A/N –Immense gratitude and love for Gasaway Alley and TwiliteAddict for your pre-reading and beta work. This story would be a mess without the input of these talented ladies. Please make sure to check out their stories, as they are phenomenal writers.
There are moments in your life that define you.
Isabella created so many of these moments for me, they became a watershed, flowing over the hardened stone of who I thought I was as a man and as a monster and patiently shaped me into someone I am proud to be. Love, Loss, Death and Rebirth—we had been through it all. Yet, lying beneath an indigo sky, too dark for mid-morning, as the sun diminished to a fiery ring around a dark, depthless eye, I could not help but feel there was so much more to come.
Solar eclipses may happen twice a year, and only by the miracle of chance and small geometric shifts in the moon's wobbly orbit around the earth. The fact there was one happening right at this moment, directly above us, was as highly significant as it was improbable. Despite the divinely inspired implications of an astronomical event of this magnitude, I felt no fear. No trepidation. Like the Sun god Ra, who had summoned her, I had complete faith Bella would save the world as she had saved me. The halo highlighting the dark eclipsed eye in the sky seemed to blaze in agreement
"Is that...normal?" Bella wrinkled her nose in doubt as she asked the question.
"No," I answered. After all, what is normal? "It's actually quite perfect."
Bella rolled over to look at me, eyebrow arched. "Perfect? How so? Was the sex really that good, or did your brain actually get scrambled in the process?"
Her wit elicited a smile before I dove into the details. "The chance of this event happening now at this location is...very slim. You see, if the moon executed a perfect elliptical orbit around the earth, we would have a solar eclipse thirteen times a year. But, because the lunar orbit of the Moon is off by five degrees making it spin around us like a slightly wonky top, the chance of it coming in direct line with the orbital path the earth travels around the sun is greatly reduced."
"Thanks for the lecture, Stephen Hawking. Exactly how is this information supposed to make me feel better about the astronomical anomaly above us right now?"
"The rarity is the beauty of it, Isabella. Just like you." I caressed her cheek gently, coaxing a brilliant smile to blossom over her lips. My heart surged with immense love for this woman. I'm sure my hands would've been shaking had my physiology allowed such a thing. "It has inspired me to...do this."
I leaned in and kissed her on the mouth, passion and purpose melding into deep-seated awareness of the importance of this moment. This was the moment to define us. Gently laying her back on the ground, I pulled away, and then reached for her left hand, stretching it above us towards the lavender sky. I positioned her ring finger just below the shimmering, golden ring of sun. Closing my thumb and forefinger around the brilliant star burning many light years away in space, her small gasp confirmed my clever illusion of offering her the eclipsed sun as an engagement ring had worked. In completion of this age old ritual of betrothal, all I had to do was say the words I had literally been aching to say to her for so long.
"Isabella Marie Swan, will you marry me?"
Struggling with the decision to laugh or cry, this powerful woman seemed undone, barely managing to speak. I waited in excruciating anticipation, believing she could move my heart to beat with her answer. Wrapping both arms around me, she dissolved into me, raining kisses across my face and neck.
"Yes! Yes, Edward! I will marry you."
I never felt more complete, and though we were naked and seemingly vulnerable to the elements, I felt nothing but power fueled by the pure joy in knowing we would be together as man and wife. Her words echoed within our sacred space, and like Adam and Eve, we were clad in nothing but love and eclipsed sky.
Unable to help myself, I jumped up, pulling her with me. I didn't know if I should dance or shout from the rooftops—she said yes! My heart was filled, yet my next thought was of my family. I could not wait to share this news with them.
"Come on, let's get dressed and get back to the house to celebrate our news."
Quick as we could manage, we dressed as the moon completed its slow crawl across the Sun's path. Bella couldn't stop smiling as she talked about how thrilled Alice, Esme, and Rose would be about a planning a wedding.
Amused with her obvious excitement, I was just about to take her hand to race back to the compound, when we heard the lonely cry of wolves to the north of us. The moon finished its shading of the sun, bringing brilliance back to the day, but not enough to banish the dark shadow passing over Bella's face.
"Even if I could, I'm not sure I would want to know the thoughts behind that look. What's wrong, love?"
She was silent for too long. My heart sunk. What could possibly make her unhappy in this moment? With a grim set to her jaw she could barely look me in the eye as she stammered over her reasoning.
"Edward, I can't explain it. I am more than happy to become your wife, it's a dream come true!"
She smiled sadly and looked past me as she continued in a small voice. "There's this nagging little voice in my head, stressing this need to make sure there's nothing lurking around the corner, waiting to ruin our happiness. When I heard the wolves...I couldn't help but wonder if before we tell the others this news, maybe I should...you know…break the news to Jake first."
If there was ever anything tough to swallow, it was my pride in that moment. I struggled with the heavy tension thickening the air as she waited for me to respond. Even though it was less than a second, it was enough for her to understand I was uncomfortable. I failed at trying to cover my disappointment, falling into old habits and answering her in a tone that was too clipped.
"Whatever you feel you need to do...but in light of him and Leah finally imprinting...I really can't see him having a problem with it."
Scowling at me, she placed a hand on her hip and proceeded to shoot straight from it.
"I'm telling him first out of respect, not guilt ridden obligation"
Shame singed my insides, burning away the pathetic remnants of old jealousies concerning Jacob. I couldn't blame her for wanting to break the news to Jacob first. Technically, he was still her husband. Realistically, he was her oldest friend and would always be family to her. Even though his true imprint finally activated with the lifting of the curse, I had to respect how important Jake has been to her throughout her life.
"I'm sorry. How about I help you track him and Leah down? I would imagine they are roaming off the grounds today. They don't like to spend too much time in the commune."
"Can you blame them?" she mumbled beneath her breath, instantly regretting her sharp comment when she saw how deep the insult sliced. I was shocked at her sudden change in behavior and wondered if there was something more below the surface.
"Whoa there," I said, holding my hands in mock surrender, "...on your side, remember? How did this amazing moment careen into an argument? "
"I have no idea what's gotten into me. I'm sorry, Edward. You're right, I am ruining this beautiful moment. I'm just..."
She closed her eyes, tensing with some war she fought within her mind. Gathering calm about her with deep meditative breaths, she reopened her eyes. I felt like such a heel, as if I had pushed her too far. It was too easy for me to forget and take for granted she was newly made. And though her transformation and awakening was nothing like I had ever encountered in the vampire world, I could and should not discount her vulnerability. No matter how strong she made herself out to be, erratic emotions were not to be trifled with. She had so much on her mind, and I wasn't doing my job to alleviate any of it.
"Please, Bella, accept my apologies. You shouldn't have to explain yourself and I should not question your need to speak with Jacob. You have so much going on right now, I honestly don't know how you keep yourself on such an even keel. Just remember, you are not in it alone. Ever. Especially now."
I reached for her hands and swept a light stroke across her ring finger. Sighing, she smiled and squeezed back.
"I love you so much, Edward. Your proposal was..."
"Out of this world?" I waggled my eyebrows at the cheesy joke, enticing a smirk and a solid punch to my right arm.
"I never thought I would say this, but, Isabella, my darling, let's go see if we can find a couple of wolves and let them know we are getting married."
Bella gave me a playful shove and ran off ahead of me, her voice trailing behind her in cheeky challenge,
"Not if I find them first!"
What was wrong with me?
Edward Cullen, love of my life, just proposed to me, yet here I was running at warp speed in the opposite direction to look for my ex-husband? From the outside looking in, one would think I still had a thing for Jacob, but I knew this was not the case at all. There was nothing I wanted more than to be with Edward until time stopped. But something stirred within me when I heard the wolves cry, triggering a strange sense of foreboding. Like I was missing something that was linked to the pack. My first thought was that it had to do with Jacob – at least it seemed like a good place to start. Jacob was my last stop on a map filled with guilt trips, so it seemed the logical place to backtrack and make sure things were balanced between us before I set my sights on what lay ahead for Edward and I.
I also knew my life was still not my own to live. I had a mission to complete first, and barely a clue how to begin. I knew a little of what and some of why, but absolutely nothing in regards to how and when. I definitely needed more pieces of this puzzle that was my ultimate destiny.
As I ran, I let the little I knew flow through my more than capable brain. According to Ra, the "what" consisted of battling with a revenge-driven ex-goddess. I loathed to even think about the "why." Flashes of the vision with Edward wasting away twisted my insides with a cold vise-like grip. Ra had made it quite clear there was no one but The Source who could heal Edward should that premonition come to pass.
For all my shaking of the heavens, all it got me was a meeting with a deity who couldn't even give me his name, let alone any substantial information. If I hadn't noticed the name of the boat on that life preserver, Edward and I would still be trying to hash out what pantheon we were dealing with.
I didn't have any information on how to find The Source. How can I protect someone I can't find? I needed to find out more on the goddess Hathor. Edward believed The Forsaken to be the goddess Sekhmet, who was known as the goddess of War, Pestilence and Disease.
Disease. A sickening thought oiled to the surface—chances are Edward's illness would come from her hands. One thing I knew for certain, if she dared infect my lover with disease, I could guarantee her a war.
Emotions surged like a storm inside of me. I had no doubt Edward was more than happy to let me run off ahead of him so I could get my moodiness under control. Eventually, I felt the tension ease, resolving that there was nothing to do about unseen events in the future but worry, which helps no one.
I felt confident making sure my karma was square with Jake was the right thing to do, but I needed to lighten the mood and speed up this search for the wolves so Edward and I could get back and celebrate with the family. I knew I wasn't that far ahead of him. Looking up, I thought an impromptu ambush was a playful solution for clearing the air and turn things around.
Scaling a large Aspen was a lesson in gravity. I could bend the rules of physics easily with speed and agility. As a human, I would still be three feet from the bottom, suffering bark burn and a raging case of "what the hell was I thinking?"
From my perch, I looked out across the incredibly vast valley and realized I could find Leah and Jake much faster if I used a method Harry taught me a long time ago. Convincing Edward it was safe, however, might be a challenge. I readied myself when I heard his approach. He was going to pass right beneath the tree in three, two...
A precision launch earned me the element of surprise from above. Victory was mine, even as Edward lay sprawled beneath me with a stupid grin on his face.
"Well done, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that as you seem quite proud of yourself."
"Of course I am. It's not easy to get the drop on Edward Cullen."
His smile took a tender turn as he assessed my mood change. "You seem to be feeling a little better? A good run always clears the head."
"It did, and I have an idea on how to look for Jake and Leah. It might be a little faster than relying on our noses."
"So, what exactly do you have in mind? I'm assuming something magic oriented as I'm pretty attuned to the scent of wolf, especially Quileute pack, and I'm getting nothing."
I rolled off of Edward and arranged myself in a standard lotus position for meditation. I wasn't sure how long my experiment would take, so the more physically relaxed I looked to Edward the better considering his penchant to worry. He sat opposite me with a patient, yet puzzled look on his face.
"When Leah and I were teens, we played with the Ouija board a few times. We could never really get it to do anything, and I'm pretty sure Leah was pushing it most of the time. But one night, Harry caught us playing with it and got really angry. He was railing on and on about playing with powers we had no right inviting into our spiritual space. He broke the board in front of us and took it outside to burn it."
"Sounds like ol' Harry wanted to be sure the both of you got the point."
"We sure did. Oh, but he wasn't done; he offered to teach us a lesson we would not soon forget. 'You want to try something that will scare you? I can show you how to tear yourself in two and look at yourself from the outside.' I wanted to throttle Leah when she took her father's challenge."
Edward frowned, "So, what was it he taught you to do?"
"He took us outside and guided us through a meditation for astral projection...more commonly known as an Out of Body Experience, O.B.E for short."
"Did it work?"
"Yes, but not for very long. I could only do it for a minute. Leah screamed and scared me back into my body. I had had enough anyway. Harry's lesson about messing with spiritual forces landed the moment I felt my spirit rise up and out. I realized if I was able to separate my spirit from my body that all but confirmed for me spirits contacted through the Ouija board were real – and probably not to be messed with. "
"So… you want to try this astral projection to... go look for Jake?" Strain plucked the tight strings attached to Edward's hesitant question.
"It won't be like it was in the In Between. I promise." My voice had a quality of pleading to it, which I wasn't entirely comfortable with.
"You vanished, Bella, from the spiritual AND physical realm, and I had no idea where you went!" His temper flared fast and hot. "You didn't even know where you went! I just got you back."
"I know. I know, Edward, but trust me okay? I know what I am doing. Harry is an amazing shaman and whatever he taught me, he always taught me well."
I hated lying to him, even by omission.
I did know what I was doing, but despite everything I'd been through, and everything I'd learned, I was still a little scared. Out of Body Experiences are just plain freaky. Looking down on yourself and feeling that strange duality of having your spirit and physical self separated was not an easy thing to get used to. At least I knew what to expect this time. I could also take precautions.
"Would you feel better if you knew I was going to ask for help?"
"Help from me? I have no idea how to help you except stay back here and...worr...errr, wait." He truly fought against the bitterness creeping into his tone, which was why I chose to ignore it.
"Well, not from you, exactly. I could summon Taha Aki to help me through this experience. He is my spirit guide. I was bonded to him during the sweat lodge ceremony I experienced with Harry before we went to war with the Volturi." I knew this was the best solution—after all, anyone can get lost, and losing your soul or spirit self… well, that's a tough one to fix. Edward's fretful demeanor lifted as he considered my proposal.
He then made an offer that surprised us both.
"Should I hold your hands? Perhaps that will align my...energies with yours?" His vulnerable awkwardness touched me. He was trying so hard to conform to this new paradigm of abilities I possessed and needed to use without his usual discerning judgment.
"I think that would be a wonderful idea. And Edward…one more thing?"
He reached for my hands and mimicked my lotus sitting style. "Yes?"
"I love you so much."
Pure love pulsed from his body to mine in a warming vibrating wave of energy as our hands came together. It was smart of him to suggest aligning his energy with mine, and I never realized the strength his support could loan to me until I felt it flow and tingle through my body. His inward gasp confirmed he felt the loop close between us too.
I closed my eyes and focused my intent like Harry had taught me. Visualization was the first step, and in my mind's eye, I conjured out of memory the human form of my spirit guide. Taha Aki wavered and solidified with his back to me, almost like he was walking away.
"Taha Aki, I request your help"
Sensing my call, he turned in profile and said "It's about time." He smiled at me as if he held a great secret before morphing into a hawk and flying off.
So much for conversation first. I assumed he wanted me to follow him.
I dropped to a deeper mediation in preparation to leave my body. I removed all thought except the hypnotic beauty of Taha Aki's spirit bird circling lazily above me, waiting for me to join him.
So much for my promise I wouldn't be flying anytime soon! I really hadn't thought this through as thoroughly as I should have.
Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound, Isabella. I began to chant to myself to eke the fear out of my system. You are safe. Edward is with you. You are not going to plummet to the earth in a ball of fire.
I had to admit, this was a very different experience from the O.B.E I tried as a teen. It was also different from when I channeled my power to play telephone with the gods. The first time was done out of curiosity and adrenaline fueled fear. The second was fueled with emotional impulse and no sense of consequence. This time I had a rational, pointed purpose:
Find Jake. Assure balance.
A current of calm flooded my body, and I began to test and isolate the vibratory hum of my surroundings. Harry had taught me every living thing resonated with sound waves, and the trick to communing with anything was to tune your body to vibrate in the same frequency as your target. The astral plane vibrated at a very high frequency; therefore, the only way to reach it was to heighten one's own vibrations.
There was one human emotion that vibrated very high and very strong and that was love.
Unconditional love is a very special magic all Shamans and wise men hold in high regard. During my meditation all I needed to do was to think of how much love was in my life, and my chakras would light up like Christmas trees. Chakras, being more or less gateways to varying levels of enlightenment or inter-dimensional awareness, needed to be lit up or "opened" in order to move our spiritual energy from stem to stern. These meta-physical points were mapped along the center of the body from our sexual organs to our brain and, once opened, the spirit could move without impediment through each gateway or chakra. They could even leave the body through the third eye chakra, believed to be located in the middle of the forehead. For my out of body experiment to work, I needed to join Taha Aki on the spirit plane by guiding my spirit to exit my body through this chakra.
It's strange being able to isolate yourself on a spiritual level. Spiritual energy can take on light and heat, and those sensitive to its subtle ways can discern it easily with practice. I could feel, even visualize, my own energy moving along my spinal column like a phantom.
I knew from Harry's teachings I could travel in my spiritual form as any animal form I wished, so I mentally shaped and molded my inner light into a bird, just like Taha Aki's. With the gentlest push of energy, my spirit bird burst from the middle of my forehead and I suddenly became completely aware of what was behind, above, below, and all sides. Spiritual sight was completely different from physical sight, wherein you could only see what was in front of you. I could see from every angle as the blue sky swallowed me in a rush of air and space. I was very much aware of my physical self as I sat in a relaxed state of meditation. Edward held my hands and had his own eyes closed.
My spirit bird rode the wind as if I had been doing so my entire existence. Taha Aki let forth an impatient screech as if goading me to catch up. His call sounding more crow-like than hawk.
"I'm coming!" My thoughts burst back with a shameful hint of impatience. His laugh sounded in my head, letting me know we could communicate telepathically.
"Well done, Isabella, and so you know, I wasn't cawing at you like some old trickster crow. 'Ka' is the Egyptian word for 'light body', which you have successfully separated from your physical one. I knew you could do it even though you did not. We must work on your fear...
"Egyptian?!" I interrupted, this connection surpassed any guise of coincidence, and there was no way I was letting the reference go.
"Yes. The Hawk is out of the bag. I'm Egyptian in origin. Pricolici is simply the name the Romanians gave to me when I arrived in their country asking for an alliance. I had the witch twins and a goddess to protect."
I knew Taha Aki was in Romania with the Moroi and the witches, but it was never mentioned in legends what Taha Aki's origins had been. The missing piece which explained my destined entanglement with Egyptian deities was beginning to come to light. It finally dawned on me why Ra's bird seemed so familiar to me and why it seemed he could see right through me as if he knew me.
It was because he did.
"You were there with him in hawk form! With Ra!"
"Why didn't you say anything to me there? Do you have any idea how confused I was with his secrets and general dodginess? What was that all about?"
Taha Aki grumbled unintelligibly in agreement before taking a bitter tone, "I know. I'm so sorry, Isabella. It was bad enough I had to call in an ancient favor to get him to finally pull his head out of the sand and get involved. I know it is wrong to hold judgment against my brother, and yet..."
"Brother?" I replied, stunned. "What do you mean... brother?"
"So much to tell you," he sighed with hesitation, threatening my control.
"I'm getting that. How about we start with something simple...like...who are you, really?"
"I am a very old soul who has traveled upon the earthly plane in many forms and guises protecting The Source and the bloodline sworn to be her salvation. This quest in protecting The Source has exhausted the majority of my skills as a husband, a father, a Chief, a warrior...even as a god. Since the Eye came into being, I have given my all in correcting Ra's mistake. It was no easy task separating Chaos from Creation. I had to drug the beast in order to do it! I can guarantee Sekhmet's not falling for that one again. "
"Yes. I was Thoth, god of Knowledge, per the Greek accounts of my legends. In Egyptian, I was Tahuti. When I shunned my godhead for the anonymity of a shifter being, I became Taha Aki. As Taha Aki, I tried to protect Hathor when the Djinn was stolen from her. It was my seed that begat the bloodline prophesied to save her."
"Why was none of this in the Grimoires? In the legends?"
"My true identity is one which I have kept secret even from my many wives and sons. Contrary to what I know you are thinking, you are not the last to know. In fact, you are the first of my line to learn of their true heritage in over two millennia."
"Why did you feel the need to keep it secret?"
"The Forsaken scoured the world for revenge upon me for my involvement in her capture and banishment. She wanted my head as much as she wanted The Source's. We could never let her know either of our whereabouts, so we assumed different identities in every corner of the world we hid in."
This admission was cold comfort as I still couldn't help but feel duped somehow. Suspicion weighed me down and I tried harder to maintain a vibration of positivity. I pressed my spirit guide for truth knowing if he was the god of Knowledge, I would have it.
"We aren't going to look for Jacob and Leah are we?"
"No. I think we both know this is not necessary. You are imprinted to the vampire, and the wolves have imprinted on each other. All is balanced there. You broke the curse. You are partially right in that you need balance. The imbalance you feel is from your fear of losing Edward; of failing. These insecurities can only be balanced with knowledge, which is something I can supply you."
"You will answer any question I have?"
"I will give you the answers you seek if they are within my capability to give."
If I needed to know anything, it was what I was up against.
"I want to know who The Forsaken is."
"You have already figured out she was once Sekhmet. She was the Goddess Hathor's twin. Ra combined their godheads to form the Eye of Ra. You also know I had to help him separate them. What you really need to know is who she is now."
"Okay, I can't help but feel that statement has some ominous foreshadowing to it. Who is she now?"
"She is Sulpicia of the Volturi."
"Holy. Shit. Is she ever going to have an axe to grind with me."
"She's sharpening it as we speak. Sulpicia has used the Volturi to further her agenda in subjugating the vampire race for centuries. Thanks to you decimating her powerful army, she is left exposed. But don't underestimate her, especially with her back in a corner. She is still very powerful in her command of dark magics."
"Is she a vampire herself?"
"No, but her claim on them, at least in her mind, has validity. You see, when she combined with her sister, Hathor, to make the Eye of Ra, Sekhmet went mad with the combined powers of their Chaos and Creation godheads. Bloodlust was the Eye's only form and function and thousands perished beneath her teeth. Hathor, being the goddess of Creation, was overpowered by her twin's gory gluttony, but some of her Creation magic leaked through. Three days later, the bodies of the dead rose. Whole, strong, and immortal like the goddesses who made them and able to proliferate from living humans. Half abomination, half blessing—the Vampire race was born."
My mind reeled. Hathor, goddess of Creation, was the only one who would have the power to heal Edward since she was the progenitor of his race! I fully understood now why The Source was named as such and how she could help Edward.
"Ra said The Forsaken was coming for me. Can't I just seek Sulpicia out and eliminate her as I did her guard?"
"Any approach against Sulpicia on her own turf is folly. She used to be the Goddess of War. She would have any compound or castle completely secure, if not with vampire guards, then with the darkest of magics. It would exhaust too much time, energy, and strategy to break through those types of barriers. It is best if we draw her out of her fortress and make her come to us. Fueled by anger, she tends to be careless.."
What Taha Aki was telling me made sense. Best wait for her to come to me. At least I knew what and who was coming now—not that it made it any easier to swallow.
"I wasn't looking forward to planning an assault anyway." I couldn't help my sarcasm.
"Yes, you will have enough on your hands with planning a wedding. Congratulations."
"Thank you, and not just for your well wishes, but your guidance. Your sacrifice. I truly hope it all ends with me. I feel like a weight has been lifted now that I have a little more information and security in knowing I have you in my corner, not to mention, how very long you've been there."
"Always and Forever, Isabella Marie. You are descended from gods, dear one, and you are everything we hoped you would be. Now, look down."
I turned my Sight beneath us and saw we had come full circle around the valley during our talk and we were back to my physical body.
"Go back to your body and carry with you the knowledge that you are not alone in this war. It has waged along the line of time long before you were even a Promise during the darkest moments of our defense against The Forsaken. This quest will not be without pain for you, but you have an unlimited supply of love, Isabella. Love with Edward, his family, and yours. With my own! Go, surround yourself in love for it is the greatest power in your arsenal."
Diving into my body, I felt the grounding rush of returning to the material density of the physical plane. My eyes opened to see Edward staring back intently, relief washing over his body.
"Well, did you find them?"
"No, but thanks to Taha Aki, I found what I was looking for and so much more."
"Answers enough for temporary peace of mind and a huge helping of hope. I'll tell you all about it on the way back to the house. We have a wedding to plan, Mr. Cullen."
Edward's face crumpled with emotion. Relief still riding him raw, he reached for me, crushing me to him, and barely able to speak he managed to choke out, "Yes. Yes we do."