Kaber trembled with anger, he is the king of the whole land, his laws are the law of the land, his words are the word of the master and this letter felt like someone just de-crowned him.
“Read again.” His voice radiated his anger.
“My king hand this over to your priests, we will give an appropriate course of action.” head priest Noni tried to direct his Maharaja’s anger towards justice.
“There is no need for that, am I not able enough to be just Rishi Noni ?” Kaber forced a cap on his anger, of late everyone seemed to undermine his intellect and authority. All of them needs a lesson on Authority of the King, Kaber decided after conferring with his intellect.
“Pran prepare for a conference in Foreign Consultation room.” Raja Kaber instructed.
Rishi Noni saw helplessly and trailed his Raja and his ministers to the room, with a large table in the center. The book keeper brought out a rolled sheets of paper.
“Here on the north east, the rock formation which supports the wall is climbable.” Pran pointed in the paper, representing the map of fort Foringa.
“Only expert climbers can go over the wall here.” Pran added.
“The Kathalia warriors of the Mellila forest will be appropriate for this task.” Purv the war and tactics minister swooped in.
“But will they fight our war Maharaj. We had just settled a tax dispute with them, convincing them to pay the increased tax, in return of aiding them in war.” Pran expressed his doubts.
“Even if the north eastern wall is breached, the soldiers will not be able go any further from their, they will die in the hands of hundreds of wall guards there.”
“We need to breach one of the gates anyway. We will need to take our siege machines to the gates of Foringa fort. Only the Krit’s trained bullocks can carry these big machines up the small hill to Foringa.” Raja Kaber came up.
“That will not be enough Raja, they will always have the advantage of the fort. We will need our archers on wooden towers.” Purv said.
“The Arkans can sorround the Foringa fort with wooden towers within a day and the Haat’s poison on the arrow tips will fall everyone of their last warriors. And the princess Kartika and the Foringa fort will always be mine.” A smile appeared on Kaber’s face.
“The Haat’s, Raja they are murderers. Their association can be very dangerous for anyone.” Purva warned King Kaber.
“Did you forget whom you are talking to.” Kaber’s face turned red with anger.
“No my Raja I am only saying that, they are crooked. They don’t abide by any rules of war, they don’t fight for honor, they don’t fight to win, they only fight to loot, vandalize and defile women. That’s all I am saying my king, they do not qualify as warrior, they are only bandits. And their association with warriors never turned out to be good, they are not trust and respect worthy.” This time Purva kept his eyes and voice down.
“I understand you Purva. Don’t worry we won’t let them near us, they will only get to trade with us. Pran make the arrangements, Tell the Kathalia their tax will be back to normal rates for a year, if they aid us. Tell the Krit’s they will be free to trade with other kingdoms of this land for a year, if they aid us. The Arkan boats will be free to catch the fishes and trade along the Ganges river and take a letter to the Haat leader Ghuyan.” King Kaber headed towards his throne room.
Rishi Noni cannot believe what is unfolding in front of his eyes, he reluctantly poured ghee from kushi, into the fire of Yoggo, he chanted the mantras and silently prayed to god to save the kingdom from this arrogant and foolish king. King Kaber sat on the another side of the fire pit, Rishi Noni easily caught that his King is day dreaming. From how much Rishi Noni has known about the politics of this eastern land of Bharat, after spending long 23 years as a Rishi Pradhan in this Kesharia kingdom, he can easily tell that his young king is playing with fire and so far Kaber has dismissed his suggestion boasting about the military prowess of his kingdom, Kesharia.
From the place of Yoggo, King Kaber took the garland, blessed by the gods and placed it around the neck of the stone statue of his mother, the late queen Kaberi, as Rishi Noni chanted mantras. After the respect was paid to the queen, King Kaber bellowed “Let the name of the kingdom of Kesharia fly high, let the name of the ancestors of Kesharia fly high, let us prove ourselves a worthy successor to them, Jai Maha Kali.”
“Jai Maha Kali, Jai Maha Kali, Jai Jai Maha Kali.” voices boomed together in every inch of Kesharia city.
As the contingent of armies departed towards Foringa fort, Rishi Noni’s inside cried, he can hear mothers and wives mourning for their sons and husbands. As the most learned and wise man of the kingdom of Kesharia, the post of manager usually falls on Rishi Noni, whenever the king is unavailable. As Rishi Noni went for a security check, the barren streets looked blankly at him, the shopkeepers are wrapping up their business and it has only been noon. A day ago these streets were alive, full of people, arguing, bargaining, lecturing, joking and now a dead silence has covered the whole kingdom.
“Balki get out bands in the city and inform everyone that today bhajans of Sri Krishna will be held in the main temple and everyone is invited to come.” Rishi Noni ordered his assistant.
Bhajans and songs of gods and goddesses were sung throughout the night for three days, after which the messenger came the news that the war has been won. An expression of joy reverberated in the whole city, the sound conchs arose one by one from every house of the city.
“Raja Kaber has asked for your presence in the battlefield, the fallen has to be cremated.” The messanger relayed the information.
“Finally the battle opened his eyes for his duties, even the dead of the opposition army has to be cremated and that has been the tradition of the Keshari kingdom” Rishi Noni thought and smiled to himself.
After 3 hours of chariot ride, Rishi Noni reached the Foringa fort, blood had streamed down and formed a puddle at the base of the hill. Rishi Noni deftly avoided the puddle and streams of blood and made his way up towards the fort, sticking to the clean patches of rocks and grasses. At first he met the camp of Krit, their bullocks happily gnawed the grass, as their trainers kept the herd in a shape. Dressed in armors the bullocks appeared like tanks, capable to mowing down any number of enemies, within a minute. As he passed the Krit camp, he noticed that their casualty has almost been none.
The Kathalia camp is a bloodied mess, the soldiers had wounds and burn marks all over, but they didn’t seem to care, drowned in their trade mark Kalthia wine, which they trade all over the land. Their weapons laid as a huge pile of metallic junks, covered in blood and poison, that gave out a filthy smell. Rishi Noni hurried passed their camp, drunk soldiers are never a good news. He soon bumped into logs of wood hastily constructed into shields and towers, the Arkan soldiers looked busy deconstructing their handiworks. Making his way through the wood works, Rishi Noni reached at the gates of the fort, Kesharia soldiers guarding the gate bowed their heads, as the sign of respect.
What lay beyond that gate are decapitated bodies, punctured by several wounds and a distraught King pacing in the courtyard and barking instruction to the soldiers, who seemed like trying to find something among the corpses. From the anger of the king, Rishi Noni concluded these must be all of those present in the fort, but he doubted the king will likely to find any recognizable part of the Princess, from the pile of body parts.
The King dropped on his knees tired, the soldiers looked un-interestingly in the pile of severed body parts, “Look closer”, King Kaber yelled forcing his remaining strength to his throat.
Tired, the king left the fort shortly, leaving only a small party of soldiers to guard the fort, the soldiers somewhat made a large bed of fire and did a mass cremation, as Rishi Noni performed their last rites.
The next few weeks were of carnivals, melodramatic tales of the war were performed on the streets and crowds gathered to watch these performances with piqued interest, King Kaber soon forgot his loss, wet by the showers of praise heaped on him. Rishi Noni too found peace that everything cooled down to nothing, but this silence is just a message foretelling a disaster.
Rishi Noni was waken up from his sleep by loud sounds one night, he came out of his house to find his suspicion coming true, arrows flying all over the city and something banged loudly on the city gate, which soon fell. Shining metals rushed through the city trampling everything in their path, cries of death can be heard from up the walls, boulders and flaming woods fell all over the city, burning down houses and the livings alike. As the night inched closer towards dawn, the Kathalian, Krit and the Arkan soldiers were in all corners of the city.
King Kaber was dragged and brought to the town center, before beheading the king, the executioner shouted out loud.
“For colluding with the Haath and aiding them to plunder our citizens, King Kaber is sentenced to death.”
As the sun came up the soldiers had left the city, the kingdom looked like a swamp made of blood, a disoriented Rishi Noni caught the sight of a creature moving towards him, sometimes on four legs and sometimes only on two, stumbling. The creature dumped itself at the feet of Rishi Noni, with a great effort Rishi pulled it up, on its legs and exclaimed “Balki”.
“They didn’t harm me guru ji, they left me to witness Hell. Only blood no water, my throat is as dry as wood, they dumped the corpses in wells. Guru ji only death in every corner.” Balki broke down.
Rishi Noni brought out a vessel from inside his hut and slung a piece of cloth over his shoulder, tied like a bag.
“Here drink.”, Balki emptied the whole vessel in his mouth.
“Lets go Balki, nothing is left here now.” Rishi Noni dragged his devotee, through the ripped out city gate, along with him.
As they walked in the fresh air away from the stink of death in the city, both the Guru and his devotee got hold of their bearing.
“Your lessons about arrogance and nurturing of ‘I’ in us, is complete today.” Rishi Noni said.
“Balki, I have been in this land since childhood. These kingdoms had both wars and pleasantries with one another. But one thing they didn’t had is trust, they could never tolerate the thought of going to war, depending on one another. ”
“But our king taught them that, right guruji. His arrogance and ego brought this on us.” Balki completed his Gurus thoughts.
“Rightly said, if not for our label of priests, we would have been slaughtered too.” Rishi Noni affirmed his disciple’s understanding of the situation.