21 Mukhi Rudrashka Beads

During the path meeting I stood off to the side watching everyone’s bored expressions as Keaira confessed her heinous act. She stood angry and hesitant, waiting for the onslaught of glares, swears, and scolding, then being disappointed when she heard none. Had no one been listening? Did no one care that Keaira, one of our KINNARA, let one of Kubera’s treasures, the 21 Mukhi Rudrashka beads, fall into the hands of a thief? I was listening, but I wasn’t saying anything either. Sure I was mad, but in the short time I have been in the guild, I have come to know the reserved daredevil better than I know anyone else. I have confidence in her, and I know she would never intentionally hand over one of the artifacts. I also knew that the person most upset with what she had done, was herself, and that she was just hoping someone would punish her. But no one did, and she stood there, getting angrier and angrier with herself until LeAnnder had to step up and continue on with the rest of the meeting. I felt helpless, wishing there was something I could do to reassure her, but thinking of nothing. I watched as she stood near the outside of the circle, steaming throughout the rest of the meeting, then quickly leaving once it was over.

A few merchants, myself already included, started to gain concern in the situation, and over the next few days we tried to figure out a way to get the beads back into our hands. Keaira didn’t join us; she had her own plans of trying to get them back, and didn’t seem to want any of our help either. She probably felt that since it was her fault they got stolen, that it was her responsibility to get them back. We tried to get information out of people, but it seemed impossible, and a waste of time. Too many people liked talking in riddles, or being difficult. A few of the interested merchants quickly grew bored, while the rest grew hopeless. I couldn?t be too sure what Keaira was up to, and at some point the beads shifted from one thief to another, finding their way into Rhetoric?s hands.

Then, there was a lead. There was an underground fight to be held by Rhetoric, the winner earning the beads, if the opponent had something of equal value to offer, of course. The fight was to be held in a private house in one of the neighborhoods surrounding Koguryo. There was a problem though, no merchant would be allowed to even enter the house. That wasn?t going to stop us from trying. When the night came a few of us tried to make it in without being spotted. They were expecting us however, and kicked out the few who slipped in. HinoRei and I stayed to guard the outside, hiding in the shadows and waiting to find a way in, or perhaps a chance to jump someone on their way out. After a while we realized there was no means of getting in and that no one would be coming out for a while, so we went back to our circle to think of another plan. It felt like we were back at square one. At one point someone came in to announce that Rhetoric had been the successor. That didn?t really matter to us. All that mattered was that they weren?t in safe hands.

Days came and went and still no advances. Most everyone grew hopeless and I was starting to give up. Finally, a chance. A message posted from Rhetoric for the public to read, addressed directly to The Merchant Guild of Koguryo. It was a challenge, a request for a fight, a fight that he only wanted to have with a merchant. He was giving us a shot at getting the beads back. But there was a drawback, Keaira was not allowed to be the fighter. I could see her anger and winced. Not only was Keaira outraged, but our guild?s best fighter was prohibited from playing. I didn?t have to think about it long before I pulled his post from the board, turned it over, and wrote ?When and where?? on the back, smiling to myself for doing what he does best, and tacked it back to the board.

When LeAnnder heard the plan, she was pretty upset. She didn?t want to risk someone getting hurt in order to get the beads back, but it was obvious there was no other choice. Rhetoric contacted me with details of the fight. There were a couple catches. It was weapon of choice, and we had to put something up against the beads so he wouldn?t be fighting for nothing. Our elder, refused to chance losing another artifact, but nothing we could think of seemed like it would match the value of the beads. While she and I argued about what to do, Keaira interrupted us.

?I have something? she said with determination in her voice. Both LeAnnder and I stopped and stared at her confused. ?Trust me? she spoke again, this time removing her Selu?kiira of Burning and handing it to me.

?No!? I refused, thrusting it back at her, but she wouldn?t take it. ?I will not have you bet this on me, there has to be something else!? But the stubborn woman wouldn?t take it. She just shook her head giving me a trusting look. Keaira?s Selu?kiira is what protects her, without it she is vulnerable, not to mention it?s the only way she can control the panther she rides on, Rhetoric would definitely find this worthy. I nodded slightly and pulled it back, this time delicately, silently promising not to let her down.

When it came to the night of the fight I was nothing but nerves. The small house was cramped with spectators. Some were betting, some hoping to get a hold of the beads for themselves, others just there for support. No matter the reason, everyone was there to watch the fight. It was to be three out of five, each round lasting until one of us successfully landed three hits. We took our sides and got ready, me with my Military Polearm with the inscribing ** Treasure Finder **, and him with an ogre club. Once we got started, it was mostly a blur. After a while I couldn?t be sure if the pain was coming from him attacking me, or from his hard head breaking a few of my knuckles. There is a moment I will never forget though. I have a distinct image in my head of him charging me, then his face taken over by surprise, and then excruciating pain as my knee contacted his groin. Until that point we were nearly neck and neck, both having won 2 rounds, but I think that knee might have disabled him for the rest of the fight. I took the lead in the last round, and for a last attempt he threw his club towards me, but it landed at my feet. The last thing I remember was picking up his own club, running towards him, and bludgeoning him repeatedly in the head. Someone eventually had to pull me off so as not to kill him. When I realized it was over, and that I had won, I beam. Some people had left, but the remainders were cheering. After regaining some strength, Rhetoric slowly pulled himself up and shamefully handed me the beads, which I immediately gave to LeAnnder. I got two things that night, the 21 Mukhi Rudrashka beads, and my Daredevil tattoo. And to be honest, I might be slightly more proud of the latter.

The beads were safely returned to Kubera?s Treasure house, and by the next guild meeting Keaira had announced stepping down from her Kinnara position.