Chapter 31 – Thieves! Thieves
Our gallant Vandiya Devan looked at the portraits of the Chozla monarchs beginning from Vijayala to Paranthaka II Sundara Chozla and enjoyed them.
Ah! How capable each of them was! What brave men! What great deeds they accomplished, considering their very lives to be trivial! I have not read about such people even in the stories and epics! Surely, this Chozla nation is fortunate to have such a ruling dynasty and all the territories under the sway of their empire are truly fortunate!
Vandiya Devan noticed another important fact in the history of the above Chozla monarchs: every Chozla king was helped considerably by a chieftain of the Pazluvoor clan. The chieftains had performed several deeds of bravery while helping their kings.
During the siege of Tanjore, when it was under the control of the Muthu-arayas, it was a Pazluvoor chief who first entered the conquered fort. When the lame warrior Vijayala entered the battlefield at Thiru-puram-biyam, it was a scion of the clan of Pazluvoor who lent him his shoulders to carry him to the front. It was another chief of Pazluvoor who placed the golden crown upon Aditya’s head and anointed him as an independent king. He was the same Lord Pazluvoor who lent his shoulders for Aditya to step on and jump upon the war elephant to kill the Pallava Aparajita. The chieftains of Pazluvoor had carried the tiger-flag and led the victorious Chozla armies in the various campaigns of Emperor Paranthaka I. A Lord Pazluvoor had picked up Raja-aditya who lay slain in the battlefield; shouting “The Rashtrakuta’s are thwarted!” he turned the defeat into victory. The present day chieftains had similarly served Arinjaya and Sundara Chozla in various ways.
Vandiya Devan who saw all these incidents depicted in the art gallery was immersed in boundless surprise. He realized that there was justification in the present Lords of Pazluvoor, the two brothers, enjoying such prestige and authority in the Chozla Empire. There was nothing remarkable in Sundara Chozla consulting their opinion in every matter of state.
But, I am now caught in a huge dilemma; that much is sure. The Commander feels some suspicion about me for some reason. If the Elder Lord returns, the suspicions will be confirmed. The truth about the signet ring will be unveiled and after that my situation will become defenseless!
He had heard details about the infamous dungeons — Tanjore Prisons — under the supervision of the Younger Lord Pazluvoor.
Perhaps they will throw me into those underground prisons — it will be impossible to escape from there. Even if it was possible for a fellow to escape, he would emerge as a mere bag of bones and skin, a fool who had lost his mind. Aha! How am I to evade this terrible menace? I must concoct some hoax and get away from the fort before the Elder Lord Pazluvoor returns.
He even gave up his wish to meet the Young-Queen of Pazluvoor once again. All that he wanted was to escape from the terrible fate of the dungeons, save his life and get away from the fort. Even if I don’t have the letter, I can meet the Princess Kundavai personally and explain things to her. It’s fine if she believes me; if not, it cannot be helped. But how am I to get out of this fort?
Suddenly he began to wonder about the old clothes he had worn in the morning. What could have happened to them? They gave me all these new garments and showed me consideration just to examine my old clothes! The letter to Kundavai must have fallen in the Commander’s hands. There is no doubt about that now! I now understand why he caught hold of me in that vise-like grip and did not let me leave with the bards. That is why he sent, not one but three men to serve me here. Ah! What can I do? Some strategy, some trick is needed! I must find a way before the Elder returns. Yes an idea occurs to me … let me try it … I must not hesitate any more … thought Vallavarayan Vandiya Devan.
He looked out at the road through the decorated window of the art gallery. The Commander was coming down the street, seated on a horse, surrounded by his retinue. Yes! This is the perfect opportunity, I must not hesitate.
The three men who had been playing at dice while seated on the doorstep now stopped their game and stood up. They too had heard the noise of their master returning. Vandiya Devan approached the doorway and asked those men, “My dear brothers! Where are the old clothes that I had been wearing this morning?”
“Why do you ask about those dirty clothes now? According to the master’s orders haven’t we given you new silken raiment?”
“I don’t want these new clothes. My old clothes are enough. Bring them back quickly!”
“They have been sent away for being washed. We shall give them back when they come back from the wash.”
“Nothing doing! You are all thieves! I had some money in my old pouch. You have taken away my clothes to steal that money. Bring it back immediately. If not…”
“If not .. What will you do Thambi? Will you chop off my head and send it to Tanjore? But this is Tanjore! Don’t forget that!” laughed the man.
“Hey fellah! Are you going to bring back my clothes immediately or not?”
“I can bring them back only if I have them! We threw those dirty old clothes into the river. How can we get back what has gone into the innards of a crocodile?”
“Thieving knaves! Are you playing tricks with me? Here, I will report you to your master!” saying this Vandiya Devan tried to cross the doorstep. One of the three men came forward to block his way. Vandiya Devan bunched his right fist and delivered a well placed hit upon the fellow’s nose! That was it; the fellow toppled to fall heavily to the ground. Blood began gushing out of his nose.
The other fellow now ran forward with outstretched arms as if to wrestle with Vallavarayan. Vandiya Devan caught hold of both the outstretched arms; he thrust his foot between the legs of the enemy and gave a sudden twist… .. then … the fellow sat down shouting painfully “Ammma…!” The third man had come closer by now. Vandiya Devan stepped aside and kicked with his left leg, aiming at the knee cap of the man. He too fell roaring with pain! None of them had expected this sudden attack!
But all the three men recovered almost instantly and came rushing towards Vandiya Devan. Now they came more carefully and slowly. By now they heard the hoof beats of the horse stopping outside the palace courtyard.
Vandiya Devan used all his strength and shouted loudly, “Thieves! Thieves!” He began attacking the three men furiously. They tried to catch hold of him. He was continuing his shouts. “Thieves! Knaves!”
The Commander, Younger Lord Pazluvoor, now entered the hallway asking, “What is the commotion down here?”