Nirbhaya, a bhata seeking an iron mine locates a mysterious man named Nirvaira in an island surrounded by a river. He leases a boat to ferry. A storm materializes and before it crashes the boat, Nirbhaya holds on to the iron anchor.
The man who has mastered fear
My face feels hot and my eyes gritty. As they open slowly, I also hear the birds chirping. Before I can see anything a rush of unendurable pain sweeps across my body. Once I raise my back and seat straight, I find the source of the pain. It is my left leg and it is wounded. The iron anchor inadvertently has pierced into my left leg and blood is oozing out of the wound. The other end is tied with a shattered part of the boat which is floating in the river. I try to cut the anchor with my steel sword repeatedly but it is out of my reach. Then I attempt again and again. Eventually my arduous strives end with deafening wails of agony.
A woman with her little daughter arrives there. As she approaches, I scream at her “Pass me that anchor.”
“I can not , the boat is too heavy for me. ” She replies. “But my husband can, he is a smith”. She instantly instructs her child. “Srijanee, fetch your father.”
She and her daughter carried four bowls together which are now placed on the ground. They contain pomegranates, water, herbs and vegetables. I am hungry and thirsty. I do not know for how long I was without a meal.
“Give me the water and vegetables” I beseech on the instant.
“Wait for a some moments, I can make a drink by blending these items. Once you drink that you will regain your strength and be relieved of the pain.”
“I do not have time for that .” She ignores my shriek and continues on her endeavor. This is why I dislike commoners. They never prioritize the pressing matters like war or politics. Even after they get enough food and water, higher obligations does not exist for them. Dispirited, I resume my whimpering.
Soon her husband arrives there. He walks towards me carrying a hammer and a hot iron rod. His daughter reaches me running before the man gets to me. The man can not run as he has a wooden left leg.
His clothes. Blue and White . NIRVAIRA.
I am feeble and I need his help.
While Nirvaira beats the iron anchor with his hammer, his wife tells me to open my mouth. I see the water bowl which now smells like herbal medicine. As soon as I gulp the drink, I taste something sweet, smooth and rich throughout my mouth, neck and stomach. The more I drink, more I want it. I glut more without pondering. The anchor soon splits down in two and the piece of the boat drifts downstream the river. As the pain soothes, I nod off.
I wake inside a hut in the night. The hole in my leg caused by the iron anchor has been filled by herbs. My pain has gone down to a tolerable magnitude. There is nothing in the hut but an oil lamp. The moon light can not pass through the black clouds or the surrounding trees. My armor has been removed from my body as well as my scabbard.
Why the iron anchor had to happen and why now of all time ? I was so close to getting the mine. My king, the descendant of Indra with the iron mine would have ended all the wars to come. I was willing to do whatsoever necessary. Exasperated and unmindful I punch on the wall.
Srijanee enters inside the hut. She is carrying a wooden toy of Anadi Abheepsa. I attempt to smile at her. Her father follows her calling her name. I have not talked to Nirvaira yet. He asks Srijanee to leave both of us alone.
“Kallyani has been harsh on the that anchor and with the famine the boatman did not replace the rusty iron anchor for three years.” He begins. “The contamination caused by corroded iron anchor may spread all over your body and can also cause fatal muscle spasm. If you want to survive …”
“Where is the iron mine ?” I interrupted him.
“I have to cut your left leg and that should be done as soon as possible.”
At first I thought he was bluffing or lying as he was not an apothecary but then he explained about his experience with the local epidemic. I also had noticed cases of muscle spasm in the village.
It took me a night to understand. So there it was, the abrupt end of my life as a bhata not in a battlefield but in a forgotten island among commoners. If I am not a bhata anymore then what am I ?
Within the next week, I had to remove my left leg and clot the blood with herbs. I had to crawl in the beginning. Now I have to learn to walk with a wooden leg. I can not move from one place to another willfully like the river Kalyani. All these men and women are bound to lands, stones, metals or trees. They disgust me and I have become a commoner just like them. It is painful but more painful is my failure to end the war. That goal is the only thing that will bring Artha to my future.
I asked Nirvaira several times about the iron mine and every time he either ignored me or diverted the query to something else. His wife Ilika also does not know anything about it or she says so. In three months Ilika and Srijanee have become kinder to me. They help me to walk around. As soon as my wounds heal and I walk again without any help,
I will abduct Srijanee and extort the whereabouts of the iron mine.
(to be continued…)