(I like it read to me)
She felt drowsy. And puzzled. She glanced back at her hands. They were not paws. She angled her head over her shoulder back to the man. He looked familiar.
He stood next to his mare and unfastened a long stick from the saddle. It had a crossbar tied to the top. He arranged it under his arm and stepped toward Estella with a rhythmic, yet, a marked limp in his step. She noticed that he had injured his right leg. It was wrapped in a cylinder made of bark from a birch tree and then secured in twine made from plant fiber. On the outer edge of the birch caste, someone had reinforced it with two straight branches tied to the inner and outer perimeters of the bark tube. It wasn't just that it was prepared thoroughly by a skillful physician, but it was something her people would do. As she studied it, it looked like her handiwork. Where had she learned the arts of mending broken bones and who was this man?
She let her eyes take in the full measure of him as he approached the small opening to her cavern of trees. He wore a white linen tunic and a green plaid kilt that extended to his knees. On his left hip hung a broadsword suspended from a broad brown leather strap draped diagonally from shoulder to waist. His leather left boot rose up to his knee.
His attire, his horse's saddle gear, his sword, everything about him shouted to her that he was from a populated European town. He was from a land far away.
Who was he? She stilled her thoughts. Then the name appeared to her. Bran, she realized. It’s Bran.
He stopped just in front of the opening of trees that canopied the spring next to where she had slept. He leaned low, tilted his head and looked in. Suddenly he stood and abruptly turned his back to her. Embarrassed. He cleared his throat.
At that moment she realized where and who she was. Instinctively she grabbed a tan buckskin dress that was hanging on a branch next to the pool and within one breath dropped it over her head. As the skirt lining slipped to her knees, she noted that it fit perfectly. From where did this dress appear. Had she put it there?
Her mind was foggy. Oh, so muddled.
Dressed now, she looked back over her shoulder to Bran as he stood there, waiting for an invitation to enter.
She cleared her own throat, and said, "You can turn around." He did.
Then her eyes settled on his. He was smiling as he peered into her small green sunlit cavern of leaves. Those eyes gave her calm. Within the gaze of them, her memories began to return in the way the fog disperses to reveal a pocket of a clear blue sky.
She had been dreaming she realized. In her dream, she had been a cat. Dreams can be amazingly convincing upon first waking.
Something told her that she had not been dreaming. The dream seemed very real. However, if it wasn’t a dream, how could Bran be standing right in front of her now, she reasoned.
There was also the matter of the woman in her dream. She had changed into a cat. She looked like Bran’s mother, Ascentia. So many conflicting thoughts were vying for her consideration.
“Just wake up?” He asked with a grin as he continued to tilt his head to peer into the shaded opening. As she continued to look over her shoulder at him, blinking, he saw the effects of sleep pulled from her eyes. He chuckled and let his smile relaxed into a calm appreciation of the woman in front of him.
He was amazed at how wild she looked. Her dark hair, caught by the morning breeze, moved like strands of smoke lifting elegantly from a campfire. Those crystal eyes drew back into the shape of teardrops reminding him of a cat he had recently seen stalking him through the dark forest foliage.
She smoothly turned around to face him. Her eyes set on his. He noticed how they glowed with the illumination of two blue flames.
The image of her was a sight that made his heart quicken and his blood warm. Not only was she beautiful. She reminded him of something beyond his life in the town down in the valley. Something free. He sensed a quality about her that caused him to wish he lived here in the forest. When those eyes fastened on him, his thoughts shifted into another world. A country that only she and he share.
He experienced this same awareness of happiness when he took long walks into the forest. A forest is a place untamed, unpredictable and with a full spectrum of color and shadows in every glen, it is beautiful.