Friday, 31 July 2015

Chapter 51: The Storm

The sea and the air was still all around them. The ship stood immobile defeated by the elements of nature and incapable of moving without the winds. Vandiya Devan stood for a while looking at the placid sea silently. In his heart arose great waves of emotion and a germ of an idea!

He lifted both his hands up in the air and shouted, “Ohm! Hreem Hasht!”and then unsheathed his sword with deliberate ferocity and swirled it around twice.
Sea God Demands Blood Sacrifice
“Yes. The Sea God wants a sacrifice indeed. He wants the blood sacrifice of two cowards who would attack those who are asleep. Unless I give this sacrifice he will not allow this ship to move forward. Come now! Show me your head, let me remove it from your worthless self,”

Ravidasan looked at Vandiya Devan surprised at first and then laughed out aloud saying, “Thambi! What is this game?”

“So you think this is a game? When I was in the lower deck tied and bound to those logs, I had a dream. I saw a spectre that rose above the sea to touch the skies. It spoke to me but I didn’t understand what it said then. Now I do. It demanded that I sacrifice two Kali devotees. That would be you and your friend here. Once I offer your blood to the Sea God, this ship will move. The Sea God’s thirst for blood was not quenched with the blood of those Arab fiends. Come now, let me sacrifice you,” he said swirling the long sword again over his head.

Thambi! I have never seen anyone so well versed in spinning tales,”

“Oh! I am spinning tales now, am I? Then I will let the Sea God give you his answer now,” said Vandiya Devan shouting and it seemed as though the God of Seas had heard him and he responded too!

Yes. The sea that had been placid and petrified since that morning came back to life quite suddenly. The water seemed to shudder suddenly as the temperature dropped quite dramatically and the burning sun was soon clouded with dark rain clouds that threatened to rain. In the sea, small waves rose up almost simultaneously everywhere and its distinct white foam seemed like budding flowers!

Mandiravadi Ravidasan
It was an astonishing sight and what more the Sea God also released the winds that he had bound so long. A slight breeze touched the ship rocking it up and down. Mandirvadi and Devarallan laughed out aloud.

“Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Thambi! The Sea God has answered your plea. We offer ourselves to the blood sacrifice that he demanded,”

Vandiya Devan was astounded by the sudden change that had come over the weather. The waves that suddenly rose had gone down and the wind was still again. He wondered whether he imagined it all. He even started wondering whether Mandiravadi had truly worked out a spell on the sea! That thought had a sobering effect on him.

No! This Mandiravadi is a fraudster and I should not fall into his trap!

Next instant he looked at them and said, “Then why do you hesitate? Come forward, let me sacrifice you now!”

“We wish to pray to the Divine Mother Kali before we are sacrificed. Give us half hour of respite,”

“Alright. Do your prayers and come to me. Do not try to trick me with your magic spells,”

“We will be back soon. We will leave our weapons here!” said Ravidasan and they threw their weapons down and left him there alone and went to the opposite end of the ship. Vandiya Devan needed that half hour respite more than the Mandiravadi did. He needed that time to understand what was happening around him. He looked at the sea for answers. He wanted to kill those scheming murderers with a single slash of his sword but the sea’s resounding answer to his call had astounded him, rendering his sword arm weak.

He looked towards the southwest direction yet again. The rain clouds that were earlier small had grown big enough to cover the entire space of the sky until the horizon. A cool breeze started blowing through the ship and the sea came alive all around him. Small waves started rising up all around him rocking the ship gently. Soon enough the breeze became a wind and with every passing second it became strong enough to steer the ship right into the eye of the storm.

Suddenly there was a splash in the sea as if something was thrown in. Vandiya Devan turned around and saw that Ravidasan and Devaralan were missing! He made his way to the opposite end of the ship and what he saw astounded him. Ravidasan and Devaralan had lowered a small boat and had jumped into it leaving him alone in the ship. Vandiya Devan expected them to scheme their way through their ship journey but he didn’t think that they would abandon him in the ship.
Mandiravadi and Devaralan escapes
Ravidasan gave his smug signature laughter and said, “Thambi! We don’t wish to sacrifice ourselves,”

Vandiya Devan who understood the situation berated himself for underestimating Mandiravadi. He also realized his own dangerous situation. He knew nothing about traveling in the sea, leave alone navigating a big ship alone through a storm. He was clueless about where they were in the sea and in what direction they were going and the danger was only compounded by the fact that those two scoundrels were leaving him alone in the ship.

“You sinners! Can’t you take me with you?”

Thambi! The Sea God needs at least one sacrifice today,” said Ravidasan and soon he and his companion were plying the oars steadily and pulling away from the ship.

He thought of jumping into the sea to try and catch the boat but rejected the idea almost immediately for various reasons. He didn’t know how to swim properly yet and if he reached the boat, what is to stop those scoundrels from murdering him? After rejecting their offer to join their gang, they have more reasons to kill him than to keep him alive. They could turn those oars on him and it would be impossible to try to be afloat while trying to fend them off.

Let them go! It is better to be alone in a big ship rather than suffer their company in a small boat. I have escaped from many dangers with the help of God’s grace. I will escape this too unscathed!

He also wondered if it was right on his part to let them escape alive. God knows what these murderers have planned and what they might accomplish once they reach the shores.

God will see to them surely, what else can I do here? If only I could go back to Prince Arul Mozhi! He shouldn’t have abandoned me in the forest that day. Along with Poonguzhali if he had only signalled me to get on that elephant I wouldn’t have jumped into the sea to catch this ship so foolishly. If ever I meet him again, I will fight with him saying, “Is this how you repay someone’s gratitude? Is this how you treat your friend?” But will I ever meet him again? But why not? Commander and Azhwarkadiyan saw me and must have told the Prince about my predicament.

Even as he stood thinking thus, the boat had gone very far and soon would vanish from his line of sight. How did the boat move so fast? And that’s when he noticed that the ship too was moving. The sea was becoming choppier and soon it began to toss the ship around. Soon he noticed that everything was becoming dark. How is this possible? How could it become dark in the middle of the afternoon?

He saw in the South Western direction again and found that storm clouds had clouded the sun completely! The clouds kept rolling in the sky as Vandiya Devan watched the sight fascinated by its wild beauty. Soon the sky was filled with dark clouds with nary a ray of light from the sun. The wind too had picked up pace and was blowing steadily with a ‘shoo’ sound.

The waves were no longer small and had started tossing the ship around while its sails flapped wildly around. So this is the cyclone that Poonguzhali spoke about all those days ago. He had heard from someone that when a storm blows, the sails need to be brought down. But bringing down the sails of a warship is no mean task. It required the muscles and tensile strength of ten men and what would he do alone? Let God take care of this ship.

But his innermost heart whispered the truth out aloud. The ship would be tossed around for a while in the sea and then it would sink. Before it sank, it would probably break and along with it, he too would drown.

I would soon die in the sea! If only I could meet that Kudanthai Jodhidhar again, I will show him the consequences of lying. What’s astrology then? Just a bundle of lies! If only I could meet him again… What is this madness? Where am I going to see him again?

Suddenly something hard fell on Vandiya Devan’s shoulder and a hail storm was unleashed. Frozen water fell all over the ship. Vandiya Devan who had never seen them in his life touched and held one in his hands with wonderment. He was happy to experience it before he could breathe his last. He sat down in the deck and touched the ice rocks and watched them melt away back into the sea.

The hail storm stopped as abruptly as it began and then normal rain started. As he sat there, he noticed something that he didn’t know. Even when huge waves rose and tossed the ship around, the water never stayed inside the ship. This also meant that the ship was built to withstand huge waves and this realization gave him some hope. He immediately got up and went down to the lower deck and closed the door of the store room where he was locked up. He decided to lock himself in the room again when the rain and the storm above became unbearable and the rest is up to the Gods. He also felt gleeful about the fact that Mandiravadi and his friend had left a ship like this and had opted to escape in a small boat. But that boat was carefully constructed just as the ship. Even if the storm broke it apart they could escape with their life by just clutching the wooden log that was built with it. They might escape this storm and go ashore to Kodi Karai. From Kodi Karai his thoughts sprang towards Pazhaiarai.

How would Prince Kundavai learn about my fate? Who would tell her that I lost my life trying to fulfil her commands? Will these waters tell her about it? Will this wind whisper it in her ears? Why didn’t I lose my life before I met her? Why didn’t the Gods bless me with a beautiful brave death? Why did they show me the path to the heavens only to cast me down to the depth of the hell?

The wind blew across strongly, its speed picking up with every passing second. The sails of the ship flapped around madly, just as one would expect in a ghostly ship. The sky lighted up with a lightening from one end to another casting a ghostly light around the sea and a thunder was heard piercing his ears.

Vandiya Devan had seen many storms, lightening and thunders but none of that could match his present experience. As the Gods unleashed thunder and lightening one after another, Vandiya Devan soon began to wonder why the skies haven’t split yet.

The sea threw up one gigantic wave after another. Mountains of waves took the ship almost up the heavens in one instant and then plunged it deep into an abyss the next. Caught in the maelstrom of winds, the ship with its sails spread out spun round and round.

Vandiya Devan soon began to wonder how long would the ship endure the storm. As time passed his enthusiasm and joy grew. He was convinced that his death would be beautiful indeed and before he died he was determined to enjoy the nature’s work at play. As the waves lashed out at the ship, he laughed out aloud. He tied himself to the mast of the ship and spun with the sails. He lost track of time. He could have spun for a few seconds or hours, he didn’t know. He had attained a consciousness that people reach just before they see death marching upon them.
Vandiya Devan on the Ship
The speed of the wind lessened with time and the torrent of rains stopped. The thunder and the lightening too had stopped and black dark sea danced a wild dance.

Vandiya Devan had closed his eyes tight unable to bear the glare of the lightening and had shut his ears fearing that he might go deaf thanks to thunder. He opened his eyes and removed his hands from the ears to see around.

Aha! Did I indeed escape from this storm? Has the storm passed us? Did the God save my life? Will I see the Princess again? Will I meet the Prince again? It is too early to thank the Gods now. I am still not safe. Who knows where this ship right now and God knows how many more dangers are out there waiting for me.

Even as he thought this, God seemed to answer his question with a lightening so potent that Vandiya Devan felt as if he saw over a thousand suns gleaming in front of him. One can see even in the dark once the eyes got adjusted but in this extreme light, nothing can be seen. Soon he had to shut his ears too as the thunder that reverberated through the sea was the loudest that he had ever heard that day. If Lord Indra had unleashed his Vajrayudham it might probably make the same sound.

For a while, Vandiya Devn couldn’t open his eyes, but soon he sensed a light from above and looked up to see the sails on fire. He understood why the thunder had been so loud. The lightening had struck the ship! Of the five elements of nature, two elements water and wind had repeatedly struck the ship and had failed. What Varuna and Vayu failed to achieve would soon be fulfilled by Agni!

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Volume 1 - New Flood