At the age of sixteen British author Talbot Mundy (William Lancaster Gribbon) ran away from home and travelled extensively through India, Africa, the Middle East and the Orient—an experience that stood him in good stead as he later crafted his bestselling novels. During this time he made his living as a petty criminal and confidence trickster. By the time he was twenty nine he had changed his name to Talbot Mundy, was living in the United States of America and had embarked on a writing career. He was well known as an author of novels with recurring characters and among his best known creations are Tros of Samothrace, Jimgrim and the principal character of the two novels in this Leonaur two-in-one edition—Lobsang Pun. ‘The Most Reverend Lobsang Pun,’ known to all as ‘Old Ugly Faces,’ is a mystical monk of venerable age, who lives in Tibet, a magical land of forbidden places and secret mountain fastnesses. ‘The Thunder Dragon’s Gate,’ the first novel here, is a high-spirited tale of heroic adventure featuring Tom Grayne and an audience pleasing fantastical creature or two for good measure. In ‘Old Ugly Face,’ also featuring Tom Grayne, the Dalai Lama has died and the traditional search to find the new incarnation has begun, but Lobsang Pun intends to influence events in the interests of cosmic balance and world sanity. These high ideals are, of course, wrapped up in an absorbing story of love, jealousy, international intrigue, treachery, adversity and daring-do. This is an excellent opportunity for collectors to possess both Lobsang Pun novels in one substantial special edition.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
He hurried, with methodical decision, making better speed than if he had run wildly. There was a maze of doors and corridors, stone stairways leading to the upper floor and downward to the kitchens and into echoing cellars. There were passages within walls that were twelve feet thick. At almost every corner there was a dark hole where a monk might sit and meditate or lurk in ambush.
But there was no one in sight, only sounds of men running—the boom of a great bell—a roar of voices from a long way off, like a sea-roar—and the weird, intermittent, irregular muffled thunder-sound that shook nothing but seemed to come from all directions. Then, suddenly, the unmistakable staccato rattle of rifle-fire—no guessing whence it came, along echoing passages.
Out into a courtyard, and the sound of rifle firing louder. A long cloister to a courtyard behind the monastery. Steam—lots of it. On the far side of the courtyard a big chapel, door wide open and a riot roar coming through it. Tom entered quietly.
No sign of Elsa or of Thö-pa-ga, but a monk with bull lungs, standing on a platform, was holding up Elsa’s frock. It was the frock she bought in Delhi. He was tearing it into strips, like prayer streamers, and distributing them at random to whoever could get near enough. At the end of the chapel, on the altar platform, an old man in a yellow robe, who couldn’t be anyone else than the abbot, surrounded by a dozen monks who were protecting him, held a carved box above his head. It probably contained sacred relics. The monks surrounding him were all shouting at once, and one of them was pounding an enormous gong as if his life depended on it.
There were not less than a dozen dead or dying or severely wounded monks underfoot, amid pools of blood. In mid-chapel about thirty monks were fighting thirty or forty half-starved wretches in rags, who were led by the bow-and-arrow yak-man who had told Tom he wouldn’t fight in any circumstances. He wasn’t using bow and arrows. He and his two comrades, for some reason better fed than the scarecrows they led, were hard at it with cudgels. Religious frenzy had burst the restraint of doctrine. The meek had inherited righteous indignation. The skulls of the proud were cracking.
It was easy to distinguish the proud. They were Böns, with their backs to the wall—the long wall, with a dais in the middle and a gallery above that. They were the well-fed ones.
Beneath the gallery, behind the dais, was a studded door, deeply carved and painted red. On either side of it were hideous tantric images of devils devouring men who yearned upward in agony toward the carved head and shoulders of Gautama Buddha, smiling from an arched recess, illuminated by coloured glass lamps in the dimness above the door and below the gallery.
Apparently no one had any firearms, but there were missiles flying in all directions, chiefly prayer wheels and brass lamps. Nearly all the paper windows were broken. The Böns seemed to outnumber all the others, but to have used up all the missiles within their reach. They were chanting, to invoke their magic and to fortify their courage. The man who was tearing Elsa’s dress into strips appeared not to be a Bön. It was hard to guess what he was. He seemed to be preaching a war of his own. It was he who first caught sight of Tom. He went into a frenzy, pointing at him, bellowing, slobbering. Impossible to tell what he was shouting about—demanding summary execution or offering welcome.
Tom went for him. As he crossed the floor, scrumming his way through the brawl, a bow-and-arrow man let drive at him from the gloom under the gallery. The arrow buried itself in a monk’s back. Someone slew the bowman with a bronze candlestick. Another bowman, from the doorway by which Tom had entered, took a shot at the abbot. He hit him. The abbot fell. There was a roar of rage. Someone struck down that bowman from behind. A man entered, cowled like a monk, but black-whiskered like no monk in all Tibet. He had a rusty sword, but when he tried to use it someone snatched it from him, and in a second there were ten monks fighting for it, all in a scrimmage, rolling over one another on the floor.
The new arrival followed Tom. He reached him just as Tom reached the man who was tearing into little pieces the last shreds of Elsa’s dress.
“Where’s your Mauser, you fool?”
Dowlah! He and Tom became the centre of a maelstrom of yelling monks. Dowlah shouted in Tom’s ear:
“Japs shot the stable-men—took all the best horses—they’re on the run with all the loot they could pack!”
“Damned if I know! Someone. They’d an outpost in a cave up on the mountain. I saw the flash of his helio. Look out! Who’s that? Where’s your Mauser?”
Chou Wang-Naosuki! Dressed in his yellow lamaistic robe. Silent in the doorway. Stoop-shouldered. Head forward. Scowling. In his right hand an automatic.
Tom couldn’t draw the Mauser. The monks were pressing him too closely. Dowlah tried to snatch the weapon. Failing, he ducked. Chou Wang-Naosuki drew down his eyebrows, raised his right hand, took deliberate aim at Tom, fired, missed him and killed the bull-lunged fellow who had torn up Elsa’s dress.
Panic. Imprecations—yells of terror—anger. Everyone except the Böns who had their backs to the door scattered in search of cover. They struggled to hide behind one another. Naosuki calmly entered the chapel. Dowlah almost screamed at Tom:
“Shoot him, you damned idiot!”
“Any dog can kill,” Tom answered.
He did draw the Mauser. He whipped it out, thrusting Dowlah aside. The shove forced Dowlah backward, off-balance. A monk tripped him. He fell. Naosuki laughed suddenly—once. It was like a big dog’s sullen bark. He tossed his weapon to the floor at Tom’s feet. Dowlah pounced on it— leaped to his feet—aimed—drew the trigger. Empty! Naosuki had used his last shell. He sneered and walked toward the door under the gallery. The Böns made way for him. One of them opened the big red door. He entered, not looking backward.
Tom went through the midst of the Böns with such explosive ferocity that he reached the door before the brass bar fell in place. He charged through, Dowlah behind him, into darkness.