The Pandavas had descended the slope for the parley, but the kings who accompanied them remained on the low hill range. Unseen to the Kauravas in the plains, but in clear sight of Karna’s lookout on the watch tower, the rest of the Pandava armies advanced and positioned themselves behind the hills.

When Sakuni and his regiments charged, Krishna and the Pandava brothers took flight, as did the kings stationed on the hill range.

Sakuni, convinced he had wrested a stunning surprise, sent his troops headlong over the hills. They ran right into the massed Pandava armies, who opened a path to suck them in. Caught in a gauntlet, the Gandhara soldiers died in their thousands.

Karna, like everyone, including Duryodhana, was unaware that Sakuni had planned a pre-emptive strike. The Angaraj could not alert Sakuni of the trap the Pandavas had laid for him; was too far in the Kaurava rear; and did not have the time to dispatch riders. He ran signal flags up the poles and sounded his trumpets to attract attention, but the noise of the battle in the front lines distracted the spotters on the Kaurava watchtowers.

“You lost the battle and gained infamy, dear uncle,” said Duryodhana. “Now the world will never know or care that the Pandavas, while feigning to parley, had laid a trap for us.”

“Some believe, but I know as a matter of truth, that Krishna is the avatar of Maha Vishnu,” said Sakuni. “He is taking all the karma upon himself. You can expect much skulduggery from him and the Pandavas’ side. It’s better I take all the karma upon myself for what all you will do and what all is to come from our side.”

“You’re an ambitious one, Uncle Sakuni,” said Karna. “You weigh yourself against Keshava.”

“There cannot be heroes unless there are villains,” said Sakuni. “Sometimes, the world remembers the villains better.”

“Ah, you want to be remembered,” said Karna.

“Don’t we all?” said Sakuni.

“But how will the world remember us?” said Duryodhana.

“There was a Narasimha for Hiranyakashipu; a Rama for Ravana,” said Karna. “And some already say it is a Krishna for Sisupala.” The Angaraj referred to the Chedi king who died by Krishna’s hand at Yudhishthira’s Rajasuya Yagna.

“If they place Krishna alongside Narasimha and Rama, then I intend to displace Sisupala and take that spot for myself,” said Sakuni.

“Well said!” Karna slapped his thigh. “And the world will say it took a Krishna to down Sakuni. In defeat, you will win.”

*** Copyright @ 2022, Eric Alagan ***

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