“No, no, no!” Viradhara fumed, “My Lord, you’re not swinging that sword correctly! I’m begging you, use the shield instead of two swords.”
“Calm down” laughed a young Prashantraj, “I’m handling it just fine.”
Viradhara was not amused. He hadn’t become the General of the Vihara army by tolerating fools like this prince. Couldn’t he see that he would be dead within a few strokes if Viradhara wanted him dead? Arrogance, that damned arrogance. He threw his sword away with a clatter and picked a wooden sword.
Prashantraj laughed. “A mere wooden sword?” he smirked, “Afraid I’ll hurt you if I use metal?”
“We’ll see” Viradhara’s lips twisted into a smirk.
That was enough to get the Prince livid. It was a direct attack onto his ego. He threw away his bejeweled swords and picked up two wooden ones, and took position. Viradhara checked his stance. The prince had kept both swords up, leaving the waist unguarded. Viradhara lunged, moving his sword from bottom up in an arc. The prince didn’t have either time or space to defend the attack. The wooden sword hit him hard on the waist.
He grunted in pain, incensed. He swung his sword up and the general calmly parried the ill thought but powerful attack. One more lunge, and Viradhara lost patience. Instead of defending, he hit the incoming stroke with a hard backhand lash. It hit the prince hard on his wrist and the sword clattered away. He only had one sword left and no protection. The color leached away from his face as he realized that if this had been a real fight, he would’ve be finished within minutes.
Viradhara wanted him to learn, not just realize. He swung again, and the prince parried, but couldn’t balance himself well without a shield or sword in the other hand. The prince waited, parried two lunges and swung as he found a low opening. The General feinted and blocked his sword with his shield and lunged at the prince’s throat. He stopped inches away from his neck.
Fear was visible in the prince’s eyes now.
“That should do for the day, Young Lord” he stepped back with a curt smile, “Lord knows we can’t lose more of the royal family. Not after thirty-three of you.”
He threw away the sword and shield, bowed once, and left the practice hall. He was making his way to the Common’s room when one of his footsoldiers, his eyes and ears in the family ran upto him.
“What is it?” he asked, not slowing his pace.
“The Queen has been asked to change the heir to the throne.” The soldier gushed, “The sage says the younger Lord cannot inherit, he will pass on his bad luck to the kingdom.”
Viradhara’s face darkened. There was no way he would be subordinate to the impudent prince he was fighting a while ago. His father may have ill-luck, but he was an infinitely better human.
“Anything else?” he quickened his pace.
“The sage says it’s alright if a girl ascends the throne. He’ll give his blessing.”
The General stopped in his tracks, his calculating mind working at top speed. Ketanraj’s son was an impudent brat, but his daughter Sneharanjini was gullible. If she took over…if she ascended, she would have no military knowledge. She would be heavily dependent on him. He would…he could rule by proxy.
“Keep listening” The General commanded as he started walking, “If you continue, I’ll have you promoted to major soon.”