Joined: 14 February 2005
OSR SAMYUKTA - Part 10 - Dharam...Siya....A war of egos!!!
Palace of Aryanagar – Maharani Swathi's chamber
Two maids gush into the bustling room with large golden plates stacked with silk attires in various designs, patterns and motifs. They hand their plates to a group of ladies occupied with sorting colossal piles of clothes; one after another. At another corner of the monumental room, Sunanda metes instructions to a batch of protges who systematically arrange numerous religious objects on sizable silver trays. Two bashful girls interrupt the busy lady's assignments, to deliver baskets carrying an assortment of beautiful flowers. Sunanda sighs and carries the baskets towards a quiet corner in the room, where the queens are busy in discussions with the minister.
She waits patiently for the minister to receive his instructions and exit the room, before addressing the queen "Maharani...the flowers have arrived...would you like to choose..."
The cheerful queen rolls her scroll and looks up at Sunanda "Sunanda... you may keep the basket here...I will let you know once I go through these instructions from the royal priest..."
Sunanda complies with her orders and returns to her chores.
Swathi reflects at all the fuss in her room and her eyes widen in excitement "If we are so joyous about our sons having completed their education successfully, can you imagine how elated we would be when they get engaged... married...have children..."
Nivritti takes a rose from the basket and smiles in accordance with the enthusiasm in her sister-in-law's eyes "I am waiting for that day too... I miss their participation in these festivities... I am sure they must be enjoying themselves…far away from any burdens… eating delicious Niphaudi food…waking up leisurely… enjoying all the comforts of the palace" she pauses "all this pleasure…only till they take on their royal responsibilities..."
Niphaud - Temple of Lord Ganapathy – Flower Market
Amidst scores of devotees from all corners of the kingdom, the inundated royals search for a familiar face in the expansive flower market, adjacent to the famous temple of Lord Ganapathy. They continually shift on their feet in order to accommodate mobs of inconsiderate people, looking to purchase flowers and other religious paraphernalia. Bhalla stares angrily at the assembly of fervent devotees behind him, as they unintentionally knock the turban off his head for the eighth time. Reduced to the sorry plight of waiting the entire morning at the crowded flower market as a result of Siya's successful vindictive scheme, the forlorn Dharam is unable to comprehend why their well-charted plans seemed haywire. Dharam asks Bhalla doubtfully "Are you sure the messenger that Veer sent, asked us to wait at flower market of the Lord Ganapathy temple?"
The exhausted Bhalla nods his head "As usual….you don't trust me…"
Dharam stretches his painful legs "Bhalla, I am scared to trust you… I am scared not to trust you… no sign of Veer for so long …I am worried…I hope he is all right!"
The gullible Bhalla reflects on his conversation with the disguised prayer chamber guard sent by Siya, who managed to fool him and meddle with their plans. He then assures Dharam "He came to our room a short while after Veer left for the bazaar. He was a commoner from the bazaar, with a message from Veer that we should not go to the bazaar and instead wait at this flower market for him. If Veer didn't send him, how would he know of our plans?"
An unwitting traveler tramples on an enraged Dharam, causing him to grimace in pain. He pauses to rub his feet, as he mutters to Bhalla "How can Veer bring the bundle here by himself? We were supposed to meet him with the cart there. The man with the map will also be waiting for us...oh Lord! Why did the messenger have to come when I was away for my bath…I would have at least asked him few more questions..."
When his turban is again knocked for the ninth time, Bhalla gives up his fight for his headgear and decides to sit down next to the flower vendors and their deafening pitches. No sooner; a keen devotee standing close by, mistakes him for a floral vendor and points to a basket next to him "How much is that garland of chrysanthemums?"
The fatigued Bhalla replies casually "Five copper coins"
The lady's eyes widen in shock and she walks to the next vendor, appalled.
The entire scenario manages to bring a smile to Dharam's tired face "If you are going to sell flowers, you might as well quote prices accordingly…not prices for weapons…"
Bhalla responds sarcastically "Oh! Definitely…I've never had to sell flowers you see…"
Suddenly, a partially clad yogi dances all over the crowded paths, spraying gulal on ardent onlookers who consider his showers as blessings. The gulal that falls on Dharam's face starts stinging his eyes. Bhalla grabs a damp cloth from a lady sitting next to him and helps him wipe his face. Finally, the defeated Dharam decides to leave the market.
Partially blinded; Dharam pauses his steps as he hears the sounds of the royal band and announcements, indicating the arrival of a member of the royal family. Not minding the furious lady who grabs back her cloth, Dharam stares at the distant blur of the pompous and extravagant procession of Niphaudi soldiers followed by a swinging palanquin. In a short while, troops of soldiers barrage the market and start organizing the crowds of obstinate devotees and lazy gossip-mongers to clear the paths for the princess' visit.
At a short distance from the market, the delicate girl steps out of her palanquin and adjusts her striking orange silk attire in its entirety with dangling pearls and tassels. Joyous at the success of her revenge, she closes her lovely eyes and takes a deep breath of the floral aroma of the market; not noticing her weary friends approaching her.
Daksha mutters resentfully "Siya…why can't we use through the main entrance? I have spent enough time in this crowd here… today…"
Siya pinches Daksha's cheeks "Daksha… how can I enjoy the look on their faces if I use the main entrance… by the way, did you overhear anything…anything important…anything about me?"
The ever-dutiful Nanda replies "No Siya…they have only been talking about bazaars, bundles…carts… nothing spectacular… they seem genuinely interested in the Niphaud bazaar!" Not knowing what to make of Nanda's information, Siya frowns briefly.
She then starts walking towards the market, followed by her retinue. As she enters the crowd's view, she holds her head high to ensure Rajkumar Dharam noticed the respect and adulation that her subjects had for the princess of Niphaud. With haughty steps, she beams ecstatically at the mesmerized subjects, firmly held in check by the soldiers. Not wanting to be recognized in his disorderly disguise, the increasingly conscious Dharam hides his face as the procession of the ravishingly beautiful princess steadily approaches him. After a few bated breaths; Dharam feels relieved, as they walk past him.
Siya abruptly stops in her tracks, approaches the eager vendor standing next to Dharam and purchases a beautiful garland from her. Suddenly, she acts as though she notices Dharam's comically stained face and calls out to her friends. They begin snickering at him loudly and the distressed prince bears the ridicule silently. Surveying Siya's expressions, he slowly realizes that it was the princess who had deliberately interfered with their strategies and caused all their ordeals. He begins to gauge her ignorance and arrogance and in an attempt to refuse to give in to her insult, his eyes begin to gleam with superiority. Amidst the mockery, Siya notices how the pain on his face metamorphosed gradually into chivalry. Siya's laughter slowly dies down, while a soft smile develops on his lips. The amazed observers watch the electrifying war of glances between both of them.
Provoked, Bhalla defends Dharam naively "Do you even know who this is? We are …"
Dharam stops him, all the while smiling at Siya with imposing majesty "She knows Bhalla… she knows who we are… however… since she is the princess of this kingdom… we will respect her in front of her subjects…whatever she does to us…"
Siya's smile completely disappears and she feels muted as a hot flush engulfs her face. The dazed prince suddenly catches sight of an old lady who slips on the wet floor in the packed crowd, a short distance from him. In a bid to follow their duty towards their princess, two soldiers holding back the crowds unwittingly trample on her hands.
Siya watches aghast, as Dharam frantically swims through the crowd and immediately pushes the two soldiers aside. The grateful old lady gets back on her feet and smiles at Dharam. Unaware of his status or of his kind deed; the infuriated soldiers restrain Dharam boorishly and start thrashing him with their baton. Oblivious of her surroundings, the horrified Siya dashes towards them and grasps their baton ordering them to stop. Angered, she points to the old lady "He was only trying to help her…Do you even know who he is…he…" she pauses as she realizes her hand was fastened to Dharam's arm and immediately retracts herself.
With an ironic smile, he stands up; brushes himself and willingly walks away from her captivating persona, for the first time.
Palace of Niphaud – Guest bedroom
Veer stares at the heavy bundle on the floor and paces around his bed furiously, convinced that his partners were having a nice time with Rajkumari Siya and her giggling entourage. Following faint groans from the corridor, he watches an exhausted Dharam and Bhalla slowly drag themselves into the room. Veer remains speechless for a while as all the built up anger in him slowly transforms into amazement, amusement and then finally; he bursts out in fits of laughter.
Bhalla mumbles sorrowfully "Don't laugh at us Veer…I am generally very calm … but for the first time… I think Rajkumari Siya's fate…I mean her end is in my hands now"
Veer stops laughing at their distraught profiles when he gradually understands that the irresponsible acts of the haughty princess and her friends had ruined all their organized plans.
The aggravated Veer decides to confront Siya and dashes towards the entrance, but Dharam physically stops him "No Veer! No! We cannot afford to be reckless. We have to finish what we came for and proceed home. We do not want to be embroiled in petty fights with unmindful girls"
Veer looks at Dharam in disbelief and playfully examines his face "Dharam… after all this she has done to you! Don't get angry with me… I am just advising you…but if…if you are so lenient with her now… things will become very difficult for you in future…"
A pained voice echoes through the room "What do you mean Rajkumar Veer?"
The three boys turn around to see the princess standing there flocked by her friends. Fed up, Bhalla digs his face in his hand, while Veer stares at Siya baffled. She sternly signals the bodyguards, who bow their head and leave the room helplessly.
She continues "This is my palace! I come and go as I please…your bodyguards cannot stop me time and again…" She turns to Veer "What do you mean don't be so lenient with her in future? Rajkumar Dharam stop weaving any dreams… we have no future…"
Veer rolls his eyes "Rajkumari Siya, why are you meddling in our personal affairs?"
Siya persists in spite of her friends trying to calm her "I would not have done all this, had it not been for Rajkumar Dharmavardhan… it is entirely your brother's fault…"
Veer and Bhalla look at the bewildered Dharam for an explanation.
Prodded by Siya, Nanda stammers; adding to the confusion "Rajkumar …y…you have come all the way here to meet Siya and you don't even meet her, greet her or gift her…"
Astonished, Veer interrupts the humorous situation "Dharam…you came all the way here to meet her? And I thought you had come here with us to tour Niphaud… "
Dharam finds it impossible to prove his innocence as everyone in the room continues their accusations. Daksha speaks supportingly "Rajkumar Dharam…. Siya made such a lovely meal…and you said such things that would break her heart…" she flashes a proud smile at Veer "At…least Rajkumar V…Veer enjoyed the meal…unlike you…"
Veer desperately tries to hide his laughter at all the undue praise he was receiving at the expense of his brother's unfortunate situation.
Dharam becomes exasperated and pleads with Siya's friends "When did I say things that broke her heart? I…I … never even asked her to make the meal in the first place…"
Nanda looks hurt "Rajkumar! I heard your comments! Additionally…she wanted to send you a message last night and your bodyguards didn't even allow us in…"
Veer fuels the volatile situation "What! Why didn't you allow her in Dharam?"
Dharam scowls at him "Veer! Why wouldn't I…I…. allow Rajkumari S…Siya in…"
Siya holds her hand up to silence the room "Rajkumar Dharam…You wait for the right opportunity to give me a personal message… you ask me to meet you at odd places and you don't even turn up…I have never had to wait like that … for anyone… ever… I waited the entire evening as per your instructions…" she walks towards a small table and places a lovely studded golden idol of Lord Ganesh sleeping on a small Niphaudi cushion "I had this specially made for you…you can have it now… I don't need it…"
Veer persists with his performance "Dharam what is all this going on? Unfortunately, this time I have to take Rajkumari Siya's side …why did you make her wait like this…"
Dharam removes his turban, throws his hands up in frustration and asks Siya "W…wait …. what message…which message…when did I give you this message... "
Siya looks confused and turns to the silent Bhalla "Balaram ji... didn't he give me the message? Don't you remember our conversation yesterday? Didn't you tell him?"
Bhalla remembers his confrontation with them in the hallway "Oh yes… Dharam… you asked her to come to the blacksmiths too...then why didn't you even wait to meet her?"
Veer sighs heavily "Oh Lord! So many things happened that I wasn't even aware of…" he slaps his forehead dramatically "You told Bhalla but didn't bother to tell me…"
Dharam gives up and sits on the bed "Fine… anyone else…" he shouts out to the bodyguards "Do you have any complaints too? Anything else I did… or didn't do?"
Veer teases Dharam mischievously "No sooner than your mother started talking about marriage, you had everything planned… you are very clever Dharam…"
The cornered Dharam replies indignantly "Veer! …keep quiet now or I will hit you…."
The entire commotion comes to an immediate standstill, as the queen enters the room; alerted by the turmoil and bawls. She notices the stained and tired faces of the boys and enquires kindly "What happened Rajkumar? Why are you dressed like this?"
Dharam tries halting Bhalla, but he proceeds to blurt out his complaints against the princess "Rajkumari Siya...she misdirected us...to...wait at the temple...so... all this ... happened...we had no intention of making her wait...or...to make fun of her food..."
Dharam tries changing the conversation but the unmindful queen questions the daunted princess "Siya, what are you doing here in the guest bedroom now? What is all this?"
Looking at her horrified face, the queen realizes that her daughter had been up to no good. She tries to restrain her anger while addressing her daughter in front of the princes, but her disappointment ends up pouring out as ceaseless frustrations. Veer looks at Dharam's worried face, as the proud girl stands in agony; braving her tears.
When able to take no more of her mother's reprimands, Siya blares at her mother "This happened...because of you...you...because you hide everything from me..."
Infuriated by her daughter's disrespect, the queen is about to slap the quivering girl; but eventually stops herself. She then firmly grabs Siya's wrist and storms out of the room.
After they exit the room, Bhalla and Veer stare at each other silently. Dharam walks to the small statue of Lord Ganesh "Something is wrong Veer... Rajkumari Siya has had some big misunderstanding… I feel sorry for how hurt she must be feeling now..."
Veer puts his hand on Dharam's shoulder "I never realized situations would sour so badly" he counsels him wisely "Let's make the preparations to start for Gadhwar … we have to travel to and fro by cart, not horses…we only have a night and we don't even have a map…once back; we will try to sort out this misunderstanding, if time permits..."
Dharam nods lightly in approval
Palace of Niphaud – Outside the guest bedroom window
A guard becomes alerted as he thinks he hears a low noise from somewhere around him. He beckons his friend and they use their lanterns to scan through the leaves and the dark shadows of the tall foliage in an attempt to search for anything out of the ordinary. On finding nothing, they smirk at each other comfortingly and proceed to their stations. Veer breathes a sighs of relief and shushes Bhalla with a finger on his lips.
After making a final search to ensure the soldiers were nowhere in sight, he gradually starts lowering their packed disguises and travel accessories from their bedroom window, as covertly as possible. Dharam ties the knot around the bundle of weapons tightly and then shoves the heavy bundle towards Veer. Both of them use all their might to suspend the weight and slowly release the ropes from the window. When the bundle is just a few feet above the ground, the rope slips from both their hands and the bundle drops on the soft base echoing a muffled clank.
Instantaneously, the light of a lantern is spotted at distance followed by a guard's voice "Who is it?"
Veer covers his face and sighs deeply while Dharam grits his teeth in frustration.
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Joined: 14 February 2005
OSR Samyukta Part 11 - Gadhwar – Coup exposed!
Palace of Niphaud – Garden below the guest bedroom window
The bundle drops on the soft base echoing a muffled clank. Instantaneously, the light of a lantern is spotted at a distance followed by a guard's voice "Who is it? Who is it?" He prods his sword around the dim shrubs, wildly searching for the origin of the noise.
Suddenly, a dark silhouette springs up behind him and shouts "Arghhhhh…..Look at what I have got…" The guard swiftly jumps around, startled by the gruff holler behind him.
Seeing a tall fellow soldier haughtily showing off a new gleaming shield in his hand, the edgy man exhales deeply in relief "It was you… why do you always create a ruckus…"
The tall guard interrupts his complaints by posing in different combat stands with the gargantuan shield and uttering war cries. Seeing no response, he speaks up "Stop being so grumpy…Maharaj has ordered for new shields... they look brilliant…come on…I'll show you…"
The disinterested man starts walking away "No I have to complete my duty! I can't…"
Tired of his cranky attitude, the excited guard grabs his associate by his arm and forcefully whisks him away, to show him the new stock of arsenal.
The gladdened Veer and Dharam silently snicker and proceed with their mission.
Palace of Niphaud - Siya's bedroom
Seated on the floor and propped against the wall below her window, Siya smiles lifelessly as she moves away a lock of her tangled tresses from her swollen eyes, smudged with kohl. Distraught, she watches through the dim light, as Nanda separates the pieces of jewellery from bits of glass and broken lanterns; angrily strewn all around the room. She deliriously crosses her empty wrists around her bare neck to shield herself from the chilly winds and starts playing with the small fire of a glowing candle "Nanda… I told you… don't put it all away… I need it…I have to run away from home… mother is never going to talk to me now… and I will never agree to marrying Rajkumar Dharam … so… the only option is that I run away from my home… from my father… which I cant do… so I will have to die…if I die…will you cry too…."
Fed up, Nanda walks up to her friend and shakes her vigorously "Stop it Siya… you will become unwell… stop it…stop … I have to leave now or my family will be very worried…" looking at the spiritless persona of her ever-lively princess, Nanda weeps desperately "How can I leave you like this…don't speak like this Siya…your mother will talk to you once the guests leave tomorrow. Maharaj will never allow this injustice …"
She abruptly stops, to peek through the window, as her attention is caught by a faint movement in the garden. Shocked, she stands up and leans out of the window "Oh my God… thieves… no…not thieves… that can't be… no…is that R…Rajkumar…."
Siya dismisses her friend's murmurs "Stop it Nanda…. Stop trying to distract me…"
Nanda pulls the princess up firmly and pushes her towards the window. Expressions of alarm finally begin to overcome Siya's blank visage, as she notices the three royals, many yards away. Observing their attempts to climb the palace compound wall, Siya stammers "Rajkumar D… Dharam...Veer…Balram ji…why are they behaving like thieves…with that heavy bundle…at this time of the night…this seems very sinister..."
Nanda shrieks "Siya! Something just fell from the bundle…something shiny…was it a"
Siya adds "it was a knife…" she stares at Nanda for many moments till she has a flash of realization "knife… oh God! Their trips to the b…blacksmiths…did they order … did they order w…weapons..."
Siya begins to recollect the incidents from the past few days "No wonder Rajkumar Dharam was not interested…in meeting me…in talking to me… in this proposal…How vile! They were actually using the pretext of a proposal to the princess of Niphaud for their devious plans. Are they planning something against…"
Exasperated, Nanda starts concocting her own theories "Are they planning an attack on Niphaud … we should wake up Maharaj … what if Niphaud is in trouble… in war…"
Siya "No! Nanda! I will not allow anything to happen to Niphaud…I don't care what happens to me…however…we can't raise an alarm without being sure… we need to know what is going on for certain, as this concerns the safety of two kingdoms…"
She drags her reluctant friend and exits her room, to investigate the matter further.
Bhalla yawns aloud and resumes professing about their secret mission "I am invincible at covert missions…what an escape I made at Niphaud…no one caught sight of me…"
Veer pats a mosquito on his back "Bhalla… why don't you go to sleep now? You have been yawning and dozing off ever since we started…"
Annoyed, Bhalla looks away "I am not sleepy…just mind your own business…."
Veer laughs to himself and then turns to his brother for a reaction.
Deep in thought; Dharam whips the reigns of the horses, not noticing Veer's nudges.
Veer asks him "What happened, Dharam? You have not spoken much, ever since we started?"
Dharam replies slowly "Oh! Veer…it's just that I am troubled about everything happening at Aryanagar…troubled by Dhruv's statements…and what he said about Agni…Jai chacha..."
Veer rolls his eyes and replies "Stop! Stop worrying about Aryanagar…we will tackle everything one by one, together" he then puts on a serious tone "Start worrying about issues that…you … alone… only…you…can… sort out…I…I…mean… like… Rajkumari…S…S…"
Looking at his mischievous advice in reply to a serious query, Dharam darts forward to hit him, while Veer ducks down, begging for forgiveness. Bhalla enjoys a hearty laugh at their pranks.
The lack of a map takes them through a long tedious night journey, before the fatigued princes reach the intimidating stretch of the narrow pass of Niphaud. Veer and Dharam exchange the responsibility for the reigns silently, while Bhalla sleeps blissfully unaware of the perilous journey they were undertaking. Veer levers the jute reigns of the horses and skillfully steers the cart, while Dharam warns Veer of any dangerous obstructions. Combined, they maneuver their way through the risky length of the pass slowly, till they spot the first signs of new land. Riding through a short expanse of barren ground, Veer and Dharam observe the grey sights of the kingdom of Gadhwar unfolding before them.
After a while, they come face to face, with barricades guarded by unwelcoming soldiers in a military camp. The soldiers harshly order them to descend their cart in order to make a thorough search of their wares. The three boys alight from their carts, while the soldiers begin to ransack their belongings to ensure they did not find anything untoward. Looking at their bundle of weapons, the soldiers demand an explanation for the purpose of their untimely visit. Veer and Dharam introduce themselves to the unconvinced soldiers and then display their weapons to request an audience with the commander-in-chief. However, despite repeated efforts from the forlorn princes, the arrogant soldiers don't permit them entry into Gadhwar.
Out of desperation, Veer finally tests his luck by blurting out baseless claims to the dubious soldiers "but...the commander-in-chief knows us personally…he knows we're coming…he is expecting us!"
The Soldiers exclaim in unison "What!"
Dharam exclaims "What!"
Bhalla exclaims "What!"
While Dharam and Bhalla become astonished by Veer's lies, the soldiers straighten themselves and address Veer meekly "My! W...why didn't you say so? He generally visits our posting before daybreak…when he arrives, I will let him know you've arrived. You may wait at the village nearby till then..."
The soldiers let them through and then lead them into a murky village, housing only a handful of destitute residents. As they place their heavy belongings on the ground to rest under the dark shadow of a large tree, Dharam grumbles to himself; troubled by Veer's fearless false stories.
Aryanagar – Inside a humble dwelling
Within the rustic walls of a modest hut, a homely woman sits by the flickering light of a candle and excitedly wipes a crude bamboo idol of an infantile Lord Krishna. Not a trace of the day's hard work evident on her face, she hums sweetly "I worshipped you all these years. Now finally, I am handing you over to queen Nivritti. Please protect my son…"
Listening to the unceasing enthusiasm in her voice; Sakshi grins as she rubs medicine over the swollen ankles of her mother and tells her "Prayer festival… prayer festival… that is all you have been talking about…" she adds doubtfully "What difference does it make, if you pray to the idol here? You have been doing so all these years…why do you have to give it to the queen? What if she doesn't even care for it? What if she finds out the truth?"
The caring mother refutes her "Don't worry! I wouldn't tell her the truth! You know that it is customary for the idol to be worshipped at home…to protect the child. Veer was at the Gurukul so long, but now he stays at the palace; so it should be kept there! The festival is an apt occasion to hand it to the queen..." she smiles to herself, thinking about the opportunity of watching her son at close quarters "…and I wonder if I would be able to meet Veer...even for a moment..."
Gadhwar – Village near military camp, at the outskirts
Driven by thirst; Veer stands up, stretches himself and hunts around briefly for a source of water. He approaches a lady drawing water from the water well, a short distance away and requests her "May I have some water please? I am parched…" on receiving no response, he tries to make pleasant conversation with her "It is only past midnight…you are up very early…"
The lady begins walking away, as she gives him a curt reply "Fetch your water by yourself..."
Momentarily taken aback by her rudeness, Veer goes ahead and starts drawing the water till he feels an unexpected extra helping tow on the ropes. Looking at the familiar face housing a warm smile, Veer complains "Dharam…the people here are so inhospitable!"
Dharam pours the water into Veer's hands "Veer, every kingdom is different… different people….different circumstances…attitudes…we need to learn to accept that…"
Suddenly, distracted by the sounds of sharp voices, they turn around to see a group of angry soldiers rapidly coming towards them. As the ghastly group advance ahead, the alarmed Dharam and Veer watch an enormous brute sporting powerful metallic armour, step forward from the dwarfed soldiers around him.
Stopping in front of the shocked princes, the commander roars "These soldiers told me that I was expecting you…I don't know you! Why did you lie? Where are you from?"
Frowning at an anxious Bhalla and Dharam; Veer stutters, trying to think of something to say "Oh!... we are weapon merchants…we bring w…weapons…t…that…" gazing at the commander's chunky armour, he pretends "weapons that would be capable of even cutting through your armour…"
The group slowly breaks out into intimidating sniggers, while the irritated Dharam closes his eyes and hopes that Veer would not commit to any more exaggerated claims.
The commander seizes a startled Dharam by the neck "Do you know that liars are not welcome here? Especially those that dare to lie to the commander…you better prepare to die…"
His pride defied, Dharam glares at the commander and then removes each finger from his neck rebelliously, while the tall man stands stupefied by Dharam's strength. Weighing the possibility of a violent outbreak, Veer eyes the bundle and then immediately darts towards it, to pick up a handful of weapons. He walks back towards the group and wasting no time, aims the knife into a small crevice of a distant tree. He swiftly hands a knife to the commander, to distract him from his outburst at Dharam. Subtly awed by Veer's adept skills with the knives, he slowly examines the sleek blade. In a flash, the commander contests his skills by hurling the weapon at the tree.
Falling slightly short of Veers's perfect aim at the crevice; he gets enraged and tries the variety of knives in Veer's hand; one after another. After he fails to match his target at all instances, Veer eventually waves his empty hands and then indicates with his eyes, asking the commander to fetch the knives back. Shocked by Veer's intimidations, he takes a few moments to overcome his ego; before following his instructions. As predicted; the well-housed strong blades only loosen with great force, purging out small chunks of the tree trunk with them; leaving the soldiers and their commander marveling at the quality of the weapons.
Taking mighty strides back to his tent, the commander speaks up "Do you have a written contract? I would like to seal it… I need these weapons as quickly as possible…in a week…"
Watching the commander disappearing into his tent, Dharam whispers to Veer "The knife trick was very impressive! Where did you learn it?"
Thinking of his encounter with the veiled girl at the blacksmiths, Veer proudly beams in reply "Oh Dharam…that…you see… well… that is just me…"
Gadhwar - The military tent at the border
After the three royals enter the tent, Dharam gives the commander a scroll and attempts to converse with him "We will aim to please you Senapati… but…may I ask…w…why do you need them in a week?"
Receiving the scroll from Dharam, the Commander replies tersely "Oh we are marching south…" aware of the fact that he spoke too soon, he pauses; and gets back to laying out the specifics of the contract.
In an attempt to gain more information, Dharam prods him hesitantly "South? You mean Aryanagar?"
The commander looks at the inquisitive Dharam and smiles quietly, in approval. Listening to the very fact that they dreaded most being proven true; Dharam stands speechless, while Veer strives to mask his horror and silently challenges the commander "Gadhwar is a relatively small kingdom… it is very brave of you to openly declare war on Aryanagar…"
The commander laughs in reply, as he hands Veer the sealed scroll "Openly? We are not fools..."
Appalled by the increasingly disturbing facts provided by the commander, Dharam enquires with a choked voice "Not openly declaring war? You mean…you have inside help…you have help from the Aryanagar army?"
The commander nods his head reluctantly and answers "Not only the army..." he suddenly stops, perceiving that he was probably giving the merchants more information than necessary and orders them "That is enough...you may leave now...I will be waiting for the order...thank you..."
As the soldiers begin to lead them outside, Veer continues goading the commander; hoping to extract as much information as possible "Commander, you seem to have meticulously planned everything… when you meant inside help…did you meant the palace…we know the royal family of Aryanagar well…we can provide you with any information you need…"
The commander stares at Veer and inquires doubtfully "How do you know so much?"
Veer replies with a frown "We are weapon merchants… we keep an eye on all military secrets…"
The indecisive commander asks him slowly "What do you know about Rajkumar Agnivardhan and his father Jaivardhan? It was their idea…they promised to help us…"
The princes stand dumbstruck; seething in rage as the all the information that they had unearthed so far started gaining clarity. Gradually realizing how their uncle was teaming up with a rival kingdom to overthrow the current regime in Aryanagar, Veer responds numbly "We realized they had their eye on the throne… but didn't know that they would go to war against their own family…you trust such rogues, commander?"
Finally tired of their nagging questions, the commander dictates his soldiers to escort them out, while the distressed and drained brothers don't put up any resistance to the uncouth men and step out silently themselves.
Enroute Niphaud – The ride back
Bhalla clings his quivering hands tightly around the beams of the cart, as they approach the steep pass at breakneck speed. When the edge of the cart passes dangerously close to a protruding rock, Veer gasps in fear. Surveying the escalating risk, Bhalla again implores Veer to comfort the anguish and the unusual behaviour of their generally calm prince.
Ducking to avoid a branch, Veer tries reasoning repeatedly "Dharam…how much ever you tug on the reigns…the horses can only ride so fast…Please… I beg you…please give me the reigns... you are very upset Dharam… you are driving very hazardously…"
Aggrieved, Dharam yells back "We need to get to Aryanagar…to protect father… mother… Aryanagar…from Jai chacha and Agni…they are planning a war against us…"
Veer again tries to take the reigns forcibly, but Dharam refuses to give in. Blinded by the torment of betrayal and the worry for his kingdom, he unwittingly shoves Veer aside. Nudged forcefully by Dharam; Veer looses his foothold and desperately tries to hold on to the edges, but the speed of the cart shuffles his balance and the prince is hurled outside the cart. Clenching on to the wooden beams; Veer lets out a piercing scream, as he is dragged brutally by the swift conveyance. Rudely awakened from his trance, Dharam instantaneously passes the reigns over to Bhalla and lunges forward. Petrified for his brother's safety, the desperate Dharam grabs Veer's arms with all his might and grits his teeth as he pulls his brother up, inch by inch. With immense exertion, Dharam heaves Veer onto the moving cart; which is eventually restrained to a slow trot by the shaken Bhalla.
Catching up on his breath, Veer notices Dharam's guilty face and pacifies him "I am all right…I am fine…don't worry…we will start for Aryanagar as soon as we get back to Niphaud…."
After a few tense moments, Dharam quivers in remorse "Oh God…forgive me…what… if something had happened…to y…you Veer…I don't know what came over me…I couldn't accept the fact that Aryanagar was in danger from my own cousin…my own family…"
Veer places his hand around Dharam and replies supportively "Kauravas and Pandavas were also cousins Dharam! Different places...different people….different attitudes…remember? We should learn to accept that…"
Moved by Veer's counsel, Dharam reconciles himself with a pledge "Yes…Veer… I should learn to accept it...I will accept it...we will defeat their purpose...we will show the Aryanagar assembly"
Veer interrupts him "No! Don't talk to the assembly! I don't trust them now…" trying to uplift his brother, he hits Dharam's chirpily "we both are strong warriors with a strong army…we will prepare for war strategically…the only way anyone could ever defeat Aryanagar, is if Dharam and Veer were not together… and that day would never come!"
Bhalla adds sulkily "What about me? You never include me…"
With an innocent expression, Veer corrects himself "Oh yes and Balaram too…"
Amazed by his brother's affection and wise support, Dharam hugs Veer proudly.
Ciao till next Saturday
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Joined: 14 February 2005
OSR SAMYUKTA - Dharam Veer Part 12 - The start of an eternal friendship...Dharam...Veer...Siya...
At the rear of the Palace of Niphaud – Outside the compound wall
The subdued princes enter the empty outskirts of the capital in the primitive hours of the chilly morning; still battling with the incidents of the recent night from inundating them. Huddled in shawls, they smile at each other, in frail attempts to mask the fear in their racy hearts. Arriving at the rocky periphery around the gigantic palace compound wall, Bhalla brings the horses to a slow halt. Wasting no time, Dharam jumps off their cart to loosen the tired horses, while Veer quickly packs up all their belongings. With faint smiles, they proceed towards the compound wall to secretly get back into the palace, apprehending that the end of their small mission only meant the beginning of greater hurdles that lay ahead.
As veer is about to secure the rope ladder on the compound wall, a familiar voice startles them.
"Why not enter through the main gates…like everyone else generally does…"
Taken aback, they turn around to find the fatigued yet determined princess and her anxious friend standing there all alone at the inopportune moment. Worried by Siya's worn-out face and her untended form; devoid of her usual finesse and splendid adornments, Dharam asks her slowly "Rajkumari Siya…w…what are you doing here…now…at this hour…all alone…"
She pauses and repeats the same question cynically "What are you doing here…Rajkumar…"
Trying to avoid confrontations, Veer mumbles incoherent replies as he hastily races to secure the ladder. His hurried actions to evade explanations, ironically causes the secure rope ladder to unfasten and drop to the ground. Restraining her fluttering veil with one hand; Siya immediately darts forward to grab the ladder with the other, angering Veer who is unable to reach for it.
Marking his indifference to her, Siya mutters furiously "Rajkumar Veer! Obviously, you have to hurry now… to complete whatever your political motives are…" suppressing her tears, she turns to Dharam unhappily "You used my parent's hospitality…my mother's trust…you used Niphaud...you used an innocent girl's feelings…why be so selfish?"
Confused by her accusations, Dharam defends himself "What are you trying to imply? Rajkumari Siya… I think there has been a major misunderstanding here…"
Agonized, Siya interrupts him "If I am only a pawn for gaining control of Nipahud, then why the drama of a leisure trip to meet me…to talk to me…was all this your plan?"
Veer becomes irked by her incriminating statements and abruptly stops the seemingly stubborn girl "Rajkumari! Assume whatever you want to… you will never understand us …please just give us the rope ladder and we will leave you in peace…"
Pained by their unconcern on top of what she thinks to be heinous actions against Niphaud, she challenges them "How impudent of you! Anyway...Just remember that I would never allow anything untoward to happen to Niphaud or my family… at least as far as I am alive!"
Further to Veers's persistent stares; she carelessly throws the rope ladder back at them, which by chance strikes Dharam on his temple severely. Owing to the unforeseen hostile strike; Dharam flinches and holds his painful eyes, while Siya gasps aloud, alarmed by the result of her actions.
Filled with sympathy for his hurt sibling, Veer holds Dharam's shoulder defensively and shouts out enraged "Stop it Rajkumari Siya! Enough! How dare you hurt my brother? He has treated you with so much respect all through. We have been so patient with you all through our stay… your food…tantrums…music…meddling…insults…now you are blaming us of political moves... cheating... what not..." Dharam puts his hand up, signalling Veer to stop.
Becoming a frightful shade paler in response to Veer's outburst, Siya chokes on her tears "I saw the weapons… the scrolls… the disguises… visits to the blacksmiths….w…what about all the lies…" on seeing their speechless faces, she insists "If you don't tell me, I will have to let father know anyway, as all this seems to be a very ominous situation…"
The three boys look at each other and sigh disapprovingly, debating for a short while if they should let her know about their personal issues. Finally, Dharam unwillingly starts explaining the tense situations between Gadhwar and Aryanagar; and the reason for their planned visit to Niphaud. As Bhalla concludes their hurried justifications by convincing her that the weapons and scrolls were only props for their disguises, expressions of shock slowly begin to mask the loath on her face.
Moved by the misery in her pretty eyes; Dharam starts apologizing to her, not minding the increasing impatience on his partner's faces "I am sorry we used the selfish pretext of a trip to Niphaud to investigate… but that was only because some people from our very own palace are involved in this scandal too…" he pauses "However, we never wanted to misuse the life or feelings of anyone to do this…you have misunderstood us…this trip was never to meet you...in fact, the day I met you at the garden was the first very first time, I ever saw you!"
Gradually numbed by both the crude reality and the chilly winds fiercely battling her tresses, Siya feebly denies with her ashen lips "Please...don't lie!!!! Didn't you speak to your mother about me? Your mother even sent my mother a message with the proposal…"
The already flustered Dharam despairs "My Lord! What proposal? How could I have spoken to my mother…if I…I...had never even heard of you, Rajkumari Siya?"
Nanda endeavours to prove her lost cause by refuting them "I heard our Maharani reading the message from queen Vaidehi and it stated everything about...about you asking for Siya's hand!"
Frustrated, Veer puts his head in hands in fear of losing his sanity and utters "Oh! Another person to add to this confusion...Queen Vaidehi...may I ask who she is...If you are referring to Dharam's mother, her name is Maharani Swathi, the queen of Aryanagar!"
Not wanting to face the shame of her blunders or her wrecked image in front of the young men; Siya hopes the earth would swallow her, as she drops paralyzed onto the flat rock. Nanda starts weeping apologetically, not knowing how to rectify the irrevocable mistake caused by her. Siya begs her repentant friend to leave her alone, crouches to cover her face and sobs uncontrollably. As the three boys comprehend the misconceptions that the princess and her friends were having during their short stay at Niphaud, they begin to feel very sorry for her. Unable to leave her behind all alone in such a grief-striken state; they look at each other in despair, patiently waiting for her to reconcile herself.
After many agonizing moments, Siya takes a deep breath and opens her eyes to find them still standing there. The princess looks away and mumbles nervously "I have embarrassed myself enough …troubled you enough…I am sorry for everything….Rajkumar, you should leave now."
Concerned by her trembling stature, Dharam removes his shawl and hands it over to Nanda, to wrap around the dainty girl.
Suddenly taken aback to find herself in the warm comfort of Dharam's shawl, Siya looks at him blankly and speaks up "Rajkumar Dharam...I know you must find my behaviour puzzling…" she wipes her tears softly and continues "every girl fantasizes about her first meeting with her prince charming…the first conversations...the first moments...everything has been shattered for me..."
Realizing her torment, Dharam conceals his feelings for her; and assures her positively "Rajkumari…trust me, nothing has changed… you will meet your prince and you will still have many beautiful moments with him… I am certain of this....don't worry…"
Amazed by how the gallant Dharam suppressed his obvious feelings for the princess in order to console her; the proud Veer stares at Dharam briefly. To lighten the situation, Veer then slowly sits next to Siya to try and amuse her "I think it is better you go home now. Imagine what will happen if your mother finds out that you are missing!" as Siya becomes stunned by his suggestion, he whispers softly to her "Yes…yes...I know you are ashamed of what you did…we know you had problems…you see we had our problems too!" aware that she was watching him curiously, Veer acts as though he was pondering to himself and then addresses Siya with a deep frown "Rajkumari Siya... now...you have understood us...we understand you…you trusted us...we trust you..." The chirpy prince then looks up at the calmer Dharam with a sad expression and asks him "Does that mean we can't fight with her anymore?"
Dharam joins Veer in his sweet act with a dramatic conclusion "Oh! I don't think we can Veer! You see…we have to unfortunately call ourselves her friends now…"
Never having encountered such a tremendously touching effort to cheer her up, Siya closes her mouth like a surprised child. Unable to suppress her laughter anymore, she giggles through her tears in absolute disbelief at their act; mentally treasuring the beautiful moments. Having managed to finally make her smile, Veer silently winks at his relieved brother.
After a short while, Siya eventually musters her courage to ask Veer "The people plotting against you…are they part of your family…your relatives…do you think you will be going to w…war?"
Veer nods his head and mumbles in a low tone "Yes they are our very own cousin and uncle…"
She suddenly astounds him by exclaiming aloud "Oh my! I have to show you something now!"
The relieved expressions on the boys' faces again disappear, as they begin to fear the worst.
Niphaud – Enroute Siya's surprise…
Reluctantly following the girls on the rocky trail, the princes deliberately avoid Bhalla's glares; aware that he was annoyed at them for having yielded to her obstinate whims. Removing two obstructing twigs, Siya reacts to their rebellious groans by assuring them "I may have done many silly things in the past, but trust me...this is surely not one of them!"
Veer rubs his sleepy eyes and sighs "Don't you say that every time you do something?"
Dharam laughs at Veer's comments and makes a final attempt to ask her "Could we not come back for this later Rajkumari Siya?"
Hiding her exhaustion, the charming girl firmly refuses "No! Trust me…you have to see this...we are almost there now...hurry up...don't you have to get back to Aryanagar soon?"
Dharam replies with a false smile "Oh! Yes…yes…yes…you see...I never realized that…."
Lacking any further strength to argue with Siya; they follow her, silently lamenting all through.
Eventually tired of their lethargic moans, she swings around. In the struggle to hurry them towards her destination; she tries to pull Dharam by his hand, imagining him to be one of her friends. Rapidly realizing what she was about to do; she retracts her hand, as she notices Dharam smiling in quiet bliss at her innocent actions. The embarrassed girl turns away from Dharam's magnetic daze only to find Veer enjoying their silent interactions.
A welcome relief for Siya comes in the form of Nanda's excited voice, calling out to the group. Siya composes herself quickly and claps her hands "Please close your eyes...we are there now..." Facing her next set of silly instructions; Bhalla and Veer again moan loudly, while the fatigued Dharam advices them wisely "It will probably be faster, if you just listen to her…"
The vanquished boys shut their eyes and trample through the last stretch of the rocky trail, until they become surprised to hear the soothing sounds of trickling water. Gradually emerging through the thick woods, they open their eyes to watch a breathtaking vision below. Astonished, they observe a vast panoramic lush view surrounded on three sides by green woods and a steep cliff on the fourth. The rays of the sun rising from the cliff form beautiful patterns on the moss laden grey boulders of a beautiful temple ruin in the centre. Birds hovering around lovely floral creepers peck at two sparkling springs bubbling from the ground.
Forgetting their anxiety, the boys slowly start feeling gratified towards the princess, as she guides them through the delightful serene sight "These are the famous springs of Niphaud. I have always seen this place at sunset…but sunrise seems even more beautiful!"
Grasping the beautiful view, they slowly descend towards the water sources. Further to Siya's request to touch the water, Dharam and Veer curiously bend over to feel one of the springs and pull back their hands from the icy stream. She giggles and then asks them to touch the spring very next to it. They smirk at her childishness and then touch the water next to it, expecting it to be chilly. However; finding the geyser to be a hot spring, they become amazed by the marvel of nature. Joined by Bhalla, the thrilled boys start warming their hands with the hot water, relishing the occasional breeze spraying the tepid water on their faces.
Siya gently takes a leather pouch from the excited boys and adds "Long ago, Niphaud was under invasion. The Goddess of this temple danced on the Earth and the frightened invaders retreated. Since then... her blessings...these springs have been flowing here."
Wiping his hands, Dharam enquires "Oh! You mean there was an earthquake here?"
Siya denies innocently "No Rajkumar! The Goddess danced on the earth…"
The boys grin at her naivety, while she continues "This water helped our ancestors fight their enemies. I hope it helps you fight yours too...I didn't know if you would be able to come to Niphaud again…so I wanted to bring you here…"
Perceiving why she was so adamant about bringing them there, Bhalla and Veer smile appreciatively at her lovable nature; while Dharam becomes overwhelmed with feelings of tenderness for her affection. The group spend a few enjoyable moments at the beautiful spot till the concerned Nanda suggests that they should restart their journey towards the palace to avoid any major chaos.
Noticing Dharam's silence at Nanda's suggestions, Veer smiles at Siya "You didn't know if we would come back to Niphaud again? Something tells me we will be visiting more often than you think!"
Resuming their ascending journey the rough terrain, Siya and Nanda follow the agile boys with great effort. As Siya tries to keep up with them, her shawl suddenly slips off and she bends down to catch it. Shocked by the feel of a strong warm grip around her cold bare arm, she looks up in alarm to find the anxious face of Dharam. Not used to being touched or held in this way before, she stares at him in horror till she notices Dharam pointing towards a sharp protruding stone near her feet.
He warns the petrified girl "Be careful! You are very negligent…here, let me help you!"
Not minding her shocked expressions, the protective prince gives her his hand to help her climb the tall rock and signals with his eyes to take it. Reminded of their first meeting in the garden when he had offered her his hand, she pauses and looks at him sceptically. Eventually, she gives him her petite hand and he hauls her onto firm ground. As the prince proceeds to help Nanda, Siya eyes him in wonder and feels her bare arm softly. She becomes crimson hued and re-wraps the shawl around herself modestly, still recovering from the feeling of his strong touch.
Palace of Niphaud – Entrance
The glorious morning sees a long train of soldiers and a glowing retinue of maids surround the noble monarchs of Niphaud at the entrance of the palace. The ardent crowd patiently wait amidst all the meticulous arrangements, to bid the princes a courteous farewell to Aryanagar. Daksha's saddened face stands out from the pleasant throng as she whines to Nanda "You are very mean… you could have at least told me you were going to the springs with Rajkumar Veer…I was not even informed…"
Nands nods her head and sighs "Oh Lord Daksha! First I have to face Siya for my mistakes. Then I received a harsh scolding from my mother for not coming home! Now you…how was I to know…" she pauses, as she notices Daksha staring at the palace.
Following gala fanfare, the radiant boys majestically descend the palace steps towards their royal steeds. The queen greets them politely, thanking them for the visit; and awaits a reaction from the king. Still under the impression that his daughter was mistreated by them; the king gives them a curt bid, puzzling them. Unmindful of his strange greeting; the boys exchange formal smiles with him, before proceeding towards the palace gates. Conscious of Siya's absence, Dharam peeps back hoping to catch a last glimpse of her unsuccessfully. Restless about Siya's whereabouts; he takes a few moments, before he notices Veer walking behind him in terror. Dharam looks up and detects Daksha and Nanda rapidly approaching them with a parcel in their hand. Not minding the curious onlookers; the plump coy girl hands the parcel to Dharam, who smiles at her softly. He then pulls the nervous Veer from behind him and forces him to receive it from her.
Blushing at the embarrassed prince, Daksha confesses to Veer "I realized that you liked sweets… you repeatedly asked for it that night… so I asked my mother to prepare some for you" Veer becomes confused by her statements, as she sadly dazes into his eyes "Please do write to me regularly Rajkumar..."
Smiling affirmatively, Veer grabs the parcel from her and then swiftly drags the reluctant Dharam away from the palace.
Relieved at having left Daksha behind; Veer smiles at Dharam, only to find him scanning through the dispersing crowd behind them, in search of the missing face. Finding no sign of her anywhere; the dispirited Dharam gives up and climbs his horse silently until his attention becomes distracted by Veer's loud coughs "Dharam...can't you even search properly…" he coughs "she is watching from her window..." he coughs "upstairs…look…now"
Elated; Dharam immediately turns around and looks at the distant bedroom window to find Siya's beautiful profile, peeking curiously. As the pretty shadow hurriedly disappears from the window, the prince beams overjoyed and blushes to himself sweetly.
Never having seen Dharam so happy, both Bhalla and Veer laugh heartily and advise him "Dharam… she is adorable no doubt... but…she is childish…she can't sing... can't cook... instead of her taking care of you, it will be the other way around. We are warning you, well ahead!"
Dharam smiles in reply "That's exactly why I like her… she is so imperfectly perfect..."
He happily kicks his horse and the three lively boys ride away, camouflaged into the dust raised by the hoofs of their horses; towards the direction of their kingdom.
Enroute Aryanagar – Village of Sawai
Unheeding their lengthy travel so far; the young princes trot on their horses in the dusty village, earnestly discussing about their immediate plan of action for Aryanagar. No sooner than the exhausted Bhalla spots a water-well and a bread stall; he interrupts their serious conversation demanding for a break, and dismounts his horse to stretch out casually. The brothers look at the relaxed actions of their friend and slap their foreheads wearily. Forced to get off their horses, they accompany Bhalla to join the small queue at the well.
Waiting for the queue to minimise, Dharam observes the familiar surroundings of the village and contemplates "this place looks so deserted at night…" he whispers to Veer "I wonder if Dhruv's orphanage is close by…I would like to visit it soon…to see if it is for real…"
Veer reflects on their past meeting with Dhruv at Sawai and smiles approvingly "Yes…I genuinely appreciate his courage and tenacity. What a noble deed for the Shramik…"
He pauses as water droplets repeatedly splash on his hair and annoyed, bends over to notify the person ahead to be more cautious. However, the fazed Veer stops when he sees the girl's face.
With closed eyes; the girl bewitchingly enjoys the refreshing droplets of water, as she slowly wipes them off her face. Frowning at her worryingly familiar face; Veer stares at how the avidly splattered streams of water, trickled down her sharp enthralling features. After musing for a while, his eyes widen when he recognizes her to be the girl he met at the blacksmiths.
Gradually opening her eyes to tie her hair into a knot, she notices Veer's expressions as he takes a few slow steps back. The perplexed girl asks him "Do I know you?"
Discomforted by her presence, Veer shakes his head and then turns away to avoid her glances.
Seeing Veer lost in a strange trance, Dharam bends forward and stretches his right hand out.
She looks at Dharam's hand and corrects him "Please hold out both your hands… it is not a good sign to drink water off one hand." Dharam shrugs and follows her instructions obediently.
As he sips the water, she requests Dharam "I have to travel back to the capital. Baba and Tasha are not here yet. I am all alone and new to this place. Would you please help me?"
Trying to be gallant, Bhalla blurts out "We are going there too… you can join us…"
Joyous, the girl places the pot down and steps down from the platform gratefully "Thank you so much…my belongings are in my cart there…I will join you in no time!"
While Bhalla proceeds towards the food stall; Dharam and Veer look at each other, wishing Bhalla had not prematurely committed to this favour that would slow their journey even further. Walking back towards their horses, Veer faces the food stall in an attempt to hurry their slow friend up. By chance, he notices that the girl walking towards her cart nonchalantly steals a piece of bread from the vendor. Veer stops aghast, unable to believe his eyes.
Ciao till next Saturday
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Joined: 14 February 2005
OSR Samyukta Part 13 – Trust her…trust her not!
Aryanagar – Village of Sawai
Veer notices that the girl walking towards her cart nonchalantly steals a piece of bread from the vendor. He stops aghast, unable to believe his eyes. Dharam walks a few steps ahead before he turns back to observe Veer staring animatedly at the crowded food stall and signalling to the shop vendor, in order to catch his attention.
Inundated by impatient customers, the stall vendor eventually manages to notice Veer calling out to him, from a short distance away. Observing Veer frantically indicating towards the girl crossing his shop, the irked vendor misreads his actions. Unable to understand what Veer was trying to convey; he bends over to call out to the girl, who responds to his beckons by turning around and smiling sweetly.
Instantaneously softened by the effect of her riveting smile, the gruff man asks her kindly "That boy is trying to say something. He is pointing towards you. I wonder what he is trying to say!"
The lovely girl gazes at Veer, giggles and then whispers to the vendor "Oh! He? I think he is just trying to grab my attention… you know how boys are…I think I better leave now…"
As she leaves to proceed to her cart, the busy vendor becomes swayed by her claims and takes Veer to be a rich brat fooling around with him, in order to impress the beautiful girl. He frowns at Veer angrily and then ignores him to get back to his work.
Realizing that she had tricked the vendor, the fatigued Veer becomes miffed by the uncaring attitude of the vendor. He gives up and walks back to his confused brother.
Dharam patiently stands with folded hands, waiting for an explanation for his brother's funny actions. Looking at Dharam's puzzled face, Veer points in the direction of the girl and confesses "That girl…I don't know…I don't feel at ease about her riding with us… could you please tell her that we would guide her…she can proceed by herself…"
Taking the reigns of his horse, Dharam retorts "Our hero Bhalla has foolishly offered his services to her already…anyway why don't you try telling her…why should I to do the talking always?"
After a few squabbles about who should talk to her, Veer pleadingly looks at Dharam with misty innocence in his eyes. Annoyed by how Veer always managed to convince him to carry out all the uncomfortable dealings, Dharam looks away angrily and finally gives in to Veer's requests by proceeding towards the girl.
Quietly approaching the girl, Dharam stands behind her and speaks in a low hesitating tone "Would it be all right if we showed you the directions…due to a very urgent situation, we would have to ride home hastily. We might not be able to accompany you…"
She turns around to look at Dharam with a hint of disappointment in her eyes "Y…you have no idea how swiftly I can ride my cart..." watching his unmoved expression, she folds her hands naughtily "All right…guide me through the directions…a lone girl riding through deserted villages and streets in an unknown city would be capable of taking care of herself…what does it matter if some rich boys went back on their promise to help her!"
Ashamed by her implications; the courteous prince smiles uneasily and stands muted not knowing how to reply to her statements, all the while wondering if Veer should have confronted her instead.
As the melodious tune of a tribal folk composition comes to an end, the girl opens her eyes and bows to the chubby boy trotting on his horse beside her. Enthralled by her gifted voice, Bhalla complements her "What an amazing singer you are… I am astounded…" he snaps his fingers "oh…yes…yes….do you know the song…the one about peacocks dancing in the rain? It's a tribal song too…"
She giggles at Bhalla's enthusiasm, as she nudges the horses to hasten her cart "I have sung all the songs I know…I don't know any songs on peacocks" her eyes slowly light up, as she adds "but I know one on a myna…"
Following Bhalla's eager approval she begins her next rendition; while the brothers stare at each other, fed-up of Bhalla's repeated requests and her never-ending folk concert.
Veer complains to Dharam "On the way to Niphaud, we had to only put up with Bhalla…now... on the way back, we have to put up with both of them…"
Feeling harassed by their companions and their seemingly slow journey, Dharam signals Veer to speed up his horses in order to maintain a distance from the noisy pair behind them. Racing ahead, Dharam is forced to speak above the girl's voice, as he admits to Veer "At this rate we will reach Aryanagar only after war breaks out" he pauses and then ascertains "I will have to divulge everything to father first thing tomorrow morning. If we frame Agni and Uncle Jaivardhan in front of the whole assembly, they would not…"
Veer sighs and stops him "Dharam…no…listen to me…please don't be hasty…don't tell the assembly…they would never believe us…with no evidence, our efforts…"
Dharam argues with his brother "Not again Veer! What do you propose to do… there is no time to hunt for evidence…if what the commander said was true, we hardly have a week…we should confront them directly and convince them somehow, as we need their approval to mobilize the army!"
Their dispute is abruptly invaded by a sweet voice behind them "Please slow down… there is a lone traveller behind you…it's not a good sign for a group to split up, while travelling together!"
Peeved by her endless requests, Veer glares at Dharam, who shrugs his shoulder and replies "Let it be… I don't think we should debate now. Let's talk about it later...at Aryanagar..."
As the retinue continue their sluggish journey back to the capital, the distrusting Veer forces Dharam to maintain a deliberate distance from her all along; while Bhalla remains enchanted by her songs and thoroughly enjoys the company of her chatter and giggles throughout.
Aryanagar - Outside the palace
Nearing the centre of the buzzing capital, the ambience gradually transforms into homeliness, as passing subjects pleasantly bow to greet their princes. Observing the celebratory atmosphere and festive preparations throughout the streets leading to the palace, the princes stare at each other in surprise. Glancing around, they smile at the excited children fluttering behind their horses, while the girl raises her eyebrows in wonder as men and women strive to put on their best behaviour in front of the young royal men.
A few yards from the external gates of the palace, Dharam and Veer halt their horses and jump off stylishly. The girl gracefully descends her cart and addresses them with an inquisitive smile "So…I had the pleasure of riding with the princes of Aryanagar…"
Bhalla replies charmingly, in genuine awe of her talent "Oh…no…it was actually our pleasure to ride with you….you entertained us so beautifully…"
She grins in reply to Bhalla's praises "Thank you sir…I am just a tribal girl from a nomadic tribe of blacksmiths… we tour cities for business. Now we are shifting to Aryanagar… My tribe will be following shortly…we were at Niphaud all these days…in fact we had a shop there…"
As she continues her introduction, Veer fears it might soon lead to the revelation about his discomforting encounter with her at Niphaud. Hoping to maintain his disguised anonymity, he interrupts her by smirking aloud "Do you always tell strangers, all about yourself…in this fashion?"
Discomforted by Veer's curt response, Dharam whispers to him angrily "You could have at least allowed her to introduce herself…"
Acknowledging his brash behaviour, the sheepish prince timidly looks up at the enticing girl and apologizes to her "I'm sorry….please continue…please do tell us your name…"
Staring at Veer, she smiles with a hint of superiority "I don't tell strangers my name…"
Unmindful of Veer's frowns, she keeps her basket on the ground and then proceeds to bow to Dharam and pay the prince her respects for having helped her out. Just as she is about to bow to him, Veer becomes wary of her intentions and immediately springs backwards; pulling Dharam along with him. While the puzzled Bhalla and Dharam stare at Veer, ashamed by his strange behaviour; the girl calmly smiles to herself.
Briefly confirming the direction she had to head in; she picks up her basket, climbs back into her cart and takes leave of the princes. Veer mulls deeply, as her cart steadily disappears into the sunset while the unhappy Dharam notices Veer's grim expressions and resents "Veer… off late, you have started behaving very strangely with girls…it has become very embarrassing…"
Not minding Dharam's complaints, Veer suddenly remembers the parcel of sweets handed over to him by Daksha and runs to their belongings to search for it. After a thorough search and finding no sign of the parcel anywhere, he speaks up triumphantly "Yes…I was right…I knew it…she steals things off people… my sweets are missing…I told you…she is a thief…"
Frightened by Veer's temper, Bhalla discloses meekly "Actually...Veer…I was hungry...so...I ate them on the way..."
The enraged Veer stares open mouthed at Bhalla for putting him in a funny predicament. Unable to relate to Veer's outburst, Dharam asks him irately "You weren't interested in them when the poor girl presented them to you at Niphaud…now suddenly you miss them…"
As Veer is about to defend himself by narrating the incident at the food stall in Sawai, they become distracted by the opening of the enormous corrugated palace gates behind them. No sooner, they find themselves unexpectedly swarmed by the delighted faces of the palace inhabitants. A large retinue of maids uniformly retreat to reveal the cheerful faces of the Aryanagar queens, treading towards them on the red carpet. Forgetting their conversation; the thrilled sons take their belongings, hand their steeds to the soldiers and run to their mothers, to receive affectionate blessings from the joyous monarchs.
Walking towards the palace following the reunion; Dharam and Veer become engrossed in the festive transformations of the palace. Noticing that the princes were not paying their entire attention to their caring barrage of questions, Maharani Swathi explains to the distracted boys "Don't look so surprised….we have organized for a massive prayer festival… tomorrow…to thank the Gods and our stars…you have successfully completed your education and are ready to take the reigns of administration now…we want you to be successful always…by the way, your father is waiting to meet you…"
Dharam briefly grins at his mother and then turns to Veer; worried about how this new occasion would only delay the opportunity of taking any action on the sinister developments that they had learnt of. Relating to what was going on in Dharam's mind, Veer silently assures his brother with his eyes and then looks ahead to conceal the same turmoil in his mind.
Ascending the steps of the palace, Veer hands over his belongings to the awaiting maids; and then reaches out for his studded dagger. Discovering it amiss from its carrier, he hurriedly searches his person and everywhere around him, only to find no sign of the expensive weapon. In a flash of realization, he remembers the girl and her playful grins when she had bowed to the princes. He stops in his tracks, as his frustrations metamorphose into a slow dumbfounded smile and he thinks to himself "Lord! How did she manage to do it?"
Palace of Nipahud – The queen's chamber
In the beautiful setting of a calm sunset, the imposing queen adorned in stately attire sits in the august chamber, facing her nervous daughter. Following numerous whispers and hushes by the glittering train of female attendants surrounding her; the queen requests all the ladies to leave the room, barring Siya's intimate friends. The stunning princess waits on the velvet couch, mentally struggling with hundreds of apprehensions crowding her mind about why her mother had summoned her.
Once the ladies exit the room, the queen adjusts her veil and speaks softly "The guests left this morning…I hope you are not upset with me for having scolded you in front of them…" she pauses "I was waiting for them to leave, so I would be able to speak to you privately…"
Hoping that her mother would not ask her anything else on the matter, Siya replies assuringly "No I am not upset mother…"
The proud mother smiles at her daughter and then takes out a scroll from behind her. Handing it over to Siya, she repeats the message in it "My friend…Queen Vaidehi of Chatarpur had sent me a message four days back" she sighs happily and continues "Her son, Rajkumar Harsh has expressed a desire to ask for your hand in marriage…"
As she accepts the scroll from her mother, Siya stares emptily; not knowing how to react to the expected news. She hesitatingly opens the scroll to find a painted portrait folded within and nervous to look at the portrait, briefly glances at her curious friends.
Looking at her daughter's hesitation, the queen advices her calmly "Chatarpur is a powerful kingdom. It would be honour for you to get married into such a family. Rajkumar Harsh will be arriving soon to meet you and you will see for yourself, what a gentleman he is. If everything works out well, we can formally proceed with the matter. You will have no idea how elated I would be…if your answer were positive…"
Respecting her mother's wishes; Siya views the portrait of the striking prince, silently striving to calm her fears about the strange situation of meeting someone in the form of a suitor again. Apprehensive about how this experience would turn out to be, she mentally prays to Lord Ganapathy to give her strength. Her eyes closed, she subconsciously remembers Dharam's words "Trust me, nothing has changed… you will meet your prince and you will still have many beautiful moments with him… I am certain of this....don't worry…"
Pacified and reassured, she opens her eyes and smiles to her mother warmly. Gladdened by Siya's approval; her mother runs to hug her, overcome with affection.
Palace of Aryanagar - Veer's waiting chamber
The early hours of the busy morning display scenes of maids rapidly pacing about the beautifully decorated palace halls in a bid to complete their tasks, in time for the rituals. Pre-occupied; Nivritti walks through the bustling corridors, meting out a set of instructions to Sunanda, before dashing into her son's room to ensure he was awake. Passing through the waiting chamber into his adjoining bedroom, she makes a quick search around the grandiose room. Failing to catch sight of him anywhere, she hurriedly walks back into the waiting chamber, until she notices a veiled girl sitting there quietly. Watching the baffled queen, the girl immediately stands up and joins her palms to offer her regards to the queen.
Curious about her presence, Nivritti asks her softly "Were you here when I went in…I am sorry I didn't notice you…" she pauses "What are you doing in Veer's chamber?"
The girl slips back her veil and replies softly "Rani…I am waiting for Rajkumar Veer…"
Amazed by how stunningly perfect her features were, Nivritti surveys her carefully and then continues "Why? Did he summon you? This early in the morning?"
The girl's reply is interrupted by the flustered queen Swathi rushing into the room, in search of her sister-in-law. Grabbing Nivritti by her hand, the queen frets anxiously "Nivritti… what are you doing here? Some of the articles that the priest had requested for, have not yet arrived…"
Swathi then notices the beautiful girl standing beside them and continues mildly "Who is she? What is she doing in Veer's waiting chamber?"
Just as Nivritti is about to speak up, the girl replies meekly "Rajkumar Veer has gone for his bath…I am waiting for his return…I have to give him something…"
Not knowing what to make of the unusual situation, the baffled queens stare at each other and break into astounded smiles. With numerous remaining errands to attend to, they ultimately leave the room murmuring gossip to each other.
In a short while, a glowing Dharam approaches Veer's room; fresh fragrance wafting around his persona, as he enters the waiting chamber. Shocked to find the familiar girl sitting there, he questions her inquiringly "What are you doing here, so early in the morning? Where is Veer? Who let you in here?"
She again stands up to bow to him and then takes out the dazzling knife to explain her presence "Yesterday this knife fell into my basket unknowingly…I am waiting for Rajkumar Veer to return, so that I could return it personally to him…I was asked to wait here."
Not trusting her entirely, a confused Dharam nods his head and smiles formally.
She then converses with him politely "Your Highness! Please don't mind me offering you counsel in this matter. However, I overheard some of your conversations yesterday on the way back from Sawai. I will mention my thoughts to Rajkumar Veer too..."
Dharam becomes increasingly troubled by her statements, while she persists "Rajkumar Dharam, I fully support you in this matter…whatever you said was right…you seem very level-headed… time and tide wait for none…if an urgent situation is coming up, any moment is the right moment to speak up…why wait to think...investigate…"
Alarmed by the fact that she knew so much, Dharam stops her "Y…you overheard all this…I can't believe it…this is a personal matter of state security…" still recovering from the fact that she was aware of everything, he orders her anxiously "We will take care of this. I forbid you to discuss this with Veer or with anyone else…where is Veer?"
She nods her head obediently and then provides him warped information about Veer's whereabouts "I think he has gone to help with some errand at the temple…I am hoping he would be back soon…"
Dharam responds sternly "No! I asked him to wait here…why would he go alone…"
She shrugs her shoulder "I'm not sure Rajkumar…I saw him go in that direction…why don't you search for him there…you would save time…the rituals are about to start…"
The confounded Dharam ponders for a while, sighs and then finally leaves the room in search of Veer.
After a brief length of time, Veer struts into his room radiating luminously as he brushes his wet hair. The moment he catches sight of the girl in his chamber, his chirpy disposition transforms into one of absolute shock. He stutters "You? Here? At this time? How did the guards grant you permission? Oh Lord! Did anyone see you here…imagine if Dharam came here… what would he think…"
She stands up and greets him with an enthralling smile "Rajkumar Dharam and the queens…well they asked you to come to the prayer festival, once you were ready…"
Veer starts panicking incoherently "They saw you here? Ma…Swathi chachi…oh Lord... no... what...would...they...think of me...no…God…"
In order to quieten the agitated prince, she takes out and hands him the high-priced weapon silently. The dazed Veer takes his weapon from her and stares at it, while she defends herself "I came here to return your knife…it fell into my basket by chance yesterday…"
Comprehending her nature, Veer smiles sarcastically "Oh yes...I can even picture how it crawled into your basket… anyway thank you so much for this…you may leave now…"
As he is about to leave, she calls out to him "Rajkumar Dharam discussed an important issue with me today…he asked me not to discuss this with anyone…not even with you!"
Perplexed by her words, Veer turns around and listens in disbelief as she speaks in a tone, contradictory to what she advised Dharam "Rajkumar Dharam might not agree…but… pertaining to your dilemma yesterday, I support you...speech is silver but silence is golden…never speak, always act…you are right…always make sure you have the evidence…and then wait for the right moment to speak…"
Unable to believe his ears, Veer mentally debates all along; trying to figure out how she knew so much and why Dharam would discuss the matter with her.
She continues supportively "Speaking at the wrong time, would only waste all efforts…"
Disturbed by the distorted information provided by her, Veer indicates with his hand to make her stop and replies bluntly "I will wait here for Dharam. He will be here any moment to join me to the temple. I will discuss this with him….thank you, for all your advice…."
Before leaving the room, she smiles at him assertively "I am telling you Rajkumar Dharam went ahead to the temple…he is attending the ceremony now…you can wait here for him if you want to…"
Veer muses to himself feeling a strange sense of inexplicable discomfort. After waiting for a long while, he eventually leaves his room to go to the temple alone; fazed by Dharam's actions.
Ciao till next saturday
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OSR SAMYUKTA Part 14 - Veer meets Pari and Sakshi
Palace of Aryanagar – The palace grounds
After waiting for a long while, Veer eventually leaves his room to go to the temple alone; fazed by Dharam's actions. Nimbly arriving at the expansive palace grounds, Veer becomes dumbstruck to find the generally serene area crowded to suffocation. He takes a while to comprehend the flurry of activity and the bursts of commotion unfolding all around the vast open space. Joyous about the divine aura permeating around his palace, he listens to the reverberating hymns chanted by priests at the far end of the grounds, in the temple courtyard; where blazing fires flamed brightly in reaction to the offerings being poured in. The prince proudly observes how thousands of eager Shramiks swamping the area, were being uniformly ushered into long queues by overwhelmed soldiers; in a bid to receive the free clothes and food being distributed by the maids and palace residents.
Slowly recovering from the shock of the scale of the festival, Veer tries searching for a familiar face in the sea of people. The soldiers watch puzzled when they notice their prince agitatedly darting through the crowds and manoeuvring himself through each queue. Looking in all directions, he eventually spots his mother supervising the distribution atop a low dais and tries to wiggle out of the long queue. Unwittingly, he suddenly trips on a child that darts past him and falls on the ground in between the mob of people. Embarrassed, he sits up and brushes his clothes until he becomes taken aback to hear someone faintly whisper the words "Bless you, my son"
Looking up, he notices the beautiful face of a motherly Shramik woman with misty eyes. Spellbound by her effect on him, the ecstatic boy stares at her for a while till his attention is caught by another pretty young lady standing behind her. The woman slowly gives him her hand to help him on his feet, but their brief interaction is interrupted by soldiers rushing in to ensure their royal's safety. Warning the lady to stay away, they shove her back and try helping him up instead. Veer angrily orders the soldiers to leave him alone and then smiles at the affectionate Shramik woman, as he takes her hand to stand up.
Encountering an unaccountable sense of attachment towards them; he thanks them humbly for their help, while Sakshi and Pari fold their palms in a mark of respect to him. Veer then proceeds towards the podium; battling a strange reluctance in him, as he leaves them behind. Watching a part of their family walk away; the gladdened Sakshi holds her tearful mother supportively, while Pari thanks the Lord for finally having the joyous opportunity of having been able to personally interact with her son for a few moments.
Noticing Veer swimming through the crowd towards her, Nivritti shouts out to him "Where have you been all this while? We organized this festival so that you all could participate in it and you come late…I don't know where Dharam is either…" not giving him a chance to explain, Nivritti frantically continues "come up here Veer…quickly…I want you to distribute the clothes with your own hands…and receive everyone's blessings…"
Veer smiles and springs atop the dais to await his instructions. He is caught unaware when Nivritti suddenly grabs his hand and starts dragging him. Leading him towards a spot at the head of a large queue stacked with baskets of clothes, she hurriedly instructs him "It's simple Veer… dhotis for men…veils for girls…scarves for children… shawls for women…" she abruptly pauses when she hears the inundated Swathi calling out to her. Sighing out aloud, she addresses Veer hastily "I am sure you must have understood everything Veer …the maids will help you…don't worry…"
Just as Veer tries to reconfirm his instructions, she runs back to Swathi; leaving behind a daunted Veer to deal with throngs of people all alone. Alarmed; Veer stares at the humungous piles of clothes, the faces of numerous fervent people waiting patiently and then glares at Agni carrying out his duties with false enthusiasm. After pausing for a moment, he devotedly starts distributing the items to the grateful Shramiks with a fond smile, receiving their good wishes in return.
All through the hectic process, the worried Veer repeatedly surveys the palace grounds to search for any signs of Dharam. At one such instance; he suddenly spots the blacksmith girl lined in his queue, a short distance away. Seemingly engrossed in having pleasant conversation with some old ladies around her, the horrified Veer unwittingly observes her magnetic giggles briefly. Squirming at the thought of having to face her again, he immediately looks around for someone to hand over his duty to. He notices his mother whizzing past behind him and calls out to her "Ma... I don't want to do this...is there some other work that I could help with..."
The irritated queen turns around and scolds him "Veer...I am having so much to do... why are you so fussy.…one job and you can't even do that properly..." As the unhappy Nivritti abandons him to his misfortune, he catches Agni grinning at his predicament and frowns at him angrily.
Getting back to his duties; Veer consciously tries to avoid looking in her direction and the distracted prince starts rapidly handing out the clothes to the confused people in his queue. Aware of how she was inching closer to him in the queue, he prays for a quick end to his tribulations. After a while; unable to overcome his curiosity, he looks in her direction to ascertain where she was. By chance; she notices him reluctantly seeing her and smiles at him. Frustrated that she caught him watching her, he immediately turns away.
When her turn eventually comes, she patiently waits to be handed her veil, while Veer curtly thumps the item in her hand; not looking at her face. After a few moments, he notices her still standing there and then advices her sternly "We only give one item per person... I am sorry…I can't give you anymore free clothes...you may leave now..."
She nods her head negatively and smiles indicating to the dress in her hand with her eyes "Rajkumar...you have given me a dhoti...I shall still leave if you want me to..."
Perturbed by how everything always went wrong for him around her, he takes out two veils and thumps it in her hand stating "Here…now... happy?"
She smiles happily and nods her head inquisitively "What about the dhoti?"
Veer sighs "You can have that too..."
Just as she is about to leave, Veer muses for a moment and then calls her back. He whispers to her grimly "I... I... have to ask you something...why are you following me..."
Surprised, she puts her hand on her mouth and replies "Rajkumar, I have been standing in this queue since morning…you came here much later...so, who is following whom..."
The ladies around her overhear their sweet exchanges and start giggling lovingly "Looks like our Rajkumar is having his eye on someone now..."
She laughs sweetly and then leaves from there. The ladies start speculating about the pair; not allowing Veer any chance to defend himself. Veer gives up, not knowing how to hide his misery at his constant mishaps with her and moans to himself "Every time... every time...she is around me...I face trouble...why…if she steals...I get scolded...even Dharam trusts her over me... and now this...oh Lord...please I beg you...I never want to catch sight of her again...I will fast for one month...no one week...if you fulfil my wishes"
His disturbed thoughts are distracted as he hears the familiar grim voice of his brother behind him "So this is where you are! I have been looking for you...the entire morning!"
Surprised, Veer turns to Dharam and replies "What do you mean...you were supposed to wait for me...but you leave me alone..." handing out another dress, he whispers angrily "by the way, since when did you start discussing state problems with strangers?"
Not comprehending what Veer was trying to imply, Dharam becomes confused "What! When did I discuss my problems…anyway…Veer with regards to today's assembly…"
Their argument is abruptly interrupted by the loud noise of a silver tray clanging on the ground. They turn around to see the scattered trails of religious paraphernalia on the floor and Queen Swathi furiously staring at her royal dress stained with vermillion. Veer notices the Shramik woman who helped him in the crowd staring apologetically at Swathi, as his aunt reprimanded the pair of ladies "Why the hurry? Couldn't you be patient? You would also get your items..."
Pari apologises profusely and offers to rub the stains off with the end of her veil and clear the mess. However; Swathi just moves away angrily, refusing to listen to Sakshi's explanations for her mother's actions. As the maids eventually ask the mother and daughter to leave the area, Veer watches the whole incident; feeling immensely pained. Affected by the incident, Nivritti finally interrupts the maids and bends over to ask Pari what the matter was.
Looking at Nivritti; Pari feels a surge of gratifying emotions and takes out the bamboo idol of Lord Krishna and hands it over to her gently. Distracted by the fact that Veer was watching them, Pari looks at Veer fondly for a few instants. Receiving the bamboo idol, the baffled Nivritti observes Pari staring at Veer and then asks her "What is the matter dear lady?"
Pari turns back to Nivritti and smiles sadly "I have lost my son… now that the princes have come back from the Gurukul and that you are doing this kind deed for us Shramiks… I wanted you to have this idol in your house and worship it everyday…it is considered a very good omen for the house…and for the son's well being if done so…"
Realizing what her intentions were, Dharam, Veer, Nivritti and Swathi feel culpable and saddened for the lady. Not minding the insult, the mother and daughter bid the royal family a meek farewell and leave the palace grounds quietly, content at their few humble wishes being satisfied.
Palace of Aryanagar - The evening assembly
During the comparatively quieter evening in the beautiful corridors of the palace, Veer interrupts his brother's whispers by staring at him resentfully. The bickering duo halt near the august entrance of the pompous assembly hall, unable to reach a conclusion.
Seeing his brother's irked expressions, Dharam mumbles angrily "You are very stubborn Veer!" he looks around him and then whispers "We are going to be attacked in three days and you want me to wait patiently till you find evidence to support our claims. If you don't find anything, Aryanagar will be destroyed just because we didn't act on time!"
Veer sighs and then paces agitatedly, as he replies "This scroll hardly states anything…it's not evidence… just trust me...I will find you evidence to support our claims…if they don't believe you, then they are not going to allow Aryanagar soldiers to march towards the border, anyway…"
Noticing a few nobles approaching in their direction, Dharam waits for them to pass by and then debates with Veer "We don't have any time for all of your suggestions Veer… at least this way…we will be able to take Agni by surprise..." reflecting on the girl's advice, Dharam concludes "there is a famous saying…Time and tide waits for none…."
Veer frowns sarcastically "There is also a famous saying that actions speak louder than words…" he pauses "Dharam just don't say anything in the assembly….half those Aryavrat nobles have been bribed by Jai mama…"
Looking at Dharam's unmoved face he concludes "Fine…do whatever pleases you… I will stand by you, whatever happens to you…but if this corrupt system ends up framing you, don't tell me I didn't warn you…"
Irritated, Dharam replies angrily "If I confide in my father, he will have to repeat everything to the assembly anyway...and...Veer the system is not corrupt...it is some dishonest people…"
Not wanting to argue with Dharam anymore; Veer abruptly storms away from his brother into the room, followed closely by a fuming Dharam. Entering the majestic hall, the anxious princes are forcibly quietened, as they survey the large room filled with numerous Aryavrats engaged in conversation. The brothers bow to their king seated on his large throne and then give a curt nod to Agni and Jaivardhan, before walking to their grandiose seats.
The proceedings of the assembly begin with a few formal speeches after which; members from various departments of defence, welfare and commerce present their summaries for the fortnight. When the suggestions for budgets are being discussed, the revenue minister speaks up proudly "The treasury is flowing Maharaj. We are highly pleased that Aryanagar has started flourishing so well... especially after Rajkumar Agnivardhan has started supervising the taxes…hail Rajkumar Agnivardhan…"
The remaining nobles join him in praising Agni, while the disgusted Veer and Dharam listen helplessly to the undeserving resounding praise that their cousin was receiving.
After beaming proudly at the pleased king, Agni and Jaivardhan glance at Veer and Dharam's expressions and smirk quietly at their frustrated faces. The elated Jaivardhan then addresses the crowd gently "It is not fair that only Agni should receive all the praise. We should find out what the other princes have been up to, as well" he turns to Dharam "Dharam, would you like to let us all know what has been keeping you busy lately…"
The worried Aryavardhan looks at his son with a grim expression, waiting for him to speak up in his justification. Dharam looks at Veer's disapproving frown, sighs heavily and then announces loudly "We have been making enquiries…All this extra revenue…that everyone is so proud of… the source of this revenue is not honourable…" not minding the murmurs in the crowd, he continues confidently "Agni is misusing his power here by extorting double the taxes that are permitted… even Jai chacha is aware of all this…and this is wrong!"
Taken aback by the claims, Jaivardhan laughs hesitantly at the onlookers and then addresses Dharam "My son, you are so innocent. Did the Shramiks tell you all this? They would exaggerate their troubles anyway…they don't want to pay any taxes…they want a life of ease… I am just a strict disciplinarian…." he then faces the king humbly "Maharaj you go on your rounds regularly… do the Shramiks ever tell you anything…I think these are stories the gullible princes have heard of, during their playtime adventures…"
Pondering on the matter, Aryavardhan responds "My brother is very strict with the Shramiks, no doubt…however, how could you think of implicating your uncle of such horrible deeds?"
Deliberately avoiding Veer's wrathful glares, the discomforted Agni asks Dharam "What would we gain by all this Dharam…it's very unprofessional of you to bring out our petty personal indifferences into a formal assembly…stop lying to implicate me falsely"
Aware of how Agni was provoking them, Veer signals Dharam to remain quiet. However, unwilling to come to terms with the fact that his integrity was being questioned, Dharam retorts "Don't act ignorant Agni…all that funding is being used to bribe corrupt officials and soldiers… so that they remain quiet about all these injustices with the Shramiks…"
Unmindful of the extremely irate faces in the assembly, he continues "In fact…. Some of the money is being used to b…b… bribe soldiers from other kingdoms too!"
The grins on Jaivardhan's and Agni's face slowly give way to affright, as Dharam persists "A coup is possibly being planned against you pitaji…with the kingdom of Gadhwar…we will need to get our army ready immediately…you would have to trust me, this time…"
Veer buries his face in his hands, fearing the worst; while everyone in the room becomes shocked by the prince's serious accusations. Unable to believe his ears, Aryavardhan thunders, as the assembly of nobles watch in alarm "Dharam…stop it …do you know what you are trying to say…who are you trying to incriminate with all this…"
Feeling cornered, Dharam agitatedly turns to Veer and pleads with him to speak in his support. Staring at Dharam unhappily, Veer sighs and stands up. The throng of men listen in dread, as Veer reluctantly narrates all about the purpose of their trip to Niphaud and their discoveries at Gadhwar in the disguise of weapon merchants. After describing the conversations that had transpired with the commander-in-chief of Gadhwar, Veer stares at Agni and Jaivardhan and utters "The commander mentioned your names too…traitors…you have been involved in all this!"
Agni and Jaivardhan arduously try to hide their panic at the fact that the nosy brothers had discovered far more than they had anticipated; within their short trip to Gadhwar.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Jaivardhan roars vehemently to instigate the silenced crowd "I have known all of you for more than 20 years and this is the treatment I am receiving…" he turns to his brother despondingly "Maharaj why do you remain silent about all these false accusations on us…do you not trust me… your own brother?"
Agni's eyes widen in horror, as he watches Veer slowly remove the contract that had been sealed by the Gadhwar commander. Not knowing what the contents of the scroll were, Agni finds his pulse racing and glares at the shocked Jaivardhan.
As the scroll is passed on to the king, the appalled nobles quickly glance through the scroll, one after another; before handing it to the king. Reacting to Jaivardhan's pleas, the nobles finally start questioning the princes in unison "Where is the proof for all this? All this scroll talks about is a weapons deal by the Gadhwar commander…it doesn't say anything else or give any names!"
Listening to the noble's words, the terror in Agni's and Jaivardhan's eyes slowly fade away, as they see a ray of hope in the fact that the brothers had no tangible proof for their claims. Veer stares sadly at his brother, who continues to try and convince the king for his cause.
After going through the document, the king feels disappointed by what he considers to be his son's immaturity. Responding to the noble's accusations, he finally stands up to add his regrets "Dharam…you are accusing my men and family of planning a coup against Aryanagar in front of the assembly! I know you both for 17 years, but I know my brother for 40 years. You are asking me to trust the words of a rival commander-in-chief over my brother's…you expect me to prepare for war based on a general weapon's contract?"
Dharam replies desperately "Father…the scroll proves that we were indeed at Gadhwar …that we spoke to the commander…he clearly stated that they were marching south!"
Infuriated, the king interrupts him "Dharam! All I have is your word for it…what if they are marching south to some other kingdom…what makes you think they are declaring war on us…do you know for certain yourself…You both lied about your trip to Niphaud and entered a dangerous kingdom like Gadhwar, endangering your lives! After all that you have said, I will do my duty and alert my army in the borders… but I am not going to waste any resources by releasing any regiments…I don't want to listen to anymore of your silly boyish imaginations…If any more investigation is done in this matter, I will have you both punished, till you accept your mistakes and make up for it!"
The silenced brothers watch helplessly, as they are forced to accept their honesty fade against the forces of vice.
Palace of Aryanagar – Dharam's bedroom
Banging his fist on the wooden chest; the humiliated Dharam displays his refusal to be appeased, while Veer pursues with his conciliations. Veer toils to repeatedly suggest new venues in order to deal with their current situation, but Dharam nods his head, unconvinced. The forlorn Veer tries to comfort his hurting brother by putting his hand on his shoulder, but Dharam pushes him away and grips him by his shoulder, as he shouts back "Stop it Veer…why are you trying to pacify me now…out there, you didn't even speak up to try and convince them… you just let me stand there and be a fool for most of the time...all our hard work has been disproved…I have to remain ashamed in front of them for the rest of my life!"
Veer angrily glances at his brother's strong grip on his throbbing shoulder and mutters "Dharam you are hurting me" As Dharam gradually removes his hand, Veer retorts sarcastically "Ashamed?…you deserved it - I told you not to do this, but you didn't listen...what did you want me to say? I knew all this was going to happen…not one of them believed us!"
Tormented by Veer's comments, Dharam asks him sadly "Did I deserve all this Veer?"
Feeling bad for what he said, Veer exhales deeply to compose himself and replies "I am sorry Dharam…I didn't mean it that way…" he holds Dharam's shoulders and takes a supportive oath "I will never allow you to be ashamed in front of anyone…ever" he then proposes chirpily "Dharam, I could go to Sawai… meet this vicious Dhananjeya...do you remember the construction site near the border that Sonu had mentioned…we could find out if they are probably using that site for their illegal activities…"
Dharam puts his hand up to stop Veer "Enough of all adventures Veer…they have forbid us from doing anything further in this matter. We will not disobey their decree..."
Veer pleads with him "Give me a chance. I will find out where all the money is stashed"
The dutiful Dharam answers worriedly "The only thing we will do is to try and convince father to send as many troops as possible to the border… I cannot upset them anymore or they will never again respect us…" he pauses to look at Veer "Promise me that you will not go to Sawai…"
After a while, Veer unwillingly nods his head, in a bid to please his brother and agrees "Ok… ok I wouldn't go…" he pauses ""you are upset with me now, so I will leave you alone… I will come and talk to you tomorrow morning…don't worry as long as we are there, no one could do any harm to Aryanagar."
Veer pats him Dharam on his shoulders and then leaves the room in a sombre state.
Ciao till next Saturday
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Joined: 14 February 2005
OSR SAMYUKTA Part 15 – ~Alliances~ Siya & Harsh!
Palace of Niphaud – Formal meeting chamber
Following an august announcement, the nervous princess emerges at the entrance of the eminent meeting chamber, flanked on both sides by her excited friends. Attention paid to every detail of her finery, Siya gracefully glides through the room donning resplendent glacial blue attire complemented with sparkling sapphires and diamonds. Sensing how the glistening crowd of the ruling sovereigns of Chatarpur were closely observing her every move; the unsettled princess turns around to face them. After displaying a faint smile to her proud parents, she humbly bows to the awestruck Maharani Vaidehi and Maharaj Anantgupt of Chatarpur. Eventually mustering her courage, she slowly casts a glance at Rajkumar Harsh to look at his attractive face. Noticing the mesmerized prince staring at her, the girl smiles at him uneasily for an instant and then immediately proceeds towards her luxuriant chair.
Ceasing the embarrassing silence, Maharani Vaidehi speaks up to her friend "Gauri, your daughter is the most beautiful princess I have ever come across"
Siya's mother flashes a spirited smile, as she watches her daughter meekly bowing to Maharani Vaidehi in gesture to her flattering comment.
The queen of Niphaud then familiarizes the Chatarpur family with Siya, who smiles formally; acknowledging all the introductions. Aware that Rajkumar Harsh was gaping at her in hope that she would return his gazes; the anxious Siya evades looking in his direction and quietly watches the casual conversations and discussions between the two families about the impending engagement.
Noticing her daughter's silence, Maharani Gauri then addresses her "Isn't it lovely that they are going to be staying with us for two…three days now… I would be able to enjoy the company of my friend after such a long while..." she pauses "Why don't you show Rajkumar Harsh the guest landing…acquaint him with the Niphaudi palace…"
Slowly surveying everyone's approving expressions in dismay; the obedient girl stands up with a soft smile to hide her awkwardness, and bows to the guests. She gradually leaves the room, followed by the elated prince of Chatarpur and her retinue of thrilled friends.
As the royal pair walk through open palace corridors followed by the entourage of Siya's chatty friends, Harsh admires the beautiful patterns formed by the morning sun's rays on the magnificent interiors. He then views the ravishing princess watching the bustle outside the hallways and tries to start a gentle conversation with her "Rajkumari Siya, the first time I saw a painting of you, I was taken aback...but you look even more beautiful in person."
Discerning how smitten the prince was with their friend, Daksha and Nanda start giggling; while Siya finds herself becoming crimson hued and thanks him softly for the compliment.
On receiving only a placid response from her, Harsh continues "W...W...What are your hobbies? What interests you? Are you adept at anything in particular?"
After few moments of embarrassing silence, Siya nods her head negatively in reply. She then speaks in a hushed tone, while pointing towards a tower adjoining to the passageway "That tower houses the kitchens and preparation areas."
The enthused prince replies dramatically, as they take the turn towards the guest landing "Oh! So you are interested in supervising different delicacies and cuisines…"
Siya becomes reminded of the experience when the princes of Aryanagar were subjected to eating the horrid feast prepared by her and unwittingly grins, as she repeats Dharam's comment "The last time I tried to prepare something, I was advised never again to subject anyone else to the tortures of my culinary skills…"
Comprehending what she was referring to, Nanda and Daksha start giggling; while Harsh becomes glad to eventually see cheerfulness in Siya's seemingly reserved temperament.
Arriving at the grandiose prayer chamber, Siya proudly shows Harsh the prodigious room and her favourite massive idol of Lord Ganapathy. After appreciating the beautiful idol on the marble mantelpiece, Harsh notices the musical instruments on the floor and excitedly asks Siya "Do you sing well? Are you proficient in the arts? Do you play any instruments?"
Marking his question, the distracted girl leans onto the door frame; till she feels a strange presence beside her. Casting a casual glance sideways; she discovers the stunning Dharam smiling charmingly at her, just as he did so when he was admiring their raucous concert a few days ago. The astonished girl immediately moves away till she realizes Dharam's vision to be a hallucination of hers.
Noting that the princess seemed lost in her thoughts, Harsh repeats his question again. Snapping out of her trance, Siya relives the memories of her disrupting concert.
Echoing Veer's words, she starts laughing "Rajkumar Harsh…if I start singing, even the Lord himself would come down personally to stop the torture…" Recalling the comical encounter with her irritated hero on that day; Daksha also joins Siya and laughs aloud.
Baffled and irked by the repeated silly reactions of the girls, the clueless Harsh turns around to them and addresses them nobly "Why are you smirking at us? I have come all the way here to meet and talk to Rajkumari Siya…I am the prince of Chatarpur...I would be very grateful if you would respect my feelings!"
Everyone in the room immediately quietens down, and stares at each other in embarrassment.
Eclipsed with sadness; the disturbed princess gradually turns away and recollects the similar encounter with Dharam at the temple market in a low tone "At the market, I laughed at him in front of the entire crowd …he is a prince too… how bad he must have felt…yet he bore all my insult quietly…"
Overhearing parts of her thoughts, Harsh becomes confused and questions her "Rajkumari Siya…what market? What insult? Who are you referring to?"
Becoming alerted, she immediately tries to cover up for her thoughts "Oh! No Rajkumar Harsh…I was just referring to some of my friends…" observing Harsh's enquiring frown, she continues "My friends...the princes of Aryanagar...Rajkumar Dharam and Rajkumar Veer."
Harsh desperately attempts to try and hide his growing bitterness but, Siya detects his expressions and asks him apprehensively "Did I say something wrong Rajkumar Harsh?"
He sighs deeply and then strives to conceal his reservations by replying mildly "Oh! No ...No...I am a close friend of their cousin...Rajkumar Agnivardhan...so I know Dharam and Veer too!"
Recollecting how Dharam and Veer had mentioned about their cousin in an ill light, Siya becomes discomforted to know that her suitor was Agni's friend. Endeavouring to calm her fears, she composes herself and eventually leads the group towards her personal chamber.
Impressed by the extravagance and the magnitude of her room; the prince strolls around, marvelling its beauty. He finds a few scrolls casually lying on a large chest and turns to Siya for permission, as he picks one up. Siya exhales uncomfortably and informs him "I tried my hand at painting too…but I don't think I was very successful..."
Viewing the painting, Harsh becomes shocked by the amateurish figures in the scrolls and immediately rolls back the scroll, flashing the abashed princess a restless smile. He then requests one of Siya's maids to call for his attendant, who was waiting outside the room.
No sooner; the attendant rushes into the room, hands Harsh two scrolls, and leaves after bowing courteously to him. Harsh beams proudly, as he slowly unfolds one large scroll to reveal a mesmerizing life size portrait of Siya and admits "I made this just for you…"
All the girls in the room become dumbstruck by the brilliance of the portrait and its striking likeness to the princess, while the princess closes her mouth in surprise and exclaims "You are indeed very talented Rajkumar Harsh…"
Responding to her comment, Harsh smiles and adds "I do like to paint and sing…I enjoy hunting…I am good at archery too…" he pauses on looking at Siya's dejected face and continues "however Rajkumari Siya…you are talented too…your talent is in your grace and your innocence…" he then briefly gazes at the other folded scroll in his hand, passes it on to Siya and requests her "This is a poem I wrote describing what I feel for you...I would be very grateful if you read through it…if you spent some time to go through every expression in it…and if you let me know what you found so admirable about it…"
She stares at the scroll for a while and then nods her head with a mild smile in an attempt to appease the anticipations of the overjoyed prince.
Palace of Aryanagar - Nivritti's chamber
Discomforted by the melancholy of the serene night in her comely chamber, Nivritti slowly hands the gloomy queen the ornate silver plate containing betel leaves with all its accompaniments in little compartments. She then proceeds to finish her final errands for the night, while Swathi neatly prepares a set of folded leaves and hands them over to her anxious husband sitting on the lavish couch.
Receiving the betel leaves, Aryavardhan contemplates worriedly "I find myself constantly concerned about Dharam and Veer's irresponsibility…I thought they were improving, but I was wrong… they have accused bhaiyya in front of all the nobles … this is not the means to resort to, to take out personal enmity with Agni…"
Walking with her folded white shawl towards an alloyed trunk at the far end of the room, Nivritti responds to his complaints doubtfully "Bhaiyya…people say they seemed very confident of their claims…don't you think there is any truth to any of it…"
Swathi sighs and then refutes Nivritti's suggestions "Nivritti…truth to such major claims can only be proved with evidence, which they hardly had..." the dejected queen pauses "I am still not able to digest the fact that Dharam and Veer lied to us and entered Gadhwar…we arrange prayers for them...we fast for them...trust them every time...and yet they lie to us..."
Quietly listening to Swathi's statements, the saddened Nivritti slowly opens her ivory chest to place the shawl in it. Glancing by chance at the bamboo idol of Lord Krishna neatly tucked in, she mentally prays to the Lord "Please solve my son's troubles...please let no one be harmed …I hope the words of the lady come true…please protect my son…" Reminded of the appealing visage of the poor lady who had gifted her the idol at the prayer festival, she subconsciously thinks about her "She was a Shramik lady, but there was something so magnetic about her. She did me a kind deed, but she was never apologized to or thanked for it. I need to meet her…I need to visit her…I want to visit her!"
Palace of Aryanagar - Agni's guarded private chamber
In the grim nocturnal darkness of Agni's closely guarded chamber, the loathsome royals look into each other's eyes, waiting for a reaction from Jaivardhan.
Jaivardhan eventually lets out muffled frustrated screams echoing horrendously within the room, as he shouts aloud with his face still buried in his hand "I cannot believe the commander in chief would be such an ignoramus fool and repeat everything to Dharam and Veer…when I meet him, I will strangle that man with my bare hands… All our schemes have almost gone awry…we should have never underestimated Dharam and Veer..."
One of Agni's friends seated beside him asks resentfully "Should we stop the war?"
The furious Jaivardhan looks up and retaliates animatedly "All arrangements have been made… money spent… it's too late to stop now… Gadhwar and Chatarpur will be attacking in 3 days…" he then stands up with an air of authority and continues "No! We should stop fretting so much over this…no one has believed the brothers yet …only a handful of forces are going to be sent to the border…by the end of the surprise attack, Maharaj…his faithful nobles…accomplices... Dharam... Veer... all of them are going to be destroyed…"
Caressing the wooden arm of his flamboyant chair, Agni smirks "Indeed pitaji…we must not worry too much…" he stands up to join his father with folded hands and continues "It was a visual treat to watch how the foolish Maharaj and his nobles didn't believe the brothers and thought Dharam was trying to implicate us. Additionally, Dharam and Veer are having trouble understanding each other now. To top it all, I am sure Veer will not sit still…he will do something that would anger everyone even more...my spies are regularly reporting to me of any developments!" He smiles at his father and friends with a sly smile, while they enjoy his tenacious and fastidious planning in all his unscrupulous ways and means.
As Agni's friends stand up to leave, they rejoice at the thought of potential success "Now that no one trusts the brothers, when Gadhwar and Chatarpur march they would probably think that it was an independent attack...once everything is wrecked, the throne will be yours Agni…and we, your right hand men…"
Agni laughs heartily at their deliberations and walks towards the entrance to bid his friends an amicable farewell. Once they exit the room, Agni asks his father "What about the revolutionaries?"
Jaivardhan shrugs his shoulders "What about them? They will carry out revolts as planned!"
Agni nods his head with raised eyebrows and then contemplates "We shall send Gadhwar and Chatarpur urgent messages about the latest developments" he then pauses "Harsh had mentioned that he was going to see his bride…we shall send him a sealed message there…I will inform Dhananjeya at the border too. During the war, we need to capture the Gadhwar commander-in-chief before he blurts something out to anyone else..."
A serene countenance gradually masks Jaivardhan's vile expressions, as he revisits his troubled past and the arduous journeys that ensued "When my brother was crowned, I was all alone…all nobles hated me….now…purely due to my intellectual abilities, I have such a strong network… many bribed nobles are on my side and some commanders too…" he proceeds to hold Agni by his shoulder with fatherly warmth "I have set such a lovely stage for you…my brother is a coward, who signed up peace treaties with many neighbouring kingdoms. However, once this war will be over; we will start capturing our neighbouring kingdoms one by one...Gadhwar... Chatarpur... Nipahaud...move towards the south...we will rule a unified large kingdom...of India....we might be notorious as ruthless monarchs, but powerful we will be...remember all great emperors in the history of India have had ruthless streaks in them too..."
Agni grins at his ambitious father and then nods his head approvingly in reply.
Aryanagar – Atop a cliff; a short distance from the palace grounds
A pebble whooshes through the orange light of the rising sun to hit a yellow rock on the facing steep rugged cliff and shatters to pieces with a clicking noise. Resting against a smooth stone, Veer momentarily regards his aim with pleasure. He picks up another soft pebble from the neatly arranged pile next to him and muses on the unfortunate turn of events "Dharam doesn't act…he doesn't allow me to act…it is futile to still try and convince Maharaj to send more troops…" taking his aim at the same spot, he grumbles "I'm sure that all the deceitful money to bribe the Gadhwar soldiers must be stored near the border...that way it would be easy to transport across…" He skilfully darts the stone at the same point and manages to successfully shatter the pebble again. Choosing the next pebble, Veer ponders "Maybe the treasure is being hidden in the royal guest house that is being constructed there..."
Just as he is about to aim the stone again, he detects three pebbles whizzing ahead to hit the same point on the rock in quick succession and splintering simultaneously. He closes his eyes in frustration, immediately realizing who the person standing behind him was. Not even turning around to acknowledge her presence, he orders vehemently "This is my private cliff ... I come here when I want to be alone...you cannot sit here...please leave me alone…"
The fascinating girl then steps forward gracefully, flashes a naughty glance at him and points to another large stone, as she asks him "What about this rock…is it yours too?"
Still not looking in her direction, Veer nods his head angrily "Yes…"
She then shrugs her shoulder and persistently moves a few steps away, pointing to another rock "What about this one?"
Veer slaps his forehead and sighs deeply. After a few moments he finally mumbles "It's all right…sit wherever you want...I am just being silly…"
Having received his permission, the gladdened girl neatly arranges her skirt and sits on the rock, dangling her legs from the top of the cliff. Admiring the red sun, she asks him politely "Why are you alone Rajkumar? Where is the other Rajkumar…why is he still angry?
Veer retorts abruptly "Because Dharam is a person who cares for what others think about him…unlike me…I only think of those who care for me…" Suddenly aware of whom he was confiding in, he stops and finally turns to look at her with a distrustful expression.
Picking up a pebble, the girl counsels nonchalantly "He must have felt very embarrassed in front of the whole assembly…"
Not caring to hide his suspicions, Veer asks her gruffly "How do you know all this?"
The pleasant girl replies "My friend works at the palace…she tells me all about the palace gossips…" she then pauses briefly "Rajkumar, if you followed your instincts and proved your innocence…everything will be solved and Rajkumar Dharam would also be happy…"
Unmoved by her advice; Veer continues his rally of aiming pebbles in an attempt to better the girl's achievements, but only fails at each instance. Noticing that she was observing his failed attempts with the pebbles, the annoyed prince states "I have promised Dharam…so I will not do anything against his wishes…thank you for your wise advice…"
The girl throws another pebble casually which easily hits her target and then smashes to pieces. She smiles and continues calmly "What is wrong in breaking a promise if it is done so for good intentions? People tend to forget good deeds, but a bad name can never be erased. If your brother has been blamed by the nobles, then isn't it your duty to help prove his innocence?"
Flustered, Veer glares at her "I know my duties…why are you always eavesdropping…and why are you so interested in our personal affairs?"
The girl stares for a moment at Veer with a twinkle in her eye and then replies pointing to the rock "Well…Rajkumar…looks like my aim still continues to be better than yours…"
Hurriedly realizing that he was gazing at her spellbinding features, the prince looks away and runs his fingers through his hair in exasperation. Overcome with irritation by how cognizant she was of their problems, by how her aim continued to be better than his and by the strange power she seemed to have over him, Veer addresses her angrily "You steal things off people and yet you're roaming around Aryanagar freely… I should actually be reporting you …" he pauses sternly "If I don't, I could get into trouble for talking to thieves!"
Gently playing with the threads of her skirt, the girl smiles and replies "No Rajkumar… I generally don't steal" she ponders deeply to herself and then shrugs her shoulders "Hmmm…it's generally a very rare occasion…I was just hungry that day…"
Taken aback by her calm confessions, Veer becomes amused and laughs in disbelief "How convenient! You steal only when the need arises! Do you even realize that you're talking to a Rajkumar of Aryanagar?"
She replies playfully "Isn't that why I have been calling you Rajkumar all this while…"
Veer nods his head in silent admiration at how witty and crafty the girl was. He then asks her with a deep frown "What should I call you…actually I don't even know your name…"
Responding to his question; she looks ahead into the beautiful sunrise and smiles dreamily, rubbing her hands "My complexion is dusky, so my tribe members sometimes call me Sanwri, but generally...I am known as Shera…."
For a moment; Veer's smile turns sour, as he listens to her odd name, before he grins formally to acknowledge her reply. Entertained by his plethora of expressions, she laughs aloud "Actually my name is Ananya… My mother heard a noble lady once mention it... Ananya means unique... matchless…but you know how men are…they can't pronounce my name…they don't care… they just call me Shera… Ma was the only one to call me Ananya" she then pauses and speaks slowly, as her face cloaks a serious mask for the first time to reveal a small glimpse of her life "Ma is no more...before she died, her only advise to me used to be that I should face any trouble silently and strongly" she sighs with an amused grin "I think she could foresee the future... because I've only been facing and battling troubles ever since!"
Baffled by her confusing stories and complex nature, the puzzled Veer slowly smiles with a comforting reply "Do you realize that all men are not alike? If your name is Ananya...that is what I will call you…" he pauses "By the way, have your tribe members arrived safely?"
Impressed with his kind gesture, she raises her eyebrows in wonder and smiles "Thank you Rajkumar…I am honoured….Tasha, Baba, Bade Baba, Manu…Radha…all have arrived and settled too…" She abruptly ceases their conversation by standing up and indicating towards the rising sun "Two strangers sitting on a cliff at sunrise is not a good omen…I will have to take your leave now…" Surveying his confused expressions, she smiles and then concludes, as she bows "I still think you have a chance to prove both your innocence if you tried!"
She chirpily struts away from the rocky cliff to attend to the rest of her duties, fully aware that she was leaving behind a thoroughly perplexed prince.
Ciao till next Saturday
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