The next morning, the sun was shining bright, warming up the front verandah of the Princess’s palace. An elephant with a howdah came and stood near the entrance. Kundavai and Vaanathi climbed up a flight of stairs and got into the howdah.
The elephant trundled slowly towards the Paranthaka Chozha Hospital. The heavy footsteps and the sound of the small bell around its neck was enough to get people off its way. The mahout walked briskly next to the elephant. The onlookers paid their respects when they saw the two ladies on top of the elephant. They thundered down the street and passed through the cantonment area. There were roosters, sheep, pet dogs tied to the front of the houses. Young boys were playing pretend war with bamboo sticks. There were pictures of wars and fighting on the verandah walls of the houses. There was general commotion when the elephant passed through the streets.
There were several who hailed the Princess and the Emperor. Some people followed the elephant. At the end of the road was the hospital. Princess Kundavai had established this hospital for the sake of the families whose men-folk were part of the army. Several of them were fighting in Eezhanaadu at this moment. She had built the hospital using her own funds and had named it after her ancestor.
Whenever the Princess came to the hospital, she would enquire about the wellness of these people.
“I hope the hospital is being helpful. Are the doctors coming regularly? Are there enough medicines available?”
There was general agreement among the public that the hospital was being very useful. Several people came forward and shared anecdotes of how the hospital was being helpful.
“It fills me with happiness, that our ancestors have specialized in medicine, and that the doctors here are able to use the knowledge to help all of you.”
Someone shouted, “Make way for the Chief Doctor.”
The aged doctor came forward and paid his respects to the Princess.
“Chief Doctor, you were saying you wanted someone to go to Kodikkarai and get some medicinal herbs. I had sent a warrior for the same. Did he come and meet you?”
“Yes, Princess. That perky young man has come. I will send my son with him. My son can bring back the herbs, while the warrior can leave for Lanka from there.”
“Do you need medicines from Lanka as well?”
“Oh yes. If you remember, when Lakshmana was hurt, in the Ramayana, Hanuman went to get the Sanjeevani Mountain. Hanuman is said to have crossed the seas to Lanka at Kodikkarai, and hence some medicinal herbs are available there. Since the Sanjeevani Mountain itself is in Lanka, there are several more herbs that we can get there. If only I can get the medicines that I want from Lanka, I think I can cure the Emperor completely.”
“Where are the two young men now?”
They are inside, getting ready for the journey. They wanted to meet you before they left.
Vandiyathevan was dressed in a different kind of attire, to not attract attention.
“Are you the person who agreed to go to Lanka and get the medicines for the doctor?”
Vandiyathevan’s eyes met hers. “Yes, Princess. I am the one.”
“I may even get to meet the Prince there. Is there any message that you want me to give him?”
“Yes. Please tell him that the Kodumbalur Princess Vaanathi has still not been cured of her sickness. She still keeps fainting often. And if the Prince wants to see her in good health, he should come immediately and see her.”
“I will pass on the message.”
Vaanathi blushed red. “Please do not tell him that. Tell the Prince that Princess Kundavai has been taking care of Vaanathi very well.”
“I will pass on this message as well.”
Kundavai was amused. “How will you pass on both the messages? One of them is the truth and the other is not.’
“Princess, I will pass on both the messages, and I will leave it to the Prince to figure out which is the truth.”
The Princess looked at the doctor, “Have the official scrolls that I had asked for, arrived?”
“Yes, Princess. Two scrolls have been received. One official scroll states that these two warriors are going on official business for collecting herbs for the Emperor, and that any and every one should ensure safe passage for them. The second scroll is specifically addressed to the Kodikkarai lighthouse keeper. I have handed over the scrolls to them.”
“It is all settled, then. I think you should leave right away.”
Princess Kundavai and Vaanathi headed towards the elephant. Vandiyathevan and the doctors’ son headed towards two royal horses, rearing up and raring to go.
Kundavai gave some last minute information about some dangers that Vandiyathevan could possibly face on the way. And the two parties parted ways.
The warriors mounted the horses. He turned and took a last look at the Princess. He kicked the horse into a quick gallop.
Kundavai smiled and wondered how her heart had gone out to this smart young warrior.
“Akka, what are you thinking about?”
“I was thinking about this arrogant warrior. I am even wondering why I chose him to deliver a message to my brother.”
“Yes. He seems to be a big thief too.”
“Why are you calling him a thief, and that too a big one?”
“Normal thieves steal gold and silver. This big thief is attempting to steal the heart of the Princess of the Chozha kingdom.”
The two ladies laughed heartily. “Nothing like that will happen.”
On the way back to the palace, there was a group of women who wished to speak to the Princess.
As the elephant came to a stop, one of them stepped forward and said, “Princess, we have no information about how our troops are doing in Lanka. We also hear that the Thanjavur leaders have not been sending food for them. Without food, how will our warriors fight?”
“Do not worry. Food is being shipped to them from Maamallapuram. Also, do you think your Prince Arulmozhi will keep quiet if he comes across such happenings? He will never let such a thing happen.”
The elephant continued towards the palace.