The news of the capture of the spy came as a shock to all three people in the room. Nandini suggested that they go to the upstairs balcony to take a look. Kandanmaran limped behind the two ladies, who rushed up the stairs. The three of them peered into the distance, where half a dozen soldiers were riding down the road on horses. In between the horses, there was a prisoner whose hands were tied together and being held by the soldiers on each side. Silence engulfed the balcony as the soldiers inched towards them.
“No, this is not my friend, Vandhiyathevan,” exclaimed Kandanmaran. Relief flushed over Kundavai’s face and irritation over Nandini’s. Kundavai realised that the prisoner was the Vaidhiyar’s son.
“Why are they bringing this fellow here? I recognise this to be the son of the Pazhayarai Vaidhiyar,” said Kundavai.
“My friend, Vandhiyathevan, is not that easy to catch,” said Kandanmaran.
“Hmm. You still mention him as your friend,” said Nandini.
“He might have turned a traitor, but somewhere in my heart, he still lives on as a friend,” said Kandanmaran.
“I got word that these men were pursuing two spies to Kodikkarai. Perhaps they were able to catch only one alive,” said Nandini, as she watched Kundavai’s face for any reaction.
Kundavai hid her mental tumult by showing off her anger.
“These people are going overboard with their stories. Spies. Humph! I sent this fellow to Kodikkarai to collect herbs from there for my father’s medicine. And they bring him back as a spy. I am going to go right now and ask the Chinna Pazhuvettarayar for an explanation.”
Nandini, with a touch of sarcasm asked, “Did you send only this person, or one more person to accompany him?”
“Yes. I sent one more person. I asked the other one to go on to Lanka.”
“Oho. Now I am beginning to understand everything. This other person, do you know him from before?”
“Not for too long. He came from Kanchipuram with a scroll from my brother.”
“Ah! That person, that very same person is the spy. He has fooled you as well.”
“Why is everyone suspecting him to be a spy?”
“If he is not one, why should he run away from here in the middle of the night? Also, why should he stab this poor man in his back?”
“I am not fully convinced that he is a spy. Also, I do not believe that he might have stabbed Kandanmaran either. If he did, why would he have brought him all the way to the dumb woman’s house?”
“Devi, you speak as though you saw all of this with your own eyes. You seem to be talking so much in support of him. There must be something magical about him. Even this man is still calling him a friend, despite what he did to him.”
Nandini laughed an evil laugh. “Anyway, the dead cannot be brought back to life.” Kundavai tried to reassure herself that Vandhiyathevan would not fall so easily.
“Ever since the Chakravarthy fell ill, this kingdom is being run like a circus. How dare these soldiers try and capture men whom I had sent to get the medicinal herbs? I will go and ask the King himself.”
“Devi, why do you want to disturb the ill Emperor with all this? Ask my brother-in-law. Perhaps he did not know they were your men. In this whole kingdom, who would dare disobey the Princess?”
In this war of words between the two tigresses, it was clear that Nandini had won this bout. Kundavai stormed out of the room with a heavy heart.