Chapter Thirty Three
The other side was also a huge chamber. Overhead was the same brilliance. Rinjin stood waiting for them, smiling.
"Good! You listened to me! You are safe!"
Thubten and Tenzin stood further off, nodding in agreement.
The marine's voice made Mark turn to see him walking through the agate wall.
Aum Vajra Citta Hum. W-What ............What?"
"Welcome to safety!" laughed Mark Miller.
Then they both turned to see the yogi emerge.
"Aum Vajra Citta Hum."
Mark almost held his hand out to him in congratulations, but froze in motion on. No. The yogi was no friend of his. He was puzzled by the insistent anger which he directed at the near-naked American.
The yogi sneered at him, as if recognizing this reluctance and understanding it better than Mark did himself. But the marine., in a spirit of good comradeship, welcomed him. His choice of words did not help.
"Welcome, yogi! I see that someone else's magic saved you!"
"All magic is mine," snarled the other.
The wall from this other side was just as huge and decorated with a fluctuating design. Now, however, it appeared as a stained-glass window, with light pouring from it, causing it to be even more dazzlingly beautiful.
Mark felt a sense of awe and gratitude in looking at it. Squinting, he thought he could see the warriors on the other side, becoming scratches on the walls again. But he could not be sure.
"What is it?" he asked Rinjin. "What is it?"
"The Vajra door," the Tibetan said. "We got through just in time. The guardians are efficient!"
"What do you mean?" Miller continued, but was interrupted by Sergeant Fields, who, staring, pointed at Thubten.
"His leg! It is not wounded!
Thubten pursed his lips and shrugged.
"And my shoulder!" said the yogi. "It is not bleeding!"
Mark noticed that no arrows had come through the Vajra door with them. Had they all fallen from the packs, when the men crawled into the flux of color?
He questioned Rinjin.
"What does this mean, Rinjin?"
The Tibetan leader's eyes squinted and hi s lip turned if to sneer., but he smiled instead.
"Illusions," he said.
"Illusion!" exclaimed the agitated yogi. "That was real blood! I was really wounded!"
"Illusions can bleed," said the Tibetan. But forget it, now."
"But what ... Where are the wounds?" asked Mark.
"They belong to the other side of the Vajra door. That reality down not exist here!"
The marine shook his head.
"For illusions, those ... those-warriors were something!"
"Yes," said Rinjin, "they protect the door. Without the mantra, we would all have perished."
"There is no fighting them," said Thubten.
"Door to what? What have we entered?" asked Mark, looking at the space which was a mirror-image of the other chamber.
"Our home," said Rinjin. "As I told you earlier, we...
Mark did not let him finish, for he looked at the walls surrounding this chamber.
"Lookout! They're here too!"
Rinjin looked at the walls and smiled. Poised, row on row, were the warriors.
"Here they are asleep. Here they are only scratches on the walls."
"0h," said Mark Miller, feeling a little foolish, yet at the same time feeling justified in his sense of panic. The marine said nothing, but was re-loading his pistol. The yogi rubbed his shoulder where he had previously been wounded, as if to check its actuality.
This time,, they moved down the avenue past the engraved battalions at a slower pace. Rinjin was almost talkative, which puzzled Mark Miller.
"There are four Vajra doors," he said. "We entered through one, into the kingdom. Where are the others?"
And he waited, as if expecting them to answer. Mark wrinkled his forehead and wondered if he had dreamed this part and whether he should know the answer.
"Well?" insisted the Tibetan.
The soldier shrugged and looked at Thubten, who gave him no clues.
Mark shook his head., more to himself than to the Tibetan's question. "Perhaps this is a dream," he thought. "How could the scratches become alive? How could we go through a stone wall? What....?"
The yogi thrust his lower lip out and his chin up.
"Well?" asked Rinjin.
"It is the Western Vajra door," he answered. "There are three others, one in the east, one in the north, and one in the south!"
Rinjin was surprised.
"Do you remember this? Or do you know this?"
"I received it in a vision," said SVA YAM, glaring at the Tibetan.
Rinjin shook his head in disbelief.
"Perhaps, perhaps. But we shall see. Let us go."
The yogi continued talking.
"I know of the entrances to Shambala."
Rinjin cocked an eyebrow.
"This is not Shambala!" he said. "So please, stop guessing."
"Guessing?" snarled the yogi. "How dare you! I ....
"You will, said Rinjin, "with all due respect, be quiet!"
The yogi became still., with a sullen silence.
They continued down the gallery of the passageway, accompanied by the engraved warriors This time there was no rush and they seemed to be strolling along. The marine looked up at the brilliance, trying to calculate time.
"That is not daylight," he whispered to Mark, who strolled along near him.
"What else could it be?"
"I don't know," he said, "but it isn't daylight. It
must be long after sunset by now!"
Mark looked past his right shoulder at Sergeant Fields.
"In which world?" he asked.
And that quieted the marine.
"In which world?" he thought. "He's right. What world are we in? What laws does this place follow?" He became annoyed with himself at these thoughts. "Dammit! It's some hallucination! We've been-I've been...doped! It's a doctored illusion! Manufactured .... "
Mark could see that his question struck home with the soldier, so he did not pursue it.
"Let it sink in. This is a peculiar place. He might as well face it! I might as well face it!"
"Manufactured..." thought the marine, " ... but when did it stop being ... being real? When did it stop being my world?"
These thoughts were jarred loose by Rinjin's voice which said, as if reading his mind, "This is your world."
He had stopped before the three Americans and was addressing all three of them, or perhaps only one of them.
They stopped and waited for him to speak again.
"Don't you remember?" the Tibetan asked.
Mark knit his forehead in effort. "Did I dream this, before?"
He could not remember.
Rinjin waited only for a few seconds, then turned and walked quickly ahead of them. They made no attempt to match his speed. Thubten and Tenzin stayed with them, smiling slightly sheepishly, walking very slowly. With the company of the two Tibetans, the Americans saw no reason for speeding after Rinjin, who was quickly out of sight, beyond a bend in the curving wall.
The walk at this slower pace was slightly monotonous, and Mark felt drowsy as he continued along with the others. His eyelids drooped and he tried to keep from nodding. His feet began to shuffle.
"Could I sleep while I walked?" he thought, closing his eyes. He continued with his eyes closed, smiling. "Sure. Why not?"
He felt that it was only an instant, but when he awoke something was different. He glanced at the marine and the yogi. He was surprised to see that they were walking along with their eyes closed. He looked for Thubten and Tenzin and found that they were gone. It had only been a second! He had only closed his eyes for a moment! He looked up at the haze of light. It was duller. Then he saw the engraved warriors on the wall. They were different. The warriors were paintings now. They were in crimson armour. They had yellow plumes. Some were pale-skinned and others golden. There was a great deal of marvelous detail. He looked back and saw that this color existed in the battalions as far back as he could see. This could not have happened in the blink of an eyelash!
Mark put up his hand to stop his walking companions.
They bumped into it and their eyes leaped to alertness.
"What ... ?"
"We're alone." Mark pointed out, gesturing.
"What ... ?
"We were sleep-walking," he continued, "and we've been left alone."
Sergeant Fields looked about.
"What's wrong with the light?" he asked.
"That too," said Mark. "It seems to be duller."
"Sunset?" said the yogi.
The marine sneered at him.
"Forget sunsets! That happens someplace else!"
The yogi kept staring at the haze.
"Perhaps," he muttered.
"When did they go?" asked the marine.
"I don't know. I fell asleep too."
"We're much farther along," said the marine, pointing at the painted warriors.
"Oh? Yeah, I guess so," answered Mark absentmindedly, beginning to get apprehensive.
"Don't worry," laughed the marine, with a show of cheerfulness. "After saving us, they wouldn't desert us!"
The yogi sat on the floor.
"Unless it was to their advantage!"
"Unless they couldn't help it!" said Mark.
"Perhaps neither," said the soldier, staring at the haze.
"It is getting darker!"
The passageway got darker. It was speedily becoming a twilight that surrounded them. Dark edges seemed to be creeping fast upon them. With those shadows, Mark began to worry, first for the safety of his missing friends, and then for his own.
Time and darkness joined hands around the three Americans. Nothing could be seen, so they decided to rest. The marine had a suggestion.
"For whatever it is worth, shall we take turns on guard?"
The yogi did not answer and Mark assumed him indifferent or asleep.
"Why not?" he answered. "I'll take the first shift."
It was not long before he heard the snoring of the marine. He still heard nothing from the invisible SVA YAM.
How long Mark had sat leaning against the wall, he did not know. He also did not know how he would decide when his "shift" was over and when to awaken the marine.
"Why knows? It doesn't matter too much," he mumbled to himself.
He rearranged his feet and stretched them out before him. They came into contact with an object that yielded. It was nowhere near the snoring, so he assumed that it was the yogi. He did not wish it to be anything else. He held his breath, waiting to see if it responded to another nudge.
"Ishtadevi.i.i." came a whisper, and he smiled.
It was the yogi, asleep or in a trance. That made him feel much better.
When he had first sat down, he did not think about the wall. However, in the deep darkness, he became more aware of the fact that it was covered with the painted battalions. He was leaning against some armoured legs. He was leaning against their decorated spear-shafts.
What had Rinjin said?
"They are asleep."
"But weren't the others asleep too? They awakened-why not these?" he questioned himself.
He kept waiting for an armoured leg to move, or some harness to creak. But no movement came.
"Pardon me, warriors," he thought to himself. "No disrespect intended!" And this apology to the paintings made him feel much better.
"After all,, they look like reasonable..." he started,, ending weakly, "....hallucinations."
His musings about and over his imagination came to a halt when something much more blatantly real happened. With a sudden roar from down the passageway came a series of individual howls and screams, moving and echoing, and approaching at a breakneck speed. In advance of the sounds came a glimmer of orange light, followed swiftly by balls of fire! They were huge and too numerous to count. Mark shouted and screamed as they came rolling relentlessly towards him and his sleeping companions!
Chapter Thirty Four
Rinjin and Thubten tried to move the stone. Tenzin stood to the side. The two Tibetans pressed their shoulders against the round boulder, to no avail. It did not move.
"Come help," said Rinjin. And Tenzin leaped to aid him.
The three put their entire weight against it, but still did not move.
Each man's eyes shifted to the eyes of the other men.
"Perhaps we should go back and get the help of the Americans, suggested Tenzin. In response, Rinjin merely shook his head.
"No, Tenzin. Only one of them should know this," Thubten felt obliged to explain. "And since we do not know which one it is, we must keep it a secret from them all."
"But why does it not move?" Tenzin questioned.
"I do not know,, 't replied the other. "It went easily into place, when we put it there."
"But there were more men then," said Rinjin, looking upwards toward the haze. "The light is going, as well!"
They stood in silence, contemplating the stone.
"Are there no side-tunnels?" asked Tenzin at last.
"Yes) but they are covered as well!"
"Perhaps we can move those entrance stones more easily!"
"Perhaps. Let us go and see."
They searched in the dimming light and tested various boulders which were likely candidates. Rinjin nodded and pointed to a large white boulder.
"This one. I believe this one!"
Then the three Tibetans put their weight against it. It gave the slightest movement. The light was going fast.
"Here. On this side! Push from this side!"
There had been some movement, but not enough. After a great deal of effort, they stopped.
"Rest, " said Rinjin. "Then we will try again!"
They rested in the ebony darkness and then felt their way to the boulder again. After many tries, they rested again in the blackness of the earth.
"Enough!" the Tibetan leader said, shaking Tenzin. "Awake! We have to try again!"
Groping in the darkness, they found places to grip on the boulder.
"Now!" said Rinjin. "Now!
The stone wobbled, shifted and began to move. Thubten began to shout in delight, but his voice caught in his throat. An orange light appeared from the crack which they had opened. It was the wrong opening! And it was too late, the boulder was rolling away from the opening!
"Look out! Demon-fire!"
"The wrong one!"
Flames burst forth with an orange glow and roared upward away from the opening in a ball of fire, like a shell from a cannon! The Tibetans fell to either side, out of its path. Immediately another ball spurted out and another and another! They flew up the passageway, following the curve of painted warriors, heading straight for the three Americans. "What have we done?" "The wrong one!" Rinjin's eyes followed the roaring balls of fire, rolling through the passageway.
"They are as good as dead!"
The opening spat out another roaring missile and another.
"Ahh!" cried Thubten sadly.
Chapter Thirty Five
Everything was happening at once. Mark pushed the yogi and pulled the sleeping soldier out of the path of the first rolling ball of fire. They awoke to the dazzling flames and the roar of their approach and passing.
"Look out! Look out!"
The huge balls were gaseous and travelling very fast, but luckily not filling the entire wide passageway. The Americans leaped to the far side and watched them bouncing through. Some crashed against the side of the wall of warriors and scorched the paintings in great slashes. Some rolled down the center of the tunnel.
"Those soldiers will never awaken!" Mark remembered thinking, while still concerned about the erratic flight of the balls of flames. The men held to one side and watched the random trajectories of the flames. They bounded like billiard balls, but were more unpredictable. Some came closer than others.
"Our luck can't hold out! One of those damn things ... !" shouted the marine. Orange light slashed across his face followed by black shadows as the things went by.
Mark reached up and touched the rosary around his neck, staring at the balls of fire.
"The air! They will use up the air!" shrieked the yogi.
"AUM!" cried Mark, both hands on the beads.
"Are you crazy? What will that do?" cried the marine.
"AUM VAJRA CITTA HUM!" shouted Mark at the fire.
The yogi scowled and raised his hands.
"HRIM! HRIM! gDo PHAT!"
They glared at each other and continued to cry out in unison, "AUM" "HRIM" "VAJRA" "HRIM" "CITTA" "gDo" "HUM!" "PHAT! "
The balls of fire stopped coming, leaving hot cinders here and there and a heavy smoke in the darkness which had returned.
"Which one of you gets the credit for that?" laughed the marine.
"It is," said the voice of the yogi, "obvious."
"I wouldn't be so fast on the taking of credit, if I were you!" Mark growled.
"Another one is coming!" interrupted Sergeant Fields. They spun about in the darkness to face the approaching orange light.
Both began to chant.
But stopped, puzzled by its slow approach.
They heard voices calling. It was Rinjin and Thubten!
"Mark Miller! Sergeant Fields! Mark! SVA YAM! Fields!"
They appeared carrying torches, which gave off the same orange light as the now-gone balls of fire. Smoke still hung heavily in the air.
"You are safe!" sighed Thubten.
"Yes, I did it," both Mark and the yogi said at the same time.
Rinjin looked away laughing. They caught his amusement before he could hide it.
"What's the matter? Don't you believe us?" asked Mark.
, 'Perhaps it happened the way you say," he replied. "But we caused it by opening a demon-fire hole and we thought when we rolled the stone back that we had...Perhaps however it is as you say. Very auspicious!"
The yogi bit his lip and Mark laughed.
It was then that Tenzin saw the length of scorched painted warriors. They were obliterated except for plumes and speartips. A dozen or more.
"Ahh!" he exclaimed. "It is a pity! They will never awaken again!"
Mark could not laugh in the presence of the Tibetan's real sadness.
Chapter Thirty Six
With the aid of the Americans, the Tibetans moved the stone which blocked the true tunnel. They had no other choice.
Rinjin indicated the plugged hole which had released the "demon-fire". There were enough boulders about to see how it had happened. Especially when it had been dark.
"Close call," said Fields.
"Yes, it would have changed history," said Thubten. Rinjin caught his eye and he did not continue to talk.
"Yeah, especially ours," said Mark.
The true passageway was smaller and rounder. Its ceiling could almost be touched. The way in the center was the only part which might even pretend to be flat. The walls began to curve up immediately. In the torchlight they seemed slightly green. There were no images of warriors accompanying them here.
"Copper, I suppose," said Michael Fields, out loud to himself.
"What?" asked Mark.
"Copper, I said copper," said the marine. "Looks like oxidized copper. Fairly pure."
Mark wrinkled his nose.
"Seems more like slime to me. As if we're moving down some snake's .... "
"HA ha ha! Some imagination!" laughed the soldier.
"Shhh!" cautioned the bug-eyed yogi, pointing ahead. The tunnel was ending.
"Afraid we'll wake someone, yogi?" mocked the marine.
However, he did not ridicule any further.
"Look who's back!" whispered Mark. "And he's brought his relatives!"
They came face to face with the sleeping warriors again. But this time, they were in the round, in full dimension, not designs on any wall.
"There's hundreds of them!" said Fields.
"Thousands of them, It corrected Mark Miller.
The yogi merely stared.
"Correct," said Rinjin, at Mark's right elbow. "84,000 warriors. One for every chakra in the body! Waiting..."
"The cloud warriors, whispered SVA YAM, the American yogi
"Yes, besmeared one," said Rinjin. "You are quite right. They are the cloud warriors. They await ... "
"Me," said the yogi, so quietly that he could have been speaking to himself.
Rinjin squinted at him and turned to the other two Americans, but still addressed him,- even though he did not look at him directly.
"Do not be so sure, yogi!,,
Mark was lost in this exchange. He did not know what they were talking about. He saw the marine was as confused.
"What's a chak-rah?" the soldier asked. But the Tibetans did not answer him.
"I don't know," said Mark, shrugging, gesturing outwards with his palms.
Before them was a wide tunnel, if it could be called that. Lined up in rows as if for inspection were the lifesized three-dimensional warriors of the ancient army. They faced, from either side, a walkway down which the six men must travel. In their armour, with their weapons, they stood at attention, as if for an inspection for which they had been waiting for millennia. Row after row, all facing the walkway. After twenty or thirty ranks of these ancient images, there was a wall. However, in the wall were many archways, and Mark could see dimly through them, due to some available ghostly light, other chambers, with row upon row of the standing figures. Beyond these were other walls and other chambers, other warriors. To either side, this seemed to be the case.
Rinjin and the other Tibetans began to walk down the aisle through the crowd of waiting figures, looking neither to the right or left.
"There very well could be 84,000 of them!" said Mark.
They joined the men in the lead, keeping up to their torchlight, even though it seemed that that light was not really necessary. The ghostly figures, staring, eyes open, armour decorated with monster masks, tigers and lion faces, did not move as they passed. They seemed to be very much the real thing. There was no dust to be seen.
Through one chamber after another, the Americans followed the men in the lead. Mark kept turning to study nearby faces of individual warriors. It was an act which was disturbing to him for reasons he could not identify.
"Something," he said, "something I should recognize."
"Fancy stuff," said the marine.
"What? asked Mark.
"Must be a burial chamber. Statues of warriors to accompany some dead king. Spirit warriors for the other side."
"What do you mean?" asked Miller.
Row upon row of warriors, staring.
"Like in Egypt. The pharaohs took things with them for eternity. Everything; animals, slaves, women, ducks, villages ....
"Everything," smiled the marine. "But in miniature. Spirit stuff comes compact. This guy went in for the giant size."
"Is that what you think?"
"It must be that! Why else so many statues?"
Rinjin turned, scowling.
"They are not statues! They are asleep!"
The marine raised an eyebrow and did not say anything, but winked at Mark.
The six men passed from chamber to chamber, following the walkway which cut straight through. All the way, other chambers with their occupants stretched out of sight to either side.
"Not asleep!" smiled the marine to himself. Rinjin turned, glaring, but said nothing. The marine was amused but avoided his eyes. Rinjin, however, was not to be avoided. He stopped and spoke to the soldier.
"You believe that they are only models?"
"If he wants to confront me," thought Fields, "I'll not pussyfoot around."
"Toys!" said the soldier. "They are toy soldiers for
some dead king."
Rinjin pursed his lips in exasperation.
"Touch one!" he ordered.
The marine shrugged and stepped off the walkway. His hand reached out and touched the nearest archer. He was surprised.
"This is real cloth!" he said.
"Touch his face, whispered Rinjin. Mark watched apprehensively.
Slowly, the marine did as he was ordered.
"Skin," he said. "It is skin!"
"A mummy?" asked Mark Miller, eyes widening. "Are they all mummies?"
"N-no," stammered Michael Fields, his hand frozen in mid-air, his finger touching the warrior's cheek. "Skin. Warm skin!" He's...."
"Alive," said Rinjin, turning on his toe. "Now let us be going!"
The marine joined the others on the walkway, leaving the figure of the warrior-archer behind. But not until he thought he saw the apparition move its eyes from him to his companions. And not until he saw it flare its nostrils, and not until he heard it inhale! Michael Fields did not look back,, for he was fearful of seeing anything else.
At the end of the walkway they reached a solid wall of metal. Hinged onto this wall was a large double door ten feet high and six feet wide. At the center were two bronze rings at chest level. They each were designed as serpents twisting around their own bodies. Rinjin grabbed one in each hand and, to Mark's surprise, gave them an easy push which made them fly away, outwards from him, scarcely making a sound.
A great light bathed them. With it came a sweet smelling warmth which made them realize how cold the tunnels had been. The air was fresh and invited deep breathing.
"We're out!" called Michael Fields. "We're above ground!"
Mark Miller, however, was more cautious. He wanted to see. He followed the Tibetans out of the warriors' chambers into the brightness. Thubten was putting out the torches on the ledge.
Above, far above, there was light tinged with pale blue, as if high thin clouds were about to break open and reveal a cobalt sky. It did not ring true, but Mark did not stop to study it, for spread out before him was a huge landscape. It began far below him, and the only parts that he could be sure of were the nearest landmarks and the most distant. Ringing what might have been the distant horizon was a range of mountains that reached up like dozens of handless fingers. Most of these seemed white with snow. Clouds concealed vast areas of the middle ground, but revealed more flattened mesas or massifs, their colors appearing richer in oranges and reds. Then there were rolling green hills and terraced hillsides that were under cultivation. He thought he could see some buildings in white, squares of white, but he was not sure. Directly below, perhaps after a fall of three thousand feet,- he saw the convoluted twists of canyons, revealing ribbed colorings ---exposed by the erosion of an ancient river. It was a maze of chasms and puzzling from the bird's-eye view which he held. It made him dizzy ~o look down within it., so he stepped back from the border of the broad ledge onto which the doors had swung open.
"Wow!" said Fields, grinning from ear to ear.
The Tibetans stood silently looking across the vast spaces. Remnant clouds seemed to be moving in the mountainous foothills. They were hazy and obliterated detail. Mark
looked,, but could not be satisfied. Something was wrong.
"It's the color," he said aloud.
"What are you talking about?" asked the marine.
"The colors of the clouds, the sky ... if that is sky..." he continued to himself. "They're not right."
"Don't complain!" Fields grinned. "The weather will brighten up! It's such a relief to get out into the open again and not be underground."
The yogi was moving to where the Tibetans stood.
"Aha!" he said and in three of four stepping motions was gone.
"Lookout!" shouted Mark. "You'll fall!"
But he heard SVA YAM's voice call back, "Come use the path!" and his arm appeared waving from beyond the edge. The Tibetans moved in that direction without comment.
Michael Fields reached that edge and glanced at Mark. Looking down first, then looking back, he smiled.
"You won't believe this!" he said. "There's the most beautiful stone staircase here! It goes down for thousands of feet!"
The marine and the Tibetans all made the same stepping motions which had consumed the yogi and rhythmically vanished slowly past the edge. Mark did not move. He could not worry about their departure. He could not get excited about a huge staircase. He was still studying the light, the clouds, and the patches of blue overhead. He knew something but he could not find the words. Then they came to him, as if they had been lost amongst the warriors standing by the thousands and finally had found their way onto the ledge, and, only finding him, had gone directly to his lips in gratitude for warmth and company.
"There is no sky!" he cried, staring. "Beyond those hazy clouds it is all rock! I can see rifts and cracks! We are still underground!"
His eyes tried to leave his skull. Wide open, they rolled to take in that vast landscape again which he had just been observing.
Below him he could hear the sounds of a thunderstorm and looking down he could see multiple flashes of lightning in the labyrinths of the prehistoric caves.
"Come along!" he heard Rinjin calling him. "Come along, Mark Miller., and enter the kingdom of Vajravati!"
"Vajravati?" he repeated, his face relaxing. "Of course!"
Turning, he started to descend the staircase towards the thunderstorms below.
Chapter Thirty Seven
As soon as Mark had made the first few steps down the staircase, if it could be called that., he stopped up short. Fields and the yogi were right at his feet, as small as ants! He was afraid of stepping on them.
"What's happened to them?" he-asked himself, and after a moment of wonderment, smiled. "They're far below. They're only far below!"
However, with this new understanding of the steepness of the stones which made up the staircase, he grew dizzy and swayed back and forth. Aware as he was of the giant expanse of world into which he might fall, he caught himself by closing his eyes and letting his inner ear control his sense of balance. Luckily, it chose the correct verticality for him and he did not fall.
.Carefully, this time, still standing still, he looked at his companions far below.
"Tiny creatures," he muttered, "of no consequence in a real person's world. One gesture on my part and they could be non-existent."
These thoughts sat on him with a weightiness that seemed to drain energy from him. He shook his head and became more cheerful, almost upon a self-administered cue.
"A waste of energy," he said aloud, looking down at the thunderstorms in the canyons, but thinking of the other Americans.
"Vajravati. he whispered, looking-across the landscape. "The place of the Vajra. Of course, it is related to the Vajra door. Thus the name. Or is it the other way around?"
He started placing his feet on the stones which appeared one by one before him. Rough-hewn, or naturally flat, they created the descending steps before him.
He followed carefully, ignoring the concepts of height, and ignoring the figures below him, until in turning some hidden corner they vanished from sight and made it easier for him.
"They're gone!" he thought, smiling. "And I did not have to do anything to accomplish it!"
Mark had gone down from fifteen hundred to two thousand steps. He had counted them at first., with their cracks and modifications. But this made him too sleepy in the sameness and the dullness. He stopped those numbers to become aware of the surfaces. They were rough and then became smoother the lower he descended.
"As if polished," he thought. "But if so, by feet? And if so, why not all of them?"
Although he may have travelled down two thousand steps, he had not come much closer to the canyon. The drop from step to step was very shallow.
"Sometimes five," he thought, "sometimes six inches only!"
The descent began to twist to the right and following hundreds of steps in that direction, it then began to twist to the left. This zig-zag pattern became more frequent, until Mark thought that he was walking next to his own recent footprints most of the time, except in the opposite direction. Boulders were soon interjecting themselves as barriers between the neighboring paths, preventing any thought of cutting from one to another, which Mark realized would be a mistake.
"It is still too steep," he realized.
Those same boulders when they grew in size also began to block any view he might have to reveal where the path was leading him. This blockage became so thorough that when he circled around one cluster of boulders he was completely taken unawares by what he saw. The path broadened into a wide ledge with ample room for a large cube of a building. Before it, and to the sides, were large poles with white streamers floating next to them.
"Prayer flags," he thought, correctly. "A temple," he thought, incorrectly.
It had the general appearance of temples which he had seen in the upper Tagnath valley. However, despite the massive shape, with a dragon-cornered rooftop and with small windows of the clearstory at the center, something was wrong.
"What is it?" he asked himself. "It looks familiar, but it isn't a normal building according to..."
He had almost put his finger on the elements out of joint when he was interrupted by shouts.
"Ah! Tenzin!" he smiled, forgetting his focusing thoughts.
The young Tibetan came from the other side of the large structure. He was all smiles.
"Come with me'," he said, and Mark was glad to oblige, being suddenly aware of how tired walking down the staircase had made him. He was led to a small door that had been previously hidden from him. Tenzin entered what seemed like darkness before him and he quickly followed.
"Hello!" said the darkness in many voices, all of which he recognized.
The fire was what he saw first, in an earthen oven at the center of the room. Smoke rose upwards but he did not see where it escaped. He soon saw clearly that Rinjin, Thubten., Fields, and SVA YAM were all there, seated on low plank benches near the fire. He also recognized that the yogi's voice had been absent from the greeting, but to this realization he merely shrugged.
"A little slow there, Mark. What kept you?" laughed the marine.
"I'm no mountain goat," he mumbled, accepting a cup of hot Tibetan tea from Thubten.
"How can you drink that?" sneered the yogi. Mark looked at him, a shadow in the dim light, but did not answer.
"The hell with him," he thought. "This stuff is good!"
It was much stronger than he had expected, and a lump of butter came floating to the rim, touching his lips. "Ah! Good!" he thought.
After they had all had some food, Rinjin spoke to the Americans.
"We will go into the building proper," he said. "This is only the kitchen. But first, we must be cleansed."
"Cleansed?" asked Mark, surprised at the word from Rinjin, who, in all the time he had known him as a guerrilla fighter, had not washed himself once.
"Clean up," said the marine. "They've got fresh clothes for us. I'm game!"
Stripping down, they removed their stained clothing. In taking off their boots they found great blotches of blood from crushed leeches. These had gotten in through the eyelets of their boots., but could not escape once bloated on their hosts' blood.
"Augh!" said Fields. "Here's a live son of a bitch!"
"Eh!" said Tenzin in sympathy, and pinching it between thumb and index finger, carried it to the fire and threw it in.
Mark observed this, wondering about the Buddhist's declared attitude of the holiness of life. He then smiled. Tenzin., after all, had been shooting Chinese. Why should he be squeamish about leeches?
There were buckets of warm water from somewhere, with which they commenced dousing themselves, rubbing themselves down and dousing with the water. Afterwards, they put on the fresh clothes, soft and warm and seemingly made of thick cotton.
Although they were given the brightly-sewn Tibetan-style boots, they were told not to put them on.
As yet," said Rinjin.
Going up a flight of wooden stairs they made their way into a wooden porch of sorts, narrow and balustraded. It led past curtained windows towards a painted door of cloud decorations at the other end of the porch. Rinjin went in, cautioning them to remain behind. He left his boots outside and entered barefooted. Turning to look at the canyons full of lightning below, Mark saw that the yogi was now also dressed,, in loose white shirt open at the neck and wide white pajama-like pants. No marks were on his forehead, but instead there were scowling lines. The hair on his head still remained in a tight-matted pile. The marine had loose pants on as well, but his shirt was of a Tibetan style with a flap across his chest buttoning on his right side in two places. The cloth was dark blue with an edging of red. Mark looked down to see that he was wearing orange-brown clothes, the shirt also in the Tibetan style. He remembered that Tenzin had to help him button up since he did not know where to reach in the dark kitchen.
"What are we waiting for?" asked Fields, getting impatient.
"You will see, sneered SVA YAM.
"Don't act as if you know., it said Mark. "You're as puzzled as we are!"
The yogi curled his lip and looked at Thubten, who quickly looked down at the canyon far below.
"Wish I had a cigarette," muttered the marine.
The wait was not long but their states of mind made it seem "Allright," came Rinjin's voice from the doorway, his head appearing immediately thereafter, "You may enter. But leave your boots outside! The Lama will see you!"
"Lama?" questioned the marine.
"Yes, the lama," said SVA YAM, stepping forward.
Mark puzzled, suddenly remembered.
"This can't be a temple. All of them were white, and this building ... it's got stripes! Vertical stripes of white and blood-red. DRIED blood red, as if they used real blood to decorate the walls. This can't be."
He stepped through the doorway to face the oldest pair of eyes which he had ever seen.
"This is," he heard Rinjin's voice somewhere, "Lama Chujel Ngugen!"
The oldest eyes in the universe.
Chapter Thirty Eight
"Lama Chujel Ngugen!"
With these words, the three Tibetans made full-length prostrations before the small man seated at the dragon-decorated tea table. They pressed their palms over their heads, then before their faces, and then before their hearts. After falling to their knees they stretched themselves flat, with outstretched arms before the seated man.
"Stretched out," thought Mark, "as before the Vajra door, when we went ... went ... through!" His knees grew weak at the memory of the passage through the wall. It was now that the reality of that journey through the agate wall struck him as a definite fact of reality and not some fiction, some dream.
"Get up," the soft voice of the man said. "That is not necessary! Not necessary...."
Sergeant Fields fidgeted, wondering if the same was expected of him.
"Who is he?" he asked Mark. "Why are they bowing?"
"I don't know,, it answered the other without taking his eyes off the seated man. "Shhh," he cautioned.
The man at the table was of indeterminate age, perhaps in his fifties) and wore layman's clothing of a rough brown cloth. Although his head had been shaved, it was now growing in short white hair. His left ear was pierced with a thin gold wire holding a blue-green turquoise in place, and around his left wrist, almost like a bracelet, was wrapped, double twisted, a mala of dark wooden beads. His features were sharp and his mouth was thin but well-shaped. High cheekbones emphasized his golden brown eyes.
"The eyes," thought Mark, "the eyes are so old. As if they have seen mountains grow..."
There were no tell-tale marks of age such as wrinkles significant enough to cause these thoughts on Mark Miller's part. It was something in the eyes, or something in Mark Miller, which led these thoughts to him as he stood there waiting. The marine and the yogi had none of these thoughts.
Before them, there was merely a Tibetan seated at a table.
Once on his feet, Rinjin gave out a stream of Tibetan sentences which were too fast for Mark to follow. The older man nodded and pursed his lips looking from one American to another. Still nodding, he repeated, "Mark Miller. Michael Fields. SVA YAM."
Rinjin looked at them and nodded as the man said their names.
Then he was asked some question which he did not seem to understand at first. Turning, he addressed Mark.
"Mark. Please step forward a little."
As he did so, Rinjin repeated softly to the man, "Mark Miller."
"Ah," smiled the old man, with the ancient eyes, nodding.
"Uh, how do you do?" nodded Mark back at him, feeling awkward, not really knowing if this was an introduction or not. He said it in English, not having the vocabulary to say it in Tibetan. This made him feel even more foolish.
"Sergeant Fields. Come!" Rinjin said, and he repeated the procedure.
"Ah"' the old eyes scrutinized him carefully. The marine said nothing.
"Yogi. Now you. SVA YAM."
"Hmmm," said the seated Tibetan, looking at the yogi's matted hair.
The yogi surprised them with a burst of words.
"You are no Lama! I will only speak with the Lama of this valley! I will not deal with lesser servants or secretaries! No emissaries!"
Mark and Fields were startled, but Rinjin was flushed with embarrassment and cried out, "Hold your tongue! Yogi! You can die for this!"
SVA YAM turned to glare at the Tibetan warrior. He did not see that Chujel Ngugen merely smiled and squinted at him in response to his blast of words.
"It is you, Rinjin, who can die for disrespect!" said the yogi, reaching up into his hair-knot. He seemed to pull something unseen from it and hurl it at the Tibetan. As SVA YAM's hand straightened out, Mark saw a mist envelope the warrior's head. Rinjin began to choke and gasp, his hands to his throat, his knees buckling.
"You are not needed any longer," said the yogi, glaring at the other two Tibetans, who remained frozen in place. "I need no guide any longer!"
Rinjin collapsed to the floor quivering, his body shook with spasms once or twice, then he was still.
The yogi laughed.
Mark leaped forward and knelt next to his friend. He was shocked to see his bulging eyes and the bluish color of his face. He touched the still pulse and with tears welling up in his eyes, he stammered to no one in particular, "He-he's d-dead!"
"Damn!" he heard the marine say.
The yogi ignored the fallen man and spoke to the old Tibetan again.
"I will only speak to the Lama. Send for him!"
Chujel Ngugen did not move. He only squinted and smiled.
"The Lama!" screamed SVA YAM. "Send for the Lama!"
The man continued to smile, not moving.
"He ... he doesn't understand you!" interjected Mark, hoping somehow to calm the yogi and stop whatever monstrous power was working in the room.
The yogi turned to Thubten, still frozen in silence, and commanded,, "Tell him! Tell him what I said... the Lama! Only the Lama! He does not understand me!"
But before Thubten could speak, the seated Tibetan spoke in his soft voice with crystal clear words.
"Ah! I understand you. I understand you very well!"
They were English words.
The yogi threw back his white-shrouded shoulders, pulled in his chin and popped his eyes at the man.
"Then do as I say! Send a messenger!"
The man closed his eyes and shook his head slowly, to and fro, as if to some music.
"No," he said, "I will not."
The yogi bared his teeth in rage and threw his arms out towards the man. His fingers quivered and stretched, as if they were trying to escape from his hands.
"Then die!" he shouted.
The men watching saw flames race to the seated man and engulf him. These ran about in a mass of orange and blocked any view of him, churning like a large bonfire set with kerosene, bursting, and pulsing with energy. Neither man nor tea table remained in view.
"Oh!" exclaimed Mark, half-rising. The marine gnashed his teeth. The Two Tibetans did not move.
"Fool to deny me my wishes!" said the yogi, still with outstretched arms.
The pulsing flames clouded and became milky. They spilled slowly sideways in a billowing whiteness, unlike any smoke from any fire, earthly or magical. Their whiteness was like glistening ice. They tumbled to the floor, seeped outward a few feet like tendrils of fog, and vanished. The Tibetan, Chujel Ngugen, sat there behind the small tea table., squinting and smiling.
The yogi's mouth fell open and his shaking limp arms fell to his sides.
"I will not," said the seated man, "for I cannot."
SVA YAM almost spoke, but, hanging his head, looking at the floor,, could not.
The other continued. "I cannot send for the Lama," he said, "for I am the Lama! "
The remnants of the white smoke lifted from beneath the tea table.
The yogi scowled.
"How can I know that? You do not look like a Lama! You are no monk!"
The other took his mala from his wrist and rubbed the beads together. He seemed to be looking down at the sound they were making. To Fields, it sounded like the deadly rattle of a snake. Then the Tibetan's brown eyes bore into SVA YAM's.
"You hardly know Buddhism, yogi. Some monks are Lamas, but all monks are not Lamas. Some Lamas may be laymen. There have been many in history. There was Marpa, for instance..."
"Lama's are superiors ... They must..." started the yogi clenching his fists before him at waist-level.
"True," smiled the other. "However, it seems that here, I am called one. I am only a poor Lama. There are much greater ones!"
Mark could not believe his ears. He was about to burst into tears over his dead friend. He could not believe his ears!
"What!" he shouted. "What is this ... this ... debate? Over dictionary definitions of what is and what isn't a Lama? That yogi tried to kill you with flames! And you sit there talking with him as if you were..were...in a classroom!"
The seated Tibetan looked at him without any expression. The yogi sneered and his eyes shifted uneasily.
"He tried to kill you!" shouted Mark, with a tinge of hysteria to his voice. "He did killhe killed Rinjin!"
Lama squinted and smiled,-turning his eyes from Mark.
"Who did he kill, Mark Miller?" he asked, not looking at him, but looking past the marine.
"Rinjin..." started Mark, following the eyes of the Tibetan.
It was then that he saw what the Lama saw.
"He could not have killed me," came the words. They came from the figure of Rinjin, standing with his hands on his hips, immediately behind the marine sergeant.
"I am alive. So I can not have been killed!" And the Tibetan began to laugh heartily. Thubten and Tenzin joined their leader in a body-shaking laughter. It was so infectious that Sergeant Fields and Mark joined them, with tears in their eyes. The seated Tibetan squinted and smiled. The yogi scowled.
At last., Mark was able to ask, "But, how, how did it happen? He died! And the flames ... they became smoke ... and he came back to life! How?"
"Illusions) " shrugged Rinjin.
"Hypnotism," suggested Michael Fields. "A bunch of hypnotism. Just like back in the cave!"
"But, Mark said, pointing at the floor near Lama Ngugen, "Look! The floor all around the tea table! It's scorched!"
The marine stopped talking.
"Illusions, " said Rinjin.
"Have some tea," said Lama Ngugen.
Chapter Thirty Nine
"Wel-come to Vajravati," said Lama Ngugen. He signaled and Tenzin quickly came forward with three small pillows for the Americans to sit upon. The yogi sat apart from Mark and Fields. Almost as quickly, with one hand, Thubten had placed three ivory cups on the table, while he carried a long-spouted copper teapot in his other hand. The Lama looked down at the carved wood of the tea table, as if contemplating the cavorting snow-lions at the corners. He withdrew a dark wooden teacup from the folds of his clothing and looked up.
"Have some tea," he repeated, nodding with his head and looking up through his eyebrows.
The yogi shook his head and clasped his hands in the lap made by his folded legs. However, Mark and the marine accepted the tea. The Lama lifted his to his lips and paused for his guests. Mark waited for the Tibetan to drink. The marine gulped his down.
"To get rid of it," he thought to himself. The taste did not suit him. The Lama smiled, sipped from his cup, and signaled Thubten, who stood nearby with the teapot.
"Have some more," he said.
"I..." started the marine, glancing at the grinning Mark. "Sure. Okay... Thank you!"
This time Sergeant Fields sipped the tea exceedingly slowly.
Mark, however, drank one after another, feeling a great thirst.
The old Tibetan smiled at this.
"You like our tea?"
"Yes, it's very good!"
And the Tibetan's eyes turned to the yogi, who sat with folded hands.
"And you? Do you like our tea?"
The yogi would not answer, clenching his jaw muscles.
That was the last of the conversation for a long while. Eyes looked into eyes. The golden-brown eyes seemed to study the sets of blue ones before him, each pair in turn. He studied through the silences of unending moments and moments which were strung together like identical seeds, like beads, without harvests and without prayers. Mark found himself caught in the spaces where "now" became the past the where "now" became the future. He grew drowsy and he noticed that the yogi had closed his eyes and that the marine was heavy-lidded. He wandered in the places between the future moment and the past moment, between now and now.
He opened his eyes wide to prevent falling asleep. He saw the Lama, the ancient golden-brown eyes, staring at him, as if waiting. He opened his eyes again. And again. How long had he had them open this time? Was he already asleep?
Was he dreaming that he sat there drinking tea with this man named Chujel Ngugen? How long? How long had it been?
"Ah," said the Lama at last, as if waiting for the right split second, "We shall prepare the wel-come in the valley for you. I will go to arrange it. Meanwhile..."
All three Americans seemed to become alert., at last together.
"Meanwhile., " said Lama Ngugen, "you shall have to remain here. And rest. And decide."
The Lama was standing, arranging his clothing.
Mark looked up asking, "Decide? Decide what?"
Sergeant Fields was to his feet first.
"We don't have to rest. We'll go with you..." he said.
The Lama shook his head slowly, signaling to Thubten.
Mark also stood and repeated his question again.
The Lama turned without answering and vanished through a doorway in the wall behind the tea table. Mark almost started after him., but Thubten stood in the way. It was clear from the Tibetan's expression that he would not be permitted to follow.
"Well," said Michael Fields, unbuttoning one of his shirt's side buttons, "that looks like that!"
"Yeah," said Mark.
"Except for one thing," continued the marine, "' and that is about what he said. What's he mean, 'decide'? Everything seems to be getting decided for us."
"I don't know," answered Mark, looking at Rinjin, who stood near the entrance from the porch. "What is it, Rinjin? What do we decide?"
"I cannot answer," said the Tibetan.
"Come on, Rinjin," laughed Mark, stepping towards his friend and taking him by the elbow. "What is this 'decide' business?"
The expressionless face which confronted him and the rigidity of the body almost made Mark think that Rinjin was now truly dead. But his voice, in a monotone, came out.
"I cannot answer. It is something between the three of YOU."
Mark swirled to face Fields. He, in his place, had turned to stare at the yogi, who still sat on the pillow on the floor.
"The three of us?" asked Fields.
"What are we to decide?" questioned Mark, puzzled, looking from the blue eyes of the marine to the blue eyes of the yogi.
"How to leave this valley?" suggested the marine, speaking aloud but unconvinced of his own words. He shook his head as he said them.
"No," said the yogi, breaking the silence and slowly standing, moving as if his body had not moved for a generation and was now shaking out old stiffness, old dampness.
"No," he said, glaring at them. "We must decide ...
"What? Do you know?" asked the sergeant.
"We must decide which one of us will live! And which one will kill the other two!"
"You're insane!" snapped Mark.
The yogi stretched out his arms, the fingers quivering.
At the tips of SVA YAM's fingers appeared lights. They faded and flared. They sparkled and moved but did not leave his fingers.
Mark stared at the sight, horrified. What did it mean? What was the yogi doing?
His eyes glanced at the face and then swung immediately back to the fingertips. The eyes seemed more evil, more full of potential danger, than the moving lights.
"What do you..." he began to speak, but then terror clutched at his throat. The sparks began to come closer, leaving the yogi's hands, moving outward toward Mark. Very slowly, they came. And as they came, they seemed to grow larger and hotter-looking. Mark could not ignore them. He wanted to call to Rinjin, to call to Thubten, but no words came.
Halfway between the yogi and Mark Miller, the smaller radiating spots met and coalesced into a larger one. But this combined ball was out of proportion. It was ten times the size it seemed it would have become, following natural laws.
Natural laws! None of it was natural! There it was! A spinning ball of white flame! It spat and quivered as it rolled towards Mark.
"It's getting larger!" he yelled, the white flux filling his field of vision, its heat upon him.
"Where's my gun?" he heard the marine yell, but he did not see him. And he knew Sergeant Fields had left his weapons below when they had changed clothes.
"It wouldn't make any difference!" he thought, the heat almost burning him.
"Goodbye!" laughed the yogi.
Mark could neither think nor move until he heard a voice, as if from in the caves through which they had passed.
"Illusions! Illusions can bleed!"
"And." thought Mark, "illusions can burn and be burned."
He could feel his hands move up to shield his face in the white heat.
SVA YAM scowled at the movement and muttered,, "Too late! And not enough!"
Mark heard this and remembered.
"SVA YAM! He killed Rinjin. But he did not!"
White heat moving.
"He sent fire.." Mark thought, "but the Lama was not burned!"
"Too late!" laughed SVA YAM.
Mark felt his fingers blistering.
"NOT killed! Not burned!" shouted Mark, gasping in the all -encompassing white ball, white searing emptiness. "Illusion!" he shouted. "Illusion!"
Perspiration poured down his face, immediately, evaporating. He could feel his clothes about to burst into flames. All about him everything seemed to flow in its whiteness.
"Movement," he thought, "like in the agate wall! In the Vajra door!"
With these thoughts other colors came. Golden and blue, molten colors, the translucencies of the agate.
He was lifted into it, spun about with the shapes. He grew larger and became that spinning vajra. The heat persisted and he remembered escaping through the wall. He touched the red-hot mala beads which were still around his neck.
, "AHHH the heat!" he started to say. But it turned into "AUM VAJRA CITTA HUM!" which brought a cold wind into his body. With it came spinning and more repetition of the mantra, unplanned and automatically. He lost himself in the sounds.
"AUM VAJRA CITTA HUM!
AUM VAJRA CITTA HUM!"
The cold wind was from glaciers unseen. There were icicles that grew upwards in his body. There were deep caverns filled with frozen rivers. He did not move from underground for a hundred dozen millennia.
Then that ended in the silence.
The silence ended in the laughter of the marine, the chuckles of Thubten.
He opened his eyes.
The angry yogi had turned and was leaving the room. The Tibetans joined Sergeant Fields in his laugher and smiles.
"Good! Good!" said Tenzin.
Mark was puzzled for the moment and then began to remember what had been happening.
"Just hypnotism!" laughed the marine. "Boy! He almost had you! But you stopped him! How did you do it!" said Mark, looking at the scorched floor surrounding him. He lifted his left arm, and saw that the cloth on his sleeve was still smoking. He stared. His left hand had blisters on it.
"I don't know," he answered, dumbfounded, watching the blisters vanish from his skin, leaving it normal-looking.
"Just had to realize it was all fake and not be taken in by it?" laughed the marine.
"Fake!" thought Mark, rubbing his bare foot on the hot scorch-marks.
"Fake?" he said aloud. "Yes. I guess so."
"That's all!" grinned Michael Fields.
"Hmmm," mused the other American. "That's all?"