Arnava stepped into the room cautiously. He was carrying his bow and arrows, his dagger and his sword. The room was empty. The entire building was deserted as was evident from its dilapidated condition. Yet, he had been told to come here. He pushed open the window, which protested with a creak, but one pane still opened. One of the panes was stuck, and Arnava desisted from using force to open it. The slanting rays of the evening sun filtered in through the half open window. Arnava moved to the other side and pushed aside the moth eaten curtains. The dust made him cough, and he lifted his uttariya to his face to cover his mouth and nose. There was a balcony beyond, the door of which had been boarded up.
He was not certain if he did the right thing in coming here. Was it foolish of him to just come here on the basis of an anonymous note? He wondered who had placed the note on his room and why. Why had he been asked to come here? And by whom? There was something fishy about it. The note had burned to ash as soon as he had finished reading, but he still remembered what was written on it. It had directed him to come here at sunset if he wanted to save his brothers and his kingdom from disaster. What disaster? He could not understand, but if any unknown danger threatened his brothers or his kingdom, he could not just ignore it. But seeing the condition of the building, and that there was no one there, he was wondering if he made the right decision. He was glad he was armed.
He heard a noise and whipped around, arrow nocked. A hooded and cloaked figure stood just inside the room. He felt a prickle that might have been fear. He had not heard its approach. It? He did not know why he thought of this person as it, but the person was standing so still, and the faint breeze that came through the window and disturbed the dust and caused Arnava’s uttariya to flutter caused no movement to the man’s robes. The hood and cloak were both black in colour and covered the figure so completely that not even a sliver of flesh was visible anywhere; face, hands, feet all were covered.
“Who are you?” He demanded, not lowering his bow. “Are you the one who asked me to come? How did you get the note to my room? What disaster threatens us?”
“Impatient,” the voice sent shivers down his spine. It was like no human voice he’d ever heard; it reminded him of something slithering across the floor. “So impatient you are, yet, some things are revealed only at the appropriate time.”
“So, it was you who asked me to come.”
The hooded figure bowed his head in agreement.
“If you don’t intend to tell me anything, why did you ask me to come?”
“To tell you of your purpose,” the voice dropped to a whisper, becoming almost a hiss.
“What purpose?” Arnava asked impatiently. “Who are you to give me orders, or tasks?”
“Who I am is irrelevant, but the task you’ve been set is important. Do not question it! It is the will of the gods!”
“Gods?” Arnava scoffed. “I’m sure there aren’t any who look like you. If you’ve called me just to waste my time, I’ll be leaving.” Arnava half turned to leave, when the figure spoke again, sounding agitated, the inhuman voice becoming grating.
“The usurper you have taken into your midst must be killed! You must kill him! Or he will be the death of you all!”
“What usurper?” Arnava frowned as he turned to face him again.
“The one named Bhaskara! Kill him! Or he will kill you all!”
“What?” Arnava was incensed. “He’s my brother! How dare you!”
“He’s death and destruction! He’s not worthy! He must die!” The figure took a step forward.
Arnava took a step back, and released the arrow, fury coursing through him. The arrow passed through the figure and buried itself on the wall. The hood and cloak crumpled to the floor. There was nothing underneath. He lowered his arm and wiped his brow. His heart was hammering. He had no idea what he just faced, or even what exactly had happened, but he knew he had to get back to the palace before his father or brothers noticed his absence.