Vajrabahu was surprised to hear that the King had sent for him so early in the morning. He hurried to the presence of Dharmasena along with Veerabahu.
Dharmasena informed them of a proposal from Krishna Vaasudeva.
"What is the proposal, My Lord?" asked Veerabahu. His mind speculated on the contents in various possible ways.
"It is regarding our hold on the highway. But why do you look so shocked commander? It is common for Kingdoms to propose strategic measures among each others for mutual benefit." Dharmasena replied, noting Veerabahu's anxiety.
"What does Vaasudeva propose, Your Majesty?" Vajrabahu intervened.
"The son of Vasudeva was appreciative of the fact that traders, Rishis and Brahmanas who travel frequently are happy about our hospitality to them when they stop over Anagha. He emphasized that for the general well being of the region, the highway needs to be kept safe for travellers."
Dharmasena looked up and paused to note the reaction of others. He then continued. "He wants us to keep our hold on the route and ensure that things go on the same way. He requests us not accede it to greater powers who might otherwise disrupt peace."
"Is he hinting that Avanti would threaten the peace? Or to be specific, the twin princes?" Vajrabahu was thoughtful.
"Why would the twin princes be a threat? Our friendship with them has been ancestral." Veerabahu remarked.
"The friendship has indeed been ancestral Veerabahu. But it is of concern that all our cordial messages since last two years are given cold and formal replies. We haven't been invited for the annual worship to Mahakala at Ujjayini. Neither did they come here to celebrate Vasant Panchami this time." Vajrabahu explained.
Dharmasena nodded. "There are formal regret replies from Prince Vinda about the deteriorating health of King Jayasena. That, if true is a greater concern. I dont trust the twins much."
Veerabahu spoke thoughtfully. " Your Majesty, We should also recognize that Vaasudeva's enmity with the twins is well known. He might just be trying to win allies in the vicinity."
Dharmasena looked at him intently. "Well, we would not rule out the possibility. But on the other hand he is not asking us to fight them directly. In face he did not even mention them. Nor did he ask us to ally with Dwaraka."
Veerabahu did not reply. Dharmasena looked conclusive. "Let us assume that he had not sent us this message. Wouldn't we want to retain our hold on the highway?"
"We definitely would, Your Majesty. In any case, we won't relinquish our hold on the highway, nor accept the overlordship of another province." Vajrabahu almost roared as he would have in his younger days.
"Now, that does it. Let us strengthen the fortification and take extra measures too." Dharmasena spoke with strong resolve.
"We shall have the moat repaired and dug deeper. We can even get in some crocodiles from Mahi?" Proposed Veerabahu.
"Fine, I shall accompany you for that." Vajrabahu offered.
"No Vajrabahu." Dharmasena intervened. "Our commander is competent of achieving this by himself." He looked at Veerabahu as if seeking his response.
"I shall not disappoint you, My Lord." Veerabahu almost in a whisper.
Dharmasena smiled. "You better not, Son." He hoped that the earnest look in the eyes of his commander was true. "You can leave now. And start your arrangements at the earliest."
"Your Majesty? Was that all?" Veerabahu was surprised.
Dharmasena looked at him keenly. "You can tell me if you have anything. That is all from my side."
"Forgive me My Lord. I wanted to make sure if the proposal called just for strengthening our hold. Is there nothing else at all?"
" Yes, that was all. I am going to affirm the same in my reply. Were you expecting something else?" Dharmasena was visibly surprised at the curiosity.
"Nothing Lord, Forgive me again." Veerabahu backed. Relief was visible on his face when he took leave.
He was accosted by the princess and Vikram at the door, returning from another day of training.
"Welcome back Your Highness. May I ask how many Nagas are enrolled under the military now?"
Abhaya looked intrigued and unsure wondering how he knew their plans.
"Relax your Highness, you both are only making my job easier. I just thought the commander would need to know if the military is being strengthened." Veerabahu spoke again.
Vikram spoke. "Commander, the nagas love their autonomy. But they agree to support us in the face of adversity. We are only trying to unite the scattered tribesmen. How can we keep you in dark if a military expansion was being done."
"Alright then, Grant me Leave." Veerabahu left leaving a completely surprised princess and Vikram.
"What is wrong with him? Did he lose his sullen face somewhere else?" Abhaya asked much to the amusement of the couple of guards present in the hallway. Vikram cautioned her not to speak too loud.
The duo reached to where the King and Vajrabahu were still discussing and saluted them.
"600 Nagas, well trained in swordplay and ready to support us in a battle, My Lord. We do have archers in them. Their hunting activities naturally make them better archers than those we have in the army." Vikram reported to the King.
"Good work Vikram. Now do be seated for I have a news to share." Dharmasena started to explain about the developments.
"The yadava warrior Yuyudhana brought this proposal from the son of Vasudeva when he came to pacify and convince the Pandava warrior and Queen Subhadra to return with him, a couple of days back." Dharmasena explained.
"Proposal from the son of Vasudeva?" Abhaya exclaimed, her heart racing for reasons she herself din't know.
"Yes. Regarding the highway." Dharmasena then explained the details and his decision.
"Our preparations are to come useful then. I am glad we thought of it early enough." Vikram remarked.
"Yes. I am happy at your progress with the Nagas. Just keep at it and involve the faithful most of them to expand and unite further along the highway to Dwaraka and also Avanthi."
"As you command Lord."
Abhaya did not speak until Vikram and Vajrabahu left. Then she spoke in an unsure tone. "Father, What about the proposal from Dwaraka?"
"We've just discussed all that!" Dharmasena replied.
"Is that all? The Best of Yadavas, did he just tell us only to hold on to our position and nothing else?" Abhaya retorted. She wondered why she felt kind of disappointed.
"Wait, Abhaya. He did send us a subtle warning about our old friends, the twins of Avanthi. But it seems you expected something else?" Dharmasena could not control a stern tone.
"Forgive me, Father. I.. I dint expect anything else. I.. I just wished to know about the well being of princess Mitravinda. I wondered if... if she had a message for me." Abhaya spoke with increased caution. "What am I talking?" she wondered to herself.
"If the princess of Avanthi had a message for you, she would have sent it through Queen Subhadra, if I understand right. Din't you ask her?" Dharmasena looked interrogative.
"Yes, I remember. Guess everything is well. I just forgot. Forgive me, Father." Abhaya still stammered for words.
"Why are you asking me to forgive you again and again.?" Dharmasena looked completely suspicious. He then softened and patted on her head. "Child, what is there in your mind? Tell me all."
"Nothing Father. I just had a tiring day. Nothing else. I badly need to rest." Abhaya hurriedly replied before exiting. She dint wish to stay in is presence any longer for the first time. She strangely felt ashamed.
"God of Gods! WHAT JUST HAPPENED TO ME!!" She though to herself before throwing herself on to bed.