Book 1 | Chapter 38 | Stabbed in the back

img src —

Vandiyathevan slowly traced his way down the underground passageway. After a little while, the steps stopped. He was in a chamber of sorts. At the end of the tunnel he could see some glimmering light. He walked closer. It was not light from a window. It was not moonlight. The glimmer was from objects heaped on the ground — heaps of jewels of gold, silver, diamonds, valuable gem stones and pearls, jewelry of every type — crowns, necklaces, and rings. And there were heaps of gold and silver coins and bars. Vandiyathevan looked around astonished. He had never seen so much wealth in his life. Thankfully, his pragmatic side took over. He had to escape from here first. He looked around and something in the corner of the room shook his bones. He saw skeletons. That shook him out of his reverie. The skeleton seemed to tell him to ignore the riches and leave. It seemed to tell him not to make the mistake it did.

He had to flee. He looked around helplessly for the passageway that led him here. He could not find it in the darkness. He flailed helplessly around to find a way to escape from this hell that he had reached.

In a corner of the room he saw a heap of gold over which a spider was spinning its web. That led him thinking on how human beings are led into greed. He had been lured by all three kinds of desires today — pen aasai (desire of woman), mann aasai (desire of land), and pon aasai (desire of wealth). Nandhini had tried luring him using lust. She had also tried luring him by promising to get his kingdom back. And now, this lust of gold and wealth all around him was taunting him.

He wanted to leave this place as soon as possible. “Why am I leading this life of dangerous espionage?” he thought. “I should have just led a simple life of a common man — someone who can sleep when he wants to; someone who can eat satisfying food from what he earns; someone who can enjoy the simple pleasures of life”. He resolved to do exactly that, when he succeeded in getting out of this chamber.

He then heard the creak of a door opening and slamming shut. “When will the surprises of this night stop?” he thought.

He saw two torches this time — coming from two different directions. Vandiyathevan deduced that this chamber he was now hiding in was in the middle of a larger passage. The two torches came closer. Vandiyathevan strained his eyes to see how many people were coming and who they were. There were four people, two coming from either direction.

As they came closer, he noticed that the two people who were coming in from the left hand side were Kandanmaran and a foot soldier. He peered at the right hand side and recognized them as the Periya Pazhuvettarayar and his queen Nandhini.

They walked swiftly towards the chamber. When they met, it seemed like they were surprised to see each other. The Periya Pazhuvettarayar asked Kandanmaran something, to which Kandanmaran responded. Vandiyathevan could not hear what they were saying. Right afterwards, the Pazhuvettarayar pointed to a different direction and said something. Kandanmaran bowed his greetings and left on his way. The Pazhuvettarayar whispered something into the foot soldiers ear as well. This was when Vandiyathevan realized that there was a third way from this chamber, which he guessed must be the way out.

The foot soldier followed Kandanmaran down the third flight of stairs.

All this had happened in just a few minutes. Vandiyathevan thanked providence that he had seen all of this from a hidden stance. He was lucky that he had not gotten caught between these two sets of people.

He slowly followed the faint torch light down the third tunnel. The passage way curved its way for a long distance and then led to a flight of stairs leading upwards. At the end of the stairs, there was another small chamber. The foot soldier reached out to a corner of the wall and turned what looked like a cork screw, to open a small gap in the wall. The gap was just enough for a single person to slip through. The soldier pointed out the gap to Kandanmaran, who started to slip out through it.

When he was half way through, the guard slowly took out his curved short dagger. Vandiyathevan could not bear this any longer. He could not see his friend being attacked. He lunged forward, but was too late. The soldier had struck Kandanmaran’s back. Vandiyathevan cursed the guard for a coward for stabbing someone from behind.