the oath of the vayuputras - Page 98

‘She’s on the terrace!’ screamed a soldier.

Sati knew the path the soldiers would take. She quickly ran the other way, towards the far end of the terrace, jumping onto another ledge. She crept along the ledge till she reached another terrace, leapt onto it and sprinted towards the staircase on the far side. She charged down the stairs, three steps at a time, till she reached the landing above the first floor, which led to a side entrance. While this entrance was usually not guarded, she didn’t want to take a chance. She leapt out of the balcony into the small garden at the side. There was a tree right next to the wall. She clambered onto the tree, reached its highest branch and used the elevation to jump over the boundary wall. She landed right next to her horse. In one leap, she mounted her horse, freed its reins and kicked the animal into motion.

‘There she is!’ shouted a guard.

Twenty guards rushed towards Sati, but she pushed through, refusing to slow down. Her horse galloped out of the palace enclosure and within seconds she was out into the city. She could hear the distant shouts of the guards screaming and swearing behind her.

‘Stop her!’

‘Stop the Princess!’

Startled Meluhans scrambled out of the way to escape the flaying hooves of Sati’s steed. She turned into a small lane to avoid a big crowd of citizens up ahead, and came out of a different access road which led straight to the city’s main gates. She rode hard, pushing her horse to its limit and was through the iron gates in no time. As soon as she crossed to the other side, her horse reared ferociously onto its hind legs, disturbed by loud noises of battle in the distance.

From the vantage point of the Devagiri city platform, Sati had a clear view of the venue of the peace conference, right next to the Saraswati, nearly four kilometres away. Her people were under attack. A large number of cloaked and hooded men were battling Nandi and his vastly outnumbered soldiers, many of whom already lay on the ground.

‘Hyaaah!’ Sati kicked her horse hard, goading it into a swift gallop.

She raced down the central steps of the Svarna platform of Devagiri, straight towards the battling men, screaming the war cry of those loyal to the Neelkanth.

‘Har Har Mahadev!’

Chapter 45

The Final Kill

As she sped towards the battleground, Sati could estimate that there were almost three hundred cloaked assassins. They wore masks, just like the Nagas. But their battle style was nothing like the warriors from Panchavati. They were obviously some other group, being made to look like the Nagas. Nearly half of Sati’s one hundred bodyguards were already on the ground, either grievously injured or dead.

Since the assassins and her soldiers were completely locked in combat, there was no clear line of enemies whom she could ride her horse into and mow down. She knew she’d have to dismount and fight. As she neared the battle scene, she rode towards the area where Nandi was combating three assassins simultaneously.

She heard Nandi’s loud scream as he brutally drove his sword into his enemy’s heart. He turned to his left, easily lifted the diminutive assassin impaled on his sword, and flung the hapless soul’s body onto an oncoming attacker. Another assassin had moved up to Nandi, ready to slash him from behind.

Sati pulled her feet out of the stirrups, jumped up and leveraged herself to crouch on top of her saddle, even as she drew her sword out. As she neared the assassin who was about to slash Nandi from the rear, she flung herself from her horse and swung her sword viciously at the same time, decapitating the assassin in one fell swoop. Sati landed on her side and smoothly rolled over to stand behind Nandi as the quivering body of the beheaded assassin collapsed to the ground, blood bursting through, his adrenalised heart pumping the life-giving fluid furiously out of his gaping neck.

‘My Lady!’ yelled Nandi over the din, slashing hard at another assassin in front. ‘Run!’

Sati stood steadfast, defensively back-to-back with Nandi, covering all angles. ‘Not without all of you!’

An assassin leapt at Sati from the side, as she pulled her shield forward. He reached into the folds of his robe and threw something at her eyes. Instinctively, she pulled her shield up. A black egg splattered against her shield, deflecting its contents – shards of metal – safely away from her eyes. Some of the shrapnel cut through her left arm.

Sati had heard of this combat manoeuvre; it was Egyptian. Eggs were drained of their contents through a small hole and then filled with bits and pieces of sharp metal. These were flung at the eyes of enemies, thus blinding them. Usually the next move was a low sword thrust. Though her vision was blocked by her shield, Sati moved instinctively and swerved to her side, to avoid the expected low blow. Then she pressed a lever on her shield, extending a short blade which she rammed into her opponent’s neck, ferociously driving the blade through his windpipe. As the assassin began to choke on his own blood, Sati ran her sword through his heart.

Nandi, meanwhile, was effortlessly killing all those in front of him. He was a big man, and he towered over the diminutive Egyptians like a giant. Not one of the assassins could even come close as he hacked through anyone who dared to challenge him. They threw knives and the modified eggs at him. But nothing got through to any vital part of his body. With a knife buried in his shoulder and numerous metallic shrapnel pierced all over his body, a bloodied Nandi fought relentlessly against his enemies. But both Nandi and Sati could see that the odds were stacked heavily against them. Most of their soldiers were falling, overwhelmed by the surprise attack and the sheer numbers. Escape wasn’t an option either, as they were now surrounded on all sides. Their only hope was that other Suryavanshis in Devagiri, who were not part of Daksha’s conspiracy, would come to their aid.

An assassin swung at Sati from a high angle on the right. She swung back with vicious force, blocking his blow. The man turned and swerved from the left this time, hoping to push Sati on her back foot. Sati met his strike with equal ferocity. The assassin then attempted to drop low and stab Sati through her abdomen, but he was unaware of her special technique.

Most warriors can only swing their sword in the natural direction, away from their body. Very few can swing it towards their own body, because of a lack of strength and skill. Sati could. Hence, both the inner and the outer sides of her sword were sharpened, unlike the vast majority of swords which only have sharpened outer edges. Sati swung back, and with a near impossible stroke, masterfully pulled her sword arm towards herself with tremendous force. The surprised assassin had his throat cut cleanly before he could respond. The wound was deep, almost beheading the man. The Egyptian’s head fell backwards, dangling tenuously from his body by a shred of tissue, his eyes still rolling in his head. Sati kicked his body away as it collapsed.

She saw movement on her left and realised her mistake too late. She tried to block the sword stroke from the second assassin but it glanced off her sword, and went up into her scarred left cheek, cutting through her eye and grating off her skull. Her left eye collapsed in its socket, and blood poured from the wound, obscuring the vision in her other eye. Blinded, she executed a desperate defensive block, hoping to ward off any blows while she tried to wipe the blood from her face. She heard a woman panting, almost sobbing and realised that it was she herself. She braced as the man moved forward for a second attack.

She detected a movement from the right, and through her pinkish blurred vision, she saw Nandi swing from his massive height, beheading the assassin in one fell swoop.