RETURN TO THE PALACE
Aarav was staring at the sight of the palace . It was shining bright in the sunlight . Never for a second had he thought that he would ever come back here. But how will he face them? His clanmates?
“Come on now , enough staring. And by the way , take this....” Master Ashwa handed him a mask .
It was triple coloured , most of it was grey , and the remaining was white and black .
“Well , if u have the courage to face your old clanmates , then go on , just throw the mask away.”
He pulled the mask over his face , and also the cloak that he had brought in the land of the sun .He was looking like a vigilante. Even Master Ashwa had pulled his mask over his face.
“The third coin is here?”
“Yes, its in the Mauryan treasury.”
“So...should we rob it?”
“No, idiot . The queen has proposed a deal and in return we’ll have the coin .”
“What deal ? And aren’t you a criminal in their eyes?”
“Sure i am , what do you think? The queen wants me arrested? Not at all boy , you on your own can take down her army . Just think what i can do. She isn’t stupid . Now enough talk , lets go.”
Aarav followed him inside the huge city . When they reached the market place , they slowed down and had breakfast . Then they again walked all their way towards the palace .
“Hey , old man , what will you say when the queen asks about me ?”
“I’ll tell that you are my apprentice, as simple as that.”
People were giving stares at them , especially at Master Ashwa , a group of people started shouting
‘Hail The blade!’ ‘Blade rules!’ .
The old man waved at them , and headed back . Some girls , small and adults came to take his autograph on a piece of parchment.
Finally they reached the huge entrance gate of the palace . At the guard post , Master Ashwa handed them an envelope with the Maurya sigil , a wheel with 24 spikes , known commonly as the Ashoka Chakra, on it.
For a moment the guards stood staring at him , then finally by a carriage they reached the palace main door . A woman , who Aarav recognized as one of the women who had helped him while he was at stay in the palace , was waiting for them . She bowed and asked to follow.
Inside , she took them to a room , that looked like the newly built throne room , as the earlier one was destroyed . She asked them to wait and went in , and came back saying the queen was ready to see them.
Aarav followed Blade and saw that the queen was waiting for them on her throne , beautiful as ever , and Aarav just couldn't help but wonder how much Reva resembled her . She saw them and gave a weird smile .
“I wasn’t hoping you would really come , Blade.” She said in a mocking tone.
“When the queen orders , the citizen follows. ”
“Would you prefer to wear the masks all the time?” She said eying Aarav.“And who is this?”
“This is my apprentice . And as the masks, we will be wearing them .”
“Very well , then , have a seat .”
They sat and then the queen began ,
“I’ll come straight to the point . All i want is the seventh incarnation back. Can you bring her back to me?”
Bloody hell , why does she need me ? Aarav thought , then remembered that according to these people , Shiba was the one , and even he hoped that he shouldn’t be the seventh.
“I hope you are talking about the girl that was abducted around a year ago?” Blade asked.
“Yes , Lord Hector , the commander of the elite force of the Phoenix abducted her and we need her back , full and alive . And as for your end of the bargain , we have no problem in giving you that coin you asked . So , I suppose its a fair deal?”
“Yes , your highness . But the thing is , i wouldn’t be helping you , my apprentice will .He will bring back the seventh incarnation ...”
Aarav knew this was coming . He didn’t care about the sword of silver or about the third coin , all he wanted was to finally bring Shiba back and some way , he didn't know how , but meet his real mom.
“But is your so called apprentice good enough?”
“I am pretty sure he’ll be more than enough ...”
“But , Blade , i’m warning you, if the mission is a failure , you won't get your end of the deal either ...”
“But my lady , i’ve already told you , that i need the coin first . That was the deal, well sure enough if the Mauryan treasury cannot spare a normal coin , then well , i don't have a problem in taking it later on.”
The queen’s face flushed , and Aarav felt Blade had hit the mark .
She said ,“The Mauryan treasury has enough gold and riches to feed 10 more generations of half the kingdom . I will see to it that by today the coin will be in your hands.”
“Well then , i guess that’s my cue. For all the further planning , my apprentice will take care of it.”
“Okay , so till the mission is over , i suppose you will have to stay in the palace itself ...” The queen said looking at Aarav . She clapped twice , and three women appeared out of thin air . She said ,
“See to it that our guest is well taken care of...”
They nodded and asked Aarav to follow . Aarav and Blade bowed to the queen and took leave .
The women were walking ahead of them , while Blade and Aarav were following them.
“Looks like this is good bye.” Blade said pulling his mask away,“All i want to say , is that your journey ahead is difficult , and try not to die . I have thought you all i could , and i expect you to always stay on the right path. Protect and defend the weak , protect your loved ones at all cost . ” He smiled and Aarav saw his eyes moisten .
Aarav touched his feet as a respect and Ashwa blessed him . He said ,
" From now you’re on your own and I cannot help you any further. Good bye , son.”
“But what after i get all the pieces of the sword ? What should i do?”
“I told you , you’re on your own . Find your answers by yourself , and remember one thing in life ,
If a person is strong and brave , people only remember him , but if someone is kind enough , people worship him..."
He smiled one last time and...
“What did i do now ?” Aarav asked him rubbing his scalp.
“Nothing , just a parting gift.”
Aarav had really grown so fond of the old man, he had never even imagined he would leave his side . He had thought that he’d be his sidekick , and enjoy the life of a vigilante . But then again , he remembered why he had went to him in the first place , Shiba .
And he was now officially doing it , all thanks to the same guy who had trained him and saved him so any times.
He smiled once again , and placed a hand on his head and in the blink of an eye he was gone. He thought whether he would ever meet him again .
“Ser , please follow us...” Said one of the women.
He followed them through the steps , he remembered when he had been in the palace the last time . The steps had given him the whole palace tour , and dumped him in the old woman’s room , who had cried and said,
“Kill her!” That still gave him the creeps.
They reached the room and the women bowed , the same woman said,
“All the arrangements are done as you would like. If you need anything just ring this bell...” She said handing him a bell.“And if u need , we can send women for bathing and massage ...”
“No, no, i can bathe by for myself.” He said awkwardly .
For a moment he thought that the woman had recognized him , as she looked straight into his eye. But he ignored it .
She continued ,
“In the afternoon , after lunch , the assigned team will be holding a meeting for planning of the mission , the queen requests you to be there.”
Aarav agreed and headed inside the room . And this was just like the room he had stayed before . A large king-sized bed in the centre , a large chandelier hanging , large windows viewing the whole lawn of the palace , a bathing room at the corner , and a small changing room at the other end.
He removed his mask and cloak and placed them beside the bed-table , and was asleep the moment he fell on the soft bed. He hadn’t had a sleep on a soft bed for almost a year now .
And as every other day , this too was a sleep full of dreams , the same dreams.
A dark corridor where he would run after Shiba , and she would say,
“You promised but didn’t save me...”
She would change into the woman similar looking to his mother , before he could stop her , bars fell out and she weeped ,“Save me!”
Then she would change to his ‘dream-love’ Shubhanka , who’d say
“I always loved you...but i was born for this!” He felt her hot lips on his , then with her flaming hands she would stab him in his chest , for which he would lay wide awake.
He remained on the bed for some more time , then he got up and had a cold water shower . He wore his mask, his cloak and his bracelet and headed downstairs , he refused the lunch though he was hungry, as he would have to reveal his face . So instead , he had eaten the fruits in the room , and headed to the place where he was going to meet his team for the mission .
He cautiously went through the steps , remembering not to get lost , and headed to the weaponry where the planning was to be done. He entered and saw that he was early . The room was empty except for one person looking at the table where the maps were laid open.
He adjusted his mask and went to face the highly well built man , and to Aarav’s surprise , it was none other than Megha’s brother , the commander of the Mauryan Army himself.
He turned and gave a smile , or rather tried to . And shook hands with Aarav . He said,
“How old are you?”
“Well , you have quite rough hands for an 18 year old. By the way , i’m Shreyas , commander of the Mauryan army . Nice to meet you!“He said in his cheerful tone. Aarav observed that the Commander had the same brown eyes as Megha's and a similar face too.
“Call me A as we don't go with names , nice to meet you too...”
He gave an awkward smile and nodded . “Looks like we will have to wait for the others, A. Till then , have a look at the map if you want.”
Aarav saw the map , and it showed the path between Mauryan and Phoenix empires , it was a rather long route , Aarav saw . They had to go westwards , there was a forest in the middle , a huge lake , and then the kingdom of Phoenix , and at the end there was a weird shaped symbol written T.
“What’s this?” Aarav asked pointing at the symbol T.
“Its known as the Trident . A high security prison . ”
“Why is it marked outside the borders? Isn't it included in the borders of the Phoenix?”
“Actually , no . It isn’t in the borders . The normal criminals are kept in the respective kingdoms , but in the Trident , the criminals who are dangerous for the entire Black world are kept. They are guarded by guards without armours , though a bit stupid.”
“You know alot.”
“I do, and i have to . Looks like they’re here...“He said turning towards the door . Aarav turned too , and his heart almost skipped a beat .
Standing in front of him , were 4 people . A huge guy with a black mace , a girl with nun-chucks , a boy with an eye-patch , and the last one...a gorgeous girl , who was the reason for his heart to skip a beat.
They were none other than his clanmates , whom he had once abandoned.