Sunday, 10 July 2016

Chapter 28: A Spy for a Spy

The Princess remained quiet for a while unable to decide what to answer. The Prime Minister however relentlessly pursued her with his question. “Why are you silent Princess? Do you still trust that man?”

Ayya! What can I say? If you speak for a little while longer, I might probably suspect myself…”

“The times are such that we can’t believe anyone around us. It is very difficult to bestow trust and faith on anybody these days… We have so many enemies around us today and many mysterious things are happening.”

“Nonetheless, it looks like no mystery or scheme can be planned without your knowledge. How ever did you know all about my messenger?”

“Princess! I have thousand eyes and two thousand ears and they are all over the Kingdom. I have men serving at Pazhuvur palace and one of Nandini’s men-in-arms reports to me all that happens there. I have many people like Azhwarkadiyan who roam around the kingdom learning secrets, schemes and mysteries. I think I will know whatever happens in our Kingdom and in our neighbouring kingdoms as well but no one can be totally sure about it least of all me. Maybe there are many other mysteries that I am not privy to…”

When the Prime Minister spoke so, Kundavai couldn’t help but wonder whether he also knows about the current whereabouts of Arul Mozhi. She found it very difficult to school her face in manner that wouldn’t reveal anything.

“Ayya! What you just said might be true but I can’t believe that Vandiya Devan is Nandini’s spy. I beg of you, please release him immediately.”

“Princess! I want you to think about this very carefully. There is something mysterious about this woman Nandini. Prince Madhuranthakar who was pious and devout fell into her snare and became power hungry. Sambuverayan’s son Kandan Maran has taken her message to Aditya Karikalan. Parthibendran who once opposed the Pazhuvetarayars is now her most devoted slave. He has agreed to her scheme of dividing the Kingdom into two and to offer one part to Aditya Karikalan and the rest to Madhuranthakan and is now on his way to the Prince to convince him about it.”
Crown Prince Aditya Karikalan
“This is horrendous! How dare she suggest such a scheme? Dividing the kingdom indeed! Our ancestors bled to create this empire for the people…”

“I know that you will not agree to this at any cost. Ten days ago, if someone had suggested this to Parthibendran, he would be up in arms against the Pazhuvetarayars but today, he stands in the forefront as one of the people supporting this scheme.”

“What is this mystery? What sort of power does this Nandini hold over these men?”

“Princess! I thought I would ask you this question and here you are asking me about it. Nonetheless, why do you think Vandiya Devan escaped Nandini’s seductive net?”

Ayya! If you ask me for a reason, I cannot give you one. Something deep within my heart tells me that he is true in his intentions.”

“If you trust him so much, then shall we put him to test?”

“What sort of test?”

“We need to send a trustworthy man to Kanchi immediately. He needs to carry our message to Aditya Karikalan.”

“What message would that be?”

“A few moments ago, you called Nandini a snake… but in truth she is more poisonous than any deadly snake in the world. She has only one intention and goal and that is the destruction of the Chola Kingdom.”

“Oh God!” exclaimed Kundavai.

“She has invited Aditya Karikalan to Kadambur Palace under the guise of compromise. She has also proposed a marriage alliance with Sambuverayar’s daughter and one of Periya Pazhuvetarayar’s own daughter for the Crown Prince. The issue of splitting the kingdom would be decided at Kadambur it seems… What worries me is that, all this is being talked in open and I dare not guess what plan she wishes to fulfil in secret. People think that I know everything that happens in the Kingdom but I have to concede defeat here as I cannot hazard a guess about her true intentions.”

Ayya! What do you propose that we do now?”

“We need to somehow stop Aditya Karikalan from going to Kadambur and we need to warn the Prince against her true intentions. Vandiya Devan will carry this message to Kanchi. If the Prince disregards our warning and goes to Kadambur, Vandiya Devan too should accompany him and act as his shadow. He should stay with the Prince day and night and guard him against Nandini’s schemes. He should not allow the Prince to meet her alone under any circumstances…”

Kundavai sighed. She understood the importance of Prime Minister’s concerns but couldn’t discern whether he proposed this plan after really knowing her feelings for Vandiya Devan or with pure political motives.

Ayya! Why do you think it is important that we stop them from meeting?”

“Princess! A few bodyguards of Veera Pandian have sworn vengeance on their dead king and are seeking to uproot the Chola race. These people are right now receiving freshly minted gold straight from our own treasury that is under Periya Pazhuvetarayar’s control. Is there any need for me to say anymore?”

“No…” mumbled Kundavai. Her forehead was creased and her thoughts were far away with her brother battling fever in Choodamani Viharam. He too might be in great danger…

Ayya! Our Kingdom is being struck by one tragedy after another. Amidst all this turmoil, I am happy that we have someone like you who is capable enough to steer us through this storm. What arrangements have you made with regards to my brother Arul Mozhi?”

“I have made arrangements for special pooja and homam to be conducted in all Shiva and Vishnu temples. In the same manner special pooja and prayers will be conducted in Buddha and Jain temples as well. Choodamani Viharam in Nagapattinam are organizing a special mandala pooja… If you have any other suggestions, I can act on it.”

When the Prime Minister mentioned Choodamani Viharam, Kundavai tried to discern whether there was any change in his expression but was disappointed.

Ayya! I remembered something when you mentioned Choodamani Viharam. Periya Pazhuvetarayar for some reason is not very happy with the Bikshus of Choodamani Viharam. It was they who brought the news about Elangai’s crown being offered to Arul Mozhi. I fear that he might even blame them for the Prince’s disappearance. We need to give adequate protection to the monastery…”

“I will do it at once. I will hasten to Thanjavur and with Chakravarthi’s orders send a small army of soldiers to stand guard there. What do you say about sending Vandiya Devan to Kanchi?”

Ayya! I understand the importance of the mission that you wish to entrust upon him that’s why I am hesitating? Should we send him for this mission?”

“If you tell me that you completely trust him then I would like to send him. I have heard of his many brave deeds and I think we need someone like him… someone who completes his mission despite any adverse circumstances. I saw with my own eyes at the courtyard. He bravely pounced on that poor Physician’s son and gave him fistful of blows. If I had not stopped their fight in the middle that Physician’s son might be on his way to Yamalogam.”

Kundavai’s heart blossomed when she heard these words yet she feigned hesitation and said, “He is brave, there is no doubt about that but he is quite reckless. You saw how quickly he started the fight…”

“Then we can send my disciple Thirumalaiappan along with him. He doesn’t have a reckless bone in his body but his mind is sharper than anybody else.”

When Kundavai gave her assent to Prime Minister’s idea she thought thus –
Even the Gods cannot learn what lies deep within this man’s heart. Now he wishes to send a spy after a spy…

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