Vikram was the king. Betaal was the Vedalam, the ghost and the storyteller. King Vikram must give the correct answer. If not, the king's head would explode into 100 pieces. If he gave the correct answer, the ghost will fly off his shoulder to its refuge the moringa tree, thereby frustrating Vikram to take Batal to its destination.
Vedalam is the analogue of west's Vampire. (Betall-Badal-Bedal-Betal-Vedalam-Vetalam = the ghost)
Here is a detailed story.
King Vikram held court and received gifts from the visitors. A mendicant gave him a fruit on every visit, which the king handed over to the royal storekeeper. One day, the fruit broke while being handled and a ruby came out. The king ordered all the fruits to be examined. All the stored fruits yielded rubies.
The king wanted to meet the mendicant, who proposed to meet him under a banyan tree in the center of the cremation ground on the outskirts of the city on the 14th day of the dark half of the month. The king met him under the tree. The mendicant asked the king to go to the northernmost corner of the grounds, locate a moringa tree there, bring down a corpse (Badal) hanging from a tree branch, and bring it to the mendicant. The mendicant wanted to sit on Bedal and perform certain rites.
En route, Batal would tell a story, and at the end, pose a question to the king. If the king knew the answer, he should answer, or else Vedala (Badal) would break the king's head. If the king spoke and broke the silence, Batal would fly back to the tree. This happened 25 times (thus 25 stories). The king was supposed to deliver Batal to the mendicant according to the agreement.
Batal revealed to the king that the mendicant intended to kill him in order to gain all the power in the world. The king went to the mendicant, who tried to kill the king but ended up being killed by the king instead.
Undaunted in his efforts, King Vikraman brought down the Vedalam and carried it to the funeral grounds. The Vedalam spoke, "King! It appears that your extraordinary efforts are not for any ordinary purpose. For some greater objective, you seem to do it. Some expend their energy for inconsequential reasons. Hear me tell a story on wasted efforts by King Ravivarman."
Ravivarman was the king of the Vidarbha kingdom, always fascinated with wondrous matters. He ceded the responsibility of rulership to his ministers and directed his attention and time to new happenings. Once in a while, he assembled his ministers and enquired about the affairs of the kingdom. He was satisfied with the pronouncements of the ministers when they said that the state of affairs was running smoothly, and the subjects were happy.
Once he listened to a story from the Mahabharata about Mayan's wondrous palatial house. Ravivarman called his first minister to convene an assembly on the full moon day and award prizes to subjects who narrated extraordinary events.
On the appointed day, the king took his seat on the throne. The first narrator was a farmer who showed a box that he had found a few years ago while ploughing his field. He found a rock upon opening the box. Opening the box resulted in the bright sunny day turning into a dark day, and closing the box resulted in the dark day becoming a sunny bright day. The farmer gave the box to the king. King Ravivarman opened the box, and the day turned into night. When the king closed the box, the night disappeared. The king congratulated and praised Gopi, the farmer, and gifted him 1000 gold coins.
The next person was Ratnakaran, the businessman. He paid homage to the king and said, "I saw a wonderful sight in the night sky when I took a walk in my garden. A winged horse was carrying the celestial Gandharva couple on its back. A flower fell off the woman's head. The flower filled the whole garden with its fragrance. I took it to the prayer room and left it there. The astonishing thing about the flower is that it never faded since its fall to the ground." So saying, he gave the ivory box to the king. Ravivarman opened the box, and the fragrance filled the assembly hall. The king declared, "It is the Gandharva flower. This is an unbelievable truth." So saying, the king gave Ratnakar a pearl necklace.
The next person was Gopal Sharma, a pundit. He said to the king, "I have an exceptional coin with me. Upon touching it, old memories come into the fore." He gave the coin to the king, who, upon touching the coin, experienced past events that came into his current memory. The king gave Pundit Sharma a gold necklace.
Soon, a majestic-looking youth came before the king and announced, "Dear king, I arrived at the assembly hall through the main entrance. Do you know by which entrance I came in here?" Ravivarman enquired, "By what entrance did you come in?" The young man declared, "I came here through the Bribery Entrance."
The shocked king exclaimed, "The Bribery Entrance?"
The youth replied, "Every recipient of your prizes bribed the guards ten gold coins at the main entrance before they entered the Darbar. I too gave the bribe before permission to enter was given. That being so, what is wrong in calling the main entrance a Bribery Entrance?"
The king jumped out of his throne and roared, "What? The guards are on the take. I can't believe it."
The youth responded, "Maharajah, you said you can't believe it. Yes, it is an unbelievable truth. All the delegated officers of the kingdom loot the treasury and the tax collections. You don't know any of this. I came here to expose this unbelievable truth and do not have an intent to receive a gift from you."
After the youth's roar subsided, it took a few minutes for the king to recover from the shock. The ministers and the officers were crestfallen. The king descended from the throne, approached Sivadass, the youth, applied his own diamond necklace to the youth's neck, and said, "What you said now was the most unbelievable truth thus far revealed." The king added, "I am appointing you as my primary consultant."
Soon after that moment, Vedalam interrupted the story being told by King Vikraman. Vedalam said, "O king! What do you think of the act of King Ravivarman? He announced to reward all those who demonstrated wondrous things with proof. Gopi's rock, Ratnakar's Gandharva flower, and Sharma's coin are all unbelievable and wondrous objects. But what is the unbelievable and wondrous element in Sivadass's statement of truth, while the king rewarded him with the diamond necklace and appointed him as his primary consultant? If you know the answer to my question but remain silent, your head will explode into 100 pieces."
Vikraman said, "There is no doubt that what the first three showed was unbelievable and wondrous. But the truth revealed by Sivadass opened the eyes of the king, who was completely ignorant of what was happening in his kingdom. The revelation of Sivadass benefited the country and the people, which was not the case with the first three claimers. Sivadass was courageous to come forward to reveal the unbelievable truth. King Ravivarman regarded the youth’s revelation as the greatest truth revealed in the assembly, and the king suitably rewarded him with a high position and prize.
Because of Vikraman's right answer and the end of silence, the burdensome Vedalam left Vikraman's shoulder and flew back to the murunga tree.