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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8. SETTLING OUT

 

 

Following the gathering, life in the Man path forest became almost normal. With Balo, Stena, Delon and Karlene leaving for the deep forest and Carie and his son Stuben leaving for the forest over the hill, quiet finally descended on them all. The two herds joined peacefully and Stabo and the younger Bambi spread them out as not to over graze the grasses near them. Things went well for a change. The new herd accepted Stabo as leader and seemed to have no problems with the younger Bambi taking over one day. As for the four of them, they settled into a much easier life, which was good. His side improved, but it still hurt when he tried to run or eat a lot. He knew it would never fully heal.

The four of them found an open clearing near where they fought with Razor and decided to call it their home. It was well shaded, near heavy brush and close to Stabo and Young Bambi's resting places. A stream ran nearby and around them were enough grasses and eatable leaves so it was easy for him to find food. The other deer treated them respectfully, but looked to Stabo and Young Bambi for leadership.. He spent his time helping Bambi with Galin Garten, Garla and Galene. Both Charlene and Koren kept nearby. The younger Bambi also showed up to learn more. He did not take part in anymore mock combat because his side hurt too much, but he could still show them things so he still felt somewhat useful. However he was still sad. His son and daughter were gone, likely forever. What bothered him the most was they never saw a sign of Stelar. He could only think she had not survived the fire as did maybe ten or more deer and fawns who were missing.

Summer passed into to fall and again their antlers grew out. Bambi’s rack was still large despite his age. His rack, while smaller than before, was still of good size. The younger Bambi grew a rack that was as big as anyone else in the forest and may have been a little larger than Stabo’s. He had just started to feel his antlers itch when one morning he was awaken by distant noise.

“Wham…..Wham……Wham,” he heard echo through the forest. It came from deep in the forest. The noise woke them all.

“Killing sticks but far away,” he told them. “It is still a little early for Man to come for us.”

“What are they doing?” Faline asked.

“It is near the time for Man to hunt the larger animals like bear. Maybe they are after them. One thing for sure, unless they get a lot closer I am not going worry about it.”

That night after sunset they met Stabo, Gena, Koren and Garla in a clearing they often ate in. “You heard the killing sticks?” Koren asked.

“Yes, but they are far away,” he told them.

Soon afterwards Galin and Charlene and Young Bambi and Galene came into the clearing. Galin walked up to them. “I walked deeper into the woods last night and after the rising of the lesser light. I heard the sounds of the killing sticks this morning.”

“We all did,” the elder Bambi told him.

Galin went on calmly. “Did you also hear the noise like someone pounding on something? It was a noise that sounded like things hitting each other. I never heard anything like it. It was far away, but I could just hear it.”

“That noise sounds like the noise Man makes it when he comes to his Man cave to get ready to hunt us," he reminded them "It is not from the old Man cave, it is gone.  Stabo, do you know if Man built another Man cave nearby?”

“Not that I know of, Father,” Stabo said.

“What do you suppose all the noise means?” Koren asked.

He could think of only one thing. “It might mean Man is building another Man cave there. If so it means Man will hunt more in this forest when The Season comes.”

“That would be bad for us,” the younger Bambi said. “Is there some way we can know?”

“Only by looking for ourselves,” he told them. “I can no longer do that with my injuries. I cannot walk that far without resting too much, nor can I run if I have too.”

“We can,” Koren said. “We can go there and look and come back and tell you.”

“Yes we can,” the younger Bambi added. “You have taught us how to approach Man. We can do it at night so Man will not see us.”

“That is dangerous,” Stabo added. “If you are seen, you are likely to die.”

“All part of being a herd leader,” Koren said with a grin. “We can leave tonight.”

“What about us,” Galene said.

“A small group is less likely to be seen than a large group,” he told them, “The fewer that go with them, the better for all.”

“So we have to stay here and wait to see if you come back?” Garla said not looking pleased with Koren.

“That is part of being the mate to the herd leader,” Claris said coldly. “Something I know about.”

He watched Faline smile and nod her head. Yes, it was worse for those that stayed behind. They had to worry about what would happen if those who went did not come back. The only thing the ones that went had to care about was staying alive.

“If you wish to go, I will not stop you,” Stabo said.

“Just be careful both of you,” Gena said with a plea.

“Of course we will,” Koren said. “Right now I have a good reason to come back,” he said with a smile and then kissed Garla on the side of the face.

“Just remember what we taught you and do not take any unnecessary chances,” he reminded them.

Both Koren and the younger Bambi left that night. As they disappeared into the darkness he looked and swallowed hard. “I hope they remember,” he said out loud.

“You told them what would happen if they did not,” Bambi said. “They had to do this some time.”

“I was wondering if I should have gone with then,” Galin, said quietly.

“No,” Bambi said. “You are not ready for this and the bigger the group the harder it is to stay hidden. Come, let me show both of you some tricks on approaching Man. Stranger can you help.”

“I might as well,” he said. “I feel useless here.”

The training continued that night and for four more nights before the two of them returned. He was starting to get worried when both Koren and the younger Bambi walked quietly into the clearing. They approached with the wind in their faces like he taught them. He did not notice them until they were almost in the clearing. Both looked healthy and seem no worse for their experience. Both Garla and Galene both ran to them and greeted them not like friends but as mates. It was heartening to see they really did care for each other.

"Things went well?” he asked.

“We are safe,” Koren said. “At least for now, but there is much to tell.”

“We have not eaten much the last few days and I am hungry. Can we talk after we eat?” the younger Bambi asked.

“Of course,” Stabo said. “We will all go over to my clearing and have a long talk after we eat and drink.”

After they ate, they all went to the larger clearing and lay down. Even Kena, Gena fawn from this year lay at her mother’s side and promptly went to sleep.

Koren stood up and started. “The best place to start is our trip. We walked for a full night before we heard the banging noises again in the morning. We moved toward the noise carefully and then stopped as soon as it was full light. We found the Man cave that night. It is as big as the one that burnt down outside of our forest. We saw no Men with killing sticks there, it was all dark. It did not look like it was done so it seemed to us they were just making it.”

The younger Bambi stood up. “Near this Man cave the Man path leaves the forest and runs into the open field that goes as far as we could see. There were many Man animals there that left after the setting of the greater light. At no time did we see any of the Men in the forest. No Man we saw was using killing sticks or hunting.”

“That means Man will hunt in that part of the forest when The Season comes,” he said. “Please go on.”

“We left just before the rising of the greater light after we saw the Man animals return with their glowing eyes. We went deep in the forest and kept the wind in our faces. We picked up no scent of Man for that day.”

“After resting for the day we then looked around the forest for any sign of deer,” the younger Bambi continued. “We found some, but not many. The first deer we found was my mother.”

“She is alright?” Stabo asked.

“Yes, she had found a new male and had a small male fawn with her. She also told us that she had seen both Balo and Stena. They are now living there. Balo is trying to form a herd, but so far not many deer are joining. My mother had not seen any sign of Delon or Karlene. We spent a day with my mother and then came back. We did not go looking for Balo and the others.”

“That was a wise move,” Bambi said nodding his head. “They may have attacked you. You have answered our questions. It does not explain the killing sticks we heard, but they were far away. I think you have both done well.”

“I agree,” he said. “Thank you both for that. You are now starting to see just what a herd leader has to do at times.”

Both Koren and the younger Bambi beamed in appreciation and were immediately kissed by their perspective mates. Everyone smiled looking at the next couples.

“Does that mean Man will not hunt here in the meadow?” Stabo asked.

“I think so,” he answered. “Only you cannot be sure with Man. We will have to wait until The Season to see where Man puts up his other caves. That is where most of the killing sticks are put.”

“So if Man does not put up his caves where he usually has before, he might not hunt here?” Stabo continued.

“You are right,” he answered. “Man MAY not hunt here. Only time will tell.” He yawned widely. “We have all done well this night. The greater light will soon rise. Now it is time to rest.”

“Let us all stay here,” Faline suggested, “and be together as a family.”

The all agreed and soon slept close together. It was pleasing to have so many scents fill his nose. He went to sleep pleased that at least some of the deer he taught appeared to have learn. The rest would have to take care of itself.

That night after they woke, he saw the younger Bambi being approached by Galin. "May I talk to Young Bambi for a moment?" Galin asked politely. "Could Stranger and Bambi also please come?"

The three of them followed Galin out and when they were away from the others Galin stopped and faced Young Bambi. "I may not be a herd leader yet, but I have noticed that lately Garten, and your sister have been getting close."

"I have noticed that too," Young Bambi said. "Is there a problem?"

"No I think your sister is a beautiful doe, and Garten is lucky to have her," Galin went on. "I just wanted to know if you objected."

"No, Garten is a good deer," Young Bambi said honestly. "He is young, and is fairly strong, but not as strong as you or I. Him and Koren are a close match. They can both be senior males, but I doubt if they will be herd leaders."

"That is also what I wanted to talk about. I am glad you see things as I do," Galin said. "I wanted to ask the opinion of both Bambi and Stranger."

"It does not matter what I think," Bambi said bluntly. "It does not matter what you two think either. The only thing that matters is how they feel for each other. Deer that pair year round make a herd stronger. This I know. To have two of your senior males having mates like that along with you and Charlene, will only make your herd better. They can also help if things get bad. I say we all need to accept them as a pair, because if we do not, we may drive them out, and I have seen enough deer driven out for this season."

"I must agree with Bambi," he said. "Having a doe pair with you year round is a great joy. This I know. Accept them as a pair, because they will be a pair whether you accept them or not."

Galin just seem to nod and then bowed to them. "Thank you both herd leaders. Your wisdom has again given me answers to many of my questions. There is only one thing. If your sister and my younger brother do pair, when Charlene and I along with Koren and Gerla leave late next spring, they will come with us."

"Yes," Young Bambi said with no surprise. "I know that, but my sister has her own life to live so the decision is hers. You also know that your other sister is staying with me."

"She has told me that," Galin said. "I understand you have duties here like I have duties in my forest. You cannot go, and I cannot stay."

Bambi seemed to grin. "Since you both understand this, it is another sure sign that you are both are almost ready to be herd leaders. Both of you will make find leaders when the time come. I wish I could be here to see it."

"If we are good herd leaders, it will be only because of your teachings," Galin said to both of them. "For which I am thankful."

"Just pass on what you have learned and we will be happy," he told all of them.

"On that I promise," Young Bambi said.

"Me too," Galin replied.

Bambi and him smiled at each other. At least here they had succeeded.

Fall moved on and there was no more Man activity around the old forest and this forest. The herd continued to be healthy. Galin and his family were making good progress in their lessons. Soon after their journey he noted Galene, started sleeping with Young Bambi, Garla was sleeping with Koren, and Charlene was sleeping with Galin.. That was a sure sign the pairings would be formal. Shortly after Garten and Young Faline started sleeping together.

It was late summer that heard the call just before morning. It was a loud call coming from across the old meadow where the stream flowed from his forest to Bambi’s old forest. It was strong, direct and said only one word…….”Stranger.”

He recognized the call at once. It was from Stuben. He was talking to Stabo, when they heard it.

“What does he want?” Stabo said with distain.

“Me,” he replied simply. “I will leave at once.”

“You are going to meet him,” Stabo said looking at him as if he was crazy. “You know he just might be calling you to kill you.”

He turned and looked at his oldest son and nodded. “That is possible, still he is my son, and I am responsible for him. I would come if you called. If he wants to kill me, he won’t be doing much more than what Man had already begun. Besides, even though I am weak, I am far from dead. If this is how I end up, then that is what happens.”

“Father, it is almost daylight,” Stabo said.

“I will circle around inside the burnt out trees, but I will go and I will go alone,” he ordered him. “You will tell the others that I will go alone. I will return in one or two nights. If I do not come back, do not go looking for me. Goodbye, my son,” he said and rubbed his forehead.

He left quickly without telling anyone. Others would want to go with him and this was his task alone. He crossed the short distance past the spring and the remains of the Man cave. He walked into the trees. The air was quiet around him. There was no scent of Man or anything else except burnt wood. There were some small animals underfoot like mice and screws. He was glad he saw the first shoots of new grass beginning to grow. Life would come back here; it would just take longer than any of them were alive. He had to rest several times on his trip and it was late day and full daylight as he slowly walked around that part of the forest. He walked below where the bear’s den was but decided he would not disturb him. At this time of year he would either not be there, or might not be alone. By the time he reached what remained of their old viewing location he was tired. His side hurt, and his legs felt weak. He had gone as far as he could. He turned and let out a bleat as loud as he could.

Afterwards he lay down in the dust and ash and waited. It was not long before a familiar scent came upon him. There was only one scent. That surprised him.

Soon he heard the steps of another deer, a big deer. It walked quietly. He was glad his son remembered something he taught him. He lay still facing what used to be the Man cave and waited. The figure came up and stopped behind him.

“Where is your mother?” he asked not turning around.

“She is not here, she has gone her own way,” the familiar voice told him.

“I see,” he said looking at the lighted sky. “If you are here to talk, then come lie down next to me. You are much too big to be hidden in this bare forest when standing. If you want to do anything else, then go ahead and do it. You will be accomplishing little.”

His son came up and lay down beside him about half a length away. He was also looking at the remains of the Man cave.

“I never understood how beautiful this place could be until I see it like this,” he said in a calm voice.

He nodded approval. “That is often true; we never truly understand how much we care for something until it is taken away. Now, my Son, why have you called me?”

“First off, to say I am sorry I treated you like that, but I could not see how I could allow anyone to insult my mother. I understand she wanted me to be herd leader here, but I thought it was only because I was the best deer to follow you. I still think that, other than Balo, I am I am the best deer.”

“In this condition, the forest will not need a herd leader until well after you and I are gone,” he sat there thinking. His son did not sound as angry and sure of himself as before. What had happened?

“What has brought on this new wisdom, my Son?” he asked.

“My mother’s behavior when we went over the hill. She immediately started to argue with young Claris and Felon. It was then I saw what she wanted. She did not want me to be herd leader because I was the best deer there. She wanted it so others would come to her and treat her well. I am convinced of that now. After she argued with Young Claris she took up with some large male and got him to challenge Felon for the herd leadership. The male was beaten soundly. Young Claris got so mad at mother they got into a real fight. Young Claris kicked her, hard. Then mother told me to kill both of them. I would not do it so she got angry with me and started yelling at me. That is when I left and I have not gone back. Felon and Young Claris can be the herd leaders there for all I care. The only person I am still mad at is Stabo. He threw us out of his forest before we had done anything to him.”

“He was trying to prevent problems before they arose,” he told his son. “I did not disagree with him. So what has happened to your mother?”

“After we fought she walked deeper into that forest and where she went I do not know. I do know she still hates you, Balo, Stena, Delon, and Stabo. She will be back to bother you if she gets a chance.”

“That does not surprise me at all,” he told him. “Now I need to know what you want.”

“I want to go someplace and start again. I still will not live where Stabo and Young Bambi are herd leaders. I still do not want to be near Balo, Stena and Delon.”

His son was starting to learn, but he still had much to learn. “My daughter, her son and mate have gone deep into the Man path forest and will try and start their own herd. Like you they did not accept Stabo and Young Bambi as their leaders. Like you, they were also correct about not being welcomed any place in the Man path forest.”

“Yes, Father, that is why I have decided to go to Bambi’s old forest. No one knows me there except Delene and Gorro. I know better now than to argue with Gorro, so I will just go there and maybe try and find some young doe to mate with and have my own family.”

The made a good deal of sense. It was the best place he could go. “I am sure as long as you don’t try and become herd leader, Gorro will not bother you. I  think that is your best choice. You have made a wise, but dangerous decision.”

“You mean the dangers of the trip, yes Father I remember your stories about the dogs,” Stuben said. “I will take the chance because I have nothing here to live for. If I am not welcomed there, then I will go someplace else. Your son may become a wanderer like his Father was at my age.”

“Yes, but your Father finally found a place,” he reminded him. “Your Father finally found friends. From that comes the rest. I wish you luck, My Son.”

“You and Claris can visit me if you like,” he added.

“No, not with my injuries, I could never survive the trip. I am also far too old. No, Stuben, when you go, do not expect to see me again. In another one or two seasons, I will be gone anyway. I have taught what you need to know to help Gorro. If you use it wisely, you can be a great help to him.”

“Thank you, Father. I am sorry we will not see other again.”

“So am I, my Son,” then he turned and faced his child.

“When you go, stay near the stream. Travel only at night and empty yourself in the stream. That will throw predators off your trail. The grass will be plentiful, but tasteless. The stream will empty into a large lake. Follow the lake to the hill with the falling water. Gorro will be near there.”

Stuben nodded his head, “Anything else, Father?”

Yes,” he said empathically. “Be a deer I can be proud to call my Son.”

He then turned away, put his head down and closed his eyes. Here was more of his family leaving that he would never see again. He was getting too old. No more was said.

That night after the greater light had set, they stood up, ate what they could find, and then he embraced his Son and watched him disappear through the space between the hills the small stream ran between them. He waited until his Son was out of sight and then turned and sadly started back to the Man path forest.

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