Arya loved to explore the countryside on horseback with friends but lost his way near the mountain range. The friends who were accompanying him with other provisions could not be seen nearby. On one side ran a turbulent river bordering thick forests. Arya was a handsome, brave, young man. He was concerned more about his friends accompanying him, who got lost. If they had made their way out, he knew they would very well try to find him out by alerting others. But what if they were themselves lost somewhere?
He checked his weapons and bow and arrows. He thought it was not a prudent thing to cross the river so chose to go through the forest. His horse was getting wary of getting into the thick forest for fear of being attacked by the unknown. Arya kept going. The sun was glowing on the top; so he knew it was noon and he would have to cross the forest before sunset when the wild animals could pose a threat.
He could hear some sounds. It sounded like a bear waiting to attack them from nowhere. He checked his weapons again and rode the horse ahead. A few meters left behind, he could now hear the sound of an elephant. His horse got scared and refused to move. He pushed and prodded it.
“Stop where you are and don’t dare to move!” He heard a voice alerting him. It was a female voice. He was surprised to see a young beautiful girl in front of him in no time. The sound of the elephant too got nearer.
Arya got alerted and picked up his bow and arrow. He could see the girl laughing at him.
“If you are so scared, why do you come out hunting over here?” She questioned him.
Arya was about to tell her that he was not a hunter. But her striking beauty kept him mesmerized. What was this beautiful young girl doing alone in this forest? He was feeling protective about her.
He proceeded to move towards her.
“Don’t ever dare to act smart. I am the princess here.” She said.
Arya could not stop laughing. He was amused to see this pretty lone girl warning him in this dense scary forest. Was she not scared to be out here alone?
He was soon taken aback when he was confronted by a huge elephant.
As he took out his bow, he was stopped by the girl.
“Don’t do anything silly! He is Gajendra, my elephant. He won’t harm you as long as you do not dare to hunt any animal over here. This entire forest belongs to us and we are the protectors of all that exists here.” She said.
He was enamored by the confidence of the beautiful young girl.
“OK, I mean no harm. Are you really a princess? It will be my pleasure to meet the king.” He said.
She could notice the sarcasm of his voice.
“Mind your words if you want to get out unscathed from here. You don’t look like a hunter but we don’t like outsiders too if they mean trouble.” She was defensive suddenly.
She signalled at the elephant. It immediately bent down and she climbed over it.
“Follow me. We need to know the reason for you being over here without our permission. You shall not go out of here without our permission.” She commanded.
Arya realized that this girl must belong to some local tribes and was happy that they will help him make his way out. He also thought of taking their help in finding out his friends.
“Are you taking me to your king?” He asked.
She took a bow and shot an arrow which zipped past his ears.
“I hope you stop moking and keep silent.”
Arya kept silent for a while.
She kept talking about the poisonous snakes along the way. She showed him the dense honeycombs and warned him of the bears lurking around. He could notice a few panthers. The birds and the bees seemed to greet her all the way through their music. She strode over the elephant majestically and kept him watching her with awe.
He could now see a few settlements and was delighted. As they were making their way close to the bamboo houses he asked, “Can I know your name?”
“I’m princess, Valli.”
She got down from the Elephant and acknowledged the tribes who greeted him.
He was awestruck by her poise and her control over this forest area. An elderly man greeted him.
As soon as Valli was about to say anything more, the elderly man fell at his feet, much to her surprise. He smiled and held his shoulders. “You are like my father. You should not be doing this.”
The elderly man had tears in his eyes. “Your friends had got lost out and were wandering. Few of our tribal men saw them and brought them here. They told that they had lost their way and told us about you getting lost too. I had already sent some of my men around this forest in search of you. Thankfully my granddaughter, who had gone around playing with her elephant, happened to see you. I hope she treated you well. ”
Arya had a broad smile. “Is she the princess Valli!”
The elderly man asked for his apologies. “Since childhood we have raised her up over here. The tribes over here call her princess and love her antics. She is just a spoilt young girl. Hope you don’t mind her words. ”
Arya smiled, “Where are my friends? We have to make our way out. ”
The elderly man signalled at his men to bring his friends.
“It’s getting dark.” He said. “I hope you stay with your friends and proceed tomorrow. We may not have many amenities over here but would be proud to have you as a guest for the night. “
Valli was watching all this with amusement and turned to her grandfather. “May I know who this man is?”
He laughed. “He is Arya, the son of Emperor Ravi Varma who rules over this entire kingdom, of which our forest is only a small part. We all owe it to the emperor for living so freely and happily.”
Valli apologized and bowed before Arya. Arya smiled and patted on her cheek.
“But you are the real princess.” He winked. “It will be my pleasure if you become a part of the empire.”
Valli blushed. The young man had already lost his heart to her.