Clark Gillian

The Enchanted Deer and the Dreams of the Fool


Chapter 3.
The song of the enchanted deer.

Finally, the day arrived. Eighteen years old, the age of independence. His father, with a gruff nod, granted him permission to visit the village fair after dark for the first time. Excitement tingled in the young man's veins as he stepped into the bustling square, illuminated by a canopy of colorful lanterns. Every stall was a sensory explosion – exotic scents, dazzling sights, and sounds that set his pulse racing.

But nothing drew him in like the spectacle unfolding from a vibrant wagon in the center. He pushed through the throng, the rhythmic thrum of drums growing louder with each step. On stage, dwarves cavorted with infectious energy, their laughter mixing with the awed gasps of the audience.

A towering bard, garbed in a kaleidoscope of colors, captivated the crowd with his tales. Through a repertoire of masks, he brought legendary heroes to life, his voice booming like a market vendor hawking wares, yet possessing a strangely endearing lilt. His fingers danced across the lute, juggling melodies and voices with impossible dexterity. The young man had never seen anything like it.

These stories were music to his soul, igniting dreams within him. As the bard transitioned from epic battles to a poignant tale of forbidden love, his voice softened, weaving intricate chords that tugged at heartstrings. Tears welled in the eyes of some as his poetry painted vivid pictures of longing and loss. Many drifted away, seeking the comfort of their beds, but the young man remained enthralled.

Then, with a burst of dazzling fireworks, the mood shifted. The playful dwarves reappeared, cloaked in menacing attire, as the bard spun chilling tales of monstrous creatures lurking in the shadows of the forest. The young man shivered, drawn in by the thrilling blend of fear and fascination.

"So, is he just a singer, or a magician too?" The tanner's son leaned towards the baker's son, their breaths mingling in the crisp night air. The bard's final tales had sent shivers down his spine, leaving him wanting more.

"Both," the baker's son replied, wiping foam from his beard with a sleeve. "Seen him do both, myself."

"Really?" The tanner's son's eyes widened. "When?"

"Afternoon, around the time he wakes up. Sets up a table, does magic tricks for the kids." The baker's son chuckled, taking another swig from his mug.

"Afternoon? Dang it, I'm stuck in the tannery until sunset."

The baker's son shrugged, a hint of envy in his eyes. "Early mornings for me, before the rooster even thinks about crowing. Done by noon."

"Lucky you," the tanner's son sighed, picturing the pre-dawn chill.

"Lucky?" the baker's son snorted. "Depends if you like the company of roosters, I suppose."

His gaze drifted back to the stage, now silent. "But hey, imagine if those tricks were real magic, right? Wouldn't that be something?"

The tanner's son considered this, his brow furrowed. "Like, proper sorcerer kind of magic?"

The baker's son burst out laughing. "Come on, man, you don't seriously believe in fairy tales, do you?"

"But how can you be sure?" the tanner's son persisted, a spark of defiance in his voice.

The baker's son hesitated, then met his gaze with a newfound seriousness. "Look, there's no such thing as hocus pocus, no spells and whatnot. Magic, to me, is what we do with our hands. Me, it's conjuring a good loaf of bread. You, maybe turning rawhide into fine leather. That's the real deal. The bard's tricks? They're his bread, his leather, you see? Real in the way they bring joy, but not in the way you're thinking."

The tanner's son studied the baker's son, surprised by the wisdom in his words. It took a moment to sink in, the baker's son seeing the realization dawn on his face.

"If you don't believe me, go ask him yourself!" the baker's son chuckled, the thought sparking renewed laughter.

"Yes," the tanner's son echoed, his voice dry but laced with newfound determination.

After a restless night and what felt like the longest day of his life, he rushed back to the village square the moment his chores were done. Exhaustion mingled with excitement, his resolve to approach the Bard unwavering.

Though the evening was young, the square hummed with activity. Many had already gathered before the stage, eager for another night of wonderous tales. The dancing dwarves had the crowd in good spirits, preparing them for the Bard's performance. When the sound of drums announced his arrival, the villagers erupted in cheers.

The Bard launched into a merry song, his voice immediately captivating the audience. But this time, the tanner's son found himself not just a spectator, but observed. A familiar warmth flickered in the Bard's deep, dark eyes, echoing the gaze of the enchanted deer. He felt a strange connection, a sense of being singled out, spoken to directly.

"And then," the Bard's voice dipped, weaving a spell that seemed meant for the tanner's son alone, "a time untold, in the forgotten age when beasts and men conversed, our world, this Earth, was paradise. One boundless haven, shared by all."

He painted a picture with words: a vast, verdant forest spanning the globe, housing elves and fairies who flitted between sky-borne islands and subterranean dwellings. A time when magic flowed freely, a language understood by all living things.

"Many creatures then spoke with voices clear and vibrant, words as starry as the night sky. Among them, the Enchanted Deer, an ancient being still walking our world. Deep within the dark forest, a remnant of that lost paradise, they stand guard at the gateway…"

Here, the Bard's fingers brushed across the harp, and he launched into song.

Heaven, just as it came to be,

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 came to be,

The bees, just as they flew,

The sunset just as it shone.

The Enchanted Deer remembers all.

Humankind as they came to be,

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.

"A deep sorrow etched the Enchanted Deer's gaze," the Bard's voice resonated, his melody laced with melancholy, "as they watched mankind carve their own gardens, severing ties with the fae realm. A deeper sorrow still, as they witnessed humanity's insatiable hunger, stripping the forest bare without offering anything in return. The human world, ever expanding, demanded more and more, leaving not a drop of magic in its wake."

He paused, letting the weight of his words settle. "It was then," he continued, his voice dropping to a hushed whisper, "that the Deer, with their mighty antlers, unearthed magical stones. With these, they split the worlds, weaving a veil unseen by human eyes, preserving the untamed magic within."

The audience held their breath, the tanner's son most of all, afraid to miss a single syllable.

"Yet," the Bard's voice rose, a playful lilt returning, "the mischievous elves, they sometimes dare to peek through the veil, visiting the curious humans in their curious world. Ever cautious, they remain hidden, for were mankind to discover the gateway, they might plunder the last sliver of paradise, claiming it for their own."

A thunderous applause snapped the tanner's son from his trance. The story unfolded vividly in his mind, a tapestry woven with wonder and warning.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he just cast a spell on us all," he murmured to his companions, the butcher's son and the baker's son.

Grinning, they clinked their mugs together, raising a toast. "To the Enchanted Deer!"

The tanner's son drained his cup in one gulp, his gaze darting around. The Bard was already leaving the stage, heading back to his wagon. With adrenaline thrumming through his veins, he tossed the empty mug aside and plunged into the crowd, weaving through bodies and barking apologies as he raced after the figure.

"Hey! Wait!" the baker's son called, bewildered. "Where are you going?"

"To talk to him!" the tanner's son shouted back, stumbling over a particularly stout villager and earning a muttered curse.

"Wait for us!" the butcher's son yelled, but the tanner's son was already disappearing into the throng.

The Bard, about to offer a final bow to his enraptured audience, stopped short as a breathless figure tumbled onto the wagon steps. He peered down to see the tanner's son, a thick piece of leather thrust into his outstretched hand.

"A present," the young man blurted, panting heavily. The baker's and butcher's sons emerged from the crowd, hesitant and unsure.

The Bard blinked in surprise. "Thank you, young man," he said, setting aside the leather. "Fine craftsmanship, indeed. Perhaps suitable for a small drum."

"It's yours," the tanner's son gasped.

"My gratitude," the Bard replied, raising the young man to his feet. "But what brings you here? Have you something you wish to discuss?"

A wide smile broke across the Bard's face. "By all means, step inside."

As the tanner's son disappeared into the mysterious wagon, the baker's and butcher's sons exchanged nervous glances. Curiosity overcoming their apprehension, they stepped forward.

"May we accompany him?" they asked in unison.

“And what presents have you brought me?”

A chilling silence descended as the Bard uttered his challenge. The butcher's and baker's sons fumbled in their pockets, faces pale. They had nothing.

"Another time, perhaps," the Bard said, his voice closing the door with a finality that resonated in the air.

Inside the wagon, the tanner's son blinked, overwhelmed by the assault of colors and scents. It was unlike anything he'd encountered besides the springtime meadows - a riot of vibrancy crammed into a limited space. Paintings, statuettes, fabrics, and utensils jostled for attention, creating a whirlwind of exotic beauty.

"Please, have a seat," the Bard gestured, offering a brightly embroidered cushion.

The tanner sank down, mesmerized by the intricate symbols adorning the fabric. Their meaning remained a mystery, yet they beckoned him closer.

"I somehow knew you'd seek me out," the Bard spoke, changing behind a colorful screen.

"You did?" the tanner's son breathed, curiosity piqued.

The Bard emerged, clad in simple white garments, a vibrant robe shimmering with reds, oranges, and purples draped over his shoulders. "Truth be told, I've never seen anyone so enthralled by my stories."

He retrieved two mismatched cups from a cabinet adorned with miniature figurines, uncorking a mysterious bottle from a hidden shelf. With practiced hands, he poured a glistening elixir and offered a cup to the young man.

"Cheers," the Bard said, a twinkle in his eye.

"Cheers," the tanner echoed, taking a hesitant sip.

"Place your cup here," the Bard instructed, clearing a small table littered with trinkets - coins, knives, and curiously carved sticks.

"Are those… magic wands?" the tanner's son blurted, drawn to the sticks like a moth to a flame.

"Wands, yes," the Bard replied, a wry smile playing on his lips.

Driven by an irresistible urge, the tanner reached for one.

The Bard snatched a fallen wand, playfully aiming it at the tanner's son. But the air crackled, the tension so thick the young man swore the wagon held its breath.

"You seek answers," the Bard declared, his voice low and gravelly.

"Do you threaten me with that…stick?" the tanner stammered, suspicion lacing his voice.

"Answer first, then I answer you," the Bard countered, eyes narrowed. "I have friends and foes alike. Tell me, why have you come?"

The tanner stared at the wand, unsure how the simple exchange had taken such a dark turn. "Well," he started, hesitant, "I wanted to know… about you… are your tricks… illusions… or true magic?"

A flicker of surprise crossed the Bard's face. "That's your question?"

"That's it," the tanner confirmed, his voice barely above a whisper.

"Not about your father? The… lead… the… gold?" The Bard's tone grew sharper, his gaze piercing.

"No!" the tanner exclaimed, shaking his head vehemently. "Nothing of the sort."

The Bard studied him in silence, the tension crackling like lightning. Then, abruptly, his face broke into a wide smile.

"Imagine it's all trickery," he said, his voice playful now. "Just a wooden stick, nothing to fear, right?"

"Right," the tanner echoed, unsure, his eyes darting between the wand and the Bard.

"But what if magic exists?" the Bard continued, his voice taking on a mystical lilt. "Then this might be a powerful instrument, brimming with unknown possibilities, pointed directly at you."

He studied the tanner's reaction, a hint of amusement in his eyes. Seeing only confusion, he lowered the wand, tossing it aside.

"Real magic or not," he murmured, "the answer lies within another riddle: Are you afraid?"

The tanner glanced at the wand, the scattered coins, the half-empty cups, unsure what to make of the Bard's cryptic words.

"How can I be afraid of what I don't understand?" he finally choked out.

"Spoken like a true Fool!" the Bard boomed, his laughter echoing in the confined space. The tanner frowned, unsure how his foolishness seemed to please the Bard so much.

"That's it!" the Bard exclaimed, leaping to his feet with newfound energy. "That's the very crux of it!"

"I… I still don't get it!" the tanner pleaded as the Bard poured another round of the strange elixir.

"That's the point, young Fool," the Bard chuckled, settling back on the pillows and offering a cup. "You're exactly where you need to be. Not knowing, not understanding, open to possibilities."

"Cheers!" they toasted, draining their cups. But despite the warmth of the drink, the tanner couldn't shake the feeling that the answers were just out of reach.

As if reading his mind, the Bard strummed a haunting melody on his lute, his voice filling the wagon with a melancholic song:

"You are a Fool, venturing where you shouldn't be, unaware of what awaits."

The tanner's son swallowed hard, the Bard's words echoing in his head. "If being a fool is the key to magic," he rasped, "then magic must be real. And if magic is real…" He trailed off, fear clogging his throat.

"Then what?" the Bard prompted, his voice laced with gentle curiosity.

Silence stretched between them, the tanner's son wrestling with the implications. He'd seen things, impossible things, that defied explanation. The Bard had seen it too, in the very first spark of recognition in his eyes that night. That spark, the Bard said, had led him here.

"Yes," the tanner finally whispered, acknowledging the truth.

A moment of quiet passed, punctuated only by the soft chime of bells hanging from the wagon door. "The Enchanted Deer you sang of tonight…" he began, his voice barely a tremor.

"Yes?" the Bard leaned forward, anticipation shimmering in his eyes.

"I've seen them," the tanner burst out, the dam of his silence finally breaking. "The Enchanted Deer. I saw them with my own eyes, when I was just a child, on the edge of the dark forest."

The Bard's smile widened, a knowing glint in his eyes. "I knew it."

"So it's real? The Deer… they're real?" The question tumbled out, tinged with awe and disbelief.

The Bard's laughter erupted, a joyous sound that sent the candle flames flickering. "Of course they're real! Can something you've seen with your own eyes be unreal, even if no one believes you? It happened, young Fool, and that's all that matters!"

He strummed his lute, the melody lively and triumphant. "You truly are a Fool, my friend," he sang, his voice warm and genuine. "A dear, dear Fool, and all the richer for it."


As the tanner's son stumbled out of the Bard's wagon, his friends rushed to his side.

"You shouldn't have waited," he mumbled, his voice thick with intoxication.

"What did you talk about?" they pressed, eager for secrets.

"He's babbling," the butcher's son sighed, catching the tanner as he swayed.

"Let's get him home," the baker's son suggested, supporting his other arm. "Before he embarrasses himself further."

"What did the Bard say?" the butcher's son persisted as they navigated the cobblestone streets.

"The Enchanted Deer!" the tanner slurred.

His friends exchanged disappointed glances. "You had the chance to ask about the world beyond the village, and you wasted it on fairy tales?" the butcher scoffed.

"I wanted to know if his magic was real," the tanner insisted, a drunken giggle escaping him.

The butcher sighed, but the baker remained curious. "So, what's the secret to his tricks?"

"I asked him," the tanner said, his voice heavy.


"I asked if his magic is real."

"We already knew that!" they exclaimed in unison.

The tanner burst into laughter. "Exactly! The question is the answer!"

Nearby villagers chuckled, while others rolled their eyes.

"Of course the Bard answers with riddles," the butcher muttered.

"He called me a fool," the tanner added, a strange fondness in his voice. "But a good kind of fool."

The butcher hung his head, ashamed of his friend's public spectacle. "How do you know the Enchanted Deer are real?" he asked, hoping to distract the crowd.

The tanner's smile was sleepy but genuine. "Because I saw them. With my own eyes!"

"The Bard is right!" the villagers roared with laughter.

The baker, undeterred, tried to reason with his friend. "It's just a story, a myth. Enjoyable, but not something to take seriously."

"No, you don't understand," the tanner insisted, his voice gaining strength. "I saw them at the forest edge, years ago. Their antlers touched the tallest branches!"

His friends exchanged disbelieving looks. "They stared right at me!" he added, his voice rising.

The laughter intensified. "It's true!" he shouted, anger mixing with the liquor.

"Quiet down, brother," the butcher pleaded. "They'll think you're mad."

"But I'm not!" the tanner cried. "I saw them! I know what I saw!"

"Why does it matter if we believe you?" a villager jeered, enjoying the spectacle.

The tanner's heart overflowed with emotion. "Because it was the most magnificent, most beautiful thing I've ever seen! I want to share that wonder with everyone!"

From the wagon's doorway, the Bard observed the scene, a faint smile playing on his lips. "A true fool," he murmured, strumming his lute, "speaking the right words to the wrong ears."

The taunts continued. "What's the use of beauty?" a villager mocked.

"If you saw them," the tanner countered, his voice thick with conviction, "you wouldn't ask!"

Their response was predictable laughter. And so, from that day on, the tanner's son became known as the village Fool.