The afternoon sun blazed mercilessly and the goats sauntered gleefully to the shadows of the huge banyan tree. Udaiyal loved to watch the goats scrape each other for the little shadow left. It is always a fight for everyone. Not even the goats are spared, she thought lazily and surveyed the distant boulders for Kannaiyan. Poor fellow, if he were alive now, he would definitely be nursing his wounded back at some quack back in the village. A lazy smile lit up her face, as she remembered the encounter with the village chieftain this morning.
Udaiyal had been orphaned when she was a little girl, taken care of then by the shepherd who found her in the woods, wailing her little lungs out. He took her as his own, gave her all the little worldly knowledge he could and in turn, Udaiyal took care of his treasure- his goats. Udaiyal grew up a smart and beautiful woman who knew the ways of the world and was very wise for her age. This morning, poor Kannaiyan had tried to follow her to the woods and harassed her as usual. Today he had crossed the limits- it had been too much beyond Udaiyal's patience that was wearing thin day by day. She had sluiced his back with the sickle, totally unexpected and he had ran back to the village yelping in pain. Served him right, she thought ruefully. He would never raise his finger against hapless orphans.
She was absorbed in her thoughts that she failed to notice the unrest among the goats. They looked troubled and she sensed fear. Something was not right. They looked towards the boulders and bleated uncomfortably. Gathering her sickle and valari, she cautiously walked towards the clearing. Her eyes met jet black eyes, deep with rage at her intrusion.
Kuyili's gaze locked steadily with Udaiyal and she took instant liking to the fire and spirit of the girl. Sizing up the horses and the haggard looking men, Udaiyal sensed trouble. "Who are you people and what are you doing here, in this part of the jungle?", she queried cautiously. " This I must ask you, lady", clipped Kuyili. The two glared at each other with animosity and Velunachi glanced at them, quite amused.
Listening to the story on how their beloved King was ensnared, trapped and killed by the British, Udaiyal shook with rage. She felt sorry for the poor Queen Velunachi and her trusted aides, now on the run like vagabonds. She vowed secretly to help them. There started a revered friendship- a friendship between an overthrown Queen and a shepherd. Udaiyal ran errands for the small band of men. Marudhu brothers joined them soon and the group swelled in numbers. Hiding a small army of men within the confines of jungle was not an easy task and Udaiyal felt the pressure as Kannaiyan sought her in private soon. She knew he had some idea of what was happening, though she was very discreet. Yet, word had spread of her huge grocery buy and the large head loads she carried into the jungle.
The sun was setting beautifully and Udaiyal clambered along the hillside, carrying the rug-sack on her shoulder, wincing. Kannaiyan followed her at a safe distance. Unusual ruffling of leaves brought Velunachi up from her reverie and she surveyed the forests from above the tree where she was perched. Her eyes immediately settled on Kannaiyan following Udaiyal unawares and she hooted thrice. Marudhu brothers swung into action hearing the hoots and in no time, Kannaiyan was overpowered, thrown to the ground and pinned by the formidable duo. Eyes blazing with anger, Velunachi reached the restrained man and eyed him with thorough disgust. "Tie him to the horses face down and throw him away into the jungle", she grunted.
Udaiyal, so happy to be safe finally from the chieftain, invited the group to the village. After almost a week toiling in the forests, the group left for Virupakshi village and remained there, amassing men and materials for the army. That was when Velunachi commissioned her own group of dedicated women soldiers- named " Udaiyal pirivu" named after her beloved Udaiyal, the girl whom she considered her adopted daughter! And now came the ripe time- payback time! Marudhu brothers came from Dindigul with the happy news that Velunachi had been waiting for months- King Hyder Ali had camped in Dindigul! Now was her chance!