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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10. New Tricks and Old

 

Man hunted with the large dogs for two more days and then left them in peace. After the first day there were no more deer lost to these hunters. He knew soon the others would come and the hunting would start again. The herd spent this time in getting as much nourishment off the meadow as possible before the rigors of The Season, the hunts that would follow, and the winter  came upon them. Over the next few days he managed to scrap the velvet off his antlers. Both Claris and Carie told him he had a fine rack. Balo did the same, and his rack too was large and would get larger next year. Following that both Stena and Balo came to his clearing. He noted Delene was not with them

"Both Balo and I were thinking," Stena said.  "We still do not agree that that you need more children to take care of the herd, but we better understand your reasons. If you wish to have more children with Carie, then we will accept that."

"The only thing we ask," Balo went on. "Is that any children you have will be taught the same as any children we may have."

He looked at Claris and Carie before he answered. While none of them were completely happy with what Balo and Stena said, the coldness they showed to Carie was gone.

"I am sure there will be no problems with that," Claris said. Her voice still had a touch of hurt in it.

Carie stood there her mouth tightly shut. She said nothing. Instead she just nodded her head in agreement. She was still visibly angry on the inside.

He smiled and decided to take what he was offered. "The whole point of what I said depends on teaching all of our children," he told all of them. "When the time comes the herd will decided who will lead them anyway." He then asked them, "Where is Delene?"

Stena looked sadden. "Our daughter has decided she want to spend her time with the other fawns from this season. She no longer sleeps with us in our thicket."

"Just like another fawn I remember," he said.

"Yes, but I had someone," Stena said looking at Balo. "Delene has shown no interest in any male.

They all smiled at that and parted as a family again.

Soon afterwards he again started the feel the building up inside himself of the pressure of The Season. He could clearly smell the approaching Season in the scent his daughter gave off. It was the powerful scent of a breeding doe. Carie did the same, but poor Claris gave off no scent of a breeding doe. She told him inside she felt nothing of The Season. He was finally forced to admit to himself that Claris was correct and she would never have any more fawns. This saddened him greatly, but not nearly as much as it hurt Claris. Even Stena was kind around her mother because it was so obvious to all of them just how much she hurt on the inside.

The only other thing of note that occurred was when Delso a three year old herd male started sniffing around Stena. This infuriated Balo. When Balo told him to leave, Delso stayed and lowed his head to challenge. Balo charged him and drove the male back. The male then came again and Balo swung his rear legs around and took the legs out from under Delso knocking him on his face. A second charge by Balo drove the other deer off with little trouble and not much damage to either. No deer even tried to challenge him for either Carie or for the herd.

During this time he heard nothing from Stabo and the others in the Man path forest. Again he felt that if anything was wrong, he would have heard from either Veron or Stabo. Soon both Balo and he started to avoid each other due to the approach of The Season. It was better if males stayed away from each other at this time. It was Claris he felt sorry for. No one would be with her during this time.  He thought about that problem and thought he found a solution.

He called the herd together just before the full effect of The Season started. He told the fawn to go live in the clearing until The Season was over. Two years ago he put Stena and Balo in charge of them. Last year Men did not come to their forest so it was not necessary to send the fawns away. This year he felt Man would be back so he put Claris in charge of this year's fawns. That would give her something to do. In that way she felt useful.

As soon the scents of The Season were strong enough in the forest so there was fighting on the meadow and in the forest, he called the herd together. He told the fawns to go with Claris and told everyone to be on the lookout for Man who was sure to come. The herd broke up and he took Carie into deep woods by the old oak of Oswell the Owl and found a bedding place to their liking. He let Carie arrange it the way she wanted.  He then followed her around sniffing at her tale waiting for her scent to change. On the second day, her scent change and as before with Claris, he coupled with her several times over two days. After that, the heat of the Season and the urges he felt inside of himself, passed.

As before, the next day he heard the banging noises from the Man cave again. These were loud and sounded like there were many Men present. He knew what that meant. The hunts would soon begin again. Their time of trouble had arrived.

“We must go back to the watching place,” he told Carie. “Man has returned.”

“I understand,” she said softly. She had enjoyed their time together. She was now a bred doe that would carry his mark. He only hoped in the spring he would get a healthy fawn. As soon as the greater light vanished they left their bedding area and traveled quietly toward their watching place. He was somewhat surprised to see Balo and Stena already there.”

“You heard them too?” he asked Balo.

“Who could not have heard them,” Balo said still looking at the many bright lights and fires. "There are many this time, more than before.”

He looked over the meadow and had to agree. “Yes, they have build more of the smaller Man caves near the edge of the meadow,” he said looking over the view. "The caves are still dark so the Men with the killing sticks have not yet arrived. We have time to make a plan for the herd." Then he looked at Balo. “Let us say you are herd leader now, Balo, what would you tell the herd to do?”

Balo looked surprised at being asked and looked closely at the Man caves for a while. He could see Balo was lost in thought and so he did not disturb him. Finally Balo turned and told him calmly, “There are many Men. I think they will try and get Men into the forest to try and chase deer into the meadow where the Men with the killing sticks will kill the deer.”

“That is most likely true,” he answered. “So how do we stop this?”

“We take the herd where Man cannot get behind them to chase them,” he said sounding somewhat surer of himself.

“You are again correct,” he told Balo. “Now for the important question; where do we take the herd?”

“Balo looked around and stood still for a second. “I know you want me to say take them back up the hill where we took them before, but I am thinking no.”

“Interesting,” he said, “Why not?”

Balo was quicker this time. “You told me during sparing it is unwise to so the same thing time after time. The enemy may learn from you and then defeat you. Man may learn we are taking the deer up the hill near where the trees end.”

“Yes,” he said. He liked where this was going.

“If we take the herd to the same place Man may learn and try to kill us there. So we take the herd someplace else.”

“Good,” he said. “Now where do we take them?”

Balo looked stumped but then Stena unexpectedly jumped in. “What about the hill on the other side of the stream from where we took the herd last time. You can easily get up the hill from the stream, but it is rocky and steep to climb up that hill from the meadow.”

“He looked at Balo. Stena was right. It was an answer he never thought about. His plan was to take the herd to the hill they met Geno. Stena’s idea was much better and closer.

“Balo kissed Stena and she nuzzled him. “Come then,” he told them, “We must hurry back.

With that all four went back to the small clearing. As soon as they got there, he bellowed loudly for the herd to come. Balo also called them. They then waited. In ones and twos they came in. Maybe over half the herd showed up. The others were still probably still feeling The Season. As soon as they all got there he told them.

“This time we do things differently just in case Man is learning where we go. When we get to the edge of the forest following this stream, we turn right and not left. We go up that hill to hide. It is easy to climb that hill from the stream and hard to climb up from the meadow. Remember we cannot let Man get behind us and chase us. If any deer runs into the meadow, they will be killed by Man. Even if Man does chase you, run into the forest, not the meadow.”

The ones that were there seem to understand, there were no objections. It had worked before, why now not they felt. He only hoped they were right.

"Man will start hunting soon," he told them. "As soon as I am sure the hunt will start, I will call to the herd again. When you hear my call, go up the hill to the right of the stream as it leaves our forest. "

There were no questions. Even Duro and Sinno remained quiet for once.

"All of you listen for my call," he repeated and then left. The gathering was over.

As they were leaving he turned to Balo. "We need to watch from the viewing place every night now."

"I understand, and will see you there after dark," he said and walked off with Stena.

By now Claris came back and told him all the fawns were safe including Delene. Although a few male fawn had approached her, she was simply not interested. Soon, the fawns were either back with their mothers, or together in their group again.

The next day there was even more banging noise from the Man cave. No one got any sleep that day. He was also hearing some shouting. That meant even more Men had come to the meadow.

"I am going to the viewing area tonight alone. We may have to move fast if Man comes. You two wait here and listen for my call. Then go to the top of the hill. I will join you there."

"I will go," Claris said. Carie just nodded her agreement.

Now he did not have to worry about them.

That night Balo and him rested in their viewing place lying down. Again many Men were there, some carrying killing sticks. Thankfully, there were no dogs around. Just before the rising of the greater light. He saw many glowing eyes of the Man machines coming down the Man path. Now he knew the hunt would be on for today. 

He turned to Balo who was getting up like he was. "Run to the bottom of the hill and call the herd. I will call  from here. Go now quickly."

Balo ran off toward the hill. He went back into the thicker part of the forest so there was no chance he be seen.  He took a deep breath and bellowed out his call."

"GOOOOOOOO," he called out. He got his breath back and repeated the call. He then started back toward his clearing as fast as he could travel. As he got there, he saw no one. Both Claris and Carie had left. He ran toward where Stena and Balo had their thicket and also found that empty. He kept running up the stream until he reach near the end of his forest. He then went to his right and up that hill until he got to the top. There he found the herd settling in.

"Everyone lay down and hide" he called out. "Do not get chased onto the meadow. Man is there with many killing sticks."

He went forward and looked for Claris and Carie. The trees were fewer at the top of this hill so he spread the herd out more. He found both Claris and Carie in the middle hidden behind some bushes. Balo, Stena and Delene went to the far end. Then they all lay down and waited.

More deer joined them until the greater light rose. Right after the first light appeared he could hear Man trampling through the forest. They made no attempt to be quiet. They went up almost to the top of the hill they had hid at before and started making loud noises. Man went further up the  hill this time. Listening to Stena had been the right decision. None of them came up the hill they were on.

“HEYYAAAHEYY,” they shouted over and over. There was also a banging noise like they were hitting something. They were trying to drive them down onto the meadow. Claris and he were fine and so were the older deer. The newer deer and the fawns were scared. Carie look frighten.

"They are not here," he told her."As long as they do not come up the hill, we are safe.

"I never heard Man before," she said shaking. "It is terrible."

"I know," he told her. "Man wants to scare us to run away and onto the meadow. There they would kill any deer that they chased. Stay calm and we will be alright."

Carie said nothing. He moved in close to lie against her side to comfort her.

He heard the noise go down the hill. At first they were slow, and then they picked up speed. They went down to the bottom of the hill. Then he heard it.

“BAMMMMMM, BAMMMMMM,” he heard from the meadow. Someone had not listened to them and was now likely dead.  

Then there was quiet for a while. He heard shouting from the meadow. Then after the greater light was over head, he heard the same noises on the other hill. Again he heard Man walking down that hill. He only hope the bear went to the other forest. Then from the meadow:

"BAMMMMMM, BAMMMMMM, BAMMMMMM," they all heard. Man was shooting something. No deer lived on that side of the meadow because of the bear. Whatever Man killed was most likely not a deer. Again there was more Man shouting for the meadow and that was all.

There was quiet for the rest of the day. By then the greater light had nearly set and it was getting dark. Men went back to their caves to rest and celebrate their killing. There was loud shouting, and the smell of dead meat burning until the lesser light was well overhead.

The herd ate mostly in the open area beyond the hill. Nothing was there to bother them. Later on they all went to the stream and drank. It was then he heard a noise. He looked up and saw a large male running out of the small clearing toward them. It was Duro,"

“I found you,” he said with relief. “I went to the place we hid before and found no one.”

He must have listened poorly “We went someplace new as I told you before. I will show you,” he told him. “What of the others?”

By now Balo, Stena and Delene had joined them.

“I do not know,” Duro said panting. ”I was with Nual a young doe. We had just bred when the noise started. I remembered what you said about running into the meadow, so I tried to run into the forest. Nual was behind me, but then we got separated. Man was chasing us. I do not know what happened to her. There were other deer in the forest, because I could hear them. What happened to them, I also do not know.”

“Some were killed,” Stena said. “I can smell them burning.”

“They must have killed a skunk too,” Duro said. “I smelled one near Bambi’s old cave.”

“What!” Balo said sharply.

“Yes, by Bambi’s old cave, I could smell a skunk,” Duro repeated.

“That is how they killed my Mother, Jolo and Gerta,” Balo said coldly. “Would they do that again?”

He could see the anger building inside Balo, who turned and looked at them. “They may be the ones that killed my mother. They must want to kill the rest of us and want to use the same trick again. Very well, I will give it to them.”

Balo started to walk off. Stena yelled "No!" and he moved to block his path. “Balo, no,” he told him. "Nothing can be done about your Mother, Jolo and Gerta. If you go there, you will die too.”

“Bambi and Faline wanted to kill them, I remember,” the young male said gritting his teeth. There was red in his eyes.

“Yes, and they came to their senses like I want you to,” he said standing still to block Balo. “You cannot kill Man. Even if you succeed in killing one of them, the rest will kill you without mercy. I want you to think of Stena and Delene.”

“I am,” he said to his face. “I am thinking they will never be safe as long as those Men are here.”

“And if you kill them, more Men will come next season,” he told him and pushed him back. “Nothing will change except that you too will be dead and more blood will soak into the ground.”

“So I am to just going to let them kill us?” Balo said pushing him away.

“No, we know their trick; we will be ready for it. We will avoid it and so go on living,” he explained calmly.

“Until Man comes up with a new trick and kills us anyway,” Balo growled.

“Yes, but that may happen in the future, if you go now, it is certain you will die today. You have a family and you have the herd. They depend on you and me. If you are dead, you can help no one. Please stay here.”

“By now Stena and come forward and also stood in front of Balo. “Please,” she pleaded. “Stay with me. I need you and so do Delene and the fawn I may be carrying now. Please do not die like this.”

That finally seemed to get to Balo who stopped shoving him. He looked once toward the old clearing. “Mother,” was all he called out and then turned and walked away back up the hill. Stena and Delene followed.

Claris and Carie stepped in close to him. “I felt his pain,” he said starting to choke up himself. He turned to face the two doe. “You know I do not completely disagree at what he was going to do. Man needs to understand what he does to us. I just wish I knew how to do it.”

He then looked over at the herd that was looking at him for direction and safety. Yes that was his main duty. That duty came before his feelings, himself, his mates, even his children. They needed direction.

“Let us go back up the hill,” he said loudly enough for all to hear.

They spent the next day in the same place. Man went up the hill Bambi and him had seen Geno on. Man did not come up this hill. He hoped the steepness would keep Man away from them. After that he heard sounds coming from the Man path forest.

"BAMMMMM, BAMMMMMM," they heard in the distance. They all knew it was from the Man path forest. He could only hope Veron and Stabo took the herd deeper into the forest. There was even greater shouting that night.

In the morning they heard nothing. Everyone stayed on the hill, but there were no sounds of Man coming from the forest. That night he decided he go to the viewing place only with Balo. They both crept down the hill quietly after dark and by the time the lesser light had risen they were at the viewing spot. The Man caves were still there, but they were dark.

The next day he heard more pounding from the meadow. It was not the  noise he heard when Man hunted . This was the noise he heard from Man when he made things. That night they all went to look and only the one Man cave was on the meadow. Man was gone.

Once he was sure things were back to normal he turned to Balo. "I am going to go to the Man path forest to see Varon and Stabo and see if their herd is alright. I need you two to look after this herd while I am gone. I will be back in two risings."

"I will," Balo answered. Stena just nodded.

"I am going with you," Claris said. "I want to see Stabo."

Since Claris was not carrying a fawn, he agreed and the both moved around their side of the meadow and then just as the lesser light was setting, they ran into the Man path forest. He lead Claris into the forest and into the clearing he had found deer before. There were no deer there. From their scents, there were no deer there recently.

"They might have gone deeper into the forest," he told Claris.

Both he and Claris went to all the places he knew the herd gathered including the places he knew Stabo and Gena bedded down in.  He could smell their scents, but saw no sign of any deer.

"They are not here," Claris said. "Do we wait for them, or go deeper into the forest?"

He looked at the increasing light in the sky. "Let us sleep here for the day. We will see what happens tonight."

He and Claris found a soft spot of grass and lay down next to each other. She still felt warm next to him and he still felt attracted to her. She also rubbed his neck and then went to sleep next to him.

That night they cautiously started to move deeper in the forest. They went  slowly and carefully into the forest using deer trails. Scents of deer were all around them. The wind blew from his meadow so he could not smell anything ahead of them, but anyone ahead of them could easily smell them. That made him very uneasy. He could see light from the lesser light overhead when he heard a familiar voice call out.

"Mother," Stabo's voice called out. Both of them ran over and found Stabo, Gena, Young Claris, and Koren together. Stabo went up and nuzzled his mother. Claris beamed and did the same in return. He greeted the others.

 She had not seen Young Claris before. He looked at both of them together and saw Young Claris was almost as big as Claris. He also noticed she had no male with her. She also did not have the scent of a bred doe, like Gena did.

"We came over to see how you did with the hunt," he said.

"We did fine," Stabo told him. "Man came and we all fled deep into the forest. Veron is gathering the herd. I went ahead  to make sure there was no trace of Man around.

"We heard the killing sticks come from here," Claris said.

"We all herd the killing sticks here and in your forest. I do not know what Man was trying to kill. We lost no one from the herd," Stabo told them.

"We lost only a few," he said. "Mostly those who were killed did not hide with the rest of the herd and got chased by Man."

With that they settled down and spent the rest of the day with each other enjoying the fact that they were all still alive and still a family. There was little more he could ask for.

 

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