The inauguration function had left the Periya Pazhuvettarayar in a very irritable state. He felt that the whole function had raised the confidence of the people in the royal family. He was very irritated at the fact that land from several villages were being written off in the name of social service. He felt that at this rate, there would be nowhere he could collect taxes from. And if he did not collect taxes, the treasury would not have enough money to send for the troops, which the Emperor kept asking him to send.
He turned towards Nandini and hissed, “I hear that Princess Kundavai is planning to come to our palace. And I hear that it was you who invited her. Why does she have to come here? Have you forgotten how she insulted you earlier?”
“I neither forget good deeds that people have done for me, nor do I forget people who have insulted me.”
“Then why is she coming here?”
“She is the daughter of the Emperor of this country. She does as she pleases.”
“Then, why did you invite her?”
“I never invited her. She invited herself. She wanted to meet Kandanmaran. Could I refuse her request? There will be a time when I will refuse. Until then, I would have to be patient.”
“I cannot be in this palace when she comes. In fact, I cannot be in this town, when she comes. I have some work in Mazhapadi. It will be a few days before I return.”
“I would also prefer that. Leave this poisonous snake to me. I know how to handle her. When you return, you might hear some interesting news. Please do not be shocked when you hear them.”
“What kind of interesting news are you talking about?”
“News such as Kundavai wanting to marry Kandanmaran, or Prince Aditya Karikalan wanting to marry Kandanmaran’s sister.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Not everything that is talked about would happen.”
She looked at him with steely eyes.
“You have been telling everyone that you are going to make that effeminate fool, Madhuranthaka Thevar, the Emperor. Is that going to happen?”
He stood shell-shocked for a moment, and then slowly took her hand and kissed it. “The day when you would become Empress of the Chozha kingdom is nearing.”
Kandanmaran felt very excited about the impending visit of Princess Kundavai. He had heard about her beauty and intelligence. It was also an honour to be visited by the Princess of this large kingdom. He would have to repeat the story of his back-stabbing friend to her as well. He felt a little bad, when he thought about his participation in some of the activities that were being carried out against the royal family, to which she belonged.
When he did meet the Princess, he lost himself in her. He was completely enamoured by her humility, her beauty, and her friendly nature. He spoke to her about his own valour.
“I would have even forgiven him if he had plunged his spear into my heart. The fact that he stabbed me from behind is what makes me so angry.”
The resentment and the anger in his face even made the Princess rethink, for a moment, about whether she should believe Vandhiyathevan, or this young warrior in front of her.
“He started cheating me when we were at Kadambur itself. He did not tell me the real reason why he was going to Thanjavur. He showed some fake insignia and entered the city. He met the Emperor claiming that he had some scroll from Aditya Karikalan. Apparently, he brought you also into the story, by claiming that he was going to meet you and deliver another scroll from your brother. He has escaped from the Fort General’s guards. I still cannot believe he would be a spy. I knew him to be an eccentric person, but a spy, I cannot be sure.”
This was when Kandanmaran’s imagination took over.
“I set out in search of him and wanted to talk some sense into him. He was treading into dangerous territory. I set out alone along the outer walls of the fort. I did not want to take anyone with me, and humiliate my friend. That was when I saw someone scaling down the Thanjavur forts. I recognised it to be my friend. I accosted him and spoke with him. I asked him to tell me the real reason why he had come to Thanjavur, and I promised him all the help that I could offer. It was then he kicked me on my chest. We then started wrestling. Very soon, he accepted defeat and asked for forgiveness. I forgave him. He said he wanted to sit and talk. I led the way.”
“Suddenly he plunged a long knife into my back. And before I could react, he ran away. I lost consciousness. When I woke up next, I found myself in the house of a dumb lady.”
Kundavai smiled within herself. There were so many loopholes in the story that Kandanmaran was spinning. “How did you get to the dumb lady’s house?”
“That is what I am unable to fathom. Apparently, the dumb lady has a son, who also vanished around the same time. If he comes back, we can ask him. Else, we will have to wait until the Fort General’s troops capture Vandhiyathevan.”
“Do you think he will get caught?”
“Of course, he will. I am waiting here only with that thought in mind. I would like to talk some sense into him, and perhaps even get forgiveness from the Pazhuvettarayars.”
“I am impressed by your love for your friend.”
Just at that time, a hand-maiden ran into the house and announced, “Amma, the spy has been caught. They are bringing him into town.”