Deep in the Aranyani forest, a man walked alone under the canopy that made the forest floor look dull and ominous. His hood hid his head and his sword was in his hand, cutting away the bushes that hindered his path. At a distance, he could see light, light from a torch. He looked above him, there were men on the trees covered with mud and leaves. They camouflaged perfectly, not a soul would know that they were there unless they were a part of the Shani tribe.
He walked towards the source of the light. There was a huge wooden gate, no human or animal would be able to destroy or scale the gate. It could be damaged by perhaps cannons but it would be impossible to carry such sophisticated weapons into the forest. A part of one of the gates was cut out into a door, on this door hung a metal door knocker with the symbol of a crow spreading its wings. The man knocked on the door nine times.

'Say the magic words.' Someone shouted from the other side.

'There are no magic words.' The man said with a smile. 'It is good to be home.' He thought.

The door opened and on the other side stood a boy of about sixteen years.

'Rudra! You're back!' He shouted.

'Yes, Saagar. I'm back. How are you doing?'

'Fine Rudra. I'll be soon in the training group. Being the gatekeeper is very boring.'

Rudra smiled even wider. Saagar reminded him of what he used to be when he was just a boy. But now, things had changed. He was an assassin, he had seen things that disturbed him for months and changed him at an emotional level. He was becoming like the rest of the tribe, strong and brave but emotionally guarded. They barely showed their feelings. Back when he was just a boy, this nature of the tribe bothered him a lot but now it seemed justified. There were so many sensations that had to be expressed by an individual that it would practically make him mentally disabled if he tried to express them all at once. They all had to keep their feelings to themselves to prevent that from happening. That is why Rudra always told the children of his tribe to not waste a single second of their childhood and make as many good memories as possible because when they grew into an adult they would only make bad ones.

'Believe me, you are better off guarding the gate than joining the training group.'

'You're the only one who'd say that in the whole of our tribe.'

'Well, no one can give their opinion if they don't share this unknown word in this place called 'feelings' and I think I'm the only one who manages to do that. And did I mention that you seem to be growing fast...'


'...That would mean that you have only a few more months before you become insane like us so stop fussing over your job and enjoy your life the way it is now. As you said, you'll soon be in the training group.'

'Now, now, what are you trying to put in the heads of our children, Rudra?' A woman said as she walked towards the gate.

'Mother!' Rudra exclaimed and ran to touch her feet. 'It's been a long time, mother. How have you been?'

'I'm doing well, son. What about you? How did your mission go?'

'I managed to kill the target but it was tough, knowing he had a family that depended on him-'

'Don't worry yourself about it. And besides, we've decided on your next target. You'll have to return to the capital, Madhyavindu. I want you to take a good rest while your here.'

'Mother, I don't aspire to become the Devputra. You don't have to keep sending me back to the capital.'

'Rudra, you must avenge your father's demise and sit on the throne. It is your birthright. The rest of the world thinks Maharani Avantika Veera is dead but here I am. I endured all of the pain that the asshole, Bhuvaneshwar, put me through to give birth to you in the anticipation that someday you will reclaim your father's position as the Maharaja of Devaloka, the Devputra.' She said gritting her teeth.

Avantika had slightly aged but her physique, grace and valour were still all the same. She was accepted into the Shani tribe and soon she became their leader. Her knowledge of the kingdom and associations had made the tribe look up to her in awe. She was truly an excellent leader to the tribe.
As Rudra and Avantika talked, he barely realized that they had reached their house. It was larger than the rest of the tribe, given that Avantika was their leader. It had just what was necessary- three sleeping chambers and each with an attached bathing chamber, a kitchen, a living room and a verandah. As Rudra was going to take his first step in, he heard someone call his name.


Rudra turned back to see who it was.

'Ah! Praachi! It's been a long time.' He said as Praachi pulled him into a hug.

'I'll leave you two to have your privacy.' Avantika said with a smile and walked into the house.

Rudra shot his mother a death glare to which she just grinned wider and hurried away into the house. Sigh! Mothers!

'How have you been, Rudra?'

'Umm... I have been well, Praachi. What about you?'

'I... Well... I was worried sick about you but otherwise, I think I was doing fine.'

'There is no reason to worry about me. I will be safe. You need to learn to trust your tribe.'

'Rudra, I trust the tribe to not give away evidence. But the heights we go to do that, it frightens me. If you made even the slightest mistake, you will have to die to prevent the disclosing of our identity.'

'So you do not trust me to do my job well?'

'There is a thin line between trust and fear. I trust that no one can do the job better than you, but I fear your disappearance from my life.'

'You mean you fear my death?'

'Do not say such things and invoke omens.'

'Praachi, you really need to stop worrying about me. Even my mother is less worried. In fact, she is sending me away on another mission.'


Rudra replied with a shrug.

'Raniji and I need to have a talk. And also, will you go for a walk with me in the garden tomorrow.'

'Why not?' Rudra shrugged and rushed into the house. He could not take it anymore. She could not have feelings for him when he was in love with someone else. The thought of her spontaneously warmed him. What was she doing now? Did she feel the same regarding him? How would he tell her? Rudra stepped into his chamber with these thoughts galloping in his mind. His room was simple and compact. It had a cot, a desk, a chair and a shelf. There were no decorations. The thin curtains covering the window let the daylight pass through even though it was shut. Rudra preferred his room when it was lighted. It prevented him from succumbing into the dark thoughts which haunted him as a result of his occupation. He worked not only for him but for the benefit of his tribe.

'Rudra!' His mother called out as she stepped into his room.

'Hmmm?' Rudra turned as his thoughts vanished into the back of his mind.

'So... About Praachi...'



'Please don't get anything into your head. I don't have feelings for her.'

'But you're growing up, son. You will be twenty this year. I cannot take care of you all your life. What would happen after me?'

'And how, mother, are you exactly taking care of me? You give me your affection and support, yes. But outside, in front of the real world, I think I am just like any of the other men who are waiting for a mission.'

'I will not deny that. But does that mean you intend to not marry at all?'

'Certainly not! I just don't reciprocate Praachi's feelings for me. I do not intend to marry Praachi.'

'She is a gorgeous girl with incredible talent. She'll make a perfect life partner for you.'

'I agree, mother. But I care for her like a brother who would care for his sister.'
'You will hurt her feelings.'

'I am not selfish but I think I'd rather take certain life decisions without the influence of other's feelings than fret about it till the last days of my life.'

'True. But you must remember that no decision is made without the influence of one's surroundings. Whatever has led you to take your decision, I can only hope that it will eventually lead you to take ones that change your life for the better.'

'I suppose that it is disrespectful to talk selfishly about my life when my primary occupation is to destroy that of others.'

Avantika sat on the cot and gestured Rudra to sit next to her which he immediately followed.

'Well then, let us talk about that occupation of yours then, shall we?'

'What is it, mother?' Rudra asked with his eyes filled with interest.

'Your next job will be tough and as a mother, I would love to not send you for this mission at all. However, the task must be completed and I can think of no one better than you to do to fulfil it.'

'Mother, I will never fail my task.'

'I need you to assassinate Rajakumari Devi.'