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.

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6. Uninvited Guests

 

 

The late summer passed with no further interruptions by Man. The grasses grew tall and the herd fed well. There were no problems in the forest. In fact, this was one of the most peaceful times, other than winter, he could remember since arriving in the forest. The only annoyance was that it tended to rain more than before. His thicket protected them from the worse of the rain, but all of them got soaking wet on many occasions. With the warm air, there was no sickness however. The herd continued to feed at night. Stena, Gerta and Jolo grew larger losing their spots. They heard nothing more from either the old forest, or from Veron and his son Stabo. As far as he was concerned, no word from them meant nothing bad had happened.

His main task had been to make sure the others in the herd, especially this year’s fawns, had put on enough weight to get them through the winter. With Man off the meadow, and lots of grass growing quickly, this was fairly easy to do. Even those places in the forest the herd had fed off of when Man was present, had easily grown back. He did not think there would be problems this winter unless it turned very, very, cold.

He also was built up and ready for both The Season and winter. He knew no male in the forest would challenge him either for Claris or his position as herd leader. Being honest with himself, the only two deer that could even try to challenge him were Bambi and Jolo, and neither were interested. His rack filled out. Claris told him it looked about the same size as last year. Jolo and Bambi had similar racks, but Claris always told him, in private, his rack was slightly larger. He took no joy in that. All a large rack mean to him was that some Man would want to have his head mounted in his cave for enjoyment even more.

Bambi had talked to both Jolo and Gurri and it now seemed for sure they become a pair during The Season. Balo did not seem to mind the large male deer around him and his mother. Both Stena and Gerta pestered their parents about learning more about the forest and he was glad to teach them. What made him even gladder was his time alone with Bambi. After Bambi lost his fever and his cuts healed, his strength came back. What little that may have been lost was regained during their nightly sparing matches. One of the best ways to build up strength was to have a deer as big or bigger than you try and push you down and you push back. It soon became clear to him that any weakness Bambi had was more in his head than in his body. He also worked out with Jolo continuing to show him his tricks. Although he never said anything to Claris, he felt that if anything did happen to Bambi and him, Jolo be a fine herd leader.

It was on the day his velvet start to itch that things changed for the worse. They all heard noises from the meadow, Man noises. They were not very loud and it sounded like there were only a few Men there. He didn’t think they had come for them, but he also heard many dogs. That night all of them visited their old viewing location to watch the other end of the Meadow.

There was only a few lights on in the Man cave. He saw no more than four Men. What got his attention was the many dogs on the outside lying down. It be impossible to use the meadow tonight.

“Not many Men, but why so many dogs,” Jolo asked.

He noticed something else. These dogs were different. They was larger, barked louder, and acted differently than the other dogs he had known. These dogs were taller, heavier, and more violent than the dogs that usually came.

“My Father told me of dogs like these,” Bambi said. “He said they were the bad dogs because they behaved more like the wolves that use to live near here. Man uses them to hunt larger animals than us.”

“The bear,” he said out loud. “They are here for the bear.”

He remembered the time of the season. The bear would not be alone now. It was their season and any other bear would kill him in an instant if they could. Yet he knew he must try and warn the bear. There was a way to do this, but last time he tried this, it almost killed him.

He felt the wind. It was blowing across the meadow. That meant his scent would not be blown toward the many dogs. He turned and faced the others standing with him. “Look, I want you all to go back to the cave and thicket. I cannot go to the bear now, he may not be alone and any other bear would kill a deer on sight. I am going to call to the bear instead.”

“No,” Claris said loudly. “Last time you called someone like that you almost died. I will not go through that again.”

“Last time I didn’t see all the Men, now I can. It was also day and now it is night. Man may hear me and come after me, but I will see him before he can get close to me. If they do come after me, I will need to run fast and far away from the cave and the rest of you. I cannot do that if all of you are with me, so I ask you to go back.”

“I can call him,” Bambi said.

“He knows my voice,” he told Bambi. “I must do this. I am alive because of him. I will not let him be killed without warning.”

He could tell the others were not happy with his plan, and he was not keen on it either, but he decided he had to do something. First Jolo, Gurri and Balo left and then Bambi and Faline did. Only Claris and Stena remained.

“Do not do this?” Claris asked tenderly.

“I came back to you because of the bear,” he answered with equal tenderness. “I will not let him die without trying to help. Now both of you leave.”

Reluctantly Claris and Stena left. He waited a while to allow them to get far away and then took in a deep breath.

“BBBBBBEEEEEAAAARRRRRR,” he called out at the top of his lungs.

He waited until he caught his breath and then called out again, “BBBBEEEEAAAARRRR.”

He then waited. He called three more times. There was  no movement from the Man cave. The dogs barked louder, but no lights went on. No one was interested in him this time. Then he saw it. He saw a large black mound running down the hill, only he was not alone. Another black mound slightly smaller followed him. He ran down to near where the trees ended before the meadow. He took a chance and stepped into the open of the meadow so the bears and the dogs could see him. The bear stopped. He did not need to see those red eyes to tell he was mad at him for disturbing him. He pointed his body toward the man Cave.

“MAN COMES FOR YOU!” He shouted as loud as he could.

The bear looked at the camp and looked back at him. The other bear was starting to get closer. It was a female. No doubt she was thinking he would be a good meal for both of them. He was not going to stay and find out.

“Thank you,” he heard faintly on the wind. The two bears started running up the hill. They would know what to do. He heard the dogs start to bark very loudly. They must have gotten the scent of the bears. He saw a light come on in the Man cave. He turned and ran as fast as he could into the deep forest. He stopped long enough to see four Men come out of the cave all carrying killing sticks. The dogs continued to bark loudly for a while, but the wind kept blowing across the meadow so they had a problem smelling him. He was not taking any chances, he took the long way back to the cave to make sure no one followed him home. He got back near morning. The others were waiting.

“Did you warn the bear again,” Bambi asked. He did not look very happy at his behavior.

“Yes, and he was not alone,” he said. "I am going to go to the clearing and eat something. No one goes near the meadow until Man leaves,” he said to Jolo.

After he finished eating and drinking the cool water and washing himself off, he came back to his thicket. By now they were all bedded down. He took his usual place between Stena and Claris. They said nothing and he went to sleep.

As soon as the greater light rose he heard the barking again. There were Man noises from the meadow. As the morning passed he heard dogs barking more and more, but this barking was louder and deeper than before. He head them move across the meadow and disappear up the hill on the far side. The dogs no doubt picked up the scent trail the bears made last night and followed it. By now the two of them should be over the hill and into the next forest. The dogs would have problems following them that far. The bears were as safe as they could get. He dozed back to sleep for some time and then he heard the dogs bark again.  The noise seemed closer this time. It did not concern him at first, but as the day went on then barking went into the hills on the far side of the meadow and then around to the side of the meadow where the stream left their forest and ran to Bambi's old forest. It was then the dogs started to bark louder.

"HERE. . .HERE. . .HERE. . . ," the dogs barked. They were chasing something. They chased it around the hills near the stream. Then they all heard it.

"DAAAAAAAAAHHH," he heard a male deer scream. It was followed by even louder barking. The dogs had run down and killed a deer. The dogs stayed there for a while. He had no doubt the dogs were eating what they had run down. Now he could pick up the scent of Man coming from near where the dogs were. There was no sound of a killing stick.

While that was happening he heard a few other dogs continue moving around the forest to their side of the meadow. Their barking came to the bottom of the hill near the small stream that ran past their cave. Then he heard sticks breaks and bushes trampled through. He got up and walked over to the small opening in front of Bambi’s cave.

“HERE. . . HERE. .  . HERE . . .,” he heard the dogs bark again. The noises were getting closer.

“Get up,” he said loudly.

“Bambi ran out of his cave in moments Jolo, Gurri and Balo were near him, followed a moment later by Claris and Stena. Only Faline and Gerta remained in the cave and they were standing.

“Listen,” he said. They all heard the increasing noise of branches breaking and barking. The dogs were following a scent. It had to be their scent. Dogs had never come up here before, but it  sounded like they were doing that now.

“Wind at our tails,” Jolo said out loud. “They smell us.”

Jolo was right, the wind had changed.  Just then he saw the outline of a large dog at the edge of his vision. He was definitely coming toward them.

“Doe and fawns run to the clearing,” Bambi said out loud, “Now!”

The dogs smelled them. They did not get the bear so they decided on something else. The dogs were coming here after them. The doe hesitated for a second and then Gurri bounded off with Balo right behind her. Faline, Gerta, Claris and Stena followed in short order.

“We got to give them a change to get away. We can charge the dogs and then run after the doe,” Bambi said.

Jolo looked at him as if he has lost his mind, but both he and Bambi had charged dogs before when they got too close. He saw four large dogs and making their way up to them. There were other dogs further away, but these four were the closest. They had not been seen yet.

“Get you rack under the dog and lift with all you might and throw the dog as far as you can.” Bambi said quickly. "Use your hoofs to kick them. That hurts them a lot.”

He nodded. Jolo seemed at a lost. He had never fought a dog.  Jolo had no idea what to do. He looked panicked and ready to flee. He be useless in this fight.

“Jolo,” he ordered. “Run back with the doe and fawns. If the dogs get by us, you will have to protect them,” he said.

Jolo was a mixture of fear and confusion. He did not know what to do which meant he would likely die here. “GO NOW!” he yelled and kicked him lightly with his rear hoof. The brought him back to his senses. Jolo took off like a frighten rabbit. Both Bambi and him watched him go. He had thought Jolo would not panic in a bad situation, but he had.

Bambi shook his head in disappointment. “Two deer and four dogs,” Bambi muttered. “I hope Man is not with them.”

“We charge them once and then run,” he said out loud. “We can out run those dogs in the forest. We run toward the Old Owl’s tree and away from the clearing.”

Bambi nodded and lowered his head, eyes still on the dogs that were still following their scent.  He did the same.

One large dog finally seemed to catch sight of them and ran directly at them. Bambi sprung forward dropping his head. The dog saw him only an instant before Bambi hit him. Bambi scooped the dog up with his rack and threw him in the air a short way. He took the second dog that came up behind the first and did the same. The impact was like hitting Kragus again. His head rang. That dog was big and heavy, yet he managed to throw him in the air. The dog hit the ground with a squeal. Meanwhile the others two dogs ran by the first two and tried to jump on their backs. He reared up and kicked out with his front legs hitting the dog in front of him in the face. Another squeal as the dog flew away bleeding from the mouth. The other dog had avoided Bambi’s kick and jumped on his back and started to bite.  He turned quick and aimed his rear hoofs and kicked up. He missed Bambi and hit the dog in the face with both hoofs. There was a loud crunch and the dog flew off. He could see the bite marks bleed on Bambi’s back. By now one the dogs had regained his footing. He charged forward again throwing the dog wildly into the air.

“AAAYYYY,” he heard and looked up. Two Men holding killing sticks were coming up the hill. One of them started to bring his killing stick up.

“BACK,” he yelled and pulled away and started to run. Both he and Bambi turned quickly and moved forward in a huge leap.

“KKKKKAAAAABOOOOOMMM,” he heard followed an instant later by dirt falling on his hindquarters

He ran behind the rock of Bambi’s cave. He looked up. Bambi was in front of him, white tail up and running into the forest at full speed. He ran behind then. Suddenly Bambi changed direction. He did the same thing and ran even harder.

“KKKKAAABBBOOOOM,” came again. This time he felt something fly between Bambi and him like a large Bee. A tree in front of him seemed to burst open. He changed directions again and lost sight of Bambi. He leaped as far as he could three times and then changed direction again. He could hear the dogs yelping behind him.

“UNTER BACCC DOW,” he heard one of the Men shout. The barking stop, but he didn’t.

He kept on running at full speed and changing direction every few leaps until he saw the tall tree of the Old Owl. At that point he was getting exhausted and his rear left leg started to ache, but he ran directly for it.  He reached it as he ran out of breath. He started to breathe in heavily. His chest wheezed his rear leg throbbed with pain. A few seconds later he heard the bush move and Bambi almost ran by him. Bambi stopped, put his head close to the ground and also started to breathe heavily. They stood there next to each other for a while just trying to get their wind back. His heart was pounding in his ears.

He walked over and looked at Bambi; other than the bite and claw marks on his back, he looked fine. The bleeding wasn’t serious, but it was enough for the dogs to track. He turned and looked back the way they came. He could still hear barking in the distance, but it was not close to them. Bambi recovered enough to look him over.

“There is a claw mark on your neck, but I see nothing else," Bambi told him between breaths.

“Men fired at us two times with their killing sticks and did not hit us.” he said to Bambi. “Turning quickly does work,” he said.

“We are alive,” Bambi gasped.

“After a few more breaths he said out loud. “We cannot go back to the cave. Man might still be there with his dogs. He will leave after dark unless he builds a fire. Then he may stay there all night.”

“He might still follow us,” Bambi said. “With me bleeding, the dogs can track me. Stranger you go off back to the clearing and I will lead Man away from you and the others.”

“No,” he said. “If Man was after us, we would hear him and the dogs getting closer. I can hear them, but they are not getting louder.” He looked up at the Old Owl tree. “Friend Owl can you see anything?”

There was no reply. The owl was not there. The old boy must be away hunting mice. Bambi continued to look around them.

 “We can go up the hill,” Bambi told him. “Once we get near the top we can walk until we see the stream flowing from the other forest. We walk down to the stream and can follow that to the clearing. Man will have a hard time following us.”

“I just hope the others are smart enough not to return to the cave,” he said.

Bambi shook his head no. "If they listened to anything we ever taught them, they will not go back. I would still feel better if we were there."

"Yes," he said. "Let us move just in case the dogs come again."

 “Let us go, it will be a while before we get there,” Bambi said and walked off. He followed him closely.

Bambi led him on a long round-about way through places in the forest he had not been to before. From near the top of the hill he could see the another forest in the distance. It was further away than the Man path forest, but looked much bigger. Between their forest and the other forest it was all open space. Any deer there could be seen from as far as anyone could see. They stayed inside their forest until the hill went down toward the small stream flowing from that other forest in the distance. From there the stream flowed into the pond, through the clearing, and down the small hill to the meadow below where it joined the stream from the spring. That stream then flowed out of their forest toward  Bambi’s old forest.

They followed the stream until they came to the clearing near dark. They were sure no one was on their trail. They came into the clearing that was by now crowded with other members of the herd.  As they approach both Claris and Faline came out to meet them. They all nuzzled each other happy they were still alive. He went to stand in the middle along with Bambi and Jolo.

“Man came today to the cave and the thicket. We will check on it tonight, but while man is in the meadow, we cannot go there. Man is hunting anything that is large. They could not find the bear so they came after us instead. Bambi and I managed to stop them for now, but they will be back. Soon the herd will split up because of The Season. Then we must be extra careful. You fawns must stay off the meadow. When the herd breaks up, I think it be best if all the new fawns stayed here in the clearing until after The Season. I do not think you are big enough for Man to want to kill, but I am not going to take that chance. I will call to you fawns and then you go to the clearing and stay there until The Season is over. You larger deer already know better on what to do. We are coming to The Season and Man knows this., so be careful all of you.”

"Estin is dead because of you," Sinno shouted.

"What?" he said. He remembered Estin. He was part of Sinno's group that never did like Claris or him.

"After you warned that bear friend of yours, Man and his dogs went hunting. When they could not find the bear, the dogs kept hunting.  They found Estin instead, ran him down, and then tore him to pieces. I have seen it. Estin is dead because of you."

"You are blaming, Stranger, for Estin's misfortune," Jolo shouted. "He should have been smart enough not to be found. That is not Stranger's fault."

"Yes it is his fault," Sinno accused. "If  he had not warned the bears, Man would have killed the bears instead of Estin. I blame Stranger for Estin's death."

That was all he was going to take. Sinno was challenging his authority, something he would not put up with. He moved quickly over and before any of them could say a word, he kicked Sinno in the face. That stunned him and then put the points of his rack into his chest.

"I warned the bear because he save my life," he growled like the bear. "If Estin was too stupid to avoid Man, I am sorry, but that is not my fault. If you disagree, you can challenge me for herd leadership. I will deal with you right now."

Sinno said nothing, but backed away slowly. He was obviously afraid. He stood up head held up high. "Does anyone else have anything to say?"

There were murmurings, but no complaints. He then called, “Stena, Gerta, Balo come here," They quickly came up to him. “When the herd breaks up, you three will stay with the rest of the new fawns here until after The Season. You will not go back to the cave and thicket. If the meadow becomes safe, I, Jolo or Bambi will tell you. Otherwise you eat here. If Man comes toward here, you must lead the other fawns away. Go whatever direction you do not hear Man noise from. If Man does come here, one of us will try and get back. Do not wait for us. As soon as you smell or hear Man or his dogs, you run.”

“Yes, Father,” Stena answered meekly.

Now the rest of you, find what food you can in the forest and stay well hidden, while you wait for The Season to begin.”

He waited for any more comments, but they were none. “I will see you after The Season,” he told the others and walked out of the clearing with Bambi and Jolo and the rest behind him.

When he got well away Jolo came up to him. “I am sorry, I did not know what to do,” he said meekly.

“You will know next time,” he said before adding a silent, “I hope.”

“I do not smell any smoke from my cave,” Bambi said. “I think Man is gone from there.”

“One way to be sure,” he said and followed him back to their homes. No man was there, for now.

He looked at Bambi who stared at him with disapproval. He would not say anything openly. Inside Bambi knew what he knew. Part of what Sinno said might be correct. There was hardly anything he could do about it now.

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