Clark Gillian

The Enchanted Deer and the
DREAMS OF THE FOOL


Something is brewing in the four kingdoms. Something is buzzing throughout the Empire. Change is in the air. The fairy gate remains closed, but for how long? A Fool is born in a village. A Princess is born in a palace. The Enchanted Deer waits in the dark forest.


On his quest to find the Enchanted Deer, the Fool encounters all the archetypes from the Tarot in a spectacular and magical adventure epic.

 


Once in a cursed land devoid of beauty, a lost child lays eyes on a creature of legend.


Awed by a giant deer and its otherworldly allure, the child will remember the sighting, keeping it as close as treasure until life's hardships strip away its lustre. It's many years before a travelling bard will weave a song of the Enchanted Deer, a giant from the time the world was created, and revive the childhood wonder in the young Fool's heart.


The village in the Land of Old Wives is a quiet, desolate place, but when a witch threatens the peace, the Fool puts aside his quest and persuades a passing knight to aid him in vanquishing her. Together they engage her in a battle and believe the Witch to be conquered. With a metal of bravery in hand, the Fool announces that he will pursue The Enchanted Deer once more. When he sets out to chase his dreams, at last, the Fool discovers his fate is entwined with the last person he expected.


The Witch and the Fool plunge into an adventure like no other. Side by side, they search for answers and end up uncovering what neither realized their hearts were seeking—a place in the world where they can truly be themselves.

The Enchanted Deer and the Dreams of the Fool


Excerpt



Prologue:
In the land of Old Wives


 Once upon a time there was a faraway land. A land so low and flat that even by building the most modest of towers on its soil, one's gaze could reach far beyond its farms, its villages, its meadows and the deep, dark forest, without ever setting eyes on a mountain or even a hill. 


Now, should one be in want of a tower - as most everyone of its people were - one would find themselves condemned in these lowlands to see next to nothing of interest around them, except… each other. And as it so happened, the land was called the Land of old wives.


Why, then, the sad little name of the Land of Old Wives?


A very long time ago the one known as the Great Evil Emperor came to visit the lands. With his hellish dogs in tow, he traveled his empire to see what was to be had, to be taken, and to possess. Because most people in the land of Old Wives didn’t live in high towers and didn’t have much else to do than to be aware of each other's faces and all of its wrinkles and expressions all day long; they also knew instantly what was most dear to them.


Beauty.


The people therefore knew very well it was the only thing in real danger of being taken away from them due to the Great Evil Emperor’s infamous greed. Their true treasure had to be hidden before his arrival.


Of course the peoples of the Land of Old Wives soon found that true beauty isn’t hidden so easily. And so, when word spread that the Great Evil Emperor was to arrive with nothing but a few days respite, panic travelled swiftly through the dark night from household to household. And the villagers hid all young women in their cellars, barns, and attics just in the nick of time.


When the Evil Emperor finally arrived in the lowlands, no enchanting beauty was anywhere to be found. Looking out from his imperial golden chariot as shiny and sparkly as the villagers had ever seen anything sparkle in their lives, he rode hungrily through the villages, seeing among all the silent women folk nothing but… Old Wives.


And so after this, the most boring visit in this, the grand tour of his immense empire, he declared, furiously starved of divine feminine beauty:


“Let this flat piece of land from now on be known as the Land of Old Wives.”


And never did the Great Evil Emperor return.


Everyone in the land of old Wives thought they had outsmarted the Great Evil Emperor, but their victory would not turn out to be so sweet. The Emperor had unknowingly still managed to steal what was most dear to them. For once he had declared the flat piece of land "the Land of Old Wives", beauty itself was declared a dangerous thing, as if waiting to be stolen as soon as it was seen. And its people began to live up to its new name.






























.

The knock of sense


So it was that many years later, even after the Great Evil Emperor had long been forgotten, a child with wide eyes was born. So wide and large were its eyes, that nothing could escape its gaze, even the beauty that had hidden itself under a heavy blanket of fear.


Growing up, the child looked at every little thing it could lay its eyes upon and wondered at it. The child said to his big brothers:


“Isn’t the sun fabulously beautiful  in the morning?”


And the brothers said gruffly, still rubbing the sleeping crusts from their eyes:


“Fabulous? If you ask me, the sun could have stayed down a while longer. “


And father said:


“Beautiful? Strange child. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, and that’s all you need to know about it. “


And off he went as always to his tannery to begin the day's work. Whenever the Hunter came around to bring in another two rabbits to Father tanner, it was understood he would receive one piece of leather from the catch. Whenever winter was fast approaching and therefore the cows were at their fattest, the farmer knew he needed to offer an additional entire leg salted in a barrel to receive a whole tanned cowhide in return.


“Aren’t the colors and shapes of the cowhide stunning?” said the child with his admiring eyes as Father tanner started to treat the cowskin.


“Stunning?”, said Father tanner as he scrubbed off the meat-side of the skin, “As long as it is clean and tidy, it is enough. You shouldn't think about it any more than that. “


The child nodded, still looking at the wondrous patterns of the cowskin.


“But I still think it’s nice,” the child eventually began saying, never swayed in its admiration of funny shapes and colors.


“Well if you think so, go ahead and think it but be sure to keep it to yourself. It’s no one’s business whether you think things are beautiful or not.”


“Listen to your father,” said the Mother of the child, pickling the skins.


“A shame that it can’t be a business”, said the child.


The child looked at his Mother and saw that she too had a lot of beauty, beauty that she herself no longer saw. A beauty she had, without energy or life, like a wasteland with seeds buried too deep underground to ever sprout. This too didn’t escape the child's wide eyes.


“Mother is beautiful too,” said the child.


Mother shivered at the words and gave the child a shy smile.


“That is true,” said the Father.


“Do you think so too, but only to yourself?” asked the child.


Father the tanner looked blankly at the child for a moment and said to the Mother:


“It's time we put the child to work.”


***


Father tanner had hoped that working in the tanning shop would help the child come to it senses.


When you know what you have to do and then do it, everything else is just a distraction. Everything else is just… another chance to be disappointed, “said Father tanner.


“Fair enough”, the child said, “But I'm not sure what you think I should do is what I should be doing.”


Father the tanner took a deep breath.


“Why is it that you want to be disappointed so badly? There is a way of things, child, and it works.”


“I don't know if it works, Father,” said the child, “If I have to keep myself from seeing and understanding what I want to see and understand.”


The Father looked at the child and simply couldn’t understand where all this came from. None of his other sons and daughters asked things that he had no answer to.


“One day you will understand. It’s easiest to just do as your father says. “


Meanwhile, the Father kneaded the piece of leather further in the acid, his hands covered in oil and wax, so as to protect his hands while removing every single little hair on the piece of cowskin.


“Is it supposed to be?” Asked the child.


“What?” asked the Father, “Supposed to be what? Speak up, child. I don't have time to talk all day! “


The child could hardly speak when his father’s voice grew heavy and deep like rock about to break off from the rocky mountainside.


“Is life supposed to be easy?”


Father tanner scraped the last hair off the cowskin.


“Why make life difficult when you can make it easy?”


The child watched, lost in thought, as his father plunged the now clean cowskin into a bucket of clear water.


“Easier for you. If I don't understand why you ask me to do what you want me to do, it isn’t easy for me to do it at all.”


“That’s it!” shouted Father and knocked some sense into the child


***

One day the child noticed the sun shining so beautifully. Hypnotized by how the golden rays embraced the landscape, he had no choice but to slip out of the house into the freedom of the outdoors. Only this time he had strayed so far across the meadows that he wound up in the lands past the dikes, far out of sight. 


There seemed to be an exciting something that drew him further and further away, drawing him deeper and deeper into the wilderness.


And there he saw what was hidden so well in the Land of Old Wives: the untamed beauty of nature blooming spontaneously. Not a flower afraid of opening its petals up towards the sun. No fern afraid of unfolding itself in full view. No tree afraid of stretching and reaching out to its limits.


And so the child danced with the frogs and the toads along the swaying blades of grass, among the butterflies and moths in the wind, while rabbits fled into their holes underground until at one point the child faced a gigantic wall of dark trees.


Hidden behind the wall of wilderness, that something was moving softly but still very... decidedly. The child stared at the dark trees, gazing past them into the unknown where this mysterious being stirred. The child had no words through which to understand what he was witnessing and, so it could only be in silence with this unnamed thing.


The longer he waited, the more it seemed that it was being watched just as much as he was watching. And for the first time, he felt seen by the same curious eyes by which he scrutinized the world. 


Antlers emerged from the shadows with branches as high as the trees themselves; Fur as soft as the moss on the tree trunks; Terrifying eyes deep and clear as the still water of a forest pond. It moved towards him, soon towering over him.


Their long, long legs; their huge, regal snout, and awesome, majestic antlers like nothing the child had ever seen before, emerged from the shadows into the light, absorbing the sunlight into its fur as if it was now glowing, until finally the giant deer came face to face with the child.


There was a moment of silence as they looked at one another. The child remained stunned. The giant deer gazed at him curiously; as if waiting to see if the child would bow to it. So enchanted was the child by the magic creature that he was just about to take a few steps closer, already reaching out his hand.


At that moment his father pulled him away with a nasty snatch at the arm. The child, pulled away so harshly, tried to look back, but the creature seemed to have already disappeared. His father hadn’t seen the Enchanted Deer, mistaking it for the large trees of the dark forest.


“We thought we lost you! You are very lucky indeed that I found you before dark. Do you think a helpless child like you can survive a night alone in the forest? Something incredibly dangerous could have happened to you. Do you know what manner of dangerous creatures roam freely in the dark forest? Be glad that I have found you.”


With a merciless tug and a frightening sniff, Father tanner brought the child back home. Along the way, the child tried to explain he had seen an enchanted deer in the forest, but to no avail.


From that moment on, Father tanner made sure the child no longer slip out of the house. He told mother he wouldn’t tolerate any more inconvenient talk of beauty or enchantment when there was work to be done. And there was always work to be done.


The longer the child worked in the tannery, the more the child knew what to do, the more he knew how to do it; And the more he did it, the better he got at it. The longer he worked at the tannery, the more he became known through what he did, namely being the Tanner's son.






























The song of the Enchanted Deer


And yet, this way of doing things didn’t last very long. When he finally reached the appropriate age, his father would allow him to go to the village fair by himself. And so at the first chance he got, he did. Excited to go out to the fair for the first time after dark, he arrived at the village square, now lit up with many lovely lanterns. All about titillating stalls and stands caught his eyes and nose with sights and aroma’s unfamiliar to him.


Now, most spectacular of all was the show on the stage in the middle of the village square. The stage seemed to be by some mechanism unfolded from the colorful wagon to which it was attached. The young man walked towards it, joining the bustling crowd and feeling almost hypnotized by the sound of the drums as he got closer.  


Dancing dwarfs danced on stage while a tall, colourful bard graced the stage to tell awesome tales to constant ooh’s and aah’s of the crowd. Masterfully, he used masks to play all characters at the same time. In what the young man found to be a funny accent, the bard regaled the legendary heroes of old with an incredibly loud voice he was only used to hearing from the vendors at the market on saturdays. But mind the funny accent, he did not. Most of all, he admired how the bard played the lute while juggling all masks and using different voices. Never had he seen anything like it.  


These tales about heroes of times passed were music to his ears and heart - a new melody to accompany his dreams. Now the Bard had ended the tale of heroic battles, and moved on to a story so tender and gentle of forbidden loves and broken hearts. So soft became his voice, jumping from one chord to the next, that the crowd was nearly moved to tears by his poetry. 


At this point, many took their leave and sought out the warmth of their beds. But the show was far from over to those who remained. With fireworks he woke everyone up again. In fearsome suits, the dwarves came back to the stage as the bard began to tell dark and eerie stories about strange creatures that lurk in the forests.


“Is he just a songsinger or is he a magician too?” The tanner's son asked meanwhile, stood next to the baker's son, who had stayed to hear the scary stories as well.


“Both,” said the baker's son.


“How do you know for sure?” 


“Because I've seen him do both.”


“When?”


“In the afternoon—about the time he wakes up every day—he comes out of his wagon and sets up a table to do some magic tricks for the children,” said the baker's son and took another long sip from his cup.


“In the afternoon? That’s too bad. I work in the tannery until evening.”


The baker's son shrugged, “I start early in the morning, even before the sun comes up. By noon I’m done for the day. ”


“That’s nice and early. Lucky you!”


“Lucky?” repeated the baker's son. “Depends if you like to get up before even the rooster crows.”


The tanner’s son admired the Bard a moment and said:


“Imagine if those tricks were actually magic, you know? Wouldn’t that be amazing?”


“Like true magic? You mean magic like a sorcerer’s kind of magic?” said the baker's son laughing. “Please, you don't actually believe that, do you?”


“Well, how can you be sure?” asked the Tanner's son.


“I… There is no such thing as magic, like in fairy tales, my brother,” said the baker's son shaking his head. 


“I…” stuttered the Tanner’s son, “It could be real, couldn’t it?”


“No, it’ couldn’t! Look. To me, true magic is conjuring up a good loaf of bread. Or perhaps for you, making a good piece of leather. That's magic. The tricks the Bard plays on children, that’s his loaf of bread, so to speak; his piece of leather. It is real and not real at the same time. The only real thing about it is that it is meant to appear real, but it isn't. ”


The tanner's son looked at the baker's son for a moment. He had never heard him say anything as clever before. It took a while for him to understand what he just said and the baker’s son could read it on his face.


“If you don't believe me, go ask him yourself!” said the baker's son, still laughing at the thought.


“Yes,” said the Tanner’s son dryly, “I think I'm going to."


After the shortest of nights and what seemed like the longest day of work in his entire life, the tanner's son ran back to the village square as soon as he had finished his tasks at his father’s shop. He felt both exhausted and excited at the same time but nevertheless his resolve to talk to the Bard was unshakeable.


Even though the evening was still early and fresh, the village square was already bustling and many had gathered in front of the stage once again. A spectacular performance by the dancing dwarfs had the crowd excited for another night of wondrous tales and so when the bard finally appeared to the sound of the drums, the villagers cheered mightily.


 Immediately the Bard burst out into a merry song to the delight of all spectators, but this time the tanner's son noticed that he was not only watching the performance, he was also watched by the performer. Immediately the young Tanner’s son was  reminded of his encounter with the enchanted deer. And indeed the feeling was very similar: the Bard's deep, warm, and dark eyes stayed fixed on him. and he felt as though the Bard was speaking directly to him. 


As their eyes locked unto each other, the Bard began to tell of the legendary enchanted deer of the deep dark forest as if reading his mind. Immediately, the young tanner pricked up his ears so as to hear every single word. Both terrified and delighted, his ears seemed to ring as the Bard told of the fabulous fairy paradise the giant deer guards, hidden from humankind; And as he told of the giant deer known to be seen only once in a thousand years. Tall as the trees of the forest are they, with a fur shiny and soft like young moss, and beautiful giant antlers so as never to be mistaken to be anything else but legendary.


And so the Bard spoke in words that seemed to for the tanner’s son only:


“Once upon a time… a very, very long time ago… In a long-forgotten time when people and animals still spoke to one another in the same language, the whole world was one single paradise and this common home called earth, they all shared.” 


“The grand and abundant forest that stretched to all four corners of the earth sheltered all elves and fae flying across the lands, helping humankind from their islands in the skies and their homes underground, while all beings shared their magic with each other freely and happily. ”


“Many were the animals of this great era that spoke with words bright and far-reaching, almost as if the stars themselves spoke. The Enchanted Deer was one of them, one of the once many ancients. And deep in the dark forest - all that remains of the grand abundant forest that once covered the entire earth - far from the dangers of humankind, they protect the gate to what is left of fairy paradise. ”


At that moment, the Bard took his harp and sang:


Heaven as it was,

The moon, as it emerged,

The sea as it descended.

The Enchanted Deer remembers all.

Life lurking in the first sands,

The song hidden in the mountains,

A melody cloaked by the rivers.

The Enchanted Deer remembers all.

Paradise just as it was,

The bees, just as they flew,

The sunset just as it shone.

The Enchanted Deer remembers all.

Man as they were,

With tender wisdom,

Through sweet eyes,

And undisturbed smiles.

The Enchanted Deer remembers all.

Taking the wood of the trees,

Animals from their nests,

Seeds from their flowers,

Taking all for themselves,

 and still forgetting where it came from.

The Enchanted Deer remembers all.

The spectacle of clouds and stars,

A landscape of letting live and die,

The tempest of silence in their eyes.

The Enchanted Deer will remember all as it was.


“How sad it was, dear ones, when the Enchanted Deer watched humankind make their own gardens apart from the fairy world. And how sad it was when they watched humankind take all it desired from the forest just to keep for themselves and never give back. More and more, our human world set itself apart and in doing so, ever-growing, the world of humankind demanded more and more of the forest’s abundance while giving back nothing.”


“It was at that time that the Enchanted Deer with its large antlers dug those large, magic stones out of the ground and there split off the human world with a thick veil invisible to the human eye, to preserve its wild and untamed magic. And so the worlds were split, forever.”


Everyone listened with bated breath, most of all the tanner's son, who was even afraid to blink so as not to miss a single moment of the Bard’s performance. 


“The ever-playful elves, however, sometimes dare to slip through the veil to visit the mad humans in their mad human world. Always careful are they, knowing to not ever reveal themselves to a human’s eyes. For if men ever find their way to the gate, they may plunder the last piece of paradise that is left on our dear mother earth, only to keep it for their own selves.”


Thunderous applause woke the tanner's son from the daze he was under. He saw the entire story vividly in his mind’s eye.


“I’m not entirely sure he hasn’t put a spell on us,” said the tanner's son to the butcher's son and the baker's son.


Cheering, all three clumped their cups together and toasted:


"To the Enchanted Deer!"


The tanner's son emptied the entire cup in one great big gulp. From the corner of his eye, he saw the Bard had left the stage already. Nervously looking around for him, he saw that he was on his way back to the wagon.


Immediately the tanner’s son threw his cup to the ground and made his way through the crowd as quickly as possible.


“Wait!” cried the baker's son. “Where are you going? Are you going to talk to him?”


“Yes,” the tanner's son cried as he stomped at people and accidentally kicked their shins to get ahead of the Bard in time.


“Wait for us!”


And so it was that the Bard was just about to make a final bow to his audience on the steps of his wagon when the tanner's son stumbled up on those stairs and pushed a thick piece of leather into the magician’s hands.


The Bard looked surprised at the young man at his feet.


“A present,” blurted the tanner's son, panting. Meanwhile, the butcher's son and the baker's son arrived at the scene. Seeing the tanner’s son panting on the steps at the feet of the surprised bard, they didn’t dare to step away from the crowd. 


“Many thanks,” said the Bard, ignoring the crowd and helping the tanner’s son to his feet.


“A clean piece of leather. Well worked, fine, and sleek. Useful, perhaps, for a small drum.”


“It's yours,” said the tanner's son.


“Many thanks, young man.”


 “May I talk to you?”


The Bard, with a big smile on his face, said:


"By all means, do come in.”


When the two hesitant friends saw the tanner's son enter the Bard’s mysterious wagon, they suddenly jumped forward from the crowd and asked:


“Can we come along too?”


The Bard looked at them sternly.


“And what presents have you brought me?”


The butcher's son and the baker's son dug into their pockets with a sudden icy chill, but alas.


“Some other time, perhaps,” said the Bard, closing the door.


The tanner's son, meanwhile, could not believe his eyes once he had entered the Bard’s wagon. The many colors and fragrances overwhelmed his senses, unlike anything he had ever experienced except in the beautiful flowers of spring. This home was tiny, yet the Bard had made room for paintings, statuettes, cards, pillows, blankets, clothes, plates, and cups.


“Please, sit down,” said the Bard, offering one of the many pillows as a seat. 


The tanner's son sat down on one of the cushions, but not before examining the intricate drawings on them. He marveled at the beautiful symbols and seals, but he had no clue yet as to what they meant.


“I had a feeling you would come,” said the Bard as he changed behind the folding screen.


“You did?” asked the tanner's son.


The Bard came from behind the folding screen in a loose-fitting shirt and wide trousers tied with a cord, both white. He grabbed one of his robes—the one tinged with red, orange, and purple—and threw it on with a flourish.


“I actually don’t think I have ever seen anyone so absorbed in my stories, as you were,” said the Bard.


In the meantime, he took two cups from a cupboard, decorated with all kinds of small statues, and took out a bottle of elixir from a tiny cabinet underneath. He poured two glasses intently and handed the tanner's son a cup.


“Cheers,” the Bard said.


 “Cheers,” said the young fool.


And they both took a sip. 


“You can put your cup here,” said the Bard, brushing aside some loose coins, table knives, and wands on the low table.


“Are those magic wands?”


“Those are… wands, yes.” 


The tanner's son grabbed one of the wands.


The bard now took one of the wands that fell to the floor and pointed it at him, jokingly. But, to the tanner’s son, it felt like suddenly the whole wagon was holding its breath and the air was sucked away from the room.


“You came here because you wanted to know something,” said the Bard.


“Are you threatening me with that wand?” asked the tanner's son.


“You answer my question first, then I will answer yours,” said the Bard. “I have many friends, as I do enemies. Tell me why you are here.”


The tanner's son stared at the wand for a moment, surprised at the turn of events. 


“Well,” he began ever so cautiously, “I would have liked to know ... about you ... I would like to know ... if your magic tricks are tricks ... or if they are true magic ..."


“That’s your question?” asked the Bard.


“That’s my question.”


“You’re not here because of my father? Because of… the lead and the… his… because of the gold?”


“No,” said the tanner’s son. “Not at all.”


The Bard still stared at him in silence as if frozen in time. Suddenly, he melted into a smile, saying:


“Well then, imagine it's all trickery,” the Bard began. “Then I'm pointing a simple wooden stick at you. No reason to be afraid of anything, right?”


“Right,” said the tanner's son hesitantly as he watched the wand as well as the Bard himself.


“But imagine magic is real,” the Bard continued. “Then I might be pointing a tremendously powerful weapon full of mysterious possibilities beyond comprehension directly at you at this moment.”


The Bard smiled, curious at the young man’s reaction. But seeing as the tanner’s son remained silent and confused, he added, lowering his wand and throwing it to the floor:


“Do I know real magic or not? The answer lies in another riddle: Are you afraid or not?”


The tanner's son looked at the wand rolling on the floor, the coins on the table, the cups of elixir they had just enjoyed, and the table knives, as he reflected on the Bard's words. 


“How can I be afraid if I don’t even know what to be afraid of?”


“Yes! Spoken like a real Fool,” said the Bard happily. The tanner’s son didn’t understand why seeing the fool in him seemingly made the Bard so content.


“That is it!” cried the Bard. “That’s it!”


“I… I still don’t understand!” said the tanner’s son as the Bard poured another round of elixir.


“That’s the beginning, exactly where you need to be, don’t you see?” said the Bard, and they fell back down onto their pillows.


He handed a cup to the tanner’s son: 


“Cheers!”


“Cheers!”


Once again, they both finished their cups. The tanner’s son thought to himself that all the answers he was getting from the Bard didn’t make him any wiser.


Meanwhile, the bard had taken his lute and started to sing while stretching out over the pillows:


“You are such a Fool. You are such a Fool. Don't know what you're getting into.”


“But if being a fool is the way to discover magic, that means magic is real. And if magic is real,” mumbled the tanner’s son, “then ... then it's true.”


“Then what is true?” asked the Bard. 


“I…”


The tanner's son was afraid to say it out loud. 


“You have already seen magical things, impossible things, things that shouldn’t be, but are. I saw it in you the moment you first appeared in my audience. I saw it in the sparkle of your eyes.” 


The young man listened without breathing it seemed.


“That sparkle follows you, and you, too, follow it in return. That's how you ended up… here.”


“Yes.”


There was a pause as the Bard looked at him intensely. Softly the tinkle of the bells hanging from the door sprinkled the silence.


“The Enchanted Deer you sang about tonight….”


“Yes?”


“I have seen them. the Enchanted Deer. I have seen them with my own eyes”, the tanner’s son uttered as if the water finally broke through the dike.


“When was this?” asked the Bard.


“When I was a child, long ago, on the edge of the dark forest.”


“I knew it.”


“So it is real? The Enchanted Deer is real? ”


The Bard burst out laughing, shaking the nearby candle flames.


“Of course it is real! Can something be unreal that you have seen with your own eyes? Even if no one believes you, it still happened to you!”


He grabbed his lute and played a happy tune, singing:

 

“You really are a Fool, my dear friend. A dear, dear Fool are you.”


***


When the tanner's son finally emerged from the Bard's wagon, the butcher’s son and the baker's son immediately ran towards him.


“You shouldn’t have waited for me,” said the tanner's son with a drunken lisp.


“Well, what did you talk about?”


“You waited for me this whole time?”


“He’s not making sense,” sighed the butcher’s son.


“Come on,” said the baker’s son, seeing that their drunken friend was close to falling on the cobblestoned street. 


“Take his arm, don’t let him make more of a fool of himself than he already has.”


“What did you talk about?” The butcher's son asked as he pulled his arm across his shoulders.


“About the Enchanted Deer!”


The two friends looked at each other in utter disappointment.


“You had the chance to ask the bard about what the world is like beyond the village, and you asked him about fairytale creatures?” cried the butcher’s son.


“Yes,” laughed the tanner’s son, “I wanted to know if his magic tricks were true magic.”


The butcher’s son sighed, but the baker’s son did not give up on finding out what the Bard had told him.


“Well?” said he, “What’s the secret to his magic tricks?”


“I asked him,” said the tanner's son, eyes heavy with fatigue.


“Yes?” 


“I asked him if his magic is real or not.”


“We already know that!” they cried.


“And that's it!” laughed the tanner's son.


“That’s what?”


“One and the same thing!” he cried. “The question is the answer! ”


The nearby villagers started to laugh. Others shook their heads and rolled their eyes.


“It figures that the Bard would only answer questions with riddles,” sighed the butcher’s son.


“He called me a fool. But it is well-intentioned,” the tanner’s son added.


The butcher's son lowered his head, ashamed at his friend who was now laughed at by the many villagers, listening to his crazed words about the bard and his fairy tales.


“And how do you know that the Enchanted Deer really exists?”


The tanner's son replied with a sleepy smile:


“Because I saw them myself with my own eyes!”


“The Bard is right to call you a Fool!” the villagers shouted.


 Meanwhile, the baker's son tried to talk some sense into his drunk friend:


“It’s only a story, a fairytale, something amusing to listen to, not at all something to take seriously, my friend.”


“No, you don't understand. I saw them on the edge of the dark forest a long time ago. With its antlers as high as the top branches of the trees!” 


The two friends looked at each other in disbelief.


“It looked at me! Straight at me!”


The villagers laughed even louder.


“It is true!” the tanner's son shouted angrily. 


“Stop, brother,” they said. “Soon, they'll not think you just a simple fool, but someone truly crazy.”


“But I'm not crazy,” cried he. 


“I've seen it. I know what I saw! ”


“What is it to you that we believe you or not? Why does it bother you so?” shouted the taunting villagers, laughing, having the times of their lives.


And the tanner's son said with an overflowing heart: 


“A lot! It was the most magnificent, the most beautiful creature I have ever seen in my life! I would share this feeling with everyone I meet! Such wonder! Such beauty!”


From the doorway of his wagon, the Bard observed the villagers laugh at the fool’s words in the distance.


“Truly a fool to speak the right words to the wrong ears,” while strumming his tiny harp.

The villagers continued teasing the foolish tanner’s son, “What's the use of being beautiful?”


“If you had seen the Enchanted Deer with your own eyes,” said he, “you wouldn’t have asked that question!”


The villagers’ only response was their continued laughter. And so it was that from that moment on, he was known by all as the village Fool.

































The knapsack

Mother knew everything had changed the moment she put her son to bed after his two friends brought him in. 


“There's no harm in taking care of him as if he were sick,” she said to father Tanner, “When he's clearly not himself.”


The next morning, however, with the bucket for hauling water still in her hand, she found that things were not going to return to how they had once been. Unexpectedly, she had found a strange knapsack in front of the front door on her way to the well.


As she stared at the strange thing, the first thought that came to her mind was that it was neither too large nor too small, and she noticed many rich colors in its fabric. Gold and silver thread glittered even in the timid light of early morning. This material had to have come from a faraway land, she thought to herself with a shudder.


She glanced at the town square in the distance. The Bard’s wagon had disappeared. Now she leaned forward, towards the knapsack, yet very slowly, meanwhile thinking of what dangers might be hidden inside. She grabbed it gently and lifted it off the sill. It jangled slightly as if it contained precious treasures. Quickly, she slipped it into the bucket she was still holding in her other hand to get water from the well upon hearing that the others in the house were also quietly waking up.


She walked to the well and hid herself behind the cold gray stones from her husband or children, who might at this time slowly begin to wake. With a deep sigh, she took the knapsack from the bucket, put it on her lap, and began to untie the knot oh so gently so it wouldn't tinkle or clink.


The sun was just beginning to peep over the horizon with a lovely orange glow, while at the same time, the moon was still shining its silver haze. 


All this treasure, she thought to herself, would lead my precious son down a path from which there is no returning. A silver cup richly decorated with intricate figures and symbols she had never before seen; A large gold coin; A dagger with a wooden handle and a dangerously shiny blade; And finally, a twig that looked like a wand.


Any person would be happy to receive such treasures, but it was not the receiving that worried Mother. It was the taking away that scared her. And she didn’t want to give up her son in any way. So she tied up the knapsack, and under the watchful eye of the morning sun and moon, she held the knapsack over the well like a bucket. After a moment’s hesitation, she dropped it into the water, where it sank into its unknown depths. 


Immediately after, she filled her bucket with the same clear and fresh water as if nothing had happened and went on her way back to the house.


Already turned away from the well, a little voice from inside seemed to say: 


“... No one can reveal it ...”


Did I perhaps hear the sound of buds opening on the spring branches, Mother thought, surely it can’t be some misty voice from the cold depths of the well? 


She waited a moment longer and listened, but there was only the gentle pitter-patter of water against the wet stones. Nothing out of the usual. As she shook her head and continued walking back with her bucket full of fresh water, once again she heard a tiny voice as clear as a bell:


“... No one can hide it ...”


Hearing it again, Mother rushed inside as fast as her feet could carry her. Not to raise any suspicion, she immediately started on the daily chores as usual. 


During the say, she would sit at the bedside of her exhausted son for whom the Bard had left that gift. With a clean rag, carefully dipped in the cool water of the well, she wiped the beads of sweat from her son’s forehead.


“Did I oversleep?” the tanner's son asked, barely conscious.


“Don't worry,” said Mother. “Work will wait until you feel like yourself again.”


The next day Mother once again took the bucket to bring in fresh water from the well. So as not to wake anyone, she gently opened the door and stepped out into the dark of early morning but almost tripped over something on the doorsill. To her horror, the same knapsack lay there once again.


This time she unhesitatingly grabbed the knapsack with the gold and silver treasures tingling and ringing in her bucket straight to the well and flung it down. However, when she came back inside, her foolish son was already sitting wide awake at the kitchen table.


“What was that strange sound?” he asked. “It sounded like you were rummaging through cutlery. Strange noise, it sent a chill down my spine, and I instantly woke up.”


Immediately, Mother felt cold as ice but still managed to keep her face stern and strict.


“You must have imagined that,” she said calmly as she poured some water into a pot and piled some wood in the open hearth. Continuing with the chores of the day worked like a charm for avoiding pesky questions. So too, her son quit asking about the noise that she had made, running into the knapsack at the door earlier.


Unfortunately, the rest of the day would turn out to be a very unlucky one for her indeed for that day she would be reminded once again that things had indeed changed, despite her struggle against it. 


Going out into the village on errands, she noticed the baker's wife looking at her with different eyes. And the butcher's wife seemed to stop talking to her customers as soon as Mother tanner entered the butcher's shop. Even the mayor merely smiled at her as he passed her by in the town square instead of making usual polite conversation.


Finally, the Weaver’s wife said to her, “You know not all sons and daughters can be the same. There’s always one that is going to be … off …. so to speak. Well, you know what I mean, don’t you? Don’t you worry about it.”


Mother stared at her as she listened to the Weaver's wife. 


“Are you saying this happened to me?” she said, and like a sack of grain that had fallen from storage, her shoulders instantly slumped as much as her heart had sunk, supporting herself on the nearby loom.


“Yes,” said the Weaver's wife, who continued weaving and speaking loudly to drown out the noise of the shop. “Everyone who hasn't seen the incident for themselves has heard of it, poppet. But it isn’t the end of the world, now is it.”


“No,” said Mother slowly, stunned.


“Anyways, listen to this,” the weaver's wife said. 


“I haven’t slept for nights worrying about this thing. I -”


“Does it have to do with the Witch again?” Mother interrupted her as she rubbed her eyes. 


“The Witch, yes!” said the weaver woman, “Trust me, if you had a witch after you, you too wouldn’t sleep a wink knowing she can come upon you from anywhere! Anywhere at all! And she can cast all kinds of spells! Let me tell you, it’s nerve-wracking looking around my shoulder all of the time.”


“But have you actually seen her, my dear?”


“Once, yes, I have. In a fleeting shadow,” she replied. “I knew it was her because I clearly heard her terrible cackling just before... her terrible, terrible witch’s cackle!”


She proceeded to shiver from head to toe.


“Once you hear it, you will never forget it. It stays gently but surely in your mind just like a two-day-old burn. Simply horrible!”


“But why is she coming after you?” asked Mother.


“I have the best tools, looms, and patterns in all of the Land of Old Wives. They have been in our family for hundreds of years. I would never, ever hand them over. Our carpets, our fabrics, our jackets, our dresses, nothing would be the same without my measurements, rulers, and triangles. You know this, as it is known by everyone. And she, the terrible witch - dark and ugly as the night - lurks and watches every little move I make here in the weaving mill, thinking I may let my tools escape my sight for even a moment. Haha! Over my dead body.”


The tanner's wife shuddered.


“Don’t curse yourself by saying such things”, said Mother.


But the Weaver’s wife continued unbothered. “I will never let our measurements and patterns leave the sight of these old eyes. They are my whole life. If I lose them, I can’t call myself the same weaver woman anymore. I would be nothing, nothing at all.”


“Don't say that,” said  Mother tanner.


“Yes, it is so, and you know it all too well.”


Mother nodded understandingly.


“Meanwhile, I have to endure endless torments wrought by witchcraft. Meats turns rotten only one day after buying them at the Butcher’s. Milk turns sour the same afternoon, bringing them in from the farmer’s. My bed, full of creepy crawlies...  My husband and I can't stand to live like this much longer.”


Her husband, the weaver, came in with a sheep and nodded briefly at the Mother tanner before he began shearing the animal.


He murmured, “I told you, woman; I tied the tools to my belt with the very same blessed cloth that I was wrapped when I was born, and so were all my brothers and sisters, my father and my grandfather and all their brothers and sisters as well. This is a blessed cloth no witch can touch. So she can try all she wants, but she shan’t take it off me.”


Mother tanner noticed deep dark circles under his eyes, as dark as their many sleepless nights. 


“I'll fetch my pot of the good salt to draw a circle around your house,” Mother offered. 


“It will protect against witchcraft.”


The weaver woman’s eyes widened with gratitude.


“You would do that?” she said.


“Of course,” said Mother tanner.


“Oh, thank you, thank you,” she cried. “You are an angel! The witch cannot break through two salt circles! Surely she can’t!”


“Two?,” Mother tanner asked.


“Yes,” said the weaver's wife. “You don't think I sit here unprotected, foolishly waiting for the witch to come in, do you? Every day I draw my circle of salt too. I’ve steadily used up our season’s supply.”


The tanner's wife looked at her sweetly and said in a low, reassuring voice: “I'll go get my pot of salt.”


She immediately rushed out the door, but unknowingly stepped on her salt line and broke the circle.


However, once she got home and rummaged in the back of the spice cabinet looking for her big pot of the good salt, she heard a horrendous screech coming from the Weaver’s. 

Arriving with her large pot of salt with her husband and her son in tow, the weaver woman’s house had already filled with a crowd. On the ground lay she, the Weaver’s wife, scratching around in the dirt with her fingers, almost tearing off her nails.


“I’m sure they were here!” the woman cried. “They were here just now! I'm sure of it! I only looked away for one moment, and now… they are gone.”


“What's gone?” Mother asked as she tried to put her arm around her.


She looked up to the tanner's wife and her large pot of salt.


“It's you!” she said in a low grumbling voice and pointed to her. Immediately everyone moved away from the tanner, his wife, and the Fool as if she and her husband and son had the plague.


“You are too late bringing your salt here,” she said, “Or did you purposely stay out longer so the witch could take her sweet time stealing everything from us?”


“No! I…” the tanner's wife stuttered, “I came as fast as I could!”


“I kept them within my sights. I’m sure I did. My husband asked me to while he changed clothes for the sheering”, weeped the weaver's wife uttering a sound that cut through marrow, a sound the tanner’s wife would hear for days after, whenever she tried to fall asleep. 


The villagers and the tanner family listened sharply.


“A she didn’t just take the tools and measurements. She took my whole husband!” She cried finally.


The villagers gasped and shook their heads. Others started cursing and swearing.


“It’s your fault!” cried she to the Tanner's wife. “The witch was waiting for the right moment to strike and I told you she was skulking about and brooding in the shadows. And then you just had to go out and fetch your salt so carelessly, breaking the salt circle I had so meticulously drawn! That’s how she was able to break through, wasn’t it? Now she’s off with our measurements and tools, and my husband too!”


“But how did it happen,” asked father Tanner, bored with her rambling.


“She bewitched three wild boars and sent them into the house, turned everything upside down. Look at this mess! I don’t have anything left anymore! My life is over!”


The Weaver's wife fell sobbing to the floor and scratched about in the soil with her hands.


“Cursed family!” shouted the villagers.


“It was an accident!” said Mother.


“No! It’s that boy, that Fool,” they said. “He believes in fairy tales, doesn’t he. Maybe he believes in witchcraft too! Bringing bad tidings upon the village!”


“Yes! He must believe in witchcraft too if he truly believes in fairytales,” it was said among them.


The villagers moved away from the tanner's family even more.


“Please,” said the tanner's son, “the Enchanted Deer has nothing to do with what the witch took from her!”


“Cursed Fool!” cried the weaver's wife, salivating from excessive sobbing. 


“Go away! And stay out!”


Thus, Father, and Mother and son went home under the villagers’ angry gaze. That night, the tanner’s son felt horrible for what happened to the weaver’s wife. Refusing to lie about what he had experienced as a child had put his Mother and Father to shame. 


“I don't just blindly believe in fairy tales. It’s the opposite. I believe in what I’ve seen. Sometimes those two things are the same,” he whispered to himself and fell asleep.

The next morning Mother opened the door, trembling. In the dark once again, to her horror, she saw the knapsack lying on the doorstep. A chill ran down her spine, and she froze completely. 


“Am I imagining everything the past few days? Is it all a dream, a horrible nightmare?” she asked desperately.


She slowly lifted the knapsack into the bucket again and walked to the well. It made soft rippling noises as she looked down. She couldn’t see the bottom of it. So serene and careless the well seemed to her, as if it cared not for the madness of the human world. The tanner’s wife peered further over the edge into the darkness. 


Now she held the knapsack over the well and whispered, “Please, well, don’t bring this back. Let it sink. Let it rest on the bottom. Let it be found in hundreds of years when whosoever looked at it last; is no longer alive. Don’t bring the knapsack back to my doorstep anymore, well, I beg you. Let things be as they were.”


She dropped the knapsack, closed her eyes, and waited for the big fat splash. When it came, it sounded like music to her ears. With a sigh, she filled her bucket with fresh water and walked back to the house. But before she reached the front door, she heardsoft whispers coming from the well:


“…Precisely because things were as they were….”


The tanner's woman stopped and looked over her shoulder. But there was only silence, the orange mist of sunrise, and the awakening birds in their nests. It’s okay, she told herself. 


“… Things are as they are….”


When she returned, she saw her son, the Fool, already sitting at the table helping to prepare the breakfast table.


“Already awake?” she said, hiding the tremors in her shoulders and hands.


“Yes,” said the Fool, “I want to help.”


“That’s good,” said Mother, “That’s good.”


The Fool gently placed the cutlery on the table.


“I want to help the weaver's wife,” said he.


Mother froze and said angrily: “And why would you help her after she saw you….”


She couldn't even finish her sentence.


“After she chased us all away?”


The Fool moved closer to her and grabbed her shoulder softly.


“Because if she sees me helping her find what she has lost, even if we had nothing to do with it, then she will definitely want to make things right with us. With you. Then you two can be friends again.”


The tanner’s wife looked proudly at her son and embraced him.


“That’s a noble thought, son,” she said. “But how on earth are you going to find a witch that no one has ever seen?”


“That I don’t know,” said the Fool.


At that moment, she heard the whispering voices over her shoulder again:


“… Precisely because things were as they were….”


With a jolt, she looked back over her shoulder and out the window. In the now proudly shining morning sun, she saw a commotion in the distance on the village square.


“What’s all that about?” said the Fool.


“It looks like…” the Mother whispered. “It looks like… a prince on a white horse?”
































The witch is angry


Proudly a young prince rode in with a big red blindfold on. A long white robe hung over his shiny armor, fastened with a belt from which his spear hung. Around his shoulders, he wore a thick gray pelerine. This was the custom of the knights of the Kingdom of the Spears, the land of the beaches and the chalk cliffs with great castles full of music and merriment.


But this knight did not look very jolly. Restless, inquisitive, alert, was he too but these things only eyes see that look beyond the veil of seemingly great pride. Such eyes had the Fool, though he did not yet understand why he saw the things he saw.


And thus the young prince announced in a booming voice:


“I am the Blindfolded Knight! I fight on the side of justice for those who cannot do it themselves. I protect the weak.”


The villagers who began to flock were very impressed by the young prince. They stared at him from head to toe. At the back of his saddle—the Fool noticed—in addition to a number of sacks, there were also two chests with pigeons. The young prince jumped from his horse, his armor tinkling as he hit the ground. The Fool could see that many of the villagers wanted to speak but were afraid to interrupt. For he moved so deliberately, so decidedly, so surely, that they dared not break the silence.


As if alone, the young prince took one of the doves, stroked her head briefly, then tied a white bow around her leg and let her fly.


“Are you a prince?” the Fool asked suddenly.


“Fool!” the villagers yelled.


“Shut up and let the knight speak!”


The knight kept looking straight ahead, blindfolded as he was.


“Yes, I am a prince. I am the Prince of Spears.”


Nearly all the villagers swooned at the same time. A real royal prince, from a distant land, with a great spear. This was a man above all men. This was the one and only prince, like none before in the village. So different was he from the men of the village itself, simply because it could be clearly seen that he was better. And because he was better, they immediately loved him. After all, being better was the only kind of different the villagers liked.


“But why are you wearing a blindfold?” asked the Fool.


“Shut your cursed mouth!” they yelled at him. 


“Are you blind?” asked the Fool, not heeding the people around him.


The prince laughed with the Fool’s remarks, much to the relief of the villagers.


“I am not blind. I have put on this blindfold of my own free will because I want to learn to survive without my sight, whenever that should prove necessary.”


The Fool admired this but still thought to himself: why? The prince’s words sounded so strange to him, with sounds that roll—as it were—far down the back of his throat.


“My quests have brought me here,” he said quietly, forcing people to prick up their ears, “and I’m truly surprised to find a village so far away in the middle of nowhere.”


“What were you looking for then?” asked the baker’s son.


The Prince cleared his throat: “I was looking for the end of the world. I want to look over the edge.”


Again the villagers gasped, but the elders among them laughed.


“The end of the world is nowhere near here, Prince. The edge of the earth is still very far away. We don’t know anyone who has ever seen the end of the world.”


The prince paused for a moment at their words. Then the Fool said:


“If you have come all the way from the Kingdom of Spears, did you by any chance come across the Enchanted Deer in the forest?”


With surprise, the Prince turned to the Fool. Everyone had burst out laughing and began to curse at him again.


“No,” answered the Prince with a chuckle, and everyone fell silent again due to his deep, dreamy voice. “I have not met any… enchanted… deer.”


Too bad, the Fool thought to himself. But then he thought of something else and said:

“How about a witch?”


Everyone cursed at the Fool, angrily this time, but now the Prince took off his blindfold and looked the Fool in the eyes.


“What did you ask me?”


“If you had met a witch on your way here,” said the Fool.


The prince merely stared at the tanner’s son with his curious eyes.


“I have not met a witch,” answered the Prince coolly as a frog in a freshwater pool after a downpour of rain, “but I will help you find her.”


*** 


The weaver’s wife was still out of her mind with grief. Once they entered her house, she kept her angry eye on the Fool while the Prince searched the place for tracks on the dirt floor.


“He was dragged out here,” said the Prince, “Three big boars. And the witch… Well, she’s angry.”


“Well, of course!” cried the weaver’s wife. “Of course she’s angry!”


The Prince looked at the weaver’s wife coolly and said, “Your husband is no longer alive.”


Now the Weaver's wife, shocked to the core, shouted: “No! Please! How can you be so sure?”


“The cloth your husband has wrapped around the tools will have angered her so much that she cast a spell on him…”


The Prince pointed to a trail on the ground in the distance, where the plants had withered, and the earth was dry as dust. They moved outside of the house, towards this patch of earth in silent anticipation.


“Is that… human hair?” asked the Fool.


The Weaver’s wife looked on in horror.


“That’s…” she said, falling to the ground, “that’s his hair! All of his hair!”


The Prince bowed down, and rooted his spear in the dry earth for balance.


“Nails,” he said. 


“Teeth.”


All the color had drained from the wife’s face. She grabbed a tooth, a nail, and some hair. Not so long ago, they felt so familiar. Now all she felt was a cold sweat and shivering nausea.


“This witch is evil,” said the Prince. “I have not seen an aging spell so powerful in a long time.”


“An aging spell?” asked the Fool.


Meanwhile, the Prince had continued to follow the tracks of the three wild boars.


“A mighty spell, woven of words so evil and so horrible that a man grows a year older every instant.”


The Weaver’s wife had started to cry frantically with the tufts of hair in one hand, the nails and teeth in the other. The Fool tried to calm her down, but this only made matters worse.


“I think he’s aged at least 30 years in one fell swoop because of the evil witch's magic words in this spot,” the Prince said, pointing to the traces of this incident.


“But…” the Weaver Woman said between sniffles, “Maybe he's still alive? As an older man? Maybe we’re not too late yet?”


The Prince whistled and jumped on his horse who came running, doing so he seized the Fool’s arm, pulled him up with it, and said only this to the woman: 


“If he’s still alive, I’ll bring him back. If he’s dead, I’ll tell you where to find him. But your tools, those I will definitely return to you, madam.”


And so the Fool and the Prince rode swiftly along the tracks of the three bewitched boars. 

The last time I ventured this far outside the village was when I came across the Enchanted Deer as a child, the Fool excitedly thought to himself. The Prince, meanwhile, never took his eyes off the tracks, and before they knew it, they arrived at an open field near the dark forest, where a great lonely apple tree stood as if it had been waiting there for them.


Soon they saw that they had arrived at exactly the right place, for three monstrous boars circled the apple tree. Under the apple tree lay a dry and broken body; hands still closed tightly around the tools and measurements wrapped in the cloth.


“Wait here,” said the Prince, setting the Fool down at a safe distance.


“Ha!” he cried suddenly and dug his spurs into his steed.


Riding around the apple tree in a big curve, focusing on one of the three boars, he threw his spear through the air with force. In one blow, the first of the three boars was pierced entirely. 


The Fool cheered, but the Prince did not take the time to look back. He immediately headed for the apple tree to pull his spear from the carcass. His horse effortlessly dodged the boars as the prince retrieved his weapon and dashed away from the apple tree.


Again the knight made the same turn, keeping his eyes on the next boar. His spear he held with such measured strength and balance at the same time, that it seemed to be so effortless to the Fool, who was watching in full suspense from a distance. So engrossed was he that he didn’t notice a peculiar dark shadow looming ever closer.


And so with a large battle cry the Prince threw his spear a second time. Now the second wild boar had been killed in one hard blow.


The third boar, however, did not sit quietly waiting by the tree for the knight to come and slay it. He was already stamping his paws in a frenzy such that apples began to fall from the tree. And in the twinkling of an eye, the wild boar rushed furiously towards the Prince! His white horse tried to run away as fast as it could, but this monstrous boar was faster, and with a dull thud the horse fell, landing on top of the knight of Spears.


The Fool would have tried to rescue the fallen knight, were it not that a hand with long fingers and brown nails suddenly clamped around his neck and mouth.


Meanwhile, the wild and drooling boar kept making dents in the armor of the knight, who still tried to drag himself from under his horse and frantically looked around to see where his spear had gone. Without it, there wasn’t much he could do against the cursed animal. 


The witch cackled with pleasure into the trembling Fool’s ear as beneath the boar kept rushing into the prince again and again. The witch wiped away a tear from the intensity of her cackling. This little movement was all the Fool needed to call out.

“Take off your armor!” cried the Fool. “Take off your armor!”


The witch immediately covered his mouth and hissed, “Quiet you stupid little rat!”

But the Prince had already heard him, and in between the boar’s relentless thrusts, he broke free of his armor with great difficulty until he could finally walk, sweating profusely, to the dead boar’s carcass. He pulled out his spear.


“Come on!” he cried to the final monstrous boar. “Come on!”


“Watch out!” cried the witch. But her stubborn beast was already running at full force. The knight waited frozen in place with his eyes fixed on the animal, his spear in perfect balance. At the very last moment, he thrust the spear effortlessly through its skull with a small jump and a big thrust.


The final boar was dead.


“Curses!” screeched the witch, and with a spell, she flew with the frightened Fool up into the apple tree, where the Prince could not see them. She snapped her fingers, making the Fool’s lips clench shut, and the branches of the apple tree wrap around his arms like handcuffs.


At the trunk of the tree lay the weaver’s emaciated body. The Prince cracked open the Weaver’s fingers carefully so that he could grasp the cloth containing only three tools. He looked around, looking for the Fool, but there was only an icy silence over the green field. He looked back at the cloth. Inside was a circle, a square, and a triangle-shaped tool. 

At that moment, the witch jumped down and grabbed the tools from the knight's hands. In the blink of an eye, she pulled the spear from the boar and thrust it into the Prince’s shoulder. And cackle she did!


“Without your armor, you are not worth much, o brave knight,” cried the witch.


“Why do you need these measuring tools so much, witch?” asked the knight, bleeding and falling to his knees.


The witch said, “Is it because I am an evil witch that I cannot have my reasons? Another shameless accusation from a shameless man!”


She flew down until she stood face to face with the Prince.


“I've been through things, knight! Not like you, having to seek out dangers so you can face them for a short while and then afterwards be hailed as a great hero. Medals rain on you with every step you take.”


She sneered at him, saying this.


“No, for a witch, it is not so. I’ve never had to seek out dangers… They came to me spontaneously and relentlessly.”


She pulled the spear out of the Prince’s shoulder with an ugly snatch, which was so painful that he instantly crumpled to the ground.


“Where are my medals?” the witch asked. “Where are they? Where is my statue? While I have also defeated many things: knights and bandits and thieves and priests, all deceivers, all profiteers, all of them sweet as long as they need something, all of them turned sour as soon as they have had it, all of them without compassion for a witch’s true life.” 


She cackled darkly.


“All of them in their graves….”


She squatted next to the Prince on the grass now, where the tools had fallen from the cloth. She picked them up and tucked them away in her dress.


“Thank you for unwrapping these for me,” she continued. “Better than any medal. I’ve known for a long time that medals are perfect for tough knights because people like to be afraid of big tough knights. That’s how they feel safe. It’s different for a witch. People don’t like to be afraid of a witch. We make them feel unsafe.”


And while the witch talked and talked, the knight had tied a rope from the cloth behind his back with his nimble fingers.


“And sometimes people wonder why witches are always so angry!”


The Fool saw before him an apple dangling right above the witch's head. He looked intensely at the apple as if to let his thoughts speak and shook the branch that was wrapped around his arm. But the big fat apple wouldn’t budge.


“Why do you steal those measurements, witch?” asked the Prince breathlessly, while behind his back, he was tying the weaver’s cloth into a small rope. “Give it back to its rightful owners.”


The witch cackled when she heard this. Her laughter loosened the spell that held the branches of the apple tree around the Fool's arms ever so slightly. The Fool wriggled free as softly as he could and crawled to the branch where the apple hung. Now keeping his eye on the Witch beneath, he picked the apple, and threw it as hard as he could on her head!


The witch, forgetting herself in her intense cackle, immediately collapsed and fainted from the blow. Quickly, the Prince grabbed her, dragged her to the apple tree, and tied her to the tree trunk with his newly knotted rope.


When the witch finally woke up, she cried incessantly, for the blessed cloth burned her skin. The Fool took the tools from her robe, and when the witch was about to cast a curse, the Prince pushed an apple in her mouth. Yet the Fool saw in her teary eyes the same kind of sorrow that made him want to help the weaver's wife in the first place. 


For a moment, they looked deeply into each other’s eyes until the Prince pulled him away from the apple tree.


***


Still bleeding from his shoulder, the Prince came closer and closer to fainting. He could barely climb the horse, leaving it to the Fool to ride back to the village. And the Fool, astonishing himself as he rode, did indeed do so. At his own house, he finally stopped.

Mother and Father immediately ran out at the sound of the heavy horsefeet at their door.


"Mother, Father, help him," said the Fool. "He is wounded!"


They washed him and saw the life drain from him ever more at every moment.


“Bring the salt!” Mother cried to her son, who watched as the Prince was now breaking out in a cold sweat. But as soon as Mother rubbed salt on his wound and rubbed it in, the wounded knight immediately sprang up, and it took Father tanner and all his sons to help him keep the prince on the table. After a moment, he finally fainted, and the sisters of the Fool entered with the herb lady who immediately pressed all kinds of green twigs into the wound, sprinkled flower petals over him, and sang a sweet melody.


The herb lady set fire to some more sage and coughed two or three more times over the Prince before she left.


“What happened?” asked Mother.


The Fool’s entire family listened to every word that came out of his mouth as he told in minute detail what had happened. A brief silence fell after he finished, and the Fool could see that not everyone believed him. Then he took the three tools from his pocket: a circle, a square, and a triangle. All doubt immediately melted away like snow to the sun.


That same evening, Mother and the Fool went over to the weaver's wife. She immediately embraced them both with great tears of gratitude, seeing her husband’s tools in their hands. It brought the fool much cheer to see that she had instantly forgiven him and his mother but thought back to the witch and the look in her eyes that he so recognized. She turned to him eventually and asked to tell the whole story, after which she thanked him from the bottom of her heart: 


“You saved my life by bringing my tools back,” she added.


In bed, as everyone was sleeping, Mother thought of the words that had come so mysteriously from the well. The thought of it made her wake up with a jolt, feeling as if she had fallen from the sky into her bed. She got up, rubbed her eyes, and looked outside. The moon told her that the time had come to start the day slowly.


“Calm down,” thought Mother to herself.


When she came into the kitchen, she saw the Fool sleeping on a chair at the table where the Prince lay. She tried to shuffle past without waking them.


Would the knapsack be there again, she wondered to herself. But before she could reach the door, the Fool had awoken by her shuffling and said to her:


“Mother. I was up all night. I don’t know how I can ever repay the Prince for what he has done for us.”


At that moment, Mother felt a chill run down her spine as she realized what had happened, what had been happening all the time.


“…just because things were as they were, things are as they are….”


“You can’t escape today by going back to yesterday,” she said softly to herself, then closed her eyes and started to feel a little dizzy at the thought.


“What did you say?” asked the Fool in a sleepy tone.


Mother sighed deeply, leaned on the table as if out of breath, and took a good look at her son. She saw the helplessness in his eyes. At that moment, she felt a strong resolve within herself, a warm sense of conviction she hadn’t felt in a long time.


She said, “Son, get me some water from the well first. Then we’ll talk.”


He didn't quite understand why she was saying it so seriously. With sleepy eyes, he quietly took the wooden bucket from the corner of the kitchen. Mother sat down on the chair where the Fool used to sit and looked into the Prince’s wound. It had started to heal. Lost in thought, she rubbed the strong shoulder muscles as she heard the Fool open the door.


“Mother! There’s something here on the sill!” cried the Fool and set the bucket down.

Mother knew very well what was there.


“What is this?” he asked.


“Take it,” she said, eyes closed and a tear wiped away. “It's all there… just what you need.”


She would never forget the light tinkling and clattering sound of the Fool picking up the knapsack.