The Stranger: Taking Charge

The second story regarding the Stranger. Now Man has come to live in the forest. This pushes the deer into a making a terrible choice. That choice will affect the lives all all those in the forest for years to come. New friends and new enemies will appear resulting in great triumphs and heartbreaking tragedies. It will force new responsibilities onto Stranger that he did not plan on nor want. All of this, plus a growing family, will tax even the skills of the Stranger.


5. The Return



The Stranger stood next to Claris trying to take it all in. Faline was there, along with some younger doe that looked like Faline. Jolo, Stena, Gerta, were all standing there looking scared. There was another male fawn he did not know looking around anxiously. Finally inside the cave was Bambi. He was lying down and it looked like he had been badly beaten by another deer. He had cuts along his front and his flanks. No wound from a rack, it was still too early in the season for that. Bambi looked like he had been kicked repeatedly. It was all too much to take in at one glance.

He first turned to Faline, “ I do not understand. What happened?  Why are you here? Who is the doe and fawn?” he asked.

The younger doe stepped forward “I am Gurri,” the she said in that same tone of voice that Faline spoke with. “This is my son Balo.”

He remembered the name from his talks with Bambi. “You are Faline’s and Bambi’s first daughter,” he remembered.

‘Yes,” she said. “I came back with Mother and Father, after the fight with Geno.”

“Geno! Bambi’s son?” he said loudly looking again inside the cave at the injured deer lying there. “Bambi’s son did this to him?”

Both Faline and Gurri seemed to break out into tears together. “Yes,” Faline sobbed. “My own son did this to his Father.”

He was so stunned, he almost fell over Claris. He could never imagine anyone trying to hurt Bambi, but his own child did this to his father. Why, this was not The Season. Deer didn’t fight like this at this time. “Why?” was all he could get out his confused mind.

Gurri stepped forward and tried to explain. “When Mother and Father left with most of the herd after the fire, my brother resented it. He felt his Father had abandoned him. The older deer knew this and made it rough on Geno. They chased him, teased him, and beat on him. They forced Geno to disappear from our forest and  live by himself until he was three and he grew up. Near The Season of his third year he came back and took revenge on all of them. While he was away he practiced his fighting and made himself stronger. He wanted nothing but revenge on those who hurt him. When he came back, he was as strong as  Father. His rack was huge, more like Bambi’s Father the Old Prince. He beat all of those who had teased and chased him.. He hunted them down and beat them. He did not just beat them, but beat them so badly that they were injured. One male later died in the winter because he could not move around to find food. He did this deliberately. After he beat them he took their doe and bred with them. It wasn't that he wanted these doe, he did not care for any of them. That is what he told me. He did it to show his strength. Then he made it known he was herd leader and anyone who objected would get the same treatment. He then led the herd and would not listen to anyone. When Father came back with the others he was so mad, he attacked Father without warning. He hit him with his hoofs and his rack, even though it was still in velvet. Father would not hit back at his own son. Geno hit his Father until Mother stepped in and stopped it.”

All he could do was stand there and shake his head. “So you came back here,” he said.

“Yes, Gurri went on. “I was looking to come here anyway. Geno is big, Geno is strong, but Geno is not as wise like Father. Just after the last Season, he led us onto the meadow. I and my mate Delor told him it was not safe, but Geno would not listen because he smelled nothing of Man and also because he never took advise from others. He was always right, we were always wrong. We came onto the meadow, and Man was there and used his killing sticks on us. Delor was hit and died nearly in the same place as Bambi’s own mother did. I have been trying to leave with Balo ever since, but Balo was too small to travel.  When Father and Mother went back, I came with them. Geno did not like it, but he would not strike me even though he wanted to. Mother stood in the way and even Geno would not strike his own Mother.  All he wanted was Father gone. Geno saw Father as a challenge to his leadership.”

He had a hard time believing it. This was darkness to him. He looked back at Claris and Stena who also seem to have tears in their eyes. He then noticed none of the others had come back.

“The others?” he asked Faline.

“Geno told them they were welcome to stay as long as they accepted Geno was herd leader,” Faline said in sobs. “Ronno and Marol said that was fine with them and so did the others. I think Ronno was happy to see Bambi beaten. Ronno always resented Bambi ever since he tried to take me for himself and Bambi beat him.”

“He beat Ronno,” Gurri said angrily. “But he did not injure him.”

“No,” Faline said in another sob. “Bambi never tried to injure anyone. Not even his own son.”

"He could have beaten his son, but he refused to hit back at him," Gurri said.

"So now my son has gathered two large males around him that think like he does and now they lead the forest. They spend most of their time forcing other deer to do whatever he wants. Anyone who disagrees or does not do as told  is beaten. He has learned nothing from his father. He has become filled with hate of the other deer. My son now leads the herd for the good of himself and his friends, but not for the good of the herd."

Finally Gurri walked up to him and asked formally. "I seek permission from the herd leader to stay in this forest. I will never go back to our old forest."

He was still stunned. What could he do now? They all looked at him and he realized as herd leader this was his decision on what to do next. He couldn’t waste time. That would be considered a weakness; something a herd leader must never show. By now he saw other deer from his herd standing nearby as word of Bambi's return had spread. A decision was needed now. “Jolo, please come here.”

Jolo who stood apart from all the others came up to him until he was only a length away.

He spoke loudly and with authority. “Bambi and Faline are welcomed back to the herd. Gurri and Balo are also welcomed to the herd. They may stay as long as they want.”

“I understand and I agree,” Jolo said.

“Has Man come back to the meadow?” he wanted to know.

Jolo reported calmly, “I have watched from the hidden place and I see no lights, dogs, or Men at the Man cave. We have used the meadow at night. In fact we just came back from the meadow, all except Bambi who has a problem walking.”

“Jolo has been a big help to Balo, Mother, and me,” Gurri added.

He was glad to hear that. Jolo was taking over well as a senior herd male. “Thank you my friend,” he said and rubbed Jolo’s neck in affection.

“I did what the herd leader asked me to do,” he said simply.

“And you did it well,” he said and went back to Claris.

“What about Stabo, Gina and Veron and the others in the Man path forest?” Claris asked him.

“They are all fine and doing well,” he said loudly enough to be heard even by Bambi. "They have a successful herd. Veron is well regarded, and Stabo and Gena looks like they will be a pair. They also have plans for the winter. Your both can be proud of your son Veron. Do not worry about them. For now it is late, the light is getting brighter. We need to rest. We will look at this again tonight.”

Jolo came over and whispered in his ear. “I think you should look at Bambi now. He is not well I think, but he will not admit it.”

He nodded and motioned to Faline and both walked into Bambi’s cave something he rarely did even after he and Faline left. This was Bambi’s place not his.

Bambi was lying on his legs, He saw several cuts and they were turning red. He rubbed his head with his nose and felt the heat. He was getting a fever. It was then he realized Bambi could die from this unless something was done soon.

“My friend, how are you?” he said trying to show his concern.

“I will be better soon,” the familiar deep voice replied, but it was weak.

He did not believe it.“Bambi, you are ill. You need help. I know a plant the bear showed me after I was hit by Man. He told me to eat a few leaves from this plant every day. They are bitter, but they helped me heal. I know where these plants grow in the forest near here. I will take Faline and the others to show them where they are. You have to get better and for that you have to eat and drink. You know what will happen if you do not.”

“Perhaps that is best,” he said. “A beaten herd leader is not needed by the herd any longer.”

Now he was beginning to understand. Beaten leaders were cast out from the herd. Most died soon afterwards. He was determined that would not happen here. “That is stupid,” he growled seeing where this was going. “There is a difference in being beaten and not fighting back. I think you should have wiped the ground with your son. You are not weak. I have spared with you too many times to know that.”

“He was my first born,” Bambi coughed. “The one I wanted to take over after me and now this.”

“Listen, I can still use your help and you are still my friend,” he told him with sincerity “I am going to get this plant and I am going to show the others where it is. I will leave the fawns with you until I get back.”

“I will watch them,” he said and turned his body so he could see out the cave better.

“Try and get some water in you,” he said and left.

He left the cave and looked around. All of them were all standing near him waiting for him to tell them to do something. He was sure he was doing the right thing. “Stena, Gerta, Balo, come here,” he said.

Stena and Gerta came at once. Bolo hung back looking unsure about the new big deer. “I have to take your mothers to a place I know where they can get something to make Bambi well. I need you to stay here and help Bambi. Do not leave the thicket. Do you understand me?”

“Yes Father,” Stena said. “Will you be gone long?”

“No,” he answered. “While I am gone I also want you to help Bambi if he gets up. You are all big now. You get on either side of him and help him stand. He needs to drink from the stream.”

“I will try, Father,” Stena said.

“That is all I can ask of you,” he told them then faced the others. “I know a plant the bear showed me when I was hit by Man. You eat a few leaves a day and it helped heal me. I need to give some to Bambi. He has a fever and we must help him now. I need you to come with me quickly to where this plant grows so you can get these leaves for him. The fawns will take care of Bambi while we are gone.”

“I will come,” Jolo and Claris said together. Faline and Gurri nodded.

He looked again at the fawns. “Remember what I said.” he told them firmly and then took off into the forest.

He ran through the forest with the others behind him. Normally he did not run because it made too much noise. Man could easily follow, but Man was not in the meadow and he did not sense any smell of Man so he ran. He led them past the smaller clearing in the forest and past the pond to a stand of large pine trees. He could smell the pine in the air just like near where the bear lived. In a small opening near some bushes he found the plant he wanted. It smelled exactly like the one the bear had showed him. He could only hope it help Bambi as well as it helped him.

“Here,” he said and showed the others the plant. “He used his teeth to cut off a branch of many leaves and held it in his mouth. “See that Bambi eats about this many leaves every day,” he showed them. “Can you all find this bush again if I am someplace else?”

“Yes I know it,” Faline said. “I never saw it grow here before. My old Aunt Ena told me about it in the old forest.”

“Now let us hurry back to the cave,” he said and ran off with the others behind him.

When they got back they saw an interesting sight. Bambi was trying to drink but his legs were shaking. Both Stena and Gerta were on either side of him trying to hold him steady as he drank. They were having problems because Bambi was so much heavier than they were. Balo stood like a tree against Bambi’s back to make sure he did not fall that way. Bambi managed to get several mouths full of water then stood up.

He came over and offered the leaves to him. “These are bitter, but they should help you. Try and eat them,”

Bambi ate the leaves off the branch he was holding. He made at face at the first leaf, but ate all of them.

“Do you think you can eat some grass,” he asked.

“Too far to the meadow,” Bambi said. It was obviously tiring for him to stand.

“There is grass behind the cave,” Faline said. “You can eat that.”

“Need it for winter,” Bambi told them.

“It will grow back before winter,” he pointed out. “Right now you need it so eat it.”

Bambi walked behind the cave and started eating on the grass. Bambi only ate for a short while before he heard a great growling noise coming from inside the big deer. Bambi’s tail shot upward exposing the white underside. He lurched forward and bounded into the trees for a second. They then heard a groan and the sound of Bambi’s waste being emptied onto the ground. A little while later he came back. He looked embarrassed, but continued eating. After a while he limped back to his cave and lay down again. He went to sleep almost immediately.

“He may sleep for a while,” he told the others. “I know I did.” He then looked at Gerta and Gurri. “Your Father may need some help over the next few days. He will be weak, but I hope he will be back to normal soon.” It was then he realized the day was far along and he was tired from his trip last night and the events of today. “We will discuss this more tonight,” he told all of them and went back to his thicket. Claris lay on one side of him and Stena lay on the other side.”

“I will help Bambi, if I can,” Stena said.

“I know you will,” he said and nuzzled her cheek. “You and your brother have done well and I am proud of you both of you. For now let us sleep.”

He noticed Jolo had bedded down not far away from Gurri and Balo. That may prove interesting in the future.

That night they got up after dark. Bambi came out of his cave but his legs were still unsteady. "I cannot walk to the meadow," he told them.

"Do you think you can walk to the small clearing?" he asked.

Bambi nodded his head. "Yes, that ground is level. It is the  hill I cannot walk down."

He turned and faced the others. "Jolo, take the herd back down to the meadow, but watch the Man cave. Eat on the meadow, but be sure every deer is back in the forest before the first light of morning."

"I will do this," Jolo answered  and walked away. Gurri and Balo fell in behind them. Claris and Stena did the same.

He turned back to Bambi and helped him get to the small clearing and they both ate there. After they were done he asked Bambi. "Would you like me to get Veron?"

"NO!" Bambi said loudly. "This is not his problem. This is my problem. Veron has enough concerns. He does not have the time to help an old deer."

He wanted to say something, but he decided not to, but he again did not like what he was hearing.

Over the next few days, Bambi began to improve. He got up and moved around more, but he could tell his muscles were still tight and hard to move. He told the big deer how he had gone through the same thing. It was not long before Bambi could walk to the meadow at night, but he and Faline ate alone. Bambi also did not talk with many deer including him. When he did speak to him it was formal like a member of the herd would talk to the herd leader. Something was bothering Bambi on the inside and being the tight lipped sometimes arrogant deer that Bambi could be, he knew he could not expect Bambi to come to him.

As the days went on he noticed Gurri was staying closer to Jolo. He looked at them. Yes, he was tall, strong, and wise. Jolo had told him before he had never had a doe he cared about. Jolo had bred doe during The Season like he had done before meeting Claris. As he thought about it there was almost a flash of light in his head. One of the things he had always wondered about was why Bambi pushed him and Claris together when he first got here. Bambi had never explained. Now he understood. If relations were close between males and doe, there would be stronger bonds within the herd. Making Jolo and Gurri stronger made the herd stronger. Perhaps he could help those two like Bambi had helped Claris and him. After the two of them had fed, he walked over to Jolo. Gurri walked away thinking he wanted to talk to him about the herd. In a way she was right.

“May I ask you something?” he asked the large deer watching Gurri walk away.

‘Of course,” he said with a slight bow.

“Do you like Gurri?”

“Yes,” Jolo said warily. “Do you or Bambi object?”

“I will not speak for Bambi,” he said. “As for me, I do not object. Does she like you?”

“I think so, she has never told me to go away. I have fun around Balo. He will sometime make mock charges at me and I will push him away. I think she is lonely after Delor died.”

“Yes,” he said with a smile. “I will tell you one thing and that is ask her if she feels for you. She will tell you.”

“What about Bambi?” Jolo asked as if unsure.

“If Bambi or Faline wanted to say something about Gurri and you, I can promise you they would. Besides Gurri is a four season doe and is the same age as you. She is old enough to know what she wants. Like I said, ask her. I will talk to Bambi.”

With that he left him alone. It was getting toward day. Although he could see no sign of Man, he still did not want the herd to be in the open in the light. He called to the herd for them to leave the meadow. All of them followed his instructions and within a short while the meadow was empty of deer again.

He noticed Jolo and Gurri walked away from the others. He saw Balo running around with Stena. As they got back to the cave he told Feline and Claris he wanted to talk alone with Bambi for a while. Then he walked up to the big deer who was hardly limping now.

“I need to talk to you alone,” he said to Bambi. He thought any doe with them would only get in the way of this conversation.

Bambi nodded and followed him. When they got far away Bambi asked “What can I do for the herd leader.”

“First off stop talking to me like you are some yearling,” he said seriously. “When you were herd leader Claris and I paid you and Faline respect when we were with the others, but when we were alone I always treated you as if you were my friend. You always gave me advice as if you were my friend, not just the herd leader. You are still my friend and nothing that has happened is going to change that.”

Bambi bowed his head. “I am sorry, but lately I feel useless. I have no purpose here.”

He was shocked. No purpose, how can that be? “What do you mean; you are the wisest deer I know. If nothing else you can still offer me advice in case I start to do something stupid.”

“You have not done anything stupid since I have been back,” Bambi told him head still down. “You seem to be as wise as I ever was.”

“And I learned this from who,” he interrupted. “I learned that watching you. I took up with Claris on your advice and it was the best thing I ever done. No my friend, you are far from useless. “

With that Bambi raised his head. “But look at me. I am a beaten deer.”

Now we were getting to the point. “No, you are not beaten. You did not fight back and yes that was a mistake. I know you could have beaten your son into the ground if you had wanted too. You have only been pushed back, not beaten.”

“But I feel weak and tired,” Bambi’s said his voice also sounding strained.

‘Like I did when I came back from the bear; do you remember how you got me my strength back? You and I would go off alone and have mock combat. You would push me down and I pushed back and after a while, I got stronger. Well I am going to do the same to you. After feeding every night we are going to come alone to the small clearing and I will spar with you alone. You will push back and get stronger and when you are strong enough I hope you go back and beat some sense into your son.”

“No, the others will beat him in time. He will be run out and mostly likely die soon afterwards. I do not want to go back there; I just want to feel useful. Otherwise I might as well walk alone onto the meadow in the morning.”

That shocked him most of all. Bambi being dead would solve no one problem’s. “NO!” he shouted. Even Bambi took a step back. “I will not see your head going up in some Man cave.  You are going to be of use to me here along with Jolo. By the way, I hoped you noticed Jolo and Gurri are a pair.”

Bambi smiled for the first time. “That was the one thing that made me feel happy. They would be good for each other.”

“Then tell Jolo and Gurri, in the same way you did for me and Claris. You see I finally understand why you did that too.”

“Maybe I can be of some use,” Bambi muttered and walked back with him back to the cave.

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