Following Vikram’s return, he and princess Abhaya started to train the naga warriors with increased focus. They visited the naga settlements everyday and ventured to find new settlements to increase the numbers. The biggest challenge was in achieving the synchrony between the nagas of different settlements. Attached to their local methods of attacking, the tribal youth resisted the idea of a disciplined defence, collaborating with others. However, Abhaya and Vikram were not to give up so easily.

In such occasions, Abhaya would stay in the settlements to educate the trained youth about the importance of a disciplined defence which he Arya soldiers followed, about some basic formations she learnt, etc while Vikram went about training the untrained youth at a distance. On one such a day, Vikram strayed out of his camp thinking of various things while the younger Naga youth carried on the practice among themselves. His mind was worried at the prospect of a resistance of the Anagha military in accepting the crude Nagas into them. The Nagas too had a cynical view of the Arya citizens and viewed them with hostility. He hoped that Veerabahu would have the maturity not to misinterpret his moves if the Nagas start outnumbering the Arya military of Anagha.

Suddenly, Vikram heard of certain commotion. As he moved in the direction, he heard certain chants. The notes reminded him of his disturbing childhood and agitated his already restless mind. He walked briskly towards the source of the chants and was greeted with an aroma of a crudely cooked meat. Burnt meat would be a better word for the smell nauseated him. He reached a clearing where he saw a group of unkempt ascetics performing a sort of worship. It was a method worship which was forbidden in the Arya code of conduct. It had something to do with indulging in the material pleasures and seeking to unite with the divine Mother of the universe through them.

Vikram remembered the time of his childhood before he came under the care of King Dharmasena. Anger overcame him and he charged at the group with sword unsheathed.

“This settlement belongs to the nagas who swear their allegiance to the Lord of Anagha!” He thundered. “If you do not know that your kind of ritual is prohibited in the Arya controlled areas, I give you a couple of minutes to leave the place or face my wrath!” His hand quivered and his heart heaved with an unexplainable rage.

A couple of ascetics who were armed with dangerously crude weapons took no notice of his warning. Instead they menacingly stood between him and the rest of the group. When he brandished his sword, they charged at him together. Though the effect shook him off his balance, he was quick to recover and attack back. The ascetics roared and charged again. It was difficult for Vikram to contain three burly men with weapons longer than his sword. He also did not want to mortally wound an ascetic whatever was the method the latter followed.  But he got wounded on his shoulder and arms. His armoury saved his arm from being slashed by the javelin like weapon of his opponents.

Then his hand froze when a woman from the group screamed. “Spare him! Spare him!” The woman shouted in a Naga dialect that he could understand. Her voice resounded in his ears and he turned to see her. It was her! His heart started to pound and momentarily his eyes were blinded by a film of tears. His eyes met hers when he heard the voice of Princess Abhaya from his left. He looked at the princess trying to say something when a club hit his head and he momentarily blacked out and fell to the ground. The woman ran towards him screaming something in a crude Naga dialect. Abhaya raced to the spot accompanied by a couple of guards and newly trained Naga soldiers who totally outnumbered the ascetic group. She pushed the woman away from Vikram fearing, she would harm him.

“Brother! Brother! We have come! Hold on!” She clutched at Vikram’s hand trying to pull him up. “Arrest them all and take them to the fort!” She ordered the soldiers around. “Spare the woman my Princess, I beseech you, Vikram spoke as he rose in a tone that shook her heart. “Vikram, are you alright? Come with me. I wont let anything happen to you.” Abhaya pulled him towards safety. Vikram recovered after a minute or so. “Princess, spare the woman. She.. she is my…. Mother.” His words faltered. Though in a shock, Abhaya ordered the soldiers to let Vikram’s mother go. She wondered how the woman suddenly turned up and what the group of strange ascetics was doing and why Vikram was wounded by them.

“Brother, what is all this? How can she be your mother? Tell me all.” She demanded.

Vikram did not reply. He instead held her by arm and moved towards the chariot. “We shall resume the training here after a couple of days” He told the confused Naga youth surrounding them in concern. For all their mistrust of Aryas, they did love Vikram who behaved like one. Not replying to Abhaya’s protests Vikram jumped on to the chariot, firmly helping her up and cracked the whip. “Let us go home, sister.” The world again seemed to black out as the horses broke into a gallop and he just remembered Abhaya snatching the reins and whip from his hands.

Inside Anagha, the King Dharmasena was gravely concerned to hear about the developments and rushed towards Vikram’s chambers. Vikram had recovered from his faint but looked shaken. Dharmasena understood he expression on his face and ordered for them to be left alone. Abhaya also left though reluctantly but waited at the door. She wanted to understand what happened and why Vikram was so disturbed.

Once alone, Dharmasena sat by Vikram’s side and laid a protective hand on his head. His memories went years back and saw the same Naga child who had rushed into his arms in unexplainable fear.

“Father!” Vikram cried out frantically.

“Son, I am here.” Dharmasena tightly held him close to his bosom. “You are my son and mine alone. No one can take you away from me.”

 Vikram clung to the King broke down in relief. He stopped in a moment as he felt mollified and conscious.

“Forgive me Lord.” He spoke feeling small.

“I thought I had brought you up to be a brave warrior! Why did you give in like this?” Dharmasena spoke to lighten up, patting Vikram gently.

“I would never give in Lord. But it unnerved me that she remembered me and recognized me in a moment after these 15 years.” Vikram spoke with a tone of slight agitation. But he had mostly recovered to his normal self.

“Lad, your boyish face had not grown much. Anybody would recognize you.” Dharmasena waved humorously.

“Vikram, rest my son. Forget the past. Destiny brought you to me and we wont be separated. Don’t let anything else bother you.”

Dharmasena left Vikram’s chambers and walked to the corridor where an anxious Abhaya was waiting for him. He contemplated whether to explain to her, what had happened years back.

The End

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