An Unexpected Twist…. Chapter Eleven

A day and a half’s hard riding brought Vasusena to the Pandava camp. The sentry at the entrance stopped him.
“I am Vasusena, an envoy of King Dhritarashtra. I have a message for King Yudhistira.”
The sentry led him to a tent where he had to wait till messages were sent to Yudhistira. He was given refreshments which he declined, though not the water. His horse was being cared for in the stables, he was told in response to his query.
It must have been nearly half an hour later that Nakula and Sahadeva entered the tent.
Vasusena could sense their hostility even though their words were civil enough.
“King Yudhistira is waiting for you.” Said Nakula. “We shall escort you to him.”
Vasusena nodded. They walked to Yudhistira’s tent in silence. It was a very small camp, Vasusena noticed. But this was only a temporary arrangement till a decision about war could be reached. The military camp would have been bigger if it came to war. Which was not going to happen now. The Pandavas could break camp and go to Indraprastha. And he could go back to his life and forget he ever learnt that he had brothers.
The last thought startled him. I must be growing senile, thought he. Or maybe I am too tired.
The tent loomed in front of him. It was slightly bigger than the others. And the reason for it became evident as soon as he stepped inside. It was the command tent, he saw. And it seemed at first glance to be too full of people.
He sat down at the chair to which he was led and accepted the goblet of fruit juice. It was bitter-sweet and tangy too. But it refreshed him. The room was too silent as he handed over the scroll to Sahadeva who took it to Yudhistira.
Vasusena watched the way Yudhistira’s whole face lit up as he read the missive. He handed the scroll to Arjuna.
“Krishna has succeeded in the peace mission.” He said, beaming at them all.
A Babel of voices broke out, all who were in the room talking at the same time. Apart from the five Pandavas, there was Drupada and his sons, King Virata of Matsya and his sons and a few younger men whom Vasusena thought might be the sons of Pandavas.
He wondered if it might be considered offensive if he slipped out. The loud noises coupled with the heat of the day were beginning to make his head ache. He could not understand what the argument was for. Surely, they would not have sent Krishna with a peace mission if they did not want to have peace.
The voices died down slowly, but the throbbing of his temples did not ease.
“You must be tired,” said Yudhistira. It took Vasusena a moment to realize he was being addressed. “You must stay with us tonight. You can leave in the morning.”
“When will you be leaving to Indraprastha?” He asked.
“We have to discuss and decide,” said Yudhistira. “When will Krishna be back?”
The throbbing was now a pounding. “He said he will join you at Indraprastha.”
He did not miss the troubled glances they exchanged.
“I will take you to your tent,” said Sahadeva.
Vasusena accompanied him. The tent was spare but clean. He sat down on the chair pressing his hand to his temples. He wondered why Sahadeva was not leaving as he stood in one corner, busy with something.
“Here,” Sahadeva handed him a goblet. “It will help with the headache.”
He drank it down gratefully. The pounding eased almost immediately, settling down to a dull throb.
“How did you know?”
Sahadeva shrugged. “It was evident. Many are having it here too. The heat is the reason.”
“It is unnaturally hot here,” he agreed.
“It will be cooler back home,” murmured Sahadeva, a faraway look in his eyes. Then he gave an absent minded smile to Vasusena.
“I will have someone bring you food,” he said.
Vasusena nodded. “Thank you.”
Sahadeva paused at the door. “Did Krishna really succeed?”
Vasusena nodded again, not trusting himself to speak.
“Pity,” muttered Sahadeva. “I wanted war.” There was real regret in his voice.
Vasusena was saved the trouble of answering as Sahadeva went out.

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