Book 1 | Chapter 28 | Royal Guest

Paintings inside the Thanjavur Big Temple. Src: IndiaTravelPictures

The Commander led the young man back to the main hall where he had first met him. His mind was confused. Vandiyathevan’s reasoning about what he was telling the King was not convincing. But then, the young man had shown the Palm Leaf ring. The Commander had full confidence in his elder brother. He decided that it would be best to detain Vandiyathevan as a guest, atleast until he spoke to the Periya Pazhuvettarayar about this.

Another thought was also floating in the Commander’s mind. He was quite impressed with the lad himself. He would make a fine addition to his secret force.

Vandiyathevan was confused and shifty himself. He was wondering where he might have misplaced the second scroll meant for the Princess. He wondered if it had slipped and fell somewhere in this hall. His eyes scanned the areas where he had been standing earlier in the day.

The Commander waved to a soldier to come near — “Take this warrior to my palace. Settle him down in the guest quarters. Ensure he gets whatever he needs to make him comfortable. Keep him there, until I get there.”

As soon as the soldier and the warrior walked out the hall, another soldier approached the Commander with a scroll. “Sir, this was lying in the corridor between this hall and the Kings chambers. I think it might have fallen from the boy’s clothing.”

The Commander read this second message that the Prince Karikalan had written to his sister Princess Kundavai. It read — “You had asked for a trusted messenger and warrior to help you. The bearer of this message is the best person for you.”

The Commander’s brows narrowed. One could see the rising anger in his face.

Meanwhile, in the Commanders palace, Vandiyathevan was getting a royal treatment. He had taken a bath and had been provided a sumptuous meal. He was being provided with new clothes. He had almost forgotten about the lost scroll.

After the meal, the soldiers took him to the gallery, where there were several dozens of beautiful large paintings. The Chinna Pazhuvettarayar had one of the largest collections of paintings in the land. The paintings depicted the 100 year history of the Chozha lineage. The paintings depicted all the heroic wars that the Chozha kings had fought.

Vandiyathevan spent time engrossed in looking at each of these beautiful paintings, while the guards had settled down near the door of the gallery playing a game of dice. The paintings filled Vandiyathevan with pride. He was proud to be serving a Prince, who belonged to this illustrious lineage.

There was one important feature that Vandiyathevan noticed in several of the paintings. In most of the wars, he noticed a Commander from the Pazhuvettarayar lineage ably helping the Emperor. They were leading the frontline charge. They were riding the Emperor’s chariot. They were even seen lifting the Emperor on their shoulders on the final charge in a war. Why, one of the first people to set foot and help found the grand city of Thanjavur was a Pazhuvettarayar.

After seeing these paintings, Vandiyathevan could now understand, why and how the Pazhuvettarayars enjoyed such privileges in the Chozha kingdom. It was their fierce loyalty.

His thoughts came back to the present. He needed to get out of the predicament that he was caught in. He had to somehow leave before Periya Pazhuvettarayar arrived. If not, his bluff about the Palm leaf insignia ring would be called out. And he would be in big trouble. It was definite that he would be put into the famous Thanjavur underground dungeons. It was believed that no one had ever escaped the underground dungeons alive.

At that time, he thought about his old clothes. He wondered if all this royal treatment was so that, the guards could go through his old clothes. He was almost sure that the second scroll would have gotten to the Commander by now.