Book 2 | Chapter 14 | The Princess Arrives

The retinue stopped. Kundavai got down from the elephant. Nandini got out of the palanquin and went up to the Princess to welcome her. The Princess accepted the welcome with a smile. The citizens of the city took in the sight of the two most beautiful women in their kingdom, smile at each other. A roar went up in the crowds.

The residents of the city of Thanjavur were naturally excited. The city wore a festive look. The Princess was coming. There was already a large crowd that was beginning to gather at the gates of the city to welcome the Princess. As much as the people loved Arulmozhi, they loved their Princess even more. Not a day passed, without someone mentioning the beauty or the mental acuity of the Princess.

When the Princess eventually appeared on the horizon, the doors of the fort flew open. A royal retinue from within the fort set out to welcome her. The royal retinue was led by the two Pazhuvettarayars seated atop elephants. Right behind the elephants was the beautiful palanquin that the readers are already familiar with. Behind the silken screens of the palanquin sat the beautiful Pazhuvoor Queen – Nandini.

The retinue stopped. Kundavai got down from the elephant. Nandini got out of the palanquin and went up to the Princess to welcome her. The Princess accepted the welcome with a smile. The citizens of the city took in the sight of the two most beautiful women in their kingdom, smile at each other. A roar went up in the crowds.

While the people of the city almost worshipped their Princess, there had been a bit of resentment towards Nandini from the beginning. But now, having seen her step out to welcome the Princess, the crowds were very pleased. What the crowds did not hear was the stinging conversation between the two ladies.

“Devi! Welcome. We are blessed to have you visit us. We were worried that you might have forgotten about us.”

“Hmm. I was wondering if you had forgotten about me, since you have not visited Pazhayarai either.”

“Moths are naturally attracted to beautiful flowers. People will come to Pazhayarai. But who will come to this ugly Thanjavur city?”

“How can you call this beautiful city ugly? I thought that the city has power and wealth imprisoned within it?”

“That is what I have heard as well. I hear that the Chakravarthy is imprisoned here. But then, you are here now, to save him.”

One could see sparks of fire in Nandini’s eyes when she said these words.

Kundavai laughed sarcastically. “I was not thinking about the Emperor. No man on this earth can imprison Emperor Sundara Chozhan. I was thinking about the beautiful Nandini Devi.”

“Please tell this when my lord is around. He does seem to keep me as though I am in prison. If you can put in a word…”

“What is my word worth here? Also, the prison that you are imprisoned in is the prison of love, and that too, the prison of love of an older man. There is nothing that I can do.”

There was a minor commotion in the crowd near where they were standing. One of the ladies came forward and mentioned that they wanted access to come to the fort during the nine nights of Navarathri. They complained about the strict rules of entry into the fort.

“Rani Nandini, can you not talk to your husband or your brother-in-law, and get permission for these people? Surely, these ladies cannot be a cause for security concern. The Pazhuvettarayar brothers have such control all the way up to the shores of this kingdom.”

“Devi, why do you limit it by the shores? You will soon see that it extends far beyond the shores too.” Kundavai wondered what this evil lady meant.

Meanwhile, Nandini had walked up to the Periya Pazhuvettarayar and communicated the Princess’ wish of letting the women into the fort for the festival.

“Ah. Would anyone object to the wishes of the Princess?” All of them now turned back and went into the fort.

Navarathri was celebrated with gaiety in Thanjavur. The ceremonies were held on a grand scale. The two beautiful ladies joined in the festivities. While the public were regaled by the presence of these two ladies, sparks flew between them in every fiery conversation. Sarcasm and blatant hate became the norm of every dialogue. They resembled two venomous snakes fighting each other.

If there was one person who was affected by all of this, it was the Kodumbalur princess, Vanathi. Kundavai did not have enough time for her. Vanathi sought out a world of her own, and lived in her own solitary thoughts.

Book 1 | Chapter 44 | Bring back Arulmozhi

Pazhayarai ruins (img src: flickr)

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.

Book 1 | Chapter 43 | Rendezvous with the Princess

Vadavur Lake, Thiruvarur Dt img src: wikipedia

After meeting with the Princess, Alwarkadiyaan decided to go to his cousin, Eesana Shiva Bhattar’s house. It was a short walk away. Nambi noticed that the festivities of Shree Jayanthi had died down considerably. He passed through the army quarters where the wives of the soldiers were whispering among themselves. There was discontent writ on their faces. It was night by the time he reached his cousin’s house, which was right next to the Shiva temple.

This Shiva temple had attained fame because of the Saint Appar, who had sung Devaram songs here. When Appar had come here, the area had been misappropriated by Jain monks. They had built cave like meditation structures all around the temple, completely hiding it. Appar requested the Pallava king at that time to help clear the way and discovered a small Shiva temple here. Later Chozha kings had rebuilt and renovated this small temple.

The only way to get to his cousin’s house was through the temple gopuram. All other entrances were blocked by the cave like structures.

Nambi stepped through the gopuram. He heard sounds of revelry and found the same stage actors, who had enacted the life of Krishna earlier, here. While Nambi was looking around this group, Eesana Shiva Bhattar hurriedly rushed out, caught Nambi by the hand and dragged him out of the temple.

“Anna, what are you doing?” asked a surprised Nambi.

“After what you did in the court of the Maharani today, what do you expect? I do not want you to step into this Shiva temple ever again. If you want, come home, eat and leave.”

Eesana Shiva Bhattar caught Nambi by the neck, pushed him out of the temple, and slammed the temple door shut.

Nambi had not expected this. He decided to go to his cousin’s house. He took the long route around the temple, navigating around the meditation caves, and reached his cousins house after a while. His cousin’s wife had a soft corner for Nambi. She liked his witty words. Nambi entertained her with witty anecdotes of his travels, and ate the food that she served. He then came to the front ante-room and lay down.

He was reminded of something that he had seen while he was walking by the Kudamurutti River. He had glimpsed a horse ride very fast on the other bank. The horse was wet, whether from sweat or from swimming across the river, he couldn’t tell. On the back of the horse, there was a young man tied to the saddle. The horse was being chased by a few soldiers on horses. As Nambi watched, the soldiers had caught up with the quarry and were questioning the young man. Nambi could not clearly hear what they were talking. All he could hear was, “Where is he?” being repeated several times. To this question, the young man had responded that he was gone and that he had been washed away by the flooding river. The soldiers had taken the young man and the horse away with them.

At that time, Nambi could not fathom anything about what had happened. Now, however, he started piecing together the pieces. He recalled the familiar voice of the actor who had played the part of Kamsa in the theatrical group.

Eesana Shiva Bhattar returned to his home after finishing his last prayers for the evening. He saw Nambi sprawled in his front ante-room. Nambi pretended to be in deep sleep. The priest slammed the door shut and went inside.

Next morning, the priest came outside. “Nambi, when are you going to leave? I am no longer your elder brother. Please do not call me Anna ever.”

“I will leave as soon as your anger comes down, Anna.”

The priest’s wife intervened, “Why are you getting so angry? Has he not always been like this?”

“The words he uttered in front of the Queen yesterday were disgusting. He called our Supreme Lord, the one who goes around the cemetery with a skull. It felt like someone was pouring molten lead into my ear. Apparently the Queen did not sleep the whole night.”

She intervened again, “I will talk to him. He will not speak like that again.”

“The only way he can atone for this misdeed is, if he goes to Rameswaram and pray to Lord Shiva there. Even his Lord Rama prayed to Shiva over there.”

The priest glared at Nambi and walked away.

After about half an hour, the priest returned in a calmer state of mind.

“Thirumalai, I am sorry. Anger took the better of me. I hope you did not take it all to heart.”

“No, Anna. I did not take any offense.”

“Ok. Please stay right here. After I finish the noon prayers, I will come back. I would like to talk to you and take your advice on something important.”

Saying so, the priest rushed into the temple. Thirumalai followed surreptitiously.

The priest went into the temple. Nambi waited patiently nearby. Soon, he saw the priest come out with someone. The priest looked around here and there, to ensure no one was watching. He was a young man. He looked familiar. He did look like the actor who played Kamsan. The two of them scurried down around the meditation mounds until they came to a water body. Nambi recognized this to be the same large lake adjoining the palaces. A boatman was waiting. The two of them got in. The strangers face was now clearly visible.

Aha, Nambi’s guess was correct. It was indeed the warrior whom he had met at Veeranarayanapuram.

Nambi needed to find out where the boat was headed to. The boat crossed a few palaces. Nambi guessed that the boat was headed to the Princess’s palace. He knew that the palace next to the Princess palace belonged to the Chief Minister, Aniruddha Brahmaraayar. He knew it would be locked, since the minister was in Madurai on an official visit, and his family lived in Thanjavur.

Nambi smartly walked into the locked palace compound. The guards recognized Nambi and paid their respects. He said he needed to head to the back of the palace, and he did not need help. Nambi swiftly crossed the palace grounds and reached the back of the palace. Along the banks, Nambi crossed over into the Princess’s compound and found a hidden vantage point from where he could watch what was going to happen.

The boat anchored near the shore. The priest and the young man got out of the boat and climbed up the stairs. Princess Kundavai was sitting on a marble bench at the top of the stairs. As the two men reached the top of the stairs, Kundavai stood up. Vandiyathevan looked at her. Their eyes locked. The splashing of the gentle waves of the lake stopped. The wind seemed to freeze. The Earth seemed to have come to a stop.

Vandiyathevan and Kundavai continued looking at each other’s eyes. No one blinked. Something deep inside them justified the attraction between them as primeval. Eesana Shiva Bhattar cleared his throat.

Kundavai spoke in a deep majestic voice, “I hear that you wanted to meet me alone.”

“It depends on who you are. I think the priest has brought me to the wrong place.”

“Whom did you wish to meet, young man?”

“I wanted to meet the most gracious and beautiful daughter of the Emperor Sundara Chozhan, the sister of the two brave princes, Aditya Karikalan and Arulmozhi Verman, the Princess Kundavai Devi.”

She smiled and said, “The person who is burdened with all of those fancy titles, is me.”

The bravado in Vandiyathevan vanished in a snap.

“Then I am assuming, it was not you, whom I met at the Kudandhai Josiyar’s house, and on the banks of the River Arasalar.”

“Hmm. That same lady who did not treat you with respect in both of those places — that was me as well. I guess you were not expecting to meet that disrespectful lady again so soon?”

“Meeting again, is probably not the right phrase.”

“Why so?”

“To meet again, one should have separated in the first place. You never left my heart.”

“I did not know that warriors from the Thondai Mandalam could respond with so much wit.”

“I see that you only speak highly of your own Chozha people.”

“Yes. I am guilty of that. Why? Do you not like the Chozha kingdom?”

“I like the Chozha kingdom, but there are two dangers looming here.”

“Yes. The Chozha warrior’s knife and spear are indeed two formidable dangers to anyone from outside.”

“I do not speak of those two dangers. I have a knife and spear too. I am well trained in the use of these two weapons too.”

“Yes. I remember how well you can use your spear. I saw you use it on a dead crocodile.”

The two laughed. She looked at him, “What else are the two dangers are you mentioning?”

“The strong swirling current of the Chozha kingdom’s rivers is one danger.”

“How did you get into a river? You look like someone who would not get your feet wet.”

“It was all because of a stupid friend of mine. He refused to tell a lie. Let me tell you the full story. I had a message from your brother Aditya Karikalan for the Emperor and you. The Chinna Pazhuvettarayar branded me as a spy instead and sent his forces searching for me. While escaping from Thanjavur, I took the help of a friend, whose house I had stayed in. I had asked him to ride with me so that he could give me directions to Pazhayarai.”

“Whom did you stay with, at Thanjavur?”

“I stayed with a family that cultivated flowering plants and sells flowers. The lady of the house is a deaf and dumb woman. The stupid friend I mentioned is her son. His name is Sendhan Amudan.”

“Hmm. That’s was I thought,” she nodded, recognizing the name.

“I took his help and rode with him in the direction of Pazhayarai. Half way, a posse of Chinna Pazhuvettarayar’s forces spotted us and started chasing us. I had no intention of getting caught before the job that I had taken was completed in full. When I reached the Kudamurutti River, I got down and asked him to ride on. I told him that it would fool the followers. If caught, I asked him to tell them that I fell into the river and drowned.”

“This stupid boy behaves like a descendent of Raja Harishchandran. He would not tell a lie. So I had to tie him to the horse and I jumped into the river. And the river currents took over me. These currents are very strong indeed. Eventually, I was able to catch hold of a low lying branch of a tree, and survived.”

Devi, do you know what I was thinking about when I was being dragged down by those currents?”

“How would I know? Perhaps Gajendra Moksham?”

“I saw some golden colored fish in the water. Their eyes reminded me of the eyes of the beautiful Chozha kingdom ladies. One can even persevere and escape the strong currents of the Chozha rivers, but a man can never escape from those enchanting eyes.”

At that time, the sound of beautiful music wafted through the air. One of the hand-maidens was singing in a divine voice. There was percussion and a flute accompanying the music.

Vandiyathevan and Kundavai stood enchanted by the music until the song ended. After the music ended, she said, “My hand-maidens would soon start searching for me. What did you want to meet me for?”

Vandiyathevan handed over the palm leaf that his master at Kanchi had asked him to deliver to his sister Kundavai.

Book 1 | Chapter 42 | Nambi meets the Royal Ladies

Dilapitated Gopuram near Pazhayarai Metrali (img src: highwayonlyway.com)

The earlier Chozha kings had built embankments along the River Kaveri. For a long while, the embankments had been maintained well, and restricted the flow of the river. During the dark times, when there was a brief period of anarchy in the southern states, the maintenance suffered and the river had taken advantage. The river flooded in many places, got back its free spirit, and meandered down the Kaveri delta. Sometimes, river beds became fertile lands, and sometimes the river took over the crops. There were also times when small natural reservoirs formed due to the course of the river.

One such reservoir close to the Pazhayarai palace had been renovated and converted into a permanent lake. This served as protection to the andhapurams of the palace. The banks had beautifully maintained gardens.

Right next to the majestic palace of the Royal Matron was the beautiful palace of Kundavai. This was where the Emperor had stayed before he moved to Thanjavur. This palace had a direct access to the lake through its own private garden.

This is where today, Kundavai and her friend Vaanathi were playing on a rope swing that hung from a large banyan tree. One of the other hand-maidens was singing a soulful song about Lord Krishna. The two ladies were however silent.

“Vaanathi, why are you silent today? What are you thinking about? Or should I ask who are you thinking about?”

“Akka, please do not tease me.”

“I know where your thoughts are. Your thoughts are fighting alongside my brother Arulmozhi, in Eezhanaadu.”

“In a way you are right. I am thinking about the hardships the Prince is facing in Eezhanaadu. I keep thinking, while he is facing so many hardships there, I am living a luxurious life here. I wish I was there. Like Subadra did for Arjuna and Satyabama did for Krishna, I would drive his chariot. I would be his mental strength. I would make sure he gets proper food and care.”

Kundavai laughed out loud. “That will never happen. Chozha Emperors never take their women into the war field. It is not because our women are not brave. It is because, the enemies would then be enchanted by our beauty and would surrender. The Chozha kings have always been used to fighting and winning wars. This would be beneath their stature.”

“Akka, does that really happen? Would warriors really be enchanted by beauty?”

“Of course. Do you remember the young warrior whom we met at the Kudandhai astrologer’s house? He was the same warrior whom we met at the Arasalar banks. Do you remember how he just stood slack-jawed when he saw us?”

“I remember that. However, he did not stand dazed because of all of us. He was dazed at your beauty. He did not even turn and look at any of us.”

Vaanathi mischievously asked, “May I ask, why is it that, you are suddenly thinking about him?”

“Vaanathi, now you are making fun of me.”

The two ladies laughed heartily at this friendly banter.

They heard a distant announcement and struggled to hear what the announcer was trying to say.

“A young warrior-spy has escaped from Thanjavur. He is tall, and well built. He is a very intelligent warrior who has the wit to fool anybody. He has killed two people in Thanjavur. Anybody found harboring him would be awarded the death sentence. And anybody helping to capture him would be handsomely rewarded. His name is Vallavarayan Vandiyathevan.”

On hearing this, Kundavai shivered.

Another hand-maiden came to her and announced that Alwarkadiyaan Nambi had come to see her.

On the way from the Royal Matron’s palace to Princess Kundavai’s palace, it was very heartening for Nambi to see that Shree Jayanthi was being celebrated in such a grand scale in the Chozha kingdom. He felt that Lord Vishnu had not been ignored after all. In the middle of the main road, there was a large theatrical group, which was performing the life story of Krishna. He saw a small young boy dressed up as Lord Krishna.

The boy spoke in a childish voice, “Kamsa, come fight with me.”

The person dressed up as Kamsan was a tall, well-built man. His mask was frightening. He screamed back, “Dei Krishna, I will come and kill you now. I will also kill your brother Balarama and your father Vasudeva. Along with you all, I will also kill that stout gentleman who has sandalwood paste smeared all over his body.” The crowd turned towards Nambi and laughed boisterously.

Nambi considered if he should teach the actor a lesson, for ridiculing him. Also, the voice of the actor who played Kamsan seemed very familiar.

As he progressed towards Princess Kundavai’s palace, the mood changed. People were whispering to themselves and slamming their doors shut. At that time, Nambi also heard the announcement, which Kundavai had heard, about the reward for finding the warrior-spy. Nambi figured this to be the reason why people were beginning to be suspicious of anyone whom they were not familiar with.

The people of Pazhayarai were also not very fond of the Pazhuvettarayar. They were angry that their dear King had been forcibly taken away to Thanjavur. They were upset that their King was not here on this festive occasion. There was one other cause for discontent among the people of Pazhayarai. The forces fighting in Lanka with Prince Arulmozhi Verman were people from this town. They were hearing that the Pazhuvettarayars were hesitating to send relief supplies of food, clothing, and essentials to the troops in Lanka. The people were surprised that a General would be hesitant to support his Kingdoms troops.

The people whispered among themselves, “Who would dare send a spy to the Chozha kingdom? The southern states of India are anyway either Chozha kingdom or allies. If there is anyone whom the Pazhuvettarayars do not like, they will be branded as spies and thrown into their underground dungeons.”

Nambi reached Kundavai’s palace. The Princess always liked to meet with Nambi. She liked to hear about the stories of his pilgrimages. She liked to hear him sing the Alwar Paasurams.

After paying respects to the Princess, he noticed a change in the Princess’s demeanor. She seemed to be lost in thought and confused.

“Thirumalai, please tell me what you heard in your most recent pilgrimage?”

“People are talking very highly of the Chozha kingdom. People are speculating that very soon, the kingdom will extend to the river Ganga in the north. They are speaking highly of the Emperor and his two sons. They are also talking about the bravery of the Pazhuvettarayar.”

She cut him short there, and asked, “What else?”

“They are asking why the beautiful Princess has not gotten married yet.”

“And what did you reply?”

“I said that the Prince who is blessed to marry the Princess is yet to be born.”

The Princess laughed her usual sparking laugh, which gave some relief to Nambi.

“What else are they saying, Thirumalai?”

“People are surprised that the staunch Shiva Bhaktan Madhuranthaka Thevar got married.”

“And how is your sister, whom you thought would become Aandaal?”

“Hmm. She has nothing to complain. She is living the royal life with Pazhuvettarayar. She controls that household.”

“I hear that not only is she controlling that household, but the full Chozha kingdom?”

“Some do speak about that as well. But, let us forget about her. I would prefer not to talk about her on this auspicious day.”

“Since you spoke about Aandaal, I was in Srivilliputhur, where I learnt a few songs on Lord Krishna.”

And Nambi burst into a spontaneous song about Lord Krishna.

“Pazhayarai is also looking like Aayarpadi of Lord Krishna’s times. Full of festivity.”

“Yes. But what was the announcement that was made some time ago?”

Nambi was waiting for this question.

“Apparently, a spy escaped from Thanjavur. There is a reward for the person who helps catch him.

“Is that all you know? Don’t you have any guesses?”

“I do have one guess, but I am afraid that it is dangerous even to speculate.”

“Tell me more Nambi. Tell me straight. You need not fear me.”

“I think the warrior I met on my way is probably the same person who is being searched. He asked me several questions about the Emperor and the younger prince. I get to understand that he asked the same questions to the Kudandhai astrologer also. I hear that he almost broke into the Josiyar’s house when you were in there. The Josiyar tells me that, thankfully, he did not recognize you.”

“Hmm. He did seem a brash young man. “

“Nambi, can you do me a favor?”

“Order me, and consider it done.”

“If you ever meet this young man…”

“Should I turn him in and claim the reward?”

“No, no. Bring him to me. I have some work for him.”

Nambi was not surprised, but he acted so.

“I do not think it would be necessary. I would not need to go hunt him down for you. He will come to you by himself.”