The clearing provided a breathtaking view of the sky. A half-eaten moon hanging in the deep-blue of the nothingness. Scattered chaos of stars, blue and red and white, formed the background. A red comet was slowly canvasing from right to left, tearing the sky with its long tail that stretched on and on and on until its redness vanished into the sky. It was perfect.
“We camp here,” Arjun announced in his thundering voice. In quick motions he removed the bow from his arm and quiver from behind his back, and looked back as the party started gathering around him. “Looks more like a place for loving couples than a ranging party,” Nakul quipped. He was Arjun’s younger brother. Young and wild and looks which would even make The Greek God Adonis jealous. He was the apple of his eyesr.
Arjun looked at him and they both passed a smile. It was his first ranging – his initation into this culture of ranging which every warrior undergoes. Arjun knew how badly Nakul was missing Radha, his girlfriend he left behind in the camp. But it was his turn tonight, to range in this forest. “He should feel lucky,” Arjun thought for this was a walk in gardens compared to the hostile forests he had seen. One with hidden quagmires that would swallow you in one gulp. And the wood so thick that you can’t cross without getting scratched and bloodied. He thanked the old gods for this – for this lush, comfortable forest.
There were three more with them. Bhim, the warrior who carried his round-headed hammer. Krishna who was the surveyor and did all the recce. And also with them was Kans – the rich brat son of the king whom they all hated. He was an arrogant son of a bitch. But King was kind, and nobody can ignore King anyways.
Except Kans everybody started setting up their camp. Nakul unloaded the provisions. Krishna and Bheem started mounting the tent for sleeping. Arjun chopped woods for fire. Kans, with a whisper of wine on his breath, found a soft spot on the ground and lay on his back, admiring the pale milky whiteness of the moon. He kept on laying even when they were ready.
“Come here Kans,” Arjun called out calmly. “Join us.”
Kans knew that. He had a sharp sense of smell and hearing. He had known when they had first lit fire on the kindling. The sharp crackling as the splintered wood caught fire, and then the fire spread to the wood, a black smoke rising amidst all this, until the fire leapt and kissed and devoured the wood completely, starting a fire. He remembered the bonfire of last month with his friends. They had roasted rabbit. His mouth started watering …
He got up languorously, the carelessness of wine still in his body. He gave one more look to the lemon trees around him, and then turned away in the direction of the party. Just then he heard a sound. It was a faint sound, almost a whisper. Not more than rustle of leaves, or a sigh of a maiden. But Kans sense of hearing was too deep to miss it. It was shaper than the rustle of wind, more abrupt and careful. He stopped and slowly and carefully turned back.
A faint glimmer – that’s what he saw amidst in the darkness of the thickets. He thought about calling out Arjun, but it could alert whatever it was out there. And if he was outnumbered, then they could harm them before any help could arrive. He reached his back with his right hand and felt the hilt of a dagger and lifted it up a little. The sound of steel unsheathing gave him confidence. He stepped forward. A giggle. He was sure he heard a giggle. And then the slight glimmer faded, disappeared.
He got down on his knees, the spot where the glimmer was only a moment ago was still ten feet away. He screwed his eyes to see. Concentrated hard to hear, to smell – to see a sign.
So hard he was concentrating that when the white glimmer appeared again, brightening too quickly that he got blinded. He shielded his eyes. The next moment something was on him. Soft and made of fur. He let out a loud groan and retreated back. The glimmer was retreating as well. He stopped. “A pixie!” he heard himself saying out loud. It was just a pixie.
A racket of laughter sounded behind him. He turned to find Arjun and Nakul and Bhim and Krishan standing behind him. “Kansi is scared of pixie,” Nakul mocked him, laughing so hard that he was standing with both of his hands on his stomach.
Meanwhile other pixies had appeared now. Small and of many colors – red and blue and green and shimmering white. Two of them were floating above the ground, making circles and emanating colorful lights. The others were dancing. Only the white one was scared, but still not as scared as Kans! Everybody shared a laugh now.
“Hello from the pixies,” a relatively fatter pixie who was standing behind till now. He stepped forward and then with one quick lunge became afloat and waved his hand in abrupt quick motions. Around him, the earth started shaking vigorously and from them started sprouting trees, and plants of such luscious fruits they had never seen in life. All of them ate until their stomachs were full.
All now sat around the bonfire. Well, Pixies never sat. They were doing one thing or the other. Some were dancing, others were making circles in the air. Others were emanating bright lights of various colors. As they relished the afterglow of full stomach and warm bonfire, the pixie who had made the trees grow started speaking.
“We never thought we would meet you, Arjun” he said. “I’m Goblin by the way. Only your biggest pixie fan ever.”
“My fan!” Arjun was clearly surprised.
“Oh yes,” Goblin replied. “We have an entire generation of pixies who adore you. The pixie land is filled with the stories and myths surrounding you. Even the literature is filled with your references. Only thing is that we thought you’re fiction. But you are not. We found you! We are going to be famous.
All the five were astonished. Too stupefied to say anything.
“See,” Goblin continued. “We even have your cosplay dresses. He turned to the other pixies who were all huddled in one corner now. “Jinn, tolt, pynch, Colt, Sylph. Show them.” At once five from the huddle group separated and started doing strange motion with their hands. Their original one piece cotton clothes disappeared and were replaced by the miniature version of the armours worn by them!
“It’s me!” five of them stuttered out at once. They were doing cosplay. They couldn’t believe their eyes.
After that they felt like celebrity. Pixies came to them one by one, and made different poses while one of the other pixies did still stranger motion with their hands. Appeared to be their version of taking photograph. Others came and asked specific questions. “Was it true that you quiver stored infinite arrows in it?”
“Yes” Arjun answered.
“Did you made a hole in the earth from one end to another with his hammer?”
“No,” bheem laughed. “But yes, it can do some damage.”
“Is it true that you remember every experience you have ever had?”
Krishna screwed his eyes and looked upward as if he was thinking hard. “There is some truth in it,” he said. Then he laughed.
The question and answer session went for a longtime. About two hours at least. They had lost track of time. When they finally departed, those pixies, the five of them were left feeling so good that they forgot all sleep and continued talking until the break of the dawn. It was their night, their time. Pixies had made them feel happy, feel special. The smile never left their faces.
To be continued