Endless Tales of Corona - The Final Chapter

Chapter 14: The Ploy Revealed

-         Rukma Anil

The trio sat between the forked branches of the Sycamore. The monsters laid siege around the tree. Nik looked at the scaly spiny monsters as sweat trickled down his face. Matt made slight movements as he tried to pluck leaves within his reach. Rudha couldn’t move. She was too consumed with the suddenness of the improvements. She held her breath, gauged the opposite party, thought of ways that could lead them out of this. “The Sycamore is love and protection. Love and protection,” she muttered under her breath.

There was stillness around. The monsters looked at the creatures on the tree – huddled up together, like frightened pigeons in a coop. Thoughts about smell of burning flesh seemed inviting. But they knew they couldn’t near the tree. It would spin out its branches like a whooping willow and destroy every one of them. The stillness and tension broke, when one of the branches creaked. As Nikhil dipped towards the ground, he hung low from the slowly peeling branch. “Parlay?” he said and flashed a toothy grin.

 “Rudha. Do something,” pleaded Matt.

“I don’t know. Looks like we are done. I can’t think of anything.”

The monsters closed in. They waited patiently. They knew the tree would break eventually and they can take the three creatures.

Matt in vain threw the leaves around Nik hoping that it will save him from the Coronas.  He even ate some. The doctor in him cringed. It was a last-ditch effort to save lives. The branch that Nik was clinging to, broke. He fell with a thud. Footsteps, flames and drums were heard and seen.  It was dark. Nobody knew what was happening. All that prevailed was darkness.

The noise got heavier. They heard a lot of sounds…. The monsters were screeching. There were other sounds too.

“Nik wake up. Take my hand,” that was Matthew. He slowly woke up to a cage around the Sycamore. Apparently when the branch broke, it was like a part of the tree’s soul was sent out. The soul was responsible to protect its people. So, instead of disappearing, it latched itself onto whatever it could find that belonged to the tree. 

The leaves…  a lucky mistake! Nikhil realized what happened. He picked himself up and took Matt’s hand.

They saw distant flames nearing the Sycamore. “The elders! They are here,” Rudha cried with her eyes gleaming relief. There were grown men, women and children with sticks and spears. Rudha’s mother was also among them.

It was a ploy. The Coronas realized. The trio was lured to the Sycamore by the elders. It was left deserted for the Coronas to close in on them. The Coronas stood clutching the vines of the Sycamore, their spines jumping out of their hearts, they stood panting, praying and gasping for life. It was an ambush. They formed a ring around the Sycamore with their backs facing the tree. The cage burnt their backs. The elders leaned in with spears, their legs en garde. The Coronas didn’t know what to do. They were outnumbered.

A child came forward from the elder’s group and said, “we will let you go if you promise to not come back”. The Corona leader bobbed his huge head. He said, “Yes, we will not come back.  We promise.” The elders gave way. Coronas flung themselves away from the village, away from the Sycamore.  The trio climbed down. The tree gave way to them. Nikhil, Matthew and Rudha were welcomed with outstretched arms by everyone. The Sycamore retracted the cage and made a beautiful fence of branches around its trunk. 

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Back in Rudha’s home, Nik and Matt prepared to leave. The elders gave them a small boat and food for the way back home…to rest to get better.  They thanked the elders and Rudha and left the pretty cottage of pink bougainvillea for their home.

Cheers to life

As Nikhil and Matthew rowed away from the waters of the island, they felt like free men. They sailed with the sun on their shoulders, the blue waters around them, and their heart free from fear. Nikhil did not want the business idea. Matthew was no more cynical about herbs and the tribal knowledge. He didn’t believe in it either. It was a grey region. The boat wafted home. They were not the same men who they were a few days back. Nikhil poured clear water into their flasks…. He offered to Matt. Their eyes met. “Fancy a drink, mate?” the two men started laughing. Two men in a boat. Laughing over plain water. On a blue sunny day. Their flasks clinked “To life.”

 -------- The End -------

About the writer - Yet another millenial, Rukma writes in spurts, laughs in peals and doesn't believe in dating apps.

Endless Tales of Corona - The Final Chapter Endless Tales of Corona - The Final Chapter Reviewed by Gowthama Rajavelu on 09:50 Rating: 5

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