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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1. New Beginnings

The Stranger: Visitations

by

Wilber Arron

 

 

Year 6

“Are you alright?” he asked looking down at Carie.

She was resting and covered in perspiration, but she was alive and looked healthy. He leaned over and put his nose next to the quivering bundle of white spotted brown fur that was still fidgeting. He smelled the fur, still wet from birth, and took in a deep breath both to commit the scent to memory, and also to detect if he smelled any sickness or deformity. Thankfully, he detected neither.

“I am fine, Stranger,” she said, her voice still weak. “It was difficult, but everything is alright. You have a new son. I was thinking about the name. I like to keep the St names you had for Claris’ children, but I want it to sound differently. I was going call your son Stuben.”

He nodded his head in approval. “Stuben sounds like a fine name,” he said and nuzzled his son along his tiny face. The fawn looked up and started to lick his face repeatedly. His eyes became misty. It had been done. He was able to have other children other than Stabo and Stena. Now here was another to carry on after him.”

“The best within us continues,” he said repeating the comment the bear had told him.

With that he put his nose under the little mound of fur and bones and very gently tried to lift him. The little legs extended and the young male fawn staggered on his feet. He held him up carefully until he got his feet under him. It seemed to take an effort but soon the fawn stood upright on his long, thin legs and looked around. Carie got up and moved over to him and showed him where he could get the nourishment he would need to live. He thankful it took eagerly. Stuben found what he needed most and soon started to nurse at his mother’s rear legs.

He stood back up and rubbed Carie along the side of her mouth nuzzling her gently. “Thank you for this greatest of all gifts,” he told her gently.

She returned the gesture while Stuben filled himself from her. She then looked into his black eyes and said, “I am just glad you have a new son who will follow you. I want you to teach him as you taught the others. I want him to follow you as herd leader one day.”

“Perhaps,” he said. “That is something no one can foresee now, but when the time comes I will teach him.”

He then looked around; he saw no sign of any predators were drawn to birthing site. “I will stay nearby for a while until he can run and you are ready to take him to the meadow. I do not think any scavenger will bother him, but until he is stronger I will remain near here.”

“Thank you,” she said and remained standing. Carie looked about as sure on her feet as Stuben. He did not say he wanted to stay because he was also worried about her. The birth took more out of her than it did for Claris. At least the fawn was healthy and there was only one. He walked out of the little clearing and stood nearby. A short while later he heard another deer approach very quietly. He caught the scent, it was Claris. She walked up to him and nuzzled the side of his face.

“How is she?” Claris asked.

“Weak, but alright,” he answered. “I have a new son, Stuben.”

Claris' face brightened. “That is wonderful, Stranger, I knew you wanted one,” she said. “I just wish I…,” and then her voice trailed off and she turned away.

She still felt the pain of not being able to make his fawn. He walked over to her and nuzzled her neck. “There are many things even a herd leader cannot do. I would gladly have you provide me with children if you could. Did you see Stena?” he asked.

Claris smiled again. “Yes, she and Balo have a son that they named Delon. He looks healthy. Balo is almost beside himself with joy. He cares about older daughter Delene, but like you, he wants a son to follow him.”

“What about Delene?”

“She has gone to her own place in the forest. I suspect some male will want her when The Season comes again.”

“Very well,” he said.  “I will stay near here in case a scavenger comes looking for an easy meal. With me here they will think twice about that, or have my hoof put into their face.”

“I understand; I will go back to our clearing.” Claris said and walked away. He watched her go with a mixture of sorrow and pity. He knew how much she wanted his children, but from some reason she could never have another fawn. He still felt as strongly as ever for her, but he needed a doe to have his children and that would never happen again with Claris.

He then went around the area near Carie and marked it with his scent in several places. Any scavenger who did want to come near would know who protected this place. He ate when he could and slept when he was able for several days until Carie was ready to bring Stuben out onto the meadow.

It was still early spring when they all walked onto the meadow at night. The Man cave was still dark and there were no problems.  He was saddened to note four doe that had given birth, but came out with no fawn.” Either they were born dead, or died soon afterwards. He left them alone; it was easier on all that way. Most doe two seasons or older had fawns, and almost all of them looked healthy.

He saw his daughter Stena and Balo walking onto the meadow with their new fawn. Delene was walking behind them.  He walked up and nuzzled their fawn that then looked up and licked his face.  “He seems healthy and fit,” he said to Stena.

“And hungry,” Stena added.

He stood up and looked at the fawn’s father. “I am glad you have your son Balo, what are you going to do?”

“Teach him as you and Bambi taught me when the time comes,” he said looking down at his child who seemed excited by all the attention.

“Good, that makes me feel happy,” he told them. "We may need all of our children."

They then looked at Stuben and the two male fawns immediately started playing with each other as fawns will do. By the way they ran after each other he could see there was no sickness or weakness in either of them.

“Now that the birthing is over and we are all healthy, I am going over to visit the Man path forest to see how Veron and Stabo are doing. I will go tomorrow after we eat. I will be gone only three days. Carie I would like you to stay near Stena and Balo while I am gone. Balo I do not think any predators will be around, but I like you near both fawns in case someone get a foolish idea.

"Yes, Stranger," Balo said.

"That is a good idea," Carie told them.

"If you do not mind, I will go with you," Claris said.

"That will be fine," he said.

They ate quietly on the meadow. There were a couple of more paired deer, but mostly the deer separated into groups with the senior males in one group, the herd males in another group. the yearlings in still another group, and the females and fawns in their own group. It was late enough in the spring where bear would be out of his den and certainly too early for anyone else to be with him. He decided he might visit him after he came back from the Man path forest.  By now could see the first hint of the new day. Balo called to the herd to leave the meadow. He was halfway across the meadow when he heard the noise. It was like a roaring noise that came from the Man path forest. He looked at the path and saw movement. Then suddenly two huge bright eyes blazed bright at him, catching him in their glow.

He bolted back to his side of the meadow. “Run!”he yelled as he ran.

The herd fled from in front of him. He started running at full speed. The Man machine did not stop near the Man cave, but came onto the meadow. The white glow was lighting him up as bright as day. He darted for the woods and started changing course remembering never to run in a straight line from Man.

“WHAMMMMM,” he heard behind him. Something that sounded like an angry bee went by him close to his head.

“AAAAHHHHHHOOOOOOOO,” he heard from the Man machine.

He changed direction again and was almost to the forest when his hoof fell into a soft spot of earth and he stumbled. He went forward almost burying his face into the dirt. There was a sudden and intense pain from his right front leg.

“WHAMMMMM, he heard at the same instant as another bee went over him. He was stunned, but he had to move. He got up and stumbled into the nearby forest. He dodged behind some trees and went on, but he was limping badly from the front leg. He was slow. His leg felt twisted and would not take any weight. He limped on three legs in pain until he was far enough into the woods where he could not see the meadow any more.  He stopped and lay down on his side, his right leg hurting intensely.

After a while he found he could move it, but the moment he put any weight on the leg, it hurt like being hit by Man again. He looked around his body. He was not hit. He was not bleeding. He decided to rest and try going back to his clearing later. He lay on his side to take pressure off his leg. Since he had not grown much of his rack yet, it was easy to do. He lay there and hoped Man would not find him.

During the day there was a lot of shouting from the meadow. Several Man voices were yelling very loud, as if having a good time. Then as the greater light was overhead he heard their call. The Man voices got louder and louder. He heard trampling noises through the woods toward where the Man cave was. These Men were much noisier than the others. They also kept shouting to each other in the wood. A fawn could avoid them. Occasionally he could hear “WHAMMMMM,” in the forest. Finally there was more shouting and the voices went back to the Man cave.

As soon as it was dark he hobbled mostly on three legs until he got near the oak trees near where he Claris and Carie had bedded during The Season. By now his front leg was throbbing.  He had to rest here. He ate some leaves and again lay on his side. He was exhausted from the effort. Even though it was still night he was tired. He found a soft spot of grass and lay flat on the ground. He fell into a deep sleep. During this time he thought he heard someone call his name, but he was not sure. He woke up in the early morning. His leg still hurt. He tried to stand, but the leg still would not take much weight. It was easier to move, but there was no way he was going to run.

He rested until night and slowly, and painfully, made his way toward his clearing. As he was moving slowly through the forest, the wind started blowing from the meadow. The odor that came to him was the smell of burning deer flesh. They had managed to kill some deer, but he had no idea who. It should have been easy to avoid them. He stopped to rest many times and finally got to his clearing after the lesser light was passed overhead. There was no one there at the time. He found some grass and ate it, but he did not want to walk any more. No doubt the others were eating in the forest tonight since the meadow was not safe. He rested on the ground and waited for the others to return. It was nearly morning before he heard something from nearby.

“He was not where Oswell said he was” he heard Stena say almost sobbing.

“I did not smell any blood although I could smell his scent,” Balo said. “Maybe the Men took him.”

“That smell from the meadow,” Claris said and then her voice trailed off.

“There should still be blood,” Balo added. "We did not see or smell any. If he was hit, it was not bad. You think he could have tried to make it to the bear's den?"

"No," Claris said. "It be too far. Besides I did not see him run that way. He was almost to the forest on our side of the meadow when I saw him fall."

“Then where is he?” Carie said.

“If you are talking about me, I am here,” he said and stood up still favoring his right front leg.

The was a collected gasp. The male and three doe looked at him as if he fell from the lesser light. After a few moments of stunned silence, Claris stammered out. "Stranger, are you alright?"

“I twisted my right front leg so I cannot walk well or run, but yes I am alright,” he told them.

Claris ran up to him and kissed him on the mouth. “We thought you were hit by Man,” she said. “We saw you fall as Man used his killing sticks on you. Oswell said he saw you lying on your side and you did not move when he called you. He thought you were dead.”

“We went looking for you,” Stena said also nuzzling his side.

“You went looking for me with young fawns?” he asked thinking how foolish that was.

“No Stranger,” Carie said smiling at him. “Stena left her fawn with me up in the hills and I stayed with them while they looked for you.”

“When we smelled the burnt deer meat, we thought it might be you,” Stena told him with relief.

He could not believe they went after him. He took a deep breath trying not to get mad. “Well right now I suggest you find some grass to eat, drink and then rest for the day. These Men are not like the others. They seem wilder, more ignorant of the forest. We need to avoid them.”

He was surprised at what they had done. He had told his family for many seasons that one day he felt it would be him who would be gone and they would have to go on without him. He certainly did not expect nor want his family to risk themselves looking for him. He told himself they did it because they cared for him, but that was no excuse. One dead deer was bad enough. To have more die looking for his remains was much worse. Even through his leg still hurt he got up and faced the others.

“Listen to me,” he said firmly. "What you did was still foolish. You should have never gone into the forest to look for me even if you thought I was gone. Stena you have a young fawn to look after. Balo, if I am gone you will have a herd to look after. None of you can do this is if you are gone with me. If I am hurt and can come back, I will. If I am hurt and cannot come back, or worse, then your lives will go on without me. Risking yourself to find me accomplishes nothing. If this ever happens again, and one day it will, you are not to do this. You go on and do the best you can without me. ”

“But Father . . .,” Stena started to say.”

“No but Father,” he interrupted loudly. “One deer is not as important as the herd. You must think about what is good for the others. That is what Bambi taught me and what I have tried to teach you. You must not do this again. Am I understood?”

He looked around at his family who seemed more in shock at his outburst. He gazed sternly at the others. “You know I care about all of you and I know you all care about me. For that I am grateful. Coming after me was still bad. If you had to come after me, only one of you should have done it, not all of you. The herd can survive the lost of one of us. It cannot survive the loss of all of us."

Stena and Balo said nothing, but just turned away mostly in disgust and walked slowly back to their resting place with Delon right behind and Delene close by. He knew he hurt their feelings, but he rather hurt their feelings than see them dead in the forest. He suddenly felt very weary.

“It is late and I am tired. Let us rest,” he said to them

Claris said nothing but also turned and walked away with tears in her eyes. Carie remained next to him with Stuben..

“I agree with what you said, Stranger,” Carie said, “But they really were afraid you were gone and wanted to know for sure. They care about you.”

“I know,” he said nuzzling her, “But they should not care as much as to risk themselves. Now, let us rest.”

“Right after I feed your son,” she told him and then presented her underside to the fawn who needed little encouragement. He eagerly reached up and drank at his Mother’s side. He lay down on his hurting leg and watched. He was glad of one thing. His son looked strong. He was eager to drink and at times eager to play. He waiting until Stuben was done.”

“I will be back shortly,” Carie said. “I need to drink.”

He got up, “I will watch him.” He told her. She went off and he lowered his head. Stuben recognized the offer to play and immediately charged into him. He pushed back slowly, but forcefully. Even though pushed back, Stuben came at him again and again. He was not weak, of that he was sure. Finally the little fawn stopped and emptied himself on the ground and then walked up to him. He reached over and nuzzled his son who looked at him affectionately with two coal black eyes and licked the side of his mouth. He realized in that moment just how much he wanted to stay around in the forest and raise his son and teach him what he knew. Inwardly, he felt the intense desire to show him everything so one day he could be a better than him and one day perhaps become herd leader himself. That was something that would happen long after he was gone from the forest, but he did not mind.

He found Claris already bedded down, her face turned from him. He nuzzled the back of her neck and then Carie lay on the other side of him and finally little Stuben who wiggled between him and Carie. He fell asleep thinking how wonderful it is to have a family that cares, and how bad it could be if they cared too much.

The noise from the forest continued the next day. Again well after the greater light rose the Men went stumbling through the forest. There was no noise from the killing sticks. That night there was more loud shouting. And again the smell of burnt meat, but this time is was not deer they were burning. The deer remained off the meadow and nibbled on the grass they could find in the forest. By now the herd knew if they heard Man sounds from the meadow, they were to stay off the meadow even at night.

The following day near the rising of the greater light he heard something different. First there was a strange noise like a huge bird calling very loudly. It called high and low and it sounded like there was more than one of them. Then there was loud shouting from the direction of the Man cave. Next he heard the sound of killing sticks, but these were not as loud as the ones he normally would hear. After that he heard nothing for a while and then more of the strange bird calling and more yelling. Then after some more loud noises, he heard nothing.

None of this he had heard before and he looked to Carie who also seemed puzzled. There were no more noises, no more sounds of Man walking through the forest. It was as quiet and peaceful as before.

“What was all that noise?” Carie asked.

“I do not know, but if I hear nothing else, I will go look at the meadow after dark. Until then, if I hear or smell nothing, I am going to try and get some sleep.”

After dark, he went alone to his viewing place. His leg was better, but still bothered him. In a few days he would be fine. Both Balo and Claris were there already and together they watched from their normal viewing place. The meadow was empty, the Man cave was dark, and there was not a hint of the scent of Man.”

“It looks safe to me,” Balo said looking it all over carefully. “I see no trace of Man.”

“Nor do I, but watch.” he told him.

He walked out into the meadow near the trees and called as loud as he could. He did not call for anyone, just wanted to call out and see if anything happened. After a while, nothing moved on the meadow. There was no one around. He then called for the rest of the herd to come to the meadow. In twos and threes they came until the entire herd was there. They all started eating the fresh grass on the ground and drinking from the stream.

“He was eating when he saw a young doe come up toward him. He did not recall her name, but she looked upset at something. She walked forward looking afraid. Balo, Stena and Claris walked up toward him looking to see what was going on.

“Herd Leader,” the doe sobbed, “My fawn is gone. Man took her.”

“Man took her,” Balso said looking at her strangely.

“When Man came into the forest, I hid my fawn and then ran trying to lead Man away. Man did not follow me but instead went near where my fawn was. I head the killing stick so I did not go back until after dark. Where I left my fawn, there was the smell of Man and a pool of blood. My fawn’s scent was in the pool. My fawn is gone.”

Balo took a deep breath. “First Gerta and now this,” Balo growled.

Now he knew where the burnt smell of the deer meat came from. Man killed an infant fawn and burned that. What pleasure could anyone have killing a defenseless fawn for enjoyment? There was nothing that any of them could do.

“I am sorry,” he said to the doe in a low voice. “You are right, your fawn is gone.”

The doe turned and walked away obviously upset. Maybe the doe hoped that he could give her some good news about her fawn, but there was none to be had. He felt pity for the doe. There was always next year he hoped.

“I so much wish there was something we could do to stop this,” Stena said.

“Not any more than I do,” he said and walked away suppressing his own boiling anger. There was the herd to take care of. 

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