The Stranger: Visitations

In the fourth story in this series, Stranger seems to be finally getting his life on track. Then he is visited by friends and enemies from his past that will cause him much happiness and much pain. New tragedies will test even his great strength. Add to this the fact that old age is finally catching up with him. All of these problems will force Stranger to turn to new and old sources for help to cope with a world seemingly spinning out of control.

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7. Interlude

 

He sent Gorro and Balo back to his forest to tell everyone they were at least alive. He and Stabo stayed and tried to help the injured Veron.  Over the next two days they managed to get him up and walking about, but he could not run and he was in no condition to fight. He found some of the healing plants he and Bambi had used and fed them to Veron. They helped his pain, but they could not heal any damage inside. He knew it would be awhile before Veron was back to normal.. His only concern was that some large male might use this opportunity to challenge him for Alana and herd leader. He pulled Stabo aside and out of hearing from the others and he talked to him.

“Veron is in no condition to be a herd leader for now, Stabo. You are going to have to do it for a while."

“I know, I am afraid one of the males from the other forest might challenge him,” Stabo added. “There is only one deer that I think has a chance of doing it, but he seem uninterested. That deer was of no  help when Razor and his males came here.” Stabo sounded a little disgusted at the fact.

He could not blame any deer about not helping. It was not normal for a deer to be that aggressive outside of The Season. “It could be he does not know how to help. It is not something that comes naturally for a deer. It has to be taught like I taught you, and Bambi taught Veron.”

“I know,” Stabo said. “I just hope no one takes advantage.”

“You cannot allow that to happen,” he told him flatly.”You must step in. I have seen the other deer here. They are not cowards, but they are not as strong and wise as you. You must see they come to you. This is what it means to help out the herd leader.”

“I understand, Father. I never wanted to be herd leader, but if I have to, I have to.”

Stranger smiled openly seeing how his son had matured. “My Son, I have always been proud of you, but lately I have seen you grow into a fine male with a fine mate and good family.”After that he rubbed his Son’s forehead as a sign of affection. 

“Thank you, Father,” Stabo said and rubbed his head.

“Speaking of training, Koren has asked to be taught,” Stabo said. “I think this fight has awakened him to the needs of learning how to fight. Even Young Claris is showing interest which is good because she shows no interest in any male here.”

“The training is much more than that,” he said.

“I know, Father, but for now he understands this,” Stabo said as if teaching him. “The rest he will understand in time. I will start teaching him and Young Bambi. I could use your help.”

That would mean pulling him away from his forest with Stubin and Delon needing to be trained. That would mean turning the herd almost over to Balo to allow him to do it.“We shall see, my Son,” he said. “For now I have to be getting back to my forest. The Season will soon be here and you know what that means.”

“Yes, Father,” Stabo said looking back to his clearing. "We need to get ready in this forest also."

"Call me if you need my help. It will not take long to get here," he told Stabo.

As soon as Alana, her fawn and Young Bambi were back and settled, he too left. They rest could take care of Veron until he was healed His trip back to his forest was uneventful. He came up into his clearing. He was greeted by Claris, Carie and little Stuben. It was late but he did play with Stuben again and this time he noted Stuben seemed more aggressive, more prone to attack. He had to push back harder on the fawn to keep him at bay. Then like Delon he reared back on his legs and kicked out with his front hoofs. He was able to avoid it, but it did make him concerned.

“Did Delon show you that?” he asked.

“Yes, Father,” Stuben said in a high pitch voice. “Delon said we needed to be careful and that you told him not to do this unless you or Balo taught him.”

“Then why did you just do it?” he asked sternly.

“To show you I can learn too so would you please teach me? Balo is also telling Stena how you, Gorro, and he beat the other bad deer.”

He decided not to scold his son, but he had to know this was not a game. “What you say is correct, My Son, however as I told Delon and now I will tell you; never try to use that unless I am with you. You can hurt someone with that. When you are older, I will teach you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father,” he said. “I will not use it, I just wanted to show you,” the growing spotted male said.

“Good, now it is getting late, we will rest now,” he told the others and he lay down. Again Stuben slept by himself a few lengths away.

“You son is ready to learn,” Carie told him.

“Good,” he said. “I will teach him some over the winter, but I will start in earnest next spring. He will be old enough and developed enough to learn along with Delon and Koro.”

Carie came and nipped him playfully at his ear. For now she too was happy. There were more and more to train and he had fewer deer to help. This will be a problem.

That night they all ate on the meadow. It was then he noticed the first itching of his antlers. The Season was nearly upon them. He ate with Carie and Claris and for once there were no disturbances. He did notice both Delene and Gorro entered the meadow together and started to eat together. He looked up at Claris.

“That stated right after Gorro and Balo came back from the Man path forest,” she said.

"Did Stena and Balo say anything?” he asked.

“No, Claris went on, “Only that I saw the four of them walk off the meadow together the second night after they returned.”

“We never heard any objections,” Carie added.

“Very well, let me talk to them alone,” he told his two doe and walked over. As he got within several lengths they both stopped eating and looked at him.

“Gorro, it is getting close to The Season. If you are going to go back to your Father’s forest before the hunts, you will need to leave soon.”

“I know Stranger,” Gorro said with a huge smile. “I was waiting for you to come back. I will be going back tomorrow night and Delene is going with me.”

“He turned to the young doe that was almost beaming. “Is this what you want?” he asked.

“Very much,” she said and stood next to Gorro their flanks touching.

By now he saw Balo, Stena, Claris and Carie walking toward them. “I see these two are a pair,” he said out loud before turning to face both of them. “I am happy for both of you. When the time comes, train your fawns like Bambi and I have trained you”

"That I will do," Gorro said.

With that he nuzzled both Gorro and Delene to show them he too approved. Not that it mattered. As Bambi taught him, pairing of deer makes the herd stronger, but the herd leader had little control over it.

“Stena and I are happy about this also,” Balo repeated. “Gorro is a fine male and Delene will be happy with him.”

“Then there is nothing more to be said. Both of you will be welcomed here as long as I live” he told them. “Now let us finish eating and all sleep in the clearing as a family this last time.  You two have a long journey to make.”

After a day of much talk and little sleep, they all got up when the greater light set. They all went to the edge of the forest where the stream leaves his forest and flows to Bambi's forest. They saw the new pair off and they both disappeared into the night and behind the hills. There was a tear in his eyes as well as everyone else's. He wondered if he ever see them again. “And so it begins again,” he muttered to himself. He went back to the meadow and called everyone in the herd together.

“Most of you already know this, but Razor and his males are dead,” he reported to the herd.”They will no longer cause you trouble in the forest over the hill. If any of you wish to go back, please feel free to do so. I will not stop you. If you wish to stay here, that is also fine with me. The choice is yours.”

At that point Duro, Sinno,  and three other males from this and the other forest came forward. “Stranger, there is one thing we need to discuss.” Duro’s tone was direct and showing of little respect.

“That is?” he asked.

“Soon The Season will be upon us,” Duro told him as if he did not know.” Are you going to hide the herd like you did last Season?”

“Yes, that was my plan. I was also going to send the new fawns to the small clearing for safety while the Season is here. Claris can watch them.”

“We think sending the herd to one place is not wise,” Duro went on speaking with authority. “I and several deer from here and the other forest have decided to hide in the hills to the right of the stream that leads to Bambi’s forest. I ask any other deer who wants to join us there to let me know.”

That was a direct challenge to his authority and they all knew it. Balo looked ready to stomp Duro’s tale into the ground when he shook his head no.

“Very well,” he said. “Duro you may leave for your hiding space Now!,” he said with an edge to his voice and a slight lowering of his head as a threat. “Anyone else who wants to go with Duro is free to do so, only do so now! For those who stay, we will hide again in the same place as we did before. Either Balo or I will call to you when Man comes.”

He stepped back and allowed his herd to move freely past him if they wanted to. Four smaller males and that many doe followed Duro out of the meadow and toward his hiding area. Most of the herd stayed with him. He smiled as he watched Duro’s small group walk off.

“As for the rest of us,” he said loudly, “As soon as The Season is here, I will call the fawns to the clearing. When Man comes back, pay attention to my call. We will all meet in the clearing to decide what to do. Does anyone have any questions?”

“Do we know how many Men will come?” an older doe asked.

He shrugged, “No I do not. I will know only when they set up their caves at the edge of the meadow. The more caves, the more Men. I hope to be able to tell you that before we leave for the hills. Are there any more questions?”

There were none, so he walked away. Claris, Carie, Stena and Balo followed close behind him. As soon as they were far enough away as not to be overheard Balo stopped. “Stranger, why did you allow Duro to speak to you like that?”

He smiled openly. “Because I needed to learn how many were with him. Now I know. Duro also knows that most of the herd supports me and not him. Hopefully that will shut him up. If not, and if I have to put him in his place, then I will.”

“But he has others,” Carie said. “They could try and come at you like Razor did.”

He continued eating. “True, but Duro is no fighter and neither are those other males. I am not nearly as frighten of Duro as I was of Razor.”

“I still like to stomp his face into the ground,” Balo said.

It worried him Balo was so quick to do to Duro what they did the Razor and his group.“No, Balo that is what they want. That would show the herd we were more like Razor and less like Bambi. Besides with the Men coming I would not mind having them on that hill. Man has chased deer from that hill before. If Duro and the others are there, I rather have Man chase them than chase our own herd. It will give the Men something to do instead of looking for us." With that he smiled again and went back to eating.

"That sounds cold hearted," Stena added looking at him.

"Get use to it, mate of the future herd leader," he told her calmly. Then everyone stated at him. Not everyone in his family agreed.

In the last few seasons, Man came with large dogs to hunt bear and other large animals at this time. This season they did not. They were allowed to pass the moment in peace; however he did hear the sound of killing sticks in the distance in the forest over the bear’s hill. He could also hear the same sounds in the forest he could see from the top of the hill near his clearing. Man was hunting, just not here during this season.

The itching in his Rack also became greater and he and Balo scrapped their velvet off. Again both Claris and Carie told him his rack was full and was larger than any other male in his forest. Balo’s rack was also full and looked impressive. He doubted any male would dare to challenge either of them. He heard nothing more from Duro and his males and so left the matter alone. 

As soon as his rack was fully out of the velvet he noticed Carie starting to give off the scent of a breeding doe. Again, poor Claris gave off nothing. He did see fighting in the meadow at night. These were regular mating fights that he did not interfere with. Most doe and males did not pair year round so it was only at this time of year they were together. Some males even made a point of trying to breed several doe, but there were not that many doe to go around. As usual the larger males had their pick and the smaller males did without. That was part of the 'Way of All Things.'

On the night he finished scraping off his velvet, he heard a roar from the far side of the meadow and he saw two back mounds running down the hill toward the meadow. He barked a warning and immediately all the deer ran off the meadow to safety. He stood near the far side of his meadow away from the two bears, but in the open.

“Greetings,” he called out before leaving. The smaller female looked at him. He had no doubt what was on her mind: fresh deer meat to eat. His bear just shook his head before going back up the hill. The bear should have known better. Perhaps they could catch one of Duro’s group, maybe even Duro himself. That was not his concern other than not to have one of his herd feed the two bears. It also meant if they were hunting here, then something was stopping them from hunting over the hill in the next forest. That was the bear’s favorite hunting location.  He made a mental note not to visit the bear any time soon.

As he walked back, he started to feel the pressure starting to build up inside of him. The Season was now close at hand. As he came in he noticed Balo’s scent and started to feel angry that he was near Carie. Although Stena put out a strong scent, being his daughter he never felt any desire toward her. He went back to his clearing where Claris and Carie were waiting. He noticed Stuben was gone. Carie noted his interest.

“Our son came to me and said he was feeling different inside. I think even though he is too young, I think he is may be feeling some of The Season inside him and did not want to be around us.”

“I understand, it is difficult the first season, he will know better next time,” he said and lay between his doe.

“Man will come soon,” Claris said.

“As he always does,” he answered. “We will be ready for him. All we can hope for is that the hunts will not be too large and last too long.

They heard the crash of racks down the hill from them. Two males were tossing it up hard.

“More fighting this year,” he said.

“More males and doe this year,” Carie added. "Two of the males were sniffing near me, but ran off as soon as they saw you.”

“Claris tomorrow I will call the fawns together and you take them to the clearing as before,” he told her.

“Yes, Stranger,” she said and looked sad. This was the hardest time of the whole season for her. She had to let another doe breed her male and he knew it hurt her inside. There was nothing he could do about it. He slept feeling Carie sliding very close to him so her scent fill his nostrils.

The next evening after eating he called all the fawns together and sent them to follow Claris. He saw doe and males pairing off and going toward their areas. He motioned to Carie.

“Come Carie, it is time for us to go too.”

“Yes, Stranger,” she said in a soft voice and lead him off the meadow toward the large oak trees where they had their place.

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