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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4. THE SECOND

 

Summer continued to pass. With the problems concerning Delon and the herd leadership, the plan to find new hiding places for the herd was put off. It was not until several days after the gathering when things had calm down that Stabo ask him, Bambi, Young Bambi and Helos to join him in a meeting. It was then they discussed what had happened with the Man caves.  

"So man will not only be hunting here, but also in Felon's and Young Claris' forest as well." Young Bambi said looking concerned.

"That is true," he said. "I see no reason to doubt what the bear told me. It also makes finding a place to hide the herd more important. Important enough where it should be done now while it is quiet in the forest."

"I do not understand why," Helos spoke up.

Bambi took a deep breath trying not to get bothered that Helos could not see the problem. "If Man has a cave in the deeper forest here, then right out on the meadow, and now over the hill in the other forest; then Man and his dogs can chase deer from everywhere. When Man only had the cave here, it was easier to get away from him. With Man all around us, everywhere we run, we will have Man in front of us. It will be just like what happened to Balo and Stena."

"Our old hiding places in the Meadow forest are also no longer useful, because with the trees and bushes gone, it is too open," he further explained. "We must find new places to hide and we must find them now. I would do this, but I am too old. This is a job for the young. This is a part of being a herd leader."

"Where then do we look?" Helos asked.

Young Bambi turned and looked toward the Man path. "There is only two places and that is across the Man path, or much deeper in the woods away from the other Man cave. With more Men coming to the Man cave in our meadow, they can easily search where we are now, especially if they bring dogs."

"I had through maybe going over the hill to the other forest would be a help," Stabo said, "With Man building a cave the, we will walk right into Man."

Bambi looked the other way toward their old forest. "Going over the other hill toward Galin's forest will not work. It is all open. Man could kill us all there anytime he wanted."

"Not many places to take the herd," he said.

"Then we look," the Younger Bambi said. "I had wanted to wait, but I can see the problem is here now. I will bring Galene and our fawn here. Stabo can you, Stranger and Bambi look after them?"

"You will need help," Stabo told the younger Bambi. "Helos, can you go with him?"

Helos looked reluctant, but nodded. "I will bring Stelar and our fawn here also. I will go with you."

"Very well," I will stay here with Father and Bambi and we will guard the herd," Stabo said.

He could only hope they find something that would help them.

After Young Bambi and Helos left, things were glum the next few days. The death of Delon, although not mourned much within the herd, was still a shock, especially how he died. Although the herd had spoken its desire to have Stabo continue to be herd leader for now, Stabo was not happy about it, nor was Young Bambi. Inside, the younger Bambi remembered all too well the tales of his Father when he had become herd leader at his age or even younger. To have the herd tell you they do not consider you ready to lead was an unpleasant shock to him and his sense of worth.

He did not know what to make of it either because the herd had also rejected his advice and Bambi’s. What did that tell him when the herd they led for so long rejected their advice? All in all it was not a happy time within his family. He continued on and would continue to do so as long as he was able. Inward he knew the herd had chosen stability, going with a leader they knew. They were afraid of change.

Not much else changed as the forest reached high summer. The sun was warm, the rain was short and pleasant and the grass on the meadow continued to grow. There was even some green leaves coming from inside their old forest.

A pleasant side was the fact that he saw three Man families return to the new Man cave. As before they did not hunt and as before they did not bring their killing sticks. They all came together in three Man animals. With them came Man doe and Man fawns and they played in the meadow during the day. They did not have dogs so they were easy to watch. The fawns played together. Twice and over the objections of the others he deliberately walked out onto the meadow during daylight. The children all came over to him and the Men and Men doe looked at him, yet took no action. The second time he did noticed one of the Man fawns followed him. He could have easily avoided the young male. He walked into the forest and stopped.

“Stranger, what are you doing,” Alana berated him.

“Watch from a distance,” he told her. Stabo also came to watch him. He waited in the open for the Man fawn to walk into the forest. The Man fawn did not seem to care about what dangers may lay hidden. He stood there alone and did not move. The small male walked over and into the same clearing. The Man fawn looked up and saw him standing there alone.

“Ook Nonme, a dree,” he called back into the meadow.

The young male approached him. He remained still. The Man fawn was of no danger to him. It came within three lengths of his body and then stopped. He slowly walked forward until he was close to the young male and then dropped his head. The fawn reached out with its front hoof and touched his forehead. He then rubbed the male’s forehead like he would a young fawn.

“He he he,” the young male shouted and started to jump up and down.

Then suddenly something unexpected happened. Tilar ran from his mother’s side to be next to the Man fawn. Tilar looked at the young Man fawn and started to jump around.

“Tilar,” Alana called out, but Tilar was occupied in chasing the young Man fawn around, and then the Man fawn chased Tilar. He kept constant watch to make sure no other Men came close to them. It was enjoyable to watch them both play with each other. Soon the others came over to watch. He saw Bambi and Faline watching from a distance. This was unlike anything any of them had seen before. He let it go on for a while until the young male stopped and sat down on the ground. He then coughed loudly so Tilar stopped playing and came to him. He then walked up to the Man fawn and pushed him back gently toward his own family. The Man fawn left the clearing and walked with him until they were close to the edge of the forest. Once the Man fawn saw his own family he ran toward them. The meeting was over. He walked back to the others.

“Stranger,” Alana called to him. “Why did you get close to the Man fawn? He could have hurt you and hurt Tilar.”

He turned to Alana and smiled. “No, he had no killing stick and he is too small to use one. All he wanted to do was play just like our fawns likes to do. I wanted to show that to you. I wanted all of you to understand that without their killing stick, Man is not a danger. Man fawns even behave like our own. I always wanted to know what made them act like our own fawns when they are small, and yet will kill us without mercy when they are large. I never understood it.”

“Maybe something in the killing sticks, drives them mad,” Bambi said. “Without them they look safe enough.”

“Maybe you are right, but it is a question I have always had,” he said and walked away to start playing with Tilar on his own.

That night they talked over with the others what happened that day. Most of his family wanted nothing to do with Man and he did not blame them. It was still interesting. He liked being around his family at this time. He liked playing with the fawns. They come up to him and push at him. Even through it hurt to do so, he would lean over and push back. It was how he learned just how the fawns would behave.

That next night both Young Bambi and Helos returned after many days away. They both looked fine despite their travels. He did notice a few scuff makes on them. Both Stelar and Galene were both very happy to have them back unhurt. After they all ate and drank, they all went over to Stabo's clearing and lay down to let the two males tell their tale. Young Bambi started.

"We went deep into our forest past the other Man cave. We found the deer herd there, or at least the deer. Since Delon died, there has been no leader. It is like what Galin told us about his herd: just a bunch of males sparing with each other. A couple of them thought it be fun to spar with us."

"They were wrong," Helos said. "We did not hurt them, but we made it clear they should leave us alone, which they did. It was all flat back there. There was really no place to hide anywhere."

"If not for the distance, I am sure all the deer be glad to join our herd," Young Bambi went on. "We saw no familiar deer back there. Some deer did know about us. That was most likely from Balo and Delon. A few deer knew me and Stabo because of our fight with Delon. No one complained to us that Delon was gone."

"What do they do when Man comes?" Bambi asked.

Young  Bambi answered with a shrug of his huge shoulders."From what I heard, they run in any direction they can think of."

"No plan there," he muttered.

"We then went to the right from the deer herd and found the edge of the forest, nothing but open space with no other forest in sight. No place to hide there. The we went back to where we found the deer and went to the left and came across the Man path as it left the forest and went into the open area. We went beyond there and we found a large hill."

"How large was the hill?" he wanted to know.

"Smaller than the  hill you hid the herd on before the forest burned down," Young Bambi answered. "It was open and easy to climb, but there were lots of trees at the top of the hill. It was the most hidden place we could find. There was also an old bear den on it, but there was no scent of a bear there. That was the only place other than the forest itself we found that we could hide from Man."

"How long would it take to get the herd there," Stabo asked.

"About two full nights walking," Helos said.

That might help the herd, but it would do him no good. He could never walk that far quickly enough to avoid Man he knew. It did not sound good, but it was all they had.

"You both have done well in finding that," he told them. "I am proud of both of you."

"I am not sure that will do us any good, Father," Stabo said.

"It gives us some place to go if we need it," Bambi said. "It is more than we had before. Stranger is right, you both done well."

Both the younger Bambi and Helos smiled. Their mates lay next to them and showed their appreciation. Both couples went off into the forest to rest after their long journey.

He looked at both Bambi and Faline and shrugged himself. It was better than nothing.

There were also other matters to take care of. Some of the senior males came to talk with Stabo about Delon late two nights later. Many still did not think he should have been killed. Stabo explained many times his reason. He supported his son. A deer as strong and as good a fighter as Delon was a danger, especially if he said he use that ability to kill or hurt helpless fawns.

Finally Marco just spoke up. “I do not think you should have killed him unless he came back again and tried to hurt someone.” I remember hearing about what Stranger did to Kragus when I was but a fawn and I remember hearing how the herd treated you at the time. I do not want that to happen to Stabo."

“Marco, I will tell you truthfully. If the herd does not think I can still lead, then I will step aside. I have already offered to do it once. I will do it now,” Stabo said. “I did what I thought I had to do; protect the herd and my family.”

“My son is correct,” he said to Marco. “Just like what we did for Razor. A deer that is interested in only forcing himself on the herd, and does not care who he hurts in the process, should be eliminated before he destroys the herd.”

“If you say so, Stranger,” Marco replied coolly. ”I can only tell you what others think. No one is saying they want a new leader yet.”

“Thank you, Marco,” he said and bowed his head slightly in a show of respect. Marco then left them and walked away.

“They want me and they do not want me,” Stabo said. “I wish they make up their mind.”

He looked at the sky starting to lighten overhead. “Let us sleep on it,” he suggested.”Things look better when you are not tired.”

“Good idea,” Bambi said getting up with Faline.

“We can do this tonight,” Faline said.

Young Bambi, Galene, Stelar, Helos and their fawns all went back to their sleeping places. He followed Bambi and Faline back to their resting place. They slept at one end of the clearing and he slept alone at the other. He had no problems in falling asleep.

He woke up when the greater light was past being overhead. He got up and immediately walked into the forest to empty himself. As he walked back he noted something strange. He saw Bambi standing up at the edge of the clearing with his back toward him. He then saw Faline still lying peacefully on the ground. Usually when one got up they both got up. He walked over the Bambi and as he got close he noticed he was shaking.

“Bambi, are you ill?” he asked him.

“No,” he sobbed openly. “I am fine.” The big deer then turned around tears pouring down from his large dark eyes. “Stranger, Faline is gone.”

He was stunned, ’What!” he said and moved quickly over to her. He reached over and rubbed her forehead like he had done countless times before. Her head was cold to the touch. He felt along her entire body. It was the same, she was cold as a winter stream. He nudged her gently with his nose. She was hard to the touch. She also did not respond to his touch. She was dead.

“Faline,” he said and put his head on the ground next to her. “Why her?” he said out loud.

“We lay down at sunrise as normal,” Bambi went on. “Nothing seemed wrong. She told me her chest had hurt her after the talk with Marco, but I did not think anything about it. I felt her go to sleep. A while ago I was awaked. I felt cold and it took me a while to understand I was cold because she was cold. I called her name and she did not move. She has never done that. I kissed her. She did not move and her body was cold and stiff. That is when I knew. Stranger, she died in her sleep.”

He got up and turned away from her and Bambi. He fought to get himself under control. Other than Claris, Faline was the only doe he ever felt true feelings for. He always thought Bambi was a very fortunate deer to find her and have her for a mate. They were a pair since he knew any of them. Now she just lay in front of him.

He felt his own eyes tearing. He never expected this to happen. “This hurts me like watching Claris pass in front of me. I cannot image living in a forest without her.”

“I cannot image being without her,” Bambi said still sobbing. “I never believed that I would outlive her, nor did I want to.”

He looked over at his oldest friend now shaken. “I know how you feel,” he said. "I am truly sorry for you because I know what you have lost. Is there anything you like me to do?”

“Could you get the others and bring them here?” Bambi asked. “I will stay here and make sure the scavengers stay away for a while. Especially bring my daughter.”

“I will go now,” he told him and then left.

He first found his daughter and Helos and told them,” They were shocked and left at once. He then found young Bambi, Galene, their fawns and told them. He then went to Stabo’s clearing and found them. They both saw him coming. Stabo must have seen it in his face. “Is it Bambi?” he asked.

He looked at Gena now in middle age, but still nice looking. “Gena, your mother passed in her sleep. You need to go to your Father, he needs you.”

“No,” she said in a whimper and then turned and buried her head in Stabo’s side. Stabo let her cry there for a while before speaking up. “Gena, your Father really needs you now.”

She turned back to him and nodded and silently left for the place she knew her mother and father liked to bed down. Her fawns followed her. Stabo looked closely at him. His son was thinking the same thing he had been thinking. Who would be next?

“Go, my Son. Hurry, I will catch up later. I have to rest for a moment.”

He watched his son scurry after his mate and fawns. He stopped and leaned against a spruce tree. His side ached. He stood there breathing hard for a while before he could move on his own again. He hurried as quickly as possible. By the time he returned the others were all there looking at the still figure before them. Gena was standing next to Bambi rubbing his side. He had never seen the old deer so distraught. He stood in the back and just looked. The forest was now going to be lonelier now with Faline gone, just after it gotten lonelier when Claris had gone. Finally after a while he knew what had to be done. It was time to go and leave this place of death.

“It is time we leave,” he said. “I will leave this place and not return like I did not return to the clearing Claris died in.

“Stranger is right,” Bambi said looking once more at Faline. “There is nothing more we can do here. I am going to go and be by myself for a while. I will be back,” he said and then walked off alone toward the deeper forest.

The rest of them left. He was the last to go and he walked back toward the edge of the forest by the meadow. The three Man families where still there playing together. He spent the rest of the day watching them and wondered if Man suffered the same losses as they did.

He spent the next few days alone. He took the time to go walking back into his old forest to see how things were growing back. He walked back through the trees and headed for the remains of the tall oaks near were the Old Owl lived and later when Oswell took up residence.  He looked at them and called for Oswell, but no one came out of the tree. He hoped that only meant that had flown away to avoid the fire. All around him the trees stood tall, yet he saw few signs of leaves except from a few trees. He did see lots of smaller plants growing up from the ground. He noted some grasses starting to grow. He walked to the old pond and the clearing Claris, Carie and he had shared with Bambi and Faline in happier days. He also saw the clearing that Balo and Stena had used. It was all burnt, but in the open areas there were green plants beginning to grow back. He drank out of the stream that flowed from the pond down the hill toward the stream that led out of the meadow.

In his travels he saw no animals larger than mice. Some insects were there, but anything larger was gone. He saw many collections of burnt bones from animals not lucky enough to have fled in time. His side hurt from time to time. He rested near the stream near their old viewing location. It too was burnt bare. He could not hide a fawn there now. The only thing that even looked close to as remembered it was the meadow itself. It was growing grass again.

The next night he ate on the meadow near his former home for the first time since the Man cave had burnt to the ground. He slowly climbed the hill that had met Geno on all those seasons before. His side was hurting like being kicked by the time he got to the top, but he could see the whole forest from here. This was only the second time he had been here since that day. He noticed the trees were not as badly burnt here. Some were even sprouting leaves and looking almost normal. As he walked he noted that things had not changed much here.

“Stranger,” he head a familiar voice call.

He looked up and there on a branch was Oswell. He was happy. “You are alive,” he called out.

“Yes, but I thought you were all dead,” the Owl said looking at him.

“I am alive, but most of the others are not,” he told him and then spent most of the rest of the night bringing him up to date.

“So other than you and Bambi, the others are dead,” Oswell said. “I am sad about that. I have a new mate Orell. Oswell then told him a story about his experience. They had a brood of new owlets in the tree when the fire came. Sorporra stayed with them thinking the fire would not get to them in the hollow of the tree. As it turned out they were not burnt by the fire but Oswell found them all dead in the tree without a mark on them.

“I am sorry,” he said.

“There was nothing to be done,” Oswell told him. “I hope things work out better for all of us.”

“”I hope so too,” he told him sincerely. “Have you found enough food here for your family with the forest burnt?”

“The mice and other small creatures survived in their underground burrows. If anything it is easier now. It is more open, and it takes the mice longer to find food so more chances for me to find them. My owlets are doing well. I hope to fledge a clutch of four this season. How about you?

“My family is fine, but with Claris dead and me getting old, there will not be any more fawns. My children are having fawns so my family is growing.”

“You will train them like the others?” Oswell asked seeming interested.

He did not feel like telling him he doubted he live long enough to do it so he just said. “If I get the chance I will.” That was more or less the truth.

“Well I have to go. I have many mice to catch,” he said and flew off.

At least that was some happy news in the forest. He was glad to see someone from the old days that was doing well.  He walked back to his new home happier than he had been in days.

 

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