Ashoka And The Nine Unknown (Book Excerpt) by Anshul Dupare
You know what, the best revenge will be watching you failing to achieve your dreams. Do what you can, Ashok. The game has just begun!
Ashok wandered amidst the corpses, helplessly, looking like a dead man walking among the dead. The wailing of people who had lost their loved ones on the battlefield cut into his soul and it was then that he heard a cry for help.
As realization of the devastation of war seeped in, Ashok decided to dedicate his life towards the betterment of society and try his best to prevent any destruction of life. Realizing he could not do so single-handedly, Ashok created a secret society comprising nine chosen members, who were known as the ‘Nine Unknown’, to help preserve knowledge that, in the wrong hands, could be used to destroy humanity.
Little did Ashok know that the safekeeping of such knowledge had a high price to it; that shadows walk amidst us and that sometimes our actions unspool unimaginable consequences.
The first of two volumes, this book has the power to transform your idea of reality!
Anshul Dupare likes to explore novel ideas and unexplored avenues through his writing. Originally from Nagpur, he was brought up in Madhya Pradesh and has spent most of his life in different parts of India. An alumnus of Sainik School, Rewa and Maulana Azad National Institute of Technology (MANIT), creative writing has been his hobby for a long time and he also writes poetry. He is an avid traveller, a voracious reader and is fond of chess and basketball. He currently resides in Dallas, USA. Below you can read an excerpt from his book, Ashoka and the Nine Unknown. Courtesy: Rupa.
An Excerpt from Ashoka And The Nine Unknown by Anshul Dupare
The calm and placid water of the Brahamputra River impartially welcomed the strange creature that was floating above it. Around half a hundred metres in length, it was travelling smoothly in the air, moving like a serpent. Under any other circumstance, one would have thought of the creature as beautiful. It was white, with various designs on its skin, resembling waves, which looked like some kind of embroidery.
The creature reached the end of the river and abruptly turned around. Its tail met with some trees, which toppled like meaningless wooden barriers in a mad elephant’s way. The creature looked happy at the destruction and started to move towards the sky. For a few minutes it was not visible. Smart men might have used those minutes to breathe in relief, but wise men would know that those could be their last breaths if they stayed there.
After a few minutes, like an arrow shot from a bow, the creature once again became visible—and this time it was leaping downwards and its face became visible in the clear water for the first time. It had two eyes, eyebrows drawn obliquely over them; the nose was nothing but two nostrils placed like holes on the face; and the mouth was large, very large. The creature began opening its jaws wider and wider, its nostrils started to inflate, and it began building up speed. Just before it was about to strike the water, a huge gust of fire emerged from its mouth. Suddenly, the beautiful wave-like design on its body began to unfold, looking like it was on fire.
The creature kept blowing fire through its mouth and covered the entire length of the river with agility. By the time it had reached the outer end, it had left in its wake a river of fire. It floated majestically in the air, as if savouring and delighting in its own manoeuvres. The designs on its body had disappeared, but now wings were visible on its back. They were wings of fire. It flapped its wings and left the place behind, even as the flames roared. The beauty of the scene would have been marvellous had the creature not been hell-bent on destruction.
Bez ji shouted, ‘Everybody! Listen very carefully. The unfortunate day that we all wished to avoid has arrived. Someone has come to steal our knowledge. I want you all to protect yourselves. You are the people of Mayong, fearsome to the outer world. Let us prove that the fear is true. Let us use that fear to haunt those who have come to steal our knowledge. I value the lives of each and every one of you. But what I value more is the knowledge that they have come for. The security of that knowledge is most important. People like me, at the end of their time on earth, are not capable of fighting these magical creatures. We will protect the sacred texts which every one of you holds. I want all of you to submit them to me and the other elders. We will protect them. I want the women and the children to bring those texts safely to us and I want the men to fight. Fight fiercely and without mercy. Kill without any hesitation. Use all your knowledge and show them the magic of Mayong!’
The crowd shouted in response, enthusiastically and bravely. But then the father of the dead boy said, ‘If we can protect ourselves, why should we submit the sacred texts to you? We can protect them too!’ Some more people joined him in support. These texts were just as important to them, they said—passed down in their families through generations—and they would rather die protecting them than submit them to someone else for protection.
As these talks were happening, there was a sudden trembling in the ground. Slight at first, it appeared to grow with each second. Bez ji shouted, ‘Run for cover!’ But where can you run when the danger is right below your feet? Where can you hide when the source of your fear is running alongside you?
Before people could run, another creature came up from beneath, tearing through the land, with its mouth agape. It rose to a certain height before descending again. As it came down, it caught the deceased boy’s father in its mouth, along with a few other people.
It disappeared under the ground and then quickly re-emerged, this time tearing out of a nearby hill. Pieces of the shattered hill flew at the people gathered under it, but Bez ji was prepared and promptly waved them away. He said, ‘Do you not see the chaos everywhere? Do you want more justification for my plan? Do you see this time as appropriate for discussion and argument? I ask you once again to do as I have said, else nothing will be left, and the knowledge of Mayong will be used for god knows what…’
As soon as Bez ji finished, out of nowhere, another creature emerged for a second and then disappeared. It was as if the creature was travelling through invisible doors. It appeared once again out of nowhere, flying above the heads of the people, before disappearing. All was quiet for a while, and people started to recite their mantras. Just when they thought they were prepared, the creature leaped at the people out of nowhere, grabbed some of them, and vanished.
Bez ji shouted, ‘Do what I asked, now!’
People began to run away. Women and children rushed towards the hiding spots of the sacred texts of their respective families, while men began to gather for a fight. The sacred texts were protected by mantras known only to their respective families. So the women found them, easily, and with their children, rushed towards the Gurukul. Meanwhile, the men gathered together and began to chant a mantra for protection.
The creatures, now three in number, were flying around playfully in the sky. The first creature was now blowing such intense fire that half of the hill was burning. The second creature dived into the land, and this time when it re-emerged, lava spurted out alongside it. The third creature took people by surprise with its vanishing abilities and began throwing them into the lava. It was a complete disaster—total chaos. Bez ji said, ‘They are very powerful creatures. They are indeed dragons.’ The people of Mayong seemed helpless, powerless.