Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Chapter 20: Two Tigresses

Kundavai and Nandini with Kandan Maran

When Nandini’s handmaiden announced about the spy being captured, all present in the room became restless. Kundavai’s anxious heart grew more worried when she heard that the soldiers were dragging the spy through the streets of Thanjavur.

Devi! Shall we go and see this cunning spy?” asked Nandini.

Kundavai hesitated and said, “Why should we bother?”

“Alright” said Nandini and sat down with a smile.

“I am going to see this spy.” Said Kandan Maran and got up slowly from his bed. 

“Don’t. You cannot walk that far. You will fall and hurt yourself again.”

Restless and anxious to see the spy, Kundavai had to accede defeat when she said, “Let us go and see how his friend looks like. Can we watch the streets from the terrace upstairs?”

“Yes we can. Please come with me,” said Nandini and got up.

Devi! If it is indeed my friend, I want to petition mama (Periya Pazhuvetarayar) to meet him in the prison.” Appealed Kandan Maran.

“How will we know whether he is your friend or not?” asked Nandini.

“If that is so, then I will come along with you.” He said and hurriedly got up from the bed and followed them with unsteady legs.

In the terrace, Nandini led them both to a small balcony overlooking the streets of Thanjavur. A group of horsemen on a slow trot were approaching and they appeared to be dragging a man bound by ropes in the middle. The horsemen in the front and the back held his ropes and were dragging him slowly through the streets of the city. Looking from the balcony with her heart in her mouth, Kundavai waited impatiently for the horsemen to near Periya Pazhuvetrayar’s palace. At first, they couldn’t discern the face of the captured spy who was being dragged ingloriously amidst taunts and disgrace through the streets. Kundavai’s anxious eyes scanned through the crowds to see the prisoner while Nandini was busy looking at the street and alternatively noting Kundvai’s reaction to the events that were unfolding before them. Kandan Maran relieved their tension when he declared, “No. This is not Vandiya Devan,” and Kundavai let out sigh of relief.

By then the soldiers had come near the palace and their prisoner looked up and Kundavai recognized him as the son of Pazhaiarai’s physician. Though she was relieved that the captured spy was not Vandiya Devan, she was nonetheless incensed when she realized that Pazhuvur soldiers had captured her messengers. “What is this madness? Why did these soldiers capture the son of Pazhaiarai’s royal physician?”

Pinagapani, Pazhaiarai Physician's Son
Even Pinagapani (Physician’s son) had recognized the princess on the terrace and tried to say something but he was soon dragged by the soldiers away from the gaze of the royal onlookers.

“Is that so Devi? I have always said that my brother-in-law’s soldiers are totally incompetent.“

“I knew all along that they wouldn’t have caught my friend. He was clever enough to outwit me. He would have surely escaped.” Said Kandan Maran.

“You still call him your friend?” asked Nandini

“What to do? He has turned a traitor yet I feel sorry for him,” said Kandan Maran to which Nandini said, “These soldiers might killed your friend. They went in pursuit of two people all the way to Kodi Karai. Maybe they killed one of the them and brought the other for a trial,” said Nandini with a satisfied smile fully aware of how torturous, Kundavai found her assertions. 

Smiling complacently Nandini thought, “My dear headstrong princess! Now I have the perfect weapon to torture you and I will not hesitate to use it.”

Kundavai’s anguish took the form of anger and she lashed out at Nandini’s brother-in-law, “Spies! These old men have become more senile than ever and they seem to see spies everywhere and everybody is under suspicion. It was ‘I’ who sent Pinagapani to Kodi karai to bring medicines for my father. How dare they capture and drag my messenger through the streets like he is some common thief? I am going to ask your brother-in-law for an explanation.”

Devi! You sent this man to Kodi Karai? I suspected that it would be so. Devi! Did you send only this Pinagapani to Kodi Karai or somebody else along with him?”

“I sent another person along with him and he was to go to Elangai to bring more medicines for my father.”

“Aha! Now I understand everything. It is just as I suspected.” Said Nandini triumphantly.

“I do not understand your meaning. What did you suspect?”

“Devi! The man that you sent along with Pinagapani, was he known to you?”

Kundavai hesitated a bit and said, “He was known to me. He had brought my brother ‘s message from Kanchi.”

“It’s him! It’s him.”

“Him who?”

“He is the spy. He came here too saying that he has a message from your brother for the Chakravarthi.”

“Why do they suspect him to be a spy?”

“How will I know about that devi? Maybe he acted suspiciously and that’s probably why my brother-in-law’s soldiers are after him. If he were not guilty why would he escape from the Fort and hurt poor Kandan Maran on the way.”

“I do not believe that he stabbed Kandan Maran. If he had indeed stabbed him, then why did he save his life?”

Devi! You are talking as if you were right there when Kandan Maran was stabbed. It looks like this spy has earned your confidence. But what is done is done. I am sure these soldiers would have killed him…”

Kundavai broke into cold sweat as she tried to control her anguish. “That would never happen… never.” She told herself and countered Nandini with a question, “What if this spy is as clever as he says he is?” pointing towards Kandan Maran.

“Yes Princess. I don’t think he is dead. He would have escaped surely…”

“If not now, he will be caught one day for sure…” said Nandini

Kundavai almost ground her teeth and said, “Who can predict the future indeed?” and then continued angrily, “I can’t bear to see the Kingdom falling apart thus. How dare they catch the messengers that I had sent and brand them as spies? Who gave them this right? I am going to report this outrage to my father…”

Devi! Please do not disturb your father about this small matter. Why don’t you directly ask my brother-in-law? Maybe he didn’t know that they were your messengers. If he knew they were your men, I am sure this wouldn’t have happened, after all there is no one in this kingdom who would go against the wishes of their beloved elaya piratti.”

Nandini won this round of battle of wits and words and emerged a victor while Kundavai was left to lick her wounds in private. 

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Volume 1 - New Flood