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.


4. The Awful Truth


He opened his eyes; he was lying on his side in the grass. His eyes were still blurry and he still felt light headed. He took in a deep breath through his nose and smelled several deer. They were all nearby. He tried to roll over onto his legs to lie normally. As he turned, his back was shot through with pain.

"Ahhhhhh," he called out.

“”Stranger,” he heard a voice call to him. “Are you alright?” He knew the voice.

“Bambi,” he called out.

The big deer stepped in front of him so he could at least look up into his face. Faline stood next to him and nearby was Ronno and Marol. Near both doe stood small fawns only a few weeks old. There was a large yearling male standing behind all of them. Faline walked up and dropped a branch in front of them. He recognized the leaves as the same the bear had given him when he had been struck by man. He nodded and started eating them. They were bitter, but he knew they help him feel better.

“Thank you,” he told her.

"Stranger, what happened to you?" Bambi asked.

It was hard to talk, but he managed to get out. " Came to find Claris. I was attacked by dogs."

Bambi leaned over and started to look at him closely. “You have two bite marks on your back. One is deep the other is not. Your back also has many claw marks. They are no longer bleeding, but you have a fever and you must rest and recover your strength.”

He nodded and said, “Thank you, my friends.”

The large deer bent over and rubbed his forehead with his nose. “When I was hurt, you helped me. Now I will help you,” he said calmly.

He looked at the large friendly face. “Claris, is she here?”

“Yes,” Faline told him. “She has gone to live with her mother. They are not near here. I sent a young doe to tell them you are here.”

He yawned widely and suddenly felt sleepy. He knew the leaves would do that. “You need to rest,” Bambi said. “My son Gorro will stay near here. When you wake up, you must get food and water in you. My son will bring you more of the leaves to heal you.”

He put his head on the ground and closed his eyes. Even though there were many deer around him, he fell fast asleep.

He was awakened by a foul stench. He opened his eyes and realized the stench came from him. He had fouled himself in his sleep just like a little fawn. The smell was awful. He forced himself to get up on his feet. His head was dizzy for a moment but then the forest stopped spinning. He walked over to the stream, got down and let the cool water run over him washing the foulness off of him. He rested there for a while before getting up and eating the grass that grew along the side of the stream. He noticed it was the middle of the day. He was also in the open. He hoped Man was not around. His nose still did not smell properly, but he felt no danger around him. He kept eating until he felt full. It was then he heard a sound behind him. The yearling male was standing in the trees several lengths away. He caught hold of the scent and knew it at once.

“You are Gorro, Bambi’s son,” he said remembering. “The last time I saw you, you still had spots.”

The young male looked embarrassed and walked over to him with more of the leaves. “My father said you should eat these.” He then dropped the leaves at his feet. He ate the bitter leaves and stood up and looked around.

They were by the edge of a large lake near where the stream ran into it. There were trees near them. Here they were too much in the open. “Let us talk over in the trees, I do not like being in the open even if there is no scent of Man.”

He walked over and went into the forest until they were enclosed by the protection of several large spruce trees. Then he felt he could relax.

“Are you feeling better, Stranger?” Gorro asked.

“Yes,” he answered, “But I still feel weak. That will pass in a few days. I would not want to fight those dogs again now, but I will be fine thanks to you and your father and mother.”

“You are welcome," Gorro said looking respectful. "I still remember you and Claris before mother and father left for the forest. My father always told me you were his best friend.”

“As your father is my best friend,” he said. “I like to speak with your father and mother tonight if they are not busy.”

“I will take you there after dark,” Gorro said. “I do not like moving about in the daylight.”

“Wise deer,” he said. “You father has been teaching you.” With that he started to yawn again.

“I will sleep again until night. When the lesser light rises, wake me even if I am still asleep.”

“I will,” Gorro said.

He lay down on a patch of grass and in a short while was sound asleep again.

He woke up a little before the greater light vanished. He went into the forest to empty himself and chew some of his cud. It helped with the weakness that he continued to feel. His back was still sore, but not as sore as this morning. He came out and took a long drink of water. He heard a noise behind him, it was light footprints. Bambi had been teaching Gorro how to walk silently. Like little Claris, he still needed practice, but he would learn.

“Can you walk?” Gorro asked.

“Yes I can walk,” he told him stretching his back slightly. “I don’t want to run yet. I am afraid I may open the wounds again.

“My father’s place is at the end of the lake,” Gorro told him.

“Let us be off,” he said and followed the yearling.

Bambi’s forest looked and smelled much the same as his. Many of the same animals lived there. The one thing he did notice was the smell of bobcats. They used to be in his first forest after he escaped from Man, but few were in his forest. There were several here. The lake here was much larger than the pond in his forest. It was so big it had a small piece of land in the middle of it.  As they got closer to the far side he noticed the tress were much smaller. Many looked burnt away. Bambi had told him this part of the forest had been burnt by a great fire when Bambi was a yearling. New growth was everywhere but it would be many seasons more before the forest was back to normal. As they got to the far end of the lake there was a large hill from where water fell into the lake. Gorro took a sharp turn and went toward a place where there were many brushes that grew as tall as he was. Gorro stopped outside a thicket.

“Father, Mother, I am here with Stranger,” he called.

He heard movement and saw two deer coming out. He also saw a doe fawn following Faline. He walked over and put his head down. The little doe looked at him and then started to lick his face. He did the same. She was beautiful, sleek, and had a wonderful scent, like her mother.

“What is her name?” he asked.

“Eta,” after my mother’s sister.

“She looks like you,” he said to Faline.

‘Faline just smiled. Bambi came and looked over his back and smelled him along the where his wounds were.”

“I still smell some sickness there,” Bambi said and felt along his forehead with his nose. “Your fever is still not gone.” He then looked at Gorro. “Please go get some more of those leaves for Stranger.”

“Yes, Father, I will get them now,” he said and then left almost silently.

“You have been teaching him and teaching him well,” he told Bambi. “In another season he will travel through the forest like a light breeze.

"I started teaching him last season," Bambi said. Now that he is older and will have a rack this year, I will teach him the rest."

"Good, I am glad for you. I saw Veron and Gena before I left. Their children from last year are learning, and they have new fawns for this year. Verone is a fine herd leader and he has a new doe fawn he named after you, Faline. She is very cute. Veron is teaching young Bambi how to be exactly like you.”

Both Bambi and Faline looked happy at his news. He watched Gorro leave the thicket before turning again back to his two best friends. "I am glad Gorro is gone, what I have to say is only for us.”

“I understand,” Bambi said.

“I want to see Claris,” he said.

Bambi let out a deep breath. “I know, but she still feels the same way as before. She asked me to tell you to go away and find another doe.”

He turned away trying not to show anger to his two oldest friends. “Bambi, I did not come all the way here and almost get killed by four dogs to be told to go away. I also would not have come here if I was interested in just another doe. I am going to see Claris. I am going to see her whether she likes it or not.”

Bambi walked up next to him. “Stranger, I do not think she will go back with you. She is sure she cannot have any more fawns. I myself have told her I think that is foolish.”

“I do not think she is wrong,” Faline said.

He turned and looked harshly at Faline. “How can you or anyone else know that?”

“Because a doe can tell when she cannot have any more fawn. As older Eta once told me she knew when she had her last fawn. When the Season came around she had no interest to be with a male anymore. The males had no interest in being with her. Something changes inside you.”

“We are not close to the Season yet. How can she tell that now?” he wanted to know.

“Because something inside tells her. I cannot explain better. I have already told Bambi, I will not have many more fawns. I am getting too old.”

He had to admit what she said might be true for an older doe, but Claris was not old. “Faline, Claris is one season younger than you, and little Eta looks very healthy to me.”

Faline went on as if she hadn’t heard him. “There was also the trouble with Sterus and Stera. She should not have had problems, yet she did. She did not have enough milk for both. I helped as much as I could, but they never gained the weight or got healthy enough.”

Faline stopped talking yet he knew that was not all. Faline looked concerned almost frighten of something. She was fidgeting. There was something else, something Faline was not telling him.

“Tell me all of it, Faline, please I have to know,” he pleaded. Even Bambi looked puzzled at what Faline was saying.

“I told Claris I never tell anyone what she said to me,” Faline said in a low voice. “She did not want you or anyone else to ever know. She was afraid you would leave her or treat her badly.”

He was stunned. What could make him treat Claris badly? She was the first doe he ever knew that had treated him as if he was not some freak of the forest. What could have happened that Claris would think he would not treat her like he always did? It all made no sense to him.

“I do not understand,” he said. “You both know that I have always felt for Claris. I never knew anyone else I could feel this way for. I will not give her up unless I know the whole story, good or bad. I have already watched two of my children die. It cannot be worse than that.”

“Yes it is,” he heard Claris’s voice from his back.

He turned around quickly and saw Claris and her mother Ate standing near the edge of the lake. He wanted to run over to her, but she didn’t look like his Claris. There was something different. She was standoffish like the first day he knew her. He stayed where he was. Something was very wrong here he knew.

“Then what is it, Claris?” he had to know. Even Bambi looked confused. Claris came close to him. He could already see tears running from her eyes as well as from her mother.

“It was my last fawn,” Claris sobbed. “You remember I left our place right after I told you he was dead. I told you I wanted to be away from that place. I really did that because I never wanted you to see it.”

“Why, Claris,” he said slowly. Now he knew there was something horribly wrong.

Claris dropped her head to the ground and sobbed uncontrollably. She tried to speak but could not. Her mother looked at her and then looked directly at him.

“She did not want to tell you that what came out of her did not look like a fawn,” Ate said in a stern and firm voice. “What she gave birth too was not a fawn or even look like a deer. It was something else. Thankfully it was something that did not live long. She was afraid if you saw it; you walk away from her and never talk to her again.”

He was stunned into silence and motionless. He felt almost the same as when he had been hit by Man. Now he understood. He stood there catching his breath. Having a doe that cannot breed was one thing. Being a doe that produced deformed fawns meant that doe was shunned by the males and all others around them. They were outcasts and usually did not live long.

No one spoke a word. He had no words and neither did Bambi or Faline. He stood there thinking. What would he do now? What could he say now? He had to do something. He had to say something. He searched his thoughts and then searched what he felt. It was his feelings that gave him an answer. He walked over the Claris her head still low to the ground and sobbing uncontrollably now.

“Claris, look at me,” he said in a low, but firm voice.

Claris didn’t raise her head, but only went on sobbing. He waited and then repeated this time in a firmer voice.

“Claris! look at me.”

She stopped sobbing and slowly raiser her head to look at him. Those green sparkling eyes were now like cold dead flames. She was waiting for him to say something.

“I wish you would have told me this before,” he said calmly. “At least I would have understood why you did what you did. I would not have sent you away. I would not have shunned you. I would not have been with you in The Season again, but I would not have cast you out. I felt for you then and I feel for you now. That I cannot have another fawn with you hurts me, deeply, but we had two healthy fawns and both of them have again produced fine children. Our son Stabo and Bambi and Faline’s daughter Gena have a fine male fawn Koren.  He is healthy and strong. Stena and Balo have a nice doe fawn Delene. Stabo’s daughter Claris, is growing into beautiful young doe that I suspect a lot of males will be after. I am sure Balo will make a fine herd leader one day. You and I made two good children and they are now having children and these children will have children. We will go on now matter what happens to any of us. I still feel for you and I still want you, but you are right, I will go elsewhere to have my children.”

Claris looked back at him. The tears stopped. He could see she was happy he would not send her away, but she was sad he find another doe to take her place during the Season.

“Is that all?” she asked hesitantly.

“No, I want you now to come with me,” he told her. He turned and faced Bambi and Faline.

He could see smiles come from the two of them again. At least there was some good news to this mess.

He next spoke directly to Bambi, “I ask permission of the herd leader to stay in your forest for a while at least until my injuries heal fully.”

“My friend, you stay as long as you want,” Bambi said with half a grin “There is a small thicket under those pine trees that no one uses.”

“Thank you,” he said. “He walked off past Ate and Claris. Claris followed behind him with her mother as he went over to the thicket. As he stood there Gorro came back with a branch full of leaves.  He dropped them on the ground next to him.

“Thank you, Gorro,” he said. I will eat them in a short time.”

He picked the leaves up and carried them into the thicket. It had leaves from last year and soft grass. It would do for now.

Claris and Ate came over and stood beside him. Claris did not offer to go into the thicket with him which was strange. Instead she looked at him as if something was on her mind.

“Stranger,” she said looking at him. “I have to know something.”

“What is it,” he said.

“Did you mean what you said about still feeling for me?” She looked afraid at what he might say.

He walked over to her and nuzzled her long soft nose and licked her face. She did likewise. Some things were best left without words.

“You are still going to find another doe in the Season?” she asked gently.

“Claris I will not lie to you,” he said firmly again. “I understand you may not have any more fawns, but I can and I want more than two. I may need them. Yes, when the time comes I will find myself a doe to be with, but I will not feel for that doe the way I feel for you.”

“I understand, Stranger,” Claris said with a hint of a grin on her face.

Ate nodded her head and also smiled. Then spoke up in her clear direct tone, “I think I may have a way for all of us to be happy.”

“How is that?” he wanted to know.

“You will have to see,” Ate told him. "For now Claris and I need to talk with some of my family. We will be away for a little while. When  we return we will discuss the matter with you."

With that Claris and her mother walked off the meadow and into the forest. Without saying another word. He looked at Bambi standing several lengths away.

"I know nothing about this," Bambi said and left him alone. He lay down in the thicket, ate the leaves, and fell fast asleep,

He slept until  the greater light was almost set. He got up  feeling much rested and refreshed. He ate some grass on the meadow and drank from the lake. As the sun set the other deer in the herd came onto the meadow to feed. He saw Ronno, Marol, and their fawn enter the meadow. He remembered what he must have had looked like when he saw them before. It was not right to burden them with his problem. He decided to go apologize to them. As he watched, he saw four large males walk out of the forest and walk over to talk to Ronno. There all looked like four year old large males, obviously senior males of this herd. The other deer gave them a wide berth. One was just as big as Ronno.

He walked over as normal and stopped a few length away and bowed his head slightly as a matter of respect. "Greeting, Ronno," he said.

"Greetings, Stranger," Ronno replied. "You are looking better than before."

"Thank you," he said. "I came over to apologize to you and Marol for the way I looked before. I should not have approached you looking like that. I should also not have bothered you with my problems. I am sorry."

Ronno nodded. "There is no  need to apologize, Stranger. We could clearly see you were injured and not yourself. I am just glad you are feeling better."

He turned and faced the other four males and spoke formally. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Stranger, herd leader in the Meadow forest."

"I am Tarro," the largest one said. "Ronno has spoken of you in the past. I thought you be bigger. My other companions are Latos, Kellis, and Errin. We are senior males in this herd."

"So I can see," he said. The four  male were studying him like a male would study another male who he is about to fight.

"Are you staying in our forest," another spoke up. The question was direct and rude in its tone.

"I will be staying as long as I need too," he said coldly.

He took a step back studying the four deer in front of him. The thought of taking on four or five males in his condition did not appeal to him. These four males were being deliberately rude to him almost asking for a fight. like Krakus did the first day he met his herd.

"Stranger is not an enemy," Ronno spoke up. "He is also a herd leader," he said to the others. He then turned back to him.  "I am sorry Stranger, some of our younger males are suspicious of new deer. Having new deer take over the herd has been a recent event that a few are still getting use too."

"An event, not all of us asked for," Tarro added.

"Very well," he said coolly. "Just to let you all know, I will not be staying. I have a matter to clear up here, and once that is done, I will be gone. Bambi is herd leader here and I plan on doing nothing to change that."

"Very well," Tarro said. "No offense was meant."

He felt like saying what a complete lie that was, but instead he smiled. "No offense was taken," he answered formally. "Again, my apologies to both Ronno and Marol for my appearance and behavior, good day," he said and backed carefully away.

He backed away several lengths before turning and going back into the forest. He could hear Ronno talking to the others in a hushed tone. He had gone several lengths into the forest before he caught a familiar scent.

"What was that about?" Bambi asked.

"You tell me," he answered looking back. "For a moment I through I was going to have to fight those four males. Who are those four, they are certainly not friendly."

"They use to be Ronno's senior males that helped him keep order when he was herd leader. They also helped him get rid of my Son. They were not happy I came back. Tarro actually challenged me, but I easily beat him. Since then, they have been causing me some problems, but not enough for me to chase them out. Ronno keeps them under control for now."

"I am sorry for you," he said. "Your need to watch them and teach Gorro how to fight well. I am sure they will be a problem for him."

'I intend to do both," Bambi answered. "Most deer are happy I am back. A few are not. That is not what I want, but that is the truth."

He had to agree.


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