The solitary lamp in his chamber did nothing to hide her beauty, Muthu thought. A lock of hair dancing to its own music kissing her ear lobe, arched eye brows twisting, huge expressive eyes shining like embers stoked by love and lips luscious and a full mouth- she could pass easily as a painting from the bygone era. "I just have one request, King"- Velunachi implored. " And what would that be?", he queried. " I have grown up together with my friends- Kuyili and Marudhu brothers. We have spent every living moment together and my only wish is that we remain together for the rest of our lives", she muttered, twisting and untwisting the pallu of her saree. Saying this, she stared intently at his face.
He had expected her to demand anything- the stars shining in the eastern horizon, the pearls of Middle East, the fabric from China- he was ready to give her anything- to his Princess- the to be Queen of Sivagangai. And all she asked was to have her bunch of friends with her? The woman never posed a serious threat, but the Marudhu brothers? He had to do some serious thinking. But for now, he would go by her wishes. Let her be happy for now. His firm mouth curved in a mischievous smile as he looked at the beauty seated nearby. " Do i have a choice, when my sweet heart has asked me a favor?", he asked. It was exactly that second there was urgent knocks on the door. Whispers were heard and as Muthu opened the doors, the Marudhu brothers tumbled right in.
" I am sorry, O King!," Periya Marudhu fumbled at his head dress. " We were supposed to take the Princess back as soon as possible. The whole of Ramnad would now be rife with rumors about the missing Princess. If you would permit us to leave, we would be glad to move in the dusk," he continued. " Sure. Please take Velunachi safely back to Ramnad, but this time around, do take her on her horse. Send me a message when you reach the Palace," Muthu ordered. With one last longing glance at him, Velunachi breezed past in a short, confident stride.
The Ramnad Palace was bristling with anxiety and when Kuyili saw the three figures mounted on stallions riding at top speed towards the Palace two days later, she heaved a sigh of relief. King Chellamuthu Sethupathy was definitely a worried man. Though he knew of the antics of his daughter, this stunt, visiting the groom unannounced and unknown to anyone in the Palace, left him seething in anger. All this anger melted seeing his daughter accompanied by Marudhu brothers. She now wore the look of a peaceful, radiant and happy woman, not the barely impulsive girl he saw the previous week. The change in her made him glad- very glad.
The wedding in all grandeur took place on the sprawling lawns of Sivagangai Palace. Decorated with flowers, garlands and bedecked with jewels the bride resembled a Goddess. King Muthuvaduganathan could not get enough of staring at her- his Queen. The pearls in her aram were no match to her pearly white teeth that flashed with every smile. The diamonds in her ear rings failed to match the sparkle in her love-lit eyes and her ruby necklaces looked dim in comparison to her crimson lips, carved in perpetual smile. He was very happy, except for the one instance when she insisted on the Marudhu brothers being seated in the front row for the rituals. Too much of importance to laymen, especially soldiers not from the clan irked Muthu. He will sure see to it later. With an imperial wave and occasional glances at his new wife, he barely tolerated the ceremony.
The festival of wedding continued well for over three days and by the time her parents left with tears brimming in their eyes, Velunachi felt tired and sick. The look at her friends who stood watching her intently brought a lump to her throat. They had left behind a life in Ramnad, simply to be with her- their little Princess. She vowed never to let them down- her own trusted friends. The days that followed were Heaven, she reveled in the love showered on her by Muthu. Months rolled by and the birth of a beautiful daughter, a token of her love made the Queen ecstatic. What more could she ask for- a loving husband, the title of a Queen, trusted friends by her side and a cherubic daughter. She had all the happiness in the world and was blinded by it somewhere in the middle. So when Kuyili informed her of the King's supposed second marriage to Poongodinachi of Sivagangai, Velunachi was shattered.
To be continued...