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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3. The Journey

 

He stood at the edge of the forest by the stream that flowed to Bambi’s old forest. Beyond a few trees it was all open space between him and Bambi's forest in the distance. That forest was so far away he could not even see it unlike the other forests surrounding the meadow. He remembered from Bambi the best way to get to his old forest was to follow the stream. That stream would lead him to a large lake and the deer lived near there. It was soon after dark. He wanted to wait until it was black before he left.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Balo asked. He had not wanted him to come to the edge of the forest, but Balo insisted.

“Yes,” he said, "I have to. Remember what I told you. I will try and be back before The Season. If I am not, Stabo will help.”

“I understand,” Balo said still showing a little tension in his voice.

No sense delaying his journey. He turned and nuzzled Balo on his nose. “You really are like a son to me. If something does happen to me, I want you and Stena to know how proud I am of the deer you have become. I deeply feel for both of you, Goodbye.”

He turned and moved at a fast trot following the stream. “Goodbye, Stranger” he heard at his back. He forced himself not to look behind him and just moved on. Once he went past the space between the first two hills, the view of his forest was blocked. He was now on his own.

The grass on the side of the stream was much taller than the grass in the forest. Like the forest it was growing from the spring melting of the snow. The stream flowed with some noise. He moved quickly, but quietly. The wind was from his side. He could smell nothing except the grass and other plants. He kept close to the stream. It flowed through the hills in a low point like his meadow. He did not want to climb the hills because he was afraid he would be seen. There was no place to hide here other than behind the hills. The only other cover came from the grass and he was much bigger than the grass. He stopped to eat some. It was dryer and did not taste as fresh as the grass in the meadow. He drank from the stream and moved on. He knew if he followed the stream he would be fine. He continued to move all night. The only things he heard were the insects as well as a few frogs. The biggest animals he smelled were rabbits.

The ground around the stream was flat, but the stream ran in between hills that rose a few lengths high. From time to time he could see small shadows moving at the top of the hills. They looked like large mice. He had never seen them before, and they had an unusual scent, but they smelled something like mice. Overhead he could hear owls and other birds of the night flying along with the occasional squelch of the bats. He never thought other animals could live in the open, but they did. There was life out here that did not depend on trees. It did not depend on Man either because he could find no trace of Man scent. That comforted him because he knew he could not hide from Man or dogs out here. During the night he did hear one owl come down and grab one of the mice like creatures and carry it away. He heard the caught creature squealed in agony for a few moments before it became silent. It appeared 'The Way of All Things' applied here as it had applied in the forests. Everything hunted for food and tried not to become food for another. He wondered what other creatures out here could turn him into food.

The lesser light had almost gone when a powerful scent came to his noise. It came from a pile of waste much bigger than anything he had seen before. It smelled differently. He did not know this animal, but it had to be big to leave a waste pile that large. It smelled of grass like deer and horses. He next saw places near the stream where the grass had been eaten close to the ground. He kept following the stream all night and stopped as the first streak of light entered the sky. He ate some of the grass near the stream. The grass there was tender and tasted better. After eating his fill, he emptied himself out. He moved on to the bottom of a small hill and stopped. It was then he saw them coming toward him.

There were many animals; large animals that were much bigger than him. With the way the wind was blowing, they had to have smelled him, yet they took no notice. They were bigger than the bear, but these animals did not have claws.  Their legs were also long like his.  They had hoofs like him only much bigger. They had racks, but these were grown out even though it was early spring. These racks were smaller, and less pointed. In fast each rack had only one point. Also, both males and doe had them. He watched them. They were eating only the grass. They did not look like they were hunting. They paid him no mind. They came within several lengths of him and then stopped to drink at the stream. They looked at him, but made no attempt to speak or even have an interest in him.

"MMMMUUUUUUUUUUUU," was the only sound they made. It was loud.

The way they were walking around, they were showing no fear of him or anything else around them. They were not cautious in the least and made no effort to hide themselves, not that there was much to hide in out here in the open. He decide to try and talk to them.

He did not get up He did not wanted to be seen in the increasing light. "Greetings," he called out from where he lay down.

The creatures all stopped and looked up at him. They had blank, almost empty looks on their faces.  All he heard in return was: "MMMMUUUUUUUUUUUUUU."

"Are there any Men around here?" he asked.

"MMMMMUUUUUUUUUUU," came the answer.

He decided to try again. "Is there any danger around here?"

"MMMMMUUUUUUUUUUU," came the answer again.

He wondered if they were all just stupid, or simply didn't care if he talk to them or not? One thing for sure, he was not going to get anything from them. He decided to leave them alone and got comfortable behind the hill. At least here he was partly hidden. He continued to watch the animals eat and drink.

It soon became obvious that all they were interested in was the grass. He lay on the other side of the stream, in full view of them, yet keeping them closely under watch. They did nothing other than to continue eating. Their smell was a little like a deer, but it was much more striking on the nose. This was especially true after two of them emptied themselves. He looked up at the light brightening in the sky. If he went on, he could be easily seen by anyone. This was a good place to stop and wait for night, even if the company was limited in usefulness. After the greater light was higher in the sky the creatures moved off and left him alone, which was fine with him. He put his head down and tried his best to sleep.

He did not sleep much. Every time a new sound came to his ears he immediately became alert. Other than the animals that were here, there were no new smells. The only other sounds was from the large mice creatures at the top of the hill that did not seem to mind if he was there or not. There were more bird calls, but although the air was filled with sound, he heard or smelled nothing that would threaten him. He wondered if this is the way Claris went, but he had found no sign of her on his travels. That was a good thing. If anything had happened to her, he could  smell it from some distance.

He slept on and off all day. The greater light had almost set when he heard something in the distance. He looked up and saw something approach. It was tall and heading toward the stream many lengths away. He looked at it for a moment and did not know what to make of it. As it got closer he started to pick out features. It was like the horse Stena, Balo, Bambi and he had seen before, but there was something else. There was something with it, in fact on it. He looked closely and then saw it. It was a Man.

He remembered the horse had told them that they carried Man around with them and that they helped Man work. This horse carried Man on his back. The horse came up to the stream and stopped.  The horse leaned over and started to drink out of the stream. The Man stayed on the horse for a while and then once the horse finished drinking, they left. He waited until they were far away before he dared moved. He waited until the greater light had set and it was dark, before he got up. He emptied himself again, drank out of the stream and continued on his journey.

He continued on following the stream until the lesser light rose. Then he heard something behind him. There was still too many hills around him to see very far. He moved quickly but did not break out into a run. As the lesser light was over head, he past the last of the hills. There was only flat open space between him and a forest he could see in the distance. The ground was clear all the way to the old forest. He could see where he was going, but at the same time he was out in the open. If he was seen out here, he would be open to attack.

He continue on for a while and then started to hear something behind him again. This time the noise was louder. There were yelps, and barking. He knew the sounds, there were dogs behind him. He moved quicker at a trot and continued to listen. The  barking told him they were coming up the stream. They must have smelled his scent and were following him. He did not hear any sounds of Man. He quickly started to move down the stream. After a while the dog sounds seem to get weaker. He decided to walk in the stream for awhile. He knew dogs could not follow him in a stream. Bambi had learned that from his father, and then had taught him that. His travel was nosier with water splashing all around him. However he was not leaving any scent. He continued to move in the stream until the yelping noise got less and less.

He continued at a trot for some time until he was sure the dogs were gone. He looked up ahead and saw trees of a forest. They were not far away. He would be there by the rising of the greater light. He continued onward until he noticed something in the dark. He thought he saw a shadow moving to his left side. The wind was blowing from his right side so he could smell nothing. Then he saw it again this time better. Then he knew. At least one of the dogs had come around him and were moving down wind of him so he could not smell them. They were still after him.

If there were many of them, he could not fight them all. He had to out run them. He got out of the stream and got on firmer ground. He started to run. He ran down the stream toward the forest. He looked to his left. There was nothing there now. He seemed to be leaving the dogs behind him, but it was taking all of his strength to keep running. As he kept running he thought he could hear a barking noise in the distance. He knew dogs could run longer than he could, but he was faster. He looked up ahead. The forest was much closer. Soon he be there. He kept running as best he could. It was a short while later he started to feel tired. He lost sight of the Shadows, but he could now hear yelping from behind him. They were still there and they were still after him. His rear left leg was starting to hurt. He had to stop soon. The trees were closer, but still far enough away where he could he could not reach them. He stopped. He would have to fight them here. If he went much further, he be too tired to fight. He backed up into the stream and slowly started to walk to the middle of the rushing water trying to catch his breath. He was looking for a place where the dogs could not get behind him. There was none. The ground was flat as far as he could see. The stream was the best place. The water was not deep for him, but the dogs were shorter. They would be slowed by the water. Now he had to fight. In the back he heard the yelping get louder until it sounded like they were on top of him. He turned and faced down stream. He saw four figures running toward him. There were two large dogs and two smaller ones. At least they were not the big hunting dogs.

They ran up to him stopped on the bank close to him. He turned and faced them. The two large dogs started to go down the stream while the two smaller ones got into the stream and came after him. The water came up to their chests.  He waited until they were close to him and then he reared up and kicked out with his front legs. He caught one dog with both front hoofs. There was an immediate cry and the dog went backward. He tried to stomp on the other dog in front while he came down, but the dog was able to dodge him. He then heard splashing behind him. The two large dogs were going to attack from behind. He saw one come up to leap on his back. He kicked out with his rear hoofs and caught the large dog in the face. This was a hard blow. Even his hoof hurt him. There was another large yell as the dog flew back hitting the water hard with a large splash. The other large dog leaped and he felt it land on his back. Immediately there was a sharp pain as the dog bit into his back. By now the dog in front was coming up again. He reared up on his hind legs as hard as he could. The dog on his back went flying off splashing loudly in the stream. He felt his skin rip as the dog flew off of him. The smaller dog in front leaped up looking to go for this throat. He kicked out with his front legs knocking the dog off balance and he fell into the water. As he came down he brought both front hoofs down onto the smaller dog. He felt his hoofs hit the dog and head a loud pop. The dog cried out and then lay still.

He turned around and saw both large dogs standing together in the stream. One looked to be favoring his left side.  The second dog eyed him and then leaped again. He kicked out with his front legs. This time he only grazed the dog with his hoof. The dog landed on his back and started to claw at him.  He could feel the claws dig into his skin like the time the bear had removed the Man stones. Again he reared up as high as he could. The dog fell off and hit the water. As the dog hit the water he turned quickly and kicked out with his rear legs as hard as he could. This time he caught the dog squarely on the side. There was another yell as the dog went flying back. He stood in the middle of the stream. The dogs had stopped. He looked around him. One dog lay in the stream not  moving. The other smaller dog was climbing onto the bank limping from his left front leg. One large dog behind him was making for the side of the stream. He was bleeding from the face. The dog in front was looking at him, but not moving. That dog still wanted to attack.  By now his back was starting to hurt him. He put his head down and charged the dog in front hitting him and pushing him aside. He kept running down the stream until he was exhausted. He looked back, but he was not followed.

He slowed down and moved as fast as he could since he was worn out. The pain was aching from his back. He was out of breath. His rear left leg ached. He could feel blood flowing down his side. He continued to follow the stream. The throbbing in his leg finally got so bad he had to stop. His breath slowly came back, but his back continued to hurt worse. He looked up and the trees while closer were still too far away. He found a patch of taller grass  near the stream and he lay down in it to rest.

He also noticed the sky was getting lighter. He should keep moving. He had to get into the cover of the forest. He was hurt and out here if anything found him, they kill him for sure. His legs would not do it. He had to rest. The grass did not hide him, but it make it hard for anyone to see him. He put his head down, closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Sometime later head heard a high pitch sound.  He work up and saw something moving on the other side of the stream. He remained as still as a new born fawn and watched. Soon he heard heavy footsteps coming toward him. He saw it was another horse coming toward him. This horse was also carrying a Man. They rode up to the stream and stopped many lengths from him. There was also another sound. The barking of dogs.  It sounded like the ones that had chased him. He could clearly see what was happening.  The horse turned to look down the stream.  He did not know if they could see or smell him yet, but they paid no attention to him. He saw the Man reach down and pick something up from the side of the horse and hold it in his front hoofs. It took him only a moment to realize it was a killing stick.

He was in the open and weak. If the Man tried to use the killing stick on him, he was dead. The Man did not turn toward him. Instead he pointed the killing stick downstream toward the barking of the dogs.

"WWWHHHAAAMMM," went the killing stick.

Off in the distance he thought he heard the cry of one of the dogs. Why would Man kill a dog? The dogs worked for Man. Man did not kill them.  The Man pointed his killing stick again.

"WWWHHHAAAMMM, WWWHHHAAAMMM, WWWHHHAAAMMM," he heard. Then there was silence. The Man put his killing stick back on the horse and  after a moment rode away from him down stream. Other than the sound of the horse's footprints that disappeared quickly, there was no other sounds. He looked around. The horse and Man were gone.

He had no idea what the Man, horse, and killing stick did, and he did not care much. There were no more barking from the dogs. All was quiet again. He was tired, hurt and too scared to move. He decided he stay where he was and rest until the greater light set. He closed his eyes and went to sleep.

When he woke there was darkness around him. The greater light had set. He got up and found his back was aching. It was sore and he felt weak. He knew the forest was close. He needed to get there. He forced himself up and just followed the stream next to him. He was slow, his body hurt too much. He could not see right. Yet he had to go on.

He put his head down and just forced himself to kept going. He started to feel weaker in the legs. He felt lightness in his head. He was not bleeding but his back felt very sore. Besides his back, the rest of his body ached terribly. He looked up. He could see the tress and the edge of a large lake in the distance. He was almost there. He climbed out of the stream and walked along the bank. He looked back and could see and hear nothing behind him He could see, but not clearly. It was like his eyes were dim. He pushed himself on. His head now pounding in his ears.

He passed his first tree, then another, and another. He had made it. He kept walking. He could smell other animals, but no deer. He just kept walking along the side of the stream because he knew deer were at the end of the lake. He came upon an open patch of ground. He bent over and ate some grass and drank. It made him feel a bit refreshed. He still went on. Soon the dizziness started getting worse. His legs started to wobble a bit. He was feeling a lot weaker now. He was near trees again. He had to stop to rest again soon. He came upon a waste pile. This was from a deer, but a deer he did not know. His nose told him he was getting near more water than just the stream. By now he was staggering. He looked up and saw the large open lake in front of him. He had made it. Now he had to find cover

As he got closer another scent came to his nose. It was a deer and it was close. He thought he recognized the scent, but his brain couldn’t tell him who it was. He thought he heard voices up in front of him, but his weak eyesight could not tell him where they were. He saw a patch of what looked to be soft grass. He started to lie down. As he got down on his legs he felt something near him. He looked up and barely managed to see deer several lengths in front of him.  It was a large older male along with a doe and a young fawn. The doe and the fawn ran. The older male walked up to him slowly. His eyes were diming and his head started to spin.

“Hello,” he called out. “Do you know the herd leader Bambi?” he asked.

The deer came over to him. The scent still smelled familiar, but he still could not place it. The deer looked him over and then said, “Stranger?” in a familiar voice.

“Ronno” he called out. “Is that you?”

“Stranger, what happened to you?” the big deer said.

“Dogs,” he said in a gasp. “Is Bambi nearby?”

The young doe had move closer to him. He looked at her. It was Marol. For a second she looked like Claris. Then he suddenly felt very dizzy and then he felt nothing at all.

 

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