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Chapter Z: Zero

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Advaita said “My father yearned for Power.” He fell on Shadow’s lap as tears started streaming from his eyes. She held him for some time as he finally got up recomposing himself. Shadow felt that he looked calmer and more focused now. “Me and the Shaka Chief had a very long conversation” said Advaita. “What happened between the two of you?” she asked. Advaita finally decided to reveal what had happened in Shaka after he had knocked on the door of the Chief’s house the day, it was early morning, the very same day when Cully and shadow were planning to go find him.

His Grandmother, Chief’s wife opened the door and they went inside. Grandfather didn’t want to talk to Advaita initially. When Advaita asked him why he had called his father a cheat, he came to know that Advaita didn’t know his father. Advaita told him Rob and Princess Agnes’s journey from Heaven to Bantu and all he knew was that Rob was Karma, his father. He opened the copper sheet and showed it to his grandfather. His Grandfather laughed and said “you have missed the most important part and she is not your mother. I will tell you the Karma we knew initially”. Valguka the Chief of Shaka finally started the story.

“We Shaka people lived in the Zulu kingdom. My brother was the chief then. We were both young at that time. One day due to a devastating earthquake we lost almost everything. We wanted to move north towards the border of Heaven seeking a place to live again. But my brother wanted to go to the City of Zulu. When nobody was ready, he along with his friend abandoned us and left for Zulu the very night. The next day they made me the chief and we moved here with great difficulties and started our life from zero.

I met my brother sometime later when I visited the City of Zulu a couple of times, I invited him to our new home, to come stay with us but he never came. Years passed and we became old. One day a man from Zulu came to talk to me, he informed me that my brother was sick and was on his deathbed. So your grandmother and I went to see him against the wishes of the tribe. By the time we reached he was already dead. We came to know he had a daughter Kiya. She was a young lady and all alone as her mother had passed away during her birth. Since we never had a child we took her as our own. We asked her to come with us and she readily agreed.

We were not sure how to tell this to our tribe as everyone had hated my brother. So we decided to say we met her on the way back and helped her as she was an orphan. But when we were about to reach Shaka we met a guy. He introduced himself as Karma. He looked tired and exhausted. Your Grandmother suggested we take him too. Thus they came to Shaka as two orphans. I took Kiya as my daughter, that very day I named her Akira in front of the Shaka people. Later Karma and Akira fell in love and they were married. You were born and all was good in their life. But one fine day your mother fell sick. She told your grandmother Karma’s story and made her promise not to tell this to anyone before her death.”

“What is this story” asked Advaita to his grandmother. His Grandmother continued from where his grandfather left,

“I kept Karma’s secret for a very long time. You had grown up into a young boy. If you remember Advaita the day before your father was attacked, I was sick. I got scared nobody would know Karma’s truth and your grandfather had decided to make Karma his successor but he had not yet shared his views with anyone. So that night I told him what Akira had told me”

Advaita was curious and nervous to know. He had not heard about Princess Agnes anywhere in the story so far, He wondered what happened to her. Grandmother finally stated what was told her the second time.

Akira and Karma had a baby boy. Karma was very happy on becoming a father. Slowly Karma had started loving his wife and child. He confessed one night to Akira that he had not loved her initially but married her to become the chief of the tribe. But he was a changed man now and he deeply loved her and their son.

Akira was shocked to hear that. He told her about his life before Shaka and that his actual name was Rob. He told her his story in the city. He explained her how lords humiliated and robbed them in every way possible. He wanted to assume power to change that. He said he was zero back then and somehow he had to reach a position where he was someone. He wanted everyone to pay for their harassment. So he had used Princess Agnes to do so. Karma told how he made Agnes fall in love with him and how they had run away. In Bantu they had exchanged the rings they had. Karma showed Akira, Princess Agnes’s ring which he had hidden all this long.

Akira realised that Karma had made her fall in love with him the same way too. But she kept quiet. Karma continued his story after Bantu.

As Rob and Agnes moved south from Bantu, Rob expressed his wish to go back to the city. Agnes said she did not want that life and all she wanted was to be with him. Rob who had hidden his real intentions so far, could not do this any longer. He was angry. He shouted at her, he said “How do you think we can live here. You are already hurt”. Agnes thought he was shouting because of love. She came near him and said “I am sure our love will find a way.” He pushed her away and said” Stop living in a fairy world. I do not love you. I used you so that I could get some status and power.” She fell on the ground feeling shocked and heartbroken. “We have nothing, zero now. I was a zero then, and after all my hard work I am back to zero” he said in anger and frustration turning away from her. She was still lying on the ground.

From nowhere a beast had jumped on Princess Agnes. Rob was shocked but instead of helping her, he saved himself. He climbed a tree and watched as Princess Agnes shouted with pain and breathed her last. Rob had not felt any remorse that moment. He was so blind with hatred towards the rich that he had lost the human inside him.

From there Rob had moved ahead with caution and came across the Shaka Chief and had introduced himself as Karma.

When Akira heard the story she was in shock. Her husband who she thought was such a good person was actually a power hungry emotionless demon. She remained silent. Karma said “I have realised how wrong I was in the past few days. You and our son brought back the lost soul in me. I have been repenting for my mistakes. I am in love with you both; I want us to be happy and nothing else anymore”. Akira nodded, but she was in shock. She came to know the two sides of her husband.

Akira could not cope with the truth she heard from her husband. She suddenly started to feel ill and could not eat anything properly anymore. Her health deteriorated badly, she decided to tell her mother everything about her husband. Akira realised that her father won’t let Karma live if he came to know the truth and her love for Karma made her ask for a promise from her mother.

“Now you know why I made people attack your father” said the chief.  “I never told the story to anyone here; all I said was that he was planning to take over as chief forcefully. And they attacked your father as I expected them to. But your father had a few supporters as well. It was like a war here when you ran away” he said.

Advaita was in shock. He had never known his father was that kind of a person. There was complete silence in the house. Sourav from the tribe knocked the door but was sent back by the chief.  “Don’t you think my father had changed after mother’s death?” asked Advaita. “He had, my child, but he had to pay for his past life” said his grandfather. Advaita nodded. “He loved my mother. I had seen him cry a lot of times remembering her” Advaita said.

Advaita who had worshipped his father and his teachings all his life was sad and distraught now. His grandmother noticed it. She came and hugged him. “You will always be my grandson” she said. They both cried.

Advaita finally told them his journey after the run. “So, are lords still harassing the poor in the city?” asked his grandfather when he finished his story. Advaita nodded.His Grandfather thought for a very long time. “Apart from us three nobody knows who your mother actually is. Give me your sheet” said the chief. He wrote something on it and put his seal. When Advaita saw this “This is wrong, Grandfather” he said. “You yourself said how lords are still behaving; there should be some people who can change that. I am sure Cully your friend can help you as well with It.” replied Grandfather. “But I may need to face the court to prove this, King himself had said that” said Advaita. His grandfather asked his wife to get that ring “Your mother kept Princess Agnes’ ring and she had given it to your grandmother before her death” he said to Advaita.

They both discussed on how the court session could go, finally as they were about to go out “Remember you need to start from zero again. Never lose your path as your father did. I have belief in you that you will be a better man.” the Chief of Shaka said.

When Advaita finished the story he turned towards Shadow. He could see even she was a little disturbed. He went near her, held her hand. He took Princess Agnes’ ring and said “I know my father was not a good man. He lost his way while he tried to bring a change in poor’s life here. But I promise you as I start from zero, I will be a good man, a good husband and a good father in the future to come. I will always be truthful and take your guidance in every step of our life as I fight for a better society, if you are willing to marry me. Will you marry me Shadow White?” She had tears in her eyes as she said Yes.

She knew how much he loved her. He placed the ring on her finger. They went out of the room for the new beginning that was going to come.


THE END

Chapter V: Venture

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Advaita felt that the moonlight would give him enough light to escape from the city. With a bag on one shoulder and a bow on another he reached the outskirts of the city. It was time to venture out into the forest. He decided not to take the path which was meant for the carriages but follow a path parallel to it.

As he went further the forest got thicker and the darkness followed. He decided to climb a tree and rest on a branch for some time. As he waited he ventured into his thoughts.

Advaita was struggling to keep up with his father’s pace. The sword was dripping with blood. He noticed that his father’s left arm was hurt as well. Rajan, his father’s friend came towards them as they reached their house. “Keep guard Rajan,” said Karma, Advaita’s father. As they both went inside Advaita could hear Rajan calling for help from some more people.

The sword from Karma’s hand fell as he locked the door from inside. The house was a mere hut with a single room. Advaita could hear the fight going on outside. He was scared. His father came near him and made Advaita look into his eyes “Listen son, from now on you will be venturing into a new life. I want you to run towards the north and not stop for anyone, especially our people.” Karma said.  

Advaita was struggling to listen. All he could listen was the sounds made by the swords clashing outside and the screams of people. He realized people were dying. Karma took out the hay from the top situated on the opposite end of the door. Advaita saw that his father put his dagger along with some arrows in the bag.  “Advaita concentrate on what i am saying. Take the bow and arrows. Climb the wall and get out, protect yourself, you need to run from here, go north” Karma wanted to say more but time was running out. The sound of fight outside had come to a sudden halt. There was a knock on the door. “Rajan, is that you?” he asked as he turned and walked towards the door.

There was a silence for a few seconds. Suddenly the door was burst open as Karma fell down. He moved for his sword. “Runnn..” he shouted to Advaita. As he climbed the wall Advaita saw that Rajan’s face was covered with blood just outside the door lying on the ground, dead. Couple of people were attacking his father. He dived outside and ran towards the forest. He heard his father’s cry as he ran ahead.  

Advaita woke up from his sleep as he heard a roar from deep inside the forest. He was wide awake now. He wondered whether his father had purposely sent him north with a dagger so that by chance if Thomas or Tip found him they would know he was Rob’s son.

He wanted to trace the steps of Rob and Agnes from where they left. Advaita remembered Bantu tribe people telling him, his face looked familiar, so he decided to go to Bantu first. He walked in the forest cautiously the whole day. Sun was about to set as he reached the Bantu tribe.

Some of the Bantu people were surprised to see Advaita. But it was not new to them as he always used to come in at odd times. They greeted him. He rested for a while and then he went to meet the chief. Advaita greeted the chief of Bantu as he entered the chief’s house. Chief was happy to see him. Advaita found the chief weaker than he had seen him before.

“You know what your specialty is Advaita. You become one of the tribe members when you stay with the tribe and become a vagabond as you venture into the forest until you reach another tribe.” Advaita took that as a compliment from the chief. “What brought you here my friend, I see your eyes and I feel you have questions for this old man” said the chief with a smile.

Advaita without wasting anytime took out the copper sheets and gave it to the chief. “Do you recognize any of them?” Advaita asked. Chief stared at it for a long time. He called his wife and asked her to look at the painting as well. She nodded. Chief said he had seen them as he went on, “Many years ago these two visited us. They were very tired and the lady was hurt. We had made them sit in this very room. It looked like it was their first journey in the forest.” “What happened afterwards?” Advaita asked impatiently.

“They rested here for the day and before we woke up they had left. But my wife had seen them leaving” he said as the Chief’s wife added “Yes. They had left very early. I do not know what had happened but I felt they were arguing over something as they went south into the forest. That was the last we had seen of them.” Advaita thanked them for the information. The only tribe in south after this was Shaka.

Advaita wanted to leave immediately. But they suggested him to stay for the night. Advaita reluctantly agreed. As advaita laid down he wondered whether he would ever win an argument with anyone. He thought of Fear, then Shadow, the two he cared and loved the most.

Now he had to venture into an area he had avoided for so long. He had to go back to Shaka.

Chapter U: Unique

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The rest of the night passed away as usual with Advaita deeply immersed in his own thoughts. He again struggled to sleep that night. Glimpses of his father running away with Princess Agnes came in his dreams. His Grandparents getting burnt woke him up. “Every person is unique and so is their story” his father had said. His was getting more unique by the day he thought. He tried to sleep again.

Advaita was walking in forest. Fear the beast was walking next to him. Suddenly a clan of hyenas attacked them. As they fought for survival his eyes opened. It was Cully, he was trying to wake Advaita. As Advaita sat up, Cully asked “What happened?” “Nothing, remembered my days in forest” replied Advaita. “King Aiden has summoned you in the court today. You must get ready and leave if you need to reach there in time” Cully said.

Advaita got ready and left the General’s house. Soldier Grant was again assigned to him. They reached the palace. Advaita was wondering what this could be about. Finally he was in front of the King besides all the ministers of court. Advaita was nervous but he didn’t show it. He felt he was in a yet another unique situation. King Aiden praised Advaita in front of the court. He even said he had not seen a finer archer than him before. Advaita thanked him for his kind words.

When the question of who he was, was raised, one of the ministers said that he had heard that Advaita was the son of Rob and Princess Agnes. King Aiden shocked, stood from the throne. General Thomas who was also present in court said that it might be true. The whole court was murmuring now.

Advaita was now the centre of discussion. Few accepted what General Thomas had briefly explained, fewer demanded proof. The court was divided in discussion. Finally King Aiden asked everyone to be silent. King Aiden was thinking. Finally he spoke “This matter is more regarding my family than the kingdom. I will need to have a talk with Advaita on this and then we will get back on this here.” Everyone acknowledged. Advaita felt relieved. But he now knew that he would need to talk to King on this.

Advaita was asked to wait outside as the session followed. He was called to King’s Chamber later. Advaita greeted the king. After the initial formal talk, King Aiden said “I am busy today. We will have a discussion soon on this matter” “You need to talk to General Thomas on this, your highness” Advaita replied. King Nodded. “I cannot announce to the world that you are my nephew without any proof. Next time when this discussion comes up you better have some proof. Or else even if you are my nephew I won’t accept.” said the King. Advaita thanked the King and left the palace.

“So are you are a Royal?” asked Soldier Grant as they left the Palace. Advaita laughed at that question. ”You will know soon” Advaita said. He said he wanted to visit Tip. Advaita explained Tip what happened in court. Tip thought it would be good to talk to General Thomas on this matter. Tip gave him the copper sheet on which he had painted Rob and Agnes. Advaita saw it and thanked Tip for it.

With the sheets in his hands he reached General’s House. He went to his room. He took his arrows, couple of clothes which were given to him and packed it in the bag which was given to him by Shadow. He kept the bow and the dagger near to the bag. He went down and asked a servant where Shadow was. He left for the city library when he came to know she was there. He felt bad for the people begging on the way. When he went inside the library, he found Shadow reading something. He went and sat beside her. She saw a concern on his face. He explained her the whole situation. He felt it was unique as he didn’t want to be a royal and people were discussing over it whether he was a royal or not. She said “let’s walk back home”.

As they walked she said “If you are a royal, you are one. You just can’t run from it. But I know that the more concerning matter for you is why Shaka chief termed your father a cheat?”  He smiled as he was amazed. “When are you planning to leave?” she asked. He looked at her. She smiled at him. “Maybe tomorrow morning” he said. She nodded. They reached the house. As she went to her room she said “No matter what decision you make or path you take, I will always support you”. Advaita smiled.

Advaita felt bad that he had lied to her. He had decided to leave in the night. He had to get some normalcy in this unique story of his.

Chapter T: Tale

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The wedding ceremony was the talk of the town for the next few days. The Jester’s act after the wedding made people laugh for a long time. Overall the day was one of the best days the Kingdom ever had. The King and People of Benin had left after a few days and everything was getting back to normal in Heaven.

Advaita learnt that wedding in Heaven or in any other Kingdom for that matter happened during the middle of the day when Sun shone at its brightest. It was a belief that Sun would be spreading its light all over the world, most at that moment and light in the newlywed’s life would stay on forever. He had found that belief interesting.

Now that the days had passed. He wanted to talk to General Thomas about the truth of Rob. When he raised this matter with General Thomas, General said they would sit in the evening for the same. Advaita now was eagerly waiting for sun to set.

General Thomas, Tip Roy and Advaita were again seated in General’s study and General continued the tale from where he had left

Rob was in love. Since he was very close to Prince Aiden he could met Princess Agnes. Rob started to impress her with his visions and thoughts. Slowly even Princess Agnes fell in love with him. Even Prince Aiden didn’t know about them. Rob and Agnes had started spending time in secret. They took our help to do so. When they were sure they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, they decided to tell Aiden about it.

Prince Aiden was initially not very happy but Princess Agnes talked to him. The views of Rob had always impressed him and he finally agreed to talk to King William on the same. On the Parallel Rob wanted to bring change in the kingdom. He wanted to remove the atrocity shown against the poor by rich lords. Poor girls were getting raped and killed. None of the poor supported him as they thought this would make things even worse.  

Meanwhile the love story of him and Princess Agnes reached the King’s ears before Prince Aiden could talk to him.King William ordered the soldiers to get him Rob. They had a discussion where King threatened him. Rob was not ready to listen to any of it. But he stayed silent as he knew he could get killed if he rebelled. The King gave him a final warning and let him go. Prince Aiden tried talking to the King but it went in vain.

One day Princess Agnes wanted to meet Rob. When she tried to sneak out from the Palace to meet him, few soldiers saw her and informed the king. King disguised himself and followed her; he caught her before she could reach Rob’s place. He threatened her that he would burn Rob’s house in front of her if she saw him again. That very night Princess Agnes went to Prince Aiden and told him what had happened. She had said she would die if she doesn’t get Rob. The next day King Summoned Rob’s father Lian and warned him on this as well.

Lian came to this very house to talk to my father. He explained my father the whole scenario and said that he would be leaving the city with the family and try to live somewhere peacefully. My father said he would try talking to King on this matter. I heard their conversation and immediately went to inform Rob about his father’s idea of leaving the town. Prince Aiden was with him at that time. He suggested that Rob and Agnes should escape from the city or else they could never unite.

Prince Aiden himself devised a plan for their getaway. The very next night he got Agnes with him. As I took Rob to the outskirts of the city. We gave them gold coins, food and asked them to be careful in the forest. That was the last we had seen them. Rob’s Parents were killed the very next day and their house was put on fire by an angry King William.” General Thomas ended the tale.

“I saw the dagger in your hand the morning of wedding day when you were asleep. I had given that dagger to Rob the day they left. When I asked Shadow how you had that, she told me it was your father’s. I am sure that you are their son now” he said. Advaita was silent now. “We do not live in a perfect world where fairy tales come true but in a world where life is a struggle for survival and we need to find happiness within it” he now understood why his father had said that.

Seeing Advaita silent Thomas and Tip realised he needed a break. “You take some time son, we will talk further on this later” Tip said. General Thomas left the room. Tip sat there for sometime. When he was about to leave, Advaita said “I need a favour Tip”. Tip said he would do anything. “Can you paint portraits of Rob and Agnes?” Tip agreed and told he would give it to him by tomorrow. Advaita thanked him.

Advaita sat alone in the room deep in his own thoughts. He had called the chief of Shaka tribe his grandfather. His mother called him father as far as he knew. But people in Shaka had called his parents outsiders. Now grandfather had told his father and he were a cheat. Advaita was totally confused.

He decided he had to get to the end of this tale as soon as possible.

 

Chapter S: Showdown

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Advaita was ready to shoot his first arrow. He could sense that all of the kingdom’s eyes were upon him. He shot the first then the second and on he went. Every shot was hitting the bullseye. When the final shot hit the bullseye there was a huge roar from the crowd. King Aiden finally smiled. Advaita’s opponent Commander Alex of Benin seemed impressed too.

Advaita suggested they have a round 2, with two targets placed one above the other and they needing to hit both of them simultaneously. Commander Alex agreed to that. Finally two such sets were arranged. They both took two arrows each ready to shoot their respective targets. The whole arena was silent. When the signal was given both shot the arrows. All four arrows hit the bullseye. The crowd went crazy over their accuracy. Advaita and Commander Alex decided to go two more times. Both the times they hit bullseye.

The Kings were very impressed with Advaita. The crowd was excited to see what would be the next round. Commander Alex suggested adding a third target on top of the two. Advaita agreed to it. He had never done this before but he was very excited.

Now they had to shoot at three targets simultaneously which were one above the other. Even commander Alex had not done this before successfully. “Are you ready for the showdown?” He asked Advaita. “I never thought I would be a part of one in the first place” Advaita replied with wonder. They both laughed. The crowd had gone silent again. “Son, you may feel in this life that you too need some showdown with beasts to feel its real thrill, but in life all you need is to be happy and at peace” Advaita was in a different kind of showdown and he was happy too as he remembered his father.

Advaita looked at Shadow as he got ready with the three arrows as he placed them on his bow. She smiled at him. Both Advaita and Commander Alex had set their arrows ready to shoot. 6 arrows flew towards the target. 4 had hit the bullseye. Advaita had missed the bullseye with a very small margin on the bottom target. Commander Alex missed the top target. The whole crowd went silent as it was decided that whichever arrow was nearer to the bullseye would be declared as winner. Commander Alex came and hugged Advaita “You are already a winner to me, son” He said. Advaita who never got too emotional about these things had tears in his eyes. He thanked Commander Alex.

Advaita’s arrow was nearer to the bullseye than that of Commander Alex’s arrow and was thus declared the winner. The whole crowd went berserk and cheered for Advaita. They had never seen such close archery competition before. King Edward congratulated Advaita for his talent. He turned to King Aiden and said “We have a tie from the games. Shall we conclude this tournament with a final game of longsword duel?” They both decided the best from both kingdoms would fight. King Edward called for his General Lucius as King Aiden called for General Thomas. They were asked to get their respective longsword with armor and step into the arena for the final showdown.

Both the Generals had immense respect for each other. They both greeted each other and took their stance. General Thomas had his longsword pointing to the ground whereas General Lucius was pointing it straight at General Thomas. As the signal was given Lucius attacked with the very first thrust which was very well deflected by Thomas. Thomas made Lucius come to him for every attack. Suddenly Thomas countered which caught Lucius by surprise but he dived over and escaped as the sword brushed past him. Thomas thought the game was all over when he went for a submissive move, but Lucius got away by kicking Thomas. Both fell to the ground; as both got up they were in an aggressive mode. Each thrust was parried by the other. There were counter attacks for each attack. People watched in awe of this duel. Both were matching each other’s strikes. The duel went on for a long time. Though both were tired, the pace of the duel had come down and their never say die attitude endeared them to their captivated audience.

The Kings, soldiers, lords and people were on their toes expecting the unexpected. They had already seen some amazing techniques which were never witnessed before. Both the Generals had been innovative in deflecting each other’s attack trying to outwit each other.  King Edward saw that it was almost midday and looked at King Aiden.

General Thomas waited for General Lucius to attack, as Lucius waited for a bit to get a breath both Kings signaled for the duel to be stopped. The whole crowd stood, cheered and clapped for both the Generals. They declared that it was a tie. The Generals bowed to the Kings, acknowledged the crowd for their support.

“It’s almost midday, we should get the wedding going.” said a happy King Edward. They all made their way to the Palace Church. Princess Margaret had not attended the tournament. She had stayed inside. A soldier was sent to inform her regarding the ceremony. Prince Rufus left the arena to get ready.

King Edward who until now had only hated the Kingdom of Heaven, started respecting them. The passion and support of the people made him feel happy. He saw Princess Sarah and how happily she was talking to her father King Aiden. He had tears in his eyes. King Aiden noticed it and asked Edward if he was ok. As they reached the church, Edward asked him if he could talk with him in private for a moment. Aiden asked everyone to get everything ready and took Edward to one of the chambers in the church.

“I had my daughters killed. I had so much hatred towards this kingdom.” Edward said tears rolling from his eyes now.  He bowed his face in shame. Aiden just stood there. “When I saw you with your daughter right now, it came back haunt.. Haunting” Edward was struggling to speak. Aiden was shocked to see this face of Edward. He went and hugged Edward and said “Whatever happened in past can’t be changed. But you will soon have a daughter”. Edward looked at Aiden and nodded.

Feeling relieved in no time Edward was back to his regular self. “Shall we attend our daughter’s wedding then?” said a delighted King Aiden. They both left the chambers smiling. It was indeed the conclusion of the showdown between the two Kingdoms.

Chapter Q: ? (Question)

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Shadow was surprised to hear what Advaita had just said as he explained her what had happened during the day. She then told him about the wedding preparations of Princess Margaret and how she took care of arrangements. She felt so tired that she decided to have a day and came back.

They came down for dinner. As they ate, Advaita had one question in his mind. It was the question General Thomas had asked Tip when they came back “Was he a royal?” He had heard among the Shakas that his parents were outsiders. Was Princess Agnes his mother? He wondered. He shared his thoughts with Shadow as well. She had never seen Princess Agnes but she had heard that there was a room in the palace full of paintings and they might be able to find her portrait there. “I do not remember my mother’s face as she died when I was very young. All I remember is she had black hair” replied Advaita.

Cully was back and he joined them on the table. “All the People from Benin Kingdom have come. Prince Rufus was looking stunning in his Royal attire today. King Edward and Queen Erica of the Benin Kingdom looked amazing and they were very happy with our arrangements” said Cully. “Where are your parents?” asked Advaita. “They are still with the King and Queen” he replied.

Cullen left after food. He wanted to get up early as he had lot of work to do tomorrow. Shadow wanted to stay with Advaita and talk till her parents came. Advaita insisted that she go and get some rest. She reluctantly left for her room to get some sleep.

It was very late by the time General Thomas and Martha White arrived. Martha enquired about her children Cully and Shadow. Advaita told her that they were both asleep in their rooms. Later she left for her room saying Advaita to come to the wedding tomorrow. General Thomas as soon as he had seen Advaita said “We can’t talk about this today. We will sit and have a talk once the wedding is over”. Advaita nodded.

He was back in his room. He saw his father’s dagger. Now he realised why Shadow had a similar dagger as he had. “Life is a maze. Every answered question may lead to another question” his father had told. Now he had loads of question that needed to be answered as he fell asleep clutching the dagger in his hand.

Shadow woke him up next morning. As Advaita slowly opened his eyes, he saw Shadow was looking like an angel. She thanked him as he complimented her. She was wearing a dress having a combination of white and yellow colours. It looked amazing on her. She said pointing towards a table “I have placed your dress over there. Please get ready and come as soon as possible. Soldier Grant will be waiting for you below when you are ready to take you to palace. Advaita nodded and she left.
Advaita saw that even his dress was a pattern of white and yellow. He wondered how she managed to pull this off in such less time. He got ready and went downstairs. Grant was waiting for him at the entrance. They left for the palace.

As they entered the surroundings of the Palace Advaita was in awe of the place. The whole Palace was dressed as a bride. Grant who was a regular in this area admitted that even he was amused by the beauty of the decoration. Advaita asked “When is the wedding?” “It will be later in the day. First there is a gathering in the great hall where the Kings of both kingdoms will address the gathering.” Grant replied. Sun had just arisen.

They were inside the Palace now. Advaita had never seen such beauty in his life. He admired the work of the people who had done such a marvellous job. They went to the Great Hall. Many people were already there. Advaita felt bad when he came to know only lords can attend this gathering and no other commoners. His eyes met Shadows’ who was seated in the front. They both smiled as they looked at each other.

She came near his seat and asked Grant to be with Cully. Grant left them. Soon General Thomas started to talk to the gathering as he introduced the Kings and their family ‘seated to my right are King of Heaven Aiden Rich, this is his wife Queen Catherine, their Prince Brian, and their Princess Margaret and Princess Sarah, and seated to my left King of Benin Edward, Queen Erika and their Prince Rufus.’

As the talk went on Advaita asked Shadow to go look for that storeroom. She said she had already found it. They slowly slipped off from the Great Hall and went to there. As they entered, they found the room pitch dark; they lit some fire torches and searched for the painting amidst the noise coming from the Great Hall. Shadow found the painting with King William and his children Prince Aiden and Princess Agnes. She showed Advaita the painting. Advaita tried hard to remember but he could not. He just held the painting and questioned the lady “Are you my mother?”

Shadow who was silent until noticed something weird from outside. Advaita who was till now buried deep within his thoughts also noticed something unusual as he looked at Shadow. The Noise in the Great Hall had stopped. They ran back wondering what might have happened.

Chapter L: Lines

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Cully saw Advaita and Soldier Grant coming towards him. Soldiers who were with him went off the field as they approached. As Advaita reached near Cully he said “My father once told me that sometimes you need to cross the line to show who or what you actually are” “What?” replied Cully. “Read between the lines my friend” said Advaita with a smile. Grant had a laugh. He controlled it as Cullen got pissed.

Advaita turned around asking “Where do you practice archery?” “You see those wooden targets with center in red, there you need to shoot. The red mark is called the bulls-eye”. Advaita had never seen such targets. He liked them. “Grant can you go get the bow and arrows” Cully said. Grant nodded and left to get them.

The Prince Brian came out of the building. He saw Cullen speaking with someone. He came towards them and asked “Is this the guy you were talking about?” “Yes Prince Brian, he is Advaita” replied Cully. Advaita nodded.  “I heard that your archery skills are very good. Would you care to demonstrate?” asked Prince. “Grant has gone to get a bow and arrows” replied Cully.

They waited as Grant came back with a longbow and arrows. As Advaita took the bow from him, he noticed the bow was bigger and heavier than his. As he took an arrow he saw that it was heavier too. Grant had got about 15 arrows in a bag. Advaita studied the bow thoroughly.

The target was simple. There were five such targets set for practice in the field. Advaita took a deep breath. He knew it won’t be easy to get the first one right. “May I” he said. Prince Brian signaled him to go ahead.

Advaita stood behind the line which was set and shot the arrow towards one of the targets. He missed the center red mark by a very small margin. Prince Brian shook his head with a little wicked smile on his face. The next target he tried was the one in the farthest. He took an arrow, shot at the target and missed it as well by very small margin.

Prince Brian laughed now “I thought you said he was the best” he said to Cully. Cully was silent. Advaita who had placed the arrow bag on his back shot three arrows back to back aiming towards the remaining three targets and missed the red mark on all occasions. “I think I am wasting my time here. I will be leaving now” Said the Prince. Prince Brian left the field with the remaining soldiers.

Cully was in shock. “How could you miss all five!” he asked Advaita. “How could you lose the sword fight” Advaita asked back with a smile. Cully was silent. Grant who stood beside them was amazed at the events that was unfolding around him.

Advaita turned to Grant “Can you do me a favor and go measure the distance between the arrow and the red mark on each target?” Grant nodded and ran towards the targets. He examined the margins on each targets. As he went from one target to next his smile was getting bigger. To his shock, when he finished checking the 5th target, the margins were same on all.

Even Cully realized with the expression from Grant’s face that Advaita had indeed hit the target, but his targets were not the same as what others thought. “Arrows are all at the same distance from the red mark in each target” said Grant confirming Cully’s thoughts. Advaita was still smiling looking at the expression on Cully’s face. Both Grant and Cully were amazed with his accuracy. “WOW” was all Cully could say. ”Is this what you were talking about when you asked me to read between the lines?” he asked. Advaita laughed.

Advaita looked around. He took two more arrows. There was an ‘O’ shaped window on top floor of the building which was on the end of the field. As he adjusted both arrows on the strings of the bow, he said “Now I will show what I meant by crossing the line. You see that opening on top floor of the building?” he pointed his bow towards it. Advaita checked again the arrow positioning and shot both the arrows at the same time. The arrows hit exactly on top and bottom of the opening and fell on the ground.

Though Cully had seen people shooting multiple arrows simultaneously never had he seen with such accuracy. Grant stood completely shocked. “Shall we go now, I am hungry” said Advaita. Grant and Cully saw each other and joined Advaita. Both walked silently as they were left speechless after such an amazing act by Advaita.

“Your Accuracy is amazing” said Grant finally. Advaita turned to face them with a smile “Friends to be fair, I did miss the first target” he said.

Cullen and Grant laughed as they all left the field.

Chapter K: Kingdom

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Advaita and the soldier came out of Tip’s house. He was thinking about what the people in Bantu tribe had told him that he looked familiar when he was interrupted by the soldier. The soldier asked him “Do you want to go back to the General’s house, sir?” “No, I would like to see the city” Advaita replied. As they walked ahead “What is your name soldier?” Advaita asked. “Grant” the Soldier replied. Advaita asked Grant to call him by his name.

Advaita noticed that only the main roads were clean. The cross roads were filled with waste and horse poop. Also he saw that people were throwing the waste outside onto the streets. “Does anyone look after cleanliness here?” He asked Grant looking at the roads. “No one bothers about these things” Grant replied.

Even though the buildings and streets looked magnificent Advaita was not happy with the way everyone was treated. “A kingdom will not be remembered just by the name of its King but also by the way people live their life in it” Advaita told Grant. This was not the first time Advaita had talked in this fashion, Grant was surprised to see the knowledge Advaita possessed. Advaita’s father had said the saying about the chief and its tribe which he replaced with the king and his kingdom.

Cully had given Advaita some gold coins to buy anything he wanted. He was wondering whether he needed anything from the shops he looked at. He saw a shop selling arrows. He felt he could do with various kinds of arrows. “I need to practice. I need my bow and arrows. How far are we from General’s house?” Advaita asked. “We will take some time to reach there. Master Cullen will be at the training field nearby. There are bows and arrows there” Grant replied.

Advaita thought it would be good idea to see Cully. He asked Grant to take him there. As they reached the training field, Advaita saw that Cully was fighting with someone. The soldiers surrounded them. They stopped at the beginning of the field. Advaita noticed that they were fighting with wooden swords. “Who is the man Cully is dueling with?” asked Advaita, “That’s our Prince Brian” replied Grant.

Advaita was very interested to watch this duel. He had heard a lot about Prince Brian and his sword fighting techniques. Advaita knew how good Cully was. Both Cully and Brian were very quick. Initially Advaita felt they were going at each other as if it was a real combat. After sometime he realized that Cully was not giving his best.

“Tell me honestly Grant, Who is the best sword fighter here in the kingdom?” Asked Advaita. Grant was amazed at how quickly Advaita had come to a conclusion. Many soldiers couldn’t even make out that Cullen was holding off against the prince. But this new guy had found it in a few moments. He smiled and replied with pride “General Thomas is the best.” He continued “Master Cullen is a natural swordsman and matches his father.” Practice got over as the wooden sword fell from Cully’s hand. “It’s a shame” said Advaita.

The Prince walked towards a building which was on other end of the field. Advaita and Grant moved towards Cully who was now talking to a few soldiers. As they moved “Do these kind of things happen everywhere here? The superiors shown as great even though they are not” Advaita asked. Grant just nodded his head. Advaita could sense the anger on Grant’s face when he nodded.

Is this Kingdom really a heaven Advaita wondered?

Chapter H: Heaven

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As the Carriage started moving, they thanked Advaita again. Shadow looked like she was still in shock. Cully looked cool. He was sitting as if it was just another day. Advaita was not sure why he was in that carriage. He wanted to explore the forest.

“I would like to leave now. If you could ask the men outside to stop….” Advaita’s words were cut short by Cully as he said “No way friend, you saved our life, please give us the chance to pay you back. Be with us for a few days and then we will leave you wherever you want to go”. They both argued about it for a bit, then Advaita realised this was a war of words and he could not win. He kept quiet.

Cully saw that Shadow had not spoken once they had moved. He took her hand as he asked “Are you okay?” She nodded. “Where is the Dagger father gave you? Didn’t I tell you to keep it with you?” He asked. She took out the dagger which she had placed below her seat.

As she took out the dagger Advaita noticed that it was similar to the one he had. His father had said the dagger was very special but he never knew why. Advaita wanted to check that dagger, but he said nothing.

“Is that the deer skin you are wearing?” asked Cully, nodded Advaita confirming it. Advaita had never seen the kind of a dress they were wearing but he had heard that rich people wore silk dresses. “So, what were you doing in the forest?” Cully asked. Advaita was not sure what to say. “I am just a wanderer, I move from forest to forest. Wha.. what about you people?” asked Advaita. “Oh, our grandmother is sick, we had gone to visit her. Our father is a Lord and the CHIEF OF ARMY.” Cully said with pride.

“I was wondering why those men attacked you” asked Advaita. Shadow looked at him and turned away, she was still very concerned. “We will question our captive once we get back. I am sure my father will make him speak” said Cully.

“We could have died today, when they took my hand and dragged me. I thought that was it, I will be going to hell. ” Shadow said finally looking at the dagger. She had tears in her eyes. Cully held her hand again. “Being alive is heaven and death is hell. We worry about death so much that we forget the heaven we are in. Live in the moment, this is heaven” said Advaita. Shadow saw him and smiled but she still looked sad. At least his Father’s words made her smile he thought. He didn’t know how to react though; he smiled a bit and looked down.

“Forget about all this, Princess Margaret your best friend is getting married in a few days. Think about the preparation and the events there will be, smile, be happy” said Cully. She nodded. Cully offered her and Advaita some food they had packed. He opened the window and offered some to the soldiers too. Advaita saw that they were out of forest.

After sometime Advaita started to see buildings that made him realise they were almost there. He had heard about the cities in Kingdom, but had never seen any until now. Cullen and Shadow smiled as Advaita was looking out overawed with his eyes wide open. Cully, on seeing the excitement in Advaita’s face started to give him a tour of the city as they moved ahead. The sun was slowly setting down.

They got inside a big wooden gate and then stopped beside a huge house. The open area in front could fit a whole tribe Advaita thought. Cullen took the man that was tied with the soldiers to a small house nearby. He told shadow to take Advaita inside.

“Welcome to our humble house in the city of Heaven” she said as they went in…     

Chapter F: Fear

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Advaita was happy with the water pouch in his hand. As he reached the place he saw that his bag was missing. He had a 360 degree look and had no clue who might have taken it. Next thought that came to him was to hide.

He immediately ran and hid by the nearby rock which was there. He could not see the cub anywhere. He laid low. His thoughts drifted from where he was to the last three days he spent. His father was attacked and killed as he escaped from there. He had no clue what made the people kill him. He remembered the chase for him. He wondered why they would want him to be killed so badly. Then the beast. He had encountered death so many times. Fear started to build in him as he hid there.

His heart was beating fast as he tried to calm himself down. He closed his eyes,“you need to face your fear, fear teaches you things which you otherwise can’t learn or know about yourself” his father’s words echoed in his head. He slowly got up and looked around once more and he saw his arrows scattered around.

He slowly made his move towards them as he watched around. His ears trying to hear the faintest of the sounds. He heard the birds, the rustling of leaves then he heard the monkeys. ‘Could it possibly be the monkeys?’ he thought.

He followed the sounds and reached near the place where monkeys were. He could see his bag thrown below. Few monkeys were feasting on the meat that he had left in the bag.  He had a smile on his face as he said “Did i fear for this?” He slowly went and collected the bag. As he started walking back he felt the monkeys were staring at him.  He collected all the arrows and kept them in the bag.

He decided to move along the river. He thought he could catch some fish as well. As he started walking he saw the cub was running towards him. The Elephant herd was coming and one baby elephant was staring at the cub. The cub’s face, Advaita felt was filled with fear. Seeing the situation they were in today Advaita looked at the cub and said “I am naming you Fear”. Cub just came and stood behind Advaita.

Years passed as they both moved ahead in the forest. Advaita had lots of Adventures with Fear while surviving in the forest.  Fear slowly matured in those years as he started choosing his own path. But whenever Advaita encountered Fear, Fear would respect him.

Advaita wandered even further. He was well built and tall now. On this journey he had seen few tribes. He even stayed for about a month with a couple of tribes and heard and learnt a lot of things from them. Many praised his archery as they had never come across anyone with such skills.

He was back in the forest now. In a new area which he had never ventured to. As he moved ahead he heard and saw some movements ahead…