The Land Or The Crocodile | Part 6

(There was a popular revolt in Kundalini and the army, too, joined it. Samarsen, the Commander-in-Chief, did not at first realise the serions ness of the situation, but when he did, he consented to deal with it himself, according to the wishes of Sira-durt. To keep the insurgent in check, wild animals were let loose in the palace courtyard.)

Mandara-Deva could not help smiling when Siva-Dutt told him how Samarsen had summarised the situation.

“You say that the rebels outside the city, as well as those outside the palace, wanted to dethrone the King,” he said to Siva-Dutt, “Did it matter, then, who was to be the new leader of the people?”

“You are right,” Siva-Dutt replied, nodding his head. “But Samarsen was not in a mood to think so coherently. The situation was full of confusion. That is about the size of it, Samarsen,” I said. “I feel that it is better to dethrone the King and drive away the external enemy with the aid of the people than to let the outsiders grab the throne.”

“I entirely agree with you, Samarsen said to me. King Chitra-sena is too old. He has no heir, either. It should not be difficult to persuade him to give up the throne. Once we satisfy the people, the enemy behind the fort walls can be beaten quite easily. The people themselves can put in the necessary effort.

“Even as we were expressing these ideas, King Chitra-sena joined us.

As soon as the people outside the palace caught sight of the King, they vehemently shouted, “Down with the King! Down with Kingship!”

“Ah, Samarsen,” said King Chitra-sena as he approached us, ‘I stood on the battlement on top of the fort wall and saw the tents of those ready to assault us any minute. And I am fully conscious of the feelings of our people towards me. One who has forgotten the needs of his people and lost himself in his entertainment and festivities is not fit to continue to sit on the throne, which is a fact. Let me heed the people’s will and give up my throne and something more valuable.

Then he stepped onto the balcony.

“Both of us, Samarsen and I, were baffled when the King spoke those words. We could not utter a word. “Good people of Kundalini!” the King shouted, waving his hands and trying to draw the attention of the masses; I acknowledge your anger and your just demands. I was so immersed in my diversions that I failed to look into your troubles and tribulations. So you have every reason to demand my abdication. I will set aside my Crown and something much more valuable to me. Only, I want you to obey Samarsen, who shall be your leader in future!’

“This speech provoked cheers and shouts of joy from the people. But, the next moment. The King leapt from the balcony.

“For a moment, we were dazed. Samarsen and I. Then we looked down. King Chitra-sena was dead. He lay there and did not move at all.

“The fatal jump of the King appeared to have scared the wild animals down below, for they scattered away in all directions. As for the people, they, too, were quite dazed.

“He has done it now! Samarsen muttered, supporting himself against a pillar. It is all over! There was a wet glint in his eyes.

“I looked at the people. They were reticent. What they had witnessed petrified them. Samar- sen stood motionless while Naravahana appeared to be deprived of his senses.

“Soon, the Keeper of the animals ran there, shouting. O Commander, what now, what?

“He wanted to say something more, but I told him to keep quiet and come near me. Get back the beasts into their cages, I said to him, for I am going to have the gates opened in a few minutes. So it would be best if you looked sharp about it. I also want you to remove the body of His Majesty and take it to a safe place.”

“Samarsen was aware of my instructions to the Keeper of the animals. Naravahana, standing slightly away from me, gave me a sharp look and went onto the balcony.

“Presently, the beasts were all locked up. His Majesty was removed to a proper place. Samarsen and I went down the staircase and walked towards the palace gate.

“As we approached the gate, there was a stir amongst the people. ‘Hail Samarsen!’ they shouted. The noise seemed to fill earth and heaven.

“The gate was thrown open, and there was a hush as Samarsen stepped forward, cleared his throat, and said, ‘Good people of Kundalini! I do not propose to speak of things past. But no one can deny that anarchy raised its ugly head in the land. Let us not waste time trying to find out who is to blame. We no longer have a King, and the question of loyalty to the Crown does not arise either. What we now want is patriotism in every citizen and absolute unity!”

“The people responded to this speech by shouting. Long live Kundalini!”

“Our enemy is waiting outside the wall, ready to wage war on us. Protect the capital first and then the country! I want everyone capable of handling a weapon to volunteer for battle, Samarsen said.

“There was a great rush. People pushed forward shouting, Give me a sword, ‘I want a battle-axe!”, A bow and arrows- and so on.

“Samarsen looked back and saw Naravahana standing immediately behind him. ‘Now is your chance, Naravahana,’ he said. You can collect an army very easily now! Go ahead!”

“I then followed Samarsen onto the fort wall. We could see the tents of the enemy, which stood like mushrooms, while the enemy soldiers, who were engaged in exercises, appeared like a line of ants.

“Siva-Dutt, Samarsen said, turning to me; the enemy is well-versed in warfare. They are no rabble. Look at their exercises; they are a lot of well-trained soldiers. Samarsen judged well. A rabble could never have conducted itself’ like the soldiers we saw exercising in the distance.

“I looked down at the moat by the fort wall and found that it did not have enough water. I called a soldier and ordered more water into the moat. Then Samarsen arrived. They turned to me and said, ‘Siva-Dutt, I shall command the forces since there is no alternative. But I want you to defend the fort. What do you say to that?”

“I could not readily agree to this since if I had to defend the fort, I could not follow Samarsen into battle and fight by his side. Besides, Naravahana would be assisting Samarsen on the battlefield, a thing I did not relish. Even as I wondered how I could get around this difficulty, Naravahana arrived.

“My commander said, I have conscripted two thousand well-trained soldiers. Also, I have armed four thousand able-bodied citizens from among the populace. I await your further orders.

“I think two thousand armed men will be enough to defend the fort? Samarsen queried, turning to me. I nodded, and he went on, Well, you shall be responsible for the fort’s defence. I shall lead to battle a force consisting of two thousand trained soldiers and two thousand armed men. Secure the gates of the reason behind us.

“As soon as the army departed, 1 ordered the gates to be closed and set about organising defence measures, taking my band of twenty-five soldiers along with me. I was not sure that the people supplied with arms could use them. I had a job even to stand them in a line. They fell to quarrelling among themselves at the slightest provocation and splitting into several groups. “From the gates, I went up to the battlements. I saw that the enemy’s camp was astir when Samarsen’s army came within sight of them. They began to reach for their arms and fall into lines. The cavalry took their positions in front of the infantry. A few small contingents split away, evidently to tease Samarsen’s army from various sides.

“I sensed that a large-scale conflict between the two main armies would not occur and that there would be no decisive victory or defeat for some time. I saw a dozen cavalrymen make a sudden dash at Samarsen’s forces, make a quick hit and scatter away immediately, wounding and killing as many as possible. Samarsen was not prepared for such sorties. He halted his armies, called forth his cavalry and divided them into small contingents.

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