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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11. Questions and Answers

 

They left the forest just after dark. There were tearful goodbyes from both Bambi and Faline to Gorro. There were no other incidents from any other members of the herd. Gorro had settled that in the same way Bambi and he had settled with Tarro. They moved quickly and by the time the greater light started to rise, they stopped to rest for the day just beyond the place he had chased Duro. There was a slight odor of dead deer, and in the distance he could see the vultures feasting on some dead animal.

“Duro,” Bambi said as a fact.

“What is left of Duro is more like it,” he answered.  He felt uneasy because he knew he was responsible for this.

They all bedded down  near each other and as before the noises and openness of the area made for a fit-full sleep for him.  He also started thinking about all that had happened to him this season. That uneasiness turned into a sickness in his stomach. Finally he just gave up and lay facing the remains of Duro. There was a light breeze and the sky was overcast, but it did not look like rain or snow. He was thinking again about what Duro had told him. He had wanted to discuss it with his family, but decided against it. The last thing a lead male needs to do was to raise doubts in anyone’s mind if he was a good leader. So far he had convinced everyone he was that good leader, even the bear. It was himself he had nagging doubts about. He did not want to look weak in the eyes of those who might one day replace him.

"What worries you Stranger?" Claris asked in her soft voice.

He turned his head and saw not just Claris, but Bambi and Faline looking at him with concern. They knew he was troubled.  If he could not talk to these deer, who could he talk too.

 “When I met Duro during the hunts he told me he did not think I was a good herd leader anymore and there should be a change. Naturally he thought he could do it, but it did make me think. Am I still a good herd leader? I did not want to say this in front of the others. “

“Why would you say that?” Claris asked showing surprise.

“Before I came to this forest, I was in many fights with deer. I beat them, mostly, but I never hurt them, and I certainly did not kill them. Now in the past few seasons, I chased Kragus into the meadow to be killed. Bambi you and I killed Tarro and the others, and now this season I killed Razor and his males. Finally, I lost my temper and hurt Duro so badly that he died. If fact I left him out here to die. How is that being a good herd leader?"

“NO! Claris said loudly. “Kragus and Duro were trying to hurt me. Tarro and his other males had hurt little Eta. Razor and his males almost starved their own herd to death so they could rule. I do not see how this makes you too violent or a bad leader.”

He decide to tell them the rest. "There is one thing you do not know.  In fact, I have told no one about this. Razor was my son. You see, I have killed my own son."

There was stunned silence among the three of them. "Your son," Bambi repeated slowly.

"Yes," he nodded. "Before I came to your forest, I spent two breeding season in the forest over the hill. When I met Razor he told me who his mother was and that I was his father. She was one of the does I had breed. He had grown up alone, almost without friends, and rejected by the herd. His story almost sounded like Geno's. He came back seeking only revenge and leadership. Razor killed Hilgas the herd leader, and then his own mother who rejected him. He then made the same mistake as Geno and Tarro; he thought he could get what he wanted through strength and threats alone. Like Geno and Tarro, he found out too late he was wrong. I have asked myself if I should have tried to find him instead of letting his mother raise him, what kind of deer could he have become. I blame myself for this as I blame myself for Duro. I have even taught my other son Stabo, along with Balo, and Gorro also how to kill effectively. We all seen just how well Gorro learned. I think about it all and I am sick. Now I need to train many more. Am I the right one to train them?"

There was a pause and then Bambi spoke up. “As you told me, sometimes violence is a part of being herd leader. I think what you did was unfortunate, but I think it was necessary. Anyone who hurt a doe or fawn, and starves their own herd needs to be stopped and you were wise enough to stop them.”

That brought on his second and greater doubt. “Wise,” he said resting his head on the ground. “If I was truly wise, maybe your son would be still alive. What I said to Gorro was true, it was not his fault. I led them into this. If anyone is to blame it is me.”

The three of them looked at him in shock. He then spoke up on the one thing that bothered him the most. “I have to ask myself should I be herd leader? Should I be the one training the others next spring? Yes, I know that I have lived longer, had more experience, know more about Man. All of this is true, but does it all make me a good herd leader? I try not to show this to others, but you are my oldest and greatest friends. I need you to be honest with me on this, because I just do not know anymore. I feel lost.”

 Bambi did something surprising. He got up, walked over to him and lay down with the tip of his nose almost on top of his. Faline came over and lay so her nose was next to his. Already he could feel his eyes misting up. He never liked expressing doubts about himself. A herd leader can never do that and remain herd leader. Was that what he was truly afraid of, not being herd leader anymore?

“You have led your herd and because of it, many of them are alive. You have always tried to help your herd, even though it has almost killed you at times. You are the wisest deer I know,” Bambi said rubbing his forehead. “Sometimes I think you may be wiser than my own Father. You have done things no other deer I have ever seen do. Mostly you are right, a few times you were wrong, but you always tried to do the right thing. A bad herd leader would never ask himself or others these questions. He would just do as he wanted. Next to my own Father, you are the best deer I have ever known.”

“Next to Bambi,” you are the only deer I would want to be close to,” Faline said in that silky voice of hers. “I know I should not say this in front of Claris, but if I had never met Bambi, I would have gladly been your mate.”

“I do not mind,” Claris said to Faline with a smile before nuzzling him gently. “You are the only male I have ever wanted to be with. I am just sorry I cannot have more of your children. You are brave, wise, and you care deeply about others. A bad herd leader would not care and would not want to try to do something to help the others. We are your family, and we know you for what you truly are, and that is you are a deer that cares about his herd. Duro was a fool, we are not. You still need to be herd leader. You are still needed. Your children and their children need you still. You also know that we care about you very much.”

All he could do was lie there with his eyes tightly closed and try not to lose control of his emotions again. He was only partly successful. He only hoped the answers they gave him were right.

He could say nothing more and so they all waited until it was night. It gave him time to gain control of himself again. When it was fully dark, they all followed the stream and just before the rising of the greater light, they passed into his forest. They made their way up the hill. The deer were already off the meadow so he followed the stream back to the clearing. As they got closer suddenly Balo came out from where he bedded with Stena. Both looked at him and who was with him. Balo ran out and embraced both Bambi and Faline before greeting him. A short while later Carie and Stuben came out and greeted them all.

“I did not think I would see you two again,” Balo said to Bambi and Faline. “Who is leader in your forest?

“I have turned my forest over to Gorro and Delene,” Bambi told them. “Faline and I have come back with Stranger to help train those who will follow us.”

“Gorro is alone?” Balo asked seeing at once the problem.

“Yes,” he told them.

Bambi then quickly explained what had happened and about the fights Gorro had been forced into. All listened with intent.

Balo spoke first. "I have see Gorro fight. That he beat those two deer is no surprise. However, now that you two are gone others may try and take advantage. He may need help for a while."

He nodded, and was glad Balo saw the problem. “And that brings me to a question I must ask you two.”

“You want us to go to Bambi’s forest to help Gorro,” Stena said as if she knew it as a fact.

“You were always a very smart doe,” he said and nuzzled his daughter. “Yes, I need you two to go to Bambi’s forest to help Gorro. I need you to go now before the snow and the fawn growing inside of you make that impossible. That means leaving tonight or tomorrow.”

“But what of this forest?” Balo asked. “What about us starting training this spring. If we go now, it will be mid-summer before our fawn is big enough to make the trip back.”

“That is correct,” Bambi added. “However I can help Stranger in this forest and I do have more experience in training than you. I can help Stranger and the herd best here. You and Stena can best help by helping Gorro. I am also asking you to do this because I know you are both Gorro’s friend and can help him. You are also Delene’s parents and can help her also."

Balo and Stena looked at each other, they looked understanding, but not convinced.

“I know I ask a lot of you and I know I am not giving you much time to decide, but the season is working against us,” he told them. “We have to hurry if we are to help Gorro. Gorro will need your help and Bambi and Faline can help me out here. You two are the only help I can send him.”

“Delon will need to stay here,” Stena said. “Who will look after him?”

“I will look after him as if he was my own son,” he answered

“This is coming too fast,” Balo said. “Both Stena and I need time to think and we need to talk to Delon. We will let you know this evening what we will do. That is my final word on this.”

He knew better than to argue. Balo did not put his hoof down often, but when he did there was no arguing with him. “Well then tonight we will have a family gathering,” he said. "I will call Stabo and the others from the Man path forest. They need to hear this also."

"I agree," Balo said and Stena nodded her approval.

"How is Delene and Gorro?" Stena asked.

"They are a mated pair," he said. "They appear to be very happy although I think she was a bit worried about being the mate of the herd leader. Stena, she will need help in knowing what to do. This is coming faster than we expected, but we do not have much choice. You have helped me and Balo out so much, you could also be a great help to her."

"I understand, Father," she told him. "We will discuss this among ourselves and talk to you tonight."

"That is fine with me," he said.

With that Stena, Balo and Delon walked away toward their bedding area. When they were gone, Bambi came over to him.

“You think they will do it?” Bambi asked.

“I hope so,” he said, “But if they do not, I will not force them.”

With that he walked out of the clearing, down the small stream to the edge of his meadow. There were no light in the Man cave. He  took in a deep breath. "STABO," he called out as loud as he could."COME TONIGHT"

He took several deep breath and called out the same message again. After the third time he heard a male deer call."

"WE  COME," he heard from the Man path forest.

As the greater light rose, he walked back up the hill. That day he slept well and in peace in between Carie and Claris. The only thing that was said was from Carie.

"You will still teach Stuben starting this winter?"

"Yes, that is why Bambi and Faline came back so we could do just that," he told her. "I will start teaching all of them this winter about moving quietly, how to avoid Man, and how to follow a man or deer. We will do that all this winter. We will start teaching them how to fight  next summer. All the deer born last spring will not be old enough until then."

"I am glad," Carie said looking pleased. "I am happy Bambi and Faline came back. I much rather have them teach the others than Balo. I think Stena and Balo will be of more help in Bambi's old forest than here."

That struck him as odd, but for now he let it go. He had enough things to worry about.

Just after dark Stabo, Gena, Young Claris, Koro, Charlene, Karlene, Young Bambi and Young Faline arrive as a group. Gena was very surprised to see her mother and father. Only Alana was missing. When he asked about her, Young Faline spoke up.

"Mother decided she rather go someplace else. I think living in our forest caused her to miss father more. She went into the deep  forest  taking Laurene, her latest fawn, with her. We have not seen either one since."

They spent a while catching up on what had happened during this season. That night they all gathered again back in the clearing Both Stuban and Delon were there along with the others. It was crowded with all of them there. Stena and Balo arrived last and lay down at one end of the clearing. All turned to face them. Balo looked around and spoke up.

“Stena and I have discussed this between ourselves and Delon. We all agree it would be best if we two went temporarily to your forest Bambi. Delon has agreed to stay here and start training in the winter. I must tell you I am very reluctant to do this, but we see the need to help Gorro until he and Delene can get established.”

“Thank you,” Both he and Bambi said together.

“I wish to know one thing, Bambi,” Stena went on. “What exactly do you want us to do? I know you made Gorro herd leader so we will not take over the herd, but I am unsure exactly what you want us to do.”

Bambi stopped for a moment before answering. “Stena, do you remember as a fawn how your Father would help me,” Bambi said. “Every time he had something to say to me about the herd, he would tell me in private. Gorro is smart, but Gorro and Delene lack experience and you two have more of it. Share that experience with him like Stranger use to share his experience with me. Advise him and answer any questions he has as best you can. I do not think there are any more Tarro’s or Neris' there to make trouble, but having two large males there who are trained to fight can stop some deer from getting ideas too big for their racks. One thing I will ask, when you do advise him, do so in private. If you question him with other deer around, it will diminish his authority in their eyes and that is one thing a herd leader must never allow.”

“Understood,” Balo said. "We will guide, but not lead."

“Thank you again,” Bambi said. “I promise you in return Delon will be trained as well as we trained you two.”

“We will do what we can,” Stena said with a smile. “Just like we were taught Now Bambi what do we need to know before we go there?”

That stated a long conversation about the conditions in Bambi’s forest that went on for the rest of the night. They barely had time to feed before the greater light rose again. They all lay together as a single family during the day.

"Let me say this," he said as they bedded down. "I will start training soon. Serious training will not begin until the spring. Anyone who wants to be trained, Bambi and I will train them. The training will be hard and will take well into next season. It is my hope that by the coming of the next Season, to have several of you will be trained well enough to help us out in these forests."

He looked around. All seemed pleased. Finally they all were just too tired to go on so they all slept in the small clearing until night. Then Balo and Stena and the rest of them went to the edge of their forest near where the stream runs to Bambi's old forest. All of them stood by the end of the forest looking down the stream that led to Bambi’s old forest. He watched his daughter and her mate walk off into the darkness. At least it was clear overhead. It did not look like snow. As they disappeared around the first hill he turned back and walked toward his meadow and the darken Man cave. Most everyone walked in silence. All of them knew this was another major change in their lives. He wondered just how many more he would see.

“Stranger,” he heard Delon call from the back.

“Yes,” he said turning around.

“How do you think they will do, my Mother and Father?” the young male wanted to know.

“They will do the best they can, as we all will.” he told him like he would his own son.

At least that question he had an answer to.

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