The Third Yuga is slowly drawing to a close. Nam – the greatest Empire on Janani – is going to face some fierce winds of change. Seers foresee omens of death and destruction in the return of the Banished One – A God who will claim the ashes of this world as revenge. While out in the streets, rumours abound - of older forgotten powers stirring.
Caught in this maelstrom of a power struggle between Gods are three ordinary lives: General Fateh, the most celebrated soldier in Nam who starts to question his faith, Ishan – a gifted orphan who struggles to comprehend his destiny and Abhaya – a young monk in search of truths about this world. Their choices and actions will shape the destiny of this scarred world that becomes the playground for vindictive Gods.
In a world where Rakshasas arise out of left-over traces of Maaya and twilight forms the portal to countless worlds around us for Daityas and Yakshis to dance through, a God is only as powerful as those who believe.And when Gods rise, faith of men will be tested…And broken.
Buy: I Amazon I Barnes & Noble I Chapters.Indigo I Google Play I
Buy: I Amazon I Barnes & Noble I Chapters.Indigo I Google Play I
The only good Andhaka is a dead Andhaka.
Fateh kept chanting this, his teeth chattering like crazy, the shivers racking his young body, the cold leaking through to his very bones. It seemed like an eternity, waiting knee deep in the river waters. This far South, the river was calm enough, but Fateh knew better. He knew that the ice up on the Hindu-Kush ranges could melt and turn these calm eddies into raging, frothing death traps that swept one away into oblivion within a moment’s notice. It wasn’t just the cold. It was also the fear—a nameless presence hovering just over his shoulders. After all, this was his first battle ever.
Not the best of the conditions when you‘re fighting your first major battle. Fateh looked over his shoulders; all around him, soldiers were moving forward, dragging leaden feet through muddy slush and a fast undercurrent that sucked at your boots and swirled all around you. Fateh thought that the man next to him could hear his own heart, hammering away in his chest. The cold only made it worse; it seemed to squeeze the heart to pump blood through his white frozen limbs. ‘How in the name of all the djinns of jahannum am I going to hold that sword properly when the time comes,’ he wondered, fingering the scabbard cinched to his belt.
First visit to the Void! The edge of the known world. Where the fluctuating boundaries of the Nam Empire vanished into nothingness. Excitement pulsed through him, tinged with fear and anxiety as all the rumours he heard about this place rushed through his mind. The Void! The end of the living world. Where traces of Maaya was still alive.
One man brushed past him, a great-axe slung casually over his shoulders, his scarred face split in a wide grin. The grin, if anything, made the man look worse, accentuating that brownish-red welt across his face.
“First battle, huh boy?”
“Y-y-y-y-yes!” The bloody cold made him sound like a sissy about to wet his pants. Graaki’s pox!
“You need to warm up, boy. Get that blood flowing … when those conches sound out and the Andhakas charge over the hill, you need it roaring hot. Like a forge. What happens when you dip that burning, flaming steel into cold water? It becomes stronger! You hear me, stronger! That’s what you need to become, boy—the flaming steel.”
“The f-f-f-flaming steel, yes, Captain. Got it!” Fateh stammered, a vision of red hot steel dipping, hissing and steaming into a channel of cold icy water stamping onto his brains.
He didn’t see the blow coming.
His teeth clattered, his cheeks exploded in a miasma of hot lancing pain and he fell. Gasping and spluttering, his head dunked under the water, limbs floundering in a bid to grasp onto something, anything. He came up, his boots slipping off moss-laden smooth round stones and he went down again.
“Did that warm you up enough, son? Come on, get back up here!”
From beneath the waters, the shout sounded muffled. His ears were ringing, the water rushing all around him. He clenched his teeth to keep them from chattering and roused himself up, straining against the weight of wet clothes and all that armour, his hands coming free. Dappled sunlight glinted from between the clouds, suddenly blinding him. “Arrrghhh!!” He gasped, taking in deep ragged breaths, heaving and coughing. Fateh felt his cheeks sting with the pain; the bastard had slugged him hard!
The anger set in slowly. Fateh had never been a hot-headed boy while growing up and he wasn’t about to start now. But this time he could feel the anger, a beast swelling through his mind, red and hot. A blinding red mist was starting to sway over his eyes. He growled and swung his sword—when did that clear the scabbard, he had no memory of that ever happening—a wild lunge, not a practiced smooth killer’s thrust. It clanged onto a wooden shield reinforced with steel and harmlessly clattered off. Fateh moved forward, a double-handed overhead cut, a strike of wrath aimed for the head, which the soldier neatly sidestepped. Before Fateh knew it, he was sandbagged and lifted clear off his feet, even with the water weighing down his boots and he fell back again, floundering into the river.
This time, when he got up, he stayed put. The water had cleared his head and doused that anger. Save your blood-thirst for the Andhakas. He shook his head, his helmet was off and water had dripped down into his underclothes. It was still cold enough to freeze his balls off, but he felt the suffusing warmth of blood rushing to his head. He felt alright.
“Good! Keep your head screwed on, son. Don’t strike out in anger. Keep it cold once you got that fire inside of you. Fire and ice. That’s what you need to be. Tempered steel and not a hot brittle blade, son. You with me?”
“Yes, Captain Humayun. And thank you, Captain.”
Humayun nodded once, the ghastly smile flickering once again. “Try and stay alive. Get that helmet back on, aim for the heart and thrust good. Andhakas are tough bastards, seeds of the demon. Abominations born of Maaya left over in this world, such that they eat the flesh of you and me. So don’t get yo’self killed, okay? The Agha has deemed it an honour that his son joins the fourteenth battalion. And that means my company. And I don’t want to be the one giving him the news of his son’s death. You follow, boy?”
“Yes, Captain Humayun.” Fateh wondered where his father was.
Commander Veer, ‘Agha’ to the famous fighting unit called the First of the Cohort. His inspiration and idol. His father. He must be just beyond that bank, huddled within the grey pine forest, waiting for the Andhakas. Fateh had always dreamed of this day, when he could fight alongside his father. The Nam Empire would be proud of them, the father-son duo, winning wars for the Empire and becoming war heroes. Songs of glory would be sung in all the taverns. Legends of the Empire, History would –
Water exploded somewhere behind him, jerking him back into the grim reality of their situation, shattering his dreams of grandeur. Roars broke out from all around. Men scrambling with their weapons drawn, snarls of rage, cries of pain. Meaningless howls stabbing the world around him. Another whoosh as a second missile fired overhead, a black shadow against the grey ripping clouds in the sky. Some of it landed right next to the group that Fateh was waiting with. Men hastened to get out of the way, as Fateh watched something sizzle and smoke. Chemicals!
Bombs stuffed with Ferro-chemicals that exploded when in contact with water, mostly studded with shreds of broken glass and metal.
His mind recalled lessons of warfare, even as he scrambled out of the water following others, arms floundering wildly, breath hissing in the cold air screaming meaningless words of rage as the world around him disintegrated into deafening explosions of white foaming water, the red of body parts blown beyond recognition against the brown earth. Jagged shrapnel cut into the two men right next to him on the bank, their faces contorted in surprise and pain, as metallic shards bit into their upper body, cutting them to bloody ribbons. Fateh threw himself down, as did many others who were lucky enough to have got out of the water. But for the rest, the water formed a churning foaming white coffin of death, washing over and taking their inert bodies down river.
Sachin discovered Tolkien in his teens, alternative rock as a new adult and digital marketing in pretty much his late twenties. These still form a large wedge in his circle of life. Travel, radio and theatre have also figured in that ever-expanding and diminishing circle.
On perhaps a more prosaic note, he is an engineer from BITS Pilani and holds an MBA from Indian School of Business. Attribute the love for numbers and pie-charts to this. He is currently based in Bangalore and happily married to Harini. He spends an inordinately large amount of time chasing after his two dogs (who love the free life a bit too much) when he is not busy dreaming up fantasy worlds full of monsters. And beautiful Yakshis, of course.
He can usually be found ranting on twitter under the handle @xenosach, devouring books and talking about them on his blog. You can always stalk him online at his official website