Both their guard dogs were lying in the middle of the courtyard impaired beyond recognition. A strangled cry was about to escape from his throat but Veera crushed it down as the sound of faint whimper caught his attention. He looked at the door in front, which opened to the private sitting area.
Without waiting even for a second, he rushed towards it and pushed it open.
“Ah, here comes the boy,” he heard someone say and suddenly felt arms clutch him in a steely grip.
Veera struggled with all his might to get free but couldn’t.
“Let him go,” a strangled voice sounded.
“Baba!” he called out recognising the voice.
“He has done nothing. Let the children go,” Veera heard his father say.
Someone laughed and suddenly the whole room erupted with snickers and laughter. But the sound entered his mind like splinters and he gritted his teeth as he tried to stamp out the fear starting to grip him.
“Enough!” the same voice commanded and everything became silent once again.
But the faint whimper remained.
Veera struggled once again to free himself but just as before the arms gripped him hard.
“Okay, enough of play. Let’s have the lights on.”
Just as the lights came on, shock rippled through Veera’s body.
Kneeling in front of him with his hands tied at the back and a noose around his neck was Vikramveer. Veera screamed with all intensity as he tried again to loosen himself from the grip of the men holding him and this time the men let him go. He rushed towards his father and tried to loosen the noose but it didn’t help. The man holding it only tightened it more constricting his father’s breathing.
Veera looked up at the man and glared with all the anger erupting in him but he just smiled.
“Here, try with this,” the man said handing him a knife.
Taking the knife, he placed it on the rope around his father’s neck and started to cut it.
“No, Veera,” he heard his father say.
Bewildered he looked at his father and saw him looking towards his left. Following his eye trail, Veera looked towards his right.
And instantly the blood drained from his veins as his brain registered what his eyes were seeing.
Four men were holding his mother captive while a hefty henchman had his knife pointed at his sister’s throat.
Veera’s hands trembled and the knife fell away. At first, he stared with desperation at his sister, whose eyes were still closed in deep drugged sleep, and then he rushed towards her but was pulled by some henchmen.
“You want to save your sister and mother, right?” Thakur Baldev Raijdas asked as he came and stood in front of him.
Veera’s eyes bored into him as he nodded desperately.
He saw Thakur Baldev Raijdas lowering himself to his level. Just as his eyes came on the same level as his, something inside Veera shivered with intensity.
“Kill your father and I will let your mother and sister go.”
One by one as the words filtered through his mind, Veera’s resolve to save his family slipped away. He hung his head in resignation knowing too well that there was no hope.
“It’s me you want. Just kill me and let them go,” he heard his father say.
Veera watched the noose tightening around his father’s neck constricting his breathing as Thakur Baldev neared Vikramveer’s kneeling form.
An evil smile stretched on his lips as he said, “I will not leave a single one of you alive to stake a claim on this haveli again. You will helplessly watch each of your family die in front of you and wish you had not fought back.”
He stretched and flicked his gaze towards the man holding Gera captive and nodded.
“And I’m going to start with the youngest one.”
Veera heard his mother and father shouting and pleading with their captors but nothing entered his mind other than the words Thakur Baldev had spoken. Without giving much thought, he stamped his foot on one of the henchman holding him and the moment he screamed with pain, Veera rammed his elbow into his stomach. As the henchman fell, he sprung his foot midair and struck the other one on his shin.
Veera heard the screams of the other men just as the henchmen came down but without wasting another second, he sprang on his feet and rushed towards Gera.
He clasped her hand was about to pull her towards him when a crack of a whip echoed through all the commotion in the room and within seconds it ended on his back.
Veera screamed in agony as the sting of the whiplash gripped his brain. Before he could come in terms with the throbbing pain, he felt another whiplash. And then whiplash after whiplash crashed on his back till he collapsed in front of Gera.
The pain was so intoxicating that he couldn’t keep his eyes open but still, he forced them open and saw his sister being lifted in the air by the henchman holding her captive. As her fingers vanished from his, he tried to reach out but the whip cracked on his back again and he collapsed.
Everything became a blur after that. He could hear his mother crying and pleading again and again, and his father trying to reason with Thakur Baldev and his sons, Virendra and Ratan.
Rudra stood in the middle of the sitting room staring at his 14 year-old-self lying helpless on the floor. The agony inside his veins increased as he looked at his mother being dragged inside the other room and his father being beaten up again and again.
He wanted to stop all of it but as before he didn’t have the strength to.
He closed his eyes as one of the henchmen held onto his arm and dragged his 14 year-old-self towards his father.
“Now Vikramveer, see what we did to your son.”
Veera blinked and looked at his father and saw him looking at him with eyes filled with tears.
“I will write the haveli to you,” he said to Thakur Baldev who snickered and shook his head.
“No Vikramveer I don’t need that. I want justice. I want you to suffer for having something that was never yours,” he replied lowering himself to his father’s level.
“And any second now you will hear the first scream.”
The moment the words left his mouth, Veera’s ears splintered with a shrieking wail.