As the sun rose over The Temple Of The Cobras, Marpa Tulku sat in the lotus position before the altar in his chamber and emptied his mind to meditate and pray. It was a ritual practiced by every Tulku of the temple from as far back as anyone could remember, a ritual to prepare to face the rigors of the day with strength, serenity, and spirituality. The rough translation of "tulku" into English was "living Buddha", a master so holy and so powerful that he was viewed by his initiates as the reincarnation of Buddha himself, and Marpa Tulku was the twentieth monk to carry the title in this monastery. It was a tremendous burden to bear, especially for a young man barely fifteen years of age, but the power and grace with which he did so served as an inspiration and lesson for every initiate within the temple.
As he had every morning for the past three weeks, Marpa Tulku prayed for extra doses of strength, serenity, and spirituality to deal with one resident of The Temple Of The Cobras. Four weeks ago, during one of these morning meditations, he had been struck with a tremendous vision, a powerful warning of growing evil down in the Lhasa region, an urgent command to break that evil and redirect it into a powerful force for good. Marpa Tulku had sent some of his stronger initiates to Lhasa to find the man he'd seen, planting the visual images into their minds so that they would recognize him. They reported back that they had found him, but could not believe he was the one in The Tulku's vision--the man in the vision was Ying Ko, the region's most powerful opium lord, a barbarian so feared he was known as "The Butcher Of Lhasa". Alarmed, Marpa Tulku had meditated again, trying to find this man, find out why their paths were destined to cross.
What had touched his mind in response to the meditations was so strong it literally knocked him over, a beast of darkness and evil stronger than the strongest winds that blew off the mountains. And yet, there was something more...projective telepathic energy unlike any he'd ever felt, a reservoir of psychic power held in check only by a steady diet of drugs and decadence. And deep inside, the badly-beaten conscience of a good man, a young Westerner who'd long ago lost his sense of self and his very identity. Suddenly, Marpa Tulku understood why he'd had the vision: The power within this man was so strong that if the beast in control gained access to it, he'd be almost unstoppable; he'd already discovered some of it and was using it to control slaves, concubines, warriors--all of whom would do anything he asked, no matter how ridiculous. The Tulku's task was clear now: He had to break the darkness, the arrogance, the evil that held the good man within prisoner, then teach him how to use the power within him for the right ends.
So, three weeks ago, the Temple's strongest guards had been sent down into the valley to kidnap Ying Ko from his palace and bring him to face judgment and receive redemption. And right away, the struggle began. Ying Ko wasn't interested in redemption and had made that very clear from the moment they'd met. The raging darkness and arrogance was so strong it had unnerved junior initiates as he'd come into the temple...and yet, there was a sense of awe and curiosity that was promising. Their first confrontation ended in a standoff--with the help of Phurba, which Ying Ko had made the mistake of grabbing off the altar, a mistake he paid for with a serious leg injury. But even during that first confrontation, The Tulku had been able to sense the complex personality of the man before him, quickly discerning strengths and weaknesses. He could see the good man inside trying to get out, fighting the darkness within him, and the beast in control determined to stay there. He could sense many conflicting emotions, including a level of confidence that was promising if it could be harnessed under the control of the right part of the man's personality. He sensed an ability that made his new student powerful--an innate ability to sense and manipulate fear. All adepts could sense some emotion or thought pattern especially strongly and manipulate that pattern to their own ends without any real training or effort, and it didn't surprise Marpa Tulku that Ying Ko's mind could detect and manipulate fear--it was one of the strongest emotions a person could have, and was something that could cloud a mind without any additional help from the hypnotic telepathy that was the specialty of the monks of The Temple Of The Cobras. To protect his students and himself, The Tulku had made certain that anyone who dealt with him was strong enough and trained enough to keep fear suppressed so that Ying Ko could not gain the upper hand. And from that moment on, everything The Tulku had done to him and with him had been directed at breaking the arrogance of the butcher and rebuilding the man within.
He'd started with his name. From the beginning, The Tulku had refused to use the name Ying Ko preferred, using instead the name of that suppressed former self--Lamont Cranston. And Ying Ko hated hearing it. He'd lash out in a rage at times, growing increasingly tired of being referred to as a person who he liked to believe no longer existed. But every time he heard the name "Cranston", it would nick the beast, beginning the process of knocking him back and breaking him down...which was why The Tulku insisted upon its use.
Next was to break the hold years of opium abuse had on him. Forcible withdrawal was cruel, but the only sure method to break opium addiction. And for three days, Ying Ko was as sick as a person could be, going without opium for the first time in almost four years. To take his mind off the pain and sickness, he'd been forced to work like a dog, doing any and all menial tasks The Tulku could think of. Things Ying Ko had made servants do, he was now being forced to do every single day, from sunrise to sunset. The goal was to break down his resistance, to force him to give in to The Tulku's discipline, to allow himself to be retrained.
But three weeks later, Marpa Tulku found himself maintaining a delicate balance with the struggle to break the beast and the need to prevent him from discovering the power within him too soon. The drugs and decadent behavior had been all that was keeping that reservoir of psychic energy The Tulku had detected within his new student in check. Without anything to stem it, the reservoir was filling, growing, deepening with each passing day. Every time The Tulku reached out to Cranston's mind, he could sense more and more energy building up, and the subconscious walls Cranston's psyche had built around itself over the years were straining to contain it. He was running out of time to break through the darkness and rescue the man within before those walls burst and Ying Ko took control of all that energy and the incredible power he would be able to wield with it.
So, he prayed for extra strength, serenity, and spirituality daily, and today especially. Yesterday, his finest initiate had actually been so overcome by the rage Cranston had directed at him while he was being forced to do one of the much-hated tasks, cleaning the hearth, that the initiate had given in to fear...and Ying Ko had been able to latch onto that fear and lash out, badly injuring the young man before The Tulku himself had overcome Ying Ko and subdued him. The initiate had begged The Tulku for forgiveness, frightened beyond belief that he had failed in accomplishing a crucial mission, and that kind of setback in an initiate's training upset The Tulku. Last night, he had given the order that no one was to deal with Cranston but him. If he could not break Ying Ko and rescue Cranston within the next few days, it could mean the end of all of them.
He reached out his mind to his forcibly-apprenticed student who was down in the cellar, a guard standing watch at the door who had strict instructions to summon The Tulku should anything happen.
He detected patterns of restless sleep, of nightmares...and a reservoir of psychic energy that was deeper than ever. Where is he getting all of this? The Tulku asked himself. Adepts normally cease psychic growth before their 20th birthday...Cranston is eight years beyond that. Where is all of this coming from? How is he continuing to hold it in? He should have been at the breaking point long before now--the release of the nightmares is probably all that is keeping it in check. I have never felt power like this from anyone other than a trained adept. But he is very close to being unable to hold it back any longer...very close. He is going to break soon--and I have to set him free first or there will truly be Hell to pay.
Cranston's thought patterns shifted, the nightmare growing more intense. The Tulku was torn between wanting the nightmare to release some of the buildup of new energy--which would make him easier to deal with--and wanting to punish him for his misbehavior yesterday. Then, he took a deep breath and prayed once more. No matter how angry he was at the beast who was in control, it was his mission to tame him and turn all that rage and power into a force for good. So, he sat quietly and waited.
He was standing on the banks of a wild river, surrounded by a raging forest fire. The heat was becoming so intense it was almost impossible to stand, yet the river was flowing too fast to be safely crossed to the other side. He looked around, panicked, hearing terrified screams of people trapped in the inferno.
Across the river stood the young monk who held him prisoner, reaching out with a long staff.
He reached out for it...and could not close his hands around it. His fingertips brushed the staff, unable to get a grip on it.
"You must trust me," the monk was telling him. "You must give in...come toward me."
He started to reach out for the staff again.
The staff was even farther out of his reach now. "You cannot stay in that place," the monk chastised. "You must move toward me."
He started to step off the bank and into the river.
Something grabbed him from behind. He turned around.
His own face stared back at him. "Don't listen to him," his other self told him. "You can do it. You can pull him across to this side."
"But we'll all die over here," he heard himself saying.
A wicked, wicked laugh. "You're so weak, Lamont. I don't know why I bother with you." Another laugh, then the beast shoved him toward the flames...
The man who was both Ying Ko and Lamont Cranston jolted awake, shaking with fear. For days, the nightmares had grown worse and worse. Every night it was some new vision of Hell, some new conflict with himself, some vision of himself as two separate people trapped in a situation where the monk who held him prisoner was the only hope of escape. But the nightmare always ended the same way...with Ying Ko flinging Lamont Cranston into the danger, hoping he would be consumed.
You are awake, The Tulku's voice commented.
Ying Ko frowned. He was really starting to hate that voice. "No thanks to you," he retorted. "My head still hurts from where you threw me against the wall last night."
Act like an animal and you will be treated like one.
"You don't know animal behavior. I haven't begun to fight. Send another little student and I'll tear them apart, too."
You will not get the chance. From now on, you will deal only with me.
"Could be interesting. I slit a monk's throat once. He was old enough to be your grandfather."
If you are trying to frighten me, you are wasting your effort. I am not afraid of you.
"So, come down here."
I think not. You get up.
You know I can. Are you in the mood for self-punishment today, Cranston?
"Don't call me that."
Why? Does it remind you too much of who you really are?
Ying Ko seethed. "When I get my hands on you..."
You will do what? A pause, then Ying Ko felt a shove from behind. Get up.
Ying Ko angrily lashed out behind him--and found himself grabbing at nothing. How does he do that? he mentally raged. I would have sworn he wasn't down here.
I could teach you how to do that...if you would quit fighting me.
Ying Ko stood up, then nearly collapsed against the wall. His head was spinning this morning. He'd had odd headaches at the end of the day for the past several days, but this was the first time he'd had one in the morning. It felt like something inside his head was pressing right behind his eyes, trying to get out. Damn that brat for bringing back memories of a time and a man he'd done everything in his power to make certain was long gone and long forgotten. "I'll quit fighting you when you quit throwing me against walls for disobeying orders."
Oddly circular logic. The Tulku appeared at the top of the stairs. You could make things easier on yourself.
Ying Ko gathered himself. "You don't understand, do you?" he said. "I will outlast you. I always get my way."
Precisely why you will continue to suffer until you give in. He gestured with his head. Up the stairs, Cranston. A long day's work awaits.
Ying Ko stood his ground.
The Tulku sighed. If you insist. He dissolved from view.
Ying Ko looked around. He'd wait for the push, then turn around and grab that little brat by the throat...
A hard shove from behind pushed him toward the stairs.
Ying Ko whirled around and grabbed at nothing again.
Something kicked his legs out from underneath him, and he hit the floor hard.
The Tulku materialized at the top of the steps again and shook his head. He could already tell it was going to be a long day. Get upstairs now.
No longer able to disobey, Ying Ko got to his feet and climbed the stairs.
Normally, The Tulku had an exhaustive list of chores for his hostile student to do, a set of duties that would work him physically until he dropped. But mindful that much of that work would bring him in contact with other initiates, The Tulku steered him toward areas where no one else would be--such as the kitchen, which needed a thorough cleaning. You missed a spot, The Tulku told him as he swept the floor.
Ying Ko didn't mind cleaning the kitchen so much--it was fairly easy to get a bite to eat when whatever unlucky initiate had been assigned to watch him for the day turned his back for a moment. But so far, The Tulku was watching him like a hawk. "You know," he said, "this would go a little faster if I had something to eat."
I do not want you to sweep fast. It causes you to get sloppy. You will get your morning meal when you have finished your work.
Ying Ko frowned. "Are you trying to starve me now?"
I am trying to teach you that everything comes with a price. You attacked an initiate yesterday. Today, you are being punished. Nothing comes without cost.
Ying Ko stopped sweeping. He was getting really tired of being treated like a common criminal. "I don't want your redemption. I don't want your food, I don't want your lessons, I don't want anything from you. All I want is to leave. Let me go and I'll leave your precious little temple alone."
I make no deals, Cranston.
"Stop calling me that!" Then, he pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to stem the headache spreading behind his eyes.
The Tulku looked at his student oddly. Tired of hearing about someone you cannot seem to kill?
Ying Ko couldn't answer for a moment. His head felt like it was going to burst any second. What I wouldn't give for one opium poppy, he thought.
The Tulku looked at him almost sympathetically. So close, he realized. Closer than I suspected. He is right on the edge. He gave him a push in the back. You are stalling again. Finish the kitchen and you can eat.
Angrily, Ying Ko attacked the floor with the broom, sweeping for all he was worth.
The Tulku smiled. Much better.
"I swear I am going to break your little neck someday."
And I swear I will break you first.
Ying Ko stopped. There was a harshness in The Tulku's tone that hadn't been there a moment ago. "Did I make you angry?"
Do not flatter yourself. I am neither angry nor afraid. I have seen the depths of Hell and walked away unscathed. A hungry and desperate barbarian trying to sound intimidating only amuses me.
Ying Ko attacked the floor once more. "I am going to outlast you."
The Marpa Tulku has served this temple for twenty generations. Lamont Cranston only came to Tibet as your prisoner four years ago. And before the sun sets, I will set him free.
That got Ying Ko's attention. He stopped sweeping. "You're going to kill me, aren't you?"
I will either kill you or break you. Either way, Ying Ko will surrender control over Lamont Cranston before the sun sets today.
Ying Ko looked at the young man for a moment. The Tulku thought he detected fear for the first time in weeks in the man's blue-green eyes. "You would really kill me? After weeks of trying to reform me, you would kill me?"
The Tulku circled him, projecting complete confidence. Every man must pay a price for redemption. You will pay your price, and you will pay it today. Another push. Keep sweeping.
Ying Ko slowly began to sweep again. For the first time in weeks, he was truly afraid for his life.
The Tulku smiled serenely. He was beginning to get through to the monster, and had seen Lamont Cranston's genuine fear of being lost forever in those eyes. There was hope yet.
With the kitchen now swept, scrubbed, and cleaned, The Tulku allowed his reluctant student to sit on the edge of the kitchen's massive hearth and eat. A promise was a promise, after all, and Marpa Tulku was all-too-aware of the fine line he was treading. Once he had broken Ying Ko, he would have to reshape Lamont Cranston, and needed that part of him to be aware that he could trust The Tulku's words. He is so close to the edge, he realized as he watched Cranston eat quietly and occasionally stop to rub his eyes and wince. You are in pain, he projected into his pupil's mind.
"Hit the floor a little hard when you kicked my legs out from under me," Ying Ko returned angrily.
A deserved blow. Do you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, Lamont Cranston?
"That is not my name!" The outburst made him wince again.
It is your name. It causes you great pain to remember that, though. Why do you insist on inflicting this kind of pain on yourself?
Ying Ko steadied himself. His head was spinning so badly it was making him nauseous, but he wasn't about to give the child monk the pleasure of seeing his weakness. "You're talking about somebody who doesn't exist any more. He's dead. I killed him myself."
You mean you tossed your passport and identification papers into the fire when your parents died so that no one could ever call you by that name again.
The tortured man turned toward him, genuine shock in his eyes. "How do you know that?"
It is in your memories. You would like to think that is all it would take to rid yourself of that part of you. But those memories are coming back to you, without that clouding fog of drugs and decadence to hold them at bay. You are a complex man, Lamont Cranston.
He rubbed his temples. My God, I'm going mad. "Stop it," he said in a pained voice.
You are not so strong when people do not fear you...when you do not have your drugs to suppress your conscience...when you are forced to face yourself and your deeds. You have struggled your whole life against your own dark heart. Why not give in to me and let me help you tame it?
He shook as the intensity of the pain in his head increased. But the rage was stronger than the pain. "I'll never give in."
The Tulku sighed. So close...he was almost there...so close...
"Why do you keep saying that?" Ying Ko snapped.
The Tulku looked askance at the man next to him. Those thoughts had not been projected. What do you mean?
"You've been saying 'so close' ever since I sat down to eat. So close to what? Giving in? Going mad? What?"
The Tulku immediately reached out to his apprentice's mind...and detected tiny portals opening in the protective walls around Cranston's psyche. No...I waited too long...
Ying Ko's eyes widened, and a wicked smile spread across his face. "You're afraid of me," he realized. "I wasn't supposed to be able to hear you saying all those things...but I did. I don't know how...but it's what you've been afraid of, for some reason. I told you I always get my way. Now your weaknesses are open to me."
The Tulku drew back. He had waited too long. He would have to destroy the monster now before this went any further. Get up, he ordered.
A confident smile from the barbarian. "Make me."
The Tulku immediately cast the strongest mind clouding suggestion he could and dissolved from view.
Ying Ko looked around. "You haven't left," he called out. "I know you're still here."
A shove from behind pushed him off the hearth. Get up!
Ying Ko whipped around and lashed back. His fingers brushed the edges of The Tulku's robe. "You're getting sloppy," he taunted. "I got close."
And that is as close as you will ever get again.
Ying Ko felt another shove, and again reached back. Again, something moved just out of reach. "You won't be able to elude me for long. There aren't many places to hide in here."
You assume I want to stay in here.
Another shove. Ying Ko whirled and grabbed at the empty space behind him.
A pair of invisible hands wrapped around his arm and whiplashed him through the doorway into the hall.
Ying Ko slammed into the wall and shook his head, trying to clear it. "Now I know where you are."
The hard wooden handle of an invisible broomstick smacked Ying Ko in the leg. He shrieked in pain and reached for his injured limb.
The broomstick came down on the back of his head and knocked him to the floor.
Ying Ko got up slowly, still holding his head. Then, he spotted something.
Just ahead in the main chamber, a shadow danced along the wall. He moved toward it.
The shadow danced away from him.
"I can see you," Ying Ko taunted. "Your shadow gives you away."
The warlord looked around. Torches on the wall cast a variety of different shadows. He tried to find their intersection point, where the object casting the shadow would be standing...and spotted it near the altar. He lunged for it.
The shadows all moved away, and the broomstick smacked him in the back of the head again.
Ying Ko got up off the floor. His head ached so badly he could barely see straight, but he knew he'd come within striking distance. "I'm getting closer, aren't I?" he shouted defiantly. "You can't hide from me forever."
And you cannot fight me much longer. You are beginning to get frustrated. The pain in your head is blinding you to me. Find me and kill me if you are so powerful, Cranston.
"That is not my name!" He dove angrily at the shadow on the floor before him.
It whisked away, and Ying Ko hit the floor hard. You cannot fight me and yourself at the same time. One of us will have to give in.
"It's not going to be me!" He lunged again for the shadow on the floor.
Again, it whisked away, and again he hit the floor hard. It will be you. I told you that I would either break you or kill you. Do not make me choose which.
He stopped and looked around. His head, his chest, his hands all hurt from hitting the floor so hard repeatedly. He looked for some sign of his captor, trying to make certain he could trap the monk before he could escape.
Suddenly, he saw it. A shadow on the wall, near the back of the room. The child had cornered himself--no matter which direction he moved, he would be pinned near a wall. He raced for the shadow at full speed...
...and ran headlong into something unforgiving.
The warlord collapsed to the floor in a crumpled heap.
The Tulku materialized next to him...and unclouded the stone pillar he'd made invisible to Cranston's eyes. Get up, he ordered.
Ying Ko writhed on the floor, holding his head in his hands. The pain was incredible. His head felt like it was on fire, a raging inferno trying to burn its way out his eyes. "My head," he moaned. "Oh, God, my head..."
He couldn't even think straight. "What's happening to me?" he said, barely able to make himself form words. "My head...it feels like it's going to explode..."
The Tulku scoffed. Weakling. You call yourself a warlord? Get up! I am right here, visible, vulnerable. You will never have a better chance. He smacked the man on the floor across the face. Fight back! Kill me if you are so powerful!
The man looked up. Sheer terror looked out through those blue-green eyes. "I can't," he whispered. "I can't...oh, God...Tulku, help me..."
He'd used the title of respect, not some epithet that Ying Ko always spat. The Tulku smiled. Welcome, Lamont Cranston. It is good to finally meet you.
At the mention of his name, a light of recognition shone behind Cranston's eyes. Then he shook violently and clutched the sides of his head, the pain becoming so intense that death would have been a welcome release. "Oh...oh...ow..." Suddenly, he screamed, a shriek of pain and terror unlike anything either of them had ever heard before.
The burst of psychic energy that shot through the room was so strong it knocked Marpa Tulku off his feet. It was a palpable force, projective telepathic power so violently released that The Tulku could hear cries of pain from the initiates throughout the temple. Remain calm, he called to them. All is well. The Butcher Of Lhasa has been subdued. Let the projection pass through.
For several minutes, no one dared move in The Temple Of The Cobras. The wave of energy ripped through the temple, piercing the developing psyches of young initiates, startling and unnerving the more senior ones. Even The Tulku was astonished by the power of his reluctant student. He had never felt anything like it, and he had aided twenty generations of students through the initial awakening of their psychic abilities. What have I done? he wondered. What have I unleashed?
Gradually, the first violent waves died down. The Tulku looked across the room.
Lamont Cranston lay on the floor, unmoving. His physical voice was no longer screaming. But the psychic energies that had been building for weeks were pouring out of him, still carrying his mind's cries through the temple. And his face was contorted with pain, as if the mental torment was worse than the physical distress.
The Tulku gently reached out to Cranston's mind. He could see the torture inside him, hear the voices of his victims screaming in pain, see the butcher he'd been for so long alternately being consumed by a fiery anger and drowning in a deep pool of guilt. And still the reservoir of power The Tulku had detected earlier felt full. How deep does it go? The Tulku asked himself. How much built up before release? How long will it take to drain it, to let all of it go?
The man on the floor before him could not answer. His mind was still screaming, still tortured. He was as vulnerable now as one human could be.
The Tulku came over to his student. Cranston was at least half a foot taller, and easily fifty or sixty pounds heavier than him. But Marpa Tulku was stronger than he looked--and had mental strength to match. He lifted Cranston into his arms and carried him out of the chamber.
Five days passed...five days of unending torture in Lamont Cranston's mind...five days for Marpa Tulku to witness the torture firsthand, seeing the things flying through his pupil's psyche. He watched Cranston's whole life racing through his mind, a life of Western excesses, cold interpersonal relationships, an emptiness that sought fulfillment. He saw a darkness that had always been there, a darkness Cranston had tried in vain to exorcize, a darkness that had swirled up inside him and taken over when he'd turned to drugs to silence the chaos in his head...a darkness that manifested itself as Ying Ko. Now he understood why Cranston seemed to have an accelerated psychic growth curve--he'd suppressed the powers he'd always had, powers that he should have been developing and honing to razor sharpness, for so many years in so many ways that with nothing to hold them back, they surged to their natural levels in record time.
Then late one evening, as Marpa Tulku meditated, praying for more strength, he felt the chaos coming from Cranston quiet. He reached out for Cranston's mind.
It was empty...except for one very frightened presence, drifting in the emptiness.
You have done it, The Tulku told him. You have survived.
A weak voice answered The Tulku's projection. What happened to me?
You have experienced what in your language is called an awakening. The psychic energy you have always possessed had built to such levels that your natural subconscious barriers could no longer contain it, and they gave way. The visions you experienced were your mind's way of cleansing itself, sweeping away the past to create a clean slate for the future. Do you remember fighting with me in the temple?
Yes, I do. But it felt like a nightmare...I felt like someone else was controlling me. I kept trying to stop...but I couldn't...
But you did. Before your barriers collapsed, I called your name. Do you remember?
A hesitation. Yes. I tried to answer you, but my head hurt so badly I couldn't think straight.
Answer me now. Open your eyes and answer me. What is your name?
The young man stirred, then opened his eyes. "Lamont Cranston," he whispered in a weak, raspy voice. Then, he looked amazed. "My God, I haven't allowed myself to say that name in almost a year."
The Tulku moved into his view. How do you feel?
"Like I've been trapped in a nightmare." He tried to laugh, a weak chuckle finally emerging from his dry, parched throat. "I was, wasn't I? I was trapped in a nightmare of my own creation."
At least you recognize it now. That is a far cry from where you were almost four weeks ago. The Tulku dipped a cloth into a bowl and gently wiped the cold sweat off Cranston's face.
The damp cloth felt good on his skin. "Thank you," he whispered. Then, he opened his eyes wider and took a look around the room.
This was not the cold cellar where he'd spent three weeks as a prisoner. This was a bedroom, a large chamber with a fire in a small fireplace, a small altar next to an elegant tapestry, and warm blankets covering him as he lay on a raised pallet. "Where am I?"
You are in my chamber. You have been here for five days.
"Five days?" He sat up, and immediately regretted it as his head spun violently.
The Tulku took Cranston by the shoulders, gently easing him back to the horizontal position. You have been completely incoherent and unconscious for five days--no food, no water. You must get your strength back before you try to get up again.
Cranston took several deep breaths, trying to calm his spinning mind. "I feel so weak...worse than the worst bout of the flu...worse than three days of withdrawal." He started to run a hand through his hair, then stopped and stared at the back of his left hand. The Chinese characters for his former name had been tattooed across his fingers...but no longer. "The tattoos...they're gone! How?"
Awakenings cleanse both the mind and the body of resistance and impurity. They were an impurity that needed to be removed. The Tulku gently wiped Cranston's brow again with the damp cloth. You had a great many impurities that needed removing...most of them in your mind. I have spent five days watching layers of your past burning away.
Cranston looked stunned. "You were here all that time--all five days?"
You needed me. I always stay with a student who is experiencing an awakening. It is a time when they are most vulnerable to attack, to injury, to death. I have seen men go mad during awakenings. I have seen men die during them. And yours was so violent I was concerned you would be one of the casualties of the strength of your own mind. I have not left your side since your awakening began.
Cranston raised himself up on his elbows and looked into The Tulku's eyes. "After everything I've said...everything I've done...you stayed with me? You brought me here, to your room?"
That surprises you. No one has ever shown you that sort of kindness.
"No." It all came back to him--the weeks of anger he directed at The Tulku, the blatant disrespect, the violence toward the other initiates, their fight in the temple. "I am not worthy," he said suddenly, then rolled off the pallet and fell at The Tulku's feet. "Tulku, I am not worthy...I am so sorry...please forgive me..."
Look at me, The Tulku ordered.
Cranston hesitated, then looked up.
The Tulku looked down and met his student's eyes. Every man pays a price for redemption. This is yours. I have saved your life, Lamont Cranston. It now belongs to me.
Cranston nodded, guilt and remorse filling those once dark and hostile blue-green eyes. "I'll do anything you ask," he said. "Anything."
I saw you in a vision over a month ago, Lamont Cranston. At the time, I had no idea who you were, but I knew I had to find you. I believe you were sent to me because you know what evil lurks in the hearts of men...because you have seen that evil in yourself. You have survived it. You have subdued it. The Tulku touched Cranston's chest, near his heart. That darkness that controlled you for so long is still inside you...and it will always be there. It made you a very powerful man. He took Cranston's chin in his hand and made him look right at him. I intend to make you even more powerful--but to my ends, not yours. I will teach you to control that darkness, to turn it around, to use it as a weapon against the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. You have extraordinary psychic gifts, but no knowledge of how to use them. I will give you that knowledge. For the rest of your life, you must use what I will teach you to drive evil out of the shadows and into the light, where it cannot survive. Do you understand?
No, you do not. Not yet, anyway. But you will. The Tulku smiled. You must be hungry. You have not eaten in five days. He reached for a bowl of rice and gestured back to the pallet.
Cranston sat back on the pallet and took the bowl and the chopsticks offered. "Thank you." Then, he looked around, spotting a cup and a small tray on the other side of the room. "This is your meal," he realized.
There is more where that came from. I will eat later.
Cranston handed the bowl back. "No, Tulku, I can't--this is yours."
The Tulku chuckled. You have changed. Five days ago, you would have killed for a few grains from that bowl. He firmly pushed the bowl back into Cranston's lap. You must eat. You have to get your strength back. Awakenings take a toll on the body and the mind.
Cranston nodded. "I am hungry," he admitted, then finally took a bite. "Mm-m..." He took another bite quickly. "I hadn't realized how hungry." He took another bite, then another, then another in rapid succession.
Slowly, The Tulku cautioned. You will make yourself ill, and that will set you back further. Slowly. Enjoy your meal. Feel it giving you strength.
Cranston nodded, slowing down, trying to savor each bite. "May I have something..."
...to drink? The Tulku handed him the cup from the tray.
"Thank you." He took a sip, then looked at his teacher. "Is mind reading one of the things you teach?"
Only to those who have a need to learn it.
The Tulku noticed Cranston's disappointment and smiled. You do not need to learn it because you already can.
That caught Cranston off-guard. He looked up. "I can?"
Yes, you can. You have always been able to, but you tried to make yourself forget you could. Do you remember the fight you had with your cousin when you were thirteen?
Cranston thought for a moment. "He accused me of cheating on a test."
Did he really accuse you? Or did you hear him think it?
Cranston looked surprised as the realization hit him. "Now that I think about it...he never really said anything. But I never made the connection."
You have always heard things that people never actually said to you.
"Why didn't I realize that, though?"
You did. You experienced a partial awakening at thirteen, when some of your mental energies spilled over your protective walls. Many adepts go through partial awakenings, leaving them with confusing abilities that they often have little or no control over. After your partial awakening at thirteen, you discovered you could hear things you were not supposed to be able to hear, voices that seemed to come from nowhere and fill your ears. But you denied it and suppressed it inside you because only lunatics hear voices in their heads.
He smiled wryly. "Lunacy...a Lamont family trait."
Your mother's family. You were always told they were crazy.
"So they were all psychic?"
Most likely. It is hard to tell without actually touching their minds. But I strongly suspect both sides of your family had more than their share of unawakened telepaths, judging from the things I saw in your memories.
"So I can read minds."
It is not your primary gift, but yes, you can read minds.
He looked astonished. "What else can I do?"
You are a very powerful telepath.
"Telepath. From telepathy, meaning mind reading."
Not quite. From the Greek 'tele', meaning 'distant', and 'pathos', meaning 'feeling'.
Cranston laughed. "Where did you learn Greek?"
From a British missionary. He tried to convert me to Christianity. A chuckle. He failed. But he taught me a great deal, including many languages. 'Telepathy' translates roughly as 'sending feelings over distance'. Mind reading is one part of that. Thought projection is the other part.
The ability to send thoughts into another person's mind...as I am doing to you. The ability to direct mental energy outward and use it in a variety of ways that seem almost magical.
"I can do that?"
Do you remember your severe headache on the battlefields of France in January of 1918?
Cranston thought for a moment. "Yes. I thought I'd gotten hit with poison gas or something. I'd never been in so much pain, and I couldn't even see straight."
Until you woke up.
Cranston's eyes widened. "And I could see in the dark. Night looked like an overcast day, or twilight."
When I teach this skill, I call it projective sight. Projective energies create a series of echoes off the physical boundaries of objects to outline the general terrain. The eyes can then use the light in the room more efficiently. Thus, near-darkness looks like twilight or subdued daylight to one skilled in projective sight. It is rare to meet an adept who can do it naturally.
"I had another partial awakening, then?"
Yes. That was your second partial awakening. Some adepts have a series of partial awakenings that last for years before they finally fully awaken.
"So you're telling me I've had all these...powers for years now and just never knew it?"
You could make an army go to war for you...concubines stay with you even as you treated them cruelly...servants do anything you asked, no matter how ridiculous. Did you think it was merely because they feared you?
"Oh, my God." He looked surprised. "I've always gotten my way...because of this?"
Do you remember that horrible hangover you had in December of 1920?
Cranston laughed. "Which one? I drained more than my share of wine bottles in those days."
The one that led to the first fight with Maurice Jacoby that you ever won.
He thought back for a moment. "Oh, that. He was a real pain. We argued about everything, usually violently. I can't believe I actually managed to outsmart him--he just caved when I called him an idiot..." Then, it hit him. "Of course he did. Because I made him. From that moment on, all I had to do was lose my temper with someone, and they'd give in immediately."
In your third partial awakening, you discovered an ability to influence others by unconsciously projecting your thoughts into their mind. It was not an ability you could control, but once you discovered that your will was stronger than others, you learned to use that to your advantage. And it got stronger when people feared you.
Did you not find it easier to win your battles when people were afraid of you?
He nodded, trying to make sense of it all. "I always knew when someone was afraid of me. I could tell, even if they were trying to hide it. And once they were afraid, I knew I had them beaten. But I don't understand...how?"
Every adept has some thought pattern that they can sense without any training or expertise. Mine is weakness--I can detect it, and I can exploit it. It was how I knew you were at your breaking point--I could feel your self-doubt, your inner conflict. Yours is fear--it gives you more confidence, which you then use to attack your opponent, which amplifies the fear your opponent feels, which then gives you more confidence. It makes you very dangerous.
Now he looked frightened. "I would imagine so. But you're not afraid to tell me all this?"
Because I will teach you how to harness your gifts to do good, not evil. He smiled. I will teach you to do a great many things, Lamont Cranston. There will be lessons in everything you see, everything you do, everything you are told, and you must always pay strict attention to make certain you do not miss any of them. When I am through with you, you will believe anything is possible...and nothing is impossible.
Cranston was stunned. Nothing could have prepared him for what he was hearing. If he hadn't been through a five-day nightmare of unending horror, he'd have thought The Tulku a madman.
I have been called worse.
Cranston chuckled wryly. "I'm going to have to learn to watch my thoughts carefully. I'm not used to someone knowing exactly what I'm thinking."
You actually think quite loudly, even for a telepath. I will teach you to protect your thoughts, to keep them quiet even to another telepath. It is a necessary skill to have when you live among adepts.
Cranston nodded. "So, where do we go from here?"
You have much to learn, Lamont Cranston. It will take you a year--maybe longer--to learn to control your gifts and use them correctly. But you will learn.
Cranston smiled. "If we're going to be together for that long, you'll get tired of saying my full name every time you want my attention. Call me Lamont."
Lamont. Your mother's family name.
He nodded. "I hated it for a long time. But I think I could get used to hearing it on a regular basis."
Then 'Lamont' it is. The Tulku came over to him. But something else has to change.
Lamont looked confused, then understood. "Aha. Not exactly the style the modern initiate is wearing," he said, brushing his long black hair behind his head.
No, I think not. More the style of the primitive opium lord.
Lamont nodded. "I want it gone. All of it."
The Tulku came over to him. I think not. You have only just regained your sense of self. I do not think altering it so dramatically right now would be good. But I think some change, some break with the past, is needed. He fished a pair of scissors out of an old trunk, then pulled the long hair into a series of tight ponytails and cut each of them off close to the scalp. Better?
Lamont ran his fingers through his hair, amazed at how short his locks now were. "I haven't had it this short in years." A chuckle. "Feels like I lost ten pounds."
And four years.
"For which I am most thankful."
The Tulku gathered up the lengths of hair and started to toss them into the fire.
He turned to his student. You would like to keep it?
"No. I want to be the one to get rid of it."
The Tulku nodded, then handed the handful to him.
Lamont looked at it for a long moment. The heavy, thick shock of hair represented four years of his life...four years of sheer Hell. Slowly, he moved off the pallet and knelt before the fireplace. Then, he tossed it into the flames and watched it be consumed.
How do you feel?
"Liberated." Then, he winced. Something was inside his head now...indistinct whispers chattering.
You are hearing voices?
"Whispers. Like wind through the trees." He winced again. "They're getting louder."
You are surrounded by adepts of all skill levels. It is only natural that their thoughts would be quite loud to you right now. Is it causing you pain?
Lamont nodded, then rubbed his eyes. "There's something pushing behind my eyes." He let out a low expression of pain and massaged his temples. "Oh, God, I used to get headaches like this all the time...what's happening to me?"
The Tulku came over to his student. Look at me.
Lamont looked up.
The Tulku met his eyes and probed his mind. Your mind is regenerating itself. That is the pain and pressure you feel. That is the pain and pressure you used to relieve with opium, which suppresses brain functions. It would dissipate your natural energies. Without anything to stem them now, they are free to build to their normal levels. But your natural barriers are not ready to contain that much energy yet because they are still damaged from the awakening. This is why you are hearing voices as well--the natural walls your psyche uses to protect itself are still damaged from the awakening, so your mind is almost completely open to outside thoughts.
The volume of voices grew, and his mind felt as if it would burst again at any moment. "Tulku..."
I see what is happening. This is your first lesson. Relax and trust me.
Lamont nodded. "I'm trying..."
Do not say another word. Allow me to direct and guide your thoughts.
Lamont nodded again.
The Tulku put his fingers on either side of Lamont's face, gently rubbing his temples to ease the tension. Lamont felt something powerful move into his mind, something calm and confident. Your psychic defenses are quite strong, even after five days of damage from a violent awakening. You do not realize how hard you are fighting. Trust me, Lamont. I will not hurt you. I will stop the pain, but you must let me.
Something relaxing spread through his thoughts, and Lamont felt his fear drain away.
Something began to reshape his mind, to wrap around it, to insulate it. A folding sensation filled his head, as if something were kneading the kinks out of his mind. Then, something seemed to give way, and all the tension drained away. The voices quieted, the pain eased. It was the most incredible sensation of peace he'd ever felt.
The Tulku released his temples. How do you feel now?
Lamont's eyes widened. "I've taken any number of drugs that didn't even come close to doing what you just did. How did you do that?"
A hypnotic suggestion, which you will learn to do for yourself eventually. I redirected the pain in on itself, and it collapsed under its own weight. You will feel much calmer for a short time.
And then your mind will begin rebuilding itself again.
"And the pain will return...and the voices will return..." He looked worried. "I'll have to do this for the rest of my life?"
It will eventually become so natural to you that you will not even realize you are doing it. And as your natural barriers rebuild and strengthen, you will need to do it less and less frequently. The Tulku gently patted his student's shoulder. This is a great deal for you to absorb in one day. You have not even been out of your awakening an hour yet.
Lamont did not miss the implication of The Tulku's words. "And my mind is already trying to rebuild itself."
The Tulku nodded. You have great potential, Lamont Cranston. You also have much to learn. And you will begin anew in the morning. He stepped back. Rise.
Lamont stood, his legs shaky, and nearly collapsed back to the floor again.
The Tulku was quick to offer a steadying hand. First steps are always hard.
Lamont gathered himself, taking several deep breaths before straightening upright. "Thank you."
You are welcome. I will show you to your room.
The Tulku left the chamber.
Lamont followed him down the hallway to a larger chamber already filled with many junior initiates who were settling in for their evening rest. As he came in, they all looked up at the man before them. Lamont saw fear in their faces. "They're afraid of me," he realized.
They are afraid of Ying Ko. You will have to regain their trust as Lamont Cranston. He looked to his students. Welcome your new brother, the newest initiate of The Temple Of The Cobras...Lamont Cranston.
Slowly, the young students nodded their greetings.
Lamont returned the nod.
The Tulku gestured to an unoccupied corner pallet. This will be your pallet. I will have someone find you a suitable change of clothing for tomorrow. Sleep well, Lamont, for tomorrow your new life begins.
Lamont bowed before his master. "Thank you, Tulku."
The Tulku nodded, then left the chamber.
Lamont sat down and looked around the room. Mistrust and fear still stared back at him.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, he reminded himself. And tomorrow, the journey begins anew. He lay down on the pallet.
Sleep swept itself around him in seconds.
The Tulku was awakened from sleep by a loud scream, followed by several other screams. He reached out his mind and quickly found the cause. Lamont Cranston...why are you crying out?
He heard chaos in the man's head, then a pained reply. My head...Tulku, my head feels like it's going to explode. What's happening?
Your mind is regenerating again, and your own barriers are still not strong enough to hold in the energy your mind is producing. This will take time. You must remain calm. By crying out, you are projecting your own pain to the other initiates, many of whom have not been through an awakening yet.
I'm sorry, Tulku...it hurts...
I know it does. And it will, until your psyche heals. This is not unusual. But you must try to hold it in, learn from it, use it to strengthen your defenses.
I need help, Tulku...please...
The Tulku thought for a moment. This is your second lesson. Normally, I do not teach this to someone just out of an awakening, but you will benefit from it. Place your fingers on your wrist and take your pulse. He waited until he could detect that his student had done so. Do you feel the rhythm of your heartbeat?
As each beat passes, listen for its sound. Let it fill your mind. He waited, listening for the sound of Lamont's pulse echoing through his thoughts. Very good. Let it completely fill you. There should be nothing left in your mind except your heartbeat. As it fills you, it will relax you, and allow you to find a safe place.
The heartbeat got louder. The Tulku stopped projecting to allow Lamont to find his own quiet, safe place.
Gradually, he could feel calm being restored to the monastery. He sat up and prayed for strength, serenity, and spirituality to deal with his students, especially his newest one. Then, he lay down to sleep, enjoying the momentary peace that had drifted through the temple.
The next few months went by quickly for Lamont Cranston and Marpa Tulku. It continued to astonish The Tulku how much psychic energy his new student had. It truly was like a reservoir of power, a lake that seemed to grow deeper with each passing day, a lake that could refill amazingly fast when it was drained to relieve pressure. No wonder it had taken five days for the awakening to drain it, and nearly three months to rebuild the containing walls--and no wonder his pupil had turned to anything he could find for years to suppress it. The Tulku had seen highly-trained adepts take years to build temporary reserves this strong; for Lamont, this was his natural state. But it was completely unfocused, raw power, and just barely harnessed under fragile control. There was much work ahead to train him, guide him, and turn him into a living weapon against evil.
The Tulku started with Lamont's physical skills. Years of drug abuse and decadent living had taken their toll on his body, but this was a man who had been a feared warlord, a strong warrior. Lamont was a tall man with a sturdy bone structure, and The Tulku was determined to give him the physical strength and endurance to perform the complex tasks he would have to learn, tasks that were as stressful on the body as they were on the mind. As he had when Ying Ko had first arrived, The Tulku put him to work with backbreaking tasks, but this time the goal was to strengthen his body, build his endurance, erase the years of abuse. Literally, Lamont would work until he dropped, but gradually the results became visible: By the end of his first three months as an initiate, Lamont had built layers of muscle onto his body that actually required refitting his robes, and the amount of work needed to drive him until he dropped almost doubled.
At the same time, The Tulku worked on rebuilding Lamont's self-confidence. It had been one of Ying Ko's strengths, and now Lamont needed to rediscover it within himself. It was not unusual for a student just out of an awakening to lose confidence in himself; part of the awakening process was the stripping away of the old self, and the struggle to gain control of powers that had only just asserted themselves was one of the most difficult tasks that newly-awakened adepts undertook. But in the fight against evil, Lamont would need a strong sense of self-confidence, one that would keep him going even through the most violent assaults and vicious battles. Rebuilding his physical strength helped rebuild his confidence in his body, and The Tulku gave him many mental exercises to do during his quiet times to help give him the confidence to handle his mind. As Lamont's natural defenses repaired and rebuilt themselves, the severe headaches and the overwhelming psychic assaults lessened. For almost a week, Marpa Tulku had to help Lamont every time the pressure and voices in his head built to the bursting point. Then, slowly, Lamont learned to redirect his own energies to ease his own pain, bring calm to his own chaos for a short time...then longer stretches...until finally, three months after his awakening, Lamont was able to help himself on his own consistently when the internal pressure grew too much to bear.
Now that Lamont had at least started to control his own mind, it was time to teach him to use that control. In many ways, Lamont was years ahead of the junior initiates he lived with--many of them had either not experienced an awakening, or their awakenings had revealed significantly less-powerful gifts than Lamont's had. But he lacked the skills needed to move to the more sophisticated senior ranks, for he had only limited control and could not use his gifts on command, nor had he learned even the simplest of mind-focusing skills with which to do so...skills that now Marpa Tulku was ready to teach him.
As he usually did, Lamont began his morning chores by sweeping the kitchen floor. The kitchen task had become his by decree. By temple custom, senior initiates normally took turns cooking and juniors normally took turns cleaning; however, because it required a great deal of work to keep the room clean, The Tulku had assigned Lamont the task to teach him the discipline he would require to accomplish the special mission The Tulku had planned for him. So, the first hour after every meal was always spent sweeping, washing, and polishing the kitchen to keep the vermin that plagued many a kitchen at bay.
Waves emanating from a powerful telepathic presence moved through the room. Lamont stopped sweeping and turned to the doorway...then knelt and bowed to the man before him.
Rise, The Tulku told him. Good morning, Lamont.
"Good morning, Tulku," Lamont said. "What do you need?"
Are you almost done with your morning chores?
Lamont looked around the room. "Not yet. I still have the dishes to do, and the hearth to clean. Then Master Kasha was going to take me down the road to gather firewood because the kitchen stock is low..."
I see. He turned to look behind him.
A young man who could not have been much older than thirteen came into the room, looking nervous. A senior initiate followed close behind. The Tulku looked at the junior initiate, then at Lamont again. Lamont, tell Sato what you just told me.
Lamont nodded a greeting to Sato, who was one of the newest junior initiates, and quickly translated his tasks into Tibetan. "I still have the dishes to wash, and the hearth to clean, then I have to go down where the trees are to gather firewood."
The Tulku turned to Sato. You will finish the kitchen tasks this morning. Kasha will watch you to make certain you do it correctly. Lamont, you will come with me.
Lamont looked puzzled.
Sato held out his hand for the broom.
Lamont gave it to him, still puzzled, then nodded a respectful greeting to Kasha before following The Tulku out of the room.
The Tulku said nothing as they walked to the main temple chamber. Lamont followed in respectful silence, but was puzzled as to why he had been pulled away from his morning chores. Work was very important in training, he had been told; it taught discipline and provided needed services for the temple.
The Tulku stopped in the middle of the room. You are confused, he observed.
Lamont nodded. "Was there something wrong with my work? Have I done something disrespectful?"
No. The Tulku stepped to the altar and took a seat, then gestured to the floor near his feet.
Lamont came over to the altar and took a seat on the stairs.
You have been here nearly four months. Did you realize that?
Lamont nodded. "I'd lost track of exactly how long it had been, but I knew it was winter."
What have you learned?
Lamont smiled slightly. "That I have gifts I never knew I had. That hard work really is liberating in its own way. That age does not necessarily equal wisdom."
Lamont thought for a moment. "That I have a lot more to learn."
Precisely. The Tulku smiled. You have worked very hard since your awakening, harder than most. Do you know why?
"I needed to be taught discipline."
That was part of it.
Lamont tried to think along with his master. Sometimes, The Tulku was completely inscrutable. "I needed to rebuild my strength."
That was another part of it.
A moment more to think. "The work needed to be done."
Now you understand. I do not give students work for the sake of doing work. If there is work to be done, someone must do it. What I have been trying to teach you is that when you leave here, you will be in a position where you will be the only one who can do the work that needs to be done. That is why I assigned you the kitchen chore. I wanted you to begin to think in that way, build the mind set of the kitchen chore being your chore. How did you feel when I told Sato to do your chore?
"Confused. I thought that I had angered you, that I was not doing it correctly for some reason."
You are a perfectionist. Getting things right is very important to you.
And you felt you had failed because I ordered someone else to do your work.
Then you learned the lesson I wanted you to learn...to take pride in whatever you do, to do it correctly, to never accept less than your best effort from yourself. Are you ready to learn another lesson?
Good. How are your headaches?
Lamont sighed. "They come and go. I've been able to handle them."
You had one last night.
And two nights before that.
Approximately once every two days, you end up with a headache. Do you know why?
"I assumed it was because my psyche was still trying to repair itself."
Not quite. Look at me.
Lamont looked up and met Marpa Tulku's gaze...and felt the powerful telepathic mind of his master swept into his own. Your psyche is fully repaired. However, your telepathic energies are continuing to build, even though your internal reservoir is full. That is what causes the pain every two days. When you redirect the pain in on itself to collapse it, you drain the reservoir slightly.
"Enough to get through another couple of days."
Exactly. Your mind is ready to handle more work than you have been giving it. I have been waiting for you to reach this point. It is time for you to learn to stretch your mind, exercise your gifts. Have you noticed you do not hear voices as frequently as you did three months ago?
"I was wondering about that."
I told you when you came out of your awakening that mind reading was not your primary gift. You can read minds, but not easily. It takes some effort for you to do so--or the near-collapse of your protective walls.
"So what is my primary gift?"
There are two kinds of telepaths. One kind hears thoughts easily. They are called receptive telepaths. The other kind sends thoughts easily. They are called projective telepaths. Each kind has the ability to use the other's skill, but with some effort. You are a projective telepath. Your strength is planting your thoughts into others' minds.
"Like you do to me."
Would it surprise you to learn that I am a receptive telepath by nature?
"Really? You project so strongly."
My projective side has been developed over the years so that I can use it as easily as my receptive side. Given a choice, though, I prefer to receive thoughts rather than send them. Most of my students are the same way. You are very different. You present a challenge. Many of my lessons are designed to strengthen the projective side--yours does not need strengthening so much as it needs focusing and honing. It is your receptive side that needs strengthening, but your projective side can help with that. The exercises I will teach you will help ease your headaches by providing relief for that overflowing reservoir in your mind, because you require more concentration to use your receptive side than most and will thus have to expend more energy. Are you ready to learn?
Then let us begin. Rise and walk to the middle of the floor.
Lamont did so.
The Tulku rose from his seat on the altar and vanished.
Lamont looked around. "I'm supposed to find you, right?"
Yes. Where am I?
Lamont looked for the shadows on the wall. "Over...here." He reached in front of one of the shadows...and his fingers brushed The Tulku's robes.
The Tulku grabbed his hand and materialized. Why did you choose this spot?
"I used your shadow to figure out where you were standing."
"I suppose so."
You trust your eyes to tell you the truth.
"When it comes to shadows, I do."
The Tulku smiled. You have much to learn. He released Lamont's hand and stepped away, then vanished again. Now where am I?
Lamont looked around, looking for shadows again. But the only one he saw was his own. Confused, he walked over to the wall and took one of the torches off it, then raised it in the air around him to cast a clearer light. "Are you concealing your shadow?"
"You must be. But how? When you cloud my mind, you plant a suggestion in my head that you're not here, so that my mind doesn't process your visual image. But the light in the room can't be fooled because you are still here, which is why you cast a shadow." He looked around again. "Do I at least have that part right?"
"So...where is your shadow?"
You are still depending on your eyes to tell you the truth. But the clouded mind does not understand what the eyes are telling it.
"So you're telling my mind that you don't have a shadow?"
Lamont looked around again. He slowly walked around the room, extending the torch up and away from him to cast a clearer light over his path. "Are you even still in here?"
He thought for a moment. "Yes. I can still feel your mind. But you're hiding somewhere."
Why are you carrying a torch?
Suddenly, it hit Lamont. "Because you put it in my mind that I should." He took a quick sidestep.
The Tulku's shadow suddenly trailed next to his on the floor. Lamont grabbed at the empty space next to him.
Something grabbed his hand, and The Tulku became visible again.
"You were behind me...so that your shadow blended with mine," Lamont realized. "And because I'm so much taller, you completely blended with it. If I hadn't been carrying the torch, I might have noticed a pair of shadows from another angle sooner."
The Tulku took away the torch. You have much to learn. The unison of your mind and your eyes is too easily broken. Had I not given you a hint, you might have searched all day and never found me.
Lamont nodded. "I want to learn how to stop someone from doing that to me again."
Exactly what I wanted to hear. Sit.
Lamont took a seat on the floor.
The Tulku walked over to the altar, took a candle and a holder from it, and set it on the floor in front of him. This will help you learn to focus your mind and your eyes together. He lit the candle with the torch. Look at the candle. Study it. Burn its image into your mind. Do not look anywhere else in the room. Do not allow your mind to drift. Do not take your eyes off it until I tell you to.
Lamont began to watch the candle. The dancing flame was strangely hypnotic, relaxing, soothing...
Your mind is drifting.
Lamont straightened up and focused on the candle again. "This is harder than it looks," he admitted.
Lamont bit his tongue. Wonder how long it's been since he's done this, he thought to himself.
I still do it regularly.
Lamont smiled to himself, then returned his full attention to the candle.
The Tulku looked at his student, smiling a bit at the loud thoughts Lamont kept inadvertently projecting. Such power, he realized. He truly has no idea. But he will learn. He replaced the torch in its holder, then left the room.
An hour later, The Tulku returned to find his student still staring at the candle. The candle's flame had hypnotized him--Lamont seemed completely unaware that anyone had entered the room. The Tulku gave a glance to the altar.
Phurba rose up out of its holder.
The Tulku looked directly at his hypnotized pupil.
Phurba shot across the room.
Lamont looked up at the sudden motion.
Phurba's tri-bladed point stopped a fraction of an inch from his heart.
For a moment, the enchanted dagger and the initiate sat perfectly motionless. Then, the dagger drew back, turned its face toward him, and hissed.
Phurba, The Tulku chided.
The ritual knife obediently leapt back into its master's hand.
Lamont looked up at The Tulku, then moved to his knees and bowed his head. "I failed," he admitted.
Your enemies could have destroyed you and you would never have known they were there. No one needs to cloud your mind--it is quite easily clouded by ordinary things.
Lamont looked up at his master, puzzled. "I knew you were there," he said. "I felt you come into the room. But, for some reason, I didn't react."
You believed I would not pose a threat to you.
He smiled wryly. "I'll not make that mistake again."
Never forget what I am training you to do.
He bowed his head again. "I know."
Look at me.
Lamont did so.
You said you knew I had come into the room. How did you know it was me?
"I can't explain it. I felt this kind of ripple effect inside my head, like a rowboat when something larger passes by it. I feel something like it whenever you sweep into my mind."
The Tulku released Phurba, and it drifted back to its holder on the altar. He reached out for Lamont's mind and swept into it easily. Then you did accomplish one of the objectives of this lesson. Your mind released some of its energies. That was how you detected me--your energies were drifting outward and intersected with mine, and that caused a ripple effect. He released Lamont's mind. Rise.
This room needs cleaning. That will be your chore for the rest of the morning.
Lamont nodded, trying to hide his disappointment. "Yes, Tulku."
You were expecting another lesson.
"Yes," he admitted.
There will be time for lessons later. There is work to be done now.
Lamont bowed before his master. "I understand."
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. No, you do not. But you will. He left the room.
Lamont snuffed out the candle at his feet, then replaced it on the altar and left to fetch the broom.
An hour later, Lamont was still cleaning the main chamber. With its floors of gold and its richly-detailed altar, it took a great deal of physical labor to polish it to a gleam. He sat down by the altar to polish Phurba's stand.
The face on the handle of the enchanted blade looked at him and growled.
"I don't like you very much, either," Lamont returned. "You leave me alone and I'll leave you alone--deal?" He rubbed the side of the stand with his polishing cloth.
In reply, Phurba rose up out of its stand.
Immediately, Lamont leapt to his feet. He could not believe he'd missed the psychic signature of Marpa Tulku entering the room. "Tulku?" he called.
Carefully, Lamont moved to the center of the floor. He still could not feel Marpa Tulku anywhere. "How are you doing this?" he whispered.
Phurba began to circle him.
Lamont kept moving to keep the blade in front of him. This was insane. Phurba may have been an enchanted blade, but it only acted in response to The Tulku's mental frequencies. This is a test...but of what? Lamont asked himself.
Phurba dove for him.
Lamont leapt out of the way, falling to the floor.
Phurba changed paths and dove for him again.
Lamont rolled out of the way at the last minute. Quickly, he was back on his feet again, and Phurba was circling for another pass.
The shadows, Lamont realized. Look for the shadows. He jumped out of the way, then scanned the walls for shadows.
Phurba was determined not to give him the chance to focus clearly as it swarmed around him, keeping him constantly moving.
Let go, he told himself. Let your mind go. Reach out and wait for the echo.
His head started to spin, and the sensation of energy pressing against his subconscious barriers pushed against his eyes from the inside. And Phurba was getting closer...
Suddenly, he felt the ripple he'd been waiting for. He reached out blindly next to him.
His hands closed around The Tulku's right arm. Quickly, he grabbed The Tulku's invisible form and pulled him in front of his body as Phurba dove toward him.
A wisp of fog reached up, and Phurba jumped into it. Very good, he heard The Tulku's voice say.
Lamont dropped to the floor, exhausted. His head was throbbing, and the pressure behind his eyes was unreal. He tried to turn it back in on itself, but that only seemed to make it worse.
The Tulku appeared before him. Do you need help?
Lamont shook his head and kept twisting the pressure back in on itself, hoping it would break.
Instead, it continued to build. "Why isn't it collapsing?" he asked in a pained voice.
It will. Keep pushing it back in on itself.
Lamont kept forcing his mental barriers to stay up, trying to collapse the pocket of energy that was pushing behind his eyes. Finally, he felt something give way, and the pressure eased.
The Tulku took a step back. The burst of energy released into the room was stronger than he'd expected. But his student had dispersed it cleanly. Very good.
Lamont rubbed his temples. His head still hurt slightly. "What was that?" he asked.
The Tulku swept into his mind. Your mind compensating for your request.
Now Lamont was confused. "What?"
You told it to reach out. But because you do not yet know how to focus your energies, your mind overcompensated and generated an additional burst of energy to fill your request. That was why you were suddenly quite weak--the energy had to come from somewhere, and your mind drew on your physical strength to create it.
Lamont looked up at his master. "That was what you were trying to get me to do, wasn't it?"
I was hoping you would.
Lamont frowned. "Do all tulkus have a sadistic streak?"
The Tulku smiled. There is the fire that has been missing for months now. I had wondered when it would resurface.
Immediately, Lamont regretted his words. He bowed his head. "Forgive me, Tulku...that was disrespectful."
Yes, it was. It was also overdue. I was wondering when you were going to fight back, rebel, reassert yourself. You cannot suppress that part of your personality forever. Now you can redirect it, use it in positive ways instead of negative ones.
Lamont looked up again. "How so?"
You will need strength of character, courage, and a healthy dose of self-confidence to fight evil head-on. A confident warrior is much stronger than a submissive one--would you not agree?
Lamont nodded. "But what if I give in again to...to that part of me?"
You will not allow yourself to. You remember all too well what your life was like when you gave into that darkness. Now that you have your freedom again, you will fight to keep it. The Tulku extended his hand. Rise.
Lamont took the offered hand and stood up.
It is time for the midday meal. You will resume your lessons afterward.
"Who will clean the kitchen?" he asked with a smile.
I think it is time you surrendered that chore to someone who needs to learn the same things you did from it. You will be kept busy enough with your lessons from now on.
Lamont bowed. "Thank you, Tulku."
The Tulku looked at him sternly. You may be wishing for chores when I am through with you.
A gleam of confidence appeared in Lamont's blue-green eyes. "I think not."
Exactly what I wanted to hear. We will continue this discussion after the meal. The Tulku left the chamber, his prize pupil following close behind.
For the next month, The Tulku kept his promise to Lamont, keeping him so busy with lessons and exercises that chores might have been a welcome diversion. Every morning started out with the candle exercise again, to open the mind and focus it so sharply that it would be difficult for hypnotic mind clouding to influence it. From there, teacher and pupil moved to physical exercises, skirmishes in the main hall designed to sharpen reflexes and hone defenses. Afternoons were spent in meditation, learning to open and focus his less-developed receptive side so that it would be available when he had to use it. Evenings were spent in quiet contemplation in the junior initiates' chamber, releasing the day's buildup of tension and gathering resources for the next day. Slowly, as 1926 moved into 1927, Lamont began to respond to the new training regimen--his mind strengthened noticeably, becoming more focused and less distracted with each passing day, and his reflexes became keener, quicker, sharper. He was almost where The Tulku wanted him to be.
Occasionally, training would be interrupted by more pressing matters within The Temple Of The Cobras--namely, the awakening of an initiate. Such had been the case yesterday afternoon, when Sato, the temple's youngest initiate, had awakened in the midst of cleaning up after the midday meal. Sato's was the third awakening in four weeks, and each one took The Tulku away for one or two days. During those times, Lamont's training was left to the senior initiates...most often Kasha, the senior responsible for Sato's training, who had received the direction yesterday to guide Lamont through his lessons until The Tulku returned.
With Sato in The Tulku's chamber reviving from his awakening, Lamont temporarily took back his old chore of cleaning the kitchen after breakfast. He found he had missed the simplicity of sweeping, washing, cleaning, and how relaxing it all was...
"You missed a spot," he heard a voice tell him in Tibetan.
Lamont turned to Kasha, who was standing in the doorway. He gave him a respectful nod, then found the spot that needed an additional pass with the broom. "Thank you," he responded.
Kasha came into the kitchen. "Why are you doing this?"
"Because it needs doing." Lamont opened the exterior door and swept the last of the debris outside.
"It is no longer your responsibility."
"I know that. But Sato is still recovering from his awakening." He pumped water into a small trough, then began to wash the dishes.
"You have specific lessons you are supposed to be learning."
Lamont took a deep breath, then let it out slowly, calming the sharp retort that had been on the tip of his tongue. "When you find someone else to do this job, bring them in and I will go off to my lessons."
Kasha clucked his tongue. "Such disrespect. And Marpa Tulku thinks you have come so far."
Lamont frowned. He was being disrespectful to the senior initiate. But there was work to be done, and so far no one else had been identified to do it. "I am sorry, Master Kasha," he said calmly. "I will finish my chores and come out for my lesson."
"You will come out now."
Lamont stopped washing the dishes, took a deep breath, and tried to let the building anger pass through him. It had not been all that long ago that someone talking to him like this would have earned a bullet between the eyes. In fact, Kasha had been the last person other than The Tulku he had lashed out against--he was the senior initiate Ying Ko had beaten the day before his awakening. And he was quite certain the memory was still fresh for Kasha as well. "Master Kasha," he said calmly, "I am not interested in fighting you."
"Yes, you are." The senior initiate came closer. "I can hear the anger in your thoughts." He was now right next to Lamont. "You resent being handed over to someone you view as an inferior instructor. You think you have come so far, developed so fast, that a lesser teacher cannot keep up with your pace." He scoffed. "You are still that barbarian who was dragged here five months ago."
Lamont drew a sharp breath, then let it out. He was going to hold his temper if it was the last thing he did. "You're distorting my thoughts," he told him. "That is not what I was thinking."
"It is what you are feeling."
"So you sense anger." He smiled. "That fits. You seem to enjoy making me angry whenever you're in charge of me for the day."
"Just as you sense fear--and do your best to manipulate it."
Lamont turned his attention back to the dishes. "I am sorry I hurt you that day."
"Yes." He forced himself to keep cleaning.
"I do not believe you." He grabbed Lamont by the arm and pulled him back from the dishes.
Lamont jerked his arm away angrily. Then, he stopped himself. That is exactly the reaction he wants, he reminded himself. Stay calm.
"You think very loudly. Has anyone told you that?" Kasha gave him a push. "Fight back. You have come so far, so fast--fight back. Defend yourself."
"You haven't attacked me yet," Lamont retorted. "I have no reason to fight."
"You want a reason?" Kasha smacked him across the face.
Lamont bit back his anger hard. Kasha was a child probably half his age, and easily a hundred pounds lighter. He was not about to lash out at him without some real reason. But he wasn't certain how much longer he'd be able to hold back. "Don't do something you'll regret," he warned.
"Like this?" He slapped him again.
Lamont backhanded Kasha across the room.
Kasha looked surprised for a moment. "You do know how to fight back," he said. "Good. I never take on an initiate who cannot stand up for themselves." He grabbed the broom and swung it at Lamont.
Lamont jumped out of the way. The kitchen was very confining--not a lot of room to move, not a lot of places to hide. Still, he tried to maneuver around Kasha, trying to get out into the corridor, where he could move into the main chamber and elude him easier...
Kasha slipped around him, then swung the broomstick at him once more.
Lamont ducked, then whirled around, grabbed the broom handle, and slung Kasha across the room.
Kasha crashed into the wall hard and dropped the broom.
Lamont picked it up and flung it across the room, then grabbed Kasha near his neck by his robes with one hand and lifted him into the air. "I told you not to do something you'd regret," he said angrily.
"What are you going to do?" Kasha asked. "Kill me?"
In answer, Lamont tossed him aside like a rag doll.
Kasha landed in a crumpled heap on the floor.
Lamont took a deep breath, then gathered himself and bowed before the senior initiate. "Thank you for the exercise session, Master Kasha. Now, if you will excuse me, I have dishes to wash." With that, he turned and headed back to the water pump.
Kasha got up off the floor, brushed himself off, then composed himself and nodded respectfully to Lamont. "The Tulku will be quite pleased."
Lamont stopped washing the dishes and turned to Kasha. "What?"
"This was your morning lesson. I was to provoke you into an emotional reaction, then see if you could defend yourself while your emotions were running high. You handled yourself well. I congratulate you, Lamont Cranston. You have come quite far." He smiled. "When you have finished cleaning the kitchen, come out to the main chamber."
Lamont smiled wryly, then gave a respectful nod to his instructor and returned to his chores.
Not quite a half-hour later, Lamont came out of the kitchen and into the main chamber--and found Marpa Tulku meditating silently on the altar. He stopped, knelt, and bowed respectfully. He wasn't entirely certain he believed all the tenets of Buddhism, but it did seem to bring a great deal of peace to the residents of the temple. He waited for his teacher to acknowledge him.
Good morning, Lamont.
Lamont looked up. "Good morning, Tulku. How is Sato?"
Doing well. He has returned to the initiate chamber to rest.
Lamont frowned. "That was a short awakening."
Sato is very young. He does not have as much past life to sweep away. I was younger than he when I first awakened.
"Is that why mine was so long--because I'm so much older?"
Partially. The Tulku smiled, then gestured to the steps of the altar.
Lamont crossed the room, then sat at his master's feet. "Tulku, is there something you're not telling me?"
The Tulku looked down at his student. What do you mean?
"I can't explain it, but there are times you just look at me and smile as if you know something I don't."
An indulgent smile. I know a great many things you do not know, Lamont Cranston. What did you learn from Kasha this morning?
Lamont looked thoughtful. "That there truly are lessons to be learned from everything."
"That I've gotten better at controlling my temper."
"That I'm getting better at defending myself."
Lamont looked surprised. "No?"
You are not getting better. You have reached the point where you have learned all I can teach you about physical self-defense. That was why I had Kasha deliver the lesson. You would never react to me the same way--you have too much respect to toss me across the room like a rag doll.
"Have you forgotten I pulled you in front of Phurba?"
Because you knew Phurba would not harm me. He smiled again, that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. Do you know why I chose the lessons I did?
Lamont thought for a moment. "Because they built logically upon each other."
Yes, but do you understand the sequence?
He shook his head. "Not really."
I did not think you did. Even the strongest warrior must learn to stand his ground. What I have been teaching you since the moment you came out of your awakening was how to stand your ground. You have rebuilt your body, your mind, your self-confidence. You have learned how to calm your own thoughts, focus on your own energies, filter out unwanted intrusions. You have learned to open your mind, stretch your thoughts, and still keep your focus. By letting your thoughts be pushed and guided, you have learned how the mind can be manipulated. By learning to open your receptive side, you have learned how men think and what makes them do the things they do. By learning to defend yourself, you have seen which weapons your enemies can use and how they use them. By developing your physical and mental strength, you have learned how to fend off attacks and deal with confusing clouding suggestions. Now, it is time to learn how to turn all of that around and use it to your advantage. He looked at his pupil. Are you ready to take the next step?
Lamont nodded, pride in his expression for all he had accomplished and eagerness in his eyes at the prospect of learning more. "I am."
Then let us begin. Rise and go to the middle of the room.
Lamont did so.
The Tulku stood up from the altar and vanished.
Lamont looked around. So far, this was no different than anything else they'd done together. "I'm supposed to find you, right?"
No. In a moment, you will know exactly where I am.
Lamont felt The Tulku sweep into his mind. Then, something began to twist his thoughts, generating pain and confusion. "What are you doing?"
Attacking your mind. Fight back.
Lamont grabbed his head. The pain was excruciating. In all their skirmishes, The Tulku had never attacked him this way. "How?" he asked.
Force me out of your mind.
Lamont tried to concentrate to find the strength to push away the pain so that he could even begin pushing against the powerful energies of his master. That only made the pain worse. "Oh, God..."
Praying will not help you. Force me out.
Lamont fell to his knees, literally unable to stand any longer. He tried to concentrate again, to bend the pain he was feeling back on itself in the hopes that it would collapse under its own weight...
You are only making this harder on yourself. Fight back!
The pain in his head doubled in intensity. Lamont cried out, holding his head, trying to bring some calm to his increasingly scattered mind...
I am disappointed in you, Lamont. You threw Kasha across a room. Can you not budge me one inch?
The last thing Lamont remembered was the pain doubling again before he blacked out.
Lamont opened his eyes and looked around. He was still lying on the floor of the main chamber. His head throbbed from the assault that had knocked him to the floor and into unconsciousness. He sat up slowly and looked up at his master. "Tulku--what did you do to me?"
Do you remember our conversation this morning?
Lamont massaged his temples, trying to ease the tension. "What part of it?"
The part where I explained why Kasha delivered your morning lesson.
Lamont nodded. "Because I had too much respect to toss you across a room."
Respect is all well and good. But sometimes enemies come in respectable guises. You will have to fight back no matter who or what attacks you.
Lamont pinched the bridge of his nose and winced.
You are still in pain.
He nodded. "What did you do? I've never felt anything like that before. It was like something was twisting my mind, and I couldn't untwist it...couldn't make it stop hurting..."
That is why you are still in pain. You focused on your discomfort instead of your attacker. Every time you stopped pushing against me, I increased your discomfort.
"'Discomfort' is too mild a word for this."
You are angry. Good. Maybe next time you will fight back. Get up.
"Give me a minute." He tried to focus his mind and redirect the pain back on itself to collapse it.
The Tulku swept into his mind before he could. Get up, he ordered.
Lamont stood against his will. "What are you doing?" he asked, puzzled.
Your enemies will give you no respite, and neither will I. Lamont felt his mind twist again, and the pain nearly doubled. Force me out, he heard The Tulku's voice command.
Lamont tried to push against the projection, but it swept around his defenses and twisted his thoughts once more. He cried out in pain.
You are not trying.
"I am so!" he shouted angrily.
You are still letting the pain distract you. And every time you do, I will make it worse.
The pain doubled again, and Lamont once more blacked out.
I am disappointed, Lamont. I thought you were ready.
Lamont opened his eyes. He was still lying on the main chamber floor, and The Tulku was standing over him.
Clearly, however, you were not ready for this lesson, The Tulku continued.
Lamont sat up, and his head spun. He forced himself not to react and looked at his master. "What exactly is the point of this lesson?" he asked.
You have learned all I can teach you about physical self-defense. But you have not learned how to use the strongest weapons at your disposal to fight back. I thought you were ready to try. But, apparently, you were not. He turned away.
Lamont reached out and grabbed his teacher's robe.
The Tulku turned back to him. Why did you grab my robe?
"I didn't want you to walk away before I'd had a chance to respond."
Why should I give you the chance to respond?
"Because you're wrong." Lamont forced himself to stand. "I am ready for this. I want to learn how to fight back. I know the answer is somewhere in my head, and I need your help to find it. Show me how to do what you do. Push me. I want to learn."
Even if it is painful?
"Even if it is so painful that death itself would be a welcome release."
You may regret saying that.
Lamont steeled his resolve. "The only thing I will ever regret about this place is that I wasted three weeks of valuable training time resisting you."
The Tulku smiled. Exactly what I wanted to hear. Sit.
Lamont took a seat on the floor.
The Tulku knelt next to him and touched his temples gently with his fingers. Relax.
Lamont took a deep, cleansing breath and released it slowly.
Very good. The Tulku applied subtle pressure with his fingers to the tense muscles in Lamont's temples while simultaneously increasing the frequency and strength of the relaxing hypnotic suggestion he was projecting.
Something powerful swept through Lamont's mind, wrapping itself around his overwhelmed psyche, and he felt the pain in his head ease suddenly. "That was amazing," he whispered, awestruck. "How did you do that?"
That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you will need to learn first. He stood up and offered his student a hand. Rise.
Lamont took the offered hand and stood.
The midday meal awaits. Afterward, we will resume the lesson.
Lamont bowed before his master. "Thank you, Tulku."
You will not be so grateful by the time I am finished with you today. With that, they left the chamber.
As usual, Marpa Tulku kept his promise to his prize pupil. And, as usual, Lamont Cranston found himself questioning the wisdom of vowing that he was ready for anything. For almost three weeks, The Tulku dove into Lamont's mind at random intervals--twisting his thoughts, pressing on his subconscious barriers, generating as much pain, confusion, and chaos as he could--and ordered his pupil to fight back. Lamont would press against the attack with as much effort as he could muster, but inevitably gave in to pain or exhaustion and dropped back. The awakening of a young initiate gave Lamont an all-too-brief two-day respite, but when The Tulku returned he launched into a new series of attacks that literally lasted from sunrise to sunset, with only short intervals in between to allow time for brief recovery. Lamont found himself in near constant pain as the attacks grew more vicious in nature, and he often wondered if he would ever be able to break through the chaos his master kept forcing into his mind. Many nights he would lie in the darkness of the junior initiates' chamber holding his head, fighting to suppress cries of pain as he sought to undo a day's worth of abuse to his increasingly sensitive psyche.
You are still letting the pain distract you, he heard The Tulku's voice say one night as he tried to calm his mind enough to sleep.
"Tulku, please, leave me be," Lamont whispered. "I've not had a moment's peace all day. I cannot fight you any more without some rest."
Have you forgotten your promise? Get up.
"Tulku, have mercy..."
Your enemies will show you no mercy, and neither will I. Get up.
Lamont unwillingly got to his feet and found himself walking toward the main chamber. "I swear, it must be a requirement for a tulku to have a mile-wide sadistic streak," he retorted to the empty room.
If you would put that kind of energy into your psychic defenses, we would not still be doing this exercise. The Tulku began to twist Lamont's thoughts. Force me out.
Lamont fought to stay on his feet. The pain was more intense than ever, and his legs felt as if they would buckle at any moment. He braced himself mentally against his own subconscious barriers and focused on pushing his energies toward the whirling, twisting pattern in his head...
...and suddenly felt it move away from him.
Lamont's eyes widened. "I did it," he whispered.
The whirling cyclone of psychic energy twisted back toward him. Force me out, The Tulku's voice commanded.
Lamont focused again. This time, he felt the familiar sensation of pressure inside his head desperate to get out. He tried to shape that pressure, channel it back toward the twisting intrusion.
The cyclone moved away again. But this time, he felt himself rushing toward it, unable to stop, carried along in a current of thought energy unlike any he'd felt in his meditations.
Suddenly, he felt himself slam into the cyclone, dispersing it to the farthest reaches of...where? The angle of the room didn't look at all like it should. He looked around. Where am I?
Where do you think you are?
The voice was coming from all around him. He looked around again...and saw himself looking stunned standing across the room. Suddenly, Lamont realized his mind was seeing things, not his eyes...and the only angle from which this view could be coming was from The Tulku himself. I'm inside your mind, he realized. Tulku...I pushed so hard I ended up in your mind!
Not for long.
A burst of energy shot through the room. Lamont crashed into the wall of the main chamber. For a moment, he felt pain trying to overcome him...but only for a moment. "Is that the best you can do?" he shouted defiantly.
I have not even begun to press you. The whirling, twisting storm of energy drove itself back into his head again with more viciousness than ever. Force me out!
Lamont felt a surge of pain, but it only made him more determined. He concentrated on channeling that river of energy he'd felt carrying him along, glaring right at the shadow he could see on the opposite wall, and pressed the cyclone for all he was worth. "Get out of my head!" he roared.
The current of energy seemed to collide with something, and Lamont felt a fog swirling around him. Suddenly, Marpa Tulku shimmered into coherency right before his eyes.
Teacher and pupil stared at each other for a long moment, amazed at what had just happened.
Lamont felt something slap his subconscious barriers. "Keep me out," The Tulku ordered.
Lamont's expression became incredulous. "That's the first time I've ever not heard you in my head," he realized. "You can't get back in."
Something gave Lamont a hard shove backward. I can blind your eyes to a whole temple--how dare you be so arrogant as to think I cannot place my voice in your mind whenever I wish!
Lamont frowned at himself for dropping his guard and pushed back on the sensations in his head until they retreated to the outer edges of his subconscious. "Get out!" he ordered.
The Tulku looked surprised, then glared at his student. "Keep me out!"
Lamont felt a harder slap at the edges of his mind, then again channeled that river of energy outward until he felt it collide with something.
This time, it was Marpa Tulku who took a step back.
Teacher and pupil once again regarded each other with wonder. The Tulku gave Lamont a mental shove. Again, he ordered.
Lamont channeled the river of energy inside his mind outward and felt it strike The Tulku's projections.
Another shove, this one harder. Again!
Lamont again pushed back with his mind and again collided with The Tulku's strong thoughts.
Yet another shove, this one driving him toward the wall. Again!
Lamont caught his balance and pushed his thoughts toward The Tulku's energies with as much force as he could muster.
The Tulku stumbled backward, then put a hand to his temple and looked surprised.
Lamont looked shocked, then crossed the room and fell to his knees before his master. "Tulku, forgive my disrespect...," he began.
The Tulku took his student's chin in his hand and lifted his face. Look at me, he ordered.
Lamont lifted his eyes to meet The Tulku's gaze.
You are never again to apologize for achieving a breakthrough. Do you know what you have done?
Lamont looked as if he still could not believe what had just happened. "Projective telepathy," he realized. "I used it. I really used it. I broke through your clouding suggestion and pushed you out of my mind." He laughed an awestruck laugh. "I pushed into your mind. I pushed you. My God..."
The Tulku smiled mysteriously. You accomplished in three weeks a feat that normally takes months to learn.
Now he was completely taken aback. "I did?"
Yes, you did. I told you that most of my students are receptive telepaths. Projecting is something that does not come naturally to them. Psychic defense is the one of the most difficult skills they have to learn. None of my current students have successfully demonstrated it...until now. You learned to do this in less than a month...
"...because I'm a projector. This is my strength."
Precisely. You have finally discovered your natural abilities. How do you feel?
"I know I should be exhausted...but I'm not. I feel energized. My mind is tingling." He smiled knowingly. "You dragged me out here because I was right on the edge of breaking through."
"That's why you've pushed me so hard the past few days."
"And if I'm reading you right, I'm on the verge of another breakthrough."
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. You are becoming quite perceptive.
"What am I on the verge of?"
The natural extension of what you just accomplished. Rise.
The night you came out of your awakening, I said something to you that you found quite odd. Do you remember?
Lamont tried to think back that far. "You said a lot of things that night," he said.
One of them struck you as very odd, though. I can still remember the thoughts that crossed your mind when I said it. Now do you remember?
Suddenly, Lamont remembered the remark. "That I think quite loudly, even for a telepath."
Are you aware of how loud your thoughts are?
"No. But Kasha also told me I think very loudly. I thought he meant I was loud to other adepts."
You are. Without knowing it, you project your thoughts quite loudly to another adept--that is why I was very concerned when you cried out in your early days here, because you projected your pain so strongly to the others. But I have held back on teaching you to shield your thoughts because I wanted nothing to interfere with your progress. Telepathic energy can be converted to actual sound that can be heard with both the ears and the mind through projection. I can echo my thoughts off the walls of this room if I so desire. But I desire that you do it instead.
Lamont nodded. "Tell me how."
Close your mouth and open your mind.
Lamont nodded, took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.
What is your name?
No talking. Think your answer.
Another deep, cleansing breath. Lamont Cranston.
I cannot hear you.
You are too timid. Project. Push into my mind. What is your name?
Another deep, cleansing breath, then Lamont met The Tulku's gaze and pressed his thoughts against his teacher's strong mental barriers. Lamont Cranston.
You call that projecting? Push!
Lamont concentrated, trying to push through the mind of the man in front of him. Lamont Cranston. Suddenly, he looked astonished as he realized his ears were ringing. I heard that.
But no one else did, The Tulku returned. Louder! What is your name?
He pushed his thoughts harder through the air. Lamont Cranston! A faint echo reached his ears. My God...
Again--let everyone hear you! Who are you?
Lamont Cranston! He looked amazed as the echoes bounced through the room, then smiled broadly and practically leapt into the air, filled with the joy of accomplishment. My God, I'm doing it! I can't believe this--my mind is shouting with hardly any effort at all! He suddenly stopped and grabbed his temples, but not in pain. His expression turned incredulous. My mind is already regenerating--Tulku, I must have used a river of energy trying to push you out of my head, and I can feel my mind rebuilding itself already! This is incredible!
The Tulku gave a smile of pride to his pupil. Calm down, Lamont. You will wake everyone in the valley if you keep getting louder with every thought.
Lamont let out a laugh of joy that reverberated through the room, then looked shocked. My mind did that, he realized suddenly. He turned to The Tulku, focusing on keeping his projections confined to one mind instead of the entire room. My mind laughed--how? Tulku, what's happening to me? Where is all of this coming from?
The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. You have had all of this inside of you since your awakening. I told you then that you were a very powerful telepath. Now that your natural abilities are beginning to surface, I can finally tell you that you are the strongest projective telepath I have ever met. I have been concentrating on strengthening your less-developed receptive abilities so that they would be available to you when you needed them, knowing that your projective abilities would assert themselves strongly when you were ready to handle them. You have all the skills you need to accomplish the mission I have given you. Now, I will help you focus and hone them to a precision you cannot possibly imagine.
Lamont looked absolutely astonished. All of this has been inside me all this time?
The Tulku nodded. And more.
More? Lamont could not believe what he was hearing.
You have barely scratched the surface of your capabilities. I told you that when I was finished with you, you would believe anything is possible...
...and nothing is impossible. He nodded, still trying to grasp it all. No wonder you always smiled when I would get discouraged or ask questions. You didn't want to tell me about all this, because you wanted me to find it inside myself.
Very perceptive. The Tulku crossed the room to his pupil. But do not allow pride or arrogance to cloud your mind now. Resist the temptation to become intoxicated by the wine of newfound power. In the morning, we will begin a new set of lessons--and you will work harder than ever. Are you ready for a new challenge?
Absolutely. Lamont laughed slightly. I'm supposed to sleep after all of this?
The flush of success has suppressed your fatigue. When you calm down, you will quickly discover how weary you truly are. Come--I will show you to your new room.
Lamont looked confused. New room?
The Tulku led his eager student through the corridors of the temple. You are no longer a junior initiate. By demonstrating projective telepathy, you have moved into the senior ranks. That means you get your own chamber. He stopped before a doorway and gestured inside.
Lamont walked in. The room was small, but it had a raised pallet for a bed, a tiny fireplace, and a sealed portal above the bed. Lamont opened the portal's covering and revealed a view of the nighttime sky that was spectacular. I can see every star in the sky, his mind whispered.
The Tulku smiled. You already prefer thought projection to speech. You have not spoken one word since we began the last exercise.
Lamont turned to The Tulku and bowed. "I'm sorry..."
Do not be. I was going to instruct you in the morning to use only telepathic communication with me from now on...but I do not think you will need me to do so. There are some things best kept between student and teacher--even at this level. Another mysterious smile. I will have Kasha bring you a suitable change of clothes--you will need to dress properly for your new rank and new responsibilities. Sleep well, Lamont.
Lamont knelt before his teacher and bowed his head. Thank you, Tulku.
The Tulku smiled mysteriously once more, then left.