Chapter Fifty

The white fire hovered, shimmered and slowly advanced, growing larger.

"Again!" thought Mark.

"Get rid of this one!" laughed the marine, in a voice which Mark could not now recognize. It was alien to any voice which he had heard until now.

The white fire moved,, like a round cloud,, like a flaming moon slowly losing its gravity.

"Speak!" said Sergeant Fields. "Tell me how you'll escape!"

Mark suddenly had his voice.

"I can't escape! I'll burn!"

The marine frowned.

"No! No!" he scowled. "You did it before. Do it again!"


The soldier stared, his eyes wide.

"Say it!"

"I won't burn!" snapped out an angry Mark Miller. "Dammit! I won't burn!"

But the fire still advanced.

"Why not? Why not?"

"I...I..."stammered the other, feeling hairs on his arm beginning to curl in heat. "I ... I ... VAJRA! The vajra won't allow it .... will not allow it..."

"Say it! Say it!" shouted the soldier.

"I am safe,," Mark whispered.

The flames vanished.

The marine rocked back and forth laughing, slapping his thighs with his hands.

"I knew you could do it! Great! Great show!"

Mark was able to move again. He was very angry and was very much afraid. The fire had been very close.

"Show?" he asked,, trying to control his voice, cautious not to upset the volatile soldier with an imprudent word. "It was a show?"

"Sure! You matched my siddhi with your own! My hypnotism with your own. A great game!"

"Ah, Fields," Mark started, pausing to consider carefully his words.

"That fire was no illusion, I could have been burned!"

The sergeant shrugged.

"You're okay! That proves it was just a mirage! You

just ignored it out of the room. Great!"

Mark persisted.

"That fire was as real as your pigeon."

Michael Fields grinned a boyish grin, his eyes a little calmer, his voice his own again.

"That pigeon," he answered, "was just a figment of your imagination."

"One which you sent."

"A mirage, a mirage!" laughed the sergeant.

Mark looked at his own shoulder, but did not let the other catch his glance. There on his shirt was the bird's dried dropping.

"The fire was no more real than the bird!" Fields insisted.

"Whatever you say," Mark answered, lifting his cold cup of tea.

Chapter Fifty One

"Rinjin," said Mark, "will you teach me siddhi?"

The Tibetan's face seemed to change. Again it was similar to its appearance the first day upon which Mark had met him, in Tagnath. It was not the familiar face which the American had come to know. It was tighter, and alien. Rinjin's expression was that of a stubborn American Indian warrior, facing the inquisition of his people's enemy. It did not promise positive or helpful answers.

"I know no siddhi," came the answer.

"But," protested Mark, "Tenzin knows! He was teaching Sergeant Fields!"

The Tibetan shrugged.

"You are mistaken. Tenzin does not know."

Mark looked out across the cloud-shrouded valley. He ignored the blue cracked sky.

"But," he continued, "my ignorance may be my death. The yogi knows and the marine knows. Fields already assumed that I have some of that knowledge. The yogi, because of the white fire, may believe it too. It is a very dangerous situation."

"It is a very dangerous situation," repeated Rinjin, his face relaxing and becoming more recognizable.

"Will you teach me?" asked Mark, hopefully.

"No," said the Tibetan., shaking his head, "I cannot. It is not something which I can do."

"What can you do, then?" snapped the American irritably.

Rinjin's eyes shifted to the altar. Mark followed them and saw a Tibetan-style book which he had not seen before, lying in its wrappers, lying before the thanka of the Buddha Vajracitta.

"I can help you to learn to read that book," said Rinjin.

Mark was about to reject the idea, but hesitated, marveling at the softness which had entered the face which hod seemed so hostile moments before.

"Yes, of course," he answered. "Thank you, Rinjin."

"No need to thank me" I' smiled the Tibetan. "It is I who should thank you."

Although this puzzled Mark Miller, he made no comment.

The book was unwrapped and they began to open its pages, one by one.

Most of the vocabulary was beyond the American, so the progress was extremely slow, for Rinjin insisted that his student understand the words. One by one.

"That is enough for today," Rinjin finally said, to Mark's surprise.

"But we have not even gone one sentence!" he declared.

"That is a great deal," answered his teacher, wrapping the book in its cloth.

"But...." Mark continued., without finishing his comment.

The Tibetan touched the book to his forehead and put it before the Buddha-image.

"Good night," said Rinjin.

"It isn't close to dark," said Mark.

"0h.. it answered the Tibetan. "Then what is that?"

Turning in answer to the other's gesture, Mark saw shadows quickly gathering at the window, twilight almost rushing in. He frowned at this sudden change of light.

"Good night," repeated Mark's mentor, and before he left the room a few moments later, it was in an obscuring shadow.

Chapter Fifty Two

At daylight, Mark heard sounds outside on the patio. A voice, shouting. Full of apprehension, he leapt to the window. Down below, on the patio, stood Sergeant Fields, his right arm free of his sleeve and holding a bow. A quiver of arrows was strapped to his back.

"Yogi! Come out!" he was shouting.
It's real!" muttered Mark., staring. "It's not my dream! It's not Fields' dream! It's got to be real!"

The events followed one another. The yogi appeared. The arrows flew!

TWANG! Thud-thud-thud!

The marine's body, the yogi's body, both were free of wounds.

Mark stared.

"Where are the Tibetans?" he muttered aloud. "They should be here!"

Behind him he heard Rinjin's voice.

"Do you need something, Mark?"

Tenzin and Thubten appeared on the patio.

Chapter Fifty Three

He got no explanations from anyone.

The marine had made some short statement about dreams coming true, but spoke no more of the display of "tricks" as he called them. Tenzin was closemouthed. Thubten vanished somewhere with the yogi, the latter merely smirking at the confused look on Mark's face. Rinjin deftly sidestepped any questions, directing his breath towards Mark's language studies.

"The book," he said. "It is time to read the book."

"I'll be dead before these studies pay off," Mark scowled.
"Don't you think?"

Rinjin scrutinized him,

"Words. Words are very important," he answered the American. "You must not be careless with them!"

"What do you mean?" he asked his mentor, realizing that the Tibetan was telling him something important which he did not understand.

"Be careful!" emphasized Rinjin, almost frowning. "Watch your statements! Watch what issues from your mind!"

Mark laughed, still not understanding.

"It sounds like I'm a witness under oath in a court of law! As if I'm being judged."

Rinjin smiled.

"Perhaps it Ls like that! But it is another law,, dharma! You are in the court, the world, of dharma. And there is a judgment, yet to come."

That answer., wrapped in laughter, gave Mark Miller the chills.

"It sounds like I am to be condemned, doesn't it?" he asked.

The Tibetan laughed aloud.

"Good!" he exclaimed to the further confusion of the American, who did not know of what he was now approving. "Better that way! If you cannot control your words, your mind., do not make statements! Only make questions! Better!"

Mark was caught on the idea of a court.

"Who is to make the judgment of me?" he persisted.

Rinjin's eyes revealed that he was surprised by Mark's non-understanding.

"Who., did you say?" he questioned for clarity.

"Who!" emphasized Mark. "Who will judge me? The Lama? Some king of this valley? The king of the dead?"

The Tibetan's face was a broad smile, his eyes seemed to express a sense of relief.

"Yes! Yes!" he exclaimed happily. "Quite correct! I am glad that you realize!"

The American was getting agitated.

"How can you say that? Don't you see that it doesn't make any sense?"

The other's face grew calmer.

"Of course it does. Just listen!" said the Tibetan.

Mark shook his head, hesitating in his words, carefully picking them.

"Who are we talking about?"

Rinjin was quiet a moment. His eyes moved to the Buddha Vajracitta's thanka and the book before it. They returned to rest upon Mark.

"You," he whispered.

"Me?" questioned Mark.

"You," said his mentor very deliberately.

Mark did not answer, remaining silent, unmoving.

"And who," continued the Tibetan, squinting at him, "who are you?"

The exchange was giving Mark a peculiarly giddy feeling.

His eyeballs did not move. Then one seemed to move with no concern for the movement of the other. They both focused on the agate vajra in the thanka of the Buddha. They both focused on Rinjin's expectant features.

"Why," he said to the broad features before him, the face which was growing miles wide and thousands of feet tall, "I, I am myself."

"And., " whispered the Tibetan, who was fast shrinking to his normal size, "what do you do?"

"I..." said Mark., carefully choosing his words, "I, alone, judge. I judge myself. I, alone, decide."

Rinjin made a strange noise as he sucked in his breath, his head nodding, his eyes almost rolling into his sockets. His two hands came gently together, fingertips touching, palm to palm.

"You understand, now," said the Tibetan.

Mark nodded in agreement. He felt with his entire body that he understood, but he did not know what it was, this understanding.

Chapter Fifty Four

Mark made slow progress with his studies of the manuscript. Rinjin was determined that he master the words.

"The words,," the American's mentor insisted, "are extremely important."

Mark nodded, but could not penetrate the meaning or source of the Tibetan's intense insistence.

"Words," he thought, "lead somewhere. What does it matter, except the concepts?"

However, he did concentrate on his studies, as bewildering as they were to him. There just was nothing else to do. The Lama had not returned, and the marine and the yogi were also not to be found. Mark had sought-out Sergeant Fields at his room, time after time, but always found it empty. He did not seek out SVA YAM, although he heard his voice at the end of maze-like corridors and could have easily found its source. He returned to his books.

"The day is Vajra Master, and Citta is the night," said the lips of Rinjin, reading from the book. Then he glanced at Mark. "Do you understand?" he asked.

"I understand the words," the American began. But before he could express any doubts, Rinjin nodded and interrupted.

"Good! That is primary!" Then he continued with the Tibetan text. It became a blur of mumbles and Mark nodded in confusion. Soon this was sleepiness.

"Ah! " said Rinjin. "It is night! "

"Ah," said Mark, happy for the end of the lesson to arrive, "it is night!"

It was dark and he slept.

He dreamed a dream which he could not remember.

Chapter Fifty Five

The manuscript had been read through three times before Mark Miller saw either the yogi or the marine again. It was full of praises given to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It mentioned yogic practices, their meanings and symbols. Mark heard it and read it. But he could not understand it. However, it used up time.

"The space, the lotus, these have triangle, and wisdom." Its words sometimes ran through his head while he observed the cloud-covered scenery. The syllables came without effort or call on his part.

"Vajra Citta dissolves into component parts, the lonely wisdom, followed by the emptiness of causality, the end of discriminating concepts, and the endlessness." He heard the words of the manuscript first in the voice of Rinjin, as he read it aloud. Then, the voice became his own. And then the words were themselves only, without voice, male or female.

"Female?" thought Mark. "The manuscript refers to yoginis, that's female yogis. I wonder if in the valley, if in the villages, there are any women?"

He stared out into space, shook his head and smiled.

"You've been in the mountains a long time!" he laughed. "You almost forgot that women existed!"

"Mark Miller!" he heard a voice calling. He stepped to the window,, assuming from its American accent that it was Sergeant Fields.

"I wonder what he's been up to?" he thought.

However, greeting his eyes was the sight of the yogi, SVA YAM. He stood directly below the window, in his white shirt and pants.

"Ah! There you are! I've been looking for you!" his smiling face spoke. "I want to talk with you!"

Despite the pleasant expression on SVA YAM's face, Mark was nervous and hesitant in his reply.

"What is it?" he called down.

"Words!" replied the yogi, causing Mark Miller to shiver for some reason. "Words! I would like to exchange some words with you!"

"Words? Exchange words with me? What does he mean?" thought a suspicious Mark. "Does he think I have some hokus pokus to trade?"

"Well?" called the yogi, who looked less and less threatening the longer he waited patiently on the patio. Mark felt that he was being a bit silly in his super-caution.

"It seems safe enough," he thought, glancing over his shoulder to observe Rinjin entering the room. "But not up here," he decided.

"I'll be right down!" he called and, without waiting for an answer, made his way down the dark wooden staircase to the brightly-lit patio. The clouds were splitting and the light began to shimmer with a rising warmth.

"Hello!" said the yogi, stepping forward with outstretched hand.

It took Mark a moment to realize that the grinning suntanned figure, now devoid of his ashes and the marks on his forehead, was making a friendly gesture. He wished to shake hands. Mark stared at the hand for a moment and then reluctantly found that habit caused him to extend his. It was a firm grip that met his fingers, but it was not tight. Blue eyes stared into blue eyes. The yogi smiled, showing his white teeth, but Mark's facial expression was that of a serious player of poker.

"Been a long time," said the yogi, confusing the other American with his tone of fellowship. "Lots of things to talk about?"

Mark frowned.

"I'm glad you're friendly...uh..." He did not know how to address the yogi. He did not wish to call him I'SVA YAM". ". . uh ... Sam!"

The smiling face did not blink.

"But what is the burst of socialness?" continued Mark.

"No particular reason," said SVA YAM. "It is just that we are three Americans stranded up here together. I thought that...."

"Excuse me," interrupted Mark, as he heard Rinjin behind him on the wooden staircase, "but this seems a little strange to me, considering what you've done up until now! "

The smiled softened and the yogi narrowed his eyes at Mark.

"What I have done?" he asked. "What have I don-OVI

An image of the canyon above the waterfall flashed before Mark's eyes, but did not stay long enough for him to make any sense of it.

"I ....he began. "You!" he continued. "You tried to kill me, Rinjin! The Lama! The marine!"

The yogi smiled.

"What do you mean?" he asked, as if of a frightened child, trying to reassure it with his tone of voice, its softness.

"The fire," stated Mark, remembering the heat, the blisters which came and then vanished. "The arrows! Into Fields' chest!"

The yogi tilted his head and wrinkled his forehead. An expression of disbelief crossed his face, followed by a look of amusement.

"And who died?" he laughed. "Who burned?"

"And the wounds and arrows vanished!" blurted out Mark.

"Exactly!" smiled the yogi, his nostrils sniffing almost in derision. "No arrows! No fire! No wounds! Just play, that's all. Play!"

That silenced Mark Miller. The yogi was right. It seemed to have been a great deal of show which added up to nothing. Mirages which evaporated. Events with no effects. Illusions.

"Play," repeated the yogi., almost whispering.
Mark's eyes studied the cracks in the rocks of the patio. They zig-zagged in fine hairlines.

"And here is the ninth inning!" came the marine's voice.

He was standing there a few paces away, with an arrow in his bow.

"Ishtadevi!" muttered the yogi, putting out a hand, its fingers already beginning to sparkle at their tips.

"Stop!" shouted Mark in great irritation. "Enough of this! Both of you stop! You will not do anything of the sort now! Stop."

The lights left the fingertips and the yogi lowered his hand. The arrow was replaced into the quiver and a subdued Sergeant Fields stepped forward.

"Don't get excited," he said, "it's only a game. You know, you saw it before!"

The yogi glanced at his hand and then stole a look Mark Miller. He forced a smile upon his face.

"Yes," he said, "that's all."

"Hypnotism circus!" laughed the marine.

"Playful siddhi!" grinned the yogi, not looking at the soldier who now stood at his side.

Rinjin in the doorway said nothing, but Mark could feel his presence.

"Well, I don't like it! It's too convincing. It looks real!" he said.

"Don't be afraid,, it said the yogi, nodding his head to try to hide a sneer.

"I'm not afraid!" snapped Mark, looking at the yogi's hands. He thought he saw lights beginning there again. "Just stop it! There will be none of that right now!"

The yogi clenched the fingers of both hands before him at waist level. He took an angry look at them when he flicked them open a second later. There were no lights to be seen. This gesture was not lost upon the marine, who smiled broadly.

"Okay for now, Mark," he said loudly, "But we can't postpone it forever. The play must go on!"

"Bad joke," Mark laughed in spite of himself.

It was the yogi who spoke next.

"Let us all go to my room. We can have some tea."

"Oh?" asked the marine. "You like it now?"

"I'm pressing myself to like it! It is necessary."

Chapter Fifty Six

The yogi's room, only to be found through a maze of twists and turns on interior staircases, was similar to Mark's. It also had its tea-table., its thanka. The latter was of something that looked like a complex mound of hundreds of figures, topped by a circle containing two figures, with multiple arms and heads, dancing. Mark thought that it could be a couple, half nude, embracing, but since he did not look at it for long, or closely, he was not sure.

"Since when did you get to like Tibetan tea?" Sergeant

Fields asked, after they had been served by Tenzin. Mark thought there was a note of amusement in the marine's voice when he questioned the yogi, for it was obvious that SVA YAM still did not like the tea, and was forcing himself to drink it.

"Ah," said the yogi, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, "I've really liked it all along!"

Tenzin raised an eyebrow at this statement, but caught himself in the act., and his face relaxed again. Once he had served the tea, he left the room. Rinjin and Thubten, who had come to the room with the Americans, also left. Mark felt that the departure of the three Tibetans together was significant, although beyond his understanding.

"Well, yogi," started Mark Miller, emptying his cup, "What was it you wanted to talk about?"

SVA YAM squinted at him without smiling.

"Nothing in particular, just talk."

"Oh?" asked the marine. "I thought that Yogi Sam wanted to parley?"

The yogi threw him a sharp look.

"Nothing so fancy," he said. "We've got to figure out our situation here., that's all. We're in it together!"

"But we know the least of all about what's going on," Mark shrugged. He caught the marine's eyes looking at hi

"Ask the Tibetans," suggested Sergeant Fields.

"Don't think I haven't tried." snapped the yogi. "Thubten won't answer anything!"
"That seems to be standard," said the marine.

Mark did not say anything concerning Rinjin's evasiveness. He refilled his teacup.

"What's going on, do you think?" continued Michael Fields, looking from his two companions towards the door through which Tenzin had departed.

"We can't keep waiting!" said the yogi, ignoring the question. "How long can we wait?"

"Wait for what? Are we waiting for anything in particular?" Mark addressed the yogi, remembering that the other in the past seemed to know things which he did not, about their journey, about their destination.

The yogi hesitated.

"Nothing particular," he mumbled, as if to himself.

"Then why don't we just leave?" asked Mark, realizing as he said it that the suggestion was not one which he wished to follow. "We can go back up the stairs, and out of this place."

The yogi's reaction was a surprise to him. SVA YAM leaped to his feet, his hands shaking and his body shivering.

"No! No. We cannot do that! No!" he shouted.

"Why not?" asked the marine, puzzled.

"It's not safe! Not safe!" the yogi continued.

"The helicopters are long gone," smiled Mark.

"Not that!" cried the yogi.

"The archers in the cave are only illusions," said the marine.

"Not that!"

"Then, what are you talking about?" frowned Mark.

"Ah ... ah..." inhaled the yogi, trying to control himself, angry at himself for the outburst, for his lack of self-discipline. "It is something else, something else, which I cannot tell you."

Sergeant Fields grew angry and pounded the tea-table with his fist.

"Crap! Don't give us that crap! You playing word games with us?" His voice crackled.

Mark calmly looked at the standing man. He did not seem much of a threat to him now, he judged. He carefully put his cup down on the table next to the marine's clenched fist which still rested there.

"Do you, yogi," he asked, "self-named SVA YAM, have anything to say to us or not? If not, I'm leaving."

The marine turned to Mark, his hand relaxing.

"Yeah," he said to SVA YAM. "Talk, or we're saying goodbye."

"I cannot, " said the yogi, looking at the thanka.

"You will," said Mark Miller, concentrating on the painting's central figures. He could see that one was male and the other female. They were in sexual embrace in a standing position. The female had her legs wrapped around the torso of the male. "You will tell us."

"W-what shall I tell you?" inquired the yogi softly, his eyes popping, his forehead covered with perspiration.
"Tell me who you are and what you are doing in the mountains!"

"Yes," the yogi almost hissed in reply. "I shall tell you."

The yogi spoke. The marine listened.

Mark Miller listened as the yogi told his story.

Chapter Fifty Seven

"I've been in Asia about ... around ... four years, I guess," started the American yogi, after sitting down. He sat upon a red dragon-rug, and sections of it swirled about the central spot where he sat, tail, claws and teeth. A Mongolian-style cloud, outlined in double-edged colors was to his left, a circle in white., like a moon, to his right.

"I ... I ... " he hesitated, staring at Mark.

"Go on," came Mark's cold voice.

He continued, eyes averted, looking at the grain of the wood in the floor plankings. They were rhythmically spaced, like lines of incoming ripples of the ocean's tide, like ranges of mountains reaching one beyond the other, until they reached the window and ran into a vertical upright.

"I studied," he said, "in New York. For a while. Sort of, studied. Lots of transient teachers came through New York City."

"Teachers?" asked the marine.

The yogi stared at him, hesitating, not wanting to answer. He looked at Mark, but Mark did not speak, did not

"Teachers. Spiritual teachers," SVA YAM continued. "They came through with their bags of tricks. I went. I listened. It seemed the cool thing to do."

"Crap," muttered the marine.

The yogi gritted his teeth.

Mark glanced at the soldier.

"Let him talk,," he said. The marine almost replied but was puzzled by the expression in the other's eyes.

"Meditation. You know. Mantras for a price. Your own secret mantra,," the yogi continued. "You know."

"Yes," said Mark quietly. The marine said nothing.

"But not enough of anything. Just teasing us. The gurus left you dangling, to come back for more. Either they were holding back or they didn't know any more! It irritated me! I was getting interested in it. I was meditating every day for a few hours a day. It was beyond ... beyond... just curiosity. I was taking it very seriously. But they .... they.... they were holding back! Damn gurus!"

The marine cocked an eyebrow. The yogi was somewhere within himself and they were merely eavesdropping on an interior struggle.

"It was the same thing. A new teaching. A new system," he clenched and unclenched his fists. "Same slowness! The teachers hesitated. They wanted me to go slow! 'Purify yourself first!' They'd say that. Every one of them! The frauds. The con men! I was pure enough. Damn. I was abstaining from everything! Drugs. Women. I was pure enough. They just didn't want to talk. Probably didn't know anything. I guess I knew more than they did already and they did not want to tip their hands. Yes. They were jealous!"

Mark's eyes caught those of the yogi, but SVA YAM, as he continued, did not focus on him.

"I was good at my yoga, but something was missing. answer came with this guru, whats-his-name. Well, anyway. He came to the city with a lot of fanfare, a lot of posters glued up on walls all over the Village. I got to see him. It cost. It cost a lot to see him. But not for me. I was past that stuff. I wasn't going to pay through the nose any longer.

"I got to see him. He was a great figure of a man-bearded and silent. Didn't know much. But he told me as much. He took a liking to me, so I guess he was allright. Told me about...told me to go to India. That's how come I got to Asia. That's how I found Ishtadevi."

"Ishtadevi?" asked the marine. "Is that Buddhist or Hindu?"

"Don't interrupt," whispered Mark. "It merely means his 'chosen God'."

"How do you know?" the marine wanted to know.

But the yogi was talking again, as if in his sleep, or in a trance, "One of the big guru's main disciples paid my way. They thought I'd get caught up and snared. At their ashram. Nope. I left that scene,, with some of their finances, after getting a lead. I was going to get the real stuff. None of that westernized Indian ashram-motel stuff for me! I set out to find the real gurus in India. It was hard. Hard!"

The yogi looked at the woven dragon claw.

"Hard! My visa expired and the Indian government wanted me out. Ha! Trouble was, they didn't have the foggiest notion where I was. I had chucked everything. Clothes. Papers. My different teachers helped me be rid of all my possessions! Ha ha! I looked and acted like a yogi. I was a yogi! I bathed in the cold streams, I washed in the muddy Ganges. I saw the burning of bodies. I ate in cemeteries. I was a yogi! I called and prayed. I meditated the sun into the sky. I prayed it into the night! I had visions of Ishtadevi! New York was another lifetime away. I had been reborn."

"Where," asked the marine, "and from whom did you get your name?"

"Name? AH! SVA YAM!"

And he sat still for a moment with his eyes closed. When they opened, they were blazing.

"SVA YAM! I grabbed it in a dream! It was given to me by the glorious Ishtadevi! I was the self-made! The self existing! I am SVA YAM! All the world awaited me! I grew siddhis the way a Bodhi tree grows leaves! I was the equal
of master generals and kings! I am SVA YAM! I am the awaited master of stars and galaxies. I,

The yogi lapsed into silence, his eyes closing once again.

Neither of the two other Americans said a word. They waited without moving. Twilight was slowly approaching.

"The appearance of twilight," thought Mark Miller.

When the yogi spoke again, his eyes were quieter. They seemed less full of glistening moisture. They seemed merely eyes.

"In my travels (of how many years?), I had heard of a kingdom. I never knew its name. I suspected that it was Shambala. A kingdom of the north, a real or a mythological place, for the Buddhist Tibetans. But I was wrong. It was not Shambala. Rinjin said it was not Shambala. But originally I thought that that was its name.

"Shambala, or whatever its name, was awaiting its master, its king. The master. The kingdom was asleep with its people, its warriors. Cloud warriors."

He traced his finger on the figure of the cloud in the rug.

"Cloud warriors awaiting me! It was karma! It was what had to be! The hidden kingdom would open to my siddhi, but I had to find it. Oh! I had to find it, first!"

The yogi shook with sobs for a few moments as the twilight darkened.

"The twilight is darkening," thought Mark Miller. "Then through astrology," whispered the yogi, "through rites of sacrifice, I gained information. The time was soon. I had to go, soon. I had to find it! Soon. There were indications, north, north, north. North of Tagnath. I would meet Tibetans. They would lead me. But I could see the way myself! I could see the paths into ... into .... whatever its name was! However., I had to pretend, pretend, to need the guides! More fitting for a king, a master of constellations. They would be expecting me, the blue-eyed master! Ha ha! I had to be quiet about it! A secret. To keep my secret, the astrologer could not live! He was unimportant now, anyway! I went north, and north! I went north on my pilgrimage, into the Himalayas! Ha ha. They were waiting for me. Yes."

In the darkness, the yogi seemed to sleep. The other two waited.

"The appearance of sleep," thought Mark Miller.

Tenzin came into the room. With him he brought a burning wick with a tiny flame. This flame brought life to the lamps upon the altar before the thanka. The yogi's eyes shone in their light. They were wide open.

"Then I saved Thubten. He did not suspect my true identity. Why didn't he know? It was two Americans! They were confusing the prophesy. Confusing the guerrillas! They also had blue eyes! All I would have to do was to present myself. That would be enough. But it wasn't! They did not recognize me! I had to go along with them, with the two impostors! Time would reveal ... they would not get to .... time would reveal! But it did not!"

Mark frowned in the shimmering lamplight.

"They were treated the same! Confusion! But I am the master! How could I claim my right? Decide!

Life and death. Flames and siddhi! Arrows and siddhi! Life and death! There was no leaving alive! Only one could be alive! Else death for all! 'Decide' said the Lama! I will be the living king of the sleepers! I will be the lord of the dead! I will be the master Lama! Only one blue-eyed master! Master of the underworld!"

"Underworld?" interjected the incredulous marine.

"Underground! We are underground!" growled the yogi.

"Nuts! How do we have night and day, then?" he answered.

"The master controls it!" snarled the yogi.

"But .... " said Mark, who was unable to finish his sentence.

"The master controls light and dark," said the yogi. "Life and death! All siddhis!"

"Then siddhis are not illusions?" gasped Sergeant Fields.

"You fool!" came the yogi's voice, his fingers beginning to sparkle at their tips. "Your stupidity will kill you!"

"Stop it!" interjected Mark. "We need daylight!"

The yogi scowled.

"Darkness just fell!" protested the marine.

Darkness lifted and light flooded the room.

Marine and yogi sat with jaws hanging open.

“Dammit!" said the marine,- trying to hold tight to sanity. "It can't be light! It's dark!"

Light evaporated and darkness fell.

The yogi laughed hysterically in the gloom. Mark bit his lip in confusion.

"Well, then," said SVA YAM, "Let there be light! Daylight!"

Darkness fled and brightness filled the landscape once again.

The three Americans stared at each other in confusion.

"Shall we go around again?" asked Mark.

Both the yogi and the marine shook their heads. SVA YAM spoke.

"This is not proving anything!"

Rinjin appeared in the doorway with Thubten and Tenzin.

"Then, honoured guests," he said with a mock bow, "you understand our confusion. Which one of you is the awaited one? Which one is the true master of Vajravati?"

Chapter Fifty Eight

"It doesn't make any difference to me," said Mark.

"The yogi can have it," said the marine with a shrug.

"It is mine!" snapped SVA YAM. "I am the master you await!"

Rinjin shook his head.

"It is not so simple. It is not a matter of opinion which you settle amongst yourselves. Too much is at stake."

Mark stood up to leave the room.

"The yogi can have it all. I'd just as soon be out of this contest!"

The marine looked at the daylight. It seemed to cloud over and clear. Cloud over and clear, again and again, pulsating.

"What's wrong with the light?" he asked, not really wanting to hear an answer.

"It too is confused," whispered Thubten. "There are contradictory siddhis at hand!"

It pulsed and flickered, daylight stuttering like some light-bulb with a loose wire.

"If we all agree," suggested a sour-faced yogi, "it will stabilize! Shall we agree on daylight?"

"Yes, said Mark.

"Okay," nodded the marine.

The light became bright and did not fade. It stopped moving. It became constant, as if mightier than the power of words, illuminating the clouds) canyons and valley.

Mark stared.

"Does that mean," he asked,, "that we all have a third of what is necessary to control things?"

"No," said Thubten, "it means the true master does not remember enough to offset the influence of the others. That will change."

"The hell with it!" Sergeant Fields said. "It's too spooky for me! Let's get out and leave the yogi for the fun and games. He can remember better without distractions."

"Very wise of you, Sergeant!" grinned the yogi.

The Tibetans did not speak.

"Well, I'm not the master of anything. I've never been here before!" said the marine. "And Mark hasn't either! Right?"

But Mark Miller did not answer. He was staring silently through the window opening. Beyond the clouds, there were hills. Upon the hills were white buildings. What were they?

"You cannot leave," interrupted Rinjin.

The marine reached for his bow. The Tibetan waved at him with an open palm, gesturing for patience.

"Only one of you will ever leave," he continued.

"Oh?" Mark awoke to these words. "And what of the other two?"

"That one will be the master of Vajravati, when he leads the cloud warriors out into the world!" continued Rinjin, ignoring Mark's question. "The other two will be dead!"

"Dead!" interjected the marine, putting an arrow to his bow, his eyes darting to and fro. "Isn't that a little harsh on two visitors?"

"Not very polite," said Mark.

The yogi stood silent a moment and then spoke.

"But it is necessary. Right, Rinjin?"

"Yes," answered the Tibetan, "it is necessary."

"We won't spill any secrets!" said Mark, feeling slightly panicky, feeling that he would be one of the two dead men.

"Hey!" said the marine. "The yogi can be master of whatever he likes! It's none of our business!"

Rinjin laughed.

"Put aside your magic bow, Sergeant!" he said reassuringly. "We don't know which one is the master, yet!"

"I am!" snarled the yogi.

"Do not presume too much!" answered the Tibetan quietly.

"Rinjin!" Mark addressed the Tibetan. "Be reasonable! The sergeant and I are willing to leave. The yogi can have it! Why do you have to kill us?"

Rinjin shook his head, smiling.

"You do not understand! We shall not kill anyone. And the yogi cannot be the master just because he chooses to and you do not! We do not know if he is the correct one in any case. That will be settled by you!"

"Who? How?" asked the marine, puzzled even further.

"All three of you! The master is the most powerful. He will survive. The other two will die! He will kill them."

Mark looked at the marine and asked of the Tibetan, Is that really necessary?"

"Yes," answered Rinjin quietly. "In that fashion he will also recognize himself! He will not wish to be killed and his powers will manifest for this first victory!"

"By killing the others he will prove who he is?" asked Mark.

"Yes, for the master cannot be killed," said Thubten.

"That's just fine!" smirked the marine. "And the other two are just pawns!"

"It is a pity, but that is how it is," replied the Tibetan.

"And what if none of us will fight?" asked Mark.

"That is not too likely," smiled the Tibetan, gesturing towards the yogi. Smoke was issuing from his mouth.

"Siddhis are not toys!" His flaming mouth was saying, opening into a grim smile. "And I know how to use them for victory!"

"Damn you!" shouted the marine. "Yogi! I'm going to have to kill you!"

Mark turned to see that the marine held an automatic rifle in his hands. He blinked twice.

"Bullets instead of arrows for you!" the marine cried.

Mark could not blink again before bullets were flying and a long tongue of flame leapt from the yogi's mouth across the room! He jumped for the window, crashing against its edge, tottering there a moment before he fell through the opening towards the patio below. Great heat and sounds surrounded him as he fell.

"Darkness!" he cried. "Soft darkness!"

Then he lost consciousness.