A flurry of activity attracted Romelle's attention to a point farther along the balustrade.
Three rows of a hundred lamas each were forming to face the valley. The back line wore gold brocade gowns embroidered with mystical signs. They were ready with conch-shell horns in brocade pouches studded with jewels. The middle line wore red robes and stood poised with ten-foot trumpets held to their mouths. Each trumpet was balanced by a front row of small boy lamas. Each lad supported an instrument's bell end on his shoulder.
Dayan took her arm. "Come, it is time."
He hurried her to the statue of Tara, where he lifted her to the meter-high base. She found herself between Dash and the Living Buddha whose wife, on his other side, peered around his huge stomach and smiled cheerily. She lifted her arm, pulled back the sleeve of her magnificent cloth-of-gold robe, and pointed to a diamond-studded watch on her wrist.
The hands signaled a quarter to three.
In that instant, the trumpets and horns began to blast with a deafening cacophony of noise. They must have been heard in the valley because from far away, a roar of voices rose to the cliff.
The Living Buddha spread his arms wide and began to declaim.
"He announces our purpose here today," Dash whispered. "It is written that Padma Sambhava, the founder of our faith, had neither mother nor father, but sprang from a lotus budded by a red ray of light beamed out of Heaven. We are to pray together. If our prayers are sincere, perhaps the red ray will beam again. Our legend says that where the ray shines is a Golden City. In that city is the key to Mongolian independence from China and the hated Manchus. He offers a sacred Tibetan mantra: Om mani padme hum, 'Ah, the jewel is in the lotus.'"
The Living Buddha lowered his arms and extracted a small prayer wheel from his sleeve. A stirring in the crowd on the terrace indicated that all the pilgrims were doing the same. He began to spin it with his fingers. He led them in chanting, his voice that of an operatic baritone.
The chant rose from a thousand throats. The same could be heard in the valley, where more thousands of the faithful had been similarly instructed by monks.
Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum, echoed in Romelle's ears.
"It is three o'clock," Dash whispered. "If my astral calculations are correct, now is the time. It will be the second such event in seven hundred years."
No sooner had he spoken than a beam of sunshine entered the ruby through a unique prism in the glass skull. Its heat was instantly transformed into energy as it channeled into the depths of the gem in pulses of light.
The beam, fed by its continuing link to the sun, increased in power until the stone began to spin so rapidly that the hum of its velocity could be heard by the crowd. Within seconds of its entry, and with a terrifying explosion of sound, the beam lased outward in a brilliant, vermillion stream of light that shot thirty kilometers across the valley. Its path established by the angle of the socket of the Seventh Eye, the ruby ray struck the far escarpment wall like a tongue of fire.
Thousands of throats drew breath in one great, Promethean gasp.
The wife of the Living Buddha fainted and tumbled off her perch into the crowd.

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