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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2. Preparations

 

He had spent the rest of the day making his plans. The first part was going to see the bear before he went  to the other forest for the spring and summer. The bear had to know what he was going to do in case something happened to him.  He knew he have to plan his actions carefully in order to do what he wanted. The next thing he needed to do is talk to the his son. He walked up the hill and found the bear nearby feeding on the first berries of the year. As he approached the bear turned and looked surprised at his presence.

"I am sorry to bother you," he explained. "Something has happened and I need you to know about this before you go over the hill for the summer."

The bear looked at him with some concern and came over to him. He quickly explained what had happened with Claris and what he was going to do about this. The bear did not look pleased.

"Stranger, if she feels that strongly, you should let her go," the bear told him.

"I know," he said. "Maybe this is selfish, but before I met her, my life was lonely just going from herd to herd. I felt no meaning. Everything I have is because of her. I will not let that go so easily. She is much more to me than a doe that provides me with children. I am going to get her. I wanted to come see you. . ."

"In case you do not come back," the bear interrupted. "You are going to arrange things so the forest is taken care of in case you are dead from his foolish idea." The bear stopped and turned around and walked back to his cave. When he got there he lay outside his cave and continued to look at him as if he was crazy. "I will not try and talk you out of this," he went on in his deep voice. "That would be a waste of time.  You have already made up your mind and I can see why. Very well, go after her. I take it you will ask your son Stabo to take over the herd if you do not return?"

The bear was way ahead of him. "Yes, that is my plan until Stena and Balo are old enough to do this. That will not be for at least one or two seasons."

"And you want me to treat them like I would treat you?" the bear added.

Yes, " he said with a bow of his head. "I believe you can help them and they can help you like we help each other. Before I told them that, I wanted to talk to you to see if you agree."

The bear lay there for a moment. He did not look happy. He could not tell if it was because he was being presumptive on their friendship, or because the bear thought his idea of going was still folly. Finally he took a deep breath and told him. "I said before I would meet with Stabo and Stena. I have also met Balo and he seems a much more cautious deer than you are. If they wish to approach me, I will not eat them. If I have a female here, I cannot promise she will not try and eat them, so they need to be careful."

"I understand and I will remind them of that fact." he nodded. 'There is one more thing I wanted to say," he said and paused for a moment. "I want to say thank you for being my friend and saving my life. You have provide me and my family with wise advice. As crazy as this sounds, I admire you more than most of the deer in my herd."

The bear slowly got up, walked over to him and put his huge front paw on the side of his head. "Thank you for warning me all those times about Man. I admire you Stranger, and I still think your purpose here is far more important than mine or even your herd. I hope you come back. If you do not, I will miss you."

"Thank you," he said his voice starting to choke again.

"You should stay here until dark and then leave for the Man path forest," the bear told him.

"Thank you," he said and lay down in front of the bear's den to sleep.

That night he traveled near the Man cave and the old spring. The Man cave were cold and dark at this time and there was no danger. Just before the greater light rose, he quickly traveled the short distance from the spring to the edge of his forest. He then moved quietly across the open space into the Man path forest.

He ran into the forest and immediately started looking for the other deer. He could call to his son, but he did not want to make himself or his problem obvious. This was his problem to deal with and he was not going to bring anyone else into this except as necessary. The side of the forest from the Man path to the Man cave was empty of any deer. In fact other than the usual smaller animals, it was free of any animal. The nearby presence of Man drove them away. After eating and drinking at a small stream, he emptied himself and washed himself off in the stream. He walked through the forest eating as he came across patches of grass and bushes. By the time it was full light he had crossed the wooded area and smelled no deer. He then came upon the opening and the hard ground of the Man path. He was reluctant to cross it. He had seen the Man animals come down the path sometimes with their two eyes glowing brightly. Although the ground gave off a disgusting smell, he did not smell death in it. He looked down the path and as far as he could see there was nothing other than the night-black Man path. He took a deep breath and ran across it into the other part of the forest. At once the scents changed. He could smell lingering odors of other deer.  He started moving about. He moved toward the clearing he had last seen both his son, Gena, and Bambi’s son Veron. He knew approximately where it was. As he got close he started picking up other scents. There were smells of other fawns mostly new born and the occasional left over smell of a birth. 

As he looked around he became aware of another deer behind him. He walked with the wind at his tail. Sure enough the wind blew the scent of a deer to him. It was not Stabo, the scent was from a doe, but it smelled a bit like Claris and Stabo. He quickly move behind some trees and waited. The deer did not approach, but stopped behind him. The deer was quiet.

“You can approach me,” he said out loud. “I will do you no harm.”

He turned slowly and from behind a tree came a yearling doe. She was smaller than Claris was, but much sleeker. She reminded him a bit of Faline. She had that graceful curve to her neck and she had a nice looking face. By this Season she would be some prize catch for a young male.

“I will not harm you,” he repeated. “Would you please tell me your name?”

The doe seemed hesitant she could not get a good smell of him with the winding blow his scent away. Finally she spoke up. “I am called Claris,” she said cautiously.

His eyes went misty and he smiled widely. ”You are Stabo’s and Gena’s daughter,” he said.

The doe seemed surprised. “You know my mother and father?” she asked puzzled. She did not recognize him; she was a small fawn when Bambi, Faline, and he had last seen her.

“Stabo is my Son,” he told her. “I am the deer they call Stranger.”

All hesitation in her vanished. She came over to him and reached up and nuzzled his face. “He did likewise like she was his own fawn. “My father and mother spoke of you many times and still do,” she said with a bright smile on her face.

“Are you mother and father nearby? I must speak with them,” he said to her.

“They are over near their resting place. Mother has a new fawn so it was time for me to go out on my own. How did you know I was behind you? I thought I was quiet.”

“You were, but I am much older than you and have more experience. I heard you. You still need to practice your walking quietly. Also I got you to follow me with the wind at your tail. That blows your scent to me, but you cannot smell me at the same time. Remember that; never follow anyone when the wind is at your tail.”

She seemed to listen intently. “Yes, Stranger, I will remember. Thank you. I will show you to mother and father.”

He followed the young doe. She moved gracefully and quietly. Stabo and Gena had taught her well. In another year she would walk like a breeze in the forest: hard to follow, and impossible to catch. It made his heart ache to watch her, but he was reminded of what the bear had told him long ago. No matter what happened to him, the best in him and Claris would go on and that made him feel as happy as he had felt since his own Claris had left.

He followed her back into a small clearing. There was a small stream that ran through it. On the other side of the stream she stopped.

“Mother, Father,” can I come in,” she called. “I have a visitor with me. It is Stranger.”

Immediately he heard the sound of breaking twigs and rustling leave and a moment later, Stabo walked into the open. A moment behind him was Gena with a young male fawn close to her side.

“Father,” Stabo called out and came up to him. They exchanged embraces as only a deer could do. He then kissed Gena and nuzzled her fawn.

“This is Koren,” Gena told him. He was a bright and alert little fawn and seemed to wonder about the new big deer in his life.

“I am so happy to see all of you,” he said. He looked at Stabo. He had grown. He was as big as him now. Already he could see the stubs of a large rack that would grow out this Season. Gena was sturdy and very healthy.

“Where is mother,” Stabo asked looking around

He dropped his head. “That is what I wanted to talk to you about. Your mother has left and gone away.”

“What!” Stabo yelled out, “What happened?”

“I like to know that too,” a voice called from behind.

He turned and saw Veron standing to the side of him. He never heard him approach. He was as quiet as his father. He was smaller than his father, but much stocker and heavily muscled. He pity any male that tried to fight him in Season.

“I am glad you are all here,” he said to them. “I only want to tell this once.” He went into his tale of what had happened last winter and this spring. It was hard for him to tell and several times he had to stop when he choked up, but they had to understand what he wanted and why. When he got done, Stabo simply stood there shaking his head in disbelief.

“I am sorry, Father, but I do not understand why mother thinks she will never again have a healthy fawn. Look at me. I am healthy and so is my younger sister.”

“I told her that,” he said, “But she would not listen.”

“You think she has gone back to live with my father and mother,” Veron called out

“Yes, her scent clearly led that way and that is why I am here. I am in need of your help."

He saw Stabo look at little Koren. “Father I cannot come with you. I cannot leave Gena and Koren.”

“No,” he said abruptly. “That is not what I want. I will go after your mother and I will go after her alone. That will mean I will be gone for a long while; too long for the herd to be without a leader. Your sister and Balo are good deer, but they are still too young to be herd leaders. I will need someone who is older with more experience. Stabo, I will need you to help them especially after mid-summer and we get near the Season. Can you help them during this time?”

Stabo looked at Gena and then she looked at Koren. Gena looked back and nodded yes. “Koren will be grown more and will be able to travel by then,” Gena said.

“Very well Father, after mid-summer I will go back to our forest and help,” Stabo said.

“Veron,” will that be a problem with you?” he wanted to know.

Veron thought about for a few moments before answering,” No, so far Man has not come here, but that will not last. I remember enough from what you and my father taught me to hide from them. I would like to have Stabo here to help. But I can see where he will be needed more in your forest. How long do you think you will be gone?

He took a deep breath because that was the part of the problem that had no idea about. “I do not know,” he said simply. “If I can find your mother, if she will listen to me, and if she will come back. All of this I cannot say. There is also something else. The travel to Bambi’s old forest is longer, more dangerous, and more out in the open than travel here. It is possible I may not live to get there.”

With that he turned to face Veron. “When your mother and father first left they were in a small group. After the fight with Geno they came back as a small group. Last time your father and mother went together with Gorro. With several deer, it is not a problem to travel. The predators will not attack a group. A lone deer is something else. I do not even know if Claris survived the trip and I do not know if I can survive it alone. It is possible neither of us will ever come back.” He went back to face Stabo and Gena “In that case Stabo, you may have to be herd leader until Balo is old enough to take over from you.”

“Stranger no,” Gena blurted out, “Do not say that.”

“Sister, he is right,” Veron spoke up sounding a lot like his father. "The herd must have a leader and Stabo is the best choice."

“I understand, Father,” Stabo told him. “If you do not come back, I will lead the herd, but I will not stay. This place is my home.”

“Stabo is a great help to me,” Veron added. “It would be much harder to be herd leader here without him. None of the others I can depend on like I can depend on Stabo and Gena. “Little Bambi is only now old enough to be trained. I must do that this season in case something happens to me. I must stay here.”

He walked over to Veron and rubbed his forehead with his nose. “There is so much of your father I see in you,” he told Veron. “He then walked over and did the same to Gena. “There is so much of your mother I see in you and in your daughter,” he said looking at young Claris.

He then stepped back where he see could all of them together. “I will go back tonight and talk to Stena and Balo and let them know.” Then he stopped as his throat started to tighten and he stammered out; “I just want to say how proud I am of all of you. I know you will do good with the herd no matter if I came back or not. You are all my family.”

They all went to a clearing. Veron left and brought back Alana and his new doe fawn, Faline, named after his mother.  Even young Bambi came back. He was only a yearling, but already he could see him growing a rack. He would be another large deer. They spend the rest of the day and into the early night talking. He told them about his conversations with the bear. Then after the lesser light was high in the sky, he got up and left them. He hoped he see them all again, but that was all he could do was hope.

He traveled to the edge of their forest and made the short journey back to his forest as light broke again. He rested near the large oak of the Old Owl that Oswell had taken over. He spent some time talking to him and letting him know he was leaving. He slept near the location Claris and he had chosen as their bedding place at the time of The Season. He then wondered if they ever use it again. So much was in his head and there was so much he did not know. He usually liked to know what he was going to do before he did it, but now he had no idea. He had to do it and hope it all turn out for the best.

He waited until evening and the time the herd ate on the meadow. The lesser light was rising when he walked onto the meadow and saw the rest of the herd feeding as normal. A couple of doe were paired with males, but most doe were alone with their fawns. As he walked over toward the small stream he saw the two familiar figures. He walked over to them nuzzled first his daughter and then her fawn.

“I have not seen you for a while,” Balo said. "Where have you been?"

“I have been to see the bear and then went to the Man path forest to talk to your older brother,” he said to Stena. “There were things I wanted them to do while I was gone.”

“Gone?” Stena said lifting her head from feeding.

“I have decided I am going after your mother. I know she has gone to Bambi’s old forest and I am going to follow her.”

Stena did not look surprised. Balo seemed resigned. Finally as young Delene came up to nurse. Stena looked right at him. “Father, I cannot go with you and neither can Balo. Delene is still too young.”

‘I know, I am going alone,” he said.

“What of the herd?”Balo asked suddenly seeing where this was going.

“I have asked Stabo to come over to help. He will be here in high summer and will stay until I get back or until both of you are old enough to take over the duties of herd leaders.”

Balo eyed him carefully before telling him, “You do not think you are coming back.”

“No” Stena said as a plea. “You have to come back.”

“Balo is right; the journey is long, and dangerous. If I do not come back, Stabo will be herd leader here until you two can take over. I expect you to listen to him as you would listen to me.”

“Stranger, you have taught us well, we can take over,” Balo said looking at him. He could see a flash of anger in those young brown eyes.”

“You cannot take over now,” he said. “Both of you are still too young, you need more time and more experience before you can lead this herd. In one or two seasons, yes both of you can do this, but not now.”

Balo lowered his head almost in a threat. “Both Bambi and you have taught me. I can do this.” He could tell Balo had read his words as him not having confidence in the young deer and it made him angry.

He walked up to the young deer that still did not come up to his height. “No Balo, you are not yet fully grown. In this Season you will be mature, The Season after that you will have your full rack and you will be completely grown as will Stena. Then you will be ready. Stabo is older and has helped Veron be herd leader. He has more experience than you do, but even he is still a little young. You will be a good herd leader Balo, I can clearly see this, but it will not happen now. You still need help. Stabo has already told me he wants to live in the Man path forest and not here. He will not stay, but will go when you are ready.”

He could see Balo was not convinced. “I do not agree,” he spat out. “I can do this.”

The last thing he needed was Balo and Stabo getting into a fight over this. He had to settle this now or Stabo would have no peace here. There was only one way to do this.

He turned to face Balo and put his own head down. “You think you are ready now, young male. If so, then charge me.”

Balo seem confused for a second and then lowered his head and came at him. As Balo did he ran toward him.  Balo stop suddenly and turned quickly to bring his rear legs around to knock him off balance. He saw it coming and jumped away before Balo could do it. Balo turned swiftly and came at him again. This time Balo stopped short and leaped to one side and tried to kick him. He also saw it from their training and jumped aside. So his tricks were not going to work here. Then Balo just came at him. This was what he was waiting for. He slammed into the young male hard. He could see it stunned Balo, but he recovered quickly. They did not have racks so early in the year so they locked at the shoulder and Balo tried to get leverage on him. It reminded him of trying to spar with Bambi again. He countered and then he just pushed hard with all his strength. It was hard like trying to push against an old tree, but Balo gave way. Slowly he pushed him back and as Balo’s rear legs began to slip he dropped his shoulder, and he got under Balo and lifted with all his might. Balo went tumbling on to the ground. Before he could recover he ran over and lightly kicked him. He then pulled back and let the young deer get up. Balo got to his feet still glaring at him.

“Consider that my last lesson to you,” he said loudly. “I beat you because I was stronger than you. I am stronger than you because I am older than you. In one or two seasons I will not be able to do that to you, but now I can. That is why you are not ready to lead. Stabo can also do that to you because he is stronger, older, and has more experience. That is why he must lead until you are ready. Can you understand this?”

He looked at the young deer shaking the dirt off him. Inward he could see the rage in him. “Do not be blinded by anger,” he yelled at him “That is one of the first things I taught you. Think about what has just happened and learn from it.”

By then Stena came over and stood next to Balo and looked up at his brown eyes. Little Delene came with her. “Balo, do not get angry with him?” she asked meekly.

He could see the young male taking in large breaths. Frankly he was a little winded too. That was not as easy as it had once been. Balo was getting stronger. Finally the breathing slowed, then head came up, and the rage subsided. “Yes, you are stronger than me,” he admitted. “At least for now you are. If Stabo comes I will welcome him, and I will at least listen to what he says.”

He walked over to the two young deer and nuzzled them both. “That is all I can ask. Balo, you are like my own son to me, but just as I have to teach hard lessons to my own son, I must teach them to you. In one or two seasons you will be herd leader. All of ask of you is try and take care of the herd as well as Bambi did, or I tried to do.”

Balo nodded, “I will try.”

“Good,” he said. “That is all I can ask of you. Now I can leave in peace.”

 

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