Vandiyathevan wanted to take care of the guard first. He lunged towards him and slit his throat. He then focused on his friend. Kandanmaran was laying limp half inside the chamber, half outside. He gave Kandanmaran a push, and slipped out of the chamber. He noticed that the wall closed behind him automatically. He lifted his friend onto his shoulders, and picked up his spear too. The wind was blowing strong, and Vandiyathevan realized that he was now outside the fort. He looked around and saw that he was close to the bank of a river. He had heard about the river Vadavaar flowing close to the Thanjavur fort. This must be it. Vandiyathevan gauged the depth of the river with his spear. It appeared to be very deep. He decided to walk along the banks of the river. It was too deep to cross here. He walked a little while until he saw a large tree that had fallen across the river. Grunts and sighs from Kandanmaran gave confidence that his friend was still alive. He checked the depth of the river near the tree. It was much shallower. He crossed the river with a lot of effort.
Once he had crossed the river, he placed Kandanmaran down to check if he was still breathing. There was no point in carrying around a dead corpse. His friend was still alive. He did not want to risk extricating the curved knife, which was still lodged in Kandanmaran’s back. That would increase the blood loss. It would require the assistance of at least a couple of people to bandage this wound. He thought about Sendhan Amudan. He remembered Amudan saying his flower garden was close to the river. He had to get Kandanmaran there.
Kandanmaran momentarily opened his eyes.
“Kandanmara, do you see who I am?”, Vandiyathevan asked, wanting to see if Kandanmaran was in his senses.
“Yes. I know who you are. You are Vandiyathevan — my best friend. A friend so close that you choose to kill me by putting a dagger through my back. What a friend I have. I wanted to come and warn you that the Pazhuvettarayar’s guards were hunting for you. I came to save you. And you …”
Vandiyathevan stopped shocked. He could not get himself to react. His mind just stopped working.
Kandanmaran slipped back into unconsciousness.
He lifted Kandanmaran back into his shoulders and started walking. In less than an hour, he could smell the strong scent of flowers. He knew he was almost there. He walked through the shrubs. What greeted him was not the pleasant garden he had seen the other day. The Chinna Pazhuvettarayar’s guards had come here as well, searching for him. And they had ransacked this place. He felt sad that Amudan had been affected like this.
He slowly walked to the cottage. He gently tapped the sleeping Amudan’s shoulder. Amudan woke up with a start.
“Shhhh,” said Vandiyathevan. “This is my close friend, Kandanmaran, Prince of Kadambur. He has been knifed on the back. I saw him while escaping from the fort. I want your help.”
“Cowards. Stabbing someone from behind. Do not worry. I will take care of him as much as I can. Since the evening, several warriors have been coming around and asking about you. Look at the garden. They have ransacked it. But I am happy that you are safe. And your horse is also safe. Get on your horse and flee.”
“But, Kandanmaran …”
“Do not worry. My mother is an expert in healing wounds.”
Amudan walked in to the cottage and gently woke his mother up. He told her something using sign language, which she understood immediately. The three of them lifted Kandanmaran into the cottage. She went and plucked a few leaves from a medicinal plant in the garden. She ground the leaves into a green paste.
While Amudan held Kandanmaran, she instructed Vandiyathevan to swiftly remove the curved dagger. Kandanmaran winced in pain and regained consciousness momentarily with a curdling scream of pain. Amudan closed Kandanmaran’s mouth. Blood spurted from the wound. His mother quickly applied the herbal paste on the wound and bandaged it with a cotton cloth. Kandanmaran lost consciousness again.
They heard the distant sound of hooves.
“Go Vandiyatheva, flee right now.”
“Do you believe me, Amudha?”
“I believe in God, but I like you. Tell me what you want?”
“I need to get to Pazhayarai as soon as possible. I have a message for Princess Kundavai. I do not know these parts. Can you ride with me for a distance and show me the way?”
Sendhan Amudan looked at his mother and said something to her in sign language. All of this did not seem to bring any surprise to the gentle elderly woman. She motioned for him to go, and that she will take care of the wounded man.
The two got onto Vandiyathevan’s horse. They first rode slowly not making any noise. And then Vandiyathevan gently kicked his horse’s side to get it to ride in a swift canter. The well-rested horse flew through the night.
At the same time, six warriors banged on Amudan’s cottage. His old mother made unintelligible noises and refused to let them in. They forced themselves in and found the wounded Kandanmaran. This man did not look like the man they were searching for. While they were contemplating whether to haul this man back to the fort, they heard more hooves. They rushed outside.