Muses Saga

Chapter 3: Strike One

The satisfaction came with a cup of tea.

Sagar thought it was poetic. The hot chai slid down his throat, the spice making his throat run hot and his tongue burst with taste. The kulhad was hot under his fingertips. He loved it.

The same could not be said for the troupe. 

“Why is it spicy?”

The thief made a face, taking another sip before coughing violently. 

“This is not right!” he muttered, putting his kulhad down, “The tea here is supposed to be the best.”

It was the best. Sagar could attest to it as he drank his chai and enjoyed the flavours bursting on his tongue as fireworks. 

The female singer, Meira, sighed, “Well, your best tea has chilli powder. And I don’t even know what else.”

“It tastes like curry gone wrong,” the male singer tabalchi said, putting out his tongue, “I am never trusting your judgment again.”

It was the younger dancer whose eyes found Sagar. He smiled, raising his kulhad in mock cheer. She aggressively signed something and Sagar was very happy to remain oblivious to her threats. 

The thief followed her line of sight and growled. Sagar chuckled, dropping the copper coins in the older man’s hands, other than the gold he had given for messing up the troupe’s day and made his way back to the post.

Behind him, the dancer troupe begins to scream and shout. 

The day after Sagar took up his new post outside the performers’ residence, he was disheartened to see the thief with a new pair of ghungroos. Asking around, a little goading from the graven had revealed that he had taken them from no place other than the Gharana under Madame Qafir. Sagar had not even known that the thief was trained under the most famous dancer south of the Mountains, but it made sense. 

Madame Qafir was the unofficial leader of Gravens in Vyagar. 

Sagar was not fond of her. However, even he could admit that she was a woman he did not want to cross. 

It was Princess Finnani who had seen him playing with the ghungroos and raised a prompt eyebrow.

“Which poor dancer’s soul did you steal? You don’t do that.”

That had confirmed it. The thief might have gotten a replacement, but the ghungroos in Sagar’s hand still held the power. And as long as he held the power, he could also ensure that the thief did not have an easy time. And by extension, his troupe. 

However, Sagar did not do anything half-assed. For a week after the performance, Sagar let those people be free. To give them an illusion of peace while he gathered information.

A trained pigeon and a few runners were able to provide him with everything he needed to know.

The place where the troupe had come from specialized in reinstating criminals. Ergo, the entire troupe was made up of ex-criminals. 

The female dancer was a Graven named Jhuri, referred to as Swift Bird in rumours. She was mute with half a hearing and had been trained as a silent assassin by the dacoits in the South before being caught. She was dangerous, with a kill record of hundreds. 

That was just the beginning.

The singer, Meira and the tabalchi, Barek, were Fashas from the east- Beings with heavenly voices, beautiful features and wings to aid them in flight. Fashas could turn invisible to the common eye, camouflage as well as disappear completely. They excelled in forests and other forms of greenery, with extensive knowledge. 

Meira was a poisoner, caught for the assassination of a Chief King in the South. 

Barek was a spy from the kingdom of Bagsehar, losing his legs in a fight with the pirates and seemingly having lost his privileges and was sent away soon after. 

One would think that with information like that, the King would banish the people himself. Or at least put them in jail. 

Alas, that was not what happened. 

“So they changed their ways? Good for them.”

“My King, they are dangerous people. We cannot let them stay in Vyagar!”

“I am sure Ira checked them thoroughly for sending invitations out to their town.”

And so Sagar moved to the Queen.

“Oh, I know Barek and Meira. They would not hurt a fly,” she said with a chuckle, embroidering the edge of a saree, “And while you may have your differences with Alfar, my sources say he has indeed yet to do anything.”

“What about the other graven?”

“That little girl?”

“She is a grown woman, not a child,” Sagar tried to keep his voice in control, but he knew his failure, “And an assassin.”

“Oh, Sagar,” Queen Ira tsked, patting his cheek like he were a foolish babe, “She will not harm us. I have assurances. They are not the criminals you think them to be.”

That did nothing to assure Sagar. Unfortunately for him, the King and the Queen had put their foot down on the matter. The troupe performed for them almost every other night. Sagar would remain alert, making a new plan to keep an eye out for them. Chakor and Kiran became his eyes and ears. All the while, the troupe captivated the Royal Family and their guestswithy their magic.

Every time Sagar would be at the edge of his seat, and yet nothing happened. 

He felt as if he was losing his mind. 

So inconveniencing them was the way to go. Some would call him petty, like the Princess, while the others, foolish. Sagar found that it brought him immense joy. 

Messing up their food order, stopping the water supply, creating an obstruction on the road that led from their cottage to the Palace, and so on. However, as more than fifteen days came to pass and the troupe continued to thrive, Sagar found his patience thinning.

The spicy chai was his last resort. As Sagar stood by the residence, he racked his brain for other things to do.

“You,” the thief’s voice echoed from behind, “are the most irritating, horrible and unlikable Bayik to ever exist.”

Sagar rolled his eyes. He could live with that. The thief ran in front of him, seething. Sagar noticed how his curls bounced, how the anger shimmered under his eyes. 

“What?” he asked, feigning boredom.

He poked Sagar’s chest. “Stop,” poke “making,” poke “Our lives,” poke, “difficult!”

Sagar looked at his chest, then at the thief, “Touch me one more time and you will not have fingers.”

“I-!” The thief groaned. Sagar could not help but feel happiness course through his veins. Seeing the graven lose his mind, to absolutely give up was the best thing. If he could not throw him out of the kingdom, he could at least make his life difficult. 

When he next faced Sagar, his annoying smile was back on his face.

“Look chief,” he said with folded hands, “I want no trouble.”

“Debatable.”

“How about we make a compromise?”

Sagar pretended to think, “Sure. Give me back my ring.”

Alfar groaned in frustration, “You…are impossible!”

“And you,” Sagar stepped up, “are a piece of filth and liar. I do not want you anywhere near the Queen.”

“Oh, dear, if only that was in your hands!” 

Sagar glared as the shorter thief mocked him. His fingers tightened around his sword. He walked into the thief’s space as the graven refused to budge. Both breathed heavily as their eyes locked. Sagar saw movement from the corner of his eyes, the thief reaching out for something on his waist. 

The evening bell rang in the distance. Sagar jumped, making the thief stumble back too. With a heavy breath, Sagar said, “I will deal with you later.”

“Oh, I can’t wait!” the thief mocked. 

Sagar turned and walked away. He passed the briefing with Commander Karn and other soldiers with no trouble. When it came to an end, and everyone walked out of their work, Sagar stayed back to relax in Commander Karn’s office. He was not the only one either, as Nihar followed Commander to ask questions and Chakor and Kiran sat in a corner, playing hand games. 

When things voices began to become background noises and Sagar’s rage barely began to subside, he heard a question.

“Whatever has captivated your mind so much that you refuse to pay attention to us, poor mortals?”

Without looking down, Sagar threw a jade paperweight from the table in front. Nihar squawked, the paperweight hit the wall and rolled down. Commander Karn’s booming laughter brought a smile to Sagar’s face.

Nihar huffed, “I could have you in jail for the assassination attempt of a Lord Prince!”

“Calm down, boy,” Commander Karn chuckled, “I have taught both of you. Neither is killing the other.”

“Not that you know of,” Nihar muttered.

Commander Karn chuckled, swatting Nihar’s head and pulling a chair on Sagar’s other side. He finally looked down, straightening up as his teacher sat down.

 “Whatever is on your mind boy?”

“Thinking about how to kill gravens and fashas,” muttered Sagar.

The older man raised an eyebrow, “Got on your nerves so fast?”

“Just a particular few.”

Chakor, from below the elders who sat on chairs, cleared his throat, “I don’t think you can say such things, sir.”

Commander Karn swatted the boy, making him yelp, “Children, so afraid. What you need is an ivory knife to the juncture between their neck and throat. The knife pierces their tubes and the ivory poisons them.”

Nihar blinks, “Have you killed a lot of Gravens, Commander?”

“There was a time not too long ago when they were our enemies,” The man hissed. Sagar sighed, knowing well enough what he meant, “Two decades passed and we behave as if we have not been at war with magic users before.”

An uneasy silence fell upon the group. Chakor and Kiran were too young to remember the carnage left behind by the Sea Gravens or the madness that ran rampant in the southern forests when Fashas decided to revolt. Nihar, on the other hand, had always been too protected. His head was so high in the clouds he could not even feel the dirt under his feet.  

Sagar sighed, turning his head, “So to kill a Graven, I will have to kill a Mammoth first.”

“Or elephants,” said Kiran, “They are closer and smaller.”

“Still huge.”

“Why ivory, though?” Nihar asked.

Commander Karn raised an eyebrow, “Did you ever pay attention in classes or sermons?”

Sagar snorted, “He never showed up.”

“Figures. Do you at least know the Elephant God from the South?’

“I am not that uncultured.”

“Debatable,” mutters Sagar.

“The Gravens attacked him, unprovoked. He cursed them, to die by his hand over and over again. So tusks are your favourite weapon.”

That was a highly abridged version of the story. The Lord of the Elephants had technically walked over the magical creatures’ land, and then the magical creatures had killed his family which began his rage. There were thousands of other tidbits to the legend as well. Sagar knew it all at the back of his head, but Nihar could hardly be said to recall even the name of Gods.

“What if you want to kill a sorcerer?”

Four pairs of eyes turn to Kiran. 

“Not that I want to kill, any! I am not talking about the Queen. Oh, it sounds like I am. I am not.”

Chakor clapped his back, “You should stop talking.”

“I should.”

Sagar shook his head. How he was supposed to make these two idiots into working soldiers was beyond him, but all he could do was try. 


“Why have you brought me here?”

Alfar grinned, “To see the Chief practice.”

Jhuri pretended to gag. Alfar laughed, but still pulled a reluctant Jhuri to the stands. The Chief had made his and his troupes’ lives miserable over the past few days. If anything, it was time for retribution. Alfar wanted to think he knew what he was doing, but three years was long. Alfar needed to gather new information. So there he was, at the crack of dawn to watch the Chief and the son of Lord Pangiri- a truly detestable man- fence out. 

The sound of swords clashing reached Alfar first. When he finally was able to elbow his way into a gaggle of men and women fawning over the two, he found a sight to behold. 

Chief was raising his sword, his shoulders blades flexing as he struck at the other man. The naked back of the man was glistening even in the early sun. Alfar leaned over the railing, a grin on his face as he slowly mapped the entirety of the man’s back. 

When he turned, Alfar let out a whistle. The man might be on the thinner side, but he was built beautifully. Alfar wanted to run his hand through the expanse of that chest. Perhaps tickle those muscles. 

A wave of hand in front of his eyes was a downer. 

“What?” Alfar demanded.

Jhuri was grinning impishly, “He is beautiful.”

“I am aware.”

“You were drooling.”

“I was not!”

Jhuri let out a sharp ‘Ha’ before leaning beside Alfar. 

“Speak,” she signed.

Alfar raised an eyebrow, “About what?”

“Why he hates you.”

Alfar sighed, “Well I was young and naive.”

“Still are.”

“Shush,” Alfar grumbled, “When I met Chief for the first time he was just a soldier. Working in the overnight cells, young and wide-eyed and a complete snob. Not that he isn’t now. But well, he was fun to rile up. As luck would have it he was often stationed where I operated and I often saw him. Of course, he could never catch me, but he knew. I knew he knew. It was fun. I irritated him and he grumbled and we were fine.”

“But?”

Alfar sighed, “I took something of his. A ring. It was just a gold band, nothing much. But he was livid. Caught me within two days. Before I knew what was happening, the King had pushed for my banishment.”

Jhuri frowned, “Ring?”

Alfar chuckled, “Yeah, for a ring. It wouldn’t even fetch me good money. I guess, all the crimes were bound together and pushed for my punishment.”

“Thought it would be more serious.”

“So did I. But apparently, all it took was a ring.”

Jhuri made a confused noise. Alfar agreed. To date, he remained confused and exhausted about the fact that a ring had created trouble for him. 

As he watched the Chief duel, he couldn’t help but wonder. Such was his beauty, but he was so aloof. In different circumstances, Alfar would love to get closer to the Chief. To know more of his dry wit and straight face, to peel back the layers of his deceit and boredom. 

Luck was Alfar’s enemy, for as soon as his duel with Pangiri’s son ended, the Chief’s eyes found Alfar. He ducked, but he was too late.

Only moments later, he was being hauled up and dragged into the arena. A longsword thrust into his hands and the Chief, barechested, stared at him.

“Go on. Everybody who comes to the arena must duel.”

That was nonsense. Alfar knew it to be nonsense. Yet, he gripped the hilt of the sword. It was unfamiliar, the curve of the blade large. His weapons were often on the smaller side. When Alfar twisted his hand, the blade felt more like a curve.

He thrust forward, and the Chief blocked it. Alfar grinned. 

“That was not an attack.”

“One can never know with you.”

Alfar grinned. He thrust again, Sagar blocking it effectively. He tried to push it sideways, but it was no use. Alfar’s handle on the long blade was poor, but he could not help but grin. The Chief looked as if his brain were to blow apart.

As he twirled and pushed back, the Chief raised his sword in teh air, the clash of blades echoing through the arena. Alfar saw Jhuri hiss in concern from the corner of his eyes. 

“You fight like a baby chick,” he muttered.

When Sagar pushed him, Alfar stood on his ground. There, in the open expanse under the sun, the Chief glowed. His hair sticking on his head messily, his muscles firm and his eyes- oh, his eyes…

“Go on,” the Chief commanded, “Fight.”

Alfar dropped the sword.

“You are so beautiful,” chuckled Alfar. “Gazing into your eyes, I have already lost.”

Gasps echoed through the arena. Those who heard him, teh Bayiks, probably stood scandalized. Alfar only grinned, letting his eyes roam all over Sagar’s chest and arms. When he pushed Alfar to the wall and trapped him, Alfar did not really care.

“Don’t you dare.”

Alfar just raised an eyebrow. Chief’s friend came to drag him away, and Jhuri rushed to him, screaming at him for being so foolish. Alfar did not really care. 

He had won that round. 


Vyagar’s weather liked to match Sagar’s emotional turmoil. Eighteen days post the commencement of the celebration, dark clouds hovered over Vyagar. The docks flooded, and shipmen were advised to leave their vessels and take refuge within the castle walls. The heavy iron gates were closed.

When by the third day, the water began to flood within the walls, King Aarav sent for the Gravens from the cave to push back the water. 

Hence, Sagar’s first obstacle.

He could have easily taken the job of sitting inside the palace, ignoring the thunder outside and eating warm meals. Instead, Sagar chose to take the duty over the Castle Walls. Even if it meant getting drenched from time to time and having his heart beat wildly against his chest.

Commander Karn gave him one look, grabbed his shoulders and nodded. 

“Keep an eye on those creatures. This is their element.”

And so there Sagar was, semi-drenched but his eyes never leaving the creatures surrounding the walls. They worked with the water flooding around the castles, keeping the flooding at bay. The King offered them protection in exchange for their help in situations like these. 

It was either Gravens protecting them or a flood within the city. For Sagar, both were nightmares. 

The thunder crackled. Sagar flinched. His eyes found the horizon where the lighting had already disappeared. In the north, he spotted a tower.

Sagar knew it was a trick of his mind. The cold had seeped into his bones and reached his brain. The tower was barely visible on good days, much less in a storm.

Yet Sagar’s eyes were fixed, watching an imaginary tower and a flicker of yellow light. The remnants of a memory. Something he kept locked away. Storms were the hammer to his carefully protected boxes of past. 

The lighting lit up the sky and Sagar barely had the moment to push his palms on his ears before the clouds screamed again. Down below, the Gravens shouted something and Sagar involuntarily folded into himself. 

He could not breathe. The rain was loud. The water was quiet. His nose was blocked, and every breath needed to be saved. 

He had to move. 

He had to swim. 

He could not see. 

It was too dark. 

There was no light.

 Nothing. 

A hand grasped his arm. Sagar’s’ heart sped up. He had to move. 

He had to swim away, faster. He could not run. He had to breathe. 

It was not working. 

His lungs refused to work. He needed to breathe. 

“Breathe.”

He could not.

Sagar’s palm landed on something warm. Something soft. Moving. In and Out.

“Breathe in, breathe out.”

Sagar coughed. His lungs racked as he could breathe a mouthful of air. The darkness began to dissipate. It was grey, not black. There was a yellow lamp over his head. An oil lamp. 

“Breathe in.”

This time, he could. 

“Breathe out.”

The air rushed out of his mouth. 

Sagar continued to mimic the motion. He could feel the wet stone under his toes, through his sandals. He needed to get a new pair. His hair was falling on his forehead, irritating him. The body in front of him was holding his hand in a tight grip, and his palm was flattened against the thief’s chest.

Sagar blinked. The image in front of him did not change.

Immediately, Sagar pulled back his hand and stood up. His feet still felt stuffed with cotton but he could carry his weight now. 

“What, how, what are you doing, here?”

The thief slowly got up. As if Sagar was a spooked animal who could attack him at any moment. Which, well…

He would rather not dwell on that thought.

“I was just taking a walk.”

“In this rain?” demanded Sagar, before shaking his head, “Graven. Should have realized.”

The thief smiled, but it was not the menacing grin he often sported. Rather, something softer, almost as if he was concerned.

Sagar did not like that one bit. 

He cleared his throat, standing straight, “Well, carry on.”

“Not going to stop me?”

“It’s a public terrace, unfortunately.”

The thief nodded, his curls now plastered yet still maintaining their bounce. Sagar did not know how that was possible. He almost wished to touch them to see if they were even properly wet, but refrained. 

“Ya fine there, Chief?”

Folding his arms, Sagar huffed, “I am fine. Move.”

“It’s all right if you weren’t,” he said conversationally, “Barek has terrors all the time, and sometimes Jhuri forgets where she is. Happens to all of us.”

“I do not have terrors.”

The thief raised his eyebrows, “Right. Sure.”

“I do not!”

“Sagar is afraid of the ocean, is he not?”

Sagar huffed, “I do not appreciate your tone.”

The Graven raised his hands, “Fine, fine. I will go. Maybe I will jump down. Do you think the King would pay me extra to help?”

Sagar huffed, looking down again. The Gravens had succeeded in changing the direction of the water. The water coming down from the clouds was moving towards the sea. It would work for at least the night. 

“No,” Sagar said stiffly, “Move.”

The thief’s fingers moved. Sagar could see he was signing. It was a Graven language, one that Sagar had never bothered to understand. He did not see the need to. But some movements he could tell. 

“Are you communicating with them?”

“So suspicious!” Alfar huffed, “I was not talking to them.”

Before Sagar could process the information, the thief had walked away.

“Wait, were you signing at me? Were you calling me something? Thief, come back here! Right now!”

Alfar had long disappeared into the grey rain of Vyagar. 

Thus came the second obstacle in Sagar’s path. The thief. Alfar.

Technically, he was the first. But the rain falling upon their city made him and his troupe more dangerous. Sagar had imprisoned him before, but that was during a sunny day with dry paths laid out in full summer. 

Rain was the thief’s weapon.

“All right, one question,” Finanni said, interrupting Sagar’s rant, “What exactly are you protecting Father and Queen Ira against?”

“I just told you! The rain is dangerous and this thief, he-”

“Wait! Let me rephrase my question. The rain is a natural phenomenon so all right, it’s dangerous. Why, would this thief, hurt us?”

Sagar huffed, “He, well, he is a Graven.”

“Yes, but he is also currently in the city under Father’s patronage,” Fina pointed out, “Have you, just for a moment, wondered if you are being paranoid?”

Sagar does not say a word. The Princess just turned back to her desk, the reports Sagar had brought outlined. It was the most boring work, but she was the Heir Princess and had to do it. She could get an advisor, but Finanni was reluctant to accept help. Sagar wanted to help her, so he always ensured his report was concise.

 He needed her support which she refused to give.

“But, he is dangerous.”

“Brother-”

“I am not your brother.”

Fina stared at him, “You are. For all intents and purposes.”

“I am the Chief Guard.”

“Its night time.”

“My work is throughout the day.”

Fina groaned, “Sagar, I am at my wit’s end. Listen to me. I am supposed to be the paranoid one, you are the practical one. Practically, this Graven thief and his group of magicians-”

“Artists.”

“-have no reason to hurt us. So, why don’t you sit down and tell me what is actually bothering you.”

Sagar wanted to protest. He did. But a pointed look by these Princess and he was on a chair, shoulders hunched and with a pout that he would never accept he had. At that moment, he almost felt young again, with Fina working on her studies while he looked at her work curiously. 

“So?”

Sagar sighed, “It’s…a premonition.”

Fina’s eyes widened, “you?”

“Yes.”

“That’s…new.”

Sagar did not need to be told. He never got any sights. The King and the Princess, with their rituals, managed to see something once a year that would help them. All Bayiks, once a year prayed to their patron gods and saw the threads of time laid down in front of them. Some could touch them, but that was highly looked down upon. A premonition, having a meeting with sight out of rituals, was uncommon for people who remained in touch with their sights annually.

For people like Sagar, who had neither proper sight nor ever sat in rituals, having a premonition was equal to impossible. 

“Go on.” She urged him.

Sagar hummed, “I feel…dread. Fear. Uncertainty. Something, something I can’t quite put my finger on.”

“They could be about many things.”

“Yes. But it increases every time I am around that thief. Like he would be the cause of it.”

The Princess nodded, “But is he?”

“I don’t know,” Sagar sighed, “And it is unheard of, to have a premonition of someone you know.”

“Yes,” Fina hummed, “but neither Father nor I saw anything when we did the ritual.”

“Which scares me even more. What if he does something entirely unexpected?”

“Sagar, all right. Let me talk together and then the priest. Maybe even ask the queen. She may not be attuned to divination but she might have spells,” Sagar nodded, “But Sagar, I have to ask. Are you sure it’s a premonition?”

Sagar knew it was. He was young when he first had one. At the cusp of half a decade, the dread had filled his heart. What followed was the night that haunted his dreams for years to come. He had never been able to get a sight ever since, and he highly doubted he would ever. But the thief’s presence was already disturbing the peace. The strangers in the castle did nothing to calm him down.

Even though Fina reassured him, Sagar could not help but shadow the thief. On the day he was due to perform, Sagar took his day off and after a long time dressed in simple cotton that was usually worn by the masses. For a moment, he wondered if he should go bare-chested, but it made his cheeks warm up. Instead, he chose the raggiest clothes he could find and let Chakor and Kiran take his duty for the day.

It rained. Again.

Sagar stood on the ground, letting the cobbled street hold him firm. The thief was surprised, and Sagar just watched him. As morning made its way to noon and some rays of sun managed to peek through the heavy clouds, he finally stopped.

Just as the graven exited the doors of the castle walls, it began to rain. Sagar cursed his stars, the clouds and every force of nature. Then he quickly muttered an apology before following the thief. 

What he found made no sense. The thief had made his way to the marketplace, near the Gharana, which was expected. What I did not expect was to see the graven surrounded by children. Possibly gravens. He watched, confused, as they moved in synchronization.

Sagar watched as the thief led the gaggle of children through a dance routine that was unlike the one he performed in the palace. It was, free. Fluid, yet unafraid to be rough and loud. Sagar could merely watch as Alfar moved, the young children of various ages moving with him. They continued to increase in pace until it was impossible to understand where one step ended and the other began. 

The synchronisation changed into a mess of random dances. The laughter that surrounded them was one. All of them were just…playing. 

Sagar did not even know when he started smiling. A part of his heart panged for the carefree moment that he never really got, but another rejoiced.

It was a niggle at the back of his mind that reminded him that these were gravens. Of course, they enjoyed the downpour. It would not be their end that would come with the water. For them it was life.

His chest constricted. When Sagar next blinked, the rain had stopped. Only clear skies remained. Sagar found himself stepping back, unable to look anymore. If he wanted to stay alert for their performance that evening, he needed to step back. 

The premonition was strong, but the grief he carried in his heart was stronger.


Alfar had seen the pair before. They followed the chief like a duckling followed their mother. One was short, the other tall. One wide-eyed, the other confused. Alfar could not help being curious. But he always managed to hold himself back.

This time, he let it win. 

“Hullo.”

The two looked at him, wide-eyed. They knew they were staring. 

“Any reason you find my face oh so pleasing?”

“Are you the thief who stole Chief Sagar’s ring?” the tall, wide-eyed one asked.

Alfar blinked, “Are you telling me I have become a legend? Oh, my wishes have after all come true.”

The shorter one huffed, shaking his head “How did you do it? He is so aware all the time.”

“Thinking of crossing him or what?” Alfar squiggled his eyebrows suggestively. 

“What? No!”

“Calm your waves, I am teasing,” Alfar raised his hands in surrender as the boys eyed him dubiously, “I have washed my hands from that job. I wouldn’t help you even if you paid me to do it. Although, it would also depend on the money.”

“No! We are not offering anything. It’s just…sir has been in a bad mood.”

A slow grin spread on Alfar’s face, “You are his students. Didn’t know the chief was old enough to take some.”

“He isn’t. He is just extraordinary.”

“Don’t I know that?” Alfar muttered, thinking of many the days he had almost caught him, “What’s your name?”

“Chakor,” the taller one offered, “And this is Kiran.”

Their names echoed in warning as the Chief came over, sending them away and turning his attention to him. Alfarwhistledd innocently, looking around to see the King settle down, the Queen and the Princess discussing something. He half expected to be caught and threatened for the act he had pulled into the arena but was surprised to find only silence and disinterest from teh Chief. 

“You can be kinder to them,” Alfar said, unsure about the aloofness.

“I do not remember asking for your opinion, thief.”

Alfar raised an eyebrow as Barek experimentally thumped the tabla. Behind him, theRoyalss settled down. A breeze blew through the open terrace across them. It was a smaller venue, a private one too, with a beautiful sight of the sunset. Truly set the mood, unlike the aloof person in front of him

“Well, you got it,” Alfar shrugged, before eyeing Sagar, “will you be watching me again today?”

Sagar’s silence was answer enough.

“Is this a new tactic?” Alfar asked, “Do you even have one? Looking back, it seems as if you were pulling childish pranks, only on a bigger scale.”

“Get lost.”

Alafr laughed, ready with a retort, when he heard Jhuri chipper.

“Ah, it seems luck is on your side. Enjoy the show”

“Dreading it already.”

Alfar took his position. Bent down to ask blessing from Goddess Dorian. 

The music started all at once. Alfar let the beat carry his feet. With Jhuri by his side, he fell into the role of a love-sick hero easily. His hand moved with his mouth, a sigh just expressing the wait for his beloved. 

From the corner of his eyes, he saw the Chief’s eyes fixed on him. Expressing joy was suddenly not that difficult. 

Alfar spun again and again, letting his left foot take over. Instead of stopping, he turned to the Chief and improvised. 

Sagar’s eyes widened as Alfar made his way to him, moving his hips and shoulders in tandem and pulling him closer through his mudras

It was Meira’s high note that pulled him back to the main floor. He and Jhuri moved together again. Used to his improvisation, she just met his speed and began to flirt with other patrons. 

When Barek increased the pace of his beats, Alfar turned to Sagar once again. He was red in his face and whispering furiously to his students. Grinning inwardly, like a lover who had obtained his love, Alfar began to move faster and so did Jhuri.

The atmosphere changed. Meira geared the speed up, the taal taking over. 

Alfar twirled, letting his left palm lead his way. He put his fingers under his chin, curiously seeking out the Chief. When he found him, his eyebrows were pulled together in concern. Not the irritation that surrounded him every time Alfar appeared, but something more. 

Once a Graven’s limbs begin to move, they cannot be stopped. Yet Alfar had years of training to keep his eyes and ears divided between the music and the disturbance brewing in the hall. 

A gush of wind caressing his arms made the hair on his body stand up. The cold air was a companion of Vyagar rains, a beloved friend of every Graven. Yet the chilled ice spreading through his veins was not right. Familiar, yes, but not fitting the puzzle of the palace. 

Alfar’s eyes found the Chief again, and this time, the confusion and hesitance that lingered on his face was not a mirror for his dance, but a reality slowly seeping into their lives. 

A Graven and a Bayik on edge never meant a good thing. 

The wind howled outside just as Barek started the repetition. Alfar’s eyes met his troupes’, and each of their faces showed confusion. Jhuri’s face was a blank slate, ready to mould into whatever madness came their way. Alfar did not dare to linger as he spun with her, eyes frantic. 

The beat stopped. Meira’s notes reached the highest peak. The ocean crashed. Alfar heard the swoosh long before it appeared. 

Born to the water meant that Alfar knew how to situate the source and the aim long before it came. He had no moment to waste as Barek thumped the tabla for the last time. Instead of bowing, Alfar rushed to the seat of the Royals. The arrow was close. To his left. Alfar turned. The soldiers shouted. His hand reached out and grabbed the wrist of the sorceress. He pulled her down. The arrow whizzed past and lodged on the back of the chair. 

All it took was a single moment. 


This is a sample chapter from Hear Ye by Shubhr Aakriti… the book coming soon.

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This post was written by: shubhrs-quill-on-page