Book 3

Book 3 | Chapter 15 | Kaalamugars

The early rays of the sun woke Vandhiyathevan up. He opened his eyes and looked ahead. At a distance, he saw two ferocious looking saints walking in his direction. He realised that they were Kaalamugars, a type of Veera Shaivites who were descendants of Kaapalikas, and followed their ways of life. The only difference in Kaalamugars were that they did not follow the practice of human sacrifice. They were known to meditate and do penance in cremation grounds, and were believed to have special powers such as foretelling of the future. They were supposed to have cursing powers too. Hence, common folk tended to stay clear of them.  

Vandhiyathevan decided to pretend as if he was sleeping, to avoid getting into trouble with them. He missed the Veera Vaishnavar, Nambi, at this time, who would have engaged them in a debate.  

They came near him. One of them cleared his throat and said, “Shivoham. Look at this young lad. He must belong to the lineage of Kumbakarnan. If he was not asleep, he could have been useful to us.” 

The other said, “No. Do not judge by looking at his face. I can see that he is going to face a big challenge in the near future. He is of no use to us.” 

These words shook Vandhiyathevan, but he continued to pretend to be asleep. He hoped that the second swami would elaborate, but alas, the two of them walked away soon after.  

He waited for a while, until he was sure that they were gone.  

The Kaalamugar swamis were walking towards a natural cave in the rock mountain nearby. Vandhiyathevan wanted to go nearer and see if he could glean some information from them. He left his horse where it was, and stealthily walked towards the cave. As he neared the cave, he could hear them talking in a soft voice.  

One of them was saying, “That boy was not pretending to be sleeping. I think he was really sleeping.” 

“Why do you think so?” asked the other.  

“There is no one in this world that I have seen, so far, who would not get perturbed when they get to know that they were in danger.” 

“Hmm. True. We do need young men like him, don’t we?” 

“No. We do not. Even the one who is going to ascend the throne of this kingdom is going to convert into a Kaalamugar.” 

“Who are you referring to?” 

“Madhuranthakan, of course.” 

“What about the other two?” 

“One of them has drowned in the sea, and the other’s days are numbered.” 

Vandhiyathevan did not need any more information. He had to get to Pazhayarai and meet the Princess quickly to give her all the updates. And then, he had to get to Kanchi, quickly, and warn his master. At the end of the day, he owed his loyalty to Aditya Karikalan. Parthibendran had succumbed to the lusty web of the Pazhuvoor Rani. He owed it to his master to reach Kanchi quickly, and protect him. He should not be wasting any further time on the way.  

He walked quickly back to his horse, and deftly kicked the animal into a swift canter. He rode past dense villages, where people were going about their normal lives. He realised that news of the Prince had not reached these parts yet. He was glad. He wanted to reach Pazhayarai before the news reached there. The Princess might wait for a confirmation but the Kodumbalur girl would surely be affected severely.  

His horse, unfortunately, could not match this urgency with its speed. The poor animal was still getting used to its new shoes. By sunset, he reached the outer walls of Pazhayarai. He saw the Durga temple on the outer ramparts. He started thinking about how to get into the city. He saw no use in using the palm insignia ring. In fact, the guards were probably warned about him using the ring. He continued thinking as he rode towards the fort. 

Suddenly he noticed a beautiful golden chariot heading towards the fort gates. There were a handful of warriors around the chariot. He recognised Madhuranthakan on the chariot. An idea struck him.  

He rode quickly towards the chariot. The guards were not expecting something like this. He rode up quickly next to the chariot. He tried standing up on the horse and looked closely at the Prince and yelled, “Abhaayam,” and intentionally fumbled and pretended to fall down from the horse. The amused horse went and stopped a little distance away.  

The commotion gave some time for the guards to quickly recover and surround Vandhiyathevan, who kept looking intently at the Prince.  

He smiled and bowed, and said, “Emperor, please forgive me.” 

The Prince shot back, “Hey, what are you saying?” 

“I meant, the one who is going to become…,” said Vandhiyathevan hesitantly and slowly.  

The Prince motioned for the nearby guards to step back and stood up. He looked at Vandhiyathevan, “Who are you and what are you trying to do, young man? And why are you looking at me like that?” 

“I am trying to figure out if you are the person whom I had seen some time back. I think I may have seen you twice before.” 

The Prince, by now, was hooked, and inquisitive. He had to listen to what Vandhiyathevan had to say. 

“Okay, don’t waste my time. Tell me where you think you might have seen me.” 

Vandhiyathevan began in a hushed voice. “The first time was in a fort with high walls. There were several warriors. Several vassal kings, I think. They were asking numerous questions to the leader of the meeting, who got angry after some time. The leader walked to a covered palanquin, and opened the screen. And out came a very handsome prince. Was that you, my Lord?” 

“Were you there, young man? Were you one of the warriors in that fort?” 

“I don’t know, sire. I am still trying to figure out if that was a dream or if it was real. The second time was in a deep tunnel under a fort. The tunnel ended in an underground chamber, which looked like the treasury of a large kingdom, filled with jewels of all kinds. Suddenly three people emerged from the steps. The first man held a torch, and the last man had a spear for protection. In the middle was the same handsome prince.” 

The Prince by now had sweat running down his forehead.  

“Young man, how do you know all this? Do you have visions? Can you foretell the future? What is going to happen?” 

“Sometimes, these visions do come to me, sire. You are definitely going to be facing a lot of danger in the near future. But I cannot tell you that right here. Can I come with you into Pazhayarai, and then I can tell you in detail?” 

The Prince motioned for the guards to give him back his sword and allowed him to join the entourage going into the fort of Pazhayarai.