The sun will rise in a few hours. When he does, eighteen battalions will start a battle onto death. The night was dead. There wasn’t a soul on the streets of Hastinapura. It seemed like this night the stray dogs found shelter. Even the constant chirping of crickets was missing. It seemed like the entire universe had a sense of things to come.
A lone chariot made its way through from the war zone to the grand palace. The narrow and byzantine side streets leading up to the central boulevard were intricate by design. They were built to make it impossible for invaders to move large troops effortlessly. But the central boulevard itself was immensely broad and long, so that even if an army somehow got through, the palace and its elite armed forces had a clear vision of the size and extent of the enemy.
The palace itself sat on an elevated hillock with clearly visibility on all four sides. The circular architecture of the building ensured there were no blind spots. Thirty equally spaced watch towers stood tall around the structure. Each tower was three stories high. Each story had a single circular room with six large windows and twelve small portholes. Each room had two sentries, as much to observe citizen congregations as to detect any potentially harmful movement.
The sentries manning these watch towers were specially picked for their night vision capabilities. Each was trained to be able to look far into the distance under pitch dark conditions and make out deliberate movements. Additionally, strategically placed light sources identified the various sectors of the city. Unusual movements dampened those light sources alerting the guards. If more than one zone displayed aberrant behavior alarms were raised. Well trained owls and cuckoos were then released to survey and make specific noises if danger was detected.
This night, the solitary chariot navigated the labyrinthine lanes expertly and turned north onto the grand boulevard. The sentinels recognized the flag on the cab and knew it was a familiar, albeit loathsome occupant. The hour piqued their interest. Could he have conjured up another machiavellian twist? Is he bringing news that the Pandavas have decided to abandon their rightful place? Murmurings broke out. Some bets were placed by a few lighthearted souls. “Where will they go now?”, “Are we condemned to adharma?”, “Is Kaliyuga really upon us?”, “How could Sri Krishna let this happen?”
Meanwhile the wagon continued past the main gates with its long pathway and the opulent rectangular water fountain. The guards stood in attention as it breezed through the second set of gates and turned east towards the garden. “He’s going to the King’s chambers”, the whispers among the sentries continued. The chariot slowed down and stopped at the extravagant staircase lined with colorful trees and decked with vibrant flower plants. Facing east, the colors came to life when the first rays of sun shone on the landscape. It was an inside joke that the two inhabitants lived in the most ornate section of the palace to make up for their lack of sight – natural or voluntary.
The unmistakeable limping figure dismounted and walked up the stairs, wondering why his beloved but estranged sister sent for him this late in the day, this late in the game.