Fair Uhan was unlike the rest savages, he was not from the Valkan, he was a Mixling, a derogatory word for his type. He and his shadow Raksen, his childhood friend, were both the Mixlings in Aahush’s army , who had with their tenacity, villainy and utter abhorrence to four established clans of Praleesi, made for themselves some name. Uhan had never led any mission earlier, was not a captain unlike his father. Though he enjoyed the baguls support and respect which his father had earned, but got pestered regularly for his looks. Uhan took finest twelve baguls,his shadow Raksen, the eldest Arakhsa, Ujoy, Kretu, Dhruket, Kryiet, Shiamack, Dhanha, Dhranda, Khetru, Sahatri and youngest Primya to nabthe master of weapons shrewd Mskar.
The band of thirteen was all set ready with the strong horses from Ndra’s stable, and adorning the new armour from the fallen capital. The baguls just took a few breast and back plates. Armour was for weak, and hindered movements was their stable understanding. Uhan was of different opinion, he wore the extremely light hauberk, additional greenishbreast and backplates and made his dear friend Raksen wear it too. Both wondered how light these felt inspite being metallic. Raksen was not the one to wear it, but if Uhan orders he will,his loyalty for Uhan knew no bounds. Not for no reason the baguls called Raksen -the shadow.
They all stood ready waiting for Aahush at the fallen gates of the north. Aahush as promised rode towards the expectant band of thirteen, multicoloured dressed baguls ready to rush after master Mskar. Aahush saw to their preparation and spoke to them of what important mission they are set to be on. He praised Uhan’s Father, his bravery to boost further the bands morale and underlined the indomitability of Uhan . And as culmination to his act just before the departure Aahush declared Uhan to be the leader of the twelve men, who once were his equals.
“Uhan beware you are to enter the Aranya Forest. Sly Mskar is at large in that forest, which he will use to his advantage. Look for Kimmara, it might help” saying that he bade them away.
Uhan rode with this men towards Aranya, the dreaded living forest. Men is a wrong term to describe his horde. These were savages from Aahush’s army. Raised, actually reared and bred in the lands of Valkan, trained in the special units in the capital of Koaw Kaas. A place for no normal being. It seemed that Valkan was carved out from the evil himself. The only thing that reached there with no hindrance was sunlight, which to large extent kept these horrific tenants under control. Of the various beings that lived in Valakans, there were two strong clans, Kalamaurs and Narvriks. They controlled the region from River Hanub, closest frontier to peaceful part of Praleesi, to snow clad dry arid Lhashka.
Lhashka and beyond was where roamed the horrendous sisterhood of Chudels- their cursed living. Both the clans Narvriks and Kalamaurs could not bear or handle sunlight, given their curse. Great Ndra’s curse which had transformed them caused their blood to corrosively react to the sunlight. This would lead to blood haemorrhages with excruciating pain, at times permanent physical damage, depending how long the exposure was, if exposed long enough it would result in a tormenting death.
To protect themselves against the sunlight these creatures had promoted growth of a species of trees gigantus monstera. Like the name, these red barked trees grew to extreme heights, with short thick leaves and scaled long branches, hence the name monstera.Growing close to each other, competing for sunlight the trees created a blanket like canopy hindering sunlight falling to ground. This helped to create a unique sunless gloaming environment for the Valkan dwellers.
Escaping Valkan was no easy task for these creatures given the curse laid by Ndra that never allowed them to cross the river Hanub. With his death the curse had begun to weaken, leaving Valkan was getting easier, but escape from the hideous forms, escape from sun’s affect was not in sight. When they first attacked Praleesi, they risked crossing Hanub. Mahishi, the mastress of dark creation provided a helping hand. She despite her limited power on Praleesi created a temporary way out across Hanub for the baguls, had they failed their attack on Olam Anvyra, the baguls would have been annihilated. There were no gigantus monstera trees in rest of Praleesi which would protect the cursed ones, thus for these creatures to help form an army for Aahush and Ritr, the baguls needed protection overall Praleesi. She in her last fight, aeons ago, with Ndra had created an ardent turpitude servant named Tzeel Tzur. This formless cruel sludgy being was powerful enough to destroy all, but was always well contained by Mahishi. This Tzeel Tzur had helped Mahishi destroy another two worlds from the unknown part of world, but Ndra’s Praleesi was not like any other world. Mere Tzeel Tzur could not bring about destruction at his will. Here on Praleesi, where Ndra ruled mother Mahishi was careful. She began her work on Praleesi by gifting Tzeel Tzur to Narvrik and Kalamaur clan union. Thus ensured she had her most trusted eyes on those hideous creatures. Tzeel Tzur created carriers for these creatures of Valkan. These carriers were human like bodies into which these creatures stuffed themselves. The stuffed bodies at times protruded like vegetables packed in some sack. Tzeel Tzur even trained these unorganised wild savages to work as a unit, as single Army. Using their hatred for Ndra and loyalty to their clans.
Uhan was leading such a pack of savages, loyal to Aahush, brooding with hatred for Ndra and what all he created. Uhan took his masters words of caution carefully. He wondered why his master would mention about Kimmara -the myth. Seen by none heard by none.
With their horses they galloped towards the Aranya Forest, crushing miles of land from fallen northern gates of thecapital -Olam Anvyrato edges of doomed forest. Aranya has its own fame, the alive forest of Praleesi, feared by cowards even so more by brave ones,a forest which hosted all that what one could fear, from animals to other worldly creatures. The forest was home to both the myriad of animals, plants, trees and even beings never seen in any other parts of Praleesi.
The old wives tales were the only live memories of the enchanting forest for rest Praleesi. A forest so feared none set foot in, not even to test the tales, which claimed the forest created by ever wandering souls -The Children, protected by beings who lived in there. Beings never seen, never heard of.The forest was never inhabited by human forms, or by animals found through rest of Praleesi. The only thing that came out of this forest was scary legends and stories of horror. Worst was the image of the Aranya protector called Kimmara. What it was, where or why of it never existed, only stories about it made rounds in myths, legends and all stories ever told to children to keep away from the forest.
Uhan with his men stood the edge of the eerie forest, feeling the fresh cold breeze. The trees moved with the wind, branches brushing on each other creaking and at time croaking adding to the sinister impression of the forest. The gushing noise of wind playing with leaves was audible even from a distance, creating a image of heavy breathing sleeping monstrous giant waiting to be woken.
The fast moving playful wind carried the odd smell from the forest as it fluttered dark orangish flags, so did their dresses sway with it.
They all stood there, waiting for their new captains orders, while Uhan’s gaze was fixated as if the forest was about to attack them. After cautious study with his left hand he signalled to march ahead and rode first, rest followed him. The forest was thicker than they had perceived to be. Trees touching skies, covered with moving creepers with eyes, was a enough set in the fear. With no knowledge as where Mskar could be they moved ahead, one could find teeth on hen, but Mskar in Aranya was tough. Uhan knew he had wounded Mskar, he going far was doubtful, but was concerned about the mechanical machine, the lifeless metal bird with which he sprung away. He was counting on Mskar’s deep lacerated wound. His blade had made a good deep cut on Mskar’s right thigh, which made Mskar to resort to the idea of using the lifeless bird to jump over.The search party had been deep enough, at least far deep into Aranya, away from the outer edge of the forest.Time had flown by, as though time had a different pace in this forest. Their hunt was just occupied observing the weird forest, none what they had seen or imagined it to be. While the band of baguls was engrossed in their bizarre surroundings, Uhan was focussed on his hunt. He still had clear picture of master Mskar live in his eyes. How he attacked him with the sword, Mskar dodged the first two blows but the third one was way to fast for him to slip and was struck.
The whole scene played in front of his eyes as they cautiously proceeded. It had been half a day they were into the forest, heading just with some hope of nabbing Mskar. Heading pointless was making the savages restless, but Uhan was calm, in thoughts as though trying to smell Mskar with his thoughts. As he pondered he tried to recollect the myths, rumours of Kimmara
So deep was he in thoughts that he spoke ‘Kimmara’ loud. That made his troupe halt, but he did not notice it. His horse walked ahead while its master was lost in his thoughts. Ujoy called for him, which brought him back from his thought trails
“What happened?” Uhan asked turning back
“Captain you spoke, ‘Kimmara'” Ujoy replied.
“Oh” did I” confused said Uhan “Do you know him?” he questioned
“Like others we too have heard stories of him … er! Her! It?” confused spoke Raksen, as he looked at others with hope laden eyes for clarification.
“hmm! And what do these stories say?” spoke Uhan.
Araksha the eldest in fleet spoke,” Commander, there are many legends about Kimmara, we might spend our days discussing them, but yet would not be able to figure out what is what” as he strode towards Uhan,”But of many there is one legend which lives on and can certify that Kimmara exist,”
“Tell me” said Uhan
“During the times of creation, Kimmara was created to protect Aranya. It neither male nor female of it’s species was not bound to passion of any sort, had no attachments no loyalties to anyone except Aranya. As guard Kimmara never allowed anyone to enter Aranya, until Mskar crossed in breaking his absolute authority. That was when Mskar was commissioned to make the Aja for Ndra. Mskar needed waters from meandering Bahina River,”
Araksha was interrupted by a loud screeching noise from some animal which startled them all, and scared few. The horses had already become restless, and scared were their masters. Seeing the group the animal paused and went by it’s way. The weird form, fur less quadruped, ugly than pig, big pink eyes, snouted mouthed filled with rows of teeth attested they were in Aranya.
“So where is Kimmara then? We too are here” questioned Uhan trying to distract his men’s fear of Arnaya due to that animal.
“Captain, for his needs, Mskar entered the forest so says the legend. But Mksar being the master of his art, Kimmara could not notice the entry until Mskar got what he wanted. Once he discovered Mskar in forest, Kimmara was enraged, engulfed with fury he attacked Mskar viciously, who fought back. They say Mskarusing this forestdefeated Kimmara, hurt his ego. Mskar left the forest with no trace, and left behind Kimmara ridden with defeat and humiliation. Disgusted with self, they say Kimmara since then has lost his full grip on Aranya. Hence may be we are still unnoticed,”
“hmm, so Mskar caused great humiliation to Kimmara” expressed Uhan caressing his imaginary beard.
“it’s only but a legend” said Araksha discarding his own story.
“Well even if it is a mere legend, we need to try it, we need this Kimmara, and whatever it is” said Uhan looking for ideas from others.
By then the rest too accepted they were on wild hunt. Each of them was trying to contribute his share of heard legend. Uhan was least interested in legends, all he wanted was Mskar. Each person shared the story, the same story just a new version, the situation changed, place changed, so did the reason, but Kimmara being defeated at hands of Mskar was common theme. Half day had passed in search, another two hours had passed in these stories. Soon the darkness would engulf the already poorly lit forest. He had to ensure safety of his men provide food and most important hunt Mskar in this wild.
“Ujoy you and those two and find a place for us to rest for night and Kretu organize food. Rest we shall wait and plan the further action” Uhan ordered his fellow bagul, that’s what they addressed themselves as. Bagul was the term they used for the beings of Valkan, what Praleesi deemed as savages. Immediately Ujoy with two baguls rode north into the mist until they vanished into it. Kretu with other two bagul went for hunting food. “Raksen, this Kimmara what do you know more about it, does there exist any truth to it’s existence” Uhan asked Raksen, his loyal companion of years.
“Well! no one has seen it, so hard to tell what it is, some say it’s man, some say it’s women, some see it as animal others may see it as creature. But none of these categorize it as either male or female of any species. My great grandfather used to say Kimmara is desire, it comes to you as you desire. To some it may come as ravishing beauty, to some as horrid opponent, some may see their worst fear in it, while some see extreme joy in it. There is no single opinion about it, as after all it’s legend, a myth” Raksen replied trying to be honest.
“Curious, what is it, and how do we find it” said Uhan as he brushed his chin
“Ahem!” clearing his throat Dhruket “Uhan if this Kimmara’s existence holds any water, then as per legends he is bound to protect the forest. Even in his defeat, he will have to protect” he said that and looked around to see how rest react. Saw all ears belonged to him “What I am saying is rather than we search for Kimmara or his existence, let’s bring him to us”
“Yeah right call his name and he will came running like baby” Raksen retorted as rest giggled.
Dhruket a little nerved said,”I ain’t no idiot, all I say let’s attack what he cares for – This Forest” the giggles silenced, all stared at him and he stared back but then fixed his questioning gaze on Uhan
“What do you mean, attack this forest !” questioned the men “Its Kimmara who has to protect the Aranya, as per legends he was created for the sole reason, he is bound to protect it, so all we need is to create a scenario where we cause harm to attract attention. What say you Uhan !” Dhruket directed the question to Uhan
“hmm, well we have nothing to lose, do we?” asked Uhan
“Even if Kimmara is legend, there are other things in Aranya which do exist, hope we do not cross path with them in doing so” afraid Kryiet said.
“Who cares!” laughed out Uhan “lets rest first and then we decide our further course of action” said Uhan .
“Over here” they their heard rider call them out. They all turned to see who it was.,”Over here! we can set our tents there, just close to those mounds” said the rider as he approached the group,” Kretu waits at the spot, while asked me to report to you,” he said.
“Ok you and another two bagul wait here for the food team, once they return bring them over” saying that Uhan placed his foot in the stirrup and swung himself on the horse. So followed the rest and they rode in Kretu’s direction.
As they waited for others, make shift Tent settlement was ready. Their wait was for food, some game animal if possible, these savages gorged flesh. One or two of them sat around a fire while another two three had watch duties. There was lot to watch for but the forest for now seemed to be silent. The noises, screeching, howls were gone, all one heard was the rustle of leaves. The wind whistled, brushed the tree branches, the only life they all heard.
“Aaarrrrmm arm yourself!” they heard a shout from distance. All immediately moved out of their tents to see what has happened.
“Prepare for attack” riding a horse wounded Kretu shouted, who now was visible to rest from the tents area.
Immediately all took their positions and prepared for the attack. The Kretu riddled with arrows, which appeared like twigs, rode in struggling to keep the horse on leash. The twigs seemed to be alive, they kept drilling into his body, as he reached the camp. Two other soldiers helped him dismount, but were horrified with those live twigs.
In pain he said “It suddenly attacked us, they are killed, they are killed, I… I… aaah” his pain kept multiplying when others tried to pull the twigs out, they got drilled in more spilling more white-ish thick blood.
“I… I… Don’t know what was it is! Shiamack shot a deer like animal and… aaah!” he exclaimed in pain. “and suddenly from nowhere we were attacked” “water! water! Some water,”
“Who was it, who attacked you” Uhan asked angered by attack, holding to his iron sword.
“Dooont Knooow” the Kretu spoke spoke with difficulty. “They were just was not visible, hidden in mist they showered these on us, also they attacked us individually. We were no match” saying he paused for breath.
“How many were they” Uhan questioned
“Don’t know, it was too sudden, an ambush in thick fog, may be they were three four or just one too fast and agile, they slashed open…,” his sentence was interrupted by a loud warning call, “P O S I T I O N S”. They all looked around, one of their bagul gave the warning call. Immediately they took their positions.