When the Prime Minister tried to lift the Prince, he wailed in pain.
“Ayyo! I am dead! Don’t touch my legs…. they are gone and broken.”
Anirudhar asked him, “Prince! What happened to you? How did this mishap occur?”
“My legs are gone… they are broken. I can’t walk… nor can I stand.”
The Prime Minister called out his men to bring the palanquin nearby and then turned towards the Prince and said, “Ayya! What happened to you? How did you end up alone in the forest, hurt and broken? Where is your entourage? Where are your royal guards and servants? How dare they leave you alone in the forest in this rain? I can’t think of a punishment that would be tough enough for such scoundrels!”
“Prime Minister! There is no need to punish anyone. I started out of the palace in the evening, alone on a horse. I was going by the riverbank when it started raining heavily and then the lightening struck. My horse bolted and started galloping wildly. I couldn’t control it. Then I fell down near this tree, that’s when my legs either broke or I might have sprained them. I can’t get up without any aid. Thankfully you came in the dead of the night to help me.”
“It was your father King Gandarathidhar’s blessings and good deeds that saved you today Prince, that’s what sent me this way towards you. Bear the pain for a little while, my men and I will put you inside the Palanquin. We will discuss the other details while on the way to my house near Nadan Kovil.”
Anirudhar’s men brought the palanquin nearby and kept it down and then they helped Madhuranthakar up on his feet and placed him inside amidst many painful groans from the Prince.
After that, the bearers lifted the palanquin and walked slowly, so that the Prince didn’t get jostled during the journey. The Prime Minister walked alongside the palanquin to help the Prince.
After a while, they reached Nadan Kovil village where the Prime Minister had a house near the temple. Anirudhar and his men took the Prince inside and laid him down on a bed. Next, they lit a lot of lamps inside the room and proceeded to check the Prince’s leg and found that he had indeed sprained his leg and that they were not broken. This relieved the Prince a lot and his panic subsided.
The Prime Minister’s servants got food from the temple that he partook along with the Prince.
“My Prince! Sleep well tonight. In the morning, I will make arrangements for you to go wherever you wish. I am on my way to Thanjavur, if you wish, I can accompany you there.”
“Ayya! You have harmed me many times for many years but your actions today negates all the hurt that you have caused me. I will never forget the help that you rendered me today. If I become the Emperor of Chola Kingdom tomorrow, I will retain you as my Prime Minister.”
“Prince! I am indebted to the Chola dynasty. It is my duty to guide and offer apt suggestions and render help to all those who belong to your dynasty. Therefore, there is no need for you to thank me in any way. I was merely doing my duty. I am however intrigued by your other statement. You said that I have harmed you many times. I do not understand that. To my knowledge, I don’t think I have harmed you in any way but if I have, I would like you to tell me how to redeem myself.”
“Ayya! Your reputation in this Kingdom is great. You are well known for your political acumen; intelligence and brilliance in strategic affairs, therefore, please do not use your superior skills on me. You very well know what harm you have caused me but I am willing to forgive you and forget all about it only because of the help that you rendered me today. In return, if you need any help from me, I would be happy to give it.”
Anirudhar smiled at him and said, “Yes, my Prince. There is something that this old man wishes from you. I wish that you detest from going anywhere alone on a horse. It would be best for you to travel in a palanquin with your entourage and soldiers guarding you. People of this Kingdom are very angry due to various reasons. You saw how people came together and protested in Pazhaiarai. In fact, I am of the opinion that instead of an open palanquin, a veiled palanquin would be much safer for you and if we can get Pazhuvur Queen palanquin for the same, it would be much easier. No one would suspect that you are travelling.”
Maduranthakan was flabbergasted. He didn’t think that the Prime Minister knew anything about that subterfuge. Beads of perspiration formed on his forehead as he tried to gather his thoughts and respond to the old man. “Prime Minister! What are you saying? Are you intentionally trying to humiliate me? Why would I travel in Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin?”
“My Prince! I didn’t know that you found it humiliating to travel in the Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin! You were travelling all over the Kingdom in her palanquin and the last journey that you made was to Kadambur Palace wasn’t it?”
Madhuranthakan looked truly scared now.
“Prime Minister! I… I went to Kadambur…”
“Prince! You went to Kadambar on the month of Aadi, on the 18th Aadi Peruku day. On that day, even Periya Pazhuvetarayar had accompanied you. You were taken there on the Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin. To tell the truth, I didn’t like it much. Travelling in a palanquin is recommended for old men like myself. For young men like yourself, travelling on an elephant or a horse is more suitable, however, you do need to train yourself to do that. Once you regain your health and the use of your legs, I will arrange to train you…”
“Anirudharey! Careful! You have been humiliating me with your words ever since you brought me here. Just because I fell down today, do not conclude that I know not how to control a horse. You can’t be more wrong to conclude that I travel in Pazhuvur Queen’s palanquin all the time. I am patient now only because you are an old man who helped me today…”
“My Prince! I am happy about the fact that you are patient. There is a saying that goes, ‘Those who are patient, rule the earth.’ Do you know what great poet Valluvar said once? He said that there is none more patient than our Mother Earth. It bears the wounds that we men visit upon the earth. We dig the Earth deep but in return, we are gifted with water. I believe that those who wish to rule too must have the self-same patience that Mother Earth has. Therefore if this old man talks something inappropriate, kindly bear it with patience.”
“Ayya! What are you saying? Are you accusing me of trying to covet this Kingdom?” Madhuranthakan’s face had by then become red with anger, his lips were trembling and his eyebrows were knitted together in fury.
The Prime Minister was unperturbed by the Prince’s anger. He said, “My Prince! Why would I accuse you of anything? If you wish to rule this Kingdom, how would it be wrong? You are the young scion of King Vijayalaya Chola’s dynasty and the son of King Gandarathidar Chola. You have all the rights to ascend the throne and no one can accuse you of trying to covet anything when it belongs to you by rights. However, if someone is advising you to the contrary and saying that what you wish for is wrong and that you need to indulge in conspiracies against the Kingdom to attain your wishes, then I beseech do not believe these people. Prince! Please listen to this old man. Your parents didn’t wish that you rule over this Kingdom and you listened to them for a while but now your wishes and desires have changed. No one can fault you or accuse you of trying to covet the Kingdom that should have come to you by rights. You can march up to the Emperor and openly state your wish to ascend the throne as his heir, instead of trying to garner the support of the Kalamugars and joining hands with the Pazhuvur brothers to claim the backing of the noblemen in this Kingdom. Those who are giving you such ideas are doing a great disservice to your reputation and you must consider them as your enemies.”
Madhuranthakan was confused. Firstly he didn’t anticipate the fact that the Prime Minister knew everything about his activities.
“Ayya! How do you know so much about my activities? Who is that traitor who has been acting as my friend and telling on me behind my back?”
“My Prince! It is futile trying to learn my sources. I have eyes and ears all over this Kingdom. Be rest assured, nothing can happen in any part of the Kingdom without my knowledge.”
“If that is so, then does the Emperor also know about all this?”
“No. I haven’t seen it fit to inform him about all this yet. I bear many and more secrets than I care to reveal, My Prince. I reveal them only when the time and circumstances are right.”
“True. Your heart bears many and more dangerous secrets and if by some chance they get revealed won’t it shake the very foundation of this Kingdom?” said Madhuranthakan with his voice dipped in irony and malice.
The Prime Minister, however, continued and said, “The Emperor is my friend but there are many secrets that even he doesn’t know. His illness is the biggest source of pain and torment for the Emperor and his heart is wounded. I don’t wish to burden him more with the conspiracy that the noblemen are hatching at the behest of the Pazhuvur brothers. My Prince! Be rest assured, I will never inform the Emperor about your involvement or activities in this regard.”
“Ayya! I wonder why this sudden love for me that too, now of all times?” said Madhuranthakan and laughed derisively.
“My Prince! I have no ‘sudden love’ for you. Whatever respect and love that I bear for the sons of Sundara Chola are also yours to claim. I have always had the utmost respect and love for you since your birth though there was no occasion to reveal the extent of it to you before…”
“Until today, when you helped me after the mishap with the horse. But if this mishap had happened a couple of days earlier, you wouldn’t have hesitated to kill and leave me to the wolves in the forest, wouldn’t you?”
“Narayana! What are you saying, Prince?”
“Ayya! I am not a fool who would believe anything that is told to me and neither am I a simpleton who has no knowledge of anything. You have been conspiring against me ever since I was but a babe in my mother’s womb. You tried to kill me on the day that I was born… there you are looking surprised. You thought that I didn’t know? Do not be under the wrong impression that you alone know all dark secrets about this Kingdom.”
Anirudhar did indeed look surprised and shocked by the Prince’s words but he soon gained his composure and said, “My Prince, you are right. There have been many times when I have been vain enough to believe that I alone knew all the secrets of this Kingdom. Today, however, my pride is broken. Now that you knew all about my plans to kill you at birth, how did you escape my murderous clutches? If you would tell me, I would be much obliged.”
“You wish to know how much I know about everything. All right, I will tell you. Your sent murderers to kill me right after I was born and they snatched the child without even checking whether it was a ‘girl’ or a ‘boy’ and when they learned that it was a girl they came and told you. You allowed the girl child to live and gave her off to some priest and asked them to bring her up. A half-hour after she was born, my mother gave birth to me and since my horoscope and stars seemed to be fine, you allowed me to live. Since you failed to kill me at birth, you have been determined to stop me from ascending the throne. You tried to influence my mother and asked her to bring me up as a Shiva devotee so that I would willingly refuse the throne. You failed in that too. I didn’t turn out to be the mad Shiva devotee who would renounce the kingdom and this world in turn. Ayya! Why are you looking so stunned? Won’t you argue that all that I am saying is a blatant lie?”
The Prime Minister was indeed looking stunned and it took him great effort to think of a reply for the Prince. “Prince! There is indeed no point in refuting all this, especially when you know so much about everything.”
“Yes. There is indeed no use. I also know why you have this sudden love for me. You have no love or regard for Aditya Karikalan. You wished to crown Arul Mozhi Varmar instead but now that he has drowned in the sea, you have developed a sudden love for me. Despite all the wrongs that you have done to me, let me tell you this. I will forget the past only because of the help that you rendered me today. I will also retain you as my Prime Minister once I become the Emperor of this kingdom.”
“My Prince! Your words are a great source of happiness for me.” Said the Prime Minister.