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Book 2 | Chapter 36 | Is the status worth it?

Vandhiyathevan rushed towards where Prince Arulmozhi and the woman stood. She looked very much like the Pazhuvoor Queen Nandini. But she was not decked in her usual royal finery. The face looked like her, but was it her? Vandhiyathevan could not tell for sure. As he approached them, she slid into the dark shadows and vanished. He tried to follow her, but the Prince restrained him.

“Who is that lady?” asked Vandhiyathevan.

Nambi arrived there panting heavily. “She must be the Guardian Goddess of the Chozha dynasty,” he said. He pointed to where the three of them had stood moments ago. A large part of the wall of the building had caved over and there stood a large mound of rubble. There would have been no chances of survival.

“Who do you think she was, Vandhiyatheva?” asked the Prince.

“It was perhaps my mind playing tricks on me, but she looked like the young Pazhuvoor Queen Nandini. Did you two not notice the similarity?”

“I did not take a close look. But I think it must be your mind playing tricks on you. How could Nandini be here in Lanka?” said Nambi.

“To be honest, there have been times when I have noticed the similarity too. Anyway, let us keep walking,” said the Prince.

“Prince, when the lady called you near her, what did she tell you?”

“She warned me that there are two people who have come to Lanka to kill me. This lady has saved me a few times before as well.”

“Prince, I think, I may know who the two people could have been. I saw them earlier with Parthibendra Pallavan. I thought I saw them near the house which crumbled, a few moments ago.”

Vandhiyathevan immediately turned around, “You two keep walking. Let me go take a look around that house again.”

The Prince restrained him again. “Do not go there now. We have work to do. You will have time and opportunity to investigate later. I came without any guards only because of you. Would it be right if you leave me alone like this?”

These words filled Vandhiyathevan with shame. “Ayya, from this moment on, I will never leave your side.”

They soon reached the old palace of King Mahasena. In one of the inner rooms, three beds were neatly laid out for them. The soft moonlight streamed in through the high windows in the room.

“Several hundred years ago, the great kings of Lanka, their princes, and their wives used to grace these rooms. The same rays of the moon used to light these rooms up, even then. Now, these rooms are being used by ordinary people, like us. What do you say, Vandhiyatheva?”

“Oh Prince, you can speak such about yourself and this Vaishnavar here. Please do not include me in the list of ordinary people.”

The Prince chuckled and remarked, “Yes, I forgot. You belong to an illustrious lineage of vallattharasars. Please forgive me.”

“Would you like to listen to some verses that speak about my lineage?”

Vandhiyathevan went on to recite a short couplet about the Vaanarkulam clan, which spoke about how generous the chieftains were towards poets and other artists.

The Prince was sufficiently impressed and quipped that Vandhiyathevan indeed deserved to be in the grand bed chambers of the Lankan kings.

“Speaking of deserving people, I am indeed very upset at you, Sire. I still cannot fathom why you turned down the offer from the Buddhist monks to take over as the Lankan Emperor.”

He chuckled and added, “If you did not want it, I was right there standing next to you. You could have given it to me.”

The three of them laughed loudly.

The Prince then went on to explain: “It is not right to accept the throne from the Buddhist monks. Religious emissaries should never interfere in politics. This would lead to problems in religion and in politics. Moreover, these monks are not the leaders of the entire Buddhist population in Lanka. There are two other Buddhist camps similar to this one. If I accept the throne from these monks, then I would have to rule this kingdom as per their wishes. The other two camps would immediately become our adversaries as well.”

Vandhiyathevan nodded and said, “Hmm, now I understand.”

“It is getting late. We should sleep now.”

But Vandhiyathevan could not hold back his questions. “But, Prince, I will not be able to sleep until I know who the lady, who saved our lives, is.”

“Hmm, I do not know yet who the lady is. But there are some things that I know about her.”