Book 1 | Chapter 20 | Narrow Escape

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Alwarkadiyaan Nambi thanked the owl and heaved a sigh of relief. He edged very carefully to a tree close to the clearing, where the men were sitting.

“Until the Thanjavur coffers are full, we have resources to fight the war against the Chozhas. We would need to persevere though. We would need to be secretive too. No one else should know anything about any of this. ”

“We need to split into two groups. One group would go to Eezhanaadu. The other group would head to Thondainaadu. Both the ‘events’ should happen at approximately the same time. If one occurs earlier than the other, the second enemy would be warned. We will decide the grouping when we meet next at Pandiyanaadu.”

The group started discussing logistics on how to reach Eezhanaadu. While some suggested the Kodikkarai route, others suggested the Sethu route. The Kodikkarai would make the ocean crossing easy, but to get to Kodikkarai without alerting any of the spies in the country was a difficult task. However, getting to Sethu and making landing on Maathottam (in Eezhanaadu) would be easier.

“Those in the Eezhanaadu group must be strong and brave. They should have experience in rowing and in swimming in the ocean. They should also be able to speak the local Sinhala language.

That is when the group realized that Soman Saambhavan had not yet reached.

“Has anyone seen Soman Saambhavan? He seems to be running late today.”

Just at that moment, two people made their appearance into the clearing. These were the two people that Nambi had met at Kollidam bank.

“Here I am”, said a grinning Soman Saambhavan.

“Welcome, welcome”, said Ravidasan. “For a moment, I was getting worried.”

“We came by the Kollidam bank route. On the way, we got attacked a pack of wolves. By the time, we evaded the pack, our journey got delayed.”

One of them laughed — “It would have been a brave sight to see you guys fighting a lion or a tiger, but a pack of wolves?”

Ravidasan shot back — “A lion or a tiger is easier to kill, since they come alone. Packs of wolves are highly intelligent and can be very dangerous.”

After a dramatic pause, Ravidasan continued — “It was because of such a pack of Chozha wolves, that our king had to retreat. We will kill these Chozha wolves, who led to our defeat!”

“Does anyone else have any further information?”

Idumbankaari spoke up now. “I am now a part of the guard of Sambuvarayar of Kadambur. There was a midnight meeting yesterday night. Almost all of the vassal kings of the Chozha Empire, including the Pazhuvettarayar were present. They discussed about the sick Emperor, and were debating on who should ascend the throne. They were all unanimously against Aditya Karikalan being crowned king.”

Idumbankaari continued — “Pazhuvettarayar suggested Madhuranthaka Thevar as a possible candidate. Everyone agreed. But they all had a doubt if Madhuranthakan himself had agreed to this. Pazhuvettarayar revealed the passenger inside the covered palanquin. It was the Prince. Everyone in the meeting was shocked, since they had all assumed that, the palanquin would have been occupied by the young queen of Pazhuvettarayar.”

Ravidasan roared in laughter — “So they are going to make a King of someone who goes around pretending to be a woman.”

“All that is going seems to be very amenable to our plan. This confusion that is happening within the Chozha Empire will help us achieve our goals easier.”

“Idumbankaari, how did you get all of this useful information?”

“As part of the royal guard, I was posted right there where the meeting was held, to keep out anyone trying to enter.”

“Did anyone else get to hear this?”

“Yes. There was one person. One Veera Vaishnavite. He was clinging on to the fort walls and listening.”

“Ah. He is a trouble maker. Did you catch him and hand him over to Sambuvarayar?”

“No. I did not. I thought, perhaps, he would have been one of us.”

“You made a grave mistake. He is definitely not one of us. This short and stout one is known as Thirumalai, also called as Alwarkadiyaan.”

“I also realized this ..”

Ravidasan asked curiously — “How?”

“After the meeting, Prince Kandanmaran had asked me to accompany his childhood friend to cross the Kollidam, and get him a horse. Nambi also came in the same boat. From his conversation with my Master’s friend, he seemed to be one of ours. When I was alone with the Vaishanavar, I made our secret sign to him. He did not seem to recognize it.”

Ravidasan was clearly angry now. “You have made an extreme blunder. We should never do the secret sign to anyone else unknown to us. There are enemies and their spies all around us. But beyond the two enemies in Thondainaadu and in Eezhanaadu, we have one singular enemy, our number one enemy — Alwarkadiyaan Nambi. He has the capacity to completely ruin our plans.”

“He plans to capture our leader. Our Devi. If any of you meet him, whatever situation you are in, wherever you are, take the weapon that you have on you, and kill him immediately. If you do not have any arms, strangle him with your bare hands. Or push him to his death in the floods of the Kollidam and feed him to the crocodiles. Or push him from the rocky peaks of the Pandiyanaadu. Kill him without any remorse.”

“Ravidasare, who is this man, who seems to make your blood boil? Who is he?”

“He is a spy of the highest caliber. For a long time, I did not even know whose spy was this man. He is not a spy of the Emperor Sundara Chozhan. He is not even the spy of the Prince Aditya Karikalan. My current guess is that he is the spy of the Royal Matron, who lives in Pazhayarai.”

“Why does the Matron Sembiyan Maadevi, who has now dedicated her life to the worship of Lord Shiva, need a spy?”

“Her appearance is all a farce. She is an enemy to her own son.”

“Are there any other people like Nambi that we should know about?”

“Hmm. Yes. There is one more person. He is an astrologer in Kudandhai. I have my doubts on him as well. He gets his information from everyone who comes to him. Be very wary of this man.”

“Whom do you think the astrologer is a spy for?”

“I have not yet found that out yet. Perhaps the Prince in Eezhanaadu. But, I am not that worried about the astrologer. I am very worried about the Vaishanavar.”

Nambi, who heard all of this, shivered in fear. “Will he be able to escape from this predicament?”

Just at that moment, he had to sneeze. Nambi tried very hard to suppress it, but could not. He stuffed his upper cloth in his mouth, and sneezed very lightly.

The men must have heard it. Ravidasan ordered the man with the lamp to go and look around the tree where the sound came from.

The man came close to where Thirumalai was hiding. Just when he was a step away from Nambi, he saw a bat hanging upside down, near where he was crouched. Nambi quickly grabbed the bat and threw it at the man’s face. The startled man dropped his lamp and started fumbling in fright. Nambi took this opportunity and ran for his life. The other men came running to the spot, and saw the bat.

Nambi ran as fast as he could until he could no longer hear the men.

And the saga continues ….