Vikram Betal Stories - The Magic Ring

 The Magic Ring

The vampire went on: Sumant was an orphan. A sage was kind to him and enrolled him as a student in his Ashram school. Sumant spent ten years in the Ashram and completed his studies successfully. The sage gave him a scroll and said, "My boy, this will secure you a high position as a scholar in any of the royal courts around. Go and prosper." Sumant decided to meet the king of Rohitpur. He began walking in that direction. He lost his way and found himself in a forest. The sun was setting. He looked in all directions and saw a house in ruins on a hill. He thought of spending his night there. At the foot of the hill, he met a young man who looked like a prince. Sumant smiled at the young man and greeted him. But the young man looked grave. "So, you too wish to try your luck! Who between us should have the chance? Should we fight a duel and decide?" the young man asked, putting his hand on his sword. Sumant was surprised. "What do you mean?" he asked in return. "How can we fight a duel when I don't even have a sword?" "Then you must wait for the next full dark night and give me the chance to try my luck tonight!" "I tell you once again that I don't know what you mean. Try your luck by all means. I have no desire to stand in your way. I am a traveler looking for a shelter," said Sumant. The young man calmed down. By and by he told Sumant what had brought him there. He was the prince of Rohitpur. The deserted house on the hilltop was a haunted house. During the last fifty years whoever entered it never came out of it alive. Inside the haunted house, there is a bed.

Under the pillow on the bed lies a magic ring. One who would be able to pass a moonless night in the house would find the ring. Whoever wears the ring would live for a hundred years. The night that was coming was to be a moonless night. The prince had decided to try his luck. "In order to get the ring one must climb the hill alone and spend the night in the haunted house all alone. But if you camp here, I shall feel encouraged," the prince told Sumant. "I shall be happy to await you here. I wish you success." Sumant sat down on a rock. The evening was coming upon the forest. The prince began to climb the hill. Sumant sat listening to the chirping of homecoming birds. An hour later Sumant heard footsteps behind him and saw the prince coming back. "What's the matter?" Sumant asked. The prince confessed that halfway up the hill his mind was filled with great fear. He could not proceed. "Dear prince! Remember God and push on. Have courage!" Sumant encouraged him. The prince began climbing again. By then it had grown dark. Jackals howled behind the haunted house and glow worms flitted around it. The prince came back to Sumant again and broke down. "No, my friend, I do not have the courage to spend a night in a haunted house," he said, sighing repeatedly. Sumant consoled the prince and then asked, "Dear prince, will you let me take a chance?" "Who am I to stop you?" said the prince. Sumant climbed the hill. The house on the top was utterly dark, but its doors and windows were open.

The star-studded sky could be seen through the windows. As soon as Sumant entered the house he was greeted by blood-curdling laughter and shrieks. Sumant did not show any sign of fear. When his eyes got accustomed to the darkness, he found out the bedstead and sat down on it. "Young man! Your desire to live a hundred years is going to be the cause of your death tonight!" a nasal voice announced. "I have no desire to live for a hundred years. At the same time I am not going to die tonight unless that is what Providence wills for me," said Sumant. There was silence for a long time. Then, after a sudden peal of laughter, the nasal voice said again, "Are you not afraid of ghosts?" "Why should a living man be afraid of those dead?" said Sumant. There was silence again. Sumant sat meditating. The bedstead rocked violently and blasts of cool wind burst upon him, accompanied by the same terrible laughter. Bats flew crisscross, almost touching his head. But Sumant did not seem to pay heed to anything. Time passed and dawn broke out. The laughter and the blasts ceased totally. Tender light flooded the room. Sumant lifted the pillow and picked up the ring. He sang a prayer and then came out of the house. In a few minutes, he was at the bottom of the hill. The prince lay asleep, leaning against a rock. Sumant stood near him, looking at his sword. He coughed and shook the tree. But the prince's sleep was sound. Sumant waited. Suddenly there was the sound of a crash.

The prince woke up. Both looked up and saw that the haunted house had collapsed. "Here is the ring!" Sumant said, handing the precious possession over to the prince. "My friend, I cannot believe my eyes. Now, tell me, what reward can I give you?" asked the prince and he added, "I don't mind giving you this diamond necklace valued ten thousand gold coins." "I am a scholar. My joy lies in studies and discourses, not in such wealth. Thank you." "How then am I going to pay my debt to you?" asked the prince. "Spend the money you would have given me in helping the poor and the sick," said Sumant and then he started walking. "Where are you going?" asked the prince. "To Vishnupur or Sumangarh, I am not sure," said Sumant and he went away. The vampire paused for a moment and then demanded of King Vikram in a challenging tone, "O King, there are several issues to be resolved. If nobody could come out alive of the haunted house, how is it that Sumant survived the night? Why did he not keep the precious ring to himself? He was on his way to Rohitpur. Why did he change his mind and set out for an unknown destination even after striking a friendship with the Prince of Rohitpur? Answer me, if you can. Should you keep mum despite your knowledge of the answers, your head would roll off your neck." Forthwith replied the king Vikram, "Ghosts cannot harm a man unless the man is afraid of ghosts. Sumant was totally fearless. That is why the ghosts could not harm him. All those who had died in the house must have felt some fear thereby giving the ghosts a chance to do their mischief.

"Sumant did not keep the ring to himself because of several reasons. First of all, he was a believer in destiny. He knew that he will live as long as it was ordained. Living for a hundred years is not a boon by itself. It might mean long-suffering with old age and disease! Thirdly, he knew how much the prince coveted the ring. Had he kept the ring to himself, the prince might have killed him. Of course, the prince was fast asleep and Sumant could have used the sword to finish off the prince. But Sumant was too enlightened to do such a thing! "Sumant decided not to live in Rohitpur because his presence will deprive the prince of his pride. The prince would like to be known as the winner of the ring. He will always fear that Sumant might disclose the truth. Coming to know that Sumant was a scholar the prince could have invited him to remain in the court of Rohitpur. But he wanted Sumant to accept a reward then and there. That means he did not wish Sumant to be known to others in his kingdom. For Sumant Rohitpur or any other kingdom made little difference. So he changed his destination." No sooner did King Vikram conclude his answer than the vampire, along with the corpse, gave him a slip.