Book 3 | Chapter 22 | What is that sound?
As the boat came closer, Vandhiyathevan quickly confirmed that it was indeed the Princess. He stood there awkwardly, especially since Nambi was also standing next to him.
Alwarkadiyan Nambi nudged him and said, “Appane, what are you waiting for? The Princess has been waiting for you for quite a while. Go on, and do tell her the news of the Prince being safe, first. You can tell the stories of your bravery later. There is so much chaos that you have caused. Let me see if I can fix some of that,” said Nambi, shaking his head, and heading off in the direction in which they had come.
Vandhiyathevan thought, “How could this fellow know so much? He did not even ask me for information. I did not tell him anything. He must be an expert spy. Look at how calm and composed he is, while executing so brilliantly. But who does he work for?”
He looked at the Princess’ face in the boat. He forgot about Nambi. He forgot about his exploits. He forgot about the world. And he froze seeing her beautiful face.
“Ey, fortune-teller. Come here. Do you tell the fortunes of only kings and princes, or will you tell my fortune as well? I see that you are one of those who tell fortunes by seeing one’s face. Else, why would you be staring at my face for so long?”
“I am just wondering where I have seen this lovely face before, my Lady!”
“Haha! I know you are a forgetful character. About 40 days ago, we met first in Kudanthai Josiyar’s house. And then on the same day, on the river bank…”
“Devi, please stop. Was it just forty days before? I thought it was forty thousand years ago. In one of my previous births, I was a hunter. I hunted down and killed a tiger which was chasing you. I used to capture beautiful parrots and give them to you. You released them into the air and laughed. In another birth, I was a fisherman. I went to faraway lakes and rivers and brought back fishes the shade of jade. You took them from me, and released them in running water, and relished the sight of them swimming away. In another birth, I had dived to the bottom of the ocean and brought back pearls, white as the moon. And you gifted them all to the small boys on the shore.”
“I brought vibrant flowers from the gardens of the Devas, and you said, these are no comparison to the simple jasmine flowers that bloom in our backyards. I brought back Indra’s jewels, and you rejected them refusing to wear someone else’s jewels. I did severe penance to Lord Shiva, and got you Goddess Parvathi’s anklets. You said that it would be a sin to wear Jaganmaatha’s anklets and asked me to return them back to her.”
“Is all of this true, oh Princess, or is it just true that we met about forty days before?”
“Oh no! This fortune-teller is stark raving mad. I think we need to take the boat back to shore.”
“No, no, please Princess, please don’t. I was sane until recently. If I was not, how could I have impersonated a fortune-teller and fooled Madhuranthaka Thevar, or escaped from that son of the Vaidhiyar, or come here with Alwarkadiyan Nambi? It is only after I climbed onto this boat and saw your face that I became intoxicated.”
“Oho. Then, please do not see my face. See the clear water. See the beautiful moon. See the palace or its beautiful gardens. First, give me the information regarding the Prince, and then give me the full picture, from the time you left Pazhayarai.”
“Devi, if I had not finished your mission successfully, I would not be here presenting myself to you. I have brought back the Prince safely. Whether he is in good health is something that I cannot guarantee, because when I started from there he was afflicted by a bad tropical fever. I left him in good hands though. Poonkuzhali and Sendhan Amudhan would give their life to ensure the Prince is safe and taken care of.”
At that time, they heard the deafening roar of people screaming and wailing.
“What is that? That sounds like people wailing and screaming.”
“Yes, Devi. It does indeed sound like that.”