The crimson rays of the setting sun played hide and seek along the silent corridors of Ramnad Palace. Somewhere a lone koel cooed its melancholy, the sound resonating in the chamber of Velunachi. Never in her life was she so troubled, perplexed and happy at the same time. A myriad of feelings threatened to burst inside her. The very sight at the painting by the window made her heart ache in unrequited love. How dare he?
Being the King of Sivagangai did not give him the key to her heart, did it? He knew her, had taunted her, played with her feelings knowing her identity. She had been so naive, never having the chance to even glance at the sleek, silky skin and rock solid muscle that rippled all over his body. She could remember vividly the quirky smile, the laughter that reached the eyes every time he looked at her. The mischief that shone in his eyes- like a kid enjoying his secret jar of candies unknown to anyone...
She tossed around one more time on the sheets that felt like liquid fire. Kuyili walked in graciously, watching the Princess on fire. Amusement danced in her dark unfathomable eyes and with her agile fingers she closed Velunachi's eyes from behind. "Kuyili!" exclaimed Velunachi happily, she welcomed the merry company. "How did you know it was me?", Kuyili mused and looked at her radiant face. Even if she were dead she could identify her dearest friend, wouldn't she? Kuyili stealthily glanced at the portrait and said- " I see it is still perched on your window sill. So, does that mean you are pining for the King, Princess?"
Ah...there she asked it, Velunachi thought. She bit her lower lip a moment and thought a long time before answering- " I don't know if i love him or not, Kuyili. Like him, yes i do. Even a woman blind would fall for his heroics and kind heart. But love is something that needs more time and i am afraid i can't do that unless i get to know him more." Kuyili understood her predicament. " Would you like to meet him once before the wedding gets through, Princess?", she asked.
Another meeting with him? Velunachi prayed for one, but did not know how or when and where. She had blown her cover the last time, yet now she wanted Muthu to view her as a lady- someone beautiful, lively and vibrant with life. " Can it be arranged?" she queired, her eyes giving away her feelings. Kuyili smiled at her friend's dilemma and the two women started chalking out a wicked plan!
Meanwhile the wedding plans were drawn swiftly by King Sethupathy. He wanted to gift huge amount of gold and silver to his son-in-law. The Queen was busy ordering jewels for her lovely daughter and days rushed past. Velunachi seldom ventured out of her chamber, spending her time mooning and relishing her image on the mirror. The Queen was happy with what she saw- the transformation of her adamant and childish Princess turn into a lovelorn damsel.
King Chellamuthu received the Royal party at his Durbar Hall. The ageing widowed mother of Muthuvaduganathan, many of their close relatives, their friends, commanders and soldiers filled the grand hall and the King was filled with pride. After sumptuous meal, the party rested for the evening and Queen Mother met the Princess. One look at her, she knew why her son looked so besotted. So in love! Garbed in silks, bedecked with pearls, diamonds, emeralds and rubies, Velunachi took her breath away. When she presented Velunachi the delicately carved ivory box containing the most beautiful exquisite sapphire and diamond raakodi,( hair ornament) a gift from Muthuvaduganathan, the Princess blinked back happy tears. So he had indeed seen her long tresses! The engagement function went smooth without ag glitch with dance and music performances throughout the night. Fireworks lit up the starry skies and yet, Velunachi remained pensive. She plastered a smile for everyone to see while all she wanted were a few quite moments with Muthu, who remained back in Sivagangai.
King Chellamuthu had ordered sweets, savories, fruits and jewels as return gifts to be sent from Ramnad to Sivagangai. Forty huge cauldrons of sweets and savories left the next morning with the party for Sivagangai. And guarding the jewels and gifts went the Marudhu brothers, riding side by side, keeping a watchful eye on the carts that carried the bounty. Two days later the wedding party reached the Sivagangai Palace and the cauldrons were received at the Royal Madapalli ( kitchen), except for one. The Marudhu brothers carried the cauldron themselves to the King's Chamber claiming it as personal gift from the Princess to the King.
A beaming Muthuvaduganathan rushed to his room, sending his aides away. Marudhu brothers loomed large and with a wicked chuckle, he bade them a hasty goodbye and raced to the cauldron. Knowing the spitfire Velunachi, he presumed what was his gift...Why not play a game, he mused to himself. He ordered ten pots of water which arrived in no time. He threw in the first pot of water in the straw covered cauldron and waited. Nothing! In went the second, third and fourth in quick succession- nothing happened. Now he started to worry, what if the cauldron held something other than the beautiful Princess? Panicking, he removed the straw quickly and much to his relief and amusement, drenched completely and chattering profusely, crouched inside the Princess of Ramnad!
As he extended his hand to pull her out, Velunachi ignored it completely and climbed out of the cauldron slowly in a sensuous movement. Her hips swaying, her loose tangled hair dripping tiny droplets of water, her face devoid of expression and the thin silk saree draped around her clinging to her curves, she made a picture no man could dream of! Muthu watched her in silent rapture, his pulse kicking, his Adam's apple bobbing and a film of thin sweat breaking on his forehead. She looked so desirable that his imaginations did wild things to his otherwise sane mind. He had seen from a distance that she was indeed a beauty, but nothing prepared him for this rendezvous- the woman of his dreams just a yard away wet and shining in her primitive beauty. Wet...oh my, she is wet. What a man i am, my thoughts go gallivanting when she is wet and jittery, Muthu admonished his cruel mind and cleared his throat. " You are wet, Princess. Why don't you...", his sentence hung mid-air as an angry Velunachi lunged at him.
Losing balance at the sudden onslaught, he toppled on the bed, spreadeagled with the wet Princess on top. " How cruel of you", she hissed, " you knew i was in that cauldron, yet you poured pots of water into it. Shame on you, King." Muthu's lips curved in a wicked smile," Oh..so you are angry? I love the punishment, though, little one," he laughed. Only then did Velunachi realize her mistake and tried to roll away. Muthu held her in his tight embrace, did not budge even an inch in releasing her. They rolled along, she trying to break free and he, pulling her more closer. She gave up finally, looked up at his tanned angular face and was mesmerized by the two big soft eyes brimming with love, focused on her.
Muthu lay transfixed by the beauty splayed over him, her long lustrous hair cascading, her huge eyes intently watching him with luscious lips parted and labored breaths rocking her. It felt nice to rest on something so male and strong, she thought absently, her eyes never wavering from his face. As if in a trance, he pulled her face to him and stopped short when she closed her eyes savoring his attention. He kissed her temples, her closed eyelids, forehead, nose while she lay compliant. She rocked a little when he kissed her earlobe and almost moaned when his lips caught hers in a passionate soul breaking kiss...
Velunachi broke free, came up for air and with strides matching a Queen, pulled a towel from the supplies and started drying her hair. Muthu turned over and watched with eager eyes as the she dried herself. He got up, moved towards her and pulled her into his warm embrace again. Velunachi wanted him to never stop, she loved this new experience, his touch, his love. But she had other things in her mind- things more important, that had to be discussed. As a hungry Muthu planted a kiss on her mouth, she pushed him away. " We need to talk," she gestured him to sit. Confused, the King sat down to listen what this little firebrand had to say.
To be continued...
The images here are paintings of Raja Ravivarma, courtesy- cyberkerala.com.