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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3. The New Deer



It was two nights after the Man family left that they first appeared on the meadow. He first noticed them as they ate together on the meadow: a small group of deer eating in the open about half way to the Man cave. Balo was also paying attention to them. There were two males and several females. The light breeze was blowing across the meadow so he could not get a good scent smell on them, but they did not look familiar. Soon others started to notice them and shy away. Finally Marco, a three year old male, came over to him with Balo and Duro just behind him.

“Stranger, do you know who those deer are?” Marco asked politely.

“No,” he had to admit. “They are not from our forest. I do not think they are from the Man path forest either.”

“They look a little thin,” Duro added. “Could they be from Bambi’s old forest?”

“I know several of the deer in Bambi's forest," he said studying them closely. "They do not look familiar.”

Duro was right; both the males and the females looked thin and there were no fawns which at this time of year was unusual. Something was not right here. By now the rest of the herd was gathering around them.

“One way to find out,” he said out loud. “Balo, please come with me, the rest of you stay here.”

With that he walked slowly toward the group of deer. Balo was behind him looking intently. “Do you expect trouble?” Balo asked.

“A herd leader should always expect trouble,” he answered. “The males do not look old enough or heavy enough to fight us. Approach closely and use your nose. Smell for sickness. If they are sick, I do not want them near our herd.”

“Understood,” Balo said and walked behind him.

As they approached, the doe stopped eating and stood behind the two males who came forward. He got within several lengths of the larger male who stopped and turned to face him.

“I am called Stranger and this is Balo", he said formally. "We are the herd leaders. May I ask who you are?”

The second male came forward. They looked nervous, even a bit afraid. It was then he noticed it, there were scars on the smaller male’s flank, old scars. Some male had slashed his side with his rack some time ago. The first male looked scarred in his front as if in a fight during the last Season. Both males started to turn and walk away.

“Stop!” he ordered. “I will not harm you as long as you do not try and harm my herd. I can see you are thin and you have been in fights. I will not fight you unless you force me too. Now please tell me your names?”

The deer looked among each other not seeming to know what to do. Finally the larger one stepped forward. “I am Relno,” the bigger male said in a meek voice. “This is my younger brother Rasno. The females are Kelane, Kelris, Lacine, Nalene, and Geran. We have come to seek shelter from our old forest. We are hungry and food is not as abundant in our old forest as it is here.”

“What forest do you come from?” he wanted to know.

The male pointed his nose toward the bear’s den. “Over that hill is another forest. In that forest are many deer and not as much food. We came to find a better place to eat.”

“That is understandable,” he said looking them over. Again he wondered about the lack of fawns. He could clearly see some of the doe were nursing. “I do not see any of your fawns,” he said.

“We were not sure we would be welcomed, so we left our fawns hidden,” Relno said.

Balo walked up to him and whispered in his ear. “They seem safe enough and I do not smell any sickness, do you?”

“No,” he said in a low voice. He then slowly walked over until he was within three lengths of Relno.”Very well, you may stay here if you wish. If you want, you can join the herd here. In the meantime, please fill yourselves and feel free to eat with us. I recommend staying on this side of the meadow. Man sometimes visits the Man cave there and on the other side lives a large bear and he may go after your doe or fawns.

He could almost see the relief on the faces of all the deer. With that he turned around and walked back to his own herd. He called the older males together and any of the doe that were interested and explained the situation. No one seemed to care much. In this forest there was food enough for all.

They stayed on the meadow until he saw the first hint of the greater light and he called the herd away. Even the other deer left the meadow going back to their bedding areas. As he, Claris, Carie, Stuben, Balo, Stena and Delon left the meadow and walked past the little clearing he stopped and sniffed the air making sure no one was about.

“Something is not right here,” he said in a low voice. “I used to live in that forest before I came here. There were many deer that lived there and there was always plenty of food. Now suddenly there is no food there. Some of those deer were close to starving.”

“You think they are lying?” Balo asked suspiciously.

“No,” he said. “They had the scent of the deer that live over there, and I did not detect any falsehood in their talk. No something has changed in the other forest and changed for the worse. If it is that bad over there, I am afraid these may only be the first to come to our forest.”

“If too many come over here, there will not be enough food for us!” Stena realized.

He nodded his approval. “You are correct my daughter. We must keep a close watch on this. Tell me if you see or smell any new deer on the meadow. Do not discuss this with the others.”

“Do we do anything now?” Claris asked.

“No, for now we watch and see,” he told them. “Now it is getting light and I am tired. Let us get some rest while we can.”

With that they parted and he went back to their bedding areas. Carie fed Stuben and walked him around the forest until he emptied himself. Then they all bedded together with Stuben again slipping in between him and Carie. They all soon fell asleep and rested until the greater light had almost set.

That night on the meadow the seven new deer came back, each doe had a small fawn. When he looked at the fawns he was shocked that they were all so thin. It was still late spring. There was still plenty of time before The Season and winter to have them gain weight. They came early and ate for a long while. He waited until they looked finished before he and Balo went over to Relno again. He seemed to be more relaxed more this time.

“I am looking at those fawns,” he said sounding concerned. “They need to put on weight or they will not survive the winter.”

“I know,” Relno said. There was not much grass in the forest where most of the deer eat so there was not much milk.”

“Well you will find plenty of grass here, so eat hardy,” Balo added.

“Thank you,” Relno said with a bow of this head. “Some of the doe are already starting to look better and there is more milk for the fawns.”

“I used to live in your forest and there was plenty of grass,” he said to Relno, but loud enough to be heard by the others.”There was a big open meadow with a large stream that ran through it. There was lots of grass there.”

“I know,” Relno said. “I remember hearing the older doe talk about the strange deer that lived with us before disappearing over the hills. That is when Hilgas was herd leader. That was in the better seasons.”

“What happened?” he wanted to know.

“Razor came and killed Hilgas and several other deer. Then he and several larger males took over the herd. He had grown up alone and bitter. His mother Dorla did not like him and chased him away when he was not yet a yearling. After that time Razor and several males went into the deep forest and stayed there until two seasons ago. After they had all grown, they all came back. After they all killed Hilgas, Razor chased down his own mother and killed her along with her fawn. He then told us that he was now herd leader and that only he and his senior males and their doe could eat on the meadow. Everyone else had to make do with what they could find. When my brother was caught on the meadow, although only a fawn himself, he was slashed by one of the males.”

He was suddenly horrified. He knew Dorla. She was one of the does he bred in the season before coming here. She just bred with him and then left. She had no interest in him, and it looks like she had no interest in Razor. If Dorla was Razor's mother then Razor could be his own son. But what if he was his son? Razor had killed Hilgas and this his own mother. He sounded worse than Tarro.

“It all sounds stupid. What kind of a herd leader would kill his own herd?” Balo asked.

He swallowed and tried to look as if there was nothing wrong. “Yes it is stupid, but many deer have more muscles than head just like Tarro Well we do not do that here.”

Relno looked happy they were accepted. He and Balo walked back to his herd. He suddenly had the desire to be alone.

"Balo, something Relno told us has gotten my attention. Take the herd off the meadow. Tell the Claris and Carie I will see them here tomorrow."

He left in a hurry before Balo could say a word and disappeared into the forest. There he spent and uneasy day thinking what he should do, if anything about this. He decided that as long as Razor and the others stayed in their forest, he would do nothing. He would also not discuss this with anyone. This was deeply personal and he knew he had to solve this problem by himself.

The next night he saw four new deer on the meadow. They were in the same shape as the others. One doe had newly made wounds on her side. When he questioned her, he was told she had been kicked by one of the lead males for trying to leave the forest. The following night two more new deer came. Now he was getting concerned. It seemed like the entire herd would find its way to his forest. The new deer mostly stayed together, but they did move closer to his herd. Once they knew he wasn’t going to chase them out they relaxed and became friendlier. All told him the same story. Razor and several males were trying to control the entire herd over there. It was flee, and maybe get killed, or die of starvation for sure.

That was the last of them. Over the next few nights no one new came to the meadow. He kept watch, but he saw no new signs of deer. Two nights after the last group showed up Balo finally said.

“Do we do anything about this?” he wanted to know.

“As long as we do not get any more coming over, I would say no. He knew his herd had many deer. His herd numbered two for every three deer on the meadow. It would mean using most of the meadow and that meant eating closer to the Man cave which made him nervous.

Although he kept his eyes open for new deer, he saw none. Slowly Relno and the other started eating closer to his herd. It was not very long before they started to fill back out and the fawns looked much healthier. It was several nights later he got a surprise. Veron walked out of the forest and onto the meadow. It was the first time he had seen him in this forest since he left. Both he and Balo walked quickly over to him.

“Veron, I am happy to see you,” he said and nuzzled his forehead.

Balo did the same and Veron returned the gesture of friendship. He then looked around and seemed to get very serious. “Stranger I need to talk to you and Balo alone.”

Balo and he looked at each other, both of them concerned at Veron’s serious tone. Something must be wrong. “Come with me,” he said and ran into the forest not stopping until he got near the old Oak.

He smelled around and satisfied they were alone, he nodded. “Veron, what is wrong?”

“Have you had any new deer come into your herd recently?” he asked.

“Several,” he told him. “They all come from over the hill in the other forest. There is a group of males making life hard for the rest of the deer.”

“I have had many come to my forest. I am concerned about that. If too many deer come, it will bring more of Man. Right now the herd is small and so Man does not bother with us. If there are many deer, we will have Man all over the forest come The Season.”

Veron was right. Man did not hunt in places where there were few deer. “How many have come?” he asked.

“About as many that went with me when we started,” Veron said.

“What about food?” Balo asked.

“We have plenty of food; all we have to do is go deeper into the forest to get it. It is not the food that I am worried about. It is Man.”

He thought about this for a while. What could he do? If they chased the deer back over the hill, they most like die in the next winter. If they stayed here, then what Veron was afraid of could easily come to pass, not only in the Man path forest, but here as well. He thought about it and decided it did not matter. No matter what, he would not send deer away to die of starvation.

“Veron, I do not know how to stop this,” he said. “You have seen those deer, they were starving. It was come or our forests or die. If we send them back they may all die and I will not be responsible for that. Your Father would not allow it either. You will need to spread the herd out more so not all of them live close to our forest.”

“That is where I sent them,” Veron explained, “But deer like to be together so they are always coming into the area where we live in. And that is not all,” Veron added. “There have been sightings of large males in my forest. So far neither Stabo nor I have seen them, but others have. They seem to be looking for these deer.”

That got his concern. If the other males were coming to their forest, would they just come for the deer that left their herd, or would they come for all of them. “Most likely the males in charge of that herd,” he told them. “This may mean trouble if many of them come around. We might have a big fight in our forests; a fight we will be outnumbered in.”

“That is what Stabo told me,” Veron went on. “I need your advice Stranger. If my father was near I would ask him.”

“I know,” he said letting out a deep breath. This was serious. Those males could come here and kill all of them.  He could fight well, but he knew he could not fight that many at once. Could he fight his own son? If he tried to hurt his herd, than yes he would fight them. He would not be like Bambi and get beaten by his own son, because he cared too much to fight back. He thought about who could help him. Stabo, Balo and Veron while good fighters could not fight that many either.  If more than four or five came at once, it would be hard for them to beat these males. If they all came at once they could easily kill all of them.

It  was then he smelled Claris approach from the meadow. She was walking in a hurry. He bleated once so she could find him. She trotted into the small open spot looking out of breath.

“Stranger there is a very large male standing at the other edge of the forest across the meadow. I am sure he is not from our herds and he looks too healthy to be trying to run away from the others.”

“It starts,” he said. “Claris get the others off the meadow. Go now!”

Claris took off at a run heading for the meadow.  He turned to face Balo and Veron. “You two come with me, but stay on this side of the meadow. I will see for myself what this male wants.”

He led them away at a trot and came into the open of the Meadow. There across the meadow stool a large male. He was just about his size, slightly bigger than Balo or Veron. He had a good rack that was growing out. He motioned to Balo and Veron to stay there and he walked over alone. As he got closer the deer noticed them and started to study him closely. The male didn’t move, he didn’t say a word, and just stood there and stared at them. When they got more than halfway across the meadow the large male turned and slowly walked back into the forest without a sound. This deer knew how to move.

He followed the other deer until they were several lengths into the forest. The large male then stopped and turned. He got close enough to get a good smell of his scent. It was close to his own. He now knew the answer to his question.

"Greetings, Son," he said calmly.

"So I was right," the large male answered. "You must be Stranger my mother told me about. That is before she died."

That got him angry. "Why did you kill your mother?" he growled. "What harm did she do you?"

The other deer tensed up. "Harm," he spat out. "She chased me away because she wanted to be the mate of Hilgas. Hilgas wanted nothing to do with a doe with a half grown fawn. She chased me away and left me to die. But I did not die. I found other fawns like myself and we formed a group in the deep woods. We all grew up together and when we were old enough and big enough we came back and I killed both of them."

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Dorla should have not treated you like that. I wish I could have been of help, but Hilgas asked me to leave. Even so, you had no right to kill her. Challenge Hilgas for the herd, that I can understand, but why did you kill him?"

"He was weak and old. He also cared about his herd too much," Razor told him. "I care only about myself and my fellow senior males. The others are also weak and so they do what we say or else."

"And starving them to death is part of your plan," he angrily replied. "What kind of herd leader are you?"

"The kind that rules," Razor answered with spite. "Those deer came here and I am taking them back."

"No you are not," he said simply. "If you try, you will have to get by me, Son."

Razor laughed out loud. "Then I will come back with the others. I have seen your deer, they cannot fight us. We will kill all of you and I will take your herd, and the herd in the other forest near here."

"You have not seen all of my deer," he said. "As for fighting me, you can do that right now."

Razor laughed again. "Fight you when you have the advantage? No, Father, I will come back with the others and kill you all at once. Goodbye."

With that Razor turned quickly and ran up the hill toward his own forest. If he chased him, he be lead into the other forest where Razor and the others could easily kill him. If it was a fight they wanted, then a fight they were going to have, but it would be a fight on his terms like with Tarro. He needed a plan."

He walked back out of the forest and across the meadow toward Balo and Veron. “What was that about?” Balo asked.

“He wanted to know if this herd was defended. Now he knows for sure it is and by how many. He will go back and tell the others.”

 “Do we go after him?” Veron asked cautiously.

“No, not now,” he answered “Did you see how he disappeared without a sound which means he is experienced. The wind is also blowing the wrong way for us to follow him. For now we have to let him go." With that, he told them everything except the fact that Razor was his son. That he leave for later.

"So we are going to have to fight them," Veron said.

“Correct,” he said. Now he was sure there was going to be some kind of a fight. Only he did not know how many and how big they were. He did not like where this was going and he did not like their chances. They needed a plan.

“Veron,” go back to your forest and stay with Stabo. I will come in a few days and we will discuss what we can do. One thing for sure, if we try and fight them in a stand up fight, we will lose.”

“Thank you Stranger,” Veron said. “I will ask Stabo to think of something.”

He hoped Stabo could come up with something because right now he had no idea what to do. He watched Veron trot off toward his forest.  He looked over and saw the first sign of the rising of the greater light.

“Go back to Stena,” he told him. “I need to think.”

Balo left silently. He went back to his clearing and again lay between Claris and Carie. He found he could not sleep and got up when the greater light was overhead.

He left the others and walked into the woods by the old Oak tree and tried to think of a way to beat these deer. It was not long before he heard a voice from above.

“Stranger,” he heard Oswell call. He looked up at the young owl and someone new. There was a female owl with him in the big tree.

“This is Sofora, my mate for this season,” he told him. “We are raising a brood in the old tree.”

“That is good,” he said with gladness.

Oswell and Sofora seemed happy. “What brings you here? You deer normally sleep in the day like us.”

“Oh I have a problem I need to think about,” he said.

“Maybe I can help,” Oswell said.

It could not hurt to tell him so he explained the whole story about the new deer, why they came, and the possible threat from the other forest. It took a while to explain.

“So I am trying to figure out a way I can fight the other deer if I am forced too. We will be out numbered.”

Oswell seemed to pause for a second and whispered to Sofora. They chirped together and finally he said. “My Mother once told me that some small animals run together to form a pack when I hunt them. They believe that by being all together they will scare me off or confuse me so much I will not attack them. My Mother told me in that case just pick one out and attack it. The others will still be there when you get back.”

He thought about it for a moment. He had many deer coming for him, and only Balo, Veron and Stabo to fight them. Could they just pick one or two out and fight only them? If Razor and his males stayed in a group, he could not, but what if they split up looking for them. He could fight one or two together and not be out numbered.

“Thank you Oswell,” he said showing appreciation in his voice. “You have given me an idea.”

With that he hurried back to his bedding area, happy for the first time in days.

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