In the search of ‘Kedheldhara’
He didn’t get what he came for; in the hopes of finding the lost Kedheldhara Anirudh had travelled to the faraway jungles of Reshtra Kingdom. Saint Bharmardev, who was famous for the safekeeping of the rarest and oldest manuscripts, was known to live here. Kedheldhara was a very old manuscript written by sage Vistahirta Muni, a legend of ancient times. The book was described as a masterpiece in various sources but the original manuscript was missing from quite some time.
Though his efforts seemed useless now, this didn’t disturb Anirudh in the least, he was a man of immense patience and had a keen eye for ancient literature and other creative arts. He had an appreciation for great talents and understood their worth; as a result of his interests, he had quite an impressive collection of his own, which he kept on expanding through his continuous hunts, just like this one.
Determined to complete his quest, he decided quickly enough to move to his next stop where he can find some clue.
“You should stay for the night son, the sun is about to set and it gets dark quickly in these woods”, Saint Bharmardev advised him by observing the sun’s position in the sky which was partially hidden because of the dense canopy of the lush green trees.
“Forgive me, Saint but I’ll have to take your leave now. I plan to reach the nearby town of Herapur before the night falls, the next clue to find Kedheldhara can be found there. It is only a couple of miles away, shouldn’t take Luna too long”, he said while patting his horse with a proud affectionate smile on his face.
He and Luna had been inseparable from the starting when his father late Adhirath Varia- the then King of Astavaria, had gifted him on his ninth birth anniversary. Luna with her silver white hair and big brown eyes had been just a year old then, now, with her muscled frame, light creamy coat and flowing silver mane she was a sight to behold.
“If you have made up your mind, then I won’t stop you, but be careful, these jungles are home to many big predators.” Saint’s eyes, focused on something distant, gleamed in dark with curiosity and excitement.
“I will Saint, thank you.”
Before leaving, Anirudh wished him and touched his feet for blessings. Bharmardev muttered some chants under his breath and marked his disciple’s forehead with some holy ash. Anirudh moved on his way, Luna with her swift gait was soon out of the sight of the Saint who knew that Anirudh’s life was about to take a different turn.
It was pitch dark now, the sun had set a long time ago and the dense canopy was obstructing the moonlight to seep through the jungle, making it difficult to see anything. He never expected it to be this confusing; he wandered in the woods for hours and now he was sure that he was lost.
The jungle in the night had turned into a different entity altogether, it had come alive with all its nocturnal creatures beginning their ‘day’. The faint shadows of the branches looked like the arms of an old witch, ready to pounce on him any moment. The crickets chirped continuously giving the otherwise silent jungle a heartbeat, occasional owl hooting and fluttering of the bat colony made it hauntingly musical. Wild dogs and jackals howled somewhere deep in the forest.
Anirudh was worried now, he was stuck in this jungle at least for the night with nothing at his disposal; he regretted his decision of not staying the night. I should have probably listened to the Saint.
The thought of returning back to the saint’s humble abode was tempting, but useless because he was very unsure of the direction and even more confident about running into a problem. Though it was not winter yet, the calm breeze which smelled like damp leaves, wood and wet-sticky mud gave him goosebumps. He decided to make a small fire and find a safe spot to pass the night; Luna also seemed tired, she hadn’t had a proper rest since yesterday.
He plopped down and started looking for some dried twigs and perfect stones; a fire will keep him and Luna warm and will keep the infamous predators at bay. He wasn’t gone too far when Luna’s cries and sounds of rapid movement alerted him, he was numb only for a second, then he was running wildly in the direction of the noise, cursing himself for being so slow.
He found Luna kicking and neighing in anger, the cause of his anger had found another prey and was now staring Anirudh; bright golden eyes, mocking him, and he couldn’t look away. The object of their previous infatuation was long forgotten as the golden eyes scanned their new meal, judging its strength and planning the attack.
He saw the jaguar gazing at him, calculating its move; he only had a small dagger which was sharp enough to fight with the thieves but not with a full-grown jaguar. He stood there completely still like a doll; saw the beast baring his fangs saw him lifting his one leg and rubbing it against another- up and down and saw him leap.
Anirudh never could see eye to eye with his elder brother, Dharesh Varia- the present ruler of Astavaria Kingdom. They both had stark contrasting personalities and even more contrasting believes and interests, but today even he couldn’t have agreed more with his brother on learning advanced self-defence and moving with royal guards for his safety.
Before even he could blink and his mind could register what happened and how, he was pinned to the ground with a force so strong that he heard his bones crushing against the rocks. He could feel the weight of the paw on his stomach; claws pierced his skin so easily, like slicing a cake. He could feel the beast breathing on his face, his breath smelled like stale blood and flesh. He knew nothing can save him now.
In his last moments, he decided to face death like his father would have wanted him to; he always used to say, “Anu, you must always smile even when the end is near. Your smile will take away all the satisfaction of your sufferings from those who wished it upon you and will give you immense strength to overcome it.” Remembering the words of his father, he looked directly into the bright-golden eyes, smiled and waited for his impending doom, hoping for the immense strength to strike anytime soon.
And finally, it was all over quickly; he was surprised that it didn’t hurt much.
His head was resting in the lap of a girl who looked genuinely concerned for him, she wasn’t beautiful in the traditional sense, her face still had the innocence of a child but there was something about her which was extraordinary. She looked like an angel, so pure and innocent; her voice was not melodious like a nightingale, but peaceful and calm like the waves of the ocean. He felt peace. So this is what heaven looks like, all the talk about beautiful women in heaven is indeed true, he wondered, looking at the beauty in front of his eyes.
“What! Can you hear me? Are you alright?”
“Who are you?” He finally came off his hallucinations and looked around to gather his surroundings, so I am not dead after all. He was in the forest surrounded by a few men and their horses; they looked like royal soldiers or rich henchmen. Luna was nowhere to be seen, he tried to sit and look all around, but a sharp excruciating pain stopped him right there, his head resting in the lap of his beautiful saviour. This isn’t that bad, at least I am alive.
“Yes, you are alive. I am Kedheldhara; I was going back with my men when I heard the noises. You need medical attention; there has been a lot of blood loss. Please stay still and let me help you.”
He wanted to get some answers from her, where was Luna, what she was doing in the jungle so late at night, where was she taking him, where was the mighty golden-eyed beast but nothing came out of his mouth. His vision got blurred, the sounds got muffed and then he saw the darkness consuming him completely.
“Traveller, are you alone here or somebody is accompanying you?”
He smiled. Maybe this was death. But I am not alone, not now; I have found you, Kedheldhara.
If you are still here, reading this then many greetings and Happy Holi to you! This is the first chapter of Entangled: A Saga of Love, Loss and Life, it is almost 1500 words long and as I said earlier, it is the first draft so try to go easy on the rough edges. Please share your thoughts, I am eager to know what you think of it.
Until then, take care.