Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2302 : And the archer finally spoke

Thakshak woke up with a start. He very urgently summoned his bed attendant and asked for a quick and immediate gathering of  the court priests. He specifically mentioned that the old king Vasuki (the very Vasuki whom he has usurped to take over Naga land)come over too.  Thakshak had always respected Vasuki for being wise, though at one level he also felt that the old General was now senile.

Something was definitely out of place. Thakshak was usually seen as someone who was cocksure, and who rarely if ever consulted his priests in any matter - save ritual - which he let them manage. He definitely, rarely if ever wanted to be in audience with the "senile" older king.

And....then there was today.....

And the time, it was still a few hours before the Sun even showed his first strains....The world was still sleeping. Time was still ticking tock and the insects of the night still ruled and were still busily buzzing.

In a matter of minutes, Thakshak had quickly pulled up his crown, and the royal robe. As he was adjusting his crown, the priests walked in. Vasuki was still nowhere to be seen.

As they began taking their respective seats in the makeshift court cum royal bedroom, they could all see their King being tense, pensive and nervous.

He trudged towards his seat and finally installed himself. He looked at the attendant and asked with feigned respect "General Vasuki?".

The attendant bowed and answered, "He is coming along your highness, should be here in a few minutes."

Thakshak shrugged with mock irritation and said to the others, "Ok, then we shall have to wait for the elders."

As promised, in a few minutes Vasuki walked in. Everyone including Thakshak stood up with respect for the now aged once-upon-a-time-their-king.

As they all seated and shifted within the silence of their night, slowly all of them in the room looked at Thakshak with askance. What could be so important that they were all summoned into the middle of this night? Were they being attack? Parikshith's ghost Janmayjey again?

With a solemn voice, Thakshak said "Remember the archer.......Eklavya?"

Vasuki immediately nodded, and the other slowly did too.

Thakshak continued, "Remember a few years ago we tried to enslave him to help our forces, and he escaped because some of us could not keep their bloody traps shut.". As he said that his mouth was vile with anger and he was staring icily at Vasuki. It had never been publicly spoken, but everyone knew that Vauski had in some form or shape helped Eklavya escape. 

Vasuki continued to looking at Thakshak and then into the emptiness of the room. The others looked at their feet, unable to choose between their new king and the old warrior.

Thakshak composed himself and then resumed, "I saw him again."

Others looked at him agape. They were unsure what their King meant. It was over a decade ago that they had last encountered Eklavya. 

Vasuki slowly asked "Where?"

Thakshak said, "In a dream. Tonight. But I know it was not a dream. It seemed real. It felt alive. I knew it was him trying to tell me something. Something seemed amiss."

They all waited for him to continue.

"Remember the last time we kidnapped him and got him here. He hardly spoke through those days. I have never heard more than a few sentences from him. I later heard from my friend Kuber, that Eklavya had become very silent in the years following his act of giving up his thumb (to Drona). He never spoke too much, infact no one seems to remember him speaking at all. Do you all agree?"

They all nodded. Vasuki bravely said "He did speak a few words to me."

Thakshak ignored him and continued, "Legend has it, that Eklavya became a silent coach. He helped other warriors fight, and learn the trade, but he never lifted a sword, or arrow ever."

"....and yet, today, in my dream....I met Eklavya and he was dying. When I met him though, he was still alive. Eventually in the course of minutes, he died, and thats when I woke up with a jolt."

Vasuki asked "Did he say something, young King?"

For a minute Thakshak was glad, Vasuki was around. "No, he did not. He had a arrow stuck into his heart. The bottom part of the arrow was bent. I knew at once, looking at the scene, that he had thrust the arrow into his own heart. A la suicide. And it struck me as very odd. Why would such a dignified person, take his own life? Why would such a legend want to meet me during the time of his death? I assumed he wanted to tell me something. I remember fetching him some water...and he refused."

Vasuki again asked, "...and you say, he did not tell you anything."

Thakshak with a contrite look said "No. Not a word. I asked him about my hunch. Had he tried to kill himself? He looked blankly at me, I thought I detected a sardonic smile, but that is about it."

Thakshak paused for a few moments. Eventually Vasuki spoke, "Its very odd for a warrior like Eklavya to take his life. A true warrior would rather die on the battleground. Its further even more odd that someone like Eklavya would try and kill himself with his own arrow. Usually we have never seen the arrow being a weapon of choice when it comes to taking ones own life. And finally warriors aim for the stomach, and not for the heart....  Though...... it does not surprise me that he did not speak to you at all, young King."

Hearing his name being referenced, Thakshak snapped out from his listening reverie, and asked in an infuriated exasperated tone, "Whats the point you are making? Pray how does all this fit in General?".

Vasuki looked at Thakshak, a sharp but tired gaze - the kind of stare one gives when you are struggling to convince a 3 year old of what is apparently patent to the rest of the onlookers - he said in a slow measured tone, "Dear King, Eklavya never really spoke to you or to most of us. Infact he rarely ever spoke at all. The Eklavya of your dream killed himself with an arrow from his own quiver, which he thrust into his heart. He needed the water, but did not drink it when you offered him some. He gave a faint smile. As I said before, some of this is odd....very odd....but thats beside the point."

Post a pregnant pause he added, "Don't you see, King, Eklavya has finally spoken. He has shot a very important message through his arrow."

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