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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7. LAST HUNT

 

 

There was a sudden and unmistakable hush in the forest. The other deer were still in shock. He couldn’t stand the stillness so he went back to wandering alone. Now he was truly alone and saw that would continue until it was his turn. At first there was shock in the herd over Bambi's death, there was also hard words for Carie and Duno. Then the herd did what it always did; it accepted what happened and went on. During this time he stayed away from everyone. In some ways he felt responsible for Bambi's death. It was his idea to eliminate Duro and save the herd from possible disaster. Although he had sensed that might be their last fight, the fact that it was  Bambi and not him that had died because of it, made him feel bad. In a way this hit him harder than Claris. At least Bambi had a choice and made it willingly. After being alone for several days, he decided it was better to do something other than wait around for the same thing to happen to him. When he was sure The Season was over, he went back to Kena and Juon’s clearing.  He found them there lying close to each other. Another newly mated pair. They saw him coming and got up.

“Did you want to continue your training,” he asked Juon.

“Yes, Stranger” Juon replied with enthusiasm.

“Even after you have seen what happened to Bambi?” he asked. "That might happen to you?"

“It will happen to all of us someday,” Juon went on. “Bambi died defending his herd even though he was not herd leader. I have heard some deer say that Bambi and you will always be herd leaders here, alive or not.”

That was just being sentimental he thought. Bambi was gone, but life went on just like after all the other deaths he had seen over the seasons.

"Very well, while you still have your rack, let us work on combat training.” he suggested. "I cannot fight hard due to my injuries, but I will show you all I can."

“Stranger, can you tell me how you  killed Carie. I know that you kicked Duno in the head and Bambi stomped on him, but how did you kill Carie if you was on the ground?”

”Hold your head up,” he told him.

As he did he put the two center points of his rack against Juon’s throat. If you charge and run your antlers into a deer’s body there, you will cause a deer to bleed out as if they were hit by a killing stick.  If a deer does that to you, you will be dead shortly after. As Carie tried to stomp me, I pushed up with my rear legs and forced my rack deep into Carie’s throat and chest. She did not live long afterwards.”

“Such anger at you,” Kena said. “That she would kill her own family to get back at you is unbelievable.”

He nodded, “Bambi and I appear to have the ability to bring out the best or worse in deer. I think deer in this forest will talk about Bambi for a long while to come. Now if you don’t want deer to talk about you after you are dead, let us start the lesson.”

They practiced for the rest of the night. He had to admit he was very tired when they were through. A found a place near the new couple to rest. The pain in his side, legs and chest was stronger. His body was getting much weaker. He knew now for sure he would not survive the winter. It was getting close to his time.

The greater light was barely up when the noise started from the meadow. The sounds of banging and shouting continued all day. Many men were on the meadow. Later in the day he also started to hear the yelping of dogs, big dogs. Man had come to hunt. They slept in fits and starts all day before finally just resting. He decided he had to get a look at this work by Man. That night he approached Kena and Juon. They both looked at him with suspicion and some fear. The sounds of Man were heard by all.

“The hunts will soon begin?” Juon asked.

“Yes and we must know what kind of hunt,” he told them. “We must look at the Man cave tonight and we must do it carefully. Man may not be able to smell us, but those dogs can. We will go when it is dark,” he told them and then lay down.

They waited until it was fully dark and then he stood up. “We need to go now. We need to see what Man will do tomorrow. I will leave it up to you if you want to come, but there will be great danger. If we are seen, man could use his killing stick on us.”

“As Bambi would say, that is part of being herd leader,” Kena said boldly. Juon just nodded.

He smiled inwardly. They were just like Veron was. “Very well, now tell me the best way to do this?” he said. He wanted to see how well they learned.

Kena and Juon looked up at the trees and saw the way the wind was blowing. “The wind is coming from your old forest,” Kena said. “That means if we go straight from this forest to toward the Man cave with the wind in our faces, the dogs should not smell us.”

He had to smile, they were learning. “Correct now let us go, and be quiet.”

They moved inside their forest until they got to the edge. They then walked as close to the old edge of their forest as they could get without being in the open. As they moved quietly, they started to see the Man cave. It was brightly lit with many Men and dogs outside. Already Man was drinking and shouting all together again. Some of the dogs were normal hunting dogs, but a few were the big dogs man hunts larger animals with. As they got closer, they saw the smaller caves being set up on the side of the meadow they use to live on. They set up the small caves all along the long side of the old meadow. He had seen this before and he suddenly understood what Man was going to do.

“We must find Stabo and Young Bambi,” he whispered. “The herd is in great danger. You two are younger and quicker than I am. Find Stabo and the others and meet me in Stabo's clearing as soon as possible. They will also need to call the rest of the herd together. We must leave. Do not call until you are deep into the forest. Man and the dogs will hear you.”

Kena and Juon took off running. He moved as fast as he could, but his muscles were not as good as they used to be. Getting old was getting to be more of a curse than a benefit. He moved as fast as possible. Any deer he saw he told them to pass the word to go to Stabo’s clearing. Finally he got there and he saw his daughter and Galene, arrive shortly afterwards. Other deer started to come in. Then he heard Stabo call the herd together. He made it sound urgent. The lesser light was high overhead before everyone got there.

“Father, did you see what Man has done on the meadow?” Stabo called to him.

“Yes,” he told all around him. “Man is setting up his small caves with his killing sticks so that any deer that runs out of this forest and on to the old meadow will be killed. This means when the greater light rises. Man will try and get behind us and try to chase us all onto the Meadow. If he does, we will die. We must not allow Man to get behind us. We must flee into the deep woods and the hiding place now!”

“I agree,” Stabo said. “Father told me of such a plan by Man before. We must not allow Man to get behind us. All of us must leave now. If Man does get behind you, do not run into the meadow, run across the Man path into the smaller part of the forest. Try and stay together. Does anyone have any questions?”

No one said a word. "Very well all of us leave now,” Stabo yelled out. The herd broke up and fled in an instant. He started to move quickly into the deep forest with them, but soon stopped. Due to his lack of speed he was soon alone.

He had always known he would never make it to the new hiding place. He had never intended to go with the herd. He was too old, too slow, and now too weak. He would find the best place he could in this forest and then hide.

He hurried alone trying to get as deep into the forest as he could before sunrise. He felt very tired, but he knew he had to get as far away as possible from the meadow. He moved as fast as he could for as long as he could before his breath seemed to leave him. He had just gone over one of many small streams, when it hit him suddenly.

“AHHHHHHH,” he grunted. His front legs gave out and he fell onto the ground. There was a sharp pain in his side that seemed to shoot down his left side and left front leg. It was like a large deer had stopped on his flank. In an instant he was lying on his side with his rack holding up his neck. He was out of breath; he had a hard time moving. It was like his whole body went to sleep except for his head. He then suddenly realized that this was exactly how he had felt right after he was hurt by the old Man cave. It was not that his side just gave out. It was like his whole body was starting to fall asleep. He understood what it meant.

So it had finally come, yet he did not feel his body slipping away yet as he had felt before. He did not feel if he was dying inside. It was just he could not get up and move around. He then remembered that Faline and Bambi had felt a lesser pain and discomfort such as this several times before they both passed. He managed to roll over onto his legs so he got his head off the ground. He was lying in the open in a small clearing space surrounded by trees. He tried to move, but his legs were wobbling and could not support him. He managed to get into the cover of the nearby trees before he lay down again. This is where he would have to stay. He only hoped that Man did not find him, because he knew he could not run from here. He thought about calling for help, but that would only mean that another deer would be stuck here with him and may get caught by Man. Better if he stayed here alone.

The pain in his side seemed to diminish over time to the point he felt he could move again, but overhead he could clearly see the light of the new day. That meant Man be in the forest. He was hidden well. If the dogs did not find him, he should be alright. He found a small hollow in the ground and lay in that. Now he was almost totally hidden from anything. It was not long before he heard it. There was noise coming from both the meadow and deeper woods. It was the sound of dogs. He heard them barking and calling to their masters. He could tell by their barking they were just searching. They had found nothing. As time went by he could hear them getting closer. Now he could hear the shouts of Men.

HHHIIIYYYAAAA. . . HHHEEEYYY,” he heard from many Men.

That sound got closer to him. He knew he dare not move unless he was found. A deer on the run would be easily seen and chased into the clearing. As time went on he noticed there was no change in the barking of the dogs. They were not chasing anything. That meant Stabo had gotten the herd further back than Man. If so, they were safe. It was not long before the dogs started barking near to him. He stayed very still and did not even breathe hard. Then in the distance he saw a dog. It was running around looking for something to chase. It did not seem to smell him. It sniffed at the ground and in the air, but was picking up no scent. He watched it circle around for a while and then left. Then behind the dog walked two Men. Each was carrying a large killing stick. They walked right past him. He felt he was safe for now.

He continued to stay still until the rising light was overheard, and then he heard the noise of a dog barking. This was noise was from behind him. It was one dog, but it was calling to its master.

“Here. . . Here,” the dog called out again and again.

Suddenly he realized the dog was coming from the direction he came last night. It was following his scent trail. He turned his body so he could see the way he had come and in the distance he saw movement. It was a single dog coming his way. It must have found his scent and picked up his trail when it got near the edge of the Man path forest. Then he heard more noise. There was a Man walking behind the dog. There was nothing to do now except stay still and hope the dog did not find him. The dog was moving around looking for a scent. Then it stopped and raised its tail and looked directly where he was at. He had been found. The dog started barking loudly.

“Here, he is here,” it called to the Man who came in closer.

Now the dog headed straight for him. He had no choice now, he had to fight, but if he stood up now, the Man could see him easily and use his killing stick. He waited, keeping still and low. If he could move better he could try and run away, but with his side, he was going nowhere in a hurry. Again, the Man was close enough where he could easily use the killing stick on him if he ran. There might be a way. He could charge the Man before he could use his killing stick. When he was hit before, he had hurt the Man that came to kill him. Maybe he could do it again He kept low and waited. Sure enough the dog went straight for him and the Man came up quickly behind. He waiting until the dog was on top of him and then leaped up and lowered his head. He charged into the dog catching it in his rack and he threw it aside. The dog squealed in pain. The Man started to bring up his killing stick, but he ran straight for him as fast as he could The Man had his killing stick up when he hit him with his rack. The impact stunned him and knocked the Man down. He recovered and started to run away when the  pain hit him hard again in the left side. He staggered, and almost fell on the ground. He got up quickly and started to move away. He changed direction and disappeared into the tress.

“WHAMMMM.” echoed as something went by him.  He kept going as fast as he could.

Finally the pounding in his head and his shortness of breath forced him to stop. He rested for a while. A short time later he heard.

“WHAMMM . . . WHAMMM . . . .WHAMM,” from behind him in short order.

He heard the Man shout several times. He got up even through it hurt and slowly walked as far away from that place as he could.

“WHAMMM. . . WHAMMM . . .WHAMMM,” he heard again. Then in the distance he heard more men shouting.

“Bang. . . Bang . . .Bang" came again. These noises were not so loud.

At that point he was hurting enough where all he wanted to do was to find someplace safe to rest. He wandered only knowing he was moving away from the Man noises. Soon he came to the hard ground of the Man Path. He knew the dangers of crossing it. At this point he had little to lose so he crossed it quickly and lost himself in the bush. He found a small open clearing just on the other side and rested in some soft grass. He waited there until it was evening. He heard a Man animal go down the Man path just before dark. It was moving much faster than he ever could even when he was young. By now his side was not hurting so much. He got up and slowly and carefully made his way back across the Man path toward his side of the forest. He knew Man would come to look for him. Man would know he had run into the deep forest. That is where they would look for him. They would not look for him near the Meadow. 

He ate and drank as he could. As long as he did not move quickly, the pain in his chest and legs stayed away. Resting and stopping many times, he reached the clearing he and Bambi use to share by dawn. He stopped to drink, and empty himself. He tried to eat again but his chest and side hurt. In the distance he could see the light and opening of the meadow. There was nothing more to do other than to wait.

He found a place that was hard to see and waited. He was right, as the new day came, Man did not hunt close to the meadow. He heard them take their dogs deeper into this forest. He heard many Man animals moving. As the day passed he heard more noises. These noises were from his old forest. First there was the barking of dogs, big dogs, coming from the old forest. They were not chasing anything. Then from father away he heard other sounds of Men shouting. It sounded like they were coming from near where bear has his den. What would Man be doing there? There were no deer in that forest. He stayed still and listened. He heard the dogs run around on that hill all day looking for something. From their barking, he could tell they had found nothing. Bear must have left.  He continued to hear the barking until near dark. Then came that high pitch bird call he had heard before. The barking stopped , they found nothing. After that, all the dogs and Men came back to the Man cave.

Toward the end of the day he started hearing killing stick noises from where the other Man cave was. There were not many, but they were near where the herd had gone to hide. He knew he was too far away to hear dogs from this distance. Still there were few noises from the killing stick. To him that meant Man had not found much to kill. If they would have found the herd, there would have been much more noise from the killing sticks.

During the night there was little wind. What wind there was came from the side of the meadow he had lived on. He was far enough away from the Man cave so the dogs could not smell him.  For now he was safe. However all it would take was one dog to find his scent and they would be on him and he could not run. Right after dark he heard the noise of Man animals come into the meadow. Immediately there were more loud barking from big dogs. Man had brought more big dogs to hunt. That could mean only two things: either they were going to hunt on his side of the meadow  forest, or they all be coming into this forest here looking for deer. They did not need the big dogs to hunt him, they must be going after bear. Man knew the bear was not where he usually was, so they would look elsewhere They would find Uttral. She had to be warned. He also knew what would happen if Man came while he was there in his old forest. It was wide open and he could not run away. He felt inside that it no longer mattered for him. He got up and started to make his way toward the open clearing they had met before their fight with Razor. He had gone only a little ways when he heard noise coming from the deep forest. Two familiar scent filled his nose. Two deer ran out of the forest and came up to him.

 “Stranger, we found you.”

He looked back at Stelar and Helos. Both look hot and sweated like they had been running a while.

“What are you two doing here,” he called out. “Come the day Man will be here and kill every deer he can find. Get out of here and run back into the deep forest.”

“We were searching for you,” Stelar said running over to him. “You have to come with us.”

“I cannot go,” he said. “My legs hurt too much I can no longer go to the hiding place. The pain is getting worse. One way or the other soon I will be gone. Now leave!”

Helos look over at his side. “You do not look hurt. You can still come with us.”

“I cannot run. All I will do is slow you down so you will die with me. I want you to go,” he said. His side was starting to ache. “Is everyone else alright?” he wanted to know.

“Yes,” Stelar told him. Stabo led the herd into the deep forest. Man did not get behind us. Only bad thing is Man is also using the other Man cave to hunt. Now please come with us,” she begged.

“No,” he said with finality. “I want you two to tell Stabo and Gena that I am leaving this forest. I am going back to my old home. I must warn Uttral. They will come after her tomorrow."

"Father, do not do that," Stelar cried out and come up and nuzzled him gently. "Man will find you."

"I must do this daughter no matter what happens," he said tenderly and kissed his daughter.  "I just want all of you to know how much I care for all of you. Now go please.”

“If you go there you will likely die,” Helos said as if he did not already know.

“I know that. Nothing can stop that now. Tell the others what happened, especially Stabo. Enough talk, now get going.”

Stelar did not want to go, but Helos pushed her back. Helos then looked back at him. “Thank you, Stranger, for everything,” he said having trouble speaking.  “We will teach our children what you taught us. I promise you that. One day I hope to join you and the others.”

“Do not be in a hurry to,” he said and then pushed the young male away.

He watched them both disappear into the forest. He was alone. Now all he had to do was leave the forest, find the bear, give his warning, and live through it. Seemed simple enough.

He walked away and traveled as fast as he could. The lesser light was setting by the time he got to the end of his forest. Day would be here soon. He had to cross the open space between  this forest and his old forest. He walked out and as fast as his side would allow, he started to cross the open space.  As he moved across the open space he knew the light wind would carry his scent toward the Man cave and the dogs there. Sure enough, he was about half way across when he heard the dogs starting to bark loudly. He did not see any light in the Man cave go on. He hurried onward until the pain in his side started again. Although still in the open, he had to stop and rest.

He did not lie down, he was afraid if he did, he might not get back up. It took a while for the pain to  go away. He noted the first color of a new day in the sky. Soon they could see him and smell him. He continued to move on through the grass. As he got near the edge of his old forest, he could hear noise from the Man cave. The Men were getting up.

He put his head down and forced himself to move quickly. He got into the little cover of the burnt out forest just a full light shown through. He looked back at the Man cave through the barren forest. Several dogs were still looking toward him and barking loudly.

"Now all I have to do is find Uttral," he said to himself and continued on.

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