I was wondering when something would crop up that would be a suitable use for this lovely painting. Sacha’s prompt just fitted the bill.
Once upon a time there was a forest, deep and dark, that no one ever entered, not even the king, because it was said to be haunted. One day, the royal hunt chased a deer into the forest. The prince cursed the hounds and had the kennel master thrashed, and turned his horse for home, for he didn’t dare venture beneath the threatening eaves.
In the dark green shadows, the deer slowed to a trot, then a walk, and then she stopped to drink from a stream. She listened to the fading sounds of the hunt, of the prince shouting his anger, the horses whinnying, whips cracking and hounds whining in pain. When she was satisfied the hunt would not follow her, the deer turned back into a girl.
The girl picked a handful of berries and remembered. She remembered her cradle in the castle where her brother’s voice gave her baby nightmares and nobody cared about an unnecessary third princess. She remembered the breath of forest air that lifted her from the cradle, carried her to the forest and brought her up in the ways of the wild things until she was half wild herself.
The deer girl ate her red berries and listened to the murmuring of the trees. Soon, they said, the forest would roll like a slow, green ocean over the castle to drown the cruelty it harboured, and she would run with the trees. Soon, her brother the prince, their parents and all the court would learn the meaning of the stories of the haunted forest.