Art by jiashu xu ©

Sheridan showed the baton to Kunchen, pointing out the ancient symbols engraved along its three-sided shaft. Despite his exhaustion, he became animated by his drive for answers. To find clues to its authenticity, he needed to know what secrets the baton held.

“Look at this. It’s most certainly Egyptian. Why would an Egyptian symbol be . . . ” He glanced up to find Kunchen watching him with a knowing gaze.

“What is it?” Sheridan asked.

“You have passed the test.”

“The test?”.

“You surrendered to the will of the whirlpool, faced your fears in the pile of bones, and sensed the stirring of the King’s Tower. In the wings of the Great Parodarsh you came face to face with your true self, and with tears of compassion you loosed the Baton of Shambhala. You even found wisdom in the eyes of a beast of burden.”

Sheridan studied Kunchen, trying to read his face.

“I just did what I had to do.”

He broke away from Kunchen’s gaze.

“But something strange did happen up there,” Sheridan mumbled half to himself. “It was as if I had stepped into a dream.”

“For centuries the faithful monks of my monastery have watched and waited for this day.”

Sheridan looked up from the baton. Kunchen had his attention.

“This day?”

“The day that a Shambhala Warrior will rise up to destroy the forces of darkness and bring a new age of peace to the earth.”

Sheridan’s eyes narrowed.

“What do you mean?”

Kunchen lowered his gaze to the baton in Sheridan’s hands.

“Only a Shambhala Warrior,” he spoke with deliberate cadence, “Can retrieve the Baton of Shambhala from the golden vase of the King’s Tower.”

A rush of heat washed over Sheridan.

“It was just a dream . . .”

“A dream that’s called you for years,” Kunchen interrupted. “And now, as the earth stands looking over the precipice, you have but one more chance to believe.”

Art by Cornelia Kopp aka AlicePopkorn