It was a pleasant evening when Drishika, with her best friend, Rutuja, sat on the rooftop of Rutujas' house, admiring the stars twinkling in the night sky.
Drishika closed her eyes as the breeze blew her hair across her face. Rutuja tied her long hair into a bun and tapped Drishika' shoulder.
"What have you decided?" she asked. Drishika opened her eyes and looked at Rutuja. "You already know the answer."
"Look, I know you don't break the rules and all, but still, just one time. It'll be fun," said Rutuja and squeezed Drishika's shoulder. Drishika stared at the sky for a brief moment. "Okay," she whispered. "Yes!" exclaimed Rutuja and hugged her. "Just for one time," said Drishika and smiled.
Drishika Rao lived in Pune, Maharashtra, in a small apartment with her parents and an elder sister, Nikita. She was pursuing her Bachelor's degree in IT Engineering and was in the second year.
Rutuja Ramtek, her best friend, lived a few kilometres away from her house. Rutuja was pursuing BSC and was in the second year.
Rutuja shut the door of her bedroom as Drishika opened the window and looked at her watch.
"Relax," said Rutuja as she stood in front of the mirror. She wore blue jeans and a bright yellow top which complimented her fair complexion. Drishika brushed her shoulder-length wavy hair once and applied some kohl in her almond-shaped eyes. She wore a fancy black top and blue jeans.
"It's going to be 12," said Rutuja and picked up her black sling bag. "Let's go."
The girls jumped out of the window. "Thank God I stay in a one-storey house," whispered Rutuja as Drishika closed the window after them. "Are we seriously doing this?" she asked, removing a pair of keys from her pocket. "Yes, we are," whispered Rutuja and pulled Drishika towards the parking where her scooty was parked. "Now get on!"
They pushed the scooty until they were at least a few meters away from Rutuja's house. Drishika sat on the scooty, Rutuja behind her.
The place looked lively with a lot of lamps hung on the trees, youngsters chattering around, holding a glass of wine or snack in their hands.
There were groups of boys and girls sitting around a huge campfire set up in the middle of the forest. One of those boys was playing the guitar. He wore a black shirt and jeans which made him look fair than he already was. He had styled his hair into subtle spikes; his thin lips curled into a smile as his friends clapped and cheered for him.
"Oh! Look at him. His brown eyes, perfect jawline, eyebrows thicker than yours and mine. That's so unfair," said Rutuja pointing at a boy. Drishika followed her gaze. "Leave it, he's out of my league," she said and looked at the ground.
Rutuja waved at him. He handed his guitar to one of his friends and walked towards them. "Hi! I thought you wouldn't come," he said. Drishika smiled at him. "Of course we had to," beamed Rutuja. "Right, Drish?"
"Ya-yeah, right," stammered Drishika and rubbed her hands as the cold breeze swept her hair across her face. "O, no, it's okay," she said as he removed his jacket and gave it to her. "Wear it," he said. "It's cold."
Drishika hesitantly took his jacket and wore it. "Thanks," she said. "That's so sweet of you, Rishi," said Rutuja and looked at Drishika. Rishi smiled and nodded his head, "Come, let's join the others."
There were various kinds of stalls all around the place, stalls of eatables, jewellery, accessories, and so on.
Drishika stopped as her eyes fell on a stall to their right. She nudged Rutuja. "Look," she said. Rishi followed her gaze. "Magical Adventure," read Rutuja. "I knew you would like that," said Rishi and smiled. "Let's go," said Rutuja dragging Drishika to the stall. Rishi followed.
It was more like a huge white tent. They saw a wooden table which was covered with a white cloth and positioned in the corner with seven large glass bowls kept on it.
"Welcome," said a timid, old woman. She wore a white blouse, a knee-length skirt and had covered her hair with a yellow cloth which seemed like a cap. "Choose one and begin an adventure."
Drishika felt a fluttering sensation in her stomach as she pursed her lips.
Rutuja stepped ahead to take a closer look at the glass bowls. "Which one, Drish?" she asked, rubbing her palms. "Purple," said Rishi. Drishika looked at him. "That's your favourite colour, right?" he said. Drishika nodded her head. "How do you know?" she asked.
"But look at this one," said Rutuja pointing at the bright yellow glass bowl. It had golden and silver colour pebbles. "Look, it has a small castle in it too," said Rutuja.
The women stepped behind and looked at Rishi from the corner of her eyes.
"What's with these dolls?" asked Drishika and sat down on her knees to get a closer look at them.
"It seems like a dollhouse, and this seems to be the Queen," said Rutuja pointing to the small decked up doll in the miniature castle.
"What do we do after choosing it?" asked Rishi facing the lady.
The lady produced a silver locket from her pocket. It had an unusual charm. A symbol like that of water and fire hung at its centre.
"Touch this symbol, and begin the adventure," she said in a strange tone. Drishika smiled at Rutuja. "Are we seriously doing this?" she asked. "Yes, now come on," said Rutuja and looked at Rishi. "Rishi doesn't like this kind of stuff. Do you, Rishi?" asked Drishika. Rishi looked at the ground and then at Drishika. "I'll join you anyway," he said.
The lady held the locket in the air. All three of them touched the symbol and boom.
There were lightning and thunder, then darkness everywhere.
"What's happening?" Rutuja panicked. Drishika could feel her heart pound. She squeezed the arm of the person standing closest to her. "Drishika, relax," said Rishi.
Drishika felt nauseous and blinked several times to adjust to the light. She could feel the mud and small pebbles beneath her feet. The air carried the fragrance of petrichor. On the left, was what seemed like a forest. The leaves of the trees were all dried, and some cut into half; the logs lay tither wither. On the right, there was a cliff. A few miles ahead, Drishika could see a castle.
"Doesn't it looks like that miniature castle we saw in the glass bowl?" wondered Rutuja. "Rutuja," said Drishika and hugged her. "Relax, Drish," she said and patted her back.
Rutuja looked up at the sky. It was a sunny afternoon. "You gotta be kidding me," she uttered.
A lady appeared in front of them wearing a long, bright yellow gown. Her face glowed, her long, golden hair wavered along with the wind.
"Welcome to Blazeterra," she said and bowed. Her gaze fixed on Rishi.
Drishika sat down and examined the pebbles. "Golden and silver," said Rutuja as she picked up a few of them. "Don't tell me we're in the glass bowl," said Drishika and got up. "Who are you?" asked Rutuja to the lady.
"Agnimitra," she said. "This land and the Queen has been captured by Hadeon, the King of the evil. Your job is to rescue the Queen and bring back the stone."
"Okay! This has to be a joke," said Rutuja, crossing her arms.
"Rishi," said Drishika and walked towards him. "Rishi, we need to get out of here, asap," she urged.
"I don't think you can do that," said a man. He wore steel armour, his skin tanned and eyes sunken; his hair golden and face wrinkled, but glowing. He seemed to be in his thirties. Drishika shielded her eyes from the glare of the sun and stared at him.
"If you don't help us rescue the Queen, you might end up being held captive yourselves."
"Where is the Queen?" asked Rishi.
"Rishi, how on Earth are we doing that?" Drishika almost screamed. "And if we rescue the Queen, you'll let us go?" quizzed Rutuja. "Absolutely," said the man. "Who are you guys?" asked Drishika and removed the jacket she wore, tying it around her waist.
"I'm Himakat, the keeper of Blazeterra. That is Agnimitra, the castle's protector."
"Rishi," said Drishika, breathing heavily. "You arranged the party, right? From where did you call that lady in the stall?"
"She called me and-"
"Drish," interrupted Rutuja. "I think it's best we look into this matter. Let's see if we can rescue the Queen."
Drishika opened her mouth to say something but stopped. She swivelled and saw smoke spewing from the forest on their right. She sat on the ground, touched it and brought her ear close to it. "Vibrations," she said.
"Seems like an enormous army is heading this way," guessed Rutuja.
"What do we do?" asked Himakat and glanced at Drishika. "Where is, I mean, do you have an army?" asked Rishi. "I will summon them," said Agnimitra and snapped her fingers.
Near about 100 men wearing an armour materialised in front of them. They all held a spear and shield in their hands. "Look at their armour," whispered Rutuja.
Drishika observed their armour, the symbol of fire and water inscribed on it.
"I don't think 100 men stand a chance against an army," said Drishika. "They can buy us time," said Rishi. "Time for what?" asked Rutuja. "If the Queen is in that castle," said Rishi pointing towards the north, "then, we must go there."
"Fight Hadeon, and his evil army, and rescue the Queen," added Drishika. "Great! We've been trained all our lives for this moment."
"But the stone is in the Dungeon," said Agnimitra.
"What stone?" quizzed Drishika.
"The stone which holds the power of immortality. Hadeon wants it," answered Himakat.
"So, is finding the Queen more important or finding the stone?" asked Rutuja.
"You girls will find the stone and destroy it," said Agnimitra.
"How? Is Hadeon that easy to fight with?" wondered Drishika.
"The Queen often said, Hadeon is just like a giant, strong, but lacks intelligence," said Himakat.
"No time for talking, lads," said a timid, old lady. "You?" said Rutuja. The lady dusted the yellow, cap-like thing she wore on her hair. "Are you sure about your choice, Bluebell?" asked Himakat. "It is the Prince's choice," she murmured.
Drishika held Rutuja's hand. "Why do I feel that Rishi knows this place," she whispered. "Don't be stupid," whispered Rutuja. "How is that possible at all?"
"I leave them under your care," said Agnimitra, caught Rishi by his arm and vanished.
"Rishi!" screamed the girls. "Where did she take him?" asked Drishika, tears welled up in her eyes. Himakat spread his arms and closed his eyes. A silver dagger appeared in his hands. "Take it," he said as he handed it to Rutuja. The handle was solid gold and the gems encrusted upon it were real. The blade was cold grey steel and sharp. Rutuja smiled ear to ear and held the dagger.
"Follow me," said Bluebell. "I will handle that army, you go ahead and rescue the Queen," instructed Himakat.
Bluebell produced a white horn from her pocket and blew it.
Strong winds encircled them, a flash of light descending from the sky heated the air and caused thunder. Drishika cupped her ears and shut her eyes. "Is that Rishi?" questioned Rutuja. Drishika heard a sound what seemed like a neigh, half-opened her eyes and saw a red chariot, two horses dragging it towards them.
She could see a figure, the charioteer, guiding the horses.
Bluebell hoped into the chariot as it came to a halt before them. "Hop in," she said. The girls gave a last look to Himakat and his army and got into the chariot. As soon as they stepped in, it rose in the air, slowly and firmly.
Drishika held Rutuja's arm and placed her head on her shoulder, closing her eyes. Rutuja held Drishika's hand and peeped down. They were at least a thousand feet from the ground; riding through the clouds. Rutuja looked at the boy driving the chariot. "Who are you?" she questioned. "You'll know soon," answered the 10-year-old, his gaze fixed on the path ahead.
"Look, Drish," said Rutuja looking down from the chariot. "It's Hadeon's army, must be thousands of them."
Drishika opened her eyes and peered down, clutching Rutuja's arm.
"Wait," said Rutuja. "How can I see things? We're nearly a thousand feet above the ground."
"I can't see a thing," said Drishika. "Where are we going?"
"Prison," stated the boy. "Prison?" said Drishika. "What? Why?" said Rutuja.
"Duck!" yelled the boy as Bluebell pulled the girls down on the chariot. An enormous ball of ice passed the chariot, fortunately missing their heads. "Prince Ridaan, let me drive," said Bluebell. "I must protect you."
"Prince?" mouthed Rutuja. "He can't be the one they were talking about."
Bluebell took his place and pulled the strap attached to the horses, changing their direction towards the west.
They ducked as a series of ice balls came their way. The chariot wobbled.
One of those ice balls hit Bluebell, she slipped and lost her balance.
Drishika caught hold of her hand in time and pulled her up the chariot.
Ridaan raised his hand in the air. A bow and arrow appeared in his hands. He aimed in the direction of the soldiers guarding the dungeon. The chariot had now picked up the pace. Bluebell pulled the strap of the horses as Ridaan struck another five arrows at the soldiers.
Drishika shut her eyes and sat down as the chariot picked up speed.
"She's afraid of heights," whispered Rutuja to Ridaan.
Ridaan struck the bow once again, Rutuja saw the arrow carefully. Its edges were sharp and red. She observed as the arrow struck of one the guards of the dungeon. The instant the arrow struck the soldier, it transformed into a furious fire; and then again into an arrow, going through the soldier's body.
It took her a while to understand, that it was the fire that melted the metal armour of the soldiers, and later, the arrow pierced their skin.
They had almost approached the land. Drishika let out a sigh. The dungeon looked more like an old, small castle, only that it had no towers or fancy walls.
The chariot came to a halt. Bluebell jumped out at once. She drew the sword fastened to her waist out of its scabbard and set out in the direction of the enemies, gashing them with her sword.
"Isn't she a bit too old to be that active?" wondered Rutuja.
Ridaan untied the horses and climbed on one of them. "You must go look for the stone," he said and set off in the direction of the dungeon, striking the soldiers with his arrows.
"Ridaan, Ridaan," cried Drishika. But he was long gone, attacking the enemies with his arrow. "He's just a kid," said Drishika.
She stood near the horse and held its reins. "C'mon, Drish," said Rutuja. Drishika took a deep breath and kept her foot on the stirrup, in an attempt to climb on the horse. But she failed. After five or six failed attempts, she finally succeeded in surmounting the horse. Rutuja followed.
Rutuja removed her dagger and raised it as a soldier advanced towards them. She slashed his arm. "Nice shot," said Drishika as she pulled the reins of the horse. It picked up the pace.
Rishi followed Agnimitra as she leads him to the Hidden Room in the castle. "What are we doing here?" he asked. "Finding the locket," answered Agnimitra rummaging through the jewellery and gold coins kept in a huge box. "It's with Bluebell, we touched it and it transported us here," he said.
"It was with Bluebell. It disappeared the moment you came here with the girls."
"How is that possible? Do you think Hadeon has it?" asked Rishi and opened a small jewellery box kept beside the huge box. A bright light radiated from it and pulled him inside.
"Rishi!" screamed Agnimitra.
“Stop, stop, stop,” said Drishika and pulled the strap of the horse. They fell off the horse as it came to an abrupt halt. “Ouch,” said Drishika and rubbed her elbows.
“That’s not the way you stop a horse,” said Bluebell. "I've not been trained you see," said Drishika as she got up dusting her jeans.
"The Queen suspected the stone to be hidden here, in this dungeon, you must find it," said Bluebell and vanished.
"Now, where did she go?" wondered Drishika.
“Leave her, Drish, you can sense things, even in our world,” said Rutuja. “Try to feel the stone, its energy, it must be a positive one.”
“I’ll try,” said Drishika.
Various kind of creatures, half-man half-demon, timid old men, old women, evil witches, all of them stretched their arms out of the steel bars of the prison as the girls walked past them.
“Wait, Drish. Take a moment,” suggested Rutuja. “Feel the stone’s energy, a good vibe in all these negative ones.”
Drishika closed her eyes and cleared her mind. She felt the air; it was as cold as ice. There were goosebumps all over her skin; she shivered. She raised her left hand, pointing towards the north. “There’s a wall there, Drish,” said Rutuja. “Let’s go,” said Drishika and ran towards the wall. Rutuja followed.
Drishika ran towards the wall. Rutuja followed.
Drishika knocked on the wall and put her ear against it. “I feel something,” she said. “If the stone is in here, how do we get through?” quizzed Rutuja.
“Step aside,” they heard someone say.
Boom! The wall shattered into pieces.
“Ridaan?” Drishika rushed towards him. “Are you okay? O, My God! You’re bleeding,” she said as she touched his forehead. “I wish I had my purse with me,” she said. Ridaan snapped his fingers and a black purse appeared on the floor. “Thanks,” she said and rushed towards it. She rummaged through it and removed a band-aid. “Come here,” she said as Ridaan walked up to her. She nursed him and applied the band-aid. “Stay with me,” she said.
“Drish,” called Rutuja. “The stone.”
Drishika held Ridaan’s hand and dashed towards the remains of the wall. They stepped in, only to find an empty room. “I swear I felt the energy,” said Drishika. “Feel it once again,” said Rutuja. Drishika nodded her head and closed her eyes. She pointed to the left.
There hung a petite painting. It was covered with a layer of dust. Rutuja removed a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped off the dust.
“Blazeterra,” she said and looked at Drishika. “It’s the map of Blazeterra,” said Ridaan. Rutuja removed the painting from the wall and kept it on the ground. There, she saw a hole in the wall. “Feels like you need a key to unlock it,” guessed Drishika. Rutuja removed the dagger from its scabbard and inserted it into the hole.
The wall cracked open, cut into two halves. Rutuja stepped aside right away.
They shielded their eyes for a moment. “What’s that object?” quizzed Rutuja as she stepped inside the opening. Drishika and Ridaan followed. Ridaan stepped forward, but Drishika pulled his hand. “Stay with me,” she said.
“Looks like a diamond,” said Rutuja. The object floated in the air. It was spherical and small; bright yellow light radiated from it.
“Thank you, ladies,” said a cold, dreadful voice.
“Rishi!” cried Drishika.
A hideous man held Rishi by his collar. Blood oozed out from his arms and forehead.
Drishika stepped in front of Ridaan, hiding him from the man’s sight.
His bloodshot eyes sent a shiver down her spine. His face was covered with scars, his hands were more like the branch of a tree. His lower body was that of a demon. He had sharp claws not feet.
“Where’s... the... Queen?” stammered Drishika.
“You have helped me find the Blazeterra stone, I’m pleased with your actions,” he said as she dragged Rishi and walked towards them.
“Don’t let him get the stone,” uttered Rishi breathing heavily. “Where’s mom?” asked Ridaan. Drishika pulled him back at once. “Stay behind, Ridaan,” she whispered.
Rishi looked at her and half-smiled.
“Take the stone if you want,” said Rutuja. “But leave the Queen.”
Drishika grabbed the stone and threw it towards Rutuja. Rutuja caught it and wrapped it in her handkerchief.
The man laughed. It sounded more like thunder.
He raised his hand and Rutuja went up in the air, holding her neck, as though she was pressing it. “Rutuja!” screamed Drishika.
The stone fell from her hands and went rolling towards the man. He picked it up and pushed Rishi on the ground. Rutuja landed on the ground with a thud. “Ah,” she cried, tears rolled down her eyes. Drishika rushed towards her and helped her come to her feet.
“Now Blazeterra is mine,” rumbled the man and raised the stone in the air.
“It’s Hadeon,” said Rishi as he dragged himself towards them.
A sword appeared on the ground, just in front of Drishika. It was a magnificent silver sword. Its hilt had blue jewels embellished into it. Drishika remembered Himakat talking about this sword.
Without a second thought, she picked up the sword, plunged towards Hadeon and slashed the stone and along with it his palm.
“Nooo!” he cried.
The earth beneath them shook vigorously; the walls cracked and trembled. “Run,” said Drishika and gave Ridaan’s hand to Rutuja. “Get out of here safely,” she said. “But-” Rutuja protested. “Just do as I say,” commanded Drishika and rushed towards Rishi.
Hadeon fell on his knees as the pieces of the stone drifted away from him in all directions.
Drishika held Rishi by his arm and helped him stand. Hadeon raised his hand; a huge stone flew towards Drishika and Rishi. They ducked just in time.
Bluebell kept her hands on their shoulders and in a fraction of seconds, they were lying down on what felt like a hard ground.
Drishika saw her reflection on the floor. She looked around and saw a dome high above her head. It was a glass castle. Rutuja rushed towards her. “Are you fine?” she asked. “Are you fine? Where’s Ridaan?” asked Drishika examining the bruises on Rutuja’s hands. “I’m here,” said Ridaan as he walked towards Rishi, holding a small glass bottle in his hands. It contained a yellow liquid.
Ridaan kept Rishi’s head on his lap and helped him drink the liquid.
“Rishi,” said a woman and rushed towards him. She wore a bejewelled crown and a long velvet gown.
“The Queen,” mouthed Rutuja.
Ridaan shook the glass bottle and it was again filled with the yellow liquid.
Rishi’s wounds were healed. He hugged the woman. “Mom,” he said.
Drishika was taken aback.
Ridaan walked up to Rutuja. “Drink it,” he said and handed her the bottle. Rutuja brought it near her mouth and thought for a while. “Go on,” said Ridaan. Rutuja closed her eyes and drank it. Her wounds began to heal.
“Thanks,” she said and handed the bottle to Ridaan.
“Thank you, girls,” said the Queen.
Agnimitra appeared before them. “All is done,” she said.
“Drishika,” said Rishi and took her hands in his hands. “Ridaan,” he called. Ridaan rushed towards them and shook the glass bottle once again. Drishika released her hands from Rishi’s grip. “What is going on?” she demanded. “Drishika, you’re bleeding, please drink the liquid first,” requested the Queen. Ridaan stood on his toes and held the bottle close to her mouth. “Drink,” he pleaded. “Drishika,” said Rutuja. “I’ll tell you everything, Drishika, please drink the liquid first,” said Rishi.
Drishika drank the liquid at once and wiped her mouth with her sleeves.
The Queen stepped forward and held her hand. “Drishika,” she began. “Rishi and Ridaan are my sons, I’m Queen Angana, the Queen of Blazeterra.”
Drishika looked at Rutuja, giving her an I told you so look.
“We failed to stop Hadeon, we tried killing him, but for that, we needed to find the stone first,” revealed the Queen.
“Only a brave and pure soul could do that, a soul that was not bound to Blazeterra,” said Rishi. “When I met you, I felt you’re the one and Rutuja,” he turned. “We needed someone who would help us, and I felt you two were perfect. Selfless and bold.”
“Selfless is okay but bold, I’m not sure,” said Rutuja. “You passed the test by coming to the party alone,” laughed Rishi.
“So? None of you could find the stone? So you needed someone who did not belong to Blazeterra,” quizzed Drishika. “Yes,” replied the Queen. “I’m sorry for the trouble, but we needed help, and Rishi thought you would be a perfect fit.”
“Oh!” said Rutuja. “So, you’re the Prince they were talking about.”
Rishi nodded his head. “I live in your world, and Ridaan lives here,” he said. “We can only enter your world once we cross the age of 16. Hadeon was the King of evil, his powers were in the stone, we needed someone who would find the stone and have the guts to destroy it as well.”
"But, isn't this a different world. Are there no people here?" asked Rutuja.
"There are," answered Angana. "I hid them with the help of a spell. To protect them."
“Thank you for protecting my brother, I always knew you would take great care of him.”
Ridaan hugged Drishika. She smiled and hugged him back. “You’re a great warrior,” she said.
Drishika turned to the Queen. “I’m glad we could help,” she said. “Now, can we go home?”
“Yes, but only after the feast,” said the Queen. “Bluebell, prepare for the celebrations.”
“Hey, Drish, I said I’m sorry,” said Rishi as he followed Drishika as they walked out of the huge stall. Rutuja followed.
Hey, Rishi, where did you disappear?” said a beautiful girl as she walked towards them. Drishika pulled Rutuja out of the party, towards the parking where her scooty was parked.
“I’ll get back to you in a moment,” said Rishi to the girl as he followed Drishika.
“Drish, at least listen to him,” said Rutuja and pulled Drishika’s hand.
“Drish,” said Rishi and held her hand.
“You would have just asked for it, Rishi, we would have helped,” she almost screamed. “Why trick us into all this?”
“Maybe you would not trust me,” he said and looked at Rutuja. “I thought you both would laugh at me if I said I-”
“What’s done is done, Drish, now let it go,” interrupted Rutuja. “And thanks Rishi, we had a great time. We had always dreamt of magic all our lives,” she continued. “Some dreams are only made to wake you up and shake yourself, and remind you of who you are and maybe what you gotta do to get what you want.”
“I knew you were different, both of you,” said Rishi. “So, I took you to my land. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt you.”
“It’s fine,” Drishika let out a deep breath. Rishi smiled and hugged her. Rutuja cupped her mouth as Drishika hugged him back.
“It’s late,” she said. “Let’s go back home, Rutu before your parents or brother come to know about our absence.”
"See you later, Prince Rishi," said Rutuja and giggled.