Book 1 | Chapter 6 | Midnight Meeting

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After the program, there was a lavish feast. Vandhiyathevan did not quite enjoy the food. His thoughts were on the dance that he had seen earlier, the human sacrifice, and most of all on Nambi. During the meal, Kandanmaran pointed out all the vassal warrior kings of the region to Vandhiyathevan. They were all kings in their own rights. Allies of the Great Chozha kingdom, these kings paid taxes to the Chozha king and pledged loyalty to the Monarch. Vandhiyathevan could not help but think of the reason why all of these vassal kings had assembled here tonight. Confusing thoughts flooded his mind.

The two friends walked over to an airy balcony, where Kandanmaran had arranged a bed for Vandhiyathevan. All the rooms had been occupied by the visiting royals. He would have to do with this balcony.

“Sleep tight, my friend. You should be tired after your journey. I will have to go look after the guests tonight. Later tonight, I will come and retire beside you as well.”

Sleep took over Vandhiyathevan quickly. But it was a disturbed sleep. His thoughts swirled back to the human sacrifice request. He dreamt of being chased by a pack of wolves. He dreamt of finding a Kali temple in the middle of the forest. He dreamt of locking himself in, only to find the Kali temple priest waiting for him with a sacrificial curved sword.

The priest asked him — “how many generations of royalty does your family go back to?”

Vandhiyathevan blurted out — “Only a 100 years …”.

To this the priest hysterically screamed back — “You are not the one then. Go. Go back!”

Vandhiyathevan’s dream swirled back to Alwarkadiyaan Nambi. He suddenly saw Nambi’s head on the sacrificial block.

He jerked out of his bad dream into reality. But what he saw in the dream extended to reality. In the distance, he saw Nambi clinging to a fort wall now, hidden in the midst of a tree’s shadow. Vandhiyathevan was not sure if he was dreaming or was it real. He blinked a few times, and saw that it was indeed Nambi. He was staring intently down at the courtyard.

Vandhiyathevan wanted to find out what this crooked fellow was up to now. He walked down the hallway closer to the courtyard that Nambi was staring at. In the moonlight, sat Sambuvarayar, Pazhuvettarayar, and the vassal warrior kings. They seemed to have assembled together for some sort of a meeting.

His curiosity now moved from Nambi to the congregation below. The confusing thoughts came back. He thought back to his first meeting with Sambuvarayar earlier in the day. He distinctly remembered his displeasure on Vandhiyathevan picking this day for visiting his friend. “What were these kings discussing, in the middle of the night?”

He found a spot where he could hear the kings speaking. He thought to himself, “This Nambi is a smart fellow.” The only other discrete place where one could see and hear the discussion going on below, was the place where Nambi was perched. He started to hear voices speak in the courtyard below. He also saw Kandanmaran sitting in the group. He felt betrayed that his friend had not mentioned anything about this meeting to him. At the same time, he also noticed the covered palanquin near the group.

He thought to himself — “What I had heard about this Pazhuvettarayar is probably true. Look at this man. He has brought his young wife even to this meeting. This is what happens when an old man marries a young woman. His insecurity knows no bounds.”

He remembered Alwarkadiyaan’s second request to pass on a message to the young queen. He thought in disgust that, this was probably the reason why this Nambi is still lurking around here.

While he was having these befuddling thoughts, he heard his name being mentioned in the discussion below. Shocked, he started listening more closely.

“Sambuvarayare, there was a young lad claiming to be a friend of your son”, asked Pazhuvettarayar. “Where is he now? I hope he is not anywhere near, that he can listen to what we are speaking. We should remember that he works for the Commander of the Northern forces, Prince Aditya Karikalan. Until we finish executing our plan, no one else should know of this discussion. If you have any doubts that the young lad may have heard anything, ensure that he does not leave this fort alive.”

A chill ran down Vandhiyathevan’s spine. “What is it that they are going to discuss that is going to be so important? And why does it matter that I work for the Crown Prince Karikalan? What is this plan that the Crown Prince should not know about?”

Kandanmaran spoke out — “Sire, he is nowhere near by. He is not one who will interfere in others affairs. And I vouch for my friend’s character. He will not be a detriment to the plan.”

“Hmm. I am glad that you can vouch for him. I brought it up here, because none of us know about him. We are here to discuss about who will be the next successor to the throne of this magnificent kingdom. If a careless word escapes out of here, there will be disastrous consequences.”