Chapter 2 — The Battle Conch
Tears blurred her vision, but Maral kept on galloping forward wildly, the soft caresses of the cold wind brushing away the liquid trailing down her cheeks gently.
No matter how hard the wind seemed to wipe away her tears, the sadness weighed heavily in her heart, making it difficult for her eyes not to feel sour.
Downfall of her tribe, not knowing if her husband and her sons are alive or not and parting with her newborn daughter; Facing such circumstances was certainly not easy as it sounded and it definitely was painful for Maral, her heart going through a painful turbulence.
Sniffling audibly, Maral dashed through the dense woods with the help of her mount, Windbreaker. The horse had a good sense of direction as it leaped over the hurdles and moved with agility at the sight of every turn and curvy paths. Having a troubled heart, Maral was in no place to think straight and she gave up the task of escorting her safely back to Windbreaker, who threaded through the familiar paths without the aid of it’s mistress.
A few moments later, the familiar sight of the raging flames came into her view.
This place was her home.
Very soon, it will be nothing but a burnt piece of land─ barren and devoid of any life.
Taking in a deep breath, Maral reached for the conch hanging on her hips and brought it to her mouth. A deep rushing sound resonated throughout the area as Maral blew into the shell.
“Brothers, we have finally imprisoned the Shono king! Let’s raid their dwelling and loot their riches…”
“Not just their riches, we must capture their women and ravish them…”
“Hoho! You are right brother, I heard that the Shono tribe women are as beautiful as jade, their skin soft and temper hot like pepper.”
Raucous laughter spread throughout the procession made of the victorious soldiers as they continued to chatter while throwing a few lewd comments in between their speech. Dressed in tiger skins and adorned with huge muscles, there was something so primal about them that involuntarily invoked fear in the hearts of the others.
As the laughter subsided, a middle-aged man dressed in a plain deel chastised the group of celebrating young men “Hah! You bunch of lascivious fools! You know nothing about women, yet, you discuss about them like amateurs.”
Being interrupted, the expressions of the group turned weird. Though dissatisfied, they did not dare admonish the said man who joined their side after betraying his tribe, the Shono tribe. His tactics and knowledge about the terrain greatly helped them and he had the major contribution in their victory.
Do not disrespect the man!, their chief had warned them.
As the chief’s warnings echoed in their minds, the men graced a polite smile on their lips, one which did not reach their hawk eyes. A superficial smile and a respectful nod was all they graced the elderly man before ignoring him completely.
On seeing the young men dismiss his words like the passing wind, Sukh suggested in a sly tone “Let’s have a bet, shall we?!”
Now, that was a bait which attracted the men the most. All the hot-blooded men showed interest in the following things ─ Riches, Women and Enjoyment. Betting is a form of enjoyment where one can either earn or lose money, though many chose to ignore the latter.
With renewed interest, the group of men prompted “Why not? On what do you want to bet?”
Sukh glanced at the dense forests in their surroundings, concealing the excited glint in his eyes he spoke,“My bet is on the life of the captured king…”
A sly smile spread across Sukh’s face, the shame of betraying his king nowhere to be seen.
Brushing away the curious and amused gazes of the men, Sukh continued “We have dragged the man behind us for a long while.We haven’t provided him with food or water. Isn’t it the time to check if he is breathing or not?”
At his reminder, the men had a look of enlightenment on their faces. Before they could say something, Sukh jibed in “All of you come with me, I don’t want you to miss something as interesting as humiliating the king.”
“You seem to loathe the king!” One of the men laughed and as his laughs ceased, another one jibed in “He’s not the king anymore, address him as the former king!”
Losing the throne is humiliating for any king!
“Yes, I loathe the king!” Sukh declared as the hold on the reigns tightened. Suppressing his fury, he observed his surroundings before telling “Those who don’t want to miss the fun, follow me.”
“What a grumpy old man!” The men spat, but still the group followed him as they didn’t want to miss a good show.
They reached the rear of the procession where a man was limping, his movements faltering and his appearance haggard. His persona resembled a beggar more than a king.
“Look at the man brothers! Does he resemble the king?” A man shouted, earning a series of no’s and other callous remarks.
With clenched fists, Sukh strode forward as he unsheathed his sword. Stopping at a few feet away from the king, Sukh lifted the man’s chin using the hilt.
“King Ghazan, did you ever think that you will fall so low?” Sukh questioned, a stagnant silence being his only response.
Just when Sukh was mulling over what to say, the sound of the battle conch broke through the silent air, the very sound which made both Sukh and Ghazan smile at the same time.
NEHA: Hey guys, I’m finally back after a long period of rest. ^-^.