When Vandhiyathevan woke up the next morning, the sun was just beginning to rise. The sea on the east seemed to be made of molten gold. He looked to the other side to see emerald-coloured waters. There were several small forested islands. The greenery was reflected in the water and Vandhiyathevan could not count the number of shades of green he was seeing. The whole scene that he saw was enchanting.
“This is not heaven. This is Lanka.”
Vandhiyathevan shook himself out of his reverie, and smiled at Poonkuzhali.
“Yes. I did mistake it for heaven.”
The craft was approaching an island.
“This is Boodha Theevu. Do you remember your promise?”
Vandhiyathevan nodded his acknowledgement.
Once she shored the boat onto the small island, she asked him to guard the boat, and nimbly walked towards the centre of the island. She seemed to know the direction in which she was heading.
She came back in less than half an hour. She got into the boat and motioned him to get into it as well. Then she started rowing towards Naaga Theevu.
“Poonkuzhali, were you able to find out where the Prince is?”
“Hmm. Yes. Yesterday the Chief Minister Aniruddha Brahmaraayar had come to Maathottam to meet the Prince, which means Ponniyin Selvan would have also come there by now. But, I am not sure how long he will be staying at Maathottam.”
“How far is Maathottam from here?”
“It is around five miles from here. The way is through thick forests. These forests are not like the forests of Kodikkarai. The trees here reach for the skies. In some places, even the rays of the sun do not reach the ground. There are also elephants and other wild animals. You need to be careful.”
They were nearing Naaga Theevu. While Poonkuzhali’s hands were rhythmically paddling, she seemed to be lost in thought. When Vandhiyathevan called out her name, she seemed to come back to the present with a jerk.
“Samudra-Kumari, you said you would ask me a return favour. If you do not ask me now, you will never be able to. The shore is nearing. I will never forget the help you have rendered me. In fact, you have done the whole Chozha kingdom a service.”
“Do you really mean these words, or are you like the other men-folk that I have seen, whose words are just hollow?”
“I swear by the ocean, the skies, the Earth, and all the Gods that I believe in. I mean those words.”
“I was just teasing you. The first time I saw you, I could sense that you were a good person. Let me tell you what I want in return.”
“After you meet the Prince, and you deliver this scroll, when the Prince is in a relaxed mood, can you please ask him, if he remembers Samudra-Kumari? If he does say that he remembers, tell him that she was the one who brought you here to Lanka in her boat.”
“Is this all? I will definitely tell him about you. I will tell him all that you have done for me. I will tell him that, without your help, I would not be alive to deliver the scroll to him.”
“I want you to also come and tell me how he responds to what you say about me. I want you to tell me exactly what he says, nothing more, nothing less.”
“But how can I find you, Poonkuzhali?”
“Finding me is very easy. I will either be at Kodikkarai, or at Boodha Theevu, or rowing my boat in the ocean between these two places.”
“When I go back, can I come and check if you are there at Boodha Theevu?”
“No. Please do not ever go into that island. It can be dangerous. Just check if my boat is on the beach. If you find the boat, you should give me a signal. Do you know to make any animal sounds?”
“Yes. I can make the sound of a peacock.”
Vandhiyathevan made the sound of a peacock, and the two of them shared a hearty laugh, as the craft shored along the beach of Naaga Theevu.
Vandhiyathevan got off the craft and waded towards the island. He turned around, only to see that Poonkuzhali had already turned the craft and was paddling towards the ocean. He realised that she was deep in thought again.