A Giant Sacrificed – III

Continued from here

The young Pandava warrior’s frightening form, the sheer size, and terrorizing appearance flustered Karna at first. Ghatotkacha’s volley of sharp, poisonous darts had already laid waste to Karna’s protective circle. His own burst was treated like from an amateur and mowed down like blades of grass. The ferocity and power surprised Karna, who had fought more celebrated warriors and came out on top. Karna had trained for fighting in unusual situations, but this was like nothing he had anticipated.

He realized this would be a different battle tonight. He needed to fight on his own terms, or he would return defeated. He made a mental calculation of the time remaining, and containment tactics to ride out the night. He directed his charioteer to focus on avoidance and to run in circles, instead of going head on against the raging Ghatotkacha. Ghatotkacha initially fell for it, chasing Karna around, trying to gain on him. But it soon dawned on him that this was a stalling tactic.

He veered himself away from the chase, aimed his bow, released a single arrow. It expertly pierced one of the enemy horse’s hoofs, peeling its horseshoe out. The animal squealed a bit, and slowed down to a limp. Karna was amazed at the skill – the animal wasn’t injured at all, and yet his chariot came to a standstill. This was a master at work, with a godly familiarity of the animal’s anatomy. But it worried him, as he now had to fight stationary, with limited or no mobility.

The next sound he heard was a thud, as the lifeless body of his charioteer hit the ground, the shaft of an arrow evenly balanced on either side of its neck. The swiftness of action surprised Karna, and before he realized, the his vehicle sank to the right, its wheel shattered by a spear. Things were coming undone too fast, leaving Karna no time to react.

Th next thing he heard perplexed him; popping sounds, like fire crackers. He turned in that direction, as the noise steadily increased. They were indeed fireworks, and they were coming from Ghatotkacha’s chariot. Although they didn’t light up the sky, the reached deafening levels very quickly. Before he understood the reason, he was airborne, falling on his back, as his horses bolted into the darkness, frightful of the sounds. Within a matter of seconds, he was completely exposed, only his bow and a quiver full of weapons to face a giant of a man, intent on killing him. His driver was dead. His horses and chariot was gone. His personal bodyguards and the circle of soldiers protecting him were lying around him, lifeless.

For the first time in his life, Karna was helpless. He was in mortal danger. And he had no recourse.

Or did he?

He centralized his focus and quickly assessed the situation. He had a limited set of arrows in his quiver. Several of them were specialized weapons; some that rained fire on the enemy, others that killed them with poisonous gases, and yet others that stung like bees, temporarily disabling them while allowing Karna to escape or regroup. But this was a different enemy. This was a magician, a wizard and a warrior too good for Karna. He acted fast.

He used a special arrow to light up the sky, so he assess the surroundings. He saw that they were both in a fairly desolate area, and there was nothing for him to hide behind. In fact, they both had a direct line of sight, which usually is to his advantage, but not this time. He then took out the Varnastra, and shot it into the sky. Rain started to fall almost instantly, as the weapon condensed the water vapor in the air, forming temporary precipitation.

It did not deter the the magical Ghatotkacha, as he rained volley after volley towards Karna. He was used to fighting in all natural situations, and rain was not a strange phenomenon. Additionally, he had the advantage of higher ground, being on the chariot, as well as full access to weapons. No other enemy was in sight, as Karna had isolated himself. He increased his volley, and turned to hurling spears.

Karna was getting exhausted. He knew he couldn’t hold it much longer. When was midnight? How can he stop this madman? Can he survive the night?

A thousand thoughts began to race in his mind when it happened. A fierce arrowhead, filled with plant poison grazed his left thigh. He felt a sharp pain, and instantly knew this was a toxic arrow. Even though hitting below the waist was considered disorderly, it was only applicable if Karna was in his chariot. He would also have been protected by the chariot walls. Now though, a rogue arrow could easily hit him anywhere, and it was fair game. He knew that he would be soon immobilized, at least from the waist down. It meant his enemy would be able to get closer to him.

For a moment, he visualized his own death. Him completely paralyzed by the venom from the arrow, Ghatotkacha stopping his chariot a few feet away, getting down slowly and deliberately, approaching him with a sword in hand, and in one smooth motion, separating his head from his body.

That would be the end of the war. Karna’s death would cripple Duryodhana, and he would abandon the battlefield. Drona, Dusshasana, and the rest would put up only a token fight, while a jubilant Pandava army crushed them. The listless Kauravas would probably fold in a day.

Fear gripped him. A strange sense of resignation embraced him, as the leg began to go stiff. He could feel the impairment started to spread. Death stared him in the face.

The chariot stopped a few feet from him, and the giant form stepped off slowly, deliberately. He pulled out his sword, gripped it with both hands, and advanced towards Radheya.

Karna closed his eyes for one second. At that moment, his mentor Parasurama came to his mind. And then it came back, Indra’s Vasavi Shakti weapon. He reached for it in his quiver. It was there. His fingers trembling, he pulled it out and with great difficulty strung it to his bow.

He remembered Indra’s words.

“Ghatotkacha, with this weapon, this holy land will be rid of your uncivilized, boorish presence”, said Karna as he released the weapon.

The weapon sprung to life, piercing the night like lightning, and cleaved through Ghatotkacha’s armor, stabbing past his heart and puncturing it instantly. Blood gushed out of the valiant Pandava kin’s chest. His face turned pale first, and then blue. He fell to the ground, the raised sword still in hand. He let out a scream that was heard miles away. Kaalavallabha pricked his ears, and heard agony in the cries. He approached the falling giant slowly, but Ghatotkacha said something in a native tongue. As soon as he heard the instruction, the steed dashed, without its master.

Karna then dragged himself towards his chariot with great difficulty. He cut one of the horses loose, mounted it and slumped, unconscious.

The horse sped towards the Kaurava camp.

As life escaped the mighty Ghatotkacha, he prayed; to his mother, his father, and to Mother Earth. He prayed to the sky and the wind, water and fire. He had lived for the wonder of nature. And now, he died by it.

Continued here

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