Knocking at the door to Lamont's chamber roused him from a deep, dreamfilled sleep. Come in, he mentally called, then looked amazed. I'm still not speaking, he realized. My first impulse was to project. I can't believe this.

The door opened. Kasha came in carrying a lantern and a set of senior initiate's clothes.

Lamont was quickly on his feet. "Good morning, Master Kasha," he said, nodding respectfully. "I'm sorry--I can't believe I didn't hear the morning chimes..."

Kasha looked confused. "I am no longer your senior. You need not defer to me." He placed the clothes on the pallet. "And it is not yet sunrise."

"Then why are you up?"

"The Tulku asked me to bring you some clothes. You have new responsibilities as a senior initiate, and you need the proper clothing."

Now it was Lamont who looked confused. Was it his imagination, or was Kasha's demeanor almost deferential? "This could have waited until morning."

"You will need them when you begin your day." He stood expectantly. "Is there anything else you need?"

Lamont looked around the room, still not understanding why Kasha seemed to be deferring to him now. "No, thank you," he finally said.

Kasha gave a nod, then looked at his fellow senior initiate. "You projected your thoughts as sound last night."

"Yes, I did." He smiled sheepishly. "I probably woke everyone in the temple."

"You did indeed."

"I'm sorry. I'm still getting used to the whole idea of being able to project my thoughts."

"It is a difficult skill to master." He looked uncertain for a moment, then spoke again. "What was it like?"

"I don't have enough words to describe it...it was just the most amazing feeling to hear my thoughts ringing through my ears as if I were shouting." He snapped out of his reverie and looked oddly at the young man before him. "Why do you ask?"

Kasha looked away, embarrassed. "I am still trying to master that skill."

Now Lamont was confused. "You are? But I thought to be a senior initiate..."

"To be a senior initiate, you must have demonstrated projective telepathy. I am only proficient at projecting my thoughts into another's mind. I cannot reliably produce sound with just my thoughts yet. I cannot reliably do most of the projective telepathic feats Marpa Tulku has been trying to teach me." He looked desperate. "How do you do it? I cannot make my mind project outward with that much force, no matter how hard I try. It takes everything I have to produce enough force so my own ears hear my thoughts--you were echoing off the walls on your first try! Your thoughts rang through the temple last night--I have never heard anything like it except from Marpa Tulku himself! You must tell me how--I fail even in the simplest exercises trying to generate that much force with my mind. Please, help me..."

Lamont looked astonished. Everything he had seen in the six months he had been in the temple had indicated that Kasha was Marpa Tulku's best student, so gifted that he was entrusted with training the most promising junior initiates. "You're afraid," he realized. "You're afraid you've lost your position as Marpa Tulku's chosen pupil."

"Yes," Kasha whispered. "I cannot match your projective side..."

"Project. Put your thoughts into my mind. I think both of us could use the practice."

Kasha nodded, then concentrated and found his mental voice. I cannot match your projective side. I cannot even hope to. His frightened eyes met Lamont's curious gaze. I knew that Marpa Tulku said you had tremendous gifts, but I did not think he meant this tremendous. I have been trying for almost a year to master the many projective telepathic skills. But what I heard last night...I can never match that.

Kasha... Lamont groped for words, then refocused his mind. Kasha, you are a receptive telepath, right?

Kasha nodded.

I'm not. I'm a projector. Projecting my thoughts is what my mind does naturally. I don't understand why you think you've failed just because I think really loudly. You have abilities that I don't, and I accept that without question. You'll eventually master those skills you've been learning. The fact that you can do them at all, even unreliably, means that you have the capabilities inside you. Don't give up. Keep trying.

The morning chimes interrupted their conversation. Kasha stepped back. "I must go," he said. "It is my morning to cook." He gave a respectful nod. "Thank you, Lamont Cranston."

Lamont acknowledged the nod. "Thank you, Kasha."

Kasha looked confused. "Why did you thank me?"

"For reminding me not to get too caught up in myself." He smiled. "See you in a bit."

Kasha nodded, then left.

Lamont took a deep, cleansing breath, then let it out. Now the work really begins, he reminded himself.


Life as a senior initiate in The Temple Of The Cobras appeared to be just as busy as it was as a junior initiate--but in different ways, Lamont decided. Seniors were expected to serve The Tulku and his monks and care for their every need, to deliver messages and interact with the people outside the temple, and especially to guide their own groups of junior initiates through their daily lessons and chores--even during mealtimes. It struck him as odd that he had never been in one of those groups--The Tulku had always been the one to guide him through his lessons, ease his psychic growing pains, apply discipline or offer praise when one or the other was required. The few times he had been turned over to a senior initiate, it was always to Kasha or Tenzin, two of the more experienced seniors. He made a mental note to ask The Tulku about it after the morning prayers.

He also noticed for the first time that most of the residents of the temple were either very young or very old. The young residents were mostly junior initiates, though some had moved into the senior ranks. The older ones were senior initiates and older monks who served The Tulku directly. As far as he could tell, he was one of only a handful of residents in their late 20s and early 30s--and the only Westerner. There were a number of things he wanted to ask The Tulku about life in the temple, but knew that most questions would probably get him that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. Which, he decided as he finished his morning meal, was as it should be.

When the meal was over, Lamont realized that for the first time in weeks, he had no idea what to do next. The training sessions The Tulku had pushed him through were so strenuous that he hadn't had to think about anything else but them for the entire day. Now, without any idea what The Tulku had in store for him, no knowledge of the basic structure of a senior initiate's day, he had no idea where he should even begin.

Good morning, Lamont.

Lamont turned to his teacher, who was crossing the dining hall toward him, and quickly knelt and bowed. Good morning, Tulku.

Good, you did remember. A pleased smile. I knew you would. How are you feeling this morning?

A deep, cleansing breath. Ready for more.

Good. Come with me. The Tulku left the dining hall and headed toward the kitchen.

Lamont followed quickly. Don't tell me it's my turn to clean, he mentally commented.

No, I think not. That is a task best left to junior initiates. The Tulku stopped and looked into the pantry. Looking a bit sparse, he noted.

Probably not enough to get through today, Lamont agreed.

Most certainly not. Someone will have to go to the market.

And who is normally assigned that task? Lamont asked, curious.

The Tulku smiled mysteriously. The newest senior initiate.

Lamont looked taken aback. Me?

I did not have another student demonstrate projective telepathy last night. He looked through the pantry again. I will give you a list of items and some money. You will take a horse and wagon to the valley and bring back what we need.

Lamont felt himself shaking. Six months ago when he had first been abducted, he had planned and plotted escaping from his guards every waking moment. Even as a junior initiate, he had not been allowed outside without someone watching his every move. Now The Tulku was talking about sending him down to the valley...Alone? he finally asked.

Of course. The Tulku looked at his student. Is something wrong?

Lamont couldn't answer for a moment. The thought of going outside the temple and down into the valley alone--no guards, no senior initiates, no one to watch over him--absolutely terrified him. I'm afraid...but I have no idea why.

The Tulku looked sympathetic. Yes, you do. Put words to your thoughts, and they will be less frightening.

Lamont tried to find the right words to use. His thoughts were scattered, and he took several calming breaths before he tried projecting again. For years, Ying Ko went absolutely nowhere without an army behind him, armed guards by his side, or a .45 or a sword at his waist. For six months, I have been watched like a hawk in this place, barely allowed to open a portal without someone making certain I wasn't going to crawl out it. And it was... He struggled again for words, then took another breath and continued. ...actually comforting. I felt safe.

And I am sending you down to the valley with just a horse and a wagon.

Yes. He ran his fingers through his hair, trying to get a grip on his whirling emotions. This must be the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard, and it must sound like I'm giving an excuse for not doing my share of the work. I cannot believe I'm feeling this. I thought I had gotten over all of that fear of my past.

The Tulku gestured to the hearth. Sit.

Lamont crossed to the hearth and sat, still shaking.

Look at me.

Lamont looked up at his teacher.

The Tulku looked stern. I have been waiting for this...because you have not dealt with your past.

Lamont nodded. You're right, he admitted. I haven't. I've pushed it down, swept it up with the debris, buried it in activity.

More specifically, you have not dealt with the aftermath of your deeds--you are no longer the fearsome Butcher Of Lhasa, but you have to atone for those atrocities.

Lamont felt himself shaking again. Ying Ko had more than his share of enemies...any one of whom would gladly slit his throat or worse, and justifiably so. And I'm going to have to face them alone?

I have spent five months teaching you to defend yourself with just your wits. Last night, you forced me out of your mind with the power of your own thoughts. You can do this. You will have to go out sometime, face the evils of the world on your own, with no one to help you but yourself. And you will need to be comfortable with doing so. I will give you a list of items and some money, and you will get a horse and wagon from the stable and go.

Lamont looked away, frustrated.

I did not give you permission to look away.

Lamont looked back to The Tulku and bowed. I'm sorry.

The Tulku looked stern once more. I am shocked at your lack of respect this morning. I expect more from my senior initiates. When you return, we will have a long talk about your behavior. Look into my eyes.

Lamont did so...and felt something sweep into his mind and trace patterns into it. Suddenly, he realized he had the list in his head. How did you do that?

That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. I will return momentarily. You will stay here and wait. With that, The Tulku left.


Half an hour later, Marpa Tulku returned to the kitchen. Lamont had not moved from his seat on the hearth. And Bogh, the junior initiate cleaning the kitchen, immediately stopped sweeping and fell to his knees. As you were, The Tulku instructed Bogh, then turned to Lamont. Rise.

Lamont stood.

The Tulku handed him a pouch with some currency in it. Be back in three hours.

Lamont bowed to his master. Yes, Tulku. He turned to go.

Lamont.

Lamont turned around and bowed again. Yes, Tulku?

The Tulku looked concerned. The roads are dangerous. Be careful.

I will. Thank you, Tulku. Lamont rose once more and left.

Bogh stopped sweeping. "Tulku?" he asked.

The Tulku turned to the young student. Yes, Bogh?

"I am curious. Why did he look so frightened?"

Because he has to face more frightening demons than you can ever imagine...the demons within himself. With that, he left the kitchen.


Lamont pulled the warm cloaks he'd found in the stable around himself tightly as he sat in the driver's seat of the wagon and drove the horse down the mountain. He struggled with his fears the entire trip, wondering just what was in store for him when he reached the valley. Worse than the fears, though, was the deep sense of dread that he had disappointed The Tulku, that he had let the flush of success from last night create an arrogance that was unacceptable. He had come so far, so fast, and this kind of setback pained him greatly.

Indistinct whispers began to find their way into his mind, whispers he recognized as thought patterns from the densely-populated village below. Oh, wonderful, he thought. It's not enough that I have to ride down alone, not enough that I insulted The Tulku, but now my defenses are betraying me as well. He kept pushing the thoughts away, trying to keep his mind clear, trying to drive the pain and fear far away, some place where it couldn't reach him.

The whispers got more pronounced as he neared the village. He began to push back harder, trying to shore up his subconscious barriers.

It wasn't working. The whispers became voices, chattering incessantly in his head. Lamont stopped the horse on the side of the road, then held his head and rubbed his temples, trying to push against the chaos that was building to an unbelievable level. Ignore the pain...push against the intrusion...force it out...

The chaos kept building. And with it, the familiar sensation of projective telepathic energy pressing against his subconscious barriers, seeking a release. And he could not bend or channel it against the intrusions. Not now, he thought. Please, not now...

The voices were so loud they physically hurt. And the pressure behind his eyes was intense. It felt just like the first weeks at the temple after his awakening. Nothing he tried made it stop. Finally, with a cry of pain, he let every barrier around his psyche fall away.

A surge of psychic power shot forth from his mind and carried with it a shout of anger so loud it startled the horse, who began to move nervously.

At the sudden motion, Lamont instinctively reached for the reins and pulled back, trying to keep control over the horse. Then, he gathered himself and looked around for a moment.

He saw startled travelers looking about for the source of the shout of rage, and heard the name "Ying Ko" whispered repeatedly. But none of them were looking his way.

Not willing to press his luck, Lamont urged the horse down the road toward the village.


The market at Dorjee was a small trading market, but a heavily-used one in this part of Tibet, for it was the only market for miles around. Another set of whispered voices tried to intrude on Lamont's thoughts, but he kept pushing back and pushing them away. As painful as it had been, the release of energy on the road had also been cleansing; he felt much more ready to deal with his fears and emotions than he had earlier.

As he went from stall to stall purchasing supplies for the temple, he saw things that surprised him: Smiles from merchants. Nods of respect from passers-by. And people he had known ignoring him. He was curious as to why.

A Western missionary and his wife walked through the market, English-language thoughts filtering from them and attracting Lamont's attention as he loaded the last of the sacks of rice he'd bought onto the wagon. He approached them. "Excuse me."

The couple turned around and gave him a curious look. "You speak English," the man said in a British accent.

"So do you," Lamont observed with a smile.

They gave him a quick visual appraisal. "You are a monk?" the woman asked.

"An initiate." He hesitated, then finally asked for an answer to the question in his mind. "Madam, would you happen to have a mirror?"

"Certainly." She fished through her purse and found a compact and handed to him.

"Thank you." He opened it slowly. Junior initiates had not been allowed mirrors--they were symbols of vanity--and so he'd learned to shave by feel instead of in front of a mirror. It had easily been six months since he'd actually seen what he looked like, and he had to know why none of the people he recognized so easily seemed to know him.

What he saw stunned him. He no longer had the vacant, ashen look of an opium addict. The puffiness and lines around his eyes and on his face were replaced by firmer, healthier muscles and skin. He touched his cheek to make certain the man in the mirror was really him. No wonder no one recognized him; the fearsome visage of Ying Ko was gone. He no longer looked like a young man in an old man's body. He looked like a completely different person.

He looked just like his father.

For a long moment, he stared at the reflection. He'd been told for years that he looked just like his father, and he'd hated hearing it. But now, without the fog of anger, decadence, and drugs to cloud his vision, the resemblance was oddly soothing.

"Are you all right, young man?" the missionary asked.

"I...I..." He couldn't answer. The realization that he truly no longer resembled the monster who'd haunted this area for so long raised powerful emotions within him, and he had to take several deep breaths to calm them. "We're not allowed mirrors in the monastery," he responded finally. "It's been months since I've actually seen my reflection." He closed the compact and handed it back to the woman. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." The woman put it back in her purse, then handed him a coin. "God bless you, young man."

He looked at the coin curiously, then realized it was meant as alms for the poor. He handed it back. "Thank you, but no. I don't need it."

"Do you need anything?" the missionary asked. "Food, clothes...?"

"No, thank you. I have all I need." He looked around, then spotted a pair of urchins in the street, a begging plate in their hands. "Give it to them instead."

"Of course." The couple bid him farewell, then walked away.

Lamont took another deep, cleansing breath and looked around the marketplace. He might as well have been invisible for all the attention that people he knew as both friends and enemies were paying to him. And it was as satisfying a feeling as he could have felt at that moment.

Remembering he had a timetable to meet, he walked back to the wagon, gave it a quick appraisal, then checked items off the list in his head. Satisfied he had everything, he climbed back into the driver's seat and urged the horse up the road again.


An hour later, Lamont unloaded the last of the supplies into the pantry from the wagon. He took the broom and swept the debris from the many trips to and from the wagon out of the kitchen, then gathered himself. It was time to face Marpa Tulku and the punishment for disobedience. He headed out for the main chamber.

As usual, Marpa Tulku was meditating on the altar. Lamont knelt and bowed his head, waiting for an acknowledgment.

You are back early.

Lamont nodded, but did not dare look up. I did not want to be any more disrespectful than I was earlier. Forgive me, Tulku, for my disrespect and disobedience...

Look at me.

Lamont looked up.

The Tulku gestured over the steps.

Lamont rose, then came over to the stairs and sat at his master's feet.

The Tulku looked stern. Do you know why you were sent to the market this morning?

Lamont nodded. I had become arrogant about my newfound power.

Partially.

Lamont thought for a moment. I was not dealing properly with my past.

Partially.

He tried to find the right words for The Tulku. The work needed to be done.

Partially.

Lamont looked puzzled. I don't know any other reason.

Because you did not ask to be relieved of the duty.

Lamont looked confused. I don't understand.

If you had merely asked to be relieved of the duty, I would have done so. But you did not ask. You instead attempted to rationalize why you should not be sent. That is arrogance in a passive disguise, and I will not tolerate an initiate behaving in that fashion, especially not one who is supposed to be an example to others.

Lamont nodded. I am sorry.

You should be. You disappointed me greatly this morning. The Tulku took Lamont's chin in his hand and met his gaze firmly. I am training you for a special purpose. There will be times when the evil will be terrifying. Times when your past will come out of nowhere and attack you in ways you will never expect. Times when you must reach beyond yourself to win your battles. Times when you must be stronger than all the doubts, all the fears, all the weaknesses within yourself. Times when you must succeed...because you are the only one who can. And you are never to forget that. He released his pupil's chin. Having said all of that, I forgive you for your behavior this morning. But do not let it happen again.

I won't, Lamont vowed.

Good. The Tulku looked a bit less stern. You shouted quite loudly on your way into the valley.

Lamont nodded. I let my emotions and fear overwhelm me, and the pressure built to the breaking point faster than I could ease it. I had to stop and let it out.

Did it help?

Yes. I felt a lot calmer afterward.

Did you know how loud you were?

No. I knew I'd startled my horse, and passers-by were looking around for the source of the sound, but I had no idea how far it had spread. You heard it up here?

I heard the echoes of it. A smile. I was impressed.

Lamont looked dumbfounded. I still can't believe I can do this. Then, he winced and put a hand to his temple. Oh...ow...what's going on? I shouldn't need to vent yet--I released a whole day's worth of energy two hours ago...

The Tulku probed his pupil's mind for a moment. Your internal reservoir is refilling rapidly. You will indeed need to relieve pressure soon.

Lamont looked astonished. Tulku...what's happening to my mind? I remember when I could drain it just slightly and it would last two days. Now, with as much as I released this morning, it's already refilling to the point where I'll need to release again soon? How is this possible?

The Tulku gave that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. When you do physical work nearly to the point of exhaustion, do you feel stronger the next day?

Yes.

When you do not work, does it take longer to rebuild your strength than it ordinarily would?

Yes.

And when you work too hard, does it cause great pain?

Yes.

Psychic energy behaves much the same way. Drain it slowly, it refills slowly. Push it out rapidly and it refills rapidly, but is still controllable. Release it in an uncontrolled burst...

...and it refills like a creek in a rainstorm. Lamont winced slightly as he felt pressure build. And there's a monsoon in my head right now.

Yes. You must learn to always use a controlled release, even when bursts are required. This is what I meant by focusing and honing your skills. You have a great deal of raw projective power, but almost no control.

Lamont looked as if something finally clicked. This is why my awakening lasted five days, isn't it? It took five days for all of this to drain the first time.

During an awakening, both body and mind are drained of all resistance, all strength, all impurities. But yes, this is why yours took so long, and was so violent. You are older, larger, physically stronger, and psychically stronger than most of my students, and there was so much impurity to sweep away that your reservoir actually refilled itself almost continuously for those five days. The Tulku stood. An awakening is an uncontrolled release. It is time you learned controlled release. Rise and walk to the middle of the floor.

Lamont did so.

The Tulku vanished.

Lamont smiled slightly. This was familiar. I'm supposed to force you out of my mind, right?

Correct. He twisted Lamont's thoughts with a ferocity that made the assaults of the past weeks seem gentle.

The initial burst of pain nearly made Lamont ill, but he forced himself to stay on his feet. He felt his psychic energies surging again and the pressure behind his subconscious barriers build to near-collapse. He began redirecting the pressure, pushing back on the twisting intrusion in his head.

Harder, The Tulku's voice ordered. I will not go as easy on you as I did last night.

Neither will I. Lamont kept channeling the energies toward the twisting sensation until it began to fall back.

The Tulku pressed back harder. I will outlast you.

You really think so? Lamont pressed back with equal strength, and the twisting cyclone moved out of his mind.

I am still clouding your thoughts, The Tulku reminded him.

Not for long. Lamont pushed harder, and a swirl of fog cleared to reveal his master standing before him.

The Tulku looked surprised for a moment at the ferocity of his student, then glared at him. All this newfound power is making you arrogant. He vanished and gave his student a mental shove as he planted the twisting sensation firmly into Lamont's mind again.

Lamont stumbled toward the wall, then regained his balance and started to shove back. Then, he stopped himself. You want me to shove back because I'll release energy in an uncontrolled burst. And the point of this exercise is controlled release. He pressed against the twisting sensation, feeling it moving slowly away from him.

Such arrogance. Another mental shove.

Lamont again stumbled, then again regained his balance. I think you're misreading me. This is confidence, not arrogance. He pushed harder than ever, struggling to keep from overcommitting his energies.

You cannot maintain control for much longer. The Tulku pushed Lamont to the floor with his mind.

Lamont started to get up again, then decided against it. It would be easier to project if he wasn't trying to maintain his balance at the same time. He sat up and smiled confidently. I've already lasted longer than you thought I would. He kept the pressure focused on the twisting intrusion, not the taunting voice.

Are you always this disrespectful? The Tulku pressed his pupil even harder.

Only when I know I'm breaking through. Again, he pushed the twisting sensation...and again felt it move back.

You think so highly of yourself.

Lamont felt The Tulku's projection driving into him so hard it overwhelmed his defenses and pinned him to the floor. He finally could take it no longer, and forced every ounce of energy out of his mind in one last burst.

The weight lifted from him, and a swirling fog cleared to reveal Marpa Tulku. I told you I would outlast you, he reminded his pupil.

Lamont sat up, physically exhausted, psychically drained, and genuinely curious. He took several deep breaths and tried to find enough mental energy to ask the question that was burning in his mind. Tulku, how did you do that? It felt like a weight on my chest.

That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you must learn first.

Lamont shook his head and laughed mentally. You've said that a lot lately.

Because you are trying to move too far ahead too quickly. The Tulku offered a hand to his student. Rise.

Lamont accepted the offered hand and stood up.

You possess a great capacity to learn rapidly, however. Another mysterious smile. We will continue this lesson after the midday meal.

Lamont bowed before his master. Thank you, Tulku.

You will not be so grateful by the time I am finished with you today.

Lamont smiled knowingly. You've said that a lot lately, too.

And you have always responded appropriately. I may yet turn you into a warrior, Lamont Cranston. With that, they left the chamber.


For a week, Lamont Cranston and Marpa Tulku dueled telepathically in the main chamber, spending hours pressing each other with their minds from sunrise to sunset. As Lamont's control got better, each battle would last progressively longer, and Lamont quickly learned how to balance controlled release and recovery time to keep the level of energy in his mind steady and available. Even Marpa Tulku was astonished at how rapidly his pupil was progressing...and how strong his projective powers were becoming. But that was knowledge that he did not dare share with Lamont, lest it make him overconfident...and thus vulnerable.

Early one afternoon, in the middle of yet another protracted engagement, The Tulku suddenly swirled into visibility, then put a hand to his temple and looked shaky. Lamont...stop.

Lamont immediately stopped pressing his teacher and hurried over to him, quickly offering a steadying hand. Tulku...are you all right? Have I hurt you?

The Tulku gripped Lamont's arm for a moment, then gathered himself. No, you did not. Tsepon has awakened.

Lamont understood. Tsepon was one of the few junior initiates who was over the age of 20, and his energies had been building for almost two weeks now. This was going to be a long awakening. Is there anything I can do?

The Tulku shook his head. I must go to him now. Tell Kasha what has happened. He will help you with your exercises while I am away.

Lamont nodded. Yes, Tulku. He started to go.

Lamont.

Lamont turned around and bowed quickly. Yes, Tulku?

The Tulku smiled mysteriously. Kasha is not as advanced as you are. Do not let that deter you. Press him as hard as you would press me. I expect nothing less.

Lamont suddenly understood. The roles he and Kasha normally played were being reversed--for the first time, Kasha would be the student and Lamont the teacher. Of course, Tulku.

The Tulku acknowledged him with a nod, and the two men went their separate ways.


It didn't take Lamont long to find Kasha--as usual, he was in the largest training chamber with three of the most promising junior initiates, guiding them through receptive strengthening exercises. Kasha, he projected from the doorway.

Kasha looked up from the floor, where he was kneeling to help one of his students ease some mental tension. "Yes, Lamont?" he returned.

Lamont sighed. It was very strange how he had gotten so used to thought projection in only a week's time that he had to force himself to speak when spoken to. "Tsepon has awakened."

"Very good." A pause. "Do you need something?"

"The Tulku told me to ask for your assistance in conducting my exercises while he attends to Tsepon."

"Ah. I see. You have not been given any students to guide, and you need to be kept busy."

Lamont bit his tongue. He was aware this was a bone of contention among some of the senior initiates--that Lamont was the only one who did not have a group of juniors to shepherd, that he garnered the lion's share of The Tulku's attention at the expense of others in the temple. When he mentioned it to The Tulku earlier in the week, The Tulku had told him in no uncertain terms that he was being trained for a different mission than the other senior initiates and he was to ignore any pointed or disrespectful comments they made because their duties were by necessity different from his. He began to suspect that he had been sent to Kasha, The Tulku's most promising student before his arrival, to make certain Kasha understood that point quite clearly. "I'll be in the main chamber waiting for you to finish your lessons."

"No, Lamont. Stay. This will be a good chance for my students to see the progress one must make to move to the senior level." He gestured for Lamont to come into the chamber, then clapped his hands to get his students' attention. "This is Lamont Cranston," he told his students, indicating Lamont. "He is the newest senior initiate in our temple. Lamont, you know Sato...next to him is Tanak...and this is Yeshi, whose awakening occurred two weeks ago and who has made remarkable progress in that time."

All three juniors nodded their respect to Lamont, who acknowledged them with a nod and a smile.

"To move to the senior ranks," Kasha said in his best calm master voice, "an initiate must demonstrate projective telepathy." He concentrated slightly, then found his mental voice. An example of this is thought projection, he transmitted to his students. There are other skills to master at this level, such as sound projection--thoughts converted to actual sound. He concentrated again, then focused his gaze on the far wall, seemingly trying to force his thoughts to bounce off it. Like so.

The students looked around, amazed that actual sound came out of their teacher's head without him actually voicing a word.

Lamont raised an eyebrow. Very good, he said, projecting his voice. When did you master that?

Last night, Kasha said proudly, then turned to his students. This is the skill Lamont mastered to move into the senior ranks.

Lamont held his mental tongue. It was now clear that Kasha believed he had surpassed Lamont again. Shall we demonstrate an exercise to strengthen projective telepathy?

Indeed. He turned to his students. Open your minds to receive thoughts, he projected to them. We will be practicing projection into another's mind.

Lamont gestured to a spot across the room. You go first. Put your thoughts into my head.

Kasha walked across the room, then stopped.

The two men bowed respectfully to one another.

Kasha concentrated, then projected. Your mind is quite easy to project into, Lamont Cranston, he told his fellow senior.

You think so? Lamont asked.

Yes. You have to open it so wide to be receptive that it makes it easy for a skilled projector to get in.

Or perhaps I just want you to think that.

Kasha suddenly felt a swirling wave of energy wrap itself around his projection and shove it backward to the outer edges of Lamont's protective mental barriers. Annoyed, he planted his thoughts firmly into Lamont's mind again. What are you doing?

You thought I demonstrated sound projection as my skill to join the senior ranks. That was my second accomplishment.

Kasha looked surprised. What was your first, then?

Forcing Marpa Tulku's clouding suggestion out of my mind. With that, Lamont channeled a small amount of his projective energies back at the telepath across the room and easily swept Kasha's thoughts out of his mind.

Kasha was startled. He knew Lamont had great projective power, but nothing like this. No one can do that, he said as he projected back again.

I can. Lamont channeled his energies outward once more, and once more Kasha's thoughts were forced out.

Kasha fought to control his embarrassment at being so easily manipulated by someone who had only just learned projective telepathy. Now his students knew his own projections were not strong enough to withstand those from a new senior initiate. And that angered him. He concentrated harder as he projected toward Lamont. You are dishonoring me in front of my students.

And you showed great disrespect and arrogance toward me when I requested your assistance in completing my exercises. I offered to do this in private, but you insisted on showing off. The Tulku will not be pleased. Lamont barely raised his concentration level, and a stronger wave of energy pushed Kasha's thoughts all the way to the edge of Kasha's protective barriers.

Kasha grabbed his head as his own thought waves were forced back into his mind. The shocked expression on his face spoke volumes.

My turn, Lamont projected. Then, he fixed his gaze on a spot right between Kasha's eyes and concentrated on pushing a beam of telepathic energy out of his own eyes right at that spot...and easily penetrated Kasha's barriers.

Kasha looked astonished. No one had penetrated his mind other than The Tulku since his days as a junior initiate. Projecting and receiving voices were one thing--but this was a stream of pure energy, pushing its way through his barriers and winding its way through his thoughts. How did you get in so easily?

Projective telepathy. You opened a portal to receive thoughts, and I pushed right in through it. Remember, I think very loudly. Lamont debated pressing Kasha immediately, then decided to give him one chance to save face in front of his students, who were staring wide-eyed at the demonstration of power in front of them. Force me out.

Kasha looked confused. How? I have not been able to master this skill yet...

Then you need practice. Start by closing off your receptive portal.

Kasha looked frightened. If I do that, I will be defenseless.

Lamont smiled confidently. You already are. Your mind is completely open to me, and I can read your thoughts and see your weaknesses clearly. He turned to Kasha's shocked students. This is how a projective telepath reads minds--or manipulates them, if he chooses. He looked at Kasha sternly. Close your receptive portal off or I will open it wider.

Kasha braced himself against his own subconscious barriers, trying to force the stream of energy away long enough to close the window.

Lamont felt the constriction of the opening in Kasha's barriers. Keep going, Kasha. Close it off.

Kasha pushed as hard as he could against the stream still flowing into his mind, then with one last thrust of projective telepathy, he forced the intrusion out. "There," he whispered, feeling triumphant.

Lamont nodded an acknowledgment of recognition of the accomplishment. "Very good." Then, he drilled a projective stream right back through the closed-off opening.

Kasha grabbed his head. "What are you doing?"

You pushed me out once. Do it again. Another confident smile. The Tulku pressed me repeatedly a week ago until I proved I could do it on command. He'll be disappointed when he finds out how gentle I've been with you--he wanted me to press you as hard as I press him.

"You can press harder?"

I've barely begun to project. He raised his concentration level slightly--and the projective force doubled.

Kasha dropped to his knees, holding his head and wincing. The pressure of the energy pushing into his head and swirling through his mind was more than he'd ever felt. Even The Tulku, in the few times they had tried this exercise, had never pushed this hard. "And you press The Tulku like this?"

Marpa Tulku would scold me if I pressed him this lightly. If I doubled the projection again it still wouldn't be close to what I normally push toward him. I'm only barely concentrating any harder than I would for everyday tasks. And The Tulku presses back even harder every time. The Tulku can throw me across a room with his mind. I haven't learned that skill yet. But I can push you until you pass out from the pain and still have enough left to shout my thoughts through the temple. I can...but I won't.

Kasha suddenly felt the pressure vanish.

Lamont walked over and offered a hand to his fellow initiate.

Kasha took the hand and stood, then looked embarrassed. "Why did you stop?"

Lamont smiled wryly. Because we both learned something from this encounter. I would like to continue this exercise with you later. I think we will both benefit from a rest and recovery period. A respectful nod. Now, if you will excuse me, it is my turn to cook the evening meal. He turned to the juniors and nodded a farewell, then turned to leave the chamber.

"Lamont?"

Lamont turned at the sound of Kasha's voice. Yes?

"What did you learn?"

Another wry smile. That I am not meant to be a teacher. He turned away once more, then left.


Dinner at The Temple Of The Cobras that evening was a rich stew of barley, root vegetables, and spices. The vegetables at the market had not been very fresh, but they had been reduced in price so they could be sold before complete spoilage, so Lamont chose as many palatable ones as he could and brought them back to combine them with the usual grain and spice concoction served for dinner to make a more filling meal. It pleased him to see the contented smiles from the initiates and monks at the change in the usual fare. And cooking brought almost as much relaxation as cleaning did--the simple acts of chopping vegetables, building a fire in the hearth, boiling water, and stirring a pot provided an excellent opportunity to release the day's tension.

The only downside to cooking the meal was that the cook was usually the last one to eat. But as Lamont went to dish himself a bowl of the stew, it occurred to him that no one had spoken of taking a tray to The Tulku's chamber. A conversation with Tenzin confirmed that the cook was the one who normally delivered The Tulku's meals when he was occupied with an awakening. So, Lamont prepared a tray of food for his master and carried it to his chamber. He stopped outside The Tulku's door and debated knocking or calling out mentally, uncertain which one would be appropriate.

Come in, Lamont.

Quietly, Lamont opened the door. Well, that answered that question, he projected to his master.

The Tulku gave an indulgent smile. You still think quite loudly, even for a telepath. He looked at the bowl. I have been wondering what smelled so good.

Lamont set the tray on an old steamer trunk near the door. Will there be anything else, Tulku?

No, thank you. The Tulku took a whiff of the steam coming off the bowl. It smells delicious--what is it?

Barley vegetable stew.

The Tulku knelt before the trunk and offered a prayer of thanks for the meal, then took out a pair of chopsticks from his pocket.

I brought a spoon...

I know. I just want a bit right now. He picked up several of the vegetables out of the stew, downing them in two quick bites. He looked up at Lamont and gave him a pleased smile. You should cook more often.

Lamont smiled. I've heard that several times tonight.

Did you find it relaxing?

Cooking? Yes.

The Tulku nodded. It was one of my favorite tasks as an initiate.

Lamont looked over at Tsepon, who was lying on The Tulku's pallet, tossing fitfully. How is he?

Slowly calming down. He was still screaming mentally until just a few minutes ago.

Lamont nodded. He's a projector, isn't he?

The Tulku raised an eyebrow. You can tell?

I can feel his mind pushing outward. Almost every other mind I've sensed here pulls inward.

I see. You are correct; he is a projective telepath. Nowhere close to your strength, of course, but he has definite projective tendencies. The Tulku turned to his tortured student, gently wiping his brow with a damp cloth. He is progressing well. The awakening was not quite as strong as I thought it might be, but the first hours were very tortured. This time tomorrow, he should be ready to wake up.

You can tell?

A mysterious smile. I can feel his psyche being purified.

Lamont chuckled. That's a gift I know I'll never have.

The Tulku shrugged. It is not necessarily a gift one would want. It is nonetheless one of my gifts.

Lamont nodded his agreement. Do you need anything else, Tulku?

Yes. I need my newest senior initiate to sit down and eat. He has worked very hard today.

Lamont smiled. I'll get a bowl back in the kitchen.

The Tulku looked at him sternly. Lamont, eat that. I will not finish it and do not want to see it go to waste.

Lamont looked puzzled. Is something wrong with the meal, Tulku? Would you like something else?

No, thank you. It was delicious. But I do not eat very much when I am with a student going through an awakening. They are not eating, and I use the time to purify myself along with them.

Lamont raised an eyebrow. I went through five days of this.

And I did not eat one meal during that time.

Now Lamont was stunned. That bowl of rice you gave me was the first meal you would have had in days...

...and if you had not waked up when you did, it would probably have gone to waste.

Lamont shook his head. How do you do it, Tulku? How do you make these kinds of sacrifices? Where does this level of goodness, kindness, generosity come from? I can't even conceive of doing the things you do, and you do it all with no complaints, no regrets...how?

The Tulku smiled again, but this smile was more wistful than mysterious. Lamont, close the door, sit down, pick up that bowl, and eat, and I will tell you what you want to know.

Lamont knew better than to disobey a direct order. He closed the door to The Tulku's chamber and sat on the floor, then picked up the bowl and spoon and took a bite of the stew. This is good, he noted.

The Tulku gently adjusted the blanket around his restless new initiate, then turned to Lamont. Three years ago, I sat exactly where you are sitting now, holding a bowl of rice and spices, while Marpa Tulku tended to an initiate in the midst of a difficult awakening. And I asked him the same questions you asked me, using nearly the same words. And he gave me the same answer I am about to give you. Another wistful smile. I do these things because I must. To whom the gods give great power, they also give great responsibility. The Marpa Tulku has been charged with serving and training the gifted adepts of this region, of protecting the secrets of the ancient masters who saved this temple from invaders twenty generations ago by clouding their minds to its presence. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. I can allow no one and nothing to interfere with it. Every adept who comes here has a special mission, though they do not know it when they arrive. But they will know it when their training is complete. And it is my duty to guide them through their training so that they can be ready to undertake their mission. A sigh. And that, Lamont, is how and why I do what I do.

Lamont digested what he'd been told. And your mission was to become the next Marpa Tulku.

There is only one Marpa Tulku. It is a tradition handed down from teacher to student. And each teacher knows when he has met his successor. After my teacher told me these things, he spent the next year preparing me for my mission. I had never worked so hard in my entire life. But the moment he called me to his side, took my hand and placed this ring on it--he held up his left hand, with a large red stone mounted in a massive silver ring that dominated his index finger--and breathed his last, I became Marpa Tulku. And it was as if there had been no other. The knowledge of nineteen lifetimes passed to me...and I became the guardian of The Temple Of The Cobras.

So The Marpa Tulku does not reincarnate?

Not exactly. Marpa Yeshi, the first Marpa Tulku, was born the eldest of twins over a thousand years ago. His brother died shortly after birth. Twins have a special psychic bond, and when one dies, the other gains his twin's thought energies. Five years before Marpa Tulku's death, a young man named Yongsam Surya arrived at The Temple Of The Cobras to be trained. Marpa Tulku recognized him as his twin brother reincarnated and rejoiced that the gods had sent a successor to continue the mission and protect the temple so that it would not be left vacant when he died. Marpa Tulku trained Surya to be his successor, and when it was time for Marpa Tulku to die, Surya gained his thought energies through the passing of the dharma and became the second Marpa Tulku. It has been this way ever since. Every Marpa Tulku eventually meets his twin, trains him to handle the duties of the mission, then passes the dharma...and this ring.

Lamont looked at the ring closely for the first time. What does the ring mean?

The stone is a fire opal--a stone of great power in mysticism. Some believe you can see the life energies of a person with it. Others believe that the stronger the good within the person who wears it, the brighter the inner fire of the stone glows. It is symbolic of my mission. He pointed to the two etchings on the ring, one on each side. The Tibetan words for "good" and "evil" are etched on either side of the band. In the middle is a stone of mystery, mysticism, and power. The only thing separating good from evil on this ring is the stone. That is where The Marpa Tulku stands.

Lamont nodded. Have you met your successor?

Yes. Not you, of course.

Lamont couldn't help but laugh. I would hardly think so.

My successor does not share your skepticism. He is quite jealous of you.

Suddenly, Lamont understood. Kasha.

Yes.

Lamont looked puzzled. But Kasha is your age, is he not?

Almost a year younger.

Then how can he be Marpa Tulku's twin reincarnated?

He is not. He is Kundun Namri's twin reincarnated.

Kundun Namri?

The Tulku smiled wistfully. My birth name. I too was a twin whose brother died at birth. When I met Kasha and realized who he was, I prayed for hours for an understanding of why he had been sent to me. I know now that he was sent because my mission will be cut short for some reason before my natural successor is ready to reincarnate. The mission must continue. The gods have always provided a way for it to continue. And that way will be through Kasha. A sigh. This is why I had you push him today. He is not progressing as quickly as he should.

If I'd known this, I'd have pushed him harder.

You did the right thing. He was capable of turning back projected thoughts, but did not believe he was. By letting him push you out, he learned a valuable lesson. The next time you challenge him, he should respond more favorably.

Really?

Yes. You angered and embarrassed him quite sufficiently. He will not let you do that again. Kasha has a great deal of pride that is healthy in small doses and makes him insufferably arrogant in larger ones. He needs to learn balance.

Lamont chuckled. I'm supposed to teach him that?

No. You are merely to push him to do better. I will teach him balance. A smile. Do not look so relieved, Lamont.

Lamont sighed. I learned today that I am no teacher.

Not all are meant to teach. Some are meant to cook.

Lamont burst out laughing mentally, then became aware of how loud he was. I'm sorry, Tulku... Then, he noticed his master looking right through him, smiling that mysterious smile again that hid more than it revealed. What?

The Tulku said nothing. A vision of his student flashed before his eyes, an oddly soothing vision of a man dressed all in black with a laugh that could chill to the marrow.

Lamont looked concerned. Tulku? What is it? Did I do something?

The Tulku looked at Lamont and smiled placidly. Not yet. He stood. We will continue this discussion when Tsepon comes out of his awakening. Rise.

Lamont stood.

The Tulku gathered up the tray and handed it to Lamont. Thank you for the meal and the company.

Lamont bowed before his master. The pleasure was all mine, Tulku. Thank you for the lesson.

The Tulku nodded. I will see you in a few days. Sleep well, Lamont.

Good night, Tulku. With that, Lamont left the chamber.


Tsepon's awakening lasted well into the next day, so Lamont spent the time dueling with Kasha in the main chamber while Marpa Tulku was otherwise occupied. As The Tulku had stated he would, Kasha responded with more sharpness and strength after Lamont's demonstration the day before; though he could not defeat his fellow senior initiate, Kasha held his own in many of their skirmishes for longer periods than Lamont would have expected given the ease with which Lamont had dominated him the day before.

Still, it was clear that Kasha's endurance left something to be desired. "Lamont, stop for a moment," Kasha said as he sat on the floor, once more on the losing end of a projective wrestling match.

Lamont stopped pressing Kasha for a moment. Not enough energy left to project your thoughts? he asked.

Kasha rubbed his temples, trying to get enough focus to respond. How do you do this? he asked finally. We have been challenging each other since just after the morning meal, and it is almost sunset. I barely have enough strength right now to think of words, much less project them. Surely you must be just as drained...

Lamont shook his head. I haven't even expended the energy I expend in one morning with Marpa Tulku.

Kasha looked stunned. How?

Controlled release. The Tulku has been teaching me how not to force all my energies out at once, even when bursts are called for. I'm sure he would be happy to teach you as well.

Kasha sighed hard. If I ever get another lesson from him.

Lamont smiled sympathetically. You'll get your share of lessons, Kasha.

When you go to the market, or are cooking a meal, or are otherwise occupied.

Lamont forced knowledge he knew Kasha did not have deep behind his own protective barriers and began to release a slow, drifting projection of energies to make certain Kasha's prying mind would stay far away. Then, he sat on the floor next to Kasha and gathered his thoughts again. I'll not be here forever, Kasha. I already know what my mission in life is, and when The Tulku feels I'm ready for it, I'll be sent away.

Kasha laughed slightly. The Tulku sees you as some kind of living weapon against evil. I thought he was somehow mistaken when you first came here. But now I understand what he saw in you.

Lamont smiled wryly. I'm glad one of us does.

Kasha looked curious. I did not think a lack of confidence was one of your weaknesses.

Oh, I have confidence in abundance in what I can do. It's what I am inside that sometimes needs shoring up. A sigh. In my nightmares, I still see that darkness inside me...feel it trying to get out again. When I get down on myself, I start battling with it again. It'll probably be that way for the rest of my life.

But you know what your mission in life is. That should give you a focus to find your strength. Kasha sighed. I have yet to discover mine.

Then maybe your confidence needs shoring up. Ready for another round?

Kasha frowned. Having you push me to the ground again is supposed to build my confidence?

There is confidence to be gained even in a losing battle if one learns from the experience. He stood, then offered a hand to his fellow initiate.

Kasha accepted the hand and stood. I sometimes wonder if you are The Tulku in a mind-clouding disguise.

Lamont smiled. You compliment me greatly. I only wish I had that kind of inner strength and wisdom. He backed away. Another round. You first.

The two men bowed to one another, and as they began pressing each other with their minds once more, neither noticed a faint shadow sweep across the floor...a shadow that resolved itself into Marpa Tulku when it reached the hallway. The Tulku smiled at his two best students, then headed into the depths of the temple to attend to other needs.


The next morning, Lamont entered the kitchen and found Marpa Tulku standing in the pantry, giving it a critical eye. You sent for me, Tulku?

The Tulku turned to him. Yes, I did. I need you to go to the market. The pantry is looking quite sparse.

Yes, Tulku. Lamont stepped away from the pantry to allow his master to fetch the funds needed and waited for the list to be etched into his mind.

The Tulku looked at him expectantly.

Lamont was confused. Is something wrong, Tulku?

That mysterious smile again. You have not told me about your accomplishment yesterday.

Lamont tried to think. Other than pushing Kasha to the ground repeatedly?

The Tulku looked amused. You have become so comfortable with your projective abilities that you no longer recognize when you have stretched them farther than before. Yesterday, you accomplished on your own something that I had been telling you I needed to teach you.

Lamont looked confused again. What?

You have knowledge Kasha does not about his future. How did you keep it from him yesterday?

Suddenly, it hit him. I quieted my thoughts...shielded them away from him.

You placed a protective wall around them and surrounded that with projective energies so that Kasha would not attempt to read your thoughts. That is not normally the way I teach it, but it is probably more effective for a projector to do it in that fashion. Your projective skills are getting more subtle and precise. I believe you are ready for a stronger challenge.

Lamont smiled. It amazed him how far he had come in just ten days. Challenge me, Tulku.

You have learned quite well how to project your thoughts into another mind. Do you find it easy?

Lamont nodded. In some ways, it's easier than talking.

Do you know why?

Because it's my natural tendency.

Partially.

Something clicked finally. And because I'm surrounded by receptors.

This is why you need a stronger challenge. You are to go to the market today and get what we need...without saying one word. Not even a greeting to the merchant. All of your communication is to be telepathic. Do you understand?

Lamont bowed. Yes, Tulku.

Good.

Lamont felt The Tulku's mind sweep into his, and then sweep out again. The list was firmly within his mind now, and he looked up at his master, amazed. Tulku, you must teach me how to do that. I know you were projecting that list to me, but I did not hear a word.

That is a form of projection you are not yet ready to learn. There are other skills you must learn first. He handed his student a pouch of money. And it is time for you to learn one of them. Be back in three hours.

Lamont bowed again. Yes, Tulku.

The Tulku watched his student depart. He knew that Lamont would have this task mastered inside of the first hour he was at the market. He also knew that very soon, he would run out of tasks with which to challenge his eager pupil. Lamont would soon be ready for skills only the most elite could learn...sooner than either man had anticipated. And Marpa Tulku would need the strength to teach them to him.

Drawing a deep, cleansing breath, The Tulku exhaled slowly, then headed off to the main chamber to meditate.


Three hours after his departure, Lamont finished restocking the pantry with the last of the supplies from his trip to the market and began to sweep away the debris that had blown into the kitchen from the many trips back and forth to the wagon. It had taken him about two stops in the market to figure out the appropriate projection strength to break into the market merchants' minds, but once he did, it astonished him how easy it was. He imagined that to an outside observer, his shopping experience probably looked like a series of monologues--he would simply walk up to a stand, and the merchant would tell him how fresh the water chestnuts were today or that he had a better deal on ginger than the merchant two stalls over. A month ago when the development exercises began in earnest, "projective telepathy" was just a phrase The Tulku kept using; ten days ago, it was a strange sensation of energy rushing out of him; now, he could barely remember what life was like without it.

Lamont, come to the main chamber.

Lamont stopped sweeping. It was rare for The Tulku to call him like this; usually, he would seek out The Tulku once his chores were done to resume his lessons. He left the broom and the pile of debris where it was and headed for the main chamber.

He reached the chamber and started to kneel and bow to his master, then noticed The Tulku was engaged in a training session with Kasha. The two were grappling telepathically, with The Tulku pressing mild attacks at Kasha to see if he had retained any of the strategies he'd learned from his bouts with Lamont the day before. And Kasha did seem to be holding his own, better than Lamont would have anticipated. But Lamont knew The Tulku was not even breaking a mental sweat. He stood in the doorway and waited for his master to complete the lesson.

The Tulku pushed Kasha back with his mind. Push harder, Kasha, he ordered mentally.

Kasha concentrated as hard as he could, and Lamont could feel the level of projective energy in the room rise. But he recognized that Kasha was near the breaking point...and wondered if The Tulku would press him until he dropped, or be merciful and let him earn a victory by holding off The Tulku's mind with the power of his own thoughts.

Lamont got his answer when The Tulku pushed Kasha to the floor with a single thought. Very good, Kasha, The Tulku told him. That is the longest you have ever gone in this exercise without overreaching yourself. You have been practicing.

Kasha got to his feet and bowed to his master. Thank you, Tulku, he said in a faint projection.

The Tulku turned to Lamont. And you said you were not meant to teach.

Lamont smiled. I didn't teach him anything. I just pushed him to learn it himself.

And you do it well, Kasha returned. Especially the pushing part.

The Tulku sighed, then gestured for Lamont to come in.

Lamont entered the chamber and bowed before his master.

Rise. The Tulku smiled. How was your trip to the market?

Lamont at first thought the phrasing of The Tulku's question was odd--normally, The Tulku would have asked something about how it felt to project into a non-adept's mind, or observed that he had accomplished yet another task that most of his students found difficult--but then understood. The Tulku did not want to make Kasha feel inferior again after a successful training session. The bamboo shoots were not very fresh, so I got water chestnuts instead. And Dao Hung had a special on ginger.

Did you have any difficulties?

He smiled. None.

Excellent. Do you have enough left for an exercise before the midday meal?

I think I could go one round.

Kasha looked confused. Why would it drain you to go to the market? It is not as if it is a terribly taxing mental exercise to drive a wagon down, buy food, and return... Suddenly, he remembered an exercise The Tulku had once had him try, and he blanched. No. You did not...Tulku, tell me you did not give him that exercise...

Why do you ask, Kasha? The Tulku replied. Do you believe that exercise is yours and yours alone?

No, Tulku, of course not...but that is an exercise for an advanced initiate, not one who has only just learned! The amount of strength it takes to project into a non-adept's mind is so high it requires a great deal of preparation to build the proper energy reserves...

I am well aware of the demands of the exercise, Kasha. Initiates have been doing it for twenty generations. When I gave you that exercise six months ago, I thought you were ready to try it. You were not. Six months later, you still are not. Lamont is. And that is why he was given it this morning. He turned to Lamont. How long did it take you to get comfortable with the exercise, Lamont?

Lamont was not certain he wanted to be part of disciplining Kasha for his disrespect, but one did not refuse to give Marpa Tulku an answer when he asked a direct question. By the time I reached the third stall, I had found the right projection level to get what I wanted on the first try.

Inside of an hour.

Inside of a half-hour, actually.

The Tulku turned to Kasha. Inside of a half-hour. With no warning ahead of time, no time to build reserves. I told him to go, and he went. That is the kind of discipline I expect from my finest students. You have much to learn, Kasha. Your pride gets in the way of your discipline far too often.

Now Kasha was embarrassed--and that made him angry. Tulku, he is a projector--he does not need to build reserves for that task!

Even projectors need reserves of strength. If you would put the effort into strengthening your own reserves that you put into bragging to your students about your advanced skills and complaining to me about neglect, you too would be able to do it. The Tulku looked stern. I trust you to train my finest junior initiates, Kasha. I need them to see an example of a student who is progressing. Some of your students have already learned skills you have not mastered in the year since your projective breakthrough. You have great promise, but you must learn discipline and balance. Look at the strides you made in psychic defense when you were pushed by someone you consider inferior. The strength and determination it took to learn that is the kind of discipline and balance you need to be a good teacher. And I expect nothing less than that from you.

Kasha looked beaten. Yes, Tulku, he projected quietly.

The Tulku looked at both of his star pupils. From now on, I will be training the two of you together at least part of the day. You seem to do better when you push each other. Lamont, you claimed you were not meant to teach, but you managed to convey something to Kasha yesterday while I was away, because he lasted far longer than he ever has in a psychic defense session. And you learned thought shielding on your own because you wanted to keep your own defenses shored up against your opponent. He gestured to a spot across the room. Kasha, sit. It is Lamont's turn to press me. Watch and learn.

Kasha sat down.

The Tulku gestured to Lamont, and the two men took positions opposite each other. Then, The Tulku vanished.

Kasha felt projective telepathic energy fill the room suddenly. It was stronger than any he had felt before. He could not believe this was from one person; no, they both had to be pushing. It was the only explanation for the level of energy in the room.

Lamont winced as The Tulku twisted his thoughts harder than ever. His mind was tired from the trip to the market, but he knew The Tulku did not want an excuse; this was as much a test of his own self-discipline as it was a lesson for Kasha. He drew a deep breath, then began channeling his projective energies toward the assault.

Kasha felt the energy level in the room double. Two waves of energy collided, retreated, then pressed against one another. One side would give slightly, then the other, rocking back and forth, each gaining momentary ground, then falling back. This is unbelievable, he thought. I cannot generate half this much projective energy in one day!

You must be tired, Lamont, The Tulku's voice said. You normally push back much harder than this.

Just gathering reserves, Lamont replied, then pressed harder. The Tulku's whirling vortex of energy inside his mind began to move away.

Kasha felt the energy level rise again. He could feel it pressing against him now.

Much better. The Tulku pressed back.

Kasha felt waves of energy in the room surging around him. This was not possible. How much more was there in either man?

Lamont could feel himself starting to run out of energy. The trip to the market must have taken more out of him than he thought it had. It's almost time for the midday meal, he told The Tulku, once more raising the level of projective energy coming from him. Ready for a break yet?

No, The Tulku replied. But I suspect you are. He gave his pupil one last shove.

The driving burst planted Lamont on the floor hard and refused to let him up. Lamont pushed one last determined thought, and an explosive wave of energy shot out of him.

Kasha was knocked backward. He was almost surprised the walls were still standing.

A swirling fog cleared to reveal The Tulku. Giving up so soon, Lamont?

Lamont sat up slowly, then pinched the bridge of his nose to stem the headache behind his eyes and tried to find enough mental energy to respond. The marketplace took more out of me than I thought it had.

Then you will need to do it again to raise your endurance. He came over and offered Lamont a hand.

Lamont accepted it and stood, then bowed to his master.

The Tulku nodded, then walked over and offered Kasha a hand.

Kasha stood, then bowed to The Tulku.

Rise, The Tulku said.

The two students stood.

Do both of you understand now why I am pushing you so hard? The Tulku asked. Much is expected of both of you. You each have your own strengths and weaknesses. I am here to help you increase your strengths and decrease your weaknesses. But you will have to learn to help each other as well. You each have a strength that is the other's weakness. You must help each other do better so that you can achieve balance.

Both students nodded. Yes, Tulku, each projected in turn.

Kasha, your students await you this afternoon, The Tulku told him, then turned to Lamont. Lamont, we will continue your exercises after the midday meal.

Yes, Tulku. Kasha bowed, then left the room.

Lamont watched him go. Tulku...was it necessary to embarrass Kasha?

The Tulku looked at Lamont. You had no qualms about doing so two days ago.

Lamont looked curious. I'm not Marpa Tulku, either. He is trying very hard...

Not hard enough, The Tulku replied. He has skills he has never touched, energies he has never tapped. And he must begin to tap them. I have been neglectful in pushing him for quite a while. I had not realized how neglectful I had been until one of my students began pushing me as hard as I was pushing him.

Lamont realized he had just been complimented. Thank you, Tulku.

The Tulku looked stern. You will not be so grateful when I am finished with you today.

But I'll be grateful when the lesson pays off later.

The Tulku looked pleased. You are becoming very perceptive. Come--the midday meal awaits.

Teacher and pupil left the chamber together.


Over the next three weeks, both Kasha and Lamont made great strides in developing their own skills. Lamont was now designated to go to the market daily to obtain something without speaking, and the daily workout increased his mental endurance and honed his projection skills sharper than ever. Kasha learned controlled release techniques and became much better at pacing himself through projective exercises to allow his energy reserves to serve him to their maximum ability. The two spent afternoons in joint training sessions with The Tulku, learning new ways to stretch their minds and use their projective energies. Anxious to press them while they were growing quickly, The Tulku had spent the better part of the last week showing both of them a specialized form of projective telepathy, telekinesis--and Kasha took to it with a vengeance. For the first time in months, Kasha began to move faster through his training than Lamont; while Lamont had more overall projective strength than Kasha did, Kasha was more skilled at manipulating items with his mind. The advantages such an ability gave Kasha began to offset the projective strength differential between himself and Lamont, and he began holding his own against Lamont in telepathic skirmishes...and even winning occasionally.

The Tulku meditated for a long time on what to do next with his two most promising students. Each still had things to learn if they were to complete their training for their missions. But the next step would require a level of trust from him and a level of development from them higher than any of them had experienced before. Nineteen generations of Marpa Tulku had trained initiates in this skill, but the twentieth never had. He spent the night praying for strength and guidance, then made his decision. It was time they both took a significant step in their telepathic development. It was time to let them challenge Phurba.


As he had every morning for the past three weeks, Lamont returned from his daily trip to the market, a significant part of his daily exercises, with a load of food which he placed in the pantry. Today's shopping trip had been for vegetables; it was his turn to cook dinner tonight, and everyone was looking forward to the spicy vegetable-and-grain dishes which had become his specialty. For a pampered rich kid who'd never set foot in a kitchen except to snatch extra helpings of food or snacks, Lamont had become a fine cook. It still amazed him sometimes how dramatic an adjustment his entire value system had undergone since his arrival seven months ago. Cooking, cleaning, constant studying, and hard work? The old Lamont Cranston wouldn't have done it. Ying Ko most certainly wouldn't have. But it was all part of him now...especially the work ethic.

Lamont, when you are finished, come out to the main chamber, The Tulku's voice told him. I have a special exercise for the two of you this morning.

Yes, Tulku, Lamont returned. He swept up the debris as quickly as he could and hurried to the main chamber.

Kasha was already there, seated at The Tulku's feet. Lamont bowed to his master and acknowledged Kasha with a nod, then took a seat beside him as The Tulku gestured to the steps.

Three weeks ago, I challenged the two of you to push each other farther than you had been pushed before, to stretch yourselves beyond where you were, The Tulku told them. And you have not disappointed me. He turned to Kasha. Kasha, I am most pleased with your progress. The potential and strength I saw in you when you came to me nineteen months ago is finally starting to come out. You have learned things in three weeks I have been trying to teach you for a year. Your rededication to your training is a credit to your discipline and inner strength, and I commend you for it.

Kasha smiled and bowed his head. Thank you, Tulku.

The Tulku turned to Lamont. Lamont, you continue to grow in ways that I have not seen in any previous student. In twenty generations, there has not been a projective telepath like you in The Temple Of The Cobras. Your projective strength is matched only by your discipline to duty, your capacity to learn, and your eagerness to grow. If I had told you seven months ago that you would be defeated and broken and come back even stronger than ever, would you have believed me?

Never, Lamont replied. You tried to, but I wasn't ready to listen. Thank you, Tulku.

The Tulku nodded at his students. You have both made tremendous strides over the past three weeks. You are ready to take a major step in your development. Rise and move to the bottom of the steps.

Both students moved to the bottom of the steps.

The Tulku stood up from the altar, then stepped behind it and laid an elegantly patterned silk cloth across it. Then, he looked to Phurba.

The face on the dagger opened its eyes, then the dagger rose out of its holder and drifted over to its master.

The Tulku took Phurba in his hands and held it up for Lamont and Kasha to see. This is Phurba...a serpent of living metal. Twenty generations ago, marauders attacked Marpa Tulku on the road to the Kailasa valley. The gods sent a cobra to him in defense. The three marauders stabbed their daggers into the cobra--and the cobra became a three-edged blade that sought their blood and defended Marpa Tulku. For twenty generations, Phurba has protected Marpa Tulku and the residents of The Temple Of The Cobras. It will defend its master at all costs...and woe to anyone who touches it with malice in their heart.

Lamont grimaced at the memory. The webbing between his right thumb and index finger still bore the scar of his first encounter with the dagger, and a triangular scar on his left thigh bore testimony to Phurba's ferocity.

For twenty generations, the secret of Phurba has been passed to the temple's finest students, The Tulku continued. To control Phurba requires an adept of considerable talent and skill, an adept with great balance. Anyone seeking to control Phurba must be receptively open to bond with Phurba and assert his will over it, and projectively strong in guiding it. I believe you both have the skills necessary to control Phurba. And today, you will get a chance to prove it. He looked at his students. For you to gain control of Phurba, I must sacrifice my own control. This will make the exercise dangerous. If there is any doubt in your minds, clear it now, for you cannot face Phurba with imperfect courage.

Both Lamont and Kasha nodded. Each began their own internal preparation, opening their minds, draining fear, preparing their psychic defenses.

The Tulku laid Phurba on the silk cloth, took the incense burner and waved it over the knife, then said a prayer over Phurba, spreading his arms wide as if to open himself to it.

A chilling breeze swept through the temple.

Phurba's eyes closed.

The Tulku took a moment to gather himself, then stepped back from the altar. I am no longer in control of Phurba. It is now safe for one of you to try. He looked to Kasha. Kasha.

Kasha stood still for a moment, drawing strength from within. Then, he stepped to the altar and opened his mind as wide as he could. He put his right hand around Phurba and lifted it off the altar.

The same breeze swept through the room, and Kasha suddenly felt something bond with his mind. On an impulse, he held the knife straight out in front of him and released it.

The blade hung in the air, completely under his control.

Kasha looked to a corner.

Phurba moved toward the corner.

Kasha looked to the corner across the room.

Phurba shot toward it as fast as his gaze changed.

Call to it, The Tulku instructed.

Phurba, Kasha called in a commanding tone.

Phurba turned to its master.

Kasha held up his right hand.

Phurba dove into it, handle first.

Excellent, The Tulku praised.

Incredible, Lamont whispered.

The Tulku nodded his approval as Kasha held the blade firmly in his grasp. Replace it on the altar and release control.

Kasha laid Phurba on the altar, then said a prayer.

A chilling breeze passed through the room.

Kasha looked up at The Tulku, amazement in his eyes. Thank you, Tulku, he said. Then, he began to smile broadly, the joy of accomplishment filling his face. I did it. I did it!

Congratulations, Lamont smiled. Then, he took a deep breath to calm his nerves and stepped toward the altar.

The Tulku turned to Lamont. If you do not wish to complete this exercise, I will understand.

No, Lamont said firmly. I have to. It's part of facing my darkness.

Take your time, The Tulku urged. Clear your mind. Open your receptive side as wide as it will go. Focus on the sensations you feel. Filter out what you do not want. Amplify what you do.

Kasha looked annoyed. Once again, Lamont gets favorable treatment, he frowned to himself. The Tulku once more shows favoritism to his prize student, even when it is obvious he is not going to be able to complete the exercise because he is so receptively weak.

The Tulku turned a disapproving gaze to Kasha. Quiet those thoughts, he chastised. You were given your chance to prepare your mind. Lamont deserves his chance to prepare as well.

Lamont let out a long, slow breath. Then, he reached for Phurba.

The Tulku turned to Lamont suddenly. Lamont, no--your mind has not opened enough...

But the warning came too late. Lamont's right hand had already closed around the handle. Quickly, he released the knife.

Phurba's eyes opened wide.

Lamont took a step back from the altar.

Phurba rose straight up in the air.

Lamont backed down the steps, moving to the center of the floor. Tulku...

Phurba dove for Lamont.

Lamont spun out of its way, moving quickly to keep it in front of him. Tulku, who is in control of Phurba?

The Tulku quickly prayed to open himself up to Phurba...and found its simple mind already occupied. Kasha! he said, turning angrily to his young pupil.

Phurba once more shot toward Lamont.

Lamont leapt out of its way, rolling back onto his feet and once more putting it in front of him.

Kasha trembled. Tulku, I am not doing this...

The Tulku looked stern. Your jealousy is. You did not fully release control when you put it back. Those jealous thoughts are what is controlling Phurba now. I should have purified it first. I will have to purify it now. Call to it and try to draw it away.

Kasha took a deep breath. Phurba!

Phurba ignored Kasha and flew toward Lamont.

Lamont ducked, then whirled to keep it in front of him. He wasn't certain how long he would be able to keep this up--he didn't dare move toward the altar while it was this wild for fear of endangering The Tulku and Kasha, and the knife was beginning to drive him toward the walls, seeking to corner him.

Lamont, listen to me, The Tulku called to him. I will have to purify Phurba so that I can regain control of it again. I need a moment to prepare the altar. You must hold your own for as long as possible. Do not let it draw blood or it will not stop until it has killed you.

By now, Phurba was buzzing Lamont even faster than before. Hurry, Tulku, Lamont urged, moving and ducking as fast as he could.

The Tulku took a deep, cleansing breath, then knelt and prayed before the altar.

Phurba buzzed Lamont into a corner and dove for him.

Lamont reached up with both hands and grabbed the handle just as the knife came within striking distance.

Kasha looked on in shock as Lamont held Phurba's sharp tip just an inch from his heart, straining as his muscles pressed outward, pushing with every ounce of strength he could muster. But Phurba could turn hostile force against itself, and it began pushing toward Lamont with equal determination. The pain etched on Lamont's face told of the ferocity of the struggle.

The Tulku laid a dish of herbal powder and a dish of water on the altar, then waved the incense burner across the altar once more. He said another prayer to open himself up again, then picked up a white silk cloth. Lamont, the altar is ready. Use your projective telepathy to force Phurba as far away from yourself as you can, then steer it this way. I will catch it and bring it to the altar for the purification ritual.

Yes, Tulku. Lamont reached inside himself and summoned his energies. The familiar sensation of pressure against his subconscious barriers sought a release, and he pushed it outward with more urgency than ever before.

Phurba flew away from him and clattered to the floor across the room.

Lamont got to his feet. His head was spinning, and his body felt weak. But he had to get Phurba to the altar so it could be purified.

Lamont, this way.

Lamont looked up and saw The Tulku. Quickly, he came over to him. Then, he noticed his hands.

His bloody right hand bore the unmistakable mark of Phurba's razor-sharp teeth. Tulku, it bit me.

Phurba rose up and dove for Lamont again.

Lamont ducked.

The Tulku reached out for Phurba, but it changed course and dove toward Lamont again.

Lamont dove away from The Tulku, desperate to protect his master. He tried to roll away as he hit the floor...

Phurba drove itself into his left side as he did.

Lamont cried out. The pain was unbelievable. And Phurba was twisting, trying to drive deeper...

The Tulku wrapped the white cloth around Phurba and pulled with all his might.

The dagger went dormant as he did so and came right out of Lamont's side.

The Tulku looked at the dagger, then at his student on the floor. Lamont, he said, kneeling beside him.

Lamont looked at The Tulku, fear and defeat in his eyes. Tulku...I failed..., his mind whispered. Then, he closed his eyes and lapsed into unconsciousness.

The Tulku looked shocked. Kasha! Tenzin! he called.

Kasha came over to his master. Tulku, forgive me, he begged. I did not mean for this to happen...

We will talk about this later, The Tulku returned sternly.

Tenzin came into the chamber. Tulku, what do you need? he asked, then spotted the bloody Phurba and Lamont on the floor. Tulku, what happened?

Tenzin, you and Kasha take Lamont to my chamber, The Tulku commanded. I must purify Phurba immediately. It has drawn blood.

Yes, Tulku. He hurried over and helped Kasha lift their fallen comrade, then carried him from the room.

The Tulku laid Phurba on the altar, prayed for strength, then took the bowl of herbal powder and sprinkled a generous portion over the entire knife.

The powder caught fire suddenly, burning away the blood stains and leaving behind angry black scorch marks.

The Tulku took the bowl of water and poured it over the knife.

Steam burst forth from the knife. The black stains vanished.

The Tulku waved incense over the altar and prayed to open himself up again. Then, he reached for Phurba.

A chilling breeze swept through the room, and Marpa Tulku suddenly felt something bond with his mind. He released his grip.

Phurba hung in mid-air, once again under control.

The Tulku sighed with relief, then urged Phurba back into its stand. Then, he summoned the temple's herbalist with his mind and headed for his chamber.


Milarepa, the temple herbalist, placed a wet cloth with a poultice of herbs and tea on Lamont's wounded side and wrapped a heavy sackcloth around his waist to hold it in place. "He may not live through the day," Milarepa told Marpa Tulku. "His wounds are deep. If blood loss does not kill him, infection most likely will."

He must not die, Marpa Tulku said firmly.

"His will to live will decide that more than anything else," Milarepa replied.

The Tulku nodded. And his will is very weak right now. He took the bowl of medicine and the poultice cloths from Milarepa. I will tend to him. Thank you, Milarepa.

Milarepa bowed to The Tulku, then left the chamber.

Marpa Tulku turned to Lamont, covering him with an extra blanket as he shivered. Western doctors called this condition "shock", and it was an appropriate name, for the body was dealing with the shock of an injury by trying to muster its defenses to the site of the injury--which left the rest of the body vulnerable and weak. He wiped the cold sweat from Lamont's brow with a damp cloth and reached out to his mind.

He saw chaos reigning supreme. The projective reservoir was refilling rapidly, and would soon reach overflow stage. All around The Tulku's view, the fear and horror of the incident with Phurba played across his pupil's memories, and began mixing with other images from his past...scenes of war, violence, mayhem, murder. And in the middle, the dark Ying Ko looked eager to escape.

No, this will not do at all, The Tulku decided. He has come too far to let this happen. He said a prayer for strength, serenity, and spirituality...then reached further into Lamont's mind.


The Tulku stood in the midst of a battlefield littered with bodies, surrounded by rampaging savagery. Screams from the victims of a bloody war filled the air. The smell of death and destruction hung in the air like incense.

And then, a chilling laugh echoed all around him.

"If you are trying to frighten me, Lamont, it will not work," The Tulku declared. "I am not afraid of this part of you."

"But he is," a voice returned.

The Tulku looked around...and saw Ying Ko walking toward him.

"You are nothing," The Tulku told the demon. "You are merely a disguise worn when the darkness inside tries to assert control."

"You recognize that," Ying Ko said, smiling. "But he doesn't. I scare him. He's still afraid of me. He's always been afraid of me. He tried to get rid of me, you know. He's tried everything. He went over to Europe, to fight in The Great War, to rid himself of me." Another laugh. "That was a wondrous experience. He didn't realize that we had such a bloodlust. There was something about the sheer power of holding life and death in the strength of your trigger finger that was energizing beyond belief." A wicked chuckle. "We tried co-existing for a while. Europe in the early 20's was spectacular. Days filled with wine, women, and song, not necessarily in that order. But all that chaos in his head was too much for him to handle. But not for me." Another chuckle. "Someone suggested that opium cures all that ails you--or, at least, makes you too numb to care. So we tried it. Oh, the release. All the voices quieted. All the pain disappeared. And, oh, by the way, did you realize that the drug trade is the ultimate example of capitalism in the world? Limited supply, never-ending demand. He who controls the supply can wield power and gain wealth beyond imagination."

"I know all of this, Lamont," The Tulku replied placidly.

Ying Ko looked angry. "Don't call me that."

"I have seen all of this before, Lamont. Your past does not frighten me."

"But it frightens him. You see, he's tried many times to get rid of me. But he's always failed. He fails every time he tries. I knew he'd eventually fail this time, too. And he didn't disappoint me."

"You believe you have failed."

"Of course he does. He let you down. He'd sooner die than disappoint you. And he might just get his wish." A laugh. "My only regret is that he'll end up taking me with him. But it's for the best, really. It's probably the ultimate death ritual for a bloodthirsty barbarian that he die at the hands of a vengeful monk who gave in to his own darkness." A chilling, angry laugh.

The Tulku looked the dark monster in the eye. "Lamont, listen to me. You did not fail."

Ying Ko smiled. "You're talking to the wrong person."

"There is only one of you. The dark creature before me is your own self-hatred and self-pity, and I will have none of that here. Listen to me. You failed neither yourself nor me. By attempting the exercise, you faced your inner darkness with courage and conviction. Phurba is a difficult power to master, and only the most balanced adepts ever do. It is not a failure that you could not do so."

"It is a failure," Ying Ko asserted.

"I have told you from the beginning that you will never be able to rid yourself of your darkness. You must learn to live with it...draw strength from it...use it to push yourself to work harder, reach farther, fight constantly to win your battles."

"Kasha has learned that lesson well, apparently."

"Kasha did not intend to harm you. He feels very badly that he gave in to a moment of weakness. It is difficult to keep dark thoughts away in moments of despair or anger, but you must do so in order to grow. Kasha knows that now. And you do, too."

"He's not listening."

"Yes, you are. You know you are a very powerful telepath. You know your projective strength more than compensates for your receptive weaknesses. You know you have come miles from where you were just seven months ago. You know all of this. Now, you must believe it. You must believe it and reach out to me, or you will die."

Ying Ko looked angry. "You don't mean any of that."

"I have never lied to you, Lamont. And I never will. You must believe that. You must reach out to me." He extended his hand.

Ying Ko took a step back.

The Tulku came closer. "Reach out, Lamont. Push that part of you aside. You have done it before. And you will have to do it again many times in your life. But to have that chance, you must do it now. Reach out, or you will die."

Ying Ko looked frightened, then seemed to change before The Tulku's eyes.

Lamont Cranston reached out and took his master's hand.

The Tulku smiled. "I told you that you would never allow yourself to give in to that darkness again, and that once you had your freedom, you would fight to keep it. I knew that strength was within you. And now you do, too."

Lamont looked at his teacher. "Help me, Tulku. I don't want to die."

The Tulku nodded. "Then you shall not. Open your eyes."


Lamont stirred, then opened his eyes. He could feel his energies surging out of control through his mind, but even that was nothing compared to the fiery pain in his side that threatened to drive him back into unconsciousness. "Tulku," he whispered.

The Tulku wiped his brow. Think to me, Lamont. Your mind is regenerating very quickly, and we will have to harness that building reservoir of energy to get you through this.

Lamont's breathing was raspy and pained. Tulku, it hurts...my whole body is just burning...

I know it is. But you must hold the pain inside. Whatever you do, do not vent your energies. You will need every bit of them. He prepared a fresh poultice cloth. I need to change your dressing. This will hurt. Relax.

Lamont nodded, trying to find a quiet, safe place inside his mind. But the pain and surging energies were making that very difficult.

The Tulku untied the sackcloth and removed the old poultice cloth. The dressing was covered in blood, and the wound was still seeping. The edges of the tri-pointed hole were turning an angry red color, indicating infection was beginning to set in. Gently, he cleaned the wound with a fresh damp cloth.

Lamont gritted his teeth, but still could not help releasing a sharp cry of pain.

Relax, The Tulku urged. I will help you ease the pain in a moment, but you must hold it in for a little longer. He replaced the dressing and rewrapped the sackcloth around his waist.

Lamont was shaking from the pain. Tulku...

The Tulku wiped his pupil's brow once more. Look at me.

Lamont turned his eyes to his master.

For twenty generations, The Marpa Tulku has taught the techniques of tumo summoning--using thought energies to send blood and warmth to injured areas, which eases pain and speeds healing--to his most advanced students. I have never tried it on a wound this severe, nor have I ever seen it tried. But most adepts do not have energy reservoirs as deep as yours is. If anyone can do this, you can.

Lamont nodded. Tell me how.

It will be easier to show you. The Tulku gently put his fingers on Lamont's temples and applied subtle pressure. Relax.

Lamont felt The Tulku's mind sweep into his, then begin to move through his mind and along a path to his injury, stopping just short of the wound. Do you feel the pattern I am tracing? The Tulku asked.

Yes, Lamont replied. Back through my mind, down my back, to my side.

Begin releasing your energies slowly, pushing them through that pattern. Push all the way to the wound.

Lamont concentrated. A slow release of telepathic power trickled down his spine, then moved across the nerves to that aching spot in his side...and it began to ache more. Oh, God...

It will hurt more at first. You must keep pushing your energies to it. Suppress the urge to vent. Keep the release slow and steady.

Lamont concentrated harder. The pain was intense. He gritted his teeth against it, trying not to cry out.

Suddenly, the spot on his side began to tingle. Tulku...I feel it starting to work...

The Tulku's hand went to Lamont's side. Sure enough, heat was coming off the wound. Very good, Lamont. Very good. Keep the release steady. Let yourself feel nothing but the rhythm of the energy release and the warmth it brings. Drain your energies through that pattern until there is nothing left to drain.

Lamont nodded a response, then focused his gaze on a far corner of the room and settled into the summoning.

The Tulku quietly moved away from Lamont's side and placed himself in the lotus position before his altar to pray...a prayer of gratitude for the return of his student, and a prayer for healing for his entire temple.


Hours passed for both Marpa Tulku and Lamont Cranston as each engaged in purification activity--The Tulku in prayer, Lamont deep in a tumo summoning. Every so often, The Tulku would turn to Lamont to make certain he had not fallen asleep or worse, only to feel a steady stream of projective energy rolling through his mind and a healing warmth coming from the poultice on his side. A brief touch to his pupil's psyche revealed a slowly draining reservoir that still had hours of potential energy left in it. The Tulku shook his head and marveled. Another story to add to twenty generations of teachings.

Tulku, Kasha's mental voice called.

The Tulku quickly discerned his grief-stricken successor was standing on the other side of the door. Come in, Kasha, but quietly. Lamont is resting.

Kasha entered the room carrying a small tray of food balanced on a large bowl of fresh water. Milarepa asked me to bring you a fresh bowl of water when I brought your dinner.

Thank you, The Tulku said, taking the tray off the bowl and setting it on the steamer trunk. You cooked this evening, I see.

Kasha nodded. Vegetable stew. It is not quite as good as what Lamont usually makes...

It will be fine. Thank you, Kasha. He took the bowl of water and set it beside the pallet.

Kasha looked to Lamont. Will he live?

I believe so. His will to live is very strong. But he will be very weak for a while.

Kasha knelt before his teacher and bowed his head. Tulku, forgive me, he begged, crying. I did not mean for this to happen...forgive me for my weakness, my jealousy...

The Tulku took Kasha's chin in his hands. Look at me.

Kasha reluctantly looked up.

I forgive you, Kasha. I have no need to punish you any further for your disrespect and disloyalty. You have punished yourself enough. However, when Lamont awakens, you will have to ask his forgiveness as well. He looked stern. I am very disappointed in your jealousy and possessiveness. But I am also very proud of your accomplishments. You were strong enough to take control of Phurba...and weak enough to let your emotions drive it out of your control. But you were strong enough again to understand what you had done wrong...and feel regret for it. You have indeed progressed much in three weeks. Tomorrow, we will begin a new series of lessons to help you grow even more.

Thank you, Tulku. A pause. But what about Lamont? What will he do while you are occupied with me?

Lamont will be in bed for a while, and then kept busy with exercises he can do himself. It will be some time before he is strong enough again for full-time training--two weeks, at least.

What will become of my students? They are at a vulnerable stage of their development right now--already I have neglected afternoon training sessions with them for three weeks...

Tenzin and some of the others will absorb them into their classes. They will not suffer.

Kasha looked shocked. He was being offered at least two weeks of Marpa Tulku's undivided attention...and all he could think of was how others would be affected by that occupation of his master's time. Thank you, Tulku, but I cannot accept your generous offer. My students cannot afford to learn a different teacher's training style at this stage of their development. Lamont needs your undivided attention at this stage of his development. And I need to grow in service to others at this stage of my development.

The Tulku smiled. You have completed lesson number one...a day ahead of schedule.

Kasha realized what he had done. He smiled to himself. I hope I am as wise a teacher as you someday.

The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile that hid more than it revealed. You are well on your way. He turned to the pallet, where Lamont lay motionless, and knelt next to it. It is time to change this dressing. Kasha, come help me--but quietly.

Kasha knelt next to the pallet. Tulku, his eyes are open...

I know. He is deep in meditation. He is only vaguely aware we are here. Do not disturb him. He pulled back the blankets, then untied the sackcloth around Lamont's waist. Dip one of those cloths in the water and place a coin-sized bit of that medicinal paste on it.

Kasha did so. Like this?

Yes. The Tulku took off the old dressing, then wiped away the remaining medicine-and-blood debris around the wound with a damp cloth. Then, he stopped wiping and stared.

The wound was no longer bleeding and infected. The farthest points on the outer edges were beginning to close. It looked like a two- or three-day old injury, not one that was less than eight hours old.

Kasha looked over his master's shoulder, then gasped. Tulku...the wound...how?

The Tulku smiled in amazement. A tumo summoning.

Kasha looked awed. You truly have great power, Tulku. A tumo that strong on someone else's wound...

The Tulku shook his head. I am not the one generating the tumo.

Kasha drew back. No. That is impossible...

The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. Kasha, when I am finished with you, you will believe anything is possible...and nothing is impossible. He took the prepared poultice from his astounded student's hand, gently placed it on Lamont's wound, then rewrapped the sackcloth around his waist again and pulled the covers over him. Then, he wiped Lamont's face with a fresh damp cloth. Lamont...do not stop what you are doing, but tell me how you feel.

It took a moment for Lamont to answer. Tired, he responded. Very tired. But I think it's working...it doesn't hurt as badly as it did.

The Tulku gently patted his student's shoulder. You are doing fine. Keep going. I will not disturb you again.

Kasha?

Kasha moved into Lamont's view. Yes, Lamont?

Next time I make you angry enough to throw something at me, can it be something other than Phurba?

Kasha shook his head. There will not be a next time. I am sorry.

Lamont nodded. I accept your apology, Kasha. Thank you.

Kasha nodded his thanks. Rest easy, Lamont. He bowed to The Tulku, then left.

The Tulku closed the door behind his young student, then knelt before his altar to pray again.

Tulku?

The Tulku turned to the pallet. Yes, Lamont?

Lamont turned his head to the steamer trunk, then took a deep breath, followed by a wince of pain. If you aren't going to eat that...I am a little hungry.

The Tulku smiled. I had hoped you were. I do hate to see good food go to waste. Or even Kasha's cooking.

Lamont's mind let out a ringing laugh.

The Tulku gently propped him up with folded blankets. Save that energy for your tumo. Are you still channeling to your wound?

Lamont nodded.

Good. Do not stop until you are drained.

I feel like I could go on for hours this way. A sigh, then a wince. Or maybe not.

The Tulku retrieved the tray of food and offered Lamont a bite of stew. Food will help. Relax, and let your mind help your body heal. You will need all your strength once you get out of this bed--I intend to push you like you have never been pushed before.

Lamont smiled. I can't wait.

The Tulku smiled that mysterious smile again. Nor can I.


"Tulku...I am drained."

Marpa Tulku looked over at the sound of his pupil's weak, raspy voice. It had been hours since they had last conversed, hours since he had last changed the dressing. He moved to the pallet and reached out his mind to Lamont's.

The vast projective reservoir inside Lamont's mind was completely empty...the first time in seven months The Tulku had seen it this way. Very good, he told his student. How do you feel?

"Exhausted." A sigh. "I can't project. I can barely talk."

This is to be expected when you drain yourself dry. How is your side?

"Sore. But not unbearably so." He looked at The Tulku curiously. "Does that mean it worked?"

The Tulku pulled back the covers, then unwrapped the sackcloth at his waist and removed the dressing. He took a damp cloth and cleaned the wound. Am I hurting you?

"It's tender--like a bad bruise. But no, it doesn't hurt at all like it did earlier." He raised his head and tried to crane his neck enough to see the wound, now even more curious. "Tulku, did it work?"

The Tulku crossed the room to his steamer trunk, then opened it and pulled out a mirror. Normally, I do not approve of mirrors. But they do have their useful moments. He returned to the pallet, then held the mirror next to the wound and angled it so Lamont could see.

Lamont gasped. The wound was completely closed over. It was still red, but a healthier blood-filled red instead of an infected sore. The skin around it showed deep bruising. But it looked like a nearly healed injury instead of one that was nearly fatal just a few hours earlier.

Yes, Lamont, The Tulku responded to the question Lamont could not make himself speak. You did that.

Lamont looked at his master. "Anything is possible...and nothing is impossible."

You are beginning to understand.

Lamont fell back to the small pillow under his head. "I'd ask more questions, but I'm exhausted." Then, he looked to the closed-off portal above the bed and noticed a faint bit of light coming in around it. "It's sunrise," he realized. "I've been here eighteen hours, easily."

And you will stay here while you recover from the tumo. The Tulku tucked the blankets around him. Sleep, Lamont. You need to rest. A tumo is a marvelous healing technique--but a very tiring one as well.

"What about you?" Lamont asked. "Aren't you tired?"

The Tulku smiled placidly. I have been meditating while you have been healing. I am as rejuvenated as you are drained. He patted Lamont's shoulder. Sleep, Lamont Cranston. There will be time for questions and lessons later. Now, you must regenerate your body and your mind. Sleep.

Lamont wanted to argue, but fatigue won the battle. He closed his eyes and was asleep in seconds.


The next time Lamont opened his eyes, it was night again. A small fire in the fireplace provided the only illumination in the chamber. He looked around for a moment and realized he was still in The Tulku's chamber, and Marpa Tulku was still quietly praying and meditating in front of his altar. Tulku.

The Tulku turned to his student and smiled. It is good to hear you thinking again.

Lamont nodded. It's good to be able to think again.

How do you feel?

Stiff. Lamont tried to move, then drew a sharp breath as a stabbing pain came from his side. And sore.

The Tulku moved to the side of the pallet and propped several folded blankets under him to ease him to a semi-upright position. Better?

Lamont nodded.

The Tulku dipped a ladle into a small cauldron that hung over his fire and poured its contents into a cup, then handed the cup to Lamont. Ginseng tea. Drink. It has been over twenty-four hours since you last ate, and this will help re-energize you.

Lamont sipped the tea. Thank you. Then, he pushed back the covers and checked his wound. Nasty bruise.

I can promise you it looks a thousand times better than it did yesterday, The Tulku reminded him.

Oh, I can believe that. He looked at the healing wound in amazement. I did this. I did this.

You most certainly did. The Tulku looked at his pupil. I have seen masters generate tumo summonings on wounds half this size who run out of energy before they are close to this state. What you did was nothing short of amazing. And yet I had no doubt that you would be able to do it.

Lamont sipped his tea and looked thoughtful for a long moment, trying to absorb all that had happened to him in the past two days. Then, he looked at his master. Tulku...a tumo summoning is a form of self-hypnosis, isn't it?

Yes.

And I believe I have successfully demonstrated that skill.

I would agree.

Hypnotic projection is the next logical step, then, is it not?

The Tulku looked at Lamont for a moment. Do you think you are ready?

Lamont smiled confidently. I know I am.

The Tulku smiled. Exactly what I wanted to hear. The good news is that many of the exercises I will give you to prepare your mind for hypnotic projection can be done while you rest and recover. You are still not ready to return to full-time training, and probably will not be for another week.

And I'll go mad if I don't have something to keep me occupied for that long, Lamont agreed. I think I want to do this in my own chamber, though. Not that I don't appreciate your kindness and the wonderful care you've given me the past two days, Tulku, but...

...but it is time you took charge of your own healing. And I agree. He took the teacup, then helped Lamont to an upright sitting position. Take your time. When you feel ready, I will help you stand.

Lamont took several deep breaths. A dull ache emanated from his side, occasionally becoming sharp and painful. But, he reminded himself, the pain was a good indicator that he was still alive. He nodded to his teacher.

The Tulku stood before him and reached out a hand.

Lamont accepted the helping hand and stood, grimacing in pain and holding his side as he did.

Can you walk to your chamber, or do you need help? The Tulku asked him.

I can do it, Lamont told him. He clutched Marpa Tulku's hand tightly for a moment. Thank you for everything, Tulku. I could not have survived this without you.

You could have, The Tulku responded. But you did not believe you could. And now you know that you can. He opened the door. Walk slowly and carefully. Call if you need help. We will begin anew in the morning.

I can't wait. Lamont bowed his head. Good night, Tulku. You've more than earned your rest.

A placid smile. We all do what we must. There is nothing earned in this lifetime. Sleep well, Lamont.

Thank you, Tulku. He left the chamber.

Marpa Tulku watched his student walk down the hallway and enter his own chamber. The realization that Lamont would be ready to go out on his own once he mastered this last skill began to sink in. A mixture of pride and sadness played across his features for a brief moment. Then, he took a deep breath, closed the door, and began to pray and meditate for the strength he and his pupil would need to accomplish their goals.


For the next week, Lamont Cranston recovered from his injuries in his own chamber, gradually increasing the time he was up and about to rebuild his physical strength and spending at least an hour a day in a tumo summoning to speed the process and rebuild his mental strength. Marpa Tulku kept his end of the bargain, giving Lamont several exercises to begin refining his projective telepathy to a finesse and clarity he had never imagined it could reach. Activity after activity dealt with slow, soft, subtle projections transmitted with ever-increasing strength to penetrate the deepest reaches of a person's subconscious. At first, the exercises were as fatiguing as any physical activity, and the first day, it was all Lamont could do just to get through one of them. But within days, Lamont could make it through all five exercises at the appropriate strength level needed to reach before he could progress further. Now it was just a question of practicing until the techniques were second nature...which they would have to be to proceed to the next phase of hypnotic projection.

As Lamont sat in his chamber one morning, using a candle's flame to stimulate in his own mind the hypnotic relaxation frequencies he would have to be able to recreate and project into someone else's, a knock at the door indicated he had a visitor. A drifting release of projective energies bounced back to him the thought patterns of Tsepon, the junior initiate whose awakening a month ago had revealed he was one of the few projective telepaths in the temple. Come in, Tsepon, Lamont's mind called.

Tsepon opened the door and nodded to Lamont. "Forgive the intrusion, Master Lamont," he said.

Lamont nodded a greeting in return. It felt so odd to be called "master" by a student, especially one who was not much younger than him. "Quite all right, Tsepon. What do you need?"

"Master Kasha requests your presence this afternoon in his class. He is demonstrating psychic defense and wishes to know if you feel strong enough to assist him."

Lamont smiled. An afternoon workout would probably be a welcome release. "Inform Kasha that I would be honored to assist him this afternoon."

"Thank you, Master Lamont," Tsepon nodded. Then, he rubbed his eyes and fell against the doorframe, wincing.

Lamont quickly moved to his aid. "Are you all right?"

Tsepon nodded. "One of my headaches," he said in a pained voice. "It will pass."

Lamont smiled sympathetically. "I used to get those all the time." He took him gently by the arm and led him over to a kneeling pillow. "Here--sit for a minute."

Tsepon sat and looked very embarrassed. "I am sorry, Master Lamont. I am disturbing your meditations..."

"You're not disturbing me. I needed a break anyway." A light smile as he knelt beside the young initiate. "It's hard being a projector in a temple full of receptors, isn't it?"

Tsepon looked even more embarrassed. "Master Kasha does not always understand that my headaches are different than the other students'. The exercises he gives to push out when the pain gets too great do not help me at all...they just make it worse."

"I understand, believe me. I went through three months of this. Did The Tulku show you how to double the pain back on itself to make it collapse?"

Tsepon nodded. "But I cannot seem to do it on my own. I try to pull the pain inward, and it hurts even worse."

"That's your problem. You can't just pull it inward; you have to pull it inward and push down on it so that it collapses. Here, let me show you. Look at me and relax."

Tsepon nodded, then took a deep breath and looked into Lamont's blue-green eyes.

Lamont projected his thoughts to the edge of Tsepon's subconscious barriers. He could easily shoot right through them, but the young man was in enough pain as it was. Tsepon, relax. I'm not going to hurt you...I promise.

Tsepon felt something rippling through his mind, something he had never felt from anyone other than Marpa Tulku. His nervousness lessened, then eased to a calm he had not expected.

Lamont felt the resistance in Tsepon's barriers falling away, then projected in easily. Now he could see the reservoir of energy in Tsepon's mind that needed a release to ease the stress on the containing walls. No wonder it hurts. You need to drain this a little bit. He thought back to the days after his own awakening and tried to remember the steps he'd done to learn this technique, then repeated those steps in Tsepon's mind. Do you feel what I'm doing?

"Yes," he whispered. "Almost a folding motion."

That's what you need to do. Pull all the pain and excess energy inward and then fold it like a cloth. Keep pulling and folding until eventually it collapses. You try.

Tsepon began drawing the pain inward, folding it as he did.

That's it, Lamont encouraged. Keep going.

Tsepon kept folding the pain back on itself until finally something popped, like a bubble.

Lamont nodded his approval. "Feel better now?"

Tsepon looked amazed. "Yes," he realized.

"Think you can do that again?"

Tsepon nodded. "That is not as hard as I thought it was. Thank you, Master Lamont."

Lamont patted his shoulder. "You're welcome." Then, suddenly, it hit him what had just happened, and his jaw dropped. "Tsepon...do you know what I just did?"

Tsepon nodded. "You taught me how to double the pain back on itself to ease my own headaches."

Lamont looked amazed. Tulku! his mind shouted.

Marpa Tulku stepped into the open doorway. Very good, Lamont, he praised.

Both students were on their knees and bowing immediately.

Rise, both of you, The Tulku smiled. Good morning, Tsepon. Is your headache better this morning?

Tsepon nodded. "Yes, Tulku, thank you."

Did Lamont help you?

"Yes, Tulku."

Did he show you what to do next time?

"Yes, Tulku."

Excellent. Return to your lessons, Tsepon. Kasha is probably wondering if you got lost on your way back.

"Of course, Tulku. Thank you." He nodded to Lamont, bowed to The Tulku, then left the room.

The Tulku turned to Lamont. Did it even occur to you what you were doing?

Lamont shook his head. I hypnotized him. I hypnotized him to relax him, then guided his thoughts. He looked amazed. And it hardly took any more concentration than it does to converse like this. My God...

The Tulku smiled at his student. One week. In one week you have done this. In twenty generations, it has never taken a student less than three months to master those exercises.

Lamont did not miss the amazement in The Tulku's mental voice. He looked over at him and smiled knowingly. The twentieth Marpa Tulku has never had a student advance this far.

Until now.

Something else occurred to Lamont. So you told Kasha to send Tsepon here...

...because you needed to be able to perform your new skills by reflex reaction to show your mastery. I had no doubt you could do it. But I needed you to realize that you could.

Lamont shook his head and smiled. Anything is possible...

...and nothing is impossible.

Lamont looked eager. What's next?

More practice. I have many other exercises for you to use to sharpen your hypnotic skills, including some defensive techniques using self-hypnosis. You should be able to master those in no time. And then, as with your other projective skills, you will have to get as proficient with handling non-adepts as you are becoming with adepts. A smile. I anticipate that will take you a week at most.

And then?

A mysterious smile. I believe you know what comes next. A more stern expression. But you are not ready to try that yet. There are ways you will have to grow before you will be able to move to that level. Do not get ahead of yourself. Learn today's lesson before you move to tomorrow's.

Lamont nodded respectfully. Yes, Tulku.

The bell for the midday meal rang. Ah, good, the midday meal. I believe you promised Kasha you would assist him in psychic defense demonstrations this afternoon. Do you feel up to that?

Lamont smiled broadly. I've been waiting a week to get back to that kind of exercise.

The Tulku nodded his approval. Kasha has been eager as well. He has been practicing.

Good. I could use the workout.

The Tulku raised an eyebrow. Such arrogance.

Lamont shook his head. This is confidence, not arrogance.

A pleased smile. A confidence that has been missing since your injury. It is good to see it again. He turned to go. Come--the midday meal awaits.

Teacher and pupil left the chamber together.


For the better part of the next two weeks, Marpa Tulku pushed Lamont Cranston through hypnotic exercise after hypnotic exercise, sharpening and refining his skills to a level of sophistication The Tulku had rarely seen in twenty generations. Lamont's eagerness to learn thrilled his teacher--no matter how hard The Tulku pushed him, Lamont always rose to the challenge, always wanted to try again when he failed, always wanted more when he succeeded. It was as if he could not learn fast enough. Guiding junior initiates' thoughts? Child's play. Wordless exchanges at the market, where the merchant had no idea why he was preparing four bags of millet and five bags of rice for the approaching customer? Embarrassingly easy. Hypnotizing himself into a coma so deep an observer would swear he was dead? No harder than solving one of the many mental puzzles he'd been given in his early days in the temple to strengthen his control. The Tulku found it more and more difficult to conceal his amazement as his student kept growing and learning faster than any he had ever taught before.

It is often said that the best teachers learn as much as they teach, and Marpa Tulku was learning daily from watching Lamont's excitement about his growing successes. Now, he understood why they had been brought together--not only to subdue the evil Butcher Of Lhasa and harness his powers for good, but also to rejuvenate the desire for learning in The Temple Of The Cobras. In the two years since the twentieth Marpa Tulku's ascension, not one student had progressed beyond the barest minimum skills required to become a senior initiate...until Lamont Cranston came through and completely shattered The Tulku's preconceived notions of how long training should take. Suddenly, in less than eight months, Kasha had mastered Phurba, Tenzin had finally learned sound projection and was well on his way to mastering psychic defense, many of the senior initiates were pushing each other as hard as they pushed their students, several junior initiates were on the verge of breakthroughs...

...and Lamont Cranston was ready to tackle hypnotic mind clouding.


Not quite a month after his encounter with Phurba, Lamont was back in the swing of his full range of duties and exercises. One of them was a daily trip to the market to strengthen his projective powers--and now, his hypnotic ones as well. So, he returned from this morning's trip to the market with a load of fresh vegetables and a small pouch from the messenger service. Dorjee was too small to have a real post office, so once a week a messenger would go to Lhasa and retrieve any mail for the residents of the area and drop off any mail to be sent out. The Tulku had sent Lamont down with a letter to go out this morning and instructed him to pick up the incoming mail--without a single spoken word, of course.

Good morning, Lamont, The Tulku greeted.

Lamont looked up from unloading vegetables and quickly knelt and bowed. Good morning, Tulku.

Rise. How was the market this morning?

Crowded. Many foreigners. He rubbed his temples. A lot of extra voices to filter out of my head.

It is the beginning of the pilgrimage season. The market will be busy for several months now.

Ah, yes. I remember. He grimaced slightly at the memory. Ying Ko spent most of this time of year making new deals and dealing with old business partners.

Many pilgrims come through here on many pilgrimages. Did you drop off my message?

Yes. He untied the mail pouch from his waist and handed it to The Tulku.

Thank you. The Tulku opened the pouch and pulled out several letters. He opened one and frowned.

Lamont noticed. Something wrong, Tulku?

The Tulku sighed. Some pilgrims want more than just a spiritual experience.

Lamont looked confused. I don't understand.

For some reason, Americans are fascinated with Oriental artifacts. Yet another letter from an American collector who is coming here to see the treasures of the Tibetan temples.

To this place?

The Tulku nodded. It is not all that unusual. This is one of the temples that Westerners rarely see because most of them do not know it exists. But occasionally, one will find out about this place from an art dealer or a resident of the area and come here in an attempt to convince me to sell them something from my 'collection'. As if I could put monetary value on the spiritual items here. He dismissed his moment of anger. I have several days before the next delivery is made to Lhasa to compose my response, though I doubt it will dissuade them from coming. So, let us put unpleasantness aside for now. Are you becoming comfortable with your hypnotic skills?

Lamont nodded. So comfortable I hardly think twice about using them any more.

Excellent. Do you think you are ready to progress to the next step?

I know I am.

Then finish unloading your vegetables and come out to the main chamber...because I intend to push you until you drop.

Lamont smiled eagerly. Nothing I'd rather do.


When Lamont came into the main chamber, he found Marpa Tulku meditating on the altar...and a brightly-burning candle on the floor. He knelt and bowed to his master.

Rise. What do you see on the floor?

Lamont stood, then looked to the candle. A lit candle.

The candle shimmered, then vanished from view. What do you see now?

Nothing.

Is the candle gone?

No. It's still there. But you've clouded my mind to make me think it's not.

And how did I do that?

Lamont nodded to himself. This was a test to see if he understood the concepts of hypnotic telepathy as they applied to mind clouding. You planted a hypnotic suggestion in my mind that the candle is not there. Thus, my mind will not process the visual image of the candle that my eyes send to it.

So, in other words, I have planted a thought in your head that the candle is not there.

Yes.

The Tulku smiled. You have much to learn.

Lamont looked surprised. He thought he'd gotten that part of it right, at least. What did I miss?

If the candle is still there, pick it up.

Lamont tried to remember exactly where the candle had been, then cautiously reached down to make certain he didn't put his hand in the flame... Wait a minute, Lamont suddenly realized. There's no heat. On a hunch, he smacked his hand down where the candle should have been...and slapped the floor. He turned to The Tulku and smiled wryly. Clever. Very clever. The candle was never there at all. And I fell for the suggestion that there was something to see.

You learn very quickly. The Tulku stood up and proceeded down the steps to stand before his pupil. Mind clouding is not about making items appear and disappear. It is about reshaping the stream of conscious thought around yourself so dramatically that people will believe anything their minds are telling them, no matter how preposterous. It is how a barbarian can miss seeing a whole temple, even when prayer flags line the road. It is how a man can appear to be right next to you... Suddenly, The Tulku vanished, then reappeared across the room. ...and suddenly move far away... He disappeared again, then reappeared back on the altar. ...and never have moved an inch to begin with.

Lamont nodded, impressed with the demonstration. You're very skilled, obviously. And twenty generations of practice have definitely helped. How does one learn to do this?

One starts by removing all preconceived notions from his mind.

Lamont nodded. Point taken.

Mind clouding does involve hypnotic projective telepathy. You did get that part correct. But it is far more subtle than any hypnotism you have learned yet.

In what way?

The Tulku smiled. A simple demonstration as explanation. He gestured to the floor. Sit.

Lamont took a seat on the floor.

The Tulku took a candle off the altar, lit it, then walked over to Lamont and placed it on the floor in front of him. This is really a candle. I will understand if you wish to verify its existence.

Lamont reached out to feel the heat coming off the flame, touch the melting wax, and tap the brass holder to hear its ring. Just trying to make certain I can trust my other senses.

I would have been disappointed if you had not. The Tulku sat opposite his eager student. Do you see the candle?

Yes.

It is absolutely clear in your mind?

Yes.

The candle shimmered and vanished. Where did it go?

Lamont put his hand up to feel the heat. It's still there. But my mind is clouded to it.

I planted a hypnotic suggestion that the candle is gone. Therefore, you cannot see it.

Lamont nodded. That part I understand.

Good. Many students have trouble grasping that concept. A mysterious smile. Now that you know I have planted the suggestion, make the candle reappear. Sweep the suggestion out of your mind.

Lamont concentrated, trying to find the thought to wrap his projective energies around so that he could sweep it out of his mind. But the thought kept eluding his grasp. He frowned.

Is something wrong, Lamont?

Lamont looked annoyed. I can't find the thought.

Of course not.

Now Lamont was curious. Why? Why am I having trouble with this?

Do you believe the candle is gone?

Of course not. Intellectually, I understand it's just a hypnotic suggestion.

Then why can you not see the candle? Clearly, you know it is there. And you know you are being hypnotized. So why can you not just overrule the suggestion?

Lamont nodded, now understanding. Because the suggestion is too subtle to pick out as a single thought.

This is why I have had you practicing more and more complex hypnotic suggestions, sharpening your skills to minute levels of detail. No matter how strong the clouding fog you blow into someone's mind is, the suggestion you leave behind must be able to work its way so deeply into the mind that a single thought cannot eliminate it.

Lamont looked at The Tulku. So, how do I undo your subtle suggestion?

The Tulku raised an eyebrow. You are eager.

Lamont looked him in the eye. I have been dying to know how to do this since the day your men dragged me up here and a temple appeared out of nowhere. Teach me, Tulku. I want to learn.

The Tulku smiled. Such desire. It has been years since a student has been so driven to learn. He stood up and walked back to his altar, then took a seat. In many ways, you have a distinct advantage over most students who have attempted to learn this. Your projective side is very strong. That means you only need to learn the hypnotic aspects; the projective ones come naturally to you, and you can project stronger and more varied suggestions much easier than a receptor can. But it also makes you more vulnerable than most of my students, because your receptive side is so much weaker. Once someone penetrates your defenses, your mind is very easily clouded because your receptive side is not as quick to recognize that someone is planting thoughts into your mind.

Lamont looked up at his master. So undoing a mind clouding suggestion is a receptive skill?

A receptive skill that requires projective power. This is what makes them difficult to undo.

Lamont looked thoughtful. So how is it that I was able to see you when I pushed you out of my mind the night I broke through? I know I wasn't being very receptive that night.

You did not actually break my clouding suggestion. I dropped it because you projected with such force that it startled me and broke my concentration.

Lamont nodded. I see. So, in order for me to see the candle again, I have to open my receptive side to actually hear the clouding suggestion?

That is correct.

O.K. Lamont took a deep breath, then cleared his mind. Focus on the sensations. Filter out what I don't want. Amplify what I do.

Correct.

Lamont cleared his mind once more and tried to focus on mental images that did not seem to belong. In the back of his mind, there was a vague tickling sensation.

Focus. Filter. Amplify.

The tickling sensation became more distinct. A whisper, like wind through tall grass, became psychically audible.

Focus. Filter. Amplify.

The tickling was now a swirling sensation. The whisper grew louder.

Focus. Filter. Amplify.

The swirling became a thin, twisting ribbon of thought energy. The words you do not see the candle became clear. Lamont wrapped a wave of projective energy around the suggestion and forced it outward.

The candle shimmered into view again.

Very good, The Tulku praised.

Lamont smiled. I half expected you to shove that suggestion back into my mind when I started pushing it.

And I was hoping it would be a surprise. A whirling projectile of psychic energy knocked Lamont over backward.

Lamont cursed himself for dropping his guard. I knew this had been too easy. He pressed his mind outward and sat up slowly. The whirling sensation in his head began to move away.

You have a tendency to forget what you are being trained to do. The Tulku pushed harder.

I haven't forgotten. I'm being trained to fight with every weapon at my disposal. Lamont got to his feet and pressed his thoughts harder than ever, and the whirling sensation retreated again.

You have gotten stronger. A month ago, you would have buckled by now after having expended the energy to open your receptive side. The Tulku doubled the strength of the projection he was driving at Lamont.

There's something to be said for learning subtlety. Lamont doubled his own output, and the incoming projection retreated slightly.

I do have one distinct advantage over you, however. Yet another increase in the projection.

And that is? Another matching increase, another slight retreat.

I can hypnotize you.

Lamont felt himself slam into the ground, pinned by a projection so strong he could not overcome it. He concentrated one last strong thought, and a burst of energy shot out of his mind.

Now you are out of energy. And you are still on the floor, exactly where I want you to be.

Lamont tried to sit up and realized he was still pinned to the ground. He concentrated, trying to find enough mental energy to project his thoughts to his master. Now I understand. It's not the strength of the projection that pins me to the ground, but a hypnotic suggestion that clouds my mind into believing I can't get up.

Precisely. I take your last burst of energy as a signal that you are too tired to continue the exercise and drop the suggestion so that you can get up...

...when what I should really be doing is using that energy to find the hypnotic suggestion and force it out.

You are becoming quite perceptive.

Lamont felt the suggestion vanish, and he could move again. He sat up and looked at The Tulku. That's what you meant when you kept telling me that was a lesson I wasn't yet ready for. I really thought there was some projective strength lesson I hadn't been taught yet.

There is.

Lamont nodded knowingly. And that is that I will never be able to do that to you because no one can cloud your mind.

The Tulku gave him that mysterious smile again. You hardly need me any more. He gestured to the candle. Take a short rest. Meditate and restore your energies. Your next exercise will be to make the candle disappear, and you will need all your strength and subtlety for that.

Lamont looked confused. How will I know if I've succeeded? I can't cloud your mind, and I won't be clouding mine, obviously.

The Tulku gave a pleased smile. You are the first student who has ever asked that. Most students sit for hours and stare at the candle, trying to project, then ask if me if I can still see it before they realize they are approaching the exercise the wrong way. To answer your question, it is true that you will be clouding neither my mind nor yours. However, I will be able to tell when you have projected with enough strength and subtlety to have clouded someone's mind to the candle's presence. He stood up. I have another lesson to conduct this morning. Use the time to regain your strength. When I return, we can begin the exercise.

Lamont knelt and bowed. Thank you, Tulku.

The Tulku looked stern. You will not be so grateful when I am finished with you today.

Lamont gave a confident smile. Oh, yes, I will.

Your confidence pleases me. I can guarantee you will need every bit of it to master this skill. With that, The Tulku left the chamber.


Slightly more than an hour later, Marpa Tulku returned to the chamber to find Lamont staring at the candle's flame, deep in a meditative trance, seemingly unaware that anyone had come into the room. He gave a glance to the altar.

Phurba rose up out of its holder.

The Tulku looked directly at his hypnotized pupil.

Phurba shot across the room.

Lamont rolled away and was on his feet instantly, concentrating a spinning wave of projective energy toward Marpa Tulku.

The force with which Lamont responded startled The Tulku, who took a step backward.

Phurba immediately changed course and moved to protect its master.

The Tulku held up his right hand.

Phurba obediently leapt into it, handle first.

The Tulku turned to Lamont and smiled. Impressive.

Lamont gathered himself, then nodded his thanks. Americans have a saying--fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. I'm learning not to fall for the same trick twice.

The Tulku released Phurba, and it drifted back to its stand. Your senses must always be that alert. Your enemies will not give you a second chance to learn their strategies.

Lamont nodded. Yes, Tulku.

The Tulku gestured to the floor.

Lamont took a seat, and was joined by his master sitting across from him. This morning, you received your first lesson in the techniques of mind clouding, The Tulku told him. Are you ready to try it yourself?

Lamont nodded. I am.

Good. The Tulku pointed to the candle. This morning, you removed the mind clouding suggestion that made the candle invisible to you. Now, recreate that suggestion and make the candle invisible again.

Lamont took a deep breath, then focused his gaze on the candle. His mind began to repeat the phrase you do not see the candle over and over again in a slow, steady projection.

Not subtle enough.

Lamont nodded and tried to reduce the volume of his outgoing thoughts.

Still not subtle enough.

Lamont looked at his teacher. If I reduce the volume any more, I won't be projecting at all.

Then you will need to alter your approach.

O.K. Lamont took another deep breath, then rethought his strategy. He began projecting the phrase again, in as low a frequency as he could create while pushing outward.

The subtlety is there, but the strength is lacking.

Lamont raised the projection strength slightly.

Now you have lost the subtlety.

Lamont stopped projecting and frowned. You'd think I could figure this out.

Perhaps we should try again after the midday meal.

Lamont shook his head. I want to keep going.

Frustrating yourself will not make you learn this faster.

Giving up is unacceptable. You've told me that for months now. He focused his gaze on the candle and once more began the projection.

Not subtle enough.

Lamont reduced the strength of the projection.

Almost subtle enough, but the strength is too low.

Lamont tried to raise the strength of the projection and maintain the low frequency of the thought itself.

Too loud.

Lamont got angry with himself and smacked the ground hard. Why can't I make myself do this?

Because you are frustrated. Walk away for a short time, and we will try again after the meal. The Tulku got up to leave the room.

Wait.

The Tulku looked down at his student. Yes, Lamont?

Lamont looked up. Show me how.

The Tulku raised an eyebrow. You are asking me to guide you through this exercise when I have specifically said I wanted you to do it?

Lamont met his instructor's gaze. That is exactly what I am asking for. He then smiled. And I just learned this morning's lesson, didn't I?

You did indeed. The Tulku smiled placidly. It is all well and good to be independent and driven to succeed. And perfectionism is an admirable goal. But even the strongest of men need help at times. And the ultimate aim of any training session is to learn, not to succeed on the first try. He reached out a hand to Lamont. Rise.

Lamont accepted the hand and stood up.

There are times I believe I have taught you too well, The Tulku observed. You have learned how to drive yourself to constantly improve, and you understand the reward of hard work when lessons become clear later. But rest and rejuvenation are just as important as hard work, Lamont. It does no good to drive yourself past the breaking point if you cannot continue afterward.

Lamont nodded. When I grow up, I want to be as wise as you.

The Tulku smiled. You are well on your way.


True to his word, Marpa Tulku sat down with Lamont Cranston and guided his thoughts through generating the frequencies and strengths needed for a simple mind clouding instruction, then gave him exercises to use to duplicate that level of strength and projective volume on his own. It took several days, but Lamont slowly got proficient at generating the clouding suggestion, and within two weeks had learned how to make stationary objects disappear at will. The Tulku encouraged him to practice in his time away from lessons, and so whatever junior initiate had been designated to clean the kitchen would often find the broom or water bucket or hearth brush missing for several minutes while Lamont supervised their activities.

Next came an extensive series of exercises in visualization skills, designed to facilitate mind clouding to create an object instead of removing it from view. Lamont found creating an object harder than vanishing one, so The Tulku worked him constantly, refining the clarity of his mental pictures. Three weeks later, junior initiates were finding duplicate brooms, water buckets, and hearth brushes in the kitchen while Lamont supervised and fought to keep amusement out of his expression and thoughts.

Next came a series of exercises to extend the reach of projected hypnotic suggestions, casting a clouding suggestion in ever-widening circles without diluting its strength. The Tulku pushed his pupil to reach his mind farther and farther every day, to feel the stream of conscious thoughts around him, to begin to move with it, use it to carry his mind to places it had never reached before. It was this stream that Lamont would have to learn to manipulate to the point where he could change its very path, and Lamont was slowly learning to reach into it and allow it to carry his suggestions along to help strengthen his projections. Within weeks, Lamont could fill a room with a simple hypnotic projection, to the point where anyone entering the room was blanketed with the suggestion and drawn into the illusion.

The Tulku observed his pupil's enthusiasm growing as he kept increasing his proficiency with mind clouding commands...and the confidence mixed with arrogance that success brought with it. Lamont had learned much in just over two months of time. But the next step would require him to grow in a way that he had not done so far...and to face the darkness that he feared with every fiber of his being.


I believe you are having entirely too much fun at the expense of the junior initiates, The Tulku observed from the doorway of the kitchen one afternoon as Bogh reached for the water bucket and had it disappear on him for the third time in an hour.

You did tell me to practice, Lamont reminded him, restoring the bucket as Bogh turned his back. And Tenzin has been trying to teach Bogh to be less prone to distractions.

You have a cruel streak, Lamont Cranston.

That got Lamont's attention. He turned to the doorway and bowed respectfully. You're right. I'm sorry, Tulku...

I am not the one you have been cruel to.

Lamont nodded, then turned to Bogh. "Bogh."

The junior initiate looked up at him. "Yes, Master Lamont?"

He took a deep breath. "I am sorry, Bogh. I have been distracting you from your chores by making you think the bucket is not where it really is. That is being cruel, and I apologize."

Bogh looked confused. It was part of the lot of a junior initiate to be taught lessons by seniors in a fashion that occasionally resembled cruelty or arrogance. "You are admitting a fault, Master Lamont?"

Lamont nodded. "I'm not perfect. And I never will be, no matter how much I wish I were." He looked away. "Forgive me for distracting you."

Bogh still looked confused, but nodded an acknowledgment. "Of course, Master Lamont. I do not understand, but I am certain there is a lesson in this somewhere." He returned to scrubbing the floor.

Lamont turned to The Tulku and bowed respectfully once more. I have failed. I let success and newfound power create arrogance.

The Tulku sighed. Come with me, Lamont. He left for the main chamber.

Lamont followed, fully expecting a severe punishment. Once more, his dark side had emerged, defying his efforts to keep it down and keep it under control. Ten months after being dragged here by armed guards, he was in many ways just as barbaric and cruel as he had been that first day.

Marpa Tulku took his traditional seat on the altar. He looked perfectly calm and inscrutable. Not for the first time, Lamont wished he could find that kind of peace inside himself instead of the never-ending lake of darkness that he always saw when he turned his thoughts inward. He stood expectantly in the middle of the room, awaiting whatever punishment The Tulku had in store for him.

The Tulku sat quietly, gathering his own inner peace, letting the silence speak volumes. Then, he looked over at Lamont. Do you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, Lamont Cranston?

The question caught Lamont off-guard. I don't follow.

I used to ask you that all the time. Do you remember?

Lamont remembered. Sometimes, all too clearly.

Do you remember what your answer was?

Lamont nodded. I usually said that wasn't my name.

Quite defiantly, often with English expletives sprinkled liberally through the denial. But you never would actually answer the question. So, answer me now. Do you enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, Lamont Cranston?

Lamont sighed mentally. No, of course not.

Then why do you do it?

Lamont looked frustrated. I don't know.

Do not lie. I do not tolerate lying from my initiates.

Lamont bowed his head. I'm sorry...

Nor do I tolerate self-pity. Look at me.

Lamont looked up.

You are still not facing your past. You are still trying to hide from it, bury it under hard work, build your self-confidence so high that the darkness cannot reach you. But it comes out in ways you do not expect--sharp retorts, cruel tricks, aggressive behavior during an exercise. And then you spend hours and days punishing yourself harder than I would ever punish you, letting your darkness get the best of you yet again. So, the only conclusion I can draw is that you do enjoy inflicting pain on yourself, because you do it so frequently. He looked stern. You think I cannot see how hard you struggle with yourself in the depths of the night, blaming yourself for some imperfection that you dared to show because you were a human being with human foibles, human emotions, human limitations.

Lamont's thoughts scattered into complete chaos. The Tulku could cut to his very core faster than anyone he had ever known, and after months of training, he could not believe he still felt so frightened of his own darkness. Tulku... He groped for words for a minute, then finally tried projecting again. Do you have any idea what it's like to have done things you can never forgive yourself for? Do you have any idea what it's like to close your eyes at night and know that you're going to see your deeds splashed across your memories whenever you've let your arrogance, or anger, or cruelty bubble back up to the surface that day? Tulku, I live every day with the knowledge that I committed unspeakable horrors. I committed them. For all the times I talk about Ying Ko as if he were another person, he isn't. Ying Ko didn't do those things. Lamont Cranston did. So don't talk to me about not facing my past, not dealing with my deeds. Those memories aren't in your mind. That darkness isn't in your heart.

The Tulku gave him a calm, placid look. You are angry.

A derisive laugh. Impressive. Did you read my mind to figure that out? Or am I projecting loud enough for the whole temple to hear?

Who are you angry with, Lamont? Me? Or yourself?

Lamont paced the room as if he were a caged animal and looked as if he were about to explode with rage, then bit it back hard before projecting again. I am just so tired of all of it. I have fought so hard to learn to control my temper, my anger, my darkness, and then I get lectured by you that I'm being cruel, and all of it just starts spiraling out of control inside me to the point that I just want to...

...disappear?

Lamont stopped pacing and stared at The Tulku.

The Tulku rose from the altar and walked up to his pupil. Reach, Lamont. Reach into the stream of conscious thought higher and farther than you have ever reached. Make yourself disappear.

Lamont tried to calm his thoughts, to find that mind clouding subtlety. All the anger still swirling within him, bubbling like a boiling cauldron, made it difficult to find the calm he needed.

Do not vent those dark energies within you. Use them. Reach.

Lamont began projecting...sweeping, subtle words carried on a tightly spinning ribbon of thought energy, spiraling outward in ever-increasing circles.

Reach. Project.

Thoughts began swirling around him, like a rushing stream. The strong current threatened to engulf him.

Push into the stream. Shape it to your will.

The swirls around him became more pronounced, trying to drag him underneath the current.

Reach up. Pull yourself out of the undertow. Push the thoughts away from you.

Fog filled the room, seeming to be all around him.

Push, Lamont. You are almost there.

Suddenly, the vortex of psychic energy Lamont was building collapsed on top of him. He fell to the ground, gasping for breath, completely exhausted, and held his head, rocking back and forth as if in great pain.

Lamont, if you vent all that energy inside you right now, this lesson is over.

I'm not venting, Lamont replied. I'm trying to hold it in. He tried to stand, but could barely raise himself on one knee. I was so close...I felt the fog all around me...

The Tulku extended a hand.

Lamont took it and forced himself to stand.

Reach, Lamont.

Lamont once more found the mind clouding subtlety and began projecting his suggestion outward again, spiraling it stronger and faster than ever.

Reach. Project.

The consciousness stream swept around him once more.

Push into the stream. Shape it to your will.

The stream began to swirl around him.

Reach up. Pull yourself above it. Push the thoughts away from you.

Fog filled the room once more. But this time, he felt it pouring out of him.

Project, Lamont. Reach farther. Push.

With a loud crack, like lightning on a hot summer day, the consciousness stream split. And Lamont found himself standing in the empty middle, with two separate streams flowing on either side of him. He stared at The Tulku, shock etched on his face.

Marpa Tulku simply stared back at his pupil for a long moment. Then, he moved across the room, so that Lamont stood between himself and the doorway. Kasha!

One side of the stream rippled. Lamont held his thoughts silent, letting nothing pass through his mind except the tightly-spinning ribbon of thought energy that he was projecting.

The ripples increased as Kasha came into the main chamber...and walked right past Lamont as if he were not even there. What is it, Tulku? he asked, bowing and kneeling.

Rise, The Tulku ordered. Have you seen Lamont?

Kasha looked confused. I thought he had a lesson with you this afternoon, Tulku.

The Tulku looked stern. Do you see him in here?

Kasha shook his head. No, Tulku...I am sorry. That was disrespectful of me. I have not seen him since he went to supervise Bogh in the kitchen after the midday meal.

Lamont covered his mouth with his hand. He had done it.

The Tulku looked concerned. I am worried that he may be ill. He seemed rather out of sorts with me earlier.

Kasha looked around for a moment. I can feel his mind, Tulku. He is in the temple somewhere, and in very deep concentration. Perhaps he has gone to his chambers and is generating a tumo summoning to rid himself of whatever illness you detected earlier. I can check...

Yes, Kasha, do that.

Of course, Tulku. He bowed and knelt, then left.

As soon as the ripples from Kasha faded from the consciousness stream, Lamont felt himself run out of energy. He collapsed to the floor, and a swirling fog seemed to whisk out of the room as he did.

The Tulku knelt beside him quickly, helping him to a sitting position. Well done.

Lamont gasped for breath. His heart was pounding as if he'd run a marathon, his muscles felt like jelly, and his psyche was absolutely drained dry. But he had to ask the question burning in his mind. "He wasn't...just being nice...was he?" he whispered weakly.

The Tulku smiled. He could not see you. If you had been able to hold it all day, he would never have found you. His mind was clouded to your presence.

Lamont covered his mouth with his hand once more. A mixture of shock and joy spread across his face. "I did it," he whispered. "I did it!"

You most certainly did.

Lamont looked at his master, suddenly remembering the raging anger. "Tulku, forgive me," he whispered, bowing his head. "I lashed out at you unfairly..."

The Tulku took his chin and turned his face toward him. I told you that you are never to apologize for achieving a breakthrough. Do you realize what you have done?

Lamont felt himself shaking. "I...I used the darkness inside me," he realized. "I felt it bubbling up inside me, and I took control over it and used it to reach farther, push harder..." Tears began to well up in his eyes, and he tried to force them back. "It bubbled up inside me and I took control. My God...for the first time in my life, I had control of it--it didn't have control of me! Oh, my God..." He clenched a fist to his mouth, trying to press the building emotions back inside him. "I'm sorry, Tulku--I know this is disrespectful. I'm trying to get control over this..."

Never apologize for achieving a breakthrough, Lamont. Let it out.

The tears burst forth. Lamont held his face in his hands, crying with every remaining ounce of his strength, letting joy, sorrow, and pain flow as freely as the tears from his eyes. Never in his life had he felt such a release. He could not remember the last time he'd cried, not at all. Which, he decided as the tears kept flowing, probably meant it had been far too long.

So enveloped in his own emotions was Lamont that he did not notice Marpa Tulku had left the room...until he returned, bearing a cup of tea and a towel. You needed that release, The Tulku observed, kneeling beside his pupil again.

Lamont nodded, trying to gather himself.

Take your time. The Tulku handed him the towel. I believe you have successfully learned today's lessons.

Lamont dried his face and hands with the towel, then took a moment and gathered the mental energies he could feel starting to pour back into his internal reservoir. I guess I did, didn't I?

Ah, good, your mind is regenerating. This time tomorrow, you should be ready to try again. He handed him the cup of tea. Your endurance leaves much to be desired.

Lamont sipped his tea and smiled slyly. I believe I've just been challenged.

The Tulku smiled mysteriously. And you have never failed to rise to a challenge.


If Marpa Tulku thought Lamont Cranston was an eager student before learning hypnotic mind clouding, his definition of eager needed adjustment. Lamont became an absolutely voracious student after his breakthrough--there were never enough opportunities to practice, never enough lessons to learn, never enough exercises to try. The only limitations were physical and psychic endurance, and both of those limitations were rapidly dwindling as he became more and more proficient with his new skills. Within a week, he could hold the suggestion for a half-hour at a time. Within two weeks, he could walk around the temple unseen for almost an hour. Within three weeks, he could do limited strenuous physical exercises while still holding the suggestion for almost a half-hour. And within four weeks, he had begun daily trips to the market to disappear for short stretches among the non-adepts to build his psychic endurance.

The Tulku watched Lamont's progress with a mixture of pride and sorrow...tremendous pride in what his once-reluctant student had accomplished, and tremendous sorrow that the rapid progress meant their time together was nearing its end. He prayed nearly constantly, asking for the wisdom to know when it would be time to send his pupil out on his own--and the strength to let him go.


You sent for me, Tulku? Lamont asked as he rounded the corner into the pantry one morning.

The Tulku turned to him. Yes, I did. I have an assignment for you. He looked expectantly into the hallway.

Moments later, his expectations were rewarded when Sato entered the kitchen, wearing senior initiate robes. He bowed and knelt before The Tulku.

Rise, The Tulku instructed. Good morning, Sato.

Sato took a deep breath, then answered. Good morning, Tulku. Good morning, Master Lamont.

Lamont beamed. I believe you can drop the 'master' now, Sato. Congratulations! When did this happen?

Sato smiled nervously. Late last night. I had a nightmare and cried out with my mind. The Tulku heard me and told me to do it again. I did. I can hardly believe it. It is so different...so new to communicate this way...

You'll be surprised how quickly you get used to it. Lamont turned to The Tulku. I suppose you won't need me to go to the market this morning.

The Tulku gave him that mysterious smile. Actually, I will. But not in your usual capacity. He turned to Sato. It is the responsibility of the newest senior initiate to go to the market when required. It teaches discipline and social interaction skills. This will be one of your duties, Sato. But, since it is your first time away from the temple since your arrival, Lamont will go with you to make certain you have no problems. He turned to Lamont. Lamont, you are not to help in any way unless Sato has a serious problem. You are not to lift bags, or deal with merchants, or anything of the sort. You are to simply there to supervise him and make certain he performs his duties correctly.

Lamont smiled knowingly. You want me to shadow his every move.

The Tulku nodded. They had managed to keep Lamont's new abilities secret from the other senior initiates for a month now as preparation for his life among non-adepts, where his abilities would have to be concealed in order to accomplish his mission most effectively. This meant the use of code phrases or misdirected words in front of other initiates. I trust you will have no difficulty with your assignment.

Lamont fought to hide his eagerness. This would be a real test of his abilities, and he could think of nothing he'd rather spend his morning doing. Looking forward to it.

Good. Sato, look at me.

Sato looked at The Tulku.

The Tulku swept into Sato's mind, then swept out again.

Sato looked amazed. There is a market list in my head, he said. How did it get there? I did not hear you saying anything, Tulku...

The Tulku smiled. That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you must learn first. He handed Sato a pouch of money and a mail bag. Make certain to drop these at the messenger shop and pick up the return mail. Be back in three hours.

Both initiates bowed to The Tulku and departed.


Sato could not help but wonder as he loaded yet another bag of grain onto the wagon where Lamont could possibly be hiding. They had arrived at the market not quite an hour ago, but the next time Sato turned around after hitching the horses outside the messenger shop, Lamont was gone. He had the distinct feeling he was being watched like a hawk, but he had not seen even a trace of his fellow initiate in almost an hour. Several of the merchants had commented that this was the first time in months that The Temple Of The Cobras had sent someone other than "that Westerner" to the market, but none of them had seen Lamont, either. He hoped Lamont would show up soon, because the clouds overhead that had been thick to begin with were really starting to look dark, and they would need to get back up the mountain before the storm hit.

Climbing onto the driver's seat of the wagon, Sato looked back and began to check items off the list in his head, counting bags and moving things occasionally to make certain he had not forgotten anything.

Got everything?

Sato nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of that voice. He looked around and saw Lamont crouching in the back of the wagon.

Did I startle you? Lamont asked.

Sato took a deep breath, trying to calm his nerves. He would have sworn Lamont was not back there just seconds ago. I did not see you, he replied.

A mischievous smile. I thought not. He climbed down and walked to the front to untie the horses, then climbed into the seat next to Sato and handed him the reins. You did very well, Sato. The Tulku will be pleased.

Sato still looked confused. He could not for the life of him figure out where Lamont had come from--he had not seen him approach, nor had he seen the wagon move to indicate someone had climbed on. Where were you?

Lamont looked innocent. You mean you didn't see me? I was close by the whole time.

Sato shook his head. No, I did not.

Lamont smiled. He was very tired, but he'd managed to elude Sato and the marketplace patrons for an hour by hiding in plain sight. Not one person had even glanced his way. And the clouds overhead had provided additional help by eliminating tell-tale shadows. Then I did my job. He looked at the sky. Nasty clouds. I think we need to be getting back. He looked at the nearly full wagon, and for a brief moment wondered how in the world he had been so lax in letting the pantry get depleted enough to need this much food to restock it. Did you get everything?

Sato once more looked back in the wagon. I believe so.

Then let's go.

Sato shrugged. Clearly, he had done his duty at the market well--Lamont had not intervened once. Other questions could wait for later. He pulled the reins to back the horses away from the hitching post, then turned the wagon to head back up the mountain.


Not quite an hour later, the two initiates returned to The Temple Of The Cobras to an unusual sight: Horses hitched to the fence outside the main gates. Those aren't ours, Lamont observed. Wonder who they belong to?

Sato shrugged. I do not know. You have been here longer than I have. I was hoping you would know.

They could be pilgrims. It is that time of year. But something kept nagging at Lamont, as if there were something amiss. I think we need to find out. You unload the wagon, I'll check on our visitors.

Sato nodded and steered the wagon up the path to the rear of the temple.


Lamont left Sato to unload the wagon while he headed for the main chamber. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong, very wrong. There was a sensation in the air he couldn't place, a sense of menace he hadn't felt since leaving Ying Ko's palace. He slipped quietly down the corridor, keeping his thoughts close to him and his psychic defenses up and alert.

As he approached, he heard something very strange: Marpa Tulku speaking. Not translating his thoughts to sound, not thinking unusually loudly, but actually talking, speaking Tibetan to his visitors. Other voices soon followed: A Tibetan-accented voice speaking halting English, then a pair of blustery male American-accented voices. Aha, he realized. The American collector who wrote that disturbing letter several months ago. It seems he couldn't take 'no' for an answer. He opened his receptive center to learn the identities of the unwelcome visitors. Benjamin McDonald, one of the most noted American collectors of Oriental treasures, and his solicitor, James Marston. And they don't seem to care very much for The Tulku's refusal to sell them anything.

The exchange continued. Lamont knew Marpa Tulku was playing dumb to frustrate the collectors into leaving--The Tulku spoke better English than many Americans he knew. But the increasingly sharp retorts and angry words coming from McDonald and Marston indicated both men were running out of patience with The Tulku's feigned ignorance.

"This is getting ridiculous," the one he'd managed to identify as McDonald said. "Primitive savage."

Lamont frowned. Now that was uncalled for. If there was anything Marpa Tulku was not, it was a savage. Casting a mind-clouding suggestion, he slipped into the chamber undetected.

Marston turned to McDonald. "You could try raising the offer," he suggested to his client.

"Absolutely not." He turned to his interpreter. "Tell that petulant brat that I want that jeweled box by his throne, and I have made my final offer."

Harsh words to say about a holy man, said a voice from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

McDonald and Marston looked around, visibly unnerved. The Tulku pretended not to notice.

"Who said that?" Marston asked aloud.

Someone who does not approve of your attitude.

McDonald and Marston kept looking back at The Tulku, who sat dispassionately on the altar. "Ask him what that was," McDonald ordered the interpreter.

I'm not talking to him. I'm talking to you.

Now McDonald was angry. "Where is that coming from?" he demanded directly to The Tulku.

From your conscience, Benjamin McDonald. Do you think your money gives you the right to be disrespectful? Do you think your station in life gives you the right to denigrate someone? Your arrogance about this shallow power you wield is disgusting.

McDonald clicked his fingers rapidly. Marston produced a pistol from a concealed holster. McDonald took it and held it aloft. "Come out and say those things to my face," he challenged.

You would dare desecrate this holy place?

McDonald felt something knock into his head, then smack him on the wrist, and he dropped the gun. It skittered across the floor.

Marston dove for the gun. It skittered away from him and disappeared just as he reached for it.

For a moment, everyone except The Tulku looked around the room. "What in God's name is going on here?" McDonald whispered.

A man's laugh answered...softly at first, then louder, louder, louder, until the entire room reverberated with the roar of mocking laughter. The Westerners and their guide shook visibly.

Then, the laughter died away. Get out.

McDonald and Marston looked at each other, then at The Tulku.

"I believe you have been asked to leave," The Tulku said.

McDonald and Marston each felt something grab their wrists and pull them back from the altar. The two men were helplessly twirled in a circle and slung toward the door. Get out!

The Westerners didn't need another warning. They ran out of the temple, their interpreter not far behind.

The doors closed, and Lamont unclouded himself. He pulled McDonald's gun out of his pocket and dropped it to the floor, then leaned against the door and gasped for breath, completely exhausted.

Well done, The Tulku's voice echoed in his mind.

Lamont gathered himself, then came to the altar. He knelt and bowed before his master.

Rise. The Tulku gestured to the steps.

Lamont took a seat, then took a moment to gather his energies. I handled that badly, he confessed.

You underestimate yourself. You did exactly what I have been training you to do. But that laugh...

Lamont bowed his head. That was disrespectful. Forgive me, Tulku.

Actually, it was quite effective. You tapped into their fears and manipulated them to cloud their minds further. But that was not something I taught you. What made you think to do that?

Fear is a powerful force. People tend not to think clearly when they are afraid, and can be manipulated into thinking or doing almost anything. He shook his head and smiled wryly. Now I understand what you meant when you told me early on that my ability to sense and manipulate fear makes me very dangerous. It always has. The fear of Ying Ko was often the only weapon I needed to take what I wanted.

Sometimes remembering the past is not a bad thing. Tell me how you knew they might be dangerous.

Their tone had changed. They were becoming more impatient, more disrespectful. Those are often first steps toward lashing out against something. Lamont looked up at his master. You knew this, though. And you did nothing to stop it?

I had faith that my student would reach that conclusion before I had to direct him to do so. The Tulku stood. And my faith was not misplaced. Rise, Lamont Cranston.

Lamont stood expectantly.

Your training is complete. It is time for you to go.

Lamont looked stunned. Tulku...you can't be serious. I've only just learned...

...faster than any student I have ever taught. It takes some years to master what you demonstrated with those men. Many never do. No, Lamont, there is nothing more I can teach you. You are ready to begin your mission. And that mission is not here. It is time for you to go out into the world and face the evil head-on.

Lamont nearly fainted. It had been almost a year since his entire world was turned upside down by The Tulku. Many were the nights he had plotted his escape. Many more were the nights he could not imagine ever being anywhere else. Now his training was complete, and he was being sent out to fulfill his mission. And he had no idea what to do next. Tulku...I have nowhere to go. I have no family, no friends, nothing...

Are you certain about that?

At that moment, Sato came running into the chamber. Tulku--what was that noise? Who laughed so loudly?

The Tulku smiled mysteriously. That is a lesson you are not yet ready for. There are others you must learn first. How was your trip to the market?

Sato beamed. I did quite well. Lamont did not have to help me once.

Excellent. Did you drop off my messages?

Yes, Tulku. He handed a small bag to The Tulku. This is for you.

Thank you, Sato. I believe Kasha wanted to see you when you returned.

Sato bowed. Of course, Tulku. He rose and left the room.

The Tulku opened the bag and pulled out a white Western-style business envelope. He handed it to Lamont. This should be for you.

Lamont took the envelope and read the return address. It's from my father's lawyer, he realized. But how...

I took the liberty of arranging some things for you. I hope you are not offended.

Lamont opened the letter and read it. Mr. Cranston: Forgive the lateness of this letter, but I have only recently learned that you were still alive and studying at a monastery in Tibet. Your parents' estate has been in probate for the last two years because a blood relative could not be found on either side of the family until now. I will be in Hong Kong on the 28th of August and desire very much to meet with you and arrange your return to New York. If it is possible, please meet me at the Royal Dragon Inn in Hong Kong and we will discuss specifics. Looking forward to meeting you...your servant, Arlington Anderson, Esquire. He looked up at The Tulku.

Now you have a place to go. And from what I understand, you will definitely no longer have nothing.

Lamont stared at the letter again to make certain he had not read it wrong. From rags to riches in just a few short sentences on a page. Anything truly was possible...and nothing was impossible. Tulku...I don't know what to say.

I believe the normal custom is to say 'Thank you' after receiving a great gift.

Lamont looked floored. 'Thank you' doesn't even begin to cover it. I owe you everything. I can never repay you.

Do what I have taught you. Do what you did to those men. Use what you have learned here to drive evil out of the shadows and into the light, where it cannot survive. Never forget that this is the price you must pay for redemption.

Lamont nodded. Then he glanced at his somewhat disheveled initiate robes and laughed slightly. I hardly think my father's lawyer will be expecting to discuss an inheritance with an heir who looks like this.

No, you are quite right. That will not do. Follow me. He left the chamber, Lamont quick on his heels.


Moments later, in Marpa Tulku's chamber, The Tulku had trimmed Lamont's hair quite short to give a more Western-style look and shaved him clean, and was now opening his steamer trunk. An American aviator crashed his plane near here several years ago, The Tulku told Lamont as he began pulling out several items of men's clothing. He was what your language calls a 'spy'. We tried to nurse him back to health, but he was too badly injured. These were his. I kept them because I knew someone would need them someday. That day has come.

Lamont looked at the clothes. They were a bit dated, to be sure, but they were Western-style casual, and would do until he got to Hong Kong. And they were in remarkably good condition, and looked to be pretty close to the correct size. Then something The Tulku had pulled out of the trunk caught his eye--an elegant pair of .45 semi-automatic pistols. Those are beautiful, he noted. I haven't seen Colts like those in years.

Those are yours, too.

Lamont looked taken aback.

The Tulku shrugged. We have no need for them here. And if you are going to fight evil, it is best to do it on equal footing.

Lamont picked up the one of the guns for a moment and looked at it. How long had it been since he'd used a gun--a year? It seemed like a lifetime ago. Even grabbing McDonald's gun to cloud it had felt foreign. I hope I still remember how to use one.

It will come back to you. The Tulku gathered everything into a pile and placed it in Lamont's arms. You will leave tomorrow at dawn. It is a long journey to Hong Kong, and time is short. Take our best horse and all the supplies you need.

Lamont looked at his master as if something finally clicked. For the first time, the extensiveness of Sato's shopping list made sense to him--since he had been going to the market nearly every day for months, the list should not have been that long unless there was some other reason to purchase extra food. You told Sato to buy extras at the market today. You knew I would need them soon.

I have been meditating on this for weeks, praying for some sign that I would know when it was time for you to leave. This morning, when you returned from the market, I received it. He paused for a moment, as if fighting back an emotional response, and was saved by the chime of the mealtime bell. The midday meal awaits. Say your farewells to the others, then prepare yourself for your journey. We will speak again later.

There was so much Lamont wanted to say to The Tulku, but at this moment, he wasn't certain he could even think the words without losing control. He bowed to his teacher, then left for his chamber.


Tulku.

Awakening at the sound of the voice in his mind, Marpa Tulku sat up in bed and quickly divined that Lamont was standing outside the door to his chamber. Come in, Lamont.

Lamont entered the chamber and knelt by The Tulku's pallet. It was nearly dawn, and the horse was packed. It was time to leave. I believe this is goodbye, he told his teacher.

Indeed.

I'll never see you again, will I?

No, you will not.

Lamont looked sad. I owe you everything, Marpa Tulku. The gifts you have given me I can never repay you for. But I'll never stop trying. I swear to you I will spend the rest of my life proving you were right to redeem me.

The temptations back in your world will be strong. Never forget the consequences of failure.

You have my word. Lamont bowed his head to the Tulku.

The Tulku put his hand under Lamont's chin and raised his head. You are the finest student I have ever trained. In twenty generations, there has never been one like you. I doubt there will be another in twenty more. Once more, The Tulku seemed to be fighting back emotions. You taught me as much as I taught you, Lamont Cranston. And you touched the lives of everyone in this temple. It was an honor to be your teacher and your student for a brief moment in time.

Lamont fought back his own emotions. Thank you, Tulku. Thank you for caring enough to find me and save me from myself. Thank you for all you've taught me. Thank you for believing in me, even when I didn't.

You have more strength than you know. Never hesitate to use it in your fight. He took Lamont's left hand and slipped a ring onto his third finger.

Lamont looked at the ring and gasped. A glance at Marpa Tulku's left hand showed an empty left index finger. Tulku...this is your ring.

The Tulku nodded. And now it is yours. He noticed the way the stone was glowing, pulsating with an inner fire. It is already responding to your life energies.

Lamont shook his head. No, Tulku, I cannot possibly accept this...

Yes, you can. And you will. Tradition dictates that it be given as a gift from Marpa Tulku to his finest student. Usually, this is the next Marpa Tulku. But not in this case.

Lamont looked at the ring, the irony of its etchings not lost on him. Good on one side...evil on the other...

...and a symbol of mystery, mysticism, and power in the middle. And that is where you now stand. Never take it off. It will remind you of your mission. For who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

Lamont gave his teacher a confident smile. I do.

Marpa Tulku nodded, then extended his right hand to Lamont. Have a safe journey, Lamont Cranston.

Lamont accepted the handshake, clasping his left hand around The Tulku's for one more moment. There was nothing more to say, no more words to put to thoughts.

As the glow of dawn's early light peeked around the portal covering, Lamont Cranston rose to his feet and left to fulfill his mission.

Marpa Tulku waited until he could detect Lamont had departed. Then, he climbed out of bed and knelt before the altar, offering up prayers of thanksgiving for learning once again that anything is possible...and nothing is impossible.

THE END