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A future take for The Singer and The Sorrow
For Bee & Fifty
**Wednesday, June 2, 2010; 12:10 p.m.**
**Seattle; Cullen home**
It was early summer. It was cool, but pleasant and Bella and I wore jeans and short-sleeved shirts on our hunting trip. Bella was only months old and she continued to excel at all things vampire. She was my Isabella and I really should have known better, but I was sure that she would continue to surprise me during the rest of our lives.
After our return home from Italy in November, the family had fled to various parts of the world in celebration of what we realized we all had. Carlisle and Esme had disappeared to the island Carlisle had bought her many years earlier. Because of my troubles, they had not been able to take advantage of it until now. They left at the beginning of December, but we expected them to return soon. Rosalie and Emmett had decided to take a cross country trip across the United States and Canada. They loved to drive and this let them spend time in their favorite way. Bella and I had been traveling almost as soon we as returned to Seattle. I had taken her wherever she wanted to go, and the first place was Paris to visit Alice and Jasper.
After I'd proposed to her on that Sunday morning, she did three things. She first whispered 'Yes', then kissed, caressed and enjoyed every inch of my body before she rolled off the bed and dialed Alice to tell her. I left her to shower and took an extra-long time so she could have time with her best friend. When I emerged from our bathroom, she was still talking excitedly and so fast, I was concerned that Alice would have difficulty following her. I put an end to the phone call when I saw Bella standing in front of the windows, the sun shining on her while she stretched like a cat, arching her back and reaching toward the ceiling. In two steps, I grabbed the phone and told Alice that Bella would call her back shortly. Seeing her that way made me want her that very second. I wrapped one arm around her waist while my other hand trapped the one she'd stretched above her head. I'd pressed her up against the cold glass windows and whispered harshly in her ear, "I need you now." Bella reached her free arm around my neck pulling my lips to hers.
A couple of hours later, Bella called Alice back and they began wedding plans, which they continued when we arrived at their Paris apartment just a few short days later. Happily, Jasper and I shared a number of interests as we spent a great deal of time together while the girls plotted and planned. He and I left them to discuss silks, satins, laces and trousseaus, flowers, fairy lights and other innumerable wedding accoutrements. The nights Bella and I spent in Paris were lovely, as we would slip away after bidding good night to our friends to share our private moments among the romantic City of Light. Hand in hand, we walked along the Seine or we found ourselves in awe at the inspiration of Notre Dame. One night, we even decided to climb the Eifel Tower to truly view the city in all its grandeur.
For now, we were back at home in Washington until we decided upon our next destination. This morning we'd run all the way to Canada and slowly worked our way back to our Seattle home. Seth had joined us as he always did. He did his normal and thorough job of keeping us safe from the woodland scourges – squirrels and chipmunks. Bella was right; Seth – this sacred, giant, vampire fighting dog – was driven to complete insanity by a squirrel. I had feeling that within the next few months he would have cleared the entire Pacific Northwest of all small rodents.
Seth would go from an intelligent, snarky companion to a complete, well… dog. So at the moment Bella and I were walking hand in hand, close to the river as Seth ran chasing a squirrel around, yelling something about harbingers of doom. We had actually stopped and were watching him chasing a particular squirrel around a tree. I was translating to Bella and trying to keep her from falling over laughing at Seth's antics. When she did fall over, I simply watched and marveled at her, giggling and glowing, luminescent in the sun. As she laid there, her hair out behind her in a dark silky fan, her eyes were green like the flora around her. She was a dark-haired diamond lying among the purple stars of wildflowers.
She gave me a look.
One single look and I was hard.
My Bella had me in an almost constant state of partial arousal.
I was so happy. I was in love with the most wonderful, amazing woman. Bella was my other half, literally.
Her voice was soft as the silk gowns she wore and I ripped off her. The lilt of it was melodic and erotic and swirled around me like her song.
"Edward, sweetheart…" She crooked her finger at me.
And with that I dropped to my knees and pulled off my shirt. Bella sat up and wrapped her arms around my neck pulling me down to her and placing her lips on mine. She opened to me. My hands slipped under her shirt and she shivered. I loved what my touch did to her. All our years together and she still shivered. Bella's hands slid up and into my hair, tugging. My tongue slid slowly over hers, savoring her taste like a sweet, sparkling wine. In a quick move, I flipped us and pulled her atop me. Next, her shirt and bra disappeared and I filled my mouth with her breasts, licking, tugging and teasing. Her moans and sighs delighted me, spurring me onward like erotic music. Bella's hands were at my jeans, rubbing and massaging my cock. I groaned in response. In a second her fingers unbuttoned my fly and wrapped around me. Her thumb slid back and forth over my tip. If she kept that up I was going to come in her hand.
I rolled Bella to her back, buried my face in her neck and growled at her. "If you continue to tease me like that, I will just have to suck on my mark until you scream my name…"
Not only did she not stop, but her other hand stroked and squeezed me as her thumb continued its sweetly torturous circles. I lifted my head, moaning at her while she smiled a naughty smile and wickedly licked her lips.
"Maybe that was my plan all along," she whispered.
My laugh morphed into a growl as I went back to her neck licking and sucking. We were lost in each other for some period of time. Lost in arms and legs entwining, nibbling, touching and teasing, caressing and … barking.
Our bodies still wrapped around each other, clothes half off, we sat up, looking like a pair of naughty prairie dogs. Seth was ten feet away barking and spinning excitedly.
"Chipmunk?" Bella asked.
I shook my head. "He says there's someone waiting at the house."
Bella's face dropped into a pout. "I guess we should get dressed."
I nodded reluctantly and kissed her forehead. "He's very excited about something or someone there. He's thinking so fast, it's hard to pull out clear sentences."
As we stood, Seth was galloping back and forth. Bella and I gave each other a quick look as we pulled on our clothes, then ran after the big fur ball.
"Someone's here! Someone's here! Someone's here!"
Seth was chanting in his head. I yelled at him to tell me who, but his words didn't change. He was like a little kid waiting to see Santa. The closer we got to the house, I felt glimpses coming from someone, but I couldn't tell who and it was very hazy at best.
He tore through the backyard and around to the front and began barking quite happily. Bella and I turned the corner and skidded to a halt to find a young, colorfully-robed man sitting on the front steps of the house.
We slowed to a walk, but Seth was running in circles around the man. He looked to be of Eastern Asian descent and his head was shaved. His robes were a deep royal purple edged with gold and he wore simple sandals.
I leaned to Bella and whispered, "Seth keeps saying something about a llama?"
She took my hands and replied simply. "Let's go meet him and I'm sure he'll explain."
The man looked at Seth who promptly sat, his tail still whomping the ground happily. The brightly dressed man turned to us, pressed his hands together and bowed deeply in greeting.
"Edward Cullen and Isabella Swan."
"Yes, hello. Is there something I can help you with?" The man's mind was blocked. I was a bit suspicious even though it was clear that Seth knew him. All these people blocking me were becoming a bit annoying.
"I am Brother Śamatha from Bhote Kukur monastery. It is the place where Sanctuary here was born." The man bent down and scratched Seth behind the ears. Seth proceeded to bark again excitedly and ran around in circles, his front paws dancing.
"Really? How wonderful!" Bella hurried over to Seth, rubbing her face in his fur. "So, you are really from Tibet?"
The man slowly inclined his head. "Yes Isabella Swan, I am. I helped raise Sanctuary before he was stolen from us."
I walked closer to the Brother and to where Bella was crouched with Seth. Upon initial inspection I thought the man was in his early twenties. When I observed him more closely, I saw the faintest of laugh lines at his eyes and around his mouth. Brother Śamatha was clearly older than he appeared, but his eyes were bright and clear, like deep black pools in clean white snow.
"Are you here to visit us? Or, rather visit Seth?" I wanted to distrust the man, but something about him made me feel at peace. In fact, being around him was like being around Seth.
"Ah, Edward Cullen, you are most curious about me."
"Yes, I admit I am." I crossed my arms and gave the Brother a good once over.
"You cannot hear my thoughts. I am like your Isabella and hence I must frustrate you."
Bella felt a little uncomfortable and stood, wrapping her arms around my waist. "Are you a shield?"
"In the simplest of explanations, yes. At its essence I am a shield, but not like Isabella. I am more… complicated. May I show you?"
We both nodded, our curiosity piqued.
Brother Śamatha took a deep breath, and brought his palms in front of his chest, as if in meditation or prayer. He began to glow and as he did, I saw runes and sigils appear all over his body. They looked like tattoos, but at the same time not. They were beautiful and utterly unique.
He exhaled and the markings vanished, as though the man had adjusted an internal dimmer switch on his body. I looked at Bella and I'm certain that the astonishment on her face matched mine.
"Wow, that's amazing Brother Śamatha, but if you are Buddhist why are there angelic symbols on your body?"
He chuckled, closed his eyes and nodded slowly. "We are a unique sect in that we are not entirely Buddhist, Christian or any specific religion actually. We feel very strongly to be open-minded. The angelic sigils keep us hidden from the world."
"Where did they originate?" Bella asked. I could tell that this has sparked her curious mind.
"It was long ago and I am honor bound not to reveal any angelic secrets. All the Brothers have them in varying degrees of appearance."
"Well, we are most pleased to meet you Brother Śamatha, but why have you come to visit us here in Washington?"
"Yes, that would seem to be the crux of things, is it not? Our leader asked me to deliver this message to you." From his robes, he removed a scroll and stepped forward to hand it to me.
Bella rested her head on my shoulder as I unrolled the scroll. What it held was a message written in clear, concise print that I read aloud.
Greetings Isabella and Edward,
I am Lama Sarvajña. My fellow brothers and I are the caretakers of the
Temple Dogs like your Sanctuary. We are proud and pleased he has kept you safe.
Now with your life change, he will be with you much longer.
It is because of his life and his connection to you that I make this request.
We would like for you to bring Sanctuary back to the monastery to
sire a litter of puppies. We will explain more when you arrive.
Brother Śamatha has access to a plane that will bring you, Edward and
Sanctuary to us in Tibet.
I promise I will explain more when you arrive. The Brothers and I will
be delighted to have you honor us with a visit. We are well aware
of your special dietary needs and will ensure that you will have
the appropriate animals available for you.
I have asked Brother Śamatha to await your answer.
He has further instructions depending on your reply.
Peace and prosperity to you.
I rolled up the parchment and looked to Bella who had already knelt down next to Seth who was happily panting and wagging his tail.
"So what do you say Seth, do you want to go visit where you were born?
Two days later we found ourselves in a lush green valley somewhere in Tibet or China, I wasn't entirely sure as Brother Śamatha wasn't exactly forthcoming in information. As in the message, there was a private plane waiting for us at the airport. Our destination he explained was vague and he was unable to tell us exactly where we were going. His sect had always been tight-lipped about their existence, but since the breach of their defenses when Seth and his siblings were stolen, the brothers had tightened their security even more.
I wondered how a well-maintained landing strip could exist in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere, but decided it best not to ask too many questions. I knew I wasn't going to get any answers.
A dusty, dirty SUV was waiting for us by the runway. We were told that it would take us as far as possible, but the very last part of the journey would require some hiking on our part. Also waiting in the car was clothing for Bella and me that would allow us to blend in better with the populous. We quickly changed and tossed our backpacks into the back seat and then got ourselves settled. Seth sat between us.
"Seth, you know, we don't need a chaperone anymore," I told him, just a bit annoyed.
"Yeah, I know that, but you guys don't need to be all touchy feely on the way. And there's no music room for me to disappear to."
"Okay, okay I got it," I answered him good naturedly.
"What?" Bella asked.
"Seth is afraid that our lusty nature will overtake us on this trip with us ultimately ripping off each other's clothes and embarrassing him in front of the monks."
Seth looked at me, and then blustered in agreement at Bella.
Brother Śamatha closed his passenger side door and then turned back to us, holding up black cloth.
"Now, I am very sorry, but we must keep the location of the monastery a complete secret. You'll understand why we must keep you blind-folded during the drive."
"Of course," Bella replied and reached for one of the black sacks. She placed it over her head and then relaxed back against the seat, her arm melting into Seth's soft fur. She breathed a deep sigh of quiet and peace.
"Edward?" he prompted, offering me my sack. I took it and placed it over my head, pulling the strings to remove all light.
"I know this is uncomfortable and an inconvenience, but…"
"No worries, we understand," I answered and rested my head against the back seat, taking Bella's hand in mine, linked in Seth's fur. Though I couldn't see her hand, but I could see it in my mind's eye. I knew each and every line, every nuance of her silken flesh.
As the car drove through what I presumed to be the countryside, I asked questions to our guide. Our driver remained silent. He must have been a monk as well as his mind was as quiet as Brother Śamatha's. I inquired about the plane and the car; how were they able to obtain such things?
"Edward, your family is well taken care of. Your family has done an excellent job of investing and diversifying your funds over time, yes?"
"Yes, Carlisle and Esme have done quite well keeping us financially solvent."
"Well, we have several brothers with such investment experience and knowledge. I would expect that our wealth and assets rivals the Cullen's, but not that of the Volturi. There are too many of them."
His serene nature and tone changed when he mentioned the Volturi. I could imagine his face became pinched or lined as he spoke the name of those accursed vampires.
Bella broke her silence. "That brings up another question. You have no qualms about being with two vampires?"
"That is true Isabella, but you were destined for Sanctuary. Therefore, we have no reason to fear you, nor Edward."
"Seth, um I mean Sanctuary, told me that he would protect me as he protects Bella."
Seth nudged my arm. "Of course I will."
"And I'm sure he told you just as matter of factly that he would kill you if you harmed her."
"Ah, yes, he did. Although he was a little more pointed in his answer to me." I waited for the monk to answer me, but I found myself met with silence.
Hmm… Well, I guess we'll just be quiet for the remainder of the drive to wherever it was we were going. I resigned myself to the silence and just squeezed Bella's hand again.
After about another half hour, I felt the SUV slowing as we traversed the rough roads. Brother Śamatha broke the silence.
"We are here." The vehicle stopped. "You may remove your hoods now."
"Really? Your SUV can climb to the monastery?" Bella asked, with me almost speaking over the end of her question.
"I didn't feel the car climb much altitude?"
"You're correct, we did not. We walk from here. It is not far to the temple." The monk pulled out a bag from the car and slung it over his head to drape at his side. He also extracted a tall walking stick, neither of which did I remember him loading in the car when we were at the airport. "Before we leave I ask that while you are here in our country you not hunt any wildlife. We will obtain what you require should there be a need."
"Of course, we had just hunted when you met us at the house; we should be fine," I assured him.
"Seth, you can handle the terrain?" Bella kneeled down to look in his eyes.
He blustered at Bella and nuzzled her, but spoke to me. "Please tell her that I'll be fine. This is where I grew up!"
"He'll be fine Bella. This is where Seth was born."
Seth barked angrily and then ran after Brother S.
"What? I paraphrased!" I yelled back at Seth.
"He really doesn't like it when you do that," Bella chuckled.
"Yeah, I know," I laughed. "I like to yank at his collar."
Bemused at our antics, she shook her head at me and Seth.
If she only knew what he and Emmett got up to…
I tossed Bella her backpack and then put mine on. We had to jog for a moment to fall in step with our hairless and hairy leaders. The narrow path we traversed was wide enough for a single person or animal to walk on. Brother S led the way followed by Seth, then Bella, with me bringing up the rear. We really shouldn't have been concerned about Seth. He was so excited he kept running ahead and then running back to us. He really wanted the monk to go faster and more than once I heard him tell Seth to have patience, that we would not arrive faster than he could walk.
Mostly we walked in silence as we took in the terrain and the vista it provided. Though we walked a narrow path atop a ridge, everything around us was lush and green and alive. The entire area, even the ground itself, was teeming with a vibrancy that was indescribable. No, truthfully, the only other time I had felt such vitality was when Bella and I made love. When we came together, I felt every molecule, every atom in both us vibrate with a dynamic kinetic life – quite a contradiction when the bodies that caused the feelings contained no life at all.
After a couple of hours of walking, we emerged from the mountain pass and into another valley that looked like green postage stamps of farmland. The acres seemed to stretch endlessly for miles before us. Though not tired, I stopped for a moment and tried to estimate how long it would take us to reach the monastery, wherever it was.
After walking for another 15 minutes, Brother S stopped near a small copse of shrub like trees and waited for Bella and me.
It was odd, where did those trees come from? Why was he waiting on us?
Seth was barking excitedly and doing his happy dance with his front paws.
"We are nearly there. The temple sits atop and carved into that mountain."
Bella and I exchanged confused glances.
"I'm afraid I don't see anything but a valley lying miles before us," Bella said, sounding perplexed.
"Can't you see the mountain?"
"Seth says there's a mountain here? I think that the altitude is affecting you boy."
"No, Seth, we don't see a mountain," Bella answered him, turning in a circle and looking all around her, as though the mountain would be there when she reached the starting point.
"Brother S, what's going on? I think we're going the wrong way." I pointed behind us. Bella nodded in agreement, but pointed behind her in a completely different direction.
Seth trotted up to the monk and sat at his feel wagging his tail. "It's the wards. They can't see through the wards!"
"Seth said it's the wards?" I took Bella's hand as we tried to approach them, but it was proving both difficult and confounding. It felt as though I was trying to walk through what it felt like to push two opposing magnets together.
"I know this will sound weird, but my brain feels all itchy," Bella said looking at me, her face pinched in confusion and scratching her head.
"Excellent, then our wards are working perfectly. The Brothers will be very pleased to hear this."
"Wait, are you telling me that the temple is protected by wards… like… like… Hogwarts?" There was a bit of awe in her voice as she spoke.
You would have thought the brother's face would crack his smile was so big.
"Isabella, that is an excellent analogy!" he chuckled and turned to face the shrub-like trees again.
Bella's laugh was a delightful chime that echoed around the valley.
"What is Hogwarts?" I asked, staring at a laughing Bella.
Her laughter continued. "Brother S, how do you know about Hogwarts?"
"We may have a higher calling, but we have a rather large library and we get satellite TV," he answered with a wink.
"Hmm?" She turned and danced towards me grabbing my arm. "Oh sweetheart, you and I will have a Harry Potter movie marathon when we get home."
"Harry Potter, huh?"
"Oh yeah! And you know, there's this guy in the fourth movie that really reminds me of you…"
"Stop a moment." The man held his hands out in front of him to stop us.
He turned around, took three deep breaths and bent forward at the waist. Then he rose slowly, opening his arms as if he was performing a warrior yoga pose. Again, he took on that white, shimmering glow as the sigils appeared on his body. I became so entranced watching him that I barely registered the touch of Bella taking my arm.
I pulled my eyes from the monk to the space in front of him. The view… moved, melted. It was a combination of the appearance of a mirage flickering in a sandy desert and a drop of water making concentric waves in a pool. Suddenly, within the wavering space, I could clearly see a wooden gate with high stone walls. Two jade green stone Foo dogs marked each side of the gate.
"Step through please."
I'm not entirely certain if Brother S spoke those words, or if I heard them in my head, but I covered Bella's hand on my arm and stepped through. The thickness of the air and all my confusion was gone. Very clever, I thought. The wards would send people in the wrong direction and away from the monastery, keeping the monks and dogs safe from harm, or overly curious people.
Once through the ripple of the landscape, we were awed by what we saw. In front of us were no longer endless green fields in a valley, but a huge mountain that rose from that green valley. It was encircled by a high stone wall that must have been 15 feet high. At the top of the mountain was an ancient structure, the monastery. For some reason, I had expected to see a few buildings and a few stables. I have no idea what gave me that preconceived notion, but I was very wrong. The monastery looked massive and I knew that it wasn't all visible from where Bella and I stood and gaped. Though I couldn't hear her mind, I knew what was running through Bella's head was how large of a library did the monks maintain and would they allow her to walk amongst the tomes. There were three huge towers of cascading height that stretched up to the heavens. At the top of the towers were gigantic banners of deep royal purple and in gold was the image of Seth. Well, it actually wasn't Seth; it was likely just a Tibetan Mastiff. No. It was an illustration of the Tibetan Temple Dog.
The buildings were wood and stone. I certainly wasn't an expert on wood types or masonry, but I had no idea from where they obtained the materials to build this… palace, because it looked to be more than a monastery. It was majestic, there was an inherent feeling of royalty and at the same time there was such a strong spirituality that I felt everywhere.
Seth had already bounded ahead of us and was jumping at the side of the gate, grabbing at a chord that made an ancient copper bell ring. The bell rang and Seth's barks almost seemed to match in cadence and tone.
Brother Śamatha walked up to Seth and greeted him in all his doggy excitement. He rang the bell yet again, making Seth bark again. Seth's thoughts were a little different here; I didn't really want to intrude upon them, but it clear that he was happy to be back here. This was where he was born, this was his first home and the monks were his caretakers and his family. I found myself feeling oddly parental. I had this deep swelling pride of "showing off" how proud Bella and I were of his accomplishments.
Too distracted at my thoughts of Seth, I had completely missed how the monk had opened the gates. I wished I had been paying attention, since I saw no visible locks or handles, or any kind of hardware anywhere on the wood. Seth had run through and Brother S was motioning to Bella and me to follow. We passed through the gates and began to walk the winding stone path that seemed to disappear into the depths of the mountain.
I didn't bother keeping track of the number of times Bella and I snaked our way up the path to the actual entrance of the monastery because we were too caught up admiring the beauty of the building and the scenery. As we turned the first corner of the path and looked up, I could clearly see now where the back of the monastery seemed to literally grow out of the mountain, like lichens on a tree. And everywhere there were prayer flags – on the tops of the gate walls stretching out onto the grounds, lining the tops of the stone buildings – a myriad of bright colors flying in the gentle winds. It was as though there was a wall of rippling colors. A prayer wheel appeared atop the gate walls at each right angle.
I slowed, then stopped in my tracks. "I hear them. Do you?"
"Do I what?" she paused. I smiled as her full realization hit. "Wait! I do! All the dogs!" She grabbed my hands excitedly and bounced like a little girl. I loved this. I loved her. I finally loved my life and that I was actually on a mountain in Tibet.
Still giggling, Bella backed up pulling on my hands. "Come on vampire. I'll race you!"
I smirked at her and pulled her back into my arms. I kissed her cheek and whispered in her ear, "You're on newborn." I pushed her gently and took off up the stone path.
As I came closer to the gate I stopped, all thoughts of the race forgotten. I stepped up to the entrance to the monastery. Next to me Bella murmured, "There is a huge courtyard behind that gate. I can't see it."
"But I know it's there." We both spoke at the same time.
This gate looked almost exactly like the one at the entrance to the path; ancient gopher wood, held together with wooden pegs and covered with runes. Two giant stone Foo dogs flanked either side of gates, stalwart guardians of this sacred and secret place.
Bella walked towards the gate with reverence, seeking to touch the wood, but carefully ensuring that her fingers did not.
"I know I could crush that wood with my fingers…" Bella whispered.
"…but I feel compelled to not touch it." I finished her sentence.
As Bella and I stared in admiration at the gate, Brother S and Seth finally joined us. The man gently rested his hand on my outstretched forearm. "No offense to either of you, but I am glad for it." He paused and then turned to face us. Seth dropped his furry butt between us, his tail causing a slight breeze from the happy wagging. "Isabella Swan, Edward Cullen, I welcome you to Bhote Kukur monastery." He pressed his hand on the wood causing his handprint to faintly glow white. Silently, the gate opened inward.
What lay before us was something that I would never expect to see. Ancient, yet elegant buildings surrounding a stone courtyard. At the center of that courtyard was a large reflecting pool, with stone benches placed around it for quiet meditation I guessed. Intricate, exquisite wonderfully colored tapestries floated in the windows of the buildings. And everywhere were dogs and monks – monks that looked like Brother S, Catholic monks, Lutheran monks and Anglican monks. Bella saw the dogs and unable to contain her excitement, ran forward to them. Seth had already run ahead and was romping in their midst.
I followed more slowly talking to Brother S. "You weren't kidding when you said you were an open-minded monastery."
"Yes, you see we are represented by many faiths here. It is our ultimate goal to raise the dogs and ensure they get to their intended charge. We need many people to complete these tasks in a way transparent to their environment. For example, if we have a dog that needs to go to someone in South America, a Buddhist monk may look out of place."
"But a Catholic priest would not," I finished.
He smiled at me acknowledging my answer.
"Very interesting and ingenious."
"No, not so much really. We make use of the appropriate resources available to us."
"Simple," I concluded.
"Brother Śamatha, I must ask. Was Seth always destined to be with Bella?"
"Our Lama will share that information with you later on, but in short, yes. Sanctuary was always meant for Isabella. We had to wait for the correct Isabella first, of course."
"You knew about our curse?"
"Yes and no. We knew that there was a black haze that surrounded Isabella's soul and both your circumstances. When she was born in 1986, the blackness was different. It was more like a grey film; we could see through it a bit. It allowed us to see you, Edward, and because of that, we knew it was time to send Sanctuary."
"How did you know that we would be able to break the curse?"
"We didn't know with 100% certainty – we never do. What we did know was that in this lifetime, Isabella needed protection and guidance."
I turned my attention to Seth. "Did you know?"
"No way. I only knew someone was waiting for her. I had no idea it was you until that night in the park."
"Even though I was a vampire?"
"Yup. I knew then that everything I had done had been to nudge Bella in the right direction. That right direction was you."
Brother S smiled broadly and nudged me to look at Bella, deep in a huge puppy pile. "The dogs, they all love Isabella," he commented as we approached her. Seth loped on ahead and dove into the fun.
"I know I'm biased, but how can anyone not love her?"
"Isabella is a special and truly unique woman."
I sighed happily. "That she is."
She sat back against Seth as all the puppies clamored to crawl into her lap. Her face glowed as she laughed ebulliently, singing through the courtyard.
"It is one of the reasons we asked you to come to us, Edward. You and Isabella are the very first vampires that have stepped through these gates."
I turned to look at him. I felt a tiny bit uneasy at his statement.
"Please do not worry, Edward. You and Isabella are perfectly safe here; you are honored guests."
I smiled at him and looked around the temple, admiring all that was around me. There was something about these buildings and this place that felt vibrant and alive. It was calm and serene, yet there was something vitally alive about this temple. It was just as I had felt when we passed through the gates at the base of the mountain; this monastery, its buildings and people, sparked with electricity and mysticism. This is precisely what Seth brought to Bella and now me; he brought a sense of peace and calm, but was powerful and unique under that sandy red fur.
"Edward, please relax and enjoy your time. If you will forgive me, I must make preparations for this evening." With a smile and a bow, he quietly departed.
I approached the melee of dogs and vampire, and sat on the stones.
Who knew that puppies giggled?
But all the fuzzy fur balls crawling all over my love were giggling. Brother Śamatha was right; they all adored Bella. The puppies stopped playing with Bella when I sat down; she looked like she was wearing a Mastiff fur coat. Several of them intensely sniffed the air and looked at me warily. Then, one brave little grey and black ball of fluff approached me. His little butt was in the air as he sniffed my shoe. I grinned as the other dogs watched the tiny trailblazer. He sniffed at me, and then backed up as a tiny growl rumbled in his throat.
"Differt." His voice was small, but this little guy was very brave approaching me without an adult.
I shook my head and pointed to Bella. "Same."
He looked back at Bella, and then waddled over to her. Bella put out her hand for him to smell. Fuzzbutt tentatively approached and sniffed her hand, then happily licked.
"Like! Like! Like!" He spun in a couple of circles and barked once.
He plopped his butt down and looked at me again.
I shook my head again. "Same as Bella."
Fuzzbutt approached me again, but less tentatively. I put my hand down, palm open, as Bella had. He stopped about six inches away and sniffed. He came closer and with each fuzzy step his butt began wiggling. His little black nose touched my fingertips, followed by a tiny pink and spotted tongue to lick me.
"Same…?" Lick. Lick. Lick. He became very excited. "Same! Same! Same!"
Fuzzbutt barked in glee and I was suddenly covered with puppies licking, sniffing, pulling and tugging at my clothes. He crawled into my lap and looked at me intently. "You brin moar squeaky toiz?"
"Do you think that Bella and I would visit you and be unprepared?" She and I both opened our back packs and freed fuzzy ducks, squeaky toys and Nylabones. And with that, excited barking bedlam erupted amongst the dogs.
Three of the brothers approached us and interrupted our playtime with the dogs. They whistled a combination of notes and all the puppies and the adults stopped playing and went to follow.
"It's their dinner time." I said as I watched the small herd of dogs trail after the monks.
Bella crawled over to kneel before me. I gently took one of her hands and kissed it. Looking into her eyes, I drowned in the love I saw there. She cupped my cheek, stroking gently with her thumb. Covering her hand with mine, I leaned into the buzzing and tingling of her shield flowing around us.
"My two men," she whispered and threaded her hand through Seth's fur. "What would I do without you?"
Seth blustered and eagerly licked Bella's hand.
"He really loves you Bella. It's not a duty to him." I spoke quietly, not wanting to spoil the moment.
Brother Śamatha silently returned and bowed in greeting. "Many pardons, Isabella, Edward, Sanctuary. I would like for you to come with me please. Lama Sarvajña would like to speak with you now."
We rose and all began to follow when he spoke again. "I couldn't help but overhear what you were saying when I arrived. Isabella, your connection with Sanctuary is unique as well. All our dogs have an attachment to their owners, but your bond goes far beyond that. In fact, everything about your situation is unusual."
"Brother S, are you calling us weird?" Bella's playful jibe caused the monk to laugh loud and long.
"Oh no!" He continued laughing. "Perhaps unusual is not the appropriate term. Your situation is unlike any others. You and your mate are vampires and our dogs don't go to preternatural beings. Sanctuary could easily destroy either of you, but clearly he would not. Bella was human and we knew that there was the potential for her to transform. That brings us to the reason we asked you to visit us." He paused before he continued speaking, almost as if he was about to say too much. "It is quite an honor to meet with the Lama. I have never spoken with him myself yet. In fact most of us never get to see him. Usually it is only the most senior monks that converse with him."
I wanted him to say more, but the man decided to stop talking. Bella looked at me and I shrugged in return as we watched him walk in front of us through the courtyards and alleys until we reached two large plain wooden doors. He stopped and turned to us.
"We are here. The Lama is waiting for you within. When you are ready to enter, just pull that chord. It will ring the bell and alert him of your presence."
"Thank you," I replied.
"Peace and prosperity." He bowed to us and disappeared into the shadows.
Bella turned to me, her hand on the bell's chord. "You ready?" I nodded and she pulled. We heard from within a quiet, tinkling chime and within seconds the doors glowed with a flash of bright blue runes and opened inward. They were as silent as the gate entering the monastery. It opened to a room that was much larger than I expected based on the outward appearance of the building. The room was dark, but lit with what had to be thousands of small candles all lining the back of the room. It gave the room a quiet and solemn feel. From somewhere within the room I could smell incense burning. The aroma was woodsy and floral, more earthen than sweet; it reminded me of Seth a little.
We heard the rich voice, but it took us both a moment to see the man. He pressed his hands together and bowed deeply. Bella and I bowed in return. Even Seth bowed to the ancient man.
"Please, sit with me. I am Sarvajña." He gestured to two large pillows on the mat before him. "I would offer you tea, but I know you do not partake."
"Thank you for thinking of us," Bella said as we sat on the pillows. Seth situated himself between Bella and me with his head on her leg.
I looked upon the man that had called us to cross the world to talk to him. For some reason, I expected a small, frail and elderly man, but what I saw was an older man, no more than 70 years at most. His skin was not weathered and leathery, but firm and full. His eyes were bright and blue, and though his head was shaved, he had a thick white beard trimmed close to his face. I had expected to find Gandhi and found someone's grandfather. He did have a Buddha-like belly that was hidden by his royal purple robes that were edged in gold; his dress was just the opposite of what Brother Śamatha wore.
He took a deep breath and began to speak again; his voice was smooth and deep. "The reason we have taken this unprecedented step to speak with you, yes, this is what I need to tell you. Where to begin? Where to begin?
"Let us start with me. I am the one who meditates and prays here in this chamber, and is rewarded with the match of a dog and the person the dog is destined to protect."
"So twenty odd years ago, you saw me and knew that I was to have Seth?" Bella's voice was quiet and curious.
"Yes, child, I did."
"But Brother Śamatha said that you knew I may become a vampire? And that didn't change your mind?"
"No, of course not. When I saw you, you were shrouded in ambiguous blackness..."
"Yes, he said that," Bella interrupted.
The man nodded, clearly entertained at Bella's enthusiasm. "Though there was a darkness trying to crush you, I could clearly see your soul battling against the dark. I also saw Edward waiting for you, standing on a fragile precipice of sanity. Sanctuary needed to keep you safe long enough for Edward to save you. Then you, in turn would save his mind and body, and together you saved each other's souls. You were both fractured halves waiting to be reunited."
He looked straight at me. "Yes son, you do have a soul. But I think you know that now, thanks to Isabella."
I nodded and looked at my love. "Yes. She is my reason to exist."
"And so to the crux of things."
We looked at the Lama in anticipation. Even Seth lifted his head eagerly wanting to know as much about this as Bella and I did.
"We believe our Temple dogs have mystic Foo Dog ancestry. None of the monks here, or even I, know exactly how they came into being. Legends tell us that Foo Dogs were capable of warding off evil, detecting the preternatural and providing fierce protection. We believe there was an angelic element to it as you have clearly seen now that this monastery is filled with angelic sigils." When the Lama paused his speech, I felt an absence, as though the fullness of his voice was yet another being in the room with us. He made me smile when he spoke again. "Our dogs are blessed with unusually long lives. This ensures that he or she will protect their match for as long as is necessary. Sanctuary here would likely live as long as-"
"But Bella could live…" I trailed off looking at Seth.
"Yes Edward, that's it exactly."
The mortality of the moment dawned on Bella. Her breath caught in her throat and her mouth downturned in sadness as she wrapped her arms protectively around Seth, burying her face in his fur. "I never thought about losing him."
Seth looked up at me with concern in his eyes. "I never thought about it either."
I conveyed Seth's thoughts to Bella and Sarvajña.
"Oh Isabella my child, please don't think that. Based on what I have seen, I believe that Sanctuary has transformed too."
Bella and I spoke over each other in our surprise.
Seth pawed at me. "Am I a vampire dog? Ask him Edward. Ask him!"
"Um, Seth wants me to ask you if he is a vampire dog?"
The Lama's round face shone with amusement. "Of course not Sanctuary, but we do believe you have changed, so you will be with Bella as long as she exists."
"That's wonderful! He's been with me for so long, I couldn't even imagine my life without him."
"With your permission, we would like to spend time this evening with Sanctuary. This will provide me with the chance to discern if he has actually transformed along with you – is Sanctuary truly immortal like you and Edward."
A change overcame Bella as Sarvajña spoke his words. She protectively wrapped her arms around Seth as she spoke. "You will not perform experiments on him. I refuse to agree to anything like that!" Her words were punctuated with a growl and lips pulled back over her teeth. My entire body was humming with Bella's shield; I prayed that the Lama wouldn't try to touch either of us right now because I didn't know what would happen to him.
"Bella love," I spoke calmly and quietly, while gently placing my hand over hers. "The Lama surely won't do anything like that. I would never allow it either." I turned to the man, who was surprisingly smiling from ear to ear. "No lab testing, right?"
"Of course not, my child. I only wish to spend time with him in prayer and meditation. That will show me what I need to know."
Even Seth breathed a sigh of relief when Sarvajña finished speaking.
"I am quite pleased to see that Sanctuary has engendered such fierce loyalty from you as well. This rarely happens from master to dog. So, may I ask you to leave him with me? Brother Śamatha will take you to our guest chambers. I will know by morning."
Bella nodded, gently rubbing her face over Seth's fur and whispered, "You be good for the Lama, you hear me?" Seth blustered and licked her in reply.
"He'll be fine Bella. Plus, you know he can call for me if he needs us. Right?" I looked pointedly at the Lama.
"Of course," he answered, nodding his head at us both. "He will be completely safe. I give you my word."
I rose, holding out my hand to Bella. I smiled to myself as I watched her fuss over this huge sacred being as though he was her child. Seth trotted over to the Lama and sat before him as the man petted and scratched behind his ears making Seth's tail thump happily. I felt the smile in Bella's face rather than saw it because the electric humming stopped, replaced by a rushing warmth. I wrapped my arm around her and we made our way to the opening doors and Brother Śamatha.
Bella and I followed Brother S, hand in hand, as we wound our way through courtyards, down hallways, up and down stairs; this monastery was truly a labyrinth. The final hallway down which we traveled was very quiet, I sensed no other humans other than our leader. As if Brother S could hear my thoughts he broke the heavy silence.
"As I believe I mentioned to you earlier, we rarely have guests here, so I hope that the amenities are acceptable."
"Brother Śamatha, I can assure you that Edward and I will be perfectly happy with whatever lodgings you have. We don't require much."
With Bella's words, he opened the French-like doors and what I saw astounded me. In truth, Bella and I could have cared less if we had a dirt floor upon which we could sit and talk, but what we had was elegant. The walls were ornately decorated in golds, reds and greens. The designs were both Asian and Indian. There was dark, rich mahogany wood everywhere – pillars on walls, on the ceiling, posts on the bed. And the bed… It was enormous. The bedposts were at least six by six inch square. Above the bed there was a hook and from it hung silks – some translucent, some brocade and some in elaborate Asian designs – of shades of blue and green. The silks fell over the bed, wrapped around the tops of the posts and then draped down over it, creating a sleeping haven. The bed itself held pillows of all shapes and sizes, reds embellished with gold, purples with royal blue. Two tall narrow armoire closets were at the head of the bed on either side.
There were two chairs against one wall with a low, round mahogany table between them. Bella's and my backpacks were sitting in each of the chairs. Behind the chairs were two six paneled windows that over looked the back side of the mountain. Each window was covered with silks. They blew out gracefully as the wind passed from the outside and into the room with the sunbeams. Dust motes danced in the air. The other walls were carved wooden squares and panels, like cutouts, wood against white. The floors were plain stone, but covered in throw rugs. Brightly colored prayer wheels adorned each corner of the room. Everything in the room was awash with opulent royal colors.
I was so distracted and enchanted by the room, that I missed seeing Brother S taking Bella into the en suite bath.
"Edward, we have both a shower and a wooden tub! I think that bathroom is larger than both my bedroom and bathroom combined from my old apartment." She danced over to me and wrapped herself into my arms. "This is amazing!"
"Yes, Brother Śamatha. This room; it leaves me speechless. It is much, much more than is required for us."
He inclined his head before he spoke. "I am not surprised that you say these things. But you must understand, on very rare occasions we accommodate people who are of great importance. Therefore, we feel that such a room is necessary. I appreciate your saying you have no special needs, but believe me when I say that we all are very happy and proud to have you with us."
I didn't know what else to say but thank you to the man.
"I have shown Bella where the bathing supplies and towels are kept. Please rest and relax. I will return for you at 9 a.m. Should you require anything prior to that time, pull the chord on the side of the doors. It will alert the Brothers and someone will come to your assistance."
"Thank you," Bella said again.
"If you need nothing more from me, I shall take my leave." He bowed. "Peace and prosperity."
The doors closed as silently as Brother S walked. I turned and Bella winked at me. I smirked in return and promptly tossed her on the pillow-covered bed.
Promptly at 9 a.m. Brother S arrived at our doors, greeting us with a huge smile on his face.
"Good morning Isabella and Edward. I trust that you rested well?" He bowed to us.
"Yes, it was lovely. The mountain is beautiful." Bella answered and engaged the man in meaningless talk, while I smiled in remembrance of our night together. We put very good use to the bed, its posts and silks, and also the bathroom. The wooden tub made for a tender, slow joining that left us warmed, breathless and fully sated. This time, as we returned to Lama Sarvajña, my hand rubbed circles on Bella's, the circles reminding me again of our bath.
When we reached the doors to the Lama's meditation chamber, Brother S again told us to ring the bell when ready, bid us peace and prosperity, and then left. This time, when the doors opened, instead of being greeted by the scent of incense, we were greeted by the happy barks of Seth. Bella hurried up to the center of the chamber where Seth was bowing and wagging his tail so happily I think he managed to extinguish some of the candles behind the Lama. Sarvajña was seated, a huge smile on his face, just as yesterday. I joined Bella and Seth in our greeting of barks and licks and lots of ear scritching.
"Please take a seat, I have much news to share with you," Sarvajña said, his arms wide.
Bella, Seth and I sat as we did yesterday, even with Seth resting his head on her leg. "Good morning Lama, what can you tell us?" Bella nodded in agreement with my salutation, but continued rubbing Seth's ears.
"Most importantly, Sanctuary is immortal in that he has ceased aging. Even though our dogs age very slowly, there is no dynamic changing happening within him. He breathes, he lives, but he does not age. I do believe that his life force is indeed tied to yours Isabella. As long as you exist, so will Sanctuary."
Bella hugged Seth happily as he blustered; his thoughts were filled with happiness and lots of steaks.
"Seth, if you want to eat steak every night, I will make sure it happens," I told him, rubbing at his ears.
"Be aware that Seth is not impervious to harm. He could be killed, but it will be very difficult. Just be aware of that," he warned.
"We will. Thank you!" Her words were muffled by Seth's fur.
"There is more."
"More?" I asked.
"Yes. While meditating, I saw again something that was the reason I asked you to come to Bhote Kukur monastery. I saw a puppy that had longer than usual life that must go to someone. She was the daughter of Sanctuary and another dog here, Anthem. Anthem has not yet given birth to any puppies; her litter with Sanctuary will be her only litter. She can have no other puppies.
We would like to ask that Sanctuary stay here until he and Anthem conceive. Brother Frederick informed me that Anthem entered her estrus cycle the day you arrived. I would say that is fortuitous, yes? Of course, you both are welcome to stay until the birth."
"Of course, if there is someone else that needs a dog like Seth, then yes," Bella quickly answered.
"Um Bella, don't you think we should ask Seth? He is sitting right here after all."
"Oh Seth, I'm so sorry." Bella held his fuzzy face by his cheeks. "Do you want to do this?"
Seth turned his head to me to answer. "She's kidding right? I may be immortal now, but I'm still ALL MALE!! YES!" He finished with a chuff and a bark.
I looked up and smiled at Bella and the Lama. "Seth says that he would be very happy to help out."
Bella crossed her arms. "Edward, even I know that's not what Seth said. But I am guessing it was some variation of an affirmative reply, yes?"
"Um, yes, pretty much," I murmured while stifling a laugh. Seth just blustered at me in annoyance.
"I'm not entirely certain I understand." The Lama's face was perplexed.
"My apologies. You see, Edward always translates Seth for me and the translations aren't always word for word." Sarvajña began to smile. "Edward, shall we say, feels it necessary to formalize Seth's words, when Seth is generally more casual. It kind of annoys Seth at times." When she finished speaking the Lama was laughing. I simply shrugged.
"I can't help it. Hey, I was born a really long time ago."
"And you admittedly like to tease Seth," Bella answered, giving me no sympathy.
"You're right," I couldn't hold in my laughter.
"Can we please get back to Anthem?"
"Seth would like for us to steer the conversation back to Anthem." Sarvajña just sat and smiled while watching us.
"Yes, let's talk about things. Pregnancy lasts about two months. Then we do not begin their training until the puppies are fully weaned; at about 12 weeks. I would imagine that Seth would like to stay until the pups are born?"
Seth blustered and barked in agreement. "I want to see my puppies!"
"Lama Sarvajña, I know you've been doing this for many, many years, but since Seth is involved, I must ask some questions. How do you handle the whelping of the dogs? What if there are troubles during the birth?"
"Do not worry child. As I'm sure Brother Śamatha told you, many of the monks here also have other talents. We have five very skilled veterinarians on site. We also have a state of the art medical facility for them. In all the years of this monastery's existence, we have never lost a pup in birth. I would be happy to have one of the Brothers give you a tour if that would make you more comfortable about everything?"
Seth barked and Bella nodded enthusiastically. "Where is the facility?" I asked.
"It is deep within the mountain. It is also in the opposite direction of your guest chambers. It is located close to where the dogs sleep. We have a special chamber set up for whelping, but it is close enough that should medical help be necessary, the mother can be quickly whisked away and treated. All whelpings are overseen by one of our vets. Does that ease your mind?"
"Yes Lama, thank you. Please do not take my questions as disrespect. As evidenced by Seth here, I know that you all do a wonderful service to those who need these dogs." She casually ran her hand over Seth's fur. "I just need to make sure that everything will be perfect for them. And we will stay here as long as Seth would like us to stay."
"You don't mind spending upwards of six months with us on the mountain?"
"Of course not," I quickly answered. "We will need assistance for meals, or we will need to leave a few times. Just tell us where we are allowed to hunt."
"We will make sure your needs are met in one way or another. We can also obtain additional clothing or anything else you may require."
Bella looked at me and her eyes grew wide. "Lama, I hope you don't find my request impudent, but I'm sure you must have an extensive library-"
"Isabella, I will ensure that you have full access to our books." He answered her unfinished question, much to Bella's delight.
"When do I get to meet her Edward? Ask him? When?"
I chuckled at Seth's enthusiasm. "Seth is curious when he gets to meet Anthem?"
"Sanctuary, Brother Śamatha tells me that Anthem is most eager to meet you as well. You shall meet her this afternoon."
**Wednesday, June 5, 2010; 3:05 p.m.**
**Bhote Kukur Monastery; Reflection Garden**
Brother Śamatha took us to a garden, similar in appearance to the grand courtyard we saw the day we arrived. He asked us to sit on a stone bench and he would see that Anthem was brought to us. In the middle of the area was a fountain, with a rather large patch of thick green grass with shrubs and flowers lining its borders. There was an unusual mix of annual, as well as perennial flowers that grew there. I was curious how the monks were able to have so many diverse plants growing together, but decided it was probably best that I didn't know.
Bella and I took a seat while Seth paced back and forth in front of us.
"Come here Seth," Bella crooned to her companion. He stopped and sat in front of her. "You're nervous, aren't you? That's the only time I've seen you pace."
He shook his head in what seemed to be acknowledgment.
I moved closer to Bella on the bench and added my hands to Bella's trying to calm him. "It's okay Seth. No need to be nervous. If the Lama saw you two together, then she has to be wonderful, right?"
"I guess."He looked hard at me, then continued."How did you know when you loved Bella? Will I even feel that for another dog? Or will I just be a rutting pig because she's cycling?"
I smiled and rubbed his ears. "Seth, I knew the very moment I saw Bella that I loved her. My number was up right then and there." I stopped when Bella clasped one of my hands and smiled sweetly at me. "You are not just another dog Seth, you are unique. I believe that you will love her in your own special way. I can't say that it will be exactly how Bella and I feel about each other, but I am certain that it will be right for the two of you."
"Oh yes, my sweet silly boy," Bella slid off the bench and made sure she looked him in the eye. "You will always be my Seth, my protector, my companion, but now you have the chance to have love, too. Wouldn't you like to have someone to be with when Edward and I make you want to hide in the music room?" A sly smile graced her face.
Seth barked loudly.
I laughed so hard in reply I nearly fell over.
"What?" Bella poked me. "What's he saying?"
"He said that maybe you and I will have to go and find refuge somewhere on this mountain, because he's going to howl!" I kept laughing and Bella joined me.
"See? You're already confident and ready to meet her!"
Bella was going to say more, but all three of us heard the door open at the opposite end of the courtyard. An older man I presumed to be Brother Frederick walked out accompanied by a beautiful mastiff. She was about the same size as Seth, but she was all black with caramel spots under her neck, on her chest and on each of her feet.
Bella gave Seth a little nudge because he was just staring across the courtyard. "Go on, Seth," she whispered. "Go introduce yourself."
Seth took a couple of tentative steps towards Anthem, who was now sitting in the grass, licking one of her paws. He looked back at Bella and me; we waved him forward with silent encouragement.
"Edward, don't listen, okay?"
"Don't worry, Seth, I would never intrude in that way," I assured him.
He chuffed out a breath and then loped confidently over to Anthem. She stayed seated as he sniffed at her. Anthem then rose and started sniffing at him. Within a couple of moments they were well involved in happily romping around the grass.
Brother Frederick came over to us and bowed in salutation. "Greetings Isabella and Edward. I see that Sanctuary and Anthem are getting along rather splendidly. I think we should allow them to become more acquainted. Please come with me."
As we rose, Bella asked a question that had been rumbling around my mind. "Brother Frederick, I've been thinking."
"What is it child?"
"Do all the dogs that are born and raised here go to people? Or are there some for which Lama Sarvajña sees no charge?"
"Actually, we do have dogs that are undesignated. If the Lama sees no person to protect, he checks to see if the dog plays a part in the future, for example in future generations. If he sees no protection duties or breeding duties in the future, those dogs are considered undesignated. You may think of them as dogs that breeders consider pet quality rather than show quality. The dogs always remain here to play and live out their lifetimes on the mountain with all of us."
"Oh," Bella answered quietly and squeezed my hand tightly.
"Please don't think that these dogs are lesser than any of the other dogs. They are just as important as the dogs that we train. They are happy. Please believe me."
Bella looked up at Brother Frederick and smiled. "I just want to make sure that they are loved."
The monk stopped and turned to Bella, gently taking one of her hands. "Do not worry; the dogs are truly loved. All of the monks here shower the dogs with affection. You just haven't been privy to seeing any of it." He patted her hand in a grandfatherly manner and smiled.
"Thank you. I do feel better." Bella visibly relaxed, and so did I. If Brother Frederick had said no, I had a flash of our home in Seattle becoming a mastiff refuge…
"Come now, I have been told that you would like to see our library."
"Oh yes, I would very much like that!" She and the monk took off leaving me to follow behind. For an older man, Brother Frederick was pretty spry. I just needed to make sure that Bella didn't start dragging him.
Later in the evening, the Brothers gave us access to a media room – these men were indeed resourceful – that allowed us to Skype with Carlisle and Esme. We provided a brief description of the situation and said that we would be able to keep in touch with them during our stay. Poor Carlisle, we both could see how much he wanted to be with us and learn about this place, but we couldn't reveal any more than we did. We didn't want to betray the monks in any possible way.
We had just finished up with the call when a monk entered the room. He was garbed in the robes of a Franciscan monk.
"Good evening, forgive my intruding upon your time. I am Brother Paolo. I came to bring news that Sanctuary and Anthem are getting along very well together. They seem quite taken with each other. Now we must just… ah… wait for the event to occur. They will be spending most of their time together to maximize the opportunity for the blessed event."
**Wednesday, June 12, 2010; 7:30 p.m.**
**Bhote Kukur Monastery; Guest Chambers**
Bella and I were curled up on the bed reading quietly as the wind blew gently making the silks float. Bella had been reading books on Temple dog pedigrees and Tibetan Mastiff breeding as quickly as the monks could bring them to her. I was trying to catch up on missing out on a couple of hundred years of reading, so the monks were giving me a rather eclectic collection of fiction, including the Harry Potter books Bella had talked about, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 1984, Madame Bovary and A Game of Thrones.
I sat up. "Seth's calling me."
"Let's go!" Bella sprang up off the bed, like a lioness to protect her cubs, and was at the door immediately. She was going to open it when there was a knock. Surprised, she stepped back and opened the door to have Seth bound into the room, jump on the bed and spin around. Brother Paolo stumbled in after Seth, out of breath as though he'd been trying to catch up with him from wherever it was they came. He stopped, bending over to put his hands on his knees and tried to talk, only to stand, then bend over again and gasp for air.
"Bella! Edward! Bella! Edward! I did it! Anthem is pregnant!" He barked, clearly thrilled and excited.
"Edward, what is it? Brother Paolo?" Bella couldn't tell if Seth was upset or happy. "Someone tell me!"
"Anthem is pregnant!"
Brother Paolo stood and held up his finger, asking us to wait for him to catch his breath, but I couldn't leave Bella in the dark while waiting for the winded monk.
"Seth is most enthusiastically telling us that Anthem is pregnant."
The monk nodded enthusiastically and put his hands on his hips, as he eagerly sucked the thin mountain air. I showed pity on the poor man and went to the bathroom to get him a glass of water.
"Seth! Oh, I'm so happy for you my sweet boy!" Bella jumped on the bed, and soon she and Seth were a jumble of arms and fur and legs. "Puppies!"
Seth bounced a couple of times, spun in a circle and then bounded off the bed and ran out the door and down the hall. "I have to get back to Anthem!"
Brother Paolo drank the water I gave him as though parched. Now having just caught his breath, he returned the glass. In exasperation, he looked at us and bowed before he began a feeble attempt to jog after Seth.
Bella squealed in excitement and fell back amongst all the pillows on the bed. I pulled her into my arms and rolled her underneath me. I happily kissed her quickly. "Are you happy, love?"
She nodded and caressed my face. I kissed her again, but slower and deeper, with a warming heat that began wrapping around us. I lowered my head to my Bella's ear and whispered, "I guess we aren't the only passionate creatures on this mountain…"
Now we waited and our days passed in Tibet. Bella and I explored the mountain within the wards while Seth and Anthem cozied up together. Bella often spent her days in the library with the Brothers, while I sat with Brother S and discussed everything from philosophy to pop culture. I had a great deal to catch up on and I found our conversations stimulating and entertaining. The man was quite the masterful storyteller.
Occasionally, Bella, Esme and Alice Skyped or emailed each other to ensure that all the wedding plans were on track. With Renee travelling around the country with Phil, it was impossible to get her involved as much as she would like. Esme kept her up to date though, and made sure to relay her suggestions or desires. As the wedding triumvirate had tackled much even before we left, there wouldn't be much left when we returned home save for final fittings. We told Alice that Bella was on a special sabbatical in China and that's why her conversations were limited.
Our nights were filled with passion. Seth was spending all his nights with his lady, so that allowed me time with my lady. We definitely took advantage of the beautiful setting and a couple of very informative books Bella found in the library.
At approximately six weeks, Brother Śamatha and Brother Paolo brought us into the medical facility for an x-ray with Anthem. We were surprised to find Lama Sarvajña at Anthem's side.
"Lama, to what do we owe this honor?" Bella asked as she greeted Seth, his paws up on the table, his head resting there, just looking at Anthem.
"Ah, Isabella and Edward! How wonderful for you to be here today." He turned, his face as jubilant as always. "I always attend the x-ray; it helps me to conclusively match the pup to the images I have seen. After about 45 days, the bones of the puppies have mineralized and we can see them on x-ray. It will tell us conclusively how many puppies there are."
"Bella and I wouldn't miss this," I said joining Bella, sliding my arm around her waist. "Plus, Seth asked if we would be here."
Sarvajña placed his great hand on Seth's head, petting his fur with a gentleness that belied his size. "Of course he would."
Brother Frederick came into the room dressed in a manner more accustomed to medical personnel. "Let's begin, shall we? Isabella, if I may ask that you stand behind the table by Anthem's head?" Bella quickly moved and reassuringly placed her hands on Anthem's head and neck, stroking her slowly. "Yes, good. Now, Edward, you stand next to Isabella. And Sanctuary, you may stay right where you are."
The monk made the appropriate preparations with the x-ray equipment. He politely continued to comment to keep us informed with each step. "Before I actually perform the x-ray, Lama Sarvajña will check Anthem."
The holy man approached and gently laid his hands upon Anthem's belly. He quickly smiled and nodded. "Yes, yes." He then put his hand on Anthem's head and whispered something to her. Her tail happily wagged in response. He scratched her ears. "Our Anthem here has three puppies – two females and one male. I'm sure that Brother Frederick will confirm that when he checks. Now, if you forgive me, I must go and meditate on this." He bowed to us all, and then left the exam room as silently as the other monks.
Brother Frederick proceeded to perform the x-ray, and after several minutes confirmed that indeed there were three puppies.
"It is a little unusual for such a small litter, but not to worry. Everything is just as it should be and Anthem is very healthy."
**Wednesday, August 16, 2010; 2:05 a.m.**
**Bhote Kukur Monastery; Guest Chambers**
Bella and I were in our room, preparing for a game of chess, when the sound of running feet followed by urgent knocking caught our attention. At the same time as the knocking, I heard Seth yelling for me and Bella.
"Something's wrong," I alerted Bella.
She got to the door before me and opened it to a yet again winded Brother Paolo. "What's wrong?"
He spoke in between gasping breaths. "Puppies..." gasp "arrived." gasp "Anthem in…" gasp "surgery. Come now!" gasp "Please!"
Bella and I were running down the hallway before Brother Paolo turned around. I could only imagine that he was jogging to catch up. Seth's anxious cries were our lifeline to him. We made it to the surgical suite and were stopped by Brother Śamatha; his hands held out in front of him.
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry, but you cannot enter. You aren't sterile!"
"But Anthem!" Bella pressed her face against the glass in the door.
"Brother Frederick and Brother Sebastien are with her. They are the most skilled veterinary surgeons we have in the monastery. She is in excellent, caring hands."
"What happened?" I asked, as I pulled Bella away and into my arms and began to slowly stroke her hair.
Brother S took a deep breath as if to steady himself. "Anthem whelped the first two puppies with no trouble. All the puppies are fine and healthy." He told us quickly about the puppies certainly because he saw my mouth open to ask. "After the third was born, she seemed to suddenly get much weaker, and we saw she was bleeding in a way that was not normal for birth. The Brothers whisked her into surgery and are tending to her now. From the little I heard before they dismissed me, she is stable."
"When will she be out? Where is Seth?" Bella asked, her face buried in my shirt.
"I will check with the Brothers in a moment about her. Seth is down the hall with the puppies – oh! Look, it's Brother Paolo now. He can take you to them."
Brother Paolo stopped again, his hands on his knees gasping for breath. He then stood slowly and motioned us to follow. "In here," he said breathlessly, and opened a door that showed us a nesting box that held three fuzzy black and gold puffs. Seth watched them vigilantly.
"How is she?"His voice was quiet. I didn't recall Seth thoughts ever having such a soft and sober tone.
I sat next to him and rested what I hoped was a comforting hand on his back. "We don't know yet, Seth. Brother S said he would tell us very soon. They just said she was bleeding, but is stable."
"I'm a dad. Two girls and a boy."
"Seth said there are two girls and a boy." Bella knelt down to see the tiny fluffs.
"Which are which?" Bella's quiet voice held both wonderment and joy.
"Seth said that the girls are black like Anthem and the boy is gold like he is." I knelt next to Bella and looked in the box.
"Have you given them names yet?" Bella asked while comforting Seth with pets and scratches.
I translated as he blustered and barked and nosed one of the black and tan puppies that was mewling. "That is Colla Voce; it means 'with the voice.' She is the puppy that Lama Sarvajña saw in his vision." Seth nosed the second little girl who was sort of rolling and cuddling Colla Voce at the same time. "This little girl is Allegrezza; it means 'cheerfulness.'
"And the boy?"
I chuckled. "Seth said he is called Fortissimo; 'very loud.'" Seth chuffed at me again. "Oh, he said the Lama told him that Fortissimo is destined to sire a line from which he saw many dogs going to many people."
Bella hugged him again. "You must be very proud, my sweet, sweet boy. I like that they are all musical names."
Just then two men entered the room, both of them with blood on their sterile gowns. They were followed by Brother S.
"Isabella, Edward, I am Brother Sebastien. I performed Anthem's surgery." He paused and then turned his attention to Sanctuary. "Anthem is stable and is going to be just fine. But the bleeding was such that we had to remove her uterus. She won't be able to have any more puppies; I'm very sorry." He took a few steps toward Seth and knelt before him. "She is safe. Truly. You can see her in about three or four hours, okay?"
Seth barked in acknowledgement, and then bumped his hand under Sebastien's hand.
"Seth is very appreciative," I interjected.
The monk nodded and smiled kindly. "Yes, I understand. I am more than happy to have been here to help you and Anthem."
My attention had been so concentrated on Seth and the surgeons, that I didn't realize that Brother Paolo was finally sitting and looking rested. And actually, he looked very much in his element next to the nesting box with the puppies. He kept checking on them, and was quietly talking to Bella.
"… these puppies are a little larger than usual at about two pounds each, but not to worry, Isabella. They are larger because the litter was smaller. Plus, our Temple Dog puppies are generally just a little larger at birth than the regular Tibetan Mastiff breed." His usually out of breath voice was actually soft and tender. He almost cooed as he talked to Bella. "I will make sure the puppies are well tended and help Anthem to nurse and care for them as soon as they release her. You can think of me as the puppies' nanny." Though the monk's hands were so large in comparison with the puppies, he held each of them as reverently as if they were precious cargo.
"When do the puppies start their training?" Bella was transfixed by the dogs and the monk. I could tell that she desperately wanted to touch them, but was afraid that because of her strength and very make up she could unintentionally do them harm. Instead, she held her hands clasped close to her heart.
"Well, the little mites will gain anywhere between one and three pounds per week for a while. And by the time they are about 10 weeks old, they generally start their training with us."
"What about Allegrezza? Seth didn't say that she was going to anyone. What does that mean?"
"If the Lama has not seen a match for her, then she will stay here with us," Brother Paolo ran his finger over Allegrezza's fur. She kept trying to roll or snuggle up to her sister.
Listening to Bella talk with Paolo, I could hear the swelling concern in her voice.
"And Anthem? Brother Sebastien said that she can't have any other litters. What is destined for her now?"
"I would imagine that she will remain here on the mountain with all the other undesignated dogs." He looked up to see Bella's wide green eyes. "I'm sure one of the Brothers told you that the dogs are well cared for." He gathered her hands in his. "We love and care for each and every dog, great and small."
Bella's face softened as she gathered Paolo's hands in return. "I know you do Brother Paolo. Thank you." When Bella looked at me, I knew what was in both her mind and her heart. I couldn't help but feel the same.
Looking out the window of our room into the dark, quiet night of the mountain, I wrapped my arms around my Bella love and rested my chin on her head. "I know what you're thinking, love," I whispered and kissed the top of her head.
She snuggled back into me. "What am I thinking, Edward?"
I kissed her temple. "You are thinking that we should take Anthem and Allegrezza home with us, aren't you?"
Bella hugged her arms tighter around me, still looking out into the night. "You know that Seth would love to have Anthem with him. And there's no reason for her to stay here. I am so lucky to have you, and I want him to have his own love."
"He is really taken with her. He was telling me that a few days ago. And he said she's a little shy of us because of how she was raised here, but she is curious, especially since apparently Seth goes on and on about you." I finished by kissing her neck and tickling her.
She joined in the wresting and pulled me onto the bed, finishing by straddling me. "And we can't leave poor Allegrezza here by herself, right?"
"No, I suppose we can't," I said as I pulled off her shirt. "You know we have a huge home, but Bella love… that's a lot of dogs…"
Off went my pants. "Silly vampire…" Followed by my shirt. "I think that the Denalis would love Allegrezza, don't you?"
I rolled her under me. "I do, love. Eleazar was quite fascinated with Seth. We'll talk to Sarvajña tomorrow, okay?" Her face shone as she nodded. "No more talking about anyone else but us now." I touched her face and caressed her rosy lip with my thumb. "I'm going to kiss you now and then the only thing else I want you to say is my name…"
**Thursday, October 28, 2010; 9:15 a.m.**
**Bhote Kukur Monastery**
Anthem was fully healed and Allegrezza was determined old enough, so they were both cleared for travel. It was time for all of us to return home. Lama Sarvajña, as well as Brother Śamatha and Brother Paolo, stood with us at the gate at the bottom of the mountain. Brother S was going to accompany us on our trip home to Washington. We thought that would be fitting – he was with us at the beginning and he would be with us at the end. He and I had become rather good friends during our stay on the mountain, so I planned to keep in touch with him. Sarvajña wanted to keep tabs on all "his" dogs and I promised him that I would relay information through Brother S.
Bella was taking her time saying her goodbye and hugging everyone possible. Śamatha actually told me that he'd never seen the Lama hug anyone. I confided that Bella just seemed to have that effect on everyone. Seth and Anthem had been nearly inseparable since she left the surgical suite. They sat before Brother Paolo, their tails crossed, as Allegrezza was literally bouncing in figure eights around the man. He was really going to miss her; he told me repeatedly that day that she absolutely embodied her name of "cheerfulness." I could attest to her constant bubbly chatter. It's a good thing that none of the Denalis could read minds. I honestly wondered if I would have a headache by the time we made it back to Seattle.
**Thursday, November 4, 2010; 4:25 p.m.**
**Alaska; Denali home**
We asked Brother S if he wouldn't mind making a quick detour to Alaska so we could give Allegrezza to our Alaskan family. I thought that would give him the opportunity to meet the Denalis if he wished, or if he simply wanted to observe from afar. Bella hoped the gift would help further smooth things between her and Kate. Ever since she zapped Kate as she discovered the extent of her shield, she had always felt that she had to make up for that. I was amused at her concern over being accepted by them; I assured her that she was being silly thinking otherwise. On the flight back, I suggested that maybe a personal invitation to our wedding would be a very thoughtful gesture. Bella told me I was brilliant and then showed her gratitude in a way only Bella could.
When we arrived at their home, I asked Seth and Anthem to stay in the car for a few minutes and I would come back for them.
Carmen flung open the door and pulled us in the house before we even had a chance to get to the door.
"My dears, what is it that brings you to us? What could you not tell us on the phone? Are Carlisle and Esme alright?" She hugged both Bella and me as she chattered in worry. Kate, Irina and Tanya stood behind also showing concern on their faces.
"Carmen, my love, please give Edward a chance to talk. He told us when he called from the plane that nothing was wrong, isn't that right Edward?" Eleazar tried to ease everyone's fears, but even he had thoughts of confusion and some fear.
"We're sorry to worry you, truly," Bella said smiling as she took my hand.
"There are two reasons why we wanted to come and see you in person," I said as I wrapped my arm around Bella.
She was nearly glowing and I felt as though I was humming with all the heat coming from her. "Edward and I would like to personally invite you to our wedding."
The women erupted with excitement as they gathered around Bella, taking turns hugging and truly accepting the woman I had fallen for hundreds of years before. Eleazar gave me a firm hug and a clap on the back in congratulations before he told me he had to call Carlisle. When he left, I was lovingly smothered in hugs by my cousins.
"Wait!" Bella exclaimed. "There's one more surprise! Edward?"
That was my cue to go out and get the canine parade. As I walked outside, I could hear Carmen and the girls all talking over each other about "another surprise?".
I opened the door and Anthem and Seth jumped out of the car.
"Sorry dude, I tried, but she was too fast."
Seth was referring to the slightly chewed bow around his daughter's neck.
I laughed, completely unsurprised by this. They followed me into the house and then I held back and watched Bella, Seth and Anthem introduce Allegrezza to the Denalis. It was entertaining to see our cousins giddy with excitement over Bella's second gift. Allegrezza immediately charmed them all with her cheerful nature.
Seth trotted back to me after he felt everything was under control with his daughter and her new family.
"Edward, is it weird that I feel like Anthem sings to me?"
"Just between you and me Seth, I would have imagined nothing less."
~oooOooo~ ~oooOooo~ ~oooOooo~
This piece was originally written for the Fandoms4ME compilation.
Thank you to my amazing betas stuff4ang and jennyBird32.
Thank you to my outstanding pre-reader ADM_01. And to LadyLemon for her willingness to read little bits here and there, and to offer encouragement.
Huge, huge thanks to Tkegl for creating my beautiful, beautiful banner. It is wonderful!
Thank you to SweetLovinCullen & TwiLucy_UK for running this fundraiser.
My thanks to this site for providing such great information about Tibetan Mastiff's in general.
http : / www (dot) tibetanmastiffinfo (dot) com/
Finally, thank you for making a donation to this important cause.
For visual references, refer to my album on Photobucket.
http : / s891 (dot) photobucket (dot) com/albums/ac115/ChocoMartiniGal/Sanctuary%20Song/