The instructions were very specific. The client wanted the knife to be extra sharp, and dipped in deadly poison. Just to be doubly sure. So that, even if the knife didn’t kill him, the poison definitely would. And it had to be on a Friday, a day Arsalan devoted completely to his God, a day he didn’t touch his weapon and wore no armor.
Arsalan, a warrior of Persian decent and a Muslim, was a general in the Vijayanagara army, Vijayanagara’s chief military strategist and commander of its famed artillery and cavalry units. A middle-aged battle hardened man, he had won many battles for Vijayanagara, with his unquestionable loyalty to the King, his valor and strategies.
He was born in Persia to an unmarried woman and was left to his own fate after his mother died. While fending for himself in the streets of Isfahan, he had heard tales of a place called Hindustan. After having saved enough, he traveled to Hindustan at the age of thirteen, and was hired by a Turkish noble as a help. Few months later, his master had taken him in a hunting expedition. This is when a Lion sneaked in to the camp on one night. He killed the lion with nothing but a knife, and he was just fourteen. This is from where he got his name – Arsalan, Turkish for lion. And he never looked back from that day on.
A man without any family, Arsalan used to be a hired hand till few years back, a commander of a group of merceneries with their loyalty only to the highest bidder. He fought many battles on the side of the highest bidder, saw many atrocities being committed in the name of religion, and God.
During his last assignment as a hired hand, he was to join the forces of the Sultan of Berar, who was mounting an expedition on an empire of infidels to the south, the Vijayanagara empire. It was on a Friday that the battle was fought. Arsalan, had never in his entire life seen such brave soldiers, the soldiers of Vijayanagara. Arsalan killed hundreds of them and they still kept coming. At the end, the army of the Sultan of Berar was defeated, and every single one of Arsalan’s merceneries were killed and he himself was grieviously wounded. Left for being dead, he was rescued by the soldiers of Vijayanagara and was taken to the capital Hampi for better treatment of his wounds. He was impressed by the fact that the Vijayanagara had citizens from all faiths, including Muslims – and was not an empire of infidels, as was being portrayed.
When he recovered, grew stronger and was ready to leave, the King requested his presence in the court. The King, who himself was impressed by Arsalan’s military tactics earlier, asked him to join the Vijayanagara army as a general, and promised him religious freedom, among other things. Arsalan couldn’t deny the offer being made by his savior. Arsalan also took a vow that he will not pick up his weapon on Fridays, as a mark of respect to the brave soldiers of Vijayanagara he had slayed on the same day, in the earlier battle.
His presence in Vijayanagara army meant that Sultan of Berar couldn’t win even an inch of land to the south. So, the Sultan had hired an assassin to get rid of him.
On that fateful Friday, while coming back from the mosque, the assassin in the guise of his bodyguard, stabbed him in the neck. Even before he could know what had happened, Arsalan was on the ground. He could see the mosque at a distance, the mosque which his infidel King had ordered to be built for him.
Slowly, the voices around him faded and he slipped into darkness…
That was the last prayer Arsalan ever offered!
DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
In frame: A low angle of the mosque inside the palace complex, in Hampi, Karnataka, India.
VERY IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Yes, you can share this work with proper attribution. But, please seek permission before using this work (not including the photo), partially or fully. YOU CAN NOT USE THE PHOTO. Believe me, asking is better than ending up in court or facing public shaming on social media. Thanks for understanding.
© Amrit Panigrahy. All rights reserved.