Book 1 | Chapter 29 | Thieves Thieves !

Painting on the Thanjavur temple walls (src: flickr:asienman)

He heard the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar and his entourage approaching the palace. An idea struck him. He moved towards the door where the guards were still busy playing dice. He defiantly stepped towards them and screamed — “You fellows are thieves. Where are my old clothes?”

“As per our Masters orders, we have given your old clothes to the laundry.”

“Thieves. Thieves. I want my clothes. I had my money and some other things in my clothes. Wait until I tell your Master about you.”

As Vandiyathevan stepped in front towards the gate, one of the three guards stepped in front of him. Vandiyathevan punched him on the face. When the remaining jumped at him, Vandiyathevan tripped one of them and lunged at the other. The three guards collapsed.

“Thieves. Thieves”, he cried again, as the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar entered the gate.

“Ah, there you are, Commander. Not only have they stolen my clothes and belongings, they are even trying to kill me. Is this way a guest is treated? Is this the culture of Thanjavur? Not only am I your guest, I am a Royal Guest. You did hear what the Queen Matron said earlier today. I had brought a message from the crown prince himself. If such a person is treated this badly, I can only imagine how the common man is treated in this kingdom. I am surprised you have such rogues in your personal guard. In our Thondainaadu, such thieves would have been long sentenced to death.”

The Chinna Pazhuvettarayar was still trying to digest the fact that this young warrior had brought down three of his warriors single handedly. His desire of inducting such a warrior into his personal guard only increased.

“Have patience, thambi. I doubt if my guards would have done such an act. I will investigate.”

“Yes Sire. Please investigate. Please help me get back my clothes and belongings.”

“Guards! Come here. What happened here? What did I tell you to do? And what have you done?”

“My Lord, we did exactly as told. Once we brought him here to the palace, we arranged for a hot bath for him. We then served him a wholesome meal. Later, we took him to your gallery. After seeing the pictures in the gallery, suddenly he came running out and started asking for his belongings. He also started assaulting us at that time. This is what happened.”

“Useless fellows, three of you got assaulted by a single person?”

“My Lord, we were reluctant because he was your guest. Give us your permission now, we will show him what we are capable of.”

“Enough of your bravado!” said the Commander.

“Please give them permission. Please give me permission as well. It has been a while since I fought some fine Chozha warriors. I will show them how to deal with guests.” Vandiyathevan cracked his knuckles and looked menacingly at the three soldiers.”

“Enough. There shall be no fighting inside the palace. Where have you kept his clothes and belongings?”

“My Lord, as per your orders, we have kept them safely.”

“Aha, Commander. Look at how these brutes are lying. They told me that they had sent my clothes to the laundry.”

“Idiots”, mumbled the Commander. “All I asked them to do was to give you new clothes. I never told them anything about your old clothes. By the way, why are you so interested in your old clothes? Did you have anything important in it?”

“Yes. I had some money for my travel expenses.”

“Do not worry. I will give you much more than required for your travel expenses.”

“Commander, I am a messenger of the great Aditya Karikalan. Taking charity from others is not permissible by my character.”

“Very well. I will arrange for you to get your clothes and your money back. Did you have anything else in it?”

Vandiyathevan thought for a bit and said, “I did have one more thing in my clothing. I am hoping that your guards have not touched it. If they had, I will kill them.”

Chinna Pazhuvettarayar was mighty amused by the temper of the young man. “What is this one other thing?”

“It is a secret of the state.”

The Chinna Pazhuvettarayar roared in laughter. There cannot be a secret of the state within the Thanjavur fort, which is not known to me. “What is it?”

“It is a secret that Prince Karikalan has sent through me.”

“Prince. Hrmph. The authority of the Prince stops at the other bank of the Palar River. It does not work here.”

“I do understand Sir. I understand your position of importance and your responsibilities.”

“Yes. I am in charge of taking care of the Emperor’s safety at all times. We brought him from Pazhayarai to Thanjavur because of safety concerns. Who knows what would have happened if he had stayed back in Pazhayarai. He may even have been assassinated by those Pandiya rogues. “

“Oho. You have also heard about these plots. I have heard about two plots — one against the Chakravarthy and one against the two princes.”

Chinna Pazhuvettarayar bit his lip and thought for a bit. Perhaps he had spoken a tad bit longer than this boy deserved. He realized that this smart young man might get more information from him, by just having a conversation.

The Commander boomed out — “You do not need to worry about all these plots. To squash these plots and protect the Royal family, we are here. What do you want? I am assuming you just want your old clothes back?”

“I want my old clothes and my belongings that were in them.”

“You still have not mentioned what was the other item in your person?”

“If you must know, I will tell you. I had another scroll similar to the one that I had delivered to the Emperor. This was for the Princess at Pazhayarai. All I want now is my old clothes, my travel money, and that scroll.”

The Chinna Pazhuvettarayar nodded and stepped into an anteroom for a moment and returned with another soldier who had his old clothes in a large plate.

“Thambi, check if everything is in order.”

Vandiyathevan looked through the items on the plate. His old clothes were present. The scroll was intact. There was much more money than what he had brought. He patiently counted the money, took what was rightly his, and returned the remaining cash back to the plate.

Vandiyathevan also started thinking how the scroll magically appeared now. He reasoned that the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar must have gotten hold of the scroll, read through it, and then slipped it in. He needed to be careful with this man.

Vandiyathevan returned the plate with the extra money back to the Commander and said, “I was born in the Vaanar clan. We do not lust after others fortunes.”

“Thambi, I am impressed with your loyalty. But I insist you keep this extra money as my gift for your travel expenses. When are you planning to leave? I would prefer it, if you meet the Periya Pazhuvettarayar and then leave.”

“I would definitely want to meet the Periyavar before I leave.”

“Very well.”

“Er, Commander, I have a small request. I would like to walk around and take in the sights of this wonderful Thanjavur fort.”

“Sure. I will send two soldiers with you. They will show you all the sights. It is best not to exit the fort gates. Once closed, they do not open until the next morning.”

The Commander then assigned two new soldiers to Vandiyathevan and whispered something in their ears. Vandiyathevan could very well imagine what the Commander would have told them.