Friday, 27 March 2015

Chapter 27: The Forest Path

The commander of Elangai, Kodumbalur Periya Vellar was an experienced warrior and a leader. He enjoyed a close relationship with the royal family as a kinsman and a liege lord. His brother Kodumbalur Siriya Vellar (Vanathi’s father) had died on the battlefield in Elangai along with his army and since then, Periya Vellar had been itching to avenge his brother. Though he was advanced in age, he requested for the command of Elangai army and was allowed to lead the Chola armies along with the Prince. But the battle campaign of Elangai was fraught with hurdles thanks to the meddling of the Pazhuvur Lords who were determined to undermine the Prince’s glory. This had furthered the deep-rooted enmity between these two clans.
Kodumbalur Periya Vellar
When the Kodumbalur soldiers had caught Vandiya Devan with the Pazhuvur emblem ring, they suspected him to be a spy but thankfully Periya Vellar mentioned his capture to the Prime Minister who had learned the truth about our hero’s adventures from Azhwarkadiyan. Therefore Azhwarkadiyan was urgently sent to Periya Vellar to rescue Vandiya Devan from his prison.

Periya Vellar looked long and hard at Vandiya Devan and then addressed him almost kindly, “Thambi! Did my soldiers look after you well? Did you get a good place to stay and ample food to eat?”

“My Lord! Your soldiers were very hospitable. They offered me a good place to stay and then sent in a cat as a night’s meal but before I could begin my feast this fat Vaishnavan came and the angry cat scratched him everywhere and ran off,”

The commander smiled at Vandiya Devan’s wit and said, “This boy is very witty. Thirumalai! Did a cat attack you, truly?”

“My Lord! This boy’s ancestors were not only kings but also poets it seems and that accounts for his imagination though in general he speaks the truth. There was indeed a cat at the place where he was held and it did scratch me everywhere,” said Azhwarkadiyan and showed his hands and feet to the Commander.

“I can’t believe that you allowed a cat to attack you thus. It is a good thing that I am sending you along with a good warrior to find the prince,”

“My Lord! I don’t need a warrior to protect me as long as I carry my staff with me. I forgot to take it with me when I went to meet him,”

“Alright. Before you leave, make ample food to carry along with you. Thambi! We are perpetually running short of food supplies here in Elangai. King Mahindan’s army destroyed many dams and lakes. There is no water here for farming and no farmers either to plant crops. When the people here are starving how can we expect them to feed our army? But we are not getting enough food and supplies from our Kingdom also…”

“My Lord! When I was in Pazhaiarai, I heard the families of our soldiers complaining to Elaya Piratti about this,”

“Good! So they too know about our plight. So what did Elaya Piratti say to that?”

“She said that ‘Commander Periya Vellar will never allow his soldiers to starve.’”

“Aha! I have met many royal princesses in my time, but none can compare to our Elaya Piratti,”

“I beg to differ Commander,”

“You do?”

“Yes Commander. I do think that Princess Vanathi is as gracious as Elaya Piratti too,”

“Thambi! Did you meet my niece in Pazhaiarai?”

“Yes My Lord. How can I not meet Elaya Piratti’s inseparable companion? When I took their leave from the Pazhaiarai Adhurasalai, they both had come to send me off,”

“Thambi! Did Elaya Piratti send me any message about my niece?”

“My Lord! I do not wish to lie to you,”

“Thambi! There is no need to lie to anybody,”

“My Lord! If I were to speak the truth to this Vaishnavan my head will burst into pieces,”

“So there is no message for me, from Elaya Piratti?”

“No My Lord! But I do bear some messages about Princess Vanathi to the Prince,”

Beaming at his response the Commander declared, “I have never met a more clever warrior like you,” and genially embraced him. “Now don’t waste any more time. You can leave immediately,”

Vandiya Devan neared the Commander and whispered, “Ayya! Do I really have to travel along with this Vaishnavan? Can’t I go alone?”

“Why do you object to his escort?”

“I have no objections but it is the dagger that I carry, that seems to be objecting. It thirsts for the Vaishnavan’s blood,”

“If that is so, then you should leave that dagger here with me. You cannot find the Prince without his help. No one knows where the Prince has gone. And he also bears a few messages for the Prince from the Prime Minister. Therefore it is for the best that you both travel together. Please do not fight with each other on the way and waste your time,” said Commander and then whispered again to Vandiya Devan, “Thambi! This Vaishnavan will not hinder your work but do be careful with him because he is very clever and crafty. And I would like to know all about the message that he gives to the Prince,”

Until then, Vandiya Devan was under the impression that Azhwarkadiyan was sent along with him as a ‘spy’ to keep an eye on him but when the Commander asked him to spy on the Vaishnavan, he was pleased.

Vandiya Devan and Azhwarkadiyan set off along with two soldiers that afternoon. For two days, they journeyed towards the eastern direction through small villages. As they progressed, they came upon a forest path that was inaccessible and uninhabited with tall trees and dense foliage. They came upon make lakes that lay dry and ruined damaged by the ravages of war. As they walked by the forest path, Azhwarkadiyan pointed out to him how devastating a war could be for the common people while Vandiya Devan tried to argue with him from a soldier’s point of view. After two days, the direction of their path changed south and they entered the densest forest that they have ever seen.

Conversing about the wild animals that they were likely to encounter here Azhwarkadiyan said that the forests were full of tigers, leopards, wild boar, elephants and jackals. Vandiya Devan was reminded of a dream that he had, a long time ago and asked, “If the Jackal attacks us as a pack, isn’t that dangerous?”

“A lone jackal is more dangerous in these forests. Here the jackal and the leopard hunt together. The leopard will hide while the Jackal spies on the prey and warns his master. That’s why the Jackal is also called as Orri (Because it spies for its master).”

While they were talking they heard the sound of rushing water that made Vandiya Devan wonder whether they had come near the sea, “What is that noise? Where is it coming from?”

“There must be a lake nearby I think. Sometimes herds of elephants would come there to bathe and drink,”

“Herds of elephant! Isn’t that dangerous?”

“An elephant herd will not attack anybody. If we stay still, they will pass us by without any incident,” said Azhwarkadiyan. One of the soldiers who had come along with them got on top of the tree to see the source of the sound. He hurriedly got down and said, “Ayya! Ayya! It is a lone elephant, a mad one. It is stamping the ground and uprooting trees. It is coming this way,”

“Ayyo! What will we do now? How will we escape?” said Azhwarkadiyan and looked around him frantically.

“You said that a herd of elephants will not attack us, then why do you fear a single lone elephants?”

“We have nothing to fear from a herd of elephants but a lone elephant is dangerous. It will possess the brutal strength of thousand elephants. No one can face it alone and live to tell the tale,”

“Three of us here has spears and swords and you have your staff…”

“No spear or staff can stop a mad elephant. Come let us get on top of that cliff and hope that the elephant doesn’t notice us,”

Saying thus, Azhwarkadiyan ran towards the cliff while the others followed him. After running for a while, they were at the end of the ravine where the cliff ended and the elephant seemed to be coming in their direction. With nowhere else to run, they stood at the edge of the cliff hoping that the elephant would turn away but soon enough it was evident that the mad beast was rooting its way towards them. The mad elephant let out a piercing roar when it sighted them and started running towards them. The four of them tried to run in different directions but their options were limited and it looked as if the elephant was trying to catch Azhwarkadiyan who was stuck at the edge of the cliff.
Azhwarkadiyan and the Mad Elephant
Vandiya Devan took his spear in hand and tried to aim but the sheer size of the elephant and its speed astonished him and in the meanwhile Azhwarkadiyan’s actions distracted him. With his staff aloft in hand, he shouted, “Stop. Stop right there. I command you! I will slay you right away. I warn you. Stop right there.”

Friday, 20 March 2015

Chapter 26: The Dagger that Demanded Blood

Though Vandiya Devan was pondering about the sudden presence of the Vaishnavan, he welcomed him jocularly and said,  “Vaishnavare! You will not believe me when I say that I thought about you just a few moments ago. And the next minute, you jumped into my room.”

“My boy! You thought about me did you? But why do you want to think about a mere mortal like me. It would be more useful to you if you had thought of Shri Rama,”

“Vaishnavare! What a coincidence? I did think of Shri Rama at first. When I was coming here, I saw the temple tower of Rameshwaram. That’s where, Shri Rama had worshipped Lord Shiva to cleanse himself of his sins for slaying Ravana,”

“Wait thambi! Wait,”

“I would rather wait sitting down, Swami. My legs are too tired… After I thought of Shri Rama, I was reminded of Lord Hanuman, his messenger who crossed the sea for him and the minute I thought of him, I see you jumping into my room. Did you perchance cross the seas with a single leap like Hanuman?”

Thambi! How can you compare ‘me’ with greatest devotees of all, Shri Hanuman? Hanuman came to Elangai and slew the Rakshaha Prince Akshaya Kumar and scores of other ferocious beings while I can’t get rid of a mere cat. See what that wily cat did to me, “ he said showing his scratched arms and legs.

“Aha! This is very unfortunate indeed. But why did you have to fight with a cat of all things?”

“I didn’t fight with it. The cat attacked me first,”

“How did that happen?”

“I came here searching for you. I hid from the soldiers and got inside this mansion through the window. Alas I stepped on the cat’s tail and it swore vengeance on me. Thambi! One can fight the tiger but definitely not the cat,”

“Swami! I know why the cat attacked you,”


“When the same cat came to my room, it sat by my head and brushed its tail on me very lovingly. The only person that it has attacked is ‘you’ and that’s because the cat is a ‘Veera Saiva’ so obviously it hates Veera Vaishnavars!”

“Oh! Is that so? Now why didn’t I think of that? If I had known this, I would have used my staff to teach this ‘Veera Saiva Cat’ a good lesson,”

“It is a good thing that you have not brought your staff with you. Ever since I have come here, I have felt the blood of Veera Saivars on my veins. My dagger seems to be thirsting for the blood of Vaishnavars. But you once did a big favour for me, hence I am stifling the voice of this sword, for your sake,”

“Is that so? I don’t remember doing any big favour for you,”

“You did. Do you remember, you told me about your sister, Pazhuvur Elaya Rani?”

“Yes, I did,”

“In Kadambur, when the veiled palanquin was coming along, didn’t you show me the lady who was sitting inside it?”

“Yes I did, so what?”

“I saw the same palanquin going near Thanjavur and the palanquin bearers deliberately hit my horse. I sought justice from them and whom did I see inside?”
Nandini's Veiled Palanquin


Nandini Devi
“Who but Pazhuvur Elaya Rani, Nandini Devi,”

“Aha! You are indeed lucky. I tried to meet her on many occasions but was unsuccessful,”

“They say that Goddess of Luck comes on her own, in our lives,”

“What happened afterwards?”

“I mentioned your name and that you have sent her an important message,”

“My boy! I have met many people in my life but I am yet to meet another man who could lie so convincingly,”

“Vaishanavare! My ancestors were patrons of poets and bards. They loved poetry so much so that they have composed many on their own,”

“So what?”

“I have my ancestor’s blood in my veins so that’s why my imagination knows no bounds. But unfortunately people like you have never learned to appreciate it, hence you call it ‘lie’,”

“Good, now what happened next?”

“Nandini Devi heard my tale and then gave me her emblem ring and asked me to come to her palace inside the fort,”

“Did you go then?”

“Of course. I went immediately. I regaled the younger queen of Pazhuvur with many tales of my bravery and she gave me an important task to do,”

“And what would that be?”

“The treasures of Pandya Kingdom, their gem studded crown and the priceless haram that was given to them by God Indira are hidden somewhere here in Elangai. She has tasked me to find them for her. But I didn’t realize that it would be so difficult a task,”
Treasures of Pandya

“I have heard that Periya Pazhuvetarayar’s treasury holds jewels that would weigh more than a thousand donkeys load. Apparently all those jewels are not enough for this Ellaya Rani. What did she promise you, if you complete her task successfully?”

“Nandini Devi has promised me seat of Thanjai’s Fort Commander,”

“Thambi! If you become the Fort Commander of Thanjavur, will you allow me inside the Fort at anytime?”

“And how do you think, I will become the Fort Commander of Thanjavur when I am held captive here?” asked Vandiya Devan sorrowfully.

“Do you know why they have imprisoned you here?”

“I had brought the Pazhuvur emblem ring here, thinking that I could use it. That’s why they have imprisoned me,”

“That was a big mistake Thambi! The Lord Commander of Chola army in Elangai is Kodumbalur Periya Vellar. Didn’t you know about the feud that exists between these two clans?”
Commander Kodumbalur Periya Vellar
“I didn’t know. That’s how I made this mistake and now I don’t know what to do?”

“Thambi! Do not despair. I have come to help you escape from this prison,”


“I had once asked you to aid me but you refused yet I have come here to help you. Come with me, we can leave this place now,”

“Vaishnavare! I think it would be wise for you to leave this place now,”


Bloodthirsty Dagger
“I can hear my sword thirsting for the blood of a Vaishnavan!”

“If that is so, then you should unsheathe it and quench its thirst. I have enough blood in my body to satisfy your sword. Come now,”

“No. I will not come,”


“I want to sleep for a while. I haven’t slept in many days as I travelled day and night by foot to reach here. I had thought that I would spend the entire day sleeping and that’s why I threw that cat away,”

“Thambi! I can’t believe that you are talking thus! Is this how you fulfill the task that Elaya Piratti gave you? Didn’t you promise to her that you will not rest until you have handed this message to ‘Ponniyin Selvar’?” asked Azhwarkadiyan and handed over the olai that Vandiya Devan had brought with him.

Vandiya Devan took the olai with care and kept it safely inside his waist cloth. He had been wondering about Azhwarkadiyan’s motives right from the beginning and had guarded his mouth most carefully lest he gave away some information. His mistrust vanished the minute, Azhwarkadiyan gave him the olai.

“How did you get this Olai?” he asked

“Commander Vikramakesari, gave it to me. He also gave me your Pazhuvur emblem ring. You have his permission to leave whenever you want,”

“Vaishnavare! I thank you most sincerely for this help,”

“Keep your thanks safely inside your heart and I will claim them when the time is right,”

“Ayya! Do you know where the Prince is?

 “No one knows about that. The Prince was last seen heading towards the mountain regions near Anuradhapuram. We will need to find our way through the forest and search for him. The commander has asked me to go along with you as a guide. If you need my help, I would be happy to come along,”

Azhwarkadiyan’s offer seemed suspicious to Vandiya Devan. He said, “Swami! I need to meet the Lord Commander Periya Vellar before we leave,”

“Of course you have to. You can’t possibly leave without giving him information about Princess Vanathi, his niece,” said Azhwarkadiyan.

Vandiya Devan was now convinced that the Vaishnavan must be adept in sorcery to know everything about everything.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Chapter 25: Mathottam

It’s been a long while since we parted with our hero Vandiya Devan. While our days in Thanjavur dragged on, Vandiya Devan had progressed on foot by the sea shore and had reached the banks River Palavi near Mathottam. As he neared Mathottam, he was amazed to see its green visage with swaying tall trees, just as it was described during the times of Sundaramurthy Nayannar and Sambandhar. The coast of Mathottam was rich in greenery with many orchards and fruit bearing trees. Many trees rose to great heights to cover the skies with its many branches while the tittering sounds of birds sounded almost musical.

The fort walls of this city rose high over the sea even as the waves crashed relentlessly over it. The sea port of Mathottam looked busy with many large ships and boats laden with goods waiting to be unloaded. Though these scenes were very similar to what Sundaramurthy Nayannar had described in his poems, not everything was the same. The throngs of devotees on their way to Ketheeswaram temple were missing and instead Chola soldiers patrolled the streets.
Ketheeswaram Temple
The port city of Mathottam had become a garrison for Chola soldiers who came with the Prince. Goods sent from the Chola Kingdom were unloaded here and messengers and soldiers who were sent on errands came here to take a ship home. Ravaged by war, the city was once controlled by Pandiya soldiers and by the Kings of Elangai next but since the reign of Parathaka I the city was in the hands of the Cholas.

When Vandiya Devan arrived here, the fort doors were firmly shut and he informed the guards that he wanted to meet their commander but they refused to allow him inside. He then, attempted to storm down their door with his horse and was arrested for his trouble and was taken to their commander. He explained to the Fort Commander that he had come bearing messages for the Prince and when they searched his belongings, they found the message and along with it, an emblem ring that belonged to the Pazhuvur clan.

The Lord Commander of the Chola forces was Kodumbalur Periya Vellar (Vanathi’s uncle). When the soldiers informed him about Vandiya Devan, he was with Prime Minister Anirudha Brahma Rayar and was travelling to Rameshwaram. Therefore, he ordered the soldiers to imprison Vandiya Devan until he could come back.

So the soldiers took Vandiya Devan to an old dilapidated mansion and imprisoned him inside a room. Our hero was quite happy about being arrested, as it was an opportunity to take rest and recuperate after a long journey on foot. On the first day, he was able to sleep without any interruption but on the second day his well-deserved rest was disturbed. He heard some weird noise from the next room. It seemed as if one man was trying to frighten another with empty threats. “Chi! Chi! Go away from here. If you come near me, I will kill you.” “Be careful! Do not come near me!” “I swear, I will kill you,” “I will kick you to death!”

Vandiya Devan could hear only one voice from the other room so it led him to suspect that his next-door neighbour might be a delusional soldier who has gone mad due to the rigours of the war. What if this man shouts himself hoarse all through the night? How can I sleep with him shouting thus?

“You will not listen to me! You will not leave me alone! Alright then, let me see what you will do now!” shouted the mad man and after a few seconds something fell into the room from the upper window. Vandiya Devan who was trying to sleep got up with a start and would have unsheathed his sword except that he started laughing. The thing that fell from the next room was a cat!

“Oh! You know to laugh as well is it?”

Vandiya Devan was now sure of the fact that the man next door was indeed mad but he also found it strange that his voice seemed familiar to him. After wracking his brains over whose voice it could be, he closed his tired eyes to rest awhile. But there was something soft near his feet, he opened his eyes and saw that the cat had settled down there. He pushed the cat away from him and then tried to sleep, again but soon enough there was something soft near his face as the poor cat tried to cuddle near his neck. He pushed it away yet again and tried to sleep and this time the cat sat near his head and tried to woo him with its tail. Vandiya Devan couldn’t bear it any more. He could easily face a hundred spears and arrows but not the brush of a cat’s tail. He picked up the cat by the skin of the neck and threw him through the window into the next room.

There was a commotion in the next room for a while. The lunatic in the next room was cursing the cat and the cat was mewing fiercely. Soon enough, he heard, “Go! Get lost,” and the faint sound of the cat’s ‘meow’ was heard. Vandiya Devan settled down to sleep again and had a very sweet dream.

Princess Kundavai sat next to him while he slept and was running her hand through his hair. While his sub conscious mind compared the softness of the Princesses’ hand and that of the bushy tail of the cat, he was very sad when the dream ended. He was instantly alert to the fact that he heard some noise that broke his sleep. Listening intently he heard the scratching of nails and grunts from next door and it looked as though the lunatic was trying to climb the wall.
Vandiya Devan
Vanidya Devan pretended to sleep, though his hand was on his dagger. Through half-closed eyes he saw two hands coming through the upper window and then a face! It was a familiar face and our old friend, Azhwarkadiya Nambi!
Azhwarkadiyan Nambi
Why has he come here?  How did he come? How did he know that I am here?
While these questions raced through his mind, he sat up and welcomed the fat Vaishnavan, “O! Vaishnavare! Welcome! Welcome to the holy Shaivaite site Thirukedeeshwarar!”

“My boy! I knew it would be you. Who else but you would sit so silently?” said Azhwarkadiyan hoisting himself through the window. 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Chapter 24: Wax in Flame

Periya Pazhuvetrayar

At first, they heard the screeching wail of the parrot and the gasp of the handmaiden, who was discreetly standing by the garden path. When Kandan Maran saw Periya Pazhuvetrayar striding towards them furiously with a screeching parrot in his hand, he trembled in all limbs. What if he had heard their conversation and the part where he had said that ‘he did not like Pazhuvetrayar’? What if he suspects him of trying to seduce his young wife?

He knew that old men who get married to younger women constantly suffer from doubts and insecurity and thereby making theirs and everybody else’s life miserable. Is that why this old man is very angry? Will he suspect that I have been having untoward thoughts towards his beautiful wife?

All these thoughts came and vanished in Kandan Maran’s mind within a few seconds. But he would witness a very astonishing scene that day. When Pazhuvetarayar neared them, Nandini got up and welcomed him with a beautiful smile saying, “My Lord!  I was afraid that you might be delayed. Thank God you came back early.”
Nandini and Periya Pazhuvetarayar
Periya Pazhuvetarayar just had to hear her voice and see her beautiful smile and he transformed from a furious angry old man into a tame cat! With a slight smile, he said, “Yes. My errand got completed sooner than I thought, so I returned immediately.” And then he looked Kandan Maran and asked, “What is this boy doing here? Has he written a love poem in your honour?” and laughed at his little joke.

Kandan Maran’s face reddened but Nandini laughed harder at her husband’s joke and said, “My Lord, sadly, this boy doesn’t know anything about love or about poems. He knows to fight and get injured. Now that he has healed, he wants to go back home,”

“What do I say about today’s young men? I have seen 24 battles in my lifetime and proudly wear the 64 scars as a token of my bravery but I have never lain in the bed to recover from any of them. But then, I bore my wounds on my chest and shoulders while this boy got stabbed in the back. No wonder!”

Incensed by Pazhuvetarayar’s remark, Kandan Maran said, “Ayya! You are like my father. If somebody else had said this, I would have…”

“Is that so? Show me what would you do if somebody else had said this...” said Pazhuvetarayar and put his hand on his sword.

Nandini interfered and said, “My Lord! This boy is not only got injured in the back but he has also suffered a grievous wound to his heart. His friend’s betrayal has hurt him very much and we should not say anything that would hurt him more. We do know what really happened on the night he got hurt, don’t we, My Lord?”

Pazhuvetarayar understood Nandini’s meaningful look and said, “You are right Nandini. He is just a small boy. I will forget what he just said for his father’s sake. Nandini! I have something very important to tell you. It’s good that he is also here, as it concerns him. In Elangai, at Mandottam, our soldiers have caught a man suspecting him to be a ‘spy’. They found a message for Prince Arul Mozhi Varman on his person and along with that he also had our palm emblem ring. It looks like he might be Kandan Maran’s dear old friend. That boy is very clever, or else he wouldn’t have escaped our soldiers so easily…”

Both the men didn’t notice the slight change in Nandini’s expression.

“What? He escaped is it and that too to Elangai?” cried Kandan Maran with disappointment.

“My Lord! I am not surprised by the fact that his friend escaped. I have said it often enough that your brother is not fit to command this fort. It is small wonder that his soldiers are as inept as their master,”

“When you used to say this, I thought you were wrong but now I think you could be right. Do you know when our soldiers in Elangai questioned this ‘spy’ about our ring, he refused to answer them?”

Nandini sighed and said, “What game is this? How did he get our emblem ring then? What explanation does your brother give?”

“My brother? You will laugh if you hear what he says. He says that this spy could have got our emblem ring from you.” Said Pazhuvetarayar and laughed out aloud.

Nandini laughed along with her husband and said, “I admit, there is none wiser than my brother-in-law in this entire kingdom,”

“Do you know what else he is saying? It truly makes a good story! I can’t but laugh at his assertions! He says that this ‘spy’ met you when you were coming to Thanjavur in your palanquin and that’s when he got our emblem ring from you. He also says that this boy’s friend came to meet you here in the palace on that day when our soldiers were searching for him everywhere. He says that either you should have given him the ring or it could have been the mandiravadi, who comes to meet you. He is saying many such stories to hide his foolishness,” said Periya Pazhuvetarayar and laughed again. But this time, Nandini did not join him in laughter.

“It was wrong of me to have doubted my brother-in-law’s cleverness indeed. He seems to have outdone himself. But I am surprised that you thought fit to listen to all this without defending my honour,” said Nandini her casual expression of good humour had changed within a second to anger.

Pazhuvetarayar immediately stopped laughing and tried to pacify her. The man, who once bore many grave wounds in the service of the King, couldn’t bear the thought of his young wife’s anger!

“Devi, I did not listen to him quietly. I berated him for his foolishness most sternly. If you had been there, you would have felt sorry for him because my words almost reduced him to tears,”

Kandan Maran felt embarrassed and wanted to leave. The scene that he had witnessed made him to pity Periya Pazhuvetarayar more than ever and taught him to be wary of Nandini. He coughed a bit to gain their attention and said, “Ayya!”

Nandini looked at him and said, “We have forgotten this boy amidst the stories that my brother-in-law has been telling. He wants to go home and wants your permission to leave…”

“He can leave immediately. His father is worried about him…”

“I wish to give him a olai. Do I have your permission to do so?”

Olai? To whom?”

“To the Crown Prince in Kanchi.”

Pazhuvetarayar looked at Nandini and Kandan Maran with suspicion and said, “Olai for the Crown Prince? You have written it? Why?”

“Kundavai wrote a olai for her younger brother and sent his friend to Elangai. Then why can’t I write to the older brother and send him to Kanchi?”

“How do you know that the olai that his friend is carrying is written by Kundavai?”

“Then why do you think mandiravadi comes to meet me? I learned this through his sorcery. Now that we know how good my brother-in-law’s soldiers are, we do need his help. They told you that the spy was caught with our emblem ring, My Lord but they didn’t tell you that Kundavai wrote the olai, that he was carrying.”

“I didn’t hear this from my brother’s soldiers. I got this news from our Prime Minister Anirudha Brahmarayar who was in Elangai, a few days ago.”

“Did that wily Brahmin tell you about the Kundavai’s olai?”


“My Lord! I have warned you many times in the past. All these people in the Kingdom are trying to fool you. They withhold important information from you thinking that you lack the wits to find out. Do you realize the truth in my warning now? But I did not believe in Mandiravadi’s words alone. I questioned the Physician’s son from Pazhaiarai whom your brother’s soldiers had captured. He confirmed whatever the mandiravadi had told me. It is true that Kundavai has sent a message with this boy’s friend to elangai.”

Pazhuvetarayar was lost for words. He couldn’t make any sense of what Nandini was telling. Irritated at large, he cast an annoying glance at Kandan Maran. He didn’t want to ask Nandini for explanations in Kandan Maran’s presence. Nandini understood her husband’s annoyance and said, “Let us not delay this boy’s journey anymore,” She then looked at Kandan Maran and said, “Ayya! I request you to hand this olai in person to the Crown Prince. If he writes a reply, please send it to me with a trusted messenger. And do invite the Prince to your palace at Kadambur,”

Confused and perplexed, Kandan Maran looked at Nandini and Periya Pazhuvetarayar and asked, “What do I tell my father? Shall I tell him that this is the wish of the Pazhuvur lord?”

“Yes you can. My wish is my Lord’s wish. Isn’t that so, My Lord?”

“Yes. Yes,” Nodded Pazhuvetarayar. He didn’t understand anything yet he couldn’t ask Nandini for explanations.

After Kandan Maran left on his errand, Nandini looked amorously at her husband and asked, “My Lord! I fear that the faith and trust that you had in me is dwindling day after day. I think my brother-in-law’s wrong counsel is corrupting your mind…”

“Never. Nandini! I might lose my faith in the heavens above but I would never lose my faith in you. I trust your words more than anything in this world,”

“If that is so, then why did you ask me so many questions in that boy’s presence. I felt insulted,” said Nandini with her eyes full of unshed tears.

Periya Pazhuvetarayar felt guilty and tormented. He tried to wipe her tears saying, “My love! Do no, please do not cry…”

After pacifying her, he said, “I can’t understand a few things that you do. Don’t I have the right to ask, why?”

“You have the right to ask me anything and I am beholden to give you my explanations. But please do not ask such questions before strangers and shame me thus. Ask me now, whatever you want to know,”

“Why have you sent a message to Aditya Karikalan? Why have you invited him to Kadambur Palace? Isn’t he our first enemy?”

“No you are wrong. Our first enemy is that snake in Pazhaiarai. I am calling Aditya Karikalan to Kadambur for the same reason why I had invited Kundavai to our palace. My Lord! Do you remember, I used to tell you that Kundavai has a separate plan in her mind for this kingdom? I have found out what that plan is. She wants this kingdom for her younger brother Arul Mozhi Varman after her father’s demise. I will counter her plans with my move. Now do you understand why I have invited Aditya Karikalan to Kadambur?” said Nandini and looked at the old man with earnest eyes.

Though he didn’t understand anything, Pazhuvur Lord nodded and said, “I understand now, Nandini.”

“My Lord! This glorious kingdom was formed due to the brave deeds of your ancestors and our clan. I intend to see you ascend the worthy throne of this kingdom and I will not rest until I have achieved our goal. But if you lose faith in me, do unsheathe that sword of yours and behead me,”

“My love! Please do not talk such words and torment me.”

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Volume 1 - New Flood