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Part Nine : The Infant Prodigy

---> Part Nine : The Infant Prodigy

Meanwhile Phra Abhai Mani was encountering all these adventures, warlike and amorous, his mermaid-mistress whom he had left on the magic island brought up his second son, Sud Sakorn, to lusty boyhood. Being no ordinary mortal, Sud Sakorn grew quickly in strength and intelligence. By the time he was ten months old, he was as fully developed as a normal child ten years of age. He no longer had to rely on his mother for sustenance and protection. So, very reluctantly, the mermaid decided that she could no longer keep him entirely to her own watery element and resolved to place the boy in the care and guidance of the wise hermit who ruled the island.

The hermit gladly took Sud Sakorn to his cell. He fed the child on wild bananas and cow's milk, until he was healthy and strong. Sud Sakorn spent much of his time running about in the neighbourhood of the cell, chasing cattle and buffaloes and riding on their backs. Sometimes he would go down to the cove and play with the fishes, until the hermit tired himself out with calling him to return to the cell. However, the hermit insisted on Sud Sakorn learning how to read and write, how to take care of himself and defend himself.

One day, when he was about three years old, he escaped from the cell while the hermit was in deep meditation, and went down to the cove to chase the fishes. Finding one of largish size, he mounted its back and together they sped away far out to sea. At a considerable distance from the island, Sud Sakorn saw a monster he had never met with before. It was a giant sea horse with a black body, a face like a dragon's and a tail like a sea-serpent's. Taking a fancy to this creature many times his own size, he grabbed hold of it. Immediately, the great beast swung round and seized the little boy in its jaws. With a titanic struggle, Sud Sakorn shook himself loose and succeeded in getting on to its back. Roaring angrily, the monster tried to upset its rider in every conceivable way-leaping into the air, rolling over and swishing its enormous tail. But Sud Sakorn held on for dear life. The strange ride went on until the evening when, fearing that the hermit would be angry, the boy jumped off the creature's back and swam to the island. Running to meet the hermit, he recounted the whole amazing adventure.

The hermit knew at once that his pupil had encountered the offspring of a dragon that had mated with a horse. That was why it had the head and tail of a dragon but the body of a horse. He also thought how appropriate it would be if the creature could be tamed to serve as a mount for Sud Sakorn. He said this to the boy and told him how it could be caught and rendered harmless by means of a magic spell. Sud Sakorn made every effort to memorise what the hermit had taught him before falling asleep that night.

Early the next morning, Sud Sakorn rose and, finding a piece of rope, immediately descended to the cove where one of his finned friends was waiting to take him out to sea. Out among the big breakers, he saw the sea-dragon-horse cantering on the surface. Drawing closer, he leapt from his mount and seized the monster by its whiskers. With an angry roar, the latter shook its huge head and flung the boy into the sea, the while lashing furiously with its tail and attempting to snap him in its jaws.

Undaunted, Sud Sakorn again approached and seized the beast's whiskers once more. At the same moment, he slipped the rope's noose over its head. Taking advantage of the animal's temporary confusion, he mounted its back and quickly repeated seven times the magic incantation he had learned of the hermit. Suddenly, the sea-horse seemed to lose all its strength and resisted no more. Sud Sakorn then blew on its head six times, and found that by now the steed was his and was perfectly amenable to his direction. Flushed with triumph, he headed towards the shore and soon the monster was galloping up the sandy slope in the direction of the hermit's cell.

The hermit was seated at ease trimming his beard. When he saw his pupil in full control of the monster, he gave a delighted chuckle and called out to him: "Ho, there! Do not gallop about so much, but bring the beast here! I want to have a look at its funny head."

Sud Sakorn obediently dismounted and led his steed to the hermit, who examined it closely with much interest. Then with another chuckle, the venerable old man said to Sud Sakorn, "It is strange and amusing, being no less than a number of different animals all rolled into one. It has the strength of a giant, and is invulnerable. It has molars of diamonds and scales of onyx. It is equally capable of feeding on human flesh, crab, fish, grass and leaves. If you use it as your steed, you yourself will also be invulnerable. I will give it the name Nilmangkorn. You may let it go now. There is no need to tie it up, but let it roam at will. When you need your steed, call Nilmangkorn and it will come to you."

The hermit felt that now was the time to tell Sud Sakorn something of his royal ancestry. So he drew the boy to his side and told him how his father, a prince and heir to a kingdom, had been assisted by his mermaid mother to escape from the clutches of a giantess; how they had fallen in love on that very island; and how Phra Abhai Mani sailed away shortly before Sud Sakorn was born.

The hermit then said to him, "Now you are old enough to fend for yourself. You must go after your father and find him. It is not meet that you should stay here and do nothing."

Sud Sakorn felt sorry for his father who had met with so many misadventures. At once he replied, "It is shameful for a son to leave his father thus. I must beg your permission to go and search for him, even if I die in doing so. Please tell me, in which direction did he go?"

"Your royal father," replied the hermit, exercising his powers of far vision, "is now the ruler of Paleuk, and is about to make war wi~h Lanka. Where my arm is now pointing, in that direction you will find him. But the way is long and difficult, and you may go astray. Nor is it without dangers. You will encounter fierce and evil spirits, ghosts and wicked men. But I see that nothing deters you from your wish to seek your father; that is good and right, for gratitude to one's parents is the greatest virtue."

The hermit then picked up a long, crooked stick and handed it to Sud Sakorn, who was dwarfed by it, saying: "Take this magic stick with you. Keep it always with you, and never let it go from your hand. As a weapon, it is as effective as a bow and arrows or a dagger. Moreover, it is an impenetrable shield against all kind of arms."

The wise old man also put the golden hair pin which Phra Abhai Mani had left with him into the boy's top-knot, and wrapped a tiger's hide round him in the manner of an ascetic. A tall head-piece of skin completed the outfit, and made Sud Sakorn look like a diminutive hermit. The old man then distilled some scented rose-wood and anointed the forehead of the boy. Sud Sakorn bowed low and reverently to the hermit.

The time came for Phra Abhai Mani's son to take leave of his mermaid-mother. He went down to the cover and called her. She came, her eyes filled with tears, but her heart full of pride. Sud Sakorn turned to the hermit and said, "Now that I am leaving this island, I am concerned about my mother. Would you please look after her, holy sir? There is no one but you to give her protection until I return again."

The hermit was moved to compassion and said, "You have no need to worry, I will look after her and see to her wants, such as they are."

Thus reassured, Sud Sakorn took his leave. The hermit gave his blessing. Then the boy called Nilmangkorn and led the great steed to the shore where, after taking a last farewell of his mother, he mounted and sped over the ocean.

Nilmangkorn galloped tirelessly on the crest of the waves. All that Sud Sakorn could see was a wide expanse of water with occasional glimpses of green islets on the distant horizon. It was not long before they reached the lost kingdom of Thao Pakka. The country was once prosperous. But the people forsook the religion and morality of their forefathers and took to evil ways, and so one day the whole island sank beneath the sea, drowning all its inhabitants. This spot therefore became the abode of ghosts which preyed on the wreckage of sunken ships lured on to the treacherous reefs because the ghosts conjured up a vision of the once-stately city.

Sud Sakorn did not know this. As he approached, all he saw was a beautiful and glittering town with citizens going hither and thither about their business. Some of them hailed him and invited him to enter. As he was tired and needed a rest, he decided to stop awhile and see what the place could offer him. He guided Nilmangkorn through the city gate. As soon as he did so, he perceived to his horror that the walls seemed to cave in. The city and the cheerful citizens vanished, giving way to desolation and a multitude of ghosts, which formed a ring round him and leered at him.

Sud Sakorn was not afraid. Taking a firm grip of his magic stick, he swung it right and left. Immediately they were struck, the ghosts' heads rolled off their ghostly bodies. But the more he disposed of in this way, the more others came to leer at him, putting out their greedy tongues. Sud Sakorn, undaunted, continued to strike at them, while Nilmangkorn lashed with its tail and bit with its fangs. When evening fell they were still fighting the inexhaustible hosts. The ghosts even brought burning torches to illumine the battle. The magic stick kept them at bay, but they persevered in the hope that in his exhaustion the boy might drop it. The strain was now beginning to tell on Sud Sakorn and on his loyal steed. The boy began thinking of the hermit and how welcome his assistance would be. All at once, there was a deafening sound as of thunder and all the ghosts disappeared into thin air. Out of the clouds came the hermit, with a kindly smile on his countenance. He told Sud Sakorn about the lost kingdom and its ghostly inhabitants, and warned him to leave immediately. The hermit then vanished into the clouds, and Sud Sakorn made a hasty departure.

The boy rode his dragon-horse right through the night. When dawn broke, he found himself close to a beautiful green island. Deciding to make a stop, he directed Nilmangkorn to the shore. There he found various kinds of fruit to feed on while Nilmangkorn made a meal of fishes found in the shallow water. Afterwards both enjoyed a much needed rest.

Refreshed by this brief sojourn on the island, Sud Sakorn again mounted his steed and continued his journey across the ocean. It was some time before he reached the first inhabited island.

On this island, there lived a cunning rascal of uncertain ancestry who professed to be a holy man. Shipwrecked near the island, he lost the few possessions he could boast of and landed on the island literally naked. To cover up his shame, he told the islanders that he was a fakir of a certain sect that spurned all forms of clothing as sinful. He allowed his hair and his beard to grow so long that they partly hid his nakedness. Refusing to eat fish, the principal diet of the island, he subsisted solely on rice and vegetables. All these things so impressed the natives that they were completely taken in by him and believed that he really was a holy man. So they built him a hermitage where he lived in great comfort and ease.

It was to this hermitage that Sud Sakorn first came when he arrived at the island. He rode Nilmangkorn as far as the gate. Peering in, he saw the naked fakir lying stretched out asleep and snoring on his couch. The sight repulsed him, but curiosity overcame him and he called out. "Ho, there! Wake up, old man! Why do you not wear any clothes?"

The fakir woke up, startled. He looked all around to see where the noise came from. Eventually he espied the boy astride a strange beast outside his gate, and asked, "Where have you come from? What is your business, little hermit? What is that animal you are riding?"

"Wait," said Sud Sakorn authoritatively, "You must tell me first why you are so shamelessly naked. Have you no clothes? And do you not brush your teeth?"

The fakir immediately assumed a pose of virtuosity which was so blatantly a sham that any one with more experience than Sud Sakorn or the islanders could have seen through it at once. "I have renounced all desires," he exclaimed with false piety, "because I realise the folly of human vanity. What, after all, is our human body? Just a storehouse of disease and dirtiness. Therefore, what is the use of trying to conceal it? For this same reason, I have taken to a holy life, renounced the world, effaced my name and person. Just as I was born into the world, so am I at this instant. Now, pray, what is your business? Whither do you go?"

Sud Sakorn, in his innocence, believed all that the fakir had said and believed him truly to be a holy man. He dismounted and entered the hermitage, and begged the naked fakir to forgive him for speaking in a rude fashion. He then gave an account of himself and his strange journey.

The naked fakir closed his eyes and listened. As the story unfolded, he became more than ever convinced that this was no ordinary boy, that small though he was he possessed extraordinary magical powers. He decided to pry the secret of these powers from the boy.

In his sly manner, the fakir said, "That is all very well, and you may have succeeded in crossing the oceans. But before you lie far greater hazards, such as the sea of flowing lava. Your charms and incantations are powerless against this. I will teach you how to overcome this and other obstacles." Sud Sakorn expressed his willingness to learn.

"Then you must tell me all that you know already," said the fakir.

The boy innocently believed that the fakir would help him, and so told him all that he had been taught by the hermit and revealed the secret of the magic stick.

The fakir was delighted, and it was with considerable difficulty that he controlled his emotions sufficiently to say to Sud Sakorn, "We will begin our lessons at once. Now you must follow me to the place of meditation on yonder mountain."

The naked man rose from his couch and strode out of the hermitage with an agility that belied his years. Sud Sakorn followed, holding on tightly to the magic stick.

After much climbing, they eventually reached the highest point on the island. On a narrow ledge overhanging a precipice, with a sheer drop of several thousand feet into the valley below, the fakir told the boy to sit and adopt the attitude of meditation. Unsuspecting, Sud Sakorn obeyed. He placed the stick by his side and put the palms of his hands together as in prayer.

Immediately, the wicked fakir seized his opportunity. With a quick movement of his bare body, he pushed the boy over the edge and watched him fall until out of sight. Then with a shout of joy he gleefully picked up the magic stick and made his way down the mountain side.

Reaching the hermitage, he lost no time in proving his mastery over Sud Sakorn's steed, Nilmangkorn. At first the dragon-horse showed great aversion, but when the fakir waved the stick, it was cowed into submission and bowed its head to the inevitable. The fakir mounted its back, and, prodding it with the stick, made Nilmangkorn carry him across the sea to the kingdom of Karavek, where, he knew, his newly-acquired possessions and knowledge would yield him a comfortable living.

Karavek was ruled by a young prince named Phra Suriyotai, who had a consort called Chomchanthavadi and a two and a half year old daughter called Saovakontha. At the very hour when the treacherous fakir pushed Sud Sakorn over the precipice, Phra Suriyotai was fast asleep. While he was sleeping, he had a strange dream. He dreamt that an ugly and evil-smelling vulture, with a gleaming crimson body but few feathers, flew towards him with a crystal in its beak. The air was filled with the smell of death so that it made him feel faint. Then all of a sudden, the vulture disappeared and the sun rose in all its glory, bathing the whole city in light. He found the crystal on the ground and gave it to his daughter. At this point, he woke up.

Summoning the court astrologers, Phra Suriyotai asked them to interpret his dream. After making their calculations, they were able to inform him what the dream signified. The evil vulture represented a villainous man of strange aspect and appearance who would soon be coming to Karavek. The crystal indicated that this man would be followed by a child of exceptional strength and power, and the child would ultimately become the husband of the little Princess and rule over Karavek.

Soon enough, the naked fakir arrived as predicted. He rode Nilmangkorn through the streets of Karavek, to the great consternation of the populace, who thought that spirits of the underworld had come to town. Cries and lamentations rent the air. But the fakir rode unconcernedly on until he reached the main gate of the palace. There some knowledgeable persons who had heard of the naked fakir of the neighbouring island greeted him respectfully and asked his purpose in coming to Karavek. Flattered, the wily rascal told them that he had come to warn them of an impending epidemic of cholera which would sweep the city, striking down the improvident. "Please tell all your people," he cried. "If you are afraid to die, do not delay. Come out into the street and I shall sprinkle holy water over you, so that death will pass you untouched and you will live in happiness and health."

On hearing this, all forgot their fear and aversion. They pressed eagerly towards him, begging him to help them. Soon the streets were lined with crowds. Even the sick and the maimed made their appearance, and new-born babies were carried in the arms of their mothers. Young folk looked at the unclothed stranger with wonder, while the bolder spirits even hid their faces and laughed.

These facts were reported to Phra Suriyotai who, forgetting his dream, was as enthusiastic as any of his subjects. He told his courtiers that he would invite this holy man into the palace to perform his miracle there. But when the fakir entered the palace, all the palace women took fright and scattered in all directions. He rode up to the door of the throne hall, where he was politely received by courtiers. Beaming with pleasure, he dismounted. As he did so, Nilmangkorn, freed from the evil influence, leapt into the air, and with the speed of the wind, galloped away through the palace gate and headed for the sea, in the direction of the island where he had left his beloved master.

The fakir, horror-struck, fell into a swoon. Efforts to revive him failed. It was in this condition that he was presented to the Prince. Phra Suriyotai ordered him to be carried into an inner room and summoned doctors to attend him. There he languished in abject sorrow and despair for several days.

Meanwhile, Nilmangkorn returned to the island and wandered hither and thither in search of Sud Sakorn. Not finding him, the faithful steed went to the hermitage and from there followed the trail of his master. It only led to a mountain wall. So Nilmangkorn sat down and cried, and his wails echoed through the rocky valley.

Now, by the grace of the hermit's magical power, Phra Abhai Mani's son had not perished in his fall from the precipice after being pushed over by the wicked fakir. But he was grievously hurt and remained unconscious for a long while. In time, the cool trickle of a stream which gushed forth from the rocks and touched his body revived him, and he regained consciousness. Immediately he became aware of the piteous wailing of the faithful Nilmangkorn. Looking about him, he could however see nothing but solid and massive walls all around. To climb them was impossible, and there was no way out of the deep chasm. In despair, Sud Sakorn again called on his mentor.

Once more, the hermit came to the aid of his ward. There was a deafening sound. Sud Sakorn looked up and saw the old man descending astride a rainbow. Gathering the bruised body of the boy up in his arms, the hermit took him aloft and gently laid him on the mountain top. He then proceeded to teach the boy thus: "Put not your trust in any mortal, for their wiles are immeasurable. Even the most tortuous creepers round the hoariest tree are not as crooked as a man's heart. True love among mortals is only to be found in the love of a father or mother. The only support you can rely upon is yourself. So you must be careful and wise, my boy. There is no better armour than knowledge, for it is best to know how to keep oneself from harm. Now you must go and recover your magic stick." As soon as he had said this, the hermit vanished from sight.

Sud Sakorn rose and came down the mountain side to find his steed. Nilmangkorn showed great delight on seeing him. The boy led his dragon-horse back the way he came, picking fruit and feeding himself and Nilmangkorn as he went. When he reached the hermitage, he collected pomegranates that the naked fakir had planted. Having eaten his fill he bathed in the clear, cool stream.

Calling Nilmangkorn, he said to his steed, "You know where that wicked man has gone. Take me to him at once." He mounted the dragon-horse and away they sped to Karavek.

The citizens of Karavek were no longer frightened of Nilmangkorn, so they came out of their houses to take a good look at the rare creature. They thought that the boy who was riding it must be the son or grandson of the fakir. They called out to him, "Where have you been, little hermit? Have you come to join the old one?"

Sud Sakorn returned their friendly greetings. "I share my blessings with you all," he told them. "But tell me where I may find the naked fakir, please tell me where he resides." The citizens told him that their ruler had invited him into his palace.

It was not long before Sud Sakorn gained access to the palace, for every one who saw the boy fell in love with him. He dismounted and entered the chamber where the fakir had been placed. The wicked man was fast asleep, but the magic stick was leaning against the wall. Taking hold of it at once, Sud Sakorn waved it triumphantly over his head and shouted, "Hey, you base and heartless villain! You wormed my secrets out of me and sought to kill me and steal my stick. You shall die for it!"

The naked fakir woke up with a start and was horror-stricken to find the boy whom he had pushed over the precipice standing over him. He jumped up and, having no thought for anything but flight, ran out of the room as fast as his legs could carry him, followed by the royal doctors with their cups of medicine. The guards outside not knowing what was happening, joined in the hue-and-cry. There was considerable commotion in the palace.

The noise reached the ears of Phra Suriyotai, who immediately came out from his inner chamber to see what was afoot. On reaching the quarters assigned to the fakir, he saw the little boy in hermit's clothing. Sud Sakorn had not taken the trouble to join in the chase, but was explaining to the startled courtiers, "I have come only to take back my stick; you need not be afraid, for I harm no one."

Phra Suriyotai took an instant liking to the boy, and invited him into his inner chamber. There he asked questions of Sud Sakorn, who told him about his ancestry and his adventures.

When Phra Suriyotai heard how the fakir had deceived and tried to kill Sud Sakorn, his fury was aroused. He ordered the man to be arrested and brought into his presence. As the fakir refused to admit his guilt, he was whipped and sentenced to death. But Sud Sakorn interceded for him, saying that what had befallen himself was doubtless due to some fault he had committed against the man in a previous existence; if he were to exact punishment now, a chain of recurring acts of revenge would be projected into their future existences.

Phra Suriyotai agreed to Sud Sakorn's request on one condition: that Sud Sakorn should remain in Karavek as his adopted son. The boy, not averse to this proposal, replied: "I thank Your Highness for the magnanimous suggestion that I should look upon Your Highness as a father. When I have found my parent and other relatives, I shall return to Karavek and serve Your Highness for the rest of my life."

Phra Suriyotai was delighted with this condescending reply and made a further proposal: "I myself will accompany you on the journey to your father's kingdom. But first you must rest here awhile and refresh yourself. In the meantime, I will send word to Paleuk."

Sud Sakorn had no objection to this. He merely asked permission to call Nilmangkorn and tell the faithful steed what he intended. That done, and when Nilmangkorn had been given leave to play in the ocean, the boy followed his new-found sire into the inner palace, where he received an affectionate welcome from Chomchanthavadi and her daughter Saovakontha.

Days passed into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years, and Sud Sakorn stayed on at Karavek, tasting the delights of a civilisation and culture he had never known. He completely forgot the object of his mission, which was to journey in search of a father he had never seen.

One day, however, he suddenly remembered that Phra Suriyotai was not his father, nor was Karavek his parental domain. He had an instant urge to go and search for Phra Abhai Mani. At once he went to his adopted parents and told them that he would set out from Karavek on the morrow. He also said to Saovakontha, whom he loved dearly, "I must leave you, little sister. The desire to meet my real father burns like a fire within me. When I have found him, I will bring him here to see you. You must take good care of yourself. I shall always think of you."

"In that case," remarked Saovakontha, "I will go with you. I cannot remain behind in the city without you, dear brother."

In spite of all his efforts to dissuade her from accompanying him, Saovakontha was adamant, and even her parents had to give in to her whims. But they arranged for their two young charges to go in ship which was properly fitted out and fully manned, and with a number of attendants to wait upon them.

Sud Sakorn did not forget his faithful steed. He called Nilmangkorn and told the dragon-horse to go with them. In the day time, Nilmangkorn could gallop about at will across the surface of the ocean. But at night, the dragon-horse must join the ship and sleep on board.

The ship set sail in the direction of Paleuk. The voyage through calm seas passed off uneventfully until they reached a large island, where they stopped to replenish their supply of fresh water. Now, unknown to them, this island was the abode of ferocious, man-eating butterflies of gigantic size. When these creatures scented human blood, they winged out in hordes of hundreds and circled over the ship in search of prey. The sailors were panic-stricken and ran below deck. Little Saovakontha, hearing the commotion, leaned out of the window of her cabin. In a flash, one of the monsters swooped down, caught the child in its talons and flew aloft again at great speed. Fortunately, Sud Sakorn saw what happened. Seizing his stick and calling Nilmangkorn, he set off in immediate pursuit. Almost at once, he was attacked by hundreds of other hungry butterflies. Undismayed, the boy struck at them with his stick and shattered their wings. The remainder were quickly put to flight. Sud Sakorn then proceeded to rescue Saovakontha and brought her back to the ship on his trusty steed. After that, he went out again with Nilmangkorn and made his way to the island, where he sought out and slew the king butterfly. He took out both the creature's eyes, which shone like gems, and brought them to the ship, for he had been told that they gave great strength to any one who possessed them.

Finally, after many weeks spent in crossing the ocean, the ship arrived in the territorial waters of Paleuk. There they found several patrol boats cruising off the shore. Drawing nearer, the Karavek sailors beat their gongs to attract attention and called out to ask whose boats they were. They received the reply: "We are the patrols of Paleuk. Where do you come from, and do you come as friends or enemies?" The Karavek sailors, delighted that they had reached their destination, cried out: "We are no enemies! This ship carries the Princess of Karavek and the renowned Sud Sakorn, son of the illustrious Phra Abhai Mani, who comes to meet his father. If you approach, you may pay your respects to His Highness!" The patrol boats came alongside and the officers boarded the ship. Sud Sakorn received them in a friendly manner and soon confirmed that they were indeed his father's subjects. But when he asked them to take him to Phra Abhai Mani, they hesitated and said that they would first have to await instructions from the palace. So they sent messengers to advise high officials at the court.

The news was conveyed to Suvarnamali, as Phra Abhai Mani was still distracted following Laman's curse and the strange spell which Laweng's portrait exercised over him. Suvarnamali had never heard of any other son of her husband, and was naturally suspicious. After consulting the ladies of the court, she decided to find out more about Sud Sakorn and await the arrival of Sri Suvarna and Sin Samudr before admitting him into the city, for it was generally agreed that the enemy were capable of using any subterfuge. So the messengers went back to the ship with the request that Sud Sakorn should not enter the city immediately but wait at the outpost. Sud Sakorn learned of his father's illness with dismay and anxiety and spent much time questioning the messengers. In the end, he decided to comply with the request and set up his camp on the outskirts of the city.

Meanwhile, word reached Suvarnamali that a vast concentration of forces had gathered at Lanka. The cunning Laweng had offered her hand to any one who could conquer the twice-victorious ruler of Paluek. Consequently, all the sovereigns of neighbouring states from powerful monarchs to insignificant princelings, had offered their services, and now a mighty allied army was ready to swoop on Phra Abhai Mani's kingdom. Suvarnamali hastened into her husband's chamber and found him kissing the bewitched portrait of Laweng. Sitting down beside him, she told him the news she had received. Phra Abhai Mani flew into a rage, crying: "You come here merely to vent your jealousy! All you can do is to talk and talk!" He picked up a pillow and flung it at her. Suvarnamali ran out of the room. Seeing that to discuss the matter with her husband was useless, she herself summoned the ministers and generals to prepare for war.

The soldiers of Paleuk were scarcely ready before the allied enemy fleet appeared off the coast. Such a vast congregation of fighting ships had never been seen before, nor had any force been known to be as large and formidable as the one they transported. The invaders seemed unassailable. Nevertheless, the brave patrol boats went out to intercept them, firing their diminutive guns. The big enemy vessels replied with cannons and in no time not a trace was left of the hapless defenders. Thinking they had disposed of the only resistance before reaching the shore, the fleet sailed in at full speed and ran into Sud Sakorn's ship, which opened up with all its guns and succeeded in sinking a few of the leading vessels. But even the gallant visitors from Karavek could not withstand the entire strength of the invading fleet and were forced to retire. The invaders therefore gained the desired beach heads and began to disembark their troops with little hindrance. Within a short time, they completely surrounded the city and began assaulting the walls.

Suvarnamali, who had taken over supreme command of the defence, decided that the only hope lay in staging a diversion by making a brief sortie. Disguising herself as a man once more, she collected a band of resolute women and led them out through one of the city gates. She intended to take them out only a short distance, sufficient to draw the attention of the enemy, and then beat a rapid retreat. But the enemy were too quick for the women. Before the latter could retrace their steps, they rushed the gate and succeeded in cutting off the retreat. Suvarnamali and her amazons tried to fight their way back with bows and arrows. In doing so, many of them, including Suvarnamali herself, were wounded.

At this critical moment, the enemy ranks faltered and broke, as Sud Sakorn came riding on Nilmangkorn, scattering warriors left and right. Realising instinctively that the disguised woman was his father's consort, he rushed to her rescue and escorted her back to the safety of the walls. He then returned to the fray at the head of the troops from Karavek and, swinging his stick and urging on his formidable steed, made a frontal attack. The enemy, surprised by this strange combination, turned and fled.

Sud Sakorn entered the city of Paleuk in triumph. At last, after many adventures, the infant prodigy had found his father.

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