(I can’t help but put up more posts attesting to my novella. This is a continuation of the earlier post, a direct continuation in case anyone is confused :))
“And that being?”
He got closer to the boy; hand on his right leg as he smiled, his expression now unreadable as he felt Kush’s tender skin under his fingers.
“War…and now I know that there is no honor and glory in war. It’s all a put-on lie, my little friend. Glory for being able to kill men in great masses? A murderer should be awarded medals and given kingship at that rate! I mean, think of it, and think of all the formations, all the great strategies that have been made over time on the battlefield. Think of the great men who read of the scholars of old to find this knowledge. They discovered the same thing that I have”. All the while, Sivapalan’s smile grew even more crafty and vicious, as he half-shielded his eyes and ran his hand down the young boy’s leg and finally up his torso and to his neck. Kush suddenly felt a strange surge of emotions flowing through his body as he let it out in a sigh that made him spin out of focus for an instant.
His fingers gently brushed his companion’s hard chest as he drew further into him.
“That deception”-he tightened his grasp on the boy’s throat once more, making his hands fly up to his-“is war!” Kush was thrown down onto his back, chest heaving as Sivapalan dug his fingers into the soft, wet earth. He saw the lad choking for a while, but then loosened his grip. “You aren’t worth it, you damned young demon,” he hissed through gritted teeth, although he drew his dagger and laid it against Kush’s stomach.
Finally, he saw his comrade’s spirit breaking. Helping the boy up, Sivapalan finally steadied himself as he walked away.
It was a long, heavy, hellish trek for both of them through all that wet muck, with mud and leaf debris sticking to their feet and brushing past them as they moved quietly. There were no slips, no sighs or even any conversations. Kush though, was working overtime on his thoughts as he followed Sivapalan wherever he went. Who was the queer young soldier who led him on? Was he even Kush’s friend anymore? Was this the same man who’d saved his life and helped him whenever he’d wanted anything? Was Sivapalan the same one who looked past their differences and tried to at least, make a friendly pact with him?
Now what was this dark-skinned youth to him? Probably nothing, now that he’d shown his true colors to Kush at last. His…his…antipathy was all that the poor boy felt…the anger he now bore against every Aryan in the world. Meaning all from the Himalayas south to Lanka itself. The Dravidian was taking over the world, it seemed. And Sivapalan was to be part of another world order, so she thought. The darkness of his soul was starting to envelop Kush, but when had he ever felt weak among men, he reminded himself. This man, older than he was….and so…so viciously cold….
“It’s like you’re now an alien to me,” the boy whispered quietly, wringing his hands, “it’s like you were never my friend, never my acquaintance, never the person I always loved like a little brother. Oh, Chandrasegaran….if only you could see him now.” That poor child would throw himself off a cliff, surely, if he’d heard about the blood that Sivapalan had spilled.
But that final act was the strangest.
Did all warriors always deceive their enemies on the battlefield? Did the mighty Duttagamani, of whom Kush had read years ago, deceive the people when he told them he fought for the Sangha, for the Brotherhood of monks, and not for himself? True, that king of days gone by, was his favorite hero, as had been that of his family, but now he didn’t seem too sure.
Very soon, the two of them got to a rock-face shielded by a dense scrub of deciduous trees, probably kottamba. Kush surveyed the location. “We….we are close to the river called the Gona Nadi in Sinhalese terms. I…think if we can cut past the branch here and we turn away towards Tabba, we should be able to head for the coast. You do know that we are traveling southwards, don’t you?”
Sivapalan said nothing for a while. “It’s fine, the rain’s almost stopped. We get my father out of whatever mess he’s got himself into and we head north once again. We need to get to wherever we can get some proper help.”
Kush shivered as he hugged his torso…
Something was coming, and Sivapalan would be the doer of the action…
The cantering of hooves was loud and clear as a patrol of eight men thundered past a small, now overflowing irrigation work, or gamika wapi.
“Sena, what do you think? It’s been quite a while,” said one of the soldiers as he steadied his horse. Sena, the leader, dismounted and observed the ground. He spotted prints in the mud.
“There have been people here. They have been moving south of here, perhaps towards to get away from the warzone. It could be our men! Abhaya”-he pointed at a broad man with a large, sullen face-“onwards. Take Gamini, Pandu and Mahatissa with you. I’ll come as well. Moggallana and his brothers can use the long route. Let’s ride!”
The soldiers followed their leaders as they raced towards the border.
Brahmarajan was still building up his courage, in case he needed to truly face the person before him. There was a tense moment of silence.
“Do I need to answer you?”
A cold reply.
Something that the warrior was used to, thankfully.
“Well, we are together, after all! So tell me where you come from. I really want to know.” Yet still he did fear the young boy’s piercing glare and murderous, steely tone. And anyway, two men could survive in this wild area better than just one. This could be a perfect slave for him. It could also give him leverage if he ever encountered another Sinhalese patrol or outpost again.
The two stared predatorily at each other for another moment, after which the boy said, “Just call me Vikrama, I’m seventeen today, sixteen yesterday, almost like the end of one life and the beginning of another.”
“Are you often this poetic?”
“Don’t push it, stranger.”
“Well then, I…I honestly can’t say that I’m myself anymore,” said Brahmarajan sadly, as a mouse scampered across the floor, “and I don’t think you’d want to know anyway. It’s just not much to tell you so let’s just give the whole thing a rest, right?”
“You said you’re…seventeen? Quite tall for your age, strong too.”
“Well, I might be, maybe, maybe not. The war does terrible things to you anyway.” Vikrama was right there, Brahmarajan thought. He kept trying to shake away the thoughts of screaming young women and children that he and the rest of the army had enslaved over the years. Brahmarajan knew that he was a true veteran. He’d served overseas, he’d served in India, and now he was posted here, where his army was suffering the worst defeats in history. Maybe, and finally, the claims that demons populated this island were coming true. Maybe the perfect, fair-skinned young maidens whom he’d found in the palace of Anuradhapura, on the campaign when they’d sacked the old city, were really concealing their true forms underneath all that perfume, silk and jewelry. He felt a similar darkness in his new acquaintance, as if the child was a bird of ill omen, some premonition that something bad was definitely about to happen.
“Some nonviolent Buddhists you people are,” he thought, and all too loud.