Book 1 | Chapter 34 | Two Lions Meet

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The people of Thanjavur had a special respect for the two Pazhuvettarayars. After all, it was because of the two of them, that this grand city was discovered and was being maintained so beautifully. They loved the pomp and show that the Periya Pazhuvettarayar enjoyed whenever he travelled in and out of Thanjavur. When the elder arrived back from a trip, the younger would wait near the fort gates with the ceremonial guard. The two majestic warriors would hug each other before they both entered the fort in a royal show. They were even compared to Lord Rama and his brother Bharata by some.

But today, when the Periya Pazhuvettarayar entered, there was no pomp, there was no show. The younger one was not there waiting. The Periya Pazhuvettarayar was surprised, but yet did not display this externally. He went straight to the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar’s palace. He was convinced that there must be something very important happening in the city. He wondered if the health of the Emperor had deteriorated even further. Or perhaps, had the big event happened?

The Commander came to the gates of his palace, hugged his elder brother, and led him straight to the discussion room upstairs.

“Kaalanthaka, you are not looking yourself. Is the Emperor fine?”

“Chakravarthy is doing fine. His situation has neither improved nor deteriorated.”

“I am wondering, why then do you look anxious? Why did you not come to the fort gates? And the city also seems silent.”

“Brother, a small incident has happened. Nothing major. I will tell you afterwards. But first, tell me, how was your trip?”

“My trip was successful. The entire coterie has accepted your son-in-law Madhuranthakan as a good candidate. They are ready to use their forces to ensure that this happens. They are all behind us — every one of the vassals who came. There are only three who were not there, and I am sure they will also not be with us — Thirukovilur Malayamaan, Kodumbalur Velaan, and Parthibendran. Kodumbalur Velaan is in Lanka. What would just the remaining two people be capable of? We just need to convince the Emperor and ask him to announce it.”

“We can somehow convince the Emperor. But what about the people? Will they agree?”

“Who cares about the people? But even if we pretend to care, I am not worried. They will agree to what the Emperor says. Arulmozhi is in Lanka. If he was here, then there could be some emotional sway towards him. The people do not have that much of a love for Aditya Karikalan. It is easy to convince the people towards Madhuranthakan. He is a man of character and a staunch Shiva devotee. And if you should ask me, Madhuranthakan definitely looks more majestic than the two Princes. I am not worried.”

“The velakaarar force?”

“That silly bodyguard force has taken their pledge only towards the Emperor, not towards his sons. Even if they interfere, I am relying on your palace royal guards. I am sure your forces can round them up in no time and send them to the underground dungeons.”

“The biggest opposition would come only from Pazhayarai. The Elderly Matron and the young Princess.”

The Periya Pazhuvettarayar laughed loudly, “Kaalanthaka, are you asking me to be afraid of two ladies? I have ways to handle them.”

“The Chakravarthy has asked me to send messages to both his sons to come to Thanjavur.”

“Aditya Karikalan will not come. But Arulmozhi might want to come. We have to stop him. He cannot come here before we instate Madhuranthakan as the crown Prince.”

The Periya Pazhuvettarayar looked into his younger brothers eyes and said, “You were mentioning a minor incident that had happened here in my absence. What happened?”

The younger brother fumbled for words and started, “Anna, there was a young messenger warrior who came from Kanchi. He had scrolls for the Emperor and for the Princess.”

“Thambi, what did you do with him? I hope you have confiscated the scrolls and arrested him.”

“No, Anna. He claimed that he met you at Kadambur and that you had instructed him to give the scroll directly to the Emperor.”

The Periya Pazhuvettarayar stood up in anger and thumped his fist on the table. “Aaha. I did meet a young man in Kadambur. He said he was a friend of Kandanmaran, the prince of Kadambur. He never mentioned anything about a scroll for the Emperor. I knew something was amiss, when I saw his face. What did you do? Did you even see the scroll?”

“Yes, Anna, I did read the scroll. It had nothing new. The message was to invite the Emperor to Kanchi. But later, he was whispering something about danger to the King.”

“Did you at least then become suspicious and arrest him?”

“I became suspicious but did not arrest him.”

“Aaaargh. What did you do then?”

“He wanted to see the city. I sent him with two of my trusted guards. He hoodwinked them and went missing. The guards are scouring the entire city right now. This was why I could not come to the gates.”

“You should be ashamed that you have been fooled by such a young warrior. I should be ashamed that I named you Kaalanthaka Kantan. I should be ashamed that I made you Fort Commander. A young whippersnapper has fooled you using my name.”

“He did not just use your name, Anna. He showed a ring with your insignia on it. He said you gave it to him? Did you give it to him?”

“Of course not!”

“But then, how did the ring get to him then? He used the ring to get into the palace. He showed it to me too. If he did not get the ring from you, he could have gotten the ring only from one other person.”

The older brother hissed, “Who are you insinuating?”

“As though, you cannot guess. I am mentioning your young Queen.”

“I will cut your throat and kill you right here.”

“You can kill me if you want. But you are raising a poisonous snake within your own house. I have been wanting to say this to you for a while. Please, Anna. She is not good for you. She is danger.”

“Kaalanthaka Kanta, I also have one thing that I have been wanting to tell you. You can give or take advice on any matter that concerns me, except for one. The next time, you speak lowly about my wife; I will kill you with these same hands that raised you.”

The tension in the room was palpable. Though no one could hear what was being talked about inside the discussion room, the loud voices, which almost resembled the rumblings of two lions, could be heard outside.