The night belonged to the hunter.
A quivering full moon floated between the wispy clouds like a pale ghost, not daring to witness the scene that was about to unfold. The path through the deep forest was cast in a shadow and the low branches reached out menacingly as a wraith’s skeletal talons would. Not a rustle of a leaf nor a flap of a wing could be heard.
The hunter walked stealthily and waited for the ambush. There they were! There were so many of them tonight. Performing a dance and cooing melodiously.
Their eyes shone and his— gleamed with greed.
The carnage that ensued was not for the faint-hearted. Blood-curdling shrieks split the air. After the deed was done, he set the glen ablaze and walked away without remorse, pocketing the prized possessions and a bloodied dagger.
He was going to be
A manic laugh engulfed the silent woods.
The crescent moon that rose over the town of Arkala today was starkly different. It was smudged at the horns like a painting gone awry.
It resembled a…scimitar. Formidable and sinister.
The wolf appeared out of nowhere that same night, on the hilltop fringing the small town. It howled through the night and throughout the day. The shrill cry was an omen that pierced the night and impaled the skies. It seemed to be calling out to the high heavens while facing the strange moon.
The townsfolk had splintered sleep until they could take it no more. Black as night with burning amber eyes, it was the gatekeeper of hell incarnate.
It stood on the hilltop, glaring at, and surveying the town below from its vantage point.
No one dared to chase it away or capture this peculiar animal.
The simple-minded, superstitious townsfolk waited in fear for some ominous prophecies to come to fruition.
As it was, the most inauspicious lunar eclipse and a dreaded planetary conjunction were fast approaching.
The last time this happened was a thousand years ago!
She arrived hesitantly in the unfamiliar town. It was pristine with deep valleys, crystal clear lakes and lush forests. Quite idyllic. She was on an assignment here, but first, there were a couple of things that she needed to buy.
Blue contact lenses.
Her eyes were onyx black and she had on dark sunglasses to shield them on this blazing day. She hoped luck would favour her, to find the exact shade of blue that she was seeking. It was a matter of life and death.
She entered the showroom which sold custom-made contact lenses. Fortunately, they had a closet-sized outlet in this quaint town. She showed them the shade of blue she wanted.
“It will take us a couple of days, if you’d like to wait, Madam…?”
“Nagarika…that’s my name. It’s for a show that I’m performing here on Saturday and it’s rather urgent.”
“We’ll have it dispatched from our main showroom. We only have limited and popular colours here. You’ll have your shade of blue contact lenses by Friday.”
“Alright, then! Be sure to process my order quickly.”
Upangshu came across a flyer which came along with the daily newspaper and he wondered,
A dance performance? In this town? There wasn’t any announcement about this earlier. Must be an impromptu change of destination. No wonder, somebody must have personally delivered it here.
They looked like an acrobatic team who didn’t have a single inflexible muscle in their lithe bodies.
Yeah! Why not?!
It was a dance performance he was going to this weekend. There was nothing much to do in this hell-hole anyway.
He looked closely at the lead dancer on the flyer.
This woman… he knit his brows in deep thought.
The Musical dance & drama was held at the Town Hall as per schedule on Saturday. It was a grand success.
The performances were electrifying. Their movements were fluid and their limbs were in perfect rhythm. They flew through the air and glided on the floor.
Upangshu was fascinated by the lead dancer. How sensuous and ethereal she looked!
The debaucher that he was, he wasted no time in approaching her.
He knocked on the door of the green room and there she stood at the door. He fumbled for a moment.
“Hello miss…uh…How do I address you?”
“Who wants to know?” she glared at him icily.
Damn! Those blue eyes! They held an ocean of depth and currents so strong it could sweep you away. What emotions did they hold?
They vaguely reminded him of something from long ago.
Blue eyes! It brought out the most savage animal in him. It was called greed. These eyes…they shone like a…’Sappir!’
That’s it! She had Sappir blue eyes…how is that possible?!
He gazed into her eyes. They were too deep to fathom. He would, eventually and she would never take a wild guess to fathom what was in his. He smirked inwardly and in a mock apology he bowed low.
“My bad, I apologise for my uncourteous manner. I’m Upangshu, the richest man in this town and I own the biggest bungalow here.” he bragged.
“Upangshu…“ She nodded and held out her hand “I’m Nagarika.” she stressed her name intentionally and watched him closely.
A fleeting expression crossed his face. Was it recognition? A recollection? What did he remember?
She muttered under her breath and in a trice Upangshu gave her a blank look. He shook his head vigorously, trying to rid himself of a momentary blur.
“Hello?…Hello! Can you hear me? Upangshu!”
He regained his composure all of a sudden.
“Huh…??? Yes…yes…I don’t know what came over me…I totally blanked out for a moment.” He puzzled at this at the back of his mind.
“That’s okay. Well, you were saying…that you would show me the antique collections you have in your bungalow. And…also some rare precious stones? Shall we leave right away?”
Nagarika fluttered her eyelashes and looked at him expectantly.
Did I say that? About my collection and rare, precious stones?
He looked perplexed and uncomfortable. He had already offended her once and refusing a lady would be a question on his hospitality after he had boasted about his grandeur. He must have bragged about it if she said so. How else would she have known about the precious stones!
“Upangshu, let’s walk to your place and you can show me around this rustic place as we do.”
Upangshu didn’t need to be told twice. If she willingly wanted to walk into his lair, why would he back out! He sniggered inwardly. Things couldn’t get easier.
Nagarika walked with a spring in her step, talking excitedly.
As they walked some distance, there was a slight mizzle and a cool breeze.
The inception of the storm had only just begun.
Out of nowhere, a violent wind whipped up. Livid black clouds billowed. Forked lightning shredded the skies as if hundreds of tridents were thrown by a furious God.
The rage of heavens had started to put on a show.
At this, the wolf started his confounded howling. It reverberated and echoed eerily in the valley.
Nagarika froze! “A wild animal, Upangshu?” she asked, her eyes widening.
“It’s only a wolf, Nagarika. It’s harmless. Has been around here for a while. Only howls and nothing else.”
They just about managed to get inside the bungalow when the skies broke out in a downpour.
The night belonged to the hunter.
It always does.
Tonight was the infamous lunar eclipse with planets moving to form their ‘once in a thousand years’ formation.
“So? Where are the collections that you were going to show me?” Nagarika didn’t beat around the bush. Time was of the constraint here. It didn’t stop for anyone.
And tonight, every second counted to the dot.
“My, aren’t we impatient! What’s the hurry? You’ll get to see them in good time.” He leered at her.
Nagarika had precisely guessed his ignoble intentions. She twirled her fingers around her dainty necklace and slid it out from under her neck scarf to show him the pendant which held the ultimate in all gemstones—
The Syamantaka! The most lustrous blue gem.
“See this, Upangshu? Huh…do you have any bragging rights over your two-penny stones?” she teased.
His eyes bulged.”Is that really the Syamantaka Mani??? Are you having me on??? Syamantaka is a legend. Lost to time.”
“If you say so, Upangshu. The real Syamantaka lustres red on a lunar eclipse day. Shall I prove it to you? See this…” She held out the Syamantaka.
Dark blue turned into the brightest indigo and in a flash it was red!
” When I own the Syamantaka, why do you think I will con you out of stones which don’t have a worthwhile price-tag compared to it? What a waste of my time! I’m leaving!”
The ploy to attack his ego worked.
He rushed like a madman to a concealed safe behind a faux brick wall. He retrieved a pouch and showed her the contents.
How dare she call them two-penny stones. The trouble he went through many centuries ago! If he could, he would gouge out those blue eyes of hers. He raged inwardly.
The Sappirs glowed like blue embers.
Nagarika’s blood boiled upon seeing them. It triggered a deep-rooted ache.
Nagarika immediately whistled a tune and Upangshu started shuffling his feet uncomfortably.
“You! You…where did you…How do you know this hum? Is that…is that…the command call of a Rankerus?” he asked suspiciously.
“Wouldn’t you like to know, Upangshu?
Hand over the Sappirs to me right now or a fate worse than death awaits you!”
“Pretty damsel,” he grinned sarcastically. “Death can’t touch me. I have the Sappirs, remember? I’m immortal, you dumb woman!”
“Upangshu! You vile thug! Do you see what I have here?”
Her gaze was piercing. Blue could be such a hot fire!
“What?? What could you possibly have to threaten me with?” he guffawed villainously.
The wolf appeared out of nowhere at the command tune, with a blue parrot between his fangs. Upangshu was dumbfounded. The wolf was a Rankerus, guardian of the Naga abode!
“This, Upangshu! I have this! Your blue parrot. I’m going to wring it’s scrawny neck. Your life resides in this magical blue parrot. You’re not immortal, am I correct? Now…the Sappirs! Place it in my palms without a word!”
She outstretched her hand.
“Steady, now…don’t try any tricks. I have the parrot by its neck. One funny move from you and you’ve had it!”
The Rankerus growled menacingly as Upangshu advanced. With trembling hands, he placed the Sappirs in Nagarika’s outstretched palms.
They shone with every hue of blue. Luminous!
It was time. The eclipse was anytime now. The planets too were aligning.
He pointed to the blue parrot and said
“Now hand it over…”
“Silence!” Nagarika cut him mid sentence.”Step back. Right to the wall.”
“You two-faced snake! Who are you???!”
“Snake! Is that right!” and Nagarika showed him.
She muttered again under her breath and Upangshu regained his clarity.
She removed her blue contact lenses which she had temporarily needed to lure him and revealed her onyx black eyes with golden streaks. Her skin turned scaly and a formidable cobra hood momentarily appeared on the sides of her face to reveal to him, her true form.
Upangshu started spluttering. He was stunned. “You! How did you survive…! I mean…what…You had cast the amnesia spell on me when I introduced myself to you, didn’t you? You enchantress! Now I know why I couldn’t recall who you were. How did you find me after a thousand years?”
He was going batty, but Nagarika was merciless tonight.
“ I want you to be lucid when you die, Upangshu. You must know the reasons for the consequences you are about to receive. Yes, you guessed that right! I am ‘the’ Nagarika—queen of the Nagas and Naginis. I’m here to take back what’s ours and avenge the death of my clan.“
How deeply Nagarika had regretted sending the Blue-Eyed Naginis ahead of her. If only they hadn’t disobeyed her.
Earth looked so beautiful from down here. They had a longing to visit the blue planet and were certain that any life-form up there would be as beautiful. How wrong they were.
Even though she had asked them to go on a lunar eclipse day when no other dark magic or entity could harm them, they had disobeyed her and gone on a full moon to see the pristine land of Irkalla.
Upangshu, the sorcerer had gleaned their plans about their arrival with his dark magic. He had sold his soul to the devil.
He lay in wait in the shadows around the glen. There was that perfect spot of silver pool of light made by the full moon where they would gather and glide in a serpentine dance.
He saw them float down from ethereal beams of light. The legendary Blue-eyed Naginis! With their eyes of precious Sappirs. Rarest of blue stones which held the magic to make one immortal and wealthy beyond one’s imagination.
They were not supposed to be here tonight. Full moon made them vulnerable and weak, yet they were here, out in the open. He had cast the immobility spell on them and paralysed them.
He had then flicked out his dagger and ruthlessly gouged their eyes out, leaving them writhing and shrieking in pain in a pool of blood. Sappirs could only be taken out of live Naginis. Else they were nothing more than mere worthless stones.
He had then set the glen ablaze to hide his atrocities and they had all been burnt alive. Nagarika had rushed to the spot, only to see the charred remains of her Naginis.
The sands of time, they wickedly blow. My retribution, your downfall will surely follow.
“You have the Sappirs. Spare my life. Give me back my blue parrot.”
Upangshu was begging on his knees. She couldn’t trust this sly fox. He had mastered the dark arts and occult. Surely such a rogue wouldn’t surrender so easily. He was up to something. Her keen serpentine hearing could sense a strange chanting in the room, although inaudible to human ears. He was casting the annihilation spell on her!
She had to act swiftly. Although she was immune to spells on a lunar eclipse day, there was no telling what he was capable of.
Today was the only doomsday destined for the most powerful sorcerer.
“Since you love the blues a lot, here’s my parting gift to you.“
Blue rays emitted from her eyes which bored gaping holes into his. That will teach him how agonisingly he had killed the exotic blue-eyed Naginis for the Sappirs.
Upangshu stopped chanting abruptly. He contorted with pain and let out chilling screams.
In one fluid motion, even as she felt sorry for the poor bird, she viciously wrung the blue parrot’s neck.
He gasped for breath, clutching his throat.
Her cold piercing gaze further petrified him into a block of ice.
Just then, the eclipse made a ring of fire and the planets aligned in perfect conjunction. It was now or never.
“Be ready, Ranko. You have to be quick!” she said to the wolf.“Now!”
Ranko spewed fire at the block of ice that was Upangshu and lapped up the melted block of ice water in one quick gulp. Nagarika petted his head victoriously.
Ranko was her most faithful who had searched hell and high water to seek Upangshu and the elusive blue parrot which housed his soul.
Upangshu was finally traced to an unheard of town called Arkala and the blue parrot in the deep, dark woods in the valleys surrounding it.
What a victory cry Ranko had let out for days when he had found them! His howls had reached the skies to signal to her that it was time for the deadly duel. He was instrumental in meting out this vengeance.
She gathered the pouch of Sappirs—the eyes of her loyal Naginis. They belonged to the sacred land of the Nagas…not here on Earth.
Content in knowing that her ‘troop of dancers’ had safely reached the Naga abode, she was ready to leave too. Her job here was done.
Outside, the deluge of rain had stopped. The night was dark and silent. Not a soul had ventured outside after sunset on this ominous day.
In a flash, Ranko grew into the size of a horse. She quietly mounted the wolf and as they levitated, she fixed her gaze on the bungalow of the most evil sorcerer.
It burst into a blaze of the most brilliant blue.
She had this one chance in a thousand years, when the right planets aligned to destroy him and she had avenged them all.
The bungalow was reduced to a heap of ashes along with all the ill-begotten possessions.
Contented, Ranko soared high into the air with Nagarika and flew away.
They were gone in the blink of a Blue-Sappiric eye!
Glossary: Syamantaka Gem,
The Syamantaka, Syamantaka Mani or the Syamantaka Jewel is perhaps the most famous jewel in Hindu scripture, supposed to be blessed with magical powers.
It was said that whichever land possessed this jewel would never encounter any calamities such as droughts, floods, earthquakes or famines and would always be full of prosperity and plenitude.
There have been many attempts in identifying the true jewel and none till date match the superlative descriptions of the Syamantaka Gem.
Considerable poetic license about the Syamantaka Gem has been assumed in crafting this story.
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