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.


9. Uncomfortable Explanations


He saw nothing of Stena and Balo over the next few days. He went out onto the meadow and told the rest of the herd he was back. A couple of the older males seemed glad, most did not care. With no one to talk to, he started to train Carie about the forest. He started with walking quietly and she caught on fairly quickly. She was treated no differently than Claris among the other doe in the herd. Both she and Claris would often talk to the other doe. Most of the males avoided him which was normal and they knew better than try and make advances to Claris and Carie.

As the summer went on Balo and Stena still kept away from the three of them as they ate on the meadow. Balo did not return for training. His rack grew in although still covered by velvet. He went back to his duties as herd leader. His main task at that time was looking for sick deer or other deer that were too thin to survive the winter. Thankfully he did not have sickness in the herd, nor were there old deer in the herd. That would not change for a few more seasons. There were a couple of thin fawn and remembering his experience last year with his own two children, he encourage the doe to see their fawns ate well. Still there were a couple of sickly fawns he did not think would survive the winter.

He knew Claris was hurt by what Stabo and Stena had said and the fact that Stena made no attempt to discuss the matter further with her mother bothered him more. They did not seem interested any more in anything he had to say or teach. At times he felt like going over and just telling them what he felt, but he tried to control his temper. Stena did not avoid her mother, but she make no effort to try and understand the situation. Stabo also was content to remain in his forest. His future plans for the forest seem to rest with any child Carie could make, and that would not happen until three seasons from now. He did not think he would last those three seasons. The best he could hope for was things with Stena and Balo would work themselves out in time.

It was again on the first day his velvet started itch that noise from the Man caves started. It was not loud, but he could clearly hear large dogs. There was little shouting and it did not sound like there were many Men there. That night he took Claris and Carie with him to his view spot and looked at the man caves. There were a few lights on, and he saw four Men outside with their dogs. These were not the regular hunting dogs; these were the bigger, meaner dogs that had attacked them two seasons ago. As they were standing there, a noise came from behind him. A small whiff of a scent came to him.

“You can come, Balo,” he said out loud.

The large male walked next to him and looked at the Man cave. “Not many,” he said.

“No, but they brought the big dogs that attacked us when you and Stena were fawns.” He then faced Balo and tried to explain to him like he had done to Stabo. “They will go out hunting large animals tomorrow like the bear. The problem is if they don’t find a large animal those dogs will continue and attack anything they come across. If they came across a doe or fawn, they will tear them to pieces. This is why I am going to call the herd together and tell the doe and fawn to go up into the hills. That includes you too, Stena,” he said.

He heard some braches break mostly from Delenn and a short time later the two of them walked into the outcropping with them. “You think they are that dangerous?” Stena asked.

“Last time they almost killed Bambi and me,” he reminded her.

“Well I am making no plans on getting killed,” Balo said.

He was surprised and a bit angry at the bravado Balo was carrying on with. This was about their last talk and not hunting dogs.

“Ronno and Marol did not plan on getting killed in that meadow with their fawn,” he reminded them. “I did not plan on getting hit by Man and almost killed the first year I was here. Your mother and Jolo did not plan on being killed by Man. The fact is all of that still happened. There was no plan, none of us wanted it, but it still took place. That is why we must make plans in case something happens to us.”

He knew he hurt Balo with the comment about his mother, but he didn’t stop.  If they wanted to ask like spoiled fawns that was their business, but he was not going to make things easy on them.“That is why we have others to come forward if anything happens to us. That is needed because what happens to the herd if something does happen to us?"

Then he turned and glared into Balo’s eyes. “Tell me future herd leader exactly what are you going to do if suddenly it is me lying dead in that meadow. “Just what are you going to do to protect the herd?

“No,” he heard Claris plead.

“Yes,” he said turning to her. “That is something you must be ready for too. Just because we do not want it to happen, does not mean it will not.” He then turned quickly back to Balo. “So tell me, what is your plan if suddenly it is me who is no longer here?”

Balo took a step back, he swallowed hard and then after a second he spoke out his voice shaking slightly. “I will get the herd together and to safety. I will then try and see what Man will do, and then tell the herd what to do in order to avoid it.”

“That is a good plan,” he said sounding pleased. “Now let us go one step further. What if it is you lying dead in that meadow? Then what happens?”

“Father, NO!” Stena called out.

“Same answer to you as to your mother," he said firmly. "It might happen, none of us live here forever. Few of us die like Bambi’s father of old age. Usually something kills us. Now Balo what do you do if it is you who are dead.”

Balo looked shocked as did Stena. Finally Balo blurted out, “I will be gone and can do nothing,” he said defensively. “What can I do then?”

“You can do nothing,” he jumped back in. “What about your son, if you have one? What about a younger son of mine? What about the others calling Stabo? There has to be a plan or the herd falls apart and they are killed one by one. One day none of us will not be here, but the herd will always go on.”

He let what he said soak into them before he went on. “Why do you think Bambi and I put in so much time training Veron, Stabo, you, Stena, Gorro, and the others,” he said as if pleading with him. “It was so on that day when we are not here; someone will take control of the herd and lead it wisely.”

He then stepped back and looked at all of them. He saw tears in the eyes of Claris, Caria, and Stena. In truth his eyes were cloudy also. “I know I hurt you with what I say. I hate hurting you, but this has to be said. No matter how or when that happens, the herd must have a leader and few deer can do it. This why I trained you; this is why you will train your children; and I will train any more children that I have. Why, so on that day when it is needed, that leader will be there.”

With that he stopped. No one said a word. He let them all think that over and we walked back to Balo. “I am going to warn the bear. You call the herd together and send the doe and fawns up into the hills. Tell the males they should go also. Hopefully the dogs will not follow them that far.”

All Balo did was nod. He could still hear Stena and Claris sobbing. Carie just looked at him with a mixture of shock and pity. He walked off and disappeared into the forest by himself.

He walked around just inside the trees until he was directly below the bear’s den. The wind was blowing across the meadow so he could smell the dogs and they could not smell him. He could not go to the bear's cave. He might not be alone. So he have to call loudly. They would all hear him at the Man cave for sure. As before he took in a deep breath and called as loudly as he could.


He then ran back to his viewing place calling the bear twice more. The dogs over by the Man cave were up and barking loudly. Some dogs were pulling to get free. He looked at the wind. It was now blowing from his back. The dogs must have smelled him when he got close to the bear's den. The lights went on in the Man cave. He looked around and smelled, heard, and saw nothing near him. He tried calling one more time. By then he could see Men coming out of the Man caves. All were looking toward him, but he was sure they could not see him. The Men went over and this time they did something different. Instead of quieting the dogs, they released them. At once four large dogs started running toward him. He had to flee. He hoped the bear heard him. He ran just inside the trees until he came to the stream that flowed out of his forest and into Bambi’s forest. He ran in the stream toward the hills at the end of his forest away from the Man cave. All the while he heard the dogs behind him. As he came to the end of his forest, he ran up the hill that led to his side of the meadow. By now he was getting tired. The dog sounds were weaker. He stopped to catch his breath.

“WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” he heard a loud sound from below. He had never heard it before. It was a very high pitch call like some bird would make.

“WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” he heard again. At once the dogs barking stopped and it sounded like the dogs were running back toward the Man caves. It had to be a sound made by Man, but it was new to him. It sounded like Man used it to control the dogs.

 “COOOMMMMEEEE,” he heard in the distance.

That was Balo’s call. He wanted to go to the gathering immediately, but could not take the chance the dogs were still behind him. He would lead them right to the herd. He moved along the top of the hill slowly, always listening. He soon came around to where he could face the meadow and feel the wind in his face. He took in deep breaths of air until he could hear and smell that nothing was behind him. He moved around the top of the hill until he came to the stream that flowed from his clearing into the open area and toward the other large forest in the distance. He waited there for some time until he heard nothing from around him. He went down the hill to the stream and quickly ate and drank his fill before climbing the hill on the other side of the stream.

As he walked up the hill, he caught the scent of many deer, mostly doe and fawns. There were some males, but not all of them. He continued to the top and looked around. He saw the doe and fawns standing around. He met them, and told each to spread out and hide as soon as the greater light first appeared. The few males he saw were standing around trying to look unconcerned, but always looking toward the bottom of the hill.

“Stranger,” he heard Claris’s voice. He turned and saw Claris and Carie lying in a hollow in the ground behind some trees. He walked over and lay down between them.

“Did everyone come?” he asked Claris.

“No,” she said sounding worried. “All of the doe and fawn came up, but some of the males said they would not come. I think they wanted to show they were not taking orders from someone as young as Balo. Several males finally came when Balo said he was telling them what you told him too. Duro said again that this would not be necessary to do if you did not keep warning the bear and left. A few more went with him.”

“Stupid,” he said. “Is Balo, Stena and Delene here?”

“Yes they are over by the bushes they hid in when they were fawns,” Claris told him. “What do we do?”

He looked at her worried face and the increasing light from the greater light and just shook his head no. “We can do nothing; it is too late to go after them” he said flatly. “They made their choice; they have to live with it.”

They all lay there until the greater light shone brightly. Then they could hear the sounds of the dogs moving below them. The dogs barked loudly. They first started at the meadow and worked their way into the forest. They went up the side of the hill the bear's den was on. There was loud barking but  no sound the dogs had found anything. He listened and for a while he heard nothing more. Then as the greater light was overhead, he heard the barking cross the meadow and start coming up the  hill they were on. Then suddenly, there was a change in the barking. It became more forceful. They were chasing something. He heard the noise go across the forest below. They were moving fast after something. After a while he heard another change in the barking. It was like the barking when the dogs attacked Bambi and him. The dogs were calling their masters. Then he heard a squeal from one of the dogs and then a loud scream from a deer. That was followed a short while later by the noise of a killing stick. The barking went silent. A while later he heard the dogs going back toward the Man cave. By that time the greater light had vanish and the sky was getting dark and there was silence again. It was then he made up his mind what to do.

After dark the deer got up and moved around. He found Balo, Stena, and Delene together. He approached them; Stena looked shaken. She looked at him, “That was one of us who screamed,” she told him.

“Yes,” he answered. “Stena I want you to leave Delene with your mother. Carie, Stena and Balo will follow me. There is something I must show you. I warn you, it will not be nice to look at.”

With that he lead the three of them quickly down the hill toward where he heard the scream. He was searching for a particular smell. He knew the smell from the time he was hardly more than a fawn. As they got close to the bottom of the hill he smelled it.

“Smell that,” he told the others. “It is the one scent you never want to smell.”

“It smells like a deer and something like when we empty ourselves,” Balo said.

“That is correct, but there is something else. None of you have smelled it before. That burnt ground like smell is blood, deer blood.  Now come with me. He led them on for a while until he saw the first streak of blood on the ground. “That is something else you do not want to see. That is blood from a deer.”

He then led them on past that until he came to a place where there was an intense odor of blood, and filth. He saw parts of a deer lying on the ground, mostly the insides he knew Man did not like to eat. There was a stench there that was almost overpowering. Balo,  Stena and Carie all pulled away.

“Look at this,” he ordered. “This is where a deer died. He was chased by dogs, tried to outrun them, got tired, and the dogs caught him and started to rip him to pieces. Man came with his killing sticks and killed the deer. Man then cut him open, took out his insides, and took the rest of the meat. Do you understand? This is what Man does to us. This is what happened to Ronno and Marol and any other deer Man kills. ”

He thought Carie was going to be sick. Both Balo and Stena turned away. He knew it was unpleasant. He was surprised the scavengers had not found the remains yet.

“Look at it,” he ordered again. “You must understand this to understand what I have told you. In the past whenever Bambi and I had to discuss something like this we walked away from you to discuss it in private so we would not upset you. I can now see that was a mistake on my part. It is a mistake I am correcting now. This is the result of a deer acting stupidly. This is why we lead the herd to prevent this from happening. If the herd just wandered around, most, if not all, would end up like this."

He stopped to let all of that sink in. "Now here is the other thing, what has happened here to this young male can happen to any one of us at almost at any time. The only things that protects us are our speed, smell, hearing, sight, and the ability to move quietly through the forest like a breeze. Without these we would be helpless before Man. This is what I saw as a fawn when I was growing up, and this is why I tried to train you so hard so that none of you would end up like this.”

He stopped for a moment so they could take in what he said. “This deer did not plan to die today, but because he was stupid, he did die. He died in agony being eaten alive by the dogs, that is until Man came and used his killing stick on him. None of us plan to die, but we will. This is why we must have others ready to come forward when we are no longer here. Take a good look, because this is what likely will happen to us unless we are very careful or very lucky.”

“He then stepped back and waited for anyone to say something. Carie finally did spit out some cud and Balo and Stena looked at each other in horror.

“Now come with me. It is getting late and I have one more thing to show you tonight,” he said and then headed toward the meadow. The wind was blowing now from the Man cave. He stopped well within the forest. They did not have to get closer. He smelled another odor he expected. This was as close to the Man cave as he dared get with those dogs.

“Smell the air and notice the odor of fire that the men have made,” he said. “Balo and Stena have smelled this before, but you Carie have not. That awful smell is burning deer flesh that was cut off that dead male. The Men are burning it to eat later. That large fire is where they are burning the flesh of that dead male. Do you all understand?”

“You wanted to show this to me, why?” Carie said looked at him with a mixture of revulsion and sickness.

“To show you what Man does to us,” he explained “It is so all of you will understand why we must be careful, why we must lead the herd wisely, and why we must always have others ready to come up in case we end up like this. There is no kind way to show this. This is how I learned living with Man.”

“I thought I understood, but now I am not so sure,” Balo said to no one. “In fact now I am not so sure I want to be herd leader.”

“I never wanted to be herd leader,” he told them. “Bambi left and I had to do it. I had no choice. One day Balo you may have to be leader because you will not have any choice. The herd must be led, and must be led by deer who understand what will happen if it is led poorly. This is what will happen,” he said and pointing his nose at the fire. “Only it will happen to many instead of just one.”

With that he started to walk away up the hill. “Come, let us be off before Man or the dogs find us here.”

He lead them back up the hill and it was just after the lesser light was overhead that they all came back to their hiding places. On their way back no one had said a word to him. As they climbed the hill two familiar scents came across his nose. Sure enough two deer were there. It was Sinno and Duro. He had no patience to listen to their complaints right now.

"Well," he said looking at the two of them.

Duro said in a mumbling voice. "I heard Gralos scream. I take it he is dead."

"Yes," he told them. "Man is burning him now. Are you going to blame his death on me also?"

"You did warn the bear again," Sinno said.

"Yes I did," he said. "I also told you to get up into the hills. You and others did not. You are lucky it is only the one of you who is dead."

"Why do you keep warning the bear?" Duro asked almost as a plea.

He laughed out loud. "Because he is my friend, because he save my life as you both well know; and because he is worth the two of you many times over."

Duro shot an angry glaze at him. Balo walked up quickly; his head lowered. His  rack was bigger and he was stronger. He had also trained Balo and he was sure he could take that deer with no help from him.

He turned to face Balo. "Thank you, but I can handle this." Then he turned quickly back to the others. "Anything else?" he then paused for a moment and there was no reply. "No, well then I suggest you go up the hill to hide otherwise it might be you two tomorrow."

He then walked away from them and back up the hill. He found the others and ate some grass and then traveled a ways to drink from the stream. The greater light was nearly up by the time he got back to Claris. Carie was not there.

"Carie went to a place to sleep by herself," Claris told him. "She was upset at something, but said nothing. Even Balo, Stena and Delene went away. They also said nothing."

He lay down next to Claris and she moved close to him

“Stranger, what happened?” she asked with concern.

“I had to show them the truth,” he said and tried to force himself to sleep without much success.


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