Sneak peek into the Last Army

Let me give you a sneak peek into the Last Army.

Man is hollow,
Life is a shell,
Don’t you dare say,
that All is Well.

-the Prophet Joshua

3017, The arrival

Joshua was hiding beneath the rubble. He was holding his breath, body tensed for the moment they discover him. It was his ill luck to fall asleep in a basement while foraging. Fires from the last battle were still hot when he had risked himself to get a fortune of weapons and armor; and now he was trapped. It was one of the bigger battles he had seen in his 473 years. A god and a very dillapilated group of defenders had assembled to waylay a contingent of foot, to find themselves trapped within two flanks of cavalry. The battle was short & brutal. Not even a single one of the defenders had been able to escape. And when they killed the god, even a mere mortal like him had been able to feel it from miles away & he had immediately departed to arrive at the massacre scene as soon as possible.

But a box full of canned food had found its way into hia hands and he didn’t try to save for later. So he ate and ate, and finally settled into the basement to sleep. But when he woke up, he discovered that an even larger army of darklings was camped over him, and the basement was right beneath the command centre.

He heard the footsteps recede as a voice called out. “All clear. Bring him in.” Joshua sagged with relief at these words and thanked the gods; if any of them was left.

He stiffened at the sound of more feet and a raspy voice called out “Good Evening, lord. I see that you have….” The voice was interrupted with a bang of flesh on wood. A heavy male voice called out “Don’t try my patience, slave. Tell me why have you abandoned your post, and begone.” His words were followed by silence and Joshua heard someone shuffle. “As you wish, Lord. Their army is divided into 6 legions and the fourth is about to appear in the mortal realm within the hour, at exactly where we are. I took the liberty of making them believe that no more than 5000 darklings are stationed here. They will find a surprise when they arri…” This time the voice was interrupted by a swish, a thud, a swish, bang and a groan. Then silence.

Seconds passed by. Then the heavy male voice called out, with a definite hint of fear. “W-who a-are you? ” A swish and a thunk sounded and a voice called out. “I am Akshat, scout of the 47th legion.” It paused then continued “Remember this Joshua,” Joshua became still as a rock. “We are thousands, and when you will look at what happened up here, do not forget that I was only one. Hope is not yet lost. the Last Army survives” Then there were sounds of receding footsteps. How had that person known Joshua was beneath the floor? And what had he done to the others? Joshua was just thinking about creeping out for a look when he saw & heard; rather felt the biggest explosion he had seen in his life. Of pure Golden light, it made the earth shake like a thresher and Joshua thought of only one thing before the rubble hit him on his head. Akshat was not someone to mess with.

Stories about the prophet had many beginings. Most of them are quite close to the truth. The Prophet Joshua emmerged from the ground with blood smeared on his face and saw around him in every direction he could see – heaps and heaps of dead bodies; darkling bodies. He remembered even then, “The Last Army survives.”

The Legacy of Kalki Vol. 1 – The Last Army

The Last Army

Hello to all the readers of the great world of Science Fiction & Fantasy. I have a good news to share and I am (almost) sure you are going to like it as well.

When the current, fully edited draft of The Legacy of Kalki crossed the (holy) mammoth number of 500000 words, I decided to split it among a few volumes. The initial plan was to publish 3 volumes with each relating to 4 parts of Kalki’s soul. But now I plan on releasing 3 volumes with 3 parts of Kalki’s soul in each and 3 short novellas which would narrate the other 3 parts from a different person’s POV (Yet to be disclosed).

I am planning to bring in the novellas between the major volumes with a parallel timeline (A brilliant suggestion by one of my beta readers) & to give them away for free to whoever will buy the previous volume.

The Last Army

Coming to title of my first volume, I can give you all a sneak peek into the story.

The Mortal Realm has become a battlefield for the Gods & pawns of Chaos while the Earth crawls with horrendous creatures born of true evil. Mankind is on the verge of World War 3 and humans are simple “cannon fodder” for the superior powers busy in their war. Everyone awaits the good guys to make things right but they have vanished without a trace and everything seems lost…

Lost in the ashes,
In a world that dies,
From the depths of the blue,
The first of them rise.

Doomed to be dead,
Everyone of them thrives,
Facing annihilation,
The Last Army arrives.

Bhagatai (भगतई) – Rural Indian Sorcery

Sorcery

Sorcery is an art of souls, magic, devotion and power. You can find no distinct definition of the word ‘sorcerer’ which shall be accepted worldwide. But despite of the various ways of defining it, sorcery is generally considered a negative aspect of magic. You might know it to be the polar opposite of Wizardry or it might be a different word to define the same thing – magic for you.

What is a Sorcerer?

Do me a favor and close your eyes. (Actually… Close them after reading the whole thing, or how would you be able to read?   😉 ) Imagine that you visit a village in Bihar, India. The streets are deserted, the houses are quiet and a shrowd of stillness engulfs the village. You move forwards, hoping to meet someone but find not a single soul in sight. Then you catch a movement in your peripheral vision and jerk to look at it. You see a bright piece of clothing just beyond the corner and instinctively move forward to look at it. After a couple of steps you stagger to a stop. Finally you discover the people of the village. Every single one of them is there in the village square. You move towards them as you notice every single person present is rock-still, holding his/her breath. You look for a vantage point and perch on a bullock-cart. Now the whole scene lies before your eyes. The whole populace is surrounding the village suquare, where an old man sways squatted on a mat. He is engulfed by incense, & platters of food and delicacies are laid out before him.

Suddenly his swaying stops and the old man goes rigid. He stays frozen for a moment then turns abruptly – to stare you straight in your eyes. You go still, trying but unable to escape the old man’s gaze. Then the most freakish/amazing thing happens. The mans speaks your grandfather’s name. And says to you. “Welcome, grandson of ……….”

 

 

That my friends, is sorcery. Pure and absolute. The art still thrives in the rural areas of India like Bihar, Odisha & Jharkhand; and is widely renown. Basically the sorcerer invites a spirit to reside in his/her body for a period of time and enjoy material pleasure like food. The spirit grants the sorcerer knowledge in exchange of the few moments of enjoying life. The sorcerer meanwhile answers questions and solves people’s problem with the knowledge gifted by the spirit.

How does Sorcery work?

1) For a thing like sorcery to work, the first requirement is a crowd of people. The ‘spirit’ doesn’t visit the sorcerer (भगता – Bhagata in Hindi) unless there is a sufficient audience.

2) The sorcerer sits on ground with all the food & incense around him and closes his eyes to meditate. Then there comes a moment when he goes into a trance and starts to sway, shake & wobble. When the trance fades and the sorcerer opens his eyes, they become the eyes of the spirit.

3) After talking with such a sorcerer ‘Bhagata’ in person, I asked him the secret behind it. He smiled and replied that there wasn’t one. He just makes his mind & body ready to accept the spirit and the spirit arrives. According to him, it was like swimming with closed eyes. You swim and swim, and suddenly BAM! The opposite shore is there & the spirit is ready to ‘move in’.

4) The incense & crowded surroundings helps the sorcerer to ‘reach out’ and contact the spirit. When the spirit inhibits his body, the sorcerer only remembers a partial consciousness.

5) When the spirit has finally arrived, music is played in a steady rythm. The sorcerers claim it to help the spirit ‘attune’ to the alien body.

6) Sorcery is a talent of blood. It can’t be learned unless you are born with it.

What are the uses of Sorcery?

The most prominent use of sorcery is curing diseases. It may be noted that most incidents of sorcery are recorded in rural areas of incidents.

1) The act of Sorcery ‘Bhagatai’ is often celebrated as a minor festival. A ‘Bhagata’ is usually related to a particular cast and only they participate in the gatherings. They ask the spirit the solutions of their day to day problems, cures of diseases which they can’t afford to get treated by a doctor and such minor things.

2) A sorcerer is also a holy thing for the people and they seek blessings for family and friends. He is considered a thing of marvel since there are claims that the spirit which visits a sorcerer is the essence of their God.

3) The act of sorcery is also a thing of entertainment for the people. The sorcerer performs various tricks to entertain the people such as eating fire or holding embers.

4) Then there are negative aspects too. Some Sorcerers claim to cause harm to others for money. They call upon malignant spirits which can cause a subtle, gradual and substantial harm to a specific person of family. It appears as bad health, ill luck, accidents and other seemingly natural phenomena.

 

Sorcery – Real or Fraud?

Just like other supernatural activities, sorcery is also considered a trick of eyes or some detailed play or act. Our science doesn’t allow anything not natural to exist and hence sorcery is often under suspicion.

Real

1) Sorcerers perform acts like holding glowing pieces of coals, and it doesn’t harm them. I am not talking about momentarily holding and then throwing it but holding them for extended periods of time like half an hour.

2) There are many incidents where patients actually get better after being blessed by a Sorcerer. Whether it is purely psychological or the blessings really work, can’t be decided. It is a fact no one can ignore.

3) Sorcerers tend to know much more than their ‘inert’ forms. When a spirit inhibits them, they simply know the names of strangers come to see them, or ancestors of the people around them. This is a fact not to be taken lightly. Sorcerers aren’t vagabonds roaming around gathering information about patients. They are day to day farmers and labors who act as a vessel to the spirit.

The extraordinary knowledge gained by the Sorcerers cannot be ignored.

Fraud

1) Every single act of sorcery is recorded in only rural areas. 99% of the incidents occur in the poorest and most backward states of India, where only 10% of the population ever passes high schools. This points towards a huge question.

Why do spirits only inhibit illiterate & uneducated village folk?

2) The spirit refuses to arrive in the vessel if there are media personnel or any other official presence around.

3) Not a single Sorcerer is an educated person. Do you smell something fishy too?

 

 

Whether they are real or not. Sorcerers are a common thing in rural areas of India and Sorcery still lives in this age of Science.

When friends are murdered by Gods – Ch 22

Have you ever come across Déjà vu anytime in your life? Sometimes people tend to think they know something that is going to happen before it happens. It might be a slight premonition in form of a dream or it might actually have happened with you already. Such occurrences can make a person amazed or they might make him unsettled. I, living in a whole different sort of community; obviously fell into the latter category.

“Wake up dude! You are going to miss the breakfast!” A loud voice rattled me out of my fitful slumber. I was huddled in a corner of my room with a blanket wrapped around me and my table was positioned like a bunker wall. I had had one of the nightmares which compelled me to hide in the corner of the room to hide from the collapse. The problem was that there was no collapse. “Do whatever you wish man. I did my job.” There was a last bang of Utkarsh’s fists on the door and then receding footsteps told me he had left. I sighed and slowly got up to get dressed for the day.

A good six months had passed since my imprisonment in Lord Varun’s prison dimension. On my second day here, I had the bad luck of coming across a screaming banshee, and it resulted in a nightmare so severe that I still can’t sleep without waking up in sweats. The eeriness of the similarities between my arrival in the Veil and the Blue Hell was quite unsettling. I was enrolled in an almost army like institution, was provided accommodations; and finally I was given a loan. The prison city, which I came to know was called the Blue Hell by its inhabitants; was slightly different from the Veil. Just slightly. The credit system in the Veil was based upon slightly different things than that of the Blue Hell. But the similarities were bold enough to wake me every night expecting Natasha on my chest or getting startled whenever somebody called for me fearing it would be Lord Varun. I knew very well that I was being absurd and it was all psychological. But it’s even harder to overcome a fear which has you in its clutches psychologically and you know about it.

The shower water was lukewarm on my skin and only then I realized the coldness of my own body. Huddling in the corner was definitely not good for my health. I was in constant unease as I expected the dimension to collapse as it has done in the veil and it was taking quite a toll on me. Going through the exact same chores as that of the veil disturbed me further. I had repeatedly tried to meet Natasha and ask for her help but she was rarely available for any kind of business other than helping in the workings of the Blue Hell. The immortals were quite happy to have another immortal to share their responsibilities with. The result was a distraught me with a severe case of Déjà vu, and my life was a complete mess with this new system of working society.

When I reached the mess hall, it was half empty and the other half people present were about to finish their meal. I quickly went to the counter and let the vendor scan my aura. Things worked here quite different from the Veil. Unlike the place between Heaven and Hell, the Blue Hell held a fair quantity of common-everyday-normal human beings. The supernatural community outnumbered them two to one, but still it was a fair number of prisoners who couldn’t do anything to help the society significantly. The production of food was the responsibility of several apprentices and seniors who worked under the personal supervision of one the immortals. The sandwiches I took were their product and I shortly joined Utkarsh. “Sorry for the delay. I didn’t sleep well.” I said to him in an attempt of a nonchalant voice. He had his mouth completely full with boiled rice and gravy and it took him some time to chew and reply. “Why don’t you visit the medical wing? It will definitely offer a great deal of entertainment to us. Or you might go to the builders to build back your brain from scratch.” He finished with a laugh.

The construction and maintenance here was handled by another group of apprentices and seniors working under another one of the immortals. Then there were the medical services. No one grew ill in the Blue Hell, but skirmishes between the two factions of its inhabitants resulted in quite a few injuries. The training and instructions took its own toll on the apprentices and they also piled up a huge number of hurt people. A different similar team of apprentices, seniors and an immortal looked after it. Another such group was devoted to the production of necessary products like clothes and other materials, and yet another such group created the main body of the force protecting the city; and sometimes raiding the other faction.

We were the last two to leave the mess hall and he kept talking cheerfully as he took me to my classes again. It was his duty to take me through my basics before I could join the regular classes and he certainly enjoyed ordering me about. We left the tower and he raced me to the survival grounds. “Okay hero. Take a bamboo stick & a couple of stones, and make a nice little fire. Your time will decide if you get your lunch or not.” He was taking me through basic survival which was the last of basics I had to learn. We had already done combat in which he took pleasure in beating me senseless, aura manipulation in which I surpassed him in the first hour and the heavenly arts, which were not necessary for the basics. “Why don’t you try to make it?” I replied under my breath as I started scraping the side of the bamboo for dry kindling. There were a lot of people going through different tasks in the grounds and it reminded me of the fact that some people chose not to go under apprenticeship.

The people left were mainly those who couldn’t, or didn’t get under apprenticeship, or the normal human beings. They were quite a problem to the elder immortals who organized everything in the beginning, and thus they chose to make the most powerless the most powerful ones. The humans were led to become the ruling part of the community. All the major decisions and judgments were made by them. They served as Blue Hell’s governing body, and they coordinated with the immortals to handle the matters. Other prisoners, mainly those who couldn’t get under apprenticeship worked as the police. The production of food and stuff was fairly limited, so everyone had a definite quota for what they could take. Contributors to the storehouse also got a little extra ration of things to take, and so got the humans by default. There was no currency and the normal commerce proceeded as exchange of rations in the storehouse. It was the extreme of completely virtualized economy.

I was much impressed by the workings of the educational system too. All the students under apprenticeship had four definite courses to complete. Just like the apprenticeship in our dimension, these four were survival, combat, aura manipulation and heavenly arts. What I knew in our dimension came up close to being a pitiful copy of this system. A few eons ago, lord Varun had released an immortal from the slaves and he had carried this idea with him. The slaves didn’t follow this way and they only knew what they could find by spying. The apprenticeship here was on a whole different level than in our dimension. On the whole, it was a surprisingly well coordinated system for a society of a prison.

I managed to get a pitiful flame growing as the second hour approached and was about to point it out to Utkarsh when a sudden draft smothered the flames. I looked helplessly at him and he burst out laughing. Utkarsh was a jolly fellow and he kept the mood light wherever he went. But once I had witnessed him getting angry and his student still flinches when she spots him. Agnishikha had little time for meeting with me and days went past without us talking. Natasha had called upon me a couple of times to check on my progress with Utkarsh. Of course she had undertaken my apprenticeship but she was quite happy to let Utkarsh do his work and point just a little bit when she thought necessary. I had asked her about the veil but she had obviously refused to discuss it.

“Don’t bother to do it again. I’ll let it pass. I think it might be the time you are approved for your introduction in the class.” Utkarsh told me as I got up wiping sweat from my face. Agnishikha had joined her official apprenticeship a week ago and she had immediately grown an admirable group of friends due to her skill in combat. She was devious with a quarterstaff and hand to hand fighting & Utkarsh seemed to regret his many attempts to offend her when she was still under training. “Shall we go on for lunch then?” I asked him and prepared myself for his denial. He was about to say something when his face jerked towards the tower.

I looked at it too and my jaws dropped to find a glowing nimbus of blue light on its top. My body froze in shock as the memory of the collapse reeled back to me. The faces of my friends and the distortion of the place as it crumpled swam before my eyes. It was as if my eyes had glued themselves to the glowing nimbus and it was quite some time before I was aware enough to feel Utkarsh shaking me. “…all right dude? Do you need to sit down?” I jerked my face from the nimbus and asked Utkarsh. “Is that… Lord Varun?” Somehow, instead of feeling scared, I was strangely numb. I realized that I was shaking with anger. As time had passed, I had slowly let go of my belief that my friends survived the collapse. The only person to blame it upon was Lord Varun. I didn’t know the punishment of assaulting a god if you live long enough to receive it. Nonetheless I was determined to make Lord Varun pay for what he had done.

“Everything with his aura isn’t him buddy. Lord Varun has not enough time to visit us. We despise him and the feeling is mutual. That is the signal of another arrival. Come on, let us continue to lunch. It is going to be quite a while to our turn at escort.” Utkarsh replied in what could have been considered as a half mocking, half envious tone. We shuffled with other people on our way to the mess hall. Lunch was still a couple of hours away, but I wanted to eat well due to my hasty breakfast. We were joined with Ileana and Rachel when they left the combat grounds with Rachel limping slightly. “You are still stuck at that?” Utkarsh asked her as she tried to walk straight and winced. “I think Akshat will learn to kick faster than you and he took a whole week to break that bamboo.” Ileana was trying to stifle her smile as Utkarsh howled with laughter. Rachel scowled at him and replied back. “If you can kick that good, why haven’t you passed apprenticeship yet? Oh yes! I forgot that the most you could do with your aura is turn a page. Too bad, huh?” Her voice had almost an acrid acidity and Utkarsh immediately lost his smile. His lack of aura manipulation was a sore spot for him.

Most of the preternatural prisoners here were demons. The living world contributed as all of the human population and a few other creatures. My suspicion about our teachings in our world had confirmed itself. The demons were simply another kind of population with a lot of non vegetarian appetite and slightly extreme customs. They believed in living out loud and never cared for their well being. It was all given in the booklet we were provided and there was a whole lot of other information in it too. Description about lord Varun’s prison, the boundaries between the two factions and the basic introduction to each captive species were a few articles at the beginning and I had simply forgotten to read further.

The day passed slowly as I waited for my official introduction into the class. All of my friends were in it and Utkarsh was the oldest student. He was still stuck due to his inability for the manipulation of aura and he had achieved a honorary position among the other students. It was the duty of the oldest students to teach the new, and Utkarsh had the bad luck to train me. If other candidates for apprenticeship appeared then they were taught by the next senior-most students and so on.

I waited patiently in my room as the consistent blue haze lulled me into a light slumber. The light was almost fading when a knock came at my door and woke me up. I rubbed my eyes and trudged to the door. It was one of the apprentices with a sign of the army faction and he certainly seemed irritated. “Come with me. The Devi Natasha wants to see you.” His tone was as sharp as a whiplash and I left my room after locking the door with a gesture Utkarsh had taught me. It was a gloomy journey up to the 17th floor where Natasha had established her working quarters. I asked him as we walked another set of staircases. “Do you know why am I summoned?” I worked hard to keep my voice polite and firm enough at the same time so that he couldn’t overlook my question. He glanced at me and grunted. “It has something to do with today’s arrival. That gargoyle said he is a friend of yours.”

My head jerked up as I caught what he had implemented. There was only one gargoyle who was my friend – Liam. A lot of possibilities appeared to me and I was lost among them as I kept walking up the stairs. Liam’s presence here meant he was also captured by Lord Varun. This relieved me as it meant at least some of my friends were safe. But wait a minute, Liam never left Rocky. He was alone here that meant… I negated the possibility and hastened my steps. When we reached Natasha’s quarters, I was panting badly. Six months of hurrying up and down these steps had allowed me a lot of stamina. But climbing 17 floors at once was still a great deal tiring. The apprentice knocked at the door and Natasha’s familiar voice chimed out. “Send him in!” He looked puzzled by her command but immediately followed it and I hurried inside.

Yep. It was Liam alright. But he had half of his left arm in bandage and a good part of his left ear looked cut off. He hurled him at me when I entered and clung to me tightly. I was buried in his fur for some time so I couldn’t see the other person present in the room. When Liam moved aside and perched on my shoulder, I saw that Agnishikha was in the room too. She had her face in Natasha’s lap and was crying with a lot of tears. All of my senses went on high alert and I fiercely asked Liam. “What happened?” Natasha gave me a look devoid of all expressions and turned back to comfort Agnishikha. “it was not Lord Varun Akshat.” Liam replied in his wheezy voice. “It was Decain. He had spies among us. And when the time was right, he sent two of his generals with your brother to annihilate the veil. We tried to fight back but the attack was too furious. We had many casualties. Seth was taken.” He finished with a croak. I took him in my hand and put him on the table. “Tell me all of it.” I said to him as his ears drooped. “We were cornered but we fought back. All of us were holed up in a storeroom. Then a golden fireball struck the roof and it collapsed.” He looked directly into my eyes and said with a tone of finality. “Rocky and Lisa are dead.”

Life in an extra-dimensional Supernatural Prison – Ch 21

Some People are more easily excited than others. Some are also known to break into hysterics if their pen breaks or one hair falls off their head (Stupid, huh?). Most of the people in the latter category obviously fall into the first too. For example, girls are more prone to breaking into tears on the sight of mice or vermin which is considered stupid; but they handle things like giving birth quite bravely where many men usually faint. But you come across many opportunities in your life when you just want to slap the next person due to their stupidity.

I was staring at Agnishikha’s swollen face and had a strong urge to either kill her or commit suicide. The way she was talking made me think that she only took into the numerical value of the time gap. Obviously 11,986 years was a long time for being trapped, but when you calculate the actual passed time in our world, it comes near to almost 98 years. And for an immortal, that is like no time at all. “Then what is the problem Agnishikha? We can have more time to plan and prepare for the time when we escape.” If we escape. Agnishikha blinked and looked at my face as if looking for the first time. She scanned me for a few second and then continued in the same flat, dead voice. “Are you a child Akshat? Or are you so stupid that you can’t count figures? One year is equal to three days! Don’t you get it?”

I had a strong urge to grab my hair and scream in frustration. I knew that the girl was scared half out of her wits, but this was intolerable. I barely caught myself from shaking her. “That is exactly what I am talking about. One year here is equal to three days in our dimension. So we aren’t losing much time!” I was shouting when I finished. Girls were good to look at, and they were beautiful too. But there was seldom any girl who was beautiful, and had at least an ounce of brain matter in her head. Agnishikha jerked back as if singed by my words and stared at me with her eyes as wide as biscuits. And then to infuriate me further, she assumed a scornful expression. Of all things to do, she stood to loom over me and planted her fists on her hips. “And you are telling me now? When I was scared to death that if we were able to return, nothing could have been done? Couldn’t a boy possess a gram of wits in his head?” She threw up her hands in exasperation and stalked off to her room banging the door behind her.

I was staring at the door with my mouth wide open. What was my fault if her dim brain couldn’t interpret a thing except for the numerals? Was it my fault that she had an empty brain? And of all things, she was accusing me? Girls were truly weird. I decided to leave her alone to sulk. It was quite a while since I had a chance for grooming myself so I trudged towards the shower. It was a nice experience after such a hectic day. I had barely had a chance to brush my teeth when we were summoned to Lord Varun in the morning and the trek through the forest had taken a toll on my hygiene. It was almost dark when I came out from the long soak and knocked at Agnishikha’s door.

She opened it wearing a bright red Kurti and black jeans. It was odd the way globalization had affected the preternatural community. The Hindus used to wear only traditional Indian clothing when interacting with other races. The 20th century brought about a huge change in the lives of our ancestors with the intermingling of different cultures. Many creatures from different pantheons started to explore other cultures and ways of life. Hinduism wasn’t unaffected. We received a lot of foreigners interested to know the Hindu way of life. Similarly, many of our people also went to explore other cultures. The result was a supernatural globalization. Now, the Indian subcontinent housed creatures from the Greek, Christian, Egypt, Cyprus, Celtic and many other pantheons. Few of them joined us, the rest of them wanted to only explore our way. We were certainly affected by their ‘exploration’ too, as we had already started into western culture in the mortal world. The desertion of Gods also didn’t encourage us towards keeping with only our way of life, and slowly and more slowly, we were trapped in the glorious event of modern globalization. It was true that we performed our holy ceremonies in our traditional ways, but our day to day life had a strong impression of western culture.

She stared blandly at my face, quite defiant in admitting her mistake about the time gap. I didn’t goad her to accept my point and said. “Let’s go visit Natasha. I have no idea what are we going to do here. And I definitely need some supplies since I don’t carry my closet in my handbag.” I didn’t wait for her reply and turned to walk away. She stood rooted to her place as if deciding between yelling at me or hitting my head, then slammed the door and briskly trotted up to walk beside me with her nose in air. I still had an impression of a strange kinship with her as I had felt upon our first encounter. I hoped it wasn’t some more complex mumbo-jumbo because I was truly tired of the problems of my life. Last week had been the most hectic thing one could have gone through, and I really didn’t like it.

“Do you have any idea what might have happened to Seth and others?” I asked in an attempt to bring down her temperament. Her expression softened for a moment and then she slumped. “I don’t know. I hate being helpless but that’s what we are. The most we can hope is that somehow they were able to teleport to either side during the collapse.” Her tone clearly suggested she wanted to believe so too. The fact that I had escaped and they could not made me feel the ‘survivor’s guilt’. But wait; wasn’t I trapped in a God’s prison? If they escaped then it meant they had a better fate than mine. I shook my head to clear the thoughts. I had only known them a few hours of my life. But it was as if they constituted a large fraction of me. It would have been nice to have a way to talk with them.

We approached the ground floor, which we knew by the enormous gateway on the front of the tower. It let through the only unaltered fading light and we were finally able to get out of the feeling of being underwater. The dim moonlight cut through the blue haze as a lighthouse does in the night and I instantly noticed Maya talking with a few boys at one of the waiting benches. We approached her and before I could have said anything, Agnishikha said. “Hey Maya. Do you have any idea what are we supposed to do next?” Her voice had a careful tinge in it which showed her caution as well as formality with her. The chatting stopped and all of them looked at us. Maya cleared her throat and introduced us. “Guys, meet our newest arrivals, Agnishikha and Akshat. And you guys meet your classmates Rachel, Kunal, Ileana and Utkarsh. You will be studying with them in the upcoming days.” They smiled and waved at us and I did the same with a nod. Maya continued. “As for what you would be doing, your command lies with the immortals, and you will shortly be joining your formal apprenticeship with them. As for now, you have to visit Ronan at the 8th floor and receive your lodging arrangements.”

I nodded and turned with Agnishikha to go to Ronan. There was no lift in the building and we walked up to the central staircase. The tower must have been made by engineering unknown to mankind because there was not any support to the stairs. The walk took us a short time while we walked in silence. Agnishikha’s demeanor had changed since coming here and I really thought that she was under some kind of pressure. Losing my friends was hard for me and Agnishikha had probably had more than a crush on Rocky. Lord Varun’s reason of destroying the veil was a mystery to me. It could not have been due to my disobedience because our imprisonment was a living proof of that. Had he joined Decain? It was definitely a possibility. But if that was so, we were as good as dead. We came upon a pair of giggling twins who were whispering something in the supply closet at the 8th floor’s landing. They tried to act sober when they noticed us and started towards the stairs. Agnishikha smiled and asked them. “Where can we find Ronan? Would you mind telling us?” They looked startled at being addressed and one of them giggled nervously. The other returned Agnishikha’s smile and told us to go to the third room in the next corridor. We left them as they broke into another bout of giggling and turned right. There were only a few people going about in the tower and it seemed almost deserted. On the third door a bronze plaque read ‘Second Authority – Fourth division’. On another, slightly newer plaque below it there was a single word in capitals ‘RONAN’. Below it, there was something scratched in a little smaller font. ‘The Cannon’. We shared a look and I knocked on the door twice.

“Come in!” The familiar voice of Ronan called us in. The room we stepped into was the perfect cross between bleakness, formality and aggressiveness. Ronan sat in a straight-backed leather chair with a gleaming wood table as a companion. It seemed to be crafted with a single piece of wood. How it was possible, I hadn’t had an idea. “I have been expecting you two for quite a while. I am amazed your curiosity died so quickly at the sight of a soft bed.” He was mocking us and I didn’t feel like being mocked. Before I could have a chance to retaliate, Agnishikha got a chance to release her pent up frustration “I would like to see you chased away by your own people and then being hunted by an immortal as you run towards a place you didn’t know existed, and on top of that if you make a god your enemy and get locked into a freaking prison dimension all in a span of 48 hours, then isn’t it fair to get at least a little sleep?” Amazingly, her shrieking didn’t crack the glass of the windows as she thumped her hand on the table in front of Ronan. His eyes were crinkling with amusement as he carefully brushed the paper plain which Agnishikha had crushed under her fist. She was breathing as hard as a raging bull and I thought better than to say anything.

Ronan eyed her intently and turned to me. “And do you have to say something as well?” His voice didn’t reveal even a hint of his familiarity with me. It was as if he didn’t even know me. I shrugged and said “Nope. I think I share the same feelings as her.” He nodded and then said to Agnishikha. “And that young lady; was the last thing you got to say without punishment. Starting now, I am your senior and you will be punished is you insult me, or any other senior.” He waited to look at us piercingly. I remained quiet and Agnishikha’s mouth was agape with the ineffectiveness of her shouting. Ronan plucked two booklets from his desk and threw them at us. “Here is the basic rules and guidelines’ booklet. You will be following each and every rule with utmost respect. It also contains the workings and history of our prison society so you better look at it too. And even after that if you have some doubts, ask one of your seniors. Any questions?” He finished with a clear note of dismissal.

The newfound alien instinct in me to retaliate at being cornered stirred and I asked impulsively, without giving much thought. “What is the purpose of all this? We aren’t getting out anytime soon. So why do we need to go through this apprenticeship and all this?” I was surprised by the amount of rebellion in my voice. Ronan eyed me with his brows raised. He clearly didn’t expect me to say anything. He sighed and stood up. He went to the window and waved his palm in front of it so that a square patch of underwater blue glass brightened and light permeated the room as if from the window of a sunken ship. “Almost every person here is uneducated in any type of particular skill. When the first immortal were imprisoned here, they devised a course of study to educate the prisoners in the art of survival and utilizing the aura. Their purpose was to find out something to fill the free part of prisoners’ time and to make them useful. They planned on creating an elite force of creatures from everywhere and to escape out of this prison. The first six immortals were all from six different pantheons. They all skimmed the best out of their knowledge and put it all together to create the best kind of training and education a being can receive.” He turned to face us. “We still plan the same with a few side aims as well. We use our study to create an elite force of warriors who are also the best in manipulating aura. As you can see, the population here is too large to survive only as weapons. You can find a lot of beings specialized in the art of creating food and other living necessities out of aura.” He paused to settle comfortably on his chair and continued. “So you must train yourself to be the best you can because we might get the chance to get out any moment now. Or perhaps never. But we are going to emerge as the most proficient army in the known universe.”

We were interrupted by a knock exactly at that time and Ronan called for the person to come in. He was a short, stocky boy with a well chiseled body which Maya had introduced to us. His biceps were as solid as rocks and his shoulders could have rivaled any wrestlers’. His skin was fair to the point of being pale which clashed profoundly with his jet black hair. The most noticeable thing in his face was his eyes – The color of sparkling blue. “You called me, Sir?” He asked Ronan in a casual way. There was a certain mischief in the way he carried himself that emanated an aura of adventure around him. “Yes. You must have heard about these two. Meet Akshat and Agnishikha.” He turned to us and continued. “This is Utkarsh and he will escort you to your cabins in the apprentice section. You may leave.”

Agnishikha opened her mouth as if to say something but stopped mid way and stalked off the room. I shared a confused glance with Utkarsh and we followed her after a brief nod to Ronan. As we came out into the corridor, Agnishikha was muttering imperiously standing to a little side. “We should leave her alone. She has been at boiling point since the morning. BY the way, Nice to meet you.” I said to Utkarsh as we marched to Agnishikha. Utkarsh stole a quick glance at her and furtively increased his face to keep a little ahead. “So, you guys had a little bit of trouble with the slaves, as I have heard. Is that right?” He asked me to break the uncomfortable silence. As with all extra dimensional places, I didn’t need to know his tongue to understand what he was saying. I sighed and replied “Not so much. But yeah, it was a lot confusing at the moment. But that fellow cleared our doubts before they could havr appeared with his offer to carry our heads on plates to Lord Varun.” Utkarsh looked at me as if puzzled. He asked “They actually told you their motives? I was half on my way to their city when I found out what they were planning. I was lucky to escape with all my body parts intact.”

My doubts were cleared instantly about what I had guessed about him. There was a crazy light in his eyes as he talked about how he escaped with the help of his boon granted by Lord Hanuman. Utkarsh definitely had a liking for adrenaline infused adventure, and his enthusiasm about it made me think he was on the verge of craziness too. I kept making idle conversation with him as he led us to the 3rd floor and pointed out the boys’ and the girls’ sections to me and Agnishikha. She stalked off towards the girls’ section and He followed me into the boys’. Just as Agnishikha was turning to go into her section, Utkarsh leapt into the corridor and yelled. “Hey girl!” This brought her attention on him directly and he continued without a single thought. “Please comb your hair next time when you march into official meetings. It looks like the tail of a skunk!”

My mouth was open as I watched him laughing with mirth as he clapped on my back. Agnishikha must have broken through her shock because I heard her cursing a long time before she came on the head of corridor. Just as she was coming up on us with her teeth in a ferocious snarl, she hit a boundary of invisibility and bounced back. At this point Utkarsh was rolling on the floor in laughter and Agnishikha’s cursing grew vile to the point of hurting ears. She saw the futility of her ramblings after a few minutes and stood glaring at me as if it was my fault. “I am going to kill you.” She said in a deadly calm voice and turned to walk back towards the girls’ side.

Utkarsh had somehow managed to stand up and was grinning foolishly at her retreating back. “You, my friend are in big trouble.” I said to him and his grin widened if possible. “Don’t worry man. Girls or Boys can’t go into each others’ sections. So chill out and have fun.” He clasped my shoulder and led us to a small door on the far side of the corridor just like the twenty others. He opened it with a gesture at the lock and we stepped inside. It was a square room with the side width of about 10 feet and there was a bed, a pair of chair and table, a closet and what appeared to be a weapons’ rack as furniture. All was dyed gray, or looked gray in the blue light of the underwater tower. He slumped on the bed and sighed heavily. “You never told me. Did you really refuse heaven to Lord Varun to get here?” He asked me as I sat on the chair. That was definitely something I didn’t wanted to discuss. So I tried to evade the topic. “Yes. He came to us ordering like we were his slaves or something and I didn’t like his manners. What if he is a God? We also have self respect.” I shrugged and turned to him. “How did you end up here? And when?”

A wide smile again broke up on his face. He said “You will have to hear the full story then.” Seeing my nod he continued “I was born in Ireland in a small town. My parents didn’t have any relatives and the local populace despised them for some reason. I didn’t get to play with anyone my age, and so I started wandering off into the woods alone. I felt peculiarly aware of the animals. Once I spotted a little monkey trapped in a thorn bush and I couldn’t get him out. Out of frustration, I commanded the bush to move aside and it did. That was the start of my exploration into my abilities. I told my parents and they seemed very happy. My grandpa too had the same kind of abilities and that was the reason for the hate of townspeople for us.” He smiled deviously and said in a evil voice. “You are generally afraid of things you don’t know about.” With a laugh at my startled look, he continued.

“I continued exploring my abilities in the woods and one such evening when I was lifting a boulder the size of a house with my left hand, a procession of the local priests saw me. I was barely 10 years old and they fled on my sight. I immediately returned to my house but didn’t tell my parents about the incident. As was my habit, I went to sleep in a little storeroom built on the outskirts of the woods. At midnight, I was raised by cries and shouts. I peeked out and was greeted by the sights of two bodies burning on crucifix and my house ablaze. There were about 150 men shouting curses and mumbling prayers there and I wept while I hid. It was morning when I was awoken by my neighbor. She was a kind Indian woman who had come to Ireland for a couple of years with her husband. I was afraid that she was going to burn me too, but she took me to her house and fed me while I cried. The priests had removed the bodies and had deposited them in a lake in the woods.

“The lady helped me hide for a month, then she managed to smuggle me with her when she returned to India. She went all the way in ships so I could hide more easily. With my abilities it was fairly simple. So I came to India and immediately fell in love with Hinduism. I felt a strange bias towards lord Hanuman and devoted myself to his way of life. He met in one of my dreams and blessed me with a boon. That was how I came face to face with a devotee of Lord Varun. It was my bad luck that when I was having a little fun with her, Lord Varun passed by and I ended up here. That’s the soul of the story.” He finished with a glorious bow.

I stared at his smiling face and thought about his terrible past. But wasn’t it too late for witch burnings? I frowned and asked him. “And when did you come here?” As usual, his grin widened and he said dramatically. “I’ve been here for 10 years.” I performed a calculation in my mind. If he was here for 10 years, then it meant the time passed in the living world was… a month? I sighed in relief but his grin grew wicked. “Don’t feel relieved my boy. I am senior to you by 10 years. You might want to start thinking about obeying orders.” I looked at him to see if he was joking. My face grew slack as I noticed his wicked grin. Then he burst out laughing. “You are such a sissy. Come on man. I was just joking. This is going to be your room, and the first in the corridor is the warden’s. Feel free to get your clothes and uniforms from him any time you want. My room is the fourth to your left. Get comfortable and meet me in two hours for your tour & dinner.” With a salute he got up and left the room.

I was certain. He was definitely crazy. It was going to be an interesting stay.

 

 

Technology and the Ramayana

  Ramayana is an epic narrated by Maharishi Valmiki. It follows the adventures of Lord Ram and his family in his conquest to defeat the Asura King Raavana to get his wife back and the creation of his ideal society. Ramayana depicts idealism. Every character, every incident is ideal. It has tried to show how […]

An immortal is a celebrity. Any doubts? – Ch 19

Life is full of variables and constraints. A single small decision can change your whole future or you might try to change it for years and nothing will happen. The chances and occurrences are random enough in a normal person’s life. But when you are a part of a community consisting of preternatural beings from vampires and ghosts to gods themselves, a blink of an eye can make your life turn upside down.

I was staring at Vaul and Ronan. Maya was pressed to the window as if afraid of touching Natasha. The effect of her exclamation only just sank in Agnishikha’s mind. She quickly stiffened and her lips went tight with eyes shooting sparks at Vaul. Before I could have said anything, Ronan assessed the environment in the car and hurriedly said. “Please don’t misinterpret it. It is not what you are thinking. We really cannot escort… Natasha in this car.” His eyes were wide with desperation and I knew the reason. If Natasha got angry enough, then no one was safe in her vicinity. Ronan quickly looked at Maya for support and she straightened in effort to have a little dignity. Her eyes were pleading when she said “Please forgive us Devi. We were unaware of your stature. I shall immediately provide an escort worthy for an immortal.”

Agnishikha and I gaped open-mouthed at her from the use of the formal word ‘Devi’ for addressing great women and goddesses. The gods had long since deserted us due to the start of Kaliyuga and such formalities were dwindling with time. There used to be a period when gods walked among humans in the Satayuga. Gods could be met with worshiping and meditation in the Tretayuga. the Dwaparyuga required grand ceremonies and  the best priests to even steal a glance of a god. And now in the Kaliyuga, the only way to see a god in person for a common man was to go under tapasya. The preternatural community was still graced with the appearance of a god once or twice in a decade, but for all the others seeing a god was impossible. So hearing a word only used in the ancient times was as much a shock as their proclamation was.

Natasha surely noticed our gaping jaws and took the reins in her hands. She smiled at Maya and said. “Don’t be a fool. I’m more than comfortable in this vehicle. Please don’t waste time in calling out for another one.” Her words were for Ronan as well as for Vaul. Maya glanced uncertainly at Ronan for direction. She nodded when Ronan jerked and slid out of the car. Agnishikha groaned and muttered something about ‘pompous’ and ‘show off’ with some words not meant to be uttered from a lady’s mouth. Natasha rolled her eyes but followed Maya and I went out of the car at the same time Vaul did. Ronan was saying something to Maya who was nodding enthusiastically. Vaul strode towards Natasha and prostrated in a formal sashtang dndawat; the most formal namaste. Natasha looked pleased but hastily helped Vaul up on to his feet. There was a peculiar tugging at my aura as if someone was touching an artifact kept in an air-tight box from the outside. It was a brush of aura being used and I realized that the god part of the aura was being used. I turned to face the SUV and my jaw dropped open from what I saw.

There was a shimmering pool of sparkles surrounding the car like a haze and everything was blurry and wavering inside the cloak of sparkles. both silver and gold sparkles surrounded the vehicle which looked as if it was inside a pool of water. Slowly the hulk of the car was all I could see and by the silence around me, Natasha and Agnishikha were busy ogling it too. Somehow I made it out that the silver sparkles were being led by the gold ones as if the silver provided bulk and the golden guided them. The car was merely a red patch amidst the sparkly haze. I thought I watched the car lengthen; or it was my mind playing tricks? The height was getting less too. Slowly a part of metal separated from the bulk and started elongating and compressing weirdly. It was too hazy to look anything clearly. But the coarse thing I saw was that the SUV was divided into two different parts. One small and one large. The disfiguring went on for a few minutes and now all I could see was two red shapes through the haze.

Suddenly all the sparkles seemed to form an opaque wall and everything was blocked from view. Then with a flash as bright as a 1000 watt lamp, the field bulged outwards and I turned to cover my eyes. I was aware of the aura dissipating behind me and I squinted to get the violet spot off my vision. A few sparkles still fizzled here and there but what I saw in the middle made my jaw drop further if possible. There was a limo in all its glory with an off-road bike at its side. Both vehicles were blood-red and the limousine was equipped with off-road wheels and what appeared to be hydraulics. The bike was a simple one with deeply grooved tires. Ronan and Maya walked towards us, beaming. Maya had a sheen of sweat covering her face and there was a slight swaying when she stood upright. But her eyes told she was proud of her work.

“Devi, please allow us to escort you to your proper vehicle. Maya shall take your companions separately.” Ronan said with another namaste. Natasha glanced at me and Agnishikha and nodded to herself. “Agnishikha here will ride with me if you don’t mind. Akshat shall accompany Maya.” Natasha said with a cold look at me. She  was truly being childish. I had taken authority despite of being her shishya and she was now taking a chance to ride in a Limo from me as a punishment. It was also a great loss to not hear the ‘how’ of making such changes to material.

Agnishikha smirked at me and strode to the Limo with Natasha and Vaul. I was left with Maya as we watched them depart. Vaul’s driving didn’t change a bit despite of the Limo which went straight ahead tramping a bush as high as my waist. I kept staring at the residue sparkles the vehicle left for a little while even after it left.

A cough brought me back to the present and I realized that the bike was the vehicle left for me and Maya. She was looking pointedly at me and I glanced nervously between her and the bike. Remembering her encounter with me in my attempt to make idle talk made me fidget a little. She harrumphed and almost snarled at me. “Are you going to wait here whole day? Don’t you have the decency to not keep a girl waiting for long?” Her voice was as cold as her eyes at me. I again looked at the bike and considered the possibility of her at my back with me having no protection against her. The  thought brought an involuntary shudder and I asked her. “Can’t you drive? I don’t even know the way.”

My meek voice had the exact opposite effect of what I had thought. If looks could have killed, I would have been lying dead in uncountable pieces. Her stare decided everything and I strode to the bike. The key was already in there and I dragged it across the bushes to her. I sat and started the bike and the engine growled as a ravaging bear. Maya seemed to be pleased with my obvious amazement at the bike. That look was only momentary as she noticed me sitting waiting for her. “Don’t you dare break hard reaper. Or you shall regret even putting your hands on the lever.” She said in an utterly calm voice. Then she stalked towards the bike and jumped to sit behind me. I slid as far on the tank as I could and let her have all the sitting space. She didn’t even touch any part of my body and grabbed the seat with both hands instead. I shifted to bike into gear and it shot off through the dense bushes.

Maya gave a startled yelp and grabbed my waist as hard as she could. All her frostiness was gone as she clung to me desperately. I didn’t let the bike speed past 30, but the uneven terrain made the ride a roller-coaster. The dirt road was nowhere in sight so I was forced to follow the destruction left by Vaul’s driving. Girls were odd. Very odd. Agnishikha had slapped me when I accidentally locked both of us in a dog crate, and had smothered me with a whole lot of curses appropriate for a street thug. Then she became my friend and behaved like a school kid. Maya was also a little… peculiar. She didn’t even look at me without scowling, and now she was wrapped around my middle like an octopus. I was sure she would point it out as a ‘demand of situation’ later, and would act as nothing ever happened.

“Take the right trough here!” Maya shouted in my ear when we rode down another hill. The trampled grass left by the limo went straight ahead but I took her word for true and turned the bike right. After a few hundred meters, the dirt road came in our view and now I was driving steadily on a smoother, safer road. Maya slackened her grip a little and said in my ear again. “If you are trying to goad me into letting you drive faster, you are certainly being unsuccessful. Try harder.” She shifted a little and now she holding me with her hands on my shoulders. I was doing what? She didn’t make sense at all! Why would I try to go fast when she told me not to break too hard? Couldn’t she have told me exactly what she wanted? Well… Girls never say something straight. they have to make the simplest things complex.

The steady drone of the bike lulled me into my worries. I had been ignoring them for a lot of time. My friends, the veil, and what about the IRC? Had it also gone to Decain? I knew a few reapers who could have died instead of following such a person. But when even gods were allied to him, how much chance a reaper had? I had thought the veil was safe. But bad luck seem to really go with me and spread to the places I went and to the people I met. There was a large number of creatures whose alliances were still unknown. The Weres liked to keep out of the troubles of immortals. But I couldn’t help thinking about the pup I had met at the MP’s place; his son. Did I really left bad luck where I went? I had no idea.

Shaking my head to clear it, I increased the speed a bit and relaxed when Maya didn’t say anything. The road went through mostly low hills and sparse woods. I kept driving and after two or three hours, I met the sign of habitation. A stout stone house sat beside the road. A few men and women were standing guard with strange assortment of weapons. Some had pistols or rifles, and a few had swords and bows. Maya waved at them and they let us pass. She had been quiet for the whole of the journey. I tried to look at her in the rear view mirror, but couldn’t get her face into it.

There was a slight commotion a little ahead of us. A lot of people were gathered and I could hear shouts and cheers. A few were also chanting while others tried to climb over others to get to the center. The crowd thinned for a moment and a bright red limo came into my view. It was still a few hundred meters further, but I could see into the center due to the slight elevated ground on which the bike was. All of them were cheering loudly for someone. Their gestures were full of joy and happiness. And in the center of the crowd, standing on the roof of limo, waving to the people, was Natasha.

Read the full story here.

A merry ride with a Demon, Dwarf and a Princess in an SUV – Ch 18

Many prisons have special accommodations for special criminals. Most of the special prisoners are either highly dangerous or too important to be left among the others. But if one of the ‘criminals’ has not committed any crime except offending the jailor, or all of the ‘criminals’ are held for that same ‘crime’, then it becomes a bit complex to provide luxuries.

I had seen a little bit of Lord Varun’s dimension and there was nothing except wilderness around the path we were traveling. There wasn’t even a sign of a village or any kind of human habitation at all. It was a little bizarre for my taste since I had grown up in the huge, densely populated plains of North India, where an orchard of about 1000 mango trees  was the biggest chunk of vegetation that I could have called a ‘forest’. It had been half an hour of walking since I spotted a flat part of the forest floor large enough to lie down. So it was a relief for me when the trees started thinning and we were greeted by a sudden end to the forest.

The land rose and my view was blocked at the crest of a hill about two miles ahead. The forest stretched to our left and right to the foot of mountains on one side and perhaps water at the other. It was as if someone had taken a ruler and had sketched down the line which was the border of the forest. Probably it was exactly the case. Lord Varun was very neat in drawing the boundaries. Ronan was waiting for us near the foot of the hill with that demon girl. The ladies emerged from the forest muttering angrily with their hair full of twigs and leaves. It was amazing that the forest had left so much of its impression on them while Ronan was as fresh as ever. I looked at my clothes and was content that my clothes didn’t look like a result of wrestling with a tree man.

“If it had been a minute longer, the forest would be burning now.” Agnishikha muttered while stamping through the last bushes. Natasha was in a similar mood and I kept my mouth shut while trotting towards Ronan. He was talking with that girl and both of them fell silent on our approach. The girl stole glances at Natasha while trying to hide it without much success. I was certain her 12 year old appearance had to do a lot with it. “What now? How are we moving further?” Agnishikha asked Ronan, trying to straighten her clothes and snag her hair out of the mess it was. He glanced at the demon girl who nodded and turned towards the hill. “Any moment now. Just wait.” Ronan replied without looking at her. Natasha sighed and tried to pry apart her pink hair with telekinesis. The demon looked at us sharply and her eyes widened after knowing who was using the aura. She opened her mouth to say something but was interrupted as a loud rumble sounded and an SUV soared up from the hill’s crest.

We stared in awe as the bright red vehicle bounded towards us. Rocks and shrubs seemed not to matter to its driver who kept rolling the monster over them. With a loud squealing of tires and squelch of freshly dug soil, it lurched to the left and came to a sliding halt pointing towards the direction it had come. The door banged open and a huge belly preceded the fattest man I had ever seen and probably the shortest too. He barely came up to my chest and was as thick as his width. His face was wrinkled with a worried frown with his eyes on Natasha. I seriously needed to talk to her. She wasn’t behaving even a bit like a kid. The lost look on her face hinted her deep in solving calculus problems, as I thought.

“All well, Vaul?” Ronan asked him casually. The fat man nodded absently and replied. “Trista passed her apprenticeship today. She created a glass full of petrol from 14 sugar-canes. She also created a void as big as my closet. Your arrival is awaited.” He ended with a stiff back. Ronan smiled and turned to us. “Please feel free to choose any seat except the shotgun.” The wave of his arm invited us onwards and we dragged ourselves into the vehicle. I shared the rear with no one while Agnishikha, Natasha and the other demon girl settled in the middle. We shot forward just as Ronan slammed his door shut.

Vaul liked to drive off-road and he never wavered from the straight line we were moving on. A hard packed dirt road curved with us to the right bypassing the hills but Vaul leaped straight over them. “Are any of you an Apprentice?” The demon girl asked in an attempt to start a conversation. She was a little hesitant in asking the question and somehow I knew there was a capital “A” in Apprentice. Agnishikha, being full on volatile for strangers, snapped at her. “Apprentice? Whose? In what?” She truly had no idea how to behave with strangers. I sighed heavily. I had tried to get her attention but catching an eye is not easy from behind. Natasha sniffed and replied to the girl. “None of them had ever had a chance to go through it. Tomorrow was going to be their first lesson of apprenticeship.” The girl looked startled to hear the answer from a 12-year-old kid. Natasha really needed to work her character out. The girl fell quiet after that.

I was hardly able to sit straight as the SUV jumped over rocks and trenches and skidded through mud and shallow ponds. Vaul truly had no intention of leaving his straight line. Agnishikha grumbled about not knowing anything and the demon girl stole curious glances at her. I really didn’t like the silence. “I still don’t know your name.” I tried to cheerfully talk to the girl. She slowly turned to face me and replied after studying my face for a moment. “I am Maya. And no need to introduce yourselves. I know it all.” She smirked and turned her back to me. It was truly peculiar the way girls behaved. You could offend them by just looking or you could make their day by smiling at them.

I settled back and tried to divert my mind from what was happening. My life had really turned upside down. Seth, Lisa, Rocky, Liam, Dean Branat and all those people in the veil were probably dead. Or worse. Only because I had refused Lord Varun. It was truly amazing how quickly my mind adjusted to the things going on. A few days ago, going to Atlantis was the biggest of my concerns. It turned to doing good in the Hell Academy and to help my friends when I was in the veil. And now what I wanted most was to escape this prison and try to help gather the lost part of Kalki’s soul. The thought of leaving all this mambo-jumbo never even came close to my mind. It was my life. And leaving the preternatural community was not something I wanted to do. However hard it was to survive or be happy, but It was my life.

“What is an Apprentice, Natasha?” I asked her without giving a thought to what the other people would think. It was not everyday when an adult asked a kid for advice. Maya and Agnishikha both turned to face us and I was clearly able to see Ronan’s eyes at me from the rear view mirror. Surprisingly Vaul kept his full attention on the road.Natasha sighed heavily and shifted to face me slightly. “Every godling has to learn controlling the part of the godlike aura in his body. Everyone has his special talent too, but they learn a complete different sort of ethe… use of aura. It becomes more than a second nature to use aura afterwards for them. Apprenticeship is the first step in that education. All preternatural beings having heavenly aura are eligible to learn it.” She quickly burrowed her head into her chest after speaking and fell silent. She had stopped halfway in speaking that word and seemed flustered by it. It rang something in my head but the word didn’t come into my mind.

Ronan loudly cleared his throat and asked hesitantly. “Um… Akshat? Will you please explain why am I sensing an immortal’s aura inside the vehicle?” His eyes searched questioningly over Natasha and Agnishikha. It was nice to know that he asked me except any of the others. Agnishikha was clearly on edge and his speaking to me drove her off it. “That is because Natasha is an immortal you fool!” Agnishikha’s voice carried all her frustration in one go. Ronan turned in his seat to look at me. His face clearly showed that he thought Agnishikha was joking. Maya was also looking at me waiting to hear some sort of explanation. But when they saw my expression and knew it to be true, their eyes widened to the point of obscuring their whole faces. Maya’s jaw was hanging open and Ronan had his face as white as marble.

At that exact moment Vaul stamped on the break and the car slid to a halt. Slowly he turned completely back and said in a pained voice. “Then I am afraid I cannot take you any further.”

Gods also have toys – Us – Ch 17

Consider a situation when you are a fish and are trapped in a fishbowl by a person who might break the bowl, pour out the water, snatch you out of the bowl, forgot to feed you for who knows how long or simply flush you into the toilet. And if that person likes you as much as a worm in his undies, It goes even better. The condition was not much different for me as I was trapped by Lord Varun in a dimension created by his will, and I was not much more than a plaything for him.

We all jumped to stare at the man who had appeared out of nowhere and was standing as lax as if he was in his backyard. Before we could have said anything to him, there was a rustle of leaves followed by a thump on the other side of the clearing and we turned to find another man growling at the first. “You shall not touch a hair on their bodies while I am alive, slave.” The last word flew out of his mouth as a curse and he spat at his feet. He was hardly old enough to be called a man but held a shotgun with apparent ease which told us that he had used it quite often.

There were sounds of leaves shifting and thumps all around us as more people appeared out of the dense foliage to accompany the two. There were clearly divided into two groups. The first two men who had shown themselves to us were not the leaders. The man demanding our heads was standing behind a stocky one. He was well built and carried an AK 47 at his shoulder. The second man to reveal himself also stood behind someone certainly neck to neck with the leader of the first group; at least physically. He carried a pair of revolvers on his thighs with hands ready to take them out at any moment. All of them were armed in some way. Their weapons ranged from a Swiss army knife to swords and gyns to a bazooka. Surprisingly all of them appeared to be bored, if not relaxed. The presence of so many weapons was no big deal for them.

“What do you want?” Agnishikha snarled at them while sliding into a defensive crouch and trying to face both the groups at once. Natasha studied them with a frown on her face. I was wondering what to do myself. The leader of the first group smirked and spat at the ground besides him. “Didn’t you hear girl? We would be obliged to take your heads to Lord Varun if what I heard you speak is true. You disgust the creators who gave us life and everything we have. I have nothing to do with your sort. Unless you want to start a war against Lord Varun himself?” There was a mad glint in his eyes as he asked and hoped for the affirmative. Agnishikha was about to shoot back a fiery retort at him but Natasha grabbed her hand and jerked her to a halt. She shook her head slightly and looked at me pointedly. If we opposed openly against Lord Varun at that moment, We were sure to be hit by at least one of the shots going off from one of the groups.

“I knew it the moment you appeared here. You are all cowards but can’t accept the Lord’s grace. I can’t stand your sight anymore.” The man spat again and turned to walk briskly away. The one who had showed himself first looked at us with a mixture of hatred and disgust on his face and turned to follow his retreating group. I didn’t relax until they were long out of sight and then turned to face the other group. Some of them had also left and the rest were looking at us. “What do you want?” Natasha asked them in plain exasperation. They looked puzzled to find a child talking in such a way. The leader stiffened and said. “I don’t think you are fans of Lord Varun or have stumbled upon this dimension accidentally?” He had a no-nonsense tone of voice and his demeanor was almost pompous. I didn’t let any of the ladies to blast him with the flaming furnaces of their speech and replied quickly. “No. You were eavesdropping at us from the moment we appeared, I presume? So you must have guessed we are trapped here. The way you behaved clearly showed that the other group was a devotee of Lord Varun. Will you please tell us what is going on here? And why are those devotees of Lord Varun trapped here as well?”

The leader blinked and turned his stare at me. The girls were shooting daggers and I had clearly interrupted what they took to be their right – to talk. The leader cleared his throat and said. “I am Ronan. Ronan Pierce. For the moment know this much that we are prisoners here the same way as you are. Accompany us and you shall be told what is all this about.” He motioned the rest of his group to leave and all left immediately, except one girl standing on the fringe of the meadow. She was a demon by her aura and a young one at that. Natasha was about to say something when Agnishikha strode forward and cocked her hip in an ignorant pose. “How do we know you are not pawns of Lord Varun and mean us no harm?” The way she talked was a clear imitation of her badass behavior. She was trying to intimidate Ronan. Her mouth slacked open when he replied “You Don’t.” And turned to retreat slowly.

I didn’t want to miss the chance of knowing more and he was certainly better than the other group who wanted to skewer us given the first chance. I grabbed Natasha by her hand and she shot me a frown, but didn’t resist as I trotted to join Ronan. He was deliberately walking slow to let us catch up. Agnishikha stood gaping at us for more than a few seconds and followed us stumbling shortly after. We all were together by the time we reached the trees. The demon girl nodded to Ronan and turned to vanish into the dense foliage bounding. “I’m Akshat. This is Natasha and Agnishikha.” I told Ronan and he acknowledged us with formal nods. He frowned at Natasha again but kept his mouth quiet. Agnishikha was muttering under her breath and I caught a few words as “dumb”, “mule” and “insolent”. Ronan didn’t pay her any attention at all.

“Why are you here? If I may know.” He asked politely. The pompousness was present ever so slightly but I ignored it and replied. “We denied heaven in Lord Varun’s face.” I pointed at Agnishikha and me. “And she helped us escape. Only that she accidentally let Lord Varun guide the teleportation to end us here” I said nodding at Natasha, who seemed lost in her thoughts. Ronan was staring at Natasha as if seeing her for the first time. If a 12 year old girl stood up to a god, I would definitely be staring. “You must’ve had strong reasons to deny heaven in a god’s face. Well… None of that is for now.” He gave his head a slight shake and continued through the forest. Agnishikha was quite for so much time that when she spoke in a normal tone it was startling. “Is there an end to this forest? Where are we going?” She had an almost normal tone. Almost. Ronan glanced at her and said “We will walk for another hour. Then it would take about 3 more to get to our destination. The city Heandash.

A city? Never could have I guessed that Lord Varun would create a city for his prisoners.