Category Archives: family

NOVELLA

The boy listened hard as he made another slash in midair. His leap was perfect as his sword clattered against the wooden post. He proceeded to attack, feinting and dodging as if fighting a living opponent. His little round shield was up in an instant, and he used its boss to attack his wooden enemy. One blow to the nose with such an object was enough to break the cartilage, and then came a quick slice to the neck.
He paused.
Around the courtyard, the buzz of servants and workmen became clearer to him as he stood still, belly pulsing with each gasp. Each shake of his head revealed another new drop of sweat as he squatted, kilt stuck obscenely to his strong thighs. Jayampati swung his sword in his hand as he panted, taking a quick gulp of water out of a small container made from a hollowed-out gourd. The refreshing liquid spilled itself across his body too, cooling him from the harsh rays of the sun.
Yet the water was soon to be superfluous.
In the skies above him, a celestial battle was raging. Surya’s life-giving rays were swamped now by the cloudy curtains drawn up by Indra, King of Storms. The low rumble of his chariots streaking across the sky was audible from afar.
The surge of energy invigorated Jayampati, adding new strength to his arms. He took his stance, and then leaped once more, powering his powerful body forwards. His sword came crashing down on absolutely nothing. But pride swelled in his heart at his victory against the invisible enemy.
“Jayampati.”
The voice was familiar, rather deep and rough, maybe slightly tired too.
“Get the hell out, Tamil,” groaned Jayampati bitterly. “I’m not interested in anything you have to say, so get out. Get out of my home Rudran. You aren’t welcome here.” Rudran bit his lip in anger, staring at the boy as he picked up the sword and shield lying on the ground. He adjusted the latter and slashed the former through the air.
“You mother thinks we should be friends.”
Jayampati snorted derisively, “Like that’ll happen”-he turned around and was taken aback-“but…what’s the meaning of this? Trying to kill me, are you?” At that, Rudran raised his hands in protest.
“I saw you practicing,” he replied, “and I think that you’re either a coward or a complete damned fool. You have no live opponents to fight you and you take your anger out on that.” He gestured to the post.
“My anger?”
“Yes Jayampati. I don’t think that that vein in your neck means happiness or elation, that’s for sure. You’re gripping your weapons tightly. Relax your hands, but keep them firm at the same time. You trust in your shield.  I like that. Most fighters believe the power to slash is more important than the power to block. But you, you are courageous, though still inexperienced. A little arrogant, I presume?” He stood casually, testing his sword out, swinging it about with a smirk plastered across his face. “Come on now. Show me what you’ve got.”
Rudran took up his stance.
Jayampati angrily attacked him, but Rudran’s shield flew to his defense in seconds. The boy’s sword hacked away at the rounded shield. Jayampati grunted at the effort, but every time he attacked another part of his opponent’s body, that annoying shield appeared to defend its wielder. Jayampati paused a minute, and then began to pant. He took a run-up and leaped, bringing his sword crashing down on Rudran’s shield.
The Tamil soldier, however, crouched down, rooting himself in.
“Well?” snapped Jayampati. “Attack, you coward!”
“Are you really going to tell your enemy to attack you in a real fight? Because I’ve been holding back for all this time, and I don’t feel as tired as you do. First rule of this fight, don’t push me, or any other opponent whose strength is unknown, to actually launch his attacks. Second rule”-he smartly held the tip of his sword under Jayampati’s chin-“exploit your enemy’s weakness. Third rule will come up later.”He turned back, waving nonchalantly at the Lankan fighter.
Jayampati squatted on the ground, dumbstruck. His arm was rather sore from holding his shield, so he put it down, although his sword stayed with him. He stayed there for a while, and then demanded, “My weakness? What’s my weakness?”
Rudran halted.
He did not reply, instead standing there, swinging his sword.
“Tell me! I order you to tell me, now!”
His anger was rising within him, and with a roar, rushed toward Rudran, only to have his weapon knocked out of his hand with a narrow cut across the palm. He held back his cry, but his sword clattered onto the ground. He winced for a minute or so, but by the time he picked it up he found the point of Rudran’s weapon pressed lightly against his neck.
“Third rule of battle strategy: Never let your guard down. Plus, since you so politely asked, your greatest weakness is that short fuse. Your temper gives you slightly less concentration and makes you downright sloppy. The best thing to do is control it. Or else channel it and augment your own abilities in a fight. You need to put your mind and heart into your strike, not just your muscle power.”
“But how did you”-

“What, know that you put your shield down? I concentrated on your next move. Everything else was merely shut off. You could call it a trance, meditation, whatever you wish to call it. But I listened. And I planned my next attack accordingly. It’s all in your head, Jayampati. Like chess, only this is physical. So next time you’re stuck in a big fight”-he sheathed the sword and turned to leave-“think of me and react before you get your blood spilled. I’m going to get some breakfast. Goodbye.”

A thought for today, a reality for tomorrow.

We see a makeshift children’s ward. We see little kids who are barely past five years having bandages on their frail bodies, crutches by their bedsides and gloomy looks on their young faces. No parents to soothe them when their tiny faces twist in pain; no one to hold their hands and tell them that their return to a safe household is just a matter of few days.

Then we hear the voice of a little girl; sad, faltering but flickering with hope.

“I think about the generations
and they say they want to make it
a better place for our children and our children’s children
so that they they they know it’s a better world for them
and I think they can make it a better place”

As you might have guessed already, it is the opening scene in Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World”. 
All of us say that children deserve a better world. Some even go forth to say that they deserve the best. We say that they are the future of the world, the hope of the nation.  Yet, do we restrict those hopes to mere sayings?

Today is children’s day. First proclaimed by the World Conference for the Well-being of Children in 1925, it was established universally in 1954. Back in school, this was a day we looked forward to because it meant one fundamental thing- TREATS! Unfortunately, time flies and I’ve become a person to supply treats for a couple of years. (Sigh!) But I can look back and say that I got my fair share of treats and most importantly, a happy and blessed childhood. I’m grateful to my family, school and all the others involved in that massive task. However, I know that not many can say this because of the suffering they had to undergo as a child. War, famine, family issues, poverty and many other causes can damage or even take away the life of a child.

The day we address these issues efficiently, children all over this beautiful planet can
heave a sigh of relief. Only then will October 1st be a happy children’s day, a day when we truly celebrate the future of the world.

NOVELLA


“You were named after one of our Lord Buddha’s most pious female disciples. If she could live to a hundred and twenty, so can you, madam. So can you.” At this she would always laugh at the old maid’s sweet stupidity.  
“By the way, how many have you invited?”
“I don’t like making a show of things, Ran Ethana. Just five, not fifty. I’m doing it…for him. It’s what he wanted; it’s what I promised him before he left for the war,” she answered softly with a sigh, fighting a few tears that tried to escape the grasp of her eyes. Vishaka bit her lip immediately. The other servants had heard it, and she flounced out of the kitchen.
“First that damned Rudran, and now this…”
Vishaka could not cry.
 Instead she sat silently in her bedroom. She gazed at the glassy-eyed stare of the little Buddha image that sat on a small shelf nailed to the wall. It was the smallest of altars, but here he had prayed so much for luck, for hope that he would survive the war. The statue itself was made of bronze, but had not been polished in years; thus its luster had been ripped away by the wind. Those eyes, however, pierced into her soul.
Eyes that saw, but yet were not meant to see.
Eyes that had witnessed the purest of truths, the one he had shown her, and which she had begun to believe for a while. Yet like the once-radiant patina, it had gently slipped away from the reaches of her heart. His aura was still warm in their room, and she felt him breathing against her skin, pulses rushing across her neck like amber against straw. The soft down of black stubbly on his cheeks and the thin mustache that he, somehow, always kept so well groomed, felt as perfect to her senses as the softness of his lips. Her youngest son’s own beauty, the boy’s lotus-soft lips and wonderful mass of curls, were drawn from his blood alone.
 He had never said a word when he left her that day. He had merely left, and had been away ever since. Her body ached and trembled when the dreams of his death-the gods forbid-flashed through her mind.
“You damned fool,” she muttered under her breath as his voice haunted her being, “why did you have to be away for so long? You shouldn’t have gone! Just because it’s your…family heirloom, well who cares? You took three of our children with you, and I know that Jayampati will follow you! Are all you bloody men so cruel? My dear Anuruddha, I love you, but you, you are such a fool!” Her hands flew to the mirror, and her whole body became clearer.
Visions of a beautiful girl, her lean body slick and aglow with fragrant oil, floated past its shiny surface. The girl who invited him into her being with her soft thighs and high, large breasts…her pain as he first broke into her, clashing with the gentleness of his lips against hers, exploring the innocent young body before him. Visions of children appeared, yet died away just as quickly, sinking back into the mirror’s glassy depths…
“May I come in?”
The rough voice of Rudran shook Vishaka out of her dream. Her kasisalu ventured slowly to her eyes to conceal her tears from this strange man.
He had no smile on his face as he looked at her. Yet the light streaking into the bedroom made his unshaven, perfectly kempt visage seem so wonderfully godlike, as did the taught muscles of his back and chest. “I wanted to apologize for this morning. It’s not so easy, living out here for two weeks, knowing that, well”-he cleared his throat, but always stayed at the doorway-“my comrades are away, fighting…and I’m in enemy territory. And in a noble household, no less. They would hate me for this.” She gave him a small smile, from which he turned with slight embarrassment.
“And look,” he continued, “none of us common soldiers even wanted this war. Our leaders just want the world for themselves these days, I guess. So many new mandalams in foreign lands, Choladesha growing fat at the expense of everyone else. And we have to pay for it.”
“So is that why you’re in pain?” Vishaka’s eyes looked deep into his; they were two dark globes clouded by a strong fog to her. Hers were clear and beautiful, black as polished onyx, tearing through the obscuring mist. “There has to be more, Rudran, I know there is”-she placed a slender hand on his arm-“so tell me.”
He shied away for an instant, a look of uncertainty on his face.
Vishaka smiled, “It’s alright. You’ve been here for two weeks now, and I don’t exactly have many friends. I mean, certainly not like you”-she turned her face away, but still bearing the same smile-“and I, I mean, we…no, sorry, but you’re not at all what I expected, I have to say.”
“Excuse me?”
“So polite, well-bred, and just plain chivalrous, that’s what I mean. Anuruddha is certainly not the best source when it comes to…the enemy. I’m sorry, but he, he’s just strange. A little…prejudiced, I think. You could sit down if you like. Don’t be shy.”
Rudran cleared his throat loudly, and continued, “Madam, would you ask me to sit on your bed if your husband Anuruddha were still here? And there’s your son.” His tone grew slightly bitter. “He’s, he’s a good boy. Looks out for his mother. That is, at the expense of getting to know me. Not that I need his acquaintance. But anyway Vishaka, I’m sorry. Maybe some other time? I”-his tone quickened as he turned to leave-“I’m sorry, so sorry.”

NOVELLA



The house had been pretty much a hellhole for a while. Sweaty, half-nude workmen rushed around the place as they labored daily, their sinewy strong hands flying as they hammered at the nails of the mandapa. The sound of saws eating away at wood had never pleased her either, and her head was filled with it when she passed the house’s alms-hall. Looking in their direction would surely throw them off and distract the poor, simple bastards.
Perhaps these men had mastered concentration in a way that she never would.
For a minute, Vishaka stood still, feeling the softness of her supple arms and the silk kasisalushe’d decided to wear as part of her day’s attire. Her nostrils were confused by the stink of sweat and the sweet aroma of her own perfume, neither scent being particularly inviting to her when mixed together.
One laborer smiled broadly at her as she passed him on the corridor facing the courtyard.
That dark-skinned man’s gnarled hands and skinny stomach would never belong in a noblewoman’s home, but here they were! Men like him had built her house, but here he was, hands together in salute to her.
This simple man hadn’t the time to look at his cowlick in the mirror, to oil and comb out his hair! He hadn’t the time to see to his fingernails, but they still met.
“Oh, what am I thinking about?” She shook herself out of her reverie in a split second after he had passed. “He just wants to live and he wants to be reborn as someone with privileged. Maybe the next time we meet, good sir,” she told herself with a smile, leaning against a pillar. Its capital needed a thorough brushing. Already cobwebs were trapping bits of dust, and she could swear that she saw a tiny brown gecko; the little reptile had been scrounging about, ambushing flies like some miniature cat pouncing on rats.
How monstrous she seemed to this tiny beast. Its shining ebony eyes reflected a titanic monster, tan-skinned, with a black patch of something on its head, from another world as it ran-almost slithered-across the shiny surface of the pillar. The new sunlight was just filtering through, into the courtyard, and invisible waves of heat drew themselves up from the soil. Strange shadows flung themselves onto the floor around her as she passed.
His Lordship Surya was always the best artist. She smiled in acknowledgement of the solar king as she let her fingertips graze through the ethereal rays. A little shower of dust was raised into the air with every light footstep, and they rained down to the tiles once more after their short second of levitation. Vishaka’s smile lasted for about as long too, but she locked her lips afterwards. Her expression wavered between shades of uncertainty and certainty as she leaned heavily against another pillar.
The end of her long plait hung down like the head of a giant artist’s brush. Her fingers toyed absently with the individual hairs for a while, after which she let go with a sigh.
Pity her celestial artist wouldn’t be able to color a pleasanter shade over this scene.
Her expression darkened slightly.
She always told herself that she was unshakeable, but the conversation with her guest had been enough to drive Vishaka straight to the kitchen. She still had no clue as to what made her take shelter. It was small, and always slightly smoky. Today, it was bathed in what seemed to be a moderate grey fog. Quickly, her hands rushed up to her face to guard her nose and mouth from the fumes. Yet the fumes rose from the great pots of mixed vegetables on the stoves.
One of the maids constantly restocked the firewood at the heart of each hearth. When one of them opened another pot, the delicious aroma of ghee filled the room, inviting Vishaka to take a whiff. Yet her hands did nothing that allowed her to commit the olfactory sin. She did, however, find the courage to reach for the window just above the stove.
“You know I like to air the place a bit, don’t you now? Do you want to suffocate in here?” she demanded, feigning crossness.
One or two of the servants nodded at her and rushed about the kitchen.
“Pardon me, my lady.”
It was old Ran Ethana. “Oh, dear,” Vishaka attempted a smile at the maid, “I think you might be overdoing it a bit in here! We can’t have the priests eating burned or overcooked food. Also,”
“If I may say so, my lady, it’ll be a worse sin if we serve it to them under-cooked.” She had to laugh at the small, pinched sixty-year old face that grinned rather strangely at her. Ran Ethana’s eyes always sparkled so mischievously and yet were washed over with a slight tint of innocence and energy, all in one. Vishaka always sighed softly to herself in secret, “I wish I had half the ability to live as long as you.” Yet that dastardly old thing always happened to hobble over with that infectious smile and reply, as always, unabashedly:
“You were named after one of our Lord Buddha’s most pious female disciples. If she could live to a hundred and twenty, so can you, madam. So can you.” At this she would always laugh at the old maid’s sweet stupidity.  
“By the way, how many have you invited?”

“I don’t like making a show of things, Ran Ethana. Just five, not fifty. I’m doing it…for him. It’s what he wanted; it’s what I promised him before he left for the war,” she answered softly with a sigh, fighting a few tears that tried to escape the grasp of her eyes. Vishaka bit her lip immediately. The other servants had heard it, and she flounced out of the kitchen. 

NOVELLA

Jayampati stood at the head of the bed while the doctor and his assistants worked away at a herbal mix. Plants and leaves were massacred under the weight of a granite grindstone in the corner. The keen, skeletal hands of the doctor unwound the bandage that Rudran had slapped onto his head to stop the bleeding.
The boy tried his best to hold the contents of his stomach within him as the bloodied cloth was flung to the ground. The massive gash carved into the soldier’s head was deep enough to have killed almost any other man. He must have his gods on his sides, but still, blood and pus ran down his face in torrents, mixing with the stale sweat that ran down his as he groaned.

“He is in pain, but all we need to do is clean this wound and re-bandage it to stop the blood flow. He’ll have to stay here, son,” the doctor told Jayampati knowingly. “Under no circumstances must he be aroused before that.”
Rudran cut in. “No miracle cures, eh?” he grunted with a mix of sarcasm and derision. The doctor looked at him with a wry smile. “If you want to pray a little for your health, you’d better go to a temple. Those have hospitals too, just more high profile since the bhikkus run those. We’re just independent practitioners. But anyway, I don’t think even Shiva himself could extend his healing touch over something like that”-the doctor gestured to one of his apprentices to bring the mix-“so that’s why we’re here. I’m not a mere village doctor, you see. I don’t go about believing in demons and holding exorcisms and the like. Guess it’s just the skeptic in me.”
He folded up a clean cloth, slightly coated in a green mash of plants, and started to reach into the depths of the wound. Blood and grit came away, but Rudran still winced slightly. The doctor looked questioningly at him.
Seeing his concern, the soldier replied, “It’s alright, venerable sir. I have experience with the army doctors. Of course”-he gasped slightly-“one never really gets used to this. Surgery, now that, well…we fear the surgeon’s knife more than our enemy’s sword to be honest!”

“Which brings me into this conversation. Tell me, how exactly can we trust you, sir?” Jayampati leaned heavily against the wall facing the bed. “Because something’s been gnawing at me. You claim to be from Pandyadesha, in Tamilakkam. Of course, last I checked, you Pandyans were under the Chola yoke for a while now. Who are you, really? Because your story doesn’t convince me. Actually”-he scratched his head momentarily-“I never know whom to believe any more. the Angampadi Brigade itself is under the invader. This is enemy territory I’m living in. There are plenty of Chola offices and forts in the Mahiyangana region and its hinterland. Sinhalese and Tamils alike are under them. So far, you are Tamil, and that means-“
“My dear boy, may I kindly remind you not to stress the patient out? It doesn’t matter who he is. To me every man can become infirm, so that in itself, is an equalizer. Now please, join your companions, and leave my patient to me.”
Jayampati pursed his lips at the doctor’s words, but with a slight nod, he walked out. He distinctly heard the old man muttering something distinctly related to the Buddha-or some other sage-but decided to ignore it.
His friends sat outside on an old stone medicine trough. It was truly a wonderful piece of work, or had been, until it had been broken. This was probably something that dated back to Lanka’s golden age, but time had not been kind to it. The distinctly canoe-like granite object was weathered through centuries of heavy rain.

Saliya was first to intercept him.

“So what’s our next move?”

“Next move? What are you jabbering about?” grumbled Jayampati, kicking a small stone as he approached them.
“I mean, about our guest. What are you thinking Jayampati?”
“Well, my suspicion is that he could be almost anyone, but…what if his story checks out? What if he really is on our side?”
“Whoever he is,” cut in Devaka, “taking him to Mahiyangana would be our best move. We’re just a bunch of boys. What do you expect us to do? We hand him over to the governors, and we’ll be done. Maybe he can be sent off to Rohana to meet the king. Or to Rajarata. Either way, it isn’t our business.”
“We found him, so we are responsible for him. Nobody needs to know, alright? I don’t want us to be caught up in some political conspiracy,especially not at a time like this. Plus, think about his fate. If he’s our ally, the Cholas will just torture and kill the man. Same thing will happen if Rohana gets to hear about him. If not, well, then they get their man back.”

The other boys looked at him questioningly.

“Look, see, if he is indeed an enemy spy, we don’t know how much information he has. He’s too valuable to be lost, especially if he has something that’ll help the Chola forces take down Rohana! So we keep him close and keep our eyes on him. He’ll be at my house. He’s obviously too well built to pass off as a poor Tamil villager who got caught in the crossfire, and besides, since my father’s away, his whole no Tamils attitude won’t be a problem. Let him be who he claims to be. That way he’ll be more comfortable.”

“So we babysit this fool,” snorted Saliya. “Great.”

Jayampati nodded solemnly. Then he stiffened, and a vicious flame burned in his eyes.

“But the minute he tries something suspicious…we kill him. Or die trying.”

NOVELLA

Jayampati stood up, his hair battling the slight gust of wind which breathed a cooling breath over the waterway. He bit his lip hard, swallowing back his tears, when a familiar hand gave his a gentle push. He had to smile now.
“Saliya…” he breathed, “and what in heaven’s name do you think you’re doing? We were waiting for you. See?” The other boy pointed at the river.
“Devaka and Dashrath are already here, but Mahinda won’t be coming. His father took he and his brother out on a supply expedition. They went to Magama, if I’m not mistaken. For the soldiers, a convoy of carts with rice and meat and things. All the merchants are doing it. Are you feeling alright?” Saliya looked into Jayampati’s eyes. The latter’s lids seemed to the former like rocks made of flesh that tried desperately to dam the gap between eyes and cheeks.

“I can’t stop thinking of my family! What if one of them is next? What will my mother say? My brothers have families of their own too!”

Saliya tried to understand his friend’s pain. He slipped his hand into Jayampati’s own and tried to squeeze it, but no words could come out for a while. What could he tell the son of a soldier, a true kshatriya, born and bred for a mortal life of honor and glory? For, wasn’t it someone extremely wise who’d said, “Durlabham hi sadaa sukham” or something of that nature.
Prince Rama really was a wise man.
A legend, true, but a wise one.
Happiness was truly impermanent as he had said that day thousands of years ago. Plus, you live in a world where the two alternate. Sailya quietly attempted to digest the meaning behind the legendary kshatriya’s words. Perhaps this one, his friend, himself born to a warrior, would understand? But all Jayampati did was grunt, “I’m not a fool, not at all. I know what’s going on. It’s not like I’ve never seen sorrow wherever I went, so stop quoting dusty old myths to me. I had to deal with this war for so long, but still I mean, my father would never forgive himself if even one of my brothers died. And my mother wouldn’t forgive herself knowing that she had allowed them to enlist. Saliya, you can’t pretend to be something you’re not!”

“Pretend? What…”

“Pretend to live like a god!” cut in Jayampati. “I mean, isn’t that why all those old stories were written? They were moral stories, true, but you can’t always live by their words. Frankly I’m past caring, I”-he flung his arms up in exasperation, but then looked at his friend’s face-“I’m sorry I shouted. I think we all should be allowed to feel pain. Yes, you…you’re right, I guess…I…I’m confused.”

Dashrath, the large boy with short hair shouted, “Is anything wrong?”
His companion looked up at the two boys on the rock for a minute.
“Come on in, the water’s nice and cool. Besides, a good swim will take your mind off any troubles you have, won’t it?” he continued loudly, with Devaka doing his best to cut in.
“Alright.” The answer from the rock was curt, but not so rude that it was off-putting. There were, after all, far worse ways to spend an afternoon. His three friends had their eyes trained on him as he walked down the rock. His facial muscles twitched as he tried to form a ghost of a smile, but the wind chill was starting to bite their naked torsos. Especially the two who’d been in the river.
Jayampati himself was nervous.
The other three boys looked at him in admiration as he smiled shyly at them.
His face was that of a young god, with his full lips, soft as lotus petals and expressive eyes, brown irises looking around almost with uncertainty. In their eyes was the reflection of a broad-shouldered boy, just short of eighteen, with the big chest and powerful back of a warrior, perhaps a young practitioner of malla yuddha, fresh out of his first five years of training. Not that his muscles were greatly defined, but nonetheless he was fit and strong as an ox, the mounds of his chest clearly visible, rising above his flat stomach.
His forearms had long veins running across their surface. He always carried himself erect as a pillar, sandy skin glowing as he rose from the water. Long hair, silky and black as a dancer’s, framed his round, well-formed face.

All five feet eight inches of him were magnificent.

The much taller Saliya looked down at himself, hand running down his stomach, and then at Jayampati. His eyes stared hungrily at his friend’s powerful arms and then at his own as he pursed his lips.

NOVELLA

(Once more, this time during a power cut)

All thoughts of politics and war threw themselves out into the mud of the swamp as Rudran’s eyes bore into the steel body of his sword. He grunted in pain as he continued his trek. His hands instinctively reached for overhanging branches and vines as his incisors gnashed in anger, leg muscles screaming in protest at having to move. His heart beat with every thudding step in the muck and tangled weeds.
He had moved a fair distance along the shore, when he finally saw a small sandbank between two rocky outcrops. The sun’s face hid as he tilted his head upwards. The cooler, more bearable part of the afternoon was coming over the world.

The waterway was no more a mere canal.

It had the depth and width of a large river, and he knew that he was somewhere around a very famous settlement.
Mahinyangana as the locals called it.

The monotone drone of the cicadas and the raucous cries of avian fishermen stung his ears. “Let’s cover our bases,” he gasped, “I’m injured. Plus the people of this country are on slightly better terms with a Pandyan from Madurai than with someone on the Chola side. At least I speak…Tamil…a little Pali and Sanskrit…Sinhala, bits and pieces of it at least…” He stopped himself, still hard in thought. That last language was a noble tongue, spoken by a select few only. “As long as I find some nobles I should be fine. A few uneducated villagers would be too suspicious of me and my cover would be blown. But of course, what’s to stop even another kshatriya from buying my story? I’ll have to come up with something…”

The details poured out of him as meticulously as the details of a hard siege.

Rudran crouched as he ran his fore and index fingers across his fingers to relieve a passing headache. A nerve in his forehead spasmed and he fought to swallow back the vomit rising in his throat. Dizziness attempted to grip his senses once more but gritting his teeth, he snarled, “Not this time! No weaknesses!”

His fist closed even tighter around the hilt of his sword.

The chorus of shouts-probably from young people in the area-was too clear now to be simply dismissed as an auditory illusion.

*********************************************************************************

The rock formation on the left bank sloped downwards away from the river, cutting into the thick forest. Jayampati panted as he picked up his heels and arrived at the spot, laughing delightedly at the prospect of a swim. His thick hair was slick with sweat as he paused by an old tree stump to catch his breath. His fingers brushed through his curls as he tried to crack a smile.
“Don’t you dare leave me here! Or any of us for that matter!”
The cry teetered on the edge between annoyance and amusement as his companions came closer.
Jayampati chuckled.
“You’ll have to catch me first!” He stood up, deftly wiping the river of perspiration on his brow as he took off again. His eyes literally sparkled devilishly as he arrived at the knotted, gnarly roots of the ancient banyan that spread its branches over the rock-face.

At the top, he whacked his dagger firmly into the trunk of the massive tree.

Sitting down, he peered down at the sandbank. The water beyond it was deep enough, and this was a wide channel, after all. After all, he was born and bred here, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Mahiyangana. The canal had intersected with a branch of the great River Mahavaluka here, but jumping in from his perch of forty feet would be suicide.
Yet his heart knew that this victory was required. The egrets were no more than minute specks of white against the verdant crowns of the trees on the further side of the tributary. There was no way he could inspect his reflection, of course-this was no puddle but the largest river in Lanka. Jayampati sat cross-legged, seeming to the world, as he breathed in and out like a mockery of a mendicant sage. Unintentional of course.
The white thread around his wrist told of his faith. Yet the little amulet whose head rested against his upper arm was too precious to lose. Working away at the knot, he loosened it and hung it from the hilt of his dagger.

His young head was filled with a rushing mass of thoughts as he gazed down at his feet.

That was the cause of all that pain. A little bit of mimosa had stabbed him nicely in the little toe. Harmless, to be sure, but a nuisance.

A nuisance.

“What a damn bother.”

But he bit his lower lip, his face darkening instantaneously.
“Who am I to be thinking about nuisances and trifle grievances when I don’t even know if you are all alive?”
A small rivulet of blood dripped from his lip to the cleft of his smooth shaven chin.

Just like half his family not being home to help his mother and he in their daily work.

A huge estate was not going to look after itself, plus his relatives…what if…”No, the Upagupta family won’t try taking over anything. I hope. Oh by the gods, this damned war isn’t going to end itself just like that, is it? Pandu, Abhaya, Themiya…I need all of you back alive, my brothers.” He felt a tear tracing its way down his cheek. “I need all of you back with father. Your own families want you back so badly. Abhaya”-he laughed, left hand briefly covering his full feminine lips-I have to say, Sundari misses you so much, and so do your boys…I can’t take their place if you die. None of us can. They want their father so much. Same goes to you Pandu. Khema loves you dearly, even if she doesn’t show it often…”
He stood up, leaning back against the banyan.
Three sunbeams tore through the ashy barrier of clouds as Jayampati’s thoughts too darkened. Surya’s life-giving power had no hold over the loving youth of a country torn apart by alien invaders.
Jayampati merely paced up and down restlessly, still in waiting, but no longer happy.

“Where are you Jayampati?” The shouts continued to ring from the forest. The boy’s mind felt heavier than it had been earlier.
That other problem gnawed at him as his muscles tensed.