Hidden behind the bushes, Poonguzhali could hear most of the conversation between Nandini and Mandiravadi. Nandini told Mandiravadi that she didn’t believe his assertion that the Prince was lost to the sea.
“Rani! You have never really believed me completely and nor do you have any faith in my powers! What makes you doubt my words?”
“Have you not heard about the Prince’s wonderful horoscope? The Kuzhagar temple priest too mentioned it a little while ago,”
“That’s utter rubbish! My magic holds more power than all the stars and planets put together. Don’t you know that it was ‘I’ who conjured the fierce storm on a placid sea? That spy from Kanchi didn’t believe it at first but when he sank in the sea, he must have believed it,”
“Did you see him sinking?”
“I saw the ship that he was in, catch fire from the lightening. Isn’t that enough?”
“But the Prince jumped into the sea to save him…”
“Did he return?”
“No he didn’t return to the Pallavan’s ship,”
“Then why fear? We have given the blood sacrifice of two enemies at the same time. I left Vandiya Devan alive on the ship just so that Prince could risk his life saving him,”
“No matter what you tell me, I still can’t believe it. My intuition tells me that they are still alive. Do you know Poonguzhali?”
“I know her very well. She was a hindrance to us at Elangai. She too might have perished in the storm,”
“I don’t believe so. A few hours ago, Rakkammal spotted a boat approaching the shores but it disappeared suddenly. She thought that there were two or three people in the boat,”
“If that is so, then you leave this place immediately along with the old man. I will take care of this matter,”
“How would it matter if we were there?”
“If the old man lingers here he would welcome the Prince with open hands and take him to Thanjavur and all over plans would turn to dust,”
“Mandiravadi! Is there any necessity for the Prince to die? Now that everybody has agreed to crown Madhuranthakan…”
“Rani! Don’t be fickle minded like other ordinary women. That Kanchi spy knows all our secrets. If he had survived the storm along with the Prince, he would have told him about us. Before the dawn breaks, you leave this place with the old man. Rakkammal! If Poonguzhali brings the Prince and the spy, where do you think she would hide them?”
“There is a hidden mandapam in the middle of the forest. That’s her secret home. That’s where she hid the Kanchi spy for one whole day before rowing him to Elangai in the dead of the night. I found about it later,”
“That’s good. I know this hidden mandapam. I will await them there. Rani! How is Chakravarthy? Have you had any news?”
“Which Chakravarthy are you referring to?”
“I will never call that sick old man Sundara Chozhan as ‘Chakravarthy’. I am asking about our ‘Chakravarthy’.
“I heard that he is well about ten days ago. Aha! It’s been so long since I saw him!”
“Fine. I think it’s best you leave now. What are you going to do with that foolish Pallavan?”
“We are taking him to Thanjavur along with us,”
“Be very careful with him,”
“There is nothing to worry. He would move the earth and the sky to satisfy my merest whim!”
“Even then, it would be wise to be careful. Remember how that Kanchi spy fooled you,”
“That’s true. That’s why I wish to see him again, alive…”
“There is no point in wishing for something that’s not possible, Rani!”
Talking thus, they began to move away. Poonguzhali hid herself behind the bushes with bated breath. Thankfully they didn’t turn in her direction and left.
After hearing the secret conversation between Nandini and Mandiravadi, Poonguzhali’s heart panicked. Her limbs trembled when she realized the dangers that her beloved Prince was facing. With her throat dry from fear, she wanted to leave her hiding place immediately and warn Vandiya Devan. She immediately started walking in the direction of the boat.
With the Prince lying senseless in the grips of a shivering fever she felt danger closing in from all directions. Pazhuvetarayar’s men were waiting to arrest him and assassins are at hand to kill him mercilessly. If that were not enough the beautiful enchantress Pazhuvur Rani is at hand helping them! Parthibendra Pallavan who was against her too has turned into her puppet and the one hiding place that she had considered safe for the Prince, has been discovered by the enemies.
Poonguzhali realized that it was up to her to save the Prince and Vandiya Devan from the Pazhuvur soldiers and the murderous assassins that Nandini had unleashed upon them. She felt confused and claustrophobic in the woods that she had known since her childhood. An unusual fear of losing her way through the forest came upon her. She felt as if she was walking in circles in the forest.
What if this mandiravadi reaches the hidden mandapam before she could get there? No! No! I am going in the right direction. There is the canal where I had left my boat.
When she reached the canal her heart stopped beat for a second because the boat wasn’t there and neither was the Prince nor his friend!
Did the Pazhuvur soldiers come here during her absence and take them prisoners? Even if they imprisoned the Prince it wasn’t so bad but what if the mandiravadi had found and killed them! What if Vandiya Devan had taken the Prince to the hidden mandapam only to encounter that magician?
She immediately turned on her heels and ran in the direction of the mandapam. Yet again she was plagued by the same old fear of losing her way through the woods.
Aha! What’s that sound? It sounds as if someone was following her. Who could that be? Could it be that mandiravadi? If that were so, why should I fear until I have my dagger here?
But her legs refused to stop and she ran through the woods. This wasn’t the time to engage in idle fights. Not when her beloved Prince’s life was at stake. If something were to happen to her, what would happen to the Prince! Vandiya Devan too had warned her about it.
I need to save my life so that I can save the Prince’s
As Poonguzhali ran through the woods, her pursuer didn’t stop. He came after her relentlessly. As she ran, the flock of birds returned to their nests rose up in alarm at the unusual disturbance and wolves and deer too ran away sensing danger.