Book 1 | Chapter 37 | Secret Tunnel

img src: photographer Linus Sandvide

The reader might recall that Vandiyathevan had been instructed to wait in a corner in the darkness. We might also recall that when Nandini and the Sorcerer had sought him out, he could not be found.

Vandiyathevan, who had moved to the darkness of the garden, had tried very hard to eavesdrop on what Nandini and the Sorcerer were talking. He had not succeeded. He could not hear a word. He had also decided that, the sensual intoxication that he felt when in the presence of Nandini was proving to be very dangerous. He had decided that it was far more prudent to escape than to get in touch with Nandini again. He had also been very surprised to see so much of hatred of the Pazhayarai princess in Nandini.

He had to escape through the garden. But then, what if, the guards searching for him were waiting on the other side of the wall. That would be suicidal. He looked around. He noticed that the building on the other side of the hallway was pitch dark. He wondered why the building had no lights. What could be inside? There had to be something secretive about the building. He decided to enter and check. He noticed that the building had a huge solid oak door. The lock on the door was huge. Not being someone who could be discouraged so easily, Vandiyathevan looked keenly around the door, and noticed a much smaller opening embedded in door. He pressed it slightly, and it opened.

Vandiyathevan stepped in and gingerly closed the door behind him. Heavy darkness enveloped him. He could not see anything in front of him. But, Vandiyathevan knew that, after a few moments, his eyes would get adjusted to the darkness. He slowly walked around by flailing his hands in front of him. He made out a large circular pillar in front of him. He felt cold stone. He moved ahead and felt another similar stone pillar.

He slowly moved forward step by step, and he almost fell. He crouched and regained his balance. He felt that he was descending into a flight of steps. He slowly stepped down a few more steps. He was feeling claustrophobic. He heard the distant sound of bats fluttering their wings. He thought he also heard some footsteps. He froze for a moment. He braced himself flat against the wall. He felt around and noticed another pillar. He hid behind the pillar. He noticed light. Light from a torch. It was coming up from a flight of steps that led down from the place where Vandiyathevan was standing. In the approaching light, he could make out the place where he was hiding was a small chamber. There were several pillars and Vandiyathevan was hiding behind one of them. He was shivering with fear. Yet, rivulets of sweat ran down his neck.

From his hiding place, he could see the light of the torch coming closer and closer. There were three people walking in. The first had the torch. The last had a spear. The one in the middle had nothing. Wait. He knew the person in the front. It was Vandiyathevan’s childhood friend, Kandanmaran. Who was the next person following behind him? Ah, it was the same person who had come out of the covered palanquin in Kadambur — Madhuranthaka Thevar. The last person seemed to be just a guard. He had not seen him before.

Vandiyathevan was now able to piece together the puzzle slowly. The Pazhuvoor queen, Nandini, and the Periya Pazhuvettarayar came in through the normal gates of the palace. But, the movements of Madhuranthakan were still secretive. This underground tunnel was being used to smuggle him in and out secretively. This was the reason why this building was kept so dark.

Vandiyathevan had not met Kandanmaran since they had parted ways at the Kollidam banks. It all came back him to now. Kandanmaran had said, he also had some work in Thanjavur and might have to come there soon. So this was the work. Work, that was part of the secretive plan of Periya Pazhuvettarayar.

Vandiyathevan decided it was best not to reveal himself in front of his friend. It would have been dangerous for him, and for his friend. He waited silently, as the three of them ascended the same steps that he had descended from the latha mandapam.

Once he was sure that they had gone far enough, Vandiyathevan started climbing down the stairs slowly.