Chaturmukha Part 3 - mRdayopaliptaM
Chapter Six - The Master, The Monkey and The Monster
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things. - Leonardo de Vinci.
State of Things
The sentry guard at Vettaiyan Palace surveilled the Empires United military forces setting up a barricade at the quarter mark of the battlefield.
"The enemies have gained a large territory under a single moon, my General", he reported to his commander who was standing beside him. The General kept staring at the single warrior glittering in red armor. The General spoke severely to the sentry, "Continue the watch, and talk to me only about what I should know."
Sena supervised the construction activity. Sharp knifelike tree barks were erected facing the Vettaiyan Palace. The protective barricade, installed with pointed wood posts, stood about six feet above the ground. They were placed a maximum of two feet apart. Huge tree trunks were extended around the defensive zone to maintain the wooden poles. A side walk was laid along the zone upon which groups of archers took position. On the ground behind the defensive wooden wall, longbow men were stationed aiming their weapon through the gaps in between the poles. At every sixth set of pointed tree barks, a tiny barrack stood to accommodate few pairs of long pikes men. Arrow-firing catapults were placed before the barracks and two men took position beside it. Five watch towers stood across the defensive zone and four sentries holding a gastraphetes, a hand-held crossbow, were position on the top of each wooden tower to monitor the four sides of the battle field. A horn hung around their shoulders, used to send a signal during a potential enemy breach. Units of heavily armored bowmen and horseback shooters were standing on the other side of the barricade facing the enemy front.
"On behalf of the Queen and her allies", Nobleman spoke loudly, "I congratulate you and your men for exhibiting immense bravery on the battle field."
They were inside the pavilion surrounded by the army captains. Vadhana supervised the meeting. Nobleman stood in front of the sand table before a hand drawn map of the battlefield Karmegha. A thin line of tiny toothpick flags, with the Empires United emblem on it, ran across the map delimiting the captured area of Karmegha.
"All glory to the commanders, captains and their disciplined soldiers, Lord of Nobles", Rana replied modestly. The warriors and the men of affairs felicitated each other. An army captain, with a thick and long black hair flowing down his shoulders, stood unmoved in the middle amidst the cheers.
Nobleman looked straight and coupling his hands at his back, he ordered Rana, "Let the briefing begin, Commander."
Rana stepped forward and made a general assessment of military and non-military resources that included a detailed account on the availability of soldiers, war animals, weaponry, as well as, clothing, housing, nursing and alimentation:
Animal Cavalry - Horsemen and camel riders are exhausted. Elephants, the strategic defensive units, are available and can serve as attack forces. Chariots - Single, double, pairs of two, three and four horse driven as well as well as two and paired wheeled can be deployed. Fast chariot archers and pikes men, single or accompanied riders, await command.
Infantry - Out of the four units - Explosive experts, Pikes men, Swordsmen and Archers – Five units of Archers and Pikes men are on standby for defense under Second in Command. Others await further orders. Only two battalions of foot soldiers can be placed on the battlefield. The rest need rest. The joint women military forces, foot soldiers and riders, await orders from the Queen and can be moved in under the Fourth in Command. Bombers, the special ground forces, can assist the infantry under Fifth in Command. They are experienced warriors trained in using heavy close combat weapons including war clubs, halberd and flails.
Siege Weapons – Long range - Trebuchet, mangonel, petrary - and close range – light onagers and heavy catapults - are operational and experts to handle the siege engines are prepared. Lack of wood has slowed down the construction of the siege towers. Assurance that the work in progress will be completed before reaching the defensive wall of Vettaiyan Palace.
"How is the will?", Vadhana interrupted.
"Excellent", Rana replied directly to Vadhana. "The current victory has showered several drops of strength among the soldiers. Commanders have informed me that dry bread and cheese is providing the needed energy to the warriors. Lack of wood poses a problem for lodging and warmth, as the current stock is being utilized for the construction of the defense zone. But this crisis is temporary and will be solved once the Battalion from Heaven occupies the backwaters of river Daboya. No fatal injuries to report. The wounded are being nursed with clean clothes. Few will return to battle anytime soon. Sentry shift is divided and four groups take turn to keep the watch. Surveillance comes directly under the Second in Command, Chief Sena. Armors, weapons and shields are intact, accounted by Sixth in Command, Captain Kacha."
Vadhana nodded her head with warmth of gladness in her smile.
"Permission to speak", the voice of the silent captain startled everyone inside the pavilion. Vadhana pushed her right arm towards her face to permit the speaker to come forward.
"Your Highness", the long haired captain spoke after taking a step forward, "I am Gudakesha, the Captain of the nineteenth regime of Kottaipattinam infantry, serving the army directly under the First in Command."
Gudakesha took his sword and placing it flat over his palms, he knelt down before Vadhana and announced "I shall fight no more."
There were heavy murmurs around the Pavillion. Gudakesha placed the sword on the floor and stayed knelt with his head facing the floor. Vadhana looked at Rana, the First in Command, who tightened his lips and mildly shook his head in disagreement and informed the Queen, "I invited Captain Gudakesha to speak up before Your Highness, as the matter needs a higher audience."
Vadhana looked at Gudakesha's free flowing dark hair and said, "You are free to speak Gudakesha. In my council, everyone will be heard."
Gudakesha lifted his head and confessed to his Queen, "I saw my brother-in-law, Dhaya, at the battlefield. He has chosen to raise his sword against the Empires United. I cannot widow my own sister."
With immense hesitation as though the words struggled to travel from the throat to his mouth, Gudakesha shedding a drop of tear said, "I request my Queen to dismiss me from my duties."
"Kallingapuri and Kottaipattinam were brotherly states", Nobleman said, "until Raja Mahendran rendered his support to the Emperor. The two empires shared many things in common, from culture to family. But this is war. Your first duty is to be at service to the nation. Loss and gain are the two eyes of war. I request the Queen to reject the plea, order the captian to do his duty to the fullest and not to waste precious time over such issues."
Vadhana sat silent for a while watching Gudakesha and then, issued the order, "Gudakesha, the council has heard your plea. I free you from military activities." The room was filled with silent grumbles. Vadhana continued, "But I am placing you at the army bureau of Kottaipattinam. Before dusk, I order you to bring me the list of other soldiers who are unwilling to battle. You may leave now."
Nobleman stood shaking his head in disagreement. Gudakesha stood up and bowed before his Queen. He turned and showed his respects to Nobleman and Rana before leaving the pavilion under the cloud of heavy murmurs.
Rana raised his voice to bring back order inside the room and to set the discussion into the right direction, "Permission to suggest, Lord of Nobles."
Nobleman nodded affirmatively at Rana to continue. "The standby archers units can be advanced to the defense zone and alleviate the infantry units who are currently under the orders of the Third in Command. The eased foot soldiers, thus, can be deployed in the battle at dawn."
Nobleman thought for a while and announced loudly, "Chariots will arise along with the sun." He quickly turned and faced Rana, "Who is the Commander's charioteer?"
"None, Lord of Nobles", answered Rana, "I shall ride alone."
"The battle will be fierce. You need someone to guide you up front while you fight the rear", Nobleman advised.
"I volunteer as the Charioteer of the Commander", Yesodha Putran broke his silence, "My arms, compared to my foot, are stronger." Rana thanked Yesodha Putran with an appreciative nod.
Nobleman went through the map before him. His fingers were moving rapidly over the tunic while his eyes followed the imaginary lines his fingers drew. He lifted his head and looked around him. After a quick search with his eyes, he ordered, "Someone send a word for Second in Command?" Kalai turned and left the tent.
"Our priority is to capture Fort Ayan", Nobleman continued, "At this rate, we will cross the fort in another couple of moons. Once we enter the line of sight of Fort Ayan, we should be prepared to face the heavy attack from cannon Vettai at every single step we take towards Vettaiyan Palace."
"What is the deadline issued to our men who have infiltrated Fort Ayan?" Nobleman inquired.
"Prince Shamu with the salve leader Maveeran, await our message at the dawn after the fifth moon", Rana replied with confidence. Nobleman walked to Yesodha Putran and consulted with him.
Sena's footsteps echoed around the room, which made Nobleman halt his consultation and address Sena, "There you are, Youngman." He gentely raised his right handed and pointed his palm at Kanakavalli, "Our Lady, the Fourth In command, will report to you at dawn. With the archers units under her command, she will relieve the infantry units and stay to assist you. Of course, General Kalai shall retain his honor to defend the Empires United as the Third in Command. The Fifth and Sixth in Command, Sultan and Kacha, will join the Chief of the allied forces at the battle front."
Sena looked at Kanakavalli. With objection in his face, he starred at Rana and then at Nobleman. He exited the pavilion without uttering a word.
"Are the state of things alright, Rana?", Nobleman asked.
"Yes, Lord of Nobles, as always."
... to be continued ...