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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6. RECKONING

 

 

Pain!

That is what woke him up. That he woke up at all surprised him. He could not see very well, but he knew he was not on the meadow any more. Everything around him had a burnt smell, even him. Then his nose began to work again and he smelled it. That odor of wet fur and fat, it was near him.

“Bear,” he called out.

He saw a large black object come quickly over to him and look down at him. “Are you alright? Can you move your legs?” the bear asked.

He tried to move them, but his side was shot full of pain again. “No, nothing moves,” he said with a groan.

“You have blood coming from your mouth,” the bear added looking him over. “I can also smell blood from your left side.”

“I know,” he groaned. “What happened?”

“As you got near the Man cave there was a great noise like nearby thunder. There was also a bright light. Something lifted you and knocked you aside much harder than I could. You hit the ground hard on your left side. I thought you were dead until you started to talk to Bambi.”

“How long was I asleep?” he wanted to know,

“Two days,” the bears answered. “None of the scavengers came around. They are most likely still running for their lives. What about the others?”

“I told Bambi to tell them all to run into the Man path forest. Bambi did not want to go with me lying there, but I told him to leave anyway and Bambi went. The fire did not go that way with the way the wind blowing. It just burnt up this forest.”

The bear looked around him. “The trees are standing, but the leaves and bushes are all gone. The meadow is burnt. All the grass is gone. Things are so bare I can see your side of the forest. It looks just as bad.”

“And they were arguing who was going to be herd leader,” he said his side still aching.

The bear got up he moved over to the other side of his den and went to a bush that was just about burnt to ash. There were still a few sparse leaves. The bear came back with them. “These are the last of them. Eat them; maybe they will make you feel better.”

“Thank you, did you drag me up here?” he asked his friend. “I do not remember.”

“I found you in the meadow, asleep and not moving. I thought you were dead, but you moved your head. I dragged you up and put you into my den next to me. The fire passed over us.”

That is why he was still alive, not that he thought it would do much good.  Nothing in his body seemed to work right. “Thanks, that is twice you saved me,” he groaned as a spasm of pain went up his side. “This hurts worse than when you took the Man stones out of me."

“You look a lot worse,” the bear said.

He stopped and chewed on the leaves the bear gave him. “Any sign of Man?”

“None,” the bear said looking around. “They were either gone or left when the fire started. The Man cave was burnt up. The Man animal is also burnt up. I have seen no sign of Man in two risings of the greater light.”

He looked around himself. All he saw were bare trees and black ash on the ground. “With the fire burning everything, what is left for them to kill? They will go someplace else until this all grows back.”

“That will not be for several seasons,” the bear said. “We will not be here when that happens.”

“True, I should not be here now,” he said looking at the huge figure of the bear. “The leaves are making me sleepy. I will try and get up when I wake. Thank you again, my friend.”

With that he fell into a deep sleep. Just as he passed into sleep he felt the warm fur of the bear next to him. It was just like being next to Claris if not for the smell.

He woke later, only this time there was a different, but familiar smell. It took him a moment to place the scent.

“Bambi,” he called out.

“I am here,” Stranger,” the familiar voice told him. You slept through the day and most of the night. I am here with the bear.”

“The others,” he called out. “What happened to the others?”

“They are mostly all fine,” Bambi said. Then he looked at him with pain in his eyes. “We cannot find Stelar,” Bambi said. “She may have fled a different way.”

That hurt worse than his side. He could only hope his daughter was alright, but there was little he could do about it.

“Many of the others wanted to come with me, especially Stabo and Young Bambi. They were all worried about you. They were afraid you were gone.”

He felt pain in his body and in his legs. He could feel them again. He could raise his head again. He tried moving his legs and they moved when he told them too.

“I think I can move,” he told them.

“How did you live through the fire, everything is burnt to ash,” Bambi said looking around him.

 “I would have been gone if not for the bear,” he said with a smile.

“Can you get up?” Bambi asked

 

“I will try,” he said. With that he rolled over onto his legs. It hurt like fire was poured on him. He pushed up his back with his rear legs and then his front. So far it was doable until his weight shifted to his left. Then a wave of pain almost made him collapse again. He would have fell down if Bambi had not held him up with his own body. He slowly staggered over to the small stream near the bear’s den. He slowly bent over and drank. As he did he felt a great pressure build up inside of him. He moved quickly over the stream and turned away from his friends. He side felt like bursting. He then let go and his body emptied a large amount of waste from his back and underneath. It was as foul smelling as that of a young fawn.

“I am sorry,” he said and went back to drinking his fill. The water tasted like ash. Even the water smelled burnt, but it was the only water he had. He then ate a few acorns he found lying on the ground. He walked slowly. He got three steps and his legs suddenly threatened to collapse. He fell almost to the ground like a cut tree. The agony shot through him. “AEEEEE,” he cried out. He could feel a cold numbness again in his legs. He could taste blood in his mouth. He knew what that meant.

 “I feel broken on the inside,” he told Bambi and the bear. “It is like a big deer stomped on me.”

Bambi walked over and smelled at his side. He could see his face turn down in a deep frown “I smell blood in you, I also smell sickness,” the big deer said. “Stranger you need to leave here and go back to the Man path forest.”

He shook his head no. “I cannot walk that far,” he said. “I am too weak on the inside.”

He then looked at his two friends and had to admit something to himself. “I may not get better from this. I am thinking maybe you should both go. If I can get back I will. If not, the forest will go on without me. I do not want you both here staying with me and maybe coming to harm because of me.”

“I am not leaving you here” the black shape answered.

“Nor am I,” Bambi repeated. “We are in no danger here for now.”

He smiled at both. “Thank you my friends, but we all know a deer has to move to survive. I am not sure I can move much any longer.”

“Will you try?” Bambi asked.

“Yes,” he told them, “But not now. I feel very tired. When I wake up I will try again.”

With that, he folded his legs and almost fell to the ground. He was asleep before he was still.

He woke sometime later. He felt better. Then he smelled them. A collection of smells.

 “Who is here?” he asked.

“Us Father,” he heard Stabo’s voice. “Bambi came for us. When we got here and you were lying still and cold. We all thought you were dead.”

 “Are you alright?” Claris asked.

Then it struck him. “Claris, you are here with the bear?” he said with astonishment.

“We are all here with the bear,” he heard Faline’s voice.

“I do not believe any of this is happening,” he said.

“Yes,” the bear growled. “I am surrounded by more deer meat than I have ever seen in my life and I am not even hungry.”

How did they get here he asked himself? “How long was I asleep?”

“Two days,” the bear said. “I went over the hill to eat some berries and Bambi stayed here. When I got back, Bambi left and got the others.”

“Father, you have to get up” Stabo told him. “It is like what you told me about getting knocked down in a fight. You have to get up or else.”

Stabo was correct. If he could not move, he would not live.  He no longer felt the numbness in his legs, nor did he taste the blood in his mouth. He moved his legs under his body. After a few seconds of agony, the pain subsided. He pushed up first with his front legs. The front of his body came off the ground. He then pushed up with his rear legs. As he stood erect and felt the pain course through his side, he lost his balance. He would have fallen had not the bear and Stabo held him up. He had to spread his legs to stay up.  After a while he stood normally. He then looked around him. Besides Claris, Stabo, Bambi and Faline, there was also Young Bambi.

“The others?” he asked Bambi.

“With the herds,” Bambi added. “Mostly talking.”

“Mostly arguing among themselves,” Stabo jeered.  “Father, when I approached Balo, Stuben and Delon and told them what happened. They would not come.”

“Stabo,” Calris said. “I thought we would not bother Stranger with that.”

Stabo looked harshly at his mother. “I am sorry, Mother, but Father has to know.”

“That does not surprise me,” he said. “It does not matter. Have you found Stelar?” 

“We are still looking for Stelar,” Young Bambi said. “Many deer are looking for others. I am sorry, but I do not think all the herd got out in time or went another way.”

He could do nothing about Stelar. He had to move. He tried to take a step. Pain shot through his side, He took another and then another. The pain seemed to get less, but it still racked his body. “I can walk awhile,” he said, “But I am not sure how far.”

He looked back at the bear and slowly turned around. He moved up to the large head with the large teeth and rubbed his forehead against the bear. This was normally certain death for a deer. “Thank you again,” he said with true affection for his friend.

“Yes, thank you,” Claris said also with affection and also nuzzled the bear.

“We need to get going,” Bambi told them. It is almost night and we have a way to go to the Man path forest.”

The moved slowly with Bambi, Stabo and Young Bambi taking turns steadying him. Faline and Claris walked behind him in case he fell backwards. He walked slowly, and carefully down the hill. He could not move quickly, but going downhill was easier on him. The lesser light was up by the time they got to the bottom of the hill. It was then he had to rest for a while. As he lay still he looked at all of them. “We need a plan for the herds,” he said. “There will be many more deer living in the Man path forest. Stabo, will that be a problem?”

“For food no” his son answered. “What needs to be decided is if the herds stay as two different herds or combine into one. It will be many seasons, before deer can live here again.”

“The herds will need to decide that,” Bambi said. “Stranger is right; we need a plan.”

“I am sorry Bambi, but I do not think we need a plan until the herds tell us what plan we must make,” Young Bambi cut in. “We will need to call a gathering of the herds and ask them. They will tell us what they want and then we can make a plan.”

“You are partly correct young deer,” he said. “But it is always nice to be ready to suggest something to the herds. It tends to make things easier.”

By the first sign of the greater light they had only reached the spring by the ruins of the Man cave. They drank in the spring and ate the grass and then lay just inside the burnt woods of his forest. The day passed in peace and quiet. With the night they crossed into the Man path forest.  It was when the lesser light was overhead that they crossed the dark, foul smelling, Man path. As they entered the forest he saw many deer from his old herd there. They all looked at him, not saying a word. One of young males started to run toward the middle of the forest. Soon, Gena and Koren came to see them. Koren looked at him and his face was a mixture of horror and relief.

“Stranger, you are alive,” he said and came up and nuzzled him.

“Mostly alive,” he said.

“Father, Stena and Carie are still arguing,” Koren said. “I have heard complaints from several deer about this.  They tell me it is wrong what they are doing. I went up to them and told them to be quiet, they ignored me and still went on. Even Balo was angry. He said to the herd that you showed him no respect by not recommending him for herd leader. Then Carie said that Balo did not deserve any respect and her son should be leader in his place. That started the argument again between Delon and Stuben. When I asked them to be quiet until you returned, they all started yelling at me. I thought Delon would attack me along with Balo, before Galin, and Gertan came up and stood behind me. That got them all mad, but they left. Father, some of the senior males like Relnor and Cuben are saying this makes you look weak.”

He saw his son Stabo get red in the eyes. Even Young Bambi looked ready to tear into someone. This was going to end up in a fight and deer were going to get hurt. More hurt to the herd because of him. He had to try and stop this and there was only one way to do it.

“Koren, is it far to where they are at?” he asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“I cannot walk that far,” he admitted. “Koren, I want you to go get Galin and bring him here. If his family wants to come that is fine, but no one else from my family.”

“But Stranger, I can help. . . “ Koren started to stay.

“Do it my way,” he said as loudly as he could. “I will explain later. Now go!”

With that Koren ran off into the forest. The pain racked his left side. “I have to lie down,” he said to the others. With that he dropped to the ground. Bambi came over immediately to look at him.

“You are in no shape to talk to anyone,” Bambi told him. “Does anyone know where there are healing leaves in this forest?”

“I know,” Gena said.

“Get Stranger some, he needs them.”

“No,” he called out. “The leaves make me sleepy and I must be awake for this.”

“Get them,” Bambi told his daughter and she ran off.

He put his head on the ground. He must have fallen asleep because the next thing he heard was Galin calling to him. “Stranger, did you send for me?”

“Yes,’ he said. “I need you to do something for me.”

“What?” Galin said.

I need you to find Balo, Stena and Delon and tell them to be here as the lesser light rises. Then you need to find Carie and Stuben and tell them the same thing. I will meet with all of them to get this straighten out.”

Galin stared down at him. “Stranger, you are in no condition to do anything. You look more dead than alive.”

“Do what I say please,” he groaned.

“Why me?” Galin asked.

“None of them are mad at you. They won’t try and attack you or get mad at you. That is why I am sending you.”

“Stranger, please you really are in no condition to talk to them,” Galin almost pleaded.

“He is right,” Claris added.

He got to his feet quickly, the pain almost knocked him over.

“Look at me,” he said looking into Galin’s eyes. “You asked how to be a good herd leader. A good herd leader takes care of the herd first.  Before his family and before himself, the herd comes first.  Right now my family is a threat to the herd that must be stopped. This is my responsibility to do this; like it was my responsibility to go out to look at the Man cave. This is what herd leaders do so others do not suffer no matter what happens to them. If you learn this, and do this, then you are a herd leader. Now please do what I ask.”

Galin backed away a few step. His face now was also a mixture of horror and disbelief. He bowed his head slightly. “I will do as you ask, herd leader.” With that he turned and ran into the woods followed by his younger brother.

The pain shot through his left side again. He grimaced and lay back down again. He thought he heard Claris sob behind him. He just felt tired. “Wake me when the greater light sets,” he said out loud. As he drifted off, he thought he heard Bambi say to Young Bambi. “That is a herd leader like your father.”

It seemed to him only a short time later that he heard Bambi, call to him. “Stranger, it is time.”

That woke his up. He opened his eyes and saw that the greater light had almost set. He stood up. The pain seemed a little less, but it was there. He looked into the old face of his best friend and smiled. “Thank you for letting me sleep,” he said. “My friend, I may need your help in what is coming.”

Bambi walked up to him and nuzzled his face. “I am here for you. Stabo, Koren, Young Bambi, Galin and his family and our doe are all here,” he told him with pride. “Now do what we both know you have to do.”

He turned and looked behind them. They were all there and all smiling at him. He bowed his head slight and called out. “Thank you.”

Galin walked up to him. “I have spoken to Balo, Stena, Delon, Carie and Stuben. They are all coming. I must tell you they are all very mad at you.”

“I am afraid they will be madder still when I am done,” he said.

With that he waited and soon the lesser light rose. He smelled Carie and Stuben first approach. Carie looked like he was going to have a fit. Stuben looked more bewildered than angry. At least when they arrived they stood off to one side and waited quietly. A short while later his daughter, Balo and Stuben arrived. Balo made no secret of glaring at him like he wanted to tear him apart. He was not the only one who saw this.

“If they start anything with you, we will take care of it,” Bambi said.

“No,” he said firmly. “If there is going to be blood and death here tonight, it will be mine alone. I am responsible for this , no one else. Now please stand with the others.”

He also saw and smelled other deer from both herds nearby. They were not a part of this, but they would here to listen and tell the others in both herds. That is what he hoped would happen. This was going to be hard and he was going to hurt several of his family, but there was no choice. Their arguing could not be allowed to weaken Stabo's and Young Bambi's position within their herd. He looked at all of them.

“I am sorry I cannot speak louder, but what happened at the Man cave has hurt me on the inside leaving me weak.”

 “You insulted me. . .”Balo started to say.

“QUIET!” he shouted out as loud as he could. He was surprised he could still call out that loud.  "It was not bad enough you had to argue in our forest and weaken the herd there. Now you are continuing to argue even through the forest we lived in no longer exists. Are you all that foolish? Do you not even understand your bickering is hurting Stabo's herd? This has to stop so I am going to make it clear to you one final time what I think. I expect you to all respect my decision and respect Stabo's position as herd leader."

His daughter and Carie took a step back, while his son, Balo and Delon all dropped their heads and took a step forward.

He dropped his head. “I am not dead yet, as I will gladly show you,” he told them. “Balo, you said I insulted you. Well you are correct; I did insult you. I did so because with your bickering you have proven to me you do not deserve to be herd leader. I consider the effort Bambi and I spent on training you to be wasted. You are not a herd leader and you will never be a herd leader. My mistake was in not seeing that much earlier. For that I apologize both to the herd and the rest of my family.”

“How dare you say that to me,” Balo yelled. “I should rip you apart.”

He heard the others behind him step forward. “Back,” he said to them. He turned his attention back to Balo. “Yes, you should rip me apart,” he told him with sincerity. “With how badly I am hurt you could easily do it. It would be just punishment for me for my stupidity in not seeing your failings earlier.”

He then looked at his daughter. “You have broken my heart, daughter. With all that you have seen, with all that I have taught you, you were the one I had the most faith in. You were the most like me. I figured you were the most intelligent. That is why I wanted you and Balo to be leaders. With both of you together, his courage and strength, and your cleverness and determination, I felt the herd would be in good shape no matter what happened to me.” He stopped for a moment as his voice choked up inside him. “Seeing you two act like this has hurt me far more than what happened to me at the Man cave.”

Stena looked like she would melt into the ground, but said nothing.

He next turned to Carie. “With you I must also say I made a horrible mistake. I through you wanted a strong male for your children. What I did not understand until recently was that what you wanted most was leadership and influence over the herd. That in itself is not what bothers me the most. Any good or bad herd leader must have a part of that inside them to be leader. Your mistake was being just like Razor and Tarro. They thought power was the answer, so did you. They were wrong and so are you. Your main fault is that you were not wise enough to use the power you had, and to understand it was not the way to what you wanted. Correct action is the way to power and influence. Keeping the herd safe is the other way to power and influence. You missed out on both. My fault was in not seeing this earlier.  For that I must also apologize to the herd again for my stupidity.”

Carie’s face went red with anger. “You old useless. . . “

“QUIET!” he shouted again. “I am not done here.”

He next turned his attention to the young males. “Stuben you are my son. Delon, you are as dear to me as my own son. I respected Balo, loved Stena, and looked for comfort with Carie, In you two I saw the future of the herd. I knew if you worked together, the herd would be in good shape not only after my death, but far beyond that. What you two could not do is overcome your petty jealousy of each other. That jealousy has now destroyed any hope of mine in the future. Even with seeing how me and Bambi worked together, you two failed to learn. That hurts me the most. Not only have I failed with your mothers, but my failure with you two means my failure with the herd will now extend far beyond my death.”

With that he stepped back so he could see all of them in one view. “None of you should be herd leaders, not now, not ever. The herd will need to seek its new leader elsewhere. Fortunately we have deer that have learned. There is where our leaders will come from."

There were several grunts and angry looks from all five of them. Balo, Stuben and Delon all went red in the face.  The three of them looked ready to come at him.

"I see you are all angry enough to want to kill me. Well like I said before, go ahead. It will be best chance you will ever have. Like I said, it will be fair punishment for me for my many failures. I turn my back on all of you. If you want to attack me, do so now. You will be doing me a favor.”

With that he turned his back on them and slowly walked into the forest by himself. At that point he did not care if the others killed him or not. In that moment he no longer cared much about anything.

No one followed him.

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