Shiv’s body felt numb, he could not feel anything, not his limbs, fingers not even the tight grip that the large red haired man had on him. He tipped his head back and a swirling cloud enveloped him.
His vision was slight and he noticed a dark desolate place but he knew he was moving somewhere, he didn’t know how nor where he was going to. The only thought that entered his head was his mother.
“Snap out of it!” Nigel slapped Shiv sharply across the cheek and Shiv’s head bobbled in the empty abyss.
Shiv didn’t feel that but he knew it should have hurt. He struggled to say anything except a stammer. His mind raced several thoughts. Where am I? Who is this person? Why is this happening to me?
The most important question was Where am I going? Before Shiv could ask the question a bright warm light appeared on his left. The clouds quickly disappeared into the light as if a vacuum drew them in. Shiv held his breath hoping to keep whatever air in his lungs a little bit longer.
“Ahhhhh!!” The light burned Shiv’s skin and he felt his lungs expand as if they were going to pop. His body swelled and he could hear an empty hiss escaping from his body.
“Breathe!” Nigel screamed. “If you die here Esen is going to be mad and I don’t want her to kill me!” Nigel pounded a flat palm on Shiv’s stomach and Shiv released a gush of air from his mouth. His body slowly returned to its normal size and the escaping pain from his lungs subsided. But his skin still burned, it felt like he was entering the rings of the sun.
“Welcome.” A tall fair woman spoke melodically. “To my lair.” She descended from her throne slowly, allowing the thin, translucent robe flow from behind her.
Nigel landed on the great hall with great ease. His large boots gently landing on the jewelry adorned marble. His fist firmly clenched on Shiv’s shirt as their bodies re-materialized.
“What did you do ?!?” Esen screamed and launched herself to Shiv. Her scream shocked the half clad dancers and fully armored guards. The minstrels with their otherworldly instruments stopped strumming and stepped back into the shadows of magnificent pillars carved to the image of their queen.
Nigel fell on the floor as the supersonic screams of Esen knocked him back. “I told him to breathe!”
“You fool!” Esen knelt beside the unconscious body of Shiv. “I told you to bring him in alive.” She ran a long finger across Shiv’s cheek. “I need him alive.” Esen looked up at the corner entrance guarded by two small men wielding swords twice their size. “Bring in the healer.”
“No need for the healer.” An old man descended from open ceiling which brought perpetual light to the throne room. He crouched on a slight bent of his shiny staff and chuckled.
“You?” Esen shrieked. “How did you get here?”
Hanuman looked up and chuckled.
“Nigel!” Esen screamed. “Get him out of here!”
Nigel pushed his knees against the marble floor and lunged at Hanuman. Hanuman jumped and avoided Nigel’s attack. He landed on his staff and chuckled.
Hanuman sidestep hopped to his right while still perched on his staff. Another lunge and Hanuman positioned himself behind Nigel. “Time to sleep.” He pulled out a hand from underneath his brown robe. His fingers were long and crooked, resembling a tree branch with small green leaves at the tips. He touched the back of Nigel’s skull just where he thought the brain stem would be and watched as the large warrior fell flat on the ground creating a small shock-wave throughout the throne room.
Esen opened her mouth but stopped in mid-way as Hanuman appeared directly in front of her. “I’m here to help queen Esen.” He turned to the limp body of Shiv. “Hmmm…let’s see now.” Hanuman stuck his finger at the crooked end of his staff slowly. He looked across Shiv’s body from head to toe. He could see through the layers of clothes and skin. He watched slowly as the organs moved in a synchronized melody. “He is alive.”
“He is alive?” Esen shrieked in delight.
“Just barely.” Hanuman looked closely at Shiv’s chest. “His breathing is very shallow.” He pulled out his finger from his staff and pressed the tip at Shiv’s chest. “Yes, this is the problem.” A slight smoke escaped from Hanuman’s mouth and slowly entered Shiv’s mouth.
Shiv’s eyes opened abruptly and he gasped loudly before coughing incessantly.
Esen wrapped her arms around Shiv. “My boy.”
“Unhhhh…” Shiv rubbed his chest. He felt strange, his head was very light and his lungs were filled with smoke just like when he would spend a whole afternoon smoking with Hanuman at the side of the road. He looked up and saw Hanuman perched on a large staff. “Hanuman?”
Hanuman chuckled. “Good morning Shiv.”
Shiv looked around, it wasn’t the side of the road near Subash Chowk. He was in a lavish room. Much bigger than he has ever been in his life. Marble tiles, artistically perfect carved statues, jewel encrusted ornaments. He noticed that people he could not recognize were looking at him. Their clothes were very odd, most of them were scantily clad and that seemed to be perfectly normal to them even in the chilling weather.
“Are you ok my boy?” Esen asked with her melodic voice.
Shiv scampered to the nearest pillar behind him. He recognized the voice, moreover he recognized the woman. She wasn’t wearing the dark sunglasses but her translucent skin was unmistakable. It was the woman from the rickshaw. “Wha…wha…?” Shiv’s memory slowly jogged. There was someone else ….some monster. His mind raced and he remembered a large red haired man who pinned him down with a large boot. Shiv moved back a step and felt a large heavy statue behind him. It was very solid and he wondered why there wasn’t any other statues lying around the large room. He turned around and noticed that it was the statue of the large man who attacked him. “What?!? Get away from me!” Shiv jumped on to his feet, the sudden jerk made him dizzy and he wobbled back on the floor.
“Easy now Shiv.” Hanuman spoke calmly. Still perched on his staff he hovered next to Shiv. “He won’t harm you…he is sleeping.”
“Who is that?”
“Oh that is Nigel. Stronger than most, dumber than the rest.” Hanuman chuckled. “You don’t have to worry about him while I’m around.” Hanuman extended his hand to Shiv.
Shiv pulled himself up slowly. “Where are we?”
“We are in the tower of Esen, the queen of the the eternal city.”
“Queen? Eternal city?” Shiv scratched his head. “I’m confused Hanuman.”
“That is to be expected.” Hanuman turned to Esen. “My queen I think I should acquaint our guest to his new surrounding don’t you?”
“Hmph!” Esen floated to her throne. “Do as you wish hermit. Just make sure he is back when Nigel wakes up, I have big plans for the both of them.”
Hanuman chuckled. “Then we have all the time in the world.” He hopped of his staff and stretched his legs. “Care for a stroll Shiv?”
Shiv nodded his head. “Sure.” He leaned close to Hanuman for a whisper. “Do you have anymore of your special mix?”
Hanuman smiled. “Oh you are going to love this one, it is the best one I have!”
The two men laughed boisterously and walked joyously past the two guards and out of the main entrance hidden by thick red curtains.