As they neared the lake, Vandiya Devan saw Princess Kundavai waiting for him in the boat but he hesitated to move forward due to Azhwarkadiyan’s presence.
Realizing this Azhwarkadiyan said, “Why are you standing here hesitating? The Princess has been waiting for you long. Get on the boat and give her the good news, ‘The Prince has arrived and is safe’ and then you can go on about your exploits. I will take my leave now and see if I can control the madness that we have unleashed upon the city today. Your dare devilry comes with a heavy price and I end up cleaning all the mess in the end…” said Azhwarkadiyan and returned to Anirudhar’s palace.
Vandiya Devan watched him surprise. How did he know all these details? He didn’t even ask me anything! Was he merely guessing or did he really know everything?
Vandiya Devan had heard that there were two types of beggars in the world – those who did it as a profession and those who were forced by circumstances. In the same manner, may be there are two types of spies around.
I became a spy when my hand was forced and have since then courted nothing but trouble but Azhwarkadiyan is surely a spy by profession therefore he goes about his work without any worries. But who does he work for? Is there any truth in the stories that he told about his past life?
Thinking thus, he came to the bank of the lake and looked at the Princess’s face and forgot everything else.
Aha! This is the face that followed me through all my trials and tribulations.
As he looked at the face of the woman who had stolen his heart his heart fluttered and he lost his voice to the wonder of her beautiful visage.
Intoxicated with love and beauty, Vandiya Devan stepped into the water and got into the boat. The Princess signalled the boatman and the boat started moving.
“Soothsayer! Will you predict something for me or do you serve only the Princes of this realm? How do you predict the future? Do you perchance look at the stars and the planets or do you watch the movements of birds like crows and sparrows? Maybe you are one of those who predict future by looking at the face of the person…is that why you are staring at me so intently? However be warned if you persist thus no high-born woman will ever demand your service.” spoke the Princess with a smile.
“I am not looking at your face to predict your future. I am looking because I am trying to remember where I have seen you…”
“I know you have a very bad memory. Allow me to refresh it. Almost forty days ago, we met at Kudandai Jodhidhar’s house and then we met again on the same day near the banks of Arisalaru…
“Stop! Please! I cannot believe your words. Surely it can’t be forty days. I believe that I have seen you 40,000 years ago. Didn’t I see you hundreds of eons ago? I have seen you on the mountains, on the swirling currents, dense woods, on the banks of the river… Didn’t I save you once when a fierce tiger hunted you in the woods? Then, I was a hunter who lived in the forest and I trapped many colourful birds and parrots for your pleasure. Don’t you remember you would take these birds from me and set them free and laugh gaily? Once, I was a fisherman and I went to the seven seas to catch silver and gold fish for you and what did you do? You set them free and watched with pleasure as they swam away from us. I brought you pearls, corals and many other precious things from the floor of the ocean but what did you do? You called small boys and girls and pressed a handful of these gems onto their hands and smiled happily. I brought you a rare fruit from a tree that bears them once in 300 years but you fed it to your pet parrot and watched with pleasure as it pecked and ate it slowly. I went to the heavens and got you all the fragrant flowers that blossomed there but you said that they didn’t compare to the scent of the mullai (jasmine) that grew in your backyard. Then I went back to the heavens and got Indira’s precious gemstone haaram (Long necklace) but you disdainfully declared that you wouldn’t touch anything that was worn by a fickle god. Then I went to Kailasam and lay prostrate at the feet of Devi Parvati. Devi in all her benevolence removed her anklets and gave it to me and I wanted you to wear but you said, ‘Ayyo! How can I wear the divine anklets of Devi Parvati? Please give it back to her.’ I then went to war and won over hundreds of kings and presented their crowns at your feet but you kicked them aside with nary a thought and I was worried that your beautiful feet might have been hurt. Devi! Are these memories true or not? Or do you still think that we met just forty days ago?” said Vandiya Devan.
Even then he had not finished with his long list of memories. He started again, “Devi, I can remember yet another memory. Once we were traveling in a golden boat fitted with silver oars…”
“Ayyo! This soothsayer has truly gone mad. I think we should go back to the palace,”
“No Devi! Until I got into this boat my mind was clear or else would it be possible for me to meet Prince Madhuranthakan and convince him that I am a soothsayer? Do you think I could have escaped from that physician’s son so easily? It was when I saw your face that I got intoxicated and lost my senses,”
“Ayya! Then please do not look at my face. You are free to stare at the clear waters, the gardens, and the palace or even at this deaf boatman and tell me what happened to the mission that I set you on? Did you succeed or not? Has the Prince returned? Does he fare well? If yes, where have you left him? And then tell me about your journey?”
“Devi! If I had not concluded my mission successfully I would never have shown my face to you. Yes the Prince has returned and I crushed hundreds of obstacles to bring him back to you but I can’t say that he fares well. When I left him he was suffering from shivering fever but he is in the capable hands of the boat girl Poonguzhali and my friend Senthan Amuthan. They are utterly devoted to him and would lose their lives to save him,”
Suddenly they heard hundreds of voices raised in protest, women wailing and crying. Princess and Vandiya Devan looked at the banks of the lake worriedly trying to ascertain the source of the disturbance.
“What’s that uproar? It sounds as if hundreds of people have gathered and are shouting and wailing?”
“Yes. It seems like that.”