|Volume 3 - The Sword|
The storm that started in Elangai crossed the sea and made its way through the coastal cities of Chola Kingdom leaving behind destruction and death in its wake. From Kodikarai to Kaveri Pattinam, the cyclone rendered many homeless, uprooted trees and destroyed many a property. The backwaters of Kodi Karai were flooded and the quick sands became more deadly and dangerous, capable of swallowing large elephants.
Two day after the storm, Periya Pazhuvetarayar and his entourage came to Kodi Karai. A veiled palanquin followed the entourage but this time, Nandini had travelled in it. There was no reason to take Prince Madhuranthakan with them and it is also important that Nandini travelled with him some times. It might be necessary to take Madhuranthakan again in the same veiled palanquin and if Nandini were to travel genuinely with her husband on some trips, no one would suspect otherwise. This was one of Nandini’s arguments to her husband and Pazhuvetarayar accepted her suggestion gleefully anticipating a romantic trip along with his beautiful wife.
Just before the storm struck Kodi Karai they were in Nagapattinam for a day where Pazhuvetarayar met people on affairs of the Kingdom. Nagapattinam in those days was one of the busy ports of Cholas and was a trade route for many merchant ships. Ships laden with goods would often anchor in the sea port and boats would ply their way to them to unload and ferry them back to the mainland. Trade Merchants and officers of the guild would be at hand to levy taxes on the goods that are brought by the ships and the merchant ships would trade for items that they wish to take back to their Kingdom. There were many royal officials at the Port to conduct this business and as the treasurer of Chola Kingdom, it was his duty to oversee their records.
After meeting the guild of merchants, Pazhuvetarayar headed to Chudamani Viharam (Buddhist Monastery). The bikshus graciously invited him in their midst and accorded him the courtesy due to his status.
A few days ago, two Buddha Bikshus from this Viharam visited Thanjavur and requested permission to meet the King. The Pazhuvur Lord allowed them to meet the King and they blessed him with good health and showered praises about his benevolence towards them. They also had many good things to praise about Ponniyin Selvar who was helping the Buddha Sangams in Elangai by renovating their monasteries and temples. They also had another important information about the happening in Elangai.
“Chakravarthy! We are happy to inform you that Buddha Sangams in Elangai are so delighted with the Prince’s benevolence that they have decided to offer the crown of Elangai to him. This news has not only made us proud but also very happy! There is no higher praise for this Chola Kingdom than this!”
Periya Pazhuvetarayar who was present there had an unusual idea that he voiced to Sundara Chola after the Bikshus left.
“My Lord! While there is no doubt that you rule over this realm, your sons rarely listen to you and nor do they respect your wishes. The reason for this is the ill advice given to them by certain people who have coveted important positions in our royal court. Prince Aditya Karikalan refuses to come to Thanjavur and is instead asking you to travel to Kanchipuram. He is being taught by your noble father-in-law Malaimaan to disrespect your wishes. Similarly I have sent enough messengers across the sea asking Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar to come but in vain. These messengers find it difficult to meet the Prince, thanks to Commander Kodumbalur Vellar schemes. If Prince Arul Mozhi knew that you wished to see him, he would immediately set out from Elangai, I am sure of it. I have an idea to make this come about and if the King commands, I will tell it here,”
When the Chakravarthy asked him to explain the idea, he said, “Let us send a war ship with the Chakravarthy’s royal commands to imprison the Prince on charges of trying to usurp the throne of Elangai. Kodumbalur Vellar cannot ignore a direct command from the Chakravarthy and our men will have to meet the Prince directly to hand the Olai. The Prince will never disrespect your commands, he will immediately come back,”
When Sundara Cholar heard this, he smiled. It was a strange idea and by all accounts it might even work. The Chakravarthy wanted to see Arul Mozhi as soon as possible because he had realized that he wouldn’t be alive for much longer. He wanted to speak to Arul Mozhi about the giving up the throne of Cholas to Prince Maduranthakan and he hoped that the Prince would be able to speak to his brother and change his mind.
Thinking thus, Sundara Cholar acceded to the Dhanadhikari’s idea of sending warships to Elangai to imprison the Prince. Periya Pazhuvetarayar arranged for the warships and sent his own soldiers in the vessels that would journey to Elangai. The Captain of the ships had strict instructions not to cause any bodily harm to the Prince and to treat him with utmost respect.
After the ships departed to Elangai, Periya Pazhuvetarayar got a little worried. He was concerned about his own reputation and if something were to happen to the Prince while on his journey he would be blamed for the same. He therefore decided to go to Nagapattinam to welcome and receive the Prince and bring him back to Thanjavur under his protection.
There were few other reasons for this decision. He didn’t want the Prince to meet Sembiyanmadevi or Princess Kundavai before he spoke to the Chakravarthy. Both the women had a lot of influence with the Prince and they hated the Pazhuvur brothers. They might say something to the Prince and change his mind. He didn’t want anything untoward to upset his plans and wanted to implement them carefully until the right time, which in other words meant, until the King’s death.
Periya Pazhuvetarayar had many other worries too. The soldier who manned the treasury and the dungeon was found dead and it had given rise to many suspicions in his mind. Was someone hiding in the treasury? Could it be that spy from Karikalan, whom his brother had foolishly lost sight of? If that were so, then he would have learned many other secrets!
Could Nandini be involved in this? His brother had warned him about the mandiravadi who came to meet his wife. Could he be a spy too? He decided that he needed to find more about the mandiravadi before anything untoward happened. When he learned that Princess Kundavai had sent Vandiya Devan to Elangai with a message for her brother, he was more than worried. What message did she send to her brother? Did she warn him about the conspiracy that he and his allies had mounted on her older brother?
Be that as it may, he had decided that once the Prince reached the shores of Chola Kingdom, he would be taken into his custody and protection. He had also asked the Captain of the warships to imprison Vandiya Devan too if he was found with the Prince. He wished to interrogate him personally and find out what he knew.
Thinking thus, Dhanadigari had travelled to Nagapattinam to wait the Prince’s arrival. Nandini had more reasons than her husband to travel to Nagapattinam. She was eager to meet Vandiya Devan and to know what message Kundavai had sent along with him to the Prince. She also wanted to know how far Mandiravadi’s mission in Elangai was successful. Hence she insisted that she too would travel along with Pazhuvetarayar. The Pazhuvur Lord agreed to take her along without much argument. He wanted to go on a romantic trip by the boat along with his beautiful wife and had hoped that this might quench his heart’s thirst to some extent but sadly it didn’t come to pass.
While they were in Nagapattinam the cyclonic storm hit the city and it was quite impossible to go anywhere on the boat. However Nandini enjoyed the high winds and huge waves that rose up in the sea from the safe confines of her palace balcony, while her husband brooded about his crushed dreams.
After the storm passed them by, Pazhuvetarayar was busy with the city officials to check the damages that have been caused. The destruction to property and life was minimal within the city since they had largely anticipated the storm. However he heard many disturbing rumours from ships and boats that returned from the sea. He heard that in the middle of the sea, two ships were sighted in the storm and that one of them was burning and it caused him immense worry.
What if this was one of the ships that he had sent? What if the Prince was in one of these ships? If some mishap were to befall on the Prince, he and his clan would be blamed for it. The Prince was popular among the people and they would never forgive him if he were responsible for any untoward incident that happened to him. Desperate for more news, he decided to travel to Kodi Karai. There might be fishermen who probably saw those ships and they might be able to tell him what happened.
When he told Nandini about his decision she immediately acceded and agreed to his plan. “I have never seen Kodi Karai. I have heard that it is very beautiful. I wish to see it along with you,”
There were two ways to reach Kodi Karai, through the canals that lead them to the backwaters or through the roads. Since their entourage was large, they decided to go by the road. Moreover Nandini didn’t want to travel by boat since she feared that it might encourage Pazhuvetarayar’s romantic overtures. She also told him that if they travel by road, they might get a chance to speak to the fisher folk who might have come back from the sea.
Though they met some fishermen on the way, they didn’t get any new information about the ships. When they reached Kodi Karai, the guardian of the lighthouse Thyaga Vidagar offered his humble home for the Pazhuvur couple, as there was no palace or mansion for them to stay.
However Nandini refused his offer and opted to camp in tents near the lighthouse. After the tents had been struck they noticed a large ship in the horizon of the sea and it came as close as possible to the sea.
Periya Pazhuvetarayar got very excited to see the ship. The ship looked very careworn thanks to the storm and its sails were ripped and torn. Who could be in this ship? Could it be the Prince? The fact that it didn’t have a flag atop the sail was not surprising since the stormy winds might have torn it away.
Pazhuvetarayar sent boat full of men to learn more about the ship. The ship seemed to be waiting for the boat, as two men immediately got into and came ashore. One of them was Parthibendra Pallavan.
Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar who left his ship to save Vandiya Devan didn’t come back that night. Parthibendran and his crew searched for them fruitlessly in the sea. They found one of the sailors who had gone with the Prince floating in the sea and learned from him that after saving Vandiya Devan, their boat was broken into two by a sail mast. Parthibendran was in huge despair and they searched for the Prince for few more hours and then decided to go to Kodi Karai with a faint hope that he might have come ashore here.
When he learned that Periya Pazhuvetarayar had come to Kodi Karai with Nandini he was irritated. He remembered everything that Karikalan had told about her. At the same time he was also curious to see the woman who had stolen the Crown Prince’s heart. That curiosity grew more and more as they neared the shore so much so that he was worried that he might not see her!
He needn’t have worried so much because as soon as he came ashore, the soldiers took him to Pazhuvetarayar’s tent. Pazhuvetarayar was standing at the entrance of his tent watching Parthibendran. When the Pallava Lord saw him he realized that he was doing Pazhuvetarayar a huge injustice by calling him an ‘old man’. It was difficult to find a young man with his stature, build and stamina indeed!
While he was thinking thus, a beautiful maiden came out of the tent. To Parthibendran it seemed like the clouds had parted to reveal a peal of lightening. Like a beautiful flower creeper she came around Pazhuvetarayar’s gnarled form. Her beauty had astonished Parthibendran so much that it had robbed him of speech.
“My Lord! Who is this warrior? I have never met him before,” she said with her speech dripping with honey that was as intoxicating as nectar.