Anara’s seductive smile wasn’t going to win my heart. She stalked on the other side of the bonfire in her leather pants, her eyes stealing glances towards me, making it purposely noticeable. While she was occupied with serving a mug of reejh to every person in the Circle Of Trust, a ring of fifty warriors in the bonfire, she didn’t miss a moment to glance back. She was one of the bravest warriors we had in our village and the only female warrior who would sit in the Circle Of Trust today.
The Circle of Trust was a group of fifty special warriors that had been destined to serve an important purpose to the village assembled in a circle and swore their lives that they would be true and loyal. And I was a part of it.
Couldn’t believe it’s today. The day I had been waiting for years, about which I had had a thousand dreams about till now. It’s the day to go on a voyage in search for the Amethyst.
Our village, Suma, was one of the oldest to have settled in Boa. We knew secrets to many mysteries that would die with the village. Its culture thrived on secrets, tales about the unknown were whispered amongst the villagers like mere bedtime stories. If someone promised to be a true Sumanian then the secrets had to die with them. No Sumanian had ever broken a promise. Not yet.
Anara gracefully walked towards me like a cat prowling on her prey and reached out to give me a mug of the pungent ‘medicine’.
“A little energy drink before we leave?” She cooed, her hand carefully brushing against mine. Her lips softly hugged at the corners into an inconspicuous lopsided smile.
“I like to be in my senses,” I replied before I could stop myself. Her eyebrows shot up with my response. No one could deny a warrior’s offering, indirectly or so. “But can’t deny an offering from a pretty woman.”
Her smile turned into a huge grin that made all of her pale teeth flash in the bonfire light. “I hope you soon learn to choose your words wisely, Atharv. I’m not just a lady but your fellow warrior.”
“I’ll have nothing but time to change myself during the voyage. Till then, let me savour the freedom I have now.” I winked at her and for a second I was sure there was a faint hint of pinkness rushing up her cheeks. I smirked.
“Don’t tempt me into breaking your bones,” she winked and cat-walked away to serve the remaining mugs.
That was her favourite warning and which I realised, in the twenty I had been with her, should never be underestimated. But tonight was different. Tonight she wasn’t the rough girl who hid her emotions with walls she built around her like a shield, separating herself from the world. It felt as if the excitement of going on the long anticipated voyage gave her an impetus to open up after a long time. Because that’s what she had been training for years before which she was just an innocent girl I loved. The girl who chose to take swords over my hand.
But life goes on. She’s just a history.
When I glanced on my side, Bala, another strong warrior of my age, grinned with his thick eye brow lifted, clearly feigning impressiveness as his eyes only burned with jealousy. He knew of my past as well as he knew each and every sword fighting technique we were taught in ten years. Everything was on his fingertips. Just like that, I knew everything about him and how his heart flamed whenever Anara talked to another man. Especially me.
Before I could open my mouth to tell him I was not anymore a danger in his romantic life, Baliyo, the eldest warrior entered the Circle Of Trust. Everyone got silent in the spur of a moment, leaving only the sound of crackling fire audible. Baliyo was the brawniest of men in the village, you could see veins bulging out of his muscles, the end to end connection of the blood flowing in him visible through the thin sheet of old skin that was covered with uncountable scars which he preferred to call ‘the mementos of all of his victories’. He was a tall man, his perfectly chiselled shoulders putting all of the great sculptors in shame.
There was this perennial frown on Baliyo’s face that no one had ever succeeded to change. The reflection of the flames blazed in his dark eyes, though deep in my heart I knew it wasn’t the bonfire.
“Warriors,” his deep voice thundered through the crowd sending shivers down my spine. His voice shook for a second before he spoke again. “This is the time we all have been long waiting for.”
His eyes scrolled through the crowd, dark and fierce, then finally settled upon me. I felt like shrinking that moment. Then I stood up straighter realising I had spent too many days hiding as a butcher’s unholy son. Now I am a proud warrior and I have nothing to hide from.
And a lot to hide. I quickly pushed that thought aside when I felt Baliyo’s dead eyes looking into my soul.
He moved his gaze away from me. “The Amethyst... is the most powerful entity in this universe.” He began the story again, a tale that everyone has been familiar with since after the storms that took over the Kingdom of Kalindi. “It’s a stone that has powers equal to that of a celestial being, it’s living and thriving somewhere in the middle of the seas. It’s said the one who acquires it gets all the powers right in his hands and he shall become most powerful one in this universe... More powerful than God.
“We’ve spent years to find ways to reach it since our first attempt... And this time, the Amethyst will be ours!”
The crowd cheered and chanted ‘Long Live Suma!’ in unison, exhilaration emanating with the spears thumping rhythmically against the earth. One gesture of Baliyo’s hand and in the spur of a second everything went into silence as before.
And then the humming began.
It sounded like low murmuring at first then it very smoothly turned into a hum that was an enchanting cadence which calmed my soul sending shivers from my head to toe. The lips of the priests among us was busy in n unfathomable babble to the winds. I was a myriad of emotions; fear and excitement mingled like paints skilfully merged in water to give out their true colours when they are together. But I restrained the hymn from putting out my true colours. It was in fact actually enchanted, spells expertly nudged between the oaths of warriors by the ancient ancestors who made us what we were today. Every Sumanian had to take an oath and the warriors of the Circle Of Trust had to chant it in every assembly that was held. The oath was followed by the swig of the holy Reejh, the most ancient drink on the Earth that was the blessing of lord Shiva to our ancestor to be the one to taste it first. It was the purest of the drinks and if one had an excess of it, he’d lose his mind completely and would run about the streets begging for it. But Reejh was the symbol of pride, a symbol of power for us Sumanians. And the warriors always began their journey with the taste of this holy water on the tip of our tongues.
We are Sumanians.
I didn’t realise I said it out loud until everyone chanted the same. It was an anthem of the village, the one I had been familiar with since they day I was born.
“We are Sumanians
The children of the seas and the tides
The glory of a sunless day and a moonless night
The protector of the Gods and the spirit of the wild
We are Sumanians
The blood of truth flows in our veins
Justice imbibed in our souls
We are the only remains
Of the ancestors who make us whole.”
...Who make us whole
And I will fulfil my promise to them
To find the Amethyst... And destroy it.
And the water burned down my throat.