Song of Shambhala: Chapter Two

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Art by Jiashu Xu
Art by Jiashu Xu

A young father and son stepped into the shop with wide-eyed anticipation once reserved for theme parks and baseball games. But that was before homelessness and food lines became the national pastime. With the future so bleak, history had suddenly become interesting.

Animated with an unquenched imagination, the boy scampered to a cluttered and dusty bookshelf where leather-bound books displayed pictures of fiery dragons and knights in shining armor. Like a bloodhound, his boyhood senses led him straight to the medieval section.

The father paused to consider a beautiful score displayed on an ornate music stand of tarnished brass. His hand traced the movement of a master calligrapher’s hand, relishing the exquisite notation that covered the golden parchment. Then easing up to the counter, the father engaged Sheridan with one eye as he watched his son with the other. Sheridan joined him, the tension in his face melting away as his attention was drawn to the boy’s untempered enthusiasm.

“Any books on mythology?” the father asked. “It’s the only thing he’s cared about since video games were banned . . . damn power shortages.”

He began to dig into his pockets. “I won’t insult you with worthless dollars. I have some notes the wife’s been saving for an emergency. Be willing to part with them for the right deal.”

He unwrapped a tightly wound roll of blue bills with the International Monetary Fund’s sleek new Hong Kong high-rise vividly etched on the face of the world’s reserve currency.

Sheridan didn’t notice. He was watching the boy leaf through the pages of a collector’s edition of . The boy’s face was lit up with a contagious smile.

Sheridan willingly surrendered to the contagion, a smile claiming his face as well.

“Fourth grade? Greek myths?” Sheridan asked, turning to connect with the father.

“Yeah. He loves all that stuff.”

“It’s a great age,” he said, suddenly drawn into a daydream.

“You have a kid?” Sheridan didn’t hear him.

“The great heroes . . . Hercules, Theseus, Perseus . . . they never failed them. They never will.” Sheridan trailed off. The father studied Sheridan’s-steel blue eyes, wondering if the plague of Sunlight Deprivation Syndrome had found another loopy victim.

“The books? Mythology?”

Sheridan snapped out it.

“You can have that one.”

The father glanced at his son perusing the leather-bound pages of The Library of Apollodorus before tacking back to engage Sheridan’s eyes.

“Pretty sure I can’t afford it. Even from here I can tell that’s no children’s book.”

Sheridan averted the father’s gaze, his thoughts pulling him behind a brooding brow. “Keep your money and take the book. No children around here to enjoy them anymore.”

The Father shrugged, calling to the kid.

“Is that what you want?” With his eyes glued to the page, the boy’s head bobbed up and down.

“Awright . . . grab the book and let’s go.” The child skipped to his father’s side, his face buried in the massive tome. They turned to walk off when the father hesitated, angling his head toward Sheridan.

“So, why ancient music and artifacts?”

“As long as men have made symbols of their gods, they’ve made music to honor them.”

The father nodded, not getting it. He took his boy’s hand and pushed through the heavy door, the bell punctuating their departure. 

Sheridan watched them leave, his eyes empty. He stood for a quiet moment.

Then, with an abrupt rattle of the door’s bell, in walked a steely-eyed bully in an impeccable three-piece suit. The middle- aged man, with broad shoulders and a barrel chest, swaggered in with the cocksure attitude of a mob boss or a New York politician. Two larger, younger bodyguards decked out in black gear followed him. They looked serious.

While Sheridan’s mind raced, trying to remember anyone he could have pissed off badly enough to send this crew after him, the big guy scanned the room. Sizing up the worth of the inventory, he walked past the empty shelves where a hand-carved Huari Bone Flute was all that remained of a prized collection of ancient music instruments. Brushing back the blond lock that had fallen across his cold green eyes, he crossed the room to a table of oversized books. With the thrust of his pale finger he flipped through the pages of a Renaissance before locking eyes with Sheridan. Sheridan cringed, bracing himself for the worst. The stranger maneuvered toward the counter turning a gold coin between his fingers. Sheridan recognized the coin’s distinct markings.

What kind of man carries a two-thousand-year-old coin in his pocket?

“Are you Sheridan Clark?”

“Yes,” he answered, eyeing the three with distrust.

The suit tossed a large book on the counter. The title of the custom-bound book read Baton of Shambhala: Source of the Lost Music of Heaven.

“That book was never published,” Sheridan said, immediately on the defensive.

“Your research is of great interest to certain members of the UN High Command.”

“Sacred music that has been lost for centuries?”

The stranger turned the pages of the book to a glossy middle section, displaying a drawing of an ornate baton.

“No, we’re interested in this.”

Sheridan knew the drawing well.

“The Baton of Shambhala,” he mumbled. “Once the baton of Lucifer himself.”

Their eyes remained locked.

“Since the beginning of time there was always music, and with this baton, the directed the chorus of heaven.” Sheridan continued as he peered into the man’s eyes, straining for a clue to his intentions.

“And when he was cast down from heaven?”

Sheridan began to trace the drawing with his fingers.

“His baton fell to earth, to be lost for millennia,” he eased into it. “Till it found its way to . . .”

Art by Michael Vincent Manalo
Art by Michael Vincent Manalo

“,” the visitor added knowingly.

What gives? Sheridan wondered. He noticed the visitor’s well-coiffed hair, the rosy skin of a fresh facial and his smooth, manicured hands.

“And you are?”

“The name is .” His eyes fell to the image of the baton then returned to the deep crescent moons that drooped below Sheridan’s lifeless eyes. “And I think you need me as much as I need you.”

Sheridan gave a snide chuckle, barely nudging the lines of tired nonchalance that etched his face.

“I doubt it.”

“Believe it or not . . . we already share a profound connection”

“How do you figure?”

Evan grasped the edge of the book and held it between the two men. “Because this book, that destroyed your life, may help me save this god-forsaken world.”

A glint of light sparked in Sheridan’s vacant eyes.

Suddenly the stranger shoved the book under his arm.

“There’s something you should see. I’ll send a car to pick you up tomorrow,” he said matter-of-factly. A smirk spread across his face as he looked around the store. “Unless you’re busy here?”

Sheridan gave him a nod, his tightly clenched teeth belying his self-confident gaze.

Without another word, the strange men marched out as abruptly as they had arrived.

###

Sheridan had given his life to recovering ancient artifacts and manuscripts of sacred music. In the service of the Vatican, he had the privilege of sharing many of these discoveries with the world. No moment in his life felt more complete than when conducting a great choir and full orchestra, standing awash in the beautiful music of a lost composition he had resurrected from an earthly grave. His search for the rare antiquities of sacred music had taken Sheridan all around the world. All too often he found himself in desperate circumstances, clinging to a remnant of priceless music or carefully coddling an ancient instrument. In those adventurous days of his youth, Sheridan considered no risk too great and no course too dangerous in his efforts to uncover the forgotten music of an increasingly forgotten God.

Ultimately, his reckless abandon in seeking to discover the original source of all sacred music led to Sheridan’s undoing. According to a well-established tenet of Christian theology, Lucifer was not only the greatest of the archangels; he was also heaven’s chief musician.

So it came as no surprise to Sheridan when he stumbled upon ancient manuscripts revealing that Lucifer had once possessed a music baton with which he had directed the chorus of heaven. These manuscripts explained that when Lucifer was cast from heaven, his baton fell to earth.

After being lost for a thousand years, the baton suddenly appeared in the city of Shambhala. There the Baton of Lucifer became the Baton of Shambhala, and the green stone, set within its golden prongs became known as the Stone.

For as long as its torch of azure light illuminated the city of Shambhala from high atop the King’s Tower, peace and prosperity endured over all the earth. But the stone’s magical allure proved an irresistible draw to those who sought to possess it for their own evil designs. So the guardians of the stone, in their unselfish wisdom, devised a plan to prevent such power from ever being in the hands of a single man. They split the stone into three pieces. Then each supernatural fragment was secretly placed in the trusted hands of a great warrior and carried to the far reaches of the earth.

The price of sacrifice was high for the kingdom of Shambhala. With the Baton of Shambhala no longer imbued with the mystical stone’s power, the ills of life once held at bay suddenly began to eat away at Shambhala’s cocoon of hidden paradise. The city’s hardy citizens held onto life for ten languishing years before the Angel of Death finally claimed the city with an undiscriminating scourge of disease.

Art by Michael Vincent Manalo
Art by Michael Vincent Manalo

In the ensuing centuries, the Chintamani stones became a hidden force behind the great events and powerful men of history. At times they served the good of mankind. Indeed, it was a Chintamani stone in the hands of King Solomon that provided the world with a wealth of wisdom. But more often, throughout the ages, the stones became a source of unstoppable power in the hands of such brutal empire builders as , , and

From time to time, one would find reports hidden in the footnotes of history or hear rumors whispered in the most privileged of inner circles, telling of the Chintamani Stone’s occasional fleeting reappearance. But eventually the Chintamani Stone’s impact on the events of mankind began to fade until their once-recognized contributions to the chronicles of history became attributed to nothing more than the elaborate exaggeration of ancient legend.

For more than a century no more had been heard of the elusive kingdom of Shambhala or the fabled Chintamani stones. That is until Sheridan wrote of his discovery in Baton of Shambhala: Source of the Lost Music of Heaven. As with many enlightened writings over the ages, the church considered the book such a threat that they quietly blocked it from publication. Then, amid calls for his excommunication, Sheridan was summarily fired from his job as the Vatican’s music curator. His invaluable contributions to the Vatican’s Music Library proved insufficient recompense for his unforgivable sin of heresy. Just as the put under house arrest for his discovery that the earth was not the center of the universe, Sheridan’s discovery proved to be his ruin. He thought the connection he found between the Baton of Shambhala and the music of heaven would be his greatest achievement. But instead it marked the beginning of his .

Art by Richard Baxter
Art by Richard Baxter
Art by Jiashu Xu
Art by Jiashu Xu
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