As the sun rose over The Temple Of The Cobras, Marpa Tulku sat in the lotus position before the altar in his chamber and emptied his mind to meditate and pray. It was a ritual practiced by every Tulku of the temple from as far back as anyone could remember, a ritual to prepare to face the rigors of the day with strength, serenity, and spirituality. The rough translation of "tulku" into English was "living Buddha", a master so holy and so powerful that he was viewed by his initiates as the reincarnation of Buddha himself, and Marpa Tulku was the twentieth monk to carry the title in this monastery. It was a tremendous burden to bear, especially for a young man barely fifteen years of age, but the power and grace with which he did so served as an inspiration and lesson for every initiate within the temple.
As he had every morning for the past three weeks, Marpa Tulku prayed for extra doses of strength, serenity, and spirituality to deal with one resident of The Temple Of The Cobras. Four weeks ago, during one of these morning meditations, he had been struck with a tremendous vision, a powerful warning of growing evil down in the Lhasa region, an urgent command to break that evil and redirect it into a powerful force for good. Marpa Tulku had sent some of his stronger initiates to Lhasa to find the man he'd seen, planting the visual images into their minds so that they would recognize him. They reported back that they had found him, but could not believe he was the one in The Tulku's vision--the man in the vision was Ying Ko, the region's most powerful opium lord, a barbarian so feared he was known as "The Butcher Of Lhasa". Alarmed, Marpa Tulku had meditated again, trying to find this man, find out why their paths were destined to cross.
What had touched his mind in response to the meditations was so strong it literally knocked him over, a beast of darkness and evil stronger than the strongest winds that blew off the mountains. And yet, there was something more...projective telepathic energy unlike any he'd ever felt, a reservoir of psychic power held in check only by a steady diet of drugs and decadence. And deep inside, the badly-beaten conscience of a good man, a young Westerner who'd long ago lost his sense of self and his very identity. Suddenly, Marpa Tulku understood why he'd had the vision: The power within this man was so strong that if the beast in control gained access to it, he'd be almost unstoppable; he'd already discovered some of it and was using it to control slaves, concubines, warriors--all of whom would do anything he asked, no matter how ridiculous. The Tulku's task was clear now: He had to break the darkness, the arrogance, the evil that held the good man within prisoner, then teach him how to use the power within him for the right ends.
So, three weeks ago, the Temple's strongest guards had been sent down into the valley to kidnap Ying Ko from his palace and bring him to face judgment and receive redemption. And right away, the struggle began. Ying Ko wasn't interested in redemption and had made that very clear from the moment they'd met. The raging darkness and arrogance was so strong it had unnerved junior initiates as he'd come into the temple...and yet, there was a sense of awe and curiosity that was promising. Their first confrontation ended in a standoff--with the help of Phurba, which Ying Ko had made the mistake of grabbing off the altar, a mistake he paid for with a serious leg injury. But even during that first confrontation, The Tulku had been able to sense the complex personality of the man before him, quickly discerning strengths and weaknesses. He could see the good man inside trying to get out, fighting the darkness within him, and the beast in control determined to stay there. He could sense many conflicting emotions, including a level of confidence that was promising if it could be harnessed under the control of the right part of the man's personality. He sensed an ability that made his new student powerful--an innate ability to sense and manipulate fear. All adepts could sense some emotion or thought pattern especially strongly and manipulate that pattern to their own ends without any real training or effort, and it didn't surprise Marpa Tulku that Ying Ko's mind could detect and manipulate fear--it was one of the strongest emotions a person could have, and was something that could cloud a mind without any additional help from the hypnotic telepathy that was the specialty of the monks of The Temple Of The Cobras. To protect his students and himself, The Tulku had made certain that anyone who dealt with him was strong enough and trained enough to keep fear suppressed so that Ying Ko could not gain the upper hand. And from that moment on, everything The Tulku had done to him and with him had been directed at breaking the arrogance of the butcher and rebuilding the man within.
He'd started with his name. From the beginning, The Tulku had refused to use the name Ying Ko preferred, using instead the name of that suppressed former self--Lamont Cranston. And Ying Ko hated hearing it. He'd lash out in a rage at times, growing increasingly tired of being referred to as a person who he liked to believe no longer existed. But every time he heard the name "Cranston", it would nick the beast, beginning the process of knocking him back and breaking him down...which was why The Tulku insisted upon its use.
Next was to break the hold years of opium abuse had on him. Forcible withdrawal was cruel, but the only sure method to break opium addiction. And for three days, Ying Ko was as sick as a person could be, going without opium for the first time in almost four years. To take his mind off the pain and sickness, he'd been forced to work like a dog, doing any and all menial tasks The Tulku could think of. Things Ying Ko had made servants do, he was now being forced to do every single day, from sunrise to sunset. The goal was to break down his resistance, to force him to give in to The Tulku's discipline, to allow himself to be retrained.
But three weeks later, Marpa Tulku found himself maintaining a delicate balance with the struggle to break the beast and the need to prevent him from discovering the power within him too soon. The drugs and decadent behavior had been all that was keeping that reservoir of psychic energy The Tulku had detected within his new student in check. Without anything to stem it, the reservoir was filling, growing, deepening with each passing day. Every time The Tulku reached out to Cranston's mind, he could sense more and more energy building up, and the subconscious walls Cranston's psyche had built around itself over the years were straining to contain it. He was running out of time to break through the darkness and rescue the man within before those walls burst and Ying Ko took control of all that energy and the incredible power he would be able to wield with it.
So, he prayed for extra strength, serenity, and spirituality daily, and today especially. Yesterday, his finest initiate had actually been so overcome by the rage Cranston had directed at him while he was being forced to do one of the much-hated tasks, cleaning the hearth, that the initiate had given in to fear...and Ying Ko had been able to latch onto that fear and lash out, badly injuring the young man before The Tulku himself had overcome Ying Ko and subdued him. The initiate had begged The Tulku for forgiveness, frightened beyond belief that he had failed in accomplishing a crucial mission, and that kind of setback in an initiate's training upset The Tulku. Last night, he had given the order that no one was to deal with Cranston but him. If he could not break Ying Ko and rescue Cranston within the next few days, it could mean the end of all of them.
He reached out his mind to his forcibly-apprenticed student who was down in the cellar, a guard standing watch at the door who had strict instructions to summon The Tulku should anything happen.
He detected patterns of restless sleep, of nightmares...and a reservoir of psychic energy that was deeper than ever. Where is he getting all of this? The Tulku asked himself. Adepts normally cease psychic growth before their 20th birthday...Cranston is eight years beyond that. Where is all of this coming from? How is he continuing to hold it in? He should have been at the breaking point long before now--the release of the nightmares is probably all that is keeping it in check. I have never felt power like this from anyone other than a trained adept. But he is very close to being unable to hold it back any longer...very close. He is going to break soon--and I have to set him free first or there will truly be Hell to pay.
Cranston's thought patterns shifted, the nightmare growing more intense. The Tulku was torn between wanting the nightmare to release some of the buildup of new energy--which would make him easier to deal with--and wanting to punish him for his misbehavior yesterday. Then, he took a deep breath and prayed once more. No matter how angry he was at the beast who was in control, it was his mission to tame him and turn all that rage and power into a force for good. So, he sat quietly and waited.
He was standing on the banks of a wild river, surrounded by a raging forest fire. The heat was becoming so intense it was almost impossible to stand, yet the river was flowing too fast to be safely crossed to the other side. He looked around, panicked, hearing terrified screams of people trapped in the inferno.
Across the river stood the young monk who held him prisoner, reaching out with a long staff.
He reached out for it...and could not close his hands around it. His fingertips brushed the staff, unable to get a grip on it.
"You must trust me," the monk was telling him. "You must give in...come toward me."
He started to reach out for the staff again.
The staff was even farther out of his reach now. "You cannot stay in that place," the monk chastised. "You must move toward me."
He started to step off the bank and into the river.
Something grabbed him from behind. He turned around.
His own face stared back at him. "Don't listen to him," his other self told him. "You can do it. You can pull him across to this side."
"But we'll all die over here," he heard himself saying.
A wicked, wicked laugh. "You're so weak, Lamont. I don't know why I bother with you." Another laugh, then the beast shoved him toward the flames...
The man who was both Ying Ko and Lamont Cranston jolted awake, shaking with fear. For days, the nightmares had grown worse and worse. Every night it was some new vision of Hell, some new conflict with himself, some vision of himself as two separate people trapped in a situation where the monk who held him prisoner was the only hope of escape. But the nightmare always ended the same way...with Ying Ko flinging Lamont Cranston into the danger, hoping he would be consumed.
You are awake, The Tulku's voice commented.
Ying Ko frowned. He was really starting to hate that voice. "No thanks to you," he retorted. "My head still hurts from where you threw me against the wall last night."
Act like an animal and you will be treated like one.
"You don't know animal behavior. I haven't begun to fight. Send another little student and I'll tear them apart, too."
You will not get the chance. From now on, you will deal only with me.
"Could be interesting. I slit a monk's throat once. He was old enough to be your grandfather."
If you are trying to frighten me, you are wasting your effort. I am not afraid of you.
"So, come down here."
I think not. You get up.
You know I can. Are you in the mood for self-punishment today, Cranston?
"Don't call me that."
Why? Does it remind you too much of who you really are?
Ying Ko seethed. "When I get my hands on you..."
You will do what? A pause, then Ying Ko felt a shove from behind. Get up.
Ying Ko angrily lashed out behind him--and found himself grabbing at nothing. How does he do that? he mentally raged. I would have sworn he wasn't down here.
I could teach you how to do that...if you would quit fighting me.
Ying Ko stood up, then nearly collapsed against the wall. His head was spinning this morning. He'd had odd headaches at the end of the day for the past several days, but this was the first time he'd had one in the morning. It felt like something inside his head was pressing right behind his eyes, trying to get out. Damn that brat for bringing back memories of a time and a man he'd done everything in his power to make certain was long gone and long forgotten. "I'll quit fighting you when you quit throwing me against walls for disobeying orders."
Oddly circular logic. The Tulku appeared at the top of the stairs. You could make things easier on yourself.
Ying Ko gathered himself. "You don't understand, do you?" he said. "I will outlast you. I always get my way."
Precisely why you will continue to suffer until you give in. He gestured with his head. Up the stairs, Cranston. A long day's work awaits.
Ying Ko stood his ground.
The Tulku sighed. If you insist. He dissolved from view.
Ying Ko looked around. He'd wait for the push, then turn around and grab that little brat by the throat...
A hard shove from behind pushed him toward the stairs.
Ying Ko whirled around and grabbed at nothing again.
Something kicked his legs out from underneath him, and he hit the floor hard.
The Tulku materialized at the top of the steps again and shook his head. He could already tell it was going to be a long day. Get upstairs now.
No longer able to disobey, Ying Ko got to his feet and climbed the stairs.
Normally, The Tulku had an exhaustive list of chores for his hostile student to do, a set of duties that would work him physically until he dropped. But mindful that much of that work would bring him in contact with other initiates, The Tulku steered him toward areas where no one else would be--such as the kitchen, which needed a thorough cleaning. You missed a spot, The Tulku told him as he swept the floor.
Ying Ko didn't mind cleaning the kitchen so much--it was fairly easy to get a bite to eat when whatever unlucky initiate had been assigned to watch him for the day turned his back for a moment. But so far, The Tulku was watching him like a hawk. "You know," he said, "this would go a little faster if I had something to eat."
I do not want you to sweep fast. It causes you to get sloppy. You will get your morning meal when you have finished your work.
Ying Ko frowned. "Are you trying to starve me now?"
I am trying to teach you that everything comes with a price. You attacked an initiate yesterday. Today, you are being punished. Nothing comes without cost.
Ying Ko stopped sweeping. He was getting really tired of being treated like a common criminal. "I don't want your redemption. I don't want your food, I don't want your lessons, I don't want anything from you. All I want is to leave. Let me go and I'll leave your precious little temple alone."
I make no deals, Cranston.
"Stop calling me that!" Then, he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stem the headache spreading behind his eyes.
The Tulku looked at his student oddly. Tired of hearing about someone you cannot seem to kill?
Ying Ko couldn't answer for a moment. His head felt like it was going to burst any second. What I wouldn't give for one opium poppy, he thought.
The Tulku looked at him almost sympathetically. So close, he realized. Closer than I suspected. He is right on the edge. He gave him a push in the back. You are stalling again. Finish the kitchen and you can eat.
Angrily, Ying Ko attacked the floor with the broom, sweeping for all he was worth.
The Tulku smiled. Much better.
"I swear I am going to break your little neck someday."
And I swear I will break you first.
Ying Ko stopped. There was a harshness in The Tulku's tone that hadn't been there a moment ago. "Did I make you angry?"
Do not flatter yourself. I am neither angry nor afraid. I have seen the depths of Hell and walked away unscathed. A hungry and desperate barbarian trying to sound intimidating only amuses me.
Ying Ko attacked the floor once more. "I am going to outlast you."
The Marpa Tulku has served this temple for twenty generations. Lamont Cranston only came to Tibet as your prisoner four years ago. And before the sun sets, I will set him free.
That got Ying Ko's attention. He stopped sweeping. "You're going to kill me, aren't you?"
I will either kill you or break you. Either way, Ying Ko will surrender control over Lamont Cranston before the sun sets today.
Ying Ko looked at the young man for a moment. The Tulku thought he detected fear for the first time in weeks in the man's blue-green eyes. "You would really kill me? After weeks of trying to reform me, you would kill me?"
The Tulku circled him, projecting complete confidence. Every man must pay a price for redemption. You will pay your price, and you will pay it today. Another push. Keep sweeping.
Ying Ko slowly began to sweep again. For the first time in weeks, he was truly afraid for his life.
The Tulku smiled serenely. He was beginning to get through to the monster, and had seen Lamont Cranston's genuine fear of being lost forever in those eyes. There was hope yet.
With the kitchen now swept, scrubbed, and cleaned, The Tulku allowed his reluctant student to sit on the edge of the kitchen's massive hearth and eat. A promise was a promise, after all, and Marpa Tulku was all-too-aware of the fine line he was treading. Once he had broken Ying Ko, he would have to reshape Lamont Cranston, and needed that part of him to be aware that he could trust The Tulku's words. He is so close to the edge, he realized as he watched Cranston eat quietly and occasionally stop to rub his eyes and wince. You are in pain, he projected into his pupil's mind.
"Hit the floor a little hard when you kicked my legs out from under me," Ying Ko returned angrily.
A deserved blow. Do you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, Lamont Cranston?
"That is not my name!" The outburst made him wince again.
It is your name. It causes you great pain to remember that, though. Why do you insist on inflicting this kind of pain on yourself?
Ying Ko steadied himself. His head was spinning so badly it was making him nauseous, but he wasn't about to give the child monk the pleasure of seeing his weakness. "You're talking about somebody who doesn't exist any more. He's dead. I killed him myself."
You mean you tossed your passport and identification papers into the fire when your parents died so that no one could ever call you by that name again.
The tortured man turned toward him, genuine shock in his eyes. "How do you know that?"
It is in your memories. You would like to think that is all it would take to rid yourself of that part of you. But those memories are coming back to you, without that clouding fog of drugs and decadence to hold them at bay. You are a complex man, Lamont Cranston.
He rubbed his temples. My God, I'm going mad. "Stop it," he said in a pained voice.
You are not so strong when people do not fear you...when you do not have your drugs to suppress your conscience...when you are forced to face yourself and your deeds. You have struggled your whole life against your own dark heart. Why not give in to me and let me help you tame it?
He shook as the intensity of the pain in his head increased. But the rage was stronger than the pain. "I'll never give in."
The Tulku sighed. So close...he was almost there...so close...
"Why do you keep saying that?" Ying Ko snapped.
The Tulku looked askance at the man next to him. Those thoughts had not been projected. What do you mean?
"You've been saying 'so close' ever since I sat down to eat. So close to what? Giving in? Going mad? What?"
The Tulku immediately reached out to his apprentice's mind...and detected tiny portals opening in the protective walls around Cranston's psyche. No...I waited too long...
Ying Ko's eyes widened, and a wicked smile spread across his face. "You're afraid of me," he realized. "I wasn't supposed to be able to hear you saying all those things...but I did. I don't know how...but it's what you've been afraid of, for some reason. I told you I always get my way. Now your weaknesses are open to me."
The Tulku drew back. He had waited too long. He would have to destroy the monster now before this went any further. Get up, he ordered.
A confident smile from the barbarian. "Make me."
The Tulku immediately cast the strongest mind clouding suggestion he could and dissolved from view.
Ying Ko looked around. "You haven't left," he called out. "I know you're still here."
A shove from behind pushed him off the hearth. Get up!
Ying Ko whipped around and lashed back. His fingers brushed the edges of The Tulku's robe. "You're getting sloppy," he taunted. "I got close."
And that is as close as you will ever get again.
Ying Ko felt another shove, and again reached back. Again, something moved just out of reach. "You won't be able to elude me for long. There aren't many places to hide in here."
You assume I want to stay in here.
Another shove. Ying Ko whirled and grabbed at the empty space behind him.
A pair of invisible hands wrapped around his arm and whiplashed him through the doorway into the hall.
Ying Ko slammed into the wall and shook his head, trying to clear it. "Now I know where you are."
The hard wooden handle of an invisible broomstick smacked Ying Ko in the leg. He shrieked in pain and reached for his injured limb.
The broomstick came down on the back of his head and knocked him to the floor.
Ying Ko got up slowly, still holding his head. Then, he spotted something.
Just ahead in the main chamber, a shadow danced along the wall. He moved toward it.
The shadow danced away from him.
"I can see you," Ying Ko taunted. "Your shadow gives you away."
The warlord looked around. Torches on the wall cast a variety of different shadows. He tried to find their intersection point, where the object casting the shadow would be standing...and spotted it near the altar. He lunged for it.
The shadows all moved away, and the broomstick smacked him in the back of the head again.
Ying Ko got up off the floor. His head ached so badly he could barely see straight, but he knew he'd come within striking distance. "I'm getting closer, aren't I?" he shouted defiantly. "You can't hide from me forever."
And you cannot fight me much longer. You are beginning to get frustrated. The pain in your head is blinding you to me. Find me and kill me if you are so powerful, Cranston.
"That is not my name!" He dove angrily at the shadow on the floor before him.
It whisked away, and Ying Ko hit the floor hard. You cannot fight me and yourself at the same time. One of us will have to give in.
"It's not going to be me!" He lunged again for the shadow on the floor.
Again, it whisked away, and again he hit the floor hard. It will be you. I told you that I would either break you or kill you. Do not make me choose which.
He stopped and looked around. His head, his chest, his hands all hurt from hitting the floor so hard repeatedly. He looked for some sign of his captor, trying to make certain he could trap the monk before he could escape.
Suddenly, he saw it. A shadow on the wall, near the back of the room. The child had cornered himself--no matter which direction he moved, he would be pinned near a wall. He raced for the shadow at full speed...
...and ran headlong into something unforgiving.
The warlord collapsed to the floor in a crumpled heap.
The Tulku materialized next to him...and unclouded the stone pillar he'd made invisible to Cranston's eyes. Get up, he ordered.
Ying Ko writhed on the floor, holding his head in his hands. The pain was incredible. His head felt like it was on fire, a raging inferno trying to burn its way out his eyes. "My head," he moaned. "Oh, God, my head..."
He couldn't even think straight. "What's happening to me?" he said, barely able to make himself form words. "My head...it feels like it's going to explode..."
The Tulku scoffed. Weakling. You call yourself a warlord? Get up! I am right here, visible, vulnerable. You will never have a better chance. He smacked the man on the floor across the face. Fight back! Kill me if you are so powerful!
The man looked up. Sheer terror looked out through those blue-green eyes. "I can't," he whispered. "I can't...oh, God...Tulku, help me..."
He'd used the title of respect, not some epithet that Ying Ko always spat. The Tulku smiled. Welcome, Lamont Cranston. It is good to finally meet you.
At the mention of his name, a light of recognition shone behind Cranston's eyes. Then he shook violently and clutched the sides of his head, the pain becoming so intense that death would have been a welcome release. "Oh...oh...ow..." Suddenly, he screamed, a shriek of pain and terror unlike anything either of them had ever heard before.
The burst of psychic energy that shot through the room was so strong it knocked Marpa Tulku off his feet. It was a palpable force, projective telepathic power so violently released that The Tulku could hear cries of pain from the initiates throughout the temple. Remain calm, he called to them. All is well. The Butcher Of Lhasa has been subdued. Let the projection pass through.
For several minutes, no one dared move in The Temple Of The Cobras. The wave of energy ripped through the temple, piercing the developing psyches of young initiates, startling and unnerving the more senior ones. Even The Tulku was astonished by the power of his reluctant student. He had never felt anything like it, and he had aided twenty generations of students through the initial awakening of their psychic abilities. What have I done? he wondered. What have I unleashed?
Gradually, the first violent waves died down. The Tulku looked across the room.
Lamont Cranston lay on the floor, unmoving. His physical voice was no longer screaming. But the psychic energies that had been building for weeks were pouring out of him, still carrying his mind's cries through the temple. And his face was contorted with pain, as if the mental torment was worse than the physical distress.
The Tulku gently reached out to Cranston's mind. He could see the torture inside him, hear the voices of his victims screaming in pain, see the butcher he'd been for so long alternately being consumed by a fiery anger and drowning in a deep pool of guilt. And still the reservoir of power The Tulku had detected earlier felt full. How deep does it go? The Tulku asked himself. How much built up before release? How long will it take to drain it, to let all of it go?
The man on the floor before him could not answer. His mind was still screaming, still tortured. He was as vulnerable now as one human could be.
The Tulku came over to his student. Cranston was at least half a foot taller, and easily fifty or sixty pounds heavier than him. But Marpa Tulku was stronger than he looked--and had mental strength to match. He lifted Cranston into his arms and carried him out of the chamber.
Five days passed...five days of unending torture in Lamont Cranston's mind...five days for Marpa Tulku to witness the torture firsthand, seeing the things flying through his pupil's psyche. He watched Cranston's whole life racing through his mind, a life of Western excesses, cold interpersonal relationships, an emptiness that sought fulfillment. He saw a darkness that had always been there, a darkness Cranston had tried in vain to exorcize, a darkness that had swirled up inside him and taken over when he'd turned to drugs to silence the chaos in his head...a darkness that manifested itself as Ying Ko. Now he understood why Cranston seemed to have an accelerated psychic growth curve--he'd suppressed the powers he'd always had, powers that he should have been developing and honing to razor sharpness, for so many years in so many ways that with nothing to hold them back, they surged to their natural levels in record time.
Then late one evening, as Marpa Tulku meditated, praying for more strength, he felt the chaos coming from Cranston quiet. He reached out for Cranston's mind.
It was empty...except for one very frightened presence, drifting in the emptiness.
You have done it, The Tulku told him. You have survived.
A weak voice answered The Tulku's projection. What happened to me?
You have experienced what in your language is called an awakening. The psychic energy you have always possessed had built to such levels that your natural subconscious barriers could no longer contain it, and they gave way. The visions you experienced were your mind's way of cleansing itself, sweeping away the past to create a clean slate for the future. Do you remember fighting with me in the temple?
Yes, I do. But it felt like a nightmare...I felt like someone else was controlling me. I kept trying to stop...but I couldn't...
But you did. Before your barriers collapsed, I called your name. Do you remember?
A hesitation. Yes. I tried to answer you, but my head hurt so badly I couldn't think straight.
Answer me now. Open your eyes and answer me. What is your name?
The young man stirred, then opened his eyes. "Lamont Cranston," he whispered in a weak, raspy voice. Then, he looked amazed. "My God, I haven't allowed myself to say that name in almost a year."
The Tulku moved into his view. How do you feel?
"Like I've been trapped in a nightmare." He tried to laugh, a weak chuckle finally emerging from his dry, parched throat. "I was, wasn't I? I was trapped in a nightmare of my own creation."
At least you recognize it now. That is a far cry from where you were almost four weeks ago. The Tulku dipped a cloth into a bowl and gently wiped the cold sweat off Cranston's face.
The damp cloth felt good on his skin. "Thank you," he whispered. Then, he opened his eyes wider and took a look around the room.
This was not the cold cellar where he'd spent three weeks as a prisoner. This was a bedroom, a large chamber with a fire in a small fireplace, a small altar next to an elegant tapestry, and warm blankets covering him as he lay on a raised pallet. "Where am I?"
You are in my chamber. You have been here for five days.
"Five days?" He sat up, and immediately regretted it as his head spun violently.
The Tulku took Cranston by the shoulders, gently easing him back to the horizontal position. You have been completely incoherent and unconscious for five days--no food, no water. You must get your strength back before you try to get up again.
Cranston took several deep breaths, trying to calm his spinning mind. "I feel so weak...worse than the worst bout of the flu...worse than three days of withdrawal." He started to run a hand through his hair, then stopped and stared at the back of his left hand. The Chinese characters for his former name had been tattooed across his fingers...but no longer. "The tattoos...they're gone! How?"
Awakenings cleanse both the mind and the body of resistance and impurity. They were an impurity that needed to be removed. The Tulku gently wiped Cranston's brow again with the damp cloth. You had a great many impurities that needed removing...most of them in your mind. I have spent five days watching layers of your past burning away.
Cranston looked stunned. "You were here all that time--all five days?"
You needed me. I always stay with a student who is experiencing an awakening. It is a time when they are most vulnerable to attack, to injury, to death. I have seen men go mad during awakenings. I have seen men die during them. And yours was so violent I was concerned you would be one of the casualties of the strength of your own mind. I have not left your side since your awakening began.
Cranston raised himself up on his elbows and looked into The Tulku's eyes. "After everything I've said...everything I've done...you stayed with me? You brought me here, to your room?"
That surprises you. No one has ever shown you that sort of kindness.
"No." It all came back to him--the weeks of anger he directed at The Tulku, the blatant disrespect, the violence toward the other initiates, their fight in the temple. "I am not worthy," he said suddenly, then rolled off the pallet and fell at The Tulku's feet. "Tulku, I am not worthy...I am so sorry...please forgive me..."
Look at me, The Tulku ordered.
Cranston hesitated, then looked up.
The Tulku looked down and met his student's eyes. Every man pays a price for redemption. This is yours. I have saved your life, Lamont Cranston. It now belongs to me.
Cranston nodded, guilt and remorse filling those once dark and hostile blue-green eyes. "I'll do anything you ask," he said. "Anything."
I saw you in a vision over a month ago, Lamont Cranston. At the time, I had no idea who you were, but I knew I had to find you. I believe you were sent to me because you know what evil lurks in the hearts of men...because you have seen that evil in yourself. You have survived it. You have subdued it. The Tulku touched Cranston's chest, near his heart. That darkness that controlled you for so long is still inside you...and it will always be there. It made you a very powerful man. He took Cranston's chin in his hand and made him look right at him. I intend to make you even more powerful--but to my ends, not yours. I will teach you to control that darkness, to turn it around, to use it as a weapon against the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. You have extraordinary psychic gifts, but no knowledge of how to use them. I will give you that knowledge. For the rest of your life, you must use what I will teach you to drive evil out of the shadows and into the light, where it cannot survive. Do you understand?
No, you do not. Not yet, anyway. But you will. The Tulku smiled. You must be hungry. You have not eaten in five days. He reached for a bowl of rice and gestured back to the pallet.
Cranston sat back on the pallet and took the bowl and the chopsticks offered. "Thank you." Then, he looked around, spotting a cup and a small tray on the other side of the room. "This is your meal," he realized.
There is more where that came from. I will eat later.
Cranston handed the bowl back. "No, Tulku, I can't--this is yours."
The Tulku chuckled. You have changed. Five days ago, you would have killed for a few grains from that bowl. He firmly pushed the bowl back into Cranston's lap. You must eat. You have to get your strength back. Awakenings take a toll on the body and the mind.
Cranston nodded. "I am hungry," he admitted, then finally took a bite. "Mm-m..." He took another bite quickly. "I hadn't realized how hungry." He took another bite, then another, then another in rapid succession.
Slowly, The Tulku cautioned. You will make yourself ill, and that will set you back further. Slowly. Enjoy your meal. Feel it giving you strength.
Cranston nodded, slowing down, trying to savor each bite. "May I have something..."
...to drink? The Tulku handed him the cup from the tray.
"Thank you." He took a sip, then looked at his teacher. "Is mind reading one of the things you teach?"
Only to those who have a need to learn it.
The Tulku noticed Cranston's disappointment and smiled. You do not need to learn it because you already can.
That caught Cranston off-guard. He looked up. "I can?"
Yes, you can. You have always been able to, but you tried to make yourself forget you could. Do you remember the fight you had with your cousin when you were thirteen?
Cranston thought for a moment. "He accused me of cheating on a test."
Did he really accuse you? Or did you hear him think it?
Cranston looked surprised as the realization hit him. "Now that I think about it...he never really said anything. But I never made the connection."
You have always heard things that people never actually said to you.
"Why didn't I realize that, though?"
You did. You experienced a partial awakening at thirteen, when some of your mental energies spilled over your protective walls. Many adepts go through partial awakenings, leaving them with confusing abilities that they often have little or no control over. After your partial awakening at thirteen, you discovered you could hear things you were not supposed to be able to hear, voices that seemed to come from nowhere and fill your ears. But you denied it and suppressed it inside you because only lunatics hear voices in their heads.
He smiled wryly. "Lunacy...a Lamont family trait."
Your mother's family. You were always told they were crazy.
"So they were all psychic?"
Most likely. It is hard to tell without actually touching their minds. But I strongly suspect both sides of your family had more than their share of unawakened telepaths, judging from the things I saw in your memories.
"So I can read minds."
It is not your primary gift, but yes, you can read minds.
He looked astonished. "What else can I do?"
You are a very powerful telepath.
"Telepath. From telepathy, meaning mind reading."
Not quite. From the Greek 'tele', meaning 'distant', and 'pathos', meaning 'feeling'.
Cranston laughed. "Where did you learn Greek?"
From a British missionary. He tried to convert me to Christianity. A chuckle. He failed. But he taught me a great deal, including many languages. 'Telepathy' translates roughly as 'sending feelings over distance'. Mind reading is one part of that. Thought projection is the other part.
The ability to send thoughts into another person's mind...as I am doing to you. The ability to direct mental energy outward and use it in a variety of ways that seem almost magical.
"I can do that?"
Do you remember your severe headache on the battlefields of France in January of 1918?
Cranston thought for a moment. "Yes. I thought I'd gotten hit with poison gas or something. I'd never been in so much pain, and I couldn't even see straight."
Until you woke up.
Cranston's eyes widened. "And I could see in the dark. Night looked like an overcast day, or twilight."
When I teach this skill, I call it projective sight. Projective energies create a series of echoes off the physical boundaries of objects to outline the general terrain. The eyes can then use the light in the room more efficiently. Thus, near-darkness looks like twilight or subdued daylight to one skilled in projective sight. It is rare to meet an adept who can do it naturally.
"I had another partial awakening, then?"
Yes. That was your second partial awakening. Some adepts have a series of partial awakenings that last for years before they finally fully awaken.
"So you're telling me I've had all these...powers for years now and just never knew it?"
You could make an army go to war for you...concubines stay with you even as you treated them cruelly...servants do anything you asked, no matter how ridiculous. Did you think it was merely because they feared you?
"Oh, my God." He looked surprised. "I've always gotten my way...because of this?"
Do you remember that horrible hangover you had in December of 1920?
Cranston laughed. "Which one? I drained more than my share of wine bottles in those days."
The one that led to the first fight with Maurice Jacoby that you ever won.
He thought back for a moment. "Oh, that. He was a real pain. We argued about everything, usually violently. I can't believe I actually managed to outsmart him--he just caved when I called him an idiot..." Then, it hit him. "Of course he did. Because I made him. From that moment on, all I had to do was lose my temper with someone, and they'd give in immediately."
In your third partial awakening, you discovered an ability to influence others by unconsciously projecting your thoughts into their mind. It was not an ability you could control, but once you discovered that your will was stronger than others, you learned to use that to your advantage. And it got stronger when people feared you.
Did you not find it easier to win your battles when people were afraid of you?
He nodded, trying to make sense of it all. "I always knew when someone was afraid of me. I could tell, even if they were trying to hide it. And once they were afraid, I knew I had them beaten. But I don't understand...how?"
Every adept has some thought pattern that they can sense without any training or expertise. Mine is weakness--I can detect it, and I can exploit it. It was how I knew you were at your breaking point--I could feel your self-doubt, your inner conflict. Yours is fear--it gives you more confidence, which you then use to attack your opponent, which amplifies the fear your opponent feels, which then gives you more confidence. It makes you very dangerous.
Now he looked frightened. "I would imagine so. But you're not afraid to tell me all this?"
Because I will teach you how to harness your gifts to do good, not evil. He smiled. I will teach you to do a great many things, Lamont Cranston. There will be lessons in everything you see, everything you do, everything you are told, and you must always pay strict attention to make certain you do not miss any of them. When I am through with you, you will believe anything is possible...and nothing is impossible.
Cranston was stunned. Nothing could have prepared him for what he was hearing. If he hadn't been through a five-day nightmare of unending horror, he'd have thought The Tulku a madman.
I have been called worse.
Cranston chuckled wryly. "I'm going to have to learn to watch my thoughts carefully. I'm not used to someone knowing exactly what I'm thinking."
You actually think quite loudly, even for a telepath. I will teach you to protect your thoughts, to keep them quiet even to another telepath. It is a necessary skill to have when you live among adepts.
Cranston nodded. "So, where do we go from here?"
You have much to learn, Lamont Cranston. It will take you a year--maybe longer--to learn to control your gifts and use them correctly. But you will learn.
Cranston smiled. "If we're going to be together for that long, you'll get tired of saying my full name every time you want my attention. Call me Lamont."
Lamont. Your mother's family name.
He nodded. "I hated it for a long time. But I think I could get used to hearing it on a regular basis."
Then 'Lamont' it is. The Tulku came over to him. But something else has to change.
Lamont looked confused, then understood. "Aha. Not exactly the style the modern initiate is wearing," he said, brushing his long black hair behind his head.
No, I think not. More the style of the primitive opium lord.
Lamont nodded. "I want it gone. All of it."
The Tulku came over to him. I think not. You have only just regained your sense of self. I do not think altering it so dramatically right now would be good. But I think some change, some break with the past, is needed. He fished a pair of scissors out of an old trunk, then pulled the long hair into a series of tight ponytails and cut each of them off close to the scalp. Better?
Lamont ran his fingers through his hair, amazed at how short his locks now were. "I haven't had it this short in years." A chuckle. "Feels like I lost ten pounds."
And four years.
"For which I am most thankful."
The Tulku gathered up the lengths of hair and started to toss them into the fire.
He turned to his student. You would like to keep it?
"No. I want to be the one to get rid of it."
The Tulku nodded, then handed the handful to him.
Lamont looked at it for a long moment. The heavy, thick shock of hair represented four years of his life...four years of sheer Hell. Slowly, he moved off the pallet and knelt before the fireplace. Then, he tossed it into the flames and watched it be consumed.
How do you feel?
"Liberated." Then, he winced. Something was inside his head now...indistinct whispers chattering.
You are hearing voices?
"Whispers. Like wind through the trees." He winced again. "They're getting louder."
You are surrounded by adepts of all skill levels. It is only natural that their thoughts would be quite loud to you right now. Is it causing you pain?
Lamont nodded, then rubbed his eyes. "There's something pushing behind my eyes." He let out a low expression of pain and massaged his temples. "Oh, God, I used to get headaches like this all the time...what's happening to me?"
The Tulku came over to his student. Look at me.
Lamont looked up.
The Tulku met his eyes and probed his mind. Your mind is regenerating itself. That is the pain and pressure you feel. That is the pain and pressure you used to relieve with opium, which suppresses brain functions. It would dissipate your natural energies. Without anything to stem them now, they are free to build to their normal levels. But your natural barriers are not ready to contain that much energy yet because they are still damaged from the awakening. This is why you are hearing voices as well--the natural walls your psyche uses to protect itself are still damaged from the awakening, so your mind is almost completely open to outside thoughts.
The volume of voices grew, and his mind felt as if it would burst again at any moment. "Tulku..."
I see what is happening. This is your first lesson. Relax and trust me.
Lamont nodded. "I'm trying..."
Do not say another word. Allow me to direct and guide your thoughts.
Lamont nodded again.
The Tulku put his fingers on either side of Lamont's face, gently rubbing his temples to ease the tension. Lamont felt something powerful move into his mind, something calm and confident. Your psychic defenses are quite strong, even after five days of damage from a violent awakening. You do not realize how hard you are fighting. Trust me, Lamont. I will not hurt you. I will stop the pain, but you must let me.
Something relaxing spread through his thoughts, and Lamont felt his fear drain away.
Something began to reshape his mind, to wrap around it, to insulate it. A folding sensation filled his head, as if something were kneading the kinks out of his mind. Then, something seemed to give way, and all the tension drained away. The voices quieted, the pain eased. It was the most incredible sensation of peace he'd ever felt.
The Tulku released his temples. How do you feel now?
Lamont's eyes widened. "I've taken any number of drugs that didn't even come close to doing what you just did. How did you do that?"
A hypnotic suggestion, which you will learn to do for yourself eventually. I redirected the pain in on itself, and it collapsed under its own weight. You will feel much calmer for a short time.
And then your mind will begin rebuilding itself again.
"And the pain will return...and the voices will return..." He looked worried. "I'll have to do this for the rest of my life?"
It will eventually become so natural to you that you will not even realize you are doing it. And as your natural barriers rebuild and strengthen, you will need to do it less and less frequently. The Tulku gently patted his student's shoulder. This is a great deal for you to absorb in one day. You have not even been out of your awakening an hour yet.
Lamont did not miss the implication of The Tulku's words. "And my mind is already trying to rebuild itself."
The Tulku nodded. You have great potential, Lamont Cranston. You also have much to learn. And you will begin anew in the morning. He stepped back. Rise.
Lamont stood, his legs shaky, and nearly collapsed back to the floor again.
The Tulku was quick to offer a steadying hand. First steps are always hard.
Lamont gathered himself, taking several deep breaths before straightening upright. "Thank you."
You are welcome. I will show you to your room.
The Tulku left the chamber.
Lamont followed him down the hallway to a larger chamber already filled with many junior initiates who were settling in for their evening rest. As he came in, they all looked up at the man before them. Lamont saw fear in their faces. "They're afraid of me," he realized.
They are afraid of Ying Ko. You will have to regain their trust as Lamont Cranston. He looked to his students. Welcome your new brother, the newest initiate of The Temple Of The Cobras...Lamont Cranston.
Slowly, the young students nodded their greetings.
Lamont returned the nod.
The Tulku gestured to an unoccupied corner pallet. This will be your pallet. I will have someone find you a suitable change of clothing for tomorrow. Sleep well, Lamont, for tomorrow your new life begins.
Lamont bowed before his master. "Thank you, Tulku."
The Tulku nodded, then left the chamber.
Lamont sat down and looked around the room. Mistrust and fear still stared back at him.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, he reminded himself. And tomorrow, the journey begins anew. He lay down on the pallet.
Sleep swept itself around him in seconds.
The Tulku was awakened from sleep by a loud scream, followed by several other screams. He reached out his mind and quickly found the cause. Lamont Cranston...why are you crying out?
He heard chaos in the man's head, then a pained reply. My head...Tulku, my head feels like it's going to explode. What's happening?
Your mind is regenerating again, and your own barriers are still not strong enough to hold in the energy your mind is producing. This will take time. You must remain calm. By crying out, you are projecting your own pain to the other initiates, many of whom have not been through an awakening yet.
I'm sorry, Tulku...it hurts...
I know it does. And it will, until your psyche heals. This is not unusual. But you must try to hold it in, learn from it, use it to strengthen your defenses.
I need help, Tulku...please...
The Tulku thought for a moment. This is your second lesson. Normally, I do not teach this to someone just out of an awakening, but you will benefit from it. Place your fingers on your wrist and take your pulse. He waited until he could detect that his student had done so. Do you feel the rhythm of your heartbeat?
As each beat passes, listen for its sound. Let it fill your mind. He waited, listening for the sound of Lamont's pulse echoing through his thoughts. Very good. Let it completely fill you. There should be nothing left in your mind except your heartbeat. As it fills you, it will relax you, and allow you to find a safe place.
The heartbeat got louder. The Tulku stopped projecting to allow Lamont to find his own quiet, safe place.
Gradually, he could feel calm being restored to the monastery. He sat up and prayed for strength, serenity, and spirituality to deal with his students, especially his newest one. Then, he lay down to sleep, enjoying the momentary peace that had drifted through the temple.
The next few months went by quickly for Lamont Cranston and Marpa Tulku. It continued to astonish The Tulku how much psychic energy his new student had. It truly was like a reservoir of power, a lake that seemed to grow deeper with each passing day, a lake that could refill amazingly fast when it was drained to relieve pressure. No wonder it had taken five days for the awakening to drain it, and nearly three months to rebuild the containing walls--and no wonder his pupil had turned to anything he could find for years to suppress it. The Tulku had seen highly-trained adepts take years to build temporary reserves this strong; for Lamont, this was his natural state. But it was completely unfocused, raw power, and just barely harnessed under fragile control. There was much work ahead to train him, guide him, and turn him into a living weapon against evil.
The Tulku started with Lamont's physical skills. Years of drug abuse and decadent living had taken their toll on his body, but this was a man who had been a feared warlord, a strong warrior. Lamont was a tall man with a sturdy bone structure, and The Tulku was determined to give him the physical strength and endurance to perform the complex tasks he would have to learn, tasks that were as stressful on the body as they were on the mind. As he had when Ying Ko had first arrived, The Tulku put him to work with backbreaking tasks, but this time the goal was to strengthen his body, build his endurance, erase the years of abuse. Literally, Lamont would work until he dropped, but gradually the results became visible: By the end of his first three months as an initiate, Lamont had built layers of muscle onto his body that actually required refitting his robes, and the amount of work needed to drive him until he dropped almost doubled.
At the same time, The Tulku worked on rebuilding Lamont's self-confidence. It had been one of Ying Ko's strengths, and now Lamont needed to rediscover it within himself. It was not unusual for a student just out of an awakening to lose confidence in himself; part of the awakening process was the stripping away of the old self, and the struggle to gain control of powers that had only just asserted themselves was one of the most difficult tasks that newly-awakened adepts undertook. But in the fight against evil, Lamont would need a strong sense of self-confidence, one that would keep him going even through the most violent assaults and vicious battles. Rebuilding his physical strength helped rebuild his confidence in his body, and The Tulku gave him many mental exercises to do during his quiet times to help give him the confidence to handle his mind. As Lamont's natural defenses repaired and rebuilt themselves, the severe headaches and the overwhelming psychic assaults lessened. For almost a week, Marpa Tulku had to help Lamont every time the pressure and voices in his head built to the bursting point. Then, slowly, Lamont learned to redirect his own energies to ease his own pain, bring calm to his own chaos for a short time...then longer stretches...until finally, three months after his awakening, Lamont was able to help himself on his own consistently when the internal pressure grew too much to bear.
Now that Lamont had at least started to control his own mind, it was time to teach him to use that control. In many ways, Lamont was years ahead of the junior initiates he lived with--many of them had either not experienced an awakening, or their awakenings had revealed significantly less-powerful gifts than Lamont's had. But he lacked the skills needed to move to the more sophisticated senior ranks, for he had only limited control and could not use his gifts on command, nor had he learned even the simplest of mind-focusing skills with which to do so...skills that now Marpa Tulku was ready to teach him.
As he usually did, Lamont began his morning chores by sweeping the kitchen floor. The kitchen task had become his by decree. By temple custom, senior initiates normally took turns cooking and juniors normally took turns cleaning; however, because it required a great deal of work to keep the room clean, The Tulku had assigned Lamont the task to teach him the discipline he would require to accomplish the special mission The Tulku had planned for him. So, the first hour after every meal was always spent sweeping, washing, and polishing the kitchen to keep the vermin that plagued many a kitchen at bay.
Waves emanating from a powerful telepathic presence moved through the room. Lamont stopped sweeping and turned to the doorway...then knelt and bowed to the man before him.
Rise, The Tulku told him. Good morning, Lamont.
"Good morning, Tulku," Lamont said. "What do you need?"
Are you almost done with your morning chores?
Lamont looked around the room. "Not yet. I still have the dishes to do, and the hearth to clean. Then Master Kasha was going to take me down the road to gather firewood because the kitchen stock is low..."
I see. He turned to look behind him.
A young man who could not have been much older than thirteen came into the room, looking nervous. A senior initiate followed close behind. The Tulku looked at the junior initiate, then at Lamont again. Lamont, tell Sato what you just told me.
Lamont nodded a greeting to Sato, who was one of the newest junior initiates, and quickly translated his tasks into Tibetan. "I still have the dishes to wash, and the hearth to clean, then I have to go down where the trees are to gather firewood."
The Tulku turned to Sato. You will finish the kitchen tasks this morning. Kasha will watch you to make certain you do it correctly. Lamont, you will come with me.
Lamont looked puzzled.
Sato held out his hand for the broom.
Lamont gave it to him, still puzzled, then nodded a respectful greeting to Kasha before following The Tulku out of the room.
The Tulku said nothing as they walked to the main temple chamber. Lamont followed in respectful silence, but was puzzled as to why he had been pulled away from his morning chores. Work was very important in training, he had been told; it taught discipline and provided needed services for the temple.
The Tulku stopped in the middle of the room. You are confused, he observed.
Lamont nodded. "Was there something wrong with my work? Have I done something disrespectful?"
No. The Tulku stepped to the altar and took a seat, then gestured to the floor near his feet.
Lamont came over to the altar and took a seat on the stairs.
You have been here nearly four months. Did you realize that?
Lamont nodded. "I'd lost track of exactly how long it had been, but I knew it was winter."
What have you learned?
Lamont smiled slightly. "That I have gifts I never knew I had. That hard work really is liberating in its own way. That age does not necessarily equal wisdom."
Lamont thought for a moment. "That I have a lot more to learn."
Precisely. The Tulku smiled. You have worked very hard since your awakening, harder than most. Do you know why?
"I needed to be taught discipline."
That was part of it.
Lamont tried to think along with his master. Sometimes, The Tulku was completely inscrutable. "I needed to rebuild my strength."
That was another part of it.
A moment more to think. "The work needed to be done."
Now you understand. I do not give students work for the sake of doing work. If there is work to be done, someone must do it. What I have been trying to teach you is that when you leave here, you will be in a position where you will be the only one who can do the work that needs to be done. That is why I assigned you the kitchen chore. I wanted you to begin to think in that way, build the mind set of the kitchen chore being your chore. How did you feel when I told Sato to do your chore?
"Confused. I thought that I had angered you, that I was not doing it correctly for some reason."
You are a perfectionist. Getting things right is very important to you.
And you felt you had failed because I ordered someone else to do your work.
Then you learned the lesson I wanted you to learn...to take pride in whatever you do, to do it correctly, to never accept less than your best effort from yourself. Are you ready to learn another lesson?
Good. How are your headaches?
Lamont sighed. "They come and go. I've been able to handle them."
You had one last night.
And two nights before that.
Approximately once every two days, you end up with a headache. Do you know why?
"I assumed it was because my psyche was still trying to repair itself."
Not quite. Look at me.
Lamont looked up and met Marpa Tulku's gaze...and felt the powerful telepathic mind of his master swept into his own. Your psyche is fully repaired. However, your telepathic energies are continuing to build, even though your internal reservoir is full. That is what causes the pain every two days. When you redirect the pain in on itself to collapse it, you drain the reservoir slightly.
"Enough to get through another couple of days."
Exactly. Your mind is ready to handle more work than you have been giving it. I have been waiting for you to reach this point. It is time for you to learn to stretch your mind, exercise your gifts. Have you noticed you do not hear voices as frequently as you did three months ago?
"I was wondering about that."
I told you when you came out of your awakening that mind reading was not your primary gift. You can read minds, but not easily. It takes some effort for you to do so--or the near-collapse of your protective walls.
"So what is my primary gift?"
There are two kinds of telepaths. One kind hears thoughts easily. They are called receptive telepaths. The other kind sends thoughts easily. They are called projective telepaths. Each kind has the ability to use the other's skill, but with some effort. You are a projective telepath. Your strength is planting your thoughts into others' minds.
"Like you do to me."
Would it surprise you to learn that I am a receptive telepath by nature?
"Really? You project so strongly."
My projective side has been developed over the years so that I can use it as easily as my receptive side. Given a choice, though, I prefer to receive thoughts rather than send them. Most of my students are the same way. You are very different. You present a challenge. Many of my lessons are designed to strengthen the projective side--yours does not need strengthening so much as it needs focusing and honing. It is your receptive side that needs strengthening, but your projective side can help with that. The exercises I will teach you will help ease your headaches by providing relief for that overflowing reservoir in your mind, because you require more concentration to use your receptive side than most and will thus have to expend more energy. Are you ready to learn?
Then let us begin. Rise and walk to the middle of the floor.
Lamont did so.
The Tulku rose from his seat on the altar and vanished.
Lamont looked around. "I'm supposed to find you, right?"
Yes. Where am I?
Lamont looked for the shadows on the wall. "Over...here." He reached in front of one of the shadows...and his fingers brushed The Tulku's robes.
The Tulku grabbed his hand and materialized. Why did you choose this spot?
"I used your shadow to figure out where you were standing."
"I suppose so."
You trust your eyes to tell you the truth.
"When it comes to shadows, I do."
The Tulku smiled. You have much to learn. He released Lamont's hand and stepped away, then vanished again. Now where am I?
Lamont looked around, looking for shadows again. But the only one he saw was his own. Confused, he walked over to the wall and took one of the torches off it, then raised it in the air around him to cast a clearer light. "Are you concealing your shadow?"
"You must be. But how? When you cloud my mind, you plant a suggestion in my head that you're not here, so that my mind doesn't process your visual image. But the light in the room can't be fooled because you are still here, which is why you cast a shadow." He looked around again. "Do I at least have that part right?"
"So...where is your shadow?"
You are still depending on your eyes to tell you the truth. But the clouded mind does not understand what the eyes are telling it.
"So you're telling my mind that you don't have a shadow?"
Lamont looked around again. He slowly walked around the room, extending the torch up and away from him to cast a clearer light over his path. "Are you even still in here?"
He thought for a moment. "Yes. I can still feel your mind. But you're hiding somewhere."
Why are you carrying a torch?
Suddenly, it hit Lamont. "Because you put it in my mind that I should." He took a quick sidestep.
The Tulku's shadow suddenly trailed next to his on the floor. Lamont grabbed at the empty space next to him.
Something grabbed his hand, and The Tulku became visible again.
"You were behind me...so that your shadow blended with mine," Lamont realized. "And because I'm so much taller, you completely blended with it. If I hadn't been carrying the torch, I might have noticed a pair of shadows from another angle sooner."
The Tulku took away the torch. You have much to learn. The unison of your mind and your eyes is too easily broken. Had I not given you a hint, you might have searched all day and never found me.
Lamont nodded. "I want to learn how to stop someone from doing that to me again."
Exactly what I wanted to hear. Sit.
Lamont took a seat on the floor.
The Tulku walked over to the altar, took a candle and a holder from it, and set it on the floor in front of him. This will help you learn to focus your mind and your eyes together. He lit the candle with the torch. Look at the candle. Study it. Burn its image into your mind. Do not look anywhere else in the room. Do not allow your mind to drift. Do not take your eyes off it until I tell you to.
Lamont began to watch the candle. The dancing flame was strangely hypnotic, relaxing, soothing...
Your mind is drifting.
Lamont straightened up and focused on the candle again. "This is harder than it looks," he admitted.
Lamont bit his tongue. Wonder how long it's been since he's done this, he thought to himself.
I still do it regularly.
Lamont smiled to himself, then returned his full attention to the candle.
The Tulku looked at his student, smiling a bit at the loud thoughts Lamont kept inadvertently projecting. Such power, he realized. He truly has no idea. But he will learn. He replaced the torch in its holder, then left the room.
An hour later, The Tulku returned to find his student still staring at the candle. The candle's flame had hypnotized him--Lamont seemed completely unaware that anyone had entered the room. The Tulku gave a glance to the altar.
Phurba rose up out of its holder.
The Tulku looked directly at his hypnotized pupil.
Phurba shot across the room.
Lamont looked up at the sudden motion.
Phurba's tri-bladed point stopped a fraction of an inch from his heart.
For a moment, the enchanted dagger and the initiate sat perfectly motionless. Then, the dagger drew back, turned its face toward him, and hissed.
Phurba, The Tulku chided.
The ritual knife obediently leapt back into its master's hand.
Lamont looked up at The Tulku, then moved to his knees and bowed his head. "I failed," he admitted.
Your enemies could have destroyed you and you would never have known they were there. No one needs to cloud your mind--it is quite easily clouded by ordinary things.
Lamont looked up at his master, puzzled. "I knew you were there," he said. "I felt you come into the room. But, for some reason, I didn't react."
You believed I would not pose a threat to you.
He smiled wryly. "I'll not make that mistake again."
Never forget what I am training you to do.
He bowed his head again. "I know."
Look at me.
Lamont did so.
You said you knew I had come into the room. How did you know it was me?
"I can't explain it. I felt this kind of ripple effect inside my head, like a rowboat when something larger passes by it. I feel something like it whenever you sweep into my mind."
The Tulku released Phurba, and it drifted back to its holder on the altar. He reached out for Lamont's mind and swept into it easily. Then you did accomplish one of the objectives of this lesson. Your mind released some of its energies. That was how you detected me--your energies were drifting outward and intersected with mine, and that caused a ripple effect. He released Lamont's mind. Rise.
This room needs cleaning. That will be your chore for the rest of the morning.
Lamont nodded, trying to hide his disappointment. "Yes, Tulku."
You were expecting another lesson.
"Yes," he admitted.
There will be time for lessons later. There is work to be done now.
Lamont bowed before his master. "I understand."
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. No, you do not. But you will. He left the room.
Lamont snuffed out the candle at his feet, then replaced it on the altar and left to fetch the broom.
An hour later, Lamont was still cleaning the main chamber. With its floors of gold and its richly-detailed altar, it took a great deal of physical labor to polish it to a gleam. He sat down by the altar to polish Phurba's stand.
The face on the handle of the enchanted blade looked at him and growled.
"I don't like you very much, either," Lamont returned. "You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone--deal?" He rubbed the side of the stand with his polishing cloth.
In reply, Phurba rose up out of its stand.
Immediately, Lamont leapt to his feet. He could not believe he'd missed the psychic signature of Marpa Tulku entering the room. "Tulku?" he called.
Carefully, Lamont moved to the center of the floor. He still could not feel Marpa Tulku anywhere. "How are you doing this?" he whispered.
Phurba began to circle him.
Lamont kept moving to keep the blade in front of him. This was insane. Phurba may have been an enchanted blade, but it only acted in response to The Tulku's mental frequencies. This is a test...but of what? Lamont asked himself.
Phurba dove for him.
Lamont leapt out of the way, falling to the floor.
Phurba changed paths and dove for him again.
Lamont rolled out of the way at the last minute. Quickly, he was back on his feet again, and Phurba was circling for another pass.
The shadows, Lamont realized. Look for the shadows. He jumped out of the way, then scanned the walls for shadows.
Phurba was determined not to give him the chance to focus clearly as it swarmed around him, keeping him constantly moving.
Let go, he told himself. Let your mind go. Reach out and wait for the echo.
His head started to spin, and the sensation of energy pressing against his subconscious barriers pushed against his eyes from the inside. And Phurba was getting closer...
Suddenly, he felt the ripple he'd been waiting for. He reached out blindly next to him.
His hands closed around The Tulku's right arm. Quickly, he grabbed The Tulku's invisible form and pulled him in front of his body as Phurba dove toward him.
A wisp of fog reached up, and Phurba jumped into it. Very good, he heard The Tulku's voice say.
Lamont dropped to the floor, exhausted. His head was throbbing, and the pressure behind his eyes was unreal. He tried to turn it back in on itself, but that only seemed to make it worse.
The Tulku appeared before him. Do you need help?
Lamont shook his head and kept twisting the pressure back in on itself, hoping it would break.
Instead, it continued to build. "Why isn't it collapsing?" he asked in a pained voice.
It will. Keep pushing it back in on itself.
Lamont kept forcing his mental barriers to stay up, trying to collapse the pocket of energy that was pushing behind his eyes. Finally, he felt something give way, and the pressure eased.
The Tulku took a step back. The burst of energy released into the room was stronger than he'd expected. But his student had dispersed it cleanly. Very good.
Lamont rubbed his temples. His head still hurt slightly. "What was that?" he asked.
The Tulku swept into his mind. Your mind compensating for your request.
Now Lamont was confused. "What?"
You told it to reach out. But because you do not yet know how to focus your energies, your mind overcompensated and generated an additional burst of energy to fill your request. That was why you were suddenly quite weak--the energy had to come from somewhere, and your mind drew on your physical strength to create it.
Lamont looked up at his master. "That was what you were trying to get me to do, wasn't it?"
I was hoping you would.
Lamont frowned. "Do all tulkus have a sadistic streak?"
The Tulku smiled. There is the fire that has been missing for months now. I had wondered when it would resurface.
Immediately, Lamont regretted his words. He bowed his head. "Forgive me, Tulku...that was disrespectful."
Yes, it was. It was also overdue. I was wondering when you were going to fight back, rebel, reassert yourself. You cannot suppress that part of your personality forever. Now you can redirect it, use it in positive ways instead of negative ones.
Lamont looked up again. "How so?"
You will need strength of character, courage, and a healthy dose of self-confidence to fight evil head-on. A confident warrior is much stronger than a submissive one--would you not agree?
Lamont nodded. "But what if I give in again to...to that part of me?"
You will not allow yourself to. You remember all too well what your life was like when you gave into that darkness. Now that you have your freedom again, you will fight to keep it. The Tulku extended his hand. Rise.
Lamont took the offered hand and stood up.
It is time for the midday meal. You will resume your lessons afterward.
"Who will clean the kitchen?" he asked with a smile.
I think it is time you surrendered that chore to someone who needs to learn the same things you did from it. You will be kept busy enough with your lessons from now on.
Lamont bowed. "Thank you, Tulku."
The Tulku looked at him sternly. You may be wishing for chores when I am through with you.
A gleam of confidence appeared in Lamont's blue-green eyes. "I think not."
Exactly what I wanted to hear. We will continue this discussion after the meal. The Tulku left the chamber, his prize pupil following close behind.
For the next month, The Tulku kept his promise to Lamont, keeping him so busy with lessons and exercises that chores might have been a welcome diversion. Every morning started out with the candle exercise again, to open the mind and focus it so sharply that it would be difficult for hypnotic mind clouding to influence it. From there, teacher and pupil moved to physical exercises, skirmishes in the main hall designed to sharpen reflexes and hone defenses. Afternoons were spent in meditation, learning to open and focus his less-developed receptive side so that it would be available when he had to use it. Evenings were spent in quiet contemplation in the junior initiates' chamber, releasing the day's buildup of tension and gathering resources for the next day. Slowly, as 1926 moved into 1927, Lamont began to respond to the new training regimen--his mind strengthened noticeably, becoming more focused and less distracted with each passing day, and his reflexes became keener, quicker, sharper. He was almost where The Tulku wanted him to be.
Occasionally, training would be interrupted by more pressing matters within The Temple Of The Cobras--namely, the awakening of an initiate. Such had been the case yesterday afternoon, when Sato, the temple's youngest initiate, had awakened in the midst of cleaning up after the midday meal. Sato's was the third awakening in four weeks, and each one took The Tulku away for one or two days. During those times, Lamont's training was left to the senior initiates...most often Kasha, the senior responsible for Sato's training, who had received the direction yesterday to guide Lamont through his lessons until The Tulku returned.
With Sato in The Tulku's chamber reviving from his awakening, Lamont temporarily took back his old chore of cleaning the kitchen after breakfast. He found he had missed the simplicity of sweeping, washing, cleaning, and how relaxing it all was...
"You missed a spot," he heard a voice tell him in Tibetan.
Lamont turned to Kasha, who was standing in the doorway. He gave him a respectful nod, then found the spot that needed an additional pass with the broom. "Thank you," he responded.
Kasha came into the kitchen. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because it needs doing." Lamont opened the exterior door and swept the last of the debris outside.
"It is no longer your responsibility."
"I know that. But Sato is still recovering from his awakening." He pumped water into a small trough, then began to wash the dishes.
"You have specific lessons you are supposed to be learning."
Lamont took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, calming the sharp retort that had been on the tip of his tongue. "When you find someone else to do this job, bring them in and I will go off to my lessons."
Kasha clucked his tongue. "Such disrespect. And Marpa Tulku thinks you have come so far."
Lamont frowned. He was being disrespectful to the senior initiate. But there was work to be done, and so far no one else had been identified to do it. "I am sorry, Master Kasha," he said calmly. "I will finish my chores and come out for my lesson."
"You will come out now."
Lamont stopped washing the dishes, took a deep breath, and tried to let the building anger pass through him. It had not been all that long ago that someone talking to him like this would have earned a bullet between the eyes. In fact, Kasha had been the last person other than The Tulku he had lashed out against--he was the senior initiate Ying Ko had beaten the day before his awakening. And he was quite certain the memory was still fresh for Kasha as well. "Master Kasha," he said calmly, "I am not interested in fighting you."
"Yes, you are." The senior initiate came closer. "I can hear the anger in your thoughts." He was now right next to Lamont. "You resent being handed over to someone you view as an inferior instructor. You think you have come so far, developed so fast, that a lesser teacher cannot keep up with your pace." He scoffed. "You are still that barbarian who was dragged here five months ago."
Lamont drew a sharp breath, then let it out. He was going to hold his temper if it was the last thing he did. "You're distorting my thoughts," he told him. "That is not what I was thinking."
"It is what you are feeling."
"So you sense anger." He smiled. "That fits. You seem to enjoy making me angry whenever you're in charge of me for the day."
"Just as you sense fear--and do your best to manipulate it."
Lamont turned his attention back to the dishes. "I am sorry I hurt you that day."
"Yes." He forced himself to keep cleaning.
"I do not believe you." He grabbed Lamont by the arm and pulled him back from the dishes.
Lamont jerked his arm away angrily. Then, he stopped himself. That is exactly the reaction he wants, he reminded himself. Stay calm.
"You think very loudly. Has anyone told you that?" Kasha gave him a push. "Fight back. You have come so far, so fast--fight back. Defend yourself."
"You haven't attacked me yet," Lamont retorted. "I have no reason to fight."
"You want a reason?" Kasha smacked him across the face.
Lamont bit back his anger hard. Kasha was a child probably half his age, and easily a hundred pounds lighter. He was not about to lash out at him without some real reason. But he wasn't certain how much longer he'd be able to hold back. "Don't do something you'll regret," he warned.
"Like this?" He slapped him again.
Lamont backhanded Kasha across the room.
Kasha looked surprised for a moment. "You do know how to fight back," he said. "Good. I never take on an initiate who cannot stand up for themselves." He grabbed the broom and swung it at Lamont.
Lamont jumped out of the way. The kitchen was very confining--not a lot of room to move, not a lot of places to hide. Still, he tried to maneuver around Kasha, trying to get out into the corridor, where he could move into the main chamber and elude him easier...
Kasha slipped around him, then swung the broomstick at him once more.
Lamont ducked, then whirled around, grabbed the broom handle, and slung Kasha across the room.
Kasha crashed into the wall hard and dropped the broom.
Lamont picked it up and flung it across the room, then grabbed Kasha near his neck by his robes with one hand and lifted him into the air. "I told you not to do something you'd regret," he said angrily.
"What are you going to do?" Kasha asked. "Kill me?"
In answer, Lamont tossed him aside like a rag doll.
Kasha landed in a crumpled heap on the floor.
Lamont took a deep breath, then gathered himself and bowed before the senior initiate. "Thank you for the exercise session, Master Kasha. Now, if you will excuse me, I have dishes to wash." With that, he turned and headed back to the water pump.
Kasha got up off the floor, brushed himself off, then composed himself and nodded respectfully to Lamont. "The Tulku will be quite pleased."
Lamont stopped washing the dishes and turned to Kasha. "What?"
"This was your morning lesson. I was to provoke you into an emotional reaction, then see if you could defend yourself while your emotions were running high. You handled yourself well. I congratulate you, Lamont Cranston. You have come quite far." He smiled. "When you have finished cleaning the kitchen, come out to the main chamber."
Lamont smiled wryly, then gave a respectful nod to his instructor and returned to his chores.
Not quite a half-hour later, Lamont came out of the kitchen and into the main chamber--and found Marpa Tulku meditating silently on the altar. He stopped, knelt, and bowed respectfully. He wasn't entirely certain he believed all the tenets of Buddhism, but it did seem to bring a great deal of peace to the residents of the temple. He waited for his teacher to acknowledge him.
Good morning, Lamont.
Lamont looked up. "Good morning, Tulku. How is Sato?"
Doing well. He has returned to the initiate chamber to rest.
Lamont frowned. "That was a short awakening."
Sato is very young. He does not have as much past life to sweep away. I was younger than he when I first awakened.
"Is that why mine was so long--because I'm so much older?"
Partially. The Tulku smiled, then gestured to the steps of the altar.
Lamont crossed the room, then sat at his master's feet. "Tulku, is there something you're not telling me?"
The Tulku looked down at his student. What do you mean?
"I can't explain it, but there are times you just look at me and smile as if you know something I don't."
An indulgent smile. I know a great many things you do not know, Lamont Cranston. What did you learn from Kasha this morning?
Lamont looked thoughtful. "That there truly are lessons to be learned from everything."
"That I've gotten better at controlling my temper."
"That I'm getting better at defending myself."
Lamont looked surprised. "No?"
You are not getting better. You have reached the point where you have learned all I can teach you about physical self-defense. That was why I had Kasha deliver the lesson. You would never react to me the same way--you have too much respect to toss me across the room like a rag doll.
"Have you forgotten I pulled you in front of Phurba?"
Because you knew Phurba would not harm me. He smiled again, that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. Do you know why I chose the lessons I did?
Lamont thought for a moment. "Because they built logically upon each other."
Yes, but do you understand the sequence?
He shook his head. "Not really."
I did not think you did. Even the strongest warrior must learn to stand his ground. What I have been teaching you since the moment you came out of your awakening was how to stand your ground. You have rebuilt your body, your mind, your self-confidence. You have learned how to calm your own thoughts, focus on your own energies, filter out unwanted intrusions. You have learned to open your mind, stretch your thoughts, and still keep your focus. By letting your thoughts be pushed and guided, you have learned how the mind can be manipulated. By learning to open your receptive side, you have learned how men think and what makes them do the things they do. By learning to defend yourself, you have seen which weapons your enemies can use and how they use them. By developing your physical and mental strength, you have learned how to fend off attacks and deal with confusing clouding suggestions. Now, it is time to learn how to turn all of that around and use it to your advantage. He looked at his pupil. Are you ready to take the next step?
Lamont nodded, pride in his expression for all he had accomplished and eagerness in his eyes at the prospect of learning more. "I am."
Then let us begin. Rise and go to the middle of the room.
Lamont did so.
The Tulku stood up from the altar and vanished.
Lamont looked around. So far, this was no different than anything else they'd done together. "I'm supposed to find you, right?"
No. In a moment, you will know exactly where I am.
Lamont felt The Tulku sweep into his mind. Then, something began to twist his thoughts, generating pain and confusion. "What are you doing?"
Attacking your mind. Fight back.
Lamont grabbed his head. The pain was excruciating. In all their skirmishes, The Tulku had never attacked him this way. "How?" he asked.
Force me out of your mind.
Lamont tried to concentrate to find the strength to push away the pain so that he could even begin pushing against the powerful energies of his master. That only made the pain worse. "Oh, God..."
Praying will not help you. Force me out.
Lamont fell to his knees, literally unable to stand any longer. He tried to concentrate again, to bend the pain he was feeling back on itself in the hopes that it would collapse under its own weight...
You are only making this harder on yourself. Fight back!
The pain in his head doubled in intensity. Lamont cried out, holding his head, trying to bring some calm to his increasingly scattered mind...
I am disappointed in you, Lamont. You threw Kasha across a room. Can you not budge me one inch?
The last thing Lamont remembered was the pain doubling again before he blacked out.
Lamont opened his eyes and looked around. He was still lying on the floor of the main chamber. His head throbbed from the assault that had knocked him to the floor and into unconsciousness. He sat up slowly and looked up at his master. "Tulku--what did you do to me?"
Do you remember our conversation this morning?
Lamont massaged his temples, trying to ease the tension. "What part of it?"
The part where I explained why Kasha delivered your morning lesson.
Lamont nodded. "Because I had too much respect to toss you across a room."
Respect is all well and good. But sometimes enemies come in respectable guises. You will have to fight back no matter who or what attacks you.
Lamont pinched the bridge of his nose and winced.
You are still in pain.
He nodded. "What did you do? I've never felt anything like that before. It was like something was twisting my mind, and I couldn't untwist it...couldn't make it stop hurting..."
That is why you are still in pain. You focused on your discomfort instead of your attacker. Every time you stopped pushing against me, I increased your discomfort.
"'Discomfort' is too mild a word for this."
You are angry. Good. Maybe next time you will fight back. Get up.
"Give me a minute." He tried to focus his mind and redirect the pain back on itself to collapse it.
The Tulku swept into his mind before he could. Get up, he ordered.
Lamont stood against his will. "What are you doing?" he asked, puzzled.
Your enemies will give you no respite, and neither will I. Lamont felt his mind twist again, and the pain nearly doubled. Force me out, he heard The Tulku's voice command.
Lamont tried to push against the projection, but it swept around his defenses and twisted his thoughts once more. He cried out in pain.
You are not trying.
"I am so!" he shouted angrily.
You are still letting the pain distract you. And every time you do, I will make it worse.
The pain doubled again, and Lamont once more blacked out.
I am disappointed, Lamont. I thought you were ready.
Lamont opened his eyes. He was still lying on the main chamber floor, and The Tulku was standing over him.
Clearly, however, you were not ready for this lesson, The Tulku continued.
Lamont sat up, and his head spun. He forced himself not to react and looked at his master. "What exactly is the point of this lesson?" he asked.
You have learned all I can teach you about physical self-defense. But you have not learned how to use the strongest weapons at your disposal to fight back. I thought you were ready to try. But, apparently, you were not. He turned away.
Lamont reached out and grabbed his teacher's robe.
The Tulku turned back to him. Why did you grab my robe?
"I didn't want you to walk away before I'd had a chance to respond."
Why should I give you the chance to respond?
"Because you're wrong." Lamont forced himself to stand. "I am ready for this. I want to learn how to fight back. I know the answer is somewhere in my head, and I need your help to find it. Show me how to do what you do. Push me. I want to learn."
Even if it is painful?
"Even if it is so painful that death itself would be a welcome release."
You may regret saying that.
Lamont steeled his resolve. "The only thing I will ever regret about this place is that I wasted three weeks of valuable training time resisting you."
The Tulku smiled. Exactly what I wanted to hear. Sit.
Lamont took a seat on the floor.
The Tulku knelt next to him and touched his temples gently with his fingers. Relax.
Lamont took a deep, cleansing breath and released it slowly.
Very good. The Tulku applied subtle pressure with his fingers to the tense muscles in Lamont's temples while simultaneously increasing the frequency and strength of the relaxing hypnotic suggestion he was projecting.
Something powerful swept through Lamont's mind, wrapping itself around his overwhelmed psyche, and he felt the pain in his head ease suddenly. "That was amazing," he whispered, awestruck. "How did you do that?"
That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you will need to learn first. He stood up and offered his student a hand. Rise.
Lamont took the offered hand and stood.
The midday meal awaits. Afterward, we will resume the lesson.
Lamont bowed before his master. "Thank you, Tulku."
You will not be so grateful by the time I am finished with you today. With that, they left the chamber.
As usual, Marpa Tulku kept his promise to his prize pupil. And, as usual, Lamont Cranston found himself questioning the wisdom of vowing that he was ready for anything. For almost three weeks, The Tulku dove into Lamont's mind at random intervals--twisting his thoughts, pressing on his subconscious barriers, generating as much pain, confusion, and chaos as he could--and ordered his pupil to fight back. Lamont would press against the attack with as much effort as he could muster, but inevitably gave in to pain or exhaustion and dropped back. The awakening of a young initiate gave Lamont an all-too-brief two-day respite, but when The Tulku returned he launched into a new series of attacks that literally lasted from sunrise to sunset, with only short intervals in between to allow time for brief recovery. Lamont found himself in near constant pain as the attacks grew more vicious in nature, and he often wondered if he would ever be able to break through the chaos his master kept forcing into his mind. Many nights he would lie in the darkness of the junior initiates' chamber holding his head, fighting to suppress cries of pain as he sought to undo a day's worth of abuse to his increasingly sensitive psyche.
You are still letting the pain distract you, he heard The Tulku's voice say one night as he tried to calm his mind enough to sleep.
"Tulku, please, leave me be," Lamont whispered. "I've not had a moment's peace all day. I cannot fight you any more without some rest."
Have you forgotten your promise? Get up.
"Tulku, have mercy..."
Your enemies will show you no mercy, and neither will I. Get up.
Lamont unwillingly got to his feet and found himself walking toward the main chamber. "I swear, it must be a requirement for a tulku to have a mile-wide sadistic streak," he retorted to the empty room.
If you would put that kind of energy into your psychic defenses, we would not still be doing this exercise. The Tulku began to twist Lamont's thoughts. Force me out.
Lamont fought to stay on his feet. The pain was more intense than ever, and his legs felt as if they would buckle at any moment. He braced himself mentally against his own subconscious barriers and focused on pushing his energies toward the whirling, twisting pattern in his head...
...and suddenly felt it move away from him.
Lamont's eyes widened. "I did it," he whispered.
The whirling cyclone of psychic energy twisted back toward him. Force me out, The Tulku's voice commanded.
Lamont focused again. This time, he felt the familiar sensation of pressure inside his head desperate to get out. He tried to shape that pressure, channel it back toward the twisting intrusion.
The cyclone moved away again. But this time, he felt himself rushing toward it, unable to stop, carried along in a current of thought energy unlike any he'd felt in his meditations.
Suddenly, he felt himself slam into the cyclone, dispersing it to the farthest reaches of...where? The angle of the room didn't look at all like it should. He looked around. Where am I?
Where do you think you are?
The voice was coming from all around him. He looked around again...and saw himself looking stunned standing across the room. Suddenly, Lamont realized his mind was seeing things, not his eyes...and the only angle from which this view could be coming was from The Tulku himself. I'm inside your mind, he realized. Tulku...I pushed so hard I ended up in your mind!
Not for long.
A burst of energy shot through the room. Lamont crashed into the wall of the main chamber. For a moment, he felt pain trying to overcome him...but only for a moment. "Is that the best you can do?" he shouted defiantly.
I have not even begun to press you. The whirling, twisting storm of energy drove itself back into his head again with more viciousness than ever. Force me out!
Lamont felt a surge of pain, but it only made him more determined. He concentrated on channeling that river of energy he'd felt carrying him along, glaring right at the shadow he could see on the opposite wall, and pressed the cyclone for all he was worth. "Get out of my head!" he roared.
The current of energy seemed to collide with something, and Lamont felt a fog swirling around him. Suddenly, Marpa Tulku shimmered into coherency right before his eyes.
Teacher and pupil stared at each other for a long moment, amazed at what had just happened.
Lamont felt something slap his subconscious barriers. "Keep me out," The Tulku ordered.
Lamont's expression became incredulous. "That's the first time I've ever not heard you in my head," he realized. "You can't get back in."
Something gave Lamont a hard shove backward. I can blind your eyes to a whole temple--how dare you be so arrogant as to think I cannot place my voice in your mind whenever I wish!
Lamont frowned at himself for dropping his guard and pushed back on the sensations in his head until they retreated to the outer edges of his subconscious. "Get out!" he ordered.
The Tulku looked surprised, then glared at his student. "Keep me out!"
Lamont felt a harder slap at the edges of his mind, then again channeled that river of energy outward until he felt it collide with something.
This time, it was Marpa Tulku who took a step back.
Teacher and pupil once again regarded each other with wonder. The Tulku gave Lamont a mental shove. Again, he ordered.
Lamont channeled the river of energy inside his mind outward and felt it strike The Tulku's projections.
Another shove, this one harder. Again!
Lamont again pushed back with his mind and again collided with The Tulku's strong thoughts.
Yet another shove, this one driving him toward the wall. Again!
Lamont caught his balance and pushed his thoughts toward The Tulku's energies with as much force as he could muster.
The Tulku stumbled backward, then put a hand to his temple and looked surprised.
Lamont looked shocked, then crossed the room and fell to his knees before his master. "Tulku, forgive my disrespect...," he began.
The Tulku took his student's chin in his hand and lifted his face. Look at me, he ordered.
Lamont lifted his eyes to meet The Tulku's gaze.
You are never again to apologize for achieving a breakthrough. Do you know what you have done?
Lamont looked as if he still could not believe what had just happened. "Projective telepathy," he realized. "I used it. I really used it. I broke through your clouding suggestion and pushed you out of my mind." He laughed an awestruck laugh. "I pushed into your mind. I pushed you. My God..."
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. You accomplished in three weeks a feat that normally takes months to learn.
Now he was completely taken aback. "I did?"
Yes, you did. I told you that most of my students are receptive telepaths. Projecting is something that does not come naturally to them. Psychic defense is the one of the most difficult skills they have to learn. None of my current students have successfully demonstrated it...until now. You learned to do this in less than a month...
"...because I'm a projector. This is my strength."
Precisely. You have finally discovered your natural abilities. How do you feel?
"I know I should be exhausted...but I'm not. I feel energized. My mind is tingling." He smiled knowingly. "You dragged me out here because I was right on the edge of breaking through."
"That's why you've pushed me so hard the past few days."
"And if I'm reading you right, I'm on the verge of another breakthrough."
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. You are becoming quite perceptive.
"What am I on the verge of?"
The natural extension of what you just accomplished. Rise.
The night you came out of your awakening, I said something to you that you found quite odd. Do you remember?
Lamont tried to think back that far. "You said a lot of things that night," he said.
One of them struck you as very odd, though. I can still remember the thoughts that crossed your mind when I said it. Now do you remember?
Suddenly, Lamont remembered the remark. "That I think quite loudly, even for a telepath."
Are you aware of how loud your thoughts are?
"No. But Kasha also told me I think very loudly. I thought he meant I was loud to other adepts."
You are. Without knowing it, you project your thoughts quite loudly to another adept--that is why I was very concerned when you cried out in your early days here, because you projected your pain so strongly to the others. But I have held back on teaching you to shield your thoughts because I wanted nothing to interfere with your progress. Telepathic energy can be converted to actual sound that can be heard with both the ears and the mind through projection. I can echo my thoughts off the walls of this room if I so desire. But I desire that you do it instead.
Lamont nodded. "Tell me how."
Close your mouth and open your mind.
Lamont nodded, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.
What is your name?
No talking. Think your answer.
Another deep, cleansing breath. Lamont Cranston.
I cannot hear you.
You are too timid. Project. Push into my mind. What is your name?
Another deep, cleansing breath, then Lamont met The Tulku's gaze and pressed his thoughts against his teacher's strong mental barriers. Lamont Cranston.
You call that projecting? Push!
Lamont concentrated, trying to push through the mind of the man in front of him. Lamont Cranston. Suddenly, he looked astonished as he realized his ears were ringing. I heard that.
But no one else did, The Tulku returned. Louder! What is your name?
He pushed his thoughts harder through the air. Lamont Cranston! A faint echo reached his ears. My God...
Again--let everyone hear you! Who are you?
Lamont Cranston! He looked amazed as the echoes bounced through the room, then smiled broadly and practically leapt into the air, filled with the joy of accomplishment. My God, I'm doing it! I can't believe this--my mind is shouting with hardly any effort at all! He suddenly stopped and grabbed his temples, but not in pain. His expression turned incredulous. My mind is already regenerating--Tulku, I must have used a river of energy trying to push you out of my head, and I can feel my mind rebuilding itself already! This is incredible!
The Tulku gave a smile of pride to his pupil. Calm down, Lamont. You will wake everyone in the valley if you keep getting louder with every thought.
Lamont let out a laugh of joy that reverberated through the room, then looked shocked. My mind did that, he realized suddenly. He turned to The Tulku, focusing on keeping his projections confined to one mind instead of the entire room. My mind laughed--how? Tulku, what's happening to me? Where is all of this coming from?
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. You have had all of this inside of you since your awakening. I told you then that you were a very powerful telepath. Now that your natural abilities are beginning to surface, I can finally tell you that you are the strongest projective telepath I have ever met. I have been concentrating on strengthening your less-developed receptive abilities so that they would be available to you when you needed them, knowing that your projective abilities would assert themselves strongly when you were ready to handle them. You have all the skills you need to accomplish the mission I have given you. Now, I will help you focus and hone them to a precision you cannot possibly imagine.
Lamont looked absolutely astonished. All of this has been inside me all this time?
The Tulku nodded. And more.
More? Lamont could not believe what he was hearing.
You have barely scratched the surface of your capabilities. I told you that when I was finished with you, you would believe anything is possible...
...and nothing is impossible. He nodded, still trying to grasp it all. No wonder you always smiled when I would get discouraged or ask questions. You didn't want to tell me about all this, because you wanted me to find it inside myself.
Very perceptive. The Tulku crossed the room to his pupil. But do not allow pride or arrogance to cloud your mind now. Resist the temptation to become intoxicated by the wine of newfound power. In the morning, we will begin a new set of lessons--and you will work harder than ever. Are you ready for a new challenge?
Absolutely. Lamont laughed slightly. I'm supposed to sleep after all of this?
The flush of success has suppressed your fatigue. When you calm down, you will quickly discover how weary you truly are. Come--I will show you to your new room.
Lamont looked confused. New room?
The Tulku led his eager student through the corridors of the temple. You are no longer a junior initiate. By demonstrating projective telepathy, you have moved into the senior ranks. That means you get your own chamber. He stopped before a doorway and gestured inside.
Lamont walked in. The room was small, but it had a raised pallet for a bed, a tiny fireplace, and a sealed portal above the bed. Lamont opened the portal's covering and revealed a view of the nighttime sky that was spectacular. I can see every star in the sky, his mind whispered.
The Tulku smiled. You already prefer thought projection to speech. You have not spoken one word since we began the last exercise.
Lamont turned to The Tulku and bowed. "I'm sorry..."
Do not be. I was going to instruct you in the morning to use only telepathic communication with me from now on...but I do not think you will need me to do so. There are some things best kept between student and teacher--even at this level. Another mysterious smile. I will have Kasha bring you a suitable change of clothes--you will need to dress properly for your new rank and new responsibilities. Sleep well, Lamont.
Lamont knelt before his teacher and bowed his head. Thank you, Tulku.
The Tulku smiled mysteriously once more, then left.
Knocking at the door to Lamont's chamber roused him from a deep, dreamfilled sleep. Come in, he mentally called, then looked amazed. I'm still not speaking, he realized. My first impulse was to project. I can't believe this.
The door opened. Kasha came in carrying a lantern and a set of senior initiate's clothes.
Lamont was quickly on his feet. "Good morning, Master Kasha," he said, nodding respectfully. "I'm sorry--I can't believe I didn't hear the morning chimes..."
Kasha looked confused. "I am no longer your senior. You need not defer to me." He placed the clothes on the pallet. "And it is not yet sunrise."
"Then why are you up?"
"The Tulku asked me to bring you some clothes. You have new responsibilities as a senior initiate, and you need the proper clothing."
Now it was Lamont who looked confused. Was it his imagination, or was Kasha's demeanor almost deferential? "This could have waited until morning."
"You will need them when you begin your day." He stood expectantly. "Is there anything else you need?"
Lamont looked around the room, still not understanding why Kasha seemed to be deferring to him now. "No, thank you," he finally said.
Kasha gave a nod, then looked at his fellow senior initiate. "You projected your thoughts as sound last night."
"Yes, I did." He smiled sheepishly. "I probably woke everyone in the temple."
"You did indeed."
"I'm sorry. I'm still getting used to the whole idea of being able to project my thoughts."
"It is a difficult skill to master." He looked uncertain for a moment, then spoke again. "What was it like?"
"I don't have enough words to describe it...it was just the most amazing feeling to hear my thoughts ringing through my ears as if I were shouting." He snapped out of his reverie and looked oddly at the young man before him. "Why do you ask?"
Kasha looked away, embarrassed. "I am still trying to master that skill."
Now Lamont was confused. "You are? But I thought to be a senior initiate..."
"To be a senior initiate, you must have demonstrated projective telepathy. I am only proficient at projecting my thoughts into another's mind. I cannot reliably produce sound with just my thoughts yet. I cannot reliably do most of the projective telepathic feats Marpa Tulku has been trying to teach me." He looked desperate. "How do you do it? I cannot make my mind project outward with that much force, no matter how hard I try. It takes everything I have to produce enough force so my own ears hear my thoughts--you were echoing off the walls on your first try! Your thoughts rang through the temple last night--I have never heard anything like it except from Marpa Tulku himself! You must tell me how--I fail even in the simplest exercises trying to generate that much force with my mind. Please, help me..."
Lamont looked astonished. Everything he had seen in the six months he had been in the temple had indicated that Kasha was Marpa Tulku's best student, so gifted that he was entrusted with training the most promising junior initiates. "You're afraid," he realized. "You're afraid you've lost your position as Marpa Tulku's chosen pupil."
"Yes," Kasha whispered. "I cannot match your projective side..."
"Project. Put your thoughts into my mind. I think both of us could use the practice."
Kasha nodded, then concentrated and found his mental voice. I cannot match your projective side. I cannot even hope to. His frightened eyes met Lamont's curious gaze. I knew that Marpa Tulku said you had tremendous gifts, but I did not think he meant this tremendous. I have been trying for almost a year to master the many projective telepathic skills. But what I heard last night...I can never match that.
Kasha... Lamont groped for words, then refocused his mind. Kasha, you are a receptive telepath, right?
I'm not. I'm a projector. Projecting my thoughts is what my mind does naturally. I don't understand why you think you've failed just because I think really loudly. You have abilities that I don't, and I accept that without question. You'll eventually master those skills you've been learning. The fact that you can do them at all, even unreliably, means that you have the capabilities inside you. Don't give up. Keep trying.
The morning chimes interrupted their conversation. Kasha stepped back. "I must go," he said. "It is my morning to cook." He gave a respectful nod. "Thank you, Lamont Cranston."
Lamont acknowledged the nod. "Thank you, Kasha."
Kasha looked confused. "Why did you thank me?"
"For reminding me not to get too caught up in myself." He smiled. "See you in a bit."
Kasha nodded, then left.
Lamont took a deep, cleansing breath, then let it out. Now the work really begins, he reminded himself.
Life as a senior initiate in The Temple Of The Cobras appeared to be just as busy as it was as a junior initiate--but in different ways, Lamont decided. Seniors were expected to serve The Tulku and his monks and care for their every need, to deliver messages and interact with the people outside the temple, and especially to guide their own groups of junior initiates through their daily lessons and chores--even during mealtimes. It struck him as odd that he had never been in one of those groups--The Tulku had always been the one to guide him through his lessons, ease his psychic growing pains, apply discipline or offer praise when one or the other was required. The few times he had been turned over to a senior initiate, it was always to Kasha or Tenzin, two of the more experienced seniors. He made a mental note to ask The Tulku about it after the morning prayers.
He also noticed for the first time that most of the residents of the temple were either very young or very old. The young residents were mostly junior initiates, though some had moved into the senior ranks. The older ones were senior initiates and older monks who served The Tulku directly. As far as he could tell, he was one of only a handful of residents in their late 20s and early 30s--and the only Westerner. There were a number of things he wanted to ask The Tulku about life in the temple, but knew that most questions would probably get him that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. Which, he decided as he finished his morning meal, was as it should be.
When the meal was over, Lamont realized that for the first time in weeks, he had no idea what to do next. The training sessions The Tulku had pushed him through were so strenuous that he hadn't had to think about anything else but them for the entire day. Now, without any idea what The Tulku had in store for him, no knowledge of the basic structure of a senior initiate's day, he had no idea where he should even begin.
Good morning, Lamont.
Lamont turned to his teacher, who was crossing the dining hall toward him, and quickly knelt and bowed. Good morning, Tulku.
Good, you did remember. A pleased smile. I knew you would. How are you feeling this morning?
A deep, cleansing breath. Ready for more.
Good. Come with me. The Tulku left the dining hall and headed toward the kitchen.
Lamont followed quickly. Don't tell me it's my turn to clean, he mentally commented.
No, I think not. That is a task best left to junior initiates. The Tulku stopped and looked into the pantry. Looking a bit sparse, he noted.
Probably not enough to get through today, Lamont agreed.
Most certainly not. Someone will have to go to the market.
And who is normally assigned that task? Lamont asked, curious.
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. The newest senior initiate.
Lamont looked taken aback. Me?
I did not have another student demonstrate projective telepathy last night. He looked through the pantry again. I will give you a list of items and some money. You will take a horse and wagon to the valley and bring back what we need.
Lamont felt himself shaking. Six months ago when he had first been abducted, he had planned and plotted escaping from his guards every waking moment. Even as a junior initiate, he had not been allowed outside without someone watching his every move. Now The Tulku was talking about sending him down to the valley...Alone? he finally asked.
Of course. The Tulku looked at his student. Is something wrong?
Lamont couldn't answer for a moment. The thought of going outside the temple and down into the valley alone--no guards, no senior initiates, no one to watch over him--absolutely terrified him. I'm afraid...but I have no idea why.
The Tulku looked sympathetic. Yes, you do. Put words to your thoughts, and they will be less frightening.
Lamont tried to find the right words to use. His thoughts were scattered, and he took several calming breaths before he tried projecting again. For years, Ying Ko went absolutely nowhere without an army behind him, armed guards by his side, or a .45 or a sword at his waist. For six months, I have been watched like a hawk in this place, barely allowed to open a portal without someone making certain I wasn't going to crawl out it. And it was... He struggled again for words, then took another breath and continued. ...actually comforting. I felt safe.
And I am sending you down to the valley with just a horse and a wagon.
Yes. He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to get a grip on his whirling emotions. This must be the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard, and it must sound like I'm giving an excuse for not doing my share of the work. I cannot believe I'm feeling this. I thought I had gotten over all of that fear of my past.
The Tulku gestured to the hearth. Sit.
Lamont crossed to the hearth and sat, still shaking.
Look at me.
Lamont looked up at his teacher.
The Tulku looked stern. I have been waiting for this...because you have not dealt with your past.
Lamont nodded. You're right, he admitted. I haven't. I've pushed it down, swept it up with the debris, buried it in activity.
More specifically, you have not dealt with the aftermath of your deeds--you are no longer the fearsome Butcher Of Lhasa, but you have to atone for those atrocities.
Lamont felt himself shaking again. Ying Ko had more than his share of enemies...any one of whom would gladly slit his throat or worse, and justifiably so. And I'm going to have to face them alone?
I have spent five months teaching you to defend yourself with just your wits. Last night, you forced me out of your mind with the power of your own thoughts. You can do this. You will have to go out sometime, face the evils of the world on your own, with no one to help you but yourself. And you will need to be comfortable with doing so. I will give you a list of items and some money, and you will get a horse and wagon from the stable and go.
Lamont looked away, frustrated.
I did not give you permission to look away.
Lamont looked back to The Tulku and bowed. I'm sorry.
The Tulku looked stern once more. I am shocked at your lack of respect this morning. I expect more from my senior initiates. When you return, we will have a long talk about your behavior. Look into my eyes.
Lamont did so...and felt something sweep into his mind and trace patterns into it. Suddenly, he realized he had the list in his head. How did you do that?
That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. I will return momentarily. You will stay here and wait. With that, The Tulku left.
Half an hour later, Marpa Tulku returned to the kitchen. Lamont had not moved from his seat on the hearth. And Bogh, the junior initiate cleaning the kitchen, immediately stopped sweeping and fell to his knees. As you were, The Tulku instructed Bogh, then turned to Lamont. Rise.
The Tulku handed him a pouch with some currency in it. Be back in three hours.
Lamont bowed to his master. Yes, Tulku. He turned to go.
Lamont turned around and bowed again. Yes, Tulku?
The Tulku looked concerned. The roads are dangerous. Be careful.
I will. Thank you, Tulku. Lamont rose once more and left.
Bogh stopped sweeping. "Tulku?" he asked.
The Tulku turned to the young student. Yes, Bogh?
"I am curious. Why did he look so frightened?"
Because he has to face more frightening demons than you can ever imagine...the demons within himself. With that, he left the kitchen.
Lamont pulled the warm cloaks he'd found in the stable around himself tightly as he sat in the driver's seat of the wagon and drove the horse down the mountain. He struggled with his fears the entire trip, wondering just what was in store for him when he reached the valley. Worse than the fears, though, was the deep sense of dread that he had disappointed The Tulku, that he had let the flush of success from last night create an arrogance that was unacceptable. He had come so far, so fast, and this kind of setback pained him greatly.
Indistinct whispers began to find their way into his mind, whispers he recognized as thought patterns from the densely-populated village below. Oh, wonderful, he thought. It's not enough that I have to ride down alone, not enough that I insulted The Tulku, but now my defenses are betraying me as well. He kept pushing the thoughts away, trying to keep his mind clear, trying to drive the pain and fear far away, some place where it couldn't reach him.
The whispers got more pronounced as he neared the village. He began to push back harder, trying to shore up his subconscious barriers.
It wasn't working. The whispers became voices, chattering incessantly in his head. Lamont stopped the horse on the side of the road, then held his head and rubbed his temples, trying to push against the chaos that was building to an unbelievable level. Ignore the pain...push against the intrusion...force it out...
The chaos kept building. And with it, the familiar sensation of projective telepathic energy pressing against his subconscious barriers, seeking a release. And he could not bend or channel it against the intrusions. Not now, he thought. Please, not now...
The voices were so loud they physically hurt. And the pressure behind his eyes was intense. It felt just like the first weeks at the temple after his awakening. Nothing he tried made it stop. Finally, with a cry of pain, he let every barrier around his psyche fall away.
A surge of psychic power shot forth from his mind and carried with it a shout of anger so loud it startled the horse, who began to move nervously.
At the sudden motion, Lamont instinctively reached for the reins and pulled back, trying to keep control over the horse. Then, he gathered himself and looked around for a moment.
He saw startled travelers looking about for the source of the shout of rage, and heard the name "Ying Ko" whispered repeatedly. But none of them were looking his way.
Not willing to press his luck, Lamont urged the horse down the road toward the village.
The market at Dorjee was a small trading market, but a heavily-used one in this part of Tibet, for it was the only market for miles around. Another set of whispered voices tried to intrude on Lamont's thoughts, but he kept pushing back and pushing them away. As painful as it had been, the release of energy on the road had also been cleansing; he felt much more ready to deal with his fears and emotions than he had earlier.
As he went from stall to stall purchasing supplies for the temple, he saw things that surprised him: Smiles from merchants. Nods of respect from passers-by. And people he had known ignoring him. He was curious as to why.
A Western missionary and his wife walked through the market, English-language thoughts filtering from them and attracting Lamont's attention as he loaded the last of the sacks of rice he'd bought onto the wagon. He approached them. "Excuse me."
The couple turned around and gave him a curious look. "You speak English," the man said in a British accent.
"So do you," Lamont observed with a smile.
They gave him a quick visual appraisal. "You are a monk?" the woman asked.
"An initiate." He hesitated, then finally asked for an answer to the question in his mind. "Madam, would you happen to have a mirror?"
"Certainly." She fished through her purse and found a compact and handed to him.
"Thank you." He opened it slowly. Junior initiates had not been allowed mirrors--they were symbols of vanity--and so he'd learned to shave by feel instead of in front of a mirror. It had easily been six months since he'd actually seen what he looked like, and he had to know why none of the people he recognized so easily seemed to know him.
What he saw stunned him. He no longer had the vacant, ashen look of an opium addict. The puffiness and lines around his eyes and on his face were replaced by firmer, healthier muscles and skin. He touched his cheek to make certain the man in the mirror was really him. No wonder no one recognized him; the fearsome visage of Ying Ko was gone. He no longer looked like a young man in an old man's body. He looked like a completely different person.
He looked just like his father.
For a long moment, he stared at the reflection. He'd been told for years that he looked just like his father, and he'd hated hearing it. But now, without the fog of anger, decadence, and drugs to cloud his vision, the resemblance was oddly soothing.
"Are you all right, young man?" the missionary asked.
"I...I..." He couldn't answer. The realization that he truly no longer resembled the monster who'd haunted this area for so long raised powerful emotions within him, and he had to take several deep breaths to calm them. "We're not allowed mirrors in the monastery," he responded finally. "It's been months since I've actually seen my reflection." He closed the compact and handed it back to the woman. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." The woman put it back in her purse, then handed him a coin. "God bless you, young man."
He looked at the coin curiously, then realized it was meant as alms for the poor. He handed it back. "Thank you, but no. I don't need it."
"Do you need anything?" the missionary asked. "Food, clothes...?"
"No, thank you. I have all I need." He looked around, then spotted a pair of urchins in the street, a begging plate in their hands. "Give it to them instead."
"Of course." The couple bid him farewell, then walked away.
Lamont took another deep, cleansing breath and looked around the marketplace. He might as well have been invisible for all the attention that people he knew as both friends and enemies were paying to him. And it was as satisfying a feeling as he could have felt at that moment.
Remembering he had a timetable to meet, he walked back to the wagon, gave it a quick appraisal, then checked items off the list in his head. Satisfied he had everything, he climbed back into the driver's seat and urged the horse up the road again.
An hour later, Lamont unloaded the last of the supplies into the pantry from the wagon. He took the broom and swept the debris from the many trips to and from the wagon out of the kitchen, then gathered himself. It was time to face Marpa Tulku and the punishment for disobedience. He headed out for the main chamber.
As usual, Marpa Tulku was meditating on the altar. Lamont knelt and bowed his head, waiting for an acknowledgment.
You are back early.
Lamont nodded, but did not dare look up. I did not want to be any more disrespectful than I was earlier. Forgive me, Tulku, for my disrespect and disobedience...
Look at me.
Lamont looked up.
The Tulku gestured over the steps.
Lamont rose, then came over to the stairs and sat at his master's feet.
The Tulku looked stern. Do you know why you were sent to the market this morning?
Lamont nodded. I had become arrogant about my newfound power.
Lamont thought for a moment. I was not dealing properly with my past.
He tried to find the right words for The Tulku. The work needed to be done.
Lamont looked puzzled. I don't know any other reason.
Because you did not ask to be relieved of the duty.
Lamont looked confused. I don't understand.
If you had merely asked to be relieved of the duty, I would have done so. But you did not ask. You instead attempted to rationalize why you should not be sent. That is arrogance in a passive disguise, and I will not tolerate an initiate behaving in that fashion, especially not one who is supposed to be an example to others.
Lamont nodded. I am sorry.
You should be. You disappointed me greatly this morning. The Tulku took Lamont's chin in his hand and met his gaze firmly. I am training you for a special purpose. There will be times when the evil will be terrifying. Times when your past will come out of nowhere and attack you in ways you will never expect. Times when you must reach beyond yourself to win your battles. Times when you must be stronger than all the doubts, all the fears, all the weaknesses within yourself. Times when you must succeed...because you are the only one who can. And you are never to forget that. He released his pupil's chin. Having said all of that, I forgive you for your behavior this morning. But do not let it happen again.
I won't, Lamont vowed.
Good. The Tulku looked a bit less stern. You shouted quite loudly on your way into the valley.
Lamont nodded. I let my emotions and fear overwhelm me, and the pressure built to the breaking point faster than I could ease it. I had to stop and let it out.
Did it help?
Yes. I felt a lot calmer afterward.
Did you know how loud you were?
No. I knew I'd startled my horse, and passers-by were looking around for the source of the sound, but I had no idea how far it had spread. You heard it up here?
I heard the echoes of it. A smile. I was impressed.
Lamont looked dumbfounded. I still can't believe I can do this. Then, he winced and put a hand to his temple. Oh...ow...what's going on? I shouldn't need to vent yet--I released a whole day's worth of energy two hours ago...
The Tulku probed his pupil's mind for a moment. Your internal reservoir is refilling rapidly. You will indeed need to relieve pressure soon.
Lamont looked astonished. Tulku...what's happening to my mind? I remember when I could drain it just slightly and it would last two days. Now, with as much as I released this morning, it's already refilling to the point where I'll need to release again soon? How is this possible?
The Tulku gave that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. When you do physical work nearly to the point of exhaustion, do you feel stronger the next day?
When you do not work, does it take longer to rebuild your strength than it ordinarily would?
And when you work too hard, does it cause great pain?
Psychic energy behaves much the same way. Drain it slowly, it refills slowly. Push it out rapidly and it refills rapidly, but is still controllable. Release it in an uncontrolled burst...
...and it refills like a creek in a rainstorm. Lamont winced slightly as he felt pressure build. And there's a monsoon in my head right now.
Yes. You must learn to always use a controlled release, even when bursts are required. This is what I meant by focusing and honing your skills. You have a great deal of raw projective power, but almost no control.
Lamont looked as if something finally clicked. This is why my awakening lasted five days, isn't it? It took five days for all of this to drain the first time.
During an awakening, both body and mind are drained of all resistance, all strength, all impurities. But yes, this is why yours took so long, and was so violent. You are older, larger, physically stronger, and psychically stronger than most of my students, and there was so much impurity to sweep away that your reservoir actually refilled itself almost continuously for those five days. The Tulku stood. An awakening is an uncontrolled release. It is time you learned controlled release. Rise and walk to the middle of the floor.
Lamont did so.
The Tulku vanished.
Lamont smiled slightly. This was familiar. I'm supposed to force you out of my mind, right?
Correct. He twisted Lamont's thoughts with a ferocity that made the assaults of the past weeks seem gentle.
The initial burst of pain nearly made Lamont ill, but he forced himself to stay on his feet. He felt his psychic energies surging again and the pressure behind his subconscious barriers build to near-collapse. He began redirecting the pressure, pushing back on the twisting intrusion in his head.
Harder, The Tulku's voice ordered. I will not go as easy on you as I did last night.
Neither will I. Lamont kept channeling the energies toward the twisting sensation until it began to fall back.
The Tulku pressed back harder. I will outlast you.
You really think so? Lamont pressed back with equal strength, and the twisting cyclone moved out of his mind.
I am still clouding your thoughts, The Tulku reminded him.
Not for long. Lamont pushed harder, and a swirl of fog cleared to reveal his master standing before him.
The Tulku looked surprised for a moment at the ferocity of his student, then glared at him. All this newfound power is making you arrogant. He vanished and gave his student a mental shove as he planted the twisting sensation firmly into Lamont's mind again.
Lamont stumbled toward the wall, then regained his balance and started to shove back. Then, he stopped himself. You want me to shove back because I'll release energy in an uncontrolled burst. And the point of this exercise is controlled release. He pressed against the twisting sensation, feeling it moving slowly away from him.
Such arrogance. Another mental shove.
Lamont again stumbled, then again regained his balance. I think you're misreading me. This is confidence, not arrogance. He pushed harder than ever, struggling to keep from overcommitting his energies.
You cannot maintain control for much longer. The Tulku pushed Lamont to the floor with his mind.
Lamont started to get up again, then decided against it. It would be easier to project if he wasn't trying to maintain his balance at the same time. He sat up and smiled confidently. I've already lasted longer than you thought I would. He kept the pressure focused on the twisting intrusion, not the taunting voice.
Are you always this disrespectful? The Tulku pressed his pupil even harder.
Only when I know I'm breaking through. Again, he pushed the twisting sensation...and again felt it move back.
You think so highly of yourself.
Lamont felt The Tulku's projection driving into him so hard it overwhelmed his defenses and pinned him to the floor. He finally could take it no longer, and forced every ounce of energy out of his mind in one last burst.
The weight lifted from him, and a swirling fog cleared to reveal Marpa Tulku. I told you I would outlast you, he reminded his pupil.
Lamont sat up, physically exhausted, psychically drained, and genuinely curious. He took several deep breaths and tried to find enough mental energy to ask the question that was burning in his mind. Tulku, how did you do that? It felt like a weight on my chest.
That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you must learn first.
Lamont shook his head and laughed mentally. You've said that a lot lately.
Because you are trying to move too far ahead too quickly. The Tulku offered a hand to his student. Rise.
Lamont accepted the offered hand and stood up.
You possess a great capacity to learn rapidly, however. Another mysterious smile. We will continue this lesson after the midday meal.
Lamont bowed before his master. Thank you, Tulku.
You will not be so grateful by the time I am finished with you today.
Lamont smiled knowingly. You've said that a lot lately, too.
And you have always responded appropriately. I may yet turn you into a warrior, Lamont Cranston. With that, they left the chamber.
For a week, Lamont Cranston and Marpa Tulku dueled telepathically in the main chamber, spending hours pressing each other with their minds from sunrise to sunset. As Lamont's control got better, each battle would last progressively longer, and Lamont quickly learned how to balance controlled release and recovery time to keep the level of energy in his mind steady and available. Even Marpa Tulku was astonished at how rapidly his pupil was progressing...and how strong his projective powers were becoming. But that was knowledge that he did not dare share with Lamont, lest it make him overconfident...and thus vulnerable.
Early one afternoon, in the middle of yet another protracted engagement, The Tulku suddenly swirled into visibility, then put a hand to his temple and looked shaky. Lamont...stop.
Lamont immediately stopped pressing his teacher and hurried over to him, quickly offering a steadying hand. Tulku...are you all right? Have I hurt you?
The Tulku gripped Lamont's arm for a moment, then gathered himself. No, you did not. Tsepon has awakened.
Lamont understood. Tsepon was one of the few junior initiates who was over the age of 20, and his energies had been building for almost two weeks now. This was going to be a long awakening. Is there anything I can do?
The Tulku shook his head. I must go to him now. Tell Kasha what has happened. He will help you with your exercises while I am away.
Lamont nodded. Yes, Tulku. He started to go.
Lamont turned around and bowed quickly. Yes, Tulku?
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. Kasha is not as advanced as you are. Do not let that deter you. Press him as hard as you would press me. I expect nothing less.
Lamont suddenly understood. The roles he and Kasha normally played were being reversed--for the first time, Kasha would be the student and Lamont the teacher. Of course, Tulku.
The Tulku acknowledged him with a nod, and the two men went their separate ways.
It didn't take Lamont long to find Kasha--as usual, he was in the largest training chamber with three of the most promising junior initiates, guiding them through receptive strengthening exercises. Kasha, he projected from the doorway.
Kasha looked up from the floor, where he was kneeling to help one of his students ease some mental tension. "Yes, Lamont?" he returned.
Lamont sighed. It was very strange how he had gotten so used to thought projection in only a week's time that he had to force himself to speak when spoken to. "Tsepon has awakened."
"Very good." A pause. "Do you need something?"
"The Tulku told me to ask for your assistance in conducting my exercises while he attends to Tsepon."
"Ah. I see. You have not been given any students to guide, and you need to be kept busy."
Lamont bit his tongue. He was aware this was a bone of contention among some of the senior initiates--that Lamont was the only one who did not have a group of juniors to shepherd, that he garnered the lion's share of The Tulku's attention at the expense of others in the temple. When he mentioned it to The Tulku earlier in the week, The Tulku had told him in no uncertain terms that he was being trained for a different mission than the other senior initiates and he was to ignore any pointed or disrespectful comments they made because their duties were by necessity different from his. He began to suspect that he had been sent to Kasha, The Tulku's most promising student before his arrival, to make certain Kasha understood that point quite clearly. "I'll be in the main chamber waiting for you to finish your lessons."
"No, Lamont. Stay. This will be a good chance for my students to see the progress one must make to move to the senior level." He gestured for Lamont to come into the chamber, then clapped his hands to get his students' attention. "This is Lamont Cranston," he told his students, indicating Lamont. "He is the newest senior initiate in our temple. Lamont, you know Sato...next to him is Tanak...and this is Yeshi, whose awakening occurred two weeks ago and who has made remarkable progress in that time."
All three juniors nodded their respect to Lamont, who acknowledged them with a nod and a smile.
"To move to the senior ranks," Kasha said in his best calm master voice, "an initiate must demonstrate projective telepathy." He concentrated slightly, then found his mental voice. An example of this is thought projection, he transmitted to his students. There are other skills to master at this level, such as sound projection--thoughts converted to actual sound. He concentrated again, then focused his gaze on the far wall, seemingly trying to force his thoughts to bounce off it. Like so.
The students looked around, amazed that actual sound came out of their teacher's head without him actually voicing a word.
Lamont raised an eyebrow. Very good, he said, projecting his voice. When did you master that?
Last night, Kasha said proudly, then turned to his students. This is the skill Lamont mastered to move into the senior ranks.
Lamont held his mental tongue. It was now clear that Kasha believed he had surpassed Lamont again. Shall we demonstrate an exercise to strengthen projective telepathy?
Indeed. He turned to his students. Open your minds to receive thoughts, he projected to them. We will be practicing projection into another's mind.
Lamont gestured to a spot across the room. You go first. Put your thoughts into my head.
Kasha walked across the room, then stopped.
The two men bowed respectfully to one another.
Kasha concentrated, then projected. Your mind is quite easy to project into, Lamont Cranston, he told his fellow senior.
You think so? Lamont asked.
Yes. You have to open it so wide to be receptive that it makes it easy for a skilled projector to get in.
Or perhaps I just want you to think that.
Kasha suddenly felt a swirling wave of energy wrap itself around his projection and shove it backward to the outer edges of Lamont's protective mental barriers. Annoyed, he planted his thoughts firmly into Lamont's mind again. What are you doing?
You thought I demonstrated sound projection as my skill to join the senior ranks. That was my second accomplishment.
Kasha looked surprised. What was your first, then?
Forcing Marpa Tulku's clouding suggestion out of my mind. With that, Lamont channeled a small amount of his projective energies back at the telepath across the room and easily swept Kasha's thoughts out of his mind.
Kasha was startled. He knew Lamont had great projective power, but nothing like this. No one can do that, he said as he projected back again.
I can. Lamont channeled his energies outward once more, and once more Kasha's thoughts were forced out.
Kasha fought to control his embarrassment at being so easily manipulated by someone who had only just learned projective telepathy. Now his students knew his own projections were not strong enough to withstand those from a new senior initiate. And that angered him. He concentrated harder as he projected toward Lamont. You are dishonoring me in front of my students.
And you showed great disrespect and arrogance toward me when I requested your assistance in completing my exercises. I offered to do this in private, but you insisted on showing off. The Tulku will not be pleased. Lamont barely raised his concentration level, and a stronger wave of energy pushed Kasha's thoughts all the way to the edge of Kasha's protective barriers.
Kasha grabbed his head as his own thought waves were forced back into his mind. The shocked expression on his face spoke volumes.
My turn, Lamont projected. Then, he fixed his gaze on a spot right between Kasha's eyes and concentrated on pushing a beam of telepathic energy out of his own eyes right at that spot...and easily penetrated Kasha's barriers.
Kasha looked astonished. No one had penetrated his mind other than The Tulku since his days as a junior initiate. Projecting and receiving voices were one thing--but this was a stream of pure energy, pushing its way through his barriers and winding its way through his thoughts. How did you get in so easily?
Projective telepathy. You opened a portal to receive thoughts, and I pushed right in through it. Remember, I think very loudly. Lamont debated pressing Kasha immediately, then decided to give him one chance to save face in front of his students, who were staring wide-eyed at the demonstration of power in front of them. Force me out.
Kasha looked confused. How? I have not been able to master this skill yet...
Then you need practice. Start by closing off your receptive portal.
Kasha looked frightened. If I do that, I will be defenseless.
Lamont smiled confidently. You already are. Your mind is completely open to me, and I can read your thoughts and see your weaknesses clearly. He turned to Kasha's shocked students. This is how a projective telepath reads minds--or manipulates them, if he chooses. He looked at Kasha sternly. Close your receptive portal off or I will open it wider.
Kasha braced himself against his own subconscious barriers, trying to force the stream of energy away long enough to close the window.
Lamont felt the constriction of the opening in Kasha's barriers. Keep going, Kasha. Close it off.
Kasha pushed as hard as he could against the stream still flowing into his mind, then with one last thrust of projective telepathy, he forced the intrusion out. "There," he whispered, feeling triumphant.
Lamont nodded an acknowledgment of recognition of the accomplishment. "Very good." Then, he drilled a projective stream right back through the closed-off opening.
Kasha grabbed his head. "What are you doing?"
You pushed me out once. Do it again. Another confident smile. The Tulku pressed me repeatedly a week ago until I proved I could do it on command. He'll be disappointed when he finds out how gentle I've been with you--he wanted me to press you as hard as I press him.
"You can press harder?"
I've barely begun to project. He raised his concentration level slightly--and the projective force doubled.
Kasha dropped to his knees, holding his head and wincing. The pressure of the energy pushing into his head and swirling through his mind was more than he'd ever felt. Even The Tulku, in the few times they had tried this exercise, had never pushed this hard. "And you press The Tulku like this?"
Marpa Tulku would scold me if I pressed him this lightly. If I doubled the projection again it still wouldn't be close to what I normally push toward him. I'm only barely concentrating any harder than I would for everyday tasks. And The Tulku presses back even harder every time. The Tulku can throw me across a room with his mind. I haven't learned that skill yet. But I can push you until you pass out from the pain and still have enough left to shout my thoughts through the temple. I can...but I won't.
Kasha suddenly felt the pressure vanish.
Lamont walked over and offered a hand to his fellow initiate.
Kasha took the hand and stood, then looked embarrassed. "Why did you stop?"
Lamont smiled wryly. Because we both learned something from this encounter. I would like to continue this exercise with you later. I think we will both benefit from a rest and recovery period. A respectful nod. Now, if you will excuse me, it is my turn to cook the evening meal. He turned to the juniors and nodded a farewell, then turned to leave the chamber.
Lamont turned at the sound of Kasha's voice. Yes?
"What did you learn?"
Another wry smile. That I am not meant to be a teacher. He turned away once more, then left.
Dinner at The Temple Of The Cobras that evening was a rich stew of barley, root vegetables, and spices. The vegetables at the market had not been very fresh, but they had been reduced in price so they could be sold before complete spoilage, so Lamont chose as many palatable ones as he could and brought them back to combine them with the usual grain and spice concoction served for dinner to make a more filling meal. It pleased him to see the contented smiles from the initiates and monks at the change in the usual fare. And cooking brought almost as much relaxation as cleaning did--the simple acts of chopping vegetables, building a fire in the hearth, boiling water, and stirring a pot provided an excellent opportunity to release the day's tension.
The only downside to cooking the meal was that the cook was usually the last one to eat. But as Lamont went to dish himself a bowl of the stew, it occurred to him that no one had spoken of taking a tray to The Tulku's chamber. A conversation with Tenzin confirmed that the cook was the one who normally delivered The Tulku's meals when he was occupied with an awakening. So, Lamont prepared a tray of food for his master and carried it to his chamber. He stopped outside The Tulku's door and debated knocking or calling out mentally, uncertain which one would be appropriate.
Come in, Lamont.
Quietly, Lamont opened the door. Well, that answered that question, he projected to his master.
The Tulku gave an indulgent smile. You still think quite loudly, even for a telepath. He looked at the bowl. I have been wondering what smelled so good.
Lamont set the tray on an old steamer trunk near the door. Will there be anything else, Tulku?
No, thank you. The Tulku took a whiff of the steam coming off the bowl. It smells delicious--what is it?
Barley vegetable stew.
The Tulku knelt before the trunk and offered a prayer of thanks for the meal, then took out a pair of chopsticks from his pocket.
I brought a spoon...
I know. I just want a bit right now. He picked up several of the vegetables out of the stew, downing them in two quick bites. He looked up at Lamont and gave him a pleased smile. You should cook more often.
Lamont smiled. I've heard that several times tonight.
Did you find it relaxing?
The Tulku nodded. It was one of my favorite tasks as an initiate.
Lamont looked over at Tsepon, who was lying on The Tulku's pallet, tossing fitfully. How is he?
Slowly calming down. He was still screaming mentally until just a few minutes ago.
Lamont nodded. He's a projector, isn't he?
The Tulku raised an eyebrow. You can tell?
I can feel his mind pushing outward. Almost every other mind I've sensed here pulls inward.
I see. You are correct; he is a projective telepath. Nowhere close to your strength, of course, but he has definite projective tendencies. The Tulku turned to his tortured student, gently wiping his brow with a damp cloth. He is progressing well. The awakening was not quite as strong as I thought it might be, but the first hours were very tortured. This time tomorrow, he should be ready to wake up.
You can tell?
A mysterious smile. I can feel his psyche being purified.
Lamont chuckled. That's a gift I know I'll never have.
The Tulku shrugged. It is not necessarily a gift one would want. It is nonetheless one of my gifts.
Lamont nodded his agreement. Do you need anything else, Tulku?
Yes. I need my newest senior initiate to sit down and eat. He has worked very hard today.
Lamont smiled. I'll get a bowl back in the kitchen.
The Tulku looked at him sternly. Lamont, eat that. I will not finish it and do not want to see it go to waste.
Lamont looked puzzled. Is something wrong with the meal, Tulku? Would you like something else?
No, thank you. It was delicious. But I do not eat very much when I am with a student going through an awakening. They are not eating, and I use the time to purify myself along with them.
Lamont raised an eyebrow. I went through five days of this.
And I did not eat one meal during that time.
Now Lamont was stunned. That bowl of rice you gave me was the first meal you would have had in days...
...and if you had not waked up when you did, it would probably have gone to waste.
Lamont shook his head. How do you do it, Tulku? How do you make these kinds of sacrifices? Where does this level of goodness, kindness, generosity come from? I can't even conceive of doing the things you do, and you do it all with no complaints, no regrets...how?
The Tulku smiled again, but this smile was more wistful than mysterious. Lamont, close the door, sit down, pick up that bowl, and eat, and I will tell you what you want to know.
Lamont knew better than to disobey a direct order. He closed the door to The Tulku's chamber and sat on the floor, then picked up the bowl and spoon and took a bite of the stew. This is good, he noted.
The Tulku gently adjusted the blanket around his restless new initiate, then turned to Lamont. Three years ago, I sat exactly where you are sitting now, holding a bowl of rice and spices, while Marpa Tulku tended to an initiate in the midst of a difficult awakening. And I asked him the same questions you asked me, using nearly the same words. And he gave me the same answer I am about to give you. Another wistful smile. I do these things because I must. To whom the gods give great power, they also give great responsibility. The Marpa Tulku has been charged with serving and training the gifted adepts of this region, of protecting the secrets of the ancient masters who saved this temple from invaders twenty generations ago by clouding their minds to its presence. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. I can allow no one and nothing to interfere with it. Every adept who comes here has a special mission, though they do not know it when they arrive. But they will know it when their training is complete. And it is my duty to guide them through their training so that they can be ready to undertake their mission. A sigh. And that, Lamont, is how and why I do what I do.
Lamont digested what he'd been told. And your mission was to become the next Marpa Tulku.
There is only one Marpa Tulku. It is a tradition handed down from teacher to student. And each teacher knows when he has met his successor. After my teacher told me these things, he spent the next year preparing me for my mission. I had never worked so hard in my entire life. But the moment he called me to his side, took my hand and placed this ring on it--he held up his left hand, with a large red stone mounted in a massive silver ring that dominated his index finger--and breathed his last, I became Marpa Tulku. And it was as if there had been no other. The knowledge of nineteen lifetimes passed to me...and I became the guardian of The Temple Of The Cobras.
So The Marpa Tulku does not reincarnate?
Not exactly. Marpa Yeshi, the first Marpa Tulku, was born the eldest of twins over a thousand years ago. His brother died shortly after birth. Twins have a special psychic bond, and when one dies, the other gains his twin's thought energies. Five years before Marpa Tulku's death, a young man named Yongsam Surya arrived at The Temple Of The Cobras to be trained. Marpa Tulku recognized him as his twin brother reincarnated and rejoiced that the gods had sent a successor to continue the mission and protect the temple so that it would not be left vacant when he died. Marpa Tulku trained Surya to be his successor, and when it was time for Marpa Tulku to die, Surya gained his thought energies through the passing of the dharma and became the second Marpa Tulku. It has been this way ever since. Every Marpa Tulku eventually meets his twin, trains him to handle the duties of the mission, then passes the dharma...and this ring.
Lamont looked at the ring closely for the first time. What does the ring mean?
The stone is a fire opal--a stone of great power in mysticism. Some believe you can see the life energies of a person with it. Others believe that the stronger the good within the person who wears it, the brighter the inner fire of the stone glows. It is symbolic of my mission. He pointed to the two etchings on the ring, one on each side. The Tibetan words for "good" and "evil" are etched on either side of the band. In the middle is a stone of mystery, mysticism, and power. The only thing separating good from evil on this ring is the stone. That is where The Marpa Tulku stands.
Lamont nodded. Have you met your successor?
Yes. Not you, of course.
Lamont couldn't help but laugh. I would hardly think so.
My successor does not share your skepticism. He is quite jealous of you.
Suddenly, Lamont understood. Kasha.
Lamont looked puzzled. But Kasha is your age, is he not?
Almost a year younger.
Then how can he be Marpa Tulku's twin reincarnated?
He is not. He is Kundun Namri's twin reincarnated.
The Tulku smiled wistfully. My birth name. I too was a twin whose brother died at birth. When I met Kasha and realized who he was, I prayed for hours for an understanding of why he had been sent to me. I know now that he was sent because my mission will be cut short for some reason before my natural successor is ready to reincarnate. The mission must continue. The gods have always provided a way for it to continue. And that way will be through Kasha. A sigh. This is why I had you push him today. He is not progressing as quickly as he should.
If I'd known this, I'd have pushed him harder.
You did the right thing. He was capable of turning back projected thoughts, but did not believe he was. By letting him push you out, he learned a valuable lesson. The next time you challenge him, he should respond more favorably.
Yes. You angered and embarrassed him quite sufficiently. He will not let you do that again. Kasha has a great deal of pride that is healthy in small doses and makes him insufferably arrogant in larger ones. He needs to learn balance.
Lamont chuckled. I'm supposed to teach him that?
No. You are merely to push him to do better. I will teach him balance. A smile. Do not look so relieved, Lamont.
Lamont sighed. I learned today that I am no teacher.
Not all are meant to teach. Some are meant to cook.
Lamont burst out laughing mentally, then became aware of how loud he was. I'm sorry, Tulku... Then, he noticed his master looking right through him, smiling that mysterious smile again that hid more than it revealed. What?
The Tulku said nothing. A vision of his student flashed before his eyes, an oddly soothing vision of a man dressed all in black with a laugh that could chill to the marrow.
Lamont looked concerned. Tulku? What is it? Did I do something?
The Tulku looked at Lamont and smiled placidly. Not yet. He stood. We will continue this discussion when Tsepon comes out of his awakening. Rise.
The Tulku gathered up the tray and handed it to Lamont. Thank you for the meal and the company.
Lamont bowed before his master. The pleasure was all mine, Tulku. Thank you for the lesson.
The Tulku nodded. I will see you in a few days. Sleep well, Lamont.
Good night, Tulku. With that, Lamont left the chamber.
Tsepon's awakening lasted well into the next day, so Lamont spent the time dueling with Kasha in the main chamber while Marpa Tulku was otherwise occupied. As The Tulku had stated he would, Kasha responded with more sharpness and strength after Lamont's demonstration the day before; though he could not defeat his fellow senior initiate, Kasha held his own in many of their skirmishes for longer periods than Lamont would have expected given the ease with which Lamont had dominated him the day before.
Still, it was clear that Kasha's endurance left something to be desired. "Lamont, stop for a moment," Kasha said as he sat on the floor, once more on the losing end of a projective wrestling match.
Lamont stopped pressing Kasha for a moment. Not enough energy left to project your thoughts? he asked.
Kasha rubbed his temples, trying to get enough focus to respond. How do you do this? he asked finally. We have been challenging each other since just after the morning meal, and it is almost sunset. I barely have enough strength right now to think of words, much less project them. Surely you must be just as drained...
Lamont shook his head. I haven't even expended the energy I expend in one morning with Marpa Tulku.
Kasha looked stunned. How?
Controlled release. The Tulku has been teaching me how not to force all my energies out at once, even when bursts are called for. I'm sure he would be happy to teach you as well.
Kasha sighed hard. If I ever get another lesson from him.
Lamont smiled sympathetically. You'll get your share of lessons, Kasha.
When you go to the market, or are cooking a meal, or are otherwise occupied.
Lamont forced knowledge he knew Kasha did not have deep behind his own protective barriers and began to release a slow, drifting projection of energies to make certain Kasha's prying mind would stay far away. Then, he sat on the floor next to Kasha and gathered his thoughts again. I'll not be here forever, Kasha. I already know what my mission in life is, and when The Tulku feels I'm ready for it, I'll be sent away.
Kasha laughed slightly. The Tulku sees you as some kind of living weapon against evil. I thought he was somehow mistaken when you first came here. But now I understand what he saw in you.
Lamont smiled wryly. I'm glad one of us does.
Kasha looked curious. I did not think a lack of confidence was one of your weaknesses.
Oh, I have confidence in abundance in what I can do. It's what I am inside that sometimes needs shoring up. A sigh. In my nightmares, I still see that darkness inside me...feel it trying to get out again. When I get down on myself, I start battling with it again. It'll probably be that way for the rest of my life.
But you know what your mission in life is. That should give you a focus to find your strength. Kasha sighed. I have yet to discover mine.
Then maybe your confidence needs shoring up. Ready for another round?
Kasha frowned. Having you push me to the ground again is supposed to build my confidence?
There is confidence to be gained even in a losing battle if one learns from the experience. He stood, then offered a hand to his fellow initiate.
Kasha accepted the hand and stood. I sometimes wonder if you are The Tulku in a mind-clouding disguise.
Lamont smiled. You compliment me greatly. I only wish I had that kind of inner strength and wisdom. He backed away. Another round. You first.
The two men bowed to one another, and as they began pressing each other with their minds once more, neither noticed a faint shadow sweep across the floor...a shadow that resolved itself into Marpa Tulku when it reached the hallway. The Tulku smiled at his two best students, then headed into the depths of the temple to attend to other needs.
The next morning, Lamont entered the kitchen and found Marpa Tulku standing in the pantry, giving it a critical eye. You sent for me, Tulku?
The Tulku turned to him. Yes, I did. I need you to go to the market. The pantry is looking quite sparse.
Yes, Tulku. Lamont stepped away from the pantry to allow his master to fetch the funds needed and waited for the list to be etched into his mind.
The Tulku looked at him expectantly.
Lamont was confused. Is something wrong, Tulku?
That mysterious smile again. You have not told me about your accomplishment yesterday.
Lamont tried to think. Other than pushing Kasha to the ground repeatedly?
The Tulku looked amused. You have become so comfortable with your projective abilities that you no longer recognize when you have stretched them farther than before. Yesterday, you accomplished on your own something that I had been telling you I needed to teach you.
Lamont looked confused again. What?
You have knowledge Kasha does not about his future. How did you keep it from him yesterday?
Suddenly, it hit him. I quieted my thoughts...shielded them away from him.
You placed a protective wall around them and surrounded that with projective energies so that Kasha would not attempt to read your thoughts. That is not normally the way I teach it, but it is probably more effective for a projector to do it in that fashion. Your projective skills are getting more subtle and precise. I believe you are ready for a stronger challenge.
Lamont smiled. It amazed him how far he had come in just ten days. Challenge me, Tulku.
You have learned quite well how to project your thoughts into another mind. Do you find it easy?
Lamont nodded. In some ways, it's easier than talking.
Do you know why?
Because it's my natural tendency.
Something clicked finally. And because I'm surrounded by receptors.
This is why you need a stronger challenge. You are to go to the market today and get what we need...without saying one word. Not even a greeting to the merchant. All of your communication is to be telepathic. Do you understand?
Lamont bowed. Yes, Tulku.
Lamont felt The Tulku's mind sweep into his, and then sweep out again. The list was firmly within his mind now, and he looked up at his master, amazed. Tulku, you must teach me how to do that. I know you were projecting that list to me, but I did not hear a word.
That is a form of projection you are not yet ready to learn. There are other skills you must learn first. He handed his student a pouch of money. And it is time for you to learn one of them. Be back in three hours.
Lamont bowed again. Yes, Tulku.
The Tulku watched his student depart. He knew that Lamont would have this task mastered inside of the first hour he was at the market. He also knew that very soon, he would run out of tasks with which to challenge his eager pupil. Lamont would soon be ready for skills only the most elite could learn...sooner than either man had anticipated. And Marpa Tulku would need the strength to teach them to him.
Drawing a deep, cleansing breath, The Tulku exhaled slowly, then headed off to the main chamber to meditate.
Three hours after his departure, Lamont finished restocking the pantry with the last of the supplies from his trip to the market and began to sweep away the debris that had blown into the kitchen from the many trips back and forth to the wagon. It had taken him about two stops in the market to figure out the appropriate projection strength to break into the market merchants' minds, but once he did, it astonished him how easy it was. He imagined that to an outside observer, his shopping experience probably looked like a series of monologues--he would simply walk up to a stand, and the merchant would tell him how fresh the water chestnuts were today or that he had a better deal on ginger than the merchant two stalls over. A month ago when the development exercises began in earnest, "projective telepathy" was just a phrase The Tulku kept using; ten days ago, it was a strange sensation of energy rushing out of him; now, he could barely remember what life was like without it.
Lamont, come to the main chamber.
Lamont stopped sweeping. It was rare for The Tulku to call him like this; usually, he would seek out The Tulku once his chores were done to resume his lessons. He left the broom and the pile of debris where it was and headed for the main chamber.
He reached the chamber and started to kneel and bow to his master, then noticed The Tulku was engaged in a training session with Kasha. The two were grappling telepathically, with The Tulku pressing mild attacks at Kasha to see if he had retained any of the strategies he'd learned from his bouts with Lamont the day before. And Kasha did seem to be holding his own, better than Lamont would have anticipated. But Lamont knew The Tulku was not even breaking a mental sweat. He stood in the doorway and waited for his master to complete the lesson.
The Tulku pushed Kasha back with his mind. Push harder, Kasha, he ordered mentally.
Kasha concentrated as hard as he could, and Lamont could feel the level of projective energy in the room rise. But he recognized that Kasha was near the breaking point...and wondered if The Tulku would press him until he dropped, or be merciful and let him earn a victory by holding off The Tulku's mind with the power of his own thoughts.
Lamont got his answer when The Tulku pushed Kasha to the floor with a single thought. Very good, Kasha, The Tulku told him. That is the longest you have ever gone in this exercise without overreaching yourself. You have been practicing.
Kasha got to his feet and bowed to his master. Thank you, Tulku, he said in a faint projection.
The Tulku turned to Lamont. And you said you were not meant to teach.
Lamont smiled. I didn't teach him anything. I just pushed him to learn it himself.
And you do it well, Kasha returned. Especially the pushing part.
The Tulku sighed, then gestured for Lamont to come in.
Lamont entered the chamber and bowed before his master.
Rise. The Tulku smiled. How was your trip to the market?
Lamont at first thought the phrasing of The Tulku's question was odd--normally, The Tulku would have asked something about how it felt to project into a non-adept's mind, or observed that he had accomplished yet another task that most of his students found difficult--but then understood. The Tulku did not want to make Kasha feel inferior again after a successful training session. The bamboo shoots were not very fresh, so I got water chestnuts instead. And Dao Hung had a special on ginger.
Did you have any difficulties?
He smiled. None.
Excellent. Do you have enough left for an exercise before the midday meal?
I think I could go one round.
Kasha looked confused. Why would it drain you to go to the market? It is not as if it is a terribly taxing mental exercise to drive a wagon down, buy food, and return... Suddenly, he remembered an exercise The Tulku had once had him try, and he blanched. No. You did not...Tulku, tell me you did not give him that exercise...
Why do you ask, Kasha? The Tulku replied. Do you believe that exercise is yours and yours alone?
No, Tulku, of course not...but that is an exercise for an advanced initiate, not one who has only just learned! The amount of strength it takes to project into a non-adept's mind is so high it requires a great deal of preparation to build the proper energy reserves...
I am well aware of the demands of the exercise, Kasha. Initiates have been doing it for twenty generations. When I gave you that exercise six months ago, I thought you were ready to try it. You were not. Six months later, you still are not. Lamont is. And that is why he was given it this morning. He turned to Lamont. How long did it take you to get comfortable with the exercise, Lamont?
Lamont was not certain he wanted to be part of disciplining Kasha for his disrespect, but one did not refuse to give Marpa Tulku an answer when he asked a direct question. By the time I reached the third stall, I had found the right projection level to get what I wanted on the first try.
Inside of an hour.
Inside of a half-hour, actually.
The Tulku turned to Kasha. Inside of a half-hour. With no warning ahead of time, no time to build reserves. I told him to go, and he went. That is the kind of discipline I expect from my finest students. You have much to learn, Kasha. Your pride gets in the way of your discipline far too often.
Now Kasha was embarrassed--and that made him angry. Tulku, he is a projector--he does not need to build reserves for that task!
Even projectors need reserves of strength. If you would put the effort into strengthening your own reserves that you put into bragging to your students about your advanced skills and complaining to me about neglect, you too would be able to do it. The Tulku looked stern. I trust you to train my finest junior initiates, Kasha. I need them to see an example of a student who is progressing. Some of your students have already learned skills you have not mastered in the year since your projective breakthrough. You have great promise, but you must learn discipline and balance. Look at the strides you made in psychic defense when you were pushed by someone you consider inferior. The strength and determination it took to learn that is the kind of discipline and balance you need to be a good teacher. And I expect nothing less than that from you.
Kasha looked beaten. Yes, Tulku, he projected quietly.
The Tulku looked at both of his star pupils. From now on, I will be training the two of you together at least part of the day. You seem to do better when you push each other. Lamont, you claimed you were not meant to teach, but you managed to convey something to Kasha yesterday while I was away, because he lasted far longer than he ever has in a psychic defense session. And you learned thought shielding on your own because you wanted to keep your own defenses shored up against your opponent. He gestured to a spot across the room. Kasha, sit. It is Lamont's turn to press me. Watch and learn.
Kasha sat down.
The Tulku gestured to Lamont, and the two men took positions opposite each other. Then, The Tulku vanished.
Kasha felt projective telepathic energy fill the room suddenly. It was stronger than any he had felt before. He could not believe this was from one person; no, they both had to be pushing. It was the only explanation for the level of energy in the room.
Lamont winced as The Tulku twisted his thoughts harder than ever. His mind was tired from the trip to the market, but he knew The Tulku did not want an excuse; this was as much a test of his own self-discipline as it was a lesson for Kasha. He drew a deep breath, then began channeling his projective energies toward the assault.
Kasha felt the energy level in the room double. Two waves of energy collided, retreated, then pressed against one another. One side would give slightly, then the other, rocking back and forth, each gaining momentary ground, then falling back. This is unbelievable, he thought. I cannot generate half this much projective energy in one day!
You must be tired, Lamont, The Tulku's voice said. You normally push back much harder than this.
Just gathering reserves, Lamont replied, then pressed harder. The Tulku's whirling vortex of energy inside his mind began to move away.
Kasha felt the energy level rise again. He could feel it pressing against him now.
Much better. The Tulku pressed back.
Kasha felt waves of energy in the room surging around him. This was not possible. How much more was there in either man?
Lamont could feel himself starting to run out of energy. The trip to the market must have taken more out of him than he thought it had. It's almost time for the midday meal, he told The Tulku, once more raising the level of projective energy coming from him. Ready for a break yet?
No, The Tulku replied. But I suspect you are. He gave his pupil one last shove.
The driving burst planted Lamont on the floor hard and refused to let him up. Lamont pushed one last determined thought, and an explosive wave of energy shot out of him.
Kasha was knocked backward. He was almost surprised the walls were still standing.
A swirling fog cleared to reveal The Tulku. Giving up so soon, Lamont?
Lamont sat up slowly, then pinched the bridge of his nose to stem the headache behind his eyes and tried to find enough mental energy to respond. The marketplace took more out of me than I thought it had.
Then you will need to do it again to raise your endurance. He came over and offered Lamont a hand.
Lamont accepted it and stood, then bowed to his master.
The Tulku nodded, then walked over and offered Kasha a hand.
Kasha stood, then bowed to The Tulku.
Rise, The Tulku said.
The two students stood.
Do both of you understand now why I am pushing you so hard? The Tulku asked. Much is expected of both of you. You each have your own strengths and weaknesses. I am here to help you increase your strengths and decrease your weaknesses. But you will have to learn to help each other as well. You each have a strength that is the other's weakness. You must help each other do better so that you can achieve balance.
Both students nodded. Yes, Tulku, each projected in turn.
Kasha, your students await you this afternoon, The Tulku told him, then turned to Lamont. Lamont, we will continue your exercises after the midday meal.
Yes, Tulku. Kasha bowed, then left the room.
Lamont watched him go. Tulku...was it necessary to embarrass Kasha?
The Tulku looked at Lamont. You had no qualms about doing so two days ago.
Lamont looked curious. I'm not Marpa Tulku, either. He is trying very hard...
Not hard enough, The Tulku replied. He has skills he has never touched, energies he has never tapped. And he must begin to tap them. I have been neglectful in pushing him for quite a while. I had not realized how neglectful I had been until one of my students began pushing me as hard as I was pushing him.
Lamont realized he had just been complimented. Thank you, Tulku.
The Tulku looked stern. You will not be so grateful when I am finished with you today.
But I'll be grateful when the lesson pays off later.
The Tulku looked pleased. You are becoming very perceptive. Come--the midday meal awaits.
Teacher and pupil left the chamber together.
Over the next three weeks, both Kasha and Lamont made great strides in developing their own skills. Lamont was now designated to go to the market daily to obtain something without speaking, and the daily workout increased his mental endurance and honed his projection skills sharper than ever. Kasha learned controlled release techniques and became much better at pacing himself through projective exercises to allow his energy reserves to serve him to their maximum ability. The two spent afternoons in joint training sessions with The Tulku, learning new ways to stretch their minds and use their projective energies. Anxious to press them while they were growing quickly, The Tulku had spent the better part of the last week showing both of them a specialized form of projective telepathy, telekinesis--and Kasha took to it with a vengeance. For the first time in months, Kasha began to move faster through his training than Lamont; while Lamont had more overall projective strength than Kasha did, Kasha was more skilled at manipulating items with his mind. The advantages such an ability gave Kasha began to offset the projective strength differential between himself and Lamont, and he began holding his own against Lamont in telepathic skirmishes...and even winning occasionally.
The Tulku meditated for a long time on what to do next with his two most promising students. Each still had things to learn if they were to complete their training for their missions. But the next step would require a level of trust from him and a level of development from them higher than any of them had experienced before. Nineteen generations of Marpa Tulku had trained initiates in this skill, but the twentieth never had. He spent the night praying for strength and guidance, then made his decision. It was time they both took a significant step in their telepathic development. It was time to let them challenge Phurba.
As he had every morning for the past three weeks, Lamont returned from his daily trip to the market, a significant part of his daily exercises, with a load of food which he placed in the pantry. Today's shopping trip had been for vegetables; it was his turn to cook dinner tonight, and everyone was looking forward to the spicy vegetable-and-grain dishes which had become his specialty. For a pampered rich kid who'd never set foot in a kitchen except to snatch extra helpings of food or snacks, Lamont had become a fine cook. It still amazed him sometimes how dramatic an adjustment his entire value system had undergone since his arrival seven months ago. Cooking, cleaning, constant studying, and hard work? The old Lamont Cranston wouldn't have done it. Ying Ko most certainly wouldn't have. But it was all part of him now...especially the work ethic.
Lamont, when you are finished, come out to the main chamber, The Tulku's voice told him. I have a special exercise for the two of you this morning.
Yes, Tulku, Lamont returned. He swept up the debris as quickly as he could and hurried to the main chamber.
Kasha was already there, seated at The Tulku's feet. Lamont bowed to his master and acknowledged Kasha with a nod, then took a seat beside him as The Tulku gestured to the steps.
Three weeks ago, I challenged the two of you to push each other farther than you had been pushed before, to stretch yourselves beyond where you were, The Tulku told them. And you have not disappointed me. He turned to Kasha. Kasha, I am most pleased with your progress. The potential and strength I saw in you when you came to me nineteen months ago is finally starting to come out. You have learned things in three weeks I have been trying to teach you for a year. Your rededication to your training is a credit to your discipline and inner strength, and I commend you for it.
Kasha smiled and bowed his head. Thank you, Tulku.
The Tulku turned to Lamont. Lamont, you continue to grow in ways that I have not seen in any previous student. In twenty generations, there has not been a projective telepath like you in The Temple Of The Cobras. Your projective strength is matched only by your discipline to duty, your capacity to learn, and your eagerness to grow. If I had told you seven months ago that you would be defeated and broken and come back even stronger than ever, would you have believed me?
Never, Lamont replied. You tried to, but I wasn't ready to listen. Thank you, Tulku.
The Tulku nodded at his students. You have both made tremendous strides over the past three weeks. You are ready to take a major step in your development. Rise and move to the bottom of the steps.
Both students moved to the bottom of the steps.
The Tulku stood up from the altar, then stepped behind it and laid an elegantly patterned silk cloth across it. Then, he looked to Phurba.
The face on the dagger opened its eyes, then the dagger rose out of its holder and drifted over to its master.
The Tulku took Phurba in his hands and held it up for Lamont and Kasha to see. This is Phurba...a serpent of living metal. Twenty generations ago, marauders attacked Marpa Tulku on the road to the Kailasa valley. The gods sent a cobra to him in defense. The three marauders stabbed their daggers into the cobra--and the cobra became a three-edged blade that sought their blood and defended Marpa Tulku. For twenty generations, Phurba has protected Marpa Tulku and the residents of The Temple Of The Cobras. It will defend its master at all costs...and woe to anyone who touches it with malice in their heart.
Lamont grimaced at the memory. The webbing between his right thumb and index finger still bore the scar of his first encounter with the dagger, and a triangular scar on his left thigh bore testimony to Phurba's ferocity.
For twenty generations, the secret of Phurba has been passed to the temple's finest students, The Tulku continued. To control Phurba requires an adept of considerable talent and skill, an adept with great balance. Anyone seeking to control Phurba must be receptively open to bond with Phurba and assert his will over it, and projectively strong in guiding it. I believe you both have the skills necessary to control Phurba. And today, you will get a chance to prove it. He looked at his students. For you to gain control of Phurba, I must sacrifice my own control. This will make the exercise dangerous. If there is any doubt in your minds, clear it now, for you cannot face Phurba with imperfect courage.
Both Lamont and Kasha nodded. Each began their own internal preparation, opening their minds, draining fear, preparing their psychic defenses.
The Tulku laid Phurba on the silk cloth, took the incense burner and waved it over the knife, then said a prayer over Phurba, spreading his arms wide as if to open himself to it.
A chilling breeze swept through the temple.
Phurba's eyes closed.
The Tulku took a moment to gather himself, then stepped back from the altar. I am no longer in control of Phurba. It is now safe for one of you to try. He looked to Kasha. Kasha.
Kasha stood still for a moment, drawing strength from within. Then, he stepped to the altar and opened his mind as wide as he could. He put his right hand around Phurba and lifted it off the altar.
The same breeze swept through the room, and Kasha suddenly felt something bond with his mind. On an impulse, he held the knife straight out in front of him and released it.
The blade hung in the air, completely under his control.
Kasha looked to a corner.
Phurba moved toward the corner.
Kasha looked to the corner across the room.
Phurba shot toward it as fast as his gaze changed.
Call to it, The Tulku instructed.
Phurba, Kasha called in a commanding tone.
Phurba turned to its master.
Kasha held up his right hand.
Phurba dove into it, handle first.
Excellent, The Tulku praised.
Incredible, Lamont whispered.
The Tulku nodded his approval as Kasha held the blade firmly in his grasp. Replace it on the altar and release control.
Kasha laid Phurba on the altar, then said a prayer.
A chilling breeze passed through the room.
Kasha looked up at The Tulku, amazement in his eyes. Thank you, Tulku, he said. Then, he began to smile broadly, the joy of accomplishment filling his face. I did it. I did it!
Congratulations, Lamont smiled. Then, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves and stepped toward the altar.
The Tulku turned to Lamont. If you do not wish to complete this exercise, I will understand.
No, Lamont said firmly. I have to. It's part of facing my darkness.
Take your time, The Tulku urged. Clear your mind. Open your receptive side as wide as it will go. Focus on the sensations you feel. Filter out what you do not want. Amplify what you do.
Kasha looked annoyed. Once again, Lamont gets favorable treatment, he frowned to himself. The Tulku once more shows favoritism to his prize student, even when it is obvious he is not going to be able to complete the exercise because he is so receptively weak.
The Tulku turned a disapproving gaze to Kasha. Quiet those thoughts, he chastised. You were given your chance to prepare your mind. Lamont deserves his chance to prepare as well.
Lamont let out a long, slow breath. Then, he reached for Phurba.
The Tulku turned to Lamont suddenly. Lamont, no--your mind has not opened enough...
But the warning came too late. Lamont's right hand had already closed around the handle. Quickly, he released the knife.
Phurba's eyes opened wide.
Lamont took a step back from the altar.
Phurba rose straight up in the air.
Lamont backed down the steps, moving to the center of the floor. Tulku...
Phurba dove for Lamont.
Lamont spun out of its way, moving quickly to keep it in front of him. Tulku, who is in control of Phurba?
The Tulku quickly prayed to open himself up to Phurba...and found its simple mind already occupied. Kasha! he said, turning angrily to his young pupil.
Phurba once more shot toward Lamont.
Lamont leapt out of its way, rolling back onto his feet and once more putting it in front of him.
Kasha trembled. Tulku, I am not doing this...
The Tulku looked stern. Your jealousy is. You did not fully release control when you put it back. Those jealous thoughts are what is controlling Phurba now. I should have purified it first. I will have to purify it now. Call to it and try to draw it away.
Kasha took a deep breath. Phurba!
Phurba ignored Kasha and flew toward Lamont.
Lamont ducked, then whirled to keep it in front of him. He wasn't certain how long he would be able to keep this up--he didn't dare move toward the altar while it was this wild for fear of endangering The Tulku and Kasha, and the knife was beginning to drive him toward the walls, seeking to corner him.
Lamont, listen to me, The Tulku called to him. I will have to purify Phurba so that I can regain control of it again. I need a moment to prepare the altar. You must hold your own for as long as possible. Do not let it draw blood or it will not stop until it has killed you.
By now, Phurba was buzzing Lamont even faster than before. Hurry, Tulku, Lamont urged, moving and ducking as fast as he could.
The Tulku took a deep, cleansing breath, then knelt and prayed before the altar.
Phurba buzzed Lamont into a corner and dove for him.
Lamont reached up with both hands and grabbed the handle just as the knife came within striking distance.
Kasha looked on in shock as Lamont held Phurba's sharp tip just an inch from his heart, straining as his muscles pressed outward, pushing with every ounce of strength he could muster. But Phurba could turn hostile force against itself, and it began pushing toward Lamont with equal determination. The pain etched on Lamont's face told of the ferocity of the struggle.
The Tulku laid a dish of herbal powder and a dish of water on the altar, then waved the incense burner across the altar once more. He said another prayer to open himself up again, then picked up a white silk cloth. Lamont, the altar is ready. Use your projective telepathy to force Phurba as far away from yourself as you can, then steer it this way. I will catch it and bring it to the altar for the purification ritual.
Yes, Tulku. Lamont reached inside himself and summoned his energies. The familiar sensation of pressure against his subconscious barriers sought a release, and he pushed it outward with more urgency than ever before.
Phurba flew away from him and clattered to the floor across the room.
Lamont got to his feet. His head was spinning, and his body felt weak. But he had to get Phurba to the altar so it could be purified.
Lamont, this way.
Lamont looked up and saw The Tulku. Quickly, he came over to him. Then, he noticed his hands.
His bloody right hand bore the unmistakable mark of Phurba's razor-sharp teeth. Tulku, it bit me.
Phurba rose up and dove for Lamont again.
The Tulku reached out for Phurba, but it changed course and dove toward Lamont again.
Lamont dove away from The Tulku, desperate to protect his master. He tried to roll away as he hit the floor...
Phurba drove itself into his left side as he did.
Lamont cried out. The pain was unbelievable. And Phurba was twisting, trying to drive deeper...
The Tulku wrapped the white cloth around Phurba and pulled with all his might.
The dagger went dormant as he did so and came right out of Lamont's side.
The Tulku looked at the dagger, then at his student on the floor. Lamont, he said, kneeling beside him.
Lamont looked at The Tulku, fear and defeat in his eyes. Tulku...I failed..., his mind whispered. Then, he closed his eyes and lapsed into unconsciousness.
The Tulku looked shocked. Kasha! Tenzin! he called.
Kasha came over to his master. Tulku, forgive me, he begged. I did not mean for this to happen...
We will talk about this later, The Tulku returned sternly.
Tenzin came into the chamber. Tulku, what do you need? he asked, then spotted the bloody Phurba and Lamont on the floor. Tulku, what happened?
Tenzin, you and Kasha take Lamont to my chamber, The Tulku commanded. I must purify Phurba immediately. It has drawn blood.
Yes, Tulku. He hurried over and helped Kasha lift their fallen comrade, then carried him from the room.
The Tulku laid Phurba on the altar, prayed for strength, then took the bowl of herbal powder and sprinkled a generous portion over the entire knife.
The powder caught fire suddenly, burning away the blood stains and leaving behind angry black scorch marks.
The Tulku took the bowl of water and poured it over the knife.
Steam burst forth from the knife. The black stains vanished.
The Tulku waved incense over the altar and prayed to open himself up again. Then, he reached for Phurba.
A chilling breeze swept through the room, and Marpa Tulku suddenly felt something bond with his mind. He released his grip.
Phurba hung in mid-air, once again under control.
The Tulku sighed with relief, then urged Phurba back into its stand. Then, he summoned the temple's herbalist with his mind and headed for his chamber.
Milarepa, the temple herbalist, placed a wet cloth with a poultice of herbs and tea on Lamont's wounded side and wrapped a heavy sackcloth around his waist to hold it in place. "He may not live through the day," Milarepa told Marpa Tulku. "His wounds are deep. If blood loss does not kill him, infection most likely will."
He must not die, Marpa Tulku said firmly.
"His will to live will decide that more than anything else," Milarepa replied.
The Tulku nodded. And his will is very weak right now. He took the bowl of medicine and the poultice cloths from Milarepa. I will tend to him. Thank you, Milarepa.
Milarepa bowed to The Tulku, then left the chamber.
Marpa Tulku turned to Lamont, covering him with an extra blanket as he shivered. Western doctors called this condition "shock", and it was an appropriate name, for the body was dealing with the shock of an injury by trying to muster its defenses to the site of the injury--which left the rest of the body vulnerable and weak. He wiped the cold sweat from Lamont's brow with a damp cloth and reached out to his mind.
He saw chaos reigning supreme. The projective reservoir was refilling rapidly, and would soon reach overflow stage. All around The Tulku's view, the fear and horror of the incident with Phurba played across his pupil's memories, and began mixing with other images from his past...scenes of war, violence, mayhem, murder. And in the middle, the dark Ying Ko looked eager to escape.
No, this will not do at all, The Tulku decided. He has come too far to let this happen. He said a prayer for strength, serenity, and spirituality...then reached further into Lamont's mind.
The Tulku stood in the midst of a battlefield littered with bodies, surrounded by rampaging savagery. Screams from the victims of a bloody war filled the air. The smell of death and destruction hung in the air like incense.
And then, a chilling laugh echoed all around him.
"If you are trying to frighten me, Lamont, it will not work," The Tulku declared. "I am not afraid of this part of you."
"But he is," a voice returned.
The Tulku looked around...and saw Ying Ko walking toward him.
"You are nothing," The Tulku told the demon. "You are merely a disguise worn when the darkness inside tries to assert control."
"You recognize that," Ying Ko said, smiling. "But he doesn't. I scare him. He's still afraid of me. He's always been afraid of me. He tried to get rid of me, you know. He's tried everything. He went over to Europe, to fight in The Great War, to rid himself of me." Another laugh. "That was a wondrous experience. He didn't realize that we had such a bloodlust. There was something about the sheer power of holding life and death in the strength of your trigger finger that was energizing beyond belief." A wicked chuckle. "We tried co-existing for a while. Europe in the early 20's was spectacular. Days filled with wine, women, and song, not necessarily in that order. But all that chaos in his head was too much for him to handle. But not for me." Another chuckle. "Someone suggested that opium cures all that ails you--or, at least, makes you too numb to care. So we tried it. Oh, the release. All the voices quieted. All the pain disappeared. And, oh, by the way, did you realize that the drug trade is the ultimate example of capitalism in the world? Limited supply, never-ending demand. He who controls the supply can wield power and gain wealth beyond imagination."
"I know all of this, Lamont," The Tulku replied placidly.
Ying Ko looked angry. "Don't call me that."
"I have seen all of this before, Lamont. Your past does not frighten me."
"But it frightens him. You see, he's tried many times to get rid of me. But he's always failed. He fails every time he tries. I knew he'd eventually fail this time, too. And he didn't disappoint me."
"You believe you have failed."
"Of course he does. He let you down. He'd sooner die than disappoint you. And he might just get his wish." A laugh. "My only regret is that he'll end up taking me with him. But it's for the best, really. It's probably the ultimate death ritual for a bloodthirsty barbarian that he die at the hands of a vengeful monk who gave in to his own darkness." A chilling, angry laugh.
The Tulku looked the dark monster in the eye. "Lamont, listen to me. You did not fail."
Ying Ko smiled. "You're talking to the wrong person."
"There is only one of you. The dark creature before me is your own self-hatred and self-pity, and I will have none of that here. Listen to me. You failed neither yourself nor me. By attempting the exercise, you faced your inner darkness with courage and conviction. Phurba is a difficult power to master, and only the most balanced adepts ever do. It is not a failure that you could not do so."
"It is a failure," Ying Ko asserted.
"I have told you from the beginning that you will never be able to rid yourself of your darkness. You must learn to live with it...draw strength from it...use it to push yourself to work harder, reach farther, fight constantly to win your battles."
"Kasha has learned that lesson well, apparently."
"Kasha did not intend to harm you. He feels very badly that he gave in to a moment of weakness. It is difficult to keep dark thoughts away in moments of despair or anger, but you must do so in order to grow. Kasha knows that now. And you do, too."
"He's not listening."
"Yes, you are. You know you are a very powerful telepath. You know your projective strength more than compensates for your receptive weaknesses. You know you have come miles from where you were just seven months ago. You know all of this. Now, you must believe it. You must believe it and reach out to me, or you will die."
Ying Ko looked angry. "You don't mean any of that."
"I have never lied to you, Lamont. And I never will. You must believe that. You must reach out to me." He extended his hand.
Ying Ko took a step back.
The Tulku came closer. "Reach out, Lamont. Push that part of you aside. You have done it before. And you will have to do it again many times in your life. But to have that chance, you must do it now. Reach out, or you will die."
Ying Ko looked frightened, then seemed to change before The Tulku's eyes.
Lamont Cranston reached out and took his master's hand.
The Tulku smiled. "I told you that you would never allow yourself to give in to that darkness again, and that once you had your freedom, you would fight to keep it. I knew that strength was within you. And now you do, too."
Lamont looked at his teacher. "Help me, Tulku. I don't want to die."
The Tulku nodded. "Then you shall not. Open your eyes."
Lamont stirred, then opened his eyes. He could feel his energies surging out of control through his mind, but even that was nothing compared to the fiery pain in his side that threatened to drive him back into unconsciousness. "Tulku," he whispered.
The Tulku wiped his brow. Think to me, Lamont. Your mind is regenerating very quickly, and we will have to harness that building reservoir of energy to get you through this.
Lamont's breathing was raspy and pained. Tulku, it hurts...my whole body is just burning...
I know it is. But you must hold the pain inside. Whatever you do, do not vent your energies. You will need every bit of them. He prepared a fresh poultice cloth. I need to change your dressing. This will hurt. Relax.
Lamont nodded, trying to find a quiet, safe place inside his mind. But the pain and surging energies were making that very difficult.
The Tulku untied the sackcloth and removed the old poultice cloth. The dressing was covered in blood, and the wound was still seeping. The edges of the tri-pointed hole were turning an angry red color, indicating infection was beginning to set in. Gently, he cleaned the wound with a fresh damp cloth.
Lamont gritted his teeth, but still could not help releasing a sharp cry of pain.
Relax, The Tulku urged. I will help you ease the pain in a moment, but you must hold it in for a little longer. He replaced the dressing and rewrapped the sackcloth around his waist.
Lamont was shaking from the pain. Tulku...
The Tulku wiped his pupil's brow once more. Look at me.
Lamont turned his eyes to his master.
For twenty generations, The Marpa Tulku has taught the techniques of tumo summoning--using thought energies to send blood and warmth to injured areas, which eases pain and speeds healing--to his most advanced students. I have never tried it on a wound this severe, nor have I ever seen it tried. But most adepts do not have energy reservoirs as deep as yours is. If anyone can do this, you can.
Lamont nodded. Tell me how.
It will be easier to show you. The Tulku gently put his fingers on Lamont's temples and applied subtle pressure. Relax.
Lamont felt The Tulku's mind sweep into his, then begin to move through his mind and along a path to his injury, stopping just short of the wound. Do you feel the pattern I am tracing? The Tulku asked.
Yes, Lamont replied. Back through my mind, down my back, to my side.
Begin releasing your energies slowly, pushing them through that pattern. Push all the way to the wound.
Lamont concentrated. A slow release of telepathic power trickled down his spine, then moved across the nerves to that aching spot in his side...and it began to ache more. Oh, God...
It will hurt more at first. You must keep pushing your energies to it. Suppress the urge to vent. Keep the release slow and steady.
Lamont concentrated harder. The pain was intense. He gritted his teeth against it, trying not to cry out.
Suddenly, the spot on his side began to tingle. Tulku...I feel it starting to work...
The Tulku's hand went to Lamont's side. Sure enough, heat was coming off the wound. Very good, Lamont. Very good. Keep the release steady. Let yourself feel nothing but the rhythm of the energy release and the warmth it brings. Drain your energies through that pattern until there is nothing left to drain.
Lamont nodded a response, then focused his gaze on a far corner of the room and settled into the summoning.
The Tulku quietly moved away from Lamont's side and placed himself in the lotus position before his altar to pray...a prayer of gratitude for the return of his student, and a prayer for healing for his entire temple.
Hours passed for both Marpa Tulku and Lamont Cranston as each engaged in purification activity--The Tulku in prayer, Lamont deep in a tumo summoning. Every so often, The Tulku would turn to Lamont to make certain he had not fallen asleep or worse, only to feel a steady stream of projective energy rolling through his mind and a healing warmth coming from the poultice on his side. A brief touch to his pupil's psyche revealed a slowly draining reservoir that still had hours of potential energy left in it. The Tulku shook his head and marveled. Another story to add to twenty generations of teachings.
Tulku, Kasha's mental voice called.
The Tulku quickly discerned his grief-stricken successor was standing on the other side of the door. Come in, Kasha, but quietly. Lamont is resting.
Kasha entered the room carrying a small tray of food balanced on a large bowl of fresh water. Milarepa asked me to bring you a fresh bowl of water when I brought your dinner.
Thank you, The Tulku said, taking the tray off the bowl and setting it on the steamer trunk. You cooked this evening, I see.
Kasha nodded. Vegetable stew. It is not quite as good as what Lamont usually makes...
It will be fine. Thank you, Kasha. He took the bowl of water and set it beside the pallet.
Kasha looked to Lamont. Will he live?
I believe so. His will to live is very strong. But he will be very weak for a while.
Kasha knelt before his teacher and bowed his head. Tulku, forgive me, he begged, crying. I did not mean for this to happen...forgive me for my weakness, my jealousy...
The Tulku took Kasha's chin in his hands. Look at me.
Kasha reluctantly looked up.
I forgive you, Kasha. I have no need to punish you any further for your disrespect and disloyalty. You have punished yourself enough. However, when Lamont awakens, you will have to ask his forgiveness as well. He looked stern. I am very disappointed in your jealousy and possessiveness. But I am also very proud of your accomplishments. You were strong enough to take control of Phurba...and weak enough to let your emotions drive it out of your control. But you were strong enough again to understand what you had done wrong...and feel regret for it. You have indeed progressed much in three weeks. Tomorrow, we will begin a new series of lessons to help you grow even more.
Thank you, Tulku. A pause. But what about Lamont? What will he do while you are occupied with me?
Lamont will be in bed for a while, and then kept busy with exercises he can do himself. It will be some time before he is strong enough again for full-time training--two weeks, at least.
What will become of my students? They are at a vulnerable stage of their development right now--already I have neglected afternoon training sessions with them for three weeks...
Tenzin and some of the others will absorb them into their classes. They will not suffer.
Kasha looked shocked. He was being offered at least two weeks of Marpa Tulku's undivided attention...and all he could think of was how others would be affected by that occupation of his master's time. Thank you, Tulku, but I cannot accept your generous offer. My students cannot afford to learn a different teacher's training style at this stage of their development. Lamont needs your undivided attention at this stage of his development. And I need to grow in service to others at this stage of my development.
The Tulku smiled. You have completed lesson number one...a day ahead of schedule.
Kasha realized what he had done. He smiled to himself. I hope I am as wise a teacher as you someday.
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. You are well on your way. He turned to the pallet, where Lamont lay motionless, and knelt next to it. It is time to change this dressing. Kasha, come help me--but quietly.
Kasha knelt next to the pallet. Tulku, his eyes are open...
I know. He is deep in meditation. He is only vaguely aware we are here. Do not disturb him. He pulled back the blankets, then untied the sackcloth around Lamont's waist. Dip one of those cloths in the water and place a coin-sized bit of that medicinal paste on it.
Kasha did so. Like this?
Yes. The Tulku took off the old dressing, then wiped away the remaining medicine-and-blood debris around the wound with a damp cloth. Then, he stopped wiping and stared.
The wound was no longer bleeding and infected. The farthest points on the outer edges were beginning to close. It looked like a two- or three-day old injury, not one that was less than eight hours old.
Kasha looked over his master's shoulder, then gasped. Tulku...the wound...how?
The Tulku smiled in amazement. A tumo summoning.
Kasha looked awed. You truly have great power, Tulku. A tumo that strong on someone else's wound...
The Tulku shook his head. I am not the one generating the tumo.
Kasha drew back. No. That is impossible...
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. Kasha, when I am finished with you, you will believe anything is possible...and nothing is impossible. He took the prepared poultice from his astounded student's hand, gently placed it on Lamont's wound, then rewrapped the sackcloth around his waist again and pulled the covers over him. Then, he wiped Lamont's face with a fresh damp cloth. Lamont...do not stop what you are doing, but tell me how you feel.
It took a moment for Lamont to answer. Tired, he responded. Very tired. But I think it's working...it doesn't hurt as badly as it did.
The Tulku gently patted his student's shoulder. You are doing fine. Keep going. I will not disturb you again.
Kasha moved into Lamont's view. Yes, Lamont?
Next time I make you angry enough to throw something at me, can it be something other than Phurba?
Kasha shook his head. There will not be a next time. I am sorry.
Lamont nodded. I accept your apology, Kasha. Thank you.
Kasha nodded his thanks. Rest easy, Lamont. He bowed to The Tulku, then left.
The Tulku closed the door behind his young student, then knelt before his altar to pray again.
The Tulku turned to the pallet. Yes, Lamont?
Lamont turned his head to the steamer trunk, then took a deep breath, followed by a wince of pain. If you aren't going to eat that...I am a little hungry.
The Tulku smiled. I had hoped you were. I do hate to see good food go to waste. Or even Kasha's cooking.
Lamont's mind let out a ringing laugh.
The Tulku gently propped him up with folded blankets. Save that energy for your tumo. Are you still channeling to your wound?
Good. Do not stop until you are drained.
I feel like I could go on for hours this way. A sigh, then a wince. Or maybe not.
The Tulku retrieved the tray of food and offered Lamont a bite of stew. Food will help. Relax, and let your mind help your body heal. You will need all your strength once you get out of this bed--I intend to push you like you have never been pushed before.
Lamont smiled. I can't wait.
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. Nor can I.
"Tulku...I am drained."
Marpa Tulku looked over at the sound of his pupil's weak, raspy voice. It had been hours since they had last conversed, hours since he had last changed the dressing. He moved to the pallet and reached out his mind to Lamont's.
The vast projective reservoir inside Lamont's mind was completely empty...the first time in seven months The Tulku had seen it this way. Very good, he told his student. How do you feel?
"Exhausted." A sigh. "I can't project. I can barely talk."
This is to be expected when you drain yourself dry. How is your side?
"Sore. But not unbearably so." He looked at The Tulku curiously. "Does that mean it worked?"
The Tulku pulled back the covers, then unwrapped the sackcloth at his waist and removed the dressing. He took a damp cloth and cleaned the wound. Am I hurting you?
"It's tender--like a bad bruise. But no, it doesn't hurt at all like it did earlier." He raised his head and tried to crane his neck enough to see the wound, now even more curious. "Tulku, did it work?"
The Tulku crossed the room to his steamer trunk, then opened it and pulled out a mirror. Normally, I do not approve of mirrors. But they do have their useful moments. He returned to the pallet, then held the mirror next to the wound and angled it so Lamont could see.
Lamont gasped. The wound was completely closed over. It was still red, but a healthier blood-filled red instead of an infected sore. The skin around it showed deep bruising. But it looked like a nearly healed injury instead of one that was nearly fatal just a few hours earlier.
Yes, Lamont, The Tulku responded to the question Lamont could not make himself speak. You did that.
Lamont looked at his master. "Anything is possible...and nothing is impossible."
You are beginning to understand.
Lamont fell back to the small pillow under his head. "I'd ask more questions, but I'm exhausted." Then, he looked to the closed-off portal above the bed and noticed a faint bit of light coming in around it. "It's sunrise," he realized. "I've been here eighteen hours, easily."
And you will stay here while you recover from the tumo. The Tulku tucked the blankets around him. Sleep, Lamont. You need to rest. A tumo is a marvelous healing technique--but a very tiring one as well.
"What about you?" Lamont asked. "Aren't you tired?"
The Tulku smiled placidly. I have been meditating while you have been healing. I am as rejuvenated as you are drained. He patted Lamont's shoulder. Sleep, Lamont Cranston. There will be time for questions and lessons later. Now, you must regenerate your body and your mind. Sleep.
Lamont wanted to argue, but fatigue won the battle. He closed his eyes and was asleep in seconds.
The next time Lamont opened his eyes, it was night again. A small fire in the fireplace provided the only illumination in the chamber. He looked around for a moment and realized he was still in The Tulku's chamber, and Marpa Tulku was still quietly praying and meditating in front of his altar. Tulku.
The Tulku turned to his student and smiled. It is good to hear you thinking again.
Lamont nodded. It's good to be able to think again.
How do you feel?
Stiff. Lamont tried to move, then drew a sharp breath as a stabbing pain came from his side. And sore.
The Tulku moved to the side of the pallet and propped several folded blankets under him to ease him to a semi-upright position. Better?
The Tulku dipped a ladle into a small cauldron that hung over his fire and poured its contents into a cup, then handed the cup to Lamont. Ginseng tea. Drink. It has been over twenty-four hours since you last ate, and this will help re-energize you.
Lamont sipped the tea. Thank you. Then, he pushed back the covers and checked his wound. Nasty bruise.
I can promise you it looks a thousand times better than it did yesterday, The Tulku reminded him.
Oh, I can believe that. He looked at the healing wound in amazement. I did this. I did this.
You most certainly did. The Tulku looked at his pupil. I have seen masters generate tumo summonings on wounds half this size who run out of energy before they are close to this state. What you did was nothing short of amazing. And yet I had no doubt that you would be able to do it.
Lamont sipped his tea and looked thoughtful for a long moment, trying to absorb all that had happened to him in the past two days. Then, he looked at his master. Tulku...a tumo summoning is a form of self-hypnosis, isn't it?
And I believe I have successfully demonstrated that skill.
I would agree.
Hypnotic projection is the next logical step, then, is it not?
The Tulku looked at Lamont for a moment. Do you think you are ready?
Lamont smiled confidently. I know I am.
The Tulku smiled. Exactly what I wanted to hear. The good news is that many of the exercises I will give you to prepare your mind for hypnotic projection can be done while you rest and recover. You are still not ready to return to full-time training, and probably will not be for another week.
And I'll go mad if I don't have something to keep me occupied for that long, Lamont agreed. I think I want to do this in my own chamber, though. Not that I don't appreciate your kindness and the wonderful care you've given me the past two days, Tulku, but...
...but it is time you took charge of your own healing. And I agree. He took the teacup, then helped Lamont to an upright sitting position. Take your time. When you feel ready, I will help you stand.
Lamont took several deep breaths. A dull ache emanated from his side, occasionally becoming sharp and painful. But, he reminded himself, the pain was a good indicator that he was still alive. He nodded to his teacher.
The Tulku stood before him and reached out a hand.
Lamont accepted the helping hand and stood, grimacing in pain and holding his side as he did.
Can you walk to your chamber, or do you need help? The Tulku asked him.
I can do it, Lamont told him. He clutched Marpa Tulku's hand tightly for a moment. Thank you for everything, Tulku. I could not have survived this without you.
You could have, The Tulku responded. But you did not believe you could. And now you know that you can. He opened the door. Walk slowly and carefully. Call if you need help. We will begin anew in the morning.
I can't wait. Lamont bowed his head. Good night, Tulku. You've more than earned your rest.
A placid smile. We all do what we must. There is nothing earned in this lifetime. Sleep well, Lamont.
Thank you, Tulku. He left the chamber.
Marpa Tulku watched his student walk down the hallway and enter his own chamber. The realization that Lamont would be ready to go out on his own once he mastered this last skill began to sink in. A mixture of pride and sadness played across his features for a brief moment. Then, he took a deep breath, closed the door, and began to pray and meditate for the strength he and his pupil would need to accomplish their goals.
For the next week, Lamont Cranston recovered from his injuries in his own chamber, gradually increasing the time he was up and about to rebuild his physical strength and spending at least an hour a day in a tumo summoning to speed the process and rebuild his mental strength. Marpa Tulku kept his end of the bargain, giving Lamont several exercises to begin refining his projective telepathy to a finesse and clarity he had never imagined it could reach. Activity after activity dealt with slow, soft, subtle projections transmitted with ever-increasing strength to penetrate the deepest reaches of a person's subconscious. At first, the exercises were as fatiguing as any physical activity, and the first day, it was all Lamont could do just to get through one of them. But within days, Lamont could make it through all five exercises at the appropriate strength level needed to reach before he could progress further. Now it was just a question of practicing until the techniques were second nature...which they would have to be to proceed to the next phase of hypnotic projection.
As Lamont sat in his chamber one morning, using a candle's flame to stimulate in his own mind the hypnotic relaxation frequencies he would have to be able to recreate and project into someone else's, a knock at the door indicated he had a visitor. A drifting release of projective energies bounced back to him the thought patterns of Tsepon, the junior initiate whose awakening a month ago had revealed he was one of the few projective telepaths in the temple. Come in, Tsepon, Lamont's mind called.
Tsepon opened the door and nodded to Lamont. "Forgive the intrusion, Master Lamont," he said.
Lamont nodded a greeting in return. It felt so odd to be called "master" by a student, especially one who was not much younger than him. "Quite all right, Tsepon. What do you need?"
"Master Kasha requests your presence this afternoon in his class. He is demonstrating psychic defense and wishes to know if you feel strong enough to assist him."
Lamont smiled. An afternoon workout would probably be a welcome release. "Inform Kasha that I would be honored to assist him this afternoon."
"Thank you, Master Lamont," Tsepon nodded. Then, he rubbed his eyes and fell against the doorframe, wincing.
Lamont quickly moved to his aid. "Are you all right?"
Tsepon nodded. "One of my headaches," he said in a pained voice. "It will pass."
Lamont smiled sympathetically. "I used to get those all the time." He took him gently by the arm and led him over to a kneeling pillow. "Here--sit for a minute."
Tsepon sat and looked very embarrassed. "I am sorry, Master Lamont. I am disturbing your meditations..."
"You're not disturbing me. I needed a break anyway." A light smile as he knelt beside the young initiate. "It's hard being a projector in a temple full of receptors, isn't it?"
Tsepon looked even more embarrassed. "Master Kasha does not always understand that my headaches are different than the other students'. The exercises he gives to push out when the pain gets too great do not help me at all...they just make it worse."
"I understand, believe me. I went through three months of this. Did The Tulku show you how to double the pain back on itself to make it collapse?"
Tsepon nodded. "But I cannot seem to do it on my own. I try to pull the pain inward, and it hurts even worse."
"That's your problem. You can't just pull it inward; you have to pull it inward and push down on it so that it collapses. Here, let me show you. Look at me and relax."
Tsepon nodded, then took a deep breath and looked into Lamont's blue-green eyes.
Lamont projected his thoughts to the edge of Tsepon's subconscious barriers. He could easily shoot right through them, but the young man was in enough pain as it was. Tsepon, relax. I'm not going to hurt you...I promise.
Tsepon felt something rippling through his mind, something he had never felt from anyone other than Marpa Tulku. His nervousness lessened, then eased to a calm he had not expected.
Lamont felt the resistance in Tsepon's barriers falling away, then projected in easily. Now he could see the reservoir of energy in Tsepon's mind that needed a release to ease the stress on the containing walls. No wonder it hurts. You need to drain this a little bit. He thought back to the days after his own awakening and tried to remember the steps he'd done to learn this technique, then repeated those steps in Tsepon's mind. Do you feel what I'm doing?
"Yes," he whispered. "Almost a folding motion."
That's what you need to do. Pull all the pain and excess energy inward and then fold it like a cloth. Keep pulling and folding until eventually it collapses. You try.
Tsepon began drawing the pain inward, folding it as he did.
That's it, Lamont encouraged. Keep going.
Tsepon kept folding the pain back on itself until finally something popped, like a bubble.
Lamont nodded his approval. "Feel better now?"
Tsepon looked amazed. "Yes," he realized.
"Think you can do that again?"
Tsepon nodded. "That is not as hard as I thought it was. Thank you, Master Lamont."
Lamont patted his shoulder. "You're welcome." Then, suddenly, it hit him what had just happened, and his jaw dropped. "Tsepon...do you know what I just did?"
Tsepon nodded. "You taught me how to double the pain back on itself to ease my own headaches."
Lamont looked amazed. Tulku! his mind shouted.
Marpa Tulku stepped into the open doorway. Very good, Lamont, he praised.
Both students were on their knees and bowing immediately.
Rise, both of you, The Tulku smiled. Good morning, Tsepon. Is your headache better this morning?
Tsepon nodded. "Yes, Tulku, thank you."
Did Lamont help you?
Did he show you what to do next time?
Excellent. Return to your lessons, Tsepon. Kasha is probably wondering if you got lost on your way back.
"Of course, Tulku. Thank you." He nodded to Lamont, bowed to The Tulku, then left the room.
The Tulku turned to Lamont. Did it even occur to you what you were doing?
Lamont shook his head. I hypnotized him. I hypnotized him to relax him, then guided his thoughts. He looked amazed. And it hardly took any more concentration than it does to converse like this. My God...
The Tulku smiled at his student. One week. In one week you have done this. In twenty generations, it has never taken a student less than three months to master those exercises.
Lamont did not miss the amazement in The Tulku's mental voice. He looked over at him and smiled knowingly. The twentieth Marpa Tulku has never had a student advance this far.
Something else occurred to Lamont. So you told Kasha to send Tsepon here...
...because you needed to be able to perform your new skills by reflex reaction to show your mastery. I had no doubt you could do it. But I needed you to realize that you could.
Lamont shook his head and smiled. Anything is possible...
...and nothing is impossible.
Lamont looked eager. What's next?
More practice. I have many other exercises for you to use to sharpen your hypnotic skills, including some defensive techniques using self-hypnosis. You should be able to master those in no time. And then, as with your other projective skills, you will have to get as proficient with handling non-adepts as you are becoming with adepts. A smile. I anticipate that will take you a week at most.
A mysterious smile. I believe you know what comes next. A more stern expression. But you are not ready to try that yet. There are ways you will have to grow before you will be able to move to that level. Do not get ahead of yourself. Learn today's lesson before you move to tomorrow's.
Lamont nodded respectfully. Yes, Tulku.
The bell for the midday meal rang. Ah, good, the midday meal. I believe you promised Kasha you would assist him in psychic defense demonstrations this afternoon. Do you feel up to that?
Lamont smiled broadly. I've been waiting a week to get back to that kind of exercise.
The Tulku nodded his approval. Kasha has been eager as well. He has been practicing.
Good. I could use the workout.
The Tulku raised an eyebrow. Such arrogance.
Lamont shook his head. This is confidence, not arrogance.
A pleased smile. A confidence that has been missing since your injury. It is good to see it again. He turned to go. Come--the midday meal awaits.
Teacher and pupil left the chamber together.
For the better part of the next two weeks, Marpa Tulku pushed Lamont Cranston through hypnotic exercise after hypnotic exercise, sharpening and refining his skills to a level of sophistication The Tulku had rarely seen in twenty generations. Lamont's eagerness to learn thrilled his teacher--no matter how hard The Tulku pushed him, Lamont always rose to the challenge, always wanted to try again when he failed, always wanted more when he succeeded. It was as if he could not learn fast enough. Guiding junior initiates' thoughts? Child's play. Wordless exchanges at the market, where the merchant had no idea why he was preparing four bags of millet and five bags of rice for the approaching customer? Embarrassingly easy. Hypnotizing himself into a coma so deep an observer would swear he was dead? No harder than solving one of the many mental puzzles he'd been given in his early days in the temple to strengthen his control. The Tulku found it more and more difficult to conceal his amazement as his student kept growing and learning faster than any he had ever taught before.
It is often said that the best teachers learn as much as they teach, and Marpa Tulku was learning daily from watching Lamont's excitement about his growing successes. Now, he understood why they had been brought together--not only to subdue the evil Butcher Of Lhasa and harness his powers for good, but also to rejuvenate the desire for learning in The Temple Of The Cobras. In the two years since the twentieth Marpa Tulku's ascension, not one student had progressed beyond the barest minimum skills required to become a senior initiate...until Lamont Cranston came through and completely shattered The Tulku's preconceived notions of how long training should take. Suddenly, in less than eight months, Kasha had mastered Phurba, Tenzin had finally learned sound projection and was well on his way to mastering psychic defense, many of the senior initiates were pushing each other as hard as they pushed their students, several junior initiates were on the verge of breakthroughs...
...and Lamont Cranston was ready to tackle hypnotic mind clouding.
Not quite a month after his encounter with Phurba, Lamont was back in the swing of his full range of duties and exercises. One of them was a daily trip to the market to strengthen his projective powers--and now, his hypnotic ones as well. So, he returned from this morning's trip to the market with a load of fresh vegetables and a small pouch from the messenger service. Dorjee was too small to have a real post office, so once a week a messenger would go to Lhasa and retrieve any mail for the residents of the area and drop off any mail to be sent out. The Tulku had sent Lamont down with a letter to go out this morning and instructed him to pick up the incoming mail--without a single spoken word, of course.
Good morning, Lamont, The Tulku greeted.
Lamont looked up from unloading vegetables and quickly knelt and bowed. Good morning, Tulku.
Rise. How was the market this morning?
Crowded. Many foreigners. He rubbed his temples. A lot of extra voices to filter out of my head.
It is the beginning of the pilgrimage season. The market will be busy for several months now.
Ah, yes. I remember. He grimaced slightly at the memory. Ying Ko spent most of this time of year making new deals and dealing with old business partners.
Many pilgrims come through here on many pilgrimages. Did you drop off my message?
Yes. He untied the mail pouch from his waist and handed it to The Tulku.
Thank you. The Tulku opened the pouch and pulled out several letters. He opened one and frowned.
Lamont noticed. Something wrong, Tulku?
The Tulku sighed. Some pilgrims want more than just a spiritual experience.
Lamont looked confused. I don't understand.
For some reason, Americans are fascinated with Oriental artifacts. Yet another letter from an American collector who is coming here to see the treasures of the Tibetan temples.
To this place?
The Tulku nodded. It is not all that unusual. This is one of the temples that Westerners rarely see because most of them do not know it exists. But occasionally, one will find out about this place from an art dealer or a resident of the area and come here in an attempt to convince me to sell them something from my 'collection'. As if I could put monetary value on the spiritual items here. He dismissed his moment of anger. I have several days before the next delivery is made to Lhasa to compose my response, though I doubt it will dissuade them from coming. So, let us put unpleasantness aside for now. Are you becoming comfortable with your hypnotic skills?
Lamont nodded. So comfortable I hardly think twice about using them any more.
Excellent. Do you think you are ready to progress to the next step?
I know I am.
Then finish unloading your vegetables and come out to the main chamber...because I intend to push you until you drop.
Lamont smiled eagerly. Nothing I'd rather do.
When Lamont came into the main chamber, he found Marpa Tulku meditating on the altar...and a brightly-burning candle on the floor. He knelt and bowed to his master.
Rise. What do you see on the floor?
Lamont stood, then looked to the candle. A lit candle.
The candle shimmered, then vanished from view. What do you see now?
Is the candle gone?
No. It's still there. But you've clouded my mind to make me think it's not.
And how did I do that?
Lamont nodded to himself. This was a test to see if he understood the concepts of hypnotic telepathy as they applied to mind clouding. You planted a hypnotic suggestion in my mind that the candle is not there. Thus, my mind will not process the visual image of the candle that my eyes send to it.
So, in other words, I have planted a thought in your head that the candle is not there.
The Tulku smiled. You have much to learn.
Lamont looked surprised. He thought he'd gotten that part of it right, at least. What did I miss?
If the candle is still there, pick it up.
Lamont tried to remember exactly where the candle had been, then cautiously reached down to make certain he didn't put his hand in the flame... Wait a minute, Lamont suddenly realized. There's no heat. On a hunch, he smacked his hand down where the candle should have been...and slapped the floor. He turned to The Tulku and smiled wryly. Clever. Very clever. The candle was never there at all. And I fell for the suggestion that there was something to see.
You learn very quickly. The Tulku stood up and proceeded down the steps to stand before his pupil. Mind clouding is not about making items appear and disappear. It is about reshaping the stream of conscious thought around yourself so dramatically that people will believe anything their minds are telling them, no matter how preposterous. It is how a barbarian can miss seeing a whole temple, even when prayer flags line the road. It is how a man can appear to be right next to you... Suddenly, The Tulku vanished, then reappeared across the room. ...and suddenly move far away... He disappeared again, then reappeared back on the altar. ...and never have moved an inch to begin with.
Lamont nodded, impressed with the demonstration. You're very skilled, obviously. And twenty generations of practice have definitely helped. How does one learn to do this?
One starts by removing all preconceived notions from his mind.
Lamont nodded. Point taken.
Mind clouding does involve hypnotic projective telepathy. You did get that part correct. But it is far more subtle than any hypnotism you have learned yet.
In what way?
The Tulku smiled. A simple demonstration as explanation. He gestured to the floor. Sit.
Lamont took a seat on the floor.
The Tulku took a candle off the altar, lit it, then walked over to Lamont and placed it on the floor in front of him. This is really a candle. I will understand if you wish to verify its existence.
Lamont reached out to feel the heat coming off the flame, touch the melting wax, and tap the brass holder to hear its ring. Just trying to make certain I can trust my other senses.
I would have been disappointed if you had not. The Tulku sat opposite his eager student. Do you see the candle?
It is absolutely clear in your mind?
The candle shimmered and vanished. Where did it go?
Lamont put his hand up to feel the heat. It's still there. But my mind is clouded to it.
I planted a hypnotic suggestion that the candle is gone. Therefore, you cannot see it.
Lamont nodded. That part I understand.
Good. Many students have trouble grasping that concept. A mysterious smile. Now that you know I have planted the suggestion, make the candle reappear. Sweep the suggestion out of your mind.
Lamont concentrated, trying to find the thought to wrap his projective energies around so that he could sweep it out of his mind. But the thought kept eluding his grasp. He frowned.
Is something wrong, Lamont?
Lamont looked annoyed. I can't find the thought.
Of course not.
Now Lamont was curious. Why? Why am I having trouble with this?
Do you believe the candle is gone?
Of course not. Intellectually, I understand it's just a hypnotic suggestion.
Then why can you not see the candle? Clearly, you know it is there. And you know you are being hypnotized. So why can you not just overrule the suggestion?
Lamont nodded, now understanding. Because the suggestion is too subtle to pick out as a single thought.
This is why I have had you practicing more and more complex hypnotic suggestions, sharpening your skills to minute levels of detail. No matter how strong the clouding fog you blow into someone's mind is, the suggestion you leave behind must be able to work its way so deeply into the mind that a single thought cannot eliminate it.
Lamont looked at The Tulku. So, how do I undo your subtle suggestion?
The Tulku raised an eyebrow. You are eager.
Lamont looked him in the eye. I have been dying to know how to do this since the day your men dragged me up here and a temple appeared out of nowhere. Teach me, Tulku. I want to learn.
The Tulku smiled. Such desire. It has been years since a student has been so driven to learn. He stood up and walked back to his altar, then took a seat. In many ways, you have a distinct advantage over most students who have attempted to learn this. Your projective side is very strong. That means you only need to learn the hypnotic aspects; the projective ones come naturally to you, and you can project stronger and more varied suggestions much easier than a receptor can. But it also makes you more vulnerable than most of my students, because your receptive side is so much weaker. Once someone penetrates your defenses, your mind is very easily clouded because your receptive side is not as quick to recognize that someone is planting thoughts into your mind.
Lamont looked up at his master. So undoing a mind clouding suggestion is a receptive skill?
A receptive skill that requires projective power. This is what makes them difficult to undo.
Lamont looked thoughtful. So how is it that I was able to see you when I pushed you out of my mind the night I broke through? I know I wasn't being very receptive that night.
You did not actually break my clouding suggestion. I dropped it because you projected with such force that it startled me and broke my concentration.
Lamont nodded. I see. So, in order for me to see the candle again, I have to open my receptive side to actually hear the clouding suggestion?
That is correct.
O.K. Lamont took a deep breath, then cleared his mind. Focus on the sensations. Filter out what I don't want. Amplify what I do.
Lamont cleared his mind once more and tried to focus on mental images that did not seem to belong. In the back of his mind, there was a vague tickling sensation.
Focus. Filter. Amplify.
The tickling sensation became more distinct. A whisper, like wind through tall grass, became psychically audible.
Focus. Filter. Amplify.
The tickling was now a swirling sensation. The whisper grew louder.
Focus. Filter. Amplify.
The swirling became a thin, twisting ribbon of thought energy. The words you do not see the candle became clear. Lamont wrapped a wave of projective energy around the suggestion and forced it outward.
The candle shimmered into view again.
Very good, The Tulku praised.
Lamont smiled. I half expected you to shove that suggestion back into my mind when I started pushing it.
And I was hoping it would be a surprise. A whirling projectile of psychic energy knocked Lamont over backward.
Lamont cursed himself for dropping his guard. I knew this had been too easy. He pressed his mind outward and sat up slowly. The whirling sensation in his head began to move away.
You have a tendency to forget what you are being trained to do. The Tulku pushed harder.
I haven't forgotten. I'm being trained to fight with every weapon at my disposal. Lamont got to his feet and pressed his thoughts harder than ever, and the whirling sensation retreated again.
You have gotten stronger. A month ago, you would have buckled by now after having expended the energy to open your receptive side. The Tulku doubled the strength of the projection he was driving at Lamont.
There's something to be said for learning subtlety. Lamont doubled his own output, and the incoming projection retreated slightly.
I do have one distinct advantage over you, however. Yet another increase in the projection.
And that is? Another matching increase, another slight retreat.
I can hypnotize you.
Lamont felt himself slam into the ground, pinned by a projection so strong he could not overcome it. He concentrated one last strong thought, and a burst of energy shot out of his mind.
Now you are out of energy. And you are still on the floor, exactly where I want you to be.
Lamont tried to sit up and realized he was still pinned to the ground. He concentrated, trying to find enough mental energy to project his thoughts to his master. Now I understand. It's not the strength of the projection that pins me to the ground, but a hypnotic suggestion that clouds my mind into believing I can't get up.
Precisely. I take your last burst of energy as a signal that you are too tired to continue the exercise and drop the suggestion so that you can get up...
...when what I should really be doing is using that energy to find the hypnotic suggestion and force it out.
You are becoming quite perceptive.
Lamont felt the suggestion vanish, and he could move again. He sat up and looked at The Tulku. That's what you meant when you kept telling me that was a lesson I wasn't yet ready for. I really thought there was some projective strength lesson I hadn't been taught yet.
Lamont nodded knowingly. And that is that I will never be able to do that to you because no one can cloud your mind.
The Tulku gave him that mysterious smile again. You hardly need me any more. He gestured to the candle. Take a short rest. Meditate and restore your energies. Your next exercise will be to make the candle disappear, and you will need all your strength and subtlety for that.
Lamont looked confused. How will I know if I've succeeded? I can't cloud your mind, and I won't be clouding mine, obviously.
The Tulku gave a pleased smile. You are the first student who has ever asked that. Most students sit for hours and stare at the candle, trying to project, then ask if me if I can still see it before they realize they are approaching the exercise the wrong way. To answer your question, it is true that you will be clouding neither my mind nor yours. However, I will be able to tell when you have projected with enough strength and subtlety to have clouded someone's mind to the candle's presence. He stood up. I have another lesson to conduct this morning. Use the time to regain your strength. When I return, we can begin the exercise.
Lamont knelt and bowed. Thank you, Tulku.
The Tulku looked stern. You will not be so grateful when I am finished with you today.
Lamont gave a confident smile. Oh, yes, I will.
Your confidence pleases me. I can guarantee you will need every bit of it to master this skill. With that, The Tulku left the chamber.
Slightly more than an hour later, Marpa Tulku returned to the chamber to find Lamont staring at the candle's flame, deep in a meditative trance, seemingly unaware that anyone had come into the room. He gave a glance to the altar.
Phurba rose up out of its holder.
The Tulku looked directly at his hypnotized pupil.
Phurba shot across the room.
Lamont rolled away and was on his feet instantly, concentrating a spinning wave of projective energy toward Marpa Tulku.
The force with which Lamont responded startled The Tulku, who took a step backward.
Phurba immediately changed course and moved to protect its master.
The Tulku held up his right hand.
Phurba obediently leapt into it, handle first.
The Tulku turned to Lamont and smiled. Impressive.
Lamont gathered himself, then nodded his thanks. Americans have a saying--fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I'm learning not to fall for the same trick twice.
The Tulku released Phurba, and it drifted back to its stand. Your senses must always be that alert. Your enemies will not give you a second chance to learn their strategies.
Lamont nodded. Yes, Tulku.
The Tulku gestured to the floor.
Lamont took a seat, and was joined by his master sitting across from him. This morning, you received your first lesson in the techniques of mind clouding, The Tulku told him. Are you ready to try it yourself?
Lamont nodded. I am.
Good. The Tulku pointed to the candle. This morning, you removed the mind clouding suggestion that made the candle invisible to you. Now, recreate that suggestion and make the candle invisible again.
Lamont took a deep breath, then focused his gaze on the candle. His mind began to repeat the phrase you do not see the candle over and over again in a slow, steady projection.
Not subtle enough.
Lamont nodded and tried to reduce the volume of his outgoing thoughts.
Still not subtle enough.
Lamont looked at his teacher. If I reduce the volume any more, I won't be projecting at all.
Then you will need to alter your approach.
O.K. Lamont took another deep breath, then rethought his strategy. He began projecting the phrase again, in as low a frequency as he could create while pushing outward.
The subtlety is there, but the strength is lacking.
Lamont raised the projection strength slightly.
Now you have lost the subtlety.
Lamont stopped projecting and frowned. You'd think I could figure this out.
Perhaps we should try again after the midday meal.
Lamont shook his head. I want to keep going.
Frustrating yourself will not make you learn this faster.
Giving up is unacceptable. You've told me that for months now. He focused his gaze on the candle and once more began the projection.
Not subtle enough.
Lamont reduced the strength of the projection.
Almost subtle enough, but the strength is too low.
Lamont tried to raise the strength of the projection and maintain the low frequency of the thought itself.
Lamont got angry with himself and smacked the ground hard. Why can't I make myself do this?
Because you are frustrated. Walk away for a short time, and we will try again after the meal. The Tulku got up to leave the room.
The Tulku looked down at his student. Yes, Lamont?
Lamont looked up. Show me how.
The Tulku raised an eyebrow. You are asking me to guide you through this exercise when I have specifically said I wanted you to do it?
Lamont met his instructor's gaze. That is exactly what I am asking for. He then smiled. And I just learned this morning's lesson, didn't I?
You did indeed. The Tulku smiled placidly. It is all well and good to be independent and driven to succeed. And perfectionism is an admirable goal. But even the strongest of men need help at times. And the ultimate aim of any training session is to learn, not to succeed on the first try. He reached out a hand to Lamont. Rise.
Lamont accepted the hand and stood up.
There are times I believe I have taught you too well, The Tulku observed. You have learned how to drive yourself to constantly improve, and you understand the reward of hard work when lessons become clear later. But rest and rejuvenation are just as important as hard work, Lamont. It does no good to drive yourself past the breaking point if you cannot continue afterward.
Lamont nodded. When I grow up, I want to be as wise as you.
The Tulku smiled. You are well on your way.
True to his word, Marpa Tulku sat down with Lamont Cranston and guided his thoughts through generating the frequencies and strengths needed for a simple mind clouding instruction, then gave him exercises to use to duplicate that level of strength and projective volume on his own. It took several days, but Lamont slowly got proficient at generating the clouding suggestion, and within two weeks had learned how to make stationary objects disappear at will. The Tulku encouraged him to practice in his time away from lessons, and so whatever junior initiate had been designated to clean the kitchen would often find the broom or water bucket or hearth brush missing for several minutes while Lamont supervised their activities.
Next came an extensive series of exercises in visualization skills, designed to facilitate mind clouding to create an object instead of removing it from view. Lamont found creating an object harder than vanishing one, so The Tulku worked him constantly, refining the clarity of his mental pictures. Three weeks later, junior initiates were finding duplicate brooms, water buckets, and hearth brushes in the kitchen while Lamont supervised and fought to keep amusement out of his expression and thoughts.
Next came a series of exercises to extend the reach of projected hypnotic suggestions, casting a clouding suggestion in ever-widening circles without diluting its strength. The Tulku pushed his pupil to reach his mind farther and farther every day, to feel the stream of conscious thoughts around him, to begin to move with it, use it to carry his mind to places it had never reached before. It was this stream that Lamont would have to learn to manipulate to the point where he could change its very path, and Lamont was slowly learning to reach into it and allow it to carry his suggestions along to help strengthen his projections. Within weeks, Lamont could fill a room with a simple hypnotic projection, to the point where anyone entering the room was blanketed with the suggestion and drawn into the illusion.
The Tulku observed his pupil's enthusiasm growing as he kept increasing his proficiency with mind clouding commands...and the confidence mixed with arrogance that success brought with it. Lamont had learned much in just over two months of time. But the next step would require him to grow in a way that he had not done so far...and to face the darkness that he feared with every fiber of his being.
I believe you are having entirely too much fun at the expense of the junior initiates, The Tulku observed from the doorway of the kitchen one afternoon as Bogh reached for the water bucket and had it disappear on him for the third time in an hour.
You did tell me to practice, Lamont reminded him, restoring the bucket as Bogh turned his back. And Tenzin has been trying to teach Bogh to be less prone to distractions.
You have a cruel streak, Lamont Cranston.
That got Lamont's attention. He turned to the doorway and bowed respectfully. You're right. I'm sorry, Tulku...
I am not the one you have been cruel to.
Lamont nodded, then turned to Bogh. "Bogh."
The junior initiate looked up at him. "Yes, Master Lamont?"
He took a deep breath. "I am sorry, Bogh. I have been distracting you from your chores by making you think the bucket is not where it really is. That is being cruel, and I apologize."
Bogh looked confused. It was part of the lot of a junior initiate to be taught lessons by seniors in a fashion that occasionally resembled cruelty or arrogance. "You are admitting a fault, Master Lamont?"
Lamont nodded. "I'm not perfect. And I never will be, no matter how much I wish I were." He looked away. "Forgive me for distracting you."
Bogh still looked confused, but nodded an acknowledgment. "Of course, Master Lamont. I do not understand, but I am certain there is a lesson in this somewhere." He returned to scrubbing the floor.
Lamont turned to The Tulku and bowed respectfully once more. I have failed. I let success and newfound power create arrogance.
The Tulku sighed. Come with me, Lamont. He left for the main chamber.
Lamont followed, fully expecting a severe punishment. Once more, his dark side had emerged, defying his efforts to keep it down and keep it under control. Ten months after being dragged here by armed guards, he was in many ways just as barbaric and cruel as he had been that first day.
Marpa Tulku took his traditional seat on the altar. He looked perfectly calm and inscrutable. Not for the first time, Lamont wished he could find that kind of peace inside himself instead of the never-ending lake of darkness that he always saw when he turned his thoughts inward. He stood expectantly in the middle of the room, awaiting whatever punishment The Tulku had in store for him.
The Tulku sat quietly, gathering his own inner peace, letting the silence speak volumes. Then, he looked over at Lamont. Do you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, Lamont Cranston?
The question caught Lamont off-guard. I don't follow.
I used to ask you that all the time. Do you remember?
Lamont remembered. Sometimes, all too clearly.
Do you remember what your answer was?
Lamont nodded. I usually said that wasn't my name.
Quite defiantly, often with English expletives sprinkled liberally through the denial. But you never would actually answer the question. So, answer me now. Do you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, Lamont Cranston?
Lamont sighed mentally. No, of course not.
Then why do you do it?
Lamont looked frustrated. I don't know.
Do not lie. I do not tolerate lying from my initiates.
Lamont bowed his head. I'm sorry...
Nor do I tolerate self-pity. Look at me.
Lamont looked up.
You are still not facing your past. You are still trying to hide from it, bury it under hard work, build your self-confidence so high that the darkness cannot reach you. But it comes out in ways you do not expect--sharp retorts, cruel tricks, aggressive behavior during an exercise. And then you spend hours and days punishing yourself harder than I would ever punish you, letting your darkness get the best of you yet again. So, the only conclusion I can draw is that you do enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, because you do it so frequently. He looked stern. You think I cannot see how hard you struggle with yourself in the depths of the night, blaming yourself for some imperfection that you dared to show because you were a human being with human foibles, human emotions, human limitations.
Lamont's thoughts scattered into complete chaos. The Tulku could cut to his very core faster than anyone he had ever known, and after months of training, he could not believe he still felt so frightened of his own darkness. Tulku... He groped for words for a minute, then finally tried projecting again. Do you have any idea what it's like to have done things you can never forgive yourself for? Do you have any idea what it's like to close your eyes at night and know that you're going to see your deeds splashed across your memories whenever you've let your arrogance, or anger, or cruelty bubble back up to the surface that day? Tulku, I live every day with the knowledge that I committed unspeakable horrors. I committed them. For all the times I talk about Ying Ko as if he were another person, he isn't. Ying Ko didn't do those things. Lamont Cranston did. So don't talk to me about not facing my past, not dealing with my deeds. Those memories aren't in your mind. That darkness isn't in your heart.
The Tulku gave him a calm, placid look. You are angry.
A derisive laugh. Impressive. Did you read my mind to figure that out? Or am I projecting loud enough for the whole temple to hear?
Who are you angry with, Lamont? Me? Or yourself?
Lamont paced the room as if he were a caged animal and looked as if he were about to explode with rage, then bit it back hard before projecting again. I am just so tired of all of it. I have fought so hard to learn to control my temper, my anger, my darkness, and then I get lectured by you that I'm being cruel, and all of it just starts spiraling out of control inside me to the point that I just want to...
Lamont stopped pacing and stared at The Tulku.
The Tulku rose from the altar and walked up to his pupil. Reach, Lamont. Reach into the stream of conscious thought higher and farther than you have ever reached. Make yourself disappear.
Lamont tried to calm his thoughts, to find that mind clouding subtlety. All the anger still swirling within him, bubbling like a boiling cauldron, made it difficult to find the calm he needed.
Do not vent those dark energies within you. Use them. Reach.
Lamont began projecting...sweeping, subtle words carried on a tightly spinning ribbon of thought energy, spiraling outward in ever-increasing circles.
Thoughts began swirling around him, like a rushing stream. The strong current threatened to engulf him.
Push into the stream. Shape it to your will.
The swirls around him became more pronounced, trying to drag him underneath the current.
Reach up. Pull yourself out of the undertow. Push the thoughts away from you.
Fog filled the room, seeming to be all around him.
Push, Lamont. You are almost there.
Suddenly, the vortex of psychic energy Lamont was building collapsed on top of him. He fell to the ground, gasping for breath, completely exhausted, and held his head, rocking back and forth as if in great pain.
Lamont, if you vent all that energy inside you right now, this lesson is over.
I'm not venting, Lamont replied. I'm trying to hold it in. He tried to stand, but could barely raise himself on one knee. I was so close...I felt the fog all around me...
The Tulku extended a hand.
Lamont took it and forced himself to stand.
Lamont once more found the mind clouding subtlety and began projecting his suggestion outward again, spiraling it stronger and faster than ever.
The consciousness stream swept around him once more.
Push into the stream. Shape it to your will.
The stream began to swirl around him.
Reach up. Pull yourself above it. Push the thoughts away from you.
Fog filled the room once more. But this time, he felt it pouring out of him.
Project, Lamont. Reach farther. Push.
With a loud crack, like lightning on a hot summer day, the consciousness stream split. And Lamont found himself standing in the empty middle, with two separate streams flowing on either side of him. He stared at The Tulku, shock etched on his face.
Marpa Tulku simply stared back at his pupil for a long moment. Then, he moved across the room, so that Lamont stood between himself and the doorway. Kasha!
One side of the stream rippled. Lamont held his thoughts silent, letting nothing pass through his mind except the tightly-spinning ribbon of thought energy that he was projecting.
The ripples increased as Kasha came into the main chamber...and walked right past Lamont as if he were not even there. What is it, Tulku? he asked, bowing and kneeling.
Rise, The Tulku ordered. Have you seen Lamont?
Kasha looked confused. I thought he had a lesson with you this afternoon, Tulku.
The Tulku looked stern. Do you see him in here?
Kasha shook his head. No, Tulku...I am sorry. That was disrespectful of me. I have not seen him since he went to supervise Bogh in the kitchen after the midday meal.
Lamont covered his mouth with his hand. He had done it.
The Tulku looked concerned. I am worried that he may be ill. He seemed rather out of sorts with me earlier.
Kasha looked around for a moment. I can feel his mind, Tulku. He is in the temple somewhere, and in very deep concentration. Perhaps he has gone to his chambers and is generating a tumo summoning to rid himself of whatever illness you detected earlier. I can check...
Yes, Kasha, do that.
Of course, Tulku. He bowed and knelt, then left.
As soon as the ripples from Kasha faded from the consciousness stream, Lamont felt himself run out of energy. He collapsed to the floor, and a swirling fog seemed to whisk out of the room as he did.
The Tulku knelt beside him quickly, helping him to a sitting position. Well done.
Lamont gasped for breath. His heart was pounding as if he'd run a marathon, his muscles felt like jelly, and his psyche was absolutely drained dry. But he had to ask the question burning in his mind. "He wasn't...just being nice...was he?" he whispered weakly.
The Tulku smiled. He could not see you. If you had been able to hold it all day, he would never have found you. His mind was clouded to your presence.
Lamont covered his mouth with his hand once more. A mixture of shock and joy spread across his face. "I did it," he whispered. "I did it!"
You most certainly did.
Lamont looked at his master, suddenly remembering the raging anger. "Tulku, forgive me," he whispered, bowing his head. "I lashed out at you unfairly..."
The Tulku took his chin and turned his face toward him. I told you that you are never to apologize for achieving a breakthrough. Do you realize what you have done?
Lamont felt himself shaking. "I...I used the darkness inside me," he realized. "I felt it bubbling up inside me, and I took control over it and used it to reach farther, push harder..." Tears began to well up in his eyes, and he tried to force them back. "It bubbled up inside me and I took control. My God...for the first time in my life, I had control of it--it didn't have control of me! Oh, my God..." He clenched a fist to his mouth, trying to press the building emotions back inside him. "I'm sorry, Tulku--I know this is disrespectful. I'm trying to get control over this..."
Never apologize for achieving a breakthrough, Lamont. Let it out.
The tears burst forth. Lamont held his face in his hands, crying with every remaining ounce of his strength, letting joy, sorrow, and pain flow as freely as the tears from his eyes. Never in his life had he felt such a release. He could not remember the last time he'd cried, not at all. Which, he decided as the tears kept flowing, probably meant it had been far too long.
So enveloped in his own emotions was Lamont that he did not notice Marpa Tulku had left the room...until he returned, bearing a cup of tea and a towel. You needed that release, The Tulku observed, kneeling beside his pupil again.
Lamont nodded, trying to gather himself.
Take your time. The Tulku handed him the towel. I believe you have successfully learned today's lessons.
Lamont dried his face and hands with the towel, then took a moment and gathered the mental energies he could feel starting to pour back into his internal reservoir. I guess I did, didn't I?
Ah, good, your mind is regenerating. This time tomorrow, you should be ready to try again. He handed him the cup of tea. Your endurance leaves much to be desired.
Lamont sipped his tea and smiled slyly. I believe I've just been challenged.
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. And you have never failed to rise to a challenge.
If Marpa Tulku thought Lamont Cranston was an eager student before learning hypnotic mind clouding, his definition of eager needed adjustment. Lamont became an absolutely voracious student after his breakthrough--there were never enough opportunities to practice, never enough lessons to learn, never enough exercises to try. The only limitations were physical and psychic endurance, and both of those limitations were rapidly dwindling as he became more and more proficient with his new skills. Within a week, he could hold the suggestion for a half-hour at a time. Within two weeks, he could walk around the temple unseen for almost an hour. Within three weeks, he could do limited strenuous physical exercises while still holding the suggestion for almost a half-hour. And within four weeks, he had begun daily trips to the market to disappear for short stretches among the non-adepts to build his psychic endurance.
The Tulku watched Lamont's progress with a mixture of pride and sorrow...tremendous pride in what his once-reluctant student had accomplished, and tremendous sorrow that the rapid progress meant their time together was nearing its end. He prayed nearly constantly, asking for the wisdom to know when it would be time to send his pupil out on his own--and the strength to let him go.
You sent for me, Tulku? Lamont asked as he rounded the corner into the pantry one morning.
The Tulku turned to him. Yes, I did. I have an assignment for you. He looked expectantly into the hallway.
Moments later, his expectations were rewarded when Sato entered the kitchen, wearing senior initiate robes. He bowed and knelt before The Tulku.
Rise, The Tulku instructed. Good morning, Sato.
Sato took a deep breath, then answered. Good morning, Tulku. Good morning, Master Lamont.
Lamont beamed. I believe you can drop the 'master' now, Sato. Congratulations! When did this happen?
Sato smiled nervously. Late last night. I had a nightmare and cried out with my mind. The Tulku heard me and told me to do it again. I did. I can hardly believe it. It is so different...so new to communicate this way...
You'll be surprised how quickly you get used to it. Lamont turned to The Tulku. I suppose you won't need me to go to the market this morning.
The Tulku gave him that mysterious smile. Actually, I will. But not in your usual capacity. He turned to Sato. It is the responsibility of the newest senior initiate to go to the market when required. It teaches discipline and social interaction skills. This will be one of your duties, Sato. But, since it is your first time away from the temple since your arrival, Lamont will go with you to make certain you have no problems. He turned to Lamont. Lamont, you are not to help in any way unless Sato has a serious problem. You are not to lift bags, or deal with merchants, or anything of the sort. You are to simply there to supervise him and make certain he performs his duties correctly.
Lamont smiled knowingly. You want me to shadow his every move.
The Tulku nodded. They had managed to keep Lamont's new abilities secret from the other senior initiates for a month now as preparation for his life among non-adepts, where his abilities would have to be concealed in order to accomplish his mission most effectively. This meant the use of code phrases or misdirected words in front of other initiates. I trust you will have no difficulty with your assignment.
Lamont fought to hide his eagerness. This would be a real test of his abilities, and he could think of nothing he'd rather spend his morning doing. Looking forward to it.
Good. Sato, look at me.
Sato looked at The Tulku.
The Tulku swept into Sato's mind, then swept out again.
Sato looked amazed. There is a market list in my head, he said. How did it get there? I did not hear you saying anything, Tulku...
The Tulku smiled. That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you must learn first. He handed Sato a pouch of money and a mail bag. Make certain to drop these at the messenger shop and pick up the return mail. Be back in three hours.
Both initiates bowed to The Tulku and departed.
Sato could not help but wonder as he loaded yet another bag of grain onto the wagon where Lamont could possibly be hiding. They had arrived at the market not quite an hour ago, but the next time Sato turned around after hitching the horses outside the messenger shop, Lamont was gone. He had the distinct feeling he was being watched like a hawk, but he had not seen even a trace of his fellow initiate in almost an hour. Several of the merchants had commented that this was the first time in months that The Temple Of The Cobras had sent someone other than "that Westerner" to the market, but none of them had seen Lamont, either. He hoped Lamont would show up soon, because the clouds overhead that had been thick to begin with were really starting to look dark, and they would need to get back up the mountain before the storm hit.
Climbing onto the driver's seat of the wagon, Sato looked back and began to check items off the list in his head, counting bags and moving things occasionally to make certain he had not forgotten anything.
Sato nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of that voice. He looked around and saw Lamont crouching in the back of the wagon.
Did I startle you? Lamont asked.
Sato took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. He would have sworn Lamont was not back there just seconds ago. I did not see you, he replied.
A mischievous smile. I thought not. He climbed down and walked to the front to untie the horses, then climbed into the seat next to Sato and handed him the reins. You did very well, Sato. The Tulku will be pleased.
Sato still looked confused. He could not for the life of him figure out where Lamont had come from--he had not seen him approach, nor had he seen the wagon move to indicate someone had climbed on. Where were you?
Lamont looked innocent. You mean you didn't see me? I was close by the whole time.
Sato shook his head. No, I did not.
Lamont smiled. He was very tired, but he'd managed to elude Sato and the marketplace patrons for an hour by hiding in plain sight. Not one person had even glanced his way. And the clouds overhead had provided additional help by eliminating tell-tale shadows. Then I did my job. He looked at the sky. Nasty clouds. I think we need to be getting back. He looked at the nearly full wagon, and for a brief moment wondered how in the world he had been so lax in letting the pantry get depleted enough to need this much food to restock it. Did you get everything?
Sato once more looked back in the wagon. I believe so.
Then let's go.
Sato shrugged. Clearly, he had done his duty at the market well--Lamont had not intervened once. Other questions could wait for later. He pulled the reins to back the horses away from the hitching post, then turned the wagon to head back up the mountain.
Not quite an hour later, the two initiates returned to The Temple Of The Cobras to an unusual sight: Horses hitched to the fence outside the main gates. Those aren't ours, Lamont observed. Wonder who they belong to?
Sato shrugged. I do not know. You have been here longer than I have. I was hoping you would know.
They could be pilgrims. It is that time of year. But something kept nagging at Lamont, as if there were something amiss. I think we need to find out. You unload the wagon, I'll check on our visitors.
Sato nodded and steered the wagon up the path to the rear of the temple.
Lamont left Sato to unload the wagon while he headed for the main chamber. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, very wrong. There was a sensation in the air he couldn't place, a sense of menace he hadn't felt since leaving Ying Ko's palace. He slipped quietly down the corridor, keeping his thoughts close to him and his psychic defenses up and alert.
As he approached, he heard something very strange: Marpa Tulku speaking. Not translating his thoughts to sound, not thinking unusually loudly, but actually talking, speaking Tibetan to his visitors. Other voices soon followed: A Tibetan-accented voice speaking halting English, then a pair of blustery male American-accented voices. Aha, he realized. The American collector who wrote that disturbing letter several months ago. It seems he couldn't take 'no' for an answer. He opened his receptive center to learn the identities of the unwelcome visitors. Benjamin McDonald, one of the most noted American collectors of Oriental treasures, and his solicitor, James Marston. And they don't seem to care very much for The Tulku's refusal to sell them anything.
The exchange continued. Lamont knew Marpa Tulku was playing dumb to frustrate the collectors into leaving--The Tulku spoke better English than many Americans he knew. But the increasingly sharp retorts and angry words coming from McDonald and Marston indicated both men were running out of patience with The Tulku's feigned ignorance.
"This is getting ridiculous," the one he'd managed to identify as McDonald said. "Primitive savage."
Lamont frowned. Now that was uncalled for. If there was anything Marpa Tulku was not, it was a savage. Casting a mind-clouding suggestion, he slipped into the chamber undetected.
Marston turned to McDonald. "You could try raising the offer," he suggested to his client.
"Absolutely not." He turned to his interpreter. "Tell that petulant brat that I want that jeweled box by his throne, and I have made my final offer."
Harsh words to say about a holy man, said a voice from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
McDonald and Marston looked around, visibly unnerved. The Tulku pretended not to notice.
"Who said that?" Marston asked aloud.
Someone who does not approve of your attitude.
McDonald and Marston kept looking back at The Tulku, who sat dispassionately on the altar. "Ask him what that was," McDonald ordered the interpreter.
I'm not talking to him. I'm talking to you.
Now McDonald was angry. "Where is that coming from?" he demanded directly to The Tulku.
From your conscience, Benjamin McDonald. Do you think your money gives you the right to be disrespectful? Do you think your station in life gives you the right to denigrate someone? Your arrogance about this shallow power you wield is disgusting.
McDonald clicked his fingers rapidly. Marston produced a pistol from a concealed holster. McDonald took it and held it aloft. "Come out and say those things to my face," he challenged.
You would dare desecrate this holy place?
McDonald felt something knock into his head, then smack him on the wrist, and he dropped the gun. It skittered across the floor.
Marston dove for the gun. It skittered away from him and disappeared just as he reached for it.
For a moment, everyone except The Tulku looked around the room. "What in God's name is going on here?" McDonald whispered.
A man's laugh answered...softly at first, then louder, louder, louder, until the entire room reverberated with the roar of mocking laughter. The Westerners and their guide shook visibly.
Then, the laughter died away. Get out.
McDonald and Marston looked at each other, then at The Tulku.
"I believe you have been asked to leave," The Tulku said.
McDonald and Marston each felt something grab their wrists and pull them back from the altar. The two men were helplessly twirled in a circle and slung toward the door. Get out!
The Westerners didn't need another warning. They ran out of the temple, their interpreter not far behind.
The doors closed, and Lamont unclouded himself. He pulled McDonald's gun out of his pocket and dropped it to the floor, then leaned against the door and gasped for breath, completely exhausted.
Well done, The Tulku's voice echoed in his mind.
Lamont gathered himself, then came to the altar. He knelt and bowed before his master.
Rise. The Tulku gestured to the steps.
Lamont took a seat, then took a moment to gather his energies. I handled that badly, he confessed.
You underestimate yourself. You did exactly what I have been training you to do. But that laugh...
Lamont bowed his head. That was disrespectful. Forgive me, Tulku.
Actually, it was quite effective. You tapped into their fears and manipulated them to cloud their minds further. But that was not something I taught you. What made you think to do that?
Fear is a powerful force. People tend not to think clearly when they are afraid, and can be manipulated into thinking or doing almost anything. He shook his head and smiled wryly. Now I understand what you meant when you told me early on that my ability to sense and manipulate fear makes me very dangerous. It always has. The fear of Ying Ko was often the only weapon I needed to take what I wanted.
Sometimes remembering the past is not a bad thing. Tell me how you knew they might be dangerous.
Their tone had changed. They were becoming more impatient, more disrespectful. Those are often first steps toward lashing out against something. Lamont looked up at his master. You knew this, though. And you did nothing to stop it?
I had faith that my student would reach that conclusion before I had to direct him to do so. The Tulku stood. And my faith was not misplaced. Rise, Lamont Cranston.
Lamont stood expectantly.
Your training is complete. It is time for you to go.
Lamont looked stunned. Tulku...you can't be serious. I've only just learned...
...faster than any student I have ever taught. It takes some years to master what you demonstrated with those men. Many never do. No, Lamont, there is nothing more I can teach you. You are ready to begin your mission. And that mission is not here. It is time for you to go out into the world and face the evil head-on.
Lamont nearly fainted. It had been almost a year since his entire world was turned upside down by The Tulku. Many were the nights he had plotted his escape. Many more were the nights he could not imagine ever being anywhere else. Now his training was complete, and he was being sent out to fulfill his mission. And he had no idea what to do next. Tulku...I have nowhere to go. I have no family, no friends, nothing...
Are you certain about that?
At that moment, Sato came running into the chamber. Tulku--what was that noise? Who laughed so loudly?
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you must learn first. How was your trip to the market?
Sato beamed. I did quite well. Lamont did not have to help me once.
Excellent. Did you drop off my messages?
Yes, Tulku. He handed a small bag to The Tulku. This is for you.
Thank you, Sato. I believe Kasha wanted to see you when you returned.
Sato bowed. Of course, Tulku. He rose and left the room.
The Tulku opened the bag and pulled out a white Western-style business envelope. He handed it to Lamont. This should be for you.
Lamont took the envelope and read the return address. It's from my father's lawyer, he realized. But how...
I took the liberty of arranging some things for you. I hope you are not offended.
Lamont opened the letter and read it. Mr. Cranston: Forgive the lateness of this letter, but I have only recently learned that you were still alive and studying at a monastery in Tibet. Your parents' estate has been in probate for the last two years because a blood relative could not be found on either side of the family until now. I will be in Hong Kong on the 28th of August and desire very much to meet with you and arrange your return to New York. If it is possible, please meet me at the Royal Dragon Inn in Hong Kong and we will discuss specifics. Looking forward to meeting you...your servant, Arlington Anderson, Esquire. He looked up at The Tulku.
Now you have a place to go. And from what I understand, you will definitely no longer have nothing.
Lamont stared at the letter again to make certain he had not read it wrong. From rags to riches in just a few short sentences on a page. Anything truly was possible...and nothing was impossible. Tulku...I don't know what to say.
I believe the normal custom is to say 'Thank you' after receiving a great gift.
Lamont looked floored. 'Thank you' doesn't even begin to cover it. I owe you everything. I can never repay you.
Do what I have taught you. Do what you did to those men. Use what you have learned here to drive evil out of the shadows and into the light, where it cannot survive. Never forget that this is the price you must pay for redemption.
Lamont nodded. Then he glanced at his somewhat disheveled initiate robes and laughed slightly. I hardly think my father's lawyer will be expecting to discuss an inheritance with an heir who looks like this.
No, you are quite right. That will not do. Follow me. He left the chamber, Lamont quick on his heels.
Moments later, in Marpa Tulku's chamber, The Tulku had trimmed Lamont's hair quite short to give a more Western-style look and shaved him clean, and was now opening his steamer trunk. An American aviator crashed his plane near here several years ago, The Tulku told Lamont as he began pulling out several items of men's clothing. He was what your language calls a 'spy'. We tried to nurse him back to health, but he was too badly injured. These were his. I kept them because I knew someone would need them someday. That day has come.
Lamont looked at the clothes. They were a bit dated, to be sure, but they were Western-style casual, and would do until he got to Hong Kong. And they were in remarkably good condition, and looked to be pretty close to the correct size. Then something The Tulku had pulled out of the trunk caught his eye--an elegant pair of .45 semi-automatic pistols. Those are beautiful, he noted. I haven't seen Colts like those in years.
Those are yours, too.
Lamont looked taken aback.
The Tulku shrugged. We have no need for them here. And if you are going to fight evil, it is best to do it on equal footing.
Lamont picked up the one of the guns for a moment and looked at it. How long had it been since he'd used a gun--a year? It seemed like a lifetime ago. Even grabbing McDonald's gun to cloud it had felt foreign. I hope I still remember how to use one.
It will come back to you. The Tulku gathered everything into a pile and placed it in Lamont's arms. You will leave tomorrow at dawn. It is a long journey to Hong Kong, and time is short. Take our best horse and all the supplies you need.
Lamont looked at his master as if something finally clicked. For the first time, the extensiveness of Sato's shopping list made sense to him--since he had been going to the market nearly every day for months, the list should not have been that long unless there was some other reason to purchase extra food. You told Sato to buy extras at the market today. You knew I would need them soon.
I have been meditating on this for weeks, praying for some sign that I would know when it was time for you to leave. This morning, when you returned from the market, I received it. He paused for a moment, as if fighting back an emotional response, and was saved by the chime of the mealtime bell. The midday meal awaits. Say your farewells to the others, then prepare yourself for your journey. We will speak again later.
There was so much Lamont wanted to say to The Tulku, but at this moment, he wasn't certain he could even think the words without losing control. He bowed to his teacher, then left for his chamber.
Awakening at the sound of the voice in his mind, Marpa Tulku sat up in bed and quickly divined that Lamont was standing outside the door to his chamber. Come in, Lamont.
Lamont entered the chamber and knelt by The Tulku's pallet. It was nearly dawn, and the horse was packed. It was time to leave. I believe this is goodbye, he told his teacher.
I'll never see you again, will I?
No, you will not.
Lamont looked sad. I owe you everything, Marpa Tulku. The gifts you have given me I can never repay you for. But I'll never stop trying. I swear to you I will spend the rest of my life proving you were right to redeem me.
The temptations back in your world will be strong. Never forget the consequences of failure.
You have my word. Lamont bowed his head to the Tulku.
The Tulku put his hand under Lamont's chin and raised his head. You are the finest student I have ever trained. In twenty generations, there has never been one like you. I doubt there will be another in twenty more. Once more, The Tulku seemed to be fighting back emotions. You taught me as much as I taught you, Lamont Cranston. And you touched the lives of everyone in this temple. It was an honor to be your teacher and your student for a brief moment in time.
Lamont fought back his own emotions. Thank you, Tulku. Thank you for caring enough to find me and save me from myself. Thank you for all you've taught me. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn't.
You have more strength than you know. Never hesitate to use it in your fight. He took Lamont's left hand and slipped a ring onto his third finger.
Lamont looked at the ring and gasped. A glance at Marpa Tulku's left hand showed an empty left index finger. Tulku...this is your ring.
The Tulku nodded. And now it is yours. He noticed the way the stone was glowing, pulsating with an inner fire. It is already responding to your life energies.
Lamont shook his head. No, Tulku, I cannot possibly accept this...
Yes, you can. And you will. Tradition dictates that it be given as a gift from Marpa Tulku to his finest student. Usually, this is the next Marpa Tulku. But not in this case.
Lamont looked at the ring, the irony of its etchings not lost on him. Good on one side...evil on the other...
...and a symbol of mystery, mysticism, and power in the middle. And that is where you now stand. Never take it off. It will remind you of your mission. For who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
Lamont gave his teacher a confident smile. I do.
Marpa Tulku nodded, then extended his right hand to Lamont. Have a safe journey, Lamont Cranston.
Lamont accepted the handshake, clasping his left hand around The Tulku's for one more moment. There was nothing more to say, no more words to put to thoughts.
As the glow of dawn's early light peeked around the portal covering, Lamont Cranston rose to his feet and left to fulfill his mission.
Marpa Tulku waited until he could detect Lamont had departed. Then, he climbed out of bed and knelt before the altar, offering up prayers of thanksgiving for learning once again that anything is possible...and nothing is impossible.