Sri Satram revealed
his plan for Raj and Vikar to find the Rishi, and for Varga to go and
retrieve the crystal ... and as he spoke, a knavish groan creaked from
Varga's throat, and He sighed in a low whisper, "Very well ... it is
for the cause of Dharma."
Varga wondered how
he got included in this whole adventure. He thought back on that day in
the forest ... yes ... it was the cryptic voice within, and he remembered,
he acted on the mysterious voice deep within.
"It is surely
the wish of the Supreme Isvara," he murmured to himself. "We are
puppets in his hands, and he causes us to dance as he wishes."
The next morning,
Varga performed daily rituals and chanted mantras in the stillness of the
early morning hours, awaiting the rising sun. He entered the temple and
received a garland from the Deity, and gazed upon that brilliant form with
At sunrise, he
watched the fiery globe emerge ... and he murmured the Gayatri, and the
golden rays chased away the fleeing shadows. He meditated on the light of
the radiant sun ... only a tiny fraction of the Brahmajyoti effulgence ...
it had once again banished the night's darkness.
He began his journey
with several men, and some pack mules. Sri Satram employed his mystic
vision to show Varga the location of the gem, which lay within the lair of
a tribe of dacoits. It was a few days journey through a rugged land.
His band journeyed
through a mountain pass along trails steep and treacherous. At the end of
the second day, they made camp in a moonlit cove of trees. In a short
time, one of their trackers spotted the Dacoit's camp, about six miles
In the dead of
night, Varga and a few men stealthily crept through some brush to the
crest of a low hill and surveyed the camp from a distance. The night
darkened as a large cloud veiled the moon, and Varga and his men crept to
the edge of camp. They found a sentry who was carelessly falling asleep on
his watch. This band of dacoits wore some strange traditional robes with
hoods concealing the face.
circled the unwary man and he detected that the sentry was snoring in a
drunken stupor. He quickly bound, gagged, and disrobed him. Varga donned
the man's robe, and instructed his men to wait for further signal, as he
skulked into their camp, incognito.
The camp was a ram-shakle
tangle of tents and run down huts. There were two well built buildings in
the center of camp. The large one appeared to be a tavern and the small
one appeared to be a temple.
He milled about,
looking for possible clues or leads, and then entered the tavern, his face
well concealed by the draping hood.
It was a raucous
tavern, the atmosphere was filled with loud noises and peels of laughter.
The mayhem was occasionally accented by sudden brawls, and bursting
bottles, flashing fists, cursing, and flying chairs. This only charged the
enthusiasm and mirth of the belligerent crowd.
Varga leaned against
the bar and ordered with a muffled voice. He ease-dropped on a nearby
conversation. A grotesque ruffian was boasting loudly, slurring and
gesturing like a stinking drunk, his tongue unrestrained, bragging about
the capture of a man and some gem of mysterious powers.
There was a sudden
crash against the bar and Varga turned to see a big bully taunting a
smaller man. Nothing ruffles Varga's feathers more than the ignoble deeds
of a bully. Intolerant of such acts, Varga stepped between the cowering
man and the thug.
This enraged the
brute so, that he swung at Varga with all his might. Being nimble and
quick, Varga eluded his fist and doubled him over with a right to the
The thug looked up
for a brief moment, only to stare with eyes wide open, in total disbelief.
His gaze was put to rest, as Varga belted him up and over the bar, and he
slid the full length down the polished wooden top, bowling over everyone's
This caused a large
uproar, followed by intense glares, as everyone turned to stare and
grumble. The smaller man quickly bade Varga to follow him outside. The
crowd was too drunk to meddle, and turned back to their boisterous
activities as Varga and his mate exited discreetly.
They repaired to a
secluded spot, and the man said, "My name is Sugosh ... thank you for
saving my skin. I liked the way you knocked him across that bar ... why,
nobody else would dare interfere. I see you are a stranger, please tell me
who you are and how I may repay you." Varga then introduced himself,
and inquired of his story.
"I was captured
by this band of rogues at when they raided my small village years
ago," Sugosh said. "The King's army arrived in time to capture
many of the dacoits, but many got away, with me included as their slave.
And so, I've been waiting for my chance to escape, please take me with
I'll get you out of here, no problem, but first you might help me with my
task at hand. I am looking for a wonderful crystal gem, said to be in the
hands of these rogues."
answered Sugosh, "I can help you with that. Over on the eastern side
of camp, there's a guarded cabin. Within is a prisoner by the name Megadut,
and the gem. It seems they caught the hapless fool outside the Shrine of
Mahadeva. He was boasting of his possession of some powerful gem."
Varga and Sugosh set
their sights upon that cabin and circled around back through the woods.
Varga had to step over several drunks who were passed out and sleeping in
Varga thought what a
zest they have for this rot gut brew, how they guzzle it down!
They stealthily made
their way to the rear of the cabin. In concealment they heard a
conversation of the Guards.
"When is the
journey to crater lake to be?" said the first.
The second replied,
"Kergold said we will depart tomorrow at dawn, one day before the eve
of the full moon. You know how the Kraken is fond of human offerings on a
full moon night!" They both cackled loudly, anticipating the fun to
Varga then devised a
plan. Sugosh lured one of the guards around to the back with promises of
strong drink. The guard scratched his head and weighed the pros and
consequences of drinking on the job. He quickly discarded the cons and
advanced to Sugosh with a grin. Varga stepped out from behind a tree ...
as the guard started to gasp in surprise, Varga promptly knocked him
unconscious. He then went to the front and commanded the other guard to
open the door. The guard glanced at the gleaming dagger protruding from
Varga's robe and complied to the order without a peep. They went inside
and Varga gagged and tied up the guard.
Megadut squealed in
excitement upon presuming his escape, but his smile turned to a frown as
Varga ignored him and instead forced open the box holding the gem.
Megadut beckoned him
and pleaded for his release in a submissive voice, "Please take me
with you and I will vow my loyalty and service to you ... oh great
At that time, Sugosh
submitted this advice to Varga, "Be wary of this base person, oh
Varga! See how he pleads with feigned submission! Policy is the true
substance of dynasties, and thus one should not accept the fake submission
of a rogue, this is clearly seen in the story of the snake and the
frog." Sugosh then related the following story:
Once there was a
clever snake who was lazy and unable to catch frogs easily and so he
remained motionless upon a riverbank. The King of the frogs was curious
and asked the snake, from a safe distance, why he was sitting so still,
and why he didn't eat frogs as of old.
The snake replied,
"Once I was at chase of some frog, and by mistake I did bite the
finger of a Brahmin's son by mistake, and he died, and so the Brahmin
cursed me to be a bearer of frogs, instead of an eater of frogs, and so
here I am, and I cannot eat you, no, I can only carry you on my
And as the King
heard this, he became desirous of being carried and so he came out of the
water with his minister frogs and they all mounted upon the snake's back
for a ride. After the snake had gained their confidence, he feigned
exhaustion and said, "I cannot go a step further without any food,
unless you give me food, how can a servant serve without
At this, the King
frog said, "alright, I suppose you can eat a few of my
followers." And so the snake ate all the frog followers, and the King
tolerated it because of blind pride at being carried about on his back.
said Sugosh, "we should not give into false submission or a calamity
may befall us for such indiscretion."
"Oh Sugosh, you give noble advise, and yet I feel compelled to take
him in. I remember how Laksmana advised Lord Rama not to accept the
brother of Ravana, Vibishana, into his camp. Laksmana said that he was a
brother of the enemy and one should never trust an enemy. But Lord Rama
said that he never refused anyone who came to him in surrender, and so I
shall adopt the same policy, even though I may live to regret it."
And so the three
tried to escape through the back way. They made their way secretly through
the woods, with the moon light shimmering about the tree boughs. They were
upon the outer limits of the woods and ill fortune fell, as Megadut
stumbled over a sleeping drunk in the bushes, and stepped on his head so
hard that the stinking lush screamed out in bloody murder. This alarmed a
nearby sentry, who alerted his comrades with a loud whistle, and droves of
soldiers came from all directions and surrounded them. The odds outweighed
Varga as the dacoits were in numbers and were armed with swords and
Being trapped, just
as the immortal soul is trapped within the material body, Varga gave a
good fight, but they were outnumbered. He opted for discretion instead of
valor, on account of the former being the better part of the latter ...
and he decided to surrender.
They were put into
jail, and the dacoits grinned and slapped each other's backs and shook
each other's grimy hands vigorously, after spitting on them as a token of
As they sat in the
cell, Sugosh exclaimed, "What irony fate has wrought! Our escape is
foiled by a drunken sot, passed out and sleeping on the ground!"
Varga nodded in sad
confirmation and said, "Aye, the devil's brew has waylayed many a
At the crack of
dawn, the chief priest of the dacoits came in. His name was Kergold. He
had beady sunken eyes that peered out from hollow sockets, hidden under a
shaggy bush of black eyebrows, as black as a demon's aura. They appeared
to be eyes that delighted in the suffering of others. A meticulously
manicured black beard outlined his cruel thin smile, which glowered
underneath a crooked hook nose. He wore an elaborate crimson robe, studded
He took an immediate
dislike to Varga, as Varga did to him. Kergold introduced himself as the
high priest of the Dacoits. He said with an eruption of cruel laughter,
"So you tried to sneak away with the jewel? Well, I am glad you were
foolhardy enough to try, for now we have three human sacrifices instead of
one, ha, ha, ha."
He arrogantly told
Varga how they would all be fed to the Kraken monster on the night of the
Later that morning,
they began their journey on the road. Varga and the other two men were
chained together and had to walk under heavy guard. Kergold was constantly
prattling and goading Varga with graphic details of how the Kraken likes
to dismember his victims before eating them.
They all stopped to
rest in a grove of trees, and being unobserved, a small bird flew up to
Varga's shoulder and whispered something into his ear. Varga was marvelled
by this bird who appeared out of nowhere and who spoke in pleasing tones.
The bird related how Varga's loyal men were waiting ahead on the path,
ready to ambush the band of dacoits and rescue him. Varga thought for a
while, then smiling, he shook his head. He decided that he couldn't pass
up such an opportunity for fun.
He decided to
decline their offer, and execute the plan that appeared suddenly in his
An idea came to
Varga's mind like a gift from heaven, and it was as clever as a Koel bird,
who saves his leisure time to sing his expert musical compositions, while
his chicks are unwittingly reared by other birds.
Besides, he thought,
we wouldn't want any blood to spill ... especially our own.
Varga told the bird,
with a whisper, to return and give this message to his men, "When the
time is right, I will give a signal, our secret code, just stay close and
wait for this signal. Please tell them that I have everything under
control. I will return from the hands of these knaves, just as the soul
returns to this world into another body, life after life."
The bird chirped in
agreement and then flew away. He returned to the men and relayed the
message. They were troubled to hear such a plan that seemed foolhardy.
They thought they had a better chance with a surprise ambush.
The bird then said,
"When in the face of danger, the wise man will abandon fear and
rashness and he will make a positive plan, please hear this story of the
Lion and the Rabbit." The thrush then related this story:
Once in a forest
there lived a Lion who terrorized all the creatures of the forest. He
killed the animals at will and kept them always in fear.
They called a
meeting to resolve what to do, and made a proposal to offer one animal
daily to the Lion to appease him, so that he not kill more than the one
offering. They gave this plan to him, and he so agreed. Thereupon, he ate
his offering every day and did not strike fear into the hearts of the
All was going as
planned, but one day it happened to be the turn of a certain rabbit. With
a melancholy face, the rabbit turned and started for the Lion. Along the
way he began to think to himself, "Why should I give in to death so
easily? The brave are not bewildered in times of danger, and so I shall
devise a plan!"
So thinking, he
arrived late before the Lion, who was very angry and chastised him for
being tardy. "How dare you come late and keep me hungry!" roared
The rabbit replied,
"I left on time, but was detained by another Lion."
Upon hearing this,
the Lion's eyes became red with anger and he whisked his tail and roared,
"Who is the Lion who dares to come into my territory? He shall pay
for this intrusion with his dear life! Show me where he lies!"
The rabbit said,
"Come, you shall see." The wise rabbit led the Lion to a distant
well and said, "he lives in this well, see for yourself."
The Lion, beside
himself in rage, looked down into that well and roared. He saw his
reflection in the water, and thinking it was another Lion, and hearing the
echo of his own roar, he charged into the well to attack, and thus drowned
"Thus, you can
see," said the thrush, "that Varga is he who is truly brave, and
he will surely devise a wise plan for his escape, please do not
worry," The men were pleased with this story and the wisdom of the
Meanwhile Varga and
his captors entered into deep caverns and tunnels, and dark and narrow
passageways that burrowed into the bowels of a great mountain. Soon they
came out into a great spacious cavern in the middle of the mountain.
In the middle of the
cavern was a large lake, and looking up, the mountain walls appeared like
a funnel with a small opening at the top, revealing a patch of blue sky.
Evidently they were in the remains of an extinct volcano. A large temple
was there on the eastern shore of the lake.
Varga witnessed the
ornate carvings on the walls of the temple, as he was told of the deity of
Maha-Bairavia who resided within. They marched down and filed into the
temple to gaze at his countenance. The deity appeared fierce as he stood
with a chopper in one hand and a decapitated head in the other. The
dangling head, held by a knot of hair, was being nipped at by a dancing
mongrel dog. After a brief session with the deity, they stepped outside
and marched up to the sacrificial arena.
Kergold pointed out
the monster Kraken, who was beyond a wall of rock and surrounded by the
lake. The monster was seen to be very large. He walked in an upright
position and sometimes jumped about upon huge hind legs. He had a long
powerful tail that whipped about as he gnashed his large jaws, which
dripped with saliva from it's rows of sharp teeth. Indeed, he resembled
the Tyrannosaurus Rex of yore. His red eyes blazed like fire and flashed
and rolled about, searching for a victim to gorge upon. Kergold's men took
Varga and his cohorts up to the sacrificial stakes near the wall of rock
and tied them up.
sniveling and squealing for mercy, which gave Kergold much pleasure.
Kergold explained how the rock wall was parted by a series of ropes and
pulleys, and it would open at the appointed time.
especially is fond of human flesh on a full moon night, and so you will
have many hours to think about it," said Kergold, and he laughed
sadistically, increasing Megadut's suffering all the more.
Varga figured that
they would have to wait until the moon reached the sky's midheaven, so
that it would shine down through the opening hole above them, down onto
the sacrificial arena, thus appeasing the sadistic idea of having a full
moon feast for the Kraken.
Kergold also wanted
to watch his victims suffer while the awaited their fate. Sugosh just
stood silently, looking down, and Varga maintained a slight smile that
drove Kergold furious underneath.
Kergold turned to
leave, but Varga bade him to wait a moment. Kergold stopped and turned in
his tracks, eager to hear Varga's plea for mercy. Instead, Varga gave him
a tantalizing bit of information. He described in detail how the Shyama
gem, around Kergold's neck, was empowered to change colors mysteriously.
Kergold looked down to see what Varga meant.
One of his guards
confirmed, "Yes, your excellency, I did notice the stone changing in
color and hue, during the end of our journey."
"So what of it Varga, do you expect me to postpone your execution for
you've never heard about the gem's powers?" said Varga, baiting his
prey. Kergold's eyes widened.
said Varga, "just as the gem changes colors with each different
bearer, it also has various powers, such as the ability to produce gold,
to give special benedictions such as power and wealth to those who know
the right incantations..." his voice trailed off in a beguiling tone.
eyes betrayed that he was indeed, ready to be reeled in.
"But, I suppose
that we must get on with the execution ... we wouldn't want to deprive the
monster of his full moon blood and flesh ... now would we?" said
Varga with an amused smile.
Kergold quickly shot
back, "Oh, fie on the full moon, that monster can wait ... I mean,
Uh, you know I am a reasonable man ... perhaps we can work out a
deal," his nervous grin exposed his ugly, greedy teeth.
Varga said, "I
knew you was a man of great intelligence. We can bargain a stay of
execution ... yes, it's good that we can work out a deal."
Just then Kergold's
right hand man said, "My master, I do smell something crooked in the
air. Do not fall into this deal so easily. Don't you see that this man
comes to steal, and then he bargains for time with his crooked flattery!
Only a fool, after seeing fault, will be changed by false flattery!"
"Curb your tongue, knave ... we are the ones with weapons and he is
the one with tied hands, remember? So what do I have to fear? Besides,
even a thief can be tolerated if he works to one's advantage. Think of the
story of the maiden and her old ugly husband. She was young and beautiful,
and her husband was distressed because he was old and withered and could
not win her affections ... even though he was rich and offered her many
fine garments, jewels and comforts. Once, in the middle of night, a thief
came into their house to steal, and entered their bedroom. Out of great
fear, the maiden suddenly embraced her old husband and held him tight. At
that moment, the house guards arrived, ready to kill the thief. The
husband was so delighted with his wife's embrace that he immediately
offered the thief great rewards of gold and silver and told his guards to
escort the thief to the door. And so you can see that even a thief can
sometimes be beneficial."
Varga was pleased
with this story and said, "Yes, your excellency ... your words are a
welcome guest in my ear. In a very short time, you will be very wealthy
indeed." Varga was grinning ear to ear as they were promptly untied
from the stakes.
Varga laid out his
conditions. "First we must have a sumptuous feast in the hall, then
we shall climb to the highest plateau at the top of the crater. There we
will make the preparations for a Maha ritualistic tantric summoning, to
climax at the midnight full moon, at the exact auspicious moment."
Kergold was in the
net. He started shouting orders for the preparations.
That evening, they
had a large feast. Varga avoided the meat dishes and still there was
plenty. He laid out the plans for the midnight tantric ritual, which
included several caskets of wine to be carried to the summit. This greatly
irritated Kergold, but ushered in a storehouse of delight for his men.
It was a steep climb
up a staircase, spiraling around the interior of the crater. Some men were
beating drums in a ritualistic rhythm. The staircase emerged out through
the top of the mountain, through the crater opening, out onto an open
plateau. Above was the clear night sky, with the full moon shining
Kergold's men were
tired from carrying the caskets of wine, and were happy to unload them
from their shoulders. They were enlivened to gaze at the sky full of stars
and the moon shining bright in the middle of the sky, like a king
surrounded by his ministers and subjects. The drums continued to beat with
a hypnotic rhythm.
Kergold to order all but two of his men to go down past the edge of the
plateau. He said that the ritual was very sensitive and required the
precise number of six men, and they must be alone and everything should be
secretive. Varga and his friends remained with their hands and feet tied,
and Kergold and the two guards comprised the remaining three.
They all sat in a
circle around a fire. Varga chanted some hymns for a long time. He then
addressed Kergold thus, "Please observe the gem around your neck. It
is shining with a pale yellow. We must pass it around from man to man to
see who is the auspicious bearer for this ritual. Oh, just see, the moon
will be transiting the constellation of Krittika and will reach it's
zenith in the midnight sky in one hour. That will be our moment of
reluctantly passes the gem to one of his guards. Varga chanted again for a
period and then stopped.
He said, "Now
the wine is consecrated by the presiding spirits and now it must be
consumed, so as to appease the spirits, otherwise their wrath will consume
us. Now distribute these casks of wine!"
whom?" demanded Kergold, greatly annoyed.
"Quickly summon your men at the steps, they must distribute the wine
before midnight, or all is lost!"
summoned his men. They took the casks, keeping one for the few guards who
remained at the top of the stairs, and the rest was taken down to men at
the temple below. They were instructed to make sure all the wine was
consumed immediately. Never had orders from Kergold resulted in such
revelry and enthusiasm.
Varga continued to
chant various incantations for half an hour, making sure the wine was all
consumed, and Kergold was becoming weary.
the Gem around from man to man," insisted Varga. "Ah-ha, just
see! How it turns a golden amber! (It was hung on the neck of Sugosh). Now
is the auspicious time for deep meditation! We must close our eyes in deep
meditation. Our moment of power is soon to come!"
Kergold shot him a
irritated glance, but Varga retorted, "Come now Kergold, now don't
spoil it at the moment of your triumph! Please! Close your eyes and
Kergold flicked his
hand in resignation and ordered his men to close their eyes, as he did
himself ... reluctantly, that is.
Meanwhile, Varga had
worked the knots off his hands. He removed the hidden knife from his boot
and cut the ropes from his feet. He then reached over and cut Sugosh's
hands free, all the while chanting.
Sugosh freed Megadut,
and then they tip-toed to the backs of the meditating Kergold and his two
guards, and then a scuffle ensued.
Varga easily held up
Kergold by his neck with such a grip that Kergold, with bulging wide eyes,
opened his jaws wide to scream, but only a low "gha gha" emerged
from his throat. Varga then gagged and bound Kergold from the ropes that
were cut from his feet.
and one guard was rolling about on the ground in a fierce struggle, while
Megadut was somewhat losing. The guard overpowered him and sat astride his
chest ... pushing his head into the sacrificial fire. Megadut could only
kick his legs wildly and squeal like a pig.
Varga jumped to his
rescue and picked the guard up like a doll, and bound and gagged him.
Sugosh had also subdued his man, and the three heros changed robes with
the prior captors while the moon reached it's zenith.
bulged and glared with a fury that matched the glow of the full moon.
The guards at the
top of the stairs were drunk and asleep. Varga and company passed by them
and went down the stairs, their heads were concealed by the hoods of their
new robes. Three prisoners, roped and bound, trailed behind. As they
glided down the winding stairs, Varga sounded a loud call. Thereafter, the
small bird winged it's way swiftly to Varga's shoulder. Varga whispered
instructions into the bird's ear, and it flew off at once.
Upon reaching the
bottom, Varga saw that the rest of the guards were sufficiently drunk from
the caskets of wine and hardly a one of them noticed Varga as they all had
fallen off into a delirious snooze. It appeared that they had just had a
drunken brawl, with smashed chairs and tables lying all about. Not a
protest was made as Varga led his prisoners to the sacrificial arena.
They tied up the
three prisoners and Varga loosened the gag on Kergold just slightly.
Kergold's eyes radiated like the anger of Rudra at the time of
devastation. Outside the wall, Varga woke up several men and ordered them
to open the gates, to let the Kraken in for the sacrifice. He then went to
meet the rest of his men who were waiting for them at the mouth of the
delirious soldiers started to turn the pulleys that opened the stone
gates. The Kraken stirred and turned toward the gates. He started to
bellow and snort with delight in gleeful anticipation of a scrumptious
feast. Kergold's eyes were wide with fear at this point.
Then Varga whispered
some more words to the little bird and he flew off at once to the
sacrificial arena. The thrush unloosened the rest of Kergold's gag, and
Kergold immediately started screaming, "You fools! You idiots! It's
me! It's me! You imbeciles! Close the gates now! Quick! Stop them before
they escape!! Quick! They are getting away!" His voice was then
gasping in fury and embarrassment.
A few drunken
solders stumbled in pursuit up the steps, but Varga pushed them down like
small children and his men laughed in glee. As they escaped up through the
winding stairs, they could still hear the screaming of Kergold ... his
curses reverberating and echoing through the tunnels.