Though the queen had seen me in the academy, when we met in her private chambers, she studied my person from behind her veil. I bowed my head but saw everything. She liked what she saw. As expected, she recovered well and hid behind her aloof persona.

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My relationship with Queen Devaney started with deference and decorum. But behind the aura of royalty lived, no, existed, a lonely woman unappreciated and starved of love. Within weeks, familiarity replaced formality. She welcomed my company and confessed that my visits were the highlights of her week. We spent long hours talking about this and that and everything. I drew from the sixty-four branches of learning and beyond, and impressed her with simple answers to what seemed complex matters. She clung to my every word.

Besides poetry, the queen loved botany. When the Paramarajah conquered new lands, he sent back exotic plants and singular seedlings. He even uprooted and carted mature trees to her. It was his way of showering love where none existed between them. A vast private garden took root and flourished in the palace grounds of the queen’s wing. And she spent long lonely hours marvelling the brilliant colours, unique leaf formations and sculptured tree trunks. She also enjoyed the company of the variety of colourful singing birds, chattering monkeys and deer that populated the grounds. We devoted many hours in the garden among the sweet scents, captivating sights and enchanting melodies of nature’s creatures.

The queen adorned her hair with different flowers for each day of the week and wore garlands, armlets and wristlets made from matching blooms. She had her favourites, a variety of kurinji, jasmine, lily, orchid, and paalai. When I visited, she adorned me with a garland of the day. There was much symbolism behind her act. I welcomed and looked forward to it but always took care to hide her gift in my bag before departing past the guards.

My weekly visits became a routine. I got to know her handmaidens and became acquainted with officers of the household guard. It is interesting the wealth of state secrets that resided in these faceless nameless servants. The knowledge gained added new dimensions to my power.

The king had in place three centres of power, each wary of the other: the army; the civil administration; and, the Royal Guard.

The Paramarajah stationed his army in outlying fortresses and border regions. But the Royal Guard garrisoned Uraiyur, the capital. Captain Sridhar of the Royal Guard was a brilliant soldier. Courageous. Loyal unto death to the queen. He husbanded dreams but others thwarted his path.

General Harish-Ram, the army commander, viewed the captain as a threat. Prime Minister Quwaenthi-Maan feared the captain too, for the Royal Guard represented raw power within Uraiyur. When the king was away, Captain Sridhar was the sword.

The captain knew I had the ear of the queen. He sought a mentor. I found my champion. Trust? Yes, he trusted me. Friendship? Yes, he judged me a friend. The wise ones say it takes two hands to clap. The fools. One can slap a sword and emit the same sound.

Though trained in the martial arts, I abhorred killing. The smell. Blood has a distasteful smell. The smell did not bother Sridhar. And an unspoken covenant sealed our alliance. I entered doors on his behalf. He guarded the entrance behind me. Queen Devaney held the keys. My reasons for romancing her were not without blemish. That is how it started. But the indifference did not last.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019

Continued 7 October, 2019

9 comments

  1. In this chapter you depict Kachagan as a calculating multi-talented person who is able to romance his queen while also making sure that he befriends her palace guard. I am looking forward to finding out if he experiences a genuine raw emotion (love) as he hints in the last sentence of this chapter.

    It intrigues me,as such a love would be thwart with complexity and possible misery but might also redeem him.

    There is much to untangle – thank you for a good read.

    1. Hello Jane,

      In this novel, Kachagan is supposed to be the “bad guy”. All his moves – every single move – is cold and calculating. Will he experience love? If there is a spark of good in him… 🙂

      And you’re right. Kachagan is playing a high stakes game.

      Thank you for taking time to read and comment,
      Eric

  2. A friend of mine wrote a book with title “The Sound of One Hand Clapping.” I haven’t read it but perhaps he took inspiration from the same source you did. 🙂 Your reference to intrigue and distrust between the movers and shakers is very insightful and accurate. Ancient rulers knew their survival depended on setting those closest to them against each other. Divide and rule! Not much different to international politics today.

    1. Hello Ian,

      The sources of power, the institutions of power, have always been the same, I reckon. But over the years, they came to be known by different names.

      For example, democracy as generally accepted relies on one-man-one-vote. But it is big money that guides our “democratic process” and hence our democracy.

      All the best for the week ahead,
      Eric

  3. And why can’t the Pamarajah enjoy such simple pleasures with his queen. All she wanted was companionship. Devaney would not have strayed if the Pamarajah had given her some attention. There are materialistic people but I reckon nothing is more valuable than being together.

    The emotion is so well accentuated in this segment.

    1. Hello Windy,

      It was only in recent decades people started to view pregnant women as “mothers” and not “patients”. Also, I suspect depression triggered by miscarriages was probably not recognized 2,000 years ago. Nevertheless, loving consideration should be a norm. The Paramarajah’s attention was elsewhere.

      Thank you for your visit and comment 🙂
      Eric

    1. Hello Jane,

      The Kachagan character does come up with twists to accepted idioms – though I suspect 2,000 years ago the “two-hands-to-clap” idiom was not around.

      Have a great week ahead, buddy.

      L & H,
      Eric

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