(I like it read to me)
Estella shook her head. “Ascentia, what you ask is too much. How can I do that? Like you, they are people. I am just a cat!”
Ascentia continued. “Maybe you are more than 'just a cat.'
Ascentia smiled and continued. "The previous leader of these people was one who had a longing in his heart. He loved the forest. When he met me, he discovered what my Forest People still know. At first, he thought he was feeling love for me. He was, as I also was for him. However, I knew the source of his feelings. I explained to him that his yearning for what is beautiful and strong in me is his longing for the forest. In the forest, everything is beautiful and strong. I suggested that maybe only the forest could make him truly happy.”
“We talked much and in those discussions I discovered that long ago his ancestors were Forest People. Those Forest People were just like mine. And just like mine, a terrible enemy came with armies from a city in the south. Those armies destroyed his ancestors. The Forest People who survived were made into slaves. Still, the memory of his ancestor’s forest secrets was kept safe deep inside his memories. They were calling to him to return to the trees.”
"I took him on many hikes through the woods. Each time I guided him a little farther away from his town and closer to the forest spirits. I explained to him that the forest spirits live in everything. They see us in the same way others do when we step into a circle of strangers standing around a fire to warm themselves. At first, they are just faces, but as we spend more time around that fire, they tell us a little more about themselves. We learn their names, and then, each time we greet these new friends we find out what they like and dislike. Soon they become familiar friends. He wanted to go on many hikes. I brought him a little farther into the forest, and each time he felt happier. As I taught him the names of trees, and rivers, hills and valleys, he began to see that the forest spirits recognized him. His longing was fading and being replaced with joy."
"Eventually, we journeyed far from his home. I brought him here, to this sacred pool. It was in this place that he felt like he had finally come home. His longing filled with friendships with everything alive. It was then that he told me that he wanted to protect the forest and the people who lived in it."
"I felt as though my father was there that day. He was standing next to me. My father could now rest, I thought. That is when the man I loved asked me to have a child with him.”
Stella could see the yearning in Ascentia’s eyes, hear it in her voice. Why did she leave him?
As though she heard her thoughts, Ascentia responded. “I stayed with this strong and kind man as a way to support his love for the forest. I was able to influence his decisions to stop the war and create peace with my people. We had a child. A boy.”
“But when he died, his brother took control of the people who lived in that town. His brother was not kind. His heart was hard and mean. I did not want to be near him. He convinced the town to once more go to war with my people. Again my people abandoned their villages to go even deeper into the forest. I wanted to join them, but I still had work to do. I had promised my father to find a way to stop the war."
"So I came here to the sacred spring. My people call this place the Land Between Worlds. My time with the City People is complete. I can never go back. However, Stella, my son still lives there. After his father died, I brought him to this place and taught him all the names of the trees. I taught him to see the natural world as his home. When he became a man, I sent him back to live with the City People. However, he comes here to spend the time to replenish his spirit once each cycle of the moon. He tells me that if he did not return his spirit would dry up.”
"Recently his cruel uncle died, and the mantle of leadership has fallen to him. Many miss the peace his father had possessed. There are many City People with strong and kind hearts. They want peace with my people. They love the trees. Those people want my son to lead."
“However, there are also many there filled with greed like his uncle. They would sway him to their hateful desires. They are the ones who have marked Harry for harvest. Those people have hired woodsman to cut Harry down. Which is why you are here, Estella.”
“You can be a powerful influence to my son in the same way I was to his father. Harry’s life or death rest in your decision to cross over and become a human, like me, or to remain a cat.”
“My son needs you, Estella. He can help you save Harry.”
Ascentia looked back at the moon floating so near the tree line. “The dark moon is now beginning to fall behind those trees and will soon be gone for another cycle." She looked back at Stella. "You should decide now.”
Ascentia added as an afterthought. “Oh, one more thing Stella. When you make the jump to be human, you will feel disoriented. You will forget most of your life as a cat. Don’t let it concern you. After a few times, you will learn how to bring back your memory as both cat and woman."
“What?” Estella responded.
"Don't worry. Everything will sort itself out once you make the shift. Look, we are running out of time. The moon is disappearing. If you don’t step into the pool now, we might lose our opening to save Harry.”