The crimson river flowed like liquid silk, its waves lapping the shores. Velu Nachi loved spending her leisure these days in solitude, reminiscing her maiden days in Sivaganga Palace. The images of Muthuvaduganathan swam by, she felt a faint pressure building on her temples. This day right from dawn had not been right. Something was eerily wrong and she couldn't put her finger on it. Muthuvaduganathan had left with Poongodi and her daughter for Kalaiyar Koil in the early hours, she was not even informed of it. Poongodi tried to maintain a safe distance from her in the Royal Harem and Velunachi loved the distance. She did not oppose her presence nor did she acknowledge the maid turned Queen.
She could never forgive Muthu for what he had done to her. It had been days since they both had spoken to each other, even seen other except for those rare occasions when Muthu visited the little Princess Vellachi. The only place she sought refuge was the horse stable. She remained aloof to her friends too who on the other hand tried everything to make her happy. She refused to go on short trips to the forests with them, she was totally stranger to herself, cocooned in the safety of her own thoughts.
The horse rider galloped at full speed and jumped off it, sending a whiff of dust upward. Twenty to thirty men stood behind, their horses fully mounted and battle- ready. Velunachi woke from her slumber and strained her eyes on the rider. Periya Marudhu strode toward her, his face a complete mask. Something must be wrong, she knew the instant she saw him. " We must leave at once to Kalaiyar Koil, Queen", he clipped and looked away. Without a word, she mounted the stallion, motioning him to follow. Kuyili was mounted on another horse with the little Princess Vellachi Nachi on her back. With a curt nod to Kuyili and Periya Marudhu, she turned her horse towards Kaliayar Koil and kicked to a full gallop.
Having changed to her men's attire enroute, with a sword and valari tucked under her belt, Velu Nachi looked thunderous. The mustache drawn with kohl, she resemled every bit the Velunachi of olden days. The entrance to Kaliyar Koil was littered with huge boulders that served as barricades and the small group dissolved into numbers of two or three and merged with the curious onlookers. The first sight of the temple Dwaras was the British flag fluttering and the cannons stationed on the Fort walls. With face covered, the Marudhu brothers in front nd Kuyili following her, Velunachi slowly closed in on the temple's outer praharam. The streets around the temple were filled with people, whispering and pointing towrds the temple.
As the temple main entrance came to view, she could see Colonels Benjour and Joseph Smith relishing the sight before them. Slain soldiers lay in a pool of blood, there were severed limbs and swords, some hands still holding the swords. Standing with the crowd, Velunachi peered further and her heart almost stopped at the sight of three bodies hanging from the mast. The slain King of Sivagangai hung in the middle, flanked by his Queen Poongodi and little daughter. Hands trembling, Velunachi gripped her reins tight. She jumped down, motioning the Marudhu brothers to stay put and moved in for a closer look. No doubt, Muthuvaduganathan was dead. Her eyes turned to the two British men, spewing venom. Marudhu brothers slowly broke away from the crowd with the Princess on their back, gesturing to Kuyili.
Velunachi felt the tug from Kuyili and grabbed a handful of soil from the ground and closed her eyes- this is what the British wanted. The right to rule their land- Her land. The Dutch were too busy with trade and handling the attacks of British in every Kingdom down south that they failed to save their close aide- Muthuvaduganathar. From the looks of it, the attack had been well planned and executed, with two companies of the British attacking from the East and west simultaneously. I will retrieve my land from them and i shall avenge the death of my King- she said to herself, tied the soil in a towel, flung it on her back. With a nod to Kuyili, she silently slipped away from the crowd.
Miles and miles of galloping into the forests of Keeranur and Cholapuram, they felt the presence of the British everywhere. Infiltration had been well planned, she thought. The tired horses needed a break and the Marudhu brothers were nowhere in sight, though few other men had picked up with them under Thandavaraya Pillai. Seeing a patch of boulders surrounding a clearing, she slowed down. Taking cue, the men stayed back beyond the boulders, easing off their horses and started to pitch tents. Kuyili looked at the dust blotched face of the queen and felt a pang of sadness. On the run like cowards, they were now in hiding. If discovered, she knew what awaited the Queen.
Peace at last, Velunachi thought. She now had some time to recover, think and plan. Beyond her, there lay vast expanse of wilderness, cock-spur thorns dotting the parched dry land. What life lay for her? She did not know. What future held for her? She had lost her husband. Her Muthu, whom she despised during the last few days, yet she loved him in a strange way. The King of Sivaganga was dead, the Queen and Princess were now running for their lives in the forests. What could she do? What was in store for her? Questions clouded her mind and sanity, as she stared vacantly at the thorny bushes and dry forest.
p.s.: Profusely apologizing for the late post, had a departmental exam that kept me quite busy. Sincere apologies to the person who is going to evaluate my paper- meet you at the psychiatrist:P
p.p.s.: I hate the seventeen hour a day power cuts:( My alternate source of energy will be gobar gas produced indigenous;)))
p.p.p.s.: What makes Irish men and their whiskey so special?;) Some one tell me:P