The Futile Skill .

This is a story of a wise and brave king, Vikramaditya. And it begins in his kingdom of Ujjain. Settled in the mountain valley, Ujjain was a prosperous kingdom in central India, with lush green forests, fields of abundant crops, sparkling rivers and streams, and ruled by a caring king. Everyone loved their king and the king reciprocated in kind by looking after every needs of his subjects. One day as he was attending his morning court, addressing the concerns of common folks, a group of villagers announced themselves. "Your Majesty," they said."We are farmers from the edge of your kingdom. For some time now, we are being attacked by a ferocious mountain lion. He kills our livestock and puts the lives of our kin in danger. The soldiers you sent all died trying to kill the beast. Help us, save us!" they pleaded.

Vikramaditya was grieved by hearing their suffering. "I should not put the life of anymore of my soldiers in danger," he thought.
"Alright!"- he announced. "I'll handle this myself and slay the beast," drawing shouts of cheers and appreciation from his court. The next day Vikramaditya rode out with a small group oh his personal guards towards the mountain. Days passed and they searched for the lion in the treacherous forests in the mountains, until one day they came face to face with it. A fierce battle ensued and Vikramaditya moved swiftly as the lion charged him, growling, it's teeth like sharp hooks and claws like razor. The lion kept attacking incessantly and Vikramaditya held his own as he kept swinging his sword defending and attacking at the same time. The lion, with bloodlust in it's eyes, and severly injured made a desperate attack, and pushed Vikram on the ground. The king, took his side knife and rammed it in the lion as the lion sunked his teeth on his shoulders. Both laid on the ground in a pool of their blood, as it mixed with one another's, impossible to differentiate and flowing as one now. The lion was dead!

Critcally injured, the king was carried to a nearby tribe by his soldiers. He was treated there as he made his slow recovery. Days passed and Vikramaditya got better; he began spending his time helping out the tribals in their daily chores and learning their way of life. He was also quick in learnng their language and became fluent day by day. While his time there, he fell in love with a beautiful girl in the tribe, who happened to be the daughter of the tribal leader. The king, approached her father and asked his daughter's hand in marriage.
"Vikramaditya," the father said, "I know that you are an honourable man. But, it is the tradition of this tribe that the prospected groom has to know a skill which will help him earn his daily bread. This is to ensure that the man can take care of his wife and his family after they are married."
Vikramaditya smiled. "Surely you must know that I am the king of Ujjain and have all the riches in my palace one could dream of. I would never need to work to feed my family; and so knowing a skill or trade is not meant for me; and is quite useless to be honest."
"I understand," the tribal leader replied, "But these are our ancestral rules and I would not break them, even for you". Vikramaditya was not the one to give up and so he decided to learn a trade. He started learning to weave carpets. The rough and muscular hands of a warrior were not meant for the delicate art of weaving, but he was persistent. After a while, he got really good in his art and successfully sold his first carpet at a high price and offered his earnings to the girl's father, thus successfully fulfilling the condition for the marriage. The tribal leader, remaining true to his word, happily married his daughter to Vikramaditya. The newly wed king and queen returned to their kingdom and began spending their time in happiness and prosperity.

Vikramaditya had a habit of disguising himself as a common merchant, walking the streets of his capitol and blending in with the folks to get to know their stories, their struggles and their thoughts on the government. He understood that not every issue can be addressed in his morning court and it is by only becoming a part of the society can he truly hope to understand it better. So one moonless night, Vikramaditya dicreetly got out of his palace through a secret backdoor, dressed up as a merchant. He striked up conversations with shopkeepers, traders, and even the homeless; taking mental notes. It was getting late and the markets were closing. He decided to call it a day and made his way back towards the palace through a dark alley he preferred so as to avoid being recognized. Suddenly, he heard a thud on his head, pain buzzing on his skull and everything became dark the next moment as a thick bag was put on his head. He was kidnapped by bandits.

He could hear the muffled sounds of people arguing, the bag still covering his head. Suddenly, everything fell silent, as he heard a door open. Footsteps approached him and he could feel someone breathing down his face. Even when Vikramditya could not see anything, he could tell the person was angry by his frantic breathing. The bag came off and he found himself in a dimly lit room with a bunch of bandits around the corners of the room. And right in front of him was the guy inspecting him a moment ago. He was bald muscular man, armed to the teeth, face emotionless and eyes like a window to a hollow soul.
"Who are you," asked the man. He had an aura of the leader of this group based on how others around him avoided meeting his gaze, heads bowed as if they were afraid to even look at him.
"You are our captive now. Which means that your family either pays a ransom for your worthless life, or, you die!" he added without even waiting for a response.
Vikramaditya had no idea where they were. He knew that if he shall reveal his true identity, the bandits might panic and kill him; Afterall, you don't kidnap a king and live to tell the story. On top of that, if he could not convince them soon that he was worth keeping alive, they would kill him right away.
"Even if they get paid, I might still end up dead. I have seen their faces and they will not risk letting me walk free" - he thought. He had to come up with something, and fast.
"I don't have a family, or anyone who would miss me if I am gone," Vikramaditya replied. "But, I can still get you a lot of money for all your troubles."
"I am listening," the bald man replied, expression curious.
"You see, I am expert carpet weaver. I can make you a carpet so good, that if you present it to the queen as a gift, she will reward you with a huge bounty. Much bigger than my family could have ever paid you, if I had one, of course."
The bandit considered his proposal for a while, and finally nodded in approval. And so Vikramaditya started weaving the carpet, day in and day out. In a week he presented the finished carpet to the bandit leader, and couldn't help but notice a slight expression of amazement as the bandit looked at it. It was a piece of art. Fire flaming out the the centre, like rays from a sun spiralling outwards, intertwined with each other as they span out. Patterns curved the flaming waves intrinsically, sometimes coming close and distant at some points as if afraid of the flames.

As planned, the bandits tied Vikramditya to a chair, and took the carpet to see the queen and get a huge monetary reward; more confident now that they saw the stunning carpet. Upon reaching the palace, they presented the queen with the carpet. The queen gasped on seeing the carpet.
"Its truly beautiful! Thank you for bringing this to me." she said.
She rewared the men with a chest of coins. The bandits's eyes gleamed upon seeing so many coins. It was their biggest score yet and would last them a long time. They came back to their secret hideout, finding Vikramaditya still tied to the chair.
"Your carpet was truly magneficient. It brought us a fortune. Too bad you still have to die though. Nothing personal, just tying up loose ends, you see." the bald bandit leader said with a glean. He raised his sword, shining brightly in the dimly lit room, ready to end a life.

Bam! there was a loud crushing sound, and the door blasted open. Before anyone can make any sense of the situation, men in thick armour entered the room ferociously; killing the bandits as they moved like an unstopable force. Vikramaditya's senses returned and he could make out the symbol on the armour now. It was of his royal guards; help has arrived. The bandit leader did put up some fight but he was no match to any of the guards, and was heavily outnumbered. The queen entered a moment later, eyes filled with rage as she saw the bandit lying on the floor, bleeding out. She moved her gaze to Vikramditya, her expression turning soft as she saw him being freed by their soldiers; and as she smiled warmly, Vikramditya felt as if the dull room suddenly brightened up.
"Right on time to save the day. Thank you!" chuckled Vikramaditya.
"Always." the Queen replied.

"But how?" said a trembling voice in the room. It was the bandit leader, life bleeding out of him as he spoke. "How did you find us?", now looking at Vikramaditya.
"Oh it's really simple. You see, I learned to weave carpets only so I could marry her. A skill I always thought would be of no use to me; that is until today. I sewed in a hidden message in a tribal language, something I knew only she would understand, and made it looked like a design. It told them who you were, and to follow you. I understand now that no skill ever goes wasted in life." - Vikramaditya said as he started walking out with his Queen.
He paused, and looked over his shoulder at his captive. "Nothing personal, but this is goodbye" - he added, and walked out the door as the bandit took his last breath.

The End.