CHAPTER TWO — BRING THE RING
“I am not going to go down,” said Ali Hasan to Ali Mohammad. They kept watching Ali Hussain sitting on his white horse near the fountain from the window.
“Ok. I’ll go. But you should go with me. Even if you don’t want to go, Hussain is still someone you care much about,” said Mohammad.
“Cared. Now? Not so much. There was a time earlier when things were different. Today, things are different. Cared for him, is my final feeling for the day,” said Hasan. He went back to arranging his bag and putting things back in it. He held Hussain’s dagger in his hand for a second more than necessary, gazing at it in an objective manner. Then he tossed it in the bag.
Ali Mohammad stepped back from the window and looked at Saqib who now had a nervous smile on his face. “Are we going down then?” he asked. Mohammad pointed to the door and then the window. He looked at Hasan again, wondering if there was any change in him. There was none. Hasan looked back at him with a straight face as he sat down on the chair.
Suddenly there was a whoosh of sound and something struck the wooden ceiling with a ‘thwack’. It was an arrow. Mohammad looked surprised. Saqib jumped back with alarm. Hasan kept looking at the arrow with a straight face. He knew that Ali Hussain knew that he and Mohammad were having a discussion about him. Hussain was getting impatient waiting for them. He just sent an arrow to ask when someone was coming to receive him.
“Let’s go Saqib before another arrow comes and lands somewhere closer to us.” Mohammad hurried down the stairs, while Saqib followed at a slower pace behind. The arrow was bothering him.
Ali Mohammad held Ali Hussain’s hands as he walked with him back into the room. Saqib followed with a tray of tea and biscuits.
Saqib was not very surprised by what had happened when Mohammad had come face to face with Ali Hussain in the garden.
“You have come without Hasan. Did he refuse to come or you stopped him from coming to me?” Hussain’s tone had anger in it. He still had the bow in his right hand. He didn’t get down from the horse.
“Hasan refused to come. I wanted him to come. You know him better. He has his reasons and he doesn’t share most of them with me.” Saying so Mohammad came closer to Hussain and offered his hand to Hasan.
“I did not take your calls. I did not want to take your calls, when you called. I was not in the right state of mind,” said Hussain. He kept looking straight ahead without looking at Mohammad. “IS HE COMING?” shouted Hussain.
Saqib opened his eyes wide. He didn’t dare come any closer to Hussain. He stayed five steps behind Mohammad. There seemed to be a lot of change in the Hussain he knew. This person on the horse looked like Hussain all right, but this didn’t seem to be the person he had known so well for so long, thought Saqib.
“Yes. In three days. He is finally coming out. I am grateful that you have come. It would have been very difficult if you were not here once Abbas comes.”
Hussain now looked down at Mohammad and parted his lips into a small smile. Mohammad and others knew that he, Hussain, was the only one who Abbas would turn to for solutions. Mohammad had the brains all right, but Hussain had the heart filled with feelings that Abbas shared only with him.
Taking Mohammad’s offered hand, Hussain jumped off his horse. He was taller than Mohammad. Mohammad looked at Hussain and gave him a warm smile. “Your anger is justified. But things are turning around now. He is going to be with us. I think it’s a good sign,” said Mohammad and shook hands warmly with Hussain, before giving him a hug. Saqib started smiling widely again and stepped closer to the two. Hussain saw him and went up to him. “You still think I am good with the arrow?” asked Hussain. “You are the best,” replied Saqib. Hussain smiled and hugged a surprised Saqib.
Hasan stood up as Ali Hussain entered the room. He looked him in the eye, as Hussain came closer to him. “What do you want from me? Is it not enough that I am here?” asked Hussain pointing a finger at Hasan.
“I want something from you and it’s not enough that you are here. You have a duty and you have to do it well. If you don’t do it well, then we won’t see you again, ever.” Hasan said this looking at Hussain calmly, without raising his voice.
“I have a duty? All of us have a duty. You have a duty. Where is the ring? You haven’t found the ring yet,” said Ali Hussain.
Mohammad looked at the ground and shuffled his feet. It was time to tell them both that the ring was with him. The ring had always been with him. He couldn’t have thrown it away, even if he wanted to. There was too much at stake.
“He hasn’t found the ring, because he doesn’t know where it is. I know it. I had kept it away from the reach of Ali Abbas. It’s his ring all right, but he couldn’t have kept it as it was destroying him”, said Mohammad.
“Where is it? Tell me. How many times have I asked you to tell me the location of the ring, but you had always some reason or the other not to tell me. Now tell me. I ask you one final time, in front of Ali Hussain,” said Hasan. There was a ‘I dare you’ kind of look on his face.
Mohammad knew that now it was up to him to tell them the location of the powerful ring. “It’s inside the hollow of a tree trunk that stands close to the gate of our primary school here.”
Ali Hussain and Ali Hasan looked with surprise at Ali Mohammad. Hasan even managed to smile at this point. “So I told you about that hollow trunk so many years back and you used it too?”
Mohammad nodded his head. “This ring is still powerful. It obeys only its master. Only Ali Abbas can wear that ring.” Saying this, Mohammad showed his left index finger. There was a prominent scar on it. “I tried wearing it. As soon as I put it on my finger, I fainted. It was Saqib who revived me with his famous lime tea. He bandaged my finger too after applying some cream on it. The ring had somehow slipped off from my finger when I had fallen down and fainted. Had I been wearing it, I wouldn’t have been here talking with you people. I might have been lying peacefully inside a nice grave.”
“All of you have to have some of my famous tea now. Please sit down while I serve you.” Saying this, he poured the tea into tea cups and offered it on a saucer after placing a biscuit in each saucer.
“Where did you get the horse from?” asked Hasan. He wanted to change the topic and keep everyone’s mind away from the ring for some time.
“From a fair. Sikander is his name. He was a wild horse, allowing nobody near him. The owner told me that the horse was untameable. Of no use. I came and stood close to Sikander and looked him in the eye. I said to him: ‘You are mine now. You are Sikander. You are strong. I respect you. You have to respect me too’. Then I started stroking Sikander’s mane. He became calm. The owner seemed to be shocked. I paid him the money and brought him with me.” Hussain was smiling to himself as he said this.
Then with the tea cup in his hand, he went to the window and looked out. Sikander was there in the garden drinking water from the fountain.
He turned back from the window when he heard the sound of the door closing quietly behind him. There was only Ali Mohammad in the room now.
“You have to bring the ring back from the hollow. You have to be careful with it. It knows you, so it will not hurt you. You have to be the last person the ring comes to, before it reaches the hands of its rightful owner Ali Abbas,” said Mohammad.
Hussain wanted to say something at this point, but stopped. Sikander was neighing loudly. He went back to the window. Sikander was galloping away from the garden and Saqib was running after him.