It was mid-summer, but the night was not as warm in the eastern border of the Grandhara, almost 50 Kos east of Taxila, where, Sahastra Sena, was camped along with the bank of Jhelum, in the semicircular formations of five layers of the tents. On the outskirt of the tents, corrals for horses and bulls were made in the regular intervals and in the gap between them, carts were stationed. On the periphery of the layer of corrals, fence of props, made up of the boughs of Mulberry trees, were stretched with help ot ropes. Props had driven in the ground leaning outwardly so that the sharp end would be at hight slight less than of the horses to prevent from the cavalary ambush. Twenty soldiers, with a trumpet and a spear in each hand, were guarding the camp, right outside the fence.
However the name of the army ensures a thousand men, but thanks to the ambushes of Hunas, throughout the way here, it was reduced to half of it's original size. And the further advancement was halted until the arrival of the reinforcement. Soldiers were resting in their tents and torches and lamps had been blown off, except for in one tent right next to the bank. It was the only tent that was facing the river and at the distance of few haths towards the bank, there was the commander-in-chief of the army.
He was perched over a boulder, his feet dipped in the cold water till the ankle and under his feet reflection of stars was shimmering as though the sparkling diamonds were embedded in between the pebbles. He looked in the south, along the river and beyond where Himalaya was standing like warrior and then in the east where even the trees on the other bank were seeming like thicket of Hennas. Full moon shone the brightest over the tops of Chinar trees and it reminded him of the last full moon night, when he had sit in the boat, in the Shipra river, next to Indumati.
"I wish you didn't have to go tomorrow, Shiva. I wish you stayed one more night". Indumati had said looking towards the City Gate on the bank.
"I'll be back soon, Indu". Shivagupta said, looking at her flawless cheeks tinted with sadness.
"You sure will! you always come back to me". She blushed and the beauty was restored in her cheeks. "Will you come back, before next full moon? " she rested her head on his shoulder, holding his arm.
"I hope so, Hunas are not easy to conquer, though."
"Red moon is a bad omen, Shiva. I am scared" she said, looking at the moon. Her saffron clothes matched with the color of moon.
"Moon doesn't decide the fate of a warrior, Indu, sword does and I have the best sword in the world".
Shivagupta shook his head. And put his hand around her shoulder and started brushing her hair.
"They say, loving a Bhramin girl brings bad luck to the prince".
"And what would I do with all the good lucks in the world, without your inebriating eyes". He kissed her both eyes.
"You're awfully sweet, shiva. I really can't wait to see you becoming Yuvraj. I hope Mahadhiraj would declare it soon. That would be the best day of my life". She said opening her eyes and smiling.
"It won't happen"
"Why not? You've won more battles than anyone and people worship you and Kumargupta does nothing but hearing the poets".
"You know very well why..."Shivagupta look at her with furrowed forehead.
"But Mahadhiraj doesn't treat you any different from Kumargupta"
"It changes nothing, Indu", he sighed "It doesn't change the fact that I am not his blood. It doesn't change the fact that my coward father gave my pregnant mother to Sakas because he wasn't man enough to fight. It doesn't change the fact that if Mahadhiraj didn't rescue and remarried her, I would probably be scrubbing the feet of Sakas, today. It doesn't change the fact that Kumargupta hates me for this.
"Don't talk like this, Shiva". She said and looked in his eyes, locking her fingers with hers.
"Kumargupta won't miss the first opportunity he gets to get rid of me", touch of her soft fingers soothed his pain, a bit.
"Why don't you do something about it? "
"I don't know anything about politics, Indu. All I know is how to wield a sword and how to love you". Shivagupta said, looking into her eyes.
"That's all man ought to know, Shiva". She wrapped her arm around his neck and stroke his head with another hand.
Stop thinking about all this, you're in the Jhelum not Shipra, he said to himself. A man should never think of love when he's at the war. And a man never should go for the war when he's in love. You're stupid, It's not the man that chooses the war, it's the war that chooses the man. And a brave can't escape the war, not even when he's in love, not even when he's in Jhelum.
Every river induces something in your heart. Shivgupta said to himself. Ganga brings spirituality, Shipra instigates the war and Jhelum incites love and compassion in your soul. It's ironic that when I was in love, Shipra always reminded me of the war and now when I am at the war, these serene waves of the Jhelum igniting the love within. Would you stop, you're a warrior not a poet. Why can't I be the both? grandfather Samundragupta was. No, you're not him so why don't you just focus on the war strategy rather than the verses of love. What would grandfather do if he were in my place? I wish I ever met him. I wish I could take advice from him. But, you took from your Mahadhiraj. You remember what he had said just before you left Ujjain, when he had been escorting you to the City Gate, in his chariot?
"As soon as you take Taxila back, I am going to announce you my heir". Vikramaditya had said, looking outside above the roadside wall.
Shivagupta couldn't believe his ears. He never felt disparity in Vikramaditya's eyes for him, he hadn't anticipated this.
"As you order, Mahadiraj! ", shivgupta said, he couldn't come up with better phrase.
"How come you never address me as father?"
"Because, you're not..... ", Shivgupta regretted saying this and wished he hadn't.
His blunt response had cringed Vikrmaditya for a moment and rendered him silent for few next seconds that was awfully long time for Shivagupta in these circumstances.
"look at me... ". He had put his hand on Shivagupta's shoulder and clutched it firmly. And he could see disappointment laced with anger in Vikrmaditya's eye. "You can say anything to me but that and you never ever dare to think again that you're not my blood. and listen to me very carefully what I am going to tell you". He paused for a moment and continued.
"Why do you think Ramgupta, gave up his own wife, your mother, to the Sakas?"
"Because he was a coward". Shivgupta said in contempt.
"No, he wasn't! Anything runs in blood of our family but cowardice, son. He gave her up willingly because he despised her because your mother, Dhruvadevi, and I were in love and somehow when he learned about her being pregnant, with you in her womb, he handed her over to the Sakas to punish me. I killed my brother not because he was a coward, I did it because he made the woman I love suffer, in the hands of Sakas who were carrying my child in her womb."
Shivagupta was looking at him bewilderedly, and he had very much to say with his trembling lips but he preferred not to as they had already reached the City Gate and Satvik, his childhood friend and commander of infantary, was waiting for him along with the army. He touched his father's feet and came out of the chariot and waited for his father's blessings and order.
"And about the war you are going to fight, son, when a Huna rides on the horse in the open field, wielding the spear, do not mistake to take him any lesser than an incarnation of death". Said the Vikrmaditya. "And God knows, everyone in our family had defied the death for countless times and so shall you. Go son! victory awaits for you with open arms".