16 March, 2015

#Contest :: The Tale of the Vanishing Island by Arka Chakrabarti

That cursed night at Nisarga had revealed the true reason behind his father's sacrifice and his own dark past. Each revelation now draws Agni into the sublime world of secrets. With Vrish and Guru Sidak by his side, fighting the daggers from the past and winning over the opponents of the present, somewhere deep down, he knows that his journey has just begun.

The other scarred prince walks the ashes of his reality. Haunted by the glimpses of truth the same night, Yani had but one choice – to survive. His unknowing steps, trapped in cruel games of ancient powers had led him to a truth, a truth which shall mould a good man in the clay of misfortune, hate and lust.

Such is the world of Gaya, and thus shall be the Rise of the Grey Prince – the one torn between the darkness of evil and a lone ray of hope.

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The Tale of the Vanishing Island – 

It was a beautiful morning, the small kingdom of ‘Bichitra Bhumi’ was awake with the first light and soon as the sky discarded the attire of a red dawn the bazaar had started to bustle. There were scores and scores of people gathering in the western side of the market not to bargain or barter but for something else. The vanishing island had appeared near its shores and a man had been left awash on the morning sand. Some of the guards had recovered the old, frail body and had taken it away to the royal palace. 
High Queen Abhaya was sitting solemnly on the creaky old chair in the balcony overlooking the sea as the island slowly started to disappear once again. The loud knock on the door of her chambers had brought her back to the tint of reality. 
“Come in,” echoed her sweet voice in the air laced with the time and tide of the passing years.  
The Prince, her grandson walked in accompanied by his siblings, her other grandchildren. 
“What is happening Grandmother? Why is there a dead body of a strange man in our apothecary? When I asked the ‘Vaidya’ (the doctor), he told me that it was you who ordered it? He didn’t even allow us a glimpse of the corpse?” 
“And why should that be a problem?” she asked, the smile lingering on her face. 
The Prince was left utterly confused and he was about to say something but the voice of the King, Raja Adi declared his approach. 
“Mother,” he greeted the High Queen rather ceremoniously. 
“And I think you are here to ask the same question?” asked the High Queen. The King, her son, knelt down beside her. 
“Who is he mother?” The High Queen Abhaya noticed that her son was not inquiring but simply asking. 
“And why is he wearing the old royal signet ring?” shot out one of her granddaughters but fell silent as the gaze of the Queen feel on her. 
“Mother,” spoke the King again, “Is he….” But his words trailed off into oblivion. 
The High Queen took in a deep breath, “I think it is time you all know what happened forty years back.”
She sat up straight looking into her son’s pleading eyes. “I can still hear the bard’s song from that tavern at Nisk.” She said with an ominous smile on her face. 
‘Lost are the ones those who have swum deep below… Lost is the one who remained deep below… One can never stand or never drown in the water so shallow…. One can only return after touching the gallows.’ 
“The famine was something which we were never prepared for and yet it came sweeping the land of hope and love. The bitter heat and the parched throats lasted for three years and the treasury was empty at the end. The merchant and the number of their caravans were slowly reducing in number, there was nothing but despair.” 
“Your father was a brave man and a noble king but he held no sway over mother Gaya. Rain was something he couldn’t bring but riches he could, or so he thought. So he set sail on his ship, ‘Bhagya’ (Fate) in search of the lost riches of the Vanishing Island, the rumored place where Raja Dashhasta had stored his treasures in his last days.” 
“But his ship was lost in the storm, south of Nisk in the unknown seas?” asked her son. 
“That is true and false in itself. I thought of the same and went to Nisk after the news reached Bichitrabhumi.” 
Forty years ago – 
“No man comes back from the vanishing island. We saw the ship sink with our own eyes,” said the merchant of Nisk. “It will be foolish even for a woman to set foot there.” 
“You are in the presence of the queen of Bichitra Bhumi and if you fail to understand that one more time, you will lose more than your tongue,” spoke the Captain of ‘Adarsh’. 
“But what I speak is true… ‘Lost are the ones those who have swum deep below… Lost is the one who remained deep below…’” The slow melancholic music was like beating drums to her ears. 
‘Abhaya, Abhaya..’ she could hear the voice of Nit, her love. 
‘Abhaya’, the voice screamed and she opened her eyes. There was someone knocking on the door of her cabin. 
She got up and opened the door. 
“Your Highness we have spotted the island.” Her face lit up. “This is good news, gather your men Captain.” 
“But there is one slight problem, it is slowly sinking as we speak and the current is pulling us towards it. I am not sure if we can make out of the island if we go ashore.” 
The furrows on her forehead made a crevice for she thought she had heard wrong. “It is your King out there and he is there because of our people, I will hang you for treason if you air even a shred of doubt in front of your men.” 
The next hour saw two small boats oaring towards the island, structures were looming at a distant height and the sky was unclear, the darkness was thick. They landed with torches burning as brightly as they could. There was a cracking sound almost splitting the ear and the sea water started to pour in slowly, touching their feet. Abhaya could see the fear in the men’s eyes. 
“Spread out in three groups,” she ordered, the men started to move after the Captain gave a hesitant nod. 
The hours started to pass and the cracking sound continued unnerving them of their senses as the water rose inch by inch at a time. They found themselves at the mouth of a cave and made their way through it slowly. 
It was dark and clammy inside, the air smelled dank but it was the darkness. It was so heavy, heavy on her mind, heavy on her thoughts, it was as if her soul was crying but why she never knew. 
‘I will love you in this morning and the next,’ the vision of Nit came in front of her eyes. ‘If you decide to stay by my side.’ Tears started to trickle down her cheeks. 
Then she saw Nit’s smiling face holding their son. 
There was a sudden thud and she turned around, brought back to her senses. 
The Captain was lying on the floor and his men weren’t there. 
“Captain, Captain Granth, wake up,” she called and wanted to shake him to consciousness but her strength was failing. The water was coming towards her like a slow tide. She started to walk at a brisk pace, as fast as her staggering feet would carry her. 
She found herself in a large opening, a chamber of sorts, the end of the long cave and her eyes saw something which she wanted to. A man was sitting in the water, his long black hair wet from it and the mark of the water god on his back, after whom he was named Nir. Her happiness knew no bounds.
“Nir, Nir,” she called out and hugged him from behind. 
There was a moment of silence and the man remained unmoved. Her tears trickled down his bare back. 
“You shouldn’t have come,” the man spoke and she opened her eyes. She let go of him and walked to his front to face him. His head was bowed and the hair covered his face. 
“What are you saying? Nir, I am here. What has happened to you? Look at me.” 
“You shouldn’t have come,” said the man again and she saw water trickling down his cheeks. 
“Look at me Nir. You are scaring me,” she said and forced his face up to face her own. Her eyes became wide with horror. His eyes were covered with a semi-translucent skin and there were two holes in the place where his nose was supposed to be. There was something pulsating on his neck and when her gaze became clearer she saw the gills. 
“You are afraid,” he said looking at her. 
“No love, I am not afraid. We can cure this. I know we can.” 
“There is no cure,” said the man who was once Nir and started to walk towards the pool of water a few paces away from them. “You should go now. She won’t let me leave, the men can never leave, she wants us to protect her but she doesn’t want you. Go now before it is too late.” 
“Nir, “she screamed but Nir had gone into the water. She ran towards the pool but didn’t see him anymore. She kept on screaming his name at the top of his voice and fell silent after a while. The water started to gush and Abhaya made her way out of the cave, the tears were not coming out as she wanted them to. ‘She’… Who was ‘she’? 
The next thing she remembered was the boat and the sea caving in slowly as a giant reared its head from below, the vanishing island had disappeared, once again. 
“What was it?” asked Abhaya’s grandchild as the High Queen struggled her way into the present. 
“It was something in semblance of a whale, the likes of which no man has ever seen before, but I have. It was ‘she’, maybe a god of the seas or maybe a demon. But it was real,” said Abhaya as she leaned back with difficulty. 
There was complete silence in the room as she hummed slowly, 
‘Lost are the ones those who have swum deep below… 
Lost is the one who remained deep below… 
One can never stand or never drown in the water so shallow… 
One can only return after touching the gallows.’ 

(Note – Thanks for going through the lore of ‘The Vanishing Island’. I wanted to include it and many more of such in the book itself ‘Rise of the Grey Prince’ but feared that then the book might become too long for the liking of the readers. If you think I should include them in the third installment of the Saga then do let me know. Your feedback will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again from Arka.) 

First Book in the Series:
Is one born with his destiny or does he forge it?
In the mystical land of Gaya, two prophecies bind the fate of men and empires alike. The Destroyer born from the royal seed on the Land of the Setting Sun shall bring the empires down, or so has been foretold.
In between the Destroyer and the world stand the Seven Guardians of Gaya, guarding the realm of man. A king, a father, defies the Seven and fate itself to save the last drop of his blood and prince Agni grows in the Land of the Rising Sun, exiled from his own people, unaware of his past.
Losing the woman he loved most to the shadows in the dark, Agni is thrown into a whirlpool of events that he neither knows, nor understands. His quest for vengeance brings him to the doorstep of a secret that will shatter the very foundation of beliefs of a world.
Can Agni avert his destiny? Can he uncover the truth about the Seven and the prophecies, now hidden behind a veil of ignorance?
The secrets of the dark are sometimes so terrible that they are better left unsaid. 

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