The Living Buddha began his tale.
"When Lamaism supplanted Nestorian Christianity in Mongolia, Dragon's Heart refused to abandon the faith of Jesus and Mary. This was tolerated for centuries, until the time of Kublai Khan. An event occurred then which brought about the conversion of Dragon's Heart overnight.
"The Black Madonna which we are approaching was also converted. She became Tara, our goddess of wisdom, mercy, and love. The Chinese know her as Kwan Yin. Tara is represented with seven eyes. Each has a meaning, but the Seventh Eye, placed in the middle of the forehead, is the most important. It is the Eye of the Universal Mother, the Eye of Love, the blessing of God. That is what Lady Tara means to us.
"The first six eyes were carved in the obsidian. However, the ruby you have returned to us was brought from Tibet to serve as the Seventh Eye. Lamas of great spiritual skill studied the heavens and chose a moment to implant the stone.
"When that was done, a miracle suddenly occurred, a miracle which will be revealed to you today if it be God's will.
"Not long after, the ruby disappeared from history, never to reappear until now. You are clearly an instrument of God because you have returned the ruby at a time coinciding with the mysterious alignment of the planets when the miracle of the ruby first occurred centuries ago. I apologize to you for the misery and death the stone has brought to your family. I declare to you that I, as a living god, shall ask Heaven to somehow counteract the ruby's curse. The curse derives from the Manchus, not from above."
They came to the Grand Terrace. Its highly polished black surface blazed in the strong sunlight. They proceeded to the statue and gathered around. Nearly a thousand people were spread at its base.
The Living Buddha excused himself to circulate among the faithful to dispense blessings.
"We have time before the event," Dash said.
"Time before what event?" asked Brad.
"Patience, Lieutenant," Dash smiled. "You will see."
At that moment, Dayan strode across the terrace with Damba.
The aide went directly to Brad. "Lieutenant, may we have a talk?"
"Of course," Brad responded. "Maybe I can get some answers from you. All this history is interesting, but I'd like to know what's going on today!"
Damba took him aside.
Bart and Chavadzy immediately engaged in conversation.
"Did you keep your eyes open in your travels for the red lucerne I need for the Magic Wine?" asked Bart.
"I did," the Russian replied, "but I saw none. However, I had an idea...."
Chavadzy walked away with Bart.
Romelle and Dayan were left alone.
"Come with me to the balustrade," he said. "There is nothing more beautiful than Dragon's Heart when the scarlet flower is in bloom."
They looked out over the valley, placing their hands on the waist-high balustrade. They could see the mass of pilgrims gathered near the caravansary and long lines of them on the road to the temple stairs.
After several minutes of silence, she spoke. "Why did you become a lama?"
"Every family in Mongolia gives at least one boy to the Church."
"But you are a trained engineer," she pressed on. "This country desperately needs men like you. How can you...forgive me, but I must say it...waste yourself on prayers when the purposeful work you should be doing for Mongolia is designing roads and bridges and...why not a telegraph line to Dragon's Heart, for example? There is so much to be done! How do you ever expect to enter the modern age? It would be different if this were America or Europe, where there are so many professional people, but, here, everyone is a shepherd or a hunter or a trapper...or a priest!"
His hand suddenly settled on hers. "You talk like a Mongol patriot. Do you remember that first night, when I told you I wanted you to like my country? Well, I think you do."
"It's just...that I care about what happens...to you...to Mongolia, I mean," she replied without moving her hand away.
"As I care about what happens to you, Madame."
"Please call me Romelle, even Romy, if you wish. We have the same godmother, you know. That makes us related, in a way. Certainly, we are friends."
"I remember the first time I saw you...Romelle," he said hesitantly. "It was at Farnborough Hill, in the drawing room, when a circle of seven souls joined around you. I shall never forget it, this copper-haired child, so precious, so sweet. It was your third birthday."
He had moved nearer. Their arms touched.
"It was your sixteenth birthday," she recalled. "I can tell you what you were wearing, and exactly how you looked."
"Impossible," he murmured, "for a child so young."
"Perhaps," she said, "but you came back to me in a dream when I turned sixteen. We were the same age then, as though I had caught up with you. You were such a handsome boy, with intelligence and kindness shining from your eyes."
She heard him sigh deeply.
"You, too, are kind," he said. "You do not seem to mind at all that I...I am an Oriental man."
"We are all one under Heaven," she imparted.
"Truly, you are the Lady Tara," he whispered. "You view the world through the Seventh Eye, the eye of universal love."
"Where did you take the ruby awhile ago?"
He turned back toward the statue, releasing her hand, but keeping her close.
"Look at the statue," he said. "Can you see the Seventh Eye?"
A touch of red shone in the glossy black of the forehead.
"You put it back!" she cried. "How did you do that?"
"I retraced our footsteps to the cavern beneath this terrace," he explained. "Do you remember seeing the man I...the man who ran into me...jump down from above before he started kicking my father? He had climbed up to find the ruby. My father was stalling for time, trying to think of a way to escape, so he told them the stone was hidden in the head. The statue was hollowed out so that a niche could be carved from inside the forehead, and the ruby put in place. Thus, it could not be stolen from the outside."
"Why did your father reveal the secret of the cavern?" she asked. "They could only get in through the secret door."
He paused before answering, as if reluctant to speak. "My father asked me not to talk about this, but I feel you should know. They threatened to kill Doctor Bart. My father loved him as a brother, and he believed that your family has suffered enough grief.
Therefore, he set himself up to be killed instead."
She clasped his hands in hers and pressed them. "You are the noble son of a noble father. I thank you from my heart."
Their fingers entwined. Romelle had never longed so much to be near anyone as she longed for him.
Then, a wisp of wind fluttered the red ribbons of his hat over his shoulder. Today he had not worn blue ones.
Red ribbons, red ruby, red flowers - red is the color of warning. The Living Buddha has promised an end to it, but everywhere I see this harbinger of danger. Everywhere there is red, red, red!
Instinctively, she backed away.
Almost gratefully, she watched Brad running toward them from far across the terrace.
There is no red in Brad, no hint of danger there - blue eyes, blond hair, familiar somehow, although we were apart so long - he is part of my world. It is Brad I should love. I know he loves me. My love for Dayan is a hopeless one. Philo, are you with me still? What am I to do?
Brad came to a halt at her side, breathless. "Romy, guess what? Damba brought me a message from the Phantom General. The General has asked me to be the Master of Horses for his army! I'm to go with Damba in the next few days to some secret training ground outside the valley! What do you think of that?"
He was in his element, as vibrantly happy as a child.
"I'm thrilled!" she exclaimed. "But what can you teach them that they don't already know? Mongols have the reputation for being among the finest horsemen in the world!"
Dayan grabbed Brad's hand and shook it. "Congratulations, Lieutenant! In answer to your question, Madame, the Phantom General's horsemen are great warriors, to be sure, and can perform feats of daring on horseback to rival any riders in the world. However, the lieutenant can instill in them the discipline of American cavalry maneuvers which they neither know nor understand. He can perform an invaluable service to our nation."