Veeramahendran walked with quick steps along the palace corridor, his face was inscrutable, he barely noticed the guards lining along the walls who were saluting their prime-minister. He finally arrived at what looked like his destination, but there was just a mirror facing him, Mahendra stood erect in front of the mirror and adjusted his sleeve so that a pouncing tiger was visible on his right shoulder.
There was a concealed fleet of steps leading to the dungeon at the foot of the mirror, which opened up slowly. Mahendran patiently waited till the stairs were well open, before setting foot in it. Down the stairs was a dimly lit corridor leading to a set of rooms, he hesitated a moment in front of the last door, and pushed it open to find a long table thronged on either side by seemingly angry men, at the far end of the table sat a old man with his head bowed down, clearly worried about something, as it was not the custom of the king to be in the war room even before the prime minster arrived.
Just as he steped into the room, all of them turned towrds him, some stood up in respect, others just grunted their approval, to the right of the king sat a man who looked in charge of the situation, it was Dharmadurai, the ablest of Generals in the Cholan army.
“Mahendra”exclaimed the king,”come”,he gestured at an empty seat to his left.
“My lord”bowed Mahendraa,”why have you summoned the war council?”
“what else can I do?”, “the crown prince…my son.. is missing!”
Mahendra was shocked. He looked around, all were looking at him except Dharmadurai, who was discussing some issue with his second-in-command.
“He must have gone to his friends house!”implored Mahendraa.
“Mahendra!”spoke up the general,”Athiyaman had informed the guards that he was going to visit Naavi”
“When did this happen?”
“Around evening”,irked Dharma,”He barely reached the pandiya border, where he was ambushed by the Pandiyas”
“Is he Dead?”piped Mahendraa,”you said he was just missing?” he gestured at the king.
King did not speak instead looked at his general,who answered the question.
“no only his guard convoy was found, we persume that they might have taken him hostage, or he must’ve escaped”
“How do you know this?”asked Mahendraa.
“we have our means”,spoke a voice from the shadowy corner.
Mahendraa had not noticed him. He had heard about this man, a spy they say, legend goes that he moves like the shadow, this man was head of the Chola spy network. Mahendra had his own doubts about the man as not even the general knew his real name, they address him as puli, but nothing more was heard or said about him.
Mahendraa dare not ask further questions as puli’s word seemed final.
“Have the pandiya’s said any thing at all?”asked a voice deep down the row.
“No”said Dharma,”Their official position is still unkown but sources say they believe that we orcestrated an incursion”,Dharma continued,”If they take this as an act of war and think of retaliation we must be ready to resist a full scale invasion,our forces are deep within the Chera border we must think of negotiating a truce with Chera’s we cannot hope to win with both sides open”
“Could this be Chera’s who planned the attack on our prince”asked another council member.
“If that be,they planned on Pandiya soil we cannot investigate that angle”, “with our position”,added Dharma.
every one in the table noded in agreement.
“Alas the allaince between Chola’s and Pandiya’s is a far-sighted event now”,remarked another member.
Athiyaman Cholan and Naavi Pandiyan were meant to be wedded on the comming month, now that seemed real unlikely, but a war was brewing and the preparators were still unknown.
“Now about reinforcing our border towns-…….
The king sank in his own thought, “which to put first safety of his son or his people; why does things like these happen to me,first my brother and now this, Lord Shiva please help me!” he thought to himself.
-To be continued