The Meeting Invite
The Meeting Invite4 mins 174 4 mins 174
10 hours after sunset, March 27, 1704 Aurangzeb’s War Camp outside Wagingera, Southern India.
Asif lay awake tensed in his tent. It was a makeshift tent but quite capable of withstanding the heavy rains battering against it. A single lamp was flicking its flame relentlessly against the raging winds. In a couple of hours, he’s going to meet the commander-in-chief of Ramoshi Community. Asif’s emperor Aurangzeb had waged a war against Ramoshis. And the emperor is probably growing to crush their tiny army with his mighty one.
Asif was mildly surprised when he received a secret parchment with a meeting invite from Pedda Nayak, the King of Ramoshis. Asif knew he wasn’t important enough to meet the enemy King in person, that too just a day before the battle. This could mean only one thing. Pedda Nayak would want Asif to turn against his emperor - Aurangzeb.
The mere thought of crossing the world’s most powerful emperor gave the chills to Asif. Aurangzeb is a master strategist when it comes to warfare. He has expanded the Mughal empire to the world’s largest kingdom surpassing even China’s Qing dynasty. It seemed highly unlikely that a small-time Kingdom like Ramoshk and low-rank warrior like himself could take down the mighty kingdom. But the payoffs are priceless. Ramoshis would shower him with gold beyond his wildest dreams. He will not have to fight for his life every day in never-ending battles for the emperor. He can finally live with his newborn son. More than that he can spend his remaining life sleeping with his beautiful wife.
Looking at the shaking tent roof, Asif tried to visualize how the events might span out. He meets the enemy king and agrees to turn against Aurangzeb. But Pedda Nayak will soon find out that Asif is of no use to him. Asif commands a very small fleet of 50 men - too small to make a difference in the battle. He doesn’t even have access to the emperors’ tent.
With his head full of thoughts, Asif mounted on his horse and set off. The pounding rain gave him a good cover. He didn’t have to worry about his fellow men seeing or hearing him. He followed the instructions specified in the invite and quickly reached outside of Pedda’s tent. The tent was surprisingly closer to his emperor’s camp. Asif thought maybe Pedda must be brave too. Maybe he is smarter than Aurangzeb. That’s why he must have reached out to Asif rather than facing the Emperor on the battlefield. Or maybe he is a fool. Maybe Pedda didn’t know that Asif is a nobody. The thought gripped Asif like a snake.
What if Pedda and Asif were not able to figure out a way to kill Aurangzeb. It is highly unlikely that Pedda would let Asif leave his tent alive. Asif is an unnecessary liability for Pedda. Asif realized that before stepping inside the tent, he had to find an answer to the question: how can Asif help Pedda kill Aurangzeb?
Killing the emperor personally is out of the question. He can never get near the Emperor either in the camp or battlefield. But he can get near Zulfi, the Emperor’s high commander, and even kill him. That might tip the battle in favor of Ramoshis. But that’s a very risky proposition. Aha! It struck him as he stood drenching outside the enemy camp. The oldest trick in the book - he can poison the food supply. Asif knew the cooking crew very well. His wife’s brother is the chief cook. He can simply slip poison into the food supply. Thousands of his men will die along with the emperor. But that’s a small price to pay for a huge reward. But where can he get the poison now? Asif realized he was being silly now. Pedda should be able to help him with that. Maybe that was Pedda’s plan all along. Maybe that’s why Pedda had chosen him. Maybe Pedda is smarter than Aurangzeb after all. Asif felt relieved. Satisfied with himself, Asif stepped inside Pedda’s tent. Two beautiful women welcomed Asif and showed him inside.
As Asif walked in, he noticed the tent was well lit and looked much more royal than his. Around 20-30 men were kneeling on the ground, with their hands tied behind their back. Few of them were weeping silently. Asif looked closer and recognized some of them. They were his fellow countrymen. And all of them had an old parchment in their tied hands. The parchments looked eerily similar to the meeting invite Asif had received a few days back.
Perplexed Asif looked around to make sense of what is happening. In one corner, he finally saw Emperor Aurangzeb himself. Seated in a simple thrown, slowly sipping wine, Aurangzeb looked up and casually smiled at him.