Book 1 | Chapter 32 | Offer to Spy
There was a sound of marching boots of cavalry coming from near. There was a sound of opening and closing of the palace doors.
“It looks like my husband is back from his trip. He will head to the Kings quarters and then to the Fort Commander’s quarters and then come here. You should leave before that. What was Alwarkadiyaan’s message?”
“That Veera Vaishnavar claims that you are siblings.”
“And why does that surprise you?”
“How can someone believe that a black macaque monkey and a green parrot are siblings?”
Nandini laughed out heartily. “We grew up in the same family, in the same house. He loved me as though I was his real sister.”
“The message he gave you was that Lord Krishna was waiting for you to come. The Lord wants to hear your Andal Paasurams again.”
Nandini sighed. “It looks like he still has not let go of that desire. If you meet him again, please tell him to forget me completely. Tell him that I have lost all credibility to become a dedicated devotee of the Lord. Tell him that I cannot become the Andal that he thinks I can become.”
“I do not completely agree. Andal had to sing songs, thread together garlands, and plead with Lord Krishna to marry her. You do not need any of that. Lord Krishna just needs to see you, and he will leave Rukmini, Satyabama, Radha, and his gopikas, and willingly come and marry you.”
“You need to stop this false praise in front of me. I do not like this.”
“Ok. Then please turn around. I will praise behind you.”
“You seem to be a fine wordsmith.”
“Aren’t you guilt of praising too now?”
“Then you can turn around and talk too.”
Vandiyathevan quipped majestically — “Be it in the war ground, or in front of ladies, this warrior will never show his back. I do not have a problem with you praising me in front of me.”
Nandini laughed heartily again.
“It has been a long time since I laughed so heartily. You had not mentioned your name yet?”
“Vandiyathevan is my given name. Some people call me Vallavarayan.”
“Used to be. I am of the famous Vaanar clan.”
“And your kingdom?”
“At this moment, the earth and the sky, both of which I am a master of.”
“I think it is still possible. You might even get back your kingdom.”
“But, how? What goes into the Tiger’s stomach does not come out?”, said Vandiyathevan, craftily referring to the Chozha kingdom (whose emblem was the tiger).
“Well, I can make that happen.”
“I do not have those Royal ambitions.”
Nandini paused, “Why are the Commander’s men searching for you?”
“The Commander feels suspicious about who I am, and how I got your ring with the palm leaf insignia.”
Nandini felt a pang of fear inside her.
“How did he know that you had the ring?”
“I had always wanted to meet the Emperor. I used the ring to get entry into the Royal palace. The Commander wanted to know how I got the ring.”
He looked at her ashen face, “Do not worry, my Lady. I did not use your name. I told him that I got the ring from the Periya Pazhuvettarayar at Kadambur.”
There was relief in Nandini’s face.
“Did he believe you?”
“I do not think he believed me. Else, why would he get his guards to follow me around, and then now search for me? I think he wanted to put me in front of his brother and check my theory.”
Vandiyathevan hesitated for a moment and asked Nandini — “I have some urgent work outside the fort. I need your help in escaping from here.”
“What kind of urgent work?”
“I have several. For instance, I need to give your reply to Alwarkadiyaan.”
“Why did you want to meet the Chakravarthy so badly?”
“I had always wanted to meet this great man, whose bravery, administrative skills, honesty and humility, stood on par with his beauty.”
“Hrmph. Yes. He is very proud of his beauty. Just like his arrogant and vain daughter in Pazhayarai.”
Vandiyathevan could see sparks of jealousy and hatred when she spewed out these words.
She got up from her chaise. “Can we get into an agreement?”
“My Lady, you are the Queen of the most powerful man in the Chozha Empire. And I am after all a foot soldier. How can I even dream of helping you?”
Nandini looked at him intensely, unable to figure out if he was speaking from the heart, or if it was sarcasm.
“I am looking for a dedicated spy to do surreptitious tasks for me. Would you be interested? Perhaps I can even get this common foot soldier his kingdom back.”
“I have already accepted to do a very similar job to another Royal Lady.”
“Who is that, who is competing with me?”
“The same person whom you just spoke about with love — Princess Kundavai.”
“Several people have already seen this. There is no harm in you also seeing this.”
Vandiyathevan showed her the scroll meant for the Princess.
Nandini could not hide her anger as she read the scroll by the lamps light. Her eyes glowered like hot coals.
“If you wish to leave this palace alive, you would need to do one task of my bidding.”
“Which is ..”
“I am sure Kundavai would give you a reply scroll. I want you to show that scroll to me before you deliver it back to your Master.”
“A very dangerous task.”
“I thought you just mentioned you did not know the meaning of danger?”
“But everything has a price attached to it.”
“Hah. Price. You will get more than what you are imagining. You will get what the powerful Periya Pazhuvettarayar had been begging for, in all these years.”
She threw a seductive glance at Vandiyathevan, as he shuddered.
Suddenly the sound of an owl cut through the silence. Three hoots.
“The real Sorcerer is here. I do not need him anymore. But perhaps, he can help in smuggling you out of the palace. Go and wait in the dark there”, she said, pointing to a corner.