The Stranger: Generation

In the fifth story about the Stranger, our hero is getting old. It is time to hand the herd off to younger and more capable deer. Only who is more capable? After a series of disasters and personal tragedies, the Stranger is left hurt both physically and mentally. He plans are left in ruins, and he finds he has to begin all over again. How he can adapt to these calamities will test the strength and resolve of the Stranger.

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9. LOSSES AND GAINS

 

 

He returned to the Man Path forest just after morning. He walked over and lay in a small clearing near where he could look out over the meadow. Although still colorless, he could catch a slight greening of the ground. Grass was beginning to grow, life was returning to his forest. As he lay there he smelled several nearby familiar scents. He looked over and saw the others of his family walking toward him.

“Come,” he told them. “I think I have an interesting story to tell you.”

After telling them about his encounter with his Son he could see a mixture of frowns and smiles from the others. Some were pleased Stuben had left for good. Others like Bambi were not happy where he was going.

“I wish he would have gone someplace else,” Bambi said angrily. "Gorro does not need the problems."

"I agree," he said. “I know you are not happy he went to the old forest, but without his mother to mess things up, he should be fine. If he does do anything stupid, Gorro is capable of putting him in his place. Besides he already told me he had no intention of challenging Gorro and he is trained well enough to help Gorro out if needed.”

"I still do not like it," Bambi spat out.

 “Just where else could he go?” he asked. “He certainly cannot come here: he cannot go into the deep woods with Balo and Delon, he cannot over the hill again to Felon’s forest, or in the distant forest over our hill. He had no other place to go and he knew it. I think he will behave.

 “I am happy he finally learned from his mistakes,” Claris said.

“We hope,” Bambi sneered.

‘Yes, we hope,” he added, “Because that is all we can do.”

After their discussion, life went back to normal. Summer ended and brought the fall which brought on his itching rack. He scraped off the velvet. He knew his rack were not as large as before. He did not care; he was hardly going to chase a doe in his condition.

Over the next few days the other males scrapped off their racks. Young Bambi and Stabo had large, powerful looking racks. Galin's rack was only slight smaller. Koren and Garten has smaller racks, but still larger than most of the males in the herd. He did not think there was any chance  any of them would be challenged and pity the poor male that did.

As soon as all their racks were fully out, the scents from the other doe began. Gena, Young Faline, Charlene, Galene and  Garla were all putting out heavy scents. Only Faline and Claris put out none. As soon as that happened, he noticed the males starting to get agitated with each other. He suggested to all the males they take their mates and get away from each other. He knew that many males around so many breeding doe would only cause trouble even in the closest families. After The Season was over, things would be alright again he told them. Unlike back in his forest, all the new fawns and some of the yearlings gathered in a group while their parents gave into the urges of The Season. Soon even Bambi and Faline left, leaving them alone. This was the first time he had been alone with Claris during The Season since he came back from Bambi’s forest with Carie. They stood at the edge of the Man path forest and watched the lesser light rise overhead. They said nothing, but just took pleasure in being with each other after the events of this year. They ate some grass and then went to sleep by a small stream.

He was jolted awake the next morning by a familiar scent. It was the musty odor of a breeding doe, but it was not a strong scent. He was looking around thinking one of the other doe had returned early for some reason, yet he saw no other deer. It was then he realized the scent was coming from Claris. He looked at her and she looked back embarrassed.

“Claris,” he said taking in a large whiff of air.

“”Yes it is me,” she said hesitantly. “This is the first time I have felt this since my fawn was born dead.”

She got up and started to walk away. “I am sorry,” she said.

“Do not be,” he told her. “I rather like it; if I could only do anything about it.”

Claris looked at him and took in a large whiff of air near his tail. “I think you still can,” she said in that smooth voice of hers. “Come with me.”

She led him away from the open clearing into the woods where she stopped and then looked back at him with a smile. She spread her four legs and hunched her back as an invitation. More by instinct that anything else he mounted her and much to their surprise he found he was not that old, yet.

But it sure hurt later.

The Season passed with its urges and soon afterwards the males returned with their now mated doe. All were smiles and happiness like after his first season with Claris. They had all come back to their group for a day before they heard it in the distance.

“Pham…..Pham   echoed repeatedly in the direction that Koren and Young Bambi had told them the new Man cave was built.

At least man had not rebuilt the Man cave that had been destroyed in the fire. He wondered if Man thought all the deer had run away to other forests after the fire. There were also Man sounds of killings still from the forest over the hill where the bear lived and in the far distance from the forest from where Galin, Galene, Garten and Garla lived. He could see all the noise from that forest troubling them, especially Galin and Galene. He walked over to both Galin and Charlene standing close together looking toward Galin's forest.

“I know that hurts you," he said trying to show sympathy. "Next year, you will be able to help them.”  

“If anything is left alive after Man is done,” Galin said looking cross. "That is my herd Man is killing."

"I know that," he reminded Galin. "I never liked when Man killed any of my herd, but it happens; however, not even Man can kill all the deer. There will always be some to look after. That is one of the bad parts of being herd leader. You can never save all the deer, just most of them. It still hurts when it happens."

“Right now I am saving no one except myself,” Galin said with gloom. He then walked away with Charlene.

He and Bambi walked to the edge of the Man path forest and looked out over their meadow. There was not a sign of Man. There were no small Man caves Man used when he chased deer. He could nor smell or hear anything of Man’s presence.

“Do you think Man will leave us alone?” he asked Bambi.

“Perhaps,” he said as not believing it. “After the fire in my forest, Man did not come back the next season.”

He heard Stabo’s familiar walk behind him. The now large and well built deer held his rack high in the air. No mistaking who is herd leader here. He looked out over the meadow with them. “I do not think Man will hunt here this season. He does seem to be hunting everyplace else.”

“We must still watch carefully,” he said. “The Man animals can get here quickly with many Men.”

Bambi nodded. “We watch and wait,” he said sternly.

“As you said, Father, we can also hope,” Stabo added.

No Men came. No killing sticks sounded near to them. He heard many killing sticks deeper in the forest which worried him for that is where Balo and Stena went. Balo should be smart enough to avoid Man. Every night the younger Bambi and Galene went into the forest to look, but they did not go far. Koren and Gerla looked along the edge of the Man path forest. Each time they came back and told them they saw, heard, or smelled nothing of Man. Soon the noise of the killing sticks stopped and he knew they were safe until next Season.

It was two days after they heard the last killing stick. The air chilled, the clouds appeared over head and the first cold rain of fall started to come down on them. It was near morning after they ate that he heard the younger Bambi calling out. It sounded like trouble so they all moved quickly. The call came from an area in the forest near the clearing where they had met before their battle with Razor. They all moved to the clearing. As they did, he picked up another scent. It was a doe. There was also the strong odor of blood. The doe was lying on the ground on her side, looking beaten. She had been injured; he could see bleeding from her side. As he got closer he could see a deep wound in her flank. She had been hit by a killing stick.

“Stranger, please look at her?” Young Bambi asked sounding frightened. “Galene and I found her lying here a short while ago.  Her name is Jara and she was one of the doe that went with Balo and Stena.”

He walked up and looked at the wound in her side. He could smell the wound. It already smelled of sickness. He felt her forehead and it was burning. The breathing was strained and rattling. This doe would not live much longer.

“What happened,” he asked the doe.

“Man came,” she gasped. “Many Men came with dogs, large dogs,” then she stopped to catch her breath. “Balo saw them and told us to run toward the forest and not run into the open space. We were all running together. We tried to run with the wind in our faces, but the air was filled with Man scent so Balo told us to run the other way. I remember the wind was at our tails and then suddenly there were the noises of killing sticks all around us. I was near a tree and I saw the tree near me go to pieces. I then felt something hit my side. I fell down and got up quickly. I turned to look for the others.” She then stop and gasped for air.

He looked her over again. She was struggling to get air, but he knew she would not get up from here. He looked at Young Bambi and he was standing looking at him with a mixture of fright and worry.

“What else did you see?” he asked.

"When I turned there were many deer on the ground. I saw Balo. Stena, Kalo, Rossa, and others. They were all on the ground. I saw Man walk out from behind some trees and I ran.  I managed to come here, but I cannot go on any longer."

He felt a burning in his throat. He heard Claris start sobbing. “Stena,” was all Claris could say.

“My mother and young brother,” young Bambi echoed.

His heart sank. He looked at Stabo who was shaking. He muttered, “Sister,” and turned his head.  He looked back at the doe that was now starting to shake as death overcame her.

“We can do nothing more here,” he told them. “She will be gone soon.” They all left the dying doe who seem to stop moving soon afterwards.

Young Bambi looked desperate. “Look, I can go into the deep forest and look for them. Man is gone so there will be little danger.”

“No!” Bambi said loudly. “All that will do is to get you killed. If they could come back here, they would have. If they are not here by now, then they will not be coming. You are needed here with the herd.”

“But my brother and mother,” Young Bambi pleaded.

“My Son, Veron, your father,” Bambi said his voice beginning to crack. “My daughters Gurri and Gerta; they are all gone. If you go after them, one of two things will happen. Your will either die, or find something you will wish you had not found. They are gone and nothing we will do will change that.” With that the big deer also turned away. and walked into the forest with a sobbing Faline.

“Bambi is right,” he said in a low voice. “My daughter, Stena, is gone. Nothing will change that. The best thing we can do is live.”

He turned away from the other and walked into the woods with Claris. Two Sons was all he had now and one of them he would never see again. It was getting too much to bare. They went back to their clearing and he spent the following day awake remembering that little doe fawn that asked so many questions and found a male that asked so few. Only then when he was alone with Claris did he let his emotions out.

The air turned cold. He knew soon the snow would fall. The grass had not grown back enough on the meadow where it would be a source of food for the herd this winter. There was nothing in the old forest to eat. They have to live off the food here. He thought they had enough. His rack loosen and then fell out as did the others. He wondered if this be his last rack.

He still continued with Galin and his family's training. He had deep concerns however. He had trained no other deer better than Stena and Balo and yet Man had managed to kill them. He questioned if he was doing Galin and the others any good. As the greater light rose once more and they went back to their resting area he called Bambi over to him to walk alone in the forest away from the others. When they were alone he told Bambi of his concerns.

"I have felt the same way," Bambi said. "We were not there so we do not know if Balo and Stena made a mistake, or if Man was too clever for them like when Gerta and Gurri were killed. Neither of us saw that coming either."

"I wish I knew," he said. "In the late spring, Galin and the others will leave here and go back to their forest. Are we sending them to their deaths."

"No," Bambi said. "I know we have saved many deer with what you learned from Man and what my father taught me. As you said we cannot not save all the deer, not even the ones closest to us. We can only save who we can. In the end all of us die. Do you know I am almost as old now as my father was when he died? I ask myself how long before it is me."

"As do I," he told him. "With my injuries, I do not understand why I am alive now."

"Forgive me for saying this, old friend," Bambi said in a low voice. "I do not understand why you are alive now either. You have taken more injuries than any deer I know by far, and yet you still live. Remember when you first came to the forest, I told you about what my father had told me about the is One above Man and all of us?"

"Yes," he answered. "I never believed it."

"That is the only reason I can think of for either of us being here," Bambi said.

He did not know if that made him more afraid or not.

A few days later it turned cold again. For some reason the cold weather made him feel better. He decided he try and see his friend the bear once more before winter came and he went into his sleep. There were also the unknown consequences of if he would survive the cold of winter. He wanted to see his friend one more time. As usual he went alone, although Stabo wanted to go, Gena kept him back. He did not mind. Although he felt his family had accepted the bear, they never felt comfortable around a creature that could tear them in half in a moment.

It took a while for him to get there. His injury still did not allow him to walk a great distance. He stopped many times before he arrived outside the den. He bleeped once and sure enough the large black mass of fur came out of the den. He started to approach his friend and then stopped. There was something wrong. The bear was not moving normally. He favored his right side and seemed to limp on three legs. As he approaches he could see claw marks in the skin and the side of his face. Bear had been in a fight and it looked like he lost.

“Are you alright, my Friend,” he said as he approached.

The voice was more labored. “I have fought with my son over the female I bred two seasons ago. He is now stronger than me and beat me and chased me away. At least he did not kill me when he had the chance.”

So it had finally happened as the bear had thought it would. A new bear had taken his place. “Did your son chase you out of the forest?”

“No,” the bear told him. "All he was interested in was the female. He did not care if I stayed in the forest as long as I did not try and breed the female. After they had breed, he paid no attention to me. He has his territory and I have mine. At least for now he does not care.”

“I am sorry,” he said simply.

“Do not be, it is the Way of All Things as you like to say” the bear went on.”You and I are old. Right now the only thing left to see is which of us will last longer. I have eaten enough and I should easily make it through the winter. You seem to be getting around better.”

“A fawn could out run me,” he told the bear.”No I am feeling old not just inside my body, but inside my head. I still do not know why I am still here. The only thing I know is that the longer I live the more of my family I say goodbye to.”

He lay down on his legs and told the bear all about what had happened since the fire. He was interested and sadden at his news.”I remember Stena,” he said as if he recalled her face. “She never liked me, but I could tell she was the most like you despite the fact she was a female.”

“I remember how she used to almost order Balo around to a point before he get mad and stamp his hoof. I still find it hard to believe we will not see each other again.”

"I know," he said. You were also right about catching deer in the other forest, it is harder, but like in your forest, not every deer listens. I still caught my fill. I did see Young Claris and her mate from a distance last summer. She had two older fawns, but I was not close enough to tell if they were male or female. They looked happy."

"Thank you," he told the bear sincerely. "I am glad one part of my family is doing well. Everything else seems dark to me. I start to wonder what I am doing here. I feel the great emptiness inside me and I have to ask myself, just why I am still here.”

“I feel that will answer itself in time,” the bear told him.

“I also feel if I could change places with Stena, I would,” he said.

“That would do none of us any good,” the bear told him. “Your time will come soon as will my time.  There is no sense rushing it. I feel you still have good to do.”

He was about to answer the bear when the bear suddenly got up and looked down the hill to the meadow. He got up and turned to face the meadow and saw a lone late yearling doe walk onto the meadow out of the remains of the forest near the stream that flows to Bambi’s old forest. He looked at her for moment and then realized who it was.

“Stelar,” he gasped. He turned to look at the bear. “Forgive me, but I have to go.”

“I understand,” the bear said with a grin. “I will see you in the spring.”

He moved down the hill as quickly as his side would let him. He moved around the trees. By the time he got down there she had walked past him. He bleated and she turned and looked at him coming out of the forest. She ran over to him and reached up and kissed him on the side of his face.

“Father,” she called out and almost jumped on him.

“You are alive,” he blurted out and kissed her like a small fawn. She leaned again him. He almost did not mind the pain that shot through his side.

“Careful, daughter,” he said. “I was injured during the fire and that side now is very weak. It is hard for me to move.”

“I am sorry, Father,” she said moving away.

“It does not matter, where have you been?” he wanted to know.

“When the fire burned the forest, I ran into the big open area near where we hid the herd before. When I came back I found no one. I thought you were all dead and so I went to live in Bambi’s old forest. I remember you telling us how to get there. I met Gorro and Delene and they let me stay with them. I was going to stay there when I saw Stuben. He explained what happened and that you were alive. I decided to come back here. I know he is not welcome here, but I was wondering if I would be welcomed here.”

“Of course you are. You never did anything. It was your mother. Even your brother learned that, but too late to allow him to stay here,” he said and then added. “Now follow me.”

He led her across the burnt meadow past the remains of the Man cave and into the Man path forest. Only then did he call out as loud as he could. A short while later Stabo and Young Bambi came racing out thinking there was something wrong. They stopped dead when they saw Stelar. They looked for a second, as if not believing it, then ran to embrace her. The others soon arrived and they also embraced her. There were tears of pure joy from all of them. It was like his daughter had returned from the dead. As soon as they were all there, Stelar told her story.

“How is Gorro,” Bambi asked.

“He is fine and in control of the herd. He is allowing Stuben to stay as long as he behaves. So far he has. Delene has a yearling male fawn Baler who they say looks just like you Bambi. She also has a doe and male fawn from this year. They were not hurt by Man during The Season. When Man came, Gorro took the herd deep in the forest. Only a few of the foolish were lost. Stuben helps him and took up with a doe during The Season and when I left, all was fine.”

“You went to our old forest and back by yourself,” Faline asked.

“They was no one else who could come with me.” she said. “I had to come alone, or stay there. I rather come here.”

She then looked at Stabo. “I know my brother and mother are not welcome here, but could I stay here?” she asked meekly.

“Sister, you never did anything like your brother and mother did. You are always welcome to stay here,” he answered with a smile.

“Good, I wanted to tell Stena, Balo, and Delon,” but I do not see them.”

“Everyone looked shocked. He dropped his head. “I never told her,” he said to the others. He raised his head and looked into his daughter's brown eyes. “Stena, Balo, Delon, and Karlene started a herd deeper in the forest. Man came and now they are all gone.”

“No,” she cried and buried her head in his side. He could feel her tears wetting his fur. His own eyes were running with the memory of his daughter.

He had lost one and got another back. It was not fair, but it would have to do.

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