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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6. Lessons in Death

 

They all woke as the greater light disappeared and darkness fell. He got up and both doe got up with him. As usual they all left each other for a short while to empty their insides. Then they all went back to the lake and the large meadow nearby and ate their fill.  The other deer were on the meadow eating. He could smell only a trace of smoke in the air, but no scent of Man. He spent most of the night with Claris and Carie eating and drinking. It was after the lesser light was high overhead that Bambi came over to him and motion him to walk away with him. He followed Bambi until they were well away from the others.

“Faline told me,” Bambi said. “What do you think?”

“I think if I can have Claris back and have Carie as a doe to make fawns, I will be happy. Carie is a nice looking doe.”

“Yes she is and she did not take a mate in her first breeding season,” Bambi went on. “In that way she is like Claris. She wanted nothing to do with the young males around here.”

“So I was told, now tell me if this was your idea?” he wanted to know.

“No,” Bambi said shaking his head. “I think it was the idea of Faline and Ate. You coming here, showed how you really feel about Claris. I think Claris was afraid you walk away from her if you knew about her unborn fawn.”

He still felt exasperated at that and what had happened. A lot of deer had been put through a lot of trouble because of this and he was not happy about it. “She still should have told me,” he said flatly. “It would have made things easier on a lot of deer. However I guess that is no longer important."

"Well, I  hope you are happy," Bambi said.

He did not know what to say except, "I hope so too. "In in any case I get what I need and I think Claris and Carie will get what they want. I will not lie to you. I wish you and Faline were going back with me."

 “They need me here, and there is no one else to lead,” Bambi told him. “Gorro is not ready and none of the other males I would trust.”

“I can understand that,” he said looking at the other deer on the meadow. “You are always welcomed back in my forest, both you and Faline.”

“Thank you,” Bambi smiled. “Perhaps one day when I am no longer herd leader.”

It was then he heard a large calling of birds from up on the tall hill. He saw several of them flying away. It did not sound like a warning. He turned and took in a large breath of air through his nose. He could smell nothing, but the light breeze was blowing from the lake to the hill blowing any scent there away from them.

“You smell something?” Bambi asked.

He kept his head into the wind trying to smell something. Something did not feel right to him. “No, but I feel uneasy. Let us go back near where your thicket is. It is too open where we are even through it is still night.”

He baked a warning to the others and all of them came back toward the hill. Bambi walked back with him until they were near the thicket they used. Near his thicket where, they were mostly hidden by trees. They continued eating and talking for the rest of the night. Over head in the distance behind the lake, he saw the first glint of the greater light. He still smelled nothing or heard nothing unusual. He put his uneasiness down to being in a different place.  He looked out on the meadow near the lake and saw several deer still feeding including Ronno, Marol,  their fawn, and a few others. The first light from the greater light came over the lake and lit everything with a new day.

“PHAMMMMMMMMMMMMM, PHAMMMMMMMMMMMMM, PHAMMMMMMMM- MMMMM,” echoed from the hill. It stunned him and the others for a second before he heard PHAMMMMMMMMMMMMM, PHAMMMMMMMMMMMMM echo again.

In a moment all the deer scattered in every direction toward the nearby forest. In moments he lost sight of everyone. He lunged into the thicket and the deeper woods beyond before stopping. He got down low behind some bushes growing near the burnt trees and waited. He knew he was well hidden. He strained his nose and ears to detect any sign of Man. The forest had gone quiet again. He was alone. He had not seen anyone hit, but he hadn’t had time to be looking for anyone. He waited and after a short time he could hear the voice of Man, in fact several Men. They were walking toward him, yet they were still on the meadow. They were laughing and having a good time. He got up and very slowly moved forward keeping his head behind trees and bushes.  It was not long before he could see into the meadow.

He looked around and the meadow was empty except for three deer lying still on the ground. He recognized them immediately. It was Ronno, Marol and their fawn. All were lying still. He could not see well from this distance, but he could see the large open wound above the shoulder of Ronno. Marol was hit in the same place. It was the fawn that made his sick. The poor little thing was blow open by the killing stick of Man, pieces of its little body flew everywhere. At least it hadn’t suffered. Then he heard the laughter of Man. He watched Man walking on the meadow, their killing sticks on their shoulders. They walked over to the three deer and looked at them. They were obviously having a good time.

He watched them get down and then reach into the shell like thing on their backs and pull out what looked to be a single claw each. After that they stared driving their claws into Ronno and Marol and cutting into their bodies like a bear. The Men removed their skins and put them aside. Then they took parts of their insides and threw them out onto the grass. Then they started to cut away other parts of them, cutting away their flesh into pieces. They put the flesh in something that looked like skin. They even did that to the fawn, although there was little enough to be had from something that small. A part of him wanted to go out and charge the Men to hurt them for what they have done, but that would only mean he be dead along with Ronno and Marol. There was nothing he could do.

He had seen this before when he lived with Man. He knew they go back and throw the flesh on a fire and burn it; then eat the flesh. All the while Man would be having fun shouting, drinking, and eating the flesh. He could not look at it anymore. He waiting until he was sure they were busy cutting up poor Ronno and Marol and not watching around them before he slowly got up and walked away being careful not to make a sound. He backed away when he caught the scent of another deer in front of him. He looked and saw Gorro hiding behind the trees. He quietly moved over to him. Gorro seem fixed in place as if rooted to the ground like the trees. His face was a blank stare. Gorro was only paying attention to what was going on in front of him. Finally he saw that from his hiding place he too had seen everything that happened on the meadow.

“Gorro,” he whispered.

Gorro did not move or utter a sound. He moved up to him until he was right next to him. Gorro never heard him approach. He was stunned.

“Gorro,” he said and kicked the young male in the rear. That brought him out of it. He turned and looked at him with shock on his face.

“Stranger,” he squeaked. “Did you see what the Men did to Ronno and Marol?”

“Yes, now come with me before we are next,” he ordered him. He then nudged him again. This time Gorro moved with him away from the meadow. Gorro followed, but he made no attempt to pick his way quietly. He stepped on a few twigs and broke them. The sound was loud, but not loud enough to be heard far.

He turned quickly and hit Gorro with his front left leg. “Be quiet!” he tried to say in a whisper.

That seemed to shake him out of it. He started to pick his way around the ground making little noise. Once he could no longer hear anything from the meadow he stopped. He turned and looked angrily at Gorro.

“When you are near Man you cannot make a sound,” he told him. “That can get you just as dead as Ronno and Marol are now, along with anyone else near you.”

“They cut them up,” was all Gorro could say as if not believing what he saw.

Yes, Man does that,” he told him tersely. “Man will cut them up, take them back to a Man cave, then throw their flesh on a fire, and then eat it. That is what Man does. I have seen it many times.”

“My father told me you lived with Man when you were very young,” Gorro said trying now to be quieter. “Did you see that there?”

He realized the young male had not seen anything like this before. It was too much for him. It reminded him of Stabo when he was this young.  He looked down at Gorrro and glared at him with his eyes. “Yes I saw that there. Yes, I heard Man having fun as they ate the meat and drank. They were all very happy about the whole thing. That is what made me leave. How can anyone take pleasure in doing that, yet they do. You have to learn that the only way to stop them doing that to you or others close to you is to be careful around Man. You must not be seen. If Man can see you, Man can kill you. Then he will do to you exactly what he did to Ronno.”

Gorro backed away and then turned quickly he spat up a large piece of cud along with some foul smelling liquid.  He also lost control of his bowel for a moment. “I am sorry,” he said. “I do not know what came over me.”

He took a deep breath. “Do not feel bad. I was the same way the first time I saw what you just saw. Now let us go back to your parents and the others. They most likely think we are dead.”

“Does what the Men did to Ronno and Marol not bother you?” Gorro asked.

For a second he was angry to be asked such a question. He then reminded himself Gorro was young and had not learned yet. “Yes it does,” he said calmly, “But I have learned to live with it. As have your mother and father. You will learn to live with it too. All deer learn to live with it and get wiser, or they end up like Ronno.”

“But I never smelled Man,” Gorro said.

“Nor did I or your father,” he answered. “Man can sometime approach without being seen, heard, or smelled. That is why you never stand in the open during daylight, because you never know when Man is around. The only reason it is not one of us out there in the meadow being cut up right now is that we walked back near the thicket before the greater light came up. Man could not see us clearly. Ronno was slower and was seen. Now he, Marol and their fawn are dead. You must learn from this Gorro. You must understand this because someday you will be leader around here and the other deer will look to you to tell them when it is safe to feed and when it is not. It will be up to you to see they are safe just like your father does. What you have seen is a hard lesson, but it is a lesson all herd leaders must learn. It is just as important as knowing how to fight and knowing how to lead. Your father will teach you this and you must learn because someday it will be you doing this.”

Gorro looked to him almost in shock. He could see it was only now clear to him what it meant to be leader.  He took a few deep breaths and the nodded his head. “I understand, I think. I am sorry I behaved the way I did.”

“There is nothing to forgive, because you did not know,” he said now trying to sound friendly. “You are young and you must learn as I did from Man, as you father learned from his father, and you will learn from your father. One day you will teach it to your son and he will follow you after you are gone.”

He walked with Gorro back to the small meadow. He let the young deer ponder what he had seen and what he had said. He hoped he got his message across. They were walking when a familiar and terrible scent crossed his nose. A smell of waste and dirt.

"What is that smell?" Gorro asked.

"It is the smell of blood and it is coming from nearby," he said using his nose to determine where the smell was coming from. He hoped it was no one he knew.

"Another deer was hit," Gorro said.

"Come with me," he told Gorro. "Time for another lesson."

He followed the scent in the air. It was coming from where Bambi and Gorro practiced fighting the other day. It took a while, but as he expected, he found a large red streak on the grass. He leaned over and smelled it. Fortunately, it did not smell like someone he knew.

"That is blood," he motioned with his heard toward the red streak. "It is the one thing you never want to see. It means a deer has been hit. From the smell and the size of this smear, I am afraid this deer is either dead, or will be dead soon."

Gorro looked horrified again. "You must see this," he told him. "It is time your understand about Man."

Gorro seemed reluctant to follow. He had no time for his indecision. He knew that Man might be tracking this deer to cut them up like Marol and Ronno. He needed to show Gorro this. 

"Come with me," he barked an order like a herd leader.

Although he hesitated, Gorro followed. The found another red streak, then another. Finally he could see the body of a young male lying on the ground. He looked about as old as Gorro. The body was still. He walked over and looked at the body. In the flank above the rear shoulder was a large open hole oozing out blood. He leaned over and felt the head of the down deer. The male was already dead.

"It is Halis," the son of Neris," Gorro said looking at the body in horror. We played together as fawns."

"Well Halis is dead," he told Gorro. 

"Look at his face," Gorro said and turned quickly away.

He looked at the deer face. The eyes were still open. They had a look of fear and disbelief on them. There was nothing more for them to do.

He stood up and went over to Gorro. "I am sorry you had to see that, but that is what happens to deer that are hit by Man's killing sticks. This is why we must always be careful around Man.  

"Gorro looked back at the dead deer and looked up to him. "Why does Man do this?" he asked almost in tears.

 What could he tell him? There was nothing but the truth."Because Man enjoys doing that to deer," he said as calmly as he could. "A horse told me one time it is because we deer do not serve  Man, so Man feels fine in killing us. In fact Man finds pleasure in killing us and eating our bodies."

"If this is what Man does to us, I can understand why father acts the way he does," Gorro said voice still choking. "Who wants to die like that?"

"No deer should die like that," he answered. "Yet it happens all the time. The only way to prevent  it from happening to us and those close to us is to be very careful. These things your father is teaching you are not just for fun. It is meant to keep this from happening to you. More important, it is to keep this from happening to all the deer in the herd. This is why your father came back here. To prevent this from happening to all the other deer."

"Crash." he heard in the distance. "Something was moving though the forest with heavy feet.

"We need to go quickly," he told Gorro. "That may be Man looking for the deer he killed. Like us he is following the blood trail. If he finds us here, the same thing will happen to us. At least he doesn't have dogs. "

"Ahhh ta tae," he heard in the distance. It was Man talk.

"It is Man," he said showing some fear himself. "We have to go. Do not run and follow me and be quiet."

With that they moved off at a trot into the thick trees. Gorro moved almost as quietly as he did. They moved quickly into the deeper forest. He kept listening. The Man noises got fainter and fainter. It did not sound like they were after them. He kept on until he was sure there was no Man sound behind him. Of course by now he was lost in the forest.

"Do you know where we are?" he whispered to Gorro.

"Yes," Gorro said. "I do not hear anything behind us. Do you think it is safe to go back to the clearing?"

"I think so. I cannot smell or hear anything of Man. That usually means it is safe to return to your home."

 "Follow me," Gorro said and they walked lightly off in the direction of home.

As they approached the small clearing their scent carried into the opening. Bambi, Faline, Claris and Carie all ran out to meet them.

“You are safe,” Faline said with relief licking Gorro. When neither of you came back we were afraid you had been hit.

“We are fine, Mother,” Gorro said his voice still sounding tense. “Ronno, Marol and their fawn are dead. Halis was also hit by Man and we found his body. Excuse me for a while.”

With that Gorro walked away from them. Both Faline and Bambi looked at each other. They were all stunned. They had all known Ronno and Marol for many seasons, now they were gone just like that. After a few seconds Faline looked toward Gorro walking away and turned to follow him.

“No,” he told them and then started to explain exactly what both of them had seen and his talk with Gorro on their way back. He also described finding Halis. Carie almost looked like she would be sick as Gorro was when he told them the details.

“I am sorry, that I overstepped my bounds with Gorro,” he told Bambi. “However he saw some terrible things today and I wanted to make sure he learned the lesson while it was fresh in his mind. I know you should have told him that, but you were not there.”

Bambi looked at him with a mixture of sympathy and disgust. “Yes, I wish I had been there, but you know this lesson as well or better than I do. I am thankful it was you. Do not feel badly. I am sure Gorro will get over this.”

“Man really does that to us?” Carie asked not believing it.

“Yes,” he said.

‘And you saw all of this before?” she asked again. She still looked she really didn’t believe it.

All he could do is nod his head. It was then Claris stepped forward and stood next to him. She nuzzled him lightly in understanding. “Stranger, I think that you need to tell Carie the story of your early life like you told me, Bambi and the others” Claris told him. “She needs to know if she is going to stay with us.”

Claris was right he knew. He should have done this earlier. “You are correct,” he told her and licked the side of her face. He then turned and faced Carie and spoke in a low tone. “My early life was completely different from any other deer I know. It has given me the knowledge on how best to live around Man. It has also forced me to see things I wish I had not, but now that is not important. Things are what they are. Before you decide if you want to stay with me, you must know this. Carie, come with me, and I will tell you my story.”

Ate walked up and looked at him. “I too want to hear your story as does as Clara,” she said eyeing him carefully.

“As does Gorro,” Bambi said taking a deep breath. Faline looked at him harshly. “If he is to be leader he must know,” he told her. “I learned much when Stranger told it to me.”

The last thing he wanted was to repeat his life story to a group of deer. It was too personally painful, and brought back memories he just as soon forget,  yet he could see the choice was being made for him. He looked around and accepted the inevitable. “All of you eat and drink and do anything else you must. This will be a long story. I will be here when the greater light is overhead and I will tell you the story. None of you will like it; of that I am sure.”

He turned and walked away from the others. He never liked doing this, but at least those who heard it understood him better. However every time he told it, it always left him empty inside. He went into the forest, found a small stream and drank and ate his fill and then emptied his body, much like he was about to empty himself. He came back and lay down in the small meadow. All the others were there. He took a deep breath and talked until the greater light set and the lesser light had risen.

When he was done and he finished answering what few question that were asked, he lay as if spent by some great physical effort. Both Clara and Gorro looked more horrified at his tale, got up and moved away from him. Both Bambi and Faline came over and rubbed the back of his neck.

”Thank you again, my Friend,” Bambi told him.

Ate walked over next. She looked at him her eyes full of pity that he hated. “I thought I had a bad time of it as a fawn,” she said in a low voice and walked away.

Carie walked over to him and looked down at him. Her eyes were full of sorrow rather than pity. “Thank you, Stranger for telling me this,” she said. “I think I now understand you better.” With that she lay down at his side and moved in close so her body fully lay against his. Claris did the same on his other side. It felt wonderful, and he should have been happy, but all he felt was emptiness in his body every time he told his story. He hoped it was worth it to all of them.

 

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