It was late evening. It was beginning to get dark. Vandhiyathevan was beginning to question Nambi’s motives. Where were they headed to? He hoped that he was not being led to some enemy camp. He had heard that the farthest that Chozha forces have been able to occupy was Thambalai. He could hear the constant sound of thundering hooves through the dark forest path. Thankfully, moonlight lit the path in front of them.
Suddenly Vandhiyathevan heard voices – sounds of celebration and cheering. He saw the lights of torches and a fire in the gathering. The horses stopped a little before the gathering. One of the horses turned quickly and headed towards Vandhiyathevan.
The warrior on the horse approached Vandhiyathevan and before he could realise, he threw a punch on his chin. Vandhiyathevan fell down but regained composure quickly. He threw a punch towards the warrior, who fell down. The two fell on each other and started wrestling. The warrior quickly removed Vandhiyathevan’s knife from his waist and threw it far away. It was now a fair fist fight. The two warriors rolled and fought. They kicked up a dust storm.
A crowd gathered around them. Within a few minutes, the warrior had overpowered Vandhiyathevan, had thrown him on the ground, and sat on his back. The warrior removed Vandhiyathevan’s waist cloth and the scroll within it. He got up, motioned to one of the two other riders to hold down Vandhiyathevan. The warrior walked over close to another, who was holding a torch and started reading the message.
“Nambiyaare, you are such a traitor. Get the scroll from him. I never should have trusted you as a companion. You are a coward too.”
Nambi got down from his horse, walked over to Vandhiyathevan, and whispered in his ear, “Appane, the scroll is currently with the person to whom it should be delivered.”
By this time, several others in the crowd had seen the warrior’s face in the light of the torch, and started recognising him.
Folks around started cheering, “Ponniyin Selvar, Vaazhga!” There was celebration all around and everyone surrounded the Prince, and heaped more praises on him.
“All of you, get back to the camp. Make arrangements for a feast,” said the Prince, and the crowd dissolved.
Vandhiyathevan looked at the Prince with wonder. He thought that the Prince had the good looks of Arjuna and the strength of Bhīma. He was in awe of this man. He felt privileged that he had gotten punched by this man.
Some readers might feel a little sad that the greatest of the great rulers – Prince Arulmozhi Varman – the man whose name is what inspired the name of this novel, the ruler who would bring so much praise to the Chozha kingdom, the King who would later be called Raja Rajan – has been introduced in such a normal fashion, without any royal fanfare. But then, this is the way he met our hero, Vandhiyathevan, and this is the way he had to make an appearance.
The Prince approached Vandhiyathevan with a smile on his face.
“Welcome, my friend. Welcome to the beautiful island of Lanka. You have come seeking the Chozha forces from so far away. Is this welcome suitable to you, or would you like something more celebratory?”
Vandhiyathevan got up with a jump and paid his respects by joining his hands and bowing to the Prince.
“I bow to you, my Prince. The welcome is very satisfactory to me. The scroll that I brought from the Princess has been delivered to you. Now it is up to you to decide what to do with me.”
“I see that the scroll has been written by my sister herself. Did she give it to you personally?”
“Yes, Sire. I had the distinct honour of receiving it personally from the Princess. I started immediately after, and reached here without even halting anywhere.”
“I can see that. Else, you would not have been able to come here so quickly. For someone who has done me such a big favour, I wonder what I can give in return.”The Prince walked towards Vandhiyathevan and embraced him tightly. Vandhiyathevan’s tiredness vanished in a moment. He felt like he was in heaven.