User:Michael Bard/The Tale of the Ivory Otherkin

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The Tale of the Ivory Otherkin

Author: Michael Bard
Xanadu story universe

"Paul, are you sure you want to do this?"

Paul, name pronounced just as it's spelled -- damn US immigration official fiddling with the Welsh spelling of Pwyll -- looked at his roommate, his best friend, and somebody who still didn't believe in the fact of his otherkin, his utter belief that his soul was not that of a human. "Absolutely Edmund -- it is why we came here."

Edmund shook his head. "I don't even know how you're going to fit in the elevator."

Paul just ignored his friend and finished strapping the extensions to his left leg. He looked down at the wood and lycra covering, all coloured a deep ivory, even the hard cast rubber cloven hoof at the end.

"Shouldn't you go to the washroom first or something?"

"I already did. And stop complaining, I am paying your way here. Think of all the extra art you can afford now." Paul strapped the extension to his other leg.

Edmund snorted. "You got me there, Paul.

Paul stood up, balancing awkwardly on the long thin leg extensions. "Hand me the bodysuit, will you Edmund?"

Edmund rolled his eyes and handed Paul the heavy ivory-coloured cloth and helped him pull it up his legs, over the extensions, up his body, and to guide his arms into his sleeves. Although it fit tight, it wasn't just stretchy lycra. It hid body shaping panels glued to the inner lycra material, and the thinly furred outer layer was non-humanly shaped, hanging stiffly in front of Paul's chest, and snugly to his waist and around his thighs.

Paul carefully walked over to the mirror in the tiny shared room, almost having to duck to keep his head from hitting the seven foot high ceiling. He was glad that his height wouldn't be an issue shortly. With a practiced eye, a strong mental vision, and memories of his readings and imaginations, he tugged and pulled at the bodysuit hiding his hated human frame, making miniscule, seemingly aimless changes, until it sat just right. He nodded, and leaned against the dresser to take some of the weight off his hooves.

"I don't like you binding up your hands. What if something happens?" Edmund was beside him holding the two stilts for Paul's forearms.

"It went fine yesterday, and has gone fine at every other convention we've gone to. Why do you think something will happen this time?"

"I have a bad feeling--"

"You always have a 'bad feeling about this drop'. I never liked that movie anyway." Paul turned and took one of the forearm stilts from his friends grasp. It was for his right arm and, with long practiced motions he grasped the handle and strapped it securely to his upper arm.

"I'd still feel more comfortable if you would, at least, be willing to talk when you're wear--"

"No!" Paul burst out, turning and glaring at his old friend.

"Even in an emergency?"

"Edmund-- I-- I can't. I can't explain it any better. It's just-- well, wrong."

Edmund shook his head and strapped the other foreleg to Paul's arm as he raised it.

"A little higher up. And snugger."

Edmund sighed. "I know. By now, trust me, I know. And, I'm-- sorry. I just had to, you know, ask." Edmund pulled the fuzzy ivory cloth up his friend's arms, secured the soft white leather strap over his friend's shoulders, and tugged the ivory arm coverings under the body covering, securing the two together with the carefully placed velcro.

Paul stood on all four hooves, and experimentally lifted each leg in turn and moved it, flexing his hands and feet. Making sure everything was working right. "I know Edmund. You know that I wouldn't trust anybody else to do this."

"I know. Let me get the head, then I'll finish putting my costume on."

Paul nodded, distracted as he relearned how to stand on all fours. It always felt awkward when he first did it, each time he donned the costume, and yet it felt right. He'd known Edmund for years, almost as long as he could remember. There'd been rumours ever since highschool that Edmund was gay, and he suspected that Edmund lusted after him, but Paul wasn't interested. He had no interest in anybody.

All he had were his dreams. Dreams that were more than dreams. Dreams that he believed were memories. Family memories, species memories. His soul had not always been human.

Edmund came back holding the heavy stiff stag's head, pure ivory white except for the black nose, the deep black eyes, the blood red ears, and the polished ivory antlers stained slightly brown at their bases.

Paul just looked. Stared at what he knew he'd once been, before he'd been killed by the ancestors of his human body. He'd never told Edmund, but inside the head was the skull of what family legend claimed was The White Stag that their family had killed back in Wales. The antlers were from the same head. The first memory Paul had was looking up from the floor at the head hanging on the wall, dusty and cobwebby, calling to him. Singing ancient legends of Arawn's hunting grounds into his so very young mind.

"Paul, you all right? Would you like some water?"

Paul shook his head from the trance of memories. Soon he'd be what he knew he was. Or, as close as he could get. "Sorry Edmund, I was just thinking. Now put--"

"Put the headphones on first, and then the VR goggles. Don't worry, I'll get it straight."

"Sorry Edmund, I'm just nervous. You know how much money I put into the sensor suite."

Edmund nodded and balanced the heavy head on Paul's back, pulling out the headphones and securing them around Paul's head. Then he pulled out the VR goggles and slipped them on, the lycra strap keeping the heavy eyewear in place. "That all right Paul?"

Paul nodded. He was glad the costume hid him well so that Edmund couldn't see how excited he was getting. Then he shook his head, violently, checking that nothing moved. Once the head was on, there'd be no easy way to adjust anything. "Don't forget the control leads from the legs this time."

"As if! Last time I did you gave me The Lecture!"

"Edmund, I'm sorry. It's just that I didn't know until one of the judges commented that the ears looked wrong. I thought there was a failure, but then I realized-- I shouldn't have lost it, but the prize--"

"I can't blame you too much when $500 went out the window. I should have--"

"I know Edmund. Don't worry about it. Everything plugged in now?"

"Just completing the last of it. Switching on, now."

Paul closed his eyes for a moment, waiting for the VR goggles to warm up, before opening them again. He could see again, or he could see what the stag head could see. It always took him a second to get used to the slightly staticky black and white display, and the highly distorted viewpoint -- far to either side, only a little overlap directly ahead -- but it felt so right. The distorted sounds being passed to the headphones by the high gain microphones in the ear: the dull thumping of the air conditioner, the ultrasonic whine of some wiring somewhere, all frequency reduced to his pitiful human range. With his fingers he manipulated the controls in the forelegs and listened to the shape of the sounds change, some things dimming out, other things zooming into focus, as he moved the ears around via their servos. He watched from his back as he turned the pitiful human head left and then right, making sure everything was secure.

"It's all good Edmund. Please put the head on." Paul watched the back of the human head recede, and then focused on the reflection of his head in the mirror. He could feel the old magic, or the faint echoes of it now left, thrumming through his body. It was like when he'd watched the character of Robert in the movie Dead Poet's Society stand, still in costume as Puck, and decide his fate. Soon Paul would be what he really was, if only as much as he could make himself into it. If only the ancient magic was strong enough--

Paul stood there as the head and neck were lowered over his tiny human head. Heavy cloth was dragged over his shoulders, and the neck, modeled on the blood engorged necks of stags during the fall mating season, hung heavy down in front of him to be secured with the low hanging belly that aided the illusion. As the head was settled properly on Paul's shoulders, the rubber breathing cup surrounded his mouth. Paul sucked in a gasp of air through the nostrils of The Stag, down a tube, and into the cup and his lungs, and then exhaled, up another tube, and out the same nostrils. Although Paul had never mentioned this to Edmund, this arrangement of tubing kept him from being able to be heard more than dimly, even if he shouted.

"Everything all right in there?" Edmund asked.

Paul clomped his left forehoof on the floor twice, the hard rubber thudding loud on the carpet as the two halves of the cloven hoof spread slightly to hold his weight. Clomping twice was one of a number of pre-arranged signals, two clomps meaning yes.

"Let me just secure everything together then."

Paul clomped twice again and then watched through his eyes as Edmund leaned over and secured the velcro patches together. They both held the head on, and secured the padding to the body so that they looked like one. The whole breathing cup arrangement had been added after an event at Mephit Fur Meet where the VR goggles had fogged up from the vapour of his breath. Paul hadn't been able to see a thing, and Edmund had actually taken his head off in public. Rationally Paul couldn't blame him, but he'd never gone to MFM again.

It didn't take Edmund long to finish getting into his costume, that of Pwyll, son of Dyved, as it consisted of woolen trousers, boots, a checkered woolen shirt, a heavy plaid wood cloak, a horn around his neck, and a fancy sword hilt secured to a scabbard hung around his shoulders. Meanwhile, Paul looked at the ivory white form of The White Stag in the mirror in front of him. With each breath, the soft rubber of the nostrils pulsed. He practiced with the controls until his muscles once again remembered the movements of the ears. Finally he took a few steps around the room, moving one leg at a time, slowly, gracefully, each hoof clomping onto the thin carpet and splaying slightly as he applied weight to it.

When Edmund was finished, The White Stag nuzzled at his shoulders. His lips didn't move, but the appearance was right. And then he followed Pwyll out the door, ducking and curving his head so that his antlered crown could fit through, and then walking down the hallway. His hooves thudded on the carpet.

Paul Bowen was finally his real self; his soul was once again in its proper body.

Paul walked proudly, even with the awkward stilts and costume. He walked slowly and gracefully, each step perfectly placed. He hadn't had to practice much, it had seemed to come naturally, odd as that may seem as a human only walked on four legs in the morning.

They had to let the first elevator go as it was too crowded; stairs were not an option. Those in the elevator had admired Paul's costume, but all he'd done was flick the stag's ears annoyedly, looking tall and dignified, if a bit small for a real stag. The second elevator had only one occupant, a teenager dressed in a cheap and cliched wizard's robe. Edmund ignored him, but Paul cocked his head slightly, snorted through his nostrils and then turned away.

Communication without words was an art, and Paul had mastered it through a lot of practice.

Sadly, the teenager completely missed the signals. Instead he ooo-ed and aah-ed, and then he burst out with, "You're The White Stag from Narnia!"

Inwardly Paul flinched, and pulled his ears back against his head, but he couldn't escape the prattling of the idiot. Again Paul cursed C.S. Lewis. He had to steal the concept of The White Stag from medieval romances, ignoring its origins. And he added the whole 'grant a wish if caught' idea. Nobody, other than a few scholars, remembered the Welsh legends, remembered how Pwyll, son of Dyved, had pursued The White Stag into Arawn's realm, into the otherworld, and chased Arawn's white hounds off the corpse of The Stag and set his own upon it. Or when Peredur was sent to hunt The White Stag. All the Welsh and Celtic origins that are now forgotten. Even the Arthurian tales of knights being led by a White Stag to their fates were forgotten--

After far too long a time the elevator reached the ground floor and Paul gracefully strode out into the crowd of costumed and uncostumed. Once he was clear of the elevator he stopped, sniffing the air carefully, looking around and examining the room.

The room was crowded, but not packed. The art sales were elsewhere, and the judging was in the Dining Room in about half an hour. Off to one side Paul could see a hideous, though extremely well done, fish costume. The person inside had skill, but he had no soul. Elsewhere was a costume pair, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, except that Robin was a humanoid robin, and Mare-ian was a humanoid mare. It shredded the romance, stabbed the history, but at least it was clever.

Wistfully Paul remembered the series Robin of Sherwood. That had at least attempted to bring the celtic magic to life.

Together he and Edmund wandered, The White Stag leading Pwyll into the Otherworld. The few people he knew he greeted by looking at them, sniffing at their faces, and nuzzling their shoulders. All in silence. Strangers he ignored. Once a child, maybe four, wearing a cheap little unicorn costume, stopped and stared at him. He stopped, slowly turned, and then leaned down until his nostrils were not quite touching her face, his warm breath blowing into her face. Her eyes widened, and then she grinned, magic filling her face, and he let her gently run her hand along the top of his muzzle. That was when the girl's mother ran up, not even wearing a costume, stammered out an apology, and took the girl away.

Edmund, meanwhile, just stood quietly beside him, keeping an eye out. Making sure nobody pulled on Paul's tail, or got under hoof where Paul could accidentally step on them. He looked fine, but to Edmund his clothes were just clothes, and his job was just a waste of time that could better be spent browsing art.

"The Prizes will be announced in the Dining Room in five minutes!" burst out through the speakers scattered around the room.

Edmund leaned close to Paul's flanks. "Paul," he whispered, "we--"

Paul turned his head and stomped a forehoof sharply, reminding Edmund of the rule about not using his pitiful human name.

Edmund whispered "Sorry," and led Paul through the slowly moving crowd toward the Dining Room. They had some trouble getting in to the packed area, but people made way as they knew, instinctively, that here was somebody who had a chance at the prizes.

"Eric Winters, everyone!" a woman shouted from onstage, her voice distorted and crackling through the speaker system.

Paul flicked his ears around and back around, but the sound came from all directions through the speakers. He looked around, and then focused on a man dressed in black and wearing a wooden raven's mask. His ears focused on that person, though he couldn't make anything out. His eyes watched the VR screen that displayed the man, Eric Winters, walking onto stage. His mind concentrated, the distortion from the cameras fading. Then Paul knew he was looking through The Stag's, through his, eyes.

The ancient magics were restless, tired of their long sleep, straining to be released.

As the rest of the world faded from sight, the sounds, the scents, everything faded except for The Stag and Eric Winters. The world was a grey blur, and Paul, The Stag, both watched as a wavering red chaos billowed around Eric Winters. They watched him stumble on nothing, and then the chaos burst through him and flooded upon the world like a howling wind. Red poured off the stage, poured up into the heavens, poured all around. It passed through the gray mists, passed into and through The Stag, transforming The Stag from a fated mortal in a costume containing an ancient spirit, into the breathing, living vessel of that spirit.

The ancient magics had returned.

The Stag stood there, watching the world around it, scenting it, hearing it, blurring itself so that the panicked mortals fled around it as though it wasn't there. Deep inside its mind a human voice screamed, screamed in glee that its fondest wish had come true.

Something clasped the flanks of The Stag, and The Stag snorted. Slowly it turned its ivory head around and looked at the mortal who'd caught it. The mortal was curious. Its soul was human, but its form was that of a thinly furred great white rabbit, whiskers twitching in terror, eyes blinking nervously, pink nose quivering.

The Stag stood there for an instant and watched, ignoring the panicked mortals that stepped around the space he and the rabbit occupied, though they couldn't have said why.

The Stag had been caught by a mortal, and thus the mortal would gain a wish. The Stag had no choice.

But it doesn't work that way! wailed the remnants of Paul.

But The Stag knew that myths changed, evolved, as beliefs changed. His myth had changed whilst he'd been asleep with the magic. He would do what he had to do, what he had no choice about doing.

No! screamed Paul as The Stag threw his remnants away. They were no longer important having served their purpose in bringing the remnants of The Stag to this place, to this time.

Paul's screams vanished, swirling into the hidden depths of The Stag's mind.

For an instant longer The Stag looked at the rabbit, and the rabbit looked at what it had caught. Magic swirled out of The Stag and into the rabbit, and the rabbit staggered backward, and was slammed into by a fleeing mortal. He screamed and fled too.

The Stag nodded, and gracefully stepped away from the stage. It was here for many purposes, and each had to be fulfilled.

It didn't take long for The Stag to make its way across the hall to where it was needed. To where Robin Hood, once a mortal in the costume of a bird and a thief, was mentally debating whether or not to pilfer the gems of a mage. Robin had served the magic in the past, and he would serve the magic again. Though The Stag never let Robin see him, a touch of magic guided Robin's hand into the pouch of the mage and set in place the threads that would destroy the mage before it could wreak evil.

Behind The Stag Robin took his gems, and the Aelpa, and went off in search of his lady love.

His work done, The Stag looked around, snorted and turned to leave.

And looked at Pwyll, who had been Edmund.

The Stag stared, oblivious to the chaos all around, the chaos that seemed to spread around them like water passing to either side of a rock.

"Paul, are you all right?"

Shaking his head, The Stag snorted, and then turned and walked away, his image blurred and hidden, the panicked crowd stepping out of his way without even knowing why.

"Paul?!" Edmund shouted, and hurried afterward.

The Stag walked faster, he could see the blue of destiny enshrouding Pwyll, who had been Edmund. But now was not the time. The Stag didn't know how he knew, but he knew.

"Paul?! What's wrong?!" Pwyll, who had been Edmund, ran after The Stag.

The Stag stopped, and rubbed his head against the corner of a door sill. Something was itching inside. Then he bounded away, smashing through a window with his horns, and bounding away. His hooves clomped loudly on the hard pavement, but only Pwyll, who had been Edmund, heard.


Seasons passed, one after the other, and The Stag wandered. There were few woods, but he found them easily -- they called to him. Most of the time he spent quietly grazing -- except during the fall when he watched the other bucks fight, and the victors mount the does. The bucks did not challenge him; the does did not interest him. He was not for them. Around The Stag, the world was odd, mysterious. Humans had tamed great metal dragons that roared at insane speeds. The Stag could avoid them, but he couldn't understand them. Arrows were small, tiny, biting, almost too fast to avoid. All The Stag could do was survive.

Occasionally, he would move from one woods to another, fleeing Pwyll, who had been Edmund, or responding to a call that only he could sense. A call to destiny. Eventually he'd meet the one he was destined to meet. He'd lead them to where they had to go, either rewarding them, or causing their death. The Stag had no choice, he only did what the magic told him to do. Once he watched a little girl lost, and she saw him, and touched him, and he led her to her parents, for that was her wish. Another time, the unicorn who had once been a girl chased him, and he fled, leading her on a long and merry way, until she finally caught him. And he granted her wish and made her human, or as human as the magic would let him.

One spring, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, once again was near. He was old. The world had changed and the world had adapted, but Pwyll, who had been Edmund, had never given up hope.

The Stag was grazing, nibbling at the sweet new buds. His ears swiveled and he heard Pwyll, who had been Edmund, calling him, the voice low and faint on the wind. At first he ignored it -- he'd leave when it was time, and it wasn't time. The voice grew louder, closer, and The Stag continued to eat the succulent goodness.

And then Pwyll, who had been Edmund, was standing in front of him.

He was dressed as his costume had once been, and a long bow was over his shoulder. "Paul, are you still in there?"

The Stag, still chewing, looked up at Pwyll, who had been Edmund. His ears flicked forward and he shook his skin.

"I've been looking for you for so long."

The Stag swallowed.

"Well, go on, run. You always do."

The Stag cudded.

"I don't know which of us got it worse you know. You trapped as the stag you always wanted to be, me cursed to dress and conduct myself like a forgotten Welsh hero. I couldn't work, any other clothes I put on became like this. All I could do was hunt. Hunt game. Hunt you."

The Stag flicked his blood red ears, chewing silently.

"Are you still in there? Or are you lost, like so many others?"

The Stag swallowed, and the magic let him turn away and walk off, the underbrush parting before him.

"Annwyn damn you! Get back here!"

The Stag continued slowly walking.

"I'm not going to take this anymore!" Saying that, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, drew his bow, set the string, and drew an arrow. "You hear me?!"

The Stag stopped and turned and looked, his engorged neck hanging heavy.

"Come back-- please, come back--"

The Stag turned away and resumed walking.

"I don't want to do this! But, I've been told, I have to. Magic is back in the world you know." And with that, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, drew back a black fletched arrow and let fly. It sped across the clearing, and The Stag bounded into motion so that the arrow thunked into the trunk of an oak, quivering.

The hunt was on.

At first The Stag moved leisurely, a slow pace with stops to mark trees, or to nibble on sweet buds. But, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, was always behind him. When he got too close The Stag bounded away, dashing through the vegetation quickly and easily. Pwyll, who had been Edmund, disappeared behind him, first out of sight range, then out of scent range, and finally out of hearing range. The Stag stopped, not even breathing hard, his forelegs in a burbling cold brook. Leaning down, he slowly drank its fill.

The Stag's ears twitched at the snap of a twig behind him. Then his nostrils quivered at the scent of man behind him, the human's scent carried to him by the breeze. And then he saw a black fletched arrow speeding towards him.

The Stag leapt up into motion, water spraying as his hooves burst through the surface of the brook. Mud burst out of the ground, splaying around cloven tipped legs as The Stag leapt up the bank and bounded into the brush.

Pwyll, who had been Edmund, followed, jogging at a steady ground covering pace. His eyes were alight, seeking and finding the spore of The Stag, the marks of its cloven hooves, the scratched bark and the wisps of fine white hair.

The Stag fled, forcing his way through the underbrush which once would have moved out of his noble path. Breath panted hotly through his nostrils, his ancient heart pumped faster and faster. The woods suddenly ended at a concrete path, straight as far as the eye could see in either direction. A metal dragon tamed by the humans roared along, and The Stag leapt high into the air above it. He burst into the woods on the far side, spiked branches scratching at his hide. Branches snapped around him, and in only moments he burst into a clearing that was centered by a rocky outcrop. Hooves clattered, sparks flew, and The Stag stopped at the crest of shattered layers of shell-strewn limestone. He stood there, gasping for breath. With his head hanging low, his breath clouding around his muzzle, he turned his neck and looked behind him.

All was quiet for a while, except for the intermittent rise and fall of the roaring beasts man had tamed.

The Stag's heart beat slower, his breathing calmed.

And then it once again sensed Pwyll, who had been Edmund.

For a second his heart stopped, and then he dragged his noble head high, screamed out his rage and defiance, and leapt off the small rise. Hooves thudded into the soft spring earth, wild grass and flowers splayed around, and The Stag was off.

He ran desperately now, his breath becoming ragged and coarse. Beads of sweat gathered on his flanks. The Stag stumbled, almost fell, but forced himself up and kept on his way. His breaths were hot and short. He splashed through another stream, his cloven hooves striking sparks from smooth rounded stones. Staggering up the far bank, he stopped, and almost collapsed. He was gasping for breath, taking great sharp gulps of air. A misty cloud formed around his head, which hung so low his lip touched the cold ground, as he breathed.

And still Pwyll, who had been Edmund, came on with a steady jog.

The Stag had more time to rest now, but not nearly enough. He had no choice but to wait until Pwyll, who had been Edmund, was almost upon him. Then he bounded away, each movement unsteady and ragged. Time and again he almost fell, but will kept him going. He ran until he could run no more, until he burst into a moonlit clearing and collapsed, surrounded by wildflowers and sweet young grass.

Soon Pwyll, who had been Edmund, jogged through the broken brush and stopped beside The Stag. He was not out of breath, though he was hot and sweaty.

The Stag tried to run, but he couldn't move, couldn't stand.

"Paul-- I'm sorry-- I wish-- I wish-- there was another-- way. But this is-- what has to be. It's the only way-- the only way I can ever get-- get you back."

With that Pwyll, who had been Edmund, drew his great bow. He drew his most prized black fletched arrow, carved and smoothed out of polished black oak with a razor tip of sharpened and polished bronze. With a smooth motion that bellied the sweat beaded upon his forehead, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, drew back and let the arrow fly. Three raven feathers guided its course as it sped across the clearing and thunked into the flank of The White Stag. Crimson blood, the same colour as The Stag's ears, oozed out, soaking his ivory fur, slowly spreading down along his flank.

Pwyll, who had been Edmund, dropped his bow from nerveless hands and slowly walked forward, his hot breath misting the cold moonlit air. He stopped beside The White Stag, kneeled, and leaned against The Stag's blood engorged neck. And sobbed.

The Stag had no choice. The old magic was clear. Pwyll, who had been Edmund, had caught him. Pwyll, who had been Edmund, must be granted a wish. Pwyll, who had been Edmund, must have his destiny fulfilled. With eyes that had looked down the sabretooth, The White Stag looked into the eyes and soul of his fate. Swirls of magic poured from his nostrils, from his blood-red ears, and surrounded the grieving Pwyll, who had been Edmund.

And then the magic did its work.

Sobbing, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, began to grow. His long braided hair fell to his side leaving him bald. Ages seemed to pass as his clothes rotted and tore, the thread decaying and the cloth and leather falling to tattered dust. A naked man crouched there, sobbing, grieving, but he did not feel the cold spring air.

Grieving, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, felt his body twist, muscles growing, neck lengthening, white hair bursting out from the surface of his skin, until he was covered in the same ivory fur as The White Stag. Two fingers on each hand grew long and thick, each nail growing into one half of a cloven hoof; the same happened to two toes on each foot.

Crying, Pwyll, who had been Edmund, felt his bones stretch. His insides twisted and changed. His stomach grew and split. His manhood shrivelled, and was absorbed inside of him. The rest of his fingers and toes shurnk and curled around behind, become dewclaws, or vanishing entirely.

And then it was over, and what had been Pwyll, who had been Edmund, stood up. He was now she, an ivory doe to match The White Stag. She raised her tail, and her scent drenched the quivering nostrils of the exhausted Stag. He stood, energy flowed through him as his crimson blood pumped out around the arrow in his flank. And then, in a pattern that was near as old as the world, he mounted the doe, mounted his doe, mounted the mate that was finally worthy of him.

Screaming in pleasure and pain, The White Stag pumped his seed into his doe. His great heart pumped its blood out around the arrow in great pools of crimson that soaked into the ground, that stained the flowers red and the grass black. And with his seed, the soul of Paul, who had dreamed of being a stag, traveled. The two met with an egg, and Paul's soul was reborn.

The White Stag's eyes darkened, his breath slowed, his heart beat thump, thump-- thump-- -- -- thump-- and stopped. He slid to the ground, collapsing, dying, sliding out of the doe. After so many ages, his time was done. The white doe sniffed at him, licked at the crimson blood pooling on his side, on the ground. Finally, as the sun rose above the trees, she turned and moved off.

For the doe, which had once been Pwyll, who had once been Edmund, was pregnant with The White Stag's seed. Was pregnant with the soul of Paul, the soul of the person she loved, the person that she had wished to love.

And when it was time, the doe gave birth to Paul, who became The White Stag. The doe raised him, and loved him.

Thus, did both Edmund and Paul, gain what they'd wished for.