Sunday, 19 July 2015

Chapter 48: A Ship Hunt

When they cremated the slain bodies of the sailors and their brave captain, the Prince allowed his tears to flow unchecked and the Commander said, “Ayya! Why are you crying for these traitors? God has given them a just punishment for wanting to arrest you,”

“Senathipathy! They were not traitors and they have earned a place in the heavens. I am crying because the Chola Kingdom is in the brink of destruction,”

“We have been at the brink of destruction right from the time Pazhuvur lords took command in Thanjavur,”

“Sailors defying their captain’s command is but a small ripple in this ocean. If this continues soldiers all over our kingdom will mutiny and the people will suffer its consequences. The very foundation of our kingdom will shake and the Cholas will be laid to waste. It pains me beyond anything that it is ‘I’ who brought this fate to our Kingdom. They say that when Duryodhana was born, wolves and jackals howled for a whole day. I am sure they would have howled in the same manner on the day of my birth too,”

“Ayya! Do you know how many auspicious signs were sighted on the day you were born? The astrologers who cast your horoscope…”

“Enough! I have heard enough about my horoscope. Senathipathy! It is time that we part. I have one request though. The soldiers who mutinied and left the ship will come to you to surrender. I want you to imprison them and send them to Thanjavur to stand trial,”

“My Prince! We can’t decide that with just what the Kalapathy said. We haven’t heard the sailor’s side of the story. How can we pass judgement without hearing both sides? Come with me now and when those sailors come we can…”

“That’s not possible Senathipathy! I will leave you to settle that matter. I can’t wait here for one more second, I need to go. Where is the boatman?”

“Where do you need to go Prince? Why do you need the boatman?"

“How can you ask me this question? I need the boatman to go after the ship that is carrying Vandiya Devan. That brave man boarded that ship thinking that I am aboard and has become the prisoner of the Arab pirates. How can I leave him to his fate? How can I betray my friend?”
Vandiya Devan aboard Pirates Ship

“Ayya! No one will believe that you would betray a friend. Vandiya Devan is a reckless man and lacks the ability to think before acting. Those pirates captured him because he didn’t stop to think before leaping into the water. How could you hold yourself responsible for this? And moreover how can he be your friend? I don’t like the sound of it. He was sent here to serve you. Friendship can happen only among those who are in the same status as yours,”

 “Senathipathy! I don’t want to stand here and argue with you about this. That would be wasting precious time. I can’t give up on Vandiya Devan. Even if I agree to your surmise that he is not my friend, we Cholas are celebrated as people who never forget a favour done to them. Vandiya Devan braved many dangers to bring a message from my sister. I owe him. I want to leave right away,”

“Where will leave and how will you search?”

“I will take the boat that you came in,”

“That would be like trying to hunt a tiger with the help of a rabbit. How can you search for a ship that is cruising the deep sea with a small boat? Even if you catch the ship, what will you do?”

“I will take this boat. If this boat sinks, I will swim the seas until I find that ship. I will not rest until I find and rescue him. Where is the boatman?”

After speaking thus, the Prince looked around to search for the boatman and he found him next to Poonguzhali and the Oomai Rani. He went near them and heard Poonguzhali chastising the boatman severely.

“Poonguzhali! What is this?”

The boatman suddenly fell on the Prince’s feet saying, “My Prince! I am a traitor but I didn’t do it wilfully. I didn’t realize I was betraying you. Please forgive me,”

“Poonguzhali! What is happening here?”

“Prince! I was silent for so long because I was ashamed to speak to you. This man is my brother. It was he who brought those traitors who wished to kill you from Kodikarai. He has been waiting here because they promised him a bag of gold and that’s why he took them back to that ship,”

“Prabhu! I didn’t know that they came here to kill you. Please forgive you. If I had known about it I would have refused my service to them. Please kill me for treason,”

“Your life is very precious to me now. Come let us leave. Take me to that ship and I will forgive your past deeds of treason,”

The Prince and the boatman walked towards the coast where the boatman’s boat was there. “We can still see that ship. I should be easy to follow it,”

The commander who had followed them there squinted his eyes and said, “What a wonderful coincidence?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“My Prince! That is not the Pirates ship that you are seeing now. That is Parthibendra Pallavan’s ship. He is coming here from Trikona malai,”

“That’s very good. Then I can hunt that tiger with the help of a lion. But I am not going to wait until the ship nears us. I will take this boat to board the ship,”

“My Prince! I would like to come with you on the boat…”

“Ayya! I don’t want anyone to come with me. Thirumalai! Didn’t you say that you were afraid of water?”

“Yes ayya!  The Prime Minster bid me to take care of you until you were in Elangai. Now that you are leaving, I will hasten to Madurai and inform my master about all that has happened here,”

“Good. Poonguzhali! We will part here. Do not worry about your brother, I will take care of him. Find your boat and go back home. I will never forget your help… What is this? Wipe your tears! What will people think?”

Saying thus, the Prince went near Oomai Rani and fell on her feet. She raised the Prince to his feet and kissed his forehead lovingly. The next second the Prince got into the boat and the boatman Murugayyan plied the oars. The rest stood at the shore watching the Prince on the boat. The Prince turned to look at them. Though he looked at everybody, he found that he could see Poonguzhali’s tear streaked face more clearly than ever, as he left the shore. The Prince remembered his dream and Kundavai’s plea, “Thambi! Don’t forget that Vanathi is waiting here for you,” The Prince then turned his eyes away from the shore and looked at the ship.

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Volume 1 - New Flood