The Land Of The Crocodile | Part 5

[Mandara-deva, who was deprived of his kingdom and was fleeing from Naravahana after his Marala Isle fell, came upon Siva-Dutt of Kundalini, who was in the same plight. Seated in a canoe in mid-ocean, Siva-Dutt told Mandara-deva how the King of Kundalini wasted his time in inhuman sports, how a revolt of the people followed anarchy, and how Naravahana threatened to become the new Leader.]

The strange tale unfolded by Siva-Dutt amazed Mandara-deva afresh every minute. He was unmindful of the darkness that enveloped them and the boats’ direction.

“O Siva-Dutt,” he said, inter- rupturing the narration, “could you not prevent Naravahana from taking command of the forces? You could have surely taken the task upon yourself, and no one would have objected!”

Siva-just smiled. “Ah, Mandara-deva,” he said, “in those circumstances, it was not as easy as you presume. I could not very well offer to become the Commander-in-Chief. Nor could I let the job fall upon an unworthy person. That was why I was in a dilemma. Samarsen did notice my hesitation. He said: ‘Something is on your mind. Out with it! You needn’t hesitate if you have Something to say.’

“Samarsen,’ I said, ‘the situation calls for your leadership. I feel that you should take command. The request shows that the enemy’s strength is not to be underestimated. Even a minor defeat at the hands of these insurgents will be to our discredit, yet others will be tempted to revolt against us. So I pray you to lead our forces yourself.’

“Samarsen considered my suggestion and finally nodded, saying, ‘Be it so!’ I thought that I had convinced him.

“At that very moment, Naravahana came there. I was on the point of sending for you, my dear fellow,’ Samarsen said to Naravahana. Go at once and collect an army of fewer than a couple thousand men. I will give you only an hour. The enemy is to be wiped out before sundown.’

“Naravahana gave me a disdainful smile as he departed. I did not fully realize the deadly venom behind the smile.

“Then Samarsen addressed me and said, ‘Well, Siva-Dutt, you had better get together your men too. They may be needed. There will be a chance of polishing up the sabres.’ He smiled.

“I picked out twenty-five of my best soldiers and got them ready for battle. It was long since I had fought under Samar- sen’s command, and it made me proud and happy to know that another opportunity was again at hand.

“An hour elapsed. Samarsen and I were eagerly awaiting Naravahana to come and report that he had gathered the required forces.

“Naravahana did come in time, but his appearance made me and Samarsen start violently. For Naravahana had lost his sword. His clothes were in tatters. His hair was dishevelled. There were tiny cuts on his face, and above all, he appeared badly scared. Why, Naravahana, what on earth happened to you?’ Samarsen implored him.

“Naravahana had to make a great effort to speak, and when he spoke, his voice was hoarse. ‘Things are beyond our control,’ he said. ‘It is better to leave here and go to a safer place.’

“Well, you should have seen Samarsen react to these words. He darted up like a King Cobra that was prodded. I never saw him become so angry and ruffled. ‘Am I to seek a safe place in my kingdom?’ he thundered. ‘Every inch of Kundalini soil should be safe for me! You must be quite mad to talk such nonsense!’

“Naravahana shook with fright seeing Samarsen’s wrath.

“Samarsen was about to speak again when an alarming clamour came from the direction of the fort gate. The sound went through the trees.

‘What is that din?’ Samarsen curtly demanded of Naravahana.

“O Samarsen, ‘Naravahana replied,’ it is part of the bad news I bring. Our soldiers have joined the common citizens, and they are all parading the streets, crying, “Down with the King!” See what they did to me when I tried to enlist soldiers for the fight. It was only by the grace of Mother Kundalini that I escaped alive and stand before you now.’

“Poor Samarsen could not stand on his legs when he heard these words. The news was too unexpected and too shocking for him! He fondly believed that the people loved him, the man who had gone through hell on the Isle of Sorcery to make them rich and happy! The same people now refused to be led by him! The fact was that Samarsen did not have the slightest idea about recent happenings and the tricky part played by Naravahana in bringing about recent developments.

“O Samarsen, ‘I said, ‘despair not. Think of a way out of the present trouble.’

“Ah, Siva-Dutt,” Samarsen replied, sighing, ” I am not despairing. It is the faithlessness of our people that makes my heart ache.’

“I did not know how to console him. I could not find the words. I looked at Naravahana, but he stood as dumb as a post. The roar of the mad crowd near the gate was at its highest pitch. One of the guards ran to us and cried, ‘Commander, they are breaking down the gate’s doors!’

“Samarsen’s head was bowed down. He did not look up for a few seconds. I wondered whether he had heard what the guard had said.

“But, as I was about to speak, he lifted his head and gave me a look which I understood at once.

“I turned to the guard and said’ ‘Bring the keeper of the wild animals here.’ Soon the keeper of the animals was standing before us. Look, ‘Open all your cages,’ I said to him, ‘and let the beasts loose in the palace courtyard and in front of the main gate. Tell your men to be ready to put the beasts back in the cages as soon as our purpose is done.

“The keeper of the wild animals turned pale at this order and looked towards Samarsen for confirmation.

“Samarsen jerked his head impatiently and said, ‘Siva-dutt’s orders are my orders. Carry them out!”

“But Commander,’ the keeper of the wild animals pleaded, once the savage beasts are out, they may harm the people. “I cut in brutally; keep your counsel to yourself and obey orders. Let the people learn what will happen to them if they break down the gate! Go at once and do what you are told.”

“The keeper of the wild animals went away. I caught Naravahana gritting his teeth and giving me a sneaky, evil look.

“What was he up to? What was his share in this revolt of the people and the military? At the time, I could not find answers to these questions.

“A few minutes later, pandemonium was let loose. We could hear the lion’s roar, the elephant’s trumpet, and other fearful noises proceeding from the palace courtyard. Samarsen got up and went up to the balcony overlooking the yard. Standing there, he could see the barred square in front of the court and the crowded street beyond the palace gate.

“I, too, climbed up to the balcony and stood by the side of Samarsen. I saw the savage beasts freely creeping all over the courtyard. Some went up to the barred gate and growled at the people beyond.

“Siva-Dutt,’ said Samarsen to me, you hit upon an excellent idea.’ Smiling happily, he said, ‘you can see that the people have refrained from breaking down the gate, seeing these beasts. But I am afraid it is only a stop-gap. Who do you think was behind this revolt? I am completely baffled.’ He looked back as he said the last words.

“Naravahana was standing behind us with his arms folded across his chest.

“I, too, do not know who the revolt’s leaders are, Samarsen. But the people are determined to remove the King,’ he said.

“I never thought,’ Samarsen said after a pause, ‘that there was so much anarchy in the land. The enemy outside the fort and the enraged people outside the palace are both hostile! They want the King to go! They want power! That is about the size of the situation. Am I right, Siva dutt ?” “

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