Book 1 | Chapter 47 | Beach meeting

Mahabalipuram. src: Wikimedia Commons

On the shore, there was a bund of loosely piled granite rocks to keep back the sea. The famed sculptors of Maamallapuram had not left out any of these rocks behind. Each rock had sculptures on them. Aditya Karikalan and Malayamaan walked to two flat rocks, which almost looked like thrones. Parthibendran stood a little afar. Waves crashed on the rocks and sprayed sea water on them.

They were looking at the large number of small boats loading cargo onto the larger sailing ships in the horizon.

Parthibendran was the first to speak. “All the grains and supplies that we had been collecting in preparation for our northern expansion are being shipped to Lanka for our troops.”

Karikalan shot back, “Our troops in Lanka have been slowly winning war after war. After a thousand years, we have won back Anuradhapuram. Do you want to let these victorious warriors die of hunger?”

“I am not saying they should starve. Ideally, the goods should have gone from Nagapattinam in Chozhanaadu, or from Sethukarai in Pandiyanaadu. Why should it go from our already draught ridden Thondainaadu? This would impact our northern attack. That is my concern.”

“Hmm. Yes. That is a valid concern, and I have been thinking about it too. I still cannot understand the intentions of the Pazhuvettarayars. How much longer should we be patient? Thatha, you still have not spoken.”

The old warrior spoke at last, “The waves of the sea are crashing with deafening sounds behind us. Your friend, Parthibendran is competing with the waves and screaming even louder. Between these two, how can I speak?”

Karikalan motioned to Parthibendran to be quiet for some time, and turned to his grandfather.

“Karikala, I will tell you the intentions of the Pazhuvettarayars. They want to weaken you and your brother individually. They want Arulmozhi to lose the war in Lanka and feel humiliated. They want you to be angry at your brother. They probably want a rift between the two of you. This unrest within the royal family is what they are trying to achieve.”

“Hah. That can never happen, Thatha. No one can separate the two of us. I am prepared to lay down my life for my brother. Sometimes, I feel like I want to get on a ship and head to Lanka. I do not know the hardships Arulmozhi is facing. And here I am, eating, sleeping, and generally leading a luxurious life. At this rate, my knife and spear will begin to rust. Thatha, tell me, should I just get on to one of those cargo ships and go to Lanka?”

“Aha. Excellent idea, my King. Let us go. I have been saying this for such a long time”, said an excited Parthibendran. “No use in asking grandfather. He will only object. Let us take half our forces and go. We will finish the war in Lanka in half the time. Victoriously we will sail back to Nagapattinam. Then we will march to Thanjavur and confront the Pazhuvettarayars directly.”

“Karikala, see. I told you, I will not talk until your friend keeps his mouth shut.”

Parthibendran made an elaborate gesture of closing his mouth and stepping back.

“Karikala, I know you are one of the bravest warriors in this land. I still remember your attack in the big war at Sevur. You were barely sixteen at that time. I can still picture your swordsmanship that day. Your friend, here, is also a great warrior, just like you. However, both of you are impatient. Both of you have a short temper. You lack the calmness of mind to think a strategy through.”

Thatha, you have given this advice so many times before.”

“Hah. Yes. Countless times. But I see no improvements. Perhaps it is not considered important. Tell me if you wish me to leave back to my town, without giving you any ‘useless advice’.”

“No. Please do not go. We would like your thoughts on the next step.”

“I think you should get Arulmozhi here. And the two of you should be together. You should never leave each other’s company.”

“But then, what about the war in Lanka?”

“We have reached a certain milestone in Lanka. Anuradhapuram has been captured. The monsoon has now set in. There will be incessant rains for the next four months. No war can be fought then. All we need to do is to protect what we have captured. That can be done by our generals there.”

“It is important that Arulmozhi stays here now. There is no reason why we should hide the bitter truth. The Chozha dynasty is under threat now. You should all be careful. Gather your forces and be ready for anything.”

Karikalan bristled, “Are you trying to frighten me Thatha? I am not afraid of anything, as long as my sword and spear are with me.”

“Karikala, the princes in the Chozha dynasty have one thing in common. They have an overabundance of courage. We have nothing to worry about that. One should not be afraid of the danger that is visible in front of them. But one should always be afraid of the danger that is not visible and can appear without warning. It is wise to be prepared.”

Karikalan’s brows constricted. “Are you anticipating any invisible dangers?”

“Hmm. Yes. A few days ago, there was a midnight meeting at the Kadambur palace. It was attended by Periya Pazhuvettarayar and several of the vassal kings.”

Karikalan sniggered, “So what? They probably met to party. They would have all eaten good food, drank good liquor, and then gone to sleep. These old vassal kings you mention, what danger can they be up to?”

“Hmm. You call them old fools. Do not forget that one of those old fools got married very recently to a very young woman. There is nothing more dangerous than an old man marrying a young woman.”

Karikalan suddenly became very upset. His eyes became bloodshot. His fists were clenched. His skin bristled.

The old king did not notice this, but Parthibendran did.

Thatha, let us move on from that wedding topic. What happened in the midnight meeting?” said Parthibendran.

“Hmm, amidst those old fools, there were some young warriors too. One of them was Kadambur Sambuvarayar’s son, Kandanmaran. And there was one more.”

“Who was that?”

“Your grandfather Kandaraadhitar’s son, your uncle, Madhuranthakan.”

Parthibendran and Karikalan burst out laughing instantaneously together.

“Why are you laughing?”

“You mentioned Madhuranthakan as a young warrior. That is what we provoked the laughter. We consider him to be an old fool — an old fool dedicated to doing service only to God.”

“Sometimes youth returns to old fools. Have you not heard he has recently gotten married a couple of times? These were weddings that were made out of political alliances.”

“I still do not understand. Thatha, can you stop talking in riddles, and tell us plainly, what is the intention of the Pazhuvettarayars? Why are they conducting these midnight meetings? And why was Madhuranthakan present there?”

Malayamaan took a deep breath and spoke, “It is their intention to get rid of you and your brother, and put Madhuranthakan on the throne. It is to get the Emperors approval for this plan, that they have kept him locked up in the palace at Thanjavur.”