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Modified on 2011/12/13 20:01 by Kerrick Categorized as Books, Outlanders

When man's blood is the broth of ice,
   his life is measured by a throw of the dice;
In the midnight hours he broods in a lonely state,
   with spirit dead and desolate.

   - Justin Geoffrey

   The book starts off with Grigori Zakat stumbling across the Byang-Thang plateau, the sole survivor of a plane crash. He finds the Trasilunpo Lamasery, where he's greeted by a monk. He pulls his pistol and forces the monk through the gate, where several Dob-Dobs (monkish versions of soldiers) and a shaman appear. The shaman overwhelms him with a wave of psychic energy, knocking him unconscious.
   He awakens some time later in a bed, where he is welcomed by Dorjieff. Dorjieff introduces him to Gyatso and Trai, a young servant woman.
   Five months later... Kane, Grant, and Brigid are watching an Indian camp. Two of their friends, Auerbach and Beth-Li Rouch are captive there. Auerbach is currently staked out naked with a pile of twigs on his groin and a bunch of men dancing around him; Beth-Li is nowhere to be seen.
   Kane comes up with a plan: he and Brigid will walk into the camp and negotiate for their friends' release, while Grant hangs back as backup. The pair is met by a small group of men, one of whom comes forward to smack Kane with the butt of his lance. Kane grabs the lance and throws the man to the ground, then Brigid knocks him out with his lance. She identifies Kane as "Hota Wanagi" (Gray Ghost), a title he'd gained some months before. The clan chief, Sky Dog comes forward. He speaks English; he tells them that their friends were caught trespassing and must pay the penalty. After a tense standoff, Sky Dog agrees to release Auerbach.
   Rouch, however, has been claimed by the same man who attacked Kane - Standing Bear. Standing Bear isn't willing to give her up, even for a high price, so Kane is forced to engage in a contest to win her. The rules: both men are mounted on ponies and armed with a lance. If either man is unhorsed or forced off the field, he loses. Kane wins by (technically) cheating: he deliberately dismounts and uses his coat to scare Standing Bear's horse, which throws him off. Standing Bear marks him on the face with his knife - a mark that means he's cunning like the wolf and just as mean.
   After that has all been resolved, Sky Dog takes the trio to see something that his tribe has kept secret for nearly a century - a war wag belonging to the legendary Trader. He tells them that it went to the Cerberus Redoubt and several people went inside; when they didn't return, the wag's crew took it back down to the valley, where it ran out of fuel. The crew was attacked by the Indians and slaughtered. Sky Dog wishs the Cerberus crew to restore it to working order so that his people can use it for defense. Kane agrees, and they create a mutual defense pact.
   They return to the camp, where Kane and Grant question Auerbach and Brigid talks to Rouch. They find out why the pair went so far afield - they were supposed to fix a malfunctioning comm array, but Rouch decided to get them captured so Kane would come find her; it was part of Lakesh's plan to get her and Kane to have children. Kane tells Rouch that if she ever threatens Brigid again, he'll break her neck.
   Back in Tibet, Zakat (who has fully recovered from his ordeal) is out on the balcony, waiting for a signal from Gyatso. He finally gets it and goes to find Trai, who's about to be raped by Dorjieff. Zakat yanks him away and holds a knife on him, then Gyatso shows up and calls Zakat Tsyansis Khan-Po - Dorjieff has lost the vaunted title. They force Dorjieff to take them below the lamasery to where the Chintamani Stone, a powerful artifact, is stored. Zakat touches the stone briefly and gains a glimpse of something else.
   Dorjieff taunts Zakat, saying that he grasped the stone fully and learned all its secrets; as Zakat is distracted, Dorjieff lunges and disarms him. He's about to shoot Zakat when Zakat uses his mental powers to force Dorjieff to shoot himself instead. Zakat then closes the box containing the stone and takes it from the lamasery.
   In the Cerberus redoubt, it's 3 AM and Lakesh is awake. He's busy down in the lab when Banks comes wandering down. He looks half-asleep but asks where Kane is. Lakesh realizes, to his horror, that Balam is speaking through Banks. Balam says that he must talk to Kane, then releases control of Banks. Lakesh goes in to see Balam, and the archon sends him a telepathic message - an image of a stone and a sense of terrible danger.
   When Kane, Brigid, and Grant return to the redoubt, Lakesh calls them down to the lab. Banks allows Balam access to his mind, and the archon tells them that the Chintamani Stone is only part of a larger whole, and that putting it all together could have disastrous consequences.
   After the briefing, Kane and Lakesh have it out regarding Lakesh's attempts to get Rouch and Kane to mate. Shortly thereafter, one of the techs notes another anomalous use of the mat-trans network - this one in Newyork. Brigid finds a wealth of material in the databanks about black stones; she gives everyone a briefing and reveals that one can be found in the Museum of Natural History in Newyork - right near the mat-trans.
   With that information, Kane, Brigid, Grant, and Domi gear up and make a jump to Newyork. They make their way out of the ruins of the World Trade Center (getting attacked by a lone scalie along the way) and up to the street, where they find two bodies - one a scalie and one a Dob-Dob.
   They find the museum with no trouble. Inside, they see lights and hear voices - Zakat's party has gotten there ahead of them. They confront the Russian and his people, but the standoff is broken by a huge group of scalies approaching. The two groups are forced to agree to a truce to fight off the common enemy, so they flee deeper into the museum - just the way the scalies want them to go. They're ambushed by another, larger group, but fight them off.
   They head up through a large gallery dominated by the preserved body of a blue whale hanging from the ceiling; halfway up the stairs, Zakat punches Kane in the jaw, knocking him down the stairs, then shoots the cables holding the whale up, sending it careening down the stairs ahead of him. Grant is partially pinned under the carcass, but Kane and Brigid find a lever to raise it far enough to pull him out. They race out of the museum hot on Zakat's heels, but he reaches the gate first and gets away.
   The companions return to the Cerberus redoubt and get Grant some medical attention. Meanwhile, Kane, Brigid, and Domi go to see Lakesh and tell him what happened. Kane wants to talk to Balam directly - not through an intermediary, or through the glass of his cell wall. Balam explains everything to them, and Lakesh has an epiphany - Balam is the Archon Directorate. Kane gets pissed and tries to strangle Balam, but the contact enables the archon to form a telepathic bond, and he shows Kane the history of Agartha. He finally breaks free and lets Balam go, finally understanding that Balam is the last of his kind.
   The next day (?), Kane and Brigid take Balam along with them to the gate in the Trasilunpo Lamasery. They follow the corridors up and are attacked from behind by a Dob-Dob. Kane subdues the man and Brigid tells him to talk. He refuses, until he sees Balam - then he literally pisses himself in awe and starts talking. He tells them that Zakat and Gyatso left the lamasery. Most of the others fled the monastery after Zakat killed Dorjieff and took his title, but the man (Leng) stayed behind. He gives them food and shows them to a room for the night, then they leave in the morning.
   They ride down a steep mountain trail to a valley, where Zakat opens fire on them. Kane spots the tunnel leading into the mountain's heart, and Balam walks into it, ignoring all the humans. Cursing, Kane and Brigid sprint after him, bullets on their heels. They come to a Y in the tunnel and go left, but the path leads to an impassible chasm. They run back the other way as their pursuers come down the tunnel and head down the left passage. Kane sneaks up behind them and tosses a grenade after them, but Zakat kicks it back toward Kane; it explodes near the junction, caving in large parts of the ceiling.
   The pair crawl down a narrow ledge to a large cavern lit by glowing panels; the path from there leads to a river. Kane spots a boat on the far side, so he wades in and retrives it, then they float downstream. They eventually reach a gigantic cavern marked by an arch and a large statue of an archon. They get out of the boat and continue on foot along a path that leads down to another huge cavern; this one holds the abandoned city of Agartha.
   As they get among the buildings, they're approached by a trio of mindless hybrids. The trio says nothing but points to the tower in the center of the city, so Kane and Brigid follow. In the basement of the tower, they find another archon, Lam, standing near another piece of the stone. Balam appears from the shadows and explains the purpose of the stone to them.
   About this time, Zakat, Gyatso, and Trai show up. Zakat has Kane and Brigid disarm themselves, then Gyatso steps forward to claim the stone. He lays his hands on it, but he is killed spectacularly as the psychic energies he pushed into the stone rebound on him. Kane uses the distraction to go after Zakat and manages to wrench his AK-47 away, then Zakat flees. Brigid, meanwhile, punches Trai out.
   Kane catches up to Zakat at the ledge on the other branch of the Y; they fight, and Zakat falls over the edge but manages to grab hold before falling. He tells Kane that his power is necessary to tap the stone, but Kane holds up his Khlysty amulet, then drops it. Zakat frantically scrambles for it, loses his grip, and falls to his death. Kane takes up the stones and returns to Agartha. They have no further need for Balam, so they leave him behind to tend to the city and head home.

DEATHLANDS, OUTLANDERS, EARTH BLOOD, and JAMES AXLER are all the property of Gold Eagle / Worldwide Library, and are used here strictly under Fair Use guidelines.
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