In the forests of Ratnagarh,
There lives a cursed witch.
She is beautiful like a
but her heart is so ugly
That even the darkest mines of coal
Are brighter than her sins.
“I don’t believe any bit of this story. It is all absurd. They are just tricks of the thugs serving the royalty. And Ratangarh? This place doesn’t even exist. I never saw it on any map, neither is it mentioned in any book nor does anyone in our tribe know about it.” A little boy’s voice echoed in the woods.
“One day, son, you will believe it all.”, a young woman said chuckling at her son’s antics.
“Stop sulking now, Vihaan. That one day is still far from coming, isn’t it Maa?“, a little girl asked her.
“Yes, my little princess.”, she laughed.
“So, till then let us eat the kheer made by Chakshu kaka. I bet it will make you stronger, and will help you fight the witch if you ever come across her.”, she whispered to the boy with a twinkle in her eye.
“Buddhu! Ammi even persuaded you into believing that stupid story? Perhaps, only I am the sensible person left here.”
“Stop being dramatic, Vihu.“, she nudged him.
“Okay, Iru.“, he replied cheesily, making her giggle.
“Ira, stop!”, said Vihaan, panting heavily.
But the girl continued to run, turning back every now and then to see if he is still following her.
Her mellifluous giggles echoed in the forest and her anklets chimed in rhythm with the movements of her feet.
“Caught you!”, he squealed as he finally managed to get hold of her.
“No!”, she screamed in the middle of laughter as he began tickling her.
“AngRaaj, save me!”
Saying this, the girl ran and hid behind the man, who eyed Vihaan.
“Take a chill-pill, Raaj.”, Vihaan said.
“Ahem… Why do I smell something’s burning?”, he chuckled, looking at his best friend, whose jaw was clenched.
“C’mon, AngRaaj. I don’t really understand why you get so irked up when I take Ira for a run in the forest. Or are you getting insecure?”
“I’m not getting insecure, Vihaan.”, he replied.
“Then, what is it that is troubling you?”, asked he.
“Nothing.”, he sighed, “It’s-“
“Vihaan, hurry up! You’re gonna lose badly.”, Kabir, riding a black beast, shouted from afar, challenging him for a race.
“Let’s show them, love. What say?”, he said to a white mare as he climbed on it and petted her.
“Raaj, talk to you in the evening!”, Vihaan shouted as he held the reins of his horse.
AngRaaj sighed. Whenever it was something serious that he had to talk about with Vihaan, his moron frenemy Kabir brought up something or the other.
They rode towards the inner part of the forest, where dwelled a tribe of skilled artisans, the Kumhars.
“Ammi?”, Vihaan called out.
“Vihaan, how many times I have told you not to go outside early morning. But you are least bothered. Why don’t you ever listen to me?”, Zeenat complained.
“Okay. Please forgive your little son for the last time. I won’t do it again ever, promise.”, he assured her.
“Fine! Now sit down and dare you move. I have to discuss something important with you.” As he did so, she walked upto the window and fastened it.
“You must have heard tribeswomen say that I killed my husband with magic.”, she said solemnly.
“Not today, Ammi. They have got no other work than to gossip. Why do you take their talks seriously? Ask me, I even do not listen to them.”, he said, gripping her shoulders softly.
“Shh, child. Let me speak.”
“Humare shauhar ki maut…”, she paused, as if mustering the courage to make a relevation.
“Humare haathon hi hui.”, she said.
“What are you saying?” He gasped.
“The truth, Vihaan.”, she sighed, looking away, and continued.
“In my childhood, I had rescued a little boy from drowning. As a token of gratitude, his parents, who were learned people, agreed to teach me magic. I never told my parents about it, though.
My nikaah was fixed with Farooq. I knew he wasn’t a good man- his mere presence screamed evil. I told them too, but nobody believed me.
On my wedding night as he tried to rape me, I casted a spell on him in order to save myself and ran away. He tried chasing me and thus, ended up dying.
I ran and ran and ran, until my feet gave up and I took shelter under a tree.
In the morning, I woke up in this hut. I was rescued by some tribesmen. The news spread like wildlife. Though some had doubts on me, nobody ever got proofs about the same.
Then, one day, I found you. I could sense that there was something special about you. You weren’t abandoned, child. You were given to me, so that I could protect you.”
“Why?”, he asked, perplexed.
“A prophecy was made a thousand years ago from now. And, the bearer of the crescent moon was destined to fulfil it.”
Vihaan splashed a handful of water on his face. He looked at his reflection in the river. The blurry image became clear after a while, as the water came to a still. He touched the crescent moon on the side of his neck. It had always been black, but tonight, it had turned into a deeper shade of red, darker than blood.
“It’s time to fulfil the prophecy, for the spirits are expecting your arrival.”, he recalled his mother’s words.
Maut – Death
I’m quite unsure about when I’ll update next. But I’ll try finishing my on-going stories here before Christmas. 🙃