The rain had just started falling down, slicing past the Chola forces. Brahmarajan felt annoyed as it drummed upon his back as he tightened his flak jacket, closing any bare gaps of skin. He felt the chill run through him quite distinctly as he spurred the army on. His mare was whinnying with uncertainty. “Yes, I know you can’t take the rain, but we’re both in this together, aren’t we?” He patted her neck as he held onto the reins, looking both down and ahead. It was all wild turf on their march to the plain. Finally, Rajarata had gone from a parched scrub into a quagmire.
“Dhakkinadesha must be even worse,” said a voice on his right. It was the old commander Devdas, who’d been somewhere on the right flank with the cavalry, but had managed to get closer to the front lines. “I mean, south of here is the great River the locals call the Gona, Gona Nadi, I think. It’s the border between this part of the island and the western coast. The west and south are all jungle and rocky outcrops from what I’ve heard. Not much space to move around. Your son is going to have some problems, being right next to the Gona territory.”
Brahmarajan drew in closer, spitting out water and cursing as his horse sloshed through the puddles and muddy rivulets that were flowing past the army.
“Sivapalan is stationed with Harihari in Rajarata itself, just next to the border, as I remember.”
“Oh, lucky him,” replied Devdas, slapping his helmet back on his head.
Brahmarajan gritted his teeth. “Ah yes, lucky, lucky him.”
The column had been moving through a grassy scrub plain, interspersed by thick gallery forests in some areas and a number of natural water holes here and there. Some of the men even saw wild elephants milling close to the water holes, the ‘villus’ as they were called in this area. A large, wild place, this one. Not much inhabitation, and even so, just the random old farmer with his herd of buffaloes.
Devdas rode even closer to Brahmarajan, but this was noticed by the lieutenant Lakshman.
“You need to get back!” he barked. “We can’t have too many of our officers up front. We need to get to some higher ground, where the infantry can fight properly. Or else all our men will slip and stumble in these accursed puddles. Brahmarajan, myself, Sri Murugan and Rahul will keep ourselves here. We can split up if we need to. You need to back up, Devdas.”
He was smiling, and Devdas couldn’t help but suspect something, some hidden agenda. But much of what his fellow officer said made sense. The Cholas had their own stock of guerrillas, their own spies and their own efficient strike corps, but so did the Lankan army. Having a man like Vikramabahu in command of the enemy, was no good at all.
Especially since Brahmarajan had faced the Sinhalese prince in battle before.