Clark Gillian

The Enchanted Deer and the Dreams of the Fool


Chapter 6.
You don't know what you're getting into.

The village thrummed with merrymaking, a joyous cacophony celebrating the knight and his Fool who conquered the wicked witch. The revelry pulsed throughout the day, spilling into the starlit night. Yet, amidst the boisterous cheers and clinking glasses, the Fool yearned for solitude. Early in the night, while revelers danced with shadows and the bonfire's glow painted warm smiles on faces, he retreated to his room, seeking solace in the knapsack's enigmatic contents. As moonlight streamed through the window, his thoughts turned to the witch, turning his new tools over in his hands like unanswered riddles. They glittered in the moonlight.

"How far must moonlight journey," he mused aloud, "to dance so dazzlingly in my eyes?"

Lost in contemplation, he gazed at the star-dusted expanse beyond. Sleep eventually claimed him, and his dreamscape unveiled a breathtaking panorama of the constellations. The vastness unfolded before him like never before, an awe-inspiring panorama where he seemed to float on a cloud.

"Always been there," he thought, his voice echoing amidst the celestial tapestry. "From the cradle of creation to the twilight of existence. Can anything rival the sky's magnificence?"

The celestial tapestry shifted,its twinkling threads weaving into a visage.A crown of starlight adorned it,but a flicker of doubt sparked - could it be something else,more primal,adorned with celestial antlers instead?

Immense, beyond comprehension, it filled his vision. By the time he grasped its enormity, the colossal visage in the heavens gazed back at him.

With a gasp, drenched in sweat, the Fool jolted awake. Everyone around him slumbered soundly, their revelry so fervent that even the first rays of dawn couldn't rouse them.

He drifted towards his comrade, the princely knight sprawled on the kitchen table. The youth seemed to breathe with newfound ease, his wounds mending, his pallor fading. The Fool flinched as the knight suddenly spoke.

"Thank you," the Prince rasped, "for saving my life."

"But of course," the Fool stammered, startled by the abrupt awakening.

The Prince's eyes fluttered open, his body weak. "Don't exert yourself," the Fool cautioned. "Healing takes time."

"Would you be my..." the Prince began, his voice trailing off.

"Rest now," the Fool soothed, gently wiping the Prince's brow with a damp cloth. Finally, he added, his voice firm, "I could use a squire like you."

The Fool hesitated, the proposition tempting yet unsettling.

"It would be an honor," the Prince insisted.

"I..." the Fool stammered, his mind consumed by a different quest.

The Prince grasped his wrist, pleading, "Please?"

Gathering his resolve, the Fool knew distractions could wait. His answer was simple, resolute:

"Focus on recovering. As for me, I must go."

"What?" the Prince gasped. "Where?"

"To the Enchanted Deer."


Days bled into nights and back again, and the witch remained tethered to the apple tree, her cries and curses echoing unanswered through the clearing. The blessed cloth of innocence held firm, its fibers woven with the purity of countless newborns, a stark contrast to the witch's grimy desperation.

"Cursed cloth!" she screeched, her voice hoarse from days of ranting. "Do you not remember my childhood innocence? Was I not once pure, before embracing the whispers of witchcraft? What makes me so different from those you protect?"

Silence. Only the rustling leaves and the mocking chirp of a bird responded. Despair gnawed at her, her anger festering into self-pity.

"What evil have I truly done?" she pleaded, her voice cracking. "I crave survival, just like every living thing! If the world offers no other path, no warmth, no acceptance, then witchcraft becomes my refuge, my solace, my only companion!"

But the cloth, imbued with the innocent touch of countless babes, remained impassive. Its woven goodness held her captive, a stark reminder of the path not taken.

More days crawled by, each sunrise a mockery of her predicament. Then, one afternoon bathed in golden sunlight, a young man with a cheerful stride and a mischievous grin entered the clearing. He carried a spear and a knapsack, his carefree tune a jarring contrast to the witch's misery.

Hope flickered in her dark eyes. She showered him with sweet words, but he marched on, oblivious. Tears welled up, replaced by desperate pleas and venomous insults. Still, the Fool continued his way towards the shadowed forest, his smile unwavering.

"Why flee, foolish boy?" the witch shrieked, tendrils of fury lacing her voice. "Do you leave me to rot in such solitude? Has your youthful heart turned so cold?"

Her pleas fell on deaf ears, fueling her anger. "Adventure calls," the Fool thought, his steps quickening. "There's no time for idle detours!"

Desperate, the witch unleashed a torrent of magic. Her words coalesced into a snarling lynx, pouncing with razor-sharp claws. But the Fool was ready. With a flourish, he wielded the Prince's spear, deflecting the creature's attack and banishing it back into the ether.

"Foolish mortal!" the witch spat, venom dripping from her voice. "Think I'll loosen these bonds now?"

"Think again!" he retorted, a playful glint in his eye.

Unrelenting, the witch conjured another attack. Blackbirds materialized from the swirling shadows, their beaks bared in a menacing descent. The Fool danced and parried, his spear becoming a whirlwind of defense. One by one, the birds fell, their lifeless forms tumbling to the ground.

"My thanks, witch!" he called over his shoulder, a mischievous grin splitting his face. "Tonight's stew shall be most enjoyable!"

He walked on, feathers clinging to his hair, leaving the witch to stew in her impotent rage. "What drives him into that darkness?" she wondered, a flicker of curiosity sparking amongst the embers of her anger.


Meanwhile, the Fool journeyed deeper into the forest, fueled by the same question swirling in the witch's mind. "What does she want with me?" he pondered, the memory of her cryptic words gnawing at him.

He had foolishly believed the Enchanted Deer awaited him just beyond the threshold, like their first fortuitous encounter years ago. Yet, reality soon unfolded its dense foliage. Trees stretched skyward, their bark indistinguishable, while moss carpeted the damp earth. Branches snagged at his clothes, and with each stumble, he cursed his meager provisions - two, maybe three, meager biscuits in his knapsack.

Lost and hollow in the woods, hunger gnawed at him with each passing day. The sun dipped and rose again, painting the forest in shifting hues, but his stomach remained a constant pang of emptiness.

"Turn back with nothing?" he mumbled to himself, the memory of judgmental stares from the villagers stinging like salt on a wound. Exhausted, he collapsed onto the mossy ground, his hunger a dull ache. He scrounged for sustenance, a meager nut here, a questionable mushroom there. Days blurred together, punctuated only by the growling of his stomach.

Then, as the sun peeked through the dense canopy, casting dappled light on the forest floor, a breathtaking sight caught his eye. Gigantic antlers, like a crown of sunlight, moved gracefully between the branches. The Enchanted Deer, its form radiating peace and joy, paused upon noticing him.

With a surge of renewed energy, the Fool leaped to his feet and stumbled towards it, heedless of gnarled roots, rough bark, and treacherous moss. He pushed forward, fueled by a desperate hope, until his tired legs gave way, sending him tumbling headfirst onto the earth.

The world dissolved around him. He found himself adrift, weightless, surrounded by a glittering tapestry of stars that smiled down upon him with warmth and understanding. Time lost its meaning in that celestial embrace, the worries of the world fading into the cosmic vastness. He almost forgot his purpose, almost forgot he was the Fool from a remote village bordering a mysterious forest. But then, the memory flickered back, pulling him from the starry haven.

He jolted back into his body, the forest air filling his lungs. The Enchanted Deer stood before him, its gentle eyes filled with an enigmatic calm. The Fool knew, with a certainty that pulsed through his very being, that his journey had only just begun.

Blinking away the remnants of his dream, the Fool fought to open his eyes. To his surprise, no trees greeted him. He was still in a forest, but one unlike any he’d ever seen. Towering pillars of pale stone replaced bark and leaves, bathed in a celestial light cast by a sky adorned with unfamiliar constellations of purple and blue.

Rising shakily, he spotted a magnificent white dome in the distance, its golden tip piercing the sky above the stone forest. Hope flickered in his chest. "Perhaps the Enchanted Deer awaits there," he whispered, drawn towards the structure.

But a wide lake barred his path, the island holding the dome seemingly unreachable. An unsettling feeling crawled up his spine, the prickling of unseen eyes watching him. Taking a deep breath, he removed his shoes and dipped his toes into the water, its darkness reflecting only his hesitant visage.

Suddenly, the water churned, and smiling faces erupted from his reflection. Startled, the Fool tumbled onto the sand, their laughter echoing around him. These were no ordinary villagers – their skin shimmered with a blue tint, human bodies adorned with webbed fingers and fish tails instead of legs.

"Nymphs!" he blurted out, recognition dawning.

"Don't be afraid," they giggled, their voices like tinkling bells. "The water won't harm you."

"I… I'm not afraid of the water," he stammered, uncertainty lacing his voice.

"You seem awfully wary," the nymphs teased, their laughter ringing out once more.

"It's not the water itself," he clarified, trying to sound braver than he felt. "It's… what might be in it."

Their laughter erupted anew, the sound infectious. "So, we're the ones you fear?" one asked, her voice laced with amusement.

"No, not you," the Fool stammered, reassuring the nymphs. "You seem kind."

Their playful smiles widened. "Then what holds you back?" they chirped. "Join us! The island beckons, and we know that's where you yearn to be."

Hesitantly, the Fool rose, eliciting delighted squeals from the water nymphs. He set his knapsack down gently, then peeled off his overcoat and hitched up his trousers. He ventured two, then three tentative steps into the water.

"It's so dark," he murmured, retreating a step. "I can't see what lurks beneath... what if there are monsters?"

Their laughter echoed across the water. "Fear not," they giggled. "You've come this far, haven't you? Don't you yearn to hear what the Seer has to say?"

The Fool's gaze followed their direction. He finally understood the feeling of unseen eyes. Across the water, a regal woman sat upon a long chair by the white steps leading out of the lake.

"The Seer sees all, and knows all," the nymphs explained. "She holds the knowledge you seek, the answers you long to hear."

"Perhaps she knows where to find the Enchanted Deer," he thought, hope glimmering within him.

"If swimming terrifies you," one nymph offered, "walk upon the water's surface. We'll be your guardians, lifting your every step. You won't fall, that we promise!"

Intrigued, the Fool kicked off his shoes and tossed them onto the sand. He inhaled deeply and, with a tremor of trepidation, placed his left foot on the water's surface. Instantly, he felt the chill of countless tiny hands cradling his foot! He gingerly placed his right foot down, and more nymphs swam swiftly to support it, keeping it dry.

"Unbelievable!" he exclaimed, a wide grin splitting his face. "I'm walking on water!"

The water nymphs danced and splashed around him, their joy mirroring his own as he approached the giant dome and the white steps leading out. When his bare feet touched the cool marble, he turned to thank the giggling nymphs, their laughter a melody ringing in his ears.

"We are here for you!" the water nymphs echoed, their playful voices receding as they dove back into the depths. Only ripples disturbed the still water, silence returning to the white stone forest.

The Fool wondered about their underwater haven, imagining a dazzling castle beneath the surface. Perhaps one day he'd explore its wonders.

However, his musings were interrupted by a sudden hush, profound and unsettling, descending upon him like a heavy cloak. He whirled around to find a magnificent marble staircase rising from the shore, leading towards the towering white dome. Its surface, smooth and polished, almost resembled glass, casting sharp reflections of the sky. Golden accents danced along the edges, converging at the very peak. As he approached, the dome's immensity made him feel small and insignificant.

Drawn by its enigmatic presence, the Fool cautiously ascended the stairs. With each step, the woman on the high chair came into clearer view. Seated beneath a star-speckled blue canopy held aloft by spiraling pillars, her eyes remained closed. He hesitated to disturb her, convinced she slept. Confusion swirled within him - should he break the silence, or wait for her to speak?

Suddenly, as if sensing his thoughts, her eyes opened without a stir. They were fiery yet gentle, filled with a smile that instantly warmed the Fool. He found himself bowing awkwardly, unsure of why, his gaze glued to the ground.

"I apologize," he mumbled, "I didn't mean to interrupt."

A lengthy silence stretched between them. Finally, he mustered the courage to ask, "Are you a queen?"

A single word, spoken with quiet power, echoed through the silence: "No."

The Fool's neck strained, fearing it rude to rise until invited. "What brings you here?" the Seer's voice finally pierced the silence.

"Accidentally stumbled upon it," he stammered.

"Rise, young man," she commanded, her voice laced with a quiet power.

Straightening, the Fool rubbed his stiff shoulders. Her face, he noted, was sharp, intelligent, and held the freshness of morning dew.

A sudden clang echoed from the dome's golden tip, resounding so violently that the lake trembled and his arms prickled with goosebumps. Startled, the Seer rose and approached him, her gaze locking onto his. The Fool froze, an icy chill seeping through his bones despite the beads of sweat forming on his neck and back. Her eyes seemed like windows thrown open to a raging storm, searching the depths of his being.

He trembled, but within that unsettling gaze, he witnessed an unimaginable spectacle. Her eyes flickered with dancing lights, showers of stardust swirling in a kaleidoscope of colors, as if the entire cosmos resided within their depths.

Abruptly, she broke eye contact, returning to her throne. The Fool exhaled a shaky breath, recovering from the dizzying experience. The Seer, however, seemed shaken herself, massaging her temples as if overwhelmed by what she had seen.

"You have no idea what you've stepped into," she sighed, her voice heavy with unspoken knowledge. "So much lies unseen before you."

"And so much I long to see!" the Fool declared, his voice brimming with eagerness.

Her perceptive gaze held him for a moment longer. "And that's precisely why you're here, isn't it?"

He stood under her scrutiny, unsure what to say.

With a flourish of her hands, the water transformed. Gone was the inky blackness, replaced by crystal clarity. Light emanated from the depths, revealing a breathtaking spectacle - fish of astonishing colors flitting about, playful nymphs weaving through vibrant underwater flora, and even the glimmer of an entire city beneath the surface.

"Still scared of the dark waters?"

The Fool gasped, speechless at the beauty unfolded before him.

"Young man," the Seer's voice echoed, "prepare yourself for marvels beyond your wildest imaginings."

"Where do I begin? Where... am I?" he stammered, overwhelmed by the sight.

She chuckled, a warm sound that seemed to hold a hint of amusement. "Oh, Fool," she said, "you are precisely where you need to be - it is all just beginning for you."

With a graceful movement, she descended from her throne and retrieved a heavy book lying at her feet. As she presented it to him, he saw it was bound with seven intricate seals and locks.

"One day," she spoke, her voice resonating with power, "this book will unlock its secrets to you. And on that same day, the doors of this temple will reveal their mysteries."

The Fool clutched the book, its weight and warmth radiating through him. His mind was a whirlwind of confusion - who was she? Where was he? But amidst the chaos, one truth resonated deep within him. Their hands had touched and a knowing warmth fell over him, as if he had found something he didn't know he had been searching.

His hands trembled. As she continued, her voice taking on a dreamlike quality, his eyelids drifted shut. "Heed the voice that whispers within."