She approached Bran as he stood leaning on his crutch. His green and black plaid tartan was wrapped under his thick leather belt around his waist and fell to his knees. A long brown boot extended to his shins. On his other leg, she could see the top of a birch bark cast wrapped around his leg, reaching out above his boot.
She wrapped her arms around his chest as she pressed herself into the protection of his massive embrace that enveloped her. He could feel the warmth of her and the pounding of her heartbeat. He noticed that it was synchronized to his own.
She peered over his shoulders and saw his horse with her head lowered feeding on the grass. On the side of his saddle, she saw his broadsword and a Scythian bow with a quiver of arrows holstered. On the back was a rolled blanket for bedding which was stretched over a saddle bag stuffed with supplies.
She looked into his green eyes and said, "Why are you here Bran. Shouldn't you be resting your leg so it can mend."
He replied, "I am looking for my mom. We have need of a healer down in the town. Have you seen her?"
She started to speak but then checked herself. She had seen her. In fact, she spent the evening talking with her, but she also remembered the event of his mom turning into a cat, and herself also becoming feline. She didn't know what to say. She felt confused.
"I think so."
His eyebrows came together, and he smiled quizzically, "You think so?"
She breathed in, focused her eyes to his horse, held her breath for a second, then released her chest to let the breath out with a sigh. "Have you ever had a dream that seemed real, and yet it stepped beyond the world you know? Like walking on water or something?"
Bran chuckled. "Yup. Every time I see you."
Estella smiled. "I had a dream just before you arrived. Your mom was in it. She became a cat. Please don't laugh."
Bran cleared his throat.
"She had become a panther. And I was a leopard that became a woman. And in the dream, there was a large tree. His name was Harry. Why are you laughing?"
Bran cleared his throat and looked at her more intently. "Harry. Trees usually go by Latin names in botanist books. Harry?" He again chuckled to himself and then looked back into her eyes, not smiling, and cleared his throat as he made a serious face.
Estella changed the subject. "Bran, who needs a healer?"
"The Town Council has sent me here. This past week four more children died from an illness no one has seen before. We are worried that this illness will take many more and soon. I came to find my mother. She has experience with healing the sick."
"Did you look in her cabin?" She replied.
He looked back toward the log structure on the small hill. "I did. She wasn't there. She hasn't been there for many hours."
"How do you know?" She asked.
"The fire was cold. It hasn't been lit since sunset. However, all of my mom's traveling gear was hanging on the wall. Even her water skin is there. I thought maybe she was out here, bathing." He looked at her.
"I spoke with her last night. She was here. But when I woke, she was gone." She said.
Bran shifted his weight back to his crutch. Estella looked down at his wrapped leg and brought her eyes back to Brans.
"How's your leg?"
He looked down and smiled. "Oh, you did a good job. It's only been a month, and already I can place more weight on it."
Suddenly the memory of the leg accident flooded her thoughts. It was their first meeting. She was with Bran's mom helping her build a corral for the goats when Bran rode up on his mare. His right shin was bent in the wrong direction at an angle. Broken. They helped him off the horse and with his arms wrapped over both their shoulders, they walked him limping back to the cabin to lay him down on the wood table by the fire. When they carefully sliced through the knee-high boot it was clear, the leg had been broken clear through.
When they asked him what happened, he said that the evening before, under the light of the sliver of moon, his horse got spooked from a cat that was in the branches above him. His mare bucked and as he fell, his foot got caught in his stirrup. The horse ran and pulled him along with her. His body slammed into a tree knocking him out. When he awoke, he found that his horse was standing next to him in the morning sun.
As he told this story then, she remembered that she had a dream that same night in which she was climbing through trees. With paws!
She recalled seeing a horse and rider from the tree canopy. The man was thrown from his saddle, and then she remembered the horse dragging this one through the forest.
This memory was so real, and yet it made little sense.
She pulled away from him and said, "I should go with you to your town. I can help. Let me pack my medicine bag." She walked past him and toward the cabin.
Bran turned and walked to his horse. When he came close, he ran his hand over his mare's neck. She turned with him, and they followed Estella back to the cabin.