Book 1| Chapter 52 | Make me Empress

Mahabalipuram by night (img src: wikimedia commons)

Parthibendran had been devoid of emotion until now. But now, he wiped off a tear, proving that he was a human too. He could not believe it himself. He was choking.

“My prince, I can now see, how much, love can affect the bravest of the brave. None of us knew this incident had occurred on your coronation day. I remember that you seemed sad that day. I remember cracking jokes at your expense. We tried cheering you up.”

“Yes. I remember. I remember your jokes. I remember you telling me how much I would succeed in expanding the Chozha empire. I remember how much it hurt me that day.”

“And then one day, Nandini sent me a message that she wanted to meet me in her palace. I was unsure whether I should meet her or not. I was confused, but then eventually decided that I would go. I would go and ask her the questions within my heart. I wanted to ask her about her birth. I also wanted to ask her if the Chakravarthy fainting had anything to do with seeing her.”

“While I had all these questions to ask her, the questions were just an excuse for me to go see her.”

“The Pazhuvettarayar was not in town. There was no one who could question the Crown Prince. No one in the palace knew about our earlier relationship. It would just be a visit to get the blessings of the Pazhuvoor queen. We met in the latha mandapam in her palace.”

“Parthibendra, you might have heard from captains of our navy about whirl currents in the middle of the oceans. If ships get caught in them, ships break down into bits in no time. I felt like those ships, when I saw Nandini. I was broken down into bits.”

“She expressed happiness on my being crowned as heir apparent. I rejected these words. I heaped insults on her for having destroyed our love and loving my enemy. I questioned her marrying the old Pazhuvettarayar. While my mind was cowering in shame, my mouth was blabbering uncontrollably. It was my heart speaking.”

“She calmly replied, `Prince, you first killed my love. You killed the person whom I loved. It looks like you are still not satisfied.’ She then took out her small dagger from her hip. She gave it to me and said, `Kill me, if that is the only thing that will satisfy you’. I replied with the most shameful words. I said that it was not she who should be killed. It was she, who was killing me, by doing all this.”

“I said, `It is still not too late. I will leave my kingdom for you. You run away from this old man.’”

“She laughed like a maniac hearing my words. She then said the most incisive words that I had ever heard. `Becoming the Pazhuvoor Rani is not my end goal. I aim to become the Queen of the Chozha Empire. I will slay the two Pazhuvettarayars myself. You put the Emperor in prison and ascend the throne as Emperor. I will then accept to live with you, as the Empress of the Chozha Kingdom.’

“The words killed me, my friend. My anger then took over me. I cursed her and started to leave. On my way out, she still insisted one more time, that if I ever change my mind, I should come back and take her.”

“I have not seen her since.”

“I cannot imagine that a rakshashi like her exists in this world. It is good that you have not seen her after that incident.”

“While I have not gone to see her, she does not seem to leave me alone. She haunts me in my thoughts during the daytime. She kills me in my dreams during the night. There are times when she comes with a lusty smile. There are times, when she comes sobbing with sorrow. There are times, when she comes with a dagger to kill me. There are times when she is laughing hysterically.”

“Now you also know why I have been hesitating to go to Thanjavur. And why I want my father to come here instead.”

Parthibendran bristled at that thought. “Are you not going to Thanjavur because of the fear of a woman? What can she do to you?”

Karikalan sighed. “You still have not understood me, my Pallava friend. I am not afraid that she would kill me. I am afraid that she would make me do what she wishes. Either she dies. Or I die. Or both of us die. Until then, the heaviness in my heart will remain.”

“Why should you die, my king? Give me permission. I will go to Lanka later. I will go tomorrow to Thanjavur and kill her.”

“If you do something like that, you will become my arch-enemy. If Nandini has to die, it would have to be me who kills her, for I will kill myself soon after. If anyone else attempts to lay a finger on her, I will finish him off.”

“My friend, forget everything that I said about Nandini. Forget everything. Go to Lanka tomorrow. Bring back Arulmozhi. Let Malayamaan and him discuss and decide what to do. Meanwhile, you and I will take a large naval force down to the island countries of Java, Sumatra, and surrounding areas. We will capture these new lands and raise the flag with the tiger all over.”

At that moment, Malayamaan walked in. “Are you both still up? Parthibendra, I hope you did not forget that you have to sail to Lanka tomorrow.”

“We were wrapping up a discussion about my trip.”