The Stag Whose Heart was Healed

In a land twixt the realm of night and the reign of day, there lived a white stag.  Noble in bearing, regal incarnate, such a creature was born to the authority that he wielded over his land.  And so he lived and ruled all within his purview, unquestioned and held in awe by those who acknowledged him king.
            So steady and routine was the nature of his rule that the stag was unprepared for the coming of a white doe to his land.
            When first he looked upon the doe, his eyes were filled with wonder at the sight of her.  Upon a second glance, he noted the kindness and care she gave to those she encountered.  And the third time his eyes cast her way, he saw that where she tread, green things grew and blossoms began to bud, as though she herself begot Spring.
            But his gaze sharpened when he saw the reverence paid her by his creatures.  A hardness fell upon his heart, and admiration gave way to jealousy.  In his envy there were planted seeds of hate that sprouted fast and rooted deep until they began to consume.  So it was that he bade his creatures have nothing to do with her kind and gentle ways.   And it was not long before all his land gave rise to petty spite and cruelty.
            So consumed he was with his hatred, that the stag did not notice as the land itself began to suffer.  The ground had turned from green to brown, and from brown it turned to gray—and in such grayness, it developed rot.  He did not notice, that is, until the day came that he found himself atop a hill surveying all that was his to rule.  For on that day, his heart had hardened so that he could not tear his eyes away from what was his, and he fell into a pit of rotted bog.
            The pit was full of splintered roots, and it was amongst these that he tumbled, until suddenly his body was held fast by the wood.  And just in front of his chest, a needles’ breadth from his heart, a bit of sharpened slate stuck out; should the land shift, he would perish.
            When the sound of hoofs caused the ground to tremble, he cried out in fear, begging that they stop.
            In an instant, the hoofbeats quelled.
            And in the silence, the stag felt vines wrap themselves around his body.  Slowly, he rose, and when the vines placed him alongside the pitted bog, he found that he was staring into the eyes of the white doe.
            Around her the grey had turned to green, and a gentle breeze had begun to take away the smell of rot.  The sound of birds filled the stag’s ears, the first songs in a long time.  And the ground that had turned bog began to harden.
            The stag felt a bitterness rise in his chest at the doe’s power, but it was no match for the beauty his eyes saw all around him.  A lightness grew within him.  And in overwhelming gratitude, he lowered his head as he bent his front legs.
            The doe laughed gently and nudged him rise with her nose.  It was together that they walked down the hill, as greenery grew wherever they stepped—over land that was no longer his.  And in that knowledge, the stag found his heart had healed.

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