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He stood at the balcony staring at the sky.The weather was calm and peaceful.A soft breeze was blowing.The moon was shining brightly and the stars twinkled along with it.Yet,a storm was raging within him.A storm that threatened to devastate everything.Or maybe,it had.He had won the battle but lost his love.His inner turmoil was not allowing him to rest.Once again he looked at the moon.The more he looked at it,the angrier he became.The moon looked so calm and serene.It could see everything from above.Sometimes he felt as if the moon was making fun of him.
He spoke firmly to himself,'I have not commited any mistake.I don't regret anything.'
But a sly little voice in him spoke up,'Really?You hurt the one you love the most and yet you say that you have not commited a mistake.'
I DON'T LOVE HER!!! SHE BETRAYED ME!! SHE DECEIVED ME!! SHE USED ME FOR HER PERSONAL GAINS!!'
Whom are you trying to fool?',the voice spoke with a sigh.
He tried hard to brush off her memories.But,there was nothing in his head or heart apart from her memories.Ah,those evil memories.Memories.The closest friends of loneliness.They do not come in any particular order.They just come.And they are like the waves of the sea.They cannot be stopped.
Altunia,I wanted to have a word.'
Altunia was surprised.He and Nasir seldom spoke to each other apart from the occasions in which they had to discuss about war.Still,Altunia knew him very well.Even though the young prince was a brilliant fighter and strategist,he was not shrewd.He was too idealistic and righteous.Extremely emotional,Nasir relied on his feelings to guide him in all matters.In other word,he was too good for politics.
Why are you meeting sister nowadays?'
Oh,I am in love with her and we are planning to elope.'
Nasir was staring at him.
Don't look so worried,young prince.I am just following my orders and teaching her sword fighting.'
Look,Altunia,I love my sister.'
Who said you don't love her?'
Altunia,I really love my sister.'
Altunia was exasperated.He knew that this would happen.Nasir,though he was an emotional fool,kept track of Razia.He cared a lot about her.But Nasir was dragging the matter and it was really irritating.
Prince,have I ever questioned your love for your sister?Please tell me clearly whatever you want to tell me.
I will say it once and for all.Altunia,I disapprove of my sister's closeness with you.I suspect your motives.You were a former assasain.I don't know why my father trusts you.Its not appropriate for the princess of the Delhi Sultanate to interact with a person of suspicious background.Therefore,I order you to stay away from Razia.'
Altunia sighed.He was expecting something like this.Wise men think all they say,fools say all they think.As if he was scared by the prince's threats.But before he could answer back,someone shouted.
NASIR BHAI JAAN!!!'
It was Razia.She was angry.And the anger was directed at none other than her beloved brother.
Bhai jaan!!How could you?How could you speak to Altunia like this?After what he has done for us? He saved my life on many occasions!! He has won several battles for us!!And yet,you are questioning his loyalty! How could you?'
Nasir was shell shocked.His little sister had never raised her voice in front of him
Razia,you,you don't understand..this man's motives'
I know him and understand him much better than you do.I will not stand here and watch him being insulted.'
Nasir walked away quietly.
Altunia was just looking at her.She was defending him.She was speaking up for him.She was fighting with her beloved brother for him.
Altunia,I apologise to you on my brother's behalf.'
He was questioning himself.'Does she? Does she care for me too?'
He was back to the present.He had always cherished this memory.It is so because it was the first time she stood up for him.Actually,he had cherished every single memory of her.She was his inspiration.His sole reason to live.He had lost himself to her that very moment he saw her in the dargah.There was something different about that girl.She was full of life.Just like him.She wanted to live each and every moment of her life to the fullest.Just like him,she was a free bird.She did not consider himself inferior to men and she certainly wasn't inferior.She was extremely gifted.She had inherited her grandmother's regal nature and her father's brains.She loved her family and could die for them.Like her brother,she was emotional though not excessive like him.She certainly had a fiery spirit that could be matched by only his own spirit.Given a chance,this girl could conquer the world.And he knew that she was meant for him and him only.He could die for her and kill for her.
The hall was silent.The great Sultan Iltutmish was going to address his subjects for the last time.He was going to nominate his successor.Since Prince Nasir had died long ago,it was obvious that Prince Ruknuddin would succeed the his father.When the Sultan finally spoke,he stunned each and everyone present there.
I,Shams-ud-din Iltutmish,hereby nominate my daughter Razia as my successor.'
The entire hall broke into murmurs.The emperor silenced them.Altunia saw the shocked expression on Razia's face.He,too,was shocked.But he knew that the Sultan had foreseen that his daughter was more capable than his all his sons put together.A few days later,the Sultan passed away.
Abbu,don't leave me,abbu,no,ABBU!!!'
He had put his hand on her shoulder and tried to calm her down.Her grief greatly disturbed him.
Razia,don't cry.I can never see you crying.And,more ever tears are unbecoming of the Sultan.'
As much as Altunia knew her,she was not going to rest before she claimed her right and became the Sultan.As much as he knew the Group Of Forty,they would not allow a woman to become the Sultan.As much as he knew the devious Shah Turkan and her son,they would go to any extent to get the throne.And as much as Altunia knew himself,he would see to it that she became the Sultan.
Today was her coronation ceremony.It had not been an easy task.They had to deal with Shah Turkan and Ruknuddin.And there were certain issues that still were to be resolved with the Group Of Forty.But that was hardly a problem now.
Victory to the Sultana of Delhi',he congratulated her when they were alone.
She did not respond.She was not even smiling.She was wearing a sulken expression.
What is the matter,Sultana?'
As if you don't know.'
Oh! I get it.Victory to the Sultan Of Delhi!! You don't want to be called Sultana,do you?You prefer Sultan.'
I don't understand you,Altunia.You always know what is there in my heart and mind.How?'
Razia,what is it there between us that we always come to know what is going on each other's minds?'
Altunia,instead of answering my question,you are posing another question in front of me.'
Razia,try to find out the answer to my question.Who knows, you may get your answer too.'
You are confusing me, Altunia'
You know what Razia,some questions are best left unanswered.These questions do not unravel the mysteries of mind,they are the keys to the secrets of the heart.'
Does your heart carry any secret ,Altunia?'
Yes,it certainly does.Just like yours.With each and every heartbeat,these secrets beat too.'
When will you reveal your heart's secret,Altunia?'
I will reveal it when you reveal your's.'
They were staring at each other.
Your Highness,there is a new recruit who wishes to meet you.',said the courtier.
What is his name?'
Do I have to go?Are you sure that you will be alright?'
Altunia,even after winning wars and successfully dealing with the Group Of Forty,you think that I am inefficient.'
No,my dearest Sultan,I didn't mean that.I was just telling you to be careful.These nobles are really shrewd.You have to keep them in check from time to time.'
I understand,my Lord.Don't worry about me.If they are cunning then I am no less.After all,I have learnt some tricks from the great Malik Ikhtyar-ud-din Altunia.'
I get it.But you have to take care.Do not trust these nobles.They cannot be trusted.I will settle the matters in Bhatinda and will be back soon.Till then,you have to manage all by yourself.'
They smiled at each other.
It is said that she prefers him to most of the other courtiers.'
He accompanies her everywhere.'
She has showered extraordinary favours on him.'
There is more to it.It is said that she is in some illict relat...,ARRHHH!!!!!',the messenger couldn't finish his sentence.The dagger had pierced his throat so deep that he had fallen on the ground was writhing with pain.
ALTUNIA!!! What have you done?',Zaroon came running.But by the time he had reached,the messenger was dead.Over him stood a man whose green eyes were empty.He seemed lost.He was thinking something.Zaroon knew it before he said.His worst fears were confirmed.A few days ago,Altunia was paid a visit by the Group Of Forty.They were trying convince Altunia into joining them.But their efforts were futile.Then they said something that made his usually calm friend lose his temper.They quickly departed but the seeds of doubt were sowed in Altunia's mind.And by the look on his face,it seemed that the world was going to end.
Altunia himself was undergoing a pain that reached his soul.If only he had shouted,screamed,hit something or even cried,that pain would have been released.But he did not.He allowed that pain to enter his mind,heart and soul.He allowed that pain which like a raging fire charred his soul beyond recognition.He did not try to stop it.For that pain fuelled rage,fury,hatred which would become his weapons.There was something different about his eyes too.His green eyes.Green.The colour of envy.Never before had his eyes depicted that dreaded emotion.But before,he had never felt the pain of loss too.
Mirza,listen to me.'
Mirza is dead.'
Don't say that!!'
You know what Zaroon Miyan,I will now give the Sultan a piece of my mind.',he spoke in a dangerously calm voice.Zaroon knew that his friend was gone.Before him stood a ruthless,merciless man.Before him stood someone who would burn down the entire world.Before him stood someone whose heart was broken.
Altunia faced his nemesis after defeating him and Razia on the battlefield.Both of them had fought him together.But they were no match for him.Razia was imprisoned.He wanted to meet her but not before dealing with the one who dared to think of her.Who dared to dream of something that belonged to Altunia only.
So,finally.You are standing before me,Jamal-ud-din Yaqut.',he spoke with nothing but pure hatred.
Yaqut's face was bloody.Altunia had instructed his soldiers not to touch Yaqut for he himself would be the one to injure and kill him.Every blow he inflicted on Yaqut's body,every time his sword struck him,every pang of pain felt by Yaqut was like a balm to his soul.Altunia had taken care not to kill him for he wanted to hurt him emotionally and mentally before killing him.
Wh,where is Razia?What happened to her?',he spoke in a weak but concerned tone.
Hearing her name from his mouth made Altunia's blood boil.
HOW DARE YOU TAKE HER NAME?'
Yaqut looked up to face him.Altunia wanted to see fear and hopelessness on his face but strangely,he was looking at Altunia with something else.Something which was neither hatred nor fear.It was pity.
So,you are Altunia.I always wanted to meet you.Razia told me about you.She always...',he choked as his throat was tightly grabbed by Altunia.
I will kill you with my bare hands',Altunia hissed into his ear and released his throat.
You will regret it.You will regret every moment you thought of her.You will regret every word you shared with her.You will regret every smile she gave you.You will regret that you dared to look at my love.You will regret it.This is the promise of Malik Ikhtyaruddin Altunia!!!!'
Yaqut was smiling now.'Let me tell you one thing,Malik Ikhtyaruddin Altunia.I do not regret anything and I never will.You claim to love her!! Is this what you call love.You disgust me.Even if you kill me today,I wouldn't have lost anything.But you have lost everything.Everything.I am content but you are not.You may have won the battle but you lost something which was as divine as the blessings of God.'
Altunia's eyes were bloodshot.He thrust his sword straight into Yaqut's heart.
'Altunia,you,you will never understand ...,his life left his body as a he gave Altunia one last smile.
Altunia was back in his chamber.He had revisited the memories which hurt him repeatedly.He look at the sky again.The moon was shining and the stars were twinkling along with it as if nothing had happened.It is said that when people die they get a place among the stars.Would he be one of them? Altunia hoped that he rotted in hell.But whenever he looked at the sky,he felt that Yaqut was laughing at him.
DAMN YOU,YAQUT!!!! DAMN YOU!!!',he screamed towards the sky.
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