Lurking Shadows

The sun shone down bright,
Upon the woodland meadow,
Upon the ritual fight,
Brash bucks struggling for the fallow doe.

Deeper still within the forest,
Past the Black Mountains, snow-capped and fair,
Where the pine trees rotted, dank and horrid,
The shadows ruled the smothering air.

All knew to beware the bog,
Never was bird heard within it,
For in its center rose the fog,
Home to the darkest of spirits.

But not all in this shroud were gone,
Their body still breathed, though their soul was dead,
The buck had survived seasons off his longing,
The ghostly wail for his mate filled all with dread.

Perhaps it was foolishness, perhaps it was fate,
That led the female fawn to the edge of the mire,
From the moment she stepped on the peat, he awaited,
His piercing eyes making her little heart beat higher.

Rounding a dead tree, she failed to see,
A pale buck, shoulders broad, eyes dark,
Her heart nearly stopped, but she managed to flee,
Her flight observed by the vigilant lark.

But what came after made him fall from the branch,
The grisly tale spread between the trees,
At the words, every noble creature blanched,
Of the one whose mind was diseased.

Midnight prancing by moonlight halted,
The reveries of mating season interrupted,
The service of every buck was called,
To once more banish the corrupted.

Standing firm, shoulder to shoulder,
The males of the forest confronted the buck on the meadow,
But seasons of thirsting had made him bolder,
The buck lunged forth, the center ranks laid low.

On the buck fought, on the others struggled,
Antlers and hooves cracking against bone and flesh,
The instinct blazing and alive as he stood tall,
Blood flowed from their wounds, dark and fresh.

The weaker driven off, limping away,
Only the strongest warriors remained,
Surrounded, the pale buck was truly caught,
But in his chest, the blaze was hot.

Flanks heaving, the warriors appealed to reason,
The exile responded by digging in his hooves,
Reason, mercy, all but anger had died with the seasons,
It was this fate, that he would choose.

And so, the final act began,
The warriors charging in from all sides,
Overwhelmed, the buck made his final stand,
But even as he collapsed, there came no cries,
Down the hooves slammed.

Suddenly, the painful barrage ceased,
The enraged males slowly backing away,
A sight before him, the wounded buck barely believed,
A female doe, wizened and gray,
But the young doe from that fateful day.

In his fight for her seasons ago, he had killed another,
Condemned, forsaken, exiled into the shadows,
In that moment, he remembered his guilt,
Begged forgiveness of her,
His only desire to atone, to finally let go.

She gazed upon his pale, broken body,
Eyes full of tears, mind full of memory,
She forgave all that night, she forgave him,
A sigh escaped him, his eyes growing hazy,
Free, free at last from this worldly prison.

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