The Stranger: Into the Rising Light

This is the sixth and final story in the life of the Stranger. Stranger is now old. Other deer have taken over from him. He now awaits in the forest for his end which he knows will come soon. This should be a time of rest and relaxation, but old enemies and new problem once again upset Stranger's plans. How he faces these problems brings this series of stories to an end. Please let me know what you through of these stories

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5. LAST CLASSES

 

 

The summer was a lonely time for him. Although Bambi came back after several days, he made it clear he did not want company. He could still see he was hurting deeply with Faline’s passing, but he was too much of a male to show it to others. He still felt the same way about Claris, but the difference between them was, he knew there was nothing he could do about it, so he had to go on with something. All Bambi felt was the loss. Young Bambi was still hurting about the herd’s rejection and he was not nearly as open and friendly as before. Stabo was still angry the herd had told him to stay when he wanted to go. His son had become cooler. All around him, his family seemed more distant than ever. Only Stelar and Helos ever came to talk to him. He spent most of his time wandering around as much as the increasing pain in his side would let him.

With the early summer came more Man families visiting the new Man cave. None of the Men that came had killing sticks and he still took pleasure in watching them. Sometimes they would even walk in the woods.  Of course Man made so much noise when he moved, it was easy to avoid him. Sometimes he let Man deliberately see him, and again nothing happened. He still allow the Man fawns to approach. The only thing unusual was the small black rock that they carried and would point at things, but nothing came out of it so it could not be a killing stick. He had no idea what it was for.

It was after mid-summer that Stabo and Gena’s daughter Kena found him walking in the forest one day. She seemed to be looking for him.

“Stranger, may I ask you some questions?” she said looking unsure.

“Of course,” he said and nuzzled the side of her face. She responded the same way.

 Although still a yearling, she was filling out and was going to be a nice beauty like Young Faline was. As of yet she had not shown any interest in any males. Being Stabo’s daughter, and a member of his family, no male in his right mind would try and force himself on her. Although not as inquisitive as Stena and Delene were, she tended to wander alone in the forest as if looking for things. She had never approached him to ask for training. In fact none of the fawns that were born since the fire seemed interested in training. That bothered him, but he had come to realize that it was foolish to give training to those who did not want it.

“Stranger, what does it take to become a herd leader?” she asked.

He wondered why she was interested in that. She was a doe, and not even a large doe like her mother.  “It takes a special type of deer," he told her. "A deer that is more interested in what happens to others than what happened to himself. It takes courage, because of the dangers he may face. It takes wisdom to lead the herd when there is danger. It takes strength and skill to prevent others from harming himself or the herd.”

“Can you teach that?” Kena asked next.

That question left him cold. He was not sure anymore how to answer it. He thought for a moment before answering.“I used to think you could teach it to others. You can teach the skill, you can teach what to do when there is trouble, but for a deer to care more about others than himself, that has to be born in you. Some of my family have that ability like your Father, and your brother Koren. Some do not have the ability like my daughter Stena, and Delon”

“Do I have that ability?” she next wanted to know.

That stuck him as an unusual question.“I cannot answer that,” he told her truthfully. “The deer has to show it. At one time I thought Balo and Stena had that ability, but later on I learned I did not know them well enough. The deer has to show his care for others by his actions for the herd. It is through a deer’s action and not his words that you learn this, even for yourself.”

She seemed to listen closely and then said  in a low voice. “I wish I knew if I had that ability, but I do not know, and I am afraid to find out.”

“Why are you asking me this?” he wanted to know.

“There is a young male in the herd. His name is Juon and he asked me. He told me he was at the gatherings and saw how the herd treated my family. He had heard the stories about my Father, Young Bambi, Old Bambi and you. He told me he wants to learn how to be a leader. He says he feels he has the strength and the head to be a leader, but when we were alone he told me he did not know if he could have done the things you and the others have done. He did not know if he had the courage. He made me promise I would not tell any of the males. To them he tries to show he is strong and unafraid.”

“Typical young male,” he said with a laugh. “At that age to show yourself to be strong and fearless is important. It is important when it comes time to finding a mate or to show your place in the herd. Many males think that is the way to gain respect. I have found out you gain respect by what you do, not with what you say.”

Kena stopped suddenly as if thinking. “Could you tell if either Juon or I can do this? You and Bambi are the wisest deer in the forests. Father says so and so does mother.”

So now it was becoming clear to him. He shook his head. “No, only you two could show me that. We can only give you the skills to help you do it. You must use them on your own.”

Kena nodded her head and smiled. “Then can I bring Juon to talk to you and Bambi?”

He smiled openly at her. “Of course you can. If you want, and if we can find Bambi, I will ask him to come to the clearing with me where I know you like to sleep. Bring Juon there tonight when the lesser light is over head.”

She came over and kissed his cheek. If reminded him of how Claris use to do it. “Thank you,” she said and ran off  with her white fluffy tail raised in the wind. He had to admit it looked very nice to an old deer.

He walked around looking to find Bambi’s scent. It took a good part of the day, but he found him in the forest resting alone. He was asleep when he walked into the clearing.

“Stranger,” he said wondering why he was there.

“Yes, my old friend. I have had a request for you and me,” he told him with a smile.

“I do not feel like seeing anyone,” he said and put his face on the ground again.

“Neither did I, but it is better than waiting alone to die,” he told him. “How would you and I like to try one more time to teach someone how they can help the herd? Who knows, they might even listen to us this time.”

“Who?” he asked, “No one came to me.”

“Kena has a new friend, a two year old male that says he want to learn, but is not sure if he can do it.”

Bambi raised his head up again. “Well that is new. Before they were all so sure they could be herd leaders. In fact I think that may have been the problem.“

He lay down about three lengths from the old deer. “Kena and Juon the male she likes do not know and they sound a little afraid to find out.”

“That does sound different,” Bambi said. “You know they may not like what they find?”

“I do not like what I have found out,” he said in a hushed voice “After Stena, Balo, Carie, Stuben and Delon, I am getting a little afraid myself that we do not know what we are doing.”

“Then what do you suggest?” Bambi asked as if already knowing the answer.

“We find out and they find out just how much all this training is worth. And like I said, it sure is better than waiting to die.”

“When do we start?”

“Tonight, when the lesser light is over head,” he answered. “Until then, mind if I rest here?”

“I don’t mind,” he said, “But I am tired.”

Later that night they both walked into Kena’s clearing when the lesser light was high overhead. There stood his daughter and a larger two year old male. He had a respectable rack on his head for someone that young. He seemed strong.

“I understand you like to see if you can help with the herd,” Bambi said studying the male carefully.

“I like to try and learn,” the male said. The voice was calm and clear.

“Very well, young male, put your head down and try and push me back,” Bambi ordered.

He watched carefully along with Kena. Although old and not nearly at his full strength, Bambi had no problem in pushing Juon around easily. Juon would push ahead like most males making it a test of strength. Bambi shifted his weight and balance and kept getting position on him. After a while he stopped.

“Do you know how I beat you,” Bambi said.

“You shifted position on me and then pushed me off balance,” Juon said.

“Correct, now let me show you how I did that.”

They spent the rest of the night showing Juon how to shift position. Juon took it all in. He seemed eager to learn. After they had practiced he showed Juon how to walk quietly through the woods. Like anyone else, the first few times Juon made a huge racket. He looked somewhat disappointed he could not walk as quietly as Kena who he had already been taught as a fawn.

“It takes a while to learn,” he told him. “Soon you will walk like a light breeze through the forest. Practice trying to sneak up on other deer. When you can do that, you will be ready. It is getting near light, if you want, we can continue tomorrow.”

“Yes, please,” he said beaming. “Thank You.”

Both Bambi and he walked away. When they were far enough away he asked, “So what do you think?”

“He may learn, we will have to see,” Bambi said. “Now let us find someplace near to sleep. This training is not as easy as it used to be.”

The training continued just about every night through high summer. He spent the time not  just with Juon, but with Kena as well. He was teaching her what he had learned from Man. She caught on, but she was not as quick a study as Stena or her daughter Delene had been. This went on for awhile until one night in mid-summer they had guests. They approached downwind of them and so kept their presence concealed until Kena smelled them.

“It is Father and Young Bambi,” she called out.

At that point both large males walked into the clearing. Both were still a head taller than Juon and their racks were larger. Stabo looked at his daughter and her friend and said abruptly. “Will you two excuse us?”

Both of them left in a hurry without a word. The two them approached Bambi and him.

“You have been training them,” Stabo said flatly.

“Yes, we have, why is there a problem?” he wanted to know.

“I am concerned,” the Younger Bambi said. “You are training an unknown deer. Before it was in the family or someone we at least knew. We know nothing about this Juon.”

“He seems a good male,” the elder Bambi said. “He could be of help to both of you, especially if we have to spread the herd out when Man comes. Also, in case you have not noticed it, your daughter likes him.”

Stabo let out a quick and aggravating snort out of his nose. “My daughter is old enough to like who she pleases. I am just concerned about this Juon. I ask myself what happens if he starts behaving like another Delon?”

“Then you will handle him like another Delon,” he told them. “Stabo, Juon is a large male, but he could not begin to fight you or Young Bambi if that is what you are worried about. He will never be your size or strength. We started training him because he came to me questioning whether he could even be a help to the herd. He was not sure he could be of help.  With the others, and even you two, you were all so quick and all so sure that you could learn this and be herd leaders. I found it refreshing that for once someone was not sure of themselves. I am also surprised at this conversation. When did any of you fear anyone we taught?”

“Afraid of Juon, nonsense,” his Son spoke clearly. “I am concerned we will have another bad deer in our forest and after what happened to Delon, we do not need this.”

“Are you asking us to stop training him?” he wanted to know.

“No, I could never order you two around, I just want to know if you are sure about Juon,” he said.

If there was one thing the last two season had taught him was he could be sure of nothing. "No, I am not. What I can tell you is that he seems to want to learn for the right reasons. I can also tell you he seems eager to learn."

Bambi stepped forward in front of him. "I can tell you that so far these are the only two deer that have lately come forward to be taught. We have lost so many lately, I felt it was good that someone was still interested.  Frankly, you should be asking yourselves who will follow you when the time comes."

"My daughter is interested, but she is still a yearling," Young Bambi said. "I am teaching her. My other fawn and Karlene's fawns are still too young."

"I have a son and daughter," Stabo said. "However I admit none of them have indicated they were interested."

He then spoke up. "Then that leaves you, Gena, Young Bambi, Galene, Stelar and Helos as the only trained deer," he added. You should have more. Also, this will most likely be the last deer Bambi and I will be able to train. The next deer will need to be trained by you."

"Father,  do not say that. You and Bambi will be here for long to come," Stabo said.

"I doubt that," Bambi said as if he was certain. "So tell us, herd leader, what you would like us to do?"

Stabo stood there for a moment and then turned to Young Bambi. "Please come with me for a moment," he said and they both walked quietly off into the forest where they could not be overheard.

"I do not like this," Bambi said when they were alone."I also do not like to be questioned about who and how we train. We have been doing this longer than they have been alive."

He nodded his head. "Very true, my old friend, but you must admit our training has not always been successful. They are afraid of what may happen, just like the herd was afraid to let Young Bambi take over. The herd chose stability and safety. I think the herd's thinking has also rubbed off on Stabo and Young Bambi. Stability is good at times. Everything goes as it always had gone, and you can take comfort in it. The herd does not fear it. The problem is, if you always  keep everything the same, then anything new that happens, you cannot do anything about it. The longer I live, the more I am sure nothing stays the same. Things always change and those who cannot change will suffer."

"I agree with you," Bambi said. "It seems clear to me, why is it not clear to the rest?"

"For that I have no answer," he said. "Just like I have no answer why things turned out the way they did with Balo, Stena and Delon."

They waited patiently for a while before Stabo and Young Bambi returned. They did a while later. Stabo walked up to them and spoke as a herd leader.

"We have discussed this and what we have decided that if you want to teach Juon and Kena the way you taught us, that is fine, however we do not want you to give Juon final training in fighting where you show him the things we used on Razor. If we think it is necessary to teach Juon that, we will do it."

He stood there dumbfounded. First the herd told Bambi and him they did not trust what they told them, now his own son was telling them they did not trust them to train Juon properly. That to him was much the same thing. He went stiff with anger and so was Bambi. He walked up and looked his son directly in the eyes. "Yes, herd leader," he grunted.

With that he turned quickly around and walked off into the forest. Bambi was two steps behind him.

"Father, Wait!," he heard Stabo from behind. He did not turn around, but both of them walked off into the forest. They walked for a while and then he noticed Bambi stopped suddenly and bent at his front knees. He turned and saw his friend was in pain. He tuned quickly and went back to him.

"Bambi, what is it?" he said.

"I am getting pains in my chest again." Bambi's normally deep voice sounded weakened. " I have been feeling it when I train Juon sometimes, but your son got me so mad it made the pain worse."

Bambi then looked up at him. "Do not worry, my friend, I am not ready to go yet."

He waited a while until Bambi seem to recover. After he stood up and looked alright, they walked on.

"So what are we going to do about Kena and Juon?" he asked

"I am going to train him exactly like I trained my two sons and my daughter, as well as their children. I do not care what Stabo or my younger namesake think. Stabo can try and run me out of the forest."

"I have no concern about that," he answered in agreement. "However before we teach Juon and Kena that, let us make sure they are fully trained on everything else first. Right now they are not."

"I agree," Bambi said and then they both went off to find Kena and Juon.

The training continued on throughout the summer. He could see that Juon was not going to be like Stabo, Young Bambi and Galin. He was more like Gertan or Helos, a smaller deer that was still strong enough to be a senior male, but nothing more. It also became apparent to him that both Kena and Juon were now sleeping together. While she was a little young to be pairing, he reminded himself that both Balo and Stena were much the same way before they mated.

It was in the last days of summer that one early evening Young Bambi and Galene came to visit them. Both seemed concerned about something.

"Stranger, the bear and a smaller bear are in the meadow," the Younger Bambi said.

"Interesting," he mumbled. "That usually means the bear wants to talk to me. I will go to them."

"What of the younger bear," Young Bambi said. "I know bear will not hurt you, but the younger bear I am not sure of."

He nodded and smiled. "True, but bear would not bring a younger bear to kill me when he could have easily done it himself many times over the seasons. I will go alone."

He turned to  face the elder Bambi showing Juon and Kena  how to avoid being followed.  "Continue, I have someone to meet."

He walked to the edge of the meadow and then walked into the open past that newer Man cave and onto the open meadow. It was night, and there was little light from the lesser light. He walked up to both large black animals.

"Greetings, my friend, " he said to the bear and then turned to the smaller of the two. "Greetings Uttral." By smaller it meant the female was only much larger than him instead of the bear who was over twice his size. Both had the same claws, and large teeth that could tear him apart in an instant.

"Greetings, Stranger," the bear said. Uttral just nodded her head then spoke. Her voice was higher pitch, but still powerful. "You are not afraid of me or my Father," she said. "Why is that, deer run at the scent of my kind."

"That is true," he said. "Your Father I trust because he could have easily eaten me many times over the seasons, but did not. Your Father has also saved my life twice, and I have tried to help him with Man. If you wish, I will help you too, at least for as long as I can."

The bear looked at him with concern. "Are you feeling bad?"

"Yes," he said simply. "Faline is gone, and both Bambi and I are getting old and worn out. I must be honest with you and say I doubt either of us will be here in the spring."

"I am sorry about Faline. I know Bambi and her were close." The bear then walked up and smelled him carefully and dropped his head.  The bear's nose was good enough where he could smell the increasing decay inside him. "I understand," the bear said in a low voice. "I will be here longer than that, I think, but not for many more seasons. I am glad I brought Uttral now. She said he wanted to meet with you."

The female bear looked at him carefully as if she did  not know if he was a threat or not. "My father tells me you try and make the forest better for all. Why should you care what happens to us and the other creatures of the forest?"

"Because we are all part of the forest," he said with a smile. "You, me, my family, bears, deer, birds, coyotes, and everything else belongs here. We have a purpose in being here. We are somehow all joined together in the forest. The only thing that does not belong is Man. I call this the Way of All Things."

"But most of my kind would eat you if we caught you," Uttral said not understanding.

"You eat the deer, deer eat the grass. We all have to eat to live. All the creatures eat to live. This is why I say we are all connected here."

Uttral still looked at him puzzled. He tried a different way to explain. "If there was no grass, there would be no deer. If there were no deer, there would be no bears. All things live off each other. Take the grass, or the deer, or anything else away, and there would be nothing. We deer take from the forest when we eat the grass, and we give back when we die or are eaten by bears or other animals. You take from the forest when you eat a deer and you give back when you pass on. Only together do we all get to live and  allow those who will follow us to live. It has gone on longer than anyone knows, and will continue to go on long after we are all gone. Only Man is different, because he only takes. I have never seen Man give back."

Uttral still looked confused, but told him. "I think I understand," she said. "My Father is right, you are a strange deer. I can see why he won't eat you. I do not think I will eat you either."

"That will not last for much longer," he told her. " When I am gone, will you accept my son Stabo in my place and treat him as you have treated me?"

He then stepped aside so they could see the others standing at the edge of the forest. "The large male deer on the end with the large rack growing is my eldest son Stabo who is herd leader.

 "Of course I will accept him," the big bear said. He knew the bear was telling the truth.

He then looked at Uttral. She did not look so sure. "It still seems very strange talking to a deer," she said. "I will not eat you as others of my kind would, but I do not know your son. I cannot say for now. I must think about this more."

He walked over to her and slowly rubbed his nose on her forehead. She went to pull back at first, but then allowed him to nuzzle her. "That is how deer show affection," he told her. "If you want to talk more, just let me know, but be careful. "I fear many Men will come here soon and they just as soon kills bears as they would deer."

"This is what my Father said," Uttral told him. "I will think about this. Thank you, Stranger."

With that the bear and his daughter left. He turned around and walked back to his family. It had been an interesting summer.

 

 

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