(I want it read to me)
The next morning Estella woke just before the sun rose. She said goodbye to Harry and then stepped down the branches until she came to the cave. Her father was waiting for her. He had a shiny thing in his mouth. He dropped it on the ground at her feet. It was made of a long silver looping string and in the center was attached a silver star.
People made this, she thought in surprise.
He picked it up with his mouth and placed it over her head so that it fell around her neck. She looked at him with eyes filled with questions.
He simply said, “Give this to the woman. She will tell you what it means.” And then he closed his eyes and pressed his head to hers. It was time for her to go.
It was a day’s journey of running through long groves of trees. The redwoods, the birch, the aspen, until she came to the edge of a vast forest of oaks. The sun had disappeared behind the line of trees on the far ridge. The sky was dark. A few stars appeared.
She rested under the oak at the top of the clearing where the small hut stood. A gold wedge of yellow gold light poured from an opening door. A slim, graceful woman with long flowing dark hair wearing a buckskin dress walked out with a small wooden bucket in her hand. She placed the bucket near a small oak near the open door. She walked back to the hut and closed the door. Estella watched for long moments. Then Estella stepped from under cover of trees till she reached the bucket. There was milk in it. She was so hungry she accidentally tipped it over and licked it from the grass as it soaked into the earth.
When she drank all she could from the earth, the door opened again. The golden firelight poured from the entrance to where Estella crouched. The woman stepped out for a few steps and kneeled in the tall grass. She watched her guest. Slowly Estella walked up to her.
There was something in her hand. A twig. With leaves. The aroma was familiar. Cats remember friends through smell. This scent was Harry’s. She pressed her cheek against the soft green branch.
The woman reached down and stroked the fur under her ears until her fingers came to a string which held the silver star. She slipped it off and lifted it to the stream of firelight pouring from the open door. The woman looked into Estella’s eyes for several breaths.
“So you are the one." She said. "Harry said you would be coming. Good, you are just in time. My son is of the age for leading. He needs a woman of the forest to help guide him."
“Son? Help him? I am a cat. I came to help Harry!” Estella was all confused. And then as an afterthought, “How do you know Harry?”
The woman put the star back around Estella’s neck, and said, “The moon will disappear shortly. Come with me.”
The woman walked to a small spring fed pool. As she stepped to the edge, she said, “These waters come from the center of the earth. They are magical in ways you are about to discover. All you need to do is watch.” She paused and said, “Save any questions for later.” She dropped her dress on the grass, and with slow fluid steps, she walked into the water. She continued to walk into the center until the water came to her chin.
As her hair fanned out in a spiral on the water's surface, she turned her face toward Estella and said with a smile. “See the crescent moon rising up over the dark ridge line of trees?”
Estella turned her eyes to the ridge, and there she was. The crescent moon. A tip of a white sliver of light peaking out of a dark silhouette of treetops.
Estella turned her eyes back to the woman. The woman's eyes were closed. Only her face was showing in the dim silver light. And then the woman slowly sank into the water till the top of her head disappeared under the dark rippling surface. She stayed there for many breaths. There was a ripple on the surface of the water, and then with the same slow movement, her head rose from the pool.
At first, Estella thought her eyes were tricking her. She blinked them several times. She shook her face hoping to make her eyes see better.
The face coming out of the water was not a woman. It was the eyes, the nose, the whiskers, the fur, of a large black panther. This cat swam to the water’s edge and slowly walked her body on four paws from the pool and onto the grass where Estella stared with absolute disbelief. This panther shook her body rapidly so that water droplets flew in every direction.
Estella had so many questions. But now the cat was talking.
“Harry sent you,” the cat woman said. “He is in trouble, I know. But did he tell why you are here?"
Stella, with eyes wide was speechless.
"Of course not." The cat continued. "He put me on the same path as you and in the same way. Harry is always doing that. Leading you along, allowing you to think that sitting in his arms is all that is important, listening to his whispering voice, watching his story, his lovely images, showing you how the whole world works in perfect harmony, feeling the peace and tranquility of his strength until you feel like it could never end, and then, poof, he has you go off on some journey looking for a missing piece of the puzzle.”