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Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)

Peter T. 20 May 01 - 11:10 AM
Peter T. 20 May 01 - 11:37 AM
Lonesome EJ 20 May 01 - 01:46 PM
CarolC 20 May 01 - 04:33 PM
Caitrin 20 May 01 - 09:45 PM
Naemanson 20 May 01 - 10:13 PM
JenEllen 21 May 01 - 01:51 AM
Lonesome EJ 21 May 01 - 03:41 PM
JenEllen 22 May 01 - 05:34 AM
Peter T. 22 May 01 - 04:40 PM
Lonesome EJ 23 May 01 - 12:42 PM
JenEllen 23 May 01 - 05:08 PM
Lonesome EJ 24 May 01 - 12:50 PM
Peter T. 24 May 01 - 01:00 PM
JenEllen 25 May 01 - 03:58 AM
Peter T. 25 May 01 - 10:10 AM
JenEllen 25 May 01 - 08:15 PM
katlaughing 26 May 01 - 12:55 AM
Peter T. 26 May 01 - 09:17 AM
Lonesome EJ 26 May 01 - 01:46 PM
JenEllen 26 May 01 - 02:57 PM
JenEllen 27 May 01 - 05:11 AM
Peter T. 27 May 01 - 11:56 AM
JenEllen 27 May 01 - 07:10 PM
CarolC 27 May 01 - 10:17 PM
katlaughing 28 May 01 - 12:52 AM
JenEllen 28 May 01 - 04:01 AM
Peter T. 28 May 01 - 01:01 PM
JenEllen 29 May 01 - 01:11 AM
Peter T. 29 May 01 - 12:53 PM
Lonesome EJ 29 May 01 - 01:18 PM
katlaughing 29 May 01 - 01:35 PM
Lonesome EJ 29 May 01 - 01:47 PM
JenEllen 29 May 01 - 04:17 PM
Lonesome EJ 30 May 01 - 01:20 PM
katlaughing 30 May 01 - 01:51 PM
Peter T. 30 May 01 - 02:35 PM
JenEllen 30 May 01 - 07:28 PM
Lonesome EJ 31 May 01 - 02:00 PM
Peter T. 31 May 01 - 05:38 PM
JenEllen 01 Jun 01 - 01:54 AM
Lonesome EJ 01 Jun 01 - 02:33 PM
Peter T. 01 Jun 01 - 04:10 PM
katlaughing 01 Jun 01 - 05:28 PM
JenEllen 01 Jun 01 - 07:11 PM
Peter T. 02 Jun 01 - 12:52 PM
katlaughing 02 Jun 01 - 02:40 PM
Caitrin 02 Jun 01 - 05:30 PM
JenEllen 03 Jun 01 - 06:45 AM
Peter T. 03 Jun 01 - 09:21 AM
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Subject: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 May 01 - 11:10 AM

Hangs by a new thread....


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 20 May 01 - 11:37 AM

Curioso looked over at the two of them, smiled, and made ready to make his move. He did not think, or look back down, until it was too late. From below, like a quickening line of darkness, like the scuttling of a demon spider up the wall beneath, the blackness erupted over him like a fountain of unappeasable anger. He was clawed and engulfed by a hideous force that assaulted him against the rock face. Annette and Tirseng shrieked at him through the night. There was a moment when it looked as if he would survive the sucking force of the evil that was trying to pry him off the granite, and he turned in a last helpless look of bewilderment towards his beloved and his comrade, and fell back into the arms of the ghoul that were no arms, and he was lost to them, twisting for a moment in the moonlight, and then falling down away into the darkness below.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 20 May 01 - 01:46 PM

Tirseng leaned against the cliff face and braced for the sudden strong pull of Curioso's body against the rope. But there was nothing. He felt the rope sway, weightless, below him. "NO!" Annette shouted, and Tirseng grappled with her to keep her from lunging off of the shelf. She fought the sherpa, saying "I'm his only hope! Let me go damn you!" and he caught her fist against his cheek. He hugged her tightly, pinning her arms down as she began to sob. "I want to die, " she whispered. "No," Tirseng answered. "It is not the time. You will go on from here." He helped her sit down on the ledge, and slowly began to retrieve the broken safety rope. From somewhere below them, a strain of hysterical laughter rose on the wind, a wind that grew cold. "Come Annette. We must get off of this face. Some weather is coming in, " Tirseng said, as if he hadn't heard the laughter. She sat frozen, staring down into the abyss.

"Get up," he said. "Follow me now!" And the sherpa began a traverse across the face to the top of the escarpment. They reached the summit in two hours. Before them, the harsh alpine landscape fell away toward a winding river that plunged into a tree-lined canyon. As they unroped, the pair suddenly heard a voice calling from the direction of the stream. Tirseng soon picked out the colorful shape of a man dressed in a red robe. "Hello Wanderers!" came the voice again. The man approached, a broad smile on his bearded face. "Are you seeking the Wheel's Center? If so, welcome! Have you any tobacco?" Tirseng shook his head no. "Well," said the man, "worse luck. Welcome anyhow." He extended his hand. "Bierce is the name. Ambrose Bierce. I'll lead you through the canyon. It's not so far. What year is it for you?"

Tirseng stared at the man, baffled for a moment. Perhaps they didn't record time here in the same way. "It is 1938," said the Sherpa. "Ah!" said Bierce, "fascinating era! Just before the big war, eh? Oh... but you wouldn't know that, would you? Are you ready to go to the valley?" The pair nodded, and followed the strange fellow into the trees.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: CarolC
Date: 20 May 01 - 04:33 PM

In Search of Shangri-La, Part One


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Caitrin
Date: 20 May 01 - 09:45 PM

Mara felt every instant of Dearly Beloved's fear. She tried to comfort her as best she could; the chants seemed to finally calm the young western girl. When Dearly was with herself again, Mara spoke. "You must go on. You cannot let the darkness overcome you. You are Necessary to saving Shangri-la and our whole world."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Naemanson
Date: 20 May 01 - 10:13 PM

Ezra's mind was numb with cold and exhaustion. He struggled to keep up with the sherpas. His whole existance focused on taking one more step, and then another and another. He thought no further than the next step.

Around him the mountains loomed, austere and cold, beauty frozen into the rock and ice. They were in a high pass, no climbing today, and walking almost on level ground for the first time in two weeks.

Suddenly he bumped into the man in front of him. The sherpas were excited, piling their burdens and dragging out the tents. Was it time to camp at last? Ezra stood staring stupidly at them and then realized slowly that these people were franticly building a shelter. He raised his eyes to see a wall of white blowing snow sweeping down towards them. A hard but friendly hand pushed him into the shelter as the snow closed in on them....


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 21 May 01 - 01:51 AM

The face, his face, falling into the darkness. Annette didn't remember screaming, though she supposed that she had...that is what one did in those situations, n'est pas? When Tirseng pulled at the slack rope at his waist, the realization hit her that he was gone. Below her shelf, laughter floated around her feet. That bastard frère was laughing at her...

Tirseng forced her to walk. With the intense pain crippling her, she followed him -half walking, half crawling. The hours to the summit were spent in silent realms of thought, only broken by the strange man that came from the trees to greet them. She tried to straighten, to conceal, but the way the stranger looked at her, she knew it was folly to attempt disguise. She was the walking dead, pasty complexion, hands shaking, feet struggling to keep her upright....this man knew. Still, he hurried herself and Tirseng to his small hut in the trees, jabbering all the while about Shangri-La.

When they reached the clearing, Annette left the two men to go and sit by the river. Before long, Tirseng sought her, and finding her in tears, he squatted down beside her.
"Lizard, here, have some food...some tea..." Annette looked up at him, disgusted by even the suggestion of repast. He set the tea beside her and continued, "I know how you feel, dear lady.."
""How could you possibly know??" she snarled. "Sûrement, he was your friend, but this was different for me.."
"What? You think I've never been in love?" Tirseng moved some leaves away and sat beside her. "Her name was Mashep. Ah, she was a beauty- yes- the sun would stop it's trek across the sky to watch her. She also had a voice like the birds singing, ah, my heart would swell just to be near her...you know, all of the things that lovers say...When the fever took her, that was when I made my first trip to Shangri-La...In the hopes of finding some way to heal her. She died. A part of me died too.... You have to make that peace, lady-friend. If you go on with this 'chags zhen' you will surely wither away."
He grasped her hand and pulled her to her feet. She, for the first time in hours, looked him straight in the eyes. "We have to find him, Tirseng. Even if it is only his body. I can't leave him out here."

The bearded Bierce met them at the door of the hut. Annette tried to be civil, even when this creature seemed to know all about her and the work she was hiding. She resisted every urge to stick a fork to his throat until he told her what HE was hiding. When night fell, the moon rose and was flanked by the storm clouds that were ravaging the mountain. Annette walked back to the river, fell to her knees, and howled along with the growing wind. She screamed, pounded the earth, and exhausted, lay on her back and let the last few tears run down her cheeks and into her ears.

When she heard the music, it seemed to come at her from a dream. Lilting melody, with a harsh undertone like metal scraping metal. She raised herself to her elbows. That fils d'une chienne was mocking her still. Assez. She got to her feet and followed the river and the sound until she came to a small waterfall. The music was coming from behind it. Taking a deep breath, she walked through the frigid water to an expanse of caverns behind it. When her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she saw him sitting on a boulder in the middle of the cavern, grinning like a snake.

"Oh, my little prostituée" he started, "Red eyes, tsk tsk. It is not your colour."
"Forget it, Dominic, I'm not telling you about your little bomb. Your tactics may have worked with Yamada, and poor Curioso, but I am wise to you.." she tried to sound brave, but her voice quavered in the cold, and in fear.
"Oh, that, well, that doesn't matter to me any longer. The wheels are turning!!" he grinned at her, ""IT" is coming..the wars will come along without little whores like yourself to stop it!!"
Exasperated, she asked him, "Then pourquoi? Why are you toying with me??"

Dominic laughed loudly, holding his sides. He slid from the boulder and walked over to where she stood, still shaking.
"Why do I torment you? Because it is FUN!! A challenge. The way a sculptor evolves from sandstone to granite. A little chisel here..." he runs his finger along her cheek. "A tap of the mallet there..." the finger trails along her collarbone. "And Voila!!" raising her chin to him. "A MASTERPIECE!!"
"Go fuck yourself, Dominic." Annette spit in his face.
Dominic smiled, slapping her hard on the back before shouting "That's my girl!!!" He leapt back to the boulder and took his seat.

"So what did Curioso do to deserve his honour, I wonder?" she asked him.
"Little brother? He took all the fun from me. I should have been the one to go with Mallory. You know more than you should about that already. Anyway, why should he continue to benefit from my misfortune??
Amazement slowly crept across Annette's face. "That's it, you fils d'une chienne?! You are JEALOUS!!! C'est vrai! Don't deny it! The one who gets there first is not always the one who gets there best. You could not stand to be less than he!"

She never saw him leave the rock, he moved that quickly. All she knew was her hair being pulled back, her face pointed at the cavern ceiling, and hot breath in her ear.
"Well, speaking of less, we are minus one, aren't we? What of Yamada? Eh, was the end everything I hoped it would be? That's the key you know," he pulled her hair until she cried out in pain, "Wait until the fruit is ripe before you pluck it."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 21 May 01 - 03:41 PM

Bierce placed the small iron grille over the charcoal of the fire, and placed some strips of rabbit meat and squash that he had cut upon it. Tirseng drew up to the fire, smelling the cooking. Bierce said, while looking into the fire, "I am sorry for her. To lose loved ones is the greatest tragedy of life. I lost everyone I ever loved, and was left with only those I hated." He poked some coals under the grille. "I know you have lost, too. It is on your face." Bierce poured a cup of tea and handed it to the sherpa.

"I am..was..an American. Have you heard of Ohio?"

Tirseng smiled "Yes. Sin-sin-natty."

Bierce smiled. "Yes, Cincinnatti. A fine, stinking river town. I was from the north of Ohio, near the big lakes. I went to war when I was 18 years old, a war against my own countrymen. I saw every friend who had joined with me, good farm boys all, die. I was shot here," and he pushed back the shock of graying hair from his forehead to reveal a deep grooved scar," at a place called Kennesaw Mountain. I was a lieutenant then. I rose quickly in the ranks, not because I was a good soldier, though. They just kept killing everyone above me."

He scooped some dried leaf matter from a pouch and put it in a pipe. "It's Pioka Tree bark, ground up. Tastes like moldy, bad tobacco. Want some?" Tirseng declined, and Bierce continued. "After the war, I went West to a place called San Francisco, and I began to write about the war. Sold a few stories. Ever hear of Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge? Of course not. I also wrote a book called The Devil's Dictionary?" He looked quizzically at Tirseng who again shook his head. "Marriage - a social contract which creates a master, a mistress, and two slaves, numbering in total, two." Tirseng continued to look baffled. "Ah hell," continued Bierce, "anyway, I was hired by a guy named Hearst to write for his paper. He was a real egocentric bastard, but he liked me because he thought I was even more of a bastard than him. I took causes on. I took on the Central Pacific Railroad, and the Son of a Bitch Huntington who owned it. Got him put in jail for murdering and abusing his workers. Then I got bored, and I went to Mexico for a little excitement. It was 1913. Fellow named Pancho Villa was stirring things up, and I rode with him, until one of his men betrayed him. Pancho was hung, but I escaped to Brazil, and from there took a packet to Portugal, where I heard a legend from a drunk in a bar in Treseme. About Shangri La. A place totally devoid of bastards." He drew on his pipe."So I came here, figuring they needed at least one bastard to keep things in perspective." He knocked the load out of the pipe on a rock. "Just like smoking cow flop," Bierce said.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 22 May 01 - 05:34 AM

As Dominic let loose her hair, Annette ran for the opening and the waterfall. Allé! The cavern was solid stone. She whirled to face him, her heart beating like a trapped rabbit as he walked once again to her side.
"I've always wanted to study you up close, 'Moan Cherry'. Now I have the opportunity. You can understand, can't you? Scientific curiosity?" He pushed her back to the center of the cavern. "Now, sit!" Annette sat on the ground in the lotus position, and he yanked her roughly to her feet. "What right do you have? Sit on that rock!" She walked to the boulder and leaned against it.

Dominic walked slowly around her, squinting from time to time like a child with a bug in a jar. She grew dizzy from watching him circle. His resemblance to Curioso pulled at her heart, but she reminded herself that it was not who he was, so much as what he was that was the danger to her now.
"It's easy Cherry. Easier than you think. Why do you struggle with this? The perfection. Why bother? They all fall so easily, yet you remain with the bit in your teeth..."

She felt the first wave of nausea as he circled again.
"Oh yes, they fall easily. The geshe? He was the first. So simple, the flaw in his teachings. You are to establish the world of hate and darkness and then move on before you have a chance to enjoy what you have created. He tried to make me move, but I showed him the power. I kept him there until he gave in. Your peace and love will only take you so far, then you start to see the ease with which the world bends to you when you are the one with power. Curioso was an added joy at this time. What better than to torture him with the same thoughts as the geshe, with the added benefit of being an unwitting murderer? Show him, plant the seed of self doubt....yes, you throw a little fertilizer on it from time to time...but it grows beautifully on it's own. He and that sherpa were the same, all peaceful acceptance, until they were faced with the truth. That little monk sits right now, making peace with the universe, it's pathetic really.."

Annette kept her eyes locked on him as he circled again.
"I honestly had become bored with this, Cherry. Until you came along. You, you were different. Focused. Even in the splendor of Paris, there was always a goal in sight. The quarrels of the good and the bad have no place in science, do they? You and I would make a great team.."
Annette fought back the urge to vomit, and instead gave him a derisive laugh.
"Think of it, you could have anything you wanted..." he cajoled
Her eyes still cold, she replied "You have already killed everything I wanted."
"Oh for pity's sake woman! You mean Little Brother?" he laughed "What would you say if I told you he was still alive?"
"I would say vous êtes un menteur..."
Dominic walked around to face her, "Maybe I am, and maybe I am not."

Even through the cold, blank stare she was giving him, Dominic saw the faint glimmer of hope in her eyes. "HA!! The game is still on, isn't it, Cherry??!! Another round then? Bon!" He grabbed her arm and dragged her to the wall of the cavern. "Not just yet....You can go now, but if you don't watch yourself, you never know what might happen to your little friends..." With that he picked up a rock from the ground, held it above his head and dropped it, whistling low as it fell to the floor. She stared at it, dumbfounded as he pushed her into the cavern wall. She fell through it easily, ending up on her seat, in the river, staring at the newly recovered waterfall. Shaking, she crawled to the water's edge, and reaching dry ground she gave in to the waves and vomited before regaining her feet. She walked the trail to Bierce's hut without a backward glance.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 22 May 01 - 04:40 PM

They fell together, the ghoul and his brother, and Curioso struggled to keep the stain of blackness from engulfing his soul, while his mind began shrieking at him about the oncoming rush of death. It was like the beating of millions of crow-wings against his body, clawing and feathering and pecking at him, and he fought them off, whirling and flailing as he hurtled down. He spun free of the grip of evil and broke into free fall, and the gulf raced up to meet him. Howling and whining, the wind hurtled past, and he grappled with his own elemental terror. He realized with horror that he was about to face the worst of fates: the smashing of his body would end all possibility that he would be able to enter the bardo realms gradually. A phrase from his early life, something his mother used to say in church, echoed in his mind -- "from a sudden and unprovided for death, preserve us, O Lord" -- but there was no help for him, and the anger at dying rose up unstoppable, and he knew that he was lost in it, that his brother had won. In the last moments before he hit the earth, fighting off the vertigo and blackout, he gave up control, and gave himself to death, and as he did so, Annette's face appeared to him, his last memory, but beautiful as it was, the expression was her smiling anger at the sight of Dominic going over the cliff, such an infinitesimal moment earlier, and then he realized that it was all a trap. That it had all been planned, that it had been oh so beautifully arranged, the crack in the walls, the labyrinth, the sudden appearance of the convenient ledge along the wall, the theatrical stage shelf, the final encounter, the arrival of Annette, his inability to shoot his own brother, and then the burst of her anger, and then he saw something he had missed in the darkness before, the delight in the Black Master's eyes as he had gone over the cliff, and then Curioso let it all go, and the earth and Annette's face came up through him, and in the last split second before smashing he finally fell free of the mountain of anger --

And he found himself, shivering, back on the mountain face. It was all a delusion, a grand manipulation by the parasitizing demon who had once been his brother. He had painted it all, woven it into their minds, and -- and there he was where he had been moments earlier. He looked up, and saw Annette and Tirseng convulsed in grief, and he knew that they were stricken over him, but he could not reach out to them. He shivered in the grim sweat and fever of what had just happened. Then Annette and Tirseng grappled away, obliquely up the mountain. He cried out, reached up, but there was nothing. There was a wall of delusion between them.

He realized that without their aid he was going to have to work his way back down to where he had begun, in the dark, and that he was weak from exhaustion. He worked his way down to where the ledge had been, and as he went, he remembered that he had only just broken through the illusion that had been created, and that there would be no ledge. And there was no ledge. For a moment he wondered if in fact he was dead, that this was what life after death was, and then he thought, if that is so, then why an I so tired, and why do my hands hurt from electricity burns? He looked down over his shoulder to the valley down into which he had shrieked in imagining scant moments before, and he grimly said to himself: "This is going to be a long night." And he started down. And as he crawled and picked his way lower, he became afraid for what revenge might be wreaked against Annette, and he redoubled his weary efforts down towards the valley floor below.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 23 May 01 - 12:42 PM

"What has happened?" Tirseng said as Annette stumbled into the doorway of the hut, her clothes streaming water. She sat by the fire, haggard, and said "he still pursues us, Tirseng. He's not satisfied with having killed his brother." Bierce took an antique Colt Navy Revolver from beneath his bed and stalked to the door, clicking back the hammer. Tirseng said "that will do no good, Ambrose. Have you some dry clothing?" Bierce turned back, disgruntled. "Yes. In the trunk. Damn it, I haven't fired this thing in anger since 1914. I was kind of looking forward to it."

*****

The three stepped carefully along the path that paralleled the river, at times bathed in the spray from the enormous rapids and whirlpools that it held. The canyon was dark and deep, the boulders hung with mosses , the path slippery. Yet the air was somehow warm, fragrant with the strange musk of unknown blooms. At last, sunlight illuminated the distant canyon walls, and a huge Banyan Tree stood, enormous roots tapping down into the water. Two men stood by the tree, one a heavy-set man in typical sherpa attire, the other a short fellow with close-cropped reddish blond hair. "Hallo Bierce!" called the short man, and Tirseng felt an odd sensation of familiarity with the voice. The intense blue eyes, too, were the same as his friends had been. But it was impossible, Tirseng thought; he had disappeared on the flank of Everest more than 10 years ago. The man smiled. "Hello Tirseng," he said.

"Hello George," Tirseng answered. "Annette...Mr George Mallory".


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 23 May 01 - 05:08 PM

The dark thoughts followed her, circling just overhead, like a buzzard waiting for her last breath. She followed the snowleopard and the American tiger along the river trail, alternately grasping at tree branches to steady herself, and rolling up the long legs of her borrowed slacks.

The dark canyon gave her a chill, despite the warm air. The fetid smell of jungle blossoms in each wet breath reminded her of the dank cavern she had been imprisoned in not but an hour before. So this Dominic wasn't finished with his jeux de salon. Bien sur, she could accomodate him. Maybe he could not die by rifle shot, but he could die another way perhaps. She would have to take her time, gathering l'information as she went.

As the three exited the canyon, Annette once again stopped to roll up the legs of her pants. She looked up, squinting in the new light, to see the magnificent Banyan tree. It looked like the beautiful women at the Mediterranian in late spring, gingerly extending a toe to the water, but hesitant to jump in. Around her ankles stood the sherpa and the red- headed man, as if they had been waiting for them all along.

As the two men shouted to the travelers, Annette hurried her pace to keep up with Tirseng. She noticed wonderment in his gaze as he looked at the cheveux du rouge.
"Hello George," Tirseng said, then he turned to her, "Annette...Mr George Mallory".

"Hello... Monsieur Mallory," she started. The short man covered the distance between them in a few short strides. Grasping her hand, he gave a slight but elegant bow and kissed the back of her hand before saying "Mademoiselle, Enchanté."
Taken aback by the stranger's perfect manners, Annette could only stand wide-eyed, while Tirseng managed a chuckle. "He was never one to take the easy path.."

The three had become five. Sitting beneath the skirts of the Banyan belle, they conversed quietly. There was no one in sight but they, yet Annette could not shake the feeling that someone was listening. Mallory and the sherpa explained to them that they weren't the only travellers making the trip to Shangri-La, but they were the first to arrive. If they wanted, the pair would guide them further and return for the others.

Tirseng and Mallory had sequestered themselves near one of the belle's roots, and Annette could barely overhear Tirseng telling him about their journey thusfar. When he reached the story of the ledge, and Curioso's accident, Annette bit her lip and fought back tears.
"The ledge, where?" asked Mallory
"Just upon entering," replied Tirseng, "After the labyrinth at the end of the Khumba.."
"Are you sure, old friend? I may be in this valley now, but I climb every chance I get, and I'll be damned if I don't remember there being a ledge there..."

Hearing this, Annette vaulted over the root and knelt in front of Mallory. "Vous dites cela encore! Again! What did you say?"
"I-I-I was only mentioning that I hadn't noticed a ledge in that portion of the trail before..."
"C'est lui! Tirseng!" she turned to her friend "The same as in the cave...the waterfall...gone when I looked again!"
"Dominic," sighed Tirseng.
"Oui, but don't you see? He might still be up there...alive!"
"Lizard," said Tirseng reproachfully, "We both saw him fall..."
"Yes, but we also saw this ledge, n'est pas? We might have seen him fall, but we never saw him land.."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 24 May 01 - 12:50 PM

"It's little comfort, I know," said Mallory, "but tomorrow I will lead a party out to find find him."

They reached the end of the canyon, and the entire expanse of a great valley opened up before them. Mallory placed his arms around the shoulders of Annette and Tirseng and said quietly "Behold Shangri La."

The valley appeared to be some 10 miles in diameter, and of a slight oval shape. Three streams, including the one in whose canyon they stood, converged on a lake at the far end of the valley. Around the lake were a group of large monastery-like buildings, and several watercraft were seen plying the waters. On a ridge high above the lake, several windmill towers turned in the breeze that surged over the surrounding ridges, standing alongside two large mirror-like disks. The fertile green valley lay within the frame of the surrounding white-clad ridges and peaks like a mirage. The varied greens of orchards stretched along the converging streams. "Those trees are citrus," said Mallory."Oranges, tangerines, grapefruit along the left hand stream, the one we call Jop Phang. Between it and the center river, the Maltan, are apple, pear, and lemon trees. The delta between the center and right hand stream, the Ang Bator, is very rich farmland where barley, wheat and vegetable crops are laid in. We are primarily a vergetarian population, but the lake and streams are stocked with trout as a protein supplement to the diet." Tirseng inquired about the windmills and mirrors. "Ah," said Mallory, "the windmills supply our power, for we are not so primitive as you may think. We have electricity for lights, heating, cooking and so on. The mills must be built high to catch the Himalayan winds, for there is little enough breeze in the valley. The mirrors are shallow concave plates of metal which were mined, smelted and forged within the valley. They are the remedy to the problem of peak shadowing, which otherwise would keep much of our valley, and hence our crop in darkness and cold especially in winter months. The disks catch the weak sun and diffuse it across the valley floor to keep us and the crops warm and in sunlight."

They began the descent into the valley, and Annette, despite the nagging concern over her friend Curioso, was filled with questions about the magical place. "You asked me what year it was for us, Ambrose," she said," for US...what does that mean." Ambrose looked at Mallory, who began to speak."This place seems to fall outside the normal time continuum. We have received visitors from almost all times and places. Just two weeks ago, three men found their way to our valley who were discovered to be the remnant of a Persian exploration party. Their chief is named Xerxes." Mallory paused for effect. "as you may know, Xerxes lived some 500 years BC according to our western histories. And yet, outside the valley, his time seems to co-exist with your own, and in fact all other eras. A woman arrived among us some ten years ago, who is from your time. She was an aviator who crashed her plane in the Pacific ocean and was rescued and imprisoned by Japanese Imperial Navy forces. Later, she managed to escape from her prison, stole a plane, and crashed in the Himalaya during an attempt to reach India. She was badly injured, but some of our people found her and brought her to the valley." Annette's eyes widened as she said "this woman, she is American?" Mallory replied "oh yes, from Iowa or Kansas somewhere. Her name is Amelia Earhardt."

They paused and Mallory offered them a flask of juice to drink. "We are ruled here by the Prince Monatek. He lives in the palace by Lake Belol. You will find him infinitely wise and just when you meet him. His word is law among us, although in truth there is little need for law here, except the Great Law." Tirseng cleared his throat and said "And what, George, is the Great Law?"

"It is simple. Once within the Valley, no one, with the exception of the Royal Guard, may leave it. But it is not a problem. No one really wishes to leave. " As Tirseng and Annette glanced at one another, Mallory started again down the path into the valley of Shangri La.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 24 May 01 - 01:00 PM

[you must have been up all night working on that one, LEJ]


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 25 May 01 - 03:58 AM

Annette could see the concern in her face mirrored by that of Tirseng. Would this truly be a wondrous place, or just another prison?

They quietly followed Mallory down into the valley, and Annette was amazed by what she saw. The well-placed dwellings seemed to house people of every description. Children played in the streets and swung from their mother's hips, men were returning from the fields and orchards, their pockets and baskets full of treasures for their families. She shrugged off the seemingly ever-present royal guards as shell-shock, a figment of dread from of her life outside the valley.

Mallory led them to the far edge of the village, and to a low mud-brick dwelling. He announced that until their audience with Prince Monatek, the pair could reside with him. The three settled in quietly, but the days of living in the open air called to the woman, and as the sun began it's descent, she excused herself to take a walk. When she returned, she found Bierce, Tirseng, and Mallory seated outside the low house. She sat herself, well upwind of Bierce's dung pipe, and looked out on the silent sunset with these men. They sat well over an hour when Bierce and Tirseng eventually excused themselves and bid their good-nights, leaving George and Annette to watch the stars in their path across the heavens. Mallory, seeming to read her mind, slowly peeled and orange and offered half to her.
"Merci....It will be an early day tomorrow, non?" she finally asked "We will have to prepare for the trip?"
"Hmm? Oh yes... I know of a few men in the village that will be able to accompany me in the search..."
"Que dites-vous? You mean 'we', n'est pas?" her voice hardened as she continued, "I am going as well..."
Mallory did little to hide his amazement at the mere suggestion. "Dear woman, that is no place for..
"Arrêtez! There will be no talk like this! I made it down that mountain, I can make it up again. If you do not allow me, I will go on my own."

Mallory saw there was no use arguing. As he looked at Annette, her jaw set in defiance, he fondly remembered the same look on the face of his Ruth, many, many years ago. He wondered to himself if his children had that same iron will. It was a hideous pairing, really, an obstinate woman and a reckless man, it was a wonder the children had lived at all. He left his thoughts and once again focused on the woman at his side.
He shrugged his shoulders and raised his hands in mock surrender, "Oui, Mademoiselle. Do you always treat your servants so badly?"
His attempt at humor was lost on Annette. She finished her small meal in silence, then went to bed with a quiet prayer for a dreamless sleep.

Mallory and Tirseng woke to the most glorious of smells. Annette had risen well before dawn, raiding George's larder, and prepared a morning feast. As they ate, the sleepy looks left their faces, and the men talked more and more excitedly about their assault on the mountain. Mallory's voice had none of the lightness of the night before, he looked sternly at her when he told her in all things to follow Tirseng, and to do as she was told. Annette nodded in agreement. Soon, she would know for certain, and the buzzards would either feast or go away. Soon after, the small group shouldered their packs and left the valley once again.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 25 May 01 - 10:10 AM

Curioso hung limply against the rockface, taking advantage of a slope to rest for a few minutes. He fell asleep in spite of himself, and did not dream, but awoke with a start, and nearly toppled back. Dawn was approaching, and he was not sure that he would make it, in part because the burns on his hands had broken, and his palms were rough and bloody. Every handhold hurt. But still he descended.

And as he descended, he occasionally looked at the White Sacred Mountain on the other side of the Valley, mocking his struggle, and he came to hate it. It was the first mountain he had ever hated, and he wondered if his brother had fatally infected him with hate. Hating mountains, he had never done that before. They had never been opaque to him before, mocking. There was so far down to go, and no sign of relief, no breaks in the wall. And would the breaks be real or fade as soon as he reached them anyway? What was real or illusion any more?

Wearily he continued, thirst hitting him. What was real or illusion any more? His mind grappled, hand over hand, worked, and then he had a moment of awakening, so powerful that it stopped him for an instant. He breathed out slowly. They had won the battle on the mountain ledge, the ledge that didn't exist. It looked like a loss, but it was a victory. They had defeated the Black Master. Curioso had been engulfed in the uprushing darkness, but it had not pulled him off. He had not fallen back. And the reason was the rope. Annette.
His left leg went into cramps. He massaged it as best he could, rolling up and down the leg, and the muscle freed. He went on.
O my love, when will we get off this mountain. This mountain of anger, and this valley of deceit. The phrase came into his mind unbidden. This valley of deceit. What was that? And then he knew. He looked over his shoulder at the White Sacred Mountain and the beautiful tended valley far below, and the sweet monastery, and he knew. Oh yes, he thought, brother. You do not climb a mountain the same way the second time. I have now worked my way up your mountain of anger, and I know more: I know where the crevasses are. You and your ghouls, your undead. White Sacred Mountain. Shangri-La. Oh people, lay down your weary bones, and come into the beautiful company of the undead. Oh yes, and Annette's hair will never go grey, and we will live by the sound of tinkling bells, and on Tuesdays we will sit in cafes in Paris.
And at that moment, for no reason, perhaps because he was so close to death, he began to cry. He began crying and could not stop. Oh yes, he thought, and everyone will be healed, and Geshe will come back, and there will be no war, and there will be no unleashing of the atom, and the dreams of mothers everywhere that their children will be happy will be fulfilled, and on Thursdays, just before they come back to Tibet for the weekend, he and Annette will sit in a gondola in Venice and watch the sun set over the church in Torcello. Oh yes. Of course. And he began to pray for his beloved trying to warn her across the widening space of early morning sky, wherever she was. He did not know what he prayed for, except that it was all lies. It was death, and not life. And with faltering hands and slow, he grimly moved, on, broke into the great chant of Chenrezig, and then sagged against the rockface again, too tired to go on.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 25 May 01 - 08:15 PM

The small group left the valley at sunrise. Mallory led, followed by Bierce, Tirseng, a few sherpas from the royal guard, and Annette. She took an instant dislike to the sherpas as they approached the hut that morning, and she could not shrug off the thought that these men should not be there. Smiling, she walked to the little man nearest her.
"Whew, monsieur, this should be exciting, non?" The guard ignored her. "Do you climb her much?...Oh, moi? What I know of this climbing you could keep right here!" The man glanced quickly at her upraised little finger, and sped up his walk to be rid of her. When they reached Bierce's hut, the little man made particular effort to stay well away from her while Ambrose retrieved the pistol from his trunk.

After a brief rest, the group followed the trail to the bottom of the cliff face. Annette's stomach churned as they crossed the river, keep walking. Afternoon came, and they reached the end of the trail. Falling rocks from the storm two nights before had obliterated the path before them.
"Right!" exclaimed Mallory. "This is where we start. Pair up and tie off. Ambrose, you and I will go with this lot. Annette, you tie up to Tirseng." She did as she was told, following the snowleopard was becomming second nature anymore.

They had scrambled over the loose rock and boulders for an eternity, it seemed, when Annette heard Ambrose shout, "There, up and to the right!" A human form clung to the rock face. If she could have, Annette would have sprouted wings right then and there, but as it was, she waited impatiently as the men planned their attack on the cliff-face. Mallory would anchor as Tirseng climbed up and over Curioso, dropping down to retrieve him.

Annette waited, every muscle tense, as Tirseng climbed. She felt her own fingers cramp at every impossible hold, and gasped at each attempt to climb yet higher. When he dropped down to the insignificant toe-hold that supported Curioso, she saw Curioso raise his head slightly as Tirseng tied him in. Alive!! At that moment, nothing else mattered. No uranium, no mad brothers, nothing.

Mallory watched his friend climb, feeling a small pang that he himself had not attempted it. It was better that he didn't. When he saw Tirseng start to come down with the man, he was nearly thrown off his feet by the scrambling Annette as she raced to the rock wall. He watched her, waiting with her face upturned, as the men reached the bottom of the wall. She reached up and pulled them both to her, crying out with joy as she first hugged Tirseng and then covered the other man's face with kisses. His next glance was at the sky. There would be no calm night like the night before, the storm clouds on the mountain promised at the very least, an inhospitable night for anyone left in the canyon.
"Come along now!" he shouted, "Back to camp before the weather changes" The party followed, with Annette and Tirseng cradling the weakened man between them. When they reached Mallory, he gasped. It couldn't be? His highness?

Mallory's mood had only darkened by the time they reached a small clearing that was suitable to camp in. A fire was built, the sherpas began cooking, and Annette sat busy, cooing over the man and wrapping his hands. Mallory called Tirseng to sit beside him at the fire, and the sherpa agreed. Heads together, they whispered.
"Who is this man? You say he is a friend of yours? Have you known him long?" started Mallory
"Yes, and a dear friend too.. I've know him since he was a boy."
"Well, frankly Snowleopard, when I saw you bring him round, I could have sworn for a minute that it was Prince Monatek himself..."
"I see..." replied the small man, realization creeping across his face. "Dominic..."

Sharply, a whisper came from behind them. "Dominic, Monatek...Lunatic is what I think!" The two men turned to see Annette crouched nearby. She crawled over, looking at Mallory, and asked "Well then, monsieur. What shall we do?"
Mallory glanced over at the sherpas, then at the sleeping form of Curioso before he replied, "At first light...run."

The howling winds that night woke Mallory from his slumber. He seemed startled that the others could remain asleep in the racket, then he saw that the flames of the fire weren't bent in the breeze....
"So this is how you would have it, eh, Mallory?"
George spun to see Prince Monatek at the edge of the campsite. Slowly the prince walked towards him. He didn't shout, but his voice rang in Mallory's ears despite the keening wind.
"I give you all of this, eternity in paradise, and you betray me?
Mallory stood stock-still, seeing the prince for who and what he was.
"You wanted to be in these mountains forever. Now you will be."
The black wind screamed through the dark, picking up the flailing body of George Mallory, and flinging him to the furthest reaches of the Himalayas.
The other travelers were lost in dreams.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: katlaughing
Date: 26 May 01 - 12:55 AM

(Beautiful, beautiful, all of you. This one has got to be one of the Classics. I've been tapped out, but will work on something this weekend, to get Dearly Beloved back in the game:-)


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 26 May 01 - 09:17 AM

Curioso woke in the middle of the night, swathed in dreams of rescue, of the last moments on the moutainsside, of George Mallory, of the White Sacred Mountain with the oblique shadow, and the deep exhaustion and grief in his bones. And he saw that it had happened, that it had not been a dream. And now he was among them. He saw Annette sleeping beside him, and off nearby, Tirseng. Around the low plateau on which the rescue team rested, there was a crackle of storm winds brewing. He cursed quietly under his breath. There was no choice. He had to know.
He got up on his unsteady feet, and crept silently over to where Tirseng lay. "Tirseng," he whispered, "Tirseng!!"
Tirseng jolted out of sleep. "Yes, friend," he said,"how are you?"
"Quiet, Tirseng! We are surrounded by ghouls or the mask of ghouls. We are in Dominic's domain."
Tirseng nodded. Curioso sat down beside him. "This is what I learned on the mountain, when we fought. Whether there is a Shangri-La or not, where it is or not, this is not it. We are far astray. All this -- " and he swept his hand over the distant lands -- "is a fantasy trap. You and I are being swept up in it, our minds clouded."
Tirseng said, "I have wondered. Mallory here" -- and he sat up, because Mallory had disappeared -- "He's gone!!"
"More demonic work. Whether he was the real Mallory or not, he was a puppet of the Master. We cannot know who is real and who isn't. And there is one more, besides these sherpas, these guards who sleep around us. One deadlier even than the Master."
"Curioso, you don't --"
"Yes, " he said grimly. "She is not real. She has been taken over by him. She came into his clutches, and is a demon."
Tirseng almost cried out. "NO, Curioso. She is real, if anyone is real."
"Did she leave your sight at any point since you left me?"
Tirseng crumpled where he sat. "Yes."
Curioso said: "Give me your knife. I have to finish this, now."
Tirseng resisted. "No, Curioso, you are wrong, you are making a mistake! She loves you, she kissed you when you came down off the mountain. She is true."
"Tirseng, I am trying to save us. Give me that knife."
Tirseng reluctantly handed it over. Curioso moved away from him back towards Annette's sleeping body. Tirseng sat there for a moment, and then moved out into the darkness, and hurled himself on Curioso.
"No!!!" he hissed, "No, you cannot, I will stop you, kill me if you must, you cannot." And they began to fight, quietly, deadly, no words, in the darkness. And they rolled down off the plateau into the rockfield below, wrestling over the knife. Finally, in spite of his weakness, Curioso's size advantage overcame Tirseng's wiry strength. Tirseng was pinned down, and Curioso held the knife over him. "No", said Tirseng at last. "You will have to kill me now to keep me from crying out. I will not hold back."
And then Curioso flung the knife aside in relief. "Tirseng, old friend, it is you. Really you." He embraced him. "I had to know. I had to know if you were a ghoul or not. A creature of that monster would have rejoiced in her killing. Thank God you are you."
Tirseng breathed out, and then said: "I thought you were taken over, I thought you were his."
"You mean you would have killed me."
Tirseng looked sheepish. "Let us just say that it is a good thing you won. "
Curioso smiled for the first time in days. "You know, Tirseng, I think you are as sweet on that woman as I am. "
"She is good for you, Curioso. I did not think so at the beginning, but I think so now."
"Let's hope we survive long enough so you can chant at the wedding. We have to get out of here, Tirseng. But how we get past the sherpas, who I cannot trust, I do not know. "
Tirseng looked up. "Curioso, the storm is about to break." There was a rising in the wind.
"Well, that might give us a chance to separate ourselves from the sherpas when the treck back starts. Whatever happens, stay close. There are only the three of us." And they went back over the lip of the plateau.
Curioso lay down beside Annette. A few moments later, she turned to him, and whispered: "Where were you?"
He put his hand over her mouth. "Getting a knife to come back and kill you."
She stiffened, and her eyes went wide. He hurriedly explained. She relaxed against him. He took his hand off her mouth.
She said: "I am not sure I appreciate being used as a test vehicle."
"Well, beloved," he replied, "You are the only one I could have no doubt about."
"The only non-ghoul in the place. I suppose one takes one's compliments where one finds them." She kissed him punishingly.
"We have to plan for the morning, for our escape," he said.
"Oh certainly," she said. "It just occurred to me that if you were strong enough after your ordeal to wrestle Tirseng, you were probably strong enough to wrestle with me."
"Chere, we are surrounded by ghouls, my demented brother the Black Master, virtually prisoners on the wild plateau of Tibet, and a vicious storm rising, and you -- "
"Tais-toi, monstre."
And around and above them the stars began to wink out behind the gathering masses of cloud.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 26 May 01 - 01:46 PM

Through the night, the wind increased, the tent above Tirseng rearing and snapping like a crazed animal. At some point in the night, he heard the tent mooring rip loose like a rifle shot, felt the floor of the tent lift, spilling the other sherpas on top of one another. "Quickly!" shouted Tirseng, "we must weight it down!" And he scrambled up the slanting canvas like a sailor crawling up the deck of a sinking ship. The other three sherpas joined him and Tirseng put his hand on the shoulder of Lemsah, the eldest, sopeaking into his ear "if we don't secure the tent it will carry us over the edge! Grab some rope!" They exited the tent, creeping on all fours into the fury of the storm. Tirseng broke hard ice and snow away from an up-slope boulder with his axe, then managed to anchor two pitons in it. Lemsah secured rope to the tent edge, and then lashed them to the pitons. The entire operation was a matter of 5 minutes, but when they crawled into the tent again they were covered with ice, their eyes wedged open with it. The other sherpas already had a coleman stove lit, melting snow in a pot for tea. Tirseng had a quick thought, and stuck his head out the tent flap to see Curioso and Annette's tent through the blizzard : It appeared secure, the snow drifting up against the side to form a ramp to carry the wind over the top.

The tea was hot, life-giving, and the sherpas, for the first time, smiled at Tirseng. "Good, brother?" said the youngest one, Opar. "Good," replied Tirseng."Now tell me of your Prince, brothers." Both sherpas looked at Lemsah , who spoke at last.

"He is the Third Prince Monotek. He came to the Valley seven years ago, an acolyte seeking enlightenment in the high peaks. Balor, the Second Prince, took a liking to him and brought him into the Palace. Monotek soon became Balor's right hand man, carrying forth his every command."

"Including the imprisonment of all in Shangri La?" said Tirseng.

"Ah," said Lemsah," the Great Law has always existed. We have everything we need in Shangri La. The fear was that it could be taken from us by the Sena Gralti, the outsiders. Those who die." Lemsah sipped his tea."Two years ago, Balor was drowned when a freak storm overtook his craft on the lake. The Council named Monotek Prince the following day."

"And he has ruled well?" said Tirseng. The three sherpas were quiet until Lemsah said at last "he is Prince. There is no other path we may follow." He looked into Tirseng's eyes. "We have wives and Children, Tirseng."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 26 May 01 - 02:57 PM

Curioso and Annette lay quietly, relaxed in the completion of their inventory of love's softest parts, as the storm clouds gathered above the plateau. As the wind increased, the tent poles began to voice their protest. Annette peered out from the warm encirclement of Curioso's arms, her eyes dark, "He's angry, Chere. He'll blow us off of this mountain before we have a chance to see morning..."

Grudgingly, Curioso left her side to peer out of the tent. It seemed stable for the moment, he told her, though it appeared Tirseng had needed to make a midnight excursion into the icy wind to save his. He saw the faint light through the tent fabric, the silouhettes framed within it, and wondered if he should go see what was going on. Just then, a tug at his foot, and a dusky sing-song voice he hadn't heard in quiet some time whispered, "Oh, Chere?". "Forgive me, my friend" smiled Curioso, giving one last look to the other tent, then he returned to his own.

The two lie together, surrounded by the howl and the dark, for a few moments more before Annette pulls back to peer up at Curioso.
"You know," she pauses as a particularly violent wind shakes the tent, "this brother of yours makes me glad to be an only child...What are we going to do?"
"Well," he says, tucking her head beneath his chin again, "I think we should do as the good Mallory suggested and run for our lives..."
"What?" Annette sat upright "We can't leave him to do this! Mallory said there were other travelers coming, surely they won't be expecting this! We have to at least warn them?"
"Chere," he motioned her to the tent flap, and pointed at the other tent. "Let's see what Tirseng has to say about that."

Through the icy wind, struggled the sherpa. He managed to crawl to their tent, and pull himself inside. Blushing slightly at Annette, he handed Curioso the tin of tea, and muttered to him, "The things I have heard tonight, dear friend, you will scarcely believe. Let me tell you of our guard..."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 27 May 01 - 05:11 AM

The two men sat stonefaced, staring at each other, knowing their truth. The silence only broken by a slight tap-tap-tap of a finger on a tea mug. Curioso glanced at Annette, she was oblivious. Her finger tapped, eyes quickly moving back and forth over the rim of the cup, and she chewed the corner of her mouth. The only thing missing, he thought to himself, was the worn stripe in the persian rug where she used to do her pacing. Paris never seemed further away than it did at that moment.

When she finally spoke, it was to declare, "Très bien...it is decided for us."
"What is decided, dear lady?" spoke Tirseng
She sighed, and dropped the mug to her knees. "We return to the valley."

Incredulous, the two men spoke in unison, "What?!" "Non, écoutez moi...Until he is stopped, Dominic will only continue this madness. We could try to run, to warn the travelers on the mountain, but the chances of us actually reaching them in one piece are nothing. Mais, he is not expecting us to return, is he?

"Tellement très simple, we go back. The sherpas and Bierce know nothing of our conversation here, and according to Tirseng they are trustworthy to that point. Luckily," she gives an impish grin to Curioso, "they have only seen you in your weakend condition. Let the ruse stand. We are taking you back, unassuming, to recover your self in paradise. We mourn the loss of dear Mallory in public, and in private, we assess."

"Assess what?" whispered Tirseng
To which Annette hissed, "Plan of attack."
"Attack? How could we possibly?"
"By going with what we already know, Snowleopard. This master of misinformation wants a game, a game he shall have. We are all still alive for a reason. Curioso, you are the boucle de laiton. A good he cannot hope to possess or demolish, but thusfar only play with as a toy. The Snowleopard, a means to his own end, perhaps, but also our strongest weapon. And all feminine wiles aside, without me, he has no bomb." She paused and looked at each man in turn. "We cannot separate ourselves. At this point, that is given. If I return, you two are dead before you leave the valley. It is the same for any of us. The key would be in finding to which of these spots he is weakest, and concentrating our engergies there. Strike hard and fast." She took a deep breath and stared once again at the rim of her cup. "I say we take our audience with the Prince Lunatic..."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 27 May 01 - 11:56 AM

Curioso looked around. "I don't like the idea. It is the only strategy if we are helpless, but are we helpless?"
Annette rimmed her cup. "No, chere, we are not. We are weak but not helpless."
He felt all his tiredness come back. "I see I am the wrong person to ask. I don't want you back in his hands. He is trickier, stronger, than any of us. I have been up on his mountain, and though we beat him together that time, there is no reason why we should do it a second time. "
Tirseng said: "I think she is right. We cannot beat the guards, and we cannot survive in the open without more preparation. We have to go back, Curioso."
Curioso looked beaten. Annette had not seen him like this before. She put her hand on his shoulder. "What is it, beloved?"
"I once loved someone, and I lost him on a mountain somewhere, and he is gone from me forever though he haunts every footstep. And now there is you, and I don't want to lose you, and I am afraid of it, for the first time. I can't help it, I would not say this to any other people in the world. I came down off that mountain, and now I am afraid."
There was a brief silence. Then Tirseng spoke: "Remember what the Geshe said when he recovered from his near-mortal illness, and we came back from not having found your brother, and sat by his bedside?"
Curioso nodded. "He said: 'After you meet Death for the first time, you never breathe the same way again'. It is true. I do not want to lose life, I have become greedy for it, for this woman, for this tent, for the storm, for it all. I never cared about Death before, and now I hate it. I hate its wastefulness, the stupidity of it. I don't want to lose this. I am afraid of losing it. It paralyzes me."
They sat together, all quietly for another moment. Then he said: "O.K. We'll go. You are both right, and this weakness of mine will pass. But I tell you what. If we get out of this alive, the three of us, we must promise to meet in the Cafe de la Paix in Paris one fine Spring day, and then we will walk along the quays in the sunshine. Some day when things are happy again. Let us say, noon, May 1st, 1941, Cafe de la Paix, Paris. Whatever happens."
They shook hands on it, formally. And then they got up and began packing their belongings for the stormridden trip back down into the valley.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 27 May 01 - 07:10 PM

Tirseng left the tent, and Annette began rolling up the bedrolls. She paused, went back to packing, then stopped again. She crawled to where Curioso sat and kissed him. She then pulled his forehead to hers and told him, "Chere, we are all worried. There is no shame in that, but this cannot go on. You say he haunts every footstep? What about for the rest of your life? Can you endure that shadow forever? I cannot."

She sat before him, and took his bandaged hands in hers. "Nevermind the frère, these are the only hands I want to be in, chere. If we fail at this, so be it. At least we fail together and I do not have to wonder if you are even alive? That was much worse than anything your brother could ever do to me. That fear is gone now for me, and I can breathe again"

Curioso left the tent, sitting in the guise of incapacity, while Annette packed the tent. The sherpa guard and Tirseng made short work of their packing and morning meal, and the small group made their way back down the trail. Annette took the lion's share of Tirseng's pack, and the little man wedged himself under Curioso's arm to 'help' him down the trail. The group traveled quietly, all lost in their own thoughts, as they made the slow trip back to Shangri-La.

After a short while, Annette drifted back to the two men, and traded Tirseng pack for pack. She slid under Curioso's arm and smiled at him. He fell heavily across her shoulders and she looked up at him in amazement.
"Chere," she grunted, "surely you can walk?"
He slyly grinned down at her "But, I thought we had to make this look good? I am supposed to be incapacitated, non?"
She lightly jabbed her elbow into his side "Si vous ne faites pas attention, you soon will be!"

They continued in silence until Annette spoke, "Chere, I was thinking.... I know, cachez les enfants... mais, what of what Thubten said? These five poisons of the buddhism? Could one of these be strong enough to give us an advantage?"
As she quickly explained her ordeal behind the waterfall, Curioso straightened at her side. Anger flashed across his face. Annette continued, "Sûrement, he is full of the anger. All of this is a delusion... prideful, oui...also he has the envy and desire, non? Which of these is dearest to his black heart? You know him best of all, which is our key?"


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: CarolC
Date: 27 May 01 - 10:17 PM

Liza felt a strange sense of familiarity with this new place. This experience was entirely new for her, but like a missing piece of a puzzle, she fit right in. Mr. Po explained important things to her.

"My child, you will find that there are many levels of looking at things. And there are many levels of understanding what you see. You can shift your focus from one level to another with very little effort, once you have learned the process," he said.

"But Mr. Po," said Liza. "How will I learn this process?"

"Do not be concerned, child. These things will come to you in time. But be prepared. You will receive knowledge as you need it. But you must pay attention or it will pass you by... or knock you on the head." Mr. Po reached up and thumped Liza gently on the forehead with his small papery fist.

Liza felt reassured in Mr. Po's presence, but when he was not with her, she wondered if what he said was true. So many unbelievable things had happened to her since she first saw him in the little market stall in New York City. She was no longer able to automatically disbelieve what she previously thought impossible, but she still felt a sense of unease whenever her reality took on a new shape.

Mr. Po handed Liza and her father over to the care of the sherpa guide her father called 'Bobby'. Bobby was a competent guide. Liza felt safe with him. It was a good thing, because she was being pushed to her physical limits in the extreme conditions of these high mountains.

About three quarters of the way into the first day of their climb, Liza felt a little light headed. When the group stopped to rest, Liza sat on a rock and tried to catch her breath. She notice that she was having a hard time keeping her eyes focused. Fatigue lulled her into a state of relaxation, and she realized that she enjoyed the way she felt when her eyes went out of focus. As she gave in to the experience, she noticed that what she was feeling reminded her of the way she felt when her gaze was locked with that of Mr. Po the first time she saw him. Only it was not so overwhelming.

In fact, Liza found that she liked this state, and she wondered if she would be able to make it happen whenever she wanted. As she was wondering this, she noticed a purple haze, like a pulsating gaseous cloud, hovering in front of the snowbank she was facing. At least it looked like it was hovering. But when she shifted the direction of her gaze, the purple haze moved as well. She found that wherever she looked, as long as her eyes remained unfocused, she could see the purple haze, pulsating rhythmically before her. It was quite beautiful. She felt that it looked like it had life, and there was a reassuring presence about it that comforted her in the absence of Mr. Po.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: katlaughing
Date: 28 May 01 - 12:52 AM

As Dearly Beloved moved toward the light in the cave, she heard other voices joining her in the sacred chanting. Feeling heartened, her steps became a little surer. She noticed the light was getting bigger.

Welcome, dear one, welcome! a figure in saffron robes turned toward her, with outstretched arms; clashing tingshas rang throughout, bringing a bright sparkle to the air.

Almost running in relief, now, Dearly Beloved reached the figure just as it turned round to face her fully. Instead of the beautiful, smiling visage of a Tibetan monk, she saw only a hideous skeleton facing her.

No! she screamed, You cannot be! Twisting and turning she felt the hands of the skeleton grab at her shoulders. Her heart beat a triphammer of fear which permeated her body and soul.

Beloved One, wake up, wake up! You must come back to us, now, Dearly, now. Fight it, you are strong. Remember your lessons!. Gungzin struggled to rouse her from the astral nightmare.

At that point the Giant, Rek-shin, hugged her to his chest, stilling her flailing arms, rocking back and forth. Gungzin centered and became still. Quickly going into an altered state, he met her in the Cavern. Reaching out with his hands, fingers splayed, streams of golden light entended beyond them, to meld with her feeble strands of shattered aura.

Slowly, they began to back up, while the skeleton laughed in an uproarious and maniacal manner, ordering them to give up their feeble resistance.

All is impermanence! Give it up now and join me in that which you seek, Death! the skeleton's voice dripped with the stinking rot of overripe and dead flowers.

Reaching into his robe, in an instant Gungzin drew his phurbha out and with a bright flash he cut through the strands of passion, aggression and ignorance which the evil one sent out to them.

Breathing deeply, Gungzin returned to his body, cast a questioning glance at Rek-shin, then at Dearly Beloved, still cradled in his arms. Slowly, she began to awaken.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 28 May 01 - 04:01 AM

Curioso walked a few more paces with her, lost in thought, before he spoke.
"I know him best of all? Maybe at one time, ma fleur, but I'm not so sure anymore...Something has changed."
"Oui," sighed Annette, "We all have changed. We change every day, but there are certainties that do not change. Our only hope is in finding le problème de noyau, that which does not change."

"Pardonnez-moi," she continues, "I fall on this thought because it is the one thing I know. Dissect, assess, and solve." she stifles a giggle, "Lise would be proud, non? Ah well, we go. La première idée, the anger. He is angered by anything that would alter his being. Our reaching the monastery triggered something, chere. What is he trying to protect here? The delusion? Oui, there is the minor melting of the physical realms, but perhaps he feeds his own delusion. He takes great pride in the creation of this world, that is evident. He feels that his way is now perfection, if that is so, then why is he angered? If he dwells in the perfection, why does he give a thought to YOU? Because he knows there is something more, something you have that he cannot attain."

"That is obvious.." Curioso mumbles, as he tightens his grip on Annette's shoulder.
"Non, non, non chere. I am thinking that is what he WANTS you to think. It is not l'atom...l'energie. You know how the scientists are, they cannot keep their mouths shut. In no time at all, that information will be available to anyone at a price. If it is not already..." she stares at the path ahead. "And it is not womanhood. There are women everywhere who would line up for that kind of power. He could choose his own."

Curioso turns to her, wide-eyed, intense. "What if he already has."
Annette's first urge was to laugh out loud, until she saw the fear in Curioso's eyes. "Non, c'est impossible. Mon coeur appartient à vous. He could try to break me into a million atoms of my own and all I will think of is happy times and bubblebaths in Budapest...this he already knows....So it would not be l'amour itself, but the idea of it that he is after."

Annette stopped so quickly that she almost toppled backwards to the trail. "Le coeur qui a l'amour! So very simple!"
"Nets? What are you talking about?"
"Do you love me?"
"Chere, of course..." Curioso confusedly answers
"Very good, now, do I love you? Do I?" she cuffs him lightly on the arm.
"Well, there are times that I wonder...but I'll go with yes."
"And Tirseng? The Geshe? You love them? Would give your life for them? And they for you?"
"Yes." he replies
"And Dominic? Do you love your brother?"
Curioso's eyes darken as he stares off to the White Mountain. "Yes, I love my brother."
"Yes, but no one else loves him that much. Is there one who would die for him? Everyone who might have brought him back from this black prison, they left...."
Curioso starts to interrupt, but Annette raises her hand to him. "Non, chere, écoutez moi. Not from what you know, but from what your brother feels. Abandonné. Unworthy of anything but the dark.....Now, chere, the only question is, when he flies too close to the sun, do we catch him or let him fall?"


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 28 May 01 - 01:01 PM

Curioso went on: "I believe he is too far gone, beyond into the unbounded evil. Only the Geshe could have brought him back, he is the one who would have died for him when it was a question of dying. My brother was reborn in hell."
Annette said: "Then how is he to be freed?"
Curioso looked at her, and raised his palms in homage. "I do not know how to defeat him, but what you say is on the true path."

They had been moving down into a rift between the plateau where they had spent the night and the trail back into the lower reaches of the valley. They trekked on through high winds and snowfall for a hour, and from time to time in the pauses of the wind they heard a strange tinkling noise somewhat behind them. Curioso thought it might be Dominic, but in the swirl of snow there was nothing. The storm then subsided somewhat, and the group looked back, and they saw, coming down from a side trail, struggling with the wind, a parade of sherpas, some carrying parcels and packs, and clashing finger cymbals and bells as they went. In the midst of the parade, a closed sedan chair was hefted along by a cluster of men. As they dropped down into the rift, the sound of music came clearer.
"Who is it?" Curioso asked Tirseng.
Tirseng smiled. "An old friend. Princess Tashalan."
Curioso winced. "Oh Lord Buddha. "
The caravan came closer. Annette tugged on Curioso's sleeve. "Who?"
"Princess Tashalan. She and I are old friends."
"How old? How friendly?"
"Well, at one stage she asked me to marry her."
Annette looked at him askance. "Yes?"
"Since she already had three husbands -- Tibet, you know -- it didn't appeal much."
The caravan caught up, and several of the Sherpas greeted each other. There was a buzz of noise, some discussion around the sedan chair, and then the richly embroidered curtain was flung back into the cold wing.
"Shinturnam, Suvikranta, is it you?" intoned a fluted voice.
"Yes, Princess, I have returned."
Annette said in a stage whisper to Tirseng: "What does that mean?" Tirseng blushed. "It means, He who vanquishes my soul utterly within".
Curioso went over to her chair, now lowered on the ground. The wind whipped over the caravan party, flapping the curtains, and spoiling some of the effect. He bent down and kissed the hand extended.
An exquisitely beautiful face now emerged from the square of darkness, and smiled. "Are you too on the way to see the Prince, you and ---"
"Apologies, Princess. You will remember Tirseng from the Ballet of the Celestial Field during the Dalai Lama celebrations in Llhasa."
Tirseng came forward. "Yes," she said," Nordpal, I remember. You were almost as handsome as Shinturnam in the Victory Banner display." Tirseng blushed, as only a Tibetan can blush.
Curioso said: "And this is my -- " and he paused for a moment, "-- my Betrothed. Annette Marceau. The Princess Tashalan." The two women nodded at each other. The Princess spoke: "My dear, what a prize. I can see why he would abandon these paltry hills for the sake of beauty like yours. You must love him very much. "
"Oh," said Annette, "He is pretty good raw material. I have two or three at home just as good as him, if not better. Don't you find that a spare for a rainy day is just the thing?"
Tashalan looked appraisingly at her, smiled narrowly, and then turned her attention back to Curioso: "Shinturnam, will you and your party accompany us the rest of the way? We have much to speak about, you and I."
"Certainly, Princess." And with much hemming and hawing, and the lifting up again of the sedan chair, the caravan moved on into the valley.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 29 May 01 - 01:11 AM

The travelers made their way from the snowy slopes to the temperate valley of the Banyan tree amidst the bells and cymbal clashing of the Princess' court. The slow pace gave all a much needed reprieve. The evening's camp sprung up in the clamor, and only ceased once the fires had been lit.

The Princess' tent loomed large in the clearing. The fires gave the shadows of the banyan an otherworldly place to dance. Annette placed her tent at the edges of the clearing, between two expansive banyan roots. Curioso remained conspicuously absent as Tirseng and Annette cooked and ate. The moon rose high, and Tirseng yawned loudly.
"Time for rest.." he said to no one in particular.
"Plaisants rêves." answered Annette, as she stood up and left the clearing. She walked by moonlight, following the trail back to Bierce's hut and the river. Near the hut, she distinctly heard footsteps behind her, and turned to find Tirseng.
"I thought you were tired?" she asked
"Well, do you think that it is safe for one to be alone out here?" Tirseng replied.

As the pair walked, Annette replayed her earlier conversation to Tirseng. The sherpa remained quiet, eyes downcast, until they reached the river.
"Ah," he said "Like the Lama's music box?"
"Well, I doubt that Dorothy Fields ever dreamt about dealing with a lord of darkness, but essentially, yes." sighed Annette
Tirseng chuckled under his breath, and Annette looked at him questioningly. "Nothing, dear lady. Just some talk of the camp. Some of her majesty's court are calling you the Kha tsha, and now hearing you speak...I should not laugh, forgive me."
"Well then, what of her majesty's camp?" Annette asked "They are traveling to see the lunatic brother? Do you know why?"
Tirseng shrugged, "Important royal business, I can only assume? Curioso will know."
Annette only huffed loudly, and walked to the river's edge. "Shinturnam? Le quatrième mari? I'm sure he will know."

Annette sat to remove her boots, and stood holding a palm-sized rock. She waded out into the river, looking at the waterfall. In one fluid movement, she brought her arm back and forward, casting the rock into the falls. In the blue light of midnight, the rock struck solid stone, and bounced harmlessly back into the river. She quietly waded back out, retrieved her boots, and only then looked up at Tirseng's questioning face.
"For myself," she whispered "I had to know for certain.."

The two walked back to the clearing in silence, and only looked at each other in a wordless good-night before entering their tents.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 29 May 01 - 12:53 PM

When she went into the tent, she did not see him at first. He was lying down with his back in the darkness turned towards the wall.
"Hello," she said.
"Hello" he said, quietly.
"What is going on, O my Betrothed?" she said, sitting down beside him, touching his shoulder.
He sighed. "She was so beautiful, Annette. She used to run the hills like some flashing deer, like the embodiment of the wind, like --"
"What is going on?"
"She is dying." He turned over. "Her doctors give her two or three weeks to live. I should have known when I saw her in the chair. What is Princess Tashalan doing being carried down the mountains, she who laughed at mountains? She cannot walk anymore, she is so weak. And she is not alone. Her people are dying, over there, on the other side of the Mountain in all directions. Many have died already. We talked about her illness, about their illnesses. It resembles what happened to Marie Curie, you remember, but different somehow. She has come to Prince Monotek, to the Valley, as her last hope."
Annette said quietly: "Do you think he is killing her too?"
Curioso sat up, and held her. "I think there is an imbalance here. Perhaps there is only so much life to go around. Perhaps there is some law being warped, broken. Perhaps immortality can only come at the expense of others' mortality. Suppose that one day we learn how to exchange vital organs, the way one might change an engine part? Will the rich not kill or pay the poor for their body parts, so the rich can survive over the bodies of the poor? Perhaps that is what is happening here. This protected space, with its beauty and its wealth and its long-lived people, seems to be sucking the life out of its not-so-fortunate neighbours. Was it always this way? Perhaps not."
"When did this start happening?"
"Seven years ago. Around when "Prince Monotek" arrived in the Valley."
"And she is here --?"
"To submit, to be cured in the Valley, to live again."
"Under his shadow."
"Under his shadow. Whatever he wants."
They sat there in the dark.
Finally he spoke, hoarsely:"You were right, chere. We had to come back. But it is terrible."
Annette said: "I will go and see her in the morning. I know something about radium sickness."
Curioso said: "I asked her to let you come and see her, but she refused. She has her pride."
Annette looked out of the tent towards the pavilion in the near distance. "Tell me about her, then."
And Curioso told her all he could remember about the Princess Tashalan, how they had met in her father's court when he was invited for a visit as an exotic specimen from distant lands, her chilhood, her blossoming into a woman, and her ascent to power in her realm, and about the dance of the Victory Banner in Llhasa where she had taken the final turn, and the great story of the battle of Drinphal, where she had held firm when all others had fled, and many other stories, until dawn entered the tent.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 29 May 01 - 01:18 PM

The morning was cold, and a low mist had risen from the River Maltan. The crown of the Sacred Banyan, its trunk erased by the white fog, seemed to hover in the air. Tirseng woke and left the tent, standing momentarily to take in the silence, the tents dripping moisture, the low murmur of the river. One Sherpa, left on guard, lay wrapped in a blanket by the firepit, the bright colors of the blanket muted by the pervading whiteness. Tirseng squatted by the fire and swept dead ash away to find several glowing coals. He nurtured these with bits of bark and twig, and a small blaze started up. "Time for breakfast?" said a voice from within the mist. He glanced up as Ambrose Bierce slowly emerged to stand by the fire. "Did you find him?" Tirseng placed a kettle of water on the coals and said "yes. He is alive." Bierce sat down by the sleeping sherpa and said "it seems you folks had a little party last night." Tirseng grinned, unsnapping the ornate wooden box that held the tea. "You should have come, Ambrose," he said. Bierce nudged a small branch into the flames. "I detest fun and frolic. I can kill a conversation with a single word. From a social standpoint, I'm quite deadly," said Bierce. Tirseng laughed, causing the sleeping sherpa to stir in his sleep."Is that why you live outside the Valley?" said Tirseng. Bierce stretched, loud pops emitting from his back."On target, my friend. I can't stand humans when assembled in numbers beyond, say, twelve. No, I generally prefer my own company. Especially these days, with the Grand Poobah on the throne."

"You do not approve of Monotek?"

"Well, I suppose he's a typical enough dictator. He's a thief, a murderer


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: katlaughing
Date: 29 May 01 - 01:35 PM

"My dear, sweet Gungzin and, Rek-shin, you sweet Giant," Dearly Beloved said in a deceptive sounding voice. "Thank you for savingme, from the Light", she went on.

"Now, for your reward!" She clapped her hands in the air, incribing ancient, forbidden runes in the air. Gungzin gasped in horror as he saw a Shadow-spawn aura emanating from Dearly's body. He knew in the instant before she embedded him and the Giant into the boulder they had sheltered under, that she had not escaped the evil clutches of Dominic. The last thing they heard was her manaical laugh as she twirled around, arms raised, shouting to the heavens, "I am coming, my Lord! How may I serve you?!" And, with that she disappeared in a flash of lightening which split the rock in two. The slightly larger half, with Rek-shin hidden in its molten crevasses, sheltered the smaller half where poor Gungzin lay entombed.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 29 May 01 - 01:47 PM

(continuing from former post)

and a general scoundrel, which are considered pre-requisites for the position."

Tirseng spooned tea into the strainer and poured boiling water through it. He looked at Bierce and said "you are quite open in your opinions. Do you not fear your opinions may endanger you?" and he nodded at the sleeping sherpa. Bierce gave the sherpa a slight kick, eliciting a sharp snore and a low murmur from the wrapped figure."They sleep like bears hibernate," said Bierce," besides, to cruelly twist a Shakespearian phrase, whoever steals my life from me steals trash. I've outlived my usefulness, you know." Bierce took a cup of tea from Tirseng, sipped, and continued.

"These people deserve better than Monotek, though. This was a very magical place, you see. He came and saw it as an opportunity for power, and he used every nasty skill in his arsenal to take it. I don't necessarily object to using nasty skills, but these people are like children and had no defense,. no concept even of what this Monotek was up to. He was shooting fish in a barrel." Tirseng frowned "fish?" Bierce drained his tea and said "another savory American expression. He found it easy to do what ever he wanted, I mean.He killed the old Prince, if you didn't know. At least Mallory intercedes for the people, and seems to have some leverage with this Monotek."

Tirseng glanced away from Bierce, and said, simply, "Mallory is gone, Ambrose. He has disappeared, or was killed." He turned his eyes back to Bierce. A tear, or perhaps a small droplet of the condensed mist, trickled down Bierce's cheek. "He was your friend," said Tirseng. Bierce clenched his jaw and said "he was an idealist and a fool. I have no friends. Only enemies and those I ignore. It is just that..it is difficult to find anyone who is...well versed on a number of subjects as ..was...George." Bierce put his cup gently down."Was he searched for?" he said. Tirseng merely shook his head and said "he's gone."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 29 May 01 - 04:17 PM

The two conversed quietly until dawn, when Annette noticed that Curioso's breathing had become regular, and he dozed, leaning against the packs. She crawled out of the tent, shivering in the morning mist, and stretched with her hands above her head.

She walked to where Tirseng and Bierce sat by a fire, and then squatted to pour herself a mug of tea. "Messieurs, bonjour." she muttered, taking the first of the hot liquid into her mouth. "Ahhh, l'amour du bon brassent!" The two men remained quiet, reserved, and Annette looked to Tirseng for explanation.
"I was telling Bierce of Mallory's disappearance..." he quietly offered.
She sighed, stood, and went to Bierce, enveloping him in a gentle embrace. "Yes, a good man, insouciant perhaps, but a good man none the less.." She softly brushed the mist from his cheek and returned to the fire.

"What of our wanderer? Did Curioso return in the night?" asked Tirseng.
"Yes, Snowleopard. It seems that the brother's reach extends even beyond this valley..."
The two men gave each other questioning glances and moved to squat by her at the fire. There she told them Curioso's words of the previous night.
"Well, I'll be damned..." spoke Bierce
"Oui, monsieur, we might all be."

At this, the flap to the Princess' tent flung open to dispose of a madly scurrying sherpa. He shuffled to Annette's side, gave a slight bow and said: "Rje mo, your presence is requested."
Annette raised an eyebrow, looking first to Ambrose, who only shrugged, and then to Tirseng, who nodded slightly before returning to the coals. Annette stood, bowed to the sherpa, and followed behind him.
She brushed aside the tent flap, and stood for a second to allow her eyes to adjust to the relative darkness of the tent. Sitting on the edge of a pallet, surrounded by silken pillows, was the Princess.

"So we meet, Khatsa? I heard you speak out there, do you have no shame?" asked the Princess.
Annette's jaw tightened in defense as she replied, "When it is a matter of my friend's lives? Non, madame, I do not.
The princess gave only a thin-lipped smile, partly to disguise her anger, and partly to disguise the sharp pain in her side. Annette took notice of both. The Princess stood and walked to a small dressing table where she proceeded to comb her long hair, until her hand shook so badly she set the comb down and sighed.
In that sigh, Annette knew everything. She walked to the table, took the comb, and pulled the hair back off of the Princess' neck. Tashalan spun, snatching the comb back, "I can do this myself.." she hissed
"Madame" smiled Annette, leaning low "You forget, I am French. What you know of stubborness and pride would not fill a teacup in Paris...give me that comb, and save your strength for the real enemy, d'accord?"
She and Tashalan stared at each other a moment longer, as if realizing each other for the first time. Annette took the comb, and began to run the tangles from Tashalan's hair. She mentioned nothing of the many luxurious strands that fell to the floor at her feet, and she did her finest in arranging it to cover the thinning spots. The princess raised her hands, felt it, and smiled in approval.
"Shinturnam, he is a very lucky man." smiled the princess
Annette laughed "Well, Majesté, at least we can agree on something!" She sat before the princess, holding the small wooden box of face powders, and set to covering the red patches along the woman's small face.
"So, Khatsa, what of your other husbands?" politely asked the princess
Annette laughed again, "Madame, that was une plaisanterie, a joke, I have no husbands."
Tashalan gave her a brief look of pity, then took Annette's hands in hers. "Well, there is happiness yet, when are you and Curioso to be wed then?"
"Chère femme, you heard of this the same time that I did. I think it was more for your benefit, non?"
"Rigs kyi mtshan ldan ma," the princess smiled, "if this were any other time and place...."
"..tsk...we would tear each other to pieces, non? Now...look." Annette held the small mirror for Talashan. For the time being, sickness was held at bay. Annette stood, kissing the hands of the Princess, "Now, Majesté, I have seen this brother for myself. Show no weakness, that is the only advice I can give to you. Rest on the ride, and give this bastard the same piece of heart that fought at Drinphal." She raised the tent flap and peered outside, "Tirseng is cooking, would you like some food?" The princess grimaced and held up her hand. "Very well," replied Annette. "Bon chance."

She returned to the fire, ate quickly, and went to pack the tent. Curioso had risen, and had their packs ready to go when she reached the campsite. She started to speak, but the clamor of the princess' guardian bells gave her pause. She instead, gave him a grim smile, a "nous allons", and shouldered her pack again.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 30 May 01 - 01:20 PM

The caravan wound down the pathway by the Maltan, penetrating the lush green of the valley. Tirseng walked in the vanguard, accompanied by the three sherpa guards Opar, Binnal and Lemsah. Bierce walked slightly behind them, for he had insisted on accompanying the party. Ahead, a large group had assembled, close by a great stone statue of Buddha that eternally gazed up the path to the Maltan Pass. Several children separated from the group, running up to embrace the sherpa guards. Lemsah, the eldest sherpa, swung a three year old girl up onto his shoulders as she giggled. A tall woman stepped from the throng to embrace Lemsah, followed by two other sherpa women who continued down the path hand-in-hand with their men. The rest of the crowd fell in behind the Princess' sedan chair, chanting a song and smiling. Far ahead, on the bank of the lake, a larger crowd had gathered, milling around near a large, gilt, gazebo-like structure that had been erected near the palace. Pennants of many colors flew from the summit of the structure, and from the palace.

As the caravan approached the palace, a buzz of astonishment circulated through the people of the valley as first one, then more, then all glimpsed the haggard form of Curioso. Some, astonished, felt that the Prince himself walked the trail with them. But he had never been seen in such humble circumstances, dust-covered, leaning on a woman in weakness, so the whisperings began to say that this one was the Prince's brother, come to rule with him. A party of monks were seen to mount the steps of the gilt structure, and in their center, in a robe of black silk overlaid with gold embroidery, was Monotek.

Bierce tapped Tirseng on the shoulder and said " it appears you are to receive the highest honor...a personal welcome from the Prince. I suggest you keep one hand on your wallet and the other on your dagger."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: katlaughing
Date: 30 May 01 - 01:51 PM

As they made there way towards the palace and the Black-clad Prince, they noticed a decidely non-indigenous woman by his side. Dressed in a flowing robe of scarlet, her hair held back in a long braid, she smiled coldly at them, the smile never reaching her eyes.

Tirseng stifled a gasp of recognition. This was the famed Dearly Beloved, student of his treasured and oldest friend, Gungzin. What was she doing there with the Prince? And, where was Gungzin?


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 30 May 01 - 02:35 PM

Curioso and Annette walked alongside the Princess' chair, he being helped along from time to time, limping.
"We are a fine group of warriors," he said to Tirseng, who came back to them as the sherpas regrouped on either side.
Tirseng replied through his teeth: "He will not do anything here and now."
"But what is his game? That is what I cannot fathom. Well, we can go through this charade." He gripped Annette's arm: "We must both keep our tempers today."
She smiled grimly. "Apres toi, mon cher."

They moved forward to the open space in front of the gazebo, where phalanxes of guards and monks in multi-coloured array awaited them, chanting low.
There was a moment of hesitation, and then the Princess' chair was lowered to the ground. "Curioso," she whispered. "Help me." He moved towards her, and then she said, "No. No. Just walk close. I will try." And she got up. She bowed under the weight of her golden headdress, and came out into the light. She wore a dusty pink brocade gown, exquisitely figured with emblems of her family and Buddhist teachings. Her face was intensely pale in the high sunlight.
Ahead of her on a black jade throne, Prince Monotek arose in his place, and stood there, awaiting her. "Curse him all to hell," Annette said under her breath. "Curse him all to hell."
The Princess took a breath, steadied herself on the window edge of her chair, and broke out into a radiant smile. At that moment, all her sherpas, and the people in the Valley, spontaneously knelt down. She walked forward, Curioso close behind, slowly, almost toppling for a moment, but she kept moving. Her gold headdress stayed firm atop her proud head, her arched back.
"Come down and meet her, ghoul," Curioso cursed.
No one breathed, no one moved over the expanse between her and the Prince on his dais, except the Princess, the last of her line, followed by Curioso a step behind.
She reached the halfway point, and moved another few feet forward. And then she paused. "I cannot go on, O Shinturnam, I cannot," she whispered in pain. She struggled. "I can stand, Shinturnam, but I can no longer walk."
At that moment, when he had enjoyed the scene enough, the Prince smiled darkly, and came down the steps. He raised her almost shaking hand, and kissed it. "Ah Princess, so pleased you came in your hour of need to our Valley." He turned to his left, and snapped his fingers: "A chair for the Princess!! Why is there not a chair for the Princess?" And a chair was instantly brought. The Princess sat.
Prince Monotek stood looking on approvingly. He turned his eyes towards his brother. "Welcome brother. I hope your trip here was uneventful."
Curioso replied quietly, his whole body clenched in rage: "Completely."
"We will speak to you later. You and your new -- partner -- You are dismissed for the moment, to, oh, to refresh yourselves after your ordeals" And he laughed, and waved him away.
"I take orders from the Princess, not from you. Princess?"
She looked at him plaintively for a moment, and then said quietly: "Yes, please, I can manage."
Curioso turned to go, but then he turned back again and said:
"Princess, you are still She who Laughs at Mountains."
And with tears in his eyes, he moved slowly back to where Annette and Tirseng and the others waited.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 30 May 01 - 07:28 PM

The four retired to Mallory's small lodgings. They dumped their packs and sat around the table trying to make sense of the day. As the sun set, each of the travelers took their turns alternately bathing, unpacking, and raiding the pantry. Annette returned from the small bedroom to find Curioso looking out the window in the direction of the palace.
"No sign yet, chere?"
"Nothing." he answered
"Are you going to sit her all night?" she asked
He broke his gaze to look down at her an smile, "Just a while longer. Go, get some sleep."
Annette looked longingly through the doorway at the large wooden bed with it's thick straw mattress. Bierce and Tirseng nodded concession. She left the men to their discussions in favor of civilized rest, and drifted off to sleep nestled among Mallory's heavy wool blankets.

She woke suddenly, to a hideous screeching noise that made her bolt upright in bed. The light was still on in the kitchen, so she went to inspect. She stopped cold in the doorway, however, for Dominic sat cross-legged on Mallory's table, somewhat playing a violin.
"YOU!" she hissed...."I should have known!" her eyes darted to the violin, to the golden initials P.V. on the clasps of the case, and the memory flooded back to her. The rocking of the train and the lanky man who sprinted from Villenueve's compartment...Dominic. "You son of a bitch!" she howled, running towards him at full speed, and was suddenly stopped short as the tip of his extended bow caught her in the throat.
"Hello, Cherry." smiled Dominic "It's been far too long..." he pushed just enough to make her rock back onto her heels
Annette stood, shaking in rage, with the tip of the bow pressed into her throat as she gasped, "Get out of here, or so help me I will scream and wake this entire village."
"It won't do you any good Cherry." he grinned, punctuating his words by rapping her smartly on the head with the bow tip, "Because, you...are...uh...sleep!"

She whirled and ran to the doorway, only to see herself curled on her side, sleeping with Curioso's arm draped over her. She cried out and grabbed the doorframe as her knees buckled under her. Behind her, Dominic kicked a chair out with his foot and sneered, "Now. Sit."
Annette grabbed the chair with quivering hands. Better at this point to sit down rather than to fall down. "You can't get away with this.." she whispered
"Oh, I can, Cherry, and I DO! You see, this way, I don't have to worry about little games of bravado. I can kill you just as easily in your sleep as I can alive. I see you shake in your little borrowed nightshirt. You can't hide that from me in your slumber. Mallory couldn't, why should you be able to? Now, I question, you answer."

"Now, what of this little peace offering? A royal bauble for my newly reborn beloved to play with, perhaps? You couldn't possibly think that I would let her go?"
"Non, but you could allow she and her people to live peacefully in the valley..." Annette whispered "You have that."
"Or, I could just kill them all now and save myself the trouble."
Annette's dream, wide-eyed and staring, pleaded with Dominic in an unspoken, 'Non."

"Have you ever killed anyone Cherry? Not with a gun, my dear, although that was a brilliant effort on your part. I rather liked that smug look on your face. No, woman, have you killed someone yourself. Stood on a woman's throat until the vessels burst in her eyes? Held a man's face under water until the final bubbles escaped him? Flung a man's body into eternal ice and snow? I have. I could show you now if you like..." he took a step towards the doorway, only stopping when Annette cried out.
"Non! Please..."
"Please?" he spun around "Please from the woman who spit in my face? The face of a prince? Well, Little Borther's harlot... Perhaps you would like to shoot me again, too? Where did we put that rifle, hmmm?" Dominic's voice sharpened in response to his fury as he stormed around the small room, only pausing as he cocked his head, listening to something far away. "We will continue this discussion, Cherry..." he said, bringing his face close to hers, before leaving the house in a swirl of black silk robes.

Annette woke. Her body convulsing in rage and fear, as she slid from under Curioso's arm and walked to the main room. Tirseng lay asleep, Bierce snored from his seat near the woodstove, and Paul's violin rested neatly on the table. She took it, and quietly slipping the bolt on the door, went outside. She went to the block, removed the small axe, and proceeded with tears streaming and ragged breath, to make a powder of the violin and case. She gathered the pieces, and one by one, threw them into the woodstove. Bierce watched her, one eye half-open, as she stoked the fire then sat at the table and buried her face in her arms. He cleared his throat, and gave her a questioning glance. She only looked up, muttered "...cauchemars, the bad dreams..." and returned her head to her arms.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 31 May 01 - 02:00 PM

In his dream, Tirseng was back on the face of Galma Bator with Curioso and Dominic just as they had been in 1922. Curioso climbed in middle, the elder Dominic leading some 20 feet above, and Tirseng belaying at the bottom. Dominic's face was young, grinning, and he climbed with the exuberance that was typical of him, an exuberance that even his service in the grim European war could not suppress. He climbed quickly, his hands and feet seeking and finding the flaws in the face, whistling a merry tune as he knocked in the pitons. Curioso was climbing in his manner, finding a position, then stopping to gaze dreamily out at the peaks and chasms around them. "Tirseng!" Dominic called down, "poke my brother's lazy butt with your axe! He's asleep again!" Tirseng laughed and said "no, he is merely climbing some other peak. He is rarely on the same one as we are, Dominic!"

It was at that moment that the Dominic's grasp suddenly failed, and Tirseng watched him drop, his boots striking Curioso and stunning him, the highest piton holding him for a second just above the Snowleopard before it exploded into the air, the rock shattering around it. Now Dominic slipped past Tirseng, the climbing rope screaming through the sherpa's hands. He finally closed his hands against the pain, stopping the rope, feeling the warm trickle of blood down his forearms. Above him, Curioso slumped unconscious against the face, below him Dominic swayed at the end of the tether.

"Dominic," said Tirseng through clenched teeth, "can you anchor yourself?"

Dominic looked up at him, eyes wide, then grinning. "I seem to have dropped all of my hardware. Can you and little brother pull me up?"

"Well, now your brother is truly asleep, Dominic. But I will try." With an effort of sheer will over physical agony, Tirseng strained against the rope, feeling it creep several inches toward him,sliding his blistered hand farther up and straining again.

"I'm too heavy," said Dominic, and he unbuckled his pack, letting it fall the length of the 1200 foot face. Tirseng pulled again at the rope, gaining six or seven inches, the rope cutting a deep groove in his palms.

"Dominic?" It was Curioso's groggy voice.

Dominic laughed, saying "good morning little brother. I'm in need of assistance, as you'll see if you look down."

Curioso slowly turned, his face showing surprise and confusion. "We must pull him up, Curioso. Grab the line...now one two THREE!" And the line began to slide toward Tirseng, until finally he felt Dominic's hand grasp his boot. Dominic laughed loudly, then softly, at last saying "thank you Snowleopard. I owe you my life, and someday you'll be re-paid."

"You owe your brother your life, Dominic. I was about to let go."

And Tirseng looked down again to see Dominic transformed into the Prince Monotek. He watched in horror as the dark figure cut loose the rope and fell slowly downward into a mass of darkness that seemed to rush up to meet him , swallowing him, plunging Triseng and Curioso into darkness as well.

Tirseng, through the darkness, heard first the sound of flute music, and then a voice calling him. "Yes, Dearly Beloved. I am here!" Through the blackness emerged a shining figure in white, her tranquil face smiling into his own. She took his hands in hers, saying "don't abandon him now, Tirseng. He needs you again. Go to him."

Tirseng awoke and rose from his bed. The sun was streaking the Eastern sky gray as he walked toward the palace.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 31 May 01 - 05:38 PM

Curioso had a very different sort of dream. He was back in the Zen monastery in western Japan, with its cold floors and the drifting snow outside, and the long days, and in his dream they all sat in their rows, and the roshi with the kwatz stick came down the row, thwaack, thwaack, thwaack, between the shoulder blades, and each figure grunted, and raised arms in thanks, and when he reached the figure seating next to Curioso, he hit him, thwaack, and the figure's head toppled over onto the mat in front. The head rolled over and over, and Curioso could see it was his brother's head, and he raced after it, and it rolled out into the freezing grey snowy day, and began to gather snow as it went, and it gradually rolled along until it became a vast ball of white snow, trailing a path of red blood as it went. And then there was a great Kwaaatz! and the snowball disintegrated into white fragments of a body, lying preserved on some windswept high mountain slope. Everest? That was where it was.

In his dream he realized that he was once again on his brother's mountain, and in his dream he sat by his bedside in Katmandu, spooning food into his mouth, and sponging him, and talking to him, trying to talk him down off the mountain of anger, and nothing. And yet, and yet. And yet something had happened. And Geshe lay dead. And yet.

Curioso woke up, some answer just out of reach. And he realized that his arms were empty. He looked over, and saw Annette seated at the table, asleep, her arms cradling her head.

The valley of bad dreams, he thought. We are being worn down. He looked at Annette. I brought her into this, he thought. Another person I failed, as I failed my brother. I could get him off the real mountains, but not the mountains of the mind. I could not find the way back down, I left him there, broken below the peak, like he believed he left Mallory. Mountains. She Who Laughs at Mountains.

It was cold in the predawn. He got up, and went over to where Annette slept.

He softly shook her and whispered, "Chere, chere."

She woke abruptly, and her face softened. "Quelle heure?"

He replied: "4, 5. Come back to bed."

She came to him, and they lay down again. He said: "I almost had it."

"What?" she said.

"I don't know", he said. "Some way down this mountain."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 01 Jun 01 - 01:54 AM

Annette looked at Curioso, and he thought to himself that she had never seemed so small.
"Votre rêve, chere?" she asked quietly "What was it?"
A soft look came into his eyes as he started, "Paris.....an early morning... after the rains. There was mist on the inside of the window, so it must have been cold outside..." Annette sighed, and put her face to his chest, "....vin, fromage, et pain...a bagette as long as your arm...I turned to wake you.....and....."
Annette raised her head to look up at him, "Et?"
"And I was in bed with Morzik..."
"Menteur!!" Annette gasped, wide-eyed. As the slow smile crossed Curioso's face, Annette buried her face in his chest and wholly laughed. When the spasms eventually subsided, she sighed, wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, and looked at him again, her smile being replace with the look of grim determination that Curioso was becoming all too familiar with. "Honnêtement, chere, of what did you dream?"

He told her. The monastery, the snow, the mountain, the nearness of it all. The two lay entwined in the growing light of dawn, wrestling with the power of dreams.
She broke the silence, "There has to be a way down for him, chere. If not, we are all doomed." Annette finally spoke, "If we try to leave, his guards will kill us before we leave this valley. If we stay, we are in eternal torment." Her face went pale as she told him of her dream. "People are being drawn here, mon amour....la riante reine, ourselves, and that woman. Dominic's courtesan? Tirseng knows her."
"Are you sure?" asked Curioso
"I am sure of nothing anymore, chere, but I saw the look he gave to her when Tashalan sat. He knows her. Did he mention this to you?"
"No.."

"Are the two of you planning to stay in bed all day?" a voice boomed in to them through the doorway. Shortly thereafter, Ambrose's frame filled the space. He carried a small piece of paper, and made great show of waving it around before crumpling it into a ball and tossing it to Curioso while glowering, "We have an audience with the Prince."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Lonesome EJ
Date: 01 Jun 01 - 02:33 PM

Tirseng entered the ornate gate of the palace, where stood a sherpa guard leaning upon a pike, fast asleep. He reached out and touched the arm of the guard, who snapped to attention saying "who wishes to see Prince Monotek?" Tirseng and the guard entered the palace proper and mounted a staircase to a vast room with a grand balcony open to the moon-lit lake, and the first rose glow of sunrise. Monotek stood there gazing out, then turned to smile at Tirseng. "My old friend," he said, "Welcome!" He came forward, his open arms inviting an embrace. Tirseng was surprised to see the Prince dressed in the simple clothes of the sherpa. Refusing the embrace, Tirseng clasped his hands before him and bowed his head, speaking the ancient sherpa greeting we are met once again, brother. He looked up at Monotek, and there again was his old friend, Dominic, a smile upon his face. Dominic grasped both of Tirseng's shoulders and returned the greeting, and then said "come take tea with me."

They sat down upon cushions, Dominic talking of the old times, of people they had known, even of his brother Curioso. Tirseng interrupted him abruptly "but now you wish him dead, Dominic." Dominic frowned, his eyes for a mere second flashing with rage. Then he said "I fear, old friend, you have been poisoned against me." Tirseng looked steadily into Dominic's eyes and said "you tried to kill all three of us. If I am poisoned against you, you have brewed the poison yourself, brother." Tirseng felt a physical sensation of cold strike him, then felt it ebb as quickly. Dominic grinned, the same enthusiastic smile Tirseng knew from their journeys in the mountains. "I bear no grudge against my brother," he said, "the thing with Mallory is in the past. Mallory was a prima dona. He never had the stuff to conquer Everest. We both know it." Tirseng glanced down away from Dominic's eyes. Yes, they had discussed that very thing so many years ago. "No," continued Dominic, "it is the woman who is my enemy. Yours, too, Snowleopard, if you but knew the truth. Come with me."

They walked to a small room where a large piece of opaque glass hung from the wall. On the opposite wall was a keyboard device, much like a typewriter. Dominic walked to the keyboard, struck several keys, and the screen glowed with blue light, then with the gradual resolution of an image. The image was of devastation, vast and complete, of horribly burned people. "What are you showing me, Dominic?" asked Tirseng, trying to look away, but entranced by the images.

"I have told you that this valley stands apart from time, but that all of time is like an endless river around it, co-existing, Christ and Plato, Caesar and Bismarck, Lincoln and Hitler. These are images from a time just 7 years in the future. This death is the end result of a simple mathematical equation, one which your friend Annette carries in her head, one which will spawn this..." And a great explosion was shown upon the screen, a rising cloud of smoke and fire that resembled a grotesque mushroom."And this will be the greatest challenge ever presented to the continued existence of mankind."

Dominic struck the keyboard and the image faded. "It is for this reason that I seek what she knows, to prevent this apocalypse. I believe that this power can be used to mankind's benefit, Tirseng." Tirseng stood up, his voice low. "It is lies. She wouldn't do this!"

"Not she, Tirseng. Others who seek power and glory."

"Like you Monotek!"

"Yes! I seek power, but to use properly! Not like that, for death!"

"Curioso has said that you feed only on anger and hate!"

Dominic's face was hollow, drained of all emotion. "Yes. I have climbed that mountain, felt the raw surge of energy that comes from pure anger. But it left me...at last..empty. I came to this place for healing."

"Is that why you killed the old Prince?"

Again, Tirseng felt a wave of cold roll over him. "You lie," growled Dominic, fists clenched, eyes alight with some inner power. Then, again, the old Dominic reappeared. "What has happened, good and bad, is now in the past, Snowleopard. Try to see what is in my soul." But for Tirseng, Dominic's soul was as unreadable as the opaque screen upon the wall.

The guard entered the room and announced "the others are here, Majesty."

"Bid them enter!" said Dominic, and then quitely "Tirseng! You helped me before. I owe my life to you. Help me again."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 01 Jun 01 - 04:10 PM

"Where is Tirseng?" said Curioso.
Bierce -- if it was Bierce -- shrugged and said, "Went on ahead, as far as I can tell."
There was a knock on the doorframe. An ancient Chinese figure, bespectacled, stood there, quiet. Curioso saw him, and went over to him, and bowed.
"SiFu, you have come just as we are going to the palace. Annette --" and he realized that she was off doing her toilette, and he turned back again. "She will be with us in a moment. Let us wait outside. "
They went out into the early morning light, and walked over to a shelf of stone along the roadway leading to the palace. The Chinaman walked very stooped, and occasionally reached down to pluck an herb from the path. They spoke quietly together for a few moments. Then Annette came out, and joined them.
"Annette, this is Dr. Wu-Ch'i, an old teacher of mine, Doctor to the Princess. He is a great scholar in the Tao." Annette bowed, and the Doctor said: "Please, madam, sit with us and enjoy the morning for a few moments." She sat with them, looking out over the beautiful valley, moving out of the blackness into the yellowgreen of daylight.
"The Doctor has been giving me unhappy news," Curioso said. The Doctor bent his head.
"Yes, as I was saying, I do not believe Her Highness will survive, even the magic of this valley cannot truly help her. She was worse last night. The herbs of ching, of ch'i, of shen, do nothing for her. Her yuang-shen, the seed of her spirit, is fading. She was speaking of death."
Curioso looked grimly at the brightening morning. "She was speaking of it to me as well, as we came into the valley."
"Oh," said Dr. Wu-Ch'i," What did she say?"
"She was partly joking. She said that she was looking forward to finding out if the Tibetan or the Taoist afterrealms were the correct ones."
Dr. Wu took off his glasses, much moved. "She is such an adept, she is such a pupil. Her's is the laughter of the knower."
Curioso smiled. "She reminded me that according to the 6 thieves practice she would be reborn as a bird, since she has always been greedy for the sight of beautiful things."
"What are the alternatives, Doctor?" said Annette.
"Ah," he said. "The 6 thieves are eye, ear, nose, tongue, mind, body. Those who are entangled by the sight of beauty, are reborn as birds. Those who hear evil are reborn as animals wearing harnesses of bells. Those who love smell are reborn in the smelly much at the bottom of the sea. Those who love the tongue are reborn as sucking insects, causing harm to others. Those whose mind craves riches, are reborn as beasts of burden, their treasures strapped to their backs."
"And the 6th?" she asked.
He blushed. "I am sorry to say, gentle madam, but those who are obsessed with the bodily are reborn as chickens, turkeys, or ducks who are incessantly mating."
At that precise instant, a flock of chickens, led by a peasant, squawked and sputtered past them on the road. They all laughed for a moment.
A sound of trumpets blared through the air. They were summoned.
Bierce came up with them, and began conversing with the Doctor on issues of rheumatism. Annette and Curioso moved towards the palace.
"What do you think?" he said.
"Duck, almost certainly." she replied.
"And me?"
"It was you I was referring to."
They entered into the antechamber of the Palace, which was bristling with guards. The guards parted, and then closed behind the small party as it advanced. The Palace was draped in purples and blacks, covering as much of the murals and thangkas as possible; but there were ancient Bon figures, dragons and warriors, spiking out from every corner and alcove.
They came into the main chamber, full of silent courtiers, and members of the valley. On a purpleblack dais, seating on his black jade throne, Prince Monotek was speaking to the Princess, seated to one side, looking thin and pale. Curioso held Annette's hand, and chanted to Chenrezig and the 35 Awakened Buddhas for protection as they walked forward. They caught sight of Tirseng, also standing to one side, in the midst of the sherpa contingent. Curioso gripped her hand, and then they stopped before the platform.
The Prince spoke: "A pleasure to see you this morning, our brother. And you, Madamoiselle Annette, who we learn is his Betrothed. Congratulations. Perhaps we can have a double wedding while you are here."
There was a murmur in the audience hall.
"For" continued the Prince, raising his imperious voice, "For I have to announce happy news to all, here and in the neighbouring valley within range of the Great Sacred Mountain, that though our sister community has been devastated with disease and death, and your Princess bereft of her husbands, and strangely unblessed with children, we have, in our wisdom, and charmed by her beauty and courage, prevailed upon the Princess Tashalan to accept our proposal of marriage. The wedding is tomorrow."
The Princess sagged for a moment on her chair, and then forced a smile to her face.
There was a confusion of cheers and shouts and uncertain cries throughout the hall.
"You can be the first to wish us luck, Brother. "
Curioso began to speak, and then looked at the Princess, and forced himself to say: "I wish you the best you deserve."
Shouts of rage from the sherpas around Tirseng. A struggle broke out for a few moments, then was quelled.
Annette stepped forward: "If you will allow me to be your bridesmaid, Princess, I would be honoured to assist. There are no women in your company."
The Princess did not rise. She said, in a quavering voice, "Come to my side, please, Annette. Nothing would please me more." Annette moved up onto the platform, and came up to her, and knelt. The Princess leant forward and as she bid Annette stand, Annette whispered: "Don't do this, don't". And the Princess answered: "It must be, it must be. For my people, it must be. And it will not be for long." And Annette looked up and saw that the Princess was in deadly earnest. And that she was visibly dying.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: katlaughing
Date: 01 Jun 01 - 05:28 PM

Standing off to the side and behind the Prince, Dearly Beloved, his newest devotee, by choice or not, glared at the Princess and when she heard the dreaded words, she shrieked in dismay. Screaming her rage and feelings of betrayal, she was quickly surrounded by grim guards, dressed in black loose pants, tucked in leg wraps, with short-robes over tunics of crimson. Each one carried a long boken with a blade at the end.

Stifling her screams, she was hustled out of the audience room. As she struggled, one of them touched her on the back of the neck, just behind her left ear and she immediately went limp. Snearing in contempt, he signaled two other guards to carry her to a cell where they threw her down on a bed of straw. She came to just in time to hear the heavy door thud shut and the key being turned in the lock.

DB does just seem to go from one crises to another, doesn't she? I think she's addicted to them! Sorry!


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 01 Jun 01 - 07:11 PM

"Come then," spoke Annette. She tried vainly to smile. "Let us leave these men to their preparations. Tomorrow is a grand day for all of us." She positioned herself at the Princess's side, allowing Tashalan to grasp her arm to stand and steady herself. Monotek grasped the princess, and Annette swiftly snatched his hand from hers. She glared at him, without the slightest repentance, and hissed "You will get your turn!"
The cold rage flared for an instant in Dominic's eyes, but it was quickly covered by a luke- warm attempt of a smile. In the most regal of tones, he announced "Yes, fair ladies. Retire while these gentlemen and my self get re-aquainted...we have a marriage feast to plan for!"

Annette gave Curioso a quick look of quiet desperation, then led the princess slowly to the side chamber. The large doors opened to them, and the room held the same glorious view of the lake, the same wide balcony. Annette helped Tashalan to her bed, then sat on the floor beside her. Tashalan slowly ran her fingers through Annette's hair and across her cheek, "Khatsa.." she smiled, "you are srab med...a wild thing...aren't you? Monotek looked absolutely furious..."
"You do not have to do this, Princess. You know that as well as I.
"My people deserve this, Khatsa. They deserve to live."
"Non, by this action you are condemning them to the worst possible of hells. That is not living." sighed Annette.

Tashalan pulled her hand away, giving Annette a steely look before her gaze turned to the open balcony. "Yi mug skyes....the sadness reaches places you have no idea of, Khatsa. I know the doctors lie to me when they smile. The men, they used to look at me and say 'There goes the beautiful Tashalan'. Now all there is are looks of pity for the thing I have become." With this, she reached beneath her pillow, handing Annette the small silken purse she found beneath it. Annette opened the clasp and poured the contents into her palm. Four tiny pearls....the teeth of a Princess.
"Majesté", Annette fought back tears as she whispered, "I think you are very beautiful."
Tashalan studied her for a moment, and then smiled. "You do not lie to me." She lay back against the pillows and closed her eyes.

Annette stood, and quickly inspected the room. She went to the ornate desk along the wall and took the paper, pens, and ink. She gently sat at the foot of the Princess' bed, and began to draw her in life. Tashalan smiling, climbing, laughing. The knowing form, gentle and peaceful, danced across the pages with none of the sparrow-like fragility of the present. When Tashalan opened her eyes, she looked inquisitively from the paper, to Annette, and back again.
"Ah, madame," Annette smiled and bowed low from her seat on the bed, "Vous êtes éveillé! So nice you could join us..."
Tashalan gave her the faintest of reproachful glares, then asked "What do you have there?"
"A something for you...if you call it a wedding gift I will tear it to shreds..." Annette gave Tashalan one of the drawings. The Princess looked longingly for a moment, breathed a deep sigh, and smiled. "What is the other one?" she asked.
"Ah, nothing, le croquis de pratique. Practicing again, it has been so long..." she quickly folded the paper and put it in her pocket.

A loud knock came at the door, and the two women startled. A guard entered, announcing that the Prince was now ready to serve the noon meal. Annette looked at Tashalan, who shook her head 'no' and waved her toward the door. "Go, Khatsa. I will rest and dream about mountains." she smiled. Annette stepped forward and embraced the tiny woman, cursing Dominic for her frailty, and smelling her sickness through the veil of her perfumes.
"I will come back..." Annette whispered into the Princess' ear
"And with any luck, Khatsa, I will be dead." came the answer into hers.

Annette followed the guard through the vast halls, into a room set with one low table. She sat at a cushion beside Curioso, avoiding his glances.
"And how is my Betrothed?" wheedled Dominic, "I trust she is feeling better?"
Annette only stared at him, refusing to answer for fear she would cry out and give Dominic exactly the response he was anticipating from her.
"Well then," he continued, "This IS a joyful time!"

As the tea was served, Annette took the folded drawing from her pocket and placed it in Curioso's. She shrugged off his glances and quietly whispered, "It is a gift, mon beau canard. Now, drink your tea."


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 12:52 PM

Late in the afternoon, Curioso went into the empty monastic shrine and sat. He took out the folded piece of paper, and pondered. Then he put it in his pocket, and stood up in the warrior pose. He invoked Akshobhya, Lord of the Vajra clan, transmuter of the poison of delusion, and, as he had done ever since Annette had come to him, his consort, Buddhalocana, and his assistant, Kshitagarbha, for the energies of Tirseng. "VAJRASATTVA" he intoned, and, for the first time since he had been freed from the poision of murdering his Geshe, he called upon the Tulku, his Emanation Body, for assistance, and his own Unexcelled Yoga Tantra Abhisheka from so far back in the troubled history.
"We have been in thunmongnyid, the ordinary between, for so long, but it is coming to an end, now, we are entering thunmongmayinpa, the extraordinary, in our struggle with this pretan ghoul, this acolyte of Yama. We are saturated in the bloodhell of the five poisons. We seek your help, now and at all costs."
He sat back down in the emptiness, and the emptiness responded with emptiness.
"Help her, Buddhas, she is Samayatara, from this place, from this Northern Realm, from Karmasampat. "
And again there was emptiness.
"She is going down to death, Amoghasiddhi, your consort, have you no help for her or her people, your own kingdom?"
Again, emptiness. Curioso stretched to get up to leave, frustrated, and as he rose, the answer came flooding into his mind. For a moment, he was beaten backwards by the immensity of it, and then he saw it all in a terrible flash of insight.
"No!" he shouted. "No! I cannot." But it was yes.
He turned and walked out of the shrine, shaken. He could not: he did not know enough, he had no one to help, where was his teacher? And then he thought that perhaps his teacher had helped, was the One Who Spoke. But maybe his mind was clouded, the last trick of his insane brother! And yet. And yet. He moved faster. He could only go through with this if he did not think, if he just went forward, fast, unthinking, fast. He picked up speed and went to Tirseng's quarters, and told him. And Tirseng shouted: "No!". But he came with Curioso, and they went to the Princess, who was sitting with Annette, and the Chinese doctor.
"Princess, Tasha, I have not found a path out of this horror, but I have discerned the beginnings or the endings of something. I know that you too were a lineage student, and I know that you are an adept, and I say that in the shrine of Akshobya I received this. Is it a lie, or a desperate truth, I do not know. It terrifies me, but it seems to be the only way, and the only way is the way."
"Speak, Shinturnam. If it terrifies you, what will it do to us?"
"I am asking you to give up hope, Tasha. I know that you came to this valley, to regain your health, save your people, but it will not work. They will be enslaved, my brother is lost on the wilds of evil. What is eating your body is somehow emanating from him, from this realm he embodies. Yet Annette is right, he must somehow be freed from this realm, or none of us will be."
"But how?" said Annette.
"The Princess must die. And I must go with her. She must enter the bardo realms of her own volition, and I will go as her consort."
Annette stood up, trembling. Tirseng nodded, darkly.
The Princess sat erect. "You mean the Yugannaddha of Death? But we have not spoken of this, ever. It is unheard of. And there is no chance. Not here."
"Only you can do this, Princess,and only I can ward him off on the mountains of the hell realms."
She broke out into disbelief. Her voice was now a weak whisper "But he will destroy us in our weakness!".
"He will try. But we have help. We have Annette and Tirseng. They can fight here, fight him off. Princess, we are bound together. It is our only chance."
"But you know that they may be drawn into the realm, into death, they may fall into the chasm."
"Yes, they have to choose. "
Tirseng said: "I can do this. I can go instead."
"No" said Curioso, "He is my brother. And there is no reason for you to die for him."
Annette came forward. "Am I right? Do I understand what you are proposing?"
Curioso looked at her and said: "It is one more mountain. The worst, the last."
Annette said: "What does it entail?"
Curioso said: "Well, for a start you have to stick a knife into my heart."

* * * * * *

Towards midnight, Tirseng returned to the Princess' chamber. There was a great low chanting from the Princess' subjects that filled the room. He came to where Annette was sitting, just outside the mandala circle that had been created during the early hours of the night. He sat down, and whispered: "I have warded off the Prince for the night. The Princess is preparing for the wedding. He is mollified."
Annette nodded, the unease and terror gripping her ever tighter. In the middle of the circle, fitfully lit by candles in sconces along the walls, the Princess and Curioso chanted the final passages of the precious word initiation so that each would be the other's consort, Samyatara, Amoghasiddi. When it was done, the Princess sitting propped up, fading, began to chant OMRULURULIHUMBHYOHUM invoked Shri Devi the Dharma Protector against the assaults in the world of the living. As she did so, her people entered the circle for the last time, kneeled and bowed. Finally, Annette, robed in initiate's garb, and holding a knife with a twisted blade, entered into the circle. She prostrated herself before the two figures, the Princess, ebbing fast; and Curioso, who was halfnaked, with a rope wound about his upper torso.
The Princess broke into her chant: "Annette, Annette, I invoke the Krodhishvara to protect you; but I am frightened. Hold on to me after, when the torrent begins." Annette bowed, and turned.
Curioso came from his post beside the Princess, and began unwinding the rope. "Beloved, remember, remember, the rope is just a symbol, but it is essential when the torrent begins. If it breaks, I will be gone. And I will miss you, eternally."
She breathed deeply, and forced a smile. "Oh, you don't get rid of me that easily."
He unwound the rope, leaving a loop about his body.
Annette wound part of it around her body, and gestured to Tirseng, who came into the circle, and took the end of the rope.
Curioso said, his voice trembling: "It is just one more mountain. " But it wasn't, and they all knew it. Curioso said: "Remember, remember, you have to brace yourselves, you will be fighting here against his usurpation as we go, and you have to keep from being sucked into the death realm. We are fighting together, though we appear separate. If you fail, we are lost. "
Tirseng said quietly: "As are we if you fail."
He turned away, and then turned back, embraced Tirseng, and then said quietly to Annette: "If there were any other way, I would not ask you to do this."
She said: "I know. But it is hard. "
He said: "You have more courage than I. I could never do this to you."
She said: "I haven't done it yet. I don't know."
Curiso said: "The instant the Princess finishes her death, the moment her death rattle comes, strike. Any hesitation, for even a moment, and we are far apart."
Annette nodded, grimly.
They kissed long. He looked at her, stroked her hair, and said: "Forever." And she said: "Forever". Then he turned back and sat beside the Princess. The Princess was in the midst of the Highest Black Yoga Tantra, the making of your own death. She alternated between mumbles and open speech, and then lapsed into silence. Outside the red circle, her people chanted and wailed quietly, so as not to wake the palace. At the inner edge of the circle, Tirseng sat braced for the onset of the demon world; further in, Annette stood poised. In the centre, the Princess, in her gold headdress and marriage gown, slumped in the arms of Curioso, who chanted to remove his terrible fear and trembling. They began to hear a highpitched whine from somewhere infiltrating the room, and then a familiar crackling sound, like the sky crashing and warping could be heard outside. The winds began rising, howling.
At last, at the supreme moment, there was a gasp, and the Princess willed herself dead, and died. And with a sweeping motion of her arm, Annette plunged the ceremonial dagger deep into Curioso's heart!!!!!!


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: katlaughing
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 02:40 PM

(Aside: Oh my gawds and gawddesses, Peter! You've outdone yourself. What a climax!! Bravo!!)

(I wanted to also pause for a moment to reflect on the sadness in Nepal right now and it seems the Darkness has invaded there, through the Crown Prince just as in our story. My heart is saddened at the news and struck at the incidental parallels.)

Thanks,

kat


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Caitrin
Date: 02 Jun 01 - 05:30 PM

((*comes back from the dead* Sorry I disappeared on y'all! Now, if I can just figure out what's going on...))


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: JenEllen
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 06:45 AM

So quickly...Hours melted into a fraction of a second. The time it takes for candlelight to glint from a dagger into a woman's eye.
Annette was perched on the railing of the balcony when Tirseng found her that evening, there were scattered notebook pages everywhere. Her hair was loose in the breeze, the feathers of this exotic bird inviting the wind to dance. Cautiously, he called to her, "Lizard. Don't."
Tiredly she turned to look at him, "What? Don't jump?" she asked. Slowly, too slowly to suit Tirseng, she climbed back to the balcony proper. "It is beyond that, Snowleopard. Even that mountain, she mocks us.... But what of now, Tirseng," she asked tiredly, "What do you want?"
He showed her the box he carried, lifting the lid to show her the dagger inside. Her eyes flashed and she took a step back from him. "Qu'est-ce que c'est??"
He shut the lid apologetically, "I just wanted to be sure that you knew.."
"Knew WHAT?" she spat, "How to hold a knife? Or perhaps where to strike? It could not be the same place where I lay my head at night, could it?" She wobbled slightly and Tirseng moved to catch her as she crumbled to the floor. "All of this," she sighed, fluttering the pages on the ground, "and there is nothing I can do....." Suddenly, she looked up at him, eyes dark and brimming, "Promise me something, Snowleopard?" At the sight of her sorrow, he would have gladly promised to run across the Khumba barefooted, but as it was, he solemnly nodded. She drew him close and whispered, "If you are ever in a café, and you see a beautiful woman with soft eyes and a kind smile, perhaps she is reading something that you are reading? Promise me you will fold up your newspaper and just go home." He nodded once again.

As the pair sat, they saw Curioso walk slowly beneath them on his way to Mallory's hut.
"You should speak to him." said Tirseng
"Non." she replied. "The mountain was different, Tirseng, but now he walks the earth and is dead to me."
"Do not say such things!" he shook her shoulders, "For as long as I have known you, I have known that Arthapratisamvit smiles on you. If there is a way, you will find it. Now, Tashalan has asked that you help her prepare while I deal with Dominic."

And now....her hand shook so badly she feared dropping the blade. She wrapped the rope around her waist, handing the slack to Tirseng. The Princess chanted in her circle. As her consciousness lapsed, so did Annette's. She didn't hear the howling in the air around her, or see the cracks and their tributaries streaming across the walls and floor, but she was startled to hear her breathing match that of Tashalan. Slow, ragged, and slower, the moment she stopped, Annette knew. It was just like when her cousin François taught her to fire the rifle, exhale, and in the calm, release.
It happened faster that the glint of the dagger. She plunged the knife into Curioso just as the Princess willed her to, and the doors flung open to reveal a furious Dominic. He yelled, whether it was 'No' or 'How dare you?', Annette never knew. Instinct and promise made her reach for the Princess, I will hold you until the torrent subsides. The wall of rage hit her as she touched Tashalan. The rope bit into her waist, and her head hit the floor. All was darkness.


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Subject: RE: Shangri-La Continues (Pt. 2)
From: Peter T.
Date: 03 Jun 01 - 09:21 AM

The journey continues, wherever it is going! in this new thread.


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