The Stranger in the Forest

A strange deer has come into Bambi's forest. Who is he? What does he want. Why does he not even have a name and just how does he know all about Man? He is big, he is powerful, and he is unlike any deer in the herd. With what this deer knows, he may save or doom all the deer in the herd.

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3. Starting Point

CHAPTER THREE: STARTING POINT

 

 “Come with me!” he barked and starting running toward the closest part of the forest. An instant later Claris was running right beside him. She was running as fast as he was. They bound through the air several lengths with each stride.

He glanced back onto the meadow; Bambi was already fleeing into the woods following Faline, Veron, and the rest of the herd to safety. There was a panicked run by all the deer to get out of the open as quickly as possible. The two of them bounded six times before they made the closest line of young Oak trees. He heard nothing else from behind him. There were no more sounds of killing sticks, no scent of Man. He knew they had to go deeper into the thickest part of the forest to escape the death brought my Man. In the deep woods, Man could not see them, and that was their only protection. He continued to run at full speed dodging around the tress until he could see no sign of the meadow in the distance. He saw a thin spot of trees under which thick stands of bushes were growing. He stopped now hidden behind the green leaves. There, Claris and he tried to catch their breaths.

He took several deep breaths of cool air into his burning chest until he felt recovered enough to speak. He then turned back to Claris who was now standing only half length away. “Are you alright?” he asked trying to sound concerned.

She nodded and then spoke while trying to breathe in, “Were you hit?”

“No, I do not think Man was after us today. He has other creatures he uses his death stick on. He has one death stick to kill birds, one to take fish out of the water, one to kill smaller animals, and the biggest one to kill us. The noise was too far away to be for us. Besides, if Man wanted to kill us, at least one of us would be lying dead in the meadow and I saw no one hit.”

“Do you think it is safe to go back?” she asked.

“I am not sure,” he said looking back the way they came. “I would not go now. It is safer to wait for dark. Man does not like going out into the forest after dark.”

She eyed him curiously as if she was suddenly not sure about him.  “You seem to know a lot about Man,” she said.

“Before we got interrupted, that was part of the story I did not want to bore you with,” he told her. “It is not a nice story to hear.”

“Well we have time now,” she said and lay down on her knees to rest.

He lay down near her but not next to her, as he didn’t want to seem too forward. “As you wish,” he said.

He was reluctant to tell his story. If deer thought he was strange now, what would they think after they heard what happened to him while he lived with Man: the sight of all those deer being burnt and eaten, the laughter of Man as they drank and ate the meat, the pain when the Man fawns attacked and hit him until he learned to fight back, and being kept behind vines so he could not get away.  Then finally, after he got away, how long it took him to learn how to act like other deer or even speak with them. He did not know what was worse, being hurt by Man fawns, or older male deer that wanted nothing to do with him.

“I am afraid that if I tell you what has happened to me, you might think I am so unlike a normal deer you will be disgusted with me and leave,” he told Claris in a low voice.

“I will not,” Claris said flashing her green eyes at him. “You are strange, but inside I see you are hurt. You try and hide it, but it is there. I think that is what Bambi saw in you. So please, tell me your story.”

The Stranger swallowed hard and did something he had never done before in his life. He told Claris his whole story from the time he was picked up by Man until he came to this forest. As he promised, it was not a pleasant story to listen to. He kept asking himself why he was telling this to someone he hardly knew. For some reason he felt compelled to tell her about his life. He did not understand why.  Claris listened and asked several questions, but was not repelled by his story. By the time he was done, and answered all the questions she asked, they both were tired and both of them went to sleep.

It was near night when he awoke. He was hungry, thirsty, yet he felt warm and comfortable inside. It took him a second to realize he felt warm because Claris was lying against his side. She must have moved closer to him for comfort while he was sleeping. It was a new feeling for him to lie next to a doe. He felt a liking for this doe, something he had also not felt before. During the past Seasons doe had approached him and he had bred them. Usually that only consisted of a few moments of coupling, grunting, and then a rush outward of himself into the doe. Following the act, the doe went one way, and he went another. His part of The Season was done. The doe wanted nothing more to do with him. There was no tenderness like this. Although he felt a base pleasure in having coupled with the doe, he never felt the inward warmth he did now. He wasn’t sure what to say or feel. He felt strange.

He also felt inward pressure building up in his rear. He must empty himself. He got up slowly as not to disturb her and moved away to an empty part of the forest many lengths away from where he lay. There he passed what was inside him. He moved back to the clearing and saw Claris was gone. For a few seconds he wondered why she had left, before she appeared, gliding silently into the clearing from the forest. From the strong scent in the air he realized she had done likewise and yet the odor was different. The scent was like what a doe gives off when The Season was near, yet they were still a long way from then.

“I am . . . am sorry,” she said stammering. She dropped her heard in shame. She was embarrassed about the scent she gave off.

He walked quickly over to her and lifted her head with his until he could look into those deep green eyes. “You do not have to be sorry,” he said showing affection. “I like the feeling of you next to me, I like the scent of your body, and I like you. Thank you for listening to my story. You are the first one I ever told it to. I hope I did not bore you or scare you with it.”

“Did all of that really happen to you?” she asked.

Yes,” he said knowing his tale was a bit much. “Does it make you frightened of me?”

 “No, I am not frightened of you,” she answered immediately. “If all those things happened to you, I feel more sorrow for you than fear. I also understand why you are so strange.” Then she stopped for a second as if unsure about what she wanted to say. “You are not like the others. No male has ever said he liked me. I think that is because, like you, I am so different. My story is different from yours, but in a way it is the same.”

Claris then told him her story. She was younger than him. This was her third spring. It was his fifth. She was born after her mother came to this forest with Bambi and several others after Man had burnt down their forest. Her mother, Ate, had come with a young male Morro. They mated and she was born. Ate and Morro were not close which was good because Morro was killed just before Last Season began. She did not know why, but even as a fawn she would like to be by herself. The other fawns were put off by her. Claris felt it had to do with how she behaved. The other fawns just wanted to play. She preferred to stay near the older deer and try to learn from them. The only deer that talked to her on a regular basis was Bambi. When Last Season came around, she told him she felt no desire to be with a male. Those that came and tried to breed with her she put off, some violently. The males did not feel it was worth the effort to breed her when there were more receptive doe available. She did not know why she felt that way, but she did. It made her feel strange, and the way the other deer treated her made her feel stranger. She just thought she was different, and just as he had found out, being different in a deer herd is not a good thing for you.

“I used to think I was the only strange one around her,” he said after she finished. “Thank you for telling me your story.” With that he walked over and nuzzled his nose against her face. “I like you,” he told her.

“Stranger, I like you too,” she said and rubbed her muzzle against his returning his show of affection.

He was taken back for a second. No doe had ever done that. He wasn’t sure what to say.  He did not know how to react. He finally stammered out a simple, “Thank you.”

He hoped he hadn’t put her off for some reason. He wanted to change the subject. “If I may ask you a question, what did Bambi tell you about me?” He was curious about why Bambi looked to be so interested in getting them together.

“He told me you were strange, and not like the other deer in the herd. He told me I might not feel the dislike for you the way I feel about the other males. Then he said I should listen to you.” She then stopped for a moment before adding, “I am glad I did.”

Again he wondered why Bambi should care. “Does Bambi often do this?”

“I do not know,” Claris said. “I know Bambi is one of the few deer who will talk to me. I found him to be strong and wise like his father the Old Prince. My mother told me that Bambi’s father was the wisest deer that ever lived. He died from being old just before Bambi and the others came to this forest. Bambi is like his father my mother tells me.”

‘Interesting,” he muttered. “This is certainly a different type of herd.”

Claris looked up at the darkening sky. “We should be getting back. Not that anyone would care if we came back or not.”

“I do not know, maybe Bambi or Ronno might care, but I doubt if anyone else would,” he said grimly. “I will follow you this time.”

Claris knew the woods better than he having lived here all her life. He followed her back, but she did not go the way they had come. She followed a path around the meadow, yet still deep enough in the forest that no one could see them from the large clearing.  She took him around huge oak trees. Around them he heard the sounds of the forest: ferrets sneaking through the grass, mice scampering about trying to avoid them, the sounds of crickets and frogs, birds above them, and screeching of the bats. All hunting for food while trying not to become food. That was the Way of All Things as he called the struggle of life. All became food in the end.

“Hooo,” he heard from above. He looked up and saw a great owl looking down at him. He was old, grey, had a pale face, with wide gray eyes. His feathers were ragged and white with age.

“Hello Friend Owl,” Claris said looking up at the darken shape.

“Hello Claris,” the owl screeched. His voice was high pitched almost like a scream. “I was wondering about you two. You must be Stranger the new deer I heard about. You certainly know how to make yourself known. At least you are both alive,” the owl said looking them over carefully as if not believing it. “Bambi was concerned.”

“Thank you,” Claris replied. “Where is he now?”

“Him, Faline, and Veron are all by the stream with some of the other deer. I sure he won’t mind if you both show up.”

“Is Kragus among them?” he wanted to know. He had his fill of fighting for one day.

“No one has seen that deer since you wiped his face in the ground,” the owl went on. “I’d be careful about him, Stranger. Kragus has a mean streak as wide as the meadow. I would not turn my back on him.”

“I do not intend to,” he said. “However, if he leaves me alone, I will do likewise.”

The owl seemed to shrug his great wings. “We can only see what happens. In the meantime, please excuse me. The mice will not catch themselves,” the owl said and flapped his wings. He was gone as silent as a light breeze.

He followed Claris again. The forest on this hill was thicker. The trees also looked taller. Around him he could hear many animals running around. He did catch a scent of a badger, but that was the only predator he detected. They passed families of possums and raccoons, but they paid them no mind. The lesser light was high overhead before they came across a small brook. The frogs were especially noisy here. They both stopped and drank their fill of the cool water. They also stopped to nibble on some plants. That got rid of his immediate hunger. They followed the stream until his nose picked up the scent of several deer. As they got closer he could see the outlines of Bambi next to Faline and Vernon in the glow of the lesser light. Ronno was standing in the rear. While they were still many lengths away, Bambi tuned and faced them.

“Well, you both managed to live through it,” he said and looked happy about it.

“Thanks to our Stranger,” Claris said.

By now the other deer there: a collection of three males, several females, and their fawns. Immediately they all started moving away from them, as if they had some illness they could all catch. They wanted nothing to do with either of them. He was sure Claris noticed it too. By now he was use to it, but other than being different, neither of them had done anything to deserve such scorn.

He walked over to Bambi who stood his ground like a rock. “Today Man was not after us,” he told him.

“I know,” Bambi said. “Do you think it will be safe in the meadow tomorrow?”

“It is not The Season yet,” he answered looking into that hard yet calm face. “Man usually waits for the Season to come for us. It is about our racks, he wants. He wants them full and at their peak and that happens only during or just after The Season. To be certain, I would suggest we all go into the meadow now and feed. If we are in the forest when day comes, Man will have nothing to see. He has a much harder time finding us if we are not out in the open. That is why he uses dogs. They can smell us, Man cannot.”

“How can you know anything of this?” one of the males called out with obvious disgust. “How can you know about Man?”

Claris turned about sharply. “He knows that and a lot more,” she rebuked the male. “If you listen to him, maybe you might live longer.”

In his entire life, that was the first time anyone ever stood up for him. He suddenly felt the same warm glow inside himself that he felt earlier when she lay next to him. The male did not like be dressed down by a doe and started to rise up to put her in her place. He turned quickly and stepped forward, his side rubbing against hers.

“NO!” he said coldly.

He looked deep into the eyes of the male who was smaller and weaker than him. The male backed away into the cover of the forest. He then looked down into Claris’ green eyes and openly smiled. “Thank you,” he said.

She said nothing only rubbed her muzzle against his. The warm feeling suddenly got much stronger.

“He told me part of his story,” Bambi said loudly enough to get everyone’s attention. “I believe him and will follow his advice. We will feed now and leave for the forest before the greater light comes.”

With that Bambi lead the way. He and Claris stayed behind until the others had moved into the meadow. They followed and stopped near a place covered with a rich layer of grass. When they bent over to feed, the other deer moved away again. They ate alone and in silence. After they had eaten their fill, Bambi came over to them.

“I am sorry about the others,” he said. “They should not treat you both like that.”

“It is their fault, not yours.” he told Bambi.

“It is still rude,” Bambi went on. “Even Faline is uncomfortable around you both.”

What was there to do? Even Bambi could not change what others felt. It was then he recalled what Claris had told him about Bambi and his father. Maybe he had an answer to his question. He wanted to ask it then, but was afraid others would laugh at him if they heard it. He was more afraid that Claris would be put off by his question. “May I speak to you alone,” he asked the large deer.

Bambi seemed puzzled at his request but walked away and motioned him to follow. “I will be back shortly,” he told Claris who also seem puzzled.

 He followed the large deer to the end of the meadow before he stopped. “We are alone,” he said still wondering what he wanted to say.

“I cannot say what I am about to tell you in front of Claris or any of the other doe. I am ashamed of this, but you must know if you are going to allow me to stay here.”

“You do not owe me any explanation,” Bambi said in a friendly tone. “I can see into you. Yes, you are strange, but you are also good, despite the deep hurt you carry inside you.”

“That comes close to the matter,” he went on. “Bambi, in all my wanderings, I have never had anyone close to me. I lived apart, only taking part in The Season because something inside me told me I had to. I could not control it Yes I enjoyed it. I chased the doe, and fought the other males who wanted them. I won most of the fights I was in. I lost a few, especially when I was younger.”

He stopped for a second, he was having trouble saying this and his chest was tightening up. “Go on,” Bambi encouraged.

“With the doe it was always just the feeling of The Season. None of them ever followed me around. None of them had the slightest interest in me afterwards. I never had any of them who care for me like Faline cares for you. It is easy to see you both feel for each other. No one ever said they cared for me until today, and I do not know what to do. I am frightened that I will do the wrong thing. You see I did not grow up among my kind like you did. I was held by Man until I was a yearling. The only learning I had was from Man. When I finally got away from Man and fled into the forest, I did not know how to speak to the other deer. I did not know how to act around them. I had to learn as an adult what a deer was: how we spoke, how we lived, what we ate, how we even breed. As a result, I never had to be near a doe except at the time of The Season. Once we bred, most left me in a hurry. I never had a doe who said she likes me until today with Claris. You are the herd leader. I hear you are wise like your father. What do I need to do? How should I act?”

For moments Bambi looked at him stunned. He wondered if Bambi even understood what he was saying. How could he? How can any deer feel like he did?

Bambi stood there motionless for what felt to be a long while. Then he said in a hushed tone, “My father once told me there was One above us and Man. That One put you here for a reason, but what that reason is, I do not know. There is nothing wrong with you. Yes, you are not like a herd deer, but then neither am I. You grew up your way. I grew up my way. I had my troubles growing up too. My father had to raise me after my mother was killed in a meadow like this. I was awkward, I was slow, Ronno kicked me around a few times before I finally put him in his place when I bred Faline. I did not think about it with Faline. I let it happen. That is my advice, let it happen and enjoy what you have together.”

All he could do was nod. Had this deer finally understood him? Most deer just jump around, eat, and play. He felt there was more to his place in the forest than that, and maybe so did Bambi.

“Thank you for telling me this. It explains much,” Bambi continued and rubbed his own flank against his in a show of friendship. Bambi looked at the increasing light. “We need to leave in case Man comes back.”

“Agreed,” he said.

“Bambi barked out a deep loud command to the herd. “Go into the forest now.”

He trotted back to Claris who was standing next to Faline saying something. As soon as he approached, Claris broke off whatever she was saying and came after him. Once they passed into the forest and they were alone he stopped and looked back. “Will you come with me?”

She seemed shocked for some reason. “No, not now,” she said turning away. “It is still too soon. I have to know you better before I will do that.”

He felt deflated, but then he remembered Bambi’s words ‘let it happen.’ She was right; they had half a day and a night together. More time was needed.

“I understand,” he said in a low voice. “Can I at least see you again on the meadow or in the forest?”

She turned and walked up to him again and muzzled him on his mouth. “Of course you can,” she told him in a soft airy tone that brought back that warm feeling.

She turned away and quickly vanished into the trees.

He wanted to follow in the worse way. His body urged him on, but instead he turned around and walked the other way toward the nearby hills. There would be other days, he hoped.

 

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