|Chapter 11: The Ritual of Desecration|
"Trell!" Tohrm screamed soundlessly. "You are a Gravelingas of the rhadhamaerl! Do not do this!"
For an instant, the fury of the inferno paused. Trell looked at them, seemed to see them, recognize them.
But he had fallen too far under the power of his own holocaust. He pointed a rigid, accusing finger, then stooped to the graveling and heaved a double armful of fire at them.
At the same moment, a thrill of strength ran through Mhoram. Amatin's protection steadied, stiffened. Though the force of Trell's attack knocked Tohrm back into Mhoram's arms, the fire did not touch them. And Amatin's sudden discovery of power called up an answer in the High Lord. With a look of joy gleaming in his eyes, he swept aside all his self-restraints and turned to his secret understanding of desecration. That secret contained might--might which the Lords had failed to discover because of their Oath of Peace--might which could be used to preserve as well as destroy. Despair was not the only unlocking emotion. Mhoram freed his own passion and stood against the devastation of the Close.
Power coursed vividly in his chest and arms and staff. Power made even his flesh and blood seem like invulnerable bone. Power shone out from him to oppose Trell's ill. And the surge of his strength restored Tohrm. The Hearthrall regained his feet, summoned his lore; with all of his and Mhoram's energy, he resisted Trell.
Confronting each other, standing almost face to face, the two Gravelingases wove their lore-secret gestures, sang their potent rhadhamaerl invocations. While the fire raged as if Revelstone were about to crash down upon them, they commanded the blaze, wrestled will against will for mastery of it.
Tohrm was exalted by Mhoram's support. With the High Lord's power resonating in every word and note and gesture, renewing him, fulfilling his love for the stone, he bent back the desecration. After a last convulsive exertion, Trell fell to his knees, and his fire began to fail.
It ran out of the Close like the recession of a tide--slowly at first, then faster, as the force which had raised it broke. The heat declined; cool fresh air poured around Mhoram from the airways of the Keep. Sight returned to his scorched eyes. For a moment, he feared that he would consciousness in relief.
Weeping with joy and grief, he went to help Tohrm lift Trell-Atiaran-mate from the graveling pit. Trell gave no sign that he felt them, knew in any way that they were present. He looked around with hollow eyes, muttering brokenly, "Intact. There is nothing intact. Nothing."