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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Early the next evening he got up alone. He decided to go look around the lake. On the lake were ducks and other birds that lived near water. He could see many were making nests. For many birds, this was their Season and they went about the business of making their children. He walked along the lake inside the trees. He was feeling better; his back did not bother him nearly as much. In a few days he would be ready to go back. He ate near the lake. Around him he smelled animals familiar to him, but no trace of Man. At least there was no Man cave in this forest. There were other animals he did not know. There were long furry animals that lived in the water with long flat tales.  There were also many more fish in this lake than in the other. He saw large birds swooping down and catching them and taking them back to their nests no doubt to feed a hungry brood.

He also saw other deer feeding by the lake. They were fully in the open. Most were doe, no doubt eating as much as possible to make milk for their new fawns. He saw some males including Ronno and Marol and their fawn. This time they did not have their friends with them. For now he decided to let them be. That kind of trouble he did not need. He walked away and toward the deeper woods. As he did he could hear grunting and shuffling. It sounded like two deer fighting. At this time of year fighting over what? He approached with the wind in his face as quietly as he could. He could see two deer and recognized them at one. It was Bambi and Gorro. Gorro was charging against his father, and his father was pushing back at him. Gorro was big, and powerful, but he could see he was off balance. He did not keep his rear legs far enough apart to support himself properly. He also did not have full strength in his rear legs. He approached until he was in clear view.

“Very good,” he said loudly. “Can I make a suggestion?”

Both males stopped and looked at him. Neither had heard him approach. At least he was not losing his abilities. “How are you feeling this morning?” Bambi asked him.

“Better,” he said. “My back is still sore, but I am feeling fine.”

“Bambi walked over and rubbed his forehead with his sensitive nose. “The fever is almost gone.”

He smiled and walked over to the two sweating males. “Yes, thank you both again for the help. Perhaps now I can help you if you do not mind.”

“Go ahead” Bambi said. “Just be careful you do not open your wounds again.”

He went over and locked his shoulder against Bambi. “Gorro stand to the side please and watch my rear feet.” He then turned back to Bambi, “Push lightly, my friend.”

He deliberately put his feet close together and let Bambi push at him. He was pushed back easily. ”You have no support from your rear legs,” he told Gorro. "You have no support to steady yourself. Now watch me.” He put his legs father apart and let Bambi push him again. It was much harder to move him.

"Keep your legs apart like this and use your rear leg muscles more, but be careful because if you keep your legs too far apart. . .” He deliberately put his legs too far apart and this time Bambi dropped his head and got underneath him. He was easily pushed aside.

“The deer can get under you and push you away,” he went on. “It takes practice and time to learn. In another season it will be hard to move you. In two seasons no one will be able to move you.” 

Gorro nodded and stood and put his rear legs apart the correct distance. “Like that,” he asked.

“Exactly,” he told him. "Now when your father pushes you back use your rear legs and your front legs at the same time while you shift your weight forward."

Again Bambi locked Gorro at the shoulder and pushed him back. Gorro push from all four legs and flung himself forward. He still could not push his father back, but he kept Bambi from pushing him back farther. 

“Thank you, Stranger,” Gorro said with a smile. “I hope you can teach me some of your tricks my Father told me so much about.”

“As soon as I heal more,” he said.

With that he stood back and watched the lesson go on. The lessons had two purposes: one, to teach Gorro how to fight off other deer; second, to build his strength. He could already see he was big for a yearling. With the other friends of Ronno running about, he might need his skills earlier. In two seasons he might be bigger than his father or him. After a while it was clear both of the deer were tired, but Gorro seemed ready for more.

“He is getting stronger,” Bambi said walking over to him.

"It is not just about strength as we both know,” he said. “Raw strength without the thinking how to use it is useless. You will be teaching him soon how to be a herd leader.”

Bambi nodded and then turned to Gorro. “Gorro see if your mother wants any help.”

Gorro looked disappointed at not being included in the conversation but did as his father asked. When he was well away Bambi turned to look at him. “Like Claris, Faline does not like it when I talk this way, but Gorro will be the one to follow me after I am gone.”

“I guessed as much. He is strong, he seems smart, and he is learning,” he said as they walked into the deeper forest.

“I will be teaching him more this season, in two seasons he will be ready. By then I will be ready to give the herd to him. I rather give it to someone I trust than to be beaten by another deer like Ronno when I am old.”

“I have not seen any deer in this forest that can beat you,” he said.

Bambi shook his  head no. “There are a few young males who like to try it as you have seen. Right now they do not have the strength to do it. Even if they had the strength, they do not have the knowledge. They never will have the knowledge. They think all they need is heavy muscles and a broad rack to lead a herd. It would be worse than having Ronno in charge.”

That brought up an interesting point. “How bad were things when you got here?”

Bambi stopped and  let his head drop as if recalling a painful memory. “Awful, the deer were just running about with no direction. A lot of them were killed by Man for stupid things like walking into the open during daylight. Ronno did not know how to get the herd to avoid Man. Not like you or I did. After I teach Gorro, he will know.” Bambi then stopped looked at him closely. “What about you and your forest?”

He took a deep breath. “Together Stena and Balo could lead the herd. They are smart, especially Stena. Balo mostly does what she tells him, but he has a temper. When I told him Stabo would come help out if I did not come back, he got angry. He argued with me and I had to put him in his place. He is big, but not that big. He needs time to grow and gain experience. Stabo will help out, but Stabo has no desire to be a herd leader. He rather stay in the Man path forest with Veron. Together they seem to be doing very well.”

“At least my second son, turned out better than my first,” Bambi uttered. “Has anyone seen anything of Geno?”

“No, and it can stay that way,” he spat out.

It was then he heard a small twig break in the distance along the path he took to get here from the meadow. He looked at Bambi, the wind was still blowing toward them. Both Bambi and him immediately got behind some trees.

"It does not sound like Man, it is too quiet," he told Bambi.

"Yes, but I am still glad I sent Gorro away," Bambi told him quietly.

Together they watched and shortly two male deer walked into the opening in the forest they were in. One deer was Ronno, the other he did not know. Both were together. They looked around the opening as if searching for them. When they turned their backs  to them, Bambi stepped out of the trees quietly.

"Greetings Ronno," Bambi said formally before turning to the other deer. "Greeting Neris," he repeated.

Both deer stopped and turned. Neither had heard the big deer move. "Greeting, Bambi," Ronno and then took a sniff of the air. "Is Stranger with you?"

He stepped out from behind the trees. He heard no one else approach. "Greetings, Ronno and Neris." he said formally. "Can I help you?"

He studied closely the other deer. He was not as big as Ronno, but large enough and he looked strong enough to be a senior male. His coat was a light brown and his rack look like it be of respectable size, but not large. He could see some scars on him from fighting so he assumed he had some skill. Still, even hurting,  he felt he could take him if it was a fight they wanted, but somehow he did not think so. Neither deer was moving aggressively.

"I was coming to see you," Ronno told him. "I wanted to apologize for the behavior of Tarro last night. I met Neris on my way to you and he told me something I think the herd leader needs to hear."

"Thank you," he said to Ronno. "However you do not need to apologize to me for anything. You did not treat me rudely, Tarro and the others did. I hold nothing against you, Marol, or your fawn."

Ronno looked relieved and bowed slightly. "Thank you, Stranger." He then looked at Neris and Bambi. "I should explain something to both Bambi and Stranger. I have not gone into this before because until now it was not important, and because no one else was involved." He then stopped to collect his thoughts for a moment. "When the herd decided to run Geno, Krono and Roto out of the forest, I had help from many other senior males: Neris, Tarro, Latos, Kellis, Errin, Arges, Frano, and Morro all decided to help me. We told Geno and the others we wanted them to leave. They refused and laughed at us so we attacked. The fight was bitter and Arges and Frano were killed and Morro was so badly hurt he died shortly afterwards. I became herd leader and as you know, I did not do a good job. When I asked the herd if they wanted Bambi back as herd leader, almost all said yes. Tarro, Latos, Kellis and Errin said no. They did not want you. They told me if I did not want to be herd leader, then Tarro would be herd leader. The rest of the herd said no and Tarro was forced to back down."

"Bambi walked up to Ronno. "Thank you for telling me this, but others already told me about Tarro."

Neris stepped forward and went on in a formal tone. "Tarro came to me after he met Stranger and asked me if I would be interested in either running you out, or killing you. Tarro said he should be herd leader here and not you. I told him no. I like the way you lead the herd. Tarro then threatened me and said after you were gone he would run me out or kill me. I then told him I did not think he could beat you, Bambi, and after what I have heard from Ronno, I told him I did not think he could beat Stranger. Tarro said that you told him you would be leaving in a little while to go back to your forest. He then laughed and walked away."

Bambi looked at him. He had seen all four deer. He shook his head no. He did not think the four of them could take him. They might be able to take Bambi. Gorro would be of no help in that fight, he was still too young.

"Thank you," Bambi said bowing his head in appreciation. "I will keep this in mind. What has brought this on. I have never heard of this before."

"Tarro and the others always listened to me," Ronno said, "Because of my age, strength and experience. The four of them were also too young to think they could be herd leaders. I told them Bambi would be the best leader and until now they have listened to me. Now that I am showing my age, they do not listen any more. I am sorry, I can no longer guide them."

"I understand," Bambi said and rubbed Ronno along the side of the neck. "Thank you for telling us this."

"Yes, thank you," he told them with a bow of his head. "I would go back another way so no one will see you were with us."

"We will do that," Ronno said and the two deer left the opening and walked toward the hill through the forest.

Once they were gone and he could not smell them anymore he talked to Bambi in a low voice. "What are you going to do?"

"I am not too afraid of the four of them, but I will have to do something," he said.

"I would do it while I am here," he said."Let us go back to the clearing, I would not mention this to the doe or Gorro."

"I agree," Bambi said.

They walked about half way to the clearing and they head a distant call.

“COOOOMMMMEEEEE,” they heard in the distance.

“Gorro,” Bambi called and started running toward where the sound had been. He ran after Bambi as fast as he could, but tightness in his back slowed him down.  He ran through the trees until he was back again at the thicket Bambi and Faline lived in. Both father and son were looking off into the distance toward the large hill. From behind it he could see a column of smoke.

“Is that Man?” Gorro asked.

“Yes,” both he and Bambi said together. They both looked at each other.”It is early for Man, spring has barely started,” he said out loud.

“I saw it and did not know what to do so I called you,” Gorro said.

“You did the right thing, but never call anyone if Man is around,” Bambi told him. “It can lead Man to us.” Bambi looked around. They were alone. “Where is your mother and Eta?”

“When I called you, I told mother to take Eta and go into the forest. Mother said she go to the small meadow,” Gorro said looking around uneasily.

“Good,” Bambi said, “It safer there. It is also where Claris and her mother live.”

He noticed two deer were still on the meadow. He barked a warning to them. They understood and fled. He looked at Gorro. "Never be on the meadow when Man is around."

“Let us go to the small meadow,” Bambi suggested. Just follow me."

He looked around at the now clear meadow. It seemed safe now.

 Bambi lead the two of them back into the deeper forest.  As they walked on the trees got taller and closer together. After they got away from the lake there were fewer and fewer burnt trees.  It looked like the fire did not burn here as much as near the lake. There was little undergrowth between the trees which were mostly tall oak. The ground was almost completely shaded. Bambi led them on a dark deer path until he saw light in front of him. Through it he saw a small clearing about the size of the one back in his forest. It was sun lit from an opening in the tops of the trees. Near the clearing he saw other deer. In the woods around the clearing were Faline and little Eta. Next to her were Claris and Ate and near to them stood two doe he did not know. He could tell the two doe he did not know were related, a mother and an older daughter. The mother looked nice, but the daughter was sleek like Faline and looked rather attractive. They all walked up to them.

“Man is back?” Claris asked looking worried.

“Yes,” Bambi said sharply. “I think for now we should stay here.”

“I agree,” Gorro added.

He just nodded then he noticed the doe looking at each other. There were nods and motions that they had been discussing something. There was obviously something going on between them. They way the doe looked at him with side glances he knew it was about him. Finally Faline nodded and spoke to Bambi and Gorro.

“Bambi, Gorro,” she said politely in that smooth voice of hers. “Could I ask both of you to leave for awhile? We have something we like to discuss with Stranger. We need to do this alone for now.”

Bambi looked at him wondering what was going on. He shrugged back because he didn’t have any idea what was happening. Bambi motioned to Gorro to follow him and they both walked off into the forest.

“I think we should all lie down for a while,” Ate said with a grin on her face.

He lay down and noted the two doe he did not know lay directly in front of him. Claris and Ate lay to his right, and Faline and young Eta to his left. He got the feeling he was being surrounded for a reason. He did notice the younger doe in front seemed to be studying him intently.

“Very well,” he said warily. “Now what is this all about?"

Ate spoke up for the group. “First the older doe in front of you is Cara my eldest daughter. Next to her is her second born, Carie.”

“I am pleased to meet you both,” he said politely.

“Stranger,” Ate went on. “I am too old to speak any way except plainly, so I am going to talk to you like I hope your mother or your closest friends would do. I do not mean to insult you here.”

She stopped and looked at him. He was now really starting to feel that something was up here and he was not sure he liked it. They were obviously expecting an answer by him. All he did was bow his head and answer in a formal voice. “By all means let us speak plainly. I will take no insult from anything any of you have to say to me.”

“Very well,” Ate said. “All of here know about the problem with Claris. All of us know she can no longer have your fawns. All of us also know that a herd leader must have a doe that can give him fawns. I now know for sure how you feel for Claris. If you did not feel strongly, you would not be here. I can also see that Claris still does belong with you, but at the same time you must still have a doe that can give you fawns. What we like you to do is not only to take Claris, but to also take Carie. In this way while Claris cannot have your fawns, someone from her family can.”

If Bambi had run him over and stomped on him, he could not be more surprised. For a moment he was not sure what to say. Finally he stumbled out, “You want me to take Claris and Carie back to my forest?”

“Yes,” Ate said calmly as if it was nothing.

He turned toward Claris and looked deep in her green eyes that were sparkling again. “You want me to do this?” he asked not believing it himself.

“Yes,” she said. “I want you to do this. In this way I will still be with you and Carie can do what I cannot.”

She meant it he realized. She wanted him to take the young doe. She also still wanted to be with him. That alone made him happy, but what of the other doe. He looked straight in front at Carie.  “What do you think, young Carie? You do not have some young male you are interested in? You are certainly pretty enough to have one as is your mother.”

Both of the doe looked slightly embarrassed. “Thank you.” Carie said “No, I do not have a male that I care for. All of the males that I had any interest in last year were already paired. Most of the males around here only think as far as the next Season. Claris, Ate, and Faline all tell me you think differently. You act differently because you rule your herd not with just strength, but with your head as well just like Bambi. Between Geno and Ronno I have seen what happens when you rule by strength. All the deer who know you say you are also very brave. You are a male I would want and I would like to have for a mate. The only deer around here like that is Bambi, and he already has a mate,” she said and looked at Faline before going on. “Gorro may be that way, but I am too old for him. If I am to bear fawns, I will bear them only from a male that I want.”

“In short, she is just like my other daughter,” Ate spoke and looked directly at Claris.

“I do have a male,” Cara said. “We are only together around The Season. At other times he is not that interested and seldom comes to talk to me. Claris told me and my daughter how happy she and you were together all the time. I would like that for my daughter. This is why I think you, my daughter, and my younger sister would be happy together.”

He could not believe this. They all wanted him to take Carie. He hardly knew her. She hardly knew him. She did appeal to him, but then all pretty doe appeal to him. He needed time to know her and for her to know him. If he accepted Carie, it would be the answer to his problems. It was also the only way he knew Claris would stay next to him. They all let him know how they felt. He wanted to make sure they all knew exactly how he felt about this arrangement.

“Very well,” he said standing up.”He is what I will do. I will remain in this forest for a while until I heal. I will bed down with Claris in the thicket near Bambi and Faline. Young Carie can join us there. In this way you can get to know me better before we go back to my forest. If you find that for whatever reason you rather not come to my forest with me, you are free to stay here. If you wish to come with me, then yes during the Season, I will breed with you. You will have my fawns. Now since we are speaking plainly, allow me to say one more thing. If during The Season, Claris finds she can have more fawns, I will also breed with her. I will accept them as my children too. I will teach any fawns I make with either of you as the same and I will teach them like I have taught my son and daughter. In this way I believe I will be fair to all of you. ”

With that Ate also go up and looked at him with a smile. “Yes, Stranger that is very fair. You are as wise as Claris and Bambi say you are.”

Young Carie also got up and looked at him. “Thank you, Stranger, I will be pleased to do as you say. You are indeed very wise.”

“Claris got up, came over and licked the side of his face. “Thank you,” she said her eyes showing a tear.

Finally Faline and young Eta got up and came over to him. “You have chosen well. I will explain this to Bambi and Gorro when they come back.

“Good,” he said. “With Man in the forest, I think we should rest here during the remaining light and eat at night on the meadow.”

“I am sure Bambi will say the same,” Faline said. “I will bed down here with Eta. Our normal place is too close to Man.”

“Fine,” he said. “Excuse me for a moment. He leaped away into the forest for a short while and then emptied himself. He ate some grass and then went back to the open clearing. He found a spot with a thick layer of grass. He lay down on his legs. Claris came over and lay down on one side of him as she normally did. Carie lay on the other side of him. Cara and Ate lay near them. Having two warm bodies next to him felt strange, yet he found he did not mind it. The smoothness of their fur on his sides sent waves of delight up and down his back.  He reached over and nuzzled Claris and then did the same to Carie. She did not seem to know what to do, but he did know she liked it when it did that. He chewed his cud for a while and then quietly went to sleep.

This arrangement might not be so bad after all.

 

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