Clark Gillian

The Enchanted Deer and the Dreams of the Fool


Chapter 2.
The knock of sense.

Many years later, the Great Evil Emperor a distant memory, a curious child was born in the Land of Old Wives. Wide, unblinking eyes devoured every sight, even the beauty hidden beneath fear's heavy blanket. Growing, the child marveled at everything:

"Isn't the morning sun fabulously beautiful?" the child chirped to brothers rubbing sleep from their eyes.

"Beautiful? More sleep would've been good," they grumbled, turning away.

"Beautiful?" Father boomed, entering from the tannery. "Sun rises, sets, that's all you need to know."

Whenever the Hunter brought rabbits for tanning, Father received leather. "Aren't the cowhide's colors and shapes stunning?" the child gasped, mesmerized.

"Stunning?" Father scoffed, scrubbing the skin. "Clean and sturdy is enough. Don't overthink."

The child nodded, still gazing at the wondrous patterns. "But I still think it's nice," they mumbled, undeterred.

"Think so? Keep it to yourself," Father gruffly advised. "Whether you find things beautiful is no one's business."

"Listen to your father," Mother echoed, pickling skins.

"Shame it can't be a business," the child mused.

The child gazed at their mother, noticing the way sunlight glinted off hidden silver strands nestled among her tired brown hair. Her once bright eyes, now dimmed with exhaustion, seemed to hold untold stories. Like a weathered rose, her beauty remained, though slumbering beneath the weight of their harsh reality.

"Mother is beautiful too," the child declared, their voice filled with innocent certainty.

A tremor ran through their mother's shoulders, followed by a ghost of a smile that never quite reached her eyes. "Truly?" she whispered, a flicker of surprise lighting her face.

Father, scraping hide at his workbench, paused, his gaze lingering on the mother for a moment too long.

Then, as if shaking off a thought, he turned to the child. "Time for you to learn the trade, young one," he said, his voice gruff but laced with an emotion the child couldn't decipher.


The tannery air hung heavy with the pungent scent of hides as Father Tanner observed his child working diligently. He'd hoped the labor would silence their incessant questions, instill the order he craved.

"When you know your duty and fulfill it," he rumbled, voice rough from years of handling hides, "distractions fade. They become..." he paused, searching for the right word, "...opportunities for disappointment."

"Fair enough," the child replied, their gaze fixed on the cowhide they scraped. "But what you think I should do, Father, doesn't always feel like what I should do."

Father Tanner sighed, frustration etching lines deeper on his weathered face. "Why yearn for disappointment, child? There's a way things are done, and it works."

"Does it, Father?" the child countered, their voice small yet firm. "Does it really work if it means closing my eyes, silencing my thoughts about what I see and feel?"

His gaze softened, bewilderment replacing frustration. Unlike his other children, content with their roles, this one asked questions he couldn't answer. "You'll understand one day," he said, his voice softer now. "It's easier to simply follow your father's lead."

He dipped his calloused hands, protected by oil and wax, into a vat of acid, meticulously removing every hair from the hide.

"Is it supposed to be..." the child began, their voice faltering as their father's tone hardened.

"Supposed to be what? Speak clearly, child! I haven't got all day!" His voice boomed, heavy as stones tumbling from a mountainside.

The child flinched, their voice barely a whisper, "Is life supposed to be easy?"

Father Tanner finished scraping, holding the now-bare hide up to the light. "Why make it hard when you can make it simple?"

The child watched, eyes clouded with thought, as the hide was plunged into a basin of water. "If I don't understand why you want me to do something, it doesn't feel simple at all."

Fury flared in Father Tanner's eyes. He raised a hand, but instead of striking, he grasped the child's shoulder roughly. 

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


Sunlight, like warm honey, seeped through the dusty window, rousing the child from their daydreams. Its playful brush on their face, the vibrant hues painted across the fields outside, beckoned them irresistibly. Humming a tune carried on the gentle breeze, the child tiptoed out, drawn by an unseen force.

They wandered deeper into the meadows, leaving the familiar village behind. Tall grasses whispered secrets against their legs, butterflies with wings like stained glass fluttered around them. The endless plains, once comforting in their monotony, now whispered of something more, something hidden beyond the horizon.

The emerald embrace of the forest loomed ahead, its edge a dark, intriguing wall. Curiosity, a persistent itch, compelled the child forward. The air grew cooler, heavy with the scent of damp earth and ancient trees. Every rustle, every flitting shadow, fueled their excitement.

Then, it appeared: a deer, magnificent and imposing. A magnificent stag, its antlers, like a crown woven from moonlight, scraped the sky. Sunlight, filtering through the leaves, danced upon its fur, turning it into spun gold. Huge, warm eyes, deep and clear as a forest pond, met the child's gaze, holding an ancient wisdom.

Silence stretched between them, thick with unspoken understanding. The child, mesmerized, felt a kinship, a connection beyond words. Tentatively, their hand outstretched, yearning to touch the magic before them.

A jolt of pain shattered the magic. His father's hand clamped around his arm, yanking him roughly away. The child struggled, desperate to turn back, but the stag was gone, vanished like a dream at dawn. His father, eyes narrowed, saw only the dense forest, not the enchanted being.

"You gave us quite a scare!" he snapped. "Lost in the woods and almost nightfall! Do you have any idea the dangers lurking here? Wild beasts, hungry and merciless. Be grateful I found you."

The child stammered, trying to explain the magnificent creature he'd seen, but his words were lost in the wind. Back home, his father barked at his mother, forbidding any more "nonsense" about beauty and enchantment. The tannery had work to be done, and that was all that mattered.

Days turned into weeks, then months. The child mastered the tanner's trade, their skill growing with each repetitive motion. But with each passing day, the memory of the stag, a flicker of magic in the heart of the mundane, burned brighter. Their identity became not just "the tanner's son," but a hidden truth carried deep within: a witness to a wonder the others couldn't, or wouldn't, see.