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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9. Picking Up the Pieces

 

 

It was just after the greater light rose that Stabo and he made it back to the clearing. Young Bambi, Young Faline, Gena, Young Claris, Koren, Charlene and Karlene, Claris, Carie, Stuben, Balo, Stena, and Delon were all there. He was surprised at the gathering. It had been many seasons since the family was all together in one location. All were looking sad. He went to each and nuzzled them and then spoke. As the oldest here he spoke to all of them together.

“Stabo has told me about what has happened. I am sorry it had to be Veron. I watched him grow up; he was like another son to me. He died protecting his herd and his family. Now he is gone. We cannot replace Veron, but we have to go on without him. We must make a plan for the Man path forest and we must do it quickly. He then turned to Gena. “How is Alana doing?”

“Not well,” she said. “Alana saw the whole thing. Although there was nothing she could have done, yet she partly blames herself for Veron.”

“There was nothing she or anyone else could have done,” he said. “That feeling will pass from her in time. One of the first things we must do now is have a herd leader for the Man path forest. Stabo there is only one deer who I see that can do that.”

“I know me,” Stabo said grudgingly. “I do not want to be herd leader. If I did, I would have stayed here.”

“I know,” he said. “I never wanted it either; I got it just the same after Bambi left. You have it now and you will have it for a while because there is no one else to do it.”

"What about the herd," Young Bambi said. "They need to be told and the new leader should do it."

"Young Bambi is right," he said looking at Stabo. "What I think you should do is call a gathering of the herd and explain what has happened and then ask them to accept you as herd leader. There is really no one else to do it and if there is a deer who objects, I am sure you can handle him."

Stabo took a deep breath. “You are right of course, Father. I just wish I had help.”

Young Bambi turned quickly and looked harshly at Stabo, but he was just a yearling. He would be in no position to help a herd leader for at least a season, nor could he be a herd leader for several seasons.“For now you have Balo and me," he told his son. "But you are right, we do not have a lot of deer that have been trained to be herd leaders except you, Balo, Stena, and Gorro. Young Bambi, I do not know how much your Father was able to teach you.”

“He was teaching me,” Young Bambi stammered, "But with the other deer coming and his injury, I did not get much training. I am not ready to become a leader if that is what you mean.”

“No, you will not be ready for at least two seasons so you have time to learn," he said."Delon and Stuben also need to start learning.”

He could see Carie nodding approval in the back. She had asked him several times to start training their son. Until now he was too young.

“I would also like to learn more,” Young Claris spoke up. My Father has been of great help, but again he and Veron were busy this year.”

"I also would like to be trained," Koren said. "My two younger sisters are also interested."

“There is also my younger sister,” Young Bambi saidking at Young Faline. “Father told me she had been asking all kinds of questions about how to live in the forest. She seems to be interested in learning to be like Stena.”

“One more,” said Stabo. “One of the deer that came from over the hill is a large three year old male named Felon. He has said that since his herd now has no leader, it will need one quickly." He saw how Veron and I acted leading our herd. Especially, how we took care of the others that came from his old forest. He asked me if he could learn from us and then go help his herd.”

He lost the count of how many he would need to train, but it was more than he liked to teach with just him and help from Balo and Stabo. It would have to do because that was all the deer he had to teach. The winter was no time to start. Besides, many were still barely fawns. They need to grow more. He needed the grass and other plants to grow muscle and that did not happen in the winter which was fast approaching. There was also a need to start soon. He had to admit to himself he was getting older and soon he might not be able to train anyone.

“Very well, this is what I think we should do," he said. "Right now I will start on some things which we can do in the winter. Come the spring we will start. I will teach all of you who want to learn. I will tell you it will be difficult, but we must have more deer ready to become herd leaders or help out the current herd leaders. I rather train deer I know, and other than this Felon, I know all of you. In the meantime Stabo, you and Young Bambi go back to your forest. There should not be much danger now that Man is gone. Soon our racks will fall out and that will be the end of it until the next Season. I know, Stabo,  you do not want this, but for now you are herd leader in that forest.”

“What about my Mother,” Young Bambi asked.

He did not hesitate, “If your mother wants to come here to live along with your youngest sister, that is fine with me. She will be welcomed in this forest for as long as she wants. If she wants to stay there in your forest, that will be up to your new herd leader,” he said and looked at Stabo.

“Alana is welcomed to stay where she likes for as long as she likes,” Stabo answered immediately.

Young Bambi nodded his appreciation. There was one more thing he wanted to say and he wanted it off his chest.

“There is one thing you must all know. During the hunts, I was approached by Sinno, Duro, and some of the new deer. All told me they did not want me to be herd leader anymore. They all through Duro should be the leader. I told them they could challenge me any time they wanted. When Man went into the forest with his dogs, they panicked and led Man and the dogs to the bear’s den. The bear’s mate was killed there. The bear escaped, but he was enraged. The bear killed Sinno and is out looking for Duro’s blood. He can have it as far as I care. I want nothing to do with Duro. If I see him, I will run him out of the forest or kill him. As far as I am concerned he is already dead to this herd.”

The others were shocked. “You did not tell me they wanted to challenge you,” Balo said. “I would have stomped their tales into the ground.”

"No," he said loudly.“If they would have challenge me openly and alone, no you will not do that. An individual challenge must be fought by the individual. That is the way it is done. Otherwise we become as bad as Tarro and Razor. The only time that has not been done was when Bambi lost his temper with Krono. Other than that, I will fight them one to one if that what they want. If they want to come at us in a group like Tarro and Razor did, then we will treat them like Tarro and Razor.  Only then will we stomp their tales. Do not worry, I can take care of Duro. He is neither strong, nor wise, and he is no longer welcomed in this forest.”

“He is not welcomed in my forest either,” Stabo said showing some anger. “I do not need a deer who will lead Man and his dogs to others. Duro is worthless. If any of you see him, tell Father or me and we will take care of him.”

“Is there anything else,” he wanted to know.

“Yes,” Gena said with a sob, “One more important thing. Who tells my Father about his son?”

He suddenly felt very much deflated. Gena was right. Bambi had to know and there were only two of them who should do it: Gena and himself. Gena might have a fawn growing inside her so that was out. Stabo would also want to go with her if she went and he was needed here. That left only him and he knew the way.

“I will do that,” he said calmly. “I will go myself because I do not want any of the doe going. I need Stabo and Balo here to take care of the forests. Besides, I have already made the trip.”

“And almost died for it,” Claris said loudly. “I am carrying no fawn so I will go with you.”

“I will go also,” Young Bambi said.

“No,” said Stabo. “I need you here. You are the only help I have and I might need you if Man comes back or we have other problems. In this case I think my Father knows best what to do.”

Young Bambi looked disappointed but nodded his head. "Very well," he said in a low voice.

When will you go?” Balo asked.

”Tonight, I need to get there and back before the first snow. It is too easy to track a deer with snow on the ground. Also, there are more hungry mouths to feed the deeper into winter we get. I need to get there and get back quickly.”

Everyone agreed with him. “Balo, I will leave the forest herd with you. You will be herd leader until I get back,” he said. "I am trusting you now. You are almost ready to be the herd leader here. If something happens to me, you will have to lead the herd, but only if they approve."

“I understand, Stranger,” he said trying to reassure him. "I will lead the herd along with Stabo if it becomes necessary."

He looked up and the greater light shinning above them. “It is too late to go anywhere today. I suggest we all stay here and rest. We all have journeys to make tonight.

That day they all heard the clanging noise again. He also heard the noise of many Man animal voices. He could tell Man was working in the meadow. He hoped that meant the hunts were over for this season. None of them got much rest that day. Between the noise from the Men and the knowledge of what he had to do, he did not feel at ease all day. He did not sleep well. The others all stayed in the clearing trying like him to sleep without much success. Stabo, Gena, and Young Claris lay together with the other side of Stabo lying against his mother. Claris smiled like she was a mother again. He and Carie lay together. Stuben, Young Bambi, and the others stayed by themselves.

As soon as it was dark they all went quickly to their viewing spot. The Man cave was dark and the small Man caves were gone. The was no trace of Man on the meadow. The hunts were indeed over. As soon as the lesser light rose they quickly ate and then all those who lived in the Man path forest departed. He sent Balo, Stena, Delene, Delon, Claris and Stuben back to their small clearing. This journey was for him to do with Claris and he did not want anyone else around.  He walked with Claris to the edge of his forest.

“I rather have the bear claw me again than do this,” he said to Claris.

“I know,” she said and nuzzled him. "As you always say, it has to be done."

Her rubbing nose still made him feel warm inside. As they leaving his forest he caught a familiar scent near the hill at the edge of the forest. Claris smelled it too. He got suddenly mad.

“Duro,” he called out loud. “Come here now!”

The five year old male approached head down and walking reluctantly. He got within five lengths and stopped.

He was barely able to control his anger. “The bear told me what happened. You lead the dogs to him. His mate is now dead because of you.”

“The bear killed Sinno,” he stammered out. "Two of the others are also gone."

“Yes, I know all about Sinno, I saw what the bear left," he said angrily. "As for your other friends, I do not care."

Then he stepped forward and looked into Duro's black eyes. They were full of fear. "The bear wants your blood also," he went on. "If you would have listened, none of this would have happened. I should kill you myself, but I am in a hurry and cannot waste the effort. If I were you, I leave this forest and go to the forest far over the hill across the large empty field. Your chances of getting there alive are better than trying to live here. No one wants you. No one wants you anywhere around here or the Man path forest. You are alone."

Duro looked at Claris who spat some of her cud on the ground and turned her back on him. Duro looked in shock. He had no one around him now. His friends were gone, either dead, or they had left him. He was alone. He knew what that meant. His chance of living through winter was small.

“I have to leave," he continued. "Do not be here when I get back, or I will deal with you,” he said and went on his way leaving Duro struck dumb.

After they had walked out of the forest, Claris looked at him. “Do you think he will go?”

“If he wants to live he will,” he said. “Now we must be quiet we can’t make much noise while we cross. Try and empty yourself in the stream. Scavengers will not pick up on your scent if you do.”

They moved quickly along the stream following it carefully. The air was cold and the night clear. The night light glowed brightly and the lesser light seemed bigger than before. The wind was in his face all night so he could smell everything ahead of him. There was just nothing to smell. He just hoped there was nothing behind him catching his scent. They moved on for all of the night. It was funny he noticed the grass seemed shorter than before. He also noticed none of the other large, dumb, animals he had seen before. It was quiet, even the mouse like animals he had heard before were not running around. There were few birds in the sky. It was like everything was going to sleep for the winter like the bear. As the first sign of the greater light appearing, they stopped. They found a hill with high grass at the bottom. They both lay together behind the hill and rested in the grass out of sight of everyone, he hoped.

It seemed to get colder in the open away from the trees. Both he and Claris snuggled in tight to keep warm. The greater light did not show well that day. Its face was hidden by clouds. The wind also picked up. The hill protected them against most of the wind, but it was still cold. He was glad his winter coat had grown in. They rested there until it was almost night. Then they got up.

“I want to go ahead a little and see how far we have to go,” he told Claris

“I will stay here,” Claris said.

He moved off quickly going to the next hill. Past that was an open space where he could see Bambi’s forest. It looked like they get there in one night. Satisfied, he started back. As he rounded the hill he saw something that that shocked him. Claris was talking to another deer. She was talking to Duro. With the wind it be useless to try and sneak up on them so he just came out running trying to close the distance as quickly as he could. There was no way he would not be seen. Duro looked at him and then used his rack to push Claris to the ground in front of him. She kicked out with her leg and hit him in the mouth knocking him back. By then he was upon them and Duro took off running. He then fled across the small stream. He stopped to see about Claris.

“I am fine,” she called to him.

He ran hard after Duro. He could leap father than Duro could and slowly closed the distance. Duro tried changing direction quickly trying to throw him off. It did not matter, he stayed on him. Duro then tried a sharp fast turn and slipped. His back legs went out. By the time he could recover he was on him. He charged straight into his unprotected rear. He felt his racks hit something soft and seemed to go into it.  It was then he heard a scream from Duro.

“My legs,” Duro yelled out and fell to the ground.

He looked, there were several small holes in his rear legs. He had slashed both of them well. They were all bleeding out but not enough to  kill him. Duro tried to get up, but his rear legs were hurt and would not support his weight. He stumbled and fell. He was on him and kicked him hard.

“I told you to go and you did not listen,” he yelled. “You should have listened to me because now you are dead.”

“You are going to kill me,” Duro screamed.

He was going to killed him, but he stopped. He looked at his wounds. Duro would not be able to run with rear legs hurt like that. It would take a while for them to heal. Too long before something out here smelled the blood and went after Duro. He calmed down and got control of himself before answering.

“No, Duro, I am not going to kill you. I am not going to do anything more to you. You are bleeding and there are scavengers out here that will smell that blood and find you. You cannot run any more to get away. They will find you and tear you to pieces just like the bear did to Sinno. It would be a mercy for me to kill you. A mercy I will not give you. Good bye Duro.”

He turned and went back to Claris. All he heard was Duro yell, “NO! do not leave me.”

He got to Claris and looked her over. They were a few scraps marks from Duro's rack but otherwise she was unhurt. She looked at him. “You did not kill him,” she said sounding pleased.

“I have had enough death for one season,” he said looking back. “Besides, there are many others who will gladly kill him for a good meal. What did he want?”

Claris looked straight at the struggling male with contempt. “He was begging me to talk to you about asking Bambi to let him live in his forest. He was afraid that alone and not wanted in any forest he would die this winter like you said.”

“That is most likely true,” he said.

“I told him after what he did, he would be lucky if Bambi did not kill him. He got upset and looked to try and hit me. That is when you came back.”

“And he wanted to be herd leader,” he grunted. “You cannot tell others what is the right thing to do if you cannot tell yourself what the right thing to do is. I am glad he is gone. Let us be off.”

They traveled that night. The running had tired him and he did not move as fast as he did before. That amount of effort would have not bothered him in the past. Perhaps he was getting too old. It was almost full light and they were still just outside Bambi’s forest. They could cover the distance in the light or bed down here in the open.  Both he and Claris thought they should both bed down here and wait for darkness. They were close enough to run into the forest if they smelled danger. They ate their fill of grass. There was plenty of it, but it tasted old and dry. After they filled their hunger, they stopped.  They emptied themselves in the stream and then rested. He fell right to sleep with Claris lying close to him. He felt very warm inside.

That day the clouds got thick, the greater light disappeared from view, and there was rumbling in the skies. As it started to get dark, he started to feel wet on his back. It was a cold rain that fell on them, but then it suddenly stopped. Right afterwards white flakes starting falling from the sky. The first snow of the season was on them.

He looked up at the sky and the falling snow. “I had hoped we get back before the snow. We have to hope it clears up soon. I do not want to go back leaving our tracks in the snow all the way back to our forest.”

“There is nothing we can do about it,” Claris said. “We cannot go back now. We are here.”

“Yes and it is getting colder and the snow is falling,” he said. “We need to get under cover. I can hear or smell no sign of Man. I think we should run into the nearest trees and stay there until it is fully dark.”

Claris nodded and they got up quickly and bounded the short distance into the trees. There was nothing between them and Bambi’s forest. It took them only a short while to cover the distance. They both saw the lake, but that was too much in the open. They ran instead into the cover of the pine trees at the edge of the forest and only then stopped to rest. After they caught their breath they found a spot with no snow and protected by trees. They lay down close together until it was fully dark. They then moved cautiously toward the far hill where he knew Bambi and Faline lived.

Now for the hardest task of all.

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