The Pack Of Pariahs


Continued from here

A perplexed Pandava army looked towards its leadership as the war bugles sounded on the other side. Drishtadyumna calmed his soldiers down and headed towards Dronacharya, to speak about rules of engagement for the night. To begin with, both sides needed a break from fighting all day, both for the soldiers and their tired animals. He also summoned his weapons supervisor, ordering him to send for munitions for the night. Both sides had in their depots weapons specifically designed for fighting under darkened skies, in anticipation of a cloudy day. They needed to repurpose those for tonight. The Pandava commander came back after a short while with the news that hostilities would resume after the sun had set, and would stop at the stroke of midnight. Krishna was impressed with his commander. A night start meant that his plan would work to perfection.

The Pandavas set up a temporary camp at the east end of the battlefield, just as their cousins did on the opposite side. Drishtadyumna set up three layers of trusted soldiers in circles around their camp, to protect their secret plans from being leaked.

Bhima spoke first. “Allow me to lead in, Drishtadyumna. I can decimate their soldiers within no time. My mace is impossible to be cracked. I can take down thousands of soldiers, and I can add a few more of those wretched brothers to my account tonight.”

Drishtadyumna followed next, “If anyone has to lead, it should be me, as the commander in chief. This is uncharted territory for some of you. But remember, I grew up in a very remote village and am used to darkness more than you city folks. My chariot scythes through the Kaurava army. I should be the lead warrior tonight.

One by one, each of the valiant Pandava warriors, including Partha himself, made their case to champion tonight’s battle, much to Achyuta’s amusement. After a few minutes of discussion, he motioned everyone to quiet down.

“Tonight we are not battling against your teacher, my dear cousins. We are not up against someone who creates, understands, and follows the rules of engagement; rules that were made only for daytime warfare. Rules that work when you can clearly see your opponent. These rules were created so that the Rathis, the Maharathis, and the Athirathis knew exactly what was happening on both sides. Your peripheral vision is perfect, as is that of the chauffeur as well as these wonderful beasts themselves. Remember, the animals we have on this battlefield are more or less domesticated, even the mammoths. They have hardly been trained to fight, or assist in the dark. Both the horses and elephants have a keen sense of surrounding in the dark, but that is in the jungle, where there is no artificial noise, no human distraction. Tonight millions of torches will be lit much to the detriment of these animals, whom we have trained to fear torchlight. The fumes emanating from the torches will alter their sense of smell. All the animals will be nervous tonight, and on both sides. In addition, during the day, we can see everything on the ground in advance. The bodies of dead soldiers, animal carcasses, even the imperfections on the ground. We can see them from far and avoid them, or at the very least brace for them. During the night, it is impossible. Your aim and concentration can be disturbed with one little bump on the battlefield.”

“In that case, both sides are disadvantaged. We are evenly matched, so why fear the night?”, asked Sahadeva innocently.

“That, my young Pandava, is where the mastermind behind tonight’s nocturnal battle comes in”, said the ever smiling Krishna, looking amused that none of the brothers realized who he was talking about. His face then turned grim, displaying the ominous portent of what he was about to say. He stood up, turned towards the Kaurava army, took a deep breath, and turned around, facing the indomitable Pandavas.

“As many of you know, Radheya trained under Parasurama for many many years. They trained in the wild. They trained in rain and shine. They trained under conditions that we city folks cannot even fathom. They trained with real wild animals, under real wild situations. They trained in the night. They lived in the jungles in the night. They recognize every little night sound. They can distinguish between day sounds and night sounds. They can identify friend vs foe in the night, without looking. They have a heightened sense of vision, hearing and smell. If I send one of you into the jungle at night, I know very well you will be able to discern between friendly sounds and dangerous. But amidst the din of this war, your senses are weakened. These wonderful animals we trust, their senses are heightened, and as they exhaust quickly, are prone to make mistakes. As you know, one small mistake is all that it takes in a war like this”

He continued somberly, “Importantly, Karna spent a lot more time in wilderness than any of you, notwithstanding the time after your wax house burned down, or the years in exile. He has trained for this. He raised an army with the specific purpose of attacking enemies at night. He has annexed multiple provinces under his Anga kingdom by waging wars at night. His small band of night warriors are trained well for this. They can wreak havoc tonight. He also has several weapons in his arsenal that can light up the sky with pyrotechnics, and shower fire, incinerating everything under them. While our warriors have the antidote weapons, our foot soldiers don’t. Tonight, if we don’t control him, he can reduce our battalion strength to a minimum”

He concluded with one statement, “Tonight, the Kauravas have the advantage”, and waited for that to sink in.

“Unless”

The Pandava think tank looked up. The look on Madhava’s face did not change. His typical mischievous smile was absent. It was clear, that he was unsure about this situation. And there weren’t many such situations with this omniscient.

He turned to Bheema, “There is only one man that can repulse Karna tonight. This man was born in the woods, raised by the bravest woman I have known, and is the most fearsome warrior in darkness. He has the bulk of a bear, the courage of a tiger, the agility of a deer, and the eyesight of a bat. He and his band of fighters do not fear the dark, they revel in it. To the Kaurava army their exploits will look like voodoo. The troop consists of thieves, castaways, derelicts, vagrants, and handicaps. Some of them are disfigured, others hunchbacks. They were shunned by the society and found refuge in the woods. They bonded in the forest, taken in by their leader. They found ways to survive, and entertain themselves. They create incendiaries out of thin air. They make sounds in frequencies that trick your brain. They form mesmeric chemicals out of herbs. They have amongst them several pairs of twins who dress in a way that makes you think there are two heads on the same body. They have tamed wild animals and ride them at a speed our best horses cannot match. They wear camouflage that make them appear to vanish into thin air. They wear invisible armor that arrows cannot pierce and bounce off, like on a metal. With them on our side, we can wipe out a whole battalion of the enemy tonight”

He saw color return to the faces of his audience, after hearing this, except one.

Bheema turned away and sat down. He instinctively reached for his mace, and began to rub his sweaty right palm on its handle, as he always does when contemplating a tough decision.

Continued here.

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