Thursday, 13 August 2015

Chapter 52: The Broken Ship

When Vandiya Devan saw the sails on fire, he knew assuredly that the ship wouldn’t escape the rage of the sea. His fate too was tied to this ship and therefore he too would give up his life along with it. Despite the realization that he would die soon, the thought didn’t drown him with despair or sorrow. On the contrary, his enthusiasm grew by leaps and bounds. He unbound himself from the ropes that he had tied around himself and laughed out aloud. He was happy that he didn’t have to die burning in the fire that would soon spread through the ship. Death by water was much more preferable.

He didn’t want to waste the precious few moments that were left to live. He wanted to enjoy the terrible beauty of the stormy sea before he left this world. He looked around the sea in the light of the burning sails and tried to guess as to where he would drown precisely. He had heard people say that those who die with unfulfilled wishes and dreams would rise again as ghosts and haunt the place where they gave up their life.

Vandiya Devan wonders whether Kundavai will grieve his death
Will my ghost float through these skies? Will I fly through these waves in a spectral form? Aha! One day, Princess Kundavai might make a journey through here and will the sailors show her this place saying, ‘This is where Vandiya Devan died!’ Will her beautiful eyes shed a few pearls of tears for me? Would I be allowed to wipe her tears then?

Just when his thoughts raced towards death the ship was tossed high on a huge wave that allowed him to see the sea from a great height. Like a moving light, the ship illuminated the entire surroundings and he looked around eagerly to enjoy the last few precious moments of his life. And that’s when he saw it!

He saw a ship and there was a tiger flag hoisted on top of it!

Dear God! Is there no end to your miracles? That ship must surely bear Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar. He must have come searching for me!

Parthibendran’s ship that had come searching for Vandiya Devan too was tossed around by the cyclone’s mad fury but the ship was manned by experienced sailors who have traversed the sea in stormy weather. They brought down the sails from the mast and had tied it securely and held the ropes of the ship together to prevent it from capsizing. The waves played around with the ship tossing it up and down as if it were a toy. When the force of the wind increased the ship would have spun around uncontrollably but the brave sailors of Chola Kingdom prevailed.

“I have seen worse storms and cyclones than this and have brought my crew safely through them, my Prince,” assured the Captain of the ship but he also mentioned yet another danger that might be fatal.

“With the storm raging all around us, it is very dark as it is and the rains have been pouring without any respite. I fear that we might get very close to the ship that we have come searching for and in the darkness the possibility of colliding with it is very high. That ship too must be stuck in this cyclone just as we are and we may not even know that we are close to it until we collide on it. That would be fatally dangerous! Both the ships will be break apart. That’s why, I am not worried about this storm as much as I am worried about this darkness,”

The Prince was aware of this danger, which is why, he was on the upper deck ignoring thunder and rain, looking around with his sharp eyes when lightening struck. His heart was heavy and worried.

Will I ever meet my friend Vandiya Devan again? That courageous man who bore my sister’s message came to me braving so many dangers, what would be his fate, stuck in the hands of the murderous Arab pirates? And if these dangers were not enough, the weather was posing the biggest challenge for the Prince. What if we die here just as the Captain feared, by colliding on the other ship in this darkness? Who would tell my father the new about Oomai Rani?

He had no intention of reveal their family secret to Parthibendran. The Pallava warrior was loyal but his attitude irked the Prince to no end. Until now, the Prince had never faced an outright defeat in any of the mission that he had undertaken. But his heart wondered often, that night, ‘Will I fail in this mission?’

The Prince heard a loud thunder and involuntarily he had to close his eyes and when he opened it again, his eyes followed a light that was newly alight in the sea. At a distance they saw a ship with its sails flapping wildly and the top of he sail was burning and on the deck of the ship was a lone man standing! That must be Vandiya Devan! But why is he standing there alone? Where are the others? But there was no time for any more thoughts. The Prince decided almost immediately as to what he would do now.
Prince Arul Mozhi spots the burning ship
The others in their ship too had seen the other ship now and raised an alarm. The Prince went and stood next to a small boat that was tied to their boat and spoke to the sailors who stood next to it.

“Who among you is prepared to come with me?” When the sailors learned his intention they were understandably shocked but soon many came forward. Parthibendran and the Captain tried to stop the Prince.

“My Prince! What is this? How is it possible to ply a boat in this storm? It would be almost impossible to reach that burning ship to rescue Vallavareyan but still we will make an effort to do that. However you need not go, there are others here, who would do it,”

“Be careful! I will not forgive those who try to stop me now,” said the Prince sternly and lowered the boat into the sea and then turned towards the sailors and said, “I need two of you to come with me,”

The Prince then jumped into the boat along with the two sailors and the boat moved away from their ship. The Prince and the sailors plied their oars with much difficulty and slowly the boat approached the burning ship. By then, the fire that had started at the top of the sails had burned it half way down. Vandiya Devan looked at the approaching boat in the light of the fire but didn’t move towards it. His astonishment rendered him speechless and had robbed him of his mobility. He watched the Prince silently.

“Jump! Jump into the sea now!” shouted the Prince but Vandiya Devan didn’t hear it. He stood still like a statue. The Prince saw that the fire was soon spreading through the ship and if they tarried any longer it would be disastrous for all. Within a second he decided what to do and set things in motion. He tied the rope that they were carrying the boat and asked the sailors to hold it tightly and jumped into the sea. The sea played around with the Prince lifting him high into the air and taking him to the abysses the next second. The Prince swam steadily towards the ship when a huge wave aided him and threw him into the ship. Vandiya Devan ran towards him and lifted him up. The Prince held him tightly and said, “Hold onto me! Don’t let me go!” and they both jumped into the sea. The sailors from the boat put their oars down and were pulling the rope steadily. Prince and Vandiya Devan were soon near the boat and they climbed onto it with great difficulty.

“Ply the oars fast now!” shouted the Prince. The burning ship would soon sink into the sea and the Prince didn’t want to be near it when it happened. When a ship sank, the turbulence of the water would naturally increase and the displacement of water would in turn place the other boats in the vicinity in danger.

The ship soon began to sink and it was unbelievably terrible to watch the scene and yet their eyes were drawn towards it dark beauty! But just as the Prince anticipated huge waves rose again even as the sea ate up the Chola ship sinking it to its depths. With the burning ship gone, they were plunged into darkness yet again and Parthibendran’s ship was nowhere to be found. They could be lost in the sea with no sense of direction or worse they might be even collide with the ship and break their small boat.

Though the storm had passed them by the turbulence of the sea didn’t dissipate soon enough. The cyclone in the meanwhile travelled to Kodi Karai and other coastal cities and towns bringing destruction and loss in its wake.

After surviving the burning ship, the small boat that bore the Prince, Vandiya Devan and the two sailors was floating around. They didn’t ply the oars as they were clueless about their direction but soon they encountered another danger. A sail that was half burned from the drowned ship soon floated in their direction and due to the darkness, they didn’t spot the danger until it was very close to them.

“Ply the oars fast now!” shouted the Prince but before he could finish, the sail mast had hit the boat splitting it into half. The Prince immediately held Vandiya Devan saying, “My friend! Don’t be scared, this sail mast is more secure than this small boat. Hold onto it!”

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Volume 1 - New Flood