I never share a WIP in public. But this is something I wrote a while ago and the muse deserted me. (Well, I am battling against time to do another deliverable before I can delve into this). The Hindu resurgence in Telugu regions, especially in the interim period between the fall of Kakatiya and Vijayanagara periods is a topic that is close to my heart. The trio of Kapayya Nayaka, Araveeti Somadeva and Vemareddi fought off the invaders, eliminated them along the regions of present day Rayalaseema all the way till the east coast. We remember the glorious empires, but there are guardians of the vaccuum periods in between and they sadly remain unsung in our mainstream history. This novel is an attempt to explore one of the trio – Prolaya Vema Reddi. Personally, this is my first attempt at a male hero! Read along, the prologue ( It is really really raw! And general first draft issues aside, will be happy to receive feedback and welcome back the muse!)
The chant arose from many more mouths.
“Jai Kakati!” Prola Reddi gasped, rolling out of the reach of the long sword till he hit the wall. The light from the flame behind him showed the dilated emerald pupils of his turkish opponent. Prola Reddi considered the invader’s looming form. The turk seemed to enjoy the unarmed Indian soldier’s predicament. Bleeding, unarmed and pushed to the wall and planted his foot with a loud thud. Prola Reddi’s fists curled at the provocation. The fort wall of Warangal, the capital of Kakatiyas and the pride of Dakshina Bharata. He could reject a place in Indra’s heaven to fight again for this fort.
And the turkish monster stamped upon that!
Prola Reddi raised himself, resisting the urge to clutch at the wound on his right shoulder. “Jai Kakati! My Mother Goddess, She delights to gargle with your Turkish blood, orospu çocuğu” he grunted the only abuse he had learnt from the language of the invader “son of a whore!”
The turk grunted back and lunged forward, swishing his longsword to cut at the Indian’s right side. Prola Reddi did not flinch at the pain and darted towards the right, towards where the flaming torch was hung. He knew about the pot of hot oil round that recess. The turk did not but it was not easy for the wounded Indian to get there. The invader launched the sword again. This time, Prola Reddi dodged and caught the Turk’s hand. Using all his bulk, the turk banged his spiked helmet into his right shoulder, right at the wound.
Prola winced but held on to the man, moving further right. Blood drained from his multiple wounds. “Jai Kaka…ti!”
“Ka…ka..ti..” The turk laughed mimicking the faltering tone. “Will get you the broken breast of the naked whore you call a Goddess, lowlife!” He kicked at Prola Reddi’s leg. Still, the Indian dragged him a few more paces along. The turk smashed his helmet into his collarbone. Prola Reddi felt the world blur but held on. At the neck kick, his grip over the turk as well as his balance falter.
The invader let go of the sword and held the Indian’s shoulder, throwing him on the ground and kicking at the almost limp body. “Prola Reddi. The guardian of the Western gate!” He kicked again. But the Indian seemed to have lost his consciousness. “You will see the city burn! Women dragged out and taken in cages…” The turk bellowed. “Naked!” The provocations failed to evoke a reaction. The turk smirked to himself. “kafir hadım! India has no men. Only Eunuchs, the ones who will serve us and guard our harems! What you will end up today, hadim, Eunuch” He bent to take up the sword. There was an undeniable pleasure in cutting up the penis of the fallen opponent, making him kneel and see his women raped. His crooked teeth showed up in the light of the flame. And it fell upon his face!
Burning hot oil!
“Lanja kodaka!” Prola Reddi gnashed wresting the weapon from the bawling invader. “It is Telugu for your name! I mean son of a whore! Prola Reddi savoured the sight of the screaming invader and slashed at the Turk’s arm, The limb fell to the ground. “That’s how you deal with the enemy, Eunuch! Not give him scratches like you gave me. The turk’s scream rent the air, reaching a crescendo before he fell limp. Prola Reddi cast the cut up arm over the edge of where he stood. More limbs of the dead turk followed their journey down the fort wall of Warangal “Venture up the wall and the same fate awaits you, desert rats! JAI KAKATI!”
Prola Reddi turned at the call and the world went dark.
“Let me-” Prola Reddi’s sentence trailed as a searing pain cut through his leg all the way up his spine and he fell back in his vain attempt to sit up.
The general of the Western wall looked at the three pairs of eyes peering at him. “I can fight.”
“No, Prolayya! You have to rest for the rest of the night.” Kapayya Nayaka, the general of the front line regiment held his shoulder. “You did us proud, my friend.”
“Anna, listen to Kapayya Nayaka. I knew you would not heed my words and hence had to fetch him from the front.”
“Chenna!” Prola Reddi gasped, holding on to his cousin. “Resist for… resist for three more days and those sons of whores from Delhi will not be left with anything to attack again.” He turned to Kapayya Nayaka, finally finding the strength to sit up.
“By the dagger of Potayya, look at yourself!” Kapayya snapped, pointing at the blood drenched bandages over the western general’s body. Letting out a sigh, he softened. “Just this night, Prola. We need you alive. Samrat Prataparudra needs every one of his fine commanders alive.”
“Come back to the wall by late morning, Prolanna.” Chenna Reddi implored. “I shall take your place tonight. The least I can do for the life you saved so many times!” The younger soldier knelt on the ground. “Think of sister in law, think of the young Vemu and Mallu. They are guarding the villages, banking on your life.”
A curve appeared on Prola Reddi’s lips at the mention of two young boys.
“Stay put tonight, Prola.” Kapayya beamed and patted the wounded general’s shoulder. “Chenna, join the others and I shall come soon.”
He stayed quiet for a while after the younger soldier left. “Are you sure he can take your place, Prola.”
“Nobody can take my place, Kapayya!” Prola Reddi laughed. “Neither he, nor you!”
“Fool! I meant for the rest of the night. I can take my place by the western wall and…”
“No Kapayya!” Prola Reddi shook his head and winded as the bandage gave away. “The Northern gates need the best of our men in case…” the sentence trailed but not out of pain. “By Kakati, I can’t even think… No, let Chenna cover for me on the western wall. You don’t lave the side of Samrat.”
Kapayya nodded and walked away, still uncertain about what initially made him suggest the swap. But Chenna knew the western wall much better than he did.
Prola Reddi’s eyes shut for a while before a fitful sleep overtook him. Nightmares about possible breaches kept him waking up every now and then before he actually fell asleep. Soon after which a hand shook him awake!
“What?” Prola Reddi realised that it was still dark. But distant sounds of roosters signalled dawn.
“Quiet!” It was Kapayya again. The general of the Kakatiya Frontline seemed disturbed when he hurriedly helped Prola Reddi into a wooden stretcher. “Stay down.”
“What happened? Kapayya?”
Prola Reddi’s head reeled and the world went dark again. When his eyes opened, the sun was an hour shy of reaching the zenith. But the general saw the ceiling of a broken cave instead of the roof of his chamber in the fort. “Kapayya..?” He turned and saw the other general sitting motionless. He sensed the presence of other soldiers behind him. “What…?”
“We lost.” Kapayya replied without turning. Drawing a deep breath, he steeled himself to not torture the wounded general with uncertainty. “There was a breach before dawn. The Samrat decided to surrender.”
“By the dagger of Potayya!” A painful silence followed Prola Reddi’s helpless gasp. The wounds seemed to have only worsened overnight. Or the news shattered his will to recover.
“Rudradeva swami as well as Samrat, advised the generals to escape… and continue the resistance. The people of our land need us more than the fort now.”
For the first time in his life, Prola Reddi found his limbs freeze and not due to the heavy loss of blood. “Who else came away? We could probably still have… Samrat…Where was the breach?”
“Where was the damn breach!?”
“At the western gates.” Kapayya brought himself to tell the truth that he knew would devastate his friend further. “We had a traitor.” He swallowed hard. “Chenna Reddi.”