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As the sun settled over the mountains, I remained kneeling, praying and making offerings to my father, the Sun God.

It has been a long and inconclusive battle. Eight days and millions perished – angelic Devas, demonic Asuras and mortal Man. But with each passing day, the heroes of my enemies were falling to my bow, my sword, my mace and my tactics.

There is but one more hero left. When he falls, the enemy will be routed.

Prayers over, I turned and saw him.

The old man, withered, deaf and almost blind, shook years of dust and mites off him as he shuffled towards me. He cried in a high-pitched voice: “Alms! O my King, alms for a poor wretched soul clinging to life on no more than a spider’s silk.”

I waved away the Guard and scooped up the Famished One and sat him on the pedestal higher than my throne chair.

“Oh, what is this great honour you bestow on this miserable worm, O Warrior of Warriors?”

I gestured and attendants quickly bathed the old man’s soiled and blistered feet; placed a fine silk over his frail frame and gently rubbed fragrant oil and sandal wood onto his skin.

The skeletal man marvelled at all the oblations and yet continued to lament. “The wind had carried your name far and wide, over oceans and continents. Even the Devas fear your terrible courage and martial prowess. Why aligned with the Asuran, have you, O Blameless One? Why this smear on your line?”

I nodded and more court retainers came bearing cool water, nourishing milk and a feast, prepared in the royal kitchens. A feast fit for kings and more, a feast that boasted all six tastes, and spread over soft banana leaves before him

“It is whispered that you never turn away any and all who seek your favour, even during these dangerous times.”

“Replenish your strength, O Wizened One,” I said.

“Truly your voice and words command awe, respect and love, my son,” said the old man and immediately whimpered. “Forgive me, O Mighty One, for daring to address you in such familiar regards.”

I laughed in a manner fashioned to assure and assuage him that he made no trespass great enough to warrant any dark emotion.

Having satiated his physical needs, the Frail One, in an even weaker voice cried: “My alms, O Guardian of the Empires of the north, south, east and west and of the foremost centre, my alms, whereof my alms?”

I opened my palms, welcoming him to place his petition on my hands so they may touch my heart.

He wrapped his knurled fingers over my hard hands and related his story, concluding it with a cry that rendered the royal tents: “I’ve committed terrible deeds in my youth, O Protector of Man, Woman and Child; Guardian of Beasts of the Land, Water and Sky; and Husband for the Trees, Weeds and Forests.” He cried, “And now, as The Messenger of Death closes and tightens his noose around me, I fear the time has come for the reckoning of all my Misdeeds.”

I smiled and folded my arms. My Father, the Sun God, had foretold me of this visit.

“There is only one boon that can save my wretched soul from the most unimaginable hells that thirst for my flesh, blood and spirit.”

“Speak, Old One,” I said. “For mine time is upon me.”

“And so it is, O Wellspring of all that is good in Humanity,” he proclaimed, even as a tiny glint flitted in his eyes. In a more confident voice, he said: “I beseech you, bestow upon me all the great and good deeds, all the love and all the dharma you have accumulated in your lifetime of living the Life of a Perfect Servant of God.” And he continued, with ever-increasing strength in his voice and manner. “And in return take all the cauldrons of evil birthed by mine thoughts, words and deeds, so I shall be redeemed and return to the Abode pristine, pure and pleasing.”

I laughed and understood Time has indeed come, for standing before me was none other than the Lord Destroyer himself, father of the one remaining enemy hero.

Without giving a thought, I drew a deep breath and eased out all he wanted and handed the Gifts to Him. Suddenly, I felt peace, a tranquillity that comes when one embraces Destiny.

But I spent a fitful night, wrenched by my human fears and vulnerabilities – the chains that restrain and keep mortals on the Third. Time waits not and exercised his impatience. And when the cock did crow, I was again at peace, the welcomed serenity of Death.

Whatever I had accumulated was not mine. It was His and rightly I returned all to the Owner. I am now without treasures to husband, without burdens to bear, or great names to live up to. And as I arrived with nothing, so shall I take my leave.

With these thoughts, I strapped my armour and sat out to battle. The troop was in nervous readiness and Darkness slowly pulled her black locks off the parched land which thirsted and cried for living blood.

The mournful calls from the conch of my enemy hero, heralding the final battle, reached my ears. I smiled. If he only knew I was his blood brother, long discarded by our mother to hide the deed of her youthful shame. Better to perish by the hands of one’s kin, for then, there will be no blood price to pay in a never-ending cycle.

Just then, I heard a faint voice, or perhaps, a sob. But the wind can play tricks.

I looked up as the first rays of light peeped over the mountain crest. Mesmerized, I stopped and let my Father embrace me with his gentle warmth.

I felt a drop of water on my face. But the sky was cloudless. And the wind can play tricks.

*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2017 ***