Book 2 | Chapter 24 | It is all Kundavai’s plan

“Listen, there is even more to what he has to say. He claims that you met this young spy outside the Thanjavur gates when you were travelling here. He also says that you must have given him the ring then. He claims that the spy also came into this very palace and met you surreptitiously here. Or, he says, the ring must have gotten to him through that other magician who keeps frequenting this palace.”

Kandanmaran noticed the Pazhuvettarayar’s angry approach and hoped that he had not heard the conversation between Nandini and himself. He hoped that the Pazhuvettarayar had not formed any wrong impression of him. But then, he now witnessed a miracle.

Nandini looked at him and fluttered her eyes, “Naada, I was worried that you had been away for so long. It is good that you are back in town.”

The old man looked at his lady love, and when he heard those golden words, melted. He smiled awkwardly.

“The work for which I had gone took a little while longer. What is this young man doing here? Has he brought any romantic poetry for you?”

Kandanmaran’s face flushed crimson. Nandini was quick to retort, and she laughed.

“This young man does not know how to be romantic, nor does he know how to write poetry. All he knows is to get wounded in a fight.”

“Yes, I heard. I have also gotten wounded in battle. Never have I been in bed recuperating though. It has been more than a week, and this young man has still not recovered. Or perhaps, it is because he got wounded in the back, that it has taken so long.”

“Sire, I treat you on par with my father. And that is the only reason I am tolerating these words of yours.”

“Else, what would you do?” the Pazhuvettarayar’s voice grew a tad bit louder, and his hand gripped the sword on his scabbard.

Nandini interrupted at this moment. “Naada, you know that it was not just his back that was wounded. His heart was broken too. The man that he thought was his best friend turned against him. The back wound has healed, but the heart has not. You know what transpired that night, when all this happened.”

She looked into the Pazhuvettarayar’s eyes. There must have been some message that was passed on, because the old man regained his composure immediately.

“Yes, I remember that night. This boy is but an innocent person. I should not take his words too seriously. His father is also a very close friend of mine. Anyway, let it be. I came here to share some important news. Perhaps, Kandanmaran should know about this too.”

“I hear they have captured a spy at Mathottam, in Lanka. He was also apparently holding a scroll meant for the Prince. By the descriptions of the spy that I am hearing, it does seem like Kandanmaran’s handsome friend, Vandhiyathevan. This fellow is a slippery one. Look how he escaped from here to Lanka.”

Naada, I am not very surprised that he slipped away to Lanka. I have told you numerous times of the incompetence of your brother and his forces.”

“Hmm. Yes, you have told me many times before and I had not taken it seriously. I think you are right.”

“Listen, there is more to this. Among the spy’s belongings, they found a ring with the palm-tree insignia.”

“Ah, how could he have one of our insignia rings? What does your brother have to say about that?”

The Pazhuvettarayar laughed a loud villainous laugh. “Kaalanthakan seems to think you must have given the ring to the spy.”

Nandini feigned laughter along with Pazhuvettarayar.

“Listen, there is even more to what he has to say. He claims that you met this young spy outside the Thanjavur gates when you were travelling here. He also says that you must have given him the ring then. He claims that the spy also came into this very palace and met you surreptitiously here. Or, he says, the ring must have gotten to him through that other magician who keeps frequenting this palace.”

Pazhuvettarayar continued laughing his loud raucous laugh.

Naada, I was wrong about your brother. He does make up for his lack of intelligence with his wonderful sense of imagination. I am however sad that you were just listening to all these accusations against me without reacting.”

Suddenly, her face turned angry. The change in emotions was drastic. The old man who had fought so many battles before, was confused.

“Of course, I was not silent. I shot back at my brother. I gave him a piece of my mind.”

Kandanmaran was caught in the middle of all this. He wished not to be there. He cleared his throat.

Ayya, we forgot about this young man here, while discussing the intelligence of your brother. Kandanmaran wishes to return to Kadambur. I hope this is fine with you?”

“Yes. I think it is time. His father would already be worried by now.”

“I also wish to send a scroll through him to Kanchi.”

The Pazhuvettarayar was taken aback by surprise.

“Why are you writing to the Prince at Kanchi?”

“If the Princess writes a scroll and sends it to her younger brother in Lanka, why should I not write a scroll for the elder brother?”

“How do you know that the scroll found on the spy was written by the Princess?”

“I know all. You keep asking me why I meet the magician. He tells me many things – one of which is this. The incompetence of your younger brother’s guards is demonstrated again. They told you about the insignia. Did they tell you about the author of the scroll?”

“This news did not come from my brother’s forces. I heard this from Anbil Aniruddha Brahmaraayar, who has just returned from Lanka.”

“Did he tell you about the author of the scroll? I have been telling you for a while now, about vile happenings around you. There are people plotting against you. The Princess is part of all this. I am not saying this based only on the magician’s words. I had the Pazhayarai Vaidhiyar’s son brought here and interrogated. He confirmed this as well.”

The Pazhuvettarayar was confused. He was also not in favour of discussing all this in front of Kandanmaran. Nandini realised this.

Naada, why should we delay this young man’s departure on his journey? I think, with your approval, he should leave now.”

Ayya, please ensure absolute secrecy. Deliver the scroll in person to the Prince. If he wishes to give a reply scroll, ensure it reaches me in absolute secrecy. Do not forget to invite him to the Kadambur palace.”

“I am wondering what I should tell my father, Devi. Can I mention that it is the Pazhuvoor King’s request?”

“Yes. You can. The Pazhuvoor King’s request is always in alignment with his queen’s thoughts. Is that not right, sire?”

The Pazhuvettarayar nodded uncomfortably.

After Kandanmaran left the room, she looked at him with her dove-like eyes, and spoke in her sweetest seductive voice. “Naada, it looks like the conversation with your brother has reduced your trust in me?” He was clearly blown over. “Uh oh. Never. I might even lose trust over my spear and sword, but my trust in you would never diminish.”

“If that is true, why did you throw so many accusative words at me, and that too, in front of that young man?”

Tears brimmed over her beautiful eyes.

“Oh, please do not cry. It tortures my soul to see you cry. But still, there are some activities of yours that I wish to clarify with you. Do I not have the right to do that?”

“Of course, you can. You definitely have the right to ask me. But, not in front of others. Ask me now. There is no one around.”

“Hmm, okay. Why did you send a scroll to Aditya Karikalan? Why did you invite him to Kadambur? Isn’t he the primary enemy of our plan?”

“No. He is not our primary enemy. Our main enemy is the serpent of Pazhayarai, Kundavai. If you remember, I have been telling you that she has her own plan. I think I have found out what that plan is.”

The Pazhuvettarayar was hooked, and was listening intently.

“I think she wants her favourite younger brother, Arulmozhi to be Emperor. She is willing to side-line anybody else, to achieve her purpose. That is the reason why she has sent the spy to Lanka. That is also the reason why she has now come to Thanjavur. Now, do you see why I sent a scroll to Kanchi?”

The Pazhuvettarayar was even more confused, but he did not show it.

“Yes, I see what you are doing.”

“You and your ancestors have been of so much service to this great Chozha kingdom. I want you to enjoy the throne at least for one day. I want to see that glorious sight. If this idea of mine is wrong, please kill me with your sword right now.”

“Nandini, please do not speak such gruesome words.”

Book 2 | Chapter 23 | Nandini’s scroll

She wants her favourite younger brother Arulmozhi to become the king. That is why she has sent for him. If Arulmozhi comes back, she can control the Chozha kingdom the way she wants. She will rule the kingdom by proxy

Nandini was sitting at a bejewelled table, writing a scroll. It was a cool night, one of her handmaidens was fanning her, and yet, one could spot droplets of sweat glistening on her forehead. The message read –

Dear Prince Karikalan, it is with great hesitation that I am writing to you. I am hearing a lot of inauspicious rumours. I am not sure if they are reaching you, or perhaps you are not reacting to any of them. Your father is very sick. Despite several invitations from him to you, you still have not come to meet him. I would like to talk to you. If you think you cannot come to Thanjavur, we can meet at the palace of Sambuvarayar. The bearer of this scroll, Kandanmaran, who is the son of Sambuvarayar, can be trusted with any news from your side. Please revert with your response. – Nandini”

She looked at her handmaiden and said, “Go and bring our guest Kandanmaran here.” Kandanmaran walked into the room. He stood beside a window staring into the garden.

“Ayya, please sit down. I understand that the eyes that have just appreciated Kundavai’s beauty are hesitant to even see me.”

“A thousand Kundavai-s would not be equal to one Nandini Devi.” She laughed off his appreciation.

“Devi, you can talk about anything in front of me, but please do not speak highly of the Princess. When I think of the way she was supporting Vandhiyathevan, my blood boils even now.”

“Still, your imagination did get the better of you when you described your wrestling bout with Vandhiyathevan.”

Kandanmaran felt a little ashamed.

“I had to say something to that effect. It is true that he stabbed me in the back. I hope you do not doubt me?”

“No. I do not. But I do believe you should try and recall, once more, what happened the other night. You met the Periya Pazhuvettarayar and me midway through the passage. Do you remember that?”

“Yes, I do remember that, Devi.”

“Do you remember what you said when we met?”

“Unfortunately, I do not remember the exact words. I do remember that I stood enchanted looking at you that day.”

“You said, ‘Sir, your Devi is the most beautiful woman on Earth.’.”

“Did I say that? No wonder his face flushed red. And I think that is probably the reason why he does not like me too much even now.”

“That is fine. As long as you like him, it is ok.”

“To be honest, I do not like him either.”

“That is also fine. What matters is that I like him a lot. I am blessed to have such a wonderful husband.”

Kandanmaran sat confused not knowing how to respond.

“Ok. Let us get back to that night. After meeting us, what happened?”

“The soldier with the torch went ahead of me. I followed him, thinking of you. We reached the secret door. He opened it, and stepped aside. I entered the secret passage. And then someone stabbed me in the back. That is all I remember. I still feel he must have been waiting for me outside, and then stabbed me when he got the opportunity.”

“That is where I think you are mistaken. I do not think he was waiting outside. I think he was waiting inside the passageway, searching for a way out. Once he saw you, he followed you all the way out. On his way out he must have stabbed you in the back. But, once he did that, perhaps his conscience got the better of him. He took you to the flower seller’s house, left you there, and escaped.”

“In hindsight, I think your theory is more probable, Devi. In this world, you would either see beautiful women or intelligent women. It is rare to see someone both beautiful and intelligent. You are one of those rare ones that Brahma created.”

“I need you to do me a favour. Would you help me with a task?”

“Anything that you tell me to do, Devi?”

“I would like you to take a scroll to Prince Karikalan in Kanchi. After he has read the scroll, and if he is willing, please take him to Kadambur as a guest.”

“Devi – would that be a wise thing to do? You do know about the plan that is being devised by Periya Pazhuvettarayar and some of that area’s chieftains.”

“Yes, I do know about those plans. But right now, all of us are threatened by one common enemy.”

“And who is that enemy?”

“The poisonous snake that came and visited you this afternoon.”

“The Princess …”

“Yes.”

“The Princess has sent your friend Vandhiyathevan to Lanka on the pretext of getting herbs to cure her father. That is a farce. The reality is that, after her father, she wants neither Aditya Karikalan nor Madhuranthakan to become the king.

She wants her favourite younger brother Arulmozhi to become the king. That is why she has sent for him. If Arulmozhi comes back, she can control the Chozha kingdom the way she wants. She will rule the kingdom by proxy. You know who will rule the kingdom with her – your dear friend Vandhiyathevan.”

“Aha. We need to stop this. Should we not tell my father and Pazhuvettarayar about this?”

“Hmm. There is no use telling them. They will not believe this. They do not believe that she is capable of all this. Kundavai’s dirty tricks should be countered by similar tricks. Would you do me the favour or not?”

She gave him the scroll. Caught in the smoke of lust, Kandanmaran held her hand, instead of taking the scroll, “I would do anything for you, Devi.”

Just at that time, there was commotion from the direction of the latha mandapam entrance. The Pazhuvettarayar entered the premises, and he seemed very angry. A parrot kept in a cage near the entrance fluttered its wings in surprise. The hand-maiden at the door let out a gasp on seeing the angry approach of the master of the palace.

Book 1 | Chapter 9 | Riding with Kandanmaran

Kollidam river in full flow

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

Vandhiyathevan could not sleep. He rolled around thinking about the discussion in the courtyard. He felt like a wasp stuck in a honey pot. He now knew more than he should. Tornadoes of thoughts ripped his confused mind apart. Slightly before dawn, tiredness took over him, and he fell asleep.

He did not awaken until well after dawn, when Kandanmaran came to wake him up.

“Did you sleep well?”

“I slept like a log Kandanmara. It must have been the tiredness.”

“Yes, I came and checked on you after taking care of the guests, and you were deep in slumber.”

Vandhiyathevan knew that his friend was not telling the truth, but what could he do?

“Kandanmara, I must get ready and leave soon. It is getting late.”

“Why are you in so much of a hurry? I thought you would stay for a while.”

Vandhiyathevan quickly responded, “I had gotten news that my uncle in Thanjavur is terribly sick and is on his death bed. If I get delayed any further, I will not be able to see him alive.”

“Hmm. Ok. I will then accompany you to the Kollidam river bank.”

Vandhiyathevan tried protesting; citing that Kandanmaran had several high profile guests to attend do, but Kandanmaran would have none of it.

The two friends rode their horses alongside, chatting happily about old times. They had almost reached the river shore, when Vandhiyathevan broached the topic about Kandanmaran’s sister.

“It is a pity that your sister is so shy. I was searching for her when we went to the andhapuram. She hid behind your mother most of the time. What is her name?”

“Manimegalai.”

“Ah. What a beautiful name.”

Kandanmaran shifted uneasily in his horse. “Vandhiyatheva, my friend, I would like to ask a favour from you. I would like you to please forget my sister. My parents have arranged another alliance for her.”

Vandhiyathevan was shocked, but tried his best not to show it out. “What happened, my friend? Even yesterday you were alluding to giving her in marriage to me?”

Kandanmaran blurted out — “Something has come up. Just last night.”

Vandhiyathevan smiled and said — “I am not surprised though. One of the rich influential guests must be the lucky one. Who would marry off their girl to a wandering poor soldier like me?”

Kandanmaran protested.

Vandhiyathevan could easily guess who the bridegroom would be. It would have to be none other than the Prince who rode in the covered Palanquin — Madhuranthaka Thevar. A marriage alliance to forge the leadership alliance.

“I have taken no offense Kandanmara. And I will not talk about it anymore. I can see it hurts you”, said Vandhiyathevan.

“There is more to this marriage. I cannot tell you more than that, Vandhiyatheva. We will fight together on the same side again. Please do not ask me any more details. I guarantee you though, that our friendship will remain the same ever.”

They had reached the Kollidam river bank, and there was a boat with two oarsmen and a single passenger, that was about to leave. The oarsmen decided to wait for Vandhiyathevan.

“One of my men will take your horse back to Kadambur, and another will accompany you on the boat. Farewell my friend, until we meet again.”

The lone passenger in the boat looked like a staunch Shaivite. He had sacred ash smeared all over him. The oarsmen were about to push the boat away from land, when there came a scream from afar — “Stop. Stop the boat. I would like to cross the river too.”

The voice sounded familiar and as the rotund figure neared, Vandhiyathevan recognized the familiar Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, who clumsily clambered onto the boat.

Book 1 | Chapter 6 | Midnight Meeting

img src: mapsofindia.com

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

After the program, there was a lavish feast. Vandhiyathevan did not quite enjoy the food. His thoughts were on the dance that he had seen earlier, the human sacrifice, and most of all on Nambi. During the meal, Kandanmaran pointed out all the vassal warrior kings of the region to Vandhiyathevan. They were all kings in their own rights. Allies of the Great Chozha kingdom, these kings paid taxes to the Chozha king and pledged loyalty to the Monarch. Vandhiyathevan could not help but think of the reason why all of these vassal kings had assembled here tonight. Confusing thoughts flooded his mind.

The two friends walked over to an airy balcony, where Kandanmaran had arranged a bed for Vandhiyathevan. All the rooms had been occupied by the visiting royals. He would have to do with this balcony.

“Sleep tight, my friend. You should be tired after your journey. I will have to go look after the guests tonight. Later tonight, I will come and retire beside you as well.”

Sleep took over Vandhiyathevan quickly. But it was a disturbed sleep. His thoughts swirled back to the human sacrifice request. He dreamt of being chased by a pack of wolves. He dreamt of finding a Kali temple in the middle of the forest. He dreamt of locking himself in, only to find the Kali temple priest waiting for him with a sacrificial curved sword.

The priest asked him — “how many generations of royalty does your family go back to?”

Vandhiyathevan blurted out — “Only a 100 years …”.

To this the priest hysterically screamed back — “You are not the one then. Go. Go back!”

Vandhiyathevan’s dream swirled back to Alwarkadiyaan Nambi. He suddenly saw Nambi’s head on the sacrificial block.

He jerked out of his bad dream into reality. But what he saw in the dream extended to reality. In the distance, he saw Nambi clinging to a fort wall now, hidden in the midst of a tree’s shadow. Vandhiyathevan was not sure if he was dreaming or was it real. He blinked a few times, and saw that it was indeed Nambi. He was staring intently down at the courtyard.

Vandhiyathevan wanted to find out what this crooked fellow was up to now. He walked down the hallway closer to the courtyard that Nambi was staring at. In the moonlight, sat Sambuvarayar, Pazhuvettarayar, and the vassal warrior kings. They seemed to have assembled together for some sort of a meeting.

His curiosity now moved from Nambi to the congregation below. The confusing thoughts came back. He thought back to his first meeting with Sambuvarayar earlier in the day. He distinctly remembered his displeasure on Vandhiyathevan picking this day for visiting his friend. “What were these kings discussing, in the middle of the night?”

He found a spot where he could hear the kings speaking. He thought to himself, “This Nambi is a smart fellow.” The only other discrete place where one could see and hear the discussion going on below, was the place where Nambi was perched. He started to hear voices speak in the courtyard below. He also saw Kandanmaran sitting in the group. He felt betrayed that his friend had not mentioned anything about this meeting to him. At the same time, he also noticed the covered palanquin near the group.

He thought to himself — “What I had heard about this Pazhuvettarayar is probably true. Look at this man. He has brought his young wife even to this meeting. This is what happens when an old man marries a young woman. His insecurity knows no bounds.”

He remembered Alwarkadiyaan’s second request to pass on a message to the young queen. He thought in disgust that, this was probably the reason why this Nambi is still lurking around here.

While he was having these befuddling thoughts, he heard his name being mentioned in the discussion below. Shocked, he started listening more closely.

“Sambuvarayare, there was a young lad claiming to be a friend of your son”, asked Pazhuvettarayar. “Where is he now? I hope he is not anywhere near, that he can listen to what we are speaking. We should remember that he works for the Commander of the Northern forces, Prince Aditya Karikalan. Until we finish executing our plan, no one else should know of this discussion. If you have any doubts that the young lad may have heard anything, ensure that he does not leave this fort alive.”

A chill ran down Vandhiyathevan’s spine. “What is it that they are going to discuss that is going to be so important? And why does it matter that I work for the Crown Prince Karikalan? What is this plan that the Crown Prince should not know about?”

Kandanmaran spoke out — “Sire, he is nowhere near by. He is not one who will interfere in others affairs. And I vouch for my friend’s character. He will not be a detriment to the plan.”

“Hmm. I am glad that you can vouch for him. I brought it up here, because none of us know about him. We are here to discuss about who will be the next successor to the throne of this magnificent kingdom. If a careless word escapes out of here, there will be disastrous consequences.”

Book 1 | Chapter 6 | Midnight Meeting

img src: mapsofindia.com

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

After the program, there was a lavish feast. Vandhiyathevan did not quite enjoy the food. His thoughts were on the dance that he had seen earlier, the human sacrifice, and most of all on Nambi. During the meal, Kandanmaran pointed out all the vassal warrior kings of the region to Vandhiyathevan. They were all kings in their own rights. Allies of the Great Chozha kingdom, these kings paid taxes to the Chozha king and pledged loyalty to the Monarch. Vandhiyathevan could not help but think of the reason why all of these vassal kings had assembled here tonight. Confusing thoughts flooded his mind.

The two friends walked over to an airy balcony, where Kandanmaran had arranged a bed for Vandhiyathevan. All the rooms had been occupied by the visiting royals. He would have to do with this balcony.

“Sleep tight, my friend. You should be tired after your journey. I will have to go look after the guests tonight. Later tonight, I will come and retire beside you as well.”

Sleep took over Vandhiyathevan quickly. But it was a disturbed sleep. His thoughts swirled back to the human sacrifice request. He dreamt of being chased by a pack of wolves. He dreamt of finding a Kali temple in the middle of the forest. He dreamt of locking himself in, only to find the Kali temple priest waiting for him with a sacrificial curved sword.

The priest asked him — “how many generations of royalty does your family go back to?”

Vandhiyathevan blurted out — “Only a 100 years …”.

To this the priest hysterically screamed back — “You are not the one then. Go. Go back!”

Vandhiyathevan’s dream swirled back to Alwarkadiyaan Nambi. He suddenly saw Nambi’s head on the sacrificial block.

He jerked out of his bad dream into reality. But what he saw in the dream extended to reality. In the distance, he saw Nambi clinging to a fort wall now, hidden in the midst of a tree’s shadow. Vandhiyathevan was not sure if he was dreaming or was it real. He blinked a few times, and saw that it was indeed Nambi. He was staring intently down at the courtyard.

Vandhiyathevan wanted to find out what this crooked fellow was up to now. He walked down the hallway closer to the courtyard that Nambi was staring at. In the moonlight, sat Sambuvarayar, Pazhuvettarayar, and the vassal warrior kings. They seemed to have assembled together for some sort of a meeting.

His curiosity now moved from Nambi to the congregation below. The confusing thoughts came back. He thought back to his first meeting with Sambuvarayar earlier in the day. He distinctly remembered his displeasure on Vandhiyathevan picking this day for visiting his friend. “What were these kings discussing, in the middle of the night?”

He found a spot where he could hear the kings speaking. He thought to himself, “This Nambi is a smart fellow.” The only other discrete place where one could see and hear the discussion going on below, was the place where Nambi was perched. He started to hear voices speak in the courtyard below. He also saw Kandanmaran sitting in the group. He felt betrayed that his friend had not mentioned anything about this meeting to him. At the same time, he also noticed the covered palanquin near the group.

He thought to himself — “What I had heard about this Pazhuvettarayar is probably true. Look at this man. He has brought his young wife even to this meeting. This is what happens when an old man marries a young woman. His insecurity knows no bounds.”

He remembered Alwarkadiyaan’s second request to pass on a message to the young queen. He thought in disgust that, this was probably the reason why this Nambi is still lurking around here.

While he was having these befuddling thoughts, he heard his name being mentioned in the discussion below. Shocked, he started listening more closely.

“Sambuvarayare, there was a young lad claiming to be a friend of your son”, asked Pazhuvettarayar. “Where is he now? I hope he is not anywhere near, that he can listen to what we are speaking. We should remember that he works for the Commander of the Northern forces, Prince Aditya Karikalan. Until we finish executing our plan, no one else should know of this discussion. If you have any doubts that the young lad may have heard anything, ensure that he does not leave this fort alive.”

A chill ran down Vandhiyathevan’s spine. “What is it that they are going to discuss that is going to be so important? And why does it matter that I work for the Crown Prince Karikalan? What is this plan that the Crown Prince should not know about?”

Kandanmaran spoke out — “Sire, he is nowhere near by. He is not one who will interfere in others affairs. And I vouch for my friend’s character. He will not be a detriment to the plan.”

“Hmm. I am glad that you can vouch for him. I brought it up here, because none of us know about him. We are here to discuss about who will be the next successor to the throne of this magnificent kingdom. If a careless word escapes out of here, there will be disastrous consequences.”

Book 1 | Chapter 4 | Kadambur

Kadambur Railway Station — pic Karthik Iyer (indiarailinfo)

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

Vandhiyathevan’s horse seemed to be galloping faster than earlier in the day, perhaps because it had gotten some rest. He reached Kadambur by late evening. He looked at the massive gates of the Kadambur fort. It was bustling with activity. The gates were heavily guarded. It looked like Nambi’s words were true. It did look like there was going to be an important festival or a meeting of sorts in the fort today. He cursed himself to have picked this day to visit his friend Kandanmaran.

He wondered if he should show the insignia that his friend and Master, Aditya Karikalan had given him. There was no one from the tip of Kanyakumari to the edge of the Kalinga kingdom who would stand against the Crown Prince. But that would attract too much attention. He had a better plan.

Vandhiyathevan rode at a brisk canter towards the gates exuberating false bravado and confidence. Two guards blocked his way with their spears and four others caught hold of the bridle of his steed. Vandhiyathevan’s plan had not worked.

“State your name and purpose of your visit to this fort” said the lead soldier.

“I come from Thiruvallam from the Vanahambadi area. My name is Vaanavarayan Vandhiyathevan.”

“All visitors for today have arrived, and our Lord has given orders not to let anybody else in.”

Vandhiyathevan had to think fast. He had to do something to distract these lead soldiers.

“Ok then. I will return back. Release my horse.”

As soon as the soldiers released the bridle, Vandhiyathevan kicked his horse in its sides and the horse reared up high. With a neigh and a kick, the horse rode forward swiftly. Vandhiyathevan removed his sword from its scabbard and swished it in the air. The rider and the horse quickly crossed the gate into the fort. By this time, the alarm had been raised and a much larger group of soldiers surrounded him.

“Kandanmara! My friend, Kandanmara! Your soldiers are trying to kill me”, he cried out loudly.

The confused soldiers hesitated now. By this time, the King of Kadambur, Sambuvarayar, and his son, had stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the front courtyard.

“What is happening here? What is the confusion?” shouted Sambuvarayar in his booming voice.

“This young man breached the front gate security. He is now claiming friendship with the Prince.”

“Kandanmara, go down and see what the commotion is, and take care of it.”

When Kandanmaran reached the front courtyard, he could not believe his eyes. He was overjoyed to see his childhood friend Vandhiyathevan. They embraced tightly and exchanged pleasantries.

“You had told me several times to come and visit you. And when I do come visit, see the welcome I get!” said Vandhiyathevan. The two friends ran up the stairs hand in hand. Kandanmaran wanted to introduce his friend to his father and the other vassals of the Chozha Kingdom, who were gracing the evening at Kadambur.

“Father, this is the warrior from the Vaanarkulam, Vandhiyathevan, whom I have spoken to you about several times.”

Vandhiyathevan bowed in respect to the King.

Sambuvarayar did not seem particularly pleased with Vandhiyathevan’s arrival.

“So, this is the young fellow who was causing so much of a commotion at the gates.”

“The confusion was not caused by Vandhiyathevan, but by our foolish soldiers at the gate, father”, retorted Kandanmaran.

“Still, coming in at this late an hour, and breaching security…”, the king let his voice trail off. He had clearly made his displeasure felt.

Kandanmaran then introduced Vandhiyathevan to Pazhuvettarayar.

“Mama, this is my childhood friend Vandhiyathevan. When we used to serve together in the army, he used to always say that he wanted to meet the great Pazhuvettarayar someday. He used to joke that he wanted to check if you really had 64 war wounds.”

Pazhuvettarayar snapped back — “So you wanted to check by yourself, if I had the 64 wounds, and would not believe in people’s words?”

The two friends realized that humour was clearly not one of the fortes of the great man.

Vandhiyathevan quickly added — “Not at all, great Sire. No one from the tip of Kanyakumari to the Himalayas would ever doubt the words of the Great Pazhuvettarayar.”

This seemed to have placated the situation, and there were smiles on the faces of the warrior kings.

Sambuvarayar pulled Kandanmaran aside and whispered in his ear — “Make sure your friend has an early dinner and retires for the night in a room far from the courtyard. He must be tired after a long journey.”

Kandanmaran and Vandhiyathevan excused themselves and left the hall.

Book 1 | Chapter 4 | Kadambur

Kadambur Railway Station — pic Karthik Iyer (indiarailinfo)

Read from the first Chapter — https://medium.com/son-of-cauvery

Vandhiyathevan’s horse seemed to be galloping faster than earlier in the day, perhaps because it had gotten some rest. He reached Kadambur by late evening. He looked at the massive gates of the Kadambur fort. It was bustling with activity. The gates were heavily guarded. It looked like Nambi’s words were true. It did look like there was going to be an important festival or a meeting of sorts in the fort today. He cursed himself to have picked this day to visit his friend Kandanmaran.

He wondered if he should show the insignia that his friend and Master, Aditya Karikalan had given him. There was no one from the tip of Kanyakumari to the edge of the Kalinga kingdom who would stand against the Crown Prince. But that would attract too much attention. He had a better plan.

Vandhiyathevan rode at a brisk canter towards the gates exuberating false bravado and confidence. Two guards blocked his way with their spears and four others caught hold of the bridle of his steed. Vandhiyathevan’s plan had not worked.

“State your name and purpose of your visit to this fort” said the lead soldier.

“I come from Thiruvallam from the Vanahambadi area. My name is Vaanavarayan Vandhiyathevan.”

“All visitors for today have arrived, and our Lord has given orders not to let anybody else in.”

Vandhiyathevan had to think fast. He had to do something to distract these lead soldiers.

“Ok then. I will return back. Release my horse.”

As soon as the soldiers released the bridle, Vandhiyathevan kicked his horse in its sides and the horse reared up high. With a neigh and a kick, the horse rode forward swiftly. Vandhiyathevan removed his sword from its scabbard and swished it in the air. The rider and the horse quickly crossed the gate into the fort. By this time, the alarm had been raised and a much larger group of soldiers surrounded him.

“Kandanmara! My friend, Kandanmara! Your soldiers are trying to kill me”, he cried out loudly.

The confused soldiers hesitated now. By this time, the King of Kadambur, Sambuvarayar, and his son, had stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the front courtyard.

“What is happening here? What is the confusion?” shouted Sambuvarayar in his booming voice.

“This young man breached the front gate security. He is now claiming friendship with the Prince.”

“Kandanmara, go down and see what the commotion is, and take care of it.”

When Kandanmaran reached the front courtyard, he could not believe his eyes. He was overjoyed to see his childhood friend Vandhiyathevan. They embraced tightly and exchanged pleasantries.

“You had told me several times to come and visit you. And when I do come visit, see the welcome I get!” said Vandhiyathevan. The two friends ran up the stairs hand in hand. Kandanmaran wanted to introduce his friend to his father and the other vassals of the Chozha Kingdom, who were gracing the evening at Kadambur.

“Father, this is the warrior from the Vaanarkulam, Vandhiyathevan, whom I have spoken to you about several times.”

Vandhiyathevan bowed in respect to the King.

Sambuvarayar did not seem particularly pleased with Vandhiyathevan’s arrival.

“So, this is the young fellow who was causing so much of a commotion at the gates.”

“The confusion was not caused by Vandhiyathevan, but by our foolish soldiers at the gate, father”, retorted Kandanmaran.

“Still, coming in at this late an hour, and breaching security…”, the king let his voice trail off. He had clearly made his displeasure felt.

Kandanmaran then introduced Vandhiyathevan to Pazhuvettarayar.

“Mama, this is my childhood friend Vandhiyathevan. When we used to serve together in the army, he used to always say that he wanted to meet the great Pazhuvettarayar someday. He used to joke that he wanted to check if you really had 64 war wounds.”

Pazhuvettarayar snapped back — “So you wanted to check by yourself, if I had the 64 wounds, and would not believe in people’s words?”

The two friends realized that humour was clearly not one of the fortes of the great man.

Vandhiyathevan quickly added — “Not at all, great Sire. No one from the tip of Kanyakumari to the Himalayas would ever doubt the words of the Great Pazhuvettarayar.”

This seemed to have placated the situation, and there were smiles on the faces of the warrior kings.

Sambuvarayar pulled Kandanmaran aside and whispered in his ear — “Make sure your friend has an early dinner and retires for the night in a room far from the courtyard. He must be tired after a long journey.”

Kandanmaran and Vandhiyathevan excused themselves and left the hall.