Book 2 | Chapter 40 | Strategic Discussion

Maduganga river estuary. Sri Lanka. img src: wikimedia commons

They moved on to the dilapidated mandapam. Vandhiyathevan whispered into Nambi’s ears, “This friendship with the Prince is becoming dangerous by the day. The other day he got into a fist fight with me, and today, a fierce sword fight.”

The Prince heard this. He walked over to Vandhiyathevan and smiled at him. Nambi then justified the Prince’s action, “The Prince did that for a reason. The best way to distract an approaching group of horsemen is a good sword fight.”

“Oh Prince, there is one more piece of information that I had to convey to you. Do you remember the lady who caught my eye when we were fighting? The same one because of which I got distracted and fumbled, and had to lose to you.”

“I did not see her properly. Why?”

“She was the one who had asked me to give you a message. But then, I never got the opportunity to give it to you. Since I met you, I have either been fighting you, or escaping from crumbling buildings.”

“Who was the girl, and why should she give me a message?”

“Her name is Poonkuzhali.”

“I do not seem to recall that name.”

“Do you remember the name – Samudra-Kumari?”

The Prince thought for a little while and shook his head.

“Please do not say that, Prince. You will break her heart. Do you remember that one day at Kodikkarai? You were speaking with the lighthouse keeper, and a girl pulled her craft alone onto the shore. When she came closer to where you were, the lighthouse keeper had mentioned that she was his daughter.

You had jokingly exclaimed that you had thought she was Samudra-Kumari (daughter of the ocean). I was able to come to Lanka only with her help.”

“Hmm. After you mention this incident, I can now vaguely remember her. But what is she doing here near Anuradhapuram? Did she come searching for you?”

“Oh Prince, if she did come searching for someone, it would have to be you.”

Vandhiyathevan spotted Poonkuzhali in the distance, talking with the General. He could sense that, while she was talking with the General, her attention was focused fully on the Prince. Her eyes kept flitting towards the Prince.”

They reached the mandapam. The Prince and the General sat down on a mound in the middle of the hall. Parthibendran, Vandhiyathevan and Nambi stood at a distance. Poonkuzhali stood behind a pillar. The troops stood at a distance shielding the mandapam.

The Prince turned towards Parthibendran: “Please convey what my brother has to say to me.”

“Prince, the Chozha Kingdom is under great danger.”

The Prince sighed. “Yes, the Emperor has been of ill health for quite a while now.”

“Prince, it is not just that. There are people of senior leadership who are plotting against the Kingdom. They are plotting to overthrow the Emperor, you, and your brother; and crown their puppet, Madhuranthakan, as Emperor. Several chieftains are supporting the Pazhuvettarayars in this coup.”

“However, we do not need to worry about this. Our brave General here, our Northern Armies, and your Southern Armies, are enough to bring these rogues down. But we should not give them too much time. Given this, your brother and grandfather sent you a message to come back to Kanchi immediately, to deal with this crisis.”

“I would also like to convey your brother’s opinion. He has grown tired of being in one place without any combat. He yearns for the excitement of war. Once you come back to Kanchi, your brother would like to march down to Thanjavur and get rid of these traitors. He then wants to crown you as the heir-apparent to the Chozha crown…”

Until now, the Prince had been listening attentively. Suddenly, he closed his ears with his hands and said, “Please do not say such things. I would never wish to sit on the throne of the Chozha empire.”

“Prince, if you do not wish me to say this, I will not. It is between you and your brother to discuss and decide. However, to overthrow these traitors, both of you need to act together. Please come back with me to Kanchi. We need to take care of the Pazhuvettarayars, Sambuvarayar and the imposter Madhuranthakan.”

The Prince retorted, “I do not understand why this decision would need to be taken between the two of us. Should not the Emperor be taking this decision? Or do you have any news from him as well?”

“Prince, getting a decision from the Emperor is impossible now. He is kept locked under the control of the Pazhuvettarayars. Your brother has written to him multiple times inviting him to Kanchi. He has not gotten a single response. If you would like to save the Emperor’s life, please come with me right away.”

The Prince’s face darkened with worry on hearing the last few words of Parthibendra Pallavan.

The Prince looked at the General and spoke, “Sire, this is very confusing. The Prime Minister Aniruddhar had come here some time ago. He is one who has a very close relationship with the Emperor. He had advised me to stay here in Lanka for a little longer. You had also agreed on this. He had also reinforced the same message through Nambi here. My sister, for whom I have the highest regard, has sent a message through Vandhiyathevan. Her message is similar to that of my brother, but she is asking me to come to Pazhayarai immediately. What is your opinion?”

“Prince, until yesterday I was of the firm opinion that you should stay here in Lanka. I argued with Parthibendran late into the night yesterday. But then, today morning, I got some information from that girl standing over there, which changed my mind.”

“Abhimanyu was attacked by warriors from all four sides. Similarly, I am being attacked by news from all four directions. What information did this girl bring?”

The General motioned for her to come nearer and said, “Tell the Prince the information you gave me.”

Poonkuzhali came forward with a lot of hesitation, and stood in front of the Emperor. She could not look into the Prince’s eyes. She tried to say something, but words failed her.

The Prince exclaimed, “Aha, why does it seem to me that the whole world is filled with mute people.”

She looked up at the Prince for just a second, and her eyes filled with tears. And she ran away towards the trees and disappeared.

Vandhiyathevan said, “Prince, she did this to me once. I followed her and caught her. With your permission, I can do it again, and bring her back.”

“Hmm, but let the General first tell us the information that she had given him.”“Prince, she claims that the Pazhuvettarayars have sent two battleships filled with soldiers to arrest you and take you back to the mainland. The ships are now in a secluded location near where the Thondaimaan river joins the sea.”