General Boodhi Vikrama Kesari, also known as the Kodumbalur Periya Velaar was a wise old man, who had seen many a war. He was one of the trusted generals of the Chozha Empire. After his younger brother had been killed in the war in Lanka, he had taken a particular interest in seeking revenge. This was one of the main reasons he was the General of the forces that were fighting in Lanka. We have also heard about the problems that were being created by the Pazhuvettarayars in sending supplies for the troops in Lanka. So, the generations-old rivalry between these two clans had only been increasing day-by- day.
It was no surprise that, given the rivalry between the Pazhuvoor and the Kodumbalur clans, the General had become incensed when he saw the palm tree insignia ring on Vandhiyathevan. It was only due to good fortune that Chief Minister Aniruddha Brahmaraayar had sent Nambi hurriedly to let the General know about the real reason why the Vaanar clan warrior was in Lanka. Nambi was a trusted messenger, and the Kodumbalur General had gotten the message.
When Nambi and Vandhiyathevan met the General, the latter tried to reconcile from the previous meeting.
“Thambi, I hope you were treated well.”
“Oh yes, General. I had half a dozen armed soldiers near the door for company. The house was large. And for dinner, they sent me a cat. Just when I was about to finish off the cat, this Veera Vaishnavan came and disturbed me. The cat, which was a staunch Shaivite did not like this man one bit, and scratched his skin and drew blood.”
“Oho. It looks like this young man has a good sense of humour.”
“General, what he says is true. The cat did scratch me very violently. And yes, he does have a sense of humour. Apparently, his ancestors were poets. So, he retains some of their sense of imagination too.”
The General roared in laughter seeing the scratch marks on Nambi.
“If you cannot handle a small cat, how are you going to cross the jungle paths of Lanka? I am glad you are going to be taking this young man as your companion.”
“General, I do not require any companion. I forgot to take my wooden staff when I went there. That was the problem.”
“Ok. Then you should be the companion to this young man. Make sure you feed this young man a good meal before you leave.”
“Thambi, try to have a decent meal before you leave. I apologise if the meal you get is not the best. That is all we can afford. Mahendran’s forces breached all the lakes and rivers before they left. All the crops are lost. The supplies coming in from the mainland are also neither regular nor sufficient.”
“I did hear this elsewhere as well, sir. I overheard some of the ladies in the army camp complaining to the Princess that their kin in Lanka were not getting enough supplies from the mainland.”
“Oho, so this information is known there as well. Good. And what did the Princess reply?”
“She reassured the ladies that, with the Kodumbalur General in power in Lanka, their men were in safe hands, and that they should not worry.”
The General smiled proudly.
“There is no one equal to our Princess in kindness and generosity.”
“There is one other person, General – the next Princess of the kingdom.”
“And who are you talking about now?”
“The Kodumbalur princess, of course.”
“How is Vanathi doing, young man?”
“She is doing very well, sir. She is an inseparable companion to the Princess. You can never see either of them without each other’s company.”
“I am very glad to hear this. Has the Princess given any message for me?”
“No, sir. But I will be honest with you. She has sent a message about Vanathi for Prince Arulmozhi, which I can relay only in person. I am not at liberty to share it with anyone else.”
The General smiled and hugged Vandhiyathevan.
“I have never seen such a smart warrior as you.”
“The two of you should not be wasting any further time. You should leave.”
“General, should this Veera Vaishnavar definitely accompany me? I would prefer to journey alone.”
“Thambi, it would be better if the two of you travel together. It is difficult to track the Prince down. Also, Nambi carries a scroll for the Prince too.”
The General went close to Vandhiyathevan and whispered in his ear, “Thambi, do not worry about Nambi. He is a reliable person. But I would advise you to be careful, none the less. I would also like you to pay attention to the message that he delivers to the Prince, and let me know the same, once you return.”
Vandhiyathevan had originally thought that the General was sending Nambi as a spy along with him, but he now realised that it was quite the contrary – he was being sent as a spy with Nambi.
Vandhiyathevan and Nambi started on their journey that night with the company of two soldiers. They travelled eastwards for two days. Initially, they passed through a few towns. They passed through damaged embankments on rivers and lakes. Then slowly the path turned towards the forests.
Dense vegetation surrounded them. Nambi and Vandhiyathevan debated on the effects of war. Nambi was heavily anti-war, while Vandhiyathevan, warrior that he was, tried to justify the need for war. Then they turned southwards. The forests became deeper and denser. They were also rising in altitude. Along with the merry chirping of birds, they could occasionally hear the frightening sounds of wild animals too.
The knowledgeable Nambi was describing the kinds of animals that lived in these forests – elephants, jaguars, cheetahs, bears, and wolves. Nambi described how lone wolves and cheetahs hunted together in those jungles.
“Nambiyaare, I hear the sound of water gurgling somewhere. Is there a river nearby?”
“There must be. I am not sure. The sound you are hearing resembles a herd of elephants drinking water.”
“Isn’t it dangerous to get caught in the middle of a herd of wild elephants?”
“No. It is not. Elephants in herds are safe. You just need to step aside.” Meanwhile, one of the soldiers had climbed a tree to see what was going on.
“Ayyo, there is a lone mad elephant headed our way.”
Nambi got the jitters and screamed, “Run!”
“Nambiyaare, you said you were not worried about a herd of elephants, why are you afraid of a single elephant? There are three of us who have spears. You have a staff in your hand.”
“No. One can even manage a herd of elephants, but a lone mad elephant is more powerful than a thousand of your spears. It is very dangerous.”
As he spoke this, the elephant came into full view. It was charging towards them.
The four of them started running away from the elephant. After running a few steps, they realised that they were running towards the edge of a deep ravine. The soldiers and Vandhiyathevan darted to the sides towards the dense forest.
Vandhiyathevan turned back and saw Nambi standing rooted to the spot. It was a familiar sight. He stood swinging his staff and screaming, “Stop! Do not come near me. Stop!”