Clark Gillian

The Enchanted Deer and the Dreams of the Fool


Chapter 12.
The untamed world.

Every tremor on this vulnerable earth, every whisper of change, resonates through the animal world. Not a flicker escapes their keen senses: the flash of light in the void between heartbeats, no less. Whiskers twitched, antennae quivered, gills flared, even the tiny fur on pointed ears stood alert.

The Four Giants, guardians of the Fairy Realm, felt a tremor ripple through the fabric of reality. It originated from the human world, an anomaly that piqued their curiosity. Gathering around a shimmering portal, they peered into the realm of mortals, their immense faces etched with bewilderment.

"I don't understand how they go about things," the giant Fox whispered. "the duck simply ducks. It doesn't fret about its duckness."

"Indeed", said the Giant Owl. "The bees and ants dance their complex, instinctive ballet, their roles weaving effortlessly into a harmonious whole. No butterfly yearns to remain a caterpillar, no snake sheds its skin for a peacock's plumage. It is simply the way of the animal world."

"Indeed. But look at these humans..." said the Giant Wildcat as a sigh swept through the Giants. "They pause, question, linger. They wait for some elusive permission, a validation we know not of in our world."

"Why this struggle to simply be?" said the Giant Wolf. 'Who tamed them?' 

Suddenly, a fifth figure materialized alongside the Giants. The Enchanted Deer, its fur shimmering with celestial light, addressed them in a gentle voice.

"Humans are part of the animal kingdom too," it said. "They are birds, playbirds. But they have forgotten that they're playing, and that forgetting is what has tamed them."

"Remember when humans and animals shared a language of understanding?" the Deer lamented, its voice echoing through the vibrant canopy. "But their own desire to control, to 'tame,' severed their connection, silencing the whiskers of empathy."

Elves, nestled amongst the Deer's antlers, listened intently. Their luminous forms bathed in the glow of nearby wildflowers, they recalled a time when all beings lived as one, a tapestry woven with the threads of shared wisdom and respect.

"A golden age, indeed," sighed the Deer, its eyes glimmering with a pang of bittersweet remembrance. "But as the tamed world of humans spread, encroaching upon the wild, I knew I had to protect our sanctuary. The veil was needed to shield us." 

Just then, as the Deer recounted this history, a blinding flash ripped through the air. The very fabric of the veil trembled, responding to an unknown force. A thundering wave of light surged from the mountain peaks to the valley depths, illuminating the veil. For a fleeting moment, a crackle of energy pierced through, offering a glimpse into the human world on the other side.

Even the Prince and Dwarves, caught in the fringes of the light's roar, were privy to this fleeting vision. A panorama of fantastical sights unfolded before them: playful gnomes frolicking amongst trees, shimmering underwater cities inhabited by ethereal nymphs, elves weaving through sky-high dwellings, and vibrant flower fairies bathed in the glow of dancing sky spirits.

As quickly as it appeared, the vision vanished, the veil settling back into its ethereal stillness. Yet, the echo of magic lingered, a silent reminder of the world hidden just beyond the reach of human understanding.

As the final embers of light winked out, a giant crater revealed the Witch and the Fool lying slumbering peacefully, seemingly lost in a profound sleep.

"What in the world...?" the Giant Wildcat gasped, looking down from the Fairy realm on the two.

The Enchanted Deer, its majestic form silhouetted against the settling dust, only perked its ears. 

"Master Deer," the Giant Owl ventured, "What exactly was that?"

The Deer remained silent, its gaze fixed on the crater through the portal below. It shook its head slowly, as if dispelling a lingering dream.

"They..." it finally spoke, its voice heavy with both bewilderment and a strange sense of unease. "They almost broke through the Elfen Gate."

A collective gasp rippled through the assembled animals.

"Broke the Elfen Gate?!" the Giant Wildcat exclaimed, its voice laced with horror. "But...that's impossible!"

The Enchanted Deer met their gaze, a small, uncharacteristic spark of curiosity gleaming in its large, brown eyes. "Not at all," it replied, its voice oddly calm. "And the veil is far from broken."

"But this has never happened before?" chirped the Giant Fox, its feathers ruffled with anxiety.

The Deer's gaze drifted towards the distant horizon, where the last traces of sunlight painted the sky in hues of orange and purple. "Only a human who has found their way back."


The alchemist flicked the wick alight, casting long shadows across the cluttered room. The flame danced inside his contraption, a symphony of glass tubes and metal spheres. With a delighted chuckle, he watched the machine whir to life, a gentle whistle filling the air. Yet, his heart sank as he saw the lead on the dish, stubbornly unchanged. Hope and anticipation dissolved into a tense silence.

"Any moment now," he muttered, eyes glued to the lead as if his life depended on it.

The bard, perched on a nearby stool, stifled a yawn. He was weary of the endless pursuit of turning lead into gold, having witnessed countless failed attempts. He lingered a moment longer, out of politeness more than expectation.

"Perhaps," he drawled, a hint of sarcasm in his voice, "your talents lie elsewhere. The countess, remember, quite fancies those floral perfumes you concoct. That's why she blessed you with these fields, wasn't it?"

The alchemist huffed, a dismissive snort escaping his lips. "Perfumes? Child's play, I could do that blindfolded, with one hand tied behind my back. But this... this mystery! It calls to me, gnaws at my soul. I must unravel it!"

Unimpressed, the bard wandered the room, his fingers idly tracing the lines on a stargazer poking through the roof.

"Almost there, I can feel it!" the alchemist exclaimed, his voice tinged with manic energy. "The key is the heat. It must be warm enough… but also cold enough! The contrast, you see? The delicate balance will trigger the transmutation!"

"No, I don't see," the bard replied, his attention solely on the stargazer. He adjusted the instrument, his gaze fixed on the distant twinkle. "A curious path, indeed. That star… its trajectory is most unusual."

He turned to the alchemist, a sigh escaping his lips. "You should have shared this curious path sooner, old man. I have a knack for navigating them myself."

The alchemist's frustrated mutterings faded into background noise as the Bard gravitated towards the dusty bookshelf. His fingers danced across the aged spines, searching for a different kind of magic than the one bubbling in the alchemist's contraption.

The alchemist droned on about failed transmutations and cryptic signs, oblivious to the bard's disengagement. His words might as well have mingled with the dust motes swirling in the sunbeams piercing the cluttered room.

But the bard's attention was snagged by three peculiar books. The first, adorned with an intricate illustration of the legendary Enchanted Deer, sent a tingle of curiosity down his spine. He snatched it, puffing away a cloud of dust to reveal the vibrant image in full glory.

His keen eye then landed on another book nearby, bearing a similar stylistic imprint. He retrieved it, carefully removing the dust with practiced ease. As he placed it beside the first, a gasp escaped his lips. The illustrations seemed to seamlessly connect, forming a larger picture like a fragmented puzzle.

"This..." he whispered, his voice trembling with excitement. "I've never encountered such a book..."

The illustration revealed a captivating scene: a graceful, intertwined dance between the Enchanted Deer and a magnificent serpent, their forms woven together amongst flourishing branches. Both creatures radiated an enigmatic power, defying easy categorization as snake or dragon.

An insatiable hunger for knowledge surged through the bard. This discovery held the potential to unlock secrets far beyond the alchemist's obsession with turning lead into gold. Perhaps the answers to the curious star's path, perhaps even a connection to the mysterious flash in the Fairy Realm, lay hidden within these dusty pages.

The bard glanced at the oblivious alchemist, then back at the captivating book.

"What in the tarnation are you mumbling about, Bard?" the alchemist barked, his frustration boiling over. "Speak up, can't you?"

The bard, startled from his bookish reverie, hastily dusted off several more volumes, his search proving fruitless.

"Nothing, nothing," he stammered, nervously returning to the alchemist's side.

"Just exploring the intricacies of phenomena and paraphenomena, but alas, it fails to ignite my usual spark."

The alchemist scoffed, muttering, "Feel... feels don't matter in the pursuit of knowledge."

He reignited his contraption, his brow furrowed as he peered through the five lenses aimed at the stubbornly static lead.

"Why? Why won't it transmute?" he wailed, the device whirring and clanging in mocking response. He frantically scanned his cryptic gemstone tablets, searching for an error in his translation.

"I must have misread..."

Meanwhile, the bard's gaze landed on a third book, its cover adorned with a mesmerizing image of the Enchanted Deer intertwined with a magnificent dragon amidst a fantastical tree. With trembling fingers, he rearranged the three books, forming a perfect triangle that revealed the complete picture. A gasp escaped his lips.

"Allow me to borrow these, my friend," he declared, swiftly emptying a bag of apples into a basket and tucking the books inside. The alchemist remained oblivious, lost in the labyrinthine script etched on the gemstones.

Finally, the bard leaned in and planted a kiss on the alchemist's cheek, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

The old man jolted back, startled from his trance.

"Where are you off to?" he sputtered, a flicker of curiosity battling with annoyance.

The Bard chuckled, gesturing toward the bounty he'd deposited beside the birdcages and rat mazes: a plump cheese wheel, bulging fruit sacks, and a box overflowing with biscuits. "All accounted for, father," he announced, "nestled beside your true favorite child - the telescope."

The alchemist laughed, shaking his head affectionately. "Stargazer, boy, Stargazer. Don't be silly."

But his lightheartedness was cut short as a blinding flash erupted, shattering every window in the room. Father and son were thrown to the floor in a rain of glittering shards. Disoriented, the Bard blinked away the dazzling afterimage, calling out, "What in the stars...?"

No answer came. His father lay sprawled near the workbench, fixated on the mangled remains of his contraption, now nothing but a scattered mosaic of shattered glass.

Driven by instinct, the Bard clambered towards the shattered window, desperate to understand the source of the cataclysmic light. His gaze fell upon the nearby field of flowers, where a crater pulsed with residual sparks and flickered with fading energy. And within its depths, he saw them - the Fool and the Witch, seemingly fast asleep.

A triumphant smile played on the bard's lips as he turned towards the stairs, "He's found the knapsack!"

But his steps faltered as he saw his father still frozen, clinging to the workbench amidst the wreckage of shattered glass and mangled metal tubes. The contraption, the alchemist's lifelong pursuit, lay in pieces, a testament to the blinding flash that had rocked the room.

"Oh, father," the bard said, his voice laced with concern as he cautiously navigated the treacherous field of glass shards. "I'm so sorry your device..."

The alchemist seemed oblivious to his surroundings, his gaze fixated on something unseen. His lips moved wordlessly, forming indistinct murmurs that escaped as gasps.

"What is it, father?" the bard asked, gently placing a hand on his shoulder.

The old man's eyes snapped open, a strange light flickering in their depths. "It... it worked!" he rasped, his voice hoarse with disbelief.

The bard looked down skeptically at the dish. The lead had changed into gold. "What in the world?"

"It worked!" the alchemist cheered, his voice gaining strength. "I don't know how, but I did it! Did you see that flash of light?"

Hesitantly, the bard met his father's gaze. "Actually..." he started, but the joy radiating from the old man's eyes stopped him. The truth, the bard knew, would shatter this moment of triumph.

"You did it, father," he said, his voice sincere. "You finally did it."


The dwarf grumbled, fiddling with a half-woven basket. Guarding the horses and weaving had never been his strong suit, especially when whispers of adventure echoed from afar. "Always the one left behind," he muttered, eyeing the dwindling sun. "Didn't the old man just need to drop off some snacks? Couldn't have taken that long!"

The promised "quick errand" seemed to stretch into eternity, fueling the dwarf's restlessness. Visions of his companions, deep in the hunt, taunted him. Just as his frustration reached its peak, the world was engulfed in a blinding white flash.

Panic pricked at him. Not this time! No more waiting on the sidelines to hear tales of missed glory. He untangled the fastest horse, his heart pounding in rhythm with the thundering hooves.

"Where are they?" he shouted, bursting into the field of flowers. Dazed friends lay scattered, some held captive by a gleaming knight.

"Here!" they called, voices weak.

Confusion gnawed at the dwarf. Perched atop jagged rocks emerging from a smoldering crater, a young man and a witch exchanged wide-eyed glances.

"Never seen this crater before," the dwarf muttered, eyeing the strange formation. "Must be where the light came from. But those rocks...and who are those two?"

A tense silence hung in the air. The knight spoke, his voice laced with suspicion. "Don't move! unlike anything I've encountered. Light exploded, strange visions appeared, the entire field bathed in brilliance. This crater and these stone peaks..." he trailed off, gesturing helplessly.

The dwarf's gaze flickered between the crater and the prince, skepticism etched on his weathered face. "Do you know them?" he finally asked, gesturing towards the Fool and the Witch perched atop their rocky islands. A dwarf who'd crossed kingdoms and explored empires wasn't easily fazed by a young prince's warnings, yet a niggling sense of unease lingered.

He wasn't young anymore, not quite old either, but somewhere in that in-between zone where life's choices played out in hindsight. "If I'd listened to my own desires instead of others' orders," he mused, "maybe I wouldn't be waiting for warnings, but issuing them myself."

Hesitantly, he urged his horse closer, observing the scene with the keen eye of a seasoned traveler. Unlike the scorched earth surrounding the crater, the peaks where the Fool and Witch resided remained untouched. Delicate flowers clung to their slopes, flourishing as if they'd always been there.

"The soil here... it's not destroyed," he remarked to the prince, his voice low and thoughtful. "It's transformed."