Clark Gillian

The Enchanted Deer and the Dreams of the Fool


Chapter 7.
The grinding stone.

A vast construction site bustled beyond the dark forest, teeming with laborers. Stone chippers pounded, scaffolders hammered, and wheelbarrow runners strained under the weight of beams and masonry. They toiled under the watchful gaze of planners, each movement dictated by the grand design of the future lord's castle.

"This drudgery is inhuman!" groaned a stone cutter, his arms aching from the relentless lifting. Such grumblings were common at the midday meal, met with dismissive pronouncements from the planners. "Only human hands can build such grandeur," they'd scoff, "be grateful for your role!"

Lighter tasks fell to the sculptors, who dreamt of their art's immortality. "Imagine," they'd muse, "centuries from now, people will marvel at what we've created!"

"Who?" scoffed the tillers and toilers. "None than this lord, he'll be the only one enjoying it!" The sculptors, in turn, muttered about the workers' inability to grasp the timeless essence of art.

One bleak dawn, a new worker awakened to the familiar grinding of his flour mill - only to find it missing. Panicked inquiries met with shrugs and muttered denials. By day's end, his sweat and toil bore no fruit - no midday bread, for he had no flour to contribute. Despair gnawed at him, a microcosm of the larger unease simmering beneath the surface of the grand construction project.

Mockery mingled with pity as the worker's plight spread. Some offered scraps of their own meager provisions, but his stomach growled its discontent. An old man patted him comfortingly. "Toughen up, lad," he rasped. "You're young, you have your whole life ahead."

"A life of backbreaking labor for someone else's pleasure," the young worker muttered, his belly echoing his words.

He was soon summoned to the planners' tent, a stark contrast to the workers' squalid quarters. Piled papers, rulers, and compasses sprawled across tables, the air thick with the aroma of roasted hare and prunes. Two planners gorged on succulent leg and ribs, the savory scent a cruel taunt to the workers' empty bellies.

"Problem?" drawled one planner, a greasy hand clutching a dripping bone.

"My grindstone," the worker blurted, desperation lacing his voice. "It's gone. I can't contribute my flour ration."

Disbelief morphed into annoyance. "A grindstone doesn't just... vanish! Surely you misplaced it."

"That's just as unlikely!" he repeated, frustration mounting, "How does one misplace a grinding stone?"

The planners exchanged glances, eyebrows raised in theatrical surprise. Unfazed, they continued their meal.

"We can order a replacement," one finally conceded, "but it'll come out of your wages, as per the rules."

"What godforsaken rules are those?" the worker roared, his anger boiling over.

"Are you questioning the plan again, Worker 235?" they bellowed, their faces contorting into masks of outrage.

"The plan works, doesn't it?" one sneered. "Fair wages, a magnificent castle, a glorious lord – everyone benefits!"

The worker stared at them, his heart pounding with a mix of fury and despair. The grand plan, it seemed, had gaping holes, and he was caught in the widening cracks.

"But with this pittance," the young worker countered, his voice tight with suppressed anger, "I can barely build a pigeon coop, let alone a house!"

The planners exchanged glances, stifling chuckles with pursed lips that resembled overripe prunes. This wasn't the end of Worker 235's defiance, however.

"While my bones and muscles crumble building this castle for someone else!" he roared, his voice echoing beyond the tent.

"Are you suggesting you deserve more pay than every other worker just because you whine louder?" one planner mocked, his voice booming for maximum effect.

Shamefaced, Worker 235 mumbled, "No, of course not."

"The plan is the plan!" the other planner declared. "If you think some other lord will offer better wages, then go! Find him! But let me assure you, you won't. We've built castles for countless lords, and let me tell you, you should be grateful for what you have here, stuck in this nowhere outpost. Or you could always risk your luck in... the city!"

The planners erupted in laughter, their guffaws rolling across the dusty ground. Defeated and powerless, Worker 235 trudged back to his brick-lifting duty.

"We've all felt that way, lad," an older worker consoled him gently. "But it passes. We'll look after you."

"But it's so unfair!" Worker 235 choked out, frustration bubbling over.

"That's just the way of the world," the older worker sighed.

The young worker, too exhausted to argue, thought, "No, that's just the way of the plan."

A sly voice piped up from a group of known troublemakers, "The plan works just fine for me! Gotta get that sweet payday, am I right?"

Worker 235, his spirit ignited by the taunts and injustice, let the heavy stone plummet to the ground with a resounding thud. Silence fell over the construction site as he mounted the scaffolding, his silhouette stark against the setting sun.

"I quit," he declared, his voice ringing out with newfound resolve.

A chorus of jeers arose. "Suit yourself, but be warned," one worker mocked. "The planners won't be happy, and their burden will fall on us."

Ignoring the taunts, Worker 235 stood defiant, arms crossed. The silence stretched, broken only by the distant laughter of the planners. Suddenly, they appeared, faces contorted with rage.

"Leave your post and hinder progress? You're on your own now!" one roared. "But we won't let your defiance go unpunished."

Whips cracked in the air, the harsh stinging echoing through the construction site. "Clear the way or suffer the consequences! Stand guard over your useless bricks all night," they snarled. "If you're still standing come morning, we might let you resume your pathetic contributions."

Worker 235 remained silent, his jaw set, gaze fixed on the horizon. The planners scoffed, their anger fading into disbelief. "Enjoy the view," they spat, leaving him bathed in the fading light, a lone figure against the vast canvas of the unfinished castle.


As dawn broke, not far from the construction site, the witch watched in astonishment as the giant deer gently lowered the Fool with his knapsack onto the ground by the apple tree at the edge of the woods.

"What a gigantic deer," the witch muttered to herself, each thought escalating her amazement. "What a great deer... a magnificent deer... the Enchanted Deer!"

Their eyes met for a fleeting moment, and the witch felt a sudden loosening of the magic. In disbelief, she looked at her hands, no longer young and smooth, but her own familiar, wrinkled hands.

"He must wake up," she thought urgently, turning towards the slumbering Fool. "He must bring the Enchanted Deer back to me. It could break the curse and reunite me with my true form!"

Her frail legs trembled after days of captivity, but she steeled herself and approached the Fool. However, seeing him vulnerable and asleep at her feet, she hesitated.

"No," she whispered, a plan forming in her mind. "The Fool must not see me yet."

With a swift incantation, she transformed into a magpie and perched on a nearby branch, keeping a watchful eye on him.

The Fool stirred, his eyes fluttering open. The temple, the Seer, the dark pond, all were fading memories. He sat up with a groan, the setting sun painting the landscape in warm hues. The familiar apple tree stood tall, offering a sense of comfort amidst the confusion.

"Where's the witch?" he called out, bewildered. As he tried to stand, a pang of loss reminded him of the book, the Seer's parting gift before he lost consciousness.

Blinking away the harsh sunlight, the Fool almost convinced himself it was all a dream. But the scratchy weight of his knapsack confirmed reality.

"Then how did I get here?" he muttered, bewildered.

As he bent to pick up his bag, a swarm of dancing lights erupted from the forest, converging on him like miniature meteors. Up close, he realized they were tiny, glowing elves, their laughter and playful movements catching him off guard. The witch, perched high in a tree, watched with wide eyes, her lips forming a silent gasp.

The elves swirled and frolicked, eventually merging into a single, luminescent fairy, resembling a figure seen in the clouds on a clear day.

"Why are you seeking the Enchanted Deer?" the fairy asked.

The Fool, still flustered, blurted out, "I want to talk to it, tell them I haven't forgotten. I want to show my friends and family, let them see its beauty!"

A tense silence followed.

The Fool, chastened but hopeful, offered his true reason. "Perhaps," he said, "if the Enchanted Deer came to my village, people would see their beauty, see that magic exists. Maybe then, we could all live together again."

Silence descended, broken only by the flitting whispers of the elves. Finally, they circled him, their voices forming a single entity. "We may not be the mighty Deer," they spoke, "but we can offer this: we can bring the forest back to your village, reuniting you with its embrace as it once was."

The Fool, overcome with gratitude, bowed low. "Thank you!" he exclaimed, echoing the gesture he offered the Seer.

With a flurry of wings and laughter, the elves intertwined, transforming into a magnificent stag of shimmering light. "Climb aboard," they chimed.

Swiftly, the Fool mounted the sparkling antlers, holding on tight as the deer leaped forward. They bounded from place to place, each hoofbeat igniting vibrant life – trees, flowers, and plants erupting from the earth like emerald fireworks. The forest, in all its glory, followed their path, leaving a trail of paradise in its wake.

The witch, wings straining, struggled to keep pace. "My village!" the Fool cried, pointing ahead. "There!"

Behind him, the ground rumbled and groaned, the spectacle of burgeoning life sending tremors through the earth. From their slumber, the villagers awoke, fear gripping them as the thundering grew closer. Panic-stricken, they rushed from their homes, the tremors and the growing brilliance drawing them outside.

Even the Prince, supported by the tanner brothers, emerged to witness the unfolding marvel. 

The Fool, once scoffed at, rode through their midst like a prince upon a magnificent steed – a stag crafted from pure moonlight, leaving a dazzling trail of sprouting life in its wake. Flowers, plants, and creatures erupted from the ground like fireworks, leaving the villagers speechless, mouths agape, and eyes wide with disbelief.

As the elven deer completed its dazzling circuit, a fantastic new forest stood where their quaint village square and streets once resided. Towering trees stretched skyward, ferns unfurled in delicate fronds, and vibrant mushrooms popped up like colorful buttons. It was a spectacle both bewildering and breathtaking.

But the magical stag wasn't finished. With a burst of energy, it galloped past the village gate, leaving behind a stunned populace and a bewildered Fool clinging to its shimmering antlers.

"Wait!" he cried, his voice lost in the wind. "That's where I live!"

The mischievous laughter of the elves drifted back. "Hundreds of years since we've had such fun in the human world!" they sang, their voices echoing through the newly formed forest.

The Fool, clutching the moonlit antlers, looked back at his shrinking village. 


Dawn's chill crept through the night, painting the sky in faint hues of blue and orange. Yet, Worker 235 remained standing, his muscles burning with fatigue. Each tremor, each twitch, earned him a sharp prod from the supervisor's stick, fueled by the supervisor's own weariness and fading authority.

"Don't even think about leaning! Rest is a privilege, earned by those who follow the plan!" the supervisor barked, his voice raspy from the long night.

"I wasn't," Worker 235 rasped back, his throat parched.

The night had been a cacophony of the supervisor's tales, each one more outlandish than the last. Now, as the first light kissed the horizon, he was weaving the bizarre tale of the Green Duck.

"And then," the supervisor droned on, "the Green Duck realized its jeweled wings held it down! With each jewel shed, it soared higher, finally achieving flight!"

A chuckle, the first in days, escaped Worker 235's lips. "Unexpected," he admitted, a flicker of amusement lighting his exhausted eyes.

The supervisor bristled. "Unexpected? My stories are profound!"

"Compared to the usual monster-slaying drivel you subject us to," Worker 235 countered, a hint of defiance simmering beneath his fatigue.

Silence descended, thicker than the pre-dawn air. The supervisor, unaccustomed to such quiet rebellion, shifted uncomfortably.

Yawning, the supervisor leaned on his stick. "What do you think the message is, then?"

Worker 235 shrugged. "Well, the duck suddenly realizes jewelry, something unnatural, held it back. Ducks don't wear jewelry! No wonder they can't fly. They're out of balance."

"I agree," the supervisor mumbled, surprised by the young worker's insight.

"So, to me, it means forcing yourself into something that isn't natural is holding you back!"

The supervisor frowned. "Knew it! Something was wrong when you liked my story. Look, it's like this: the moral is don't ask too much. Be happy with what you have. Good is good enough, right?"

"Yeah, but you're only saying that because you're a supervisor," Worker 235 countered.

"And you're a young brat who has yet to learn hard work and when enough's enough!"

"The problem wasn't wanting more jewels," Worker 235 insisted. "The problem is they didn't know why they couldn't fly with all the jewels they had on."

The supervisor cut him off with a jab. "Shut up and listen! There once was..."

But Worker 235 couldn't take another story. He stared past the supervisor, eyes widening. A mesmerizing blue shimmer flickered through the trees in the distance.

"What's that?" he gasped.

"Don't interrupt me, snotty nose!" the supervisor barked, continuing his tale of the hunter and the cook.

"I... I think I see stars," Worker 235 breathed, ignoring him.

The supervisor scoffed and burst into laughter.

The supervisor's scoff died in his throat. "Nice try, lad, but I'm not fooled," he declared, puffing out his chest. "Young whippersnappers like you don't faint easily."

"No, you daft goose, look!" the young worker cried, gesturing frantically. "What is that? It shimmers like a star, but the shape of…"

"A deer!" the supervisor exclaimed, squinting into the distance.

The thunderous clatter of hooves grew louder, accompanied by a dazzling spectacle. The shimmering deer, a magnificent creature crafted from starlight, galloped towards them, carrying a rider on its back.

"Is that... someone on it?" gasped the young worker, eyes wide with wonder.

The supervisor narrowed his eyes. "Aye, it would seem so..."

Their awe turned to panicked confusion as the ground erupted in a vibrant display. Sparkling streams, blooming flowers, and fantastical creatures burst forth in the deer's wake, transforming the desolate landscape into a breathtaking tapestry of life.

"Why is it coming here?" the supervisor stammered, fear creeping into his voice.

His mind conjured dark possibilities. "Perhaps it's an evil specter," he sputtered, "a vengeful spirit from the land of the dead, come to punish us for our winter cull!"

Terror-stricken, he sprinted towards the bell, ringing it frantically. His shrill shouts cut through the air, "Alert! Alert!"

Amidst the chaos, the Fool desperately tried to rein in the exuberant elven deer. His pleas fell on deaf ears.

"We're going to jump!" they declared, their tiny voices tinged with mischievous glee.

Panic surged through the Fool. "No! I want off!" he cried, clinging on for dear life as the thought of hurtling through the air made him dizzy.

The elves, oblivious to his fear, pointed excitedly ahead. "Look! A launchpad!"

His heart plummeted. "You mean... the scaffolding around that unfinished castle?"

Ignoring his gurgling protests, the elves erupted in cheers, their joy fueled by the impending daredevil leap. The Fool braced himself.

As the magical spectacle unfolded outside the unfinished castle, panic and awe gripped its occupants. Overseer, convinced of his impending doom, paced like a caged animal, while others gathered at the precarious castle walls, drawn by the commotion. Even the weary Worker 235, his limbs screaming in protest, couldn't tear his gaze away from the approaching wonder.

"It's here!" the workers cried out, their voices tinged with fear and excitement.

"Almost there!" chirped the elves, their tiny voices carried on the wind.

The Fool, clinging to the magnificent creature, squeezed his eyes shut, bracing himself for whatever madness awaited. The deer, antlers ripping through the planners' tents like a celestial bulldozer, thundered onto the unfinished scaffolding, shaking the very foundations of the castle.

In the chaos, a hidden grindstone, dislodged by the tremors, began its perilous descent towards the courtyard. The deer, oblivious to the new danger, charged on, hooves echoing a deafening rhythm. Then, disaster struck. The grindstone, its path perfectly aligned with the deer's leg, collided with a sickening crunch.

With a dazzling explosion of light and laughter, the magnificent creature dissolved into countless tiny elves. And from every nook and cranny, from within the stones and between the beams, the castle came alive. Vines snaked upwards, leaves unfurled, and flowers bloomed in vibrant hues. The unfinished construction, now adorned with nature's touch, stood complete.

Speechless, the workers watched as their once barren site transformed into a breathtaking tapestry of life.