After the noon meal, Annette walked out in the sunlight to explore the monastary. The stone walls spoke of the earth, while the brightly coloured flags and statues bloomed in the fashion of the flowers. This man-made place seemed to spring from the mountain itself, and she was anxious to know more of it.
Near the gates of the monastary, a carving in the stone caught her eye and she paused to try and make sense of it. She startled a bit when a voice behind her spoke, "It is a prayer of refuge." Thubten walked over and placed his hand on the wall, "I take refuge until I am enlightened in the buddhas, the dharma, and the sangha. Through the merit I create by practicing giving and the other perfections, may I attain buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.."
"That is beautiful," whispered Annette.
"That is the way." replied Thubten.
He lightly touched her arm, and turned her once again towards the monastary, and leading her through a small doorway. There she saw the Lama seated at a low table.
"Ah, Annette. We have much to learn!"
Yes, the superior language? Come, sit.." he motioned to a pillow on the floor beside him. "I could see in your face that we have much to speak of."
She sat beside him, mind scrambling to make sense of it all. Her 'past life' in the lower world spoke to her, that these men were very clever, seating her beside one and across from the other made a neat little triangle that would not speak of interrogation, would it? For the first time since entering these walls, she possessed the urge to flee.
"Child, rest," he said as he grasped her hands, "We do not take that which is not freely given." The words did little to soothe her, yet he continued, "I have questions for you, as well. Please, tell me about France.."
She began slowly; the politics, the climate, measuring every word. Thubten scribbled quickly on a piece of paper while the Lama watched in fascination. Before long she found herself grasping the Lama's hand in return and talking about her brothers stealing grapes from a neighboring vineyard to make a jug of wine that went neglected so long it eventually exploded in her Mere's pantry...
The peals of laughter issuing from the room brought curious on-lookers, including Tirseng and Curioso, to peer cautiously inside the door. This only served to seed the storm of mirth that brewed around the low table, and the three clutched their sides in delicious agony. When the storm subsided, as all storms do, Tirseng took the opportunity to call Annette from the room to continue a tour of the grounds. Reluctantly, she rose from the table, but not before kissing the Lama's cheek.
"Merci, bon homme." she chuckled. To which he replied, "Merci, bonne dame." Thubten only shook his head in mock annoyance, then blushed as her lips grazed his cheek as well.
A few minutes later, Thubten and the Lama looked out of the window to see Tirseng leading the pair, arms interlaced, they dutifully followed.
"Ah," sighed the Lama, looking at Thubten ruefully, "Two flames from the same fire, this will be a task indeed."