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,”

“Why?”

“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

“Who?”

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,”

“Really?”

“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,”

“Why?”

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,”

“Why?”

“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.

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