Dushasana called the assembly to order, and King Dhristarashtra invited Krishna to convey the message he carried from Yudhishthira. The Blue One recounted the sorry events that had brought the Kauravas and Pandavas to the cliff’s edge. He detailed the military might of the kings rallying to the Pandavas’ war banner; reminded the assembly of the personal valour and accomplishments of the five brothers. Krishna concluded his uninterrupted monologue with these words:

“The Pandavas request five inconsequential villages so they may return to Kuru Pradesh and live out their lives. Embrace the Pandavas, King Dhristarashtra, and they will owe allegiance to you. There will be peace and you will rule over the mightiest empire in Bharata.”

“O Krishna, what for did you drag here this horse already beaten to death?” said Duryodhana. “The only new message between Drupada’s embassy and yours is, now the Pandavas have the military might to threaten us. Is this not the real purpose of your visit? To threaten us.”

“Duryodhana, it will serve us well to reconsider the earlier decision. Peace is paramount,” said Bhishma.

“Grandsire, the last time your words prevailed in this very court and we ceded Indraprastha to the Pandavas. Did they owe allegiance to the king, my father? If they did, why did they not pay tribute? If they did, how dare Yudhishthira conduct the Rajasuya Yagna instead of abdicating that honour to his sovereign, King Dhristarashtra?”

“Why churn old soil for old seeds to take root?” said Bhishma.

“Old roots? Old seeds?” Sakuni stood up and addressed the sabha. “Panchali remains with her hair let loose. What if she stokes her husbands to demand payment for the so-called outrage she harbours? Will she accept coin? Name the price and let’s settle it.”

“Sakuni!” Bhishma stood up. But the Gandhara royal refused to back down. He said,

“Let Krishna answer. Will that woman demand blood price or will coin suffice?”

“No chaste woman will accept coin,” said Krishna. “But she will abide by her husbands’ decision.”

“Then ask the Pandavas and that woman to appear before this court and speak their promise; convince this court of their sincerity,” said Sakuni.

“Sakuni, no man will allow his wife to appear in open court,” said Bhishma.

“The Pandavas did. The last time, they sat like cowards while she pleaded with them to help her.”

“Sakuni, that’s enough,” said King Dhristarashtra. “Sit down!”

“Yudhishthira’s esteemed ambassador had settled the issue,” said Duryodhana. “The Pandavas’ request for five villages is a sham. What more proof does this court need to gauge their sincerity if they are unwilling to present themselves in this court and place their petition before their sovereign. By sending embassies, Yudhishthira has already elevated himself as equal to the king, my father. What makes anyone here think the Pandavas will accept me as heir to the throne?”

“Remember your words, Duryodhana, for these words will sprout war,” said Krishna.

“O Krishna, you remember your promise not to fight in the war to come, and I’ll take care of the rest,” said Duryodhana.

*** Copyright @ 2021, Eric Alagan ***

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