the oath of the vayuputras - Page 82

‘Thank you, Bahmandokht. The Vayuputras will be indebted to you in perpetuity, for you have helped our tribe fulfil our mission and our vow to Lord Rudra.’

Bahmandokht bowed low. There had been a time when she had loved the man who’d become the Mithra. But once he had assumed his office as the chief, the only feelings she had allowed herself were those of devotion and respect.

She stepped away quietly.

The Mithra stared at Bahmandokht’s retreating form and then returned to the antechamber. He sat on a simple chair, leaned back and closed his eyes. The ancient memory was still fresh in his mind, as if it had all happened yesterday – the conversation with his close friend and brother-in-law, Manobhu.

‘Are you sure, Manobhu?’ asked the Parihan, who would go on to become the Mithra.

The Tibetan feigned outrage as he looked at his friend and fellow Vayuputra.

‘I mean no disrespect, Manobhu. But I hope you realise that what we’re doing is illegal.’

Manobhu allowed himself a slight smile as he scratched his shaggy beard. His matted hair had been tied up in a bun with a string of beads, in the style favoured by his tribe, the fierce Gunas. His body was covered with deep scars acquired from a lifetime of battle. His tall, muscular physique was always in a state of alertness, ever ready for war. His demeanour, his clothes, his hair – all conveyed the impression of a ruthless warrior. But his eyes were different. They were a window to his calm mind, one that had found its purpose and was at peace. Manobhu’s eyes had always intrigued the Parihan, compelling him to become a follower.

‘If you are unsure, my friend,’ said Manobhu, ‘you don’t have to do this.’

The Parihan looked away.

‘Don’t feel pressured to do this just because you’re related to me,’ continued Manobhu, whose brother had married the Parihan’s sister.

The Parihan returned his gaze. ‘How does the reason matter? What matters is the result. What matters is whether Lord Rudra’s commandment is being followed.’

Manobhu continued to lock gaze with the Parihan, his eyes mirthful. ‘You should know Lord Rudra’s commandments better than I do. After all, he was a Parihan. Like you.’

The Parihan stole a look at the back of the room nervously, where a diabolical mixture was boiling inside a vessel, the fire below it steady and even.

Manobhu stepped forward and put his hand on the Parihan’s shoulder. ‘Trust me, the Somras is turning Evil. Lord Rudra would have wanted us to do this. If the council doesn’t agree, then the hell with them. We will ensure that Lord Rudra’s commandments are followed.’

The Parihan looked at Manobhu and sighed. ‘Are you sure that your nephew has the potential to fulfil this mission? That he can one day be the successor to Lord Rudra?’

Manobhu smiled. ‘He’s your nephew too. His mother is your sister.’

‘I know. But the boy doesn’t live with me. He lives with you, in Tibet. I have never met him. I don’t know if I ever will. And you refuse to even tell me his name. So I ask again: Are you sure he is the one?’

‘Yes,’ Manobhu was confident in his belief. ‘He is the one. He will grow up to be the Neelkanth. He will be the one who will carry out Lord Rudra’s commandment. He will take Evil out of the equation.’

‘But he needs to be educated. He needs to be prepared.’

‘I will prepare him.’

‘But what is the point? The Vayuputra council controls the emergence of the Neelkanth. How will our nephew be discovered?’

‘I’ll arrange it at the right time,’ said Manobhu.

The Parihan frowned. ‘But how will you...’

‘Leave that to me,’ interrupted Manobhu. ‘If he is not discovered, it will mean that the time for Evil has not yet come. On the other hand, if I’m able to ensure that he is discovered...’

‘...then we will know that Evil has risen,’ said the Parihan, completing Manobhu’s sentence.

Manobhu shook his head, disagreeing partially with his brother-in-law. ‘To be more precise, we would know that Good has turned into Evil.’

The conversation was interrupted by a soft hissing sound from the far corner of the room. The medicine was ready. The two friends walked over to the fire and peered into the vessel. A thick reddish-brown paste had formed; small bubbles were bursting through to the surface.

‘It only needs to cool down now. The task is done,’ said the Parihan.

Manobhu looked at his brother-in-law. ‘No, my friend. The task has just begun.’

The Mithra breathed deeply as he came back to the present. He whispered, ‘I never thought that our rebellion would succeed, Manobhu.’

He rose from his chair, walked over to the veranda and looked up at the sky. In the old days, his people believed that great men, once they had surrendered their mortal flesh, went up to live among the stars and keep watch over them all. Mithra focused his eyes on one particular star and smiled. ‘Manobhu, it was a good idea to name our nephew Shiva. A good clue to help me guess that he is the one.’

‘To begin with, let me tell you that most of the Vayuputras are against you,’ said Scheherazade.

‘That’s not really much of a secret,’ said Shiva wryly.

‘Look, you can’t blame the Vayuputras. Our laws state very clearly that only one of us, from amongst those who’re authorised by the Vayuputra tribe, can become the Neelkanth. You have emerged out of nowhere. The laws don’t allow us to recognise or help someone like you.’

‘And yet, you are here,’ said Shiva. ‘I don’t think you’re working alone. You were standing right at the back, almost hidden, when I saw you in the lobby. I bet you are not a fully-accepted Parihan. I can’t see someone like you having the courage to do this all by yourself. Some powerful Parihans are putting you up to it. Which makes me believe that some Vayuputras realise what I am saying is true, that Evil has risen.’

Scheherazade smiled softly. ‘Yes. There are some very powerful Vayuputras who are on your side. But they cannot help you openly. Unlike most of the earlier Neelkanth pretenders, your blue throat is genuine. This leads to one inescapable conclusion; some Vayuputra has helped you many decades ago. Can you imagine the chaos this has caused? There were unprecedented accusations flying thick and fast after your emergence; people within Pariha were accusing each other of having broken Lord Rudra’s laws and helping you clandestinely when you were young. It was tearing the Vayuputras apart till Lord Mithra put an end to it. He held that our tribe has not authorised you as the Neelkanth and perhaps it was the doing of someone from within your own country.’

‘So, if any Vayuputra helps me, he will be seen as the traitor who started it all, many years ago.’

‘Exactly,’ answered Scheherazade.

‘What is the way out?’ asked Gopal.

‘You, My Lord Chief Vasudev, must lead the mission,’ said Scheherazade. ‘Lord Shiva must stay in the background. Don’t ask for assistance to be provided for the Neelkanth, but to you as a member of the Vasudev tribe, seeking justice. They cannot say no to a just demand from the representative of Lord Ram.’

‘I am sorry? I didn’t understand.’

‘What does the Neelkanth need, Lord Gopal?’ asked Scheherazade. ‘He needs the Brahmastra to threaten Meluha...’