indeed suffering a lot! Both physically and mentally; hence, he tried to know the past of the Queen. It was not easy. Time travel was only possible by Rajni, and she rarely allows anyone to travel with her. She is also not happy about traveling with Pratap, but after all, it’s Pratap. She can’t say “no” to him. However, there still lies a problem and that is how Pratap will escape the prison, because if he had to travel in time then he had to be with Rajni. Well, since, Pratap can’t escape the prison Rajni had to visit him transfiguring herself into a falcon again. Pratap didn’t want that because performing two magical tasks at the same time, may affect Rajni’s health, but knowing how stubborn Rajni is Pratap couldn’t argue more.

At midnight when the guards in the prison were half asleep Nilesh saw a falcon on their window sill. He gave Pratap a nudge, who, then was in deep thought. Suddenly Nilesh’s nudge brought him back to reality. He stood up knowing the time has come, and the falcon too by that time has entered the prison and transformed herself into Rajni, who looked exhausted but she suppressed that with her big smile. She tightly hugged Pratap and then forwarded her hand to him and said, “Hold my hand Pratap.” Pratap held Rajni’s hand tightly and soon everything around him started shaking as if there was an earthquake happening around them. Pratap felt that the land on which he is standing is also moving, soon there was a storm, and Pratap felt that he is there in a whirlpool with Rajni. After a while, everything stopped and Pratap looked around him. He is no longer in the prison.

They were actually in a garden. Pratap looked around it and was surprised. Rajni asked, “Any problem Pratap, you look disturbed.” Pratap looked at Rajni and said, “Actually, this garden is inside the palace only. One of Bhai’s secret places; we used to play here a lot. But I thought we were going to Vikrampur, Rajni you’re sure, your magic worked?” Before Rajni could say anything they heard footsteps. Rajni took Pratap by his arm and hid behind a tree. After a while, they saw young King Shambhu Narayan and Queen Chitralekha. They were arguing about something, the young queen had baby Rudra Narayan with him, after waiting for a while their voices were clear.

“Wait Chitralekha, at least listen to me for a while,” pleaded young King Shambhu Narayan.

“You are out of your mind; you don’t realize what you are saying. You are asking me to kill my unborn baby for some kind of curse that this land has! Sorry, I can’t do that for my child. And how do you know it is a boy, and even if it is a boy how do you know that he will be the same as you all,” said Chitralekha with tearful eyes.

“I know because I have seen it. I have witnessed it. I have done it. My father did the same thing. His father, too. We all have killed our brothers and have come to the throne,” Shambhu Narayan paused for a moment and said, “Chitra please listen to me, this is for our child. This needs to be done for Rudra!”

“The baby who has not been born yet is also our child, and if you don’t change your mind then I will not return to this kingdom. Neither will I allow Rudra to return here.”

“You can’t do that, Chitra!” roared the king.

“I definitely can,” said Chitralekha with dignity, “I AM HIS MOTHER,” saying this, she stormed out of the place. Rajni could feel that sensitive Pratap can’t stand still after hearing all this. She could sense a hand clutching her arms. Tears were also there in her eyes, but no, she can’t be weak now. Pratap needs her now; she has to stay strong for him.

Rajni held Pratap’s hand, his eyes were filled with tears, Rajni hugged him, and said, “Pratap, please be strong. You are a prince, your land . . . your brother, needs you. Please Pratap is strong.” Pratap nodded, soon there was another storm.

Pratap and Rajni held each other tightly, and after a while, they found themselves inside a royal chamber of a palace, they quickly hid behind a pillar. Soon, three, no three-and-a-half people entered the room—Queen Chitralekha, her brother, King Vikramaditya, and a young lady. Well, Pratap and Rajni knew this woman very well. She is now the queen of their land. But she looked so different, so polite, so amicable, so innocent, most importantly so loving and caring. She seems to be pregnant, and she was only holding Prince Rudra Narayan, caressing his hair, kissing him, she was the one to speak first, “When your child will bear you have to keep him or her here in this palace for at least six months. My child will get a playmate, and I will play with three of my children, what say?” said the Queen playing with baby Rudra Narayan.

Chitralekha gave a melancholic smile, “If at all Shambhu Narayan allows this child to take birth, then definitely.”

“Your husband has gone out of his mind,” said Vikramaditya angrily and impatiently, “Why don’t you tell him every curse can be broken. You, of all people, know that very well.”

Chitralekha lay on the bed, putting her head on the Queen’s lap, and said, “You just said he is out of his mind. Do you think he will understand?”

The Queen caressed Chitralekha’s hair and said, “You stay here Chitra. You know of all the sisters-in-law I have, you are my favorite. Stay with me, we will have fun. Meanwhile, let your husband suffer for a while. Don’t you worry he can’t stay away from you for long! He will soon come after you!”

Ch 6 – Rudra Narayan is Free!

While Pratap Narayan was time traveling Rudra Narayan aka Bhanu is going through the most troublesome time of his life. He was having flashes from his past life, but those were not clear. The scenes looked familiar to him, but he could not remember the names of the people. He already had to deal with sleepless nights, now sleep has said “goodbye” to him as all these events, people, and scenes haunt him almost all the time. One day, when Sunaina was out with her cat Sankar, Bhanu was all alone, chained in the tower, he felt as if the flute is becoming restless about something. For the first time, he felt, as if the flute has life in it! He took the flute, which was tucked with his dhoti, and looked closely. However, he couldn’t see anything, just felt its restlessness. Suddenly, he felt like playing the flute, and as soon as he closed his eyes, and blew the flute, it started playing music on its own.

Bhanu was amazed because this time he seriously didn’t do anything. The flute started playing all by itself and created magic in front of his eyes.

Gargi, on the other hand, was becoming restless, because by now, Bhanu would have helped her to tie the rope at his end and let her enter the room. But she has long ago thrown the rope, yet there is no sign of Bhanu yet. 

After a while, Gargi saw a confident man near the window. She knew immediately that this is not Bhanu. Rather the man standing near the window was Prince Rudra Narayan. She immediately bowed, knowing very well the man standing there with a confident smile was Prince Rudra Narayan Chowdhury.

“Take the rope,” shouted the prince, which broke Gargi’s trance and she saw that Rudra has already tied the rope at his end and threw the other end towards her. She climbed the rope and entered the tower. After she entered the tower, she didn’t know how to react. She felt that talking to Bhanu was easier than the prince. Again she became the shy girl of Gurukul. So, the prince had to make the first move, “I guess you are more comfortable with Bhanu than me,” Gargi remained silent, the prince again said, “You have not changed a bit Gargi, still afraid of me?” Gargi now spoke, “I was never afraid of you. I am just shy in front of a prince.” Hearing this Prince Rudra Narayan cannot help smiling, he looked at Gargi with little amusement and said, “Oh really! Seems like, Tez was never a prince because you were never shy in front of him.” At this Gargi did not answer but giggled a bit, Rudra Narayan too smiled at this, and then he asked Gargi to sit. Both sat down on the floor, and after settling down Rudra Narayan asked, “How’s everyone Gargi? I saw you and Rajni after such a long time, yet I couldn’t recognize you. I feel so angry with myself. But you know very well that I didn’t remember a bit of my past life. Hopefully, you can forgive me.”

Gargi just nodded and smiled. She wasn’t looking at Rudra Narayan she was too shy, so Rudra again spoke, “You didn’t tell me how’s everyone? Rajni looked so matured, just like a woman. The lively, mischievous, prankster is nowhere to be seen.”

“She lost her father, what do you expect?” Gargi said so abruptly that Rudra Narayan couldn’t catch hold of what she was saying. He was dumbfounded for a long time, he didn’t know what to stay, Gargi, too was silent, grief was settling between them, finally, Rudra Narayan spoke, and “Who lost her father?” Gargi gulped a bit, as if controlling a sob, and said, “Rajni. Acharya died. Gurukul was burnt, but Pratap and Rajni saved all the students and the teachers there. Except for Acharya.” Hearing this, tears rolled down from Rudra Narayan’s eyes, he respected Acharya more than his father. He couldn’t accept his death. Gargi held his hand to console him. Rudra Narayan took a deep breath, wiped his tears, and said, “I respected him more than my father. When I left Gurukul, I didn’t worry much about Tez, because I knew Acharya is there to look after him. You know more than me Tez was close to him. Without me, by his side, I don’t know how he coped with this pain.”

Gargi was listening to him, now she said, “Prince Pratap Narayan coped with greater pain than this, without you.” Again Rudra Narayan was shocked, and this time Gargi narrated to him everything that happened in past few years when Rudra Narayan was going through his memory loss. After hearing everything Rudra Narayan was at a loss for words. He didn’t know what to say neither he had any tears left.

After Gargi finished her narration, Rudra sat like a statue for a few moments and then finally spoke, “Tez took the poison of the river within himself?” Gargi nodded. Rudra again spoke, “He is the carrier of that poison?” Gargi again nodded. Rudra Narayan now took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and remain silent for some time. His silence was making Gargi curious, after waiting for some time she impatiently asked, “What happened? Why do you become silent suddenly?” Rudra spoke after a long time, “Why is it always Tez, who had to suffer the most?” as he said a tear fell from his eyes, Gargi looked at him with questioning eyes, he looked at her gaze, and said, “You said Tez injected himself the poison of the river just a day after my disappearance, right?” Gargi nodded in affirmation. Rudra continued, “Then only a month is left and then seven years will be completed.” Gargi couldn’t understand anything and so she said, “So what?” Rudra took a deep breath and said, “I have read about this magic in Gurukul. You can become the carrier of this poison only for seven years. If you cannot find a way to get rid of this poison, at the end of seven-year, you—” Rudra Narayan stopped and gulped a few of his tears; Gargi became impatient and said, “Why do you stop suddenly? C’mon say something! What happens after seven years?” Rudra took a heavy sigh and said, “You die!”

Gargi remained silent for a few moments! Her whole world became numb. She didn’t know what to say, how to react! After a while, she remembered why she is here, who all are waiting for her. So, she quickly composed herself and said, “Well, there is still a month, and everything will be fine! We will save Pratap! You will save Him! You will save your Tez! Trust me, you can and I know you will!” After a long time Rudra Narayan smiled, and this time there is again a confident smile. He stood up, “You are right! There is still a month, and I will save my Tez, my people!” Gargi too stood up with a confident smile and in joy both hugged each other.

For the first time, both felt something different. They felt comfort and security in each other’s arms. Gargi was already aware of her feelings, but for the first time, Rudra Narayan started having a varied kind of feeling towards Gargi. They remained in each other’s arms for a long time, and then slowly broke the hug. Both were feeling a bit awkward and shy. Knowing Gargi’s nature, Rudra Narayan again took the first step!

“What do we do now? I may walk and stand up on my feet but the question is how will I move out of this tower? I am all chained!” asked Rudra Narayan. Gargi smiled, “Pratap told me something, and it’s time that I tell you that,” Rudra looked at her with questioning eyes, Gargi continued, “He said your sword has feeling. Just like your flute. Both are enchanted. Your mother’s family is sorcerer’s family, and both these things are given to you by your mother only. One belongs to her, and one belongs to her brother. The sword belongs to her brother and Pratap told me that if you desire that sword, remember it and then call for it then it can’t be far away from you. Just like a long-lost lover.” Gargi said the last line teasingly, Rudra Narayan too smiled and said, “Well, then, let’s try!” saying this he closed his eyes, and try to call his sword. After a few moments, he felt something is there in his hand, when he opened his eyes he saw the sword. Right is his hand.

He was more than happy. He took out the sword from the holder and looked at it with a wide smile. Yes, Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury is back. Rudra Narayan was overwhelmed to have his sword, but before he could rejoice the moment a bit more, the door flung open, and Sunaina entered the room with her cat. She was astonished to see Bhanu with the sword. Gargi understood while rejoicing Rudra Narayan’s memory regain both of them have forgotten about time, which created this ruckus. She didn’t have much time to think she knew she has to act quickly before Sunaina come out of shock she has to free Rudra Narayan from his chains. So she threw her dagger aiming at Sankar, the cat’s throat, and as soon as the dagger hit its throat the cat fell from Sunaina’s grip and changed into a man of around Pratap’s age. Both Gargi and Rudra were shocked, and Sunaina too was bewildered to even react. Gargi thought it’s the right moment to ask for the keys to the chains, and she looked at Rudra. Sunaina by now had come out of her shock and she was kneeling beside the man, trying to pull out the dagger, but since, he was shrieking in pain, she couldn’t do that. She had tears in her eyes, which were disturbing both Rudra and Gargi, but they have no way out. Rudra Narayan stepped forward and pointed the sword on her neck, who was having her back towards them, and said, “Keys! Give me the keys!” Sunaina, became fierce and in anger looked at them, hatred was there all over her face, she said, “Find out yourself!” Rudra Narayan in a flash put the sword on her throat, horizontally, and pushed her back to the walls, and said, “Don’t force me to do that! You may regret your decision!”

“I will give the keys to you,” a voice from the back said, when Rudra Narayan turned back he saw, it was the man, who even a few moments ago was a cat. Gargi had removed the dagger from his throat. But he was still in pain, somehow he had stood up, Sunaina was angry with his words, maybe she wanted to stop him, and so in anger, she said, “You won’t say a word, Sankar!” She roared in anger, but the man didn’t listen and continued, “I will mother! I have remained silent for many years, but not anymore. You, my aunt, Uncle Satyaban, you have become insane; this fire of revenge is destroying you every day! Just look at yourself, see what you have become! Is this who you are? No, mother! This isn’t you!” Sankar stopped, and then he moved forward towards her mother, and then looked at Rudra Narayan and said, “Please leave her, she is not in herself! Actually, she has lost everything. Her family, her loved ones, her land, everything! She is neither dead nor living, she is just surviving! Surviving for revenge!” Rudra Narayan now said, “Revenge? Against whom?” Sankar by now has brought the keys, while unlocking the chains he said, “Your Father, King Shambhu Narayan,” saying this he freed Rudra Narayan!

Ch 7 – The War that Destroyed Everything!

Pratap was breathing heavily! He was exhausted, physically, but mostly, mentally. But no he can’t rest now. There is still more to know! “Pratap, you lie down for a while, we still have time,” Rajni said while helping Pratap to lie down inside the prison cell. Yes, they have returned to the present, as Rajni understood too many truths are taking a toll on Pratap Narayan. She decided to return to the present because in the present time not even five minutes have passed. So, there is no risk. Both Nilesh and Chandreyi helped them to take some rest. After few moments, when both felt good, Chandreyi asked, “So, do you found your answers?” Rajni sighed and said, “Not all, but yes we found a few of them!” Niles curious asked, “So now?” Pratap Narayan sat up and said, “We travel again!” Rajni looked reluctant, she said, “Is it necessary Pratap?” Pratap nodded and said, “Yes, it is!” He sounded quite stern. Even Chandreyi looked quite scared, but Rajni is Rajni. She feared none. So, she looked quite annoyed, she asked, “Why? What the hell are you looking for? What questions are there in your mind?” Pratap absent-mindedly said, “I don’t know but I really feel that we need to go back to the past. There are certain things we are missing out and we should know them. My heart is telling me Rajni, we all are missing out on something, and we should know that. It is very important!” Rajni didn’t say a word, just drank some water and remained silent for a while. Pratap looked at her intently and pleadingly said, “You won’t help me Rajni? I don’t have anyone else to rely on!” Rajni cupped his face and said, “Who said I will not help you? I am always there for you. I am just a bit worried about you!” Pratap held her hand said, “I know you, but I feel this is important for our land.” Rajni stood up, Pratap too. Rajni asked Pratap to hold her hand and as soon as he did wind started blowing around them, and soon there was a whirlpool. Pratap again tightly held Rajni’s hand.

After a while, everything was calm and quiet. Both found themselves in a big royal bedroom. Chitralekha was lying there with her newborn baby. The baby was asleep. Chitralekha was smiling, looking at the baby. Young Rudra Narayan was playing beside her, but actually peeping at the small, cute, beautiful baby in the cot. He couldn’t hold on to his patience long and asked in his baby accent, “Doll?” Chitralekha smiled at his cuteness, kissed his forehead, and said, “Just like a doll, but she is your sister!”

“Sister! Mother said, “sister.” Is she the Evil Queen’s daughter? Was she killed?” all these questions were disturbing Pratap Narayan when he heard the wail of a baby. Both Rajni and Pratap looked around and found King Vikramaditya, entering the room with a newborn baby in hand. Chitralekha’s face beamed with joy when he saw the baby with her brother. With tears in her eyes, she asked, “So?” Vikramaditya smiled and said, “It’s a boy!” Chitralekha smiled and said, “Wow! That such great news! Can I hold my nephew for a while?” Vikramaditya said, “Sure. Anyways he is crying for a long time, and I can’t stop him.” Chitralekha took the baby and patted him for a while, soon the baby stopped crying. Little Rudra Narayan now looks even more inquisitive. “Another Doll!” Both Chitralekha and Vikramaditya smiled. Chitralekha bought the baby near Rudra and said, “He is a little brother. Just like your sister! You will take care of both, no Rudra?” Vikramaditya sat on the bed and hugged Rudra from back and said, “Of course he will. He is my darling nephew!” Chitralekha smiled and said, “So you decided your son’s name?” Vikramaditya now again took the baby in his hand and looked lovingly at his son and said, “Yes I have. Pratapaditya!”

Chitralekha’s eyes beamed with excitement and amazement. She asked, “But that’s grandfather’s name?”

“And he reminded me of him! Same eyes, filled with love, compassion, and kindness! Chitra, mark my word, this boy will be the greatest sorcerer of all time! But more than that he will be a great human being, loved by all!”

“I sincerely hope your wish comes to true Bhai! Anyways how’s my sister-in-law doing? Has she gained consciousness?”

At this Vikramaditya nodded his head and said, “Satyaban’s news took a toll on her! You know very well, how much Vaishnavi loves his brothers!”

“I know, even I am worried. How can you forget Satyaban’s wife Ruprekha is our sister. If something happens to him, Ruprekha’s life will be ruined too!”

“I am not forgetting anything Chitra! I am worried for both of you! I never imagined out of anger your husband would wage a war against King Satyajit’s land knowing very well that we three are bound by a treaty. We are not allowed to invade each other’s land and your husband broke that promise,” Vikramaditya said agitatedly and put the baby in his cot when he noticed tears in his sister’s eyes. He knelt and wiped the tears. Chitralekha hugged him and sobbed hard! Vikramaditya caressed her to pacify her and seeing his uncle pacifying his mother Rudra Narayan too caressed his mother with his tiny little hand to pacify her. Rudra Narayan’s this gesture made both the siblings smile a bit. Vikramaditya came near Rudra and took him in his arms, and kissed his forehead. Chitralekha said, “What did Satyaban said? How’s his brother, King Satyajit? And what about Queen Sunaina, they had a boy no? Sa-Sankar, right?” How’s he?”

“Chitra I have sent my men, I don’t have any information as of now! Can we please stop talking about these things? Tell me what’s your daughter’s name?”

Chitralekha smiled and said, “Mayuri!” Vikramaditya came near the cot and picked up the girl, who was in deep slumber. He looked at the child lovingly, but suddenly his face became very serious, he immediately kept the baby in the cot and rushed out of the room!

Suddenly again a whirlpool started and Pratap Narayan can only see a dumbfounded Chitralekha sitting with three little kids in her bedroom. After a while the whirlpool stopped, but what’s this? They are still in that bedroom? Why? Pratap and Rajni exchanged tensed looks. They saw outside night has fallen but that night has some eerie kind of silence! Suddenly they saw Chitralekha came running into her room. She was about to close the door when someone pushed it with all his force. It was a man of around late thirty’s his bloodshot eyes knew only one thing and that is Revenge! Chitralekha folded her hand said, “Leave me alone Satyaban! I am your wife’s sister! I have always respected you as my elder brother—“

“Your husband killed your own elder brother Vikramaditya! My elder brother Satyajit and not to forget my wife, and as you said, your sister, Ruprekha, was raped and killed by his men!” Shouted young Satyaban, and continued, “And what was our fault? We loved you! We supported you when you went against him because we thought you were right! Now that you gave birth to a girl the curse of your land will not work! But what’s the use your war-loving husband took our support to you as an excuse to wage a war against us! You see around yourself Vikrampur is burning on the day its heir is born! The day that would have to commence celebration and merrymaking, is filled with the cries of every person, who is now cursing you and your family! Don’t you feel ashamed Chitralekha! You are still living! You still have the desire to live when a newborn baby lost his father on his birthday! My nephew will never know his father, his land has been taken away from him, his throne, his family, everything that he deserves is taken away! And my poor sister does not even know a bit of all this. She is still unconscious! Maybe still have this belief that she had her perfect family. Her child, her husband, everyone is there around her!”

Chitralekha sobbed, “You know I never wanted all this! I am the one who is punished the most amidst all this! You only said that my brother, my sister everyone died. My husband’s brutality killed them and you believe I am all okay? And as for the child, he may have lost his parents but I have gifted him a brother who will love him more than anyone else in this world! He will give him the love of a family, teach him to be happy, and sacrificing. My brother’s dream will come true. His son will be the greatest sorcerer in the world! A man with kindness, love, and compassion. Just he won’t be Pratapaditya anymore, but Pratap Narayan Chaudhury. Son of King Shambhu Narayan Chaudhury and this truth is known to just three people me, you, and Rahim.”

“Chitralekha your speech will not melt me because I have lost enough! My family, my land, everything! I will not spare you!”

Saying this he put the dagger in her stomach! Chitralekha gave a loud shrieked and slowly fell down. Blood was oozing out of her body. Soon the room started getting filled with blood, Satyaban’s eyes were fixed on Chitralekha’s corpse hatred was still there in his eyes when another woman enters the room. She looked at the corpse of Chitralekha and slowly came and sat beside Satyaban. With expressionless eyes, Satyaban spoke, “Vaishnavi’s son is alive, sister-in-law.”

The lady smiled, “That’s such good news—“ but she stopped seeing Satyaban’s face that was slowly becoming cruel and shrewd, “You won’t tell her this! She will know the king’s men had killed her son!”

“But why?”

“Because a wounded mother is dangerous than a wounded wife!”

“And if she wants to see the corpse of her child?” At this Satyaban stood up and went near the cot, where a little girl of three days is sleeping peacefully, “Well, we have Mayuri. She was not doing well, so Chitralekha kept her. Tch, tch, tch, now she will be with her mother! Poor Chitralekha never thought I would be so dangerous for her. Satyaban the calm, soft-spoken physician can be a killer? Beyond her dreams! But what she does not know was that I am now everyone’s worst nightmare!”

Ch 8 – The Execution of Prince Pratap Narayan


“My Dearest Tez,

Every year, around this time, I write a letter to you. I know you think I write all these letters to you to fill the void that is created by our father. The fact that he doesn’t write to you creates an urge in me to write these letters to you. However, these are all partially true. I write not just to fill in this void but I think as your elder sibling I must give you some advice that will guide you even when I am not there with you.

Tez this is my last year in Gurukul, after a few months, I will leave this place, and almost after three years, I will meet you. Even in these three years if we meet we will meet maybe after so long time and for so few days that I may not feel like chatting with you in this matter. At that time, I may pamper you like a mother or listen to you like a friend. So, I guess, this is the correct time to tell you these things. It will guide you in the future. Even in my absence, when you are confused, lost, and shattered you find me, my soul, in this letter.

Tez, today we all are students. There isn’t any difference between us. Sometimes people are indeed afraid to talk to us because we are princes. Well, that’s wrong because here we all are students. However, outside Gurukul, all of us will have different identities. Most will follow their dreams and be a physician, merchant, or a dancer. They can be a poet, sorcerer, singer, or an accountant. But we will be Princes. Whether we dream it, whether we want it, none will be there to listen to us because we are born princes.

Our classmates will envy us, people will envy us, and they will believe that we are most blessed in this whole world. We have a royal palace. Loads of servants, ample food, a treasure beyond anyone’s expectation. No wonder people will envy us.

However, Tez being a prince is not what people think, it’s more than that. A prince should ensure that each person in his state has a roof above their head, jobs, and enough money to afford servants, ample food, and treasure. A prince is a guardian for the people in his state. So, all harm should be first faced by the prince and then by his people. If a prince asks his people to sacrifice for him, and if he continues with that attitude one day his people will leave him. Or worse revolt against him.

Tez our people will regard us as their parent figure. A parent never leaves their child alone, even if they are not good, a parent always stays with their children. You too will have to do that. There will be times when you will feel that people are misunderstanding you, there will be times without your fault you will be punished by your people. Endure it Tez, don’t hold any grudge against them. Try to understand what situation they are in, why they are reacting in such ways. You will soon feel sorry for them. Remember one thing Pratap without our people our crown means nothing to us. Without our people we are nothing. We should not think of ourselves as their master, we are their caretakers Tez. They depend on us.

Finally, Tez I want you to remember something throughout your life. You are the best human being I have met in my whole life Tez. I know father says that you are weak. Since you cannot endure blood father thinks that you are weak. But that’s not a weakness Tez. Trust me, trust your brother, Tez.

You are not weak, because strength isn’t muscles Tez. Strength is there in your endurance, in your willpower. You have both, you can remain an optimist in the most challenging phase of your life. I know that. You can endure pain beyond your imagination, this is your strength. You don’t need a sword to show your strength. You are strong without them.

Remember my words Tez, whether Bhai is with you or not, you will never forget these things that I have said. Never lose confidence in yourself and your people Tez. They are your strength.

We will meet soon my dear little brother; I am waiting for that day. I will again hug you, again we will be together. Till then let all my blessings be with you.

Yours Lovingly


Pratap once more read the letter, it has tattered and torn after all these years, but amidst all torture and hard times, Pratap never lost this letter. Today, after witnessing the past, after facing the worst kind of identity crisis, Pratap was feeling very weak all over again. He needed something, something better than Rajni’s word of consolation. The letter did its work. His brother believed in him. Pratap can’t let his brother down. No, he can’t. Pratap closed the letter and his eyes and leaned back to the prison wall. Today he didn’t stop the tears. Suddenly, the guards arrived.

“What happened?” an agitated Nilesh asked the guards when he saw them entering the cell and forcing Pratap to stand up. “Today our Queen will be formally announced as the ruler of this land. But before that Pratap Narayan will be beheaded for killing Prince Rudra Narayan,” said one of the guards, while tying Pratap’s hand.

“Are you insane? You didn’t even find Prince Rudra’s body yet! How can you tell he is dead?” asked angry Nilesh.

“We are not telling anything,” said another guard, “it’s the King’s order and we are just following it. Also, it is the law of the land. If someone goes missing for seven years then he will be considered dead.”

“It is not seven years yet,” Nilesh said in a pleading tone, “Why are you hurrying?”

“In two hours, it will be seven years,” said a guard in an emotionless tone, “now please excuse us. We have to take our convict to the water area so that he can have his bath.”

The guards were forcing him out of the cell when Pratap spoke in a dignified voice, “One moment please,” the guards stopped. Pratap continued, “Can you please wait outside. I will just bid goodbye to my friend.”

The guards waited outside. Pratap looked at Nilesh, his eyes were filled with tears. Pratap could not hug him because his hands were tied so he said, “I am sorry Nilesh I cannot hug at this moment, but I want to thank you! For being my support and being my friend.” Nilesh completely broke into tears at these words. He hugged Pratap and cried his heart out. After Pratap bade goodbye to Nilesh he was prepared for his punishment. Or rather for his death.

After his bath, Pratap was given new pair of clothes. Pratap smiled so much preparation, just to kill a person. Such an irony. After that, he was taken to have his favorite meal. Now, this was pretty emotional for him. Chandreyi was the reason. She was there to serve him the food.

“Relatives are not allowed Chandreyi. It’s illegal. You shouldn’t do this child. You are a Princess” Pratap said to his loving sister.

“If the Queen can sin, then the Princess can do illegal and unlawful things,” said Chandreyi with hatred and anger in her voice then broke down into tears and started sobbing. Pratap came near her and hugged her tightly. After a while, she calmed down a bit, Pratap caressed her hair and said, “You are seriously a kid! What will happen to you, dear?’

Chandreyi wiped her tears, “Then don’t leave me. Run. When Rudra Bhai will return you come back. Fight against my mother and bring back independence in this land. Come with me,” saying this Chandreyi stood up. She was excited, but Pratap didn’t move.

“No dear. I won’t do this,” however Pratap said this, in his mind he said, “I can’t lose this opportunity of embracing death from my mother’s hand. Yes, the woman I thought is just my father’s wife is my birth mother. I do not want to lose this opportunity. Anyways, my life has lost all its meaning now! Who am I? Pratap Narayan or Pratapaditya? I don’t know.”

“Why?” asked Chandreyi, Pratap smiled and said, “Well, because this act will put all of you in danger. Queen will think Nilesh, Gargi and Rajni helped me to escape. Their life will be in danger. I can’t endanger my friends’ life.” Chandreyi now can’t say anything. She just cried and cried. Pratap hugged his sister again and fed her a bit of food, and she also fed Pratap a bit. After a pretty emotional moment, Pratap was taken to the ground by the guards.

Pratap was brought to the ground where the executioner was ready with his cutlass. The executioner is the Queen’s man, a man devoid of emotions and feelings. A stage has been made, where the King and the Queen sat. Beside them sat Satyaban and other ministers. Below the stage, on the ground is a pedestal where Pratap will be executed. A gallery surrounds them where people sit to watch the whole execution. Finally, there lies that forest, which Pratap had enchanted seven years ago, and everyone inside that forest has tears in their eyes.

“Our beloved Rudra Narayan Chaudhury was returning home after completing his studies in Gurukul,” the Queen started her speech, “we were all waiting for him. Especially, my husband, King Shambhu Narayan.” King Shambhu Narayan’s eyes were filled with tears, he loved his son, Rudra, from the core of his heart. So, when the Queen said, “But he never reached home!” the King broke into tears. The Queen continued, “We thought he had gone missing but to our utter surprise we found that his brother, Pratap Narayan Chaudhury, is responsible for his missing! I couldn’t believe his brother!” The Queen faked tears, “Thanks to Prime Minister Satyaban. He saw everything and informed me, else how would I know all these had happened to our dear Rudra,” the Queen sighed, “I don’t feel like giving this order, but this offense is punishable. So, I order to execute Pratap Narayan Chaudhury for killing Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury,” saying this the Queen picked up a hammer and hit a big metallic circle that was there beside them. The executioner forced Pratap to kneel on the pedestal, and two men put a black cloth over his head on the hitting sound. The executioner took up his cutlass, it was slowly coming down to behead Pratap. The Queen had a sly smile on her face, Satyaban too, bore the same reaction. King Shambhu Narayan was angry, the ministers were expressionless. The people in the forest had tears in their eyes, but they even looked excited. The cutlass was in the mid-air when suddenly a pair of arrows hit the wrist of the executioner.

“Ahh!” the cutlass fell from the executioner’s hand and he cried out in pain.

 Ch 9 – Face-Off

As soon as the executioner cried out in pain, everyone looked up. They heard the hooves of a horse approaching towards them. They cannot see anything because the horse hooves created a sand storm in front of them. After a while, when the sand settled on the ground again, people could see a strong man coming down from the horse, holding a sword. His face was covered with a cloth. Only his bright, intelligent, and angry eyes were visible. As the Queen’s men approached him, he slew them one by one. Everyone was stunned to see his skills. Only King Shambhu Narayan looked happy; his eyes beamed with joy. 

Queen noticed that and signaled his men to stop! She stepped forward and smiled with fake tears in her eyes, “At last, you came my son!”

Slowly, the man removed the cloth from his face. Yes, it was Rudra Narayan Chaudhury! He looked directly into the Queen’s eyes and then gave a sarcastic smile. He didn’t say anything and just walked towards the pedestal where Pratap was, his head was still covered with the black cloth. Rudra Narayan came and untied his hand with a strike of a sword. Now he took off the cloth covering Pratap’s face.

Seven years! Seven long years! He could not even stay without his Tez for even seven seconds, and here he stayed without him for seven years. Faced the most challenging dares of his life, dealing with the loss and death of dear ones, fighting the cruelty of so-called family, his brother survived! Sacrificed! Rudra Narayan looked at his brother not just with compassion but with surprise! He looked older than his age, probably because of the torture he endured here. But the innocence and the kindness in his brother’s eyes were still the same! What’s new was the tiredness! Rudra Narayan caressed his brother’s face; he can’t bear this tiredness in his brother’s eyes. He quickly embraced him in a tight hug. Pratap, too, held him tightly. Both never needed words to communicate today also the silence was enough for them.

Rudra Narayan was a very tough and strong man by nature, but he could not control his tears in front of his brother. “Tez how can you be so stupid?” was the first sentence Rudra Narayan said to his brother. He broke the hug, Pratap was on the verge of losing consciousness, the hand storing the poison didn’t react for seven years, but now it has started reacting! Rudra Narayan knew that and that’s why he is both scared and angry with him. But in front of him, he can never be angry. All his anger vanished within a second, only despair and hollowness are left within him. But he had to be strong not just for his brother but for his people, too.

Rudra Narayan helped Pratap to stand on his feet. Pratap didn’t utter a word, like a baby he had submitted himself to his brother. He has no strength to fight, “I am proud of you dear! I never knew you are so strong, you proved father wrong. But now you need proper treatment. I won’t let you die!” said Rudra Narayan with full determination.

The King was watching his son, he was a bit offended when Rudra ignored him and went to Pratap. But his love for Rudra had always been more than anything else. So, he soon shrugged off that feeling and went to his son. The Queen followed him, she, however, didn’t overlook the sad look Shambhu Narayan had when Rudra ignored her. It gave her a wicked plan. Thus, she remained quiet.

“Son!” cried Shambhu Narayan, “Come to me son! You don’t know son; how much I have missed you?” Rudra Narayan smiled, he was still holding Pratap, in that way only he said, “I know father. I know that you truly love me more than anyone or anything else in this world,” he sighed and continued, “But father I have scores to settle, before that, I need to provide Tez proper treatment, else I will lose him.”

“Take Prince Pratap Narayan to the royal court and call the best Vaidya of the kingdom,” ordered King Shambhu Narayan.

“No,” Pratap spoke in a faint but determined voice.

“What an ungrateful soul!” snapped King Shambhu Narayan. However, Rudra Narayan said, ignoring the King’s word, “You are not going to the royal court. You created heaven, you will have your treatment there.”

Now both King Shambhu Narayan and Pratap looked at him with awe. They didn’t notice that someone has entered their realm. Rudra Narayan looked there and said, “Rahim Chacha, take Tez to Gargi for treatment.” Rahim carefully took Pratap and led him to the enchanted forest. However, entering the forest Pratap was amazed. Inside the forest, a new city has developed, but without harming the forest. The perfect harmony between Nature and Man exists inside the forest. The rivers and the trees are not cut down, but there is a place for the huts, barren land for harvesting crops, and even land for setting up a small market, and there is one such small market. There was a ruin of an old palace inside the forest. Pratap saw that the Gurus had turned it into a small Gurukul so that the education of the young ones is not sacrificed. Now Pratap understood why Chandreyi’s education never suffered. There was another ruin, Pratap was slowly taken there, everyone who saw him and stood up in respect. Some offered him flowers, some just came and gave him blessings, while few hugged him without any hesitation. Everyone has tears in their eyes. Rahim said, “Pratap you enchanted the forest so Queen’s men never harmed us. By endangering your life, you gave life to the river. For you not just the humans but each being, living in your kingdom is important. This won the heart of many ancient trees and other natural beings. Nature loved you, so they made our life comfortable with abundance because you asked for it. We lived in harmony. Just because of you Pratap. You loved nature, they loved us for that and after receiving love from them in the most challenging times, we cannot be harsh towards them. You truly created a heaven Pratap.” Tears were there in Pratap’s eyes, so he chose to remain silent. Slowly he was taken to a room where Gargi was waiting for them, Rajni was also there but under treatment. Soon Gargi took Pratap and helped him to lay down and started his treatment immediately.

*                                        *                         *

The audience in the gallery gathered to see the execution of Prince Pratap, now they are witnessing the face-off of Rudra Narayan with the King and the Queen.

“My Son!” King Shambhu Narayan embraced him into a deep hug, but Rudra Narayan didn’t hug back. Shambhu Narayan now got angry and sensing that the Queen said, “Your son seems to be pretty different. Not like the one I heard from you! He seemed to love you unconditionally, but the man standing in front of you is not like that!”

“So, you are implying I am not his son, Your Majesty!”

“Well, intelligence and skills aren’t the only things! What about compassion? What about love?”

“Oh yeah! Love! Something that you have lost!”

“And what about you? You haven’t?”

King Shambhu Narayan was listening to both sides and now he got a bit annoyed and said, “Enough! Both of you quiet!” then he turned to Rudra and said, “This shouldn’t be your approach to your mother!” 

“The Queen was indeed a mother once! A beautiful mother figure, a friendly sister-in-law, a jovial aunt, a caring wife, and most importantly a kind-hearted person. However, your love towards war, your love for power and destruction, destroyed everything. It not just killed innocent men, but feelings, emotions, and relations. You are responsible for everything father!”

Rudra Narayan had always been a fearless soul. Therefore, these words coming from him are not a surprise for anyone. However, King Shambhu Narayan did look surprised, and so did the Queen.

The Queen was shocked as if hit by thunder! The King said, “What nonsense are you talking—” but before he could finish a dagger hit his shoulder. “Satya—” was the only thing the King could utter. He was so surprised that before he could utter another word, he felt something edgy on his throat. It was the Queen, holding the sword.

Amidst all this hustle, everyone forgot about Satyaban. He took this opportunity and attacked the King. Satyaban understood one thing, Rudra knows many facts. He may even know the fact that Pratap is Vaishnavi’s son. He didn’t want this truth to come out now. He always believed that a mother, who has lost her child, is more dangerous than a widow. He won’t allow anyone to reveal the truth unless his revenge is over. Unless he had destroyed King Shambhu Narayan, his family, and his land. Like he destroyed. No, Vaishnavi should not know the truth.

Queen Vaishnavi although did not understand that, she attacked the King because she feared Rudra will make her weak. She didn’t want that. Moreover, she also understood that now that Rudra is here, she doesn’t stand the chance to be the land’s ruler anymore. So, now she can show her true colors to the King. There is no harm in it.

*          *       *

“You dare to move one more step, I will slit the throat of your father,” warned Queen Vaishnavi.

“I don’t understand, how can injustice give justice to another injustice. Aunt have you ever thought that this will in no way give you peace? Your revenge is affecting the innocent. Won’t that hurt you!” Rudra Narayan after a very long time called Vaishnavi, “aunt,” she was getting emotional, sensing that Satyaban spoke, “You seem to have known many things, I guess. Well, even then do you have the courage to go against your father and punish him for his deeds. No! You are his son.”

“You don’t even know me,” said Rudra Narayan.

“I don’t even want to know you. You have come to settle scores here, let’s settle it! Prepare your army, we will prepare ours. Whoever wins, the land belongs to them!” Satyaban put forward his proposal.

“No. I won’t risk one more innocent life for war. Let’s have a one-on-one duel,” Rudra said with confidence.

“Fine, I am ready!”

“No, not you. You may be clever, intelligent, and shrewd, but you are just a Prime Minister. I am a Prince. I will fight with someone of my stature,” saying this Rudra Narayan turned to the Queen and said, “If you are ready, I will have the duel with you!”

“I am ready!” said the Queen without any hiccups, or hesitation. She said in full determination, “Let’s meet in two hours, until then the King is our prisoner. You will also not leave the palace. We will take care of your comfort but you won’t leave the palace.

“Done! I agree to all our terms!”

 Ch 10 – The Duel: Preparation (1)

The royal palace and comfort, everything was there for Rudra Narayan, still, he cannot relax. How will he relax? His brother, his men, his friends, and Gargi, everyone is suffering, how can he relax! “But why do I think about Gargi separately?” thought Rudra Narayan. Truly enough, since he met Gargi after seven years, his feelings towards her changed.

Rudra Narayan closed his eyes and remembered the days she spent with Gargi in the tower. Those sewing sessions, when Gargi used to help him with his works. Some days she would insist Rudra Narayan play the flute and with admiring eyes would look at him. Appreciate him by clapping like a kid after he had finished. Unknowingly a smile crept on Rudra Narayan’s face.

“Thinking about Gargi di?” suddenly Rudra Narayan’s trance broke with Rajni’s voice. He got agitated a bit and looked at her. She was sitting on the bed, beside him, as usual, there was a mischievous smile on her face. This smile was so familiar to Rudra Narayan; however, he hadn’t seen this smile for days now. He felt good to see the old Rajni back before him, her irritated look vanished, and he, with a fake command, said, “What are you doing here? You were under treatment, no?”

“Well, I was but now I am not. You see, I was feeling a bit better, actually, a lot better. So, I took this as an opportunity and transformed myself, and came to you. Aren’t you happy?” said Rajni in an exceptionally cheerful tone, while roaming around the room, and consciously avoiding eye contact with Rudra Narayan.

Rudra Narayan walked up to her and lifted her chin. He looked into her eyes, while she tried to put them down. “Now I understand the reason behind this extreme cheerfulness. You are nervous, and if I am not wrong very worried about Tez, right?” Rudra Narayan said, while Rajni freed herself and moved away. Tears have formed in her eyes, but she doesn’t want Rudra Narayan to see them not before the duel.

Rudra Narayan came towards Rajni to console her. He was also worried about his brother, but Rajni was like a younger sister to him. He definitely can’t tolerate her being sad and worried. So, he came forward, and said, “Nothing will happen to him. Trust me.”

Rajni looked at him with surprise. Isn’t he the one who told Gargi di that Pratap will not survive after seven years, then how come he said that everything will be fine? Rajni gave a sad smile, and said, “Consoling me? Aren’t you the one who told—”

“Yes, I told Gargi that after 7 years, if Tez does not get rid of the poison, then, he will—” Rudra Narayan couldn’t complete his sentence, his voice got choked. He took time to compose himself and continued, “But there was something that I missed.”

Rajani looked at him with questioning eyes, Rudra Narayan said, “Something powerful than the poison, if that comes in contact with the human body that is storing the poison then a miracle can happen.” Rajani became impatient now and said, “What miracle? Tell me Rudra? Please!” Rudra Narayan smiled at her innocence and said, “Well, then the poison stops spreading in the body.” Hearing this Rajani’s face lit up with happiness. “Means then the person does not die!” cried Rajani with immense joy and happiness. Now, it’s time for Rudra Narayan to avoid eye contact. Yes, what he told was the truth but that truth too had a hiccup. The flow of poison will stop only for 30 hours, in these 30 hours if the poison doesn’t get rid of the human body, it will again start spreading. Eventually leading to the death of that person.

Rudra Narayan moved aside and quickly changed the topic by saying, “By the way, Rajani, do you have any secret that will help me to win the duel.” Rajani was lost in her world, so Rudra Narayan’s this question jerked her a bit. She thought for a while and said, “Well, deep down I believe that Queen Vaishnavi still has that heart of gold.”

Rudra Narayan looked confused, he said, “Why do you say that?” Rajani said, “You know when her soldier took me as a booty, I was sure of the fact that they will harm my honor. But you know what? They couldn’t even touch me leave aside harming my honor!”


The soldiers were rejoicing with alcohol, music, and feast. Young Rajani was tied in front of them. 

She had lost her father and her friend on the very same day. She knows her life is awaiting not just a life threat but something more. Physically and mentally exhausted, Rajani was not in a position to perform magic as well. Hounds were barking in front of her, and she could do nothing but watch them getting ready for the attack.

However, amidst this merriment, the soldier suddenly stopped singing and dancing. They became silent as a horse approached them. There was utmost silence everywhere. Everyone was so quiet that even a drop of the pin would create a noise there. Rajani wanted to know why they have become so silent. So, she looked in the direction where the soldiers were looking. She saw Queen Vaishnavi or the Evil Queen there. 

“What are you doing with that girl?” roared the Queen! There was again absolute silence when the Queen again roared, “Answer me!” This time she shouted louder than before.

“We won her. In the battle!” A soldier, no, the Chief said. After gathering the courage to stand in front of the Queen and her rage.

“Won her,” said the Queen with a sarcastic smile, “Really? You won her? How many of you were there?” again silence prevailed, and again she shouted, “Answer me! How many of you went to attack the Gurukul? Don’t be quiet! Answer me,” said the angry Queen. When none spoke, she pulled out her sword and pointed it to the Chief, and said, “Chief, answer me. How many of you went to attack the Gurukul?”

The Chief gulped a bit and said, “Five Hundred, Your Majesty!”

“How many people were there in Gurukul?”

“Around two hundred to two hundred and fifty.”

Not even half. How many were armed?”


“How many got killed?”


“How many imprisoned?”


“Shut up!” The Queen shouted again, “Prince Pratap Narayan came to us, and we imprisoned him. Not you. So how many were imprisoned Chief?”

“One,” said the Chief wiping off his sweat.

“Five hundred men captured one woman! One woman fought with you, saved two hundred and forty-nine people and you say you WON!” The Queen roared so loudly that most of her valiant soldier shuddered in fear. The Queen walked up to Rajani, untied her, and said, “My men captured you, so you will be my slave. You will follow only my orders!” The Queen walked away saying this, and Rajani followed her.

She was first given to the other slave girls, who bathed her and then took her to the temple inside the palace. Before going out in search of Rudra Narayan with Gargi, Rajani worked in the temple. It was visited only by the Queen and none.

Flashback Ends.

“One night she came to the temple, wearing a simple saree. She was holding a lighted lamp, she placed it in front of her Giridhari and sang the whole night. I was so mesmerized that I forgot all my pain for a while. When she finished her song, I realized that I was crying all the while. I actually felt good shedding tears. I didn’t stop them,” Rajani stopped, none spoke for a while, then Rajani said, “I remembered a strange thing now.”


“You know that day, the day she was singing that song, that day was Pratap’s birthday. At that time never knew Pratap was—”

“How do you know?” asked astonished Rudra Narayan.

“We traveled time!” said Rajani with a sad smile.

“We?” asked Rudra Narayan with a frown.

“Well, Pratap knows everything. You heard things from Sankar and he saw, back in time!”

Rudra Narayan didn’t say anything. He simply sat on the bed very slowly and covered his face. He tried hard to stop his tears. Rajani understood she had hurt him, so she said, “I am sorry Rudra, I tried to stop him, but you know, sometimes he becomes adamant.”

“I know,” said Rudra Narayan wiping his tears, “Don’t worry, I am fine now.”

“I think you should get ready. Not much time is left. I know you will win. Your land, your brother everyone believes in you,” said Rajani and stopped. She knew what Rudra Narayan might be thinking, but she thought to let him speak about it. So, she didn’t say anything.

Rudra Narayan heard what Rajani said but was not satisfied. But he also does not know how to ask about it. So, there was an awkward silence between them. Rajani then gave her masterstroke. She said, “Okay then, I will leave now.”

“No,” abruptly said Rudra Narayan, “I mean to say …. ummm … I mean to ask you, well, you know, how do you know that my brother and my land believe in me?”

“Well, because they told me. Pratap, Rahim Chacha, everyone.”

“Only these people believe in me,” said a disheartened Rudra Narayan.

“Who else will believe in you?” said Rajani with a mischievous smile.

“No one,” said agitated Rudra Narayan without even looking at her.

“Okay, then I leave,” said Rajani and turned around to leave the palace. After a while, she stopped and turned to Rudra Narayan and said, “By the way, Gargi di said she will be waiting for the victorious Prince Rudra Narayan Chaudhury.”

Rudra Narayan’s face lit up with joy. He had both tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. Rajani understood the meaning of the smile that he gave. She smiled back, then quickly transform herself and flew out.

Rudra Narayan stood there with all determination to prove Gargi and everyone else’s belief a reality.

Ch 11 – The Duel: Preparation (2)

“Gargi Di,” the weak and faint voice of Pratap brought Gargi to reality. She was thinking about her time spent with Rudra Narayan. During her Gurukul days, she never was so free with Rudra Narayan, which she was in the past few days. The time went by so quickly. She wished she had more time with him. A small smile crept on her face when Pratap called her. Gargi hurriedly responded to the call, “Yes Pratap, tell me, do you need anything?” asked Gargi, caressing his hair. The poison in Pratap’s body was spreading, and it was, creating a burning sensation all over his body. He felt like he is dying each moment, yet it was worse than death. 

But he is a Prince, and princes are born to endure. So, he was tolerating the pain as much as he can. Pratap felt better when Gargi caressed him. He was breathing heavily, his throat was all dry, so he somehow managed to say, “Water, can you give me some water.”

“Of course, Pratap. Hold on,” saying this, Gargi fetched him a glass of water. It was a brass glass, so a bit heavy, and Pratap had difficulty holding it. So, Gargi helped him to drink the water. Pratap felt a bit better. 

“Gargi Di, can you do me a favor?” asked Pratap. “Of course, Pratap, you order me, I will do it right away,” said Gargi in an assuring tone. Pratap gave a weak smile and said, “I am not your Prince Gargi Di. I am not the prince of this land.” These words of Pratap hurt Gargi. She said, “Then why are you sacrificing your life for this land? Why are you not telling this truth to Satyaban and the Queen?” Gargi paused and then said, “Why are you not reuniting with your mother?” Pratap closed his eyes and remained silent for a few moments. Gargi said, “Just because you have known some truths does not mean that you have changed as a human being. It also doesn’t imply that you are not my prince. For me, who cares for my land, sacrifices his life, happiness, freedom, everything for the sake of this land is my prince. For me who sacrifices a well-secured life for the happiness and security of the people, is the prince of this land. Whether you are King Shambhu Narayan’s son or not doesn’t matter to me. Your sacrifice, your love for this land matter to me.”

“Now tell me what are your orders?” Gargi said teasingly to Pratap. “Not orders, request,” said Pratap with the same innocent smile on his face, “Can you write a letter for me?”

“Letter?” asked Gargi with questioning eyes, “To whom?”

“Father, I mean, King Shambhu Narayan.”

“Okay I will write it for you, but how do you plan to send the letter to the King.”

“If you go towards the north in the forest, you will find an ancient mango tree. It is easily recognizable; it has the biggest trunk among all others. Go there, kneel, and say that you, no, I want this letter to get delivered to King Shambhu Narayan. That tree is 500-year-old. She understands human language, even though you can’t she will understand what you say.”

“Okay, I will do as you say.” 


“Can I meet my father?” asked Rudra Narayan, who was now standing inside Queen Vaishnavi’s bed-chamber. The Queen was standing straight in front of him. Her eyes reflected strength and dignity with anger!

She smiled and said, “Of course, you are his son!” saying this, she clapped her hands, and a servant came immediately, “Take him to the King!” ordered the Queen.

Rudra Narayan bowed and said, “Thank you, I take your leave!” 

The Queen too bowed, and this astonished the prince. He looked at her with questioning eyes. He did not expect respect from her.

“You may be younger than me but your courage and valor are worth respecting. You have traveled almost miles. Currently, food and water would have been the only thing you desired but you set aside your comfort and challenged me for a duel. Know well enough that currently, I am in a better position than you. I am not exhausted, bruised, moreover, I have magical powers and an army with me!” said the smiling Queen!


“You are no fool Rudra; you know very well that I am not an angel. I am a witch!”

“Who told you witches are bad? I am aware of some very good witches!”

“So, you believe I will stick to my words?”

“Yes, you will. After all, you are a Queen, Your Majesty! You will never forget your valor. That’s in your blood!”

“Well, I also have magical powers, don’t you think that too will create a danger for you?”

“Not all you. Your magic is knowledge, my magic is love! Now tell me in a battle of knowledge and love who wins?”

“The winner! You see people only praise the winner, whether he is good or bad, whether the deeds of a winner are just or not that none tries to question. After all, there isn’t anything called good or bad. If you are following the winner, you are good, if you aren’t, you are not. Simple!”

Rudra Narayan smiled at the Queen’s answer because the answer reflected her vengeance and anger. He said, “You are right! There isn’t anything called good or bad! But there are moral and immoral. That’s something you choose because at the end of the day you have your soul to answer. And at day end, when I stand face-to-face with my soul I try to stand straight! I try not to avoid eye contact with him,” saying this, Rudra Narayan sighed and smiled, “Now I should take you a leave. Father must be waiting for me.” He bowed again and left the room.

Queen Vaishnavi looked at the path walked by Rudra Narayan. She thought, “He had entered manhood only a few years ago, had lived a slave’s life for six years, yet the knowledge, the insight, and the valor he has is better than any master residing in my kingdom now,” she now gave a sly smiled and thought, “Thank God, I have closed the Gurukul! Else I would have to say goodbye to this kingdom very quickly. Nilesh, Rajani, Gargi, Pratap, and now this, Rudra Narayan, they get better and better!”


King Shambhu Narayan’s wounded shoulder was pretty painful! The royal Vaidya was there to treat his wound. However, King Shambhu Narayan’s attitude was irritating him to the core. The moment he was nearing him with the cotton having the medical ointment, he was screaming, “Ahhh …. Uhhhhh…. Uhhhhhhhh….”

As a result, the royal Vaidya could not treat his patient, even though he was trying his level best! “I thought you are a brave warrior!” The deep voice of Rudra Narayan shocked both King Shambhu Narayan and the Vaidya. Seeing his son Shambhu Narayan’s pain almost vanished. He widely smiled and said, “Well, I am still a brave warrior!”

“Really, yet whining with pain?”

“You have come, all my pain has vanished!” said the King, sitting up.

“I thought you would be in a prison, after all, they told me you are a prisoner!” said Rudra Narayan entering the tine, yet cozy room, where Shambhu Narayan was residing.

“Well, you see that woman had never stopped loving me. I am such a man! Neither your mother nor Queen Vaishnavi has the power to hate me!”

“Love, is a subject beyond your comprehension father,” said Rudra Narayan, taking the cotton from the royal Vaidya.


“You never understood my mother’s love, Tez’s love, my love, nor did you try to understand Queen Vaishnavi’s love.” Rudra Narayan said this while pressing the cotton hard on the wound. “Your subject is war, you understand only the language of war,” said Rudra Narayan taking the cloth for bandage from the royal Vaidya, “My mother did love you, but you loved only power, Tez did love you, but you loved only muscles, I did love, but you loved me only because my features primarily matches with all the war thirsty ruler of this land, and Queen Vaishnavi did love somebody, but it was never you, no father, don’t live in this utopia that she loved you. She loved her family, but thanks to you, now she had none. I now feel sorry for you, father, people once loved you, but your love always had conditions, so you lost them. But the worst part is you don’t even realize that!” saying this, Rudra Narayan tightly knots the bandage. It was so tight, as Rudra Narayan used all his anger against his father to tie the same that the King whined. Rudra Narayan said, “Let it pain father, its nothing close to the pain you inflicted on others. Thank you for your help, Vaidji,” the last few words were for the royal Vaidya, who was standing beside him, who smiled at Rudra Narayan’s word and said, “It’s my duty, my Prince. I will take you both leave, goodbye,” saying this, the Vaidya left the room.


As soon as the Vaidya left a gentle breeze started flowing into the room. Both the King and the Prince looked astonished because the day was quite sunny and humid. Not even a leaf was in motion. There was no wind at all, and all of a sudden, a breeze suddenly starts blowing inside the room!

The breeze came suddenly, and stopped suddenly! “Why do the nature here always act weird?” said agitated King Shambhu Narayan.

“Well, it is weird to those who are far away from it,” said Rudra Narayan picking up parchment from the ground.

“What’s that?”

“Letter for you.”

“Letter, who will send me to letter now?”

“Why don’t you just open it to find that?”

The King followed the words of his son and opened the letter. As he was reading the letter, his face was turning red. His anger was visible, but that was not disturbing Rudra Narayan. He knew who has written the letter.

“Cheat! Everyone is a cheat!” King Shambhu Narayan roared so loudly that the earth beneath them shook heard as if there is an earthquake. Guards and other servants came running to the room.

“Nothing happened! You all leave!” ordered Prince Rudra Narayan. So, everyone left. Now he came towards his father and took the letter from his hand. He read it and said, “You too breached a contract father! At least what my mother did, saved a life! What you did, killed hundreds and thousands!”

Shambhu Narayan didn’t pay heed to what his son said. He roared, “Until now I have been raising my enemy’s child!”

“Well, you should thank god for that father, because if he had lived with his real identity maybe then you wouldn’t have survived!” said Rudra Narayan

“Pratap would have killed me!” saying this, Shambhu Narayan broke into a roar of laughter.

“You find it funny father, but you forgot one thing, this kingdom had Rahim Chacha, which the outside world does not have. They have people like Satyaban, whose vengeance can destroy a kingdom,” said Rudra Narayan, “Be grateful that Tez gave you a chance to raise him.”

“You don’t think I have been wronged!”

“The day Tez was born, his father died. His people died, women became widows, parents became childless, children became orphans, and Tez became an orphan refugee. Now tell me father, who has been wronged?”

“Well, he apologized! He thought it was cheating!”

“Be ashamed father, because although he is younger than you, he did a work worth saluting and bowing,” Rudra Narayan paused, and said, “When will you apologize, for your deeds?”

“Wars are needed. You don’t understand!” said agitated King Shambhu Narayan.

“I don’t want to understand, I am just thinking about the lines he wrote in the end. What does it mean?” saying this, Rudra Narayan again glanced at the parchment and read the last line once more, where it is written:

“P. S: Look for Ramprasad Vaid, Gargi Di’s father. Only he can stop the war!”

Ch 12 – First King of the Chaudhury’s

They were ready to change sides, but they knew Dev would not want them as they were also part of the wrong deeds. So, the chief among them came up with a plan. The next day when the battle is about to begin, to King Dushyant’s surprise, his men showed the white flag indicating peace. Everyone was astonished, but his chief said, “Your Majesty has trust in me. You can’t rule the land without your people. My proposal will help you to win the faith of your people.”

Dev was astonished too. However, he respected the rules of the battle. 

As a sign of peace, a dinner was held between the King and Dev. They were having dinner when suddenly, King Dushyant was shot by an arrow. Everyone, including Dev Narayan Chaudhury, was shocked. To his utter surprise, he was shot by one of his cousins. Dev couldn’t understand how his dear cousin, can cause such great damage to his reputation.

But the damage was done, the Prime Minister, by then has started shouting to the top of his voice, “Treachery! Treason! Young Dev has broken the laws. He had violated the age-old tradition and harmed the unarmed king! Cowardice!” Many shouted in the Prime Minister’s support. 

Meanwhile, the General took the Prime Minister aside and said, “What’s all this? Are we not switching sides?” The Prime Minister, with a cold look to the General, said, “Do you want to serve that boy who had bowed before you, dusted your furniture, swept your floors, almost a six month ago?” The General remained silent. Yes, switching sides means accepting the servant boy as your leader. It would hurt their ego. 

They won’t do that. The Prime Minister continued, “No, you don’t! So, keep your mouth shut and do as I say!”

“Who’s that boy?” asked the General. 

“Well, my dear friend, he is Sanket Narayan Chaudhury. Dev Narayan’s cousin, but they are pretty wealthy. You see, Dev Narayan’s father, Anant Narayan’s younger brother, Shiv Narayan Chaudhury, robbed his brother and took away all his wealth. He did this in a way that none suspected him. His son is Sanket Narayan Chaudhury. Treachery and treason are in his blood, but at least, he is not a servant’s son! Serving him would be better than serving Dev Narayan. 

Moreover, this boy lacks a spine, unlike Dev Narayan. We can be the unofficial kings of the land. What do you say, General? You like my idea?” The General gave a sly smile in support.


After their little chat, the Prime Minister and General returned. They saw dumbfounded Dev Narayan holding the bloodshed body of the king. Some people are saying names to Dev Narayan others, who were pissed off with the tyranny of King Dushyant, were cheering. Now, this created trouble for the Prime Minister and the General. They thought if people knew that Dev violated the rules of peace, they would get angry with him. But they didn’t know people were so pissed off with King Dushyant that they would rejoice in the death of the king, no matter what. 

Dev was clever enough to read the faces of the Prime Minister and the General. He understood that they may have played some game here. So, he stood up and signaled everyone to stop. He had such an aura that none could ignore his gesture. He said, “My dear people, I know deep down I am not responsible for this gesture. My heart knows that, but sadly I don’t have enough proof to claim myself innocent. So, even though I am not guilty. But, agreeing to the peace dinner allowed my enemies to harm me. Thus, harming your king. Thus, I accept I wrongly agreed for the peace dinner, which took your king’s life. I beg your forgiveness for that.” 

Dev stopped, everyone remained silent. The Prime Minister understood people were slowly moving their support to Dev. He didn’t want that. So, he spoke now, “Excellent speech Dev Narayan! Your cousin shot him, yet you want us to believe that you did nothing? No, my dear, no! We don’t believe you. We sympathize with your pain; we were sympathizing, but this is not the way! I understand, King Dushyant was a tyrannical man. But then you should have taken his life on the field, not in this way. This clearly shows you were after vengeance. If you truly respected the land, you would have abided by its rule. You would have respected the peace dinner!”

Dev took a deep breath and said, “Okay, if you think I am guilty, you are free to punish me!” He said this, facing the people and not the Prime Minister and the General. Now, the General spoke, “According to the laws of this land, one who kills the King becomes the ruler of the land—”

“Rubbish!” “We don’t accept this!” We want Dev as our ruler!” “We don’t want Sanket Narayan Chaudhury!” These were all sorts of comments that started coming before the General could even finish his words.

“Silence!” shouted Dev, “Peace! Everyone! I request you to please maintain silence. Someone has died. We need to do his final rites first before taking any decision. This is the time of mourning, a death, whosoever it is, is always painful. I know there is, currently, the family of King Dushyant! At least for their sake, everyone, please maintain silence.”

Dev’s word silenced everyone. In the crowd was Dushyant’s father. He was, like many kings, once a power-thirsty man, but after a battle, he completed changed and embraced celibacy and embraced the life of a monk. He used to live in a cave nearby. That day he came to witness the peace dinner only to bless Dev. Whose valor and legends have moved him. 

King Dushyant’s father was indeed moved by Dev’s gesture. He came forward in his simple attire. Dev Narayan recognized him as the former king, so did the others, and everyone bowed in front of him, including Dev Narayan. 

King Dushyant’s father, Sage Raghubeer, smiled with compassion and said, “I am truly moved by your gesture Dev. Please accept my greetings and all my blessings!”

Dev bowed again and said, “It’s all my pleasure, Sage Raghubeer, to receive your greetings and blessings. I am honored!”

“Well, then I request you to carry out the last rites of my son!” said Sage Raghubeer.

“Please, Sage Raghubeer, do not embarrass me by saying such things. You should not request me anything you should order me. But may I ask why you are asking me to carry out his last rites? As far as I know, both the Prime Minister and the General are his cousins. Why not they carry out the same?” Dev humbly asked.

“My dear son, can you please come aside,” saying this, Sage Raghubeer took Dev to a secluded corner and said, “Look, son, this land has been long cursed. Brotherhood is denied here. Brothers treat each other as competitors to the throne. Although the Prime Minister and the General never showed their disrespect to Dushyant, deep down, they hated him. But they also knew Dushyant’s strength was more than them. So, they never claimed the throne directly, but they were never ready to let go of their thirst for power. Thus, they chose your cousin, who lacks a voice. It will give them the power of the king, but they will also not lose the support of the people! So, I don’t want them to carry out my son’s last rites.”

“Okay, but what do I do now?” asked Dev. Sage Raghubeer thought for a moment and said, “Okay, listen to me!”


Although the Prime Minister and the General were not happy with Dev carrying out the last rites, they did not say anything. They knew everyone in the land, respected Sage Raghubeer. 

After the rites were over, a council sat before the people. This council consists of people who supported the Prime Minister and who supported Dev, including Sage Raghubeer.

After a lot of discussions, Sage Raghubeer said, “Alright, since many people are against Sanket Narayan Chaudhury, let’s make a deal, let’s have a one-to-one fight between Sanket and Dev whoever wins becomes the king.”

“Okay, I agree with your proposition. But I have a condition, I can’t kill my cousin. So, let’s get into a deal, the moment one gets wounded, and disarmed at the same time, loses the battle,” proposed Dev.

“Fair enough. Soldiers, the moment you see one among the two is both wounded and disarmed, you will wait for ten-second for that person to have his weapon back. If he can’t have it in ten seconds, you will embrace the other as your new king. He will be your ruler from that moment!”

The fight started. Sanket Narayan, too, was a good fighter. Even though he was not a man of character, he was a man of strength. It was a long and exhausting fight with very few breaks. Both were wounded. None, however, was disarmed. Even if they were disarmed, they had their weapon back in ten-second. 

It was the third day of the fight. It was also Aditya’s birthday. In the morning, Dev’s mother came to bless him, the silence and tears of the mother grew the fire of revenge inside him, he would have taken a wrong step, but one sentence from his mother changed his vision, she said, “Dear son, I bless you with righteousness. Avoid the path others took, make justice your religion, and vengeance your enemy. Win the heart of the people, not the battle!” These words calmed Dev Narayan. Until now, he was fighting with strength, but from now he started fighting with wisdom. Soon, Sanket was wounded and disarmed. The soldiers waited for ten seconds, and when Sanket still lay on the ground, they announced Dev as their king. The first king of the Chaudhury’s!


Rudra Narayan stopped. He had come to an end of his story. Chandreyi asked, “Dev Narayan was a great ruler?” Rudra Narayan sighed and said, “He would have been a great ruler had he lived more. Unfortunately, he died after five years of becoming the king.” Chandreyi was astonished. She asked, “Who killed him?” Rudra Narayan gave a sad smile and said, “The curse. Brother killed brother. Sanket Narayan killed Dev Narayan. The Prime Minister and General helped him. Sanket Narayan ruled for a long time, then his younger son took the throne, killing his elder son.”

Chandreyi remained silent for a moment and said, “Pratap Bhai once told me every boon comes with a condition and every curse has a loophole. If one knows the loophole, breaking the curse becomes easy. Was he right?”

“When it is about magic, your Pratap Bhai can never go wrong, Chandreyi. But the question is, what’s the loophole?” said a bit tensed Rudra Narayan.

“Love!” Chandreyi said out of nowhere, Rudra Narayan was not ready for this, and he said, “Huh!” Chandreyi said, “Pratap Bhai said, if you don’t know the loophole, just stick together with your loved ones. Love can break all curses!” These words of Chandreyi brought tears to Rudra Narayan’s eyes. He embraced his sister with all his love!

Ch 14 – From Pratap to Tez

The battleground was prepared. On the one hand, there is Queen Vaishnavi and Satyaban. With them, their soldiers, guards, and other ministers. 

On the other hand, there is Prince Rudra Narayan. Gargi, Rahim, Rajni, Chandreyi, and people against the Queen and the King’s tyranny were with him. Of course, the people inside the forests supported Rudra Narayan. 

Unfortunately, however, Pratap was not there in the field to support his brother. He laid inside the room, where he was having his treatment. The poison has inflicted so much pain in him that now he can’t even feel anything. His mouth has become dry. His body is slowly turning blue, indicating the movement of the poison. It is spreading, and that too pretty fast.

Pratap was lying alone. Rajni has gone to fetch water for him. That’s the only thing he can have now. Suddenly he saw a man, entirely covered in a black robe, standing in front of him. He was standing just a few feet away from him as if something was stopping him from coming near to him. “Death,” Pratap uttered faintly but very clearly. At that time, Rajni entered with Rudra and others. She met them when she went to fetch water for Pratap. Rudra decided to give his brother a visit before the duel.

“What?” both Gargi and Rajni uttered in unison. Pratap looked at them and knew the time for duel had arrived. He was weak but not without wisdom. He knew talking about what he saw just now would only cause a ruckus. So, he gave them a weak smile and nodded to tell them all nothing had happened But, Rudra Narayan knew his brother, he knew something had happened, but before the duel, he, too, wanted to avoid further tension. So, he thought, “let it be.”

Pratap was too weak to even utter one single word. So, he gestured through his eyes and asked Rudra to come and sit in front of him. With teary eyes, Rudra went near his bed and sat. Rudra saw starting from his right hand, everything on the right, the right side of his stomach and chest, his right leg, all have turned blue. He understood that the poison was spreading fast. Helplessness, a void, despair got over him. It reflected on his face, and when everyone saw that, they too felt dejected, everyone, including Rajni and Gargi. 

Everyone living in the kingdom was already living a hopeless life, now things have become worse. After all, their only hope looked dejected and hopeless. Pratap noticed that. He faintly pointed at the flute tucked to Rudra Narayan’s dhoti and said, “Play.” He can’t utter more. Poison and years-long torture took a great toll on him. Rudra caressed his face and hair, kissed his forehead, and said, “Of course, kiddo!”

Soon the room was filled with excellent music, so soothing that everyone assumed that the music was coming from another world. But what happened next was pretty surprising. Rudra noticed that as he was playing the flute, people inside the room were slowly falling into a deep sleep. After he stopped playing it, he looked around. Everyone inside the room was sleeping, including Pratap. He hurriedly ran out of the room to see what was happening in the battleground. There he saw everyone, and everything had turned into a statue. As if someone had stopped the time. Worried, Rudra Narayan entered the room. He couldn’t figure out what exactly was happening. Why does everyone suddenly sleep? Why does time stop?

“Bhai!” Suddenly Pratap’s voice echoed in the room. Rudra looked here and there to find out where the sound was coming from? Pratap was sleeping right on his bed. He never uttered a word. 

Rudra went near his bed to examine him. He was in deep slumber, looking so peaceful. A smile was there on his face, making him look even more adorable. For the first time, Rudra noticed his grey hairs beneath his black hairs. They were the signs of the immense torture that he went through. A tear fell from his eyes, “I am sorry, Tez, I was not there to protect you,” Rudra Narayan thought when again he heard the voice in the room. It was Pratap’s voice for sure. He said, “But you were always there, Bhai. I was never alone.” Now Rudra Narayan got scared. He stood up and again searched for the sound’s source. Again Pratap’s voice spoke, “Why do you search me outside? I am there within you. Deep inside. You were also there within me; I was never alone. You were my strength in all these years. Now you are just physically there for me.” 

Hearing this, Rudra sat on the bed, where Pratap’s body was in deep slumber. He asked, “Tez, what is this magic? Why is everyone sleeping? Who stopped the time? Are you capable of stopping time too?” Pratap, with a polite voice, spoke again. “No, Bhai, I didn’t stop time. You did that!” Rudra looked amazed once again, “What are you talking about? I?” 

“Yes, Bhai. You. You see, the flute you possess belongs to someone else.”

“I know, mother.”

“But, do you know, when she was about to embrace death, she was sure about one thing.”


“I will never be alone. I will have a brother ‘who will love him more than anyone else in this world.’ He will give me the love of my family, teach me to be sacrificing and happy.”

“Why are you telling all these Tez? I am anyway annoyed with you visiting the past?”

“I know that Bhai, and I am sorry. But I needed a few answers. So, I have to. Anyways, I am telling you all this because I want you to know that mother, I mean, Queen Chitralekha, see I am still mistaking, is always there with you. No, it is not a philosophy. It is a truth. The flute you possess contains a part of her soul. Yes, Bhai, don’t look shocked. I am telling you the truth. That’s the reason you never hated me, although you had all the reasons. The biggest was King Shambhu Narayan’s hatred towards me. Neither were you jealous of our teachers for praising me. The flute always guided you whenever you were on the verge of doing anything wrong. Think Bhai, think! The flute was always there with you, even when you were with Queen Sunaina. I believe it helped you with your memory too.”

Yes, Pratap was right. Rudra remembered how he would have flashes of past when he used to play the flute while he was chained and was alone in Sunaina’s tower.

He also remembered another incident. He was fifteen then, in his teens, and like most teens, he was going through psychological changes. Pratap was then new to the Gurukul. It was his first year in Gurukul. One day, Rudra heard teachers were praising Pratap a lot. He got jealous of him and was rude to him unnecessarily. He also didn’t come and meet him during their off period, even during lunch and dinner. Whenever Pratap came to talk to him, Rudra said hurtful words, like, “Why you are looking for me? You have enough people to praise you?” or, “Leave me alone, I can’t butter people. I need to work hard on my skills to get appreciation!” He even said, “You may be famous, but remember you are the reason our mother is not here.”

After saying those words, Rudra Narayan never felt peace. He was feeling bad. But jealousy and ego were taking over him. So, he started playing the flute again that night. He had visions of how rudely and badly KIng Shambhu Narayan treated Pratap. He was not just scolded and beaten, but as a punishment, he was once caged outside the pig slaughterhouse for one whole day. 

He was sick for a week, but King Shambhu Narayan just came for a day to check him. Rudra Narayan even caught a servant beating Pratap because Pratap was nagging him to tell a story before bed. Rudra had vision of Rahim Chacha. Rudra asked him once, “Was Pratap responsible for my mother’s death?” Rahim laughed at this, then, with a melancholic smile, said, “The boy who lost his mother after his birth is the poorest soul of all. You should sympathize with him and not hate him.”

Regret and repentance were over Rudra. He couldn’t endure it anymore. He stopped playing the flute and a very bad thought came to his mind. Suddenly, he stopped playing it and sneak out of his hostel room. His guts told him to go towards the forest. It was a chilly wintry night. Rudra was wearing only a dhoti and nothing else. Yet cold was not hitting him. He was worried about his brother.

Suddenly he heard a roar. A roar of a panther. Rudra stopped and quickly looked back to see where the sound was coming from. The scene he saw froze him to death. Twelve-year-old Pratap was in front of the panther, who was just a few feet away, getting ready to leap. The beast leaped but soon fell as a dagger hit him. Before Pratap could understand anything, he felt a strong grip around his wrist. He is running out of the forest. After a while, they stopped. Pratap saw the hand holding him was of Rudra’s. They both were panting heavily, but luckily they both were now inside the Gurukul. Rudra held Pratap by his arms and jerked violently, and in an angry voice, said, “Why were you in the forest? Speak up, else I will not leave you!” Pratap trembled in fear and stuttered, “I-I-was returning to the kingdom,” he couldn’t say more as tears choked him. Suddenly felt the grip around his arms had loosened. Rudra sat on his knees in front of him caressed his hair, and said, “Why, dear? You came here to study, no?” After a whole day, Rudra spoke politely to Pratap. Now he couldn’t control his tears and started crying. Rudra pulled him in a hug and tried to pacify him. He said, “I am sorry, dear. I am sorry; I should not have behaved that way with you. I should have been proud of you, but I got jealous. Please forgive me.”

“Am I bad, Bhai,” Pratap asked, “Did mother die because of me?”

Rudra pulled him, kissed his forehead, and said, “No dear, I was mean. You are such a beautiful boy. Why would mother die because of you?” But Pratap remained quiet. As if not believing Rudra’s word, Rudra held his ears and said, “You won’t forgive me, Pratap?” At this Pratap, laughed as he found it amusing, and Rudra stood up, lifted him by his arms, and said, “You know, you are special to me. Special than anyone else, so I will not call you Pratap. I will give you a name and call you by that name!”

“What name?”

“Tez, it means someone intense and powerful. You are both. So, from today you are my Tez.”

Ch 15 – The Truce!

“Why are they all sleeping?” asked Rudra. He remembered everything. He now has faith in whatever Pratap was saying. He heard Pratap’s voice again. He said, “They are dreaming.” Rudra looked amazed. Pratap spoke again, “You know, during my Gurukul days, I learned an important thing. There are two dangerous magics: one, the death of hope. The second is the survival of love. I never understood its true meaning until I saw my past. Indeed, love and hope are the two greatest magics performed by any human being at any time without any prior practice. Unfortunately, losing either of it or both can be dangerous.”

“So, what is everyone dreaming?”

“Happy days, memories powerful enough to make you hopeful again.”

“So, they are just remembering old days, right?”

“Dreams are weird, a bit complicated. You see, deep down in us, we lock our memories, both the good and the bad ones. However, when we dream, we unlock these memories. And magic, instead of showing you the actual memory shows a weird version of it. A version that’s beyond reality but which you believe to be real. Sometimes, they are so scary that you call them nightmares, and you wake up with a jerk. But sometimes they are beautiful, and you call them dreams, and you never want them to end.”

“But how do you control dreams? How do you know they are having dreams and not nightmares?”

“Well, you see, this is rare magic. Someone in Gurukul taught me. He said to me, ‘you can trade dreams.’ It’s complicated. Just remember, when the memories do not get unlocked naturally, you unlock them.”

“How? What do you trade?”

“Leave that now, Bhai. There are other significant things that you have to deal with now. But first, gather your hopes. Why do you look so dejected? I always believed in you. Why can’t you believe yourself?”

“You did,” Rudra said with utter astonishment! Pratap spoke again, and Rudra felt, maybe, Pratap smiled a bit. He said, “You know, Bhai, I was beaten, from morning till dawn. I was locked up in a dungeon for a year. Not even a ray of sunlight entered my room. I never knew when it was day and when night came. When someone came with food, I could hear footsteps, and I used to be sure about life’s existence. Even then, I dreamt of you. The inner voice inside me told me not to compromise because one day, you will return, and then I have to face you. With my head held high. Everyone thought you died, everyone lost hope, but I remained hopeful because I believed in you. Bhai, I can suffer ten thousand times more for you, but I will never stop believing you. But Bhai, if you stop believing yourself, how will the land gain independence?” 

There was an awkward silence inside the room. It was eerie too. 

Not even a bird was chirping outside. Rudra remained quiet for a moment, then he heard a voice inside telling him, “If your brother can endure such pain and still doesn’t lose faith, then why are you losing it? No, Rudra, rise! Rise and fight. Fight for your brother, for your people, for your land, for its freedom, and most importantly, for its freedom!” Rudra stood up. Suddenly he felt the air inside the room had changed. The eerie silence is no more. People were waking up. 

Everyone looked at Rudra Narayan. His determined and courageous look told everyone they were ready for the fight. 

Rudra Narayan came out of the room. Before leaving, he turned back just once. There lies his brother, senseless, bruised, yet optimistic. A smile crept on his face, a teardrop on his eyes. 

He wiped that and came out. 

Before entering the arena for the fight, he screamed. It was so loud that even the Earth shook beneath him. 

Many aged people said that only Dev Narayan Chowdhury screamed that way when he found Aditya’s dead body. Everyone stopped for a moment. 

Gargi and Rajni had tears in their eyes. They know he didn’t shout to scare his opponent, as they do. Instead, his tears expressed grief. Yes, he was sad and scared. Scared, because he saw his brother is slowly sinking to death. The flute may have stopped the flow of the poison, but that’s only for thirty hours. After that, what will he do? He looked around and saw half-naked, wretched people living miserable life in poverty. One in the forest may not experience poverty. But without their fault, they have disowned their land. They look dejected. War has destroyed most farmlands, soldiers Gurukul and Vaidya Ashram. Losing the battle isn’t an option for him. However, what’s more, important is creating a better world for his people! Suddenly there was pressure on him, and Gargi and Rajani understood he needed to release that stress. Thus, through his scream, he vented out everything.

However, Rahim looked optimistic. 

Sunaina was not far away. She looked at Rudra with astonishment. He made this boy her slave, tortured him, took away his freedom.

She had thought she had broken his spine. But now there, he stands straight, confident, and courageous. Most significantly kind. Otherwise, she would never have been alive. Yeah, Sankar indeed told him everything. Yet she is the one responsible for taking away his identity, his memory, his friends, land, and his brother from him. Still, he forgave her. Why? Maybe because he was Chitralekha’s son. Maybe, they were wrong in thinking that he, too, would turn out to be a monster like Shambhu Narayan. Another thought troubled Sunaina. The sight of Pratap pierced her heart. She felt somehow her silence ruined the child’s life for no reason. After all, Shambhu Narayan is ignorant of this boy. He doesn’t even care for him Satyaban used him to fulfill his agenda, not to harm the king. She decided to tell Vaishnavi the truth behind Pratap’s birth after the one-on-one battle. After all, she should know the truth.

*                                        *                              *

The battle between the two started. The Queen was correct. Rudra Narayan was indeed exhausted after a long journey. Apart from that, there was emotional exhaustion. This gave the Queen an advantage. However, age was favoring Rudra. It was a tough battle. Both had their advantages and disadvantages. After almost six hours, when the sun was slowly setting, they made a truce and decided to start the battle the next day. 


During the truce, both sides sat together and had their dinner. Although neither spoke much yet out of courtesy, neither argued nor quarreled too. After dinner, Queen Vaishnavi asked, “Prince can I meet your brother?” Rudra and others were amazed but happy. After all, they are mother and son. They should at least meet once. She may not know the truth, but at least she can be there for her son when he is counting hours. Rudra’s face beamed with joy. He said, “Of course, why not?” Gargi, Rajani, and others were happy too. However, Satyaban looked stressed. She took Vaishnavi in a corner and said, “May I know what you are doing? Do you forget everything? Don’t you remember what they did to your child? Why did all that happen? Because of this inauspicious boy! You still want to meet him!” Vaishnavi sternly said, “Yes, at this age, I have come to understand many things. Today, I know and believe that a newborn can be a victim of an atrocity but not the reason behind it!” Saying this, she paused and continued, “Today, when I ordered Pratap’s execution, my heart wrenched. I felt this should not happen! I felt miserable, Bhaiya!” Vaishnavi sighed, “I don’t know why, but for the first time in life, I didn’t want him dead,” by saying this, Vaishnavi broke into tears and went towards Rudra, who took him to Pratap.

Pratap was sleeping. His body bore the signs of atrocities, but he looked innocent and calm. Rudra and Vaishnavi entered his room, others waited outside. Rudra came, sat beside his bed, and caressed him. He then looked at Vaishnavi and said, “You know, aunt, I just pray to God to end the fight as soon as possible. I want to spend with him . . . ” Rudra’s voice choked, somehow he managed to say the last few words, “the last few hours.” Saying this, he broke down and started crying madly. 

Vaishnavi came closer to Rudra and hugged him. He hugged back like a child hugging his mother and cried madly like a child. Vaishnavi caressed him to calm him. It worked. After a few moments, he stopped and wiped his tears. 

It was a lovely and memorable truce everyone was witnessing. In past truce meant one side’s victory and the other’s shame and embarrassment. 

A truce never happened during the middle of a battle. Previously, at night soldiers used to rest in their camps. Both parties never shared good times this way.

Everyone understood with the new generation, fresh changes are arriving. They were touched by Rudra Narayan’s gesture. They understood this new man is not a war lover, and he has with him not just some excellent minds but some sensitive people.

Vaishnavi now sat on the other side and looked at Pratap. Her heart wrenched with an unknown sorrow. She closed her eyes and started singing a prayer song for her Lord. The words, the music, her voice were so touching that everyone’s eyes filled with tears. They immediately forgot that this was the woman who was responsible for all their misery. They were immersed in her voice that bore a pain that touched everyone, including Gargi, Rajani, Shankar, and even Chandreyi, who used to hate her. She slowly entered the room and sat beside her mother. For the first time, willingly. She was shocked. She never knew her mother had such a sensitive self!

After a while, Vaishnavi stopped. Everywhere there is a pin drop silence. Tears were there in each one’s eyes. Vaishnavi slowly went near Pratap, caressed his hair for a long time, and then kissed his forehead and hand. She noticed her daughter, pulled her in a tight hug, and kissed her forehead. After that, he came to Rudra, caressing him like his aunt would have done. Again hugged him and also kissed him on the forehead. This short family reunion was unexpected, but it did happen before the fight.

Slowly everyone went to their tent and called it a night. Rudra stayed there, in Pratap’s room with Gargi, Rajani, and Rahim Chacha. Gargi changed the dressing of his wound, tightly knotted the bandage, and said, “All these appear to be like one of the best dreams. Unbelievable yet true. But, now I think you should sleep, tomorrow you have to fight a nightmare!”

Ch 16 – Rise of King Rudra Narayan Chaudhury

The next day the fight between the Queen and Rudra started after the truce. Rudra was determined to end the battle in the morning only. He has only a few hours left with him. This morning the sight of Pratap wrenched his heart more than ever. Pratap’s hours are numbered. Deep down, a voice was constantly reminding him of the fact.

It was almost afternoon. The sun was there at the top when Rudra Narayan’s sword unarmed the Queen. She fell to her knees and felt the sharp blade of Rudra’s sword piercing her wrist. 

Everyone waited for ten seconds and finally burst out in joy! People were cheering, jumping, laughing madly, or crying out of happiness. Gargi and Rajani had hugged each other, Shankar her mother, Sunaina. Rahim Chacha was constantly wiping his tears. From everywhere, you can hear only one sound, “Hail King Rudra Narayan! Long Live King Rudra Narayan!” Yes, the era of King Rudra Narayan began at that moment. At that hour!

Rudra now took away his sword. He was panting heavily. Indeed he was exhausted from the two-day-long fight. He now looked at Vaishnavi. She is all shattered. Rudra felt sorry for her and angry toward Shambhu Narayan. Nothing of this would have happened if his war-hungry father hadn’t waged that stupid war. 

Rudra came near Vaishnavi and offered her his hand. Vaishnavi looked shocked but slowly accepted it. 

A small smile crept on both people’s faces. Rudra decided to tell the truth about Pratap to Vaishnavi, so he knelt when suddenly an arrow hit Vaishnavi’s chest! It happened so suddenly that everyone was shocked. For a moment, everything around them paused. People were bewildered. They don’t know what’s happening! Suddenly, the trance broke. Rajani ran with her sword to look for the man who did this to the Queen. Shankar followed her, Gargi rushed to the Queen to check her pulse. Soon Gargi understood that the Queen was sinking. She looked at Rudra. Her eyes were telling him that he was going to lose her soon.

Rudra pulled the Queen in a tight hug. He said, “Please, please stay!” The Queen was still breathing. She feebly said, “You are the most generous king, after my husband, I have ever witnessed!” She paused to breathe, “Never thought you would take forward his bloodline.”

Rudra now broke the hug. He said, in a broken voice, “I am not the one taking forward my uncle’s legacy. His son is doing that!” For a moment, there was pin-drop silence. 

Queen Vaishnavi started breathing heavily. She couldn’t speak a word. Instead, she clutched Rudra’s hand! 

Rudra held her hand tightly and said, “My mother gave birth to a girl who didn’t survive long. My mother replaced the girl with your boy. She feared that the enemy would kill him!” Vaishnavi’s heart started racing. Rudra continued, “Tez is Pratapaditya. Not Pratap Narayan Chaudhury!” For a moment, the world stopped for Vaishnavi. 

The first image that flashed before Vaishnavi’s eyes were Pratap’s intelligent, sharp yet sorrowful eyes. Ones she noticed and ignored. When she met him for the first time in her bed-chamber in front of the king. “Hear Me! Again! Your. Son. Is. . . . Alive!” Rudra broke almost every word to make it clear to Vaishnavi. The wounded women looked blankly at Rudra, her lips moved, and feebly uttered a word, “Bhai . . . . ?” Rudra composed himself and said, “The fire of revenge is a dangerous thing!” Vaishnavi understood its meaning and closed her eyes. She had flashes of all those events when she tortured Pratap. Asked her men to uproot all his nails. Tied him with a running carriage, whipped him in front of everyone, put him inside the dungeon for a year, let him carry ten tons of bricks while being chained, and finally ordered his execution. Is there any memory where she had been nice to her son? Not a single one? She suddenly remembered the previous night. She sang a song for him. Maybe her first and last lullaby to her son! This thought relieved her from the pain a bit! But not fully!

“All scores of my sins are now settled!” 

Well, these were the last words of Queen Vaishnavi! 

*                                        *                                       *

While Rudra and Gargi were with the Queen, Rajani with Shankar ran behind the man who shot Vaishnavi with the arrow. Although Shankar’s wound around the neck was hurting, he didn’t stop himself from chasing the man. Yet both can’t reach him. He seemed to have vanished into the woods. “He made himself invisible!” said Shankar panting! Rajani, breathing heavily, said, “Can he do that?”

“Of course, he can. Don’t forget he was once the most learned man of our land, Satyanagar!”

“Hmmm! So, now?”

“Well, you lost his trace! You can’t even have footsteps in this clear and hot weather!”

“Damn!” Cried Rajani, punching her fists!

Shankar held her shoulder and said, “Let’s go. We have lost him! Uncle Satyaban has the brightest brain! His brain did great things in our land. But, now it is ticking dangerously!”

Rajani sighed and started walking. Shankar followed her!

*                                           *                                        *

Rudra did the last rites of Queen Vaishnavi. Like Pratap would have done. He said to Gargi, “When Pratap wakes up, he would know his brother did everything he can. Except for saving her!” Saying this, Rudra broke into tears. He cried madly, putting his head on Gargi’s lap. Everyone thought today would have been the day of their merriment! Alas, it wasn’t! People of Narayan Garh may have won the fight but have lost a life and would lose one more. Pratap!

*                                              *                                      *

Rajani caressed Pratap maybe for the thousandth time! She had not left him after returning! For almost one-and-half hours, she was sitting beside Pratap and didn’t move an inch since then. She kissed his forehead once more. Gargi came and sat beside her, trying to pull her off him, but she didn’t move! Gargi checked the pulse once more. It’s weak. Not more than thirty minutes are left for him. “Did Rudra Bhai’s flute give him eternal sleep, Gargidi? Won’t he wake up?” asked young Chandreyi. Gargi pulled her in a hug and caressed her. She, too, is running out of words. Rahim Chacha was sitting near his head, saying prayers to his Lord. 

Sunaina was in the corner of that ruin, doing the same. Shankar was sitting beside her mother! And Rudra? 

He stood in the doorway. Lifeless. His eyes were dry! So was his heart! Someone has soaked all blood, all life from him! He is living because he had to. Not because he wants to! 

He wanted to scream, shout, cry. But he is a King. He had duties. He had a stature! In front of all his people, he should stand straight! Strong!

“Strong? Huh? Strong!” He thought, “I can’t be strong anymore, Tez! Please don’t leave me! I need you! I know I failed at protecting you, but for that, please don’t punish me in this way!” Tears were forming in his eyes, so Rudra left that place and sat under a mango tree.

“Tezzzzzz!!!!!” He screamed! Out loud! He was shattered. He buried his face within his knees and started crying. Suddenly he felt a hand around his shoulder. He looked up and found Chandreyi beside him. She was crying too. Both siblings pulled each other in a hug. They lost their near and dear ones, now they will lose the person they love the most. The worst part is they can do nothing. Other than sitting and watching. Each second, Pratap is sinking towards death. Yet they can’t save him. They are willing to sacrifice everything for the life of their brother. All weapons, all treasures, and everything they own. Alas, nothing seems to be necessary. His death is inevitable. 

They don’t know how long they hugged each other until they were interrupted by a rabbit. Chandreyi wiped his tears and lifted him lovingly. After that, she kissed the rabbit on his nose and squeaked. The rabbit, too, did the same. Rudra looked astonished, but what was more surprising was, Chandreyi’s face. She was beaming with joy. “What happened, Chandreyi? You can speak to a rabbit?” 

“Yes, Pratap Bhai taught me. Since I am friends with most animals in this forest! And thank god, he taught me. Else we wouldn’t have saved him!”

“Save? What do you mean, Chandreyi?” Rudra stood up! He can’t believe his ears. Chandreyi also stood up and said, “Yes, Bhai” saying this, she pointed at the mango tree, under which they were sitting, and said, “You see, this is a five-hundred-years old mango tree. Everyone called her Ma. She cannot speak our language but understand it pretty well. She knew all about Pratap Bhai and was impressed with him too. Especially after he saved the river! She also saw us lamenting, which filled her heart with sorrow! So, she is offering us help!”

“What kind of help?”

“You see, the poison can only be inside a living being” saying this, Chandreyi paused. After gulping a bit, she said, “Well, Ma wants to be the carrier of that poison!”

“Of course not!” Saying this, Rudra faced the tree and knelt before her, and in a polite tone, said, “Ma, thanks a lot for your generosity. We are moved. But my brother wouldn’t accept his life, even if you give him that. You are moved because he saved a river. You must understand then, he can’t bear your death too! He loved everyone equally. Not just humans!”

Chandreyi understood each word Rudra said and translated the same to the rabbit. The rabbit came back and said something to her. Chandreyi said, “Ma is saying after living for five-hundred years. After witnessing endless wars and death, life becomes a burden. She is asking you to grant her freedom. As the King of this land, you can grant freedom to one of your subjects!” Rudra faced the tree with teary eyes and said, “Please, don’t say such things. You see, I never had the chance to call anyone Ma. For the first time, I am calling someone Ma. How can I kill you?”

Chandreyi, in a broken and teary voice, translated everything to the rabbit For a moment, there was pin-drop silence. A soft breeze was there. It was pretty soothing. 

The rabbit came and said something to Chandreyi again. Chandreyi said, “Ma said, in next life, or a different world you will be his son! But for now, she wants freedom!” 

*                                          *                                       *

Rudra finally agreed to trade his brother’s life with the mango tree. Pratap was bought near the tree. He lay there while everyone helped him to touch the trunk. Slowly, the bluish color of his body started fading, and tree leaves started turning brown. As if dry. Gradually all the leaves in the tree dried. While Pratap began breathing normally. Gargi checked his pulse. “It’s a miracle! He is alive!” She exclaimed!

Everyone cried in joy! They hugged each other! 

Pratap opened his eyes. He looked around him and then at the dead tree! He was too weak to utter a word! Rudra came and hugged him tight! Pratap feebly uttered, “Bhai!” Saying this, he again lost his consciousness! 

 Ch 17 – He is Back!

For a month, Pratap was unconscious. You shouldn’t forget the kind of torture he went through for seven years. So, even though the poison was out of his body, none can deny that he was severely wounded and exhausted. Moreover, if you remember, when, before the fight, he unlocked inspiring and motivating dreams. Remember what he said? “when the memories do not get unlocked naturally, you unlock them.” And when Rudra asked, “How? What do you trade?” he cleverly ignored it. Why? Because he knew the answers wouldn’t have pleased his brother. You see, unlocking dreams forcefully has a price. 

People who gift beautiful dreams curse them with dreadful nightmares. Thus, Pratap waking up from consciousness means his days of having nightmares will start. After all, an unconscious mind cannot have nightmares or dreams. Hence, deep down, Pratap has lost the desire to gain consciousness. Finally, a glance at the mango tree was enough for him to guess that his brother had traded his life with that of the mango tree. Hence, the guilt within him was overwhelming.

However, Rudra carried out all his duties as a king. The official ceremony is yet to take place. Rudra will not have that without his brother. Although it does not mean Rudra has not faithfully carried out his duty as a king. On the contrary, he devoted almost twenty-four hours of his life to his land and its welfare. 

After all, the land he got after defeating was almost a ruin. Agricultural lands got destroyed due to too much war and unnecessary experiments, Gurukuls and Vaidya Ashrams were all burned, weird laws have divided the land per individual’s occupations. Too many corrupt ministers have usurped almost all treasures and wealth owned by the kingdom and fled. Soldiers are all exhausted. Moreover, since Narayan Garh has constantly waged war against more or less everyone, other countries do not want to establish a trade relationship with them. In short, Narayan Garh’s children are now without education, farmers without occupations, soldiers almost without emotions, and citizens without food, proper healthcare, and motivation. Thus, Rudra was given the Herculean task of rebuilding the nation from scratch. 

He would have happily carried out his duty if his brother were there beside him. But, with Pratap unconscious, he was every day losing inspiration to be the ruler of the land. The cherry on the top is King Shambhu Narayan’s constant bickering about making the army stronger. Rudra is aware that defense is significant, but that’s not everything. The only hope and his only driving force were Rahim Chacha, Rajani, Nilesh, and Gargi. 

Rahim Chacha currently takes care of the administrative issues, while Nilesh is trying hard to mend things with the traders. Rajani was taking care of the defense, and Gargi was ensuring the welfare of the Vaidya Ashrams. Even though Chandreyi was young yet a princess, Rudra gave him the job of connecting with teachers of the Gurukul to know their thoughts about rebuilding the Gurukuls. 

Shankar, too, helped Rudra to deal with the land problems. Her mother was a learned lady, and like Pratap, she too knew to make non-farming land fit for farming. But even after all specialists, and best people at a place, Rudra was at a loss! You don’t believe it. Okay, let’s have a peep inside their conference room.

King Rudra Narayan Chaudhury has asked his council to gather for a meeting to discuss stately affairs. Everyone awaits him in the conference room. 

There is a big round table; the council sat around the same. Each had hookahs, food, and drinks in front of them. Previously these were served on silver plates, but currently, the kingdom is running out of wealth, so Rudra Narayan’s order was to use the much cheaper brass plates. Moreover, the food was not extravagant but enough to quench the hunger. 

After a while, Rudra Narayan entered with King Shambhu Narayan. Even though King Shambhu Narayan has retired from the post, he accompanied his son because he wanted to raise some points. Rudra couldn’t say “No” to him because Rahim Chacha told him it may enrage the people, especially those who were once and still loyal to him. Unfortunately or fortunately, whatever you say, the council had some of those loyal men (no women because King Shambhu Narayan only trusted one, Queen Vaishnavi). 

As Rudra Narayan entered, everyone stood up to show respect, while Rudra folded his hand and bowed to greet everyone there. Astonished King, Shambhu Narayan whispered, “Why do you bow? You are the King. Kings never bow. People bow in front of them!” Rudra smiled, looking straight to the council, and without breaking eye contact with them, whispered to his father, “I am only the King. Not the Almighty!” He then faced his father and, in a clear voice, said, “I respect my council and its people. I will show that! Also, one thing Father, you have never appreciated people telling you how to behave after you have become the King. I will not go on the same path. I know very little, so yes, I will ask everyone to advise me. Yes, even if it is about my behavior. However, please don’t think I will accept all suggestions. I will follow only those I feel right because I am big enough to make judgments and take decisions,” saying this Rudra faced the council and said, “I hope with you the council here will respect my judgments.”

“Pardon me, my King, are you saying that we cannot question your judgments. Well, in that case, this will be my first and last council meet,” said Gargi, who felt Rudra’s voice was showing arrogance. Maybe he wants to show that to his father, but Gargi and a few others in the council did not like it.

“Pardon me, Vaid Gargi. My words have hurt your feelings, but please do not go my words. Of all people, you are the one who knows I am not much good with my words. Without fear, you can question my judgments. I give you and the whole council that assurance. We can debate, argue, go through questioning sessions before we conclude something. After all, these are all part of a healthy rule. Complete obedience is not something that I support. Or I want from you. But, if my judgments are supported with rationality, wisdom, and emotions, I pray, please do not oppose that only because you are from the older generation, or because I am younger to you,” Rudra said the last few words, looking at her father. The council tapped the table to applaud their new king. 

Rudra sat and signaled everyone to take their seat. “I guess I have already given my speech to begin our first council meeting. Do I have to say more?” Everyone laughed at his joke, while Rudra smiled and said, “So, now we can talk business, right?”

“Of course, my King,” said Rahim Chacha and continued, “Can I raise my concern, first?”

“Why not? What is it?”

“Your Majesty, you see, previously this land had a weird law. According to that law, our state was divided per occupation. Thus, people from the farmer’s village cannot be in the cobblers’ village or the merchant’s village. I believe this law requires change. People should pursue the occupation of their desire. The state should not bind them and force them to be in a specific profession!”

“I completely agree. But, what does the council has to say in this matter?” asked Rudra

“My King,” said an old teacher of the Gurukul, “People will pursue the occupation of their desire no doubt, but is there enough of it in this land? Our previous rulers only built armies and manufactured sophisticated weapons, if any occupation flourishing in this land is that of a soldier and weapon makers. Other occupations are neglected. People do not get paid enough. Hence, they leave the nation. Cross the sea in search of better opportunities. If you are giving assurance to your people that they can follow the path of their dreams, create enough job opportunities.”

“You are right, Guru Shashank. We have to create better job opportunities, and we also have to make our farming land suitable for farming. And this brings me to you, Queen Sunaina. I know you are a guest. But thank you so much for helping us out and temporarily agreeing to be a part of the council. What do you have to say regarding your research?” asked Rudra to Sunaina.

“Well, Your Majesty, I know to change the non-farming land to fertile farming land. However, for that, I need a few things. They are found only in the forest. The forest here, I am aware, but not entirely. Is there anyone who can help? It will be excellent if someone who knows the trees and leaves helps me!” said Sunain, hopefully looking at others. There was pin-drop silence. Slowly, Chandreyi spoke, “Well, I know the forest better than many. But, I am not much aware of all trees and leaves. Pratap Bhai taught me a few, but I didn’t get a chance to know all! Maybe Guru Shashank can help! He only taught Pratap Bhai!”

“I am getting old. With age, you tend to forget your identity, let alone knowledge. That’s why I gifted my years of pursuit and knowledge, you can say my wealth, to my brightest student. Pratap. Not even to my child,” Guru Shashank said, and then in a broken voice, said, “Ah! Silly boy! He could live a lavish life far away from all this. He knew so much to call himself a magician and con people. Silly, silly boy!” 

“Men in our army are also very de-motivated, your majesty. They are weak, exhausted, and haunted by nightmares. Apart from physical exhaustion, there is mental stress. It is not very good for our defense?” said Rajani.

“We have also failed to establish one single trade relationship. With one single country across the sea. Our war-hungry reputation has ruined it all!” said Nilesh with a dejected voice.

“Nonsense!” Snapped King Shambhu Narayan, “War makes us stronger! Not weaker! What about the riches we have earned, conquering nations?”

“Well, Father, report here says, your corrupt ministers have usurped half of it. Rest is used to compensate for your travel expenses and the luxurious lifestyle of the kingdom!” angrily said Rudra Narayan showing him a few parchment papers.

The arguments would have gone far as Shambhu Narayan was getting ready to speak when the door knocked. “Come in!” said Rudra. A guard entered and bowed, “Forgive me, your majesty, but two of the servants are eager to meet you. I have tried to resist them, but they said it is about Prince Pratap!”

Rudra stood up when he heard Pratap’s name. So did others. He said, “Call them!”

Two servants entered, panting and bowed. Rudra signaled to speak when both started talking in unison, “yourmajestyprincepratapisnotinbed,” said one! “yourmajestyprincepratapgarden!” said another! 

Everyone looked puzzled. Rudra lifted his hand and asked them to stop. Then he said, “Relax! Relax! You want some water?” They nodded. Rudra signaled the guard to bring water. The guard brought water they both finished it in one go. Now, Rudra signaled the first person. The lady said, “Your Majesty, Prince Pratap is not in bed. His bed was covered with mud and wild leaves! The entire room has dirt. As if a storm has hit only that room and nowhere else!” Rudra now faced the second servant. The man said, “Your Majesty, I saw Prince Pratap bathing in the river! But all his wounds, those dark and black patches, everything, it’s not there! As if he never had any wound! Not a single wound was there in the body!” Before the servant had finished, Rajani ran out of the room, followed by Chandreyi. Everyone else slowly followed except for Rudra and Gargi. 

Rudra held his chair and sat down while Gargi came and hugged him. Now he could not control his tears. He started crying. After a while, Rudra composed himself and said, “Finally, he is back!” 

Ch 18 – The Map!

Pratap was enjoying himself amidst nature. After a long time, he feels lighter. A few minutes ago, he had a small yet impactful conversation with the leaves. They thanked him for freeing Ma from immense pain and burden. Well, Pratap didn’t believe them at first. However, they are convincing enough, so, soon he believed. Now, he feels pretty relaxed and stress-free, especially amidst nature, in the middle of the forest, swimming across the river. Well, that’s precisely his things. 

He had some chit-chat with the river, whom he saved from the poison. After a while, he came out of the river and was about to lift a towel to dry himself when he found a pair of strong arms embracing him. He was first taken aback but soon realized that it was Rajani. He smiled and said, “I never knew you would be awake so early?” Rajani pulled herself from the hug and said, “Rudra called the first council meeting at 3 am. You know, to maintain secrecy and all!”

Pratap stepped back and looked at Rajani once again. Since she embraced Pratap, she was all drenched in water. “Oh my god! You are all drenched, Rajani,” said Pratap, while finding it hard to hide his smile. “Really, Pratap? You think you are being funny?” Pratap smiled and came near her, pulled her in a hug, and said, “Well, you have given me that permission, I guess?” Rajani smiled shyly (maybe for the first time) and said, “You seemed to have changed after the war?”

“So, what do you think? I have changed for good or bad?” asked Pratap while pulling Rajani out of her embrace. Rajani would have answered when suddenly someone screamed, “Bhai!” Pratap looked up and saw Chandreyi standing there. He smiled while Chandreyi came running and hugged him tightly.  

Pratap caressed her hair while others entered the forest. Now Pratap started feeling shy because he was just wearing a dhoti, and it was all drenched. He wanted to hide somewhere, but alas, he couldn’t. Chandreyi, by then, had left him, making Pratap even shyer. He was looking at his toe to avoid the gaze of others. His arms were uncomfortably wrapped around his bare skin. 

There was an awkward silence, and it would have prevailed more if a strong arm wouldn’t have wrapped him with a shawl. Pratap looked up and immediately sighed in relief. It was Rudra. “Change first. After that, we will talk. Wait for me in my room,” smiled Rudra and made way for Pratap. The guards took him inside the palace. 

Rajani saw Pratap moving out of the forest and excitedly said, “So, we call off the meeting now?” Guru Shashank now spoke, “No, my King, do not call off the meeting. Let people, especially those loyal to King Shambhu Narayan know that Pratap is a part of the council. He should be there on the first meeting only.” Everyone, including Rajani, supported the fact. Rudra sent his words to bring Pratap to the first council meeting. Pratap was waiting for Rudra when a servant-woman entered his room. She was pretty old when Pratap saw her a smile crept on his face, he came near and touched the lady’s feet. The lady stepped back in fear and said, “What do you do, Prince?” Pratap smiled and said, “I am your child first, Dai Ma, then a Prince!” These brought tears to the lady’s eyes. Pratap came near her and said, “Won’t you bless me?” The old lady slowly moved her hand over his head to bless him. “You have not changed a bit,” said the woman. Pratap smiled and said, “But Rajani told me I have changed a lot!” The woman teasingly said, “Maybe you have changed for her!” Both now laughed in unison, then the woman said, “Now come sit. Have some food,” saying this she brought out a beautifully embroidered cloth and laid it down on the floor. Pratap sat there, and the woman went outside and brought a glass of milk, a few dry fruits for him, and a piece of parchment with him. “What’s that?” asked Pratap, looking at the parchment. 

“I don’t know. I found it on your bed while cleaning it. By the way, I must tell you your room was a real mess. But, now it is spick and span,” said the old lady while handing Pratap the parchment. She would have continued when a guard informed her that King Rudra Narayan expected him for the first council meeting. Pratap was shocked as he thought Rudra would ask him to rest. But, still, he said, “Tell the King, I am coming.” The guard left, and Pratap was about to leave when the old lady said, “I won’t allow you to leave unless you have finished the milk. If for that the King punishes me, I am ready.” Pratap took the glass, made a face, finished the milk, and said, “You know more than your King, I fear you.”

*                                    *                                         *

“I thought we had to end the council meeting. After all, King’s dear younger brother is now in his sense!” said the King mockingly. Rudra did not pay heed to it. He looked at the door, where there was a knock. The guard informed Prince Pratap had sent his words. “Call him,” said Rudra. Pratap entered and, with folded hands, greeted everyone. He, too, like Rudra, bowed in front of everyone.

Guru Shashank stood up and said, “Come, dear, come. Sit beside me.” Pratap, without protest, went near and touched his feet. Guru Shashank blessed him wholeheartedly. Pratap was about to sit when a loyal minister of King Shambhu Narayan spoke. “Pardon me, King Rudra Narayan, but is Prince Pratapaditya of Vikrampur attending our council meet as a guest, like, Queen Sunaina, or is he a permanent member of the council?”

Rudra looked at Rahim Chacha, who spoke now, “Well, my dear Members of the Council, I must remind you of an old treaty,” he took out a parchment, saying this, and put it in front of the council. He continued, “Thirty-five years ago, our King Shambhu Narayan almost lost a battle to one of the foreign powers. We would have lost our land had it not been for King Vikramaditya of Vikrampur. He agreed to take some diplomatic decisions on our behalf. Because of the relations, he had with us. It not only saved our land from embarrassment but also from monetary loss too. On that day, we framed this law, which gave the rulers of Vikrampur the right to be a part of our council.”

“I thought that treaty was no longer valid as our truce with Vikrampur ended long ago,” said the minister.

“Well, we are reviving some old treaties. For the sake of our land,” said Rudra.

“Of course we are. But, King Rudra Narayan, had it not been dear brother, would you have revived the old treaty?” continued the minister while King Shambhu Narayan smiled. 

Pratap was about to say something when Rudra gestured for him to stop. He said, “Yes, minister, you are right. My brother is dear to me. But, minister, if I am not wrong, like many others, the Queen imprisoned your brother? May I know why?”

“Because we lost a battle under his leadership,” fumbled the minister.

“Right, and I guess the Queen and your dear King Shambhu Narayan called him a traitor?” said Rudra while the minister put his head down in support. Rudra continued, “So, minister, was your brother a traitor? What? Answer me?”

“No. No, my King!” the minister fumbled again.

“Exactly. Just like losing one battle doesn’t make your brother a traitor, in the same way, suddenly coming across the fact that Prince Pratapaditya was, in reality, the Prince of Vikrampur does not make him a foreigner in this land. Don’t forget, for the past seven years, he didn’t fight for the independence and well-being of Vikrampur. But of this land. Even after knowing the truth, he embraced death. He didn’t even try to reveal his identity to Queen Vaishnavi. Finally, don’t forget your brother gained freedom because my brother stood by him and fought for him. Your brother was released from prison. But do you know the price my brother paid for that?” 

“Bhai don’t-” Pratap tried to stop Rudra but seeing Rudra’s angry eyes, he didn’t say anything, “Tez, you know what? You are a fool! You sacrificed for those who forget your years of pain and just remembered the identity revealed a month ago! I am angry with you because you never thought about yourself, your well-being. Even after knowing, who you are, you gifted these “people” dreams. Why? So that they don’t feel de-motivated! They don’t lose hope! I don’t know what price you paid for it? What curse now you carry with you? But I know one thing, these people curse you because of your fate, and to some extent, these people, too, are responsible for taking away your land and your kingdom. Such an irony!” Rudra stopped, took a deep breath, and said, “Fine. I won’t argue on this matter anymore. I know this upsets Tez more than anyone else in the meeting. So, let’s vote, whosoever wants Pratap to be a permanent member of the council, raise your hand?” 

Half the council raised their hands in favor of Pratap; the other half didn’t. It was a tie. Slowly, the minister who opposed Pratap’s stay raised his hand. A smile crept on Rudra’s face. He saw tears in the eyes of the minister. He stood up and folded hands before Pratap, who got embarrassed. The minister said, “Forgive me, Prince. I know not what I was doing. If not for you, the Queen would have killed my brother. King Shambhu Narayan would have supported it. I know not what you went through for that, but I know one thing for sure. Whatever you went through was not pleasant!” the minister broke into tears. Pratap came and held his hand, “Don’t cry. I am not angry with you. You were right when you said I am not the Prince of this land!”

“No, my Prince, biological belonging proves nothing. Your heart belongs here. It beat for the people of Narayan Garh. You are the Prince who will remain in the history of Narayan Garh. Forever!”

Everyone smiled at this and council resume. Soon the council understood why Pratap is an essential part of the council. Apart from offering help to Sunaina, he also helped Nilesh. He said, “Bhai, instead of crossing the sea, why don’t we invite merchants of these countries to our place for your official crowning ceremony. It will give you and them a chance to know each other and the land. Let them know we have changed our war-hungry attitude. Maybe they will be interested in establishing a trade relationship with us. They can also influence their rulers.”

“Will they come?” asked a bit tensed Nilesh.

“Well, not everyone. But few will definitely come. Few is all we need to spread words across the sea!” said Pratap.

“What about our army?” asked Rajani.

“Let’s give me them a break. Ask the soldiers to take leave and spend time with their families. Make it an order that they must follow. Also, inform them that we won’t deduct any salary for their leave!” said Rudra.

“Vaid Gargi, I guess you have some questions too?” Pratap asked intently, looking at Gargi. Gargi, who was confused about what to say, looked up. She said, “I don’t know how to say this, but even after searching for a month, I couldn’t find a place where we could set up a new Vaidya Ashram. Taking it far away can create problems as Vaidyas are needed here. Especially for the physically and mentally wounded army and prisoners.” 

“The Queen was building a palace for her. It was hidden because it was private to her. She built it to practice magic and such things. You can use this place for a new Vaidya Ashram. I will help you, and General can help me with her power to de-veil the place. So, it can be in front of everyone.” said Pratap. Can you guess who the General was? Yes, it was Rajani. 

“Is it big enough?” asked anxious Chandreyi.

Pratap smiled and said, “Yes, Princess. Big enough to incorporate a Vaidya Ashram and a Gurukul!” Chandreyi was astonished. She was thinking about Gurukul only, “How did Pratap Bhai know?” thought Chandreyi. But, Pratap just gave a smile.

*                                         *                                 *

After the successful council meeting, Pratap was resting in his room. Wrong, he was intently reading the parchment DaiMa gave him. He remembered, distinctly, he had nothing with him when he last lost his senses. Then how come DaiMa found this parchment in his room? Did someone enter the room when he was unconscious?” He was thinking all this when Rudra came inside the room. But Pratap was too immersed in his thoughts to notice that. He was reading the parchment and constantly smoking the hookah. Smoking was one bad habit that Pratap had, although, in the kingdom, it was regarded as a virtue and not as a bad habit. It was something that Rudra never had. Once Acharya mockingly said, “You Know Rudra, even though your father doesn’t like Pratap that much, he is the one who is smoothly gonna pass the first task of becoming a ruler?”

“Why so?” asked innocent teenager Rudra!

“Well, because like many rulers of this land, he smokes too much” Acharya broke into laughter with Rudra. Then he sighed and said, “Unfortunately, he got this habit from me. Whenever I am tensed and worried, I smoke too much. He spent too much time with me and imbibed all my habits. After all, he follows me. But, I am worried about the knowledge and the power he is acquiring. Smoking is bad for that. He can lose his powers if he smokes too much.”

“Don’t worry, Acharya. I am there, with me by his side. He would never suffer. Neither will lose his powers.” said confident Rudra.

Rudra remembered that and entered the room smiling. He saw the drink servant had served him long ago. It was there untouched. Pratap was studying the map. However, he had several other books and parchments around him. He looked worried. Rudra slowly takes the hookah from Pratap’s hand. Suddenly, Pratap’s trance is broken. He saw Rudra standing there, but he ignored him. As if he was not there. He again went back to reading the map.

“What was that Tez?” asked astonished Rudra.

“Good afternoon, my King. I thought I finally got time to relax. Please don’t prove me wrong!” said a bit angry Pratap. Rudra smiled at his innocent brother and said, “So, my Prince is angry?”

“Give my hookah back?”

“It is not good for you. You can lose your powers!”

“As if you care!”

Rudra knelt before him, lifted his chin, and said, “I don’t care for you? You want to say that?” Pratap looked away. Rudra stood, put the hookah in the folder, and said, “Okay, since you are in no mood, Prince. I am leaving!” Rudra was about to move when Pratap said, “If you have indeed cared, you would have asked me to rest in the morning.”

“Haven’t you rested for a month, Tez! I wanted people to know that Prince Pratapaditya is a part of the council. I don’t want people to forget your sacrifice. Things you did for this land,” Rudra said. Pratap came near him, held his hand, and said, “I only want to be your Tez, not the kingdom’s Prince. Even if I am not on the council, I will always help you. Trust me.”

“I know that, Tez. But I don’t want that. I want people to recognize you for your work. I want people to respect you, not pity you.” Pratap remained silent. His head was down. 

He understood he had made a mistake. There was an awkward silence when Rudra embraced him in a tight hug, caressing his hair said, “Silly boy, why do you always choose to be in hiding? Why don’t you let people know the things you are doing for them?”

“I only want you to know what I am doing. I don’t need anyone else!” said Pratap with tears. Rudra pulled him out of the hug and wiped the tears. He then took him to his bed, and both sat there. Again there was a silence. Rudra wanted to tell Pratap about Queen Vaisnavi’s demise but failed to have the courage to do so. 

“What’s the matter, Bhai?”

“Tez, I don’t know how to tell this to you. But there is something that you should know!”

“Let me help you,” said Pratap with a smile, “Thank you, Bhai. For carrying out Queen Vaishnavi’s last rites. I would have been the one doing that. Instead, you did. Like her son. Thank you very much” There was pin-drop silence in the room. Rudra looked shocked. Pratap gave a sad smile and said, “You forgot. I still have the power to converse with nature.” Again there was silence. Rudra entangled his fingers with that of Pratap’s. Pratap clutched the bedsheet as if controlling his tears. After a moment, Pratap put his head on Rudra’s chest while he caressed him. 

“So, what were you studying so deeply?” asked Rudra to change the topic. Pratap excitedly sat up and wiped his tears. He then showed the parchment to Rudra and said, “This morning, I met DaiMa, who gave me this parchment. He said he found it in my room. But, I clearly remembered I had nothing with me when I lost my senses!”

“Maybe you forgot, Tez. See, it has the signature of Ramprasad Vaidya. He may only have given you when you met him,” said Rudra. Pratap looked shocked and said, “But I never met Ramprasad Vaidya?” Now it was Rudra’s turn to look surprised. “But the letter you gave to father, one that revealed your true identity, that sorry letter, there you said to look for Ramprasad Vaidya to stop the war.” Pratap looked puzzled. Rudra could tell from his look that he didn’t know anything about Ramprasad Vaidya. Rudra now became angry and said, “What? Don’t you believe me? Fine, come, I will show you.” Thus, Rudra dragged Pratap out of his room. 

Rudra brought Pratap into his room and pulled out the letter from a chest. He then handed it to Pratap. Pratap looked at the letter, then at Rudra. “See, I told you, you forgot!” said excited Rudra. 

“Bhai, it has no mention to Ramprasad Vaidya,” Pratap said without breaking his eye contact with Rudra. Rudra snatched the paper from his hand and went through it once more. It is just an apology letter. There was no mention of Ramprasad Vaidya. Rudra looked shocked. He said, “Believe me, Tez. I am not lying.”

“I believe you, Bhai. Trust me, I believe you. Something is the matter!” Pratap looked worried.

“I have a very bad feeling, Tez!” said tensed Rudra.

“On the contrary,” Pratap smiled and said, “I have a good vibe. Maybe we are about to begin a journey!”


“Or you can call it an adventure! Mark my words, Bhai! The wild sea is calling us!”

*                                          *                                   *

Author’s Note:

Hey, guys and gals, hopefully, you are all doing well? So, what do you think of my novel? Do you like it? I want to know what you think of it? Any ideas where the map will take them? What awaits them in the future? Is it something deadly? Are you thrilled enough? Please let me know! I really want to engage with you all!

Ch 19 – The Beginning of the Final Adventure

“I can’t believe this. You understand its meaning, Pratap?” said an anxious Sunaina looking at the map. They gathered in Rudra’s room, not for a council meeting but for a private meeting. At Pratap’s request, Rudra had called them. Sunaina was the first one to react when she saw the map. Pratap nodded in affirmation and said, “I can, Aunt Sunaina. That’s why I asked Bhai to call this meeting.”

“Wait, wait! You see, you both are speaking cryptically. Can you please explain to us what precisely you are talking about? Because I cannot understand a bit! I don’t know about others,” said agitated Rudra.

“Seriously, Pratap, please explain things to us,” supported Gargi.

“Well, you see, Gargidi, this map directs us to the magical forest there in the far north!” said Pratap.

“Why? And why is it with you?” Pratap looked at Rudra. He was not sure whether to tell Gargi about Ramprasad Vaid or not. After all, this map, too, doesn’t have his signature now. Rudra signaled in negation. So, Pratap hid the fact and said, “Well, Gargidi, that’s not the point! The point is, whosoever has given it to us wants us to be there in the forest. Maybe we can find Satyaban there. We all know we cannot save ourselves or our kingdom as long as Satyaban is alive.”

“But how do you know whosoever has given you the map, his or her intentions are good?” asked a suspicious Gargi.

“Well, Gargi, intentions can be either. But my question is whether we should all go to that forest or not?” asked Rudra.

“Whatever you decide, Rudra, be very careful. Your voyage to the magical forest will not be an easy one. Before reaching the forest, you have to cross the wild sea. It’s a very tricky sea filled with mists and mystery. Rarely I heard people crossing that sea.” said tensed Sunaina.

“Why, mother? Is the atmosphere too windy? Or do you fear the wild sea beasts? Sankar asked.

“Well, I don’t want to boast, but my navigation skills on the sea are pretty good. You see, I have voyaged in the sea in extreme weather. Weather conditions won’t be a problem,” said confident Nilesh.

“Well, we have the best warrior on our team as far as the wild beasts are concerned. Our King. Rudra Narayan,” said Rajani with a mischievous smile.

“Why left yourself out, General,” answered witty Rudra.

“You didn’t understand. It’s not the wild beast or the sea. The dangers are beyond that!” said Pratap. 

“As in?” Rudra asked.

There was pin-drop silence in the room, then Sunaina spoke, “Dangers are beyond your imaginations, Rudra. The fight will not be against any outside enemy. But against those, that’s inside you.” Except for Pratap, everyone looked confused. “We don’t understand you, Sunaina?” Sunaina looked at Pratap. Pratap said, “Rajani do you know yourself? Can you face your worst fears? Your insecurities? Rajani remained quiet. Pratap then looked at Gargi and said, “Gargidi?” The same silence prevailed. Pratap finally looked at Rudra, straight in his eyes, and asked, “Bhai you?” Rudra said, “Does the voyage to the sea means we will be our own enemy?” Pratap slowly nodded his head in affirmation. Everyone remained silent for a moment. Finally, Gargi spoke, “We should take this voyage. Even if that means no Satyaban out there in the magical forest?” Everyone looked surprised. Rajani said, “But, Gargidi, why would we take such a risk?”

“Because Rajani, it is easy to fight the outside enemy. But the monster within us, if we don’t know them, will slowly ruin us, causing bigger destruction. Something as big as destroying Vikrampur and Satya Nagar. If King Shambhu Narayan had encountered the monster within him, maybe things would have been better for every one of us,” said Gargi.

“I like your spirit, Gargi. But I have a question. We are assuming that whatever this magical forest is, there is Satyaban. So, he, too, has crossed the sea. He has already a monster. What things did he face?” asked Rudra.

“Bhai, we never said we will fight only the monsters within us. We said we would have to face our insecurities. In our case, it can be related to darkness. However, in Satyaban’s case, his are concerned with light. Don’t forget once he was a good man. If King Shambhu Narayan’s army hadn’t tortured and killed his wife if his brother was still alive, he wouldn’t have changed into what he had become today. I guess, Satyaban faced the light within him. My gut feeling is saying he had crossed the sea.”

“How you are so sure, Pratap?” Rajani asked.

“I am sure because I know there is no hope for Satyaban. There is no light left within him,” Pratap said with a sigh! A silence prevailed, which was broken by Sunaina. She asked, “So, what do you all decide?”

“I am in for the voyage, always!” said Gargi. 

“Me too,” said Nilesh.

“Well, I, too, am excited about exploring this mysterious sea. It sounds like an adventure,” said excited Rajani.

“Same here, Rajani di,” said Chandreyi

“I want to face the inner monster within me. So, yes, I will take this voyage,” said Rudra.

“Well, as a matter of fact, I, too, am interested in this voyage. Only if you allow,” said Sunaina.

“Except for your age, I have nothing to worry about,” said Rudra.

“Don’t worry about that. I will be there with my mother,” said Sankar. It seemed like everyone agreed on the voyage. They were about to plan when Rudra saw Pratap standing near the window. Rudra went near him and said, “Aren’t you excited, Tez?”

“Bhai, the voyage we will be taking can make us stand against each other. It may happen, one day, on the sea, I am cursing you. Promise me, Bhai, whatever happens, you will be there by my side. I apologize to you beforehand for all my misbehavior, only requesting you believe in me. Don’t lose hope, and when the time comes, do help me remember the same.” Pratap said, folding his hand in front of Rudra. 

“You fear I will leave your side? Silly boy, you have known this much about me? Trust me, Tez, even if you are on your worst behavior, I will be there by you. Provided you, too, do the same for me?” Rudra said. Pratap nodded in affirmation. They both embraced each other in a tight hug.


“You are certain you don’t know who gave the letter to Pratap?” asked Gargi to Rudra. Both were having some free time in the royal garden. Although it was supposed to be a leisurely walk, Gargi somehow cannot forget the look brothers exchanged when she asked who gave the map to Pratap.

“Seriously, Gargi. For the last fifteen minutes, I was praising nature and someone else. But what you were thinking is who gave Tez the letter?” Rudra agitatedly said and sat on the ground. Gargi sat beside him and picked a bird’s feather lying on the ground. She then slowly took that near Rudra’s ears and started tickling him. Rudra angrily shoved it the first time. Gargi repeats it, Rudra ignores it. The third time, when she did the same, Rudra suddenly faced her and held her wrist in his strong grip, looking straight into her eyes. For a moment, the whole world stopped for them. They were completely drowned in each other’s eyes. Their heart started racing. It was beating so loudly if someone was near, they would have heard it. After a moment, Gargi whispered, “Rudra, please leave my hand. If anyone comes, what will happen?”

Rudra Narayan came closer to Gargi, held both her hands, and whispered, “Let them come. I am not afraid of showing my feelings to others. I am not a coward like you!” The last sentence he said teasingly. Gargi got angry and freed herself. Angrily she said, “What? I am a coward?”

“You are not? Seriously? Okay, prove it?” Rudra almost challenged Gargi.

“Prove it means? What do you mean by that? D-do you think I am afraid?”

“Of course not; that’s why today you will tell Tez that you and I are getting married. Of course, after the voyage! My shy and over-responsible brother will not approach Rajani unless I get married. So, as a loving and responsible elder brother, I must get married first!” Rudra winked. Gargi’s jaw dropped. 

She was bewildered and stunned. Seeing that, Rudra said, “Come on, close your mouth. Else you will eat up a few of the mosquitoes in the garden.” Hearing this, Gargi ran towards Rudra, and Rudra ran for life. Eventually, they fell over each other. Now, they are too close to each other. Again they started losing themselves in each other’s eyes. After a while, Rudra placed a soft kiss on Gargi’s lips. She blushed and ran away. Rudra sat up. 

He was also blushing. A smile crept on his face. He stretched his arms and again fell to the ground in excitement. 


“Pratap, I am bored talk to me!” Rajani said while messing with all Pratap’s books and parchments. Pratap tried to stop her but in vain. He said,” What are you doing Rajani? I am studying!” 

“That’s what you always do! You always remember me when Rudra is in some trouble! Once remember me because you want to spend time with me! Not because this land or Rudra needs you,” said Rajani with tears in her eyes. Pratap saw Rajani had moved towards the window and watching the moon out there. Pratap came to her and held her shoulder. Angrily Rajani shoved it back. Pratap hugged her from the back and said, “Who will I go for help then? Except for you and Bhai, I can’t trust anyone!” Rajani turned towards him and lifted his face. Pratap continued, “Rajani, I have lost everything. My land, my kingdom, guess, my identity too. I was brought up in Narayan Garh, but I never belonged here. I know Bhai will fight for me till the end of his breath. But how many will accept me for who I am? I don’t know. I sometimes think they accepted me because Bhai is the king. Deep down, maybe they don’t like me.” Pratap stopped. Rajani kissed his forehead and said, “No, Pratap. People love you for who you are! Not because of Rudra. And anyway, you will be given Vikrampur. Your land. Rudra had plans regarding the same. I know it is a ruin, but, I know, you have a golden touch. Everything there will be just like before once you become the king of Vikrampur.”

“You think I can be the King. After how pathetically I saved Gurukul,” said Pratap freeing himself from Rajani’s embrace.

“Father’s death was not your fault, Pratap! It was fate!” said Rajani. Pratap faced Rajani and said, “You are a great human being. I sometimes feel so insignificant in front of you.” Rajani was astonished, “Is that why you sometimes become formal and shy with me? You think you are responsible for Father’s death?” Pratap didn’t say a wonder. Rajani came near and cupped his face. She looked into Pratap’s eyes and said, “Pratap, you were Father’s favorite student. He gave you all his knowledge, he was proud of you, and wherever Father is today, he is proud of you. You saved the students and teachers in the Gurukul.”

“Thank you so much, Rajani!”

“I am not pacifying you, Pratap. Every word I say, I mean it.”

“Please, Rajani. You are making things worse for me.”

“I am not, Pratap. Believe me! I am proud of you. So, is Father. He always said you should always save thousands life even if that comes at the cost of one life!”

“Why sacrifice that one life, Rajani?”

“Because we are not god! If being a good warrior is your logic, why did Queen Vaishnavi die? He was with the greatest warrior of all time, who had a heart of gold. Yet someone shot him; she died. It’s all fate, Pratap. You and I can never defeat fate!”

Rajani came near Pratap and took his hands, looked straight into his eyes, and said, “Whether you will be a great king or not I don’t know Pratap, but you are a very good human being. Start believing in yourself!”

Pratap with tears in his eyes nodded, Rajani placed a peck on his cheek! Both embraced each other in a deep hug.


The next day everyone set their foot on a new voyage. A new adventure. 

Chapter 20: The Voyage to the Magical Forest: All Went Well?

Before starting the voyage, Rudra handover the responsibilities of the kingdom to Rahim Chacha. The man whom he trusts the most. Pratap advised the same. On a bright, sunny morning, the ship sailed. The weather was beautiful that day. 

The Captain of the ship and Nilesh, who had experience in sailing, said there couldn’t be a better day for Jalpari’s sail! Well, Jalpari is the name of the ship. 

“Good morning my King, good morning my friends. I welcome you to Jalpari on the crew and Captain’s behalf. We will start our sail in a minute! Today’s weather seems all good, bright, and sunny. We hope to reach our destination and successfully achieve what we seek. May God be with us! Now, let’s start our journey, Captain, release the mast!” as soon as Nilesh finished the speech, the Captain gave the nautical direction, and the crew released the mast! The ship started sailing on the sea.


The days were happily passing by on the sea. One morning something excellent happened. On that day, Rudra, Nilesh, the Captain, Shankar, and Sunaina were reading the map and deciding, which direction will lead them faster to the magic forest. Gargi was treating a servant suffering from seasickness, Chandreyi helping her, Rajani looking at the sea with the spy glasses, and Pratap was reading the map to the magical forest. One that he got from DaiMa.

Rajani was irritated with this act of Pratap. She purposefully dragged her sword in front of him and crossed his way. Pratap was in too deep thoughts to notice. Nilesh, Shankar, and Rudra looked at it with amusement. At that time, Gargi and Chandreyi too entered. Suddenly, Rajani snatched the map from Pratap’s hand and ran. Pratap was too shocked to react at first. After that, he, too, ran behind her.

“Rajani, please give it back?” Pratap asked pleadingly

“No, never. You are engrossed in this map from the day you have boarded the ship! What about us? Do we exist for you? I am not giving it back. I am throwing it on the sea,” Rajani pretended to throw it on the sea. 

“Rajani!!!!” screamed Pratap, almost going against his shy nature. Everyone looked amused. Gargi slowly came near Rudra and whispered, “What’s happening?” Rudra whispered, “Rajani is pissed off with Tez. So am I.” Gargi folded her arms and looked at Pratap, “So you are annoying your really sweet brother!” Rudra looked surprised and said, “No, no, no, no, no, no! Are you mad? I am a king now! Even if I desperately want such things, I cannot execute them. Thanks to Rajani, she is not a Queen. And I am so glad about that!” 

“You gave her the idea?”

“Mad or what? You are aware of Rajani, right? She is always looking for a way to tease and annoy Tez. However, this time I am not stopping her!”

“Rajani, please give that to me! I promise I will do anything you want!”


Now, Pratap was in a fix. If he made a promise and Rajani came up with some weird demands, he would be in trouble, “You will not have any weird demands, right?”

“I don’t know that,” Rajani casually said and pointed the map to the sea, “Your clock is moving, Pratap. Decide fast!” 

“Okay, tell me!” Pratap finally gave up! Rudra gave a victorious smile. 

Gargi was amused but didn’t show that! After all, she treats Pratap like a younger brother-cum-son. Always caring for him.

“You will NOT look at this map for three days!” Rajani put forward her proposal!

“Three!!!!” Pratap screamed!

“Yes, you have promised. And a Prince never breaks a promise! Remember that!”

Pratap now thought to seek the last help from Rudra. “Bhai, please do something. Please tell Rajani not to harass me in this way.”

“Tez,” Rudra said, “I am with Rajani.” They both share a look, and Rudra winked at Rajani. Rajani gave a victorious smile. Pratap looked puzzled, Gargi and others trying hard to hide their smiles. 

“What? You too, Bhai?”

“Yes, me too. Pratap, for the last few days and years, we thought only about the independence of our land. Finally, we had it. I thought I was allowed to relax now, but then I was a king. I had stately affairs to worry about! As if it was not enough, we have this mysterious map with us, and now we are traveling to an unknown forest filled with unknown dangers,” Rudra stopped to take a breath and then made a puppy face and said, “Tez, aren’t you tired of worrying?”

Pratap smiled after a long time. He sheepishly scratched the back of his head and said, “Sorry! I think I am getting too serious too early!”

“Exactly, Prince,” said the Captain, “We are not even in the middle of our voyage. The magical forest is far away. You relax for the time being!”

“Well, in that case, I will not look at the map for three days, I promise,” Pratap said, looking at Rajani. She smiled and gave him a sudden big hug. Everyone clapped. 

Rudra ruffled his brother’s hair while Gargi gave Rajani a side hug. Suddenly, Nilesh said, “Look! An albatross!” Everyone looked up and saw a milky-white bird with black wings sitting on the mast. “My dear King, now none can stop you from achieving what you seek. We, sailors, believe witnessing an albatross during a voyage is a good omen!” said the Captain. Then he stood on a water drum held a mast with one hand, and shouted for others, “Congratulations, everyone! We have seen an albatross. The blessings of the albatross will be with us now! So, let’s celebrate,” the Captain blew a bugle saying this. Soon the crew screamed out of joy. However, they were a bit shaky to celebrate in front of the King. So, Rudra said,

“What happened? I heard you sing during your spare time. Why not sing now!” One of the crew members said, “We will sing?”

“Of course!” Rudra said. 

Soon, the crew and servants brought out their musical instruments and started playing them while singing. Some among them started dancing, joined by Chandreyi, the Captain, Nilesh, and Shankar. Rudra first played his flute. After that, surprising everyone, he joined the dance. However, more surprise was waiting. He soon brought Gargi to the dance floor. Even though Gargi was shy, she joined Rudra and enjoyed it a lot! 

If you think Pratap and Rajani joined, you are wrong. Pratap was too shy, and Rajani was a warrior type. She doesn’t like dancing much. However, both enjoyed themselves as a spectator and clapped in rhythm the entire time. Their smiles and laughs knew no boundary. Rudra once signaled Pratap to take Rajani to the dance floor. But shy Pratap turned red at that proposal. He looked away, and Rudra sighed at his hopeless brother! 

Music, dance, laughter, teasing, and obviously, food and drink soon turned the ambiance into a joyful atmosphere. Seeing an albatross is a good omen! Thus, everyone rejoiced! Forgetting that they will reach the mysterious sea soon, where good omens turn bad!



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Sanjana Guha