The Comet | Part 16

(Samarsen and his followers reached the City of Ruins, but Vyaghra-Dutt and his soldiers also arrived. Hiding behind a pillar, Samarsen learned about the Magic Trident from Vyaghra-dutt’s talk to his men. But at that moment, the post behind which Samarsen hid crashed, attracting Vyaghra-dutt’s attention.)

Vyaghra-Dutt noticed where Samarsen and his followers hid. But he surmised that the men who were hiding behind the pillars of this ruined building were Siva-Dutt and his men. Whoever was hiding, there must be caught and made secure. Otherwise, Vyaghra-Dutt was in great danger of losing all.

Samarsen, too was equally aware of the danger confronting him. Attacking the enemy with the help of six soldiers was suicide. And the alternative was the flight-quickest possible flight.

The soldiers of Vyaghra-Dutt rushed towards the building which sheltered Samarsen and his men, shouting in rage. Samarsen encouraged his men, and they all dashed off.

It was a wild chase, Vyaghra-Dutt and about a score of his surviving soldiers running after Samarsen and his six men. The hunted men could never throw off the enemy by the sheer speed of flight. So they attempted to give the slip to the enemy by entering the ruined houses of the locality, crawling along damaged walls and hiding in corners. To frustrate them in these attempts, Vyaghra-Dutt divided his men into two groups and ordered them to surround the houses where Samarsen and his men entered.

Still, Samarsen and his men hid wherever they could, and when they came across isolated soldiers, they gave them a fight and tried to destroy them. Samarsen thought that escape was possible only if they could reduce the enemy’s strength in such a manner. Actually, they managed to put four or five of Vyaghra-dutt’s men to death without suffering any losses on their own side.

Viagra-Dutt tried his best to engage Samarsen himself in combat. While guiding and instructing his men in the fight, he was constantly on the lookout for the other party’s leader. And it was not long before Samarsen and Vyaghra-Dutt came face to face. With drawn swords, they went at each other. Both were courageous men who were highly skilled in wielding the sword and desperate.

Their fight was extremely fearsome. In their desperate struggle, they knocked against tilting walls and pillars and brought them down with a crash. They had to step aside nimbly to escape getting crushed under the falling ruins and carry on with the fight.

Soon it was evident that Vyaghra-Dutt was tiring. It was apparent in his movements. Samarsen wanted to settle the issue with a clever stroke. But it was not to be.

In the meantime, the remaining soldiers of Vyaghra-Dutt managed to round up Samarsen’s men and take them prisoner. This was made easy because almost half of Samarsen’s men were severely wounded already. Having finished with Samarsen’s men, Vyaghra-dutt’s soldiers rushed to their leader’s help.

Seeing the enemy soldiers at a distance and hearing no more commotion of fighting, Samarsen guessed that his men were taken, prisoner. This thought made him much more anxious to finish off his rival as soon as possible. To avoid being surrounded by enemy soldiers,

Samarsen began to engage Vyaghra-Dutt, with his back to a wall. But Samarsen, little knew that this wall was no more robust than the others which had fallen at the slightest push. But, Viagra-Dutt guessed it.

Now Vyaghra-dutt’s men were quite near. Yelling terrifically, they rushed to the help of their leader.

Samarsen was now more desperate than ever; he lunged out suddenly with his sword at Vyaghra-Dutt and missed him. Then he turned back and seized the top of the wall to jump over to the other side.

This was enough to knock the wall down. With a terrific noise, the wall crumbled and fell. Samarsen went down with it and got caught in the stones and rubble. Before Samarsen could extricate himself, Vyaghra-Dutt was upon him with a triumphant yell, and his soldiers did the same. They caught him by his hands and feet, preventing him from moving. Vyaghra-dutt ordered his men to securely tie up Samarsen’s hands behind his back and deprived him of his sword. He was beside himself with joy because he disabled the enemy.

“I’ve you in my power again,” he said, laughing raucously. “You would not have been in this state if you had chosen to join forces with me when I first got you. Now I know where Sakteya’s Trident is hidden, whereas you face death!”

Samarsen was not affected by what Vyaghra-Dutt said to him. If he had to face death, he was ready to face it. The end has no horrors for a soldier. What worried Samarsen was that he could not provide better leadership for his men. Did he fail to give his men exemplary leadership in the face of danger? This question troubled Samarsen much. Preoccupied with self-searching, he paid no heed to Vyaghra-dutt’s words.

But Viagra-Dutt interpreted Samarsen’s silence in an altogether different manner. Samarsen’s composure and indifference made him uneasy. He began to suspect that Samarsen was banking on somebody’s help and that that was the reason for his indifference.

“Remember,” he warned Samarsen. “No one can save you.” He said this hoping that Samarsen would reveal whom he was banking.

But Samarsen quickly saw through Vyaghra-Dutt. He even tried to confuse Vyaghra-Dutt further and see if he could benefit from it. “You are not the only one,” Samarsen told Vyaghra-Dutt, “who knows where Sakteya’s Trident is hidden? Try to keep that in mind. Moreover, it won’t help if you only know where the Magic Trident is hidden.”

Samarsen succeeded in baffling Vyaghra-Dutt. Of course, he knew that Siva-Dutt also knew the place where the Trident was hidden. Also, Samarsen must have overheard him while he was talking to his soldiers and ex- plaining that the Trident was hidden in the Forest of the Elephants.

“I am aware,” Vyaghra-Dutt said, “that you over-heard me and learned the secret of the Trident. I am also aware that Siva-Dutt knows the secret too. But neither of you is in a position to prevent me from getting at it. Then why do you imply that somebody is going to prevent me from laying my hands on this Magic Trident?”

Samarsen’s only reply to this question was a smile. He expected this smile would aggravate the uneasy feeling in Vyaghra-dutt’s breast, and it did too. He could see Vyaghra-dutt’s face turn slightly paler.

“There are two persons,” Samarsen said, “who can prevent you from getting at the Magic Trident. You have taken prisoner only one of the two. But the other can destroy you even before you look at the Trident. He is my friend. It is on his orders that I started for the Vyaghra-land. Do you follow me?”

Viagra-Dutt was visibly perturbed. Perhaps his victory was not as complete as he had thought! Maybe he had more trouble ahead!

“Who is the one that is going to foil my attempts?” he asked Samarsen.

“Four-eyes!” Samarsen replied boldly.

That word was enough to throw Viagra-Dutt and his soldiers off their balance. Struck with fear, the men looked at their leader. Vyaghra-dutt put on a show of courage and disregard for the benefit of his men.

“So you know him?” he asked Samarsen with a laugh.

“I have already told you I came here at his command!” Samarsen replied coolly.

Viagra-Dutt was severely shaken. He had heard a lot about Four- eyes and his extraordinary powers.

Before Viagra-Dutt could decide what to do next, there was a commotion in the distance. One of his soldiers came running and informed Vyaghra-Dutt that Siva-Dutt had arrived with his men at the City of Ruins.

This news was a bolt from the blue. Viagra-Dutt was left with too few men to engage Siva-Dutt in a fight. The other alternative was to escape. What to do with Samarsen was another problem. He would have killed him at once if he were not terrified of the consequences. But fear of Four- eyes held his hand. If provoked, Four-eyes could make the entire Vyaghra-land go up in smoke.

“Samarsen,” he said, turning to his prisoner, “after all that has happened, I still think it is best for both of us to join forces. We can discuss terms at leisure. But, first, let us go to a safer place.”

Then Viagra-Dutt and his soldiers began to run away, taking the unarmed Samarsen with them. Some of the soldiers of Vyaghra-Dutt were giving Siva-Dutt a rear-guard fight, and the party who were retreating could hear the noise and tumult of that battle.

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