Vandiya Devan found Poonguzhali standing under a tree in the woods sobbing silently with grief. Softening his voice deliberately, Vandiya Devan called out, “Poonguzhali!”
Startled by his voice, Poonguzhali immediately looked up and found him standing near her.
“Oh! It’s you,” she said and turned her back on him.
“Yes. It is me. But why are you angry with me?”
“I am not angry with you,”
“Then why do you look so displeased?”
“I am displeased with men at large,”
“Even the Prince?” asked Vandiya Devan which made her turn around and stare at him with murderous eyes.
“Yes. I dislike him, most of all,”
“What did the Prince do to merit your displeasure?”
“He doesn’t remember me. He didn’t look at me at all,”
“That’s not true. He remembers you well enough. When I mentioned your name, he said, ‘O! I know Samudra Kumari very well!’”
“You are lying,”
“If you think that, then why don’t you come there and ask him?”
“If he remembers me, then why didn’t he talk to me?”
“He did. It was you who ran away from him without answering,”
“That’s not what I meant by ‘talking’. If you know someone, won’t you ask enquire them, ‘How are you?’ ‘Are you keeping well?’ I know that you are lying. He doesn’t remember me,”
“Poonguzhali! There is a reason behind his actions,”
“The Prince is undergoing a bad period according to his stars,”
“Who told you that?”
“All the astrologers say so. Kudanthi Jodhidhar personally told me so,”
“What did he say?”
“He said that the Prince would face grave difficulties, one after another. He also said that people, who are close to him, would also suffer. The Prince knows about this and that’s why he is trying to drive away all his friends, as he does not want us to suffer along with him,”
“If that is so, then why are you friends with him?”
“Didn’t you see us fighting just now? He wants to drive me away too or else why would he suddenly challenge me for a swordfight for no reason, in the middle of the road? We stopped it only because the Commander had come with the army,”
“Will you leave him and go away then?”
“Never! I will stay by his side and protect him from his enemies,”
“Do you like him so much then?”
“Yes. I like him very much,”
“Why do you like him?”
“I can’t articulate the reason. Sometimes you start liking people immediately, right from the first meeting,”
“I know. It happened to me too,” said Poonguzhali and inadvertently bit her lips regretting the fact that she had confessed her innermost feelings to him.
“I know that you like him, that’s why I came after you. Come with me, now.”
“I will not.” Said Poonguzhlai stressing on each word.
“If you don’t, I would have no choice but to drag you back there, by force.”
“If you lay a hand on me, I will carve you up with my dagger,” threatened Poonguzhali taking the dagger in hand.
“You ungrateful woman! I reminded the Prince about you and here you are threatening me with that dagger!”
“You are lying. You did not tell him anything about me,”
“Fine. Just come with me and tell him all about those ships that have come here to imprison him. You are free to leave after that,”
“I have told the Senathipathi everything,”
“But the Prince wishes to hear it from your lips,”
“My voice fails and I become mute when I come in his presence,”
“The Prince has a special place in his heart for mute women!”
“Chi Chi! You are mocking me!” said Poonguzhali and raised her dagger.
“I am asking you once again. Will you come with me?”
“Fine. I am leaving…” said Vandiya Deavn and took two steps forward and then suddenly turned around and grabbed the dagger from her hand and threw it away.
While he threw the dagger on nothing in particular, it fell on a wild bush nearby and a shriek was heard, ‘Veeeeel’! Poonguzhali who was astonished and murderously angry when Vandiya Devan took her dagger, looked at the bush with surprise.
They walked slowly towards the bush and found the dagger lying on the ground while the mud was stained with fresh blood. They didn’t find a wounded bird or an animal anywhere near.
|Prince Arul Mozhi Varmar|
“Did you see that Poonguzhali? Do you now realize the truth that I have been trying to tell you? The Prince is under danger. I threw your dagger away and it fell near that bush. It looks like there was someone hidden there, watching and waiting for his chance to kill the Prince. Do you remember when we met in Kodi Karai, you said that two men had gone to Elangai with your brother? You said that they looked very suspicious and dangerous to you? I suspect that they are the assassins trying to slay the Prince. Do you really think that we who love the Prince, should abandon him now, when he is surrounded by danger?”
“What do I do, if he asks me to leave?”
“I think that if even tries to make us leave, we should stay close to him,”
“Shall we try and find out who was hidden here?”
“That would be impossible. The assassin could be hiding anywhere in this forest. Let us not tarry anymore, then the Prince might be truly angry with us. Don’t argue just come with me,” said Vandiya Devan to which Poonguzhali agreed.
As they neared the mandapam, the Commander and the Pallava Lord asked him, “Why did you throw the dagger?” “What was that noise that we heard?”
“I saw something moving in the bushes so I threw the dagger on it. When we back to retrieve it, there was nothing there.”
“Alright. Let us get back to the matters in hand. My Prince, now that this girl is back, please ask her about those ships,”
Poonguzhali whose gaze was fixed on the Prince was elated when he looked up to see her.
Chi! Why is this heart beating so fast? Why is it so difficult to utter even a single word in his presence? Why are your eyes filling up with tears? Witless Woman! Where did all that bravado of yours go? You who would brave the high waves of the sea during a fierce storm, why do you hesitate now? Why this sudden fear? You, who could fight a tiger barehanded, why do your limbs tremble now? Rein in your heart, woman and face him bravely. Do not let him call you demented. Look up and see his face. Do not offer tears to him while he is looking for answers. Why do you fear him? Isn’t the Prince known for his benevolence and generosity? What do you imagine the Prince will do to you?
“Samudra Kumari! Do you remember me?” asked the Prince but to her it seemed as if he was asking from the very depth of her heart.