What irony fate has wrought! Our escape is foiled by a drunken sot, passed out and sleeping on the ground!
Varga wondered how he got included in this whole adventure. He thought back on that day in the forest … yes … it was the cryptic voice within, and he remembered, he acted on the mysterious voice deep within.
“It must be the will of Isvara,” he murmured to himself. “We are puppets in his hands, and he causes us to dance as he wishes.”
The next morning, Varga performed daily rituals and chanted mantras in the stillness of the early morning hours, awaiting the rising sun. He entered the temple and received a garland from the Deity, and gazed upon that brilliant form with shining eyes.
At sunrise, he watched the fiery globe emerge … and he murmured the Gayatri, and the golden rays chased away the fleeing shadows. He meditated on the light of the radiant sun … only a tiny fraction of the Brahmajyoti effulgence … it had once again banished the night’s darkness.
He began his journey with several men, and some pack mules. Sri Satram employed his mystic vision to show Varga the location of the gem, which lay within the lair of a tribe of dacoits. It was a few days journey through a rugged land.
His band journeyed through a mountain pass along trails steep and treacherous. At the end of the second day, they made camp in a moonlit cove of trees. In a short time, one of their trackers spotted the Dacoit’s camp, about six miles away.
In the dead of night, Varga and a few men stealthily crept through some brush to the crest of a low hill and surveyed the camp from a distance. The night darkened as a large cloud veiled the moon, and Varga and his men crept to the edge of camp. They found a sentry who was carelessly falling asleep on his watch. This band of dacoits wore some strange traditional robes with hoods concealing the face.
Varga dexterously circled the unwary man and he detected that the sentry was snoring in a drunken stupor. He quickly bound, gagged, and disrobed him. Varga donned the man’s robe, and instructed his men to wait for further signal, as he skulked into their camp, incognito.
The camp was a ram-shakle tangle of tents and run down huts. There were two well built buildings in the center of camp. The large one appeared to be a tavern and the small one appeared to be a temple.
He milled about, looking for possible clues or leads, and then entered the tavern, his face well concealed by the draping hood.
It was a raucous tavern, the atmosphere was filled with loud noises and peels of laughter. The mayhem was occasionally accented by sudden brawls, and bursting bottles, flashing fists, cursing, and flying chairs. This only charged the enthusiasm and mirth of the belligerent crowd.
Varga leaned against the bar and ordered with a muffled voice. He ease-dropped on a nearby conversation. A grotesque ruffian was boasting loudly, slurring and gesturing like a stinking drunk, his tongue unrestrained, bragging about the capture of a man and some gem of mysterious powers.
There was a sudden crash against the bar and Varga turned to see a big bully taunting a smaller man. Nothing ruffles Varga’s feathers more than the ignoble deeds of a bully. Intolerant of such acts, Varga stepped between the cowering man and the thug.
This enraged the brute so, that he swung at Varga with all his might. Being nimble and quick, Varga eluded his fist and doubled him over with a right to the midsection.
The thug looked up for a brief moment, only to stare with eyes wide open, in total disbelief. His gaze was put to rest, as Varga belted him up and over the bar, and he slid the full length down the polished wooden top, bowling over everyone’s drink.
This caused a large uproar, followed by intense glares, as everyone turned to stare and grumble. The smaller man quickly bade Varga to follow him outside. The crowd was too drunk to meddle, and turned back to their boisterous activities as Varga and his mate exited discreetly.
They repaired to a secluded spot, and the man said, “My name is Sugosh … thank you for saving my skin. I liked the way you knocked him across that bar … why, nobody else would dare interfere. I see you are a stranger, please tell me who you are and how I may repay you.” Varga then introduced himself, and inquired of his story.
“I was captured by this band of rogues at when they raided my small village years ago,” Sugosh said. “The King’s army arrived in time to capture many of the dacoits, but many got away, with me included as their slave. And so, I’ve been waiting for my chance to escape, please take me with you.”
“Sure Sugosh, I’ll get you out of here, no problem, but first you might help me with my task at hand. I am looking for a wonderful crystal gem, said to be in the hands of these rogues.”
“Oh yes,” answered Sugosh, “I can help you with that. Over on the eastern side of camp, there’s a guarded cabin. Within is a prisoner by the name Megadut, and the gem. It seems they caught the hapless fool outside the Shrine of Mahadeva. He was boasting of his possession of some powerful gem.”
Varga and Sugosh set their sights upon that cabin and circled around back through the woods. Varga had to step over several drunks who were passed out and sleeping in the bushes.
Varga thought, what a zest they have for this rot gut brew, how they guzzle it down!
They stealthily made their way to the rear of the cabin. In concealment they heard a conversation of the Guards.
“When is the journey to crater lake to be?” said the first.
The second replied, “Kergold said we will depart tomorrow at dawn, one day before the eve of the full moon. You know how the Kraken is fond of human offerings on a full moon night!” They both cackled loudly, anticipating the fun to be had.
Varga then devised a plan. Sugosh lured one of the guards around to the back with promises of strong drink. The guard scratched his head and weighed the pros and consequences of drinking on the job. He quickly discarded the cons and advanced to Sugosh with a grin. Varga stepped out from behind a tree … as the guard started to gasp in surprise, Varga promptly knocked him unconscious. He then went to the front and commanded the other guard to open the door. The guard glanced at the gleaming dagger protruding from Varga’s robe and complied to the order without a peep. They went inside and Varga gagged and tied up the guard.
Megadut squealed in excitement upon presuming his escape, but his smile turned to a frown as Varga ignored him and instead forced open the box holding the gem.
Megadut beckoned him and pleaded for his release in a submissive voice, “Please take me with you and I will vow my loyalty and service to you … oh great sir!”
At that time, Sugosh submitted this advice to Varga, “Be wary of this base person, oh Varga! See how he pleads with feigned submission! Policy is the true substance of dynasties, and thus one should not accept the fake submission of a rogue, this is clearly seen in the story of the snake and the frog.” Sugosh then related the following story:
Once there was a clever snake who was lazy and unable to catch frogs easily and so he remained motionless upon a riverbank. The King of the frogs was curious and asked the snake, from a safe distance, why he was sitting so still, and why he didn’t eat frogs as of old.
The snake replied, “Once I was at chase of some frog, and by mistake I did bite the finger of a Brahmin’s son by mistake, and he died, and so the Brahmin cursed me to be a bearer of frogs, instead of an eater of frogs, and so here I am, and I cannot eat you, no, I can only carry you on my back.”
And as the King heard this, he became desirous of being carried and so he came out of the water with his minister frogs and they all mounted upon the snake’s back for a ride. After the snake had gained their confidence, he feigned exhaustion and said, “I cannot go a step further without any food, unless you give me food, how can a servant serve without subsistence?”
At this, the King frog said, “alright, I suppose you can eat a few of my followers.” And so the snake ate all the frog followers, and the King tolerated it because of blind pride at being carried about on his back.
“And so,” said Sugosh, “we should not give into false submission or a calamity may befall us for such indiscretion.”
Varga replied, “Oh Sugosh, you give noble advise, and yet I feel compelled to take him in. I remember how Laksmana advised Lord Rama not to accept the brother of Ravana, Vibishana, into his camp. Laksmana said that he was a brother of the enemy and one should never trust an enemy. But Lord Rama said that he never refused anyone who came to him in surrender, and so I shall adopt the same policy, even though I may live to regret it.”
And so the three tried to escape through the back way. They made their way secretly through the woods, with the moon light shimmering about the tree boughs. They were upon the outer limits of the woods and ill fortune fell, as Megadut stumbled over a sleeping drunk in the bushes, and stepped on his head so hard that the stinking lush screamed out in bloody murder. This alarmed a nearby sentry, who alerted his comrades with a loud whistle, and droves of soldiers came from all directions and surrounded them. The odds outweighed Varga as the dacoits were in numbers and were armed with swords and spears.
Being trapped, just as the immortal soul is trapped within the material body, Varga gave a good fight, but they were outnumbered. He opted for discretion instead of valor, on account of the former being the better part of the latter … and he decided to surrender.
They were put into jail, and the dacoits grinned and slapped each other’s backs and shook each other’s grimy hands vigorously, after spitting on them as a token of victory.
As they sat in the cell, Sugosh exclaimed, “What irony fate has wrought! Our escape is foiled by a drunken sot, passed out and sleeping on the ground!”
Varga nodded in sad confirmation and said, “Aye, the devil’s brew has waylayed many a man’s dream.”