Chapter Eighty Six
Mark fell and struck his head sharply. It was such a loud thud that Susan was afraid that he had cracked something. She tumbled near him and was relieved to see that he was breathing. "Is he allright?" she thought. He did not move. She tried to reach him.
The movement of the room stopped. It seemed to teeter swaying on some balance point, which became more evident when Susan tried to move. Everything was at an unnatural slant.
"Mark! Mark!" she called to him, trying to reach out to grab his hand. The swaying cautioned her to be careful. But the crackling of the flames insisted that she hurry.
Loosely clutched in Mark's unconscious hand was the vajra. Susan saw this, and she glanced about quickly to seek out the bell. There it was, within easy reach of her!
Holding it tightly in her left hand, she slid along the floor towards Mark.
"Swaying floor or no swaying floor!" she said between her clenched teeth, "I've got to reach him before everything collapses!" Her eyes saw the vajra in his limp palm roll with the movement of the room. The spitting flames sent sparks falling around them. "Now!" she said, rolling to Mark, grabbing the vajra before it fell away.
The room shuddered, as if dying, as she tried to lift Mark. She worked from behind him, with her arms reaching under his, with her hands crossing over his chest, wrist over wrist. Right hand holding the vajra,, left hand holding the bell. As she struggled to stand, struggled to lift him, the room began to slowly slide again! With a shout, she got to the window with the unconscious man.
All thoughts of the falling room, the flaming beams, left her mind at the sight which greeted her eyes. A huge bird was moving towards the window. Astride it was the yogini, Gloria, her hands over her head, her eyes blazing with hatred. She had escaped from the marine somehow. Her fingertips were beginning to send out sparks! Susan staggered and fell over the edge of the window, plunging into empty air, still with her arms crossed over Mark's chest, taking him down to the burning rocks below!
Chapter Eighty Seven
He was in a large silvery room. He could not see its walls, its ceiling or any features of it, but he knew it was a room. He was alone, standing. His bare feet felt the coldness of the stone floor.
A sound. Muffled,, as Of a distant plane, about to land at some airport. A jet airplane cutting its engines.
Suddenly the lama, Chujel Ngugen, was before him. He gave a polite short bow. Mark tightened his lips.
"You are the Master of the Mandala?" asked the Tibetan.
"What's it to you?" snapped the American.
"I am one of his obedient servants," smiled the lama. "Even a friend."
"Then, help me to escape!"
The Tibetan shrugged. "The Master needs no help!"
"Then get out of here! Enough of this old man before me!" commanded Mark Miller.
Lama Chujel cocked an eyebrow at this.
"You wish me to ... ah... return?" he asked.
"Yes!" answered Mark, without even understanding the other man's words. "Now!"
"As you say," the Tibetan replied, stepping directly towards the American. It was so sudden that Mark was afraid that he was being attacked. He threw up his right hand just as the man was going to collide with him. But it did not happen.
One moment the lama was there and the next he was gone. There did not seem to be any transition.
"What ... ?" Mark called out, spinning to look to the other side,, almost hoping to find that the lama had merely walked past him. No. No one was there. He stared about, flustered.
"Where did he go?"
And he looked at the palm of his right hand. On it he saw a small circle, which was fading fast. He frowned, and a moment later it was gone.
"Only a circle?"
The light seemed to change and he was doing something. Sitting on the floor, he held a square board on his lap. He was stretching strings across it, one at a time. When he did so, he snapped the taut line, causing it to strike the surface with a sharp impact. A cloud of dust rose. The string had been charged with blue powder and left a line. He changed the position of the string and repeated the process. Over and over. Soon the lines crossed the square in many directions. He bent his fingers and measured spaces, nodding with pleasure at the accurate placement of the lines. Finger joints and bone lengths told him what he wished to know. Before him was a complex geometric design, triangles within triangles, pointing upwards and downwards, interpenetrating each other like Stars of David within Stars of David within. Stars of .....
"What are you doing?" asked a voice.
He glanced up. It was Thubten.
Mark smiled. "Why are you here? And not with the yogi?"
"What are you doing?" asked another voice. It was Tenzin, grinning.
"You too? Did you give up serving the marine?"
"We only serve our Master," they said together, standing still, pointing at the design on the board.
"You serve a chalk mandala drawing?" Mark asked.
"No.." they laughed, moving towards him. "But you will understand!
He put out both his hands to ward them off, for they came in low, as if to tackle him. But here was no one to stop. They vanished as completely as the lama had. The room was empty!
"I ... I..." Mark stammered at the sight of two more Tibetans.
"Dorje!" he exclaimed. "Sherpa! It can't be! You're both dead. Dorje, you died before the waterfall! Sherpa! You died in the canyon. The yogi killed you!"
He turned from the approach of the apparently-ghostly figures. As he did so he repeated the words he had just said., and recognition dawned.
"The yogi! Dammit! The yogi killed.... !
He felt two soft impacts against his shoulder-blades. When he turned the men were gone. This set him into motion, moving quickly into the endless silver space. His eyes filled with tears. His mouth contained a bitter taste.
He did not go far. To his right and left he heard sounds. Footsteps. The clink of metal. He stopped and stared,, his head snapping to look to both sides, and to look back again.
"Oh no!" he exhaled in a long breath. Moving towards him from both sides were the cloud warriors. They were awake. They were brandishing their weapons and closing a great circle around him! Frozen in place, Mark could not move. He lost all sense of fear and lifted his head. He felt his features change into an expression of defiance, his eyes narrowing, his nostrils flaring, his lips curling.
The warriors were lifting their spears, by the hundreds,, setting their arrows to their bows, by the thousands, unsheathing uncounted swords, daggers. They were moving closer.
Mark glared at them, his breathing easy, and his motions carefully chosen.
"Stop! You cannot harm me!" he decided to say. "I am the Master of the Mandala!"
The arrows flew! The spears were thrown! The swords flashed and daggers plunged!
Mark inadvertently blinked. When his eyes opened he saw that the weapons were gone and flying through the air towards him were flowers, of every kind, 84,000 of them! They struck and vanished with small sensations of the odours, smells and perfumes of all the flowers. These too seemed to evaporate, inwardly. And where there had been an army of warriors was now an empty silvery room.
Mark felt his body: his arms, his chest, his legs. He shook his head in amazement. No wounds! Not a scratch. He thought he saw flower imprints, or circles, on his bare feet., but he could not be sure. They faded too soon.
"Strange, strange!" he muttered.
Before he could think about it too much, his eye was caught by the mandala-designed board. It glowed and shook. As soon as he picked it up, it was quiet in his hand. Images seemed to have been painted on it. He focused carefully.
"Yes, here are mountains, like fingers with snow he said. "Here is the giant gompa, and white clouds, punctuated by dark smoke. Ah! Helicopters! Dark birds!" Then he froze. "They are moving! They're alive!"
Squinting hard, he saw something which made him bare h teeth and give an animal sound. "Grrau!" It was the yogi! He stood on a hillside burning great swathes of terraced land with flame-throwing gestures of his hands. "The yogi! He killed Sherpa! In the canyon! Oh! How could I forget!!" Tears rolled down his cheeks and he clenched his teeth so tightly that the rock ceiling of Vajravati seemed to shift and to crack!
"I will," he said at last, "Kill him! Grraul Kill the bastard!"
Chapter Eighty Eight
Mark awoke. He opened his eyes.
He was falling down towards burning rocks!
Across his chest he felt two crossed arms. Right and left hands held the agate vajra and bell, respectively. He had hardly recognized them as Susan's when he saw them shake the two agate objects and gently touch them together. A sound as gentle as the movement of eyes reverberated from them. Mark heard Susan speak.
"Away from here! To safety!"
And their dizzying fall stopped. They first slowed in their drop and then there was a gentle change of angle. They were carried across the valley as if on a singing breeze. Landing near a white stone village, they began to babble to
each other simultaneously.
"Mark! Are you allright?"
"How did you do that?" "I dunno, but the blow to your head?" "Did that really happen?" "Really close! The rockets. "Great parts of the valley are burning". "The yogini!"
"Oh, Mark, I'm glad you're safe!" smiled Susan. Mark was staring at the objects in her hands. "The bell and the vajra did it!" he stated. "Somehow., they gave you the ability to...." "Fly?" She giggled. "I guess so!"
Thunderous sounds came from the distance. Mark glanced in their direction. "The marine and yogi are really at it!"
Then he looked at the white village nearby, at its one street which twisted up the hillside. A directed stream ran in a deep man-made passage next to the stepping stones of the street.
"It looks deserted," said Susan. "Yes," he replied, "But let's check it out. Don't want any surprises."
They moved up the street, glancing into doorways, into empty shops, with empty shelves. Empty staircases went upstairs to empty rooms.
"No one. No one anywhere," he said. "Spooky, like .... like .... Then he remembered his dream. "Dammit!"
Susan looked at him but did not question him aloud.
"In my dream! I remembered! The yogi! He killed Sherpa!"
Susan still did not speak, watching the expressions on his face change, his nostrils flare.
"And it was true! I hadn't remembered! The yogi kept me from remembering! Now I remember!"
He turned to her, his eyes not seeing her.
"He killed my friend. And he tried to kill me."
She did not speak for a moment, then asked her question slowly.
"What are you going to do?"
"Ah!" he exhaled a long breath and his body relaxed. "I was going to kill him. But I can't get into that. I can't risk it!"
She frowned. She knew that Mark was not afraid. "What do you mean?"
He glanced at the blank white walls.
"This Master of the Mandala stuff. If I make a move for the yogi, they'll think I've chosen to be in the running. The hell with that!"
"What then?" asked Susan, touching his hand with one of hers, the one which held the bell. He looked down at it.
"Let's just get out of here! Clear this valley, while we can. We have the bell and the vajra. That should allow us to get through the caves."
She looked at the objects and then the village. A part of her, the scholarly part, thought of the great opportunity the valley gave for study. A lost kingdom! She gave a sigh and said, "Yes, I guess you're right."
"We can..." Mark started to speak, when a dusty wind began to blow ferociously through the village. It was shrieking around the corners and clouding the street where they stood. It had a high voice, a piercing cry, which ripped at nerve endings. "What! Is! It?" shouted Mark.
A dark shadow fell over them. And before they were able even to look up, a long noose slipped down around Susan. Great claws scraped the flagstones of the street. Mark was knocked into the doorway, and saw the red-haired woman being lifted into the air, dangling, with a rope around her waist. She vanished into the dust and wind!
Lying on the street were the agate bell and agate vajra. Susan had dropped them. Mark did not see them, he stood in the doorway, braced against the wind, shouting up into the screaming gale, the frenzied whirlpools of dust.
"Harm her and I'll ...Harm her and...
Laughter came from high above the sounds of feathers creating great gusts of air.
"I'll kill you!" Mark shouted unheard. "I'll kill you all!
Chapter Eighty Nine
"The bell and the vajra!" he shouted, spotting the objects. He jumped forward and scooped them up, one to each hand. The bell in his right hand, the vajra in his left.
"Susan!" he shouted., crossing one wrist over the other, "Take me to Susan!" A sound was emitted from the bell and he rose suddenly into the air, as if making a great leap. Over the white village, when he was free of the whirling dust, he faltered in his flight. As he hesitated in midair, he could see the giant bird flying away, shrinking in size with the distance.
"To Susan!" he repeated, as if to the two objects. But he was not taken in quick motion after the bird. Instead, as if all of it had been a mistake., he began to slowly sink downwards again. His feet landed on a flat rooftop with a jolt. Angrily, he commanded the objects to respond, but nothing happened. Meanwhile, the bird was far away, fast vanishing against the mountains.
Mark stared at the bell and vajra. "What is wrong? Why didn't they work? They worked for Susan .... He clenched them tightly in his hands, almost tempted to hurl them away in disgust. But he did not. "I can't do that! They may be Susan's only chance!" He shook them, touched them to each other and spoke to them over and over, trying different words, different ways to say the same thing. Nothing happened. Worried, he listened to the now-quiet valley. No sounds of either the yogi or the marine. Where were they? What were they doing? Perhaps one of the men had won, and now was the Master of the Mandala.
"No," he shook his head. "That is not possible. Impossible. Even if only one is alive, he still must deal with me. To kill me....Ah That seems so easy now. I'm helpless, and if ... if ...Susan is .... gone ... who the hell cares if they find me!" He sat dejectedly on the rooftop feeling dejected and angry alternately. Soon, the anger persisted the longest.
"Damn! They're getting stronger in this siddhi stuff, but perhaps I still can do something." He stood and looked up.
"Let it be twilight!" he said, and waited. It was only a moment., but to Mark Miller it seemed exceedingly long. Twilight. It came! "Good!" he smiled. "That something, at least." He looked at the village which was now grey. Were there forms moving in the streets? No. Just imagination. Hesitantly, he spoke again. "Darkness, deep darkness'"
Darkness also came. Very dark, very deep. He sighed and then sharply inhaled. "Okay! Light! Fast!" Click! Brilliant light, as if daylight, came, flooding the white stone village.
Looking at his hands with the objects, Mark nodded.
"I see. Wrong hands!" He switched the vajra and the bell to the right hand and the left hand respectively. Squinting in the direction in which the bird had vanished he spoke softly. "Take me to where Susan is!"
As if with a great leap, he was flying through the sky. The landscape blurred beneath him and almost made him dizzy. "Slow! Slow down!" he shouted. And he was moving at a lesser rate. He could study a fortified hilltop which he was approaching. Just beyond it nestled a dark cloud, between the hills. As he approached, in a smooth circle, the cloud shook itself and rose upwards. Birds! A great flock of giant birds, and they had sensed his coming. They were rising to attack him! He did not know what to do.
From the fortress below he saw two figures exit. One was the yogi and one was the yogini. Even from a distance, he could tell that. The expressions on their faces were like horrible masks, devoid of all pity.
"Where is Susan? What have they done with her?" he wondered.
"Ha! Ishtadevi is great! She has brought me my quarry! The bait of the woman worked!" came SVA YAM's voice from below. A stream of flame shot upwards towards Mark. As a reflex action, he lifted his hands to shield his face. The vajra deflected the fire. This was repeated each time the yogi threw fire, until he gave up that tactic, signaling the birds which were gathering like black mountains to attack. The yogini, Gloria, climbed aboard one, to lead the attack. The yogi leaped upward, as if freehanded, and flew towards Mark shrieking with laughter. "Puny fool!" he called. "We shall use your ashes to smear our bodies!" But he was not empty handed, Mark noticed. In his right hand was a bowl made of the top of a skull. It splashed red fluids and pulled him along as if it were a source of energy.
"Here they come!" gulped Mark, turning in his flight over the hilltop. The great birds were already over him and descending with outstretched claws the size of trees. The yogini was coming from one side, the yogi from another. "Got to retreat!" Mark shouted. "Darkness!" And immediately blackness surrounded them all. He was unseen, but this did not prevent the giant birds from crashing down blindly onto the village. They crushed buildings and clawed at the street, seeking him out. He kept moving and was soon down the hill, out of the village, without their touching him. The crashing continued and he felt that they had lost their chance to get him. He had to remain hidden!
But inexplicably, daylight returned. Looking toward the village, Mark could see it in ruins. The black-feathered mountains were thrashing about, tossing remnants of the village everywhere. "Darkness!" shouted Mark. "Darkness want darkness!" But it remained-light.
"No use, you fool! I've cancelled that!" came the voice of the yogi, high above him. The yogini was nowhere to be seen. "I'm better than your match!" cried SVA YAM, sending more fire down upon the blue-eyed American. The crossed bell and vajra still acted as a shield above Mark's head. "It's no use!" shouted the yogi, sending fluid fire down the hillside, surrounding Mark in a great burning circle, just a few feet short of him. "You will relax sooner or later and the bell-vajra will weaken! Then! Ha! Then you will be ashes!"
The flames above him and around him did not reach Mark., but he could feel their heat. "Why isn't the air consumed?" he thought. It seemed to inch closer. "Because, because they are not real! Cold! Water!" he shouted, and snow fell on the flames and extinguished them in a great flurry.
The yogi was not in sight any longer.
"Where has he gone?" Mark looked about. Gone. But in his place was the yogini, flying towards him with her giant mount. She was screaming and waving bones held in both of her hands.
"Why aren't you dead!? I want your skull!"
The bird's claws scraped the ground into gigantic trenches. But Mark was already in the sky above it. "What have you done with Susan?" he demanded. The blood-stained yogini sneered. "Your woman is dead! SVA YAM the Master carries her skull now! He goes back to make ornaments of her thigh bones!"
Purple and red colors seemed to flood Mark's eyes.
"Graau" he growled, "No!"
"Yes! laughed the woman.. turning her feathered creature to attack. "And soon I will drink your blood."
The bird-mountain loomed. Mark struck the bell with the vajra,
"Ri Kyo Pa!" he shouted. He., vajra and bell, grew steadily larger. First they were as large as the black bird and it swooped by to try to ear at his eyes. Then, relentlessly, Mark grew larger, his head vanishing into the shining clouds., the bell in his hand opening like a giant cave before bird and woman. It became like a colossal roofed valley hold by an invisible hand. The bird was like a large insect before it.
Mark struck the bell with the great world-creating vajra. A single note was thus created. It sang. It vibrated in a circular motion, around and around the curved wall of the great cave, the great wound of the universe-valley, singing. First it sang outwards., blowing the black bird in its tumbling flight, across all of Vajravati. Then it sang inwards, pulling the bird and its rider into the hollowness of its .. thousands of miles into the interior, around and around.
Mark exhaled a great breath and saw that he was his normal size again. The yogini was gone.
"Susan," he whispered. "Susan," he repeated, looking towards the fortified hilltop,, far away. The other great birds were flying from the shattered village, returning to the yogi.
Mark blinked his eyes for a few seconds. He felt the bell and the vajra quivering in his hands, full of silent music.
"The yogi! He killed Sherpa. He tried to kill me! Now he has" He could not say it aloud. He stood and crossed his right wrist over his left., high over his head. "Now dammit! I'm going to kill him!"
SVA YAM saw the grey cloud approaching, and smiled. He knew that it was Mark. He became a net of six feathers and lifted the blood-filled skull high above the fortresss, 1ooking down and waiting,
"Where is he?" worried Mark, landing at the fortress and taking his own form again. He searched open doorways but was thrown back by an awful stench., as if caused by the decaying bodies left on some unnamed battlefields of pre-history. "Oh Gods Susan," he coughed and cape out into the light. "Where is what is left ? Where are you?"
It was then that the yogi overhead struck. The feathers shaped themselves into flaming icicles and plunged downwards towards the figure of Mark. One remained floating above, gently holding the skull. They all struck exceedingly close, within inches of their targets but they missed, However, they were rammed into the ground solidly and became searing bars of a tight prison. Mark could barely move. And the force of their impact had knocked the ben from his hand. He stared horrified as it rolled down the embankment and vanished into one of the stench-filled doorways or darkness.
Looking up., he could see the last feather change into a flaming icicle and plunge towards him from its great height. He could move his eyes but not his hands. The vajra was fixed to his side., useless.
The falling icicle was followed by the spinning skull-top, which splashed red droplets outwards. They fell upon the hillside like little explosions, causing small craters.
"This does it," thought Mark, at the sight of it all.
But then, from the foul-smelling dark doorway came a sound. A soft notes which penetrated the air as music. It cam again. And then once more. All in quick succession. The icicles which imprisoned Mark fell aside and he leapt from his confined spaces just as the sixth fell onto it with a great shudder. Mark went tumbling and was crawling to his feet when he turned to look back. The yogi stood there., glowing and spitting sparks from his entire body. Over his head, the skull floated quietly.
"Your luck has run out!" hissed SVA YAM. "Time to finish this game!"
"Oh yeah?" snapped Mark, his heart pounding ferociously in his breast. He thrust out his right hand with the vajra hold tightly. "You will die, not me!"
The yogi did not move for a moment, then he nodded his head. Mark kept his eyes fixed on him., so he did not notice the ground changing around him. The rocks were growing, They moved and compounded their shapes as if they were demonic plants rising. And they were growing around his legs moving up in rectilinear chunks towards his torso.
"What the...?" shouted Mark in horror, as the dense materials clutched around is waist began to press in at his lower ribcage.
"Chokej Dial" laughed the yogi, waving his hands.
Mark struck with the vajra at the stones pressing in at him.
But nothing happened. His left arm was encased, his shoulders were being encased. Only his head and his right arm were free. He glanced at the vajra which he held. He had to do something. But what could he do?
He threw the vajra with all his might at he yogi.
SVA YAM caught it, laughing. It did not harm him!
But in the moment which the yogi caught the vajra, he had been distracted. The rocks fell away from Mark. They were gone. He was able to breathe easily again.
SVA YAM spoke,
"This time, it is over. It is fitting that the vajra destroy you!" And he threw the agate vajra at Mark Miller, who stared at it flying towards him.
"Susan," he thought. "Su-san!" he said aloud at the same time.
The vajra struck him in the chest, entering, shattering bones. It spun, clearing lungs and muscles. It settled at the heart and shot electrical charges through his body, consuming and changing all forms therein. Mark felt as if he had become an exploding sun and be was consuming all the planets and moons which had so long spun about him. He felt that he should scream, but that there was no time. "Goodbye! Goodbye, Mark Miller!" came his own voice from deep in his spinal column. Consciousness persisted, Awareness persisted. They did not vanish, They did not stop, His body was filled with energy and he did not fall.
Then it grew quiet.
The yogi stared at the standing man. Mark stared back at him, not moving, not speaking. Then his eyes blinked, and his nostrils flared.
"Why don't you, why aren't you, dead?" screamed SVA YAM, petrified at the sight of the smiling blue-eyed American.
"How could," the smiling man asked... "The vajra kill me?"
The yogi became agitated and reached up for the floating skull.
"It does not matter!" he shouted. "I still will win!"
He grabbed the skull and tilted it, until its contents were flowing freely into his mouth. It steamed and dripped down his chin. All the while, the yogis wild eyes watched the smiling American. When he had emptied its contents, the yogi hurled the skull away from him. It clattered down the embankment, lifeless.
"Now." said SVA YAM, wiping his mouth with the back of one hand, "Let us see who is supreme!"
"Don't be foolish," whispered the other man. But the yogi was leaping forward with outstretched hands.
"I will kill you with my bare hand! he shouted,
Mark Miller pushed him aside easily. The yogi fell, but was on his feet immediately. He stood stiff with his legs apart, his eyes rolling in his head, inhaling and exhaling very quickly, The sparks on his body multiplied, seemingly coming from every pore. They grew into jets of blue flame., reaching out five or six inches. He seemed like some terrible flaming porcupine,, He leaped forward to embrace Mark in a deadly grip. The flames bent like the tips of welding torches against the blue-eyed American's body. His clothes evaporated in a flash, leaving him naked, caught in the crushing grip of SVA YAMs arms. But nothing happened. The yogi could not move a single muscle of the diamond-hard body. He stared in fury at Mark's face which was so still that he might have well been alone, contemplating in some deep comfortable place. The yogi screamed. "You must die!"
Mark spoke softly. "It is you who will die, unless you stop." He felt the vajra in his heart beginning to pulse, "Never! I am the one! You die! shrieked the yogi, intensifying the pressure of his fiery jets. They both were lost to night, wrapped in the great blue flame which floated from the yogi's effort. "Die! Die!" came SVA YAM's voice. "There must be an and to this!" said Mark Miller.. His two flaming, but unconsumed, arms reached around the form of the yogi and pulled him towards his adamantine body. There was no place for the yogi to move. That body was unyielding. The movement crushed him. It pulverized him, and the self-engendered flames burnt his dust to a fine white ash.
The flames were gone. The yogi was gone. Smoke arose from the body of Mark Miller. His eyes blinked and looked to and fro. He was completely covered with ashes--his hair, his eyelids, his lips, his entire body.
"Too bad," he said. "But,:" he nodded, stepping across the flagstones of the fortified hill, "you brought it on yourself. You should not, should not, have killed Susan!" He said this last sentence aloud, with a great sense of grief.
He was startled when a voice interrupted him.
"Wrong about that one! What makes you think I'm dead?"
He spun to see Susan standing in the dark doorway of the fortress. Her face was stained with soot and her clothes were filthy and torn, revealing her breasts. In one hand she held the agate bell, in the other what appeared to be a thigh-bone.
Aha! he cried, leaping forward, as she did the same. They met in tight embrace. Careful! she cried. you seem to be made of steel!
Vajra diamond! he laughed. She nodded. Yes. I saw!
But, youre alive! he insisted, putting a grin across his ash-smeared face. His blue eyes looked incongruous there.
"How is it possible? The yogini said ...
"What does she know! Augh!" And she was removing the clothes which still clung to her body. "Filthy! The stench!"
"I don't understand," Mark protested, seeing her beauty revealed to him again. "She said that the skull SVA YAM had was yours!"
"Lies. Just bitchy lies!" Susan said, flinging the remnants of her dress away. "It is a relic. Supposed to have belonged to the first Master of the Mandala."
Mark looked about but could not see where it had tumbled to.
"How did he get that?"
"I got it. He had to send me deep into the fortress to get it. The stench was too much for him. I gave it to him before I realized that he couldn't come in after me! Then I hid out., deep in there! Came out, though, in time to use the bell to save you from those fiery icicles."
She wrinkled her nose at the doorway and gestured with her hand. "Putrid place," she said. In her hand was the bone.
"What's that?" asked Mark.
She shrugged her stained shoulders. "I dunno, but it looked like it was worth taking out. Looks like a horn."
"Hmmm. Made of a thigh-bone?"
"Yes. It has a cute metal mouthpiece," she said, putting it to her lips. Mark caught her hand. "Wait. I have something better." And they kissed hard and long. It was the sounds of feathers moving which caused them to pause and look up. "The birds! They're still around!"
"But," pointed out Susan, "the yogi's gone. What could they be up to?"
The birds were rising into a black cloud again, leaving their resting places between the hills. Mixed with the sounds of their flapping wings was another sound. It was of engines. It was of propellers whirring. Helicopters!
"Look! Another black cloud!" Susan pointed at a cloud of spots approaching from beneath the finger mountains.
"The marine! He's attacking again!" said Mark.
"What shall we do?" asked the red-haired woman, clutching his arm.
"Escape! That's what!" he answered. "But how!"
"Give him something to keep him busy?" grinned the smudge-faced Susan.
"How?" Mark asked, wrinkling his forehead in puzzlement.
"Let's try this!" Susan lifted the thigh-bone horn to her lips and puffing out her cheeks caused it to give out a long "Brrrrrr" note.
The flock of birds immediately reacted,, and Went tumbling towards the fleet of helicopters. Rockets soon were seen being fired at the birds. Susan gave the horn another blast. "BRRRRrrrrrRRRRRI" And the birds started to strike claw against claw to send sheets of fire at the helicopters in response. Once more Susan blew out a note. "BrrrrRRRRR!" And the birds grew helicopter rotors and firing banks of rockets.
"Beautiful!" laughed Mark. "That should confuse the hell out of him!"
The two of them began to run down the hillside away from the fortress. Looking back, they saw that the marine also was making changes. The helicopters were growing wings and striking fire from huge claws. A confusing battle began to ensue.
"Wait!" puffed Susan, perspiration pouring down her face. "Why are we running? We'll never outdistance him this way!"
"What then?" asked the ash-covered Mark.
"The bell! The vajra!" she gasped. "We can fly!"
He shook his head sadly. "No. Can't be done! It's in my chest!"
"We'll fix that, " she smirked., balancing the agate bell between her breasts, pushing them together with her hands. "Move against me."
He did so.
"Ouch," she said. "Did I press too hard?" he asked. "No. " she answered. "It's this horn. I'll hold it with my mouth,, we may need it later."
"Okay," he agreed.
"Ready? When I give a 'toot', lets get flying!" she instructed.
The two figures fumbled a moment, she pressing her breasts together to hold the bell, he maneuvering to press the hidden vajra against it. She balanced the horn in her mouth and then gave a short "Brr!" With his arms wrapped around her, he shouted, "To the mountainside! To the house on the staircase!"
And away they went! He roared with laughter at their success. But she only giggled, fearful of dropping the thighbone horn which she held so precariously between her lips. Besides, the vajra in his chest was pulsing steadily, vibrating the bell, sending singing rhythms through her breasts, to her stomach, throughout her torso, into her arms, legs and head. She felt like she was glistening and full of energy. "Let me have a diamond body, too," she thought.
They landed at the patio of the house. It was in ruins and they did not linger. Across the valley, they could see the bird-helicopters fighting the helicopter-birds.
"So far, so good!" remarked Susan. "Back to position!" She laughed, placing the bell between her breasts again. "Yes, let's go!" And again they flew upwards, landing on the ledge outside the great doors, within which Mark and his companions had seen the sleeping cloud warriors.
Mark quickly told Susan what to expect inside.
"Now,, what we have to be concerned about is whether they are still asleep!"
"I'll be quiet as a mouse," she said, her bare feet following his.
"Shhh!" he cautioned with a finger to his lips.
Mark Miller opened the door.
He could not believe what greeted his eyes.
Chapter Ninety One
Susan could see the shock in his eyes but said nothing. He glanced back and forth anxiously and grabbed the wrist of the hand which clutched the bell. He began to run.
"Quickly!" he said. That one word and nothing else. She obeyed without question. As she ran, she looked to the right and left, as far as she could in the space about her. No one was there. There were no warriors anywhere. The space was empty.
It was not until they came to the great agate wall with the vajra that they stopped. Mark glanced nervously behind him and answered her questioning eyes. "They're gone! The cloud warriors are gone! That's where they were asleep, waiting!" She was about to ask if he was sure, but caught herself. "Of course he's sure!" she thought. But she said, "What does it mean? What now?"
The ash-smeared man looked up at the great shimmering vajra, the image which let light pour through into the great chamber.
"I don't know. They've awakened! That's for sure! But where they are .... that's another question!"
"With the marine?" she ventured.
He shrugged. "I doubt it. He would have used them to stop us. The question is whether or not we can continue!" She was staring up at the design. "It seems to be moving," she said. "Yes," he nodded, glancing back towards the empty chambers which once held the sleeping warriors. Something gnawed at his mind, but he shook it away as a distraction. "We've got to go through as quickly as possible!"
He touched Susan's shoulder and directed her to stretch out before the vajra wall. Then he joined her.
"Now move like this," he said, "and recite AUM VAJRA CITTA HUM!"
They moved towards the wall, with outstretched hands, reciting.
"AUM (AUM) VAJRA (VAJRA) CITTA (CITTA) HUM (HUM)."
But their hands struck a solid wall. They were not allowed to pierce it, not allowed to enter. Susan's eyes darted to his. He shook his head and tightened his lips. "It doesn't work in this direction!"
"Now what?" asked Susan, after she had gotten to her feet. Mark was studying the wall, his right palm rubbing it as if looking for an answer. Suddenly, Susan gasped. "Listen!" He spun. "What is it?" he asked. "Listen! Sounds from where the warriors had been!"
It was low murmuring. It was almost below the level of hearing, but it was there. Almost groaning, with soft sounds as if footsteps. Voices in conversation, but not with anyone else. As if in prayer. An advancing prayer coming closer.
"Chanting!" whispered Mark, shivering when he recognized it for what it was. The soft striking of a drum. Again. And another.
"What is it?" asked the soot-smeared woman.
"I'll be damned if I know! But I don't like it!" Mark responded, staring up at the huge vajra again. "We've got to get going!"
"How?" she asked, so low that he could not have heard her. But he responded in any case. "The bell and the vajra! We needed it to escape. This might be why!"
Susan placed the bell between her breasts. Mark embraced her, his arms pulling her close. Her hands caught each other behind his head. The horn she held sideways, between her teeth.
"Into the vajra wall!" Mark exclaimed, just as the loud chanting began to fill the chamber, just as the drumbeats were beginning to come faster.
Immediately that was where they were.
The colors swirled around them, spinning them in a vertical stance. Holding each other tightly, they waited, dazzled by the blues, the oranges, the flux of mineral colors, jewel-like lights. As they spun, Mark heard Susan give a short piercing cry. He did not understand it. It was spun out of his mind. Blues. Oranges. Soon they came to a halt. They were still in the vajra wall, somewhere high above the center. They could see into the next chamber. And those in the chamber could see them! It was crowded with linear warriors who were throwing spears, shooting arrows at the wall. At them! Volley after volley, the arrows came. But they could not penetrate.
"We're trapped!" said the red-haired woman.
Mark looked at her, holding her bare shoulders.
"Those warriors are the least of our troubles. We can't get out of the wall!"
"We'll use the bell and the vajra again!" smiled Susan, but suddenly her smile vanished. The colored lights flowed over her face but did not disguise her dismay. "It's gone!"
"How? I felt it all along!" said Mark.
She touched her breasts. She touched between them, wrinkling her brow. "I...I...I... remember! There was a sharp pain! It went inside me!"
Mark stared at the spot. He thought he saw a mark, but it was gone before he was sure. "Now what?" he asked, looking about himself in the flowing mineral-colored lights. "We're stuck in never-land!"
"Perhaps not," suggested Susan, presenting him with the thigh-bone horn. He gave it a try.... (B---- !) But could get no sound. She puffed out her cheeks and attempted to make a sound.... (B---- !) Also no success.
The archers were very determined. They retrieved their arrows which bounced off the wall, and continued to launch a rain of death upwards at them. The arrows kept bouncing back.
"Ah! I have a thought," grinned Susan impishly.
Mark cocked one eyebrow at her. "And that is...?"
"Let's make love!" she laughed.
He looked at her for a long moment before he answered.
"Do you think this is the right time for it?" he asked solemnly. "We might do better trying to survive first."
She moved closer and patted his cheek, still grinning.
"I'm not being sentimental," she said'. "going out in a blaze of ecstasy or anything like that .... Boy, are you dusty!" looking at the white ash on her hand.
"What then?" he quizzed.
She put one finger, in a mocking gesture, to her forehead.
"You, my Master of the Mandala," she intoned, "have a bargain of a sweetheart in me. I am a college girl, expert in many things..."
"What are you talking about!?" he interrupted nervously watching the arrows bouncing off the fluctuating barrier, a few inches from them.
"Okay!" She emphasized her words. "This is the 'what' that I'm talking about." He waited. "In oriental religions, they have symbols galore. One set is the vajra and the bell!" His features became alert. "They represent many things: intellect and inspiration, matter and space, lightning and thunder, male and female, penis and vagina...."
"So?" he asked,, understanding but pretending puzzlement.
"You big ox!" she laughed. "We're the vajra and the bell, in person!"
"You make it sound like a circus act!" he laughed.
"You big clown!" she said, throwing her arms around his neck. "What have we got to lose?"
"Right!" he laughed, kissing her upon her lips, then her neck, Blowing into her ear.
The vajra began to move. The bell began to sing.
The arrows of the warriors began to penetrate into the wall. But they came through as flowers which fell on the couple, who paid them no attention. The flowers vanished within the pair making love. Vajra and bell sang together. Matter vanished into space. Intellect into inspiration. Light into sound.
Chapter Ninety Two
"The glacial valley!" Mark Miller had said, and they were there.
"Outside!" laughed Susan, looking at the mountains, the sky, and the long valley. The river was wide and shallow. On the far side rose high escarpments with a series of long waterfalls marking it, into the distance. "Beautiful!" she laughed.
On this side of the river were the dark grey rock walls, which climbed upwards until they vanished into the clouds. These were decorated with the great fractures, down one of which Mark and his companions had entered originally. They stood outside one of these near the stone with the strange scratches.
"Laksana." Mark said.
"Oh?" said Susan. "Marks? One of the thirty-two, the signs of the Buddha?"
But before the ash-stained American could say anything, he was distracted. A great rumble came from within the ruptured earth. It was not thunder. It was not falling rocks.
"A voice," said Susan. And she was right. It was a voice, but unclear and unintelligible.
They had turned to listen and were facing the cleaved opening when it came crashing together, wall against wall. Small boulders fell. Then, just as suddenly, it groaned open and was as it had been before.
Before they could speak, it happened again, but further down the valley. Closed and opened. One after another, down the valley the great fissures were shifting and settling. First, closed. Then, re-opened. Clapping together and cleaving asunder. The noise was terrific. Except for a few fallen rocks, they returned to normal. The rumbling voice accompanied each of the earth-moving occurrences.
Mark tilted his head and listened.
"It's the marine! That's Fields' voice!"
"What is it that he's saying?" quizzed Susan.
"Ah! This time! This time I'll get you!'
He's doing that! He's trying to catch us escaping!" cried Mark., looking about for other evidence of the soldier in the valley.
"He must think that we're still underground!" Susan exclaimed.
"If we were," said Mark, "we'd be there forever. We'd have been crushed by now!"
"Aren't you glad," grinned Susan, with her soot-smeared face, "that we got the vajra and bell together?"
Mark nodded and smirked, but that was quickly wiped off his face when he heard groaning thunder to the north. His head spun to look in that direction.
"The glaciers are moving!" shouted Mark. "Aren't they supposed to?" asked Susan, before she looked. She got her own answer, for the distant rivers of ice were moving far faster than they should have been. Like a rock cloud, coming down the valley.
They turned to run southward and were struck by a great wind. Across the river chunks of ice as large as houses were falling from the escarpment. The glaciers feeding the waterfalls lashed out into the air, whipped into an oblique angle by the wind.
In the moment which it took Mark and Susan to take this in, the river filled with flat pieces of ice moving downstream. In the next, they could see whiteness advancing from the south. "We're cut off!" Large slabs of ice were falling from the grey stone walls of their side of the river. The northern glacier advanced with the speed of a racing lava-flow. Before their eyes, the lashing waterfalls were turning into snowstorms, reaching across the river, striking at their faces with the sharpness of deadly ice-crystals!
"Quickly!" Mark roared in the enveloping whiteness, as the nearby upstream rocks began to crack under the pressure of the advancing wall of ice. They fled to the fracture., the great rupture in the earth which led back to Vajravati. "The horn!" yelled Susan, shivering. "We've dropped the horn!" "Too late! It's too late! It's buried under the ice!" Mark shouted over the wind. They ran into the fissure, stumbling together, regaining their balance and running, trying to outrace the advancing ice. The snow followed them in, and they could hear the groans of the mountainside as the. weight of tons of ice closed the entrance behind them.
Chapter Ninety Three
That is how it continued.
They made their way down the passageways, just ahead of the advancing ice. Wind followed them. First came trickles of water and then flurries of snow. Then came biting hail. Behind that was the rupturing and crushing sounds
of ice and rock shifting, exchanging pressure and resistance. The glacier kept advancing. Mark and Susan kept running. They got a slight lead on the moving ice, passing the empty rock chambers which had once held the archers. The wall of the agate vajra was before them. They did not stop to consider the action to be taken. Holding hands, they ran straight at the wall, shouting.
"AUM VAJRACITTA HUM!"
They passed through the colors without a blink of the eye, racing onwards through the deserted resting place which had once contained the sleeping warriors.
Out the door!
It was night in Vajravati. However, there was a strange glow from many fires, far away. Below in the canyon-lands, a fierce electrical storm was crackling and throwing up blue slashes of light.
Mark and Susan hesitated on the ledge above the staircase for only a moment.
"Can we make it down the stairs?" he asked, knowing the answer, even as he asked the question. "Never!" Susan replied, looking back.
The groans and crashes had softened, there was a great grinding.
"It's the vajra wall!" she guessed.
It was true. The ice was pressing against the fluctuating colors of the wall. The mountain was quivering, shaking with the pressure.
"It can't hold!" Mark yelled, grabbing Susan by the waist and leaping over the edge of the precipice. She gasped at the sight of nothing below her but darkness. They twisted in space as they fell.
"Mark!" she screamed. It was then that the vajra wall shattered and the river of ice pressed it speedily forward, in thousands of brilliant pieces, through the empty chambers of the cloud warriors. Out through the doorway, out over the ledge, came the great spear of ice, spurting far out into the air, falling downwards by the tons. Remnants of the agate vajra wall rode out ahead of it, twisting and turning, still shimmering, but now reflecting the fires of a burning Vajravati, reflecting the lightnings of the canyons below.
Those canyons, and that thunderstorm, were obliterated by the thousand gravities of that ice. Once there, it stopped moving.
Chapter Ninety Four
Mark remembered,, before the leap into space.
"Essential nature's spontaneous, two-in-one,
"Without striving for qualities; perfection!
"Relax the mandala into manifestation."
"It can't hold!" Mark yelled, grabbing Susan by the waist and leaping over the edge of the precipice. They twisted in space as they fell and soon were embracing. Tongue to tongue.
The onrushing sound of the ice and the shattered vajra suddenly was cut short. It was not completely gone. It's nearness was what changed. Now it was heard, tumbling and crashing, in the distance, the sounds being softened by intervening hills and terraces.
A butter lamp's solitary flame flickered.
"Where are we?" asked the voice of Susan.
"In the great gompa, the giant monastery," answered Mark next to her.
"But how? How did.... ?" she began. He shushed her, with a laughing voice. "Listen, college girl, you've got a bargain in this Master of the Mandala boyfriend of yours. Relax! That's how you do it!"
"I don't understand," she said. "Are you sure we're not dead?"
"Positive!" he laughed, reaching out to pinch her thigh.
Mark approached the flickering light and saw the lower edge of a huge painting. He squinted into the darkness. He could not see the head, but he knew that it was a Buddha. "Vajracitta," he said aloud. He nodded to it and called to the red-haired woman. "Come here. We can't stay put too long. The marine might smell us out." "He has a magical nose?" she retorted. "I don't know. I just know we'd better keep moving!" he answered. "Can't we rest a while? This has been very strenuous!" she persisted. "No, I don't think so," he replied.
It was then that they heard the new noises. Helicopters. And soon they heard, or thought that they heard, thuds shaking the building. These grew louder and the lamp began to flicker from the impacts.
"Too late! It's too late!" said Mark softly. "He's found us!"
A great light suddenly flooded them, as the building was slashed into two parts. It was brilliant daylight again. They could see how close they stood to the shattered edge of the room. Most of it had vanished into the yawning hole clouded by the rising dust. Mark and Susan were on that broken-edged fragment nearest the painting. It rose high behind them, with a crack running down through it, like a stationary bolt of lightning.
They could not see what had caused the destruction, but they could see who had done it. Over them, in the place which would have been filled with the cobalt blue of Vajravati's sky, was the colossal face of the marine, Sergeant Michael Fields. Its eyes were like planetary orbs, its mouth as big as the painting of the Buddha. It opened and closed,, its teeth like great buildings, its tongue like some great partially-hidden squid in its lair. Soot stained that giant face, and giant beads of tremendous perspiration ran down it, leaving clear lines of tanned skin.
Susan's knees quivered and she fell against Mark, whose eyes were fixed upon the monstrous face. It did not move,, but its eyes did, and they saw the couple against the painting. The mouth moved. Behind the building-like teeth was revealed the quivering squid. The lips closed and there was a gentle hum of pleasure. But to the couple it was the buzzing of a thousand bees and they had to clasp their hands to their ears to shut it out.,
"Stop! Stop!" shouted Mark. And the humming stopped. The eyes squinted down at them. The lips moved into a tight smile.
A dark shadow grew over them, darkening the building. A hand! Mark saw it before it could move down and, grabbing Susan by the wrist, pulled her to him to protect her.
"Enough!" he cried as if to himself. "Elsewhere!"
And they were on the other side of the valley.
They could see the furious giant crushing the building with his fists. After a while, he began to kick it apart with his feet, as if looking. In a short while, he stopped, straightening up and looking about, as if puzzled.
"He knows we got away," Mark said.
"But how did we do that?" asked Susan, staring at Mark.
"I...I just remembered something," he answered haltingly, without looking at her.
"How could you remember something which you've never known?" she persisted. Instead of answering, he pointed. "Look, he's headed this way!" "Damn nose!" muttered Susan.
From across the valley, the giant figure shouted.
"It's no use! Come out! Come fight!"
Mark shouted back,, cupping his hands next to his mouth. Susan shook her head. "He'll never hear you!" But the giant marine did.
"Give it up!" shouted Mark. "Let us go! You can have it!
"No! Too late! Too late! You killed Tammy!"
"You are Cra-zy!" answered Mark, all the while watching the great figure advancing, crushing forests as it came.
"Your birds! Your birds killed her!"
"Oh-oh," said Susan. "No talking your way out of this one! "
"Maybe he'll be reasonable," Mark said to her, turning his back on the marine for a moment.
Susan shook her head. "I doubt it. Take a look!"
Mark looked back. Susan was right. It did not look very promising. The figure was growing large horns, its face was undergoing basic changes, spreading and flattening. Its jaws grew tremendous with large overlapping fangs appearing as they watched. It grew extra arms, and extra eyes everywhere, on the forehead, on the torso, on the palms of the hands. Sparks came from the tips of its claws.
"You're right, Susan," agreed Mark. "He looks like he is getting angrier!"
Mark took Susan in his arms and kissed her lightly upon the lips. "I guess I'll have to fight him, after all. Stay here!
Her eyes widened at these words.
"What are you saying! Look at him!" she said.
To her astonishment, Mark leaped into the sky.
"Don't leave me!" she cried.
He turned in flight and blew an exhalation in her direction. A stream of white flowers came from his mouth and made a ring around her.
"These will protect you!" he called, as he flew off. Under his breath he added something which she did not hear. "As long as I am alive!"
The giant creature saw him coming and reached out for him with a dozen arms.
"Surrender while you can!" called the tiny flying man. "I don't want to kill you!"
The giant laughed so loudly that the blue stone sky of Vajravati shifted. There was a soundless crack.
Chapter Ninety Five
The marine as giant had difficulty with his small flying opponent. Wherever he slapped, struck or swung, Mark was gone. In his fury, he stepped and stomped, pulverizing the ground in the vicinity. Mark sped about him like an uncatchable insect.
"Surrender!" he called, to the marine's chagrin.
"Never!" growled the great fangs, snapping at the figure that moved before his face. But then he changed his tactics. He moved his many arms out into a halo and stood still, waiting. Mark continued to circle him and fell into the trap. All the pairs of arms very suddenly moved--he saw them coming, and saw them changing. He did not know which way to move. As they came down, their hands changed into great metal discs, like cymbals. Mark could not move fast enough to get out of their way. They came together like great metal planets. He was caught between a pair of them just as they crashed together.
From the distance, Susan saw it all and screamed. The circle of white flowers surrounding her vanished.
"Mark! Oh, Mark!" she sobbed.
The reverberations of the great cymbal-like hands vibrated through the valley. The great fanged mouth opened and closed in glee, puffing out steam and smoke.
Suddenly, Susan saw the circle of white flowers appear around her again. Hope leapt in her breast.
"What is happening?" she asked, her face tear-stained and puzzled.
The great cymbals were blown apart and she could see that indeed Mark was gone. But in his place was a glowing vajra, the size of a man. It was incandescently hot and was as bright as the sun. She had to look away. When she looked back she could see that it had divided itself into many parts, all the same size, but not as difficult to look upon. They flew in long elliptical paths around the multiarmed marine. They buzzed his head, and zoomed close to his furry ears. The great creature was furious with their mocking activity around him.
"Stop!" cried the great beast.
The vajras moved without communications, now bouncing off his head in light blows, playfully. The great claws, right hand, left hand, second right hand, second left hand, swung and swung, to no avail.
"I will kill your woman!" the beast screamed. The roar knocked a blue chip out of the sky overhead. Then the marine made gestures, siddhi-packed gestures with all of his arms.
The ground around Susan began to quiver. It cracked and made small ruptures around her. The white flowers sank from sight. The creature sprang towards the red-haired woman.
"No more playing!" thought Mark, and he, as the group of vajras, made a direct attack upon the monster. One shining object pierced his stomach. Another penetrated his spine and came out from the other side. Others struck his throat, his arms, his many arms! Other vajras darted into the hundreds of eyes, ran into his mouth and out of the back of his skull. Explosions of venom filled the air. The vajras ran about, in out in great figure-eight patterns, penetrating time and time again. The great giant had more wounds than substance. He hung in the air like a great sheet of a torn painting of some hell denizen. Then the pieces, instead of falling, separated further and seemed to evaporate into a colored mist,, like some rain of different colored dyes. The mist started to float away.
Mark assembled himself, flew to where Susan stood,- and took his old form.
"You're safe!" she said.
"Yes," he said, watching the colored droplets floating in the wind. "He's done for!"
But he was wrong.
"You are wrong!" said an invisible voice. Mark spun on his heel, looking for the source. He could see none. But he knew that it was the marine's voice. Susan clung to his arm with a tightening grip.
"Here I am! Old friend!" And the marine was before them,, in his combat clothes, pistol at his side, hand-grenade hanging from his belt. His face was blackened, as if for a commando raid.
"You sure are tough to kill!" laughed Mark, gesturing with an open palm. "Let's call it a draw!"
The marine shook his head., his teeth in a smiling grimace.
"No way! It's the end of the line for you and your friend! Queen or no queen, I'm the Master of the Mandala!"
Mark was watching to see if he would make a move, but none came.
"Vajravati's destroyed! What the hell do you want?" he asked.
The marine's eyes almost seemed to close, his lips became tight.
"The world. The cloud warriors and
Mark could feel Susan shivering next to him. He felt he had to try once more.
"The warriors are gone! There's nothing left!"
But instead of dissuading the soldier, this aggravated him instead.
"Lies! They're waiting for me to awaken them!" he snapped back.
Mark could see the marine's hands twitching. He wondered if the weapons he had were only what they seemed to be. "Unlikely," he thought.
"On second thought," snarled the soldier, his eyes seeming very white when he opened them widely, "I will take the redhead! But while you're alive to see it!"
Fields made a gesture and Susan fell on the ground, being dragged towards him. "Mark!" she cried, clawing at the ground, trying to resist the magnetic force pulling her.
Mark inhaled sharply, and she began to move back towards him. The marine rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Susan began to move towards him again. Mark inhaled again. Susan slipped back towards him, but not free of the soldier's terrible grip.
"Mark!" she screamed, in terrible pain. "I'm being pulled apart!"
Suddenly Mark stopped, and she went tumbling towards the marine, stopping a few yards from him. Huddled there, she sobbed without looking up.
"Time's up!" snarled the soldier, stepping towards the woman.
"Not yet!" screamed Mark, exhaling a shower of white flowers which fell around the figure of Susan. The marine was scornful, but when he drew close to her, the flowers leaped up to burn his hands. In the short moment when he was recoiling, Mark acted.
"Goodbye!" shouted an angry Mark Miller, putting his body in the stance of a great figure "X", arms and legs outstretched sideways. From his body poured thousands of arrows, hundreds of spears, countless daggers. They came forth from every pore of his body, flying in a great arc between himself and the marine. With them came the sounds of drums, from beneath the earth. The sounds of cymbals in the air. All the objects flew and struck their mark, none missing. They pierced, penetrated,, stabbed and slashed into the body of the marine. He reached for his magic pistol, but it fell to the ground. He stared at Susan, at Mark, before his eyes vanished under the shower of arrows. Everything was fluid red. Yet he did not fall, only staggered forward a step.
"Do you think," he stammered, his lips shaking, "do you think that it is this easy to kill me? I am.... He fell to one knee, his remaining good hand grasping a hand-grenade from his belt. He pulled the pin with his bloody mouth. Both Mark and Susan stared in disbelief.
"I am,, " choked the marine., "The Master of the Mandala!"
"Wait!" said Mark. "It is not too late!"
"Too late!" said the soldier, pulling back his arm and throwing the siddhi-charged grenade. As he fell over, it went flying.
- Mark made a reflexive ducking motion. But it was not necessary. The grenade flew upwards. Miles upwards. The blue-eyed American and the red-haired woman watched it fly and vanish from sight, lost against the blue.
"Gone!, " said Susan in the silence which followed.
Mark was still staring upwards. "No," he said. "Listen."
"I don't hear .... " Susan started to say, and then her eyes widened.
She began to hear what Mark was hearing. Cracking. First it sounded like eggshells splintering and chipping. Then it was similar to the great cracking of the advancing glaciers. But it was worse than that! Great shuddering cracks, above and below them, that reached into the marrow of their bones, into the places of life between nerve-endings. Snapping! Groaning! Rumbling thunders! Unseen lightnings escaping from the body of rocks!
Then far overhead,, Susan could see the lines, spreading like dark veins in the blue. "What is it'. Mark?'' What is happening?" she asked, looking at him. He continued to look upwards.
"The sky," he said softly. "The rock sky of Vajravati' is collapsing!"
She looked from him to the blueness and then quickly back to his face. The thunderous cracks continued from the distance overhead. She looked back and forth.
"It can't be! That was only a grenade! It couldn't have ....
Mark looked at her soberly. "Siddhi," he said, only that one word.
Far above,, like blue rain, a distant cloud seemed to be forming quickly, coalescing into a great cobalt mass that was lowering. Others of deeper blues, azurites, ultramarines, formed over other parts of the valley. They were all moving downwards at a great speed. It was like a long-awaited rain falling.
"What can we do?" asked Susan, and in the next breath she was insisting, "You're the Master of the Mandala. Do something!"
"Nothing to do," he said calmly, looking upwards. "Everything that is up there is fast falling down here!" He looked at the burning valley. "Tibet will soon press Vajravati out of existence!"
Small blue stones began to fall about them.
Chapter Ninety Six
As the blue stones and dust fell about them, Mark directed Susan's attention to the valley.
"Look at those lines," he said. She frowned, but did
"And those," he said, pointing in the other direction at long cracks that were appearing on the valley floor. Blue dust rose from them.
"And those, and those!" he pointed to others.
She stared at him in disbelief. Had he gone mad?
"They are the lines of the mandala," he whispered, stones striking near him, blue dust joining the remnant white ashes on his body.
She huddled against him, with his arms around her shoulders, hearing larger pieces striking near and far, The air was getting choked with the dust brought by an advancing wind. It sang as it fell upon them.
"Lines of my Mandala," she heard him say as she squeezed her eyes shut and held him close. She did not understand, did not want to understand, just held him tight, holding her breath, waiting for the end.
Then in the tumult of falling stones and dust, she felt the ground fall away from beneath them. Or had it? She was not sure, for she realized that they did not fall with it. They were rising! She did not think, did not believe it. Her attention was caught by the sound of a bell, by the pulsing of a vibrant object. It was the bell within her! It was the vajra within Mark! It pulsed and pulsed. Life and life.
In that feeling of weightlessness, she risked opening her eyes. They were in the sky. The real sky! Beneath them was a mass of mountains,, tumbling and sliding. Great clouds were rising from the fissures. It was the Himalayas, falling into Vajravati! The center of a continent was shifting and crushing itself. Great cracks ran in every direction. Every direction, like, like....
"Mark!" she whispered to the face near hers. That blue eyed face stared down at the growing patterns of lines.
"It is my mandala, Susan," he said. She said nothing, not understanding, but not caring whether she understood or not. She was happy that they were alive. They flew higher and. higher and then they stopped.
In mid-air, like two blue-stained disembodied spirits, they looked down. There was the great circular horizon. Within it, the cracks were running in lines to its edges. Mountains rose and collapsed within it. There were signs of great squares, and within them, circles, lines in the earth which began to shimmer and lift from the geology beneath them, away from both matter and time. It was like a great crystalline plane with divisions and subdivisions, all intersecting and all ordered. It rose to meet them where they stood. At that instant, their blue dust flew off, and white ash and dark soot as well. They became transparent and diamondlike.
Mark smiled at the look of understanding entering Susan's eyes.
"The mandala., the world which I have maintained with my wishes," he said. She nodded, smiling, reaching with dazzling clear arms to embrace him. "It is mine and yours," he said, pulling her tightly to him. Their bodies merged and he heard her voice within him., singing.
He stood there alone., bright and incandescently glorious.
"Time for return." His eyes moved to and fro. "Time to re-absorb, re-integrate the mandala!"
And with those thoughts, he began to bring back, to
place into the mandala all those things which his ease, his natural mind had put forth.
A ring of fire was at the outermost limits of the mandala. Great circles made only of vajras, orbiting, were after that fire. Cycles of peoples, kings, dancers and scholars, followed. Great mountains and great oceans. Birds and beasts, all approaching the center. Cities and countries. - Then great dark squares with doors to the north, south, east, and west. Stars and galaxies within palaces. Mountains and glaciers. Underground rivers! Great Agate Vajras! All circling around, around him. Then, nearby, great monasteries of lamas, great armies of cloud warriors! And beneath his feet, a white flower. Intermingled with his being, a red-haired entity, dancing and singing with him. And within that ....
Within that! The vajra. And within that ...
In their turns, in their motions, all these stirred, clockwise. And each of them curved to bend in their paths towards the center. They all left their orbits to gyrate to the middle, where he stood. They swam around him, like the vortex of a great whirlpool, and one by one were pulled back into him. The monasteries, the mountains, circling and plunging into him! Mountains and glaciers, circling and falling into him! Palaces and galaxies! Circling! Falling! Kings! Birds! Beasts! Falling! Great circles of outer rings of vajras, lashing around and around and sinking! Sinking into him! The ring of fire, slowly at long last, curling round him in an empty universe and slipping into him, draining into him!
Then he was alone.
He looked at his outstretched hands, saw his body and his legs. He flexed them, and collapsed them like a flower past blooming and his body fell into itself, into his heart, into a seed. And that seed folded itself into a syllable and that sound sank into a point of light.
Then the light was alone.
Then the light made a sound. The sound was the syllable "Ah". And "Ah" became "Vah" and "Vah" was joined with other syllables until it became "Vajra". Another voice came, and as carefully, created the word "Citta". Together they were male and female. One or two. Two in one.
And then the flower blossomed.
And great armies of cloud warriors came forth.
Monasteries of lamas circled around the two diamond figures, who sang in their embrace.
Great Majestic Agate Vajras rode in circles. Circles.
And the mountains and the glaciers, galaxies and stars! Moving around and around.
Eventually the ring of fire at the outermost limits of the mandala.
The Himalayas rose where continents crashed together.
Chapter Ninety Seven
"And, my master," smiled Susan, adjusting her Tibetan dress, "how do I look?"
"Fine," said Mark Miller, pulling on a colorful cloth boot. "Now let us take the 84,000 warriors into the world!" he laughed.
The two of them were soon walking down the mountainside above Tagnath. In the distance they could see people, but for the moment, they themselves had not yet been seen.
"What are we going to do, when we get to..." she asked.
"What must be done," he said, solemn-faced, looking at the world he was approaching. Then, glancing at her and smiling he added, "Whatever we wish!"
"Yes," she nodded, grinning from ear to ear, "Oh, Master of the Mandala!"
- THE END -