The Naga laughed sardonically. For now the wild guru had morphed into a towering Were Serpent man. His dirt and wildness was gone. His apparently diseased skin had turned into the pale scaly skin of an aged serpent. His dreadlocks of ratted hair turned into a wild tangle and ancient webbed scales. His wild beard was now the myriad antennae of a bizarre serpentine monster man. His face boasted no nose but only two serpentine nostrils. His eyes were pale gold. His mouth boasted fangs and a slithering forked tongue that flashed in and out as it ‘tasted’ the air to taste our fear and terror. The Naga hissed as his webbed and scaly hands and arms clinched and flexed. Below his loins were not legs but a great slithering tail. He bobbed upright like a gigantic King Cobra for his shoulders were broad as the hood of a cobra and his head and neck were hunched low. His webbed and clawed fingers gestured sinisterly as our shaking torches cast his shadow on the distant stony wall.
“Hassss the Ruler of Indore come to claim hissss inheritance at lassst?” the Were creature hissed. “I bow to the Ruler of Indore!” The creature bowed mockingly at Saadat Khan.
“Let us go Naga” I said. “We did not come to steal! Nor did we violate the Holy Linga! At least let the Son of my heart go!”
“Nay Father of my heart! I will not go without you!”
“Old Man! Why hurt us when I have been kindly to you? Since I have come to Indore I have been kind to you!” Marion cried.
“You have not come to claim the Treasure of Indore! He hassss! Behold the Ruler of Indore!” the Were Naga hissed as he jeered the quaking Pathan who shook in terror.
“Let us go then” I shouted, my teeth chattering with the cold — and with no little fear. “Point the way out!”
“I wasss tricked into guarding thissss Treassure until The Holkar or the Ruler of Indore came to claim it! I have wearied of the bane! I give the treassure to you if you dare claim it!”
“Don’t claim it damn fool” I shouted to the Pathan. But Saadat Khan suddenly stood up straight and tall.
“Yes! I claim it!” We all groaned.
“Take it then! Let thy wisssh come forth! And may you choke on it!” The Naga gestured as if a noose hanging a man.
“You have wished for 1857″ I gasped. “And 1857 will come about as you wished!”
“Oh Father of my heart! India will be destroyed in a civil war! We will lose….. and Wahhabists will turn India into their nightmare utopia of a murderous Dar al Islam!”
Saadat Khan roared with triumph! “Dar al Islam!”
“But that is not what you wished for” Marion said very softly.
“Yes!” the Pathan shouted. “Dar al Islam!”
“No you did not wish for that!” Marion said softly as the Were Naga laughed it’s evil laugh. “You said ‘I will be the Nawab of Indore! And 1857 will see the Uprising of Islam! And all will see what Muslims can do! How Muslims can wage Jihad! We will reveal our true selves at last! And everyone will know us for what we really are! The Emperor of the Mughals will be crowned anew! And coins minted proclaiming the triumph of Islam! And I will ride toward Agra and to Delhi in triumph! Me! Me! Nawab Saadat Khan! Waging Jihad! And the earth of India will run with the blood of Jihad! Ha! Ha!’”
“Yes!” Saadat Khan shouted in triumph as I cringed in horror.
“But that is not Dar al Islam” Marion replied very softly. “That is the vain boast and swagger of an arrogant man. How long will your triumph be? Who will win? You asked for bloody Jihad but you did not ask for specific victory. How long will the so-called Emperor of Delhi rule? Will you even reach Agra? Much less Delhi? The earth of India will run with the blood of Jihad but whose’ blood?”
The Pathan stopped laughing as the evil hissing laugh of the Naga filled the cold darkness.
“Wait! I meant…. I want victory!”
“And victory of a ssssort you will get” the Naga hissed.
Wait! Wait! You are all trying to trick me!” Saadat Khan shouted. “I asked for Dar al Islam!”
“No” Marion said. “No. You boasted and raved in premature triumph.”
“He said I would have victory!” Saadat Khan shouted at me.
“Of a sort” I replied.
“Hisssss! You sssshould have wisssshed for better!” the Naga laughed. “For the death of Nicholsssson!”
“Why?” everyone asked in unison.
“What? Why? Well! I want this man Nicholson to die! Now!” Saadat Khan shouted.
“You have made your wissssh! Let it be as you wisssshed!” The Naga laughed it’s evil laugh as the Cintamani suddenly flew out of the Pathan’s tight fist and landed on the cold stone. Everyone gasped. Then everyone moved by instinct. Marion who was nearest Khan Son # 1 grabbed the boy and hauled him away. Saadat Khan lurched forward to grab the stone. My boot stomped down on the stone. It shattered under my boot.
“You destroyed the Wish Fulfilling Jewel!” Saadat Khan shouted as he picked up tiny shards of a lifeless, colorless stone.
“Father of my heart!” Khan Son # 1 gasped. “Why?”
“Bravo John!” Marion said softly.
“It was instinct” I gasped.
“It was Ssshiva!” the Naga hissed. “Sssshiva in you! Let it be so! I am free at lasssst!” The towering Naga abruptly vanished!
“No!” I shouted. “Show us the way out!”
“Look” Khan Son # 1 shouted. Before us were bobbing lights. Then two priests appeared!
“There you fellows are! We were worried! Then the elder priest remembered this damp basement! You had us all worried! Come! Come! Wet! Blue! Very blue! Especially you!” He pointed to me. “Come! Come! Let us wrap you all in blankets and warm you fellows up!…..” and indeed they did! Except for Saadat Khan who stormed away from the vile pagan temple as fast as his legs could carry him! Jumping into a boat so hard he almost drowned!