The Ratnadurg Rubies
Half a dozen horsemen were picking their way up a breakneck path. There was no mistaking their leader. Prince Santasimh was impatient to see his beloved city of Ratnadurg after a tour of neighbouring kingdoms, which had taken longer than anticipated.
But his astonishment left his lips when he pulled up at the brow of the hill and peered keenly across the tangled countryside. Instead of seeing the bustling city of Ratnadurg, he was looking- at a city of the dead. There was no sign of life, only a horde of hideous vultures hovering over the city.
Without a word, the prince wheeled his horse and set off at a headlong gallop down the side of the hill, with his entourage strung out well behind. With a grim face, the prince rode into the city in absolute shambles. Mutilated corpses lay everywhere, and whoever had invaded the town had spared neither man, woman or child.
Inside the palace, the carnage was even worse. From the piled-up corpses, it was plain to see that a last desperate stand had been made, and in the forefront lay the body of his brother, the ruler, with his sword still in his hand.
As he stood there, the prince was sure to hear a pitiful cry from close by. Hurrying toward the sound, the prince discovered the palace priest lying in a welter of blood, close to death.
The priest greeted the prince with a wan smile. “I knew you would come,” he gasped in an almost inaudible voice. “Two nights ago, Kasim, a guard captain, opened the city gates for Krurasimh and his murderous horde. No one was spared, and they searched high and low for the famous Ratnadurg rubies. But I saved them.” Feebly the priest entered his robe and brought out the precious ruby necklace. “Take them, and go from here before Krurasimh returns.”
Soon afterwards, the old priest died, and the prince calling to his followers, decided to leave this city of death but vowed that one day he would make Krurasimh pay for his foul deeds.
As the prince and his entourage left the city, they didn’t escape unobserved. Kasim, the treacherous captain of the guard, was hiding close to the city wall, hoping he could find the whereabouts of the Ratnadurg rubies. Mounting his horse, Kasim rode furiously across the country to overtake Krurasimh, who was returning to his kingdom.
Coming up to Krurasimh and his force, Kasim jumped off his horse and, running up to Krurasimh, shouted, “Halt! One knows where the rubies are. If I tell, what will be my reward?” “A thousand pieces of gold,” replied Krurasimh.
Prince Santasimh has the rubies,” cried Kasim. “And the prince has just left the city riding due north. Now pay me my reward.”
“You shall certainly have your just dues,” said Krurasimh. “Yesterday, you sold out your king. Tomorrow it would be my turn. So here is your reward.” With that, Krurasimh whipped out his sword and, with one slash, decapitated the renegade captain
Krurasimh wasted no time. He spurred his men on, intent on cutting off Prince Santasimh’s escape.
Meanwhile, Prince Santasimh rode steadily on. His mind was tortured by the thoughts of the massacre at his beloved home. Suddenly, one of his retinues pointed out the distant band of riders galloping to overtake them. Realizing that this boded no excellent and their horses were tired, the prince ordered his men to disperse and make good their escape.
The prince put his horse to the gallop, hoping to reach the thickly wooded hills before he was overtaken. But after a while, his horse began to falter; looking over his shoulder, he saw that one rider had outdistanced the rest and was hard on his heels.
Realizing that escape was impossible, the prince reined in his horse and waited for his adversary to come to grips. The prince soon recognized that the lone rider was none other than Krurasimh, so now he could avenge the murder of his relatives. As soon as Krurasimh came within striking distance, the prince threw his spear, which struck the horse behind the shoulder, causing the animal to plunge to the ground, throwing the rider.”
Krurasimh quickly regained his feet and, seeing Prince Santasimh coming towards him, drew his dagger and rushed at the prince. They should have been well matched, for both were tall and strong, but the prince remembering his slain brother, brushed Krurasimh’s mad lunge aside and, closing with his opponent, plunged his dagger up to the hilt into Krurasimh’s body.
Happy to have rid the world of the vile Krurasimh, the prince rode on his way. After days of travel, he crossed the pass into the vale of Kashmir. Here, tired and worried about his future, he took shelter in a garden and, throwing himself down on a bench, was soon fast asleep.
It so happened that this garden was part of the estates of the King of Kashmir and used solely by his daughter, Princess Sumati. The princess was walking through the park with her companions and gasped in surprise at seeing the handsome figure sleeping on the bench.
This awakened the prince, who jumped to his feet and stood tongue-tied in front of this beautiful girl, and before he could utter a word, the princess gave him a charming smile and ran off.
This princess so enamoured the prince he lost no time to find out who she was. His spirits dropped when he discovered she was the king’s daughter, and he was nothing now but a penniless prince. At least he still had the famous rubies, so bucking up his courage, he sought an audience with the king.
The king, to his surprise, greeted him with open arms, explaining that he had known the rulers of Ratnadurg for many years. The king was incredibly moved when the prince told the sad story of the massacre of Ratnadurg and how he had slain the vile Krurasimh.
“You must certainly stay at my court,” said the king, and then added with a twinkle in his eye. “I know that Princess Sumati will make you more than welcome.”
Very soon afterwards, the prince was betrothed to the princess, and they spent a long, happy life together.