Book 1 | Chapter 31 | Fake Sorcerer

Dilapitated Mandapam near Patteeswaram temple (img src: gcmouli.com)

The path was dark and it took some effort for Vandiyathevan to follow her. At one point, he almost ran straight into a tree. He stumbled and stopped.

“Don’t tell me, you have also forgotten your way through this garden. You are one of those who can see even through the dark!”

Vandiyathevan heard the faint footsteps of several people on the other side of the wall. He let out an almost inaudible laugh.

“What did you see that makes you laugh?”

“It is not what I saw. It is what I heard. Did you not hear those heavy footsteps? Those were people who are searching for me. I am laughing because I have successfully fooled them and escaped.”

“Is anyone following you?”

“If someone was not searching for me, why would I have been sitting in the dark against a large wall in the middle of the night?”

At that moment in time, there was a clearing, and the moonlight shown bright on Vandiyathevan’s face.

She took another quizzical look at him.

“The last time you came, you had a large mustache. Why did you take it off?”

“Those who scale and jump over compound walls in the middle of the night need to keep changing their appearances.”

“You look younger too.”

“With enthusiasm comes youth.”

“What is the reason for the enthusiasm?”

“With people like your Maharani, who would not have enthusiasm?”

“No need for sarcasm. Today, my Mistress might be just a royal lady of the palace. One day, she shall definitely become the Empress.”

Vandiyathevan deduced a vague idea of the situation. He was being led to meet the Pazhuvoor Queen Nandini. He also realized that the girl in front had mistaken her for someone else, probably a sorcerer, who regularly visits her. He felt a tingle of fear. But he reassured himself that this was not a situation that he needed to fear much. He had encountered far more dangerous situations.

They reached close to the palace he had seen from atop the wall. The palace consisted of two buildings, connected by a covered passageway. The passage way was designed as a latha mandapam. It was a tastefully designed chamber surrounded by creepers and landscaping. The building on the left was lighted well and had sounds of laughter coming from inside it. The building on the right was dark and eerily silent.

Vandiyathevan and the girl walked towards the latha mandapam. The girl asked him to wait there, while she went forward. He was struck by the smell of the fragrant flowers in the garden. He heard a silken voice say — “Why do you need to ask me permission? Bring him in. You know I have been waiting for him.”

He recognized the voice as that of the Pazhuvoor Queen. His mind was confused trying to predict how she would react when she saw him. The girl stepped backward and signed for him to come in.

He stepped in to see the chamber beautifully lit by two large lamps. He realized that some kind of fragrant scented oil must be mixed in the lamp oils. There was a large couch on which he saw the beautiful Pazhuvoor Queen lounging.

The smell of the flowers, the fragrance oils, and the beauty of the Lady in front of him, intoxicated him.

The Queen looked at him and was taken aback in surprise, but did not show it.

She looked at the girl and said — “Vasuki, why are you still here? Please go to your place. Let me know if you hear any others approaching.”

And the girl retreated to the dark.

Nandini looked at him and smiled. “I cannot imagine how Vasuki mistook you to be the sorcerer. But it does appear that you are indeed versed in sorcery. How did you manage to come in here?”

“I did not do any sorcery. I was sleeping against the wall. I am thinking that your hand maiden was expecting the sorcerer at exactly the same spot. Hence she brought me here. If she had recognized me and not let me in, I would have showed your ring.”

“With that ring, you could have very well come in through the main door during broad daylight. What is the need for this secrecy and wall scaling?”

Vandiyathevan sighed — “That is a big story. Your brother-in-law, Chinna Pazhuvettarayar had his guards follow me everywhere I went. I somehow slipped away from them and escaped through the narrow side streets of this town. It was at this time that I had ended up at the wall, where your hand maiden had been waiting for the sorcerer. I need to apologize for sneaking in like this.”

“No need to apologize. In a way my question has been answered. Ever since I saw you yesterday on the Kaveri river banks, I have been thinking of you. I was wondering why you had not come and met me yet. It was to ask this question, I had summoned the sorcerer.”

“It is very interesting that I had also been thinking about you several times since we met yesterday, my Queen.”

Vandiyathevan knew that he was not telling the truth when he was saying this. He was actually thinking about the beautiful girl he had met at the Kudandhai astrologer’s house.

“You were saying something about Alwarkadiyaan Nambi ..”, she let her voice trail off.

“Yes, my Queen. I have a message from him. “

“Where did you meet him?”

“I met him at Veeranarayanapuram. He was fighting a verbal dual on who was the bigger God in the Hindu Pantheon. A great commotion was being created. It was at this time when your palanquin was also passing by. It was perhaps the commotion that made you open the curtain and take a peek outside. You were headed towards Kadambur. Since Nambi knew I was also headed towards Kadambur, he had asked me to give you a message. I could not meet you in Kadambur. We were only able to meet on the banks of the Kaveri yesterday. And that too, it was because your palanquin bumped into my horse.”

Until then the Queen had been looking afar with a very lost expression on her face. When she heard the last sentence, she smiled softly and looked at Vandiyathevan and said — “Yes. My palanquin is indeed a very naughty one.”