Google WWW Blog e4thai

Part Six : Strange Reunion

--->Part Six : Strange Reunion

SRI Suvarna had ruled the kingdom of Romachakra for close on ten years, and was the father of a lovely little girl called Arun Rasmi who was eight years old, when he dreamed a strange dream : a forest fire had spread to the city and the roof of his palace was set alight, so he went out to extinguish it; whereupon the fire took hold of his person, and he himself was on fire; then all of a sudden his brother Phra Abhai Mani appeared, quenched the flames and presented him with a jewel of rare beauty. Consulting the court astrologers, he was informed that a situation of some peril to the state would arise, but that his brother would come to his aid and put things to right.


SRI Suvarna had ruled the kingdom of Romachakra for close on ten years, and was the father of a lovely little girl called Arun Rasmi who was eight years old, when he dreamed a strange dream : a forest fire had spread to the city and the roof of his palace was set alight, so he went out to extinguish it; whereupon the fire took hold of his person, and he himself was on fire; then all of a sudden his brother Phra Abhai Mani appeared, quenched the flames and presented him with a jewel of rare beauty. Consulting the court astrologers, he was informed that a situation of some peril to the state would arise, but that his brother would come to his aid and put things to right.


Sensing the danger of another invasion by his old enemy, Tao Uthen, Sri Suvarna made preparations for the defence of the kingdom. He sent his three brave Brahmin friends to guard distant corners of the realm Mora to the east. Vichien to the north, and Sanon to the west. All three set out at once with their wives, who were the three nurses, with whom they had fallen in love, and all the available forces they could muster.


The attack, however, came from a quarter and in a manner quite unforeseen.


Sin Samudr, on board the pirate ship he captured, had spent three months searching the seas for traces of Suvarnamali's father and the men and woman of his court who were shipwrecked with him, but without success. By now, his provisions were running low and he decided to make for the nearest land. He consulted Angura the boatswain, who told him that the nearest land was a country called Romachakra, rich in resources of the soil. So it was decided to call there to replenish the ship's stores. Arriving at the bay where Sri Suvarna had landed several years previously, men from the pirate ship took to their longboats, hoisted sail and made for the shore. Now, the coast defences had been warned to be on their guard against strange vessels entering the bay. They were naturally suspicious of the pirate ship and the longboats that came from it. So they fired a warning shot as a signal to lower sail. The landing force, under the command of an experienced pirate whose name was Hasken, took this for opposition and immediately opened fire on the coast defence from the longboats. After a short and sharp engagement, the coast defences were silenced, and the pirates were able to approach.


The governor of the coastal district was the one-time captain who had helped Sri Suvarna and his friends when they first landed. When Sri Suvarna became ruler, he was made a nobleman of the realm (and given the responsible task of governing the coastal regions. He was his ease listening to his concubines playing their music and singing, hen he heard the sound of gunfire. At once he sprang to action and ordered boats, men and guns. With these, he lost no time in going to intercept the enemy. He engaged them at point blank range and succeeded in sinking one or two of the longboats. Hasken, realising that he was outnumbered, wisely retired in the direction of his ship. The defenders, emboldened by this seeming victory, gave chase and realised too late that they had come within range of the guns of the main enemy force. They were consequently hot to pieces, and the few survivors beat a hasty retreat to the shore.


After that, Sin Samudr's men had no difficulty in getting ashore. Only an old fort with massive walls stood in their path. The ship's cannons soon made a breach and the men stormed the fort, which fell to the invaders within a short space of time. Those of the defenders who survived were taken prisoner. The pirates, who had been forced to desist from their customary practices ever since Sin Samudr took over command, now gave vent to their desires, swooped on the neighbouring town, plundering the houses and despoiling the women. They collected a vast amount of booty as well as provisions, which they took back with them to the ship.


In the heat of battle, the old governor succeeded in escaping. He took a small boat and made his way with all possible speed to the city. Arrived there, he called up high officials to convey the news to Sri Suvarna. By the time it reached the latter, it had magnified into a report that a big army of invasion had landed and was threatening to march on the city.


Sri Suvarna took counsel with his assembled ministers, who were in a state of alarm. He could not find out from the old governor whether or not it was Tao Uthen who had thus forcibly invaded his kingdom. However, he was determined to meet force with force, and ordered his troops to prepare for battle. Early the following morning, Sri Suvarna himself rode out of the city at the head of his troops and proceeded in the direction of the sea. Reaching an open plain about a mile distant from the old fort, where the invaders could be seen encamped, he ordered his men to halt and entrench themselves.


Sin Samudr, who was standing on the look-out of the fort became childishly excited when he saw on the horizon the full array of the Romachakra army with red and green banners unfurled. He asked Angura's opinion as to how he should deal with the situation.


The old pirate advised him to hold fast to the fort and see whether the enemy, who was numerically far superior and, who appeared to be commanded by a personage of eminence would first launch an attack. But Sin Samudr was in no mood for such wait-and-see tactics. He divided his small force into two and ordered Angura to hold the fort with half the men, while he led a frontal assault on the enemy with the other half. Raving made his decision, he mounted a steed captured during the fighting of the previous day, and, to the accompaniment of battle cries, made a sortie at the head of a small band of men. The warriors of Romachakra, taken by surprise at this bold and unexpected move, fell away before the onrush, so that Sin Samudr was able to ride unharmed through their ranks until he came up face to face with Sri Suvarna.


Here he drew rein and halted. He had intended to challenge the enemy commander to single combat. But on coming closer, he was struck by the resemblance between this man and his own father. Thoughts of his father came crowding upon him and made him hesitate and lose initiative. Sri Suvarna, recovering first from his surprise, spurred his horse and charged. His sword landed squarely on Sin Samudr's chest, and the youngster fell from his horse to the ground.


This was a signal for Sri Suvarna' 5 army to attack. In no time Sin Samudr's small force which had made the sortie was scattered and the fort itself was surrounded. Angura, however, was a man of mettle and decided to defend the fort to the last. When evening fell, Angura's men were still fighting staunchly and successfully prevented any infiltration into their lines. Sri Suvarna decided to break off engagement for the night.


In the fort, Angura held council with his men. Eventually it was agreed to hold the fort for the night, in case Sin Samudr should recover and be able to rejoin them. If he did not come before dawn, they would fight their way out and make for the ship.


Meanwhile, Sin Samudr, who had been left for dead, still lay on the ground unconscious. The dew revived him. He opened his eyes and looked cautiously around. He saw the fort surrounded by the enemy. Rage swelled within his heart. He decided to show them that he, the son of a hero and a sea giantess, could not be put down in such a fashion. Springing to his feet, he ran towards the nearest group of men. Single-handed he felled some and put others to flight. Then he shouted, "Hey! come on! Where is the commander of this army? Come out and fight!"


As nobody seemed willing to accept his challenge, he made his way unhindered to the fort, where he shouted for Angura. The latter, delighted to see his young master alive and unhurt, quickly opened the gate of the fort to let him in. Sin Samudr told him that he would make another attack at daybreak and ordered him to tell his remaining men to prepare for battle.


The following morning, Sin Samudr bathed in perfumed water and put on magnificent garments. He then prayed to the gods to grant him invulnerability. As the sun rose, he took his place at the head of his diminutive force and rode out to challenge the enemy. Meanwhile, Sri Suvarna' 5 army was still in a state of consternation following the surprise raid carried out single-handed by a mere boy. But Sri Suvarna himself was quite composed and confident. He said to his followers: "That boy whom I thought I had killed yesterday dares come out to fight again. I will see to it that he does so no more." So saying, he put on his armour, mounted his horse and rode out to meet Sin Samudr.


When they were face to face, the uncle asked the nephew : "Who are you, boy? Why do you come to attack our city? You are too young to be a pirate or robber. Do you want to meet your death at our hands?"


Sin Samudr replied fearlessly : "I am no pirate or robber. My name is Sin Samudr, and I am the son of Phra Abhai, a scion of kings. I am making a journey by sea. Your men attacked mine first for no reason, so we had to fight them. Now it isyour turn to tell me who you are. Are you nobleman of the realm? If you have a desire to live, submit and we will leave you in peace."


Sri Suvarna made no immediate answer. He was deep in thought. The boy, he mused, said that his father's name was Phra Abhai. May that be my long-lost brother? He looked at Sin Samudr and perceived that ther,e was indeed a resemblance. But the boy's hair was curly like a demon and his eyes were more red than those of an ordinary human being.


Sri Suvarna then asked him:


"Where is your father? Did he come with you? Speak rather than seek to fight, for that would surely mean your own destruction. I am the King of Romachakra, and a tried warrior. I have no desire to harm your tender youth. Go, and bid your father come to me; we shall settle it between us."


Sin Samudr laughed scornfully. "So you are a skilled warrior! Then prove your boast. What has my father to do with this? This is a matter for the two of usto decide. Come, I dare you to single combat!"


Having hurled defiance Sin Samudr spurred his horse and charged at Sri Suvarna with drawn sw'ord. The King skilfully parried the blow aimed at him and made a quick evasive movement. Sin Samudr, confident of his own prowess, followed close behind. Sri Suvarna turned suddenly and caught him off his guard. He dealt his nephew five of six sharp blows with his longstaff, until the sound of it echoed over the plain. But the boy withstood the blows and was unharmed. The latter then seized and wrested the longstaff from him and proceeded to return blow for blow, until the King was unsaddled and fell to the ground. Whereupon some of Sin Samudr's men came running up and secured the outfought ruler of Romachakra, while the rest shouted their battle cry and launched an attack on the King's army. Having witnessed the defeat and capture of their King, the Romachakra troops were in no mood to stay and fight it out; they fled in all directions, leaving behind their weapons and much booty besides. These were duly collected by the pirates. After which Sin Samudr led his men back to the fort in triumph.


There, seated in his chair of state, surrounded by rejoicing men, Phra Abhai Mani's son ordered the captive to be brought before him. Sri Suvarna remained calm and dignified as he stood before the boy who had conquered him. Then, suddenly, he caught sight of the ring Sin Samudr was wearing and immediately recognised it as his brother's. At the thought of his brother, his eyes filled with tears.


Sin Samudr taunted him : "What, a king in tears? Are you thinking of your palace and your queen? Why did you accept the challenge to combat, then, if you are afraid to die?"


Sri Suvarna flushed with anger. "Do not insult me, boy!" he cried. "I am not afraid to die. I am a man, and would gladly die a soldier's death to preserve my honour and my name. If you wish, you may kill me at once. I do not ask for mercy. But something that I see brings tears to my eyes. It is the ring on your finger. I know it belongs to my brother Phra Abhai Mani, from whom I have been parted these many years. You asked what my name is. My name is Sri Suvarna."


Sin Samudr was disconcerted by this unexpected oration. He recalled how his father had told him that somewhere in the world he had an uncle called Sri Suvarna. But not wanting to seem too credulous, he asked his royal prisoner : "If you are really my father's brother, you will know what country he comes from and wherein lies his particular talent. If you can answer these questions truly, I will salute you as my uncle."


"My brother has a magic flute," replied Sri Suvarna. "When he plays it, all living creatures become powerless and fall fast asleep." Then he proceeded to tell Sin Samudr the story of their lives up to the time they became separated, and how he himself had won the throne of this country.


Sin Samudr now realised that the man standing before him was indeed his uncle. So he threw himself down at his feet, and with tears in his eyes begged Sri Suvarna's forgiveness. This being given, he told his uncle his own life story and the sad circumstances of his separation from his father.


Sri Suvarna sat down and embraced his nephew. "Alas, to think that we nearly killed each other!" he said. "Come, let us put a stop to these hostilities. We will go together to the city, and you shall meet your aunt. I shall give orders for supplies and provisions to be sent to your men here. When we have rested a few days, we will set out together to find Phra Abhai Mani."


Sin Samudr told him that his mother on board the ship waited anxiously for news. Sri Suvarna immediately expressed a wish to accompany his nephew, in order to invite her to come and stay in the city. So Sin Samudr ordered Angura to prepare one of the longboats, and uncle and nephew set out together to join the beloved of Phra Abhai Mani.


Meanwhile, the city of Romachakra was in a state of panic. The first remnants of Sri Suvarna's defeated and fugitive army had reached the city bringing with them news of the calamity. Word soon reached the palace, where Kesra and her aged father were waiting anxiously, that Sri Suvarna had been captured and taken to the enemy stronghold, and his army utterly routed. As there was no further organised resistance against the enemy, it was thought probable that the enemy would take this advantage to march against the city and lay siege to it. Kesra and her father were advised to flee while there was yet time. The old ex-king was sorely perturbed. His age no longer permitted him to take up the enemy's challenge. His son-in-law Sri Suvarna was the most redoubtable warrior Romachakra ever had; and if he could be defeated, what hope was there left for the city? Kaew Kesra bewailed her fate and thought of her husband in the hands of a ruthless enemy. As no further reliable reports came in as to the enemy's movements, she began to fear the worst and prepared to follow her husband in death. Her aged mother was likewise full of grief and despair and beat her breast.


For the rest of that day, nobody went about in the streets of Romachakra. But towards evening, news reached the city that a fleet of the enemy's boats was sailing up the river. Immediately, the city was in an uproar as its citizens rushed wild-eyed through the streets. Even the crippled, the maimed and the blind succeeded in making their way to places of refuge. Many simply sought shelter in big water jars and hoped they would escape detection. Others hid themselves under the bed or anywhere else which offered the least semblance of safety. Soon enough they heard the drums of the enemy as their boats approached the city. Then came triumphant shouts as the boats prepared to come alongside the landing stages. The citizens of Romachakra trembled more than ever before.


The aged ex-king saw that the situation was hopeless and that the only course was to yield with good grace, while seeking the best possible terms from the victorious enemy. So he sent a deputation of nobles to receive the enemy commander at the landing stage.


When Sin Samudr's boat touched the stage, another cheer went up from the escorting vessels. The nobles, fearful and trembling, bowed low to the ground. Out of the boat stepped Suvarnamali, Sri Suvarna and Sin Samudr. The latter, though still a boy, made many a nobleman who had witnessed his prowess quake with terror. The fair lady they did not know. But the sight of Sri Suvarna, alive and smiling, reassured them. The nobles went forward and knelt at his feet.


Sri Suvarna immediately surprised and delighted them beyond measure by telling them that the youngster who had vanquished him on the field of battle was none other than his nephew and the son of his long-lost brother Phra Abhai Mani. The lady, he explained, was the boy's mother and therefore his own sister-in-law.


The good news travelled fast to the palace. By the time Sri Suvarna and his party stepped inside the great hall, the old king and queen, Kaew Kesra and her daughter, were there to welcome them. There was great joy over this unexpected meeting of unknown relatives, and there was much to be told and explained on both sides.


Sin Samudr naturally attracted a great share of attention. Admiring eyes were turned on him, and all wondered how it came about that so much courage and skill were to be found in one so young and small. The only person present who was not at all impressed was little Arun Rasmi. On being told to pay respects to her new-found cousin, she pursed her lips and pouted : "So you are my cousin, who took Father away and made us all cry! You have been disrespectful to Father and you deserve to be beaten!" Before any one could stop her, she went up to Sin Samudr and pinched him.


"Oui!" exclaimed Sin Samudr in pain. "Stop pinching me, dear cousin, and I will explain everything. I did not know he was my uncle. Now that I know, we love each other very much and I will love you too. Please forgive me and I will give you some of the dolls I have on board our ship." Arun Rasmi stopped pinching her cousin and became quite friendly with him. All those present in the hall laughed at this strange encounter in which Sin Samudr for once came off the worse.


Meanwhile, the old king looked intently at Suvarnamali and was puzzled. Finally, curiosity overcame him and he asked her: "My child, how old are you? You look like a young girl still. How do you come to have a son as big as Sin Samudr is?"


Suvarnamali blushed and was at a loss to know how to answer. She did not want to confess before all the company that she was still a virgin. At the same time, she did not wish to lie to the old man. So she exaggerated her age slightly, and~this was sufficient to satisfy him.


The old king invited Suvarnamali and Sin Samudr to stay in Romachakra and rest after their long, adventurous journey. But Suvarnamali declined the invitation, saying that they had to set out again to scour the seas for Phra Abhai Mani. It was therefore agreed that they should remain in the city a few days longer before leaving.


After a brief but happy period spent in each other's company, the time came for the visiting relatives to depart. Sri Suvarna made up his mind to join his nephew in the search for his brother, and Arun Rasmi insisted on going too, so much did she grow to love her cousin Sin Samudr. But Kaew Kesra had to be left behind to look after her aged parents. When the moment of parting came, Sri Suvarna, his nephew, his daughter, and Suvarnamali, all embarked on the old pirate ship. Kaew Kesra and her parents, with tears in their eyes, came to see them set sail. The three brave and faithful Brahmins, who had been recalled to the city to guard it in Sri Suvarna's absence, were also there. When sad farewells had been said, sails were hoisted, and the ship glided slowly out into the open sea.


We last left Phra Abhai Mani on the deserted and mountainous island where he and his followers were left stranded after being shipwrecked and where the Sea Giantess pursued him in vain and finally died of a broken heart. The Prince and his devoted companions had no choice but to remain there, ekeing out a bare existence with the poor products of the soil, such as wild potatoes, roots and occasionally wild fruit. It was with great relief, therefore, that one morning they saw sails on the horizon. As the day wore on, the ships drew closer to the island, and they saw that there was quite a fleet of ships which evidently belonged to somebody of eminence.


As fate would have it, it was the fleet of Usren, the betrothed of Suvarnamali, who, since his future bride and her father had been reported missing at sea, had organised an expedition and searched the seas in vain for any sign of them. His ships duly reached the vicinity of Phra Abhai 84 Mani's island. Seeing the mountain top from afar, Usren decided that it might be worth while to sail closer to this strange piece of land in the hope of finding his beloved Suvarnamali there. When his ship was within a reasonable distance of the island, he looked through his telescope and saw unmistakeable evidence of human habitation. So he ordered his fleet to drop anchor fairly close to the shore, while he himself dressed and prepared to land.


Meanwhile, Phra Abhai Mani and all his followers gathered on the beach and eagerly awaited their heaven-sent rescuers. A boat was soon lowered from the principal ship and after some brisk rowing quickly made the shore. Out of it stepped Usren, clad in rich black garments which at once showed him to be some wealthy potentate from the West.


Usren knew immediately that Phra Abhai Mani, in spite of his ragged appearance, was a man of rank. So he addressed him in the language of the Westerners. Phra Abhai Mani, who had learned that tongue while he was with the old hermit on the enchanted island, replied with ease. He told Usren how he, an eastern monarch's son, and his motley companions of divers nationalities, came to be on the island. Then he recounted how Suvarnamali, her father, and his own son, had disappeared in the sea.


Usren sat down on a rock, his eyes filled with tears. "0 my Suvarna-mali!" he cried. "It is not our destiny to live together in this life. But I cannot return to my country without you. I will follow you in death here and now."


Phra Abhai Mani now knew who his new acquaintance was. He decided, however, that it would be more politic to conceal his own sentiments towards Suvarnamali for the time being.


Usren asked him, "Are you sure that you saw her sink in the waves?" Is there no hope left?"


"I cannot tell," replied Phra Abhai Mani. "I was in the stern of the vessel and the Princess was amidships. Because of the distance, and in the confusion of the wreck, I could not see what became of her. Why do you not consult an astrologer?"


"That is a wise suggestion. I have brought one along in my ship, and he is always full of hope. I will send for him."


So the astrologer was sent for. His answer was as hopeful as ever.


"The Princess is safe, my lord. She has someone to protect her, and is now in the north-east. If you sail in that direction, you will surely meet her."


Usren felt a little relieved. He told the astrologer, "If you are wrong, your head shall pay for it. It you are right, you shall be handsomely rewarded."


Then, turning to Phra Abhai Mani, he said, "Will you and your men be pleased to accompany me on board my ships? We go to search for Suvarnamali."


Neither Phra Abhai Mani nor his men raised any objection. So they all boarded the ships, which in due course weighed anchor and set sail.


Usren thought so highly of his princely guest that he offered him the best cabin, which was richly furnished. That night, Phra Abhai Mani opened the large windows and looked out on the calm sea under the stars and the crescent moon. Cold dew bathed his face and settled on the window ledge like sparkling diamonds. The ship's bell struck an echoing note in his heart. He thought of his son and of Suvarnamali. Would they ever meet again? If they did, how could he win her from Usren, who was his rescuer? But was it not himself whom she loved? She had given him her shawl, which was even now round his neck, delighting his nostrils with its subtle and soothing perfume.


Not far away, in another cabin, Usren was also gazing at the moon and the stars. He too was thinking of Suvarnamali. Usren's fleet carried out a thorough search of every island and reef encountered. Usren himself maintained ceaseless vigil, ever scanning the sea with his telescope for any signs of Suvarnamali and her party.


Suvarnamali, meanwhile, was safe on board Sin Samudr's ship, with Sin Samudr and Sri Suvarna, who on their part were searching for Phra Abhai Mani. Sri Suvarna was much concerned regarding his brother's fate, and kept careful watch in every direction. Sin Samudr and Arun Rasmi enjoyed themselves immensely, for being children without a single care in the world, they had no doubt whatever that everything would come out right in the end and that their father and uncle would be found. They spent much of their time with Suvarnamali, who taught them the names of the various stars and constellations.


One day, the ships of both parties did eventually meet. Sri Suvarna was the first to espy Usren's fleet stretched across the horizon and coming towards his ship. He was determined to remain in its path and find out whose fleet it was.


Usren also saw the former pirate ship and wondered what manner of vessel it was. So he ordered a boat to be lowered and sent a party of men to find out the name of the owner of the ship that dared to obstruct the path of his fleet.


Usren's messengers were received by Sin Samudr himself. When they told him that their master was searching the seas for a princess named Suvarnamali, who was to be his consort. Sin Samudr's anger flared up.


"What! you dogs of Lanka!" he shouted. "Know, your blind and insolent search is in vain! The King of Paleuk has given the Princess to my father. She is here with me on this ship. Go back and tell your master that he shall never have her. If he values his life, let him return to Lanka and marry some other pretty woman there. Tell him that I, Sin Samudr, warn him to do this!"


After Usren's messengers had gone back to report to their master, Sin Samudr with childish glee ran to meet his "mother." He told her what had happened and what he had said.


Suvarnamali was at once frightened and ashamed. With a maidenly blush, she upbraided Sin Samudr for linking her name to that of his father. Nor did she approve of his boastful challenge, for she was afraid that a man of spirit like Usren might take it up, and a fearful battle would ensue.


"He wants to come and take you away and marry you," retorted Sin Samudr. "This made me angry and so I gave him a piece of my mind. All right, if you wish it, I shall tell him that you are not married to my father. But I am not afraid of battle. Let him come and I shall destroy him utterly."


Suvarnamali pinched his cheeks. "What a jealous child you are! Who ever told you that I wish to marry your father? I only adopted you as a son. How do you know that I might not wish to marry Usren?"


But Sin Samudr merely laughed.


Meanwhile, Usren's men regained their ship and immediately reported to their master : "My lord, the owner of that ship is a mere child about nine years of age, but he has the temper of a devil. He told us that his name is Sin Samudr and that he is the son of the Princess Suvarna-mali, who is with him on board the ship. He said that the King of Paleuk gave the Princess to his father."


Usren felt as though some one had tried to sever his head from his body. He shook with anger until sweat poured from his face and he had to wipe it off with a handkerchief. "Lying slave!" he shouted, "I shall see to it that he does not escape. But did you see the father?" His men replied that they had not. "No matter. Whoever he is, I will take him alive, skin him and rub his flesh with salt!" Usren then sent for Phra Abhai Mani to ask his advice. He related all that his men had told him. Phra Abhai Mani knew at once that it was his own son but deemed it expedient not to mention the fact.


Usren was all for battle. But Phra Abhai Mani succeeded in dissuading him from any hasty action, by offering to make the re-calcitrant ship yield without a shot being fired. Obtaining Usren's consent, he brought forth his magic flute and at once began to play a plaintive air. Usren and all his men were immediately spellbound and gradually fell into deep slumber. Soon, all on board the ships of Lanka were prostrate except for Phra Abhai Mani and his followers, who knew the trick and stopped their ears.


Those on board Sin Samudr's ship likewise fell asleep when they heard the somnolent melody wafted by the breeze across the water. Only Sin Samudr, Suvarnamali and Sri Suvarna, who had heard it before, remained awake. They were overjoyed, for they knew that the player of the flute could be none other than Phra Abhai Mani.


In spite of his uncle's objection, Sin Samudr decided to go to his father without delay. With a graceful movement, he leapt into the sea, and, true son of his mother the sea giantess, swam with bold and easy strokes to Usren's ship. Arrived there, he climbed on board without difficulty. Everywhere were prostrate forms which he had to step over. But he followed the voice of the flute and soon came upon his father. He rushed to him, knelt at his feet and embraced him.


As soon as he saw his son, Phra Abhai Mani was overcome with joy, as though he had died and was then born again. Putting down his flute, he embraced the boy, with tears of delight flowing down his face. Even his followers, hardened mariners though they were, could not help being affected by this touching sight of reunion between father and son.


By this time, Usren had slept off the effects of the magic spell. He awoke just as father and son were exchanging accounts of their experiences and adventures. He asked who the boy was. "This is my son Sin Samudr," Phra Abhai Mani told him, "so there is no need for further talk of fighting. Come, Prince, let us go to his ship. There you shall meet the Princess Suvarnamali."


So the three of them took a boat to the former pirate ship. Sri Suvarna was waiting for them, there was a happy reunion between the two brothers, who had been separated from each other for many long years. But of Suvarnamali there was no sign. She had fled to her cabin at the approach of her two suitors.


Usren was impatient to meet his betrothed. "Pray, tell me," he addressed Sri Suvarna, "Which is her cabin? I would like to meet her, to tell her that our ships are ready to escort her back to her own land."


At this, Sin Samudr became angry and, unable to control his childish temper, cried out impetuously, "I will not let anybody take my mother away!"


Phra Abhai Mani tried to soothe him. "My dearest boy, do not excite yourself. Prince Usren is a dear friend. He helped your father when in distress. Were it not for him we should not be meeting each other now. Go and tell your mother. She will decide what is best."


Sin Samudr could find no answer. He merely burst into tears and ran to Suvarnamali's cabin. Suvarnamali put her arms round him and asked what was the matter. "Has that man who came with your father said anything?"


"He is the cause of all trouble." Sin Samudr replied, sobbing childishly. He then put an earnest question to Suvarnamali "Tell me truly, do you really love that man, that Prince of Lanka? He says he wants tq take you away and marry you. Do you really want to leave me?"


"Do you want your mother to go?" Suvarnamali asked him teasingly. "So you are afraid of him, are you, my little cry-baby? What does your father say?" "I am not afraid of any man," Sin Samudr retorted indignantly. "But I do not like the way Father treats Usren as a friend, and is willing to give you up to him. He left it to you to decide what to do. Mother, you must be firm and refuse to go to Lanka. I will not let you go. I will fight him and him."


Suvarnamali's eyes filled with tears. Her patient longing and sacrifice had been in vain. Phra Abhai Mani had all but called her his own, and now he was willing to cast her off for the sake of a mere acquaintance. Feeling of shame at having been so easily duped and deceived obsessed her spirit and wounded her proud heart. She decided that the only solution was to seek solace in death.


"It is my evil destiny, child," she sobbed. "I shall become an object of derision, accused of pretending to be what I am not. How changeable and cruel is your father! I regret now that I have given him remembrances ofme."


Suvarnamali then took from her finger the ring that Phra Abhai Mani had sent to her and put it on Sin Samudr's finger.


"Whoever handed this ring to you to give to me, return it to him and say that I have no further use for it."


So saying, she seized a dagger that was lying by her bedside and unsheathed it to stab herself.


With a movement swift as lightning, Sin Samudr wrested it from her and threw it out of the window into the sea.


"You should not do such a thing, Mother. Even it you are angry with Father and cannot forgive him, you still have me."


Suvarnamali held the boy close to her breast and wept. "I know that you love me, my child, and I shall never forget it," she said. "But there is no hope left for me. I am filled with shame, and cannot hold my head up to public gaze any more. There is nothing more degrading than a woman who belongs to two men. How can I ever live down the fact that I have once declared Phra Abhai Mani to be my husband?"


Sin Samudr tried to comfort her. He put the ring back on her finger and promised her that he himself would arrange matters. Then, taking his leave and stepping out of the room, he beckoned to Arun Rasmi and whispered to her to go into the cabin and stay with her aunt until he returned.


Sin Samudr came out on to the deck where Usren waited impatiently. He told the latter curtly "My mother does not wish to come. Moreover, she says that she does not know you."


Usren began to lose his temper. "You mean, You will not allow her to come out. Do not trifle with me. I will bide no excuses. Your father knows full well that Suvarnamali is mine, was given me by her parents. That is why I have been searching the seas for her. Now I have brought your father to you, you should hand over the lady to me."


Sin Samudr was obstinate and stood his ground. "Did I tell you to bring my father?" he answered. "I would have found him anyway without your assistance. Now go back home and find some beautiful woman there to be your wife. You can never hope to get my mother. I may be young and small, but I will see to it that she remains with me. Go! You annoyrne!"


Usren could scarcely control himself. "Youngster, you do not know what you are saying! Your father and I have come to an understanding. So do not attempt to put me off in this manner." Then, turning to Phra Abhai Mani, he asked "Well, what say you?"


Phra Abhai Mani found himself in a difficult position between his rescuer and his son. He replied diplomatically "If you wish to take the Princess, I personally raise no objection. But the boy loves her and will not part with her." Sri Suvarna felt it was time to speak in support of his nephew. "The Princess has no desire to go with you." he told Usren. "How can you force her to do so against her will?"


Usren's patience was exhausted. "I have pleaded with you as a man of peace. But you will not listen to me. Very well, I am also a warrior and have powerful forces under my command. If you wish for battle, I am at your service. From now on, we fight." So saying, he left them and returned with all speed to his own ship. There, he called a conference of his commanders and told them to stand by for action. Their fleet would surround Sin Samudr's ship and close in on it from all sides. In boarding the ship, they were to seize and bind Sin Samudr. As for the Princess, she was not to be touched and must be brought to him unharmed.


The several commanders promptly carried out their instructions. Soon, Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna saw that their ship was completely surrounded by vessels of Usren's fleet. They asked Sin Samudr what he proposed to do under the circumstances. Sin Samudr was not in the least perturbed. He called up Angura and gave orders for battle. Angura's men took up their action stations, and the ship sailed on in face of the enemy.


Phra Abhai Mani informed his son that, in view of his obligations to Usren, he could not be a party to the battle but would remain on board as a neutral observer. Sin Samudr went to tell this to his "mother." Suvarnamali was angry with Phra Abhai Mani for not wanting to help his own son. So she told Sin Samudr that she herself would help him instead, and insisted on dressing up as a man. She accompanied him on deck, and none of the men recognised her.


Usren's ships closed in. As they came within range, they lowered their sails and fired several broadsides. Angura's men replied with all their cannons, and the exchange of fire went on for a while.


It was Suvarnamali herself who suggested the tactic of engaging one enemy ship at a time. The operation was carried out and proved highly successful. Bringing all guns to bear on each ship in the turn, the gallant little ex-pirate ship sank Usren's men-o'-war one after another. Finally, Usren's own ship was encountered. By a daring manoeuvre, Sin Samudr's ship closed in, and the ex-pirates, long accustomed to this type of engagement, boarded the other vessel and took Usren's men, who had prepared them-selves for a more lengthy gun-duel at long range, completely by surprise.


Sin Samudr himself went with the boarding party and personally captured Usren. The latter was brought back to Sin Samudr's ship with his hands securely tied behind him. When they saw that their prince had been taken prisoner, the rest of Usren's fleet surrendered at once.


Usren did not remain a prisoner long, however. Both Phra Abhai Mani and Sri Suvarna pleaded with Sin Samudr to release him. Sin Samudr consulted Suvarnamali, and eventually they agreed to do so, after warning him not to try to stir up trouble again.


Usren returned to his ship more furious than ever. Instead of learning a lesson, he was more determined than before to have his revenge. After drinking three bowls of liquor, he became boastful and told his men that he would annihilate Sin Samudr. He ordered them to prepare for another battle.


That night, Usren's ship stealthily closed in on Sin Samudr's ship which was sailing unsuspectingly along the appointed course. When the vessels were within easy rang of each other, Usren's men catapulted oil-soaked cloth and flaming torches into the ex-pirate ship, which immediately caught fire.


However, Sin Samudr, his father and his uncle, rose to the occasion. Summoning all hands on deck, they diligently set about putting out the flames, so that nowhere did the fire cause extensive damage. Meanwhile, Angura assembled a squad of sharpshooters who fired a volley on to the deck of the attacking ship. One of the bullets hit Usren as he was directing his men to the attack. He fell, with blood pouring from his wound. His lieutenant decided to break off engagement immediately, so Usren's ship withdrew from the fray. By early morning it was already out of sight of Sin Samudr's ship and heading for Paleuk with all possible speed, with a wounded and aggrieved Usren on board still weakly vowing vengeance.

Search WWW Search Blog e4thai Search