bought me another book like this, Arnav! It is inside the cupboard."
Nandini'swords terrified Arnav badly.
his sister had bought another Book of Fairy Tales was so unimaginably
horrible that Arnavwhimpered, pushinghimself back.
to find a hideous book come and hit him on the nose.
ME!" The Book yelled.
Arnavshouted hoarsely as he thought that the Book had almost throttled
for breath, Arnav pushed himself further back and that was when he
opened his eyes and looked around him.
ARE SURROUNDED, SCOUNDREL!"
heart was hammering real bad, from both his nightmare and what he was
seeing which was why he said absolutely nothing.
the "Thou are surrounded" guy was being so loud. For one
incongruous minute, Arnav actually thought the Book had really
brought on guards to make him read it.
was gasping for breath as he made a heartening discovery that his
nose was pretty much good and not squashed by a homicidal Book.
was when Arnav's vision cleared and he saw the blade.
just one blade - four blades, almost as huge as swords.
they were all around him.
should have been the first thing Arnav normally noticed. But then
shock acts in different ways. And it also leads people to ignore
as the initial shock had subsided, Arnav saw the person who was
holding the huge sword in his hands.
what are you wearing?"
hindsight, that was probably not a great first sentence or the
best greeting anyone could give to a person who was having a really
big sword in their hands.
the words were torn out of Arnav's mouth before he could actually
even properly think through the question.
guy before Arnav, who had the sword in his hands, was wearing a
really big iron helmet and an iron shield. Arnav just could not see
what dress the man was wearing beneath the shield. And the man's
leather shoes were so badly worn out and looked ancient that Arnav
wondered how the shoe still hung on to the man. And as if his shock
for the day was not done, Arnav was incongruously thinking about
which costume shop rented such hideous dresses.
is really wrong with you guys?" Arnav demanded as he was
completely freaked out.
later when Arnav actually thought about it, he was willing to concede
that, that was not a great second sentence either.
Churl," The guy before Arnav said angrily, drawing the sword up.
blinked again, because finally, the last few gray cells of his brain
had started working. Actually his brain was not doing great on the
thinking part either. But his brain was functional enough to point
out four important facts to him.
He was not in his home.
He did not remember falling asleep.
He did not know how there was such an intolerable sunshine inside his
home and why there was suddenly such a dense forest on the left side
of the home.
He had no idea what cheeky churl meant.
Arnav asked faintly wondering why his brain was repeating the same
four things again and again. Cheeky Churl was not in his home and
was having a nightmare about being attacked by a Book and its Guard,
in the outskirts of a dense forest.
was the best summary that his brain could give him when he forced the
damned thing to work. God, he was having a bad day. Where was the
stupid alarm clock when you actually needed it?
is cheeky churl?" Arnav asked finally as he was blinking. His
priorities were slightly mixed up. But then he had never seen such a
huge sword in his life.
decided that the guard also apparently did not know the meaning of
word, as the guard snarled angrily.
want no trouble guys!" Arnav yelled as he realized that the four
guards were trying to surround him.
usually never wasted time on chitchat after the fight had started.
But Arnav always tried explaining first. Exactly what he was going to
explain was however slightly beyond him. Saying that he was just
reading a fairy tale and was having a nightmare really sucked. Arnav
instinctively felt that the idiots with the blade would not probably
not like that explanation.
stupidly, the guard with the sword took a swipe at Arnav.
swipe just infuriated Arnav. A lot.
pathetically bad attack was not something that Arnav could ignore.
Not even in his dreams. Besides when things got physical, Arnav was
not completely lost in the woods or the forest...or....never mind.
Arnav shouted angrily. "Someone is going to get hurt with it,"
Arnav shouted angrily pointing at the sword, looking the fastest way
to disarm the guy.
guard definitely did not know that Arnav was a really good judo
teacher, who made his living teaching judo to kids and Arnav
occasionally taught elders too. And the swipe from the guard was the
last limit as Arnav realized that he really could not talk his way
out of this one.
step sided the man with the sword and as the momentum of the man
carried him forward and when the man reached the place where Arnav
had been, Arnav hit the man hard on his neck, with the side of his
man crumpled, wincing in pain as the other guards were watching in
shock and Arnav was slightly surprised.
should have attacked by now, you idiots," Arnav fumed at the
other guards with blades. "When you have numbers, you need to
use it." Once a teacher, always a teacher.
other guards were shocked for a whole second and it was obvious that
they could not decide on whether Arnav was being an idiot as a
special occasion or whether he was always like this. But then the
guards also had their problems. Whatever the problems were, they
could not let one guy standing right in their middle attack one of
their own and let him walk away with it, no matter how much of an
idiot the guy was.
other guards together attacked Arnav.
guard on the left attacked him first and Arnav knew that he could not
block something with the momentum of the guy. There was every chance
that he was going to break his hands if he did that. Arnav bent
letting the sword sweep above him as he kicked the man near his
attacker hard on the knees as he was getting up. His attacker was
moving ahead not able to stop himself as Arnav hit the man on his
neck. Or tried to.
people apparently knew about using the numbers and one of the two
guards attacked him at that time as Arnav fell back, trying to avoid
being impaled by the blade. But the guard who attacked him first was
not incapacitated as he caught Arnav's hands from the back. It was so
tight that Arnav could already feel his hands getting numb and the
other two guards were coming towards him. The two guards were pretty
much looking at him like he was a bug or something and were looking
to squash him. The guard whom Arnav had kicked on the knees was on
the ground and pretty much saying the same things that the woman was
saying just with more emotion and more gruffly.
those two guards reached him, Arnav knew that he just could not take
that punch. It could hurt him, real bad.
did what he had been taught. He let himself go numb and pushed
himself back. The guard was caught unawares as he fell back.
after that it was a disaster.
did what he did best and five minutes later, the guards never even
knew what happened to them as the three were lying in the ground
wincing from pain as Arnav ignored them completely. Two guards were
not getting up for the next week, not without giving themselves a
severe headache. And the third one was just plain old fashioned
unconscious. Arnav expected the guard's arm and head to give him hell
on waking up.
was thinking of studying their swords first, but Arnav remembered
that the "cheeky churl" dude was just down, not
turned looking angrily at the first guard and was actually
embarrassed. The guard on watching Arnav with terrified eyes and was
pushing himself back, hard, almost whimpering and he was scared so
badly that Arnav felt almost sorry for the guy. That was
notwithstanding the hideous armour the guy wore.
your helmet off," Arnav snapped at the guard. "Or you are
going to suffocate!" Arnav said coming forward as the guard
pushed himself back even more trying to make sure Arnav did not touch
am not gonna hurt you, you ass!" Arnav scolded the guard looking
completely annoyed, as he studying the guard's feet. The ankle was
twisted badly and he was going to know all about it, when he started
attack was just one step short of pathetic," Arnav told the
guard, sighing to himself. "And more importantly, spill the
beans and talk," Arnav pointed at the shield and looked at the
man. "Why the costume and why attack me? I don't even download
pirated music, for heaven's sake!" Arnav said looking annoyed,
wondering why he was talking about that to a a guy dressed so badly.
There was a part of Arnav which was wondering whether the man also
had a thing again piracy.
shall not get away with this," the guard whimpered looking like
he was summoning up all his courage to talk.
snarled dangerously. "One more sentence with thou and you are
going to regret it," Arnav said trying to look dangerous. And it
was almost impossible - To look dangerous. Because it was practically
impossible to get angry at a guy who was dressed so badly and
struggling not to get afraid.
then Arnav had problems of his own. Thou and Thee were strictly
forbidden words in Arnav's dictionary. No one could talk to him like
that and walk away with it, because one of the worst memories in
Arnav's life was his teacher making him read that in English class.
dude and don't pick up that sword," Arnav said shaking his head,
looking irritated as the guard was superciliously trying to pick the
sword up from beside him. Did the idiot really think Arnavwould not notice that?
the man winced really bad at what Arnav had said. Arnav naturally
assumed the guy was wincing at his use of words and it really pissed
off Arnav. "You have the audacity to wear something like that
and you got a thing against slangs?" Arnav demanded angrily.
guard was breathing unevenly as he had screwed his eyes shut as Arnav
had spoken and then a few seconds later the guard opened his eyes
because nothing seemed to have happened.
had no idea what the guard was expecting but the guard was right now
nearly grinned as he watched Arnav. "Thou magic is failing
wizard. Thou spell does not work, anymore. The Queen is coming. She
is coming and she is going to execute thou and she would punish thou
for the indecent apparel."
just stopped himself from killing the man.
I tell you not to talk like that?" Arnav demanded completely
flustered. Translating the word apparel took some time for Arnav,
otherwise he would have replied immediately. "Dude, one more
word about my shirt, I will seriously do something that you are going
to regret," Arnav threatened meaning every single word he had
said. People did have the right to dress like this and get on his
of the corner of his eye, Arnav realized that one of the guard was
getting up slowly. It would take some time for the guard to
completely get up. But Arnav had to remember it.
Queen is.." The guard repeated, presumably because he had run
out of things to say too.
sighed, moaning. "Don't man," Arnav was almost pleading
with the guard. "I just had a day full of reading 'Once upon a
time'," Arnav just stopped himself for mimicking Nandini. "I
just cannot do this right now." Arnav tried to look tired and
harassed and that came out wrong too.
that was when Arnav's second set of gray cells started working. "That
is probably why I am dreaming of things like this." Arnav was
pretty glum, as he studied his surrounding as he continued his
monologue. "I actually promised myself that I was going to give
myself a solid dose of reality and watch TV, the whole night."
guard was giving Arnav the same look that Arnav gave his chemistry
teacher when the teacher was spouting chemical formulas and Arnav
frankly had no idea why. And Arnav was too busy feeling sorry for
himself and he realized that there was someone behind him. It was
almost too late.
felt something being brought down, as he rolled himself to the side.
And it was honestly not a second too late. In the place where he had
been a second back a huge flowerpot crashed breaking into a million
pieces. The pieces rained on him and Arnav got up real fast, because
experience had taught him that any splinters on the face were very
got a glimpse of fiery black hair and that was all, when he felt a
kick straight to his face.
was really and truly pissed with himself. He did not notice an attack
from the back. God! This was worse than pathetic and did not speak
well of his job prospects at all.
blocked the kick and for a whole second, Arnav caught sight of a gray
eyed beautiful woman looking at him, very angrily.
punched him, as Arnav stepsided the attack and caught the woman's
wrist and twisted it hard. The woman stomped his foot, as Arnav
struggled to control himself as he rolled the woman back, pushing her
hard. The woman fell back and controlled herself, as Arnav moved
forward and in a fast move, punched on the stomach of the woman and
knowing that she could defend herself and when she was about to,
Arnav turned up and hit the woman on her jaw.
woman was stunned as she caught her jaw falling back and Arnav was
fulling expecting the woman to mouth obscenities.
was partly right.
woman was being very vocal, just that none of the things she said
made sense to Arnav.
the woman shouted. "Ronyon!" she said watching Arnav with
anger and hatred. And Arnav would have found that highly
entertaining, if he had not seen the huge bow the woman had in her
are you talking about?" Arnav demanded, and then sighed shaking
his head and the woman was continuing saying whatever it was that she
guard was getting up and Arnav was right. The man's ankle was giving
him hell. The guard almost collapsed as he watched Arnav and slowly
hobbled as he came before the woman.
The guard told the woman, watching Arnav angrily. "Stay away
from the wizard," The guard said almost spitting out the last
word. "His verbal magic is weak but his hands are strong."
woman pushed the guard aside. "No, Nuran," she said coming
close watching Arnav, still trying to keep a fearful distance from
Arnav. "He has just wielded the most powerful magic I have
sensed in quite some time. I sense it from him," the woman said
watching Arnav her eyes almost glittering.
could be right on that one," the man said still trying to get
the woman to safety, trying to hobble as fast as he could and Arnav
thought the man was trying to keep the woman safe. Arnav would have
told the man that that was completely not necessary. The woman could
definitely take care of herself.
only thing Arnav was worried about was that the woman was going to
impale herself with her own bow. The bow was really huge.
that was when things became stupid. Irrevocably.
was asking about the bean," the man told the woman like it was a
the woman named Leha asked stunned.
Arnav asked frankly not capable of thinking. He looked at the two
people before him. "Why would I be talking about food with you?"
Arnav snarled angrily.
food?" the man asked looking confused too.
that what I just asked?" Arnav shouted.
three people stared at each other and none of them doubted the fact
that the other two were completely insane. The guard did the only
sane thing. He completely ignored Arnav. "He was talking about
spilling the beans. And now the wizard is befuddling me," the
guard said clutching his head, looking like he was going to
groaned struggling not to yell.
Arnav demanded wondering whether he had even pronounced the word
right. "My teacher does not have a sense of humour or the
facility to arrange something like this," Arnav said sounding
depressed. "Otherwise I would have thought that this was his
attempt to take revenge on me," Arnav finished looking like the
end of the earth was near.
is getting too stupid!" Arnav yelled getting angry with himself.
He whirled looking around. "Where is the stupid alarm clock?"
Arnav demanded angrily looking around. "It has to be here
somewhere," Arnav looked around trying to see through. "The
kid's got to be here," Arnav said fuming angrily. "Nandini!"
Arnav shouted looking around. "Wake me up."
was better when Arnav was kicking the people. At least, they did not
look at him like he was an idiot, which was exactly how the man and
the woman were looking at him now. The other two guards who were
slowly getting up were watching Arnav very fearfully. It was the same
look which Arnav's students gave him when he was giving them a demo
and called for a volunteer.
that was when things went from bad to worse.
looked like both the man and the woman had focused their attention on
hearing, and that was when Arnav felt it. Something which felt
vaguely like many things trampling. The man and the woman watched
each other shocked and gave Arnav a look which scared him far more
than their abysmal fighting skills.
I want to know what that is?" Arnav asked almost sure that the
answer to that question was no.
Shades!" the man said as rapidly he woke up the other men and
slung the unconscious man on his shoulder.
the woman, was helping one of the man move as he slung his hands on
her shoulder. "We need to leave in haste. The wizard is powerful
which is why the Shades sense his magic through the shield."
guys can actually pretend that I am standing in front of you and you
can talk to me," Arnav told the two people. "I know we
started off on the wrong foot," Arnav felt the trampling things
coming very close now. "But other than the fact that I sometimes
babysit my sister's kid, I am not all that stupid." Arnav said
with what he hoped was a winning smile.
wizard is a dorbel!" the woman looked at Arnav horrified as they
were moving away from there.
does that to all of them," was the only comment that the man
made as they were moving towards the dense forests on their left.
sighed. He was caught between two options - something huge which was
about to trample him and a woman who had problems with doorbells.
Arnav decided to go with the doorbell. At least it would not trample
followed the group who were about to enter the forest, when they all
watched him horrified.
shall not follow us!" the woman squeaked pulling out a really
mean looking dagger pointing it at him, as she was watching the
clearing very worried.
and his people were already deep inside.
won't talk about food and I can usually take care of myself,"
Arnav told the woman. "And I am really not all that...."
is too late!" she hissed angrily as the woman beside him started
relax!" Arnav muttered to the woman as he was regretting not
running inside the forest when he had a chance. And that was when
Arnav was really and badly embarrassed. He did not even know why and
he wanted to run away from something. That was stupid.
am sure that is not a doorbell," Arnav added to the woman as she
still looked terrified. Probably she had a phobia of door bells and
she was afraid that one was coming right at her.
that was when Arnav felt it really strong. Something malevolent. It
was filled with so much hatred and Arnav was more bothered about why
he was feeling it.
Arnav shouted, hoping to keep it short otherwise doorbell woman was
going to get confused. His voice shook the woman out of her reverie
as the woman turned sharply, almost falling on Arnav.
had no idea why he did it, but he pulled the woman's dagger from her
belt almost sharply. Everything that he had learnt had always taught
him that weapons always got you in trouble. More than necessary. But
right now, it seemed important.
malevolence that he had felt was just not a feeling. It was an actual
presence. It was something dark and completely wicked. Arnav
whimpered as he felt something his head with the force of a
Arnav yelled but all that came out was something like a whimper as he
was on the ground, clutching his head real hard, hoping to shut down
the pain. Things were getting real bad and Arnav sensed the presence
come really close. Strangely there was a small part of him telling
him that he knew this presence.
Arnav was in no position to make sense of it. The pain in his head
was so bad that Arnav was actually praying that he fell unconscious.
He weakly thumped on the ground, and that was when he felt a sharp
hit somewhere in his body and the blessed darkness mercifully claimed