Kundavai read through the palm leaf with intense concentration. When she finished reading the message, her tense face relaxed into a wide smile. “Now that you have delivered your message, what do you intend to do?”
“Devi, my job is done. I guess I have to turn back home now.”
“No. Your work is not done. It is just beginning.”
“I don’t understand, Devi.”
“The message says that I can take your help for any surreptitious secretive activities. Aren’t you going to help me?”
“I did agree to my Master about that. But, please, I beg you not to assign me anything that is critical.”
“Why do you say so? Is it the practice of the Vaanar clan to go back on promises? Or is it that you do not want to take orders from a woman?”
She hesitated. “Or, is it because you hate me?”
“Devi. How can it ever be so? How can someone hate you? How can I hate you?”
“Did my brother tell you about this message?”
“Yes, my lady. He did tell me about this. But I think, my journey probably did not start auspiciously. I had to fight off so many enemies on the way. My best friend thinks I am his enemy. Soldiers are searching for me everywhere. In this situation, how can I assure you that I can execute any job that you give me with full confidence? I do not want to fail in the jobs that you give me.”
“Who are those enemies? Can you share with me?”
“The Pazhuvettarayars have sent their forces to search all over for me. My best friend Kandanmaran thinks that I stabbed him on his back. There is a person who is pretending to be a Veera Vaishnavar, named Alwarkadiyaan Nambi, who is following me everywhere. The Pazhuvoor queen, Nandhini, has sent a magician after me. I do not know who will catch me first?”
At that time, he remembered his most recent encounter with the magician. He had just gotten out of the swirling waters of the river. He had wanted to wait until darkness, so that he could move more swiftly and without being detected. Once darkness had set in, he had started walking along the river banks. Just after midnight, he had felt very tired, and had seen a desolate mandapam. The moon was shining very brightly and was lighting the front part of the mandapam. He had moved backwards into the darkness to sleep for a while.
He had just settled in, when he had heard the sound of an owl. This was the same sound that he had heard in the garden of the Pazhuvoor queen’s palace. It had been the magician. He had walked towards the mandapam. Vandiyathevan had hid behind a pillar. The magician had kept walking towards the pillar towards him and had caught Vandiyathevan by his neck.
The magician had screamed, “Give me the insignia ring right now. If you do not, I will kill you right here.”
Vandiyathevan had almost choked to death. Vandiyathevan had braced his hand towards the pillar and had kicked the magician with all of his strength. The magician had fallen back with a howl. The magician had landed on another pillar. The unstable pillar had brought the roof above them crumbling down. Vandiyathevan had started running, and had not stopped until he was sure, he was far away.
Vandiyathevan was suddenly shaken out of his thoughts. He saw Kundavai’s peaceful face, and he was filled with relief.
Kundavai was asking him, “How long has it been, since you left Kanchi?”
“It has been a week and one day.”
“Oho. You have earned so many enemies in such a small time. It is indeed surprising.”
“It is a long story.”
“Which I am willing to hear fully.”
She looked at the priest, “How much can we trust the boatman?”
The priest replied, “He is deaf in both ears. He cannot hear a thing.”
“Then I think we need to take a boat ride. I want to hear this young man’s story.”
Vandiyathevan was overjoyed at the thought of a boat ride with the beautiful Princess. He thought to himself that he would tell the story with as much details as possible, so that it would take the longest time. Little did he realize that, as the story progressed, Kundavai was becoming more and more impatient to hear what had happened next. However long the story is, there had to be an ending. And as Vandiyathevan was nearing his story’s ending, the boat was banking back on to the shore. When they got back to the shore, they could still hear the melodious music.
She suddenly turned to him asked, “How did you manage to get inside Pazhayarai?”
Vandiyathevan answered in his usual witty manner, “Kamsan helped me.”
He then went on to explain his answer. He narrated how he had met this group of actors, and how he had convinced them that he was a better actor than the one playing Kamsan. The Kamsan performer had to wear a wooden mask, which would protect his identity. He had slipped into the city easily with the troupe. After the dancing and theatrics was done, he had sought out Eesana Shiva Bhattar, whom the Prince had recommended to seek for help.
“And, here I am.”
Kundavai was very impressed with this young man. Her eyes and face showed the appreciation.
“In this dark time of the Chozha politics, I am glad the almighty Goddess Durga has sent me this young warrior to be of help to me.”
“But you have not given me any tasks yet? Only if you do, I can prove myself to you.”
“I am going to give you some tasks that will be much more dangerous than what you have been through so far.”
Vandiyathevan secretly thought to himself that he would do anything for this lovely lady. He would go and capture the moon for her, if she ordered it.
The Princess turned around and walked towards a nearby building. The priest and Vandiyathevan followed her. She sat down by a marble table and wrote out a message on a palm leaf.
“Dear Ponniyin Selvan, please come back to Pazhayarai with the bearer of this message. You can get more details from this messenger. He can be trusted completely.”
She rolled the message and gave it to Vandiyathevan.
“I want you to leave without any delay to Eezhanaadu and deliver this to my brother Arulmozhi.”
I would like you to bring him back immediately with you.
Vandiyathevan was ecstatic. He had just met one of the two people whom he had wanted to desperately meet in his lifetime — the beautiful Kundavai. Through this charming lady, he was going to meet the other person whom he had wanted to meet — Prince Arulmozhi.
“Devi, I will start immediately.”
As she gave the scroll to him, her fingers accidentally brushed his palm. He shivered. He felt as if his chest would burst. He felt a thousand butterflies flying in front of him. He heard a thousand nightingales cooing in harmony. He saw thousands of rose flower petals fall around him. His gaze met hers. He could not get himself to talk anything. But his eyes had communicated what had to be said.
Eesana Shiva Bhattar cleared his throat, and once again, Vandiyathevan was brought back to his senses.