Vikram learnt about the developments from Vajrabahu was surprised that Dharmasena who always discussed every issue kept him out while making this decision to go to Avanthi during these uncertain times. He shared his thoughts with Abhaya who was equally surprised. The King did not discuss anything with her either. The duo went to the presence of Dharmasena who was engaged in sharpening his sword, an activity which he never entrusted to others.
“Father, May we?”
Dharmasena motioned them to come in while his gaze focused on the razor edges of his favourite sword. He waited for them to open the conversation. Sensing the hesitation, he asked them what the matter was.
“My Lord, Am I not fit to accompany you on this journey to Avanthi? Why dint you even let me know Lord?” Vikram hesitatingly raised the topic.
“Need you go at all, father? When they proposed an alliance, its they who should come to talk to you? Why should you go?” Abhaya piped in.
“Because I am not an eighteen year old princess who is still a novice in political conversations.” Dharmasena replied, sounding slightly annoyed at her indignance. He then turned to Vikram. “Vikram, on this journey, I considered it better we not go together. You must stay back. Yes I have had enough people trying to restrain me from going to Avanthi. I did not want one more.”
“Why would anyone of us restrain you if we were not concerned for you, My Lord.” Vikram spoke in an attempt to convince.
“Because all of you seem to take great pleasure in assuming that I am an immature boy who can lose his way. By Mahakaala, Vikram, I am going to meet my old friend who had been keeping bad health and not into the cave of a Rakshasa.”
“Father, he might be on old friend for you. For us he is just a powerless father of two unrestrained princes who have set their eyes on the highway, our autonomy and… “ Abhaya stopped midway.
“Thank you, Princess. I never knew that.”
“Please Lord, take me with you!” Vikram pleaded trying to divert the King’s anger.
“I don’t want you getting into any unnecessary tiff with the princes there, Vikram. Remember what you did during the Swayamvara of Princess Mitravinda?” Dharmasena explained with a reluctant sigh. “You should be the next King after me, You fool! When would you stop making things difficult for yourself Vikram.” Dharmasena thought to himself.
“Vikram, Remain in the fort. We cannot be all gone away leaving the fort and the princess.” Dharmasena hoped to convince Vikram to stay away from this.
Abhaya and Vikram looked at each other, unhappy at their failure to convince Dharmasena and did not speak for a while. Vikram cleared his throat remembering something.
“Lord, let us seek help from Dwaraka.”
“Seek help because your King is afraid to tread into neighboring boundaries for a courtesy visit? What would you ask of them Vikram? To accompany me for an issue that is private to us?” Dharmasena was exasperated.
“The highway is not our private issue anymore, My Lord. We’ve promised the Yadavas that we would hold on to it. If we are talking to Avanthi regarding the same we should at least inform Dwaraka about the developments. We can’t keep them in dark.” Vikram argued.
‘If the implications of our talks head towards a macro result, we would surely keep them informed Vikram. But not now. I don’t want the Yadavas or any of their leaders to think that we are unsure and cowardly people who cant even visit ancestral friends.”
Abhaya looked blankly at the duo arguing, each one bent upon proving himself. This had never happened in the palace of Anagha. Her father today seemed a new man with unexplainable motives. He was not his gentle self, he was not his patient and indulgent self. He was just trying to put her and Vikram off this matter.
“Things are going wrong. Discomfort engulfs my family. Mahadeva hear me out!” She prayed.
“I forbid anymore discussions in this matter. We are not to showcase our cowardliness to Yadavas at this moment and become a laughing stock.” Dharmasena was close to thundering.
“I would prefer we do not fail on our word to them banking on royal egos. Better be called a coward than fail in our commitment.” Vikram’s voice showed no sign of going back.
“Egos?” Abhaya felt herself reeling at the last exchange. What made Vikram so vehement? And what made her generally balanced father so rigid?
“Today I see the Naga blood of cowardliness.”
Abhaya ran out of the chamber, not wanting o ear any more unpleasantness. “Curse you Avanthi and her princes. Curse you all. Thanks to your ambitions, my generally happy home is on the verge of turning into a war field.”
She ran to the chambers of Vajrabahu who at the moment seemed the only person who could do something to cool down both.
“Venerable Vajrabahu, save my home. Their conversations rent my heart. My father and my brother, my world. You know them both. Do something Sire.”
Vajrabahu held the trembling princess by arms in the most assuring way he could. “ My lioness is capable of fighting Kuru, Panchala, Koshala and the South to expand our Kingdom? Is she disturbed with a simple verbal exchange between a father and son?” Vajrabahu gently reminded a light childhood banter of the princess.
“Kuru, Panchala and southern Kingdoms don’t matter to me Sire, this Father and son are the ones who can make or break me. “
“Tears don’t suit your moon like face, daughter. Console yourself. They both love each other. This argument is just their love over the boiling point.” He smiled lightly.
“I am not going back until they stop turning my home into a living hell.” Abhaya announced before seating herself.
“That is my lioness, the world has to come to her.” Vajrabahu humored. He offered her a refreshment to cure her weariness.
A while later, Vikram entered looking emotionally exhausted. “Venerable Vajrabahu, I am surprised he did not kill me. But things are going how we wanted them to. He raged at my Naga origins and said a few other things as well. But it will pain him once he realizes that he was just not himself.”
Abhaya was taken by surprise at Vikram’s revelation. “Can I ask for an explanation? What are you both planning?”
“Planning to get you a better groom than the one in the recent proposal. But how better, you should wait and watch.” Vikram teased her.
“Yes My groom! Isn’t that the most important issue facing us? Who cares whether father is walking to his death?” She demanded angrily.
“Princess, your father is not in our hands. We are desparately trying to keep pace with him and save things.”
“Oh! Please tell me how?”
“Not at this moment, lioness. We have a lot to do. Vikram, leave as early as you can.” Take the fastest of the horses as you have a great deal of distance to cover. “
“Wait, where is he going?” Abhaya asked, stupefied and angry.
“To Dwaraka. And princess, if you have the slightest regard for all what I taught you, Please don’t tell Father.”
“Take care Brother. Whatever you are upto, I trust you. But do take care.”