Challenge FiveMature

Shehzaad sat next to the ornate four poster bed in the middle of the Royal Chamber, looking out the window towards the softly glowing sun. The heavy velvet curtains hid the rest of the view from his gaze but it did not seem to matter to him. He continued to stare at the unvarying scene, one hand on his thigh and the other clasped in the frail grasp of Ozil's fingers. Topaz and sapphire rings twinkled on two bony fingers as they tightened their hold on Shehzaad's hand.

Sensing the hesitant movement, he reached over with his other hand and caressed the leathery skin of his grandfather's hand, reassuring him of his presence. He mumbled a few whispered words in Ozil's ear and on seeing a feeble smile make its way onto his lips, he gently kissed his grandfather's sagging cheek. A tear escaped from underneath Shehzaad's lashes and he turned his face away from the bed and wiped it off.

Such a long awaited reunion it had been for Ozil and his grandchild. But little did they know that their relationship was about to suffer another obstacle, this one longer and more immutable than the last. Not more than a couple of weeks had passed since the day Shehzaad had embraced his grandfather and decided to return to the Palace for good. 

However, this happiness was not to be enduring. Ozil had fallen grievously ill and was now completely bed-ridden. The Royal Hakeem had strived to find a cure but had finally given up. Even Ilahi Bi had refused to disclose what she had seen of Ozil's future and when Shehzaad had insisted, she had cryptically said, "Rukhsaan-e-Meer has a very important task for our Overlord and He awaits his presence before Him eagerly."

Shehzaad could not fathom the meaning of Ilahi Bi's answer but with Ozil's continuously deteriorating health and weakening spirit, he soon realized the importance of those words. Once it dawned upon him that his grandfather may not have long to live, Shehzaad was gripped with a sense of unrelenting panic. The fear of losing Ozil was too much for him to bear after he had already lost Mehzil. He ordered Peeran to search the glades and glens of Parzenia for any man who could cure his grandfather's ailment. But it was to no avail. There wasn't a medicine that could bring back Ozil's vitality nor any herb that could instill in him an ounce of strength.

Bed-ridden and helpless, Ozil put up a brave face as everyone around him ran ragged in search for anything that could end his misery. One evening, with Peeran, Shehzaad, Pasha and a couple of guards surrounding him, Ozil beckoned Shehzaad. He crouched at his grandfather's bedside and tilted his head towards him, waiting for him to speak. A scratchy, weak voice whispered to him, "Shehzaad, my child. You must stop trying. It is of no use. Rukhsaar-e-Meer has decided that it's my time to bow in His serene presence and there is nothing that can obstruct His will. You must accept your responsibility towards Parzenia now. You have to take care of your family and your people.  I think the time has come for you to light the Holy fire and partake the blessings of the Great Sorcerer. It is time for you to take your rightful place as Overlord of Parzenia."

Shehzaad had vehemently disagreed at first but then mellowed down to a meek acceptance of his grandfather's wishes. Ozil's joy had known no bounds and he had given orders to his ministers and officials to start preparing for the accession ceremony. From his sick bed he had made sure that everything had been set up perfectly. The Palace was lit up like the sky during a meteor shower, the streets of the Capital were decorated with festoons and sundry ribbons, and camp sites had been set up all across the town centre to welcome people who wanted to see the ceremony being performed. The banks of the Lodha river had been swept and smoothened to ensure safe passage for all those who were travelling by rafts and canoes, and the Tazlans rose majestically over the entire landscape as if blessing Parzenia.

The markets had been provided with the freshest produce and whatever had gone bad or was even slightly bruised or out of shape was immediately discarded. The stalls wore bright, cheerful awnings and the sidewalks were teeming with people from far off lands. Sunny, joyous faces crowded the Palace gardens from sun up to sun down in the hope of catching a glimpse of Shehzaad and to pray for Ozil's soul. Sounds of the evening prayers and hymns sung in the praise of Rukhsaar-e-Meer could be heard resounding throughout the land of Parzenia and not a single being was untouched by the happiness that pervaded the very fabric of the land.

Hearing the sounds of the people rejoicing and celebrating, Ozil had felt a mixture of pride and satisfaction at making the correct decision. The fervor of the people prompted him into making his own preparations for the upcoming ceremony. Although he had been too weak and frail to perform any spells, he had directed Shehzaad to mix some potions and set them beside his bed. Each day Ozil would drink from one of the vials and then smash it against the wall, only to repeat the same process the next morning. Even when asked by Shehzaad about his strange ritual, he did not reveal its significance.

This morning, sitting with Ozil's hand clasped in his own, Shehzaad remembered all the frenzied activities that had been happening in Parzenia. A simple 'yes' from him had overturned the gloom that had enveloped the terrain and transformed it into a land of hope. However, in his heart he still ached for Mehzil. The despair that had transcended his soul was yet to be lifted. With every cheer of joy that he heard, Shehzaad was reminded of the sorrow in Mehzil's eyes and the last words that she had spoken to him. "Just come for me as soon as you can. I will wait for you." A black sorrow threatened to overwhelm him yet again but he was pulled back from his dark memories by the gentle prodding of his grandfather.

Shehzaad asked him what it was that he wanted and then handed Ozil the last vial of the potion he had concocted under Ozil's directions. He watched as his grandfather sipped from it, bracing himself for the crunch of glass against the stone wall. As the vial crashed, a whitish smoke billowed from its remains and then fizzled out just as suddenly as it had emerged. Ozil muttered some hymns from his memory and then patted his chest thrice before asking for Shehzaad's assistance in getting out of bed.

He dismissed everybody from his presence, including Shehzaad, and told them to get ready for the ceremony. He then went over to the shattered remains of the vial and picked each shard carefully. Clasping all the minute pieces in his palm, Ozil began chanting a spell in the language of the ancient texts of Parzenia. A spell so powerful that it drained the last remaining strains of strength from Ozil's frail body. As he fell down to his knees, he saw someone rushing towards him before darkness befell his gaze.

Ozil took his last breath in Shehzaad's trembling arms, tears falling on his slackened face from the dreary eyes of his grandchild. Hearing Shehzaad's pleas for help, more people began pouring inside the Royal Chamber. Ozil was laid down on his bed for one last time while the inconsolable Shehzaad was comforted by Peeran. Sheiba was also present beside the still form of Ozil as she quietly chanted a prayer for his soul. Hakeems, officials, ministers, guards and a few of the visiting dignitaries also made their way inside the chamber and knelt before their erstwhile Overlord, while the crowds standing in the gardens below began chanting hymns.

From the celebratory mood from a few moments ago, the entire Palace was drowned in deep sorrow. Ozil's name began resounding from the gardens as the news reached more and more people. Sounds of wails, cries and sobs pervaded the air, replacing the claps, songs and laughter from before. Sheiba tried to console Shehzaad and then took him aside, away from the crowd that had gathered in the chamber.

"My child, I can imagine your sorrow and pain. Ozil's sudden departure is very disconcerting and the ache in your heart is shared by all the people of this proud land. However, you must contain your anguish and look beyond your personal grief. You have responsibilities on your shoulders, ones that you can not turn your back on. The whole land looks to you for guidance in this dark hour. They need their Overlord."

Shehzaad's bleary eyes looked at Sheiba in a strange manner, as if trying to understand what she was saying. Coming to his senses, he glanced towards his grandfather's body, and as if gaining strength from his mere presence, he got up from the floor and stood up straight. 

"Peeran, make arrangements for the ceremony. It was grandfather's last wish and nothing can stop it from taking place."

Just as Shehzaad uttered these words, a blade of grass was seen spurting in the arid land of Dahroob.

The End

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