The Comet | Part 12

When the two men fell upon him, Samarsen was so surprised that he could not utter a single sound. At that very moment, a lion’s fearsome roar was heard from the front of the cave.

The two men lifted Samarsen and began to retreat in haste. Samarsen could do little, but he observed the surroundings. It was a valley into which the men were descending. In the distance, lights were twinkling.

“Who are you?” Samarsen asked the men after some time. “Why have you taken me, prisoner?”

The two men exchanged glances but did not reply. Samarsen repeated his question, and then one of them said, “That may be known when you see our commander.” Samarsen failed to get any other answer from them. He concluded that there was no use talking to them.

As soon as they reached level ground at the bottom of the valley, the men lowered Samar- sen and untied his hands and feet. Then they began to march, with the prisoner walking between them.

The lights were now quite near. A watchman on a tree shouted, “Friends come with a prisoner. Let them pass.” In response, several others were heard shouting in the distance. Samarsen was not only surprised at all this, but he was also somewhat nervous.

Finally, Samarsen was taken to a house. As soon as the men knocked, the door opened. Samarsen was led into a room where his hands and feet were again tied up. “This is your bedroom for tonight,” he was told. “Tomorrow morning, you’ll know the worst.” Then the men went away.

Samarsen had no sleep for the rest of the night. He thought and thought, but he could not guess why these strangers had taken him, prisoner. He was not expecting to find other civilised human beings on this island besides himself and Kumbhand. The men who brought him here were indeed no tribesmen.

Samarsen’s thoughts strayed from one thing to another till he heard the cocks crowing, heralding the dawn. He also listened to the pealing of temple bells. Then he heard someone coming, and the door opened with a creak.

Samarsen saw two new per- sons with swords come in, looking sharply at him. They approached him. “Is it temple bells I heard just now?” he asked, looking them squarely in the face.

“No,” one of the men replied, smiling. “That was the death gong. If you do not reply correctly to Vyaghra-Dutt, you can consider yourself dead. So mind how you answer his questions.”

Who was Vyaghra-Dutt? What did he want to learn from him? Samarsen asked himself, puzzled. He thought of asking these men, but they looked so fierce and forbidding that Samarsen thought it better not to talk to them.

Vyaghra-dutt’s men untied Samarsen’s hands and feet and let him out. Samarsen could not help asking them, “Where are you taking me?”

“We are taking you to our Commander, Vyaghra-Dutt,” they replied coldly. “We warn you that you will pay for it if you do not behave properly.”

The men entered a vast building where Samarsen saw several armed guards. Seeing them and listening to their talk, Samarsen thought, “These men are no soldiers. From their dresses and way of talk, one would think that they are just plain bandits.”

A massive door opened, and Samarsen saw Vyaghra-Dutt seated on an elevated seat. Seeing Samarsen, Vyaghra-Dutt raised his hand, smiled and said, “You’re welcome to the country of Viagra-Mandal, Samarsen. It is possible that your ancestors and mine lived in the same village in Kundalini. Is it not strange that we, their descendants, should meet like this on the Isle of Sorcery?”

To Samarsen, everything was strange since the moment he was taken prisoner. That he should be taken prisoner was itself unknown. It was still more strange that Vyaghra-Dutt should utter the name of Kundalini and remind him about his ancestors.

“Well, I’m surprised at everything,” Samarsen replied in a dignified manner. “Why did your men take me, prisoner? Why have they brought me to you? When did you come to this island? I do not understand any of these things.”

“There is no mystery here,” Vyaghra-Dutt replied. “You know, when Sakteya, the King of Shaman Isle, plundered various lands, he came to Kundalini too. He enslaved some of our non-disabled ancestors and started in ships to plunder some other lands. Probably you know that Sakteya met his end on this island. Some of our ancestors obtained their freedom and settled here. Sakteya had two disciples who were great sorcerers, and the rivalry between them was, in a way, the instrument by which our ancestors got their freedom. Don’t you know these sorcerers?”

“Of course, I know them,” Samarsen replied. The facts revealed by Vyaghra-Dutt were entirely true, yet they were strange.

“Well, then,” Vyaghra-Dutt continued, “tell me where Sakteya’s Trident is, the one Mother Chandika gave him. You must know about it.”

Samarsen was baffled by this query. He heard these details about Sakteya for the first time from Vyaghra-dutt’s mouth. True, Four-eyes did tell him once about his master, Sakteya, but Samarsen was not even aware of the fact that, at one time, Sakteya plundered Kundalini itself. Nor did he ever hear about the Trident which Chandika bestowed upon Sakteya.

“Vyaghra-Dutt,” Samarsen replied, “I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question. You had me caught on account of a misapprehension. I know nothing of Sakteya or his magic Trident.”

Vyaghra-dutt flared up at these words, “You can’t fool me,” he shouted, “by pretending ignorance. I’m giving you time till tomorrow morning. Ponder well; it will be better for you to reveal the truth. Otherwise, you will be minced into the meat and offered to Bhadra-Chamundi. Let me tell you; you are entirely at my mercy.”

Samarsen was stunned. He understood that Vyaghra-Dutt did not know that he was asking for information which Samarsen did not have. But it was not—An easy thing to convince Vyaghra-Dutt about his ignorance.

At Vyaghra-dutt’s call, two men entered and took Samarsen away to a dark cell. There he was bound hand and foot and thrown on the ground. In one corner of the cell was the fierce image of Bhadra-Chamundi.

“By tomorrow morning, you must decide whether you are going to give the information our commander asks for or be sacrificed to this goddess,” the men warned Samarsen, pointing at the image.

Samarsen was tortured both by hunger and the aching in his limbs, which were tied up. He was sure that he was going to die the following day. If only he had Four-eyes to help him now! How could Samarsen send word to Four-eyes about his predicament? If only he had someone to send!

Samarsen spent the entire day and half the night in the most significant physical and mental discomfort. About midnight, he heard someone open the door of the cell. Puzzled, Samarsen lifted his head and saw two men enter the enclosure with drawn swords. He took them to be Vyaghra-dutt’s men who had come to torture him.

On the contrary, the new persons approached Samarsen and untied him. Then they signed to Samarsen to follow them and began to walk off in a hurry.

They did not go far when they saw two of Vyaghra-dutt’s men coming towards them. Samarsen was at once pulled into the shade. One of the men whispered to Samarsen, “We are your friends. Vyaghra-dutt’s patrols are coming this way. They mustn’t catch us. Be ready to fall on them and finish them off when they come near.”

They had not to wait long before the patrolmen came there. Suddenly the three hiding in the dark fell upon them, killed them without the slightest noise, and threw the bodies in a well nearby.

Then they marched along mountain paths and arrived at a small village by sunrise.

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