This is another story from Vikram and Vetaal. For people who are new to Vikram and Vetaal stories, it is recommended to read the introductory story here.
The Vetaal (who had possessed the corpse) flew back to the banyan tree and hung upside down. “Hooo hooo hooo”, it laughed eerily.
Now, out of experience, Vikram knew he had to deal firmly with the Vetaal since it would easily escape from him. So in the very first instance, he climbed the tree and gripped the corpse tightly and shoved it on to his back, clutching its legs firmly.
He began to walk back to the sorcerer with the Vetaal clinging to his back. The Vetaal started talking again.
“You have managed to capture me again to take me to the sorcerer” said the Vetaal. “But the path is quite long and so I have decided to tell you another story. The story will have a question at the end. I know that you are extremely intelligent and so, if you know the correct answer and yet keep quiet, your head will break into a thousand pieces. On the other hand, if you tell me the correct answer, I will fly back to the tree.”
Vikram had no choice but to agree to this condition, and the Vetaal started the story.
“Once there was a king by name Chandrakant who ruled over a kingdom. He was a very intelligent and impartial king who ruled well. In his reign, all his subjects were happy.
One day, one of his gate-keepers came to him and said, ‘Your Majesty, there will be an attack on our kingdom by some enemies in a few days. It is better if our armed forces are alerted so that they will be prepared.’
The king was surprised, and asked him how he knew this information beforehand, since he was only the gate-keeper and not a spy. The gate-keeper did not give a satisfactory reply.
However, just as the gate-keeper had predicted, in a few days there was an attack on the kingdom by some enemies.
Chandrakant, being an intelligent king, had always kept his army trained and ready and therefore, this attack did not cause them much loss. The enemies were driven away easily by the army of King Chandrakant.
That night, King Chandrakant was wondering how the words of the gate-keeper had come true and mentally decided that he would reward the gate-keeper for his timely information.
So, the next day, he called for him. When the gate-keeper came, King Chandrakant handed to him a bag containing a thousand gold coins as a reward and said, ‘I appreciate your timely information on the attack by the enemies. But tell me now, how did you know this would happen?’
The gate-keeper, in his enthusiasm after having received the gold coins said, ‘Your Majesty! Whatever I see in my dreams when I am asleep comes true. That night, when I was on duty here, I got this dream of the enemies coming and attacking our kingdom. Immediately in the morning I came and informed you’
King Chandrakant thought for a moment and looked at the gatekeeper sternly. ‘Thank you for the information. You are hereby dismissed from service’ he said.
All the people present were shocked on hearing the king’s words. They wondered why the king had given a punishment to one who had done well for the kingdom. No one was bold enough to ask the king.
The gate-keeper also looked stunned for a moment but did not even question the king. He seemed to have understood the reason for his dismissal and said ‘Yes. I deserve this punishment’ and left quietly.”
The Vetaal stopped his story. He asked King Vikram, “Tell me O King, why did King Chandrakant dismiss the gate-keeper from service and why did the gate-keeper accept it? If you know the correct answer and yet keep quiet, your head will break into a thousand pieces. On the other hand, if you tell me the correct answer, I will fly back to the tree.”
King Vikram, without a moment of hesitation replied, “The gate-keeper on duty was supposed to be awake and guard the gates of the palace. If he had dreams at night, it meant he was sleeping and not doing his duty and he also understood that this was the reason for his dismissal.”
The next moment, King Vikram heard an eerie cackle and Vetaal had slipped out of his hold. “Vikram” it said. “I told you that I will go back if you told the right answer! And here I go, hohoho…….”