Book 3 | Chapter 1 | Kodikkarai
The squall had left its mark on the Chozhanaadu coastline. From Kodikkarai, all the way to Kaveripoompattinam, the strong winds had uprooted trees, blown away roofs of houses, and caused widespread damage. There was extensive flooding except for the white stretches of beach. The quicksand areas were flooded into small pools of water. If man or beast stepped into any of these pools, they would face sure death.
Periya Pazhuvettarayar and his wife, Nandini had just reached Kodikkarai the previous day. She had convinced him to take her along this time. Two days ago, before the squall, they had been at Nagapattinam, where the Pazhuvettarayar had to discharge his exchequer audit duties at the port, which was a very busy and important trade centre. He had also made a customary visit to the Choodamani Buddha Viharam, to check if they required anything. Overall, the Buddhist monks had been very happy and satisfied that Prince Arulmozhi had been helping in rebuilding the destroyed Viharas in Lanka.
A few weeks ago, a council of monks had been to Thanjavur to visit the Emperor and convey their happiness about the Prince’s actions in Lanka. The monks had told the Emperor about the intention of some of the Buddhist leadership to propose the Lankan throne for the Prince.
The Pazhuvettarayar had an idea.
“Emperor of the three worlds, I would like to convey my opinion on something. Your eldest son is refusing to come here and visit you, despite us requesting so many times. His mind is being poisoned by your father-in-law, Thirukovilur Malayamaan. Your younger son is also not reachable in Lanka. The Kodumbalur General is stopping all messages that we are sending to him.”
“I have an idea, Sire. Can we not send a few men with an arrest warrant for Prince Arulmozhi, with charges of attempts to take over the Lankan throne? The Kodumbalur General cannot go against your order. The Prince will definitely obey your orders and come.”
The Emperor had smiled and commented that it was indeed a unique idea, and if the Pazhuvettarayar promised that no harm would befall the Prince, he would give his consent. He desperately wanted to see his Arulmozhi. He wanted to convince the Prince about his plan to give the throne to Madhuranthakan.
Even though this was his own plan, the Pazhuvettarayar felt very tense. Hence the visit to Nagapattinam to welcome the Prince himself. He also wanted to ensure that the Prince did not meet with Sembiyan Maadevi or Kundavai before he met the Emperor.
The Periya Pazhuvettarayar was still grappling with how Kandanmaran had been stabbed in the back in the secret treasury tunnel. Could it have been the crafty Vandhiyathevan? Would the magician who kept visiting Nandini have played a role in it? He also wanted to know what message Kundavai had sent to Vandhiyathevan. He was hoping that the Princess had not come to know about the coup plans discussed at Kadambur. He also wanted to know how much Vandhiyathevan knew. He had to welcome the Prince personally. He had to arrest Vandhiyathevan and find out what he knew.
Nandini was equally curious about this trip. She wanted to know what her arch enemy Kundavai had told Vandhiyathevan. She also wanted to know the outcome of Ravidasan’s mission. Hence, she had suggested accompanying the old General on the trip, and he had joyfully agreed.
At Nagapattinam, they came to know about the two ships that had gotten caught in the squall in the ocean. Fishermen who had been out in the sea, told them about how one of the ships had been destroyed and the other escaped.
Periya Pazhuvettarayar had wanted to go to Kodikkarai in the hope that the destroyed vessel and hopefully any survivors would wash ashore. He heard about the destroyed vessel getting burnt by a lightning strike. On reaching Kodikkarai, the lighthouse keeper, Thyagavidangar had offered his house to the visiting dignitaries. Nandini had refused and decided to camp in a clearing adjacent to the lighthouse.
The next day, in the morning, they saw a battered vessel come close to the shore. It was Parthibendran’s ship. After the squall had passed, one of the oarsmen who had gone with the Prince had survived. He had narrated the happenings to Parthibendran, on how the other craft had been destroyed, and about the Prince and Vandhiyathevan clinging to the mast.
Parthibendran had been in shock. He had searched for a while in the open sea, to no avail. He had then decided to head to Kodikkarai, to check if anyone had washed ashore.
The lighthouse keeper had sent the only available boat to the ship. He had alighted the boat and on the way to shore, got to know about Periya Pazhuvettarayar and Nandini’s visit. His mind was torn in two – extreme irritation that these two people were here waiting for him, and his inquisitiveness to see who this lady was, who had driven his friend and master to such a mental state.
He stepped out of the boat onto the shore, and the soldiers led him to Pazhuvettarayar’s tent, where the General stood in all his finery. His broad shoulders, his physique, and overall personality floored Parthibendran. How can one call this person an old man? From behind the tent came the most beautiful woman Parthibendran had ever seen. Like lightning between dark clouds. Like the green creeper growing around a rough teak wood pillar.
“Sire, who is this warrior? I have not seen him before.”
Her voice was like honey dripping from a golden chalice, and intoxicated Parthibendran.