Chapter 35 – A Sorcerer
In the distance the booming of large drums could be heard. Cymbals sounded and men raised cheers. They heard the fortress-gates close shut with a bang; hoof-beats of horses and elephants. Vandiya Devan realized that those noises had distracted Nandini’s attention. The maid sitting on guard came up, “My Lady! it seems that the Master has returned.”
Nandini said, “I know. Go back to your place.” She then turned towards Vandiya Devan, “The Finance Officer is entering the fort. He will go to the palace to enquire after the health of the Emperor. Then meet and talk with the Commander
cherished me as his own sister. It’s a pity! I disappointed him greatly.”
“Then it is alright. The message from Mr. Nambi is this: God Krishna is waiting for you. All the ardent Vaishnava devotees are waiting anxiously to see you wed the holy Lord Krishna!”
Nandini signed loudly. “Ah! He has not forgotten those foolish dreams. If you see him again tell him this from me: Ask him to completely forget me. Tell him that I am in no way deserving to become a great apostle like Andal.”
“I don’t agree with that, My Lady.”
“What don’t you agree with?”
“I don’t agree with your saying that you cannot become another apostle like Andal! Andal had to immerse herself in devotion and worship, sing verse and psalm — shed tears and weave flower garlands before she could marry the Lord. But you will have no such difficulty. All that is needed is that Lord Krishna see you — He will forsake all those divine maids like Rukmini, Bhama, Radha and the mystic milkmaids. He will seat you on his throne besides him!”
“Sir! You are an expert in flattery. I have never liked that.”
“My Lady, what is the meaning of flattery?”
“Praising someone to their face.”
“If so, please turn around a little and show me your back.”
“To praise you, without looking at your face. That’s why. Is there anything wrong in that?”
“You talk very cleverly.”
“Now, you are flattering me!”
“Why don’t you also turn around, and show me your back?”
“Great Queen, it is never my habit, be it in the battlefield or in the presence of women, to turn my back. You can freely flatter me.”
Upon hearing this, Nandini laughed loudly, gleefully. “You are surely a magician. There is no doubt now. It has been a long time since I laughed so joyously.”
“But My Lady, it is very dangerous to make you laugh: the lotus in the pool bloomed in joyous laughter; the honey bee fell swooning down!” said Vandiya Devan.
“You are not only a magician; you also seem to be a kavi!”
“I am not afraid of flattery; nor do I fear scolds.”
(The Tamil word kavi has two meanings: 1. poet 2. monkey.)
“You were called `monkey face!’ Who were those scholars?”
“None of them are alive now.”
“I didn’t call you that! I said you seemed like a poet able to compose verse!”
“Oh yes! I can also compose verse; but I usually sing in front of my enemies. Those who do not die by my piercing arrows can die by my piercing words!”
“My dear Sir! Oh you bravest lion among poets! You have not yet told me your name?” asked Nandini with laughter.
“My given name is Vandiya Devan. I also have the title Vallavarayan.”
“Of a noble family?”
“I come from the ancient and famous Vaanar clan.”
“These days … Your kingdom …?”
“The sky above me; the earth below my feet; now I am the sole emperor of all the known worlds!”
Nandini examined Vallavarayan from head to toe for sometime.
“There is nothing impossible. You can get back your ancient territories.”
“How is that possible? How can anything swallowed by the tiger come out again? Can I get back my kingdom swallowed by the Chozla Empire?”
“I can arrange to get it back!”
“My Lady! Please don’t! No need! I never had any wish to rule a kingdom. Whatever tiny wish I had, it totally vanished today, after I saw Emperor Sundara Chozla. It is better to remain a free pauper without knowing where my next meal comes from than be a prince beholden to everyone.”
“That is my opinion too.” Nandini spoke again as if she remembered something that she had forgotten. “Why are the Commander’s men looking for you?”
“Like your maid, he too had a suspicion about me!”
“About how I came to posses a signet ring with the palmtree symbol.”
A tiny shade of fear engulfed Nandini’s face. “Where is the ring?” she asked in a shaken voice.
“Here it is my Lady. Will I loose it so easily?” saying it, he took out the ring from his pouch and showed it to her.
“How did he know that you posses this?” asked Nandini.
The fear on her face and voice had now disappeared, “Did he believe you?” she asked.
“I don’t think he believed me fully. That’s why he must have sent those guards to follow me. He might have intended to place me before his elder brother and find the truth when he returned.”
Nandini said with a smile, “You don’t have to fear the Elder Lord. I shall take care that he does not chew you out.”
“My Lady! The whole world knows of your influence over the Finance Officer. But I have some urgent chores outside the fort. That’s why I seek your help in escaping.”
“What are those urgent chores?”
“I have several. For example I have to meet Mr. Azlvar-adiyan and give him your reply. What shall I tell him?”
“Tell him to completely forget that he had a sister known as Nandini.”
“I can tell him that; but it may not be possible.”
“Forgetting you completely. I who have casually met you twice cannot forget you. How can he who spent his lifetime with you, forget you?”
A trace of victory and pride dwelt on Nandini’s face. Her lance like eyes pierced through Vandiya Devan’s heart as she looked at him. “Why were you so eager to meet the Emperor?”
“What is so surprising about my wanting to see that world famous, handsome personality? Most monarchs on this world wish to establish the fame of their bravery, their prestige, and the grandeur of their empires for ever. Their subjects pray for such fame. But do you know what the buddhist monks in the monasteries pray for?
… May Sundara Chozla
grow in prosperity, benevolence, and in good looks and health; …
I had a long time urge, to see this modern day Cupid, the God of Good Looks. …”
“Yes; the Emperor is quite proud of his good looks. His darling girl is even more proud …..”
“His girl? … Whom are you talking about?”
“She who lives at Pazlayarai. That arrogant, proud and prejudiced female — I am talking about that Younger Pirati Kundavai Devi!”
Vandiya Deva! You are fortunate! The tool you were searching for has come to you, here it is in your hands. Use it well! Vandiya Devan’s mind advised him thus.
Nandini, who had been reclining languorously all this time, now sat up suddenly. “Sir! I shall tell you one thing. Will you agree?”
“Tell me, My Lady!”
He stood undisturbed.
“I need a confidential retainer. If I find you some such job in this palace, will you accept?” she asked.
“I have already agreed to serve another Lady in such a fashion. If she refuses to accept me, I shall surely come back to
“Who is she? In competition with me?”
“You talked with great affection about her a little while ago, that very same Younger Pirati Kundavai Devi.”
“Lies! Lies! It can never be possible! Are you jesting with me …”
“Great Queen, several persons have already stolen and read this letter. There can be no harm in you also reading this.” Saying this, Vandiya Devan extended the letter given by Aditya Karikala to Kundavai.
Nandini held the letter under the lamp light and read it. As she was reading, the lightning darts that jumped out of her eyes seemed like the forked, darting tongue of a king cobra to Vandiya Devan. Unconsciously, his body shivered.
Nandini looked at him with great dignity, “Sir! You intend to escape from this fort with your life, don’t you?”
“Yes, My Lady, that is why I sought your help and came here.”
“Only on one condition will I help you escape from here.”
“Tell me the condition, My Lady.”
“Whatever letter Kundavai gives in reply to this, you must bring that and come back to me. Do you agree?”
“A very dangerous condition!”
“You boasted some time ago about not minding any danger.”
“Being courageous in such danger should merit an appropriate reward? …”
“Reward? You want a reward? You will get a reward beyond your wildest dreams. You will get a reward for which, the all powerful chief of this Chozla Empire, the Elder Lord Pazluvoor has been yearning for years. Such a reward will be yours!” saying this, Nandini once again threw her weapons of enchantment at Vandiya Devan.
Poor Vandiya Devan! His head swam in dizziness. He muttered to himself: “Dear heart be courageous, don’t loose your reason.”
In that moment, as if to help him, the horrible screech of an owl could be heard in the garden. Once, twice, thrice — they heard the hoot.
His body shivered. Nandini looked towards the garden — from where the hoots were heard — saying, “The real sorcerer has come.”
She looked at Vandiya Devan again and continued, “I don’t need him anymore. But let me say a few words to him
Nandini came out to stand near the doorway of the gazebo and clapped her hands thrice. One could not say if it was the shadow of darkness or the trace of fear that covered her face. For some distance one could see the huge trees and creepers that climbed their thick trunks; beyond was pitch darkness. The Sorcerer emerged from behind one such tree, cleaving the darkness, pushing aside creepers.
Nandini went back to recline on her flower-laden couch. Her face now appeared calm and composed. The Sorcerer entered the gazebo, and the golden light of the lamp now fell on his face.
Haven’t we seen this face before? Who is he? — Oh yes! He is one of the conspirators who met near Thiru-puram-biyam at midnight. He was the one who threw the tinkling gold coins on the ground from a bag; he is Ravidasa who urged, “Kill Azlvar-adiyan instantly, wherever you see him.”
Even as he stepped inside, his face seethed with anger. On seeing Nandini, reclining calmly on her swinging couch, rage filled his cat-like eyes. He sat down on the wooden bench in front of the couch and stared at Nandini. His lips muttered some incantations like, “Hoom, kreem, hareem, haraam!”
“Enough! Stop it! My maid, the idiot must have gone to sleep on the doorstep. Say what you have come to say and leave quickly. I think he has returned to the fort.” Nandini spoke with authority.
“You degenerate fiend!” snarled Ravidasa, like a hissing king cobra.
“Whom do you mean?” Nandini asked quite calmly.
“Thankless Nandini; Young-Queen of Pazluvoor; I mean you!” Ravidasa pointed at her with one finger.
Nandini kept quiet.
“You woman! You have forgotten the incidents which you should remember, I shall remind you.”
“Why those old stories, now?” asked Nandini.
“You ask why? Why now? I will tell you — I will first remind you of those incidents and then tell you …” Ravidasa spoke with fury.