Vikram And The Vampire – 3
In the venerable city of Bardwan, O warrior king! (quoth the Vampire) during the reign of the mighty Rupsen, flourished one Rajeshwar, a Rajput warrior of distinguished fame. By his valour and conduct he had risen from the lowest ranks of the army to command it as its captain. And arrived at that dignity, he did not put a stop to all improvements, like other chiefs, who rejoice to rest and return thanks. On the contrary, he became such a reformer that, to some extent, he remodelled the art of war.
Instead of attending to rules and regulations, drawn up in their studies by pandits and Brahmans, he consulted chiefly his own experience and judgment. He threw aside the systematic plans of campaigns laid down in the Shastras or books of the ancients, and he acted upon the spur of the moment. He displayed a skill in the choice of ground, in the use of light troops, and in securing his own supplies whilst he cut off those of the enemy, which Kartikaya himself, God of War, might have envied. Finding that the bows of his troops were clumsy and slow to use, he had them all changed before compelled so to do by defeat; he also gave his attention to the sword handles, which cramped the men’s grasp but which having been used for eighteen hundred years were considered perfect weapons. And having organized a special corps of warriors using fire arrows, he soon brought it to such perfection that, by using it against the elephants of his enemies, he gained many a campaign. One instance of his superior judgment I am about to quote to thee, O Vikram, after which I return to my tale; for thou art truly a warrior king, very likely to imitate the innovations of the great general Rajeshwar. (A grunt from the monarch was the result of the Vampire’s sneer.) He found his master’s armies recruited from Northern Hindustan, and officered by Kshatriya warriors, who grew great only because they grew old and – fat.
Thus the energy and talent of the younger men was wasted in troubles and disorders; whilst the seniors were often so ancient that they could not mount their chargers unaided, nor, when they were mounted, could they see anything a dozen yards before them. But they had served in a certain obsolete campaign, and until Rajeshwar gave them pensions and dismissals, they claimed a right to take first part in all campaigns present and future. The commander-in-chief refused to use any captain who could not stand steady on his legs, or endure the sun for a whole day. When a soldier distinguished himself in action, he raised him to the powers and privileges of the warrior caste. And whereas it had been the habit to lavish circles and bars of silver and other metals upon all those who had joined in the war, whether they had sat behind a heap of sand or had been foremost to attack the foe, he broke through the pernicious custom, and he rendered the honour valuable by conferring it only upon the deserving. I need hardly say that, in an inordinately short space of time, his army beat every king and general that opposed it.
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