The Stranger: Stepping Out

In the third story about the Stranger, a series of personal tragedies have devastated the Stranger. His own mate has left him. This he will not accept and so must undertake a perilous journey to get her back. On the way, he will be challenged by by many situation, some ugly and violent, There was also be major changes made to his life. This will cause much personal hurt and sorrow.

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8. Departure

 

They returned to the clearing mostly in silence. As soon as they could be smelled by the others Faline, Eta, Gorro, and Ate came out quickly. Faline still limped as did Eta. Bambi and he said nothing until Gorro broke the silence.

“Will they come back?” Gorro asked.

“Three will not come back, the other will come back only if he wants to die,” Bambi said tersely and walked over to Faline to examine her and the fawn. Gorro then looked at him.

Before Gorro could ask he told him. “Three of them are dead; the other was running so fast to get away we let him go.”

"Dead,” Gorro squeaked.

“Yes dead,” Bambi said looking directly at his son. “It was the only way to make sure they will never be back.”

“Oh,” was all Gorro could say and walked away.

“I am tired,” he said out loud. “I am going to lie down and sleep until the lesser light rises. Then I think we should eat on the meadow.”

“I agree,” Bambi said and that settled that.

Both Claris and Carie stayed away from him and he slept alone. They both knew he would not be good company for a while.

That night on the meadow their group ate together. The other deer on the meadow did not come near to them. In the darkness, over by the tress, he heard Bobcats, ferrets, maybe a coyote, and other creatures all feasting on the bodies of Tarro and the other two. It was a not so pleasant reminder of what had transpired. Other deer, especially the males, gathered in small group discussing something. It did not take any effort to guess what they were talking about. Bambi, he, and the others ate and drank quietly and little Eta drank from her mother. Every time the little fawn took an obviously painful step, he knew Bambi and he did the right thing. It was after the lesser light was overhead that Gorro walked up to his father. He moved over close enough to hear.

“Father, I do not understand, why did you have to kill them and not just run them off like you did the others?” Gorro was not criticizing his father, but he looked and sounded confused at what they had done.

“Because the others did not hurt your mother and younger sister," Bambi told his son directly. "Before they came only to challenge me. I beat them and they left. These four did hurt them. If I had just chased them off they would have come back and maybe killed you, your sister, and your mother. That was something I would not let them do.”

“So what you teach me can really kill,” Gorro said as if not believing it.

“Yes,” Bambi said simply. “It can and will kill a deer, or Bobcat, or even a single Coyote. I hope you do not have to kill, but sometimes you must. If you must; kill as quickly and as effectively as you can and without hesitation. Otherwise the other animal or deer may kill you. That is the greatest lesson a herd leader must understand. Sometimes he must decide who lives and who dies.”

With that Bambi went back to eating. Gorro walked away toward him. As the young deer approached all he did was nod in agreement. These were more words that were best left unsaid. With the way the other deer looked at Bambi and him, he doubted if anyone would seriously challenge Bambi while Gorro grew up. That was another unsaid reason behind their fight.

It was the next evening when they were on the meadow again that he noticed a group of males gathering near the end of the lake. Neris, and some other three and four year males were there including one older male he did not recognize. As soon as they were done eating, the group of several deer started to walk over toward them. He barked a warning to Bambi and motioned for Claris, Carie and the others to stay where they were. Bambi and him walked up toward them. cautiously.

"The big one is Ceon, he is a five year male," Bambi whispered to him. "He is big enough to challenge me, but never has. There is Neris, and the other three are Tuco, Plau, and Oris. There are all two years. They have formed another group, but I never had trouble with them before. With Tarro and his group gone, they are the next senior males of my herd."

He looked at them. They were not taking any defensive stance or showing any threat. "They do not look aggressive. I think they just want to talk."

"I have no problem with that," Bambi said.

They all met in the open. He went out of his way to smile remembering this is Bambi's herd, not his.

"Greetings Ceon, Neris, Tuco, Plau and Oris," Bambi said formally. "Can I help you."

"Greetings," said Neris. "Bambi we have come over to ask you about Tarro and the others. I saw that fight from my bedding place near the lake. It looked to me that you and Stanger did not talk to them, but instead just killed them. This bothers me and the others."

Not this again he thought. Gorro was at least young and had no experience so he could understand why he was confused. These deer, especially Ceon and Neris, should know better. He saw Bambi stiffen. He was getting mad.

"I did what I thought I had to do to protect my mate and my fawn," he said with anger showing in his voice. "Tarro and his companions made it clear they were out to hurt them. That I will not allow."

"That is what we heard you say, Bambi," Ceon spoke up timidly. "But Tarro and the others never said anything like that to us or the other deer in the herd. All he said was after Ronno died, he did not think you should be herd leader."

"Then he should have challenged me," Bambi let out. "Not hurt my family, not threaten my friends. He did not challenge me openly. Instead he thought he could threaten my family and scare me off. That will not happen."

He was starting to think the scavengers may have another feast tonight if this went on. It was then he thought maybe that is what they wanted. If Bambi did attack them, then he would show the others in the herd he was not fit to be herd leader. Was that was this was about? He decided to put an end to this.

"I ask the pardon of the herd leader for what I feel I must do," he said out loud. He then turned to the others. "Faline, would you and Ate come here and bring Eta."

Bambi looked at him in bewilderment. He was about  ask him what was he doing. The other males looked at him with confusion. Faline, little Eta and old Ate came forward. As they did it was evident both Faline and Eta were still limping. Eta was still limping badly and looked in pain.

"Look at the fawn," he growled. "That fawn was kicked by Tarro. Look at Faline. She was also attacked by Tarro and the others. There was no threat from Tarro;  he tried to hurt them and made it clear he be back."

Ate got to them first because Eta was slow next to Faline. He turned to the old doe. "Ate, please tell these males exactly what Tarro and his other friends told you."

He then nodded to the old doe who understood exactly what he wanted. She then told all of them  what was said in such a direct manner such that no one could misunderstand what was said. When she was done he turned back to the others and raised his voice showing his displeasure at this conversation.

"What I am going to say, I will say for myself and no one else," he told them all. "Anyone who threaten my family, any male that attack a helpless fawn, or hurts a doe for no cause, does not belong in my herd or any other herd. You ask why I did not talk to them. I did talk to them. I talked to them in the only way they understood." Then he stopped for a second before adding, "Like I said before, any questions?"

He looked at the five males not even trying to hide what he was feeling inside. Bambi looked at him first in shock, then anger, and then smiled at him broadly. "Stranger is correct, and he also speaks for me." Bambi said. "Did we answer your questions?"

"Excuse us," Tuco pleaded and the five of them walked away and discussed what was said among themselves. Bambi, Faline, Eta, Ate, and himself stood there silently. He felt himself calming down. Finally Neris came over to them and spoke to them in a distinctly more respectful tone.

"I thank the herd leader and Stanger for sharing with us what had happened. We now understand your actions. Let me say no disrespect was intended by our questions."

"None was taken," Bambi replied an edge still in his voice.

Neris went back to the others who wasted no time in leaving them in peace. He hoped they finally put this problem behind them. He walked over and nuzzled Ate along her nose.

"Thank you, that helped greatly as did Faline and Eta."

"Yes it did," Bambi added. "Now let's finish eating."

There were no more was questions from the herd about Tarro and the others. Things calmed down back to normal. Spring continued and soon the warm greater light filled the forest. They went back to live in the thicket near the hill. Ate took her daughter Cara away leaving the three of them alone. His back finally healed and he could run and spar like normal. Bambi and he did spar with each other, but mostly they spared with Gorro who got over his uneasiness. He taught Gorro some of his tricks on turning and kicking and finally sweeping your opponent’s feet from out underneath him. They spent days just getting to know each other again. During this time he got to know Carie better. She was like Claris in that she was independently minded and knew exactly what she wanted. She was a bit more sensitive than Claris. Carie, also tended to talk more than Claris which was the only trait of hers that bothered him. Still he was not displeased with Carie. With Claris and Carie and Bambi and his family, those days were some of the happiest of his life.

Faline and Eta got over their injury. Man kept away from the forest, and everything else seemed close to normal again. Together spring came and went and soon he realized they were into full summer. That meant he had to return soon. He waited until he felt it was high summer before he told the others.”

“We must get back to our forest before high summer is over and the time of the Season approaches. That will bring Man and his killing sticks and we both need to be with our herds at that time.”

“I expected you go soon,” Bambi said. “When will you leave?”

“Tomorrow night at the setting of the greater light,” he said. “It will take two days to get back to my forest.”

“I am sorry to see you go,” Gorro said his voice sounded disappointed. “I was hoping to learn more off of you.”

“You have learned enough from me. The rest you can get from your father,” he told the eager young male. Gorro was growing seemingly in front of him. Already his first rack was plainly showing.

Carie got up. “I want to say goodbye to my mother and Ate. I know I may not see them again.”

He understood that and Carie was right. “Do so tonight and meet me at the lake tomorrow after the setting of the greater light. We leave then.”

“I will go with her,” Claris said. “I also want to say goodbye to my mother.”

He nodded his approval. “I think you should both go now and meet me tomorrow.”

With that they both got up and moved off into the darkness of the forest. He watched them go. He was not displeased. In a way he envied them. He never had a chance to say goodbye to his mother, in fact he never even knew his mother. That was probably the main reason he was and always would be The Stranger to those around him.

He spent the rest of the day talking to Bambi and Faline and giving Gorro one final sparing lesson. He wondered if there was some doe that catch his eyes during the Season, but Gorro did not seem interested in that. He knew that change with The Season. Gorro was too fine a young male to be overlooked. If they were not so closely related, he be tempted to send young Claris over. They make a fine pair. He slept after the greater light was over head and woke just before dark. He walked over to Bambi who like him was just getting up and motioned for him to follow.

They walked toward the lake but stopped well inside the woods. He turned.

“I will leave you now, My Friend,” he said to the big deer. “I think you will have no problems with challenges for this season. All the males have to do is look at the piles of bones in the wood near the hill to remind them of that. When the time comes I think Gorro will make a fine herd leader.”

“Thank you,” Bambi said and rubbed the side of his neck. “I will miss you, but you have to get back. Take care of them Stranger, and one day, when you are no longer needed you will be welcomed back here.”

“As you will be welcomed in my forest should you decide to leave the herd to Gorro. Now I must go,” he said and walked over to near the lake. Soon Faline and little Eta came out to meet him. He bent over and nuzzled the now growing fawn.

“I will miss you too,” he told the little doe.

 She licked his face,” I like Stranger,” she said with a gleam in her eye.

Right after the lesser light rose Claris, Carie, Ate and Cara came out of the forest. He said his goodbyes to them and promised he take care of Carie. As soon as they all exchanged farewells he left and led the two does down the stream toward his own forest. He was pained to leave the first friends he ever had, but there were things that counted more than just family. In his opinion, that was truly the greatest lesson a herd leader had to understand. The herd came first: before his family and before him.

The journey back to his forest was uneventful. Other than meeting another herd of those four legged creature he saw on the way to the forest, they saw nothing except the usual animals. If there were any dogs around, they kept far enough away where he could not even smell them. They rested behind a large hill when the greater light was overhead. At least there were no sounds or scents of Man on their journey. No other animals tried to interfere with their travels.

Claris mostly stayed silent on the trip back. She spent the time like him testing the air and looking closely around them. Carie tried to imitate her, but he could tell she had not the understanding Claris had. He could see her trying to learn by watching Claris and him and understand what they were doing. As least she did not blunder along making all sorts of noise.

It was well after the second night and near the rise of the greater light that he saw the familiar trees of his forest. He led them into the forest and started to show Carie the stream and meadow. He looked and saw a few deer there. Then he saw Stabo, Gena, Stena and Balo and their fawns all standing together. They seem peaceful enough. He came out of the trees and they saw him at once. Immediately all of them started to run over to him. He nuzzled his son, daughter and their mates.

“This is Carie,” he said and introduced her to the others. “There are things that happened while I was in Bambi’s forest that I need to tell you all about, but it is getting close to light.”

“I think we should go to the clearing,” Stena suggested. “We can talk there privately.”

Everyone nodded their agreement and they went to the small clearing. The nine of them fit comfortably in the small opening. All of them seemed eager to hear of their adventures and the new doe in the forest. He told them everything except the conversation with Faline, Claris, Bambi, and Ate about the unborn fawn. He also did not discuss why Carie was there, preferring to let Claris do that. He talked about the attack on Bambi’s family and the revenge they took, and the death of Ronno and his family. It was a mixed tale of happiness and sadness and took until the greater sun was overhead to finish.

“I am glad mother and father are alright,” Gena said. “I think you and father did the right thing in taking care of those bullies. Any male who deliberately hurt a fawn is not much of a male.”

“I agree,” Balo answered. “We had nothing anywhere like that in our forest. While you were gone the only thing that happened was that Man came back to shoot birds. We kept everyone away from the meadow while they were here. They left and didn’t hurt any deer.”

“Good,” he told them. “You all did exactly the right thing.”

“You left out one thing,” Stena said eying them carefully. “Can you please tell us something of Carie and if she is going to live here?”

“I was going to let you mother explain that,” he said and looked at Claris. “It affects her more than me.”

Claris spoke up and told them everything else except the part about the deformed fawn she bore. They had no need to know that. She then explained Carie was the daughter of her older sister and why she was here. He could tell it did not go over well with Stena and Stabo.  That was to be expected. She finished and Stabo spoke first.

“Mother, I must ask this,” he said firmly. “Are you sure you cannot have any more fawns?”

“Yes,” she said. “I asked my mother and some of the other older doe and they all told me the same thing. I told this to your father. I then decided that since I cannot give your father the children he wants, the daughter of my older sister would do it. That way the children your father makes will still be in my family.”

Stabo looked more hurt than his mother and he and Gena whispered back and forth for a moment before he spoke in a more serious tone. “I am trying understand what you have done, Mother, and why. I do not like what I am hearing.”

Claris looked a little hurt. “I understand, my son,” she said to him. “It was the only way I could still be here with your Father and at least my family could give him the fawns he wanted.”

“That is also something I do not understand,” Stabo uttered looking at him suspiciously. “You have a son and daughter. While I admit I have no interest in being herd leader here, I can clearly see Balo does. I do not think he would be a bad leader with more training. Why you want other children is not clear to me.”

He knew the answer, but he also knew if he told them that, it most likely offend his children and their mates. He tried to think of a good way to say this, but he could not so he just told them bluntly.

“I want more children, Son, in case something happen to us here. I was hoping Bambi or Jolo would follow if something happened to me, but they are not here anymore. There is nothing certain in this forest or in this life. Something may happen to all of this Season or at any other time. The best way to make sure the herd will be led well is to have others than can come and take our place if something happens to us. This is why I want other children. I was hoping to have those children with your mother. That will not happen now.”

“Mother,” Stena said with an icy voice. “I want to know if this was truly your idea.”

Both Claris and he looked at each other surprised at the question. Claris then looked at their daughter. “Yes, daughter, this was my idea,” she said, the hurt was clear in her voice. “Your father was as surprised as you were when I told him.” Claris’ voice choked slightly.

She looked at Balo and they both looked doubtful. “You will have to forgive us, we did not mean to give offense, but this was completely unexpected. We are all taken back. However, I must agree with my brother in not seeing the need for more children. It is almost like you do not trust us.”

Now he was angry. He shot to his feet; both Stabo and Balo did likewise an instant later. “Do not trust you?” he said loudly. “If I did not trust you, do you think I would have left the forest in your care when I went away? If I did not trust you, do you think I would have asked Stabo to come here? If I did not trust you, you think I would have taken the time and effort to teach you what I know? Of course I trust you; that is why I made the arrangements I did before I left because I knew there was a good chance I might not return, and I almost did not. However I also trusted Bambi and Jolo and they are not here. Bambi has his own forest to lead and Jolo is dead. What happens if this year I have to smell of pool of blood with your scents in it? Who then leads, who follows you? I thought I had trained you better than this. You cannot see just the now, but you have to see the later as well. I need other children to follow me in case it is your dead bodies or my dead body we have to look over. What you have said here tonight hurts me deeply, much more deeply that those dogs ever did. I think you have also hurt your mother, and you have been rude to Carie.”

He noted he was starting to breath hard. He tried to calm himself down. Claris got up and started to rub his back.

Then Stabo walked over and looked him directly in the eyes. “Father, you have returned safely, so my task here is done. The rest here is your making. This is your forest, not ours. Gena and I need to get back to our forest tonight to help Veron prepare for the Season and the hunts.”

With that he turned quickly and he, Gena, and little Koran walked away from the clearing and toward the large oak trees. No one said a word as they went.

Balo then walked over to him, the anger was not so strong in his eyes. Stena came with him and he could tell she still was not satisfied. “I understand what you say, Stranger,” he said calmly but firmly. “I just do not agree with it. What you have said also hurts us. I think enough has been said. We are going back to our resting place. Maybe we should not see each other for a while.”

With that Balo, Stena and little Delene walked away back toward their thicket. He turned and looked at Claris and Carie. Carie was shocked at the outburst and said nothing, but Claris was almost in tears and also did not say anything.

This had not gone as he hoped.

 

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