“You failed.” The voice was dispassionate, the face expressionless. The man swallowed. Somehow the very indifference of the being that confronted him was more frightening than anger or recriminations. He knew that failure would not be acceptable, but he had not expected this level of judgement. He could feel sweat beading his brows, and much as he would have liked to wipe it off, he knew that to show any sign of weakness would be a mistake.
“The assassins I hired could not do the job,” he conceded. “For obvious reasons, I cannot show my hand openly. I have to put on a neutral facade at the least.”
“That is understood.” The creature answered, its voice a susurration that sent shivers down his spine. “But that does not explain the reason for your failure. You know as well as I that he cannot be killed by any ordinary assassin, not when he has his – protection.”
“I know. I just thought…” he could feel sweat trickling down his face and body. “I don’t see how he can be killed at all if that enchantment is as strong as you say.”
“The enchantment can be weakened and destroyed, but it requires strong counter enchantments, but even they won’t be effective unless he is struck by someone who shares his bloodline.”
“One of his brothers, then.”
“Yes. Now, you understand. They must be turned against him. That is your task. As you say, you cannot show your hand openly, but they know and trust you. Poison their minds against him. Slowly… slowly… just change them… and they will destroy him.” The voice had dropped into a whisper, almost hypnotic and he felt drawn into it, and nodded his head before shaking it violently. He couldn’t fall under its spell. He had to ally himself with it, but that was out of necessity. His agenda was different.
“Even if somehow I turn one of them against him, there’s still the fact that he’s a very skilled warrior. They call Arnava the best, but he’s no match for Bhaskara.” He pointed out. He had seen Bhaskara fight, and he had seen Arnava fight, and he had no doubt that in a battle between the two, Bhaskara would always prevail.
“Are you here only to create objections?” The voice came out in a growl, and the man felt a prickle of fear, but he refused to be cowed.
“I was just pointing out the obvious,” he said.
“Don’t worry about that,” The creature said. “The enchantment needed his mother’s life force to cast. To weaken it would require the life force of its subject.”
“You mean, the spell to weaken it will weaken him.” He guessed.
“Yes. But even then, only someone who shares his bloodline can strike the killing blow. Nothing else will suffice.”
“I see,” he paused.”I see my task. It is not easy, but it can be done. We need turn only one against him, and one is already against him. I can use him.”
“Use the warrior,” the creature or being or whatever it was spoke. “He’s the one who must do it.”
“Why? Maitreya is easier to manipulate. Arnava and Bhaskara are already as thick as thieves. It’ll be a difficult task to turn him against Bhaskara.”
“Do not speak names!” The creature hissed. “Names have no place here! It must be the warrior, for otherwise, he will ascend to the throne and he will not rest until he has taken his revenge on us!”
“What have you against him?” he asked now, curious. “I know why I want him gone. I have plans for Jwalamukha and they are not served easily if – the usurper is on the throne, and yes, the warrior on the throne could be easily problematic and so it helps my goals if he would get rid of his brother, but what is your stake in this?”
“The witch, Malavika,” the creature hissed. “She stole the enchantment from us, and cheated us of our revenge when she used it to protect her child. We would have killed her, and had her soul for ours had she not sacrificed herself.”
The man again felt a prickle of fear. This was no ordinary being. It was a spawn of hell, and he knew that one misstep could cause his soul to belong to it.
“So, now you want her son’s soul.”
“We want his life by breaking the stolen spell! And we will have a soul, his or his brother’s. The one who strikes the killing blow will be ours! You just have to make certain that he doesn’t live long enough to redeem himself.”
The man nodded. The thing was right. Once Arnava had killed Bhaskara, it would be better to get rid of him. Mahakarma was a doting father and might decide to forgive his son for fratricide, and Arnava on the throne was no different than Mahakarma on the throne. Sumitra, on the other hand, was weak. He could be manipulated, failing which he could be removed easily, and they could take control of Jwalamukha and its vast resources. But first, he had the daunting task before him of turning Arnava against his brother.