Chapter 37 – Lions Clashed!

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Chapter 37 – Lions Clashed!

The people of Tanjore had a special affection for the two brothers of Pazluvoor. Were not the Lords of Pazluvoor the ones who brought a new prominence and prestige to that old city? Tanjore folk always enjoyed parades of elephants, horses, camels and footmen. That too if the Elder Lord Pazluvoor, the Officer of Finance, left the fortress of Tanjore or reentered it, the people would gather to stand on both sides of the street to watch, to cheer and praise. Oftentimes they would shower flower petals along with their well wishes.

Normally, if the elder brother returned from a journey outside fortress, the Younger Lord would come outside the main gates to welcome him back and lead him home. The two brothers would embrace each other in greeting upon such occasions; it would appear like the Nilgiri Mountains hugging the Vindhya Range. Both would go down the streets in procession side by side, on horseback or atop elephants; ten thousand eyes would not suffice to see the sight.

Some persons compared the two brothers of Pazluvoor to the demon kings of myth — Hiranya-aksha and Hiranya-kasipu; others referred to them as the brothers Sunda and Upasunda of the fable. They had been compared to the ideal brothers Rama and Bharata (of the epic Ramayana); or to those best among brothers, Arjuna and Bhima (of the other epic Mahabarata).

But today, when the Elder Lord Pazluvoor entered Tanjore, though the footmen and retinue accompanying him raised the usual cheers and announced the usual honors, there was not much of the usual enthusiasm and cheering among the crowds that lined the streets. In fact there was not much of a crowd. The Younger Lord Pazluvoor had not come to wait outside the fortress gates to welcome his brother.

The Officer of Finance did not mind this too much. Once inside the fort, he went directly towards the palace of his brother. He thought that his brother must be engaged in some important matter.

Perhaps the Emperor’s health has taken a turn for the worse. Or, .. Or, the `Big thing’ has happened! He worried. Therefore, his procession hurried through the streets quicker than usual and soon neared the portals of the Commander’s mansion.

The Commander who had stepped outside his mansion to welcome his elder brother, seemed quite worried and restless. He greeted his brother and heartily embraced him. Both entered the mansion. They went directly to their private conference chamber. When they were private, the elder brother asked, “Thambi, Kalanthaka! Why do you seem out of sorts? Is there any special news? Is the Emperor well?”

Kalanthaka, the Younger Lord Pazluvoor, replied, “The Emperor remains as usual. His health has neither improved nor worsened.”

“Then why do you look so crestfallen? Why did you not come to the gates to meet me? Even the city seems quiet, not much activity?”

“Anna! A minor incident happened; nothing very important. I’ll tell you about it presently. How about the affairs on which you journeyed?” asked Kalanthaka, the Commander.

“What you say is fine about all the chieftains, but the people? What if the people dissent?” asked Kalanthaka.

“Ah! Who is going to ask the people? Are all affairs of state conducted with the approval of the people? If the people are emboldened to object, we should ensure that they do not interfere in such things anymore. I don’t think anything like that will occur. If we declare it as the Emperor’s wish, they will keep quiet. Moreover, fortunately Arulmozli is in Lanka. If he is here the people may try to demonstrate their blind loyalty. People do not have any such fondness for Aditya Karikala. It is easy to turn their loyalty towards Madurandaka. He already has a name for being `Religious’ and `Good natured’. You know that your son-in-law has a more charismatic face than even the sons of Sundara Chozla? It would be surprising if the witless people who consider that `Inner beauty reflects on the face’ do not start cheering `Long live Madurandaka’. Whatever happens why do you worry when I am here?” spoke the Elder Lord Pazluvoor.

“But, what about the Velaikara Battalion? How do we handle them?”

“The Velaikara Battalion has sworn blood oaths to protect the person of Sundara Chozla; not his sons! Even if they interfere what happened to your Guard Corps in this fort? Within a few hours you should be able to round up their leaders and throw them in the dungeons?”

“Anna, the main opposition will be from Pazlayarai. We do not know the machinations of those two — the old and the young woman. We must watch for that…”

“Thambi, Kalanthaka! Are you telling me to be afraid of two women, after all this? I have a good rejoinder to all their schemes, don’t worry.”

“The Emperor has ordered that I send messages to both his sons, asking them to return to Tanjore immediately.”

“Aditya Karikala will never come. Arulmozli may follow orders and come back. If he tries to come back we must stop him. Those two can return only after we have placed Madurandaka on the throne as Crown Prince with all due honors and powers. They should not come back before that. Leave this matter to me — I can handle it. Apart from that you said that there was some incident here, what was that?”

“A youth came here from Kanchi. He brought one letter for the Emperor and another for Kundavai.”

“What did you do with him? Hope you have confiscated the letters and thrown him in prison?”

“No, Anna! He said that he had met you at Kadamboor and that you asked him to see the Emperor and deliver the letter. Is that true?”

“Oh! Utter falsehood! An unknown youth — calling himself Kandamaran’s friend, did arrive at Kadamboor. But he did not tell me anything about bringing letters! I suspected him when I saw him. I hope you have not been duped by him?”

“Yes, Anna! I have been deceived by him. I was fooled because he mentioned your name.”

“You fool! What did you do after that? Did you give the letter to the Emperor? Did you at least read it?”

“Yes, there was nothing in it. All it did was invite him to Kanchi. After delivering the letter the youth was saying something about danger …”

“Didn’t you suspect him at least after that? And throw him in the dungeon?”

and making you the Commander of this fort. Aren’t you ashamed to say that a wastrel has fooled you in my name?”

“He didn’t merely mention your name, he showed me your signet ring. Did you give it to him?”

“Never! Am I foolish like you to be deceived like that?”

“He had the signet ring. That is true. He showed it to me and also to the gatekeeper before entering the fort. If you didn’t give it to him, he could have obtained it only from one other source.”

“Whom do you mean?”

“Can you not guess? I mean the Young-Queen …”

“Damn you! Be careful! I shall cut off your tongue!”

“Cut off my tongue if you want; chop off my head if needed. I shall tell you something that I have been intending to say for some time. You have brought a poisonous snake into the house thinking it to be beautiful. One day it will surely strike. Avoid that! Throw her out before you do anything else!”

“Kalanthaka! I too shall tell you something that I intended saying for a while now. You can freely tell me your opinion about any other matter; you can bravely criticize my activities if you do not like them. But if you utter even one word belittling the maid who is wedded to me, it will be enough. I will kill you with these very same hands that raised you. I who taught you to use your sword, will pluck that very same sword and cut your throat. Be careful!”

That wordy duel, full of rage, between the brothers, seemed like a battle of roaring lions clashing against each other. Their voices rose like the roar of lions. Even though they were in their conference chamber, their voices could be heard like the sound of thunder by those waiting outside. No one knew the cause; all of them shivered wondering what the `trouble’ was about.

Chapter 38 - Nandini's Sulks
Chapter 36 - Do You Remember?