The Stranger: Taking Charge-Version 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 2 (v.2) - Decisions

Submitted: October 13, 2016

Reads: 33

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Submitted: October 13, 2016

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Chapter Two: Decisions

Just after darkness fell and the lesser light rose, Bambi came out of his cave and called as loudly as he could. "Here…here...all come here."

Bambi repeated the call several times. He and Claris got up and after she fed Stena, they both walked toward the small clearing near the pond. As herd leader, Bambi and Faline went first, but he and Claris were directly behind them. As a higher ranked male he took position near Bambi, but not in front of him. He saw Veron, Bambi son from two years ago, take his place with the younger males, and Stabo and Gina take their place in the back with all the yearlings from last year. Ronno took his place near him, but there were few other senior male deer. Both Ducas and Flaco had not survived the hunts last Season so their places were empty. Sinno and some of the other senior males that didn't care for either him or Claris stood further away because they knew better than to approach him. Friend Owl came over and rested on a tree. He was looking old and even grayer than before. He had to ask himself how much longer the owl would be able to come.

The only new addition to the senior males was Jolo, a former senior male from the Man path forest. That herd had broken up due to Man increase presence in the forest and after several deer were killed by Man animals that traveled along the Man path. Jolo and a few others had come to their forest. The rest went to the forest over the hill where he had come from. Jolo came forward to stand near Ronno. He was a four season male that was large, heavily muscled, and looked like he have a large rack come the Season. Bambi welcomed the deer that came here. Unlike Claris and him, no deer objected to his presence, and it was nice to have someone other than Ronno take position next to him. After seeing most were here, Bambi began.

"As you all know, Man is looking to live near the meadow for much longer than before. What happened to poor Marro could very well happen to any of us if we either go on, or even near the meadow after light. This means we can only visit the meadow at night. What we need to decide is if we can safety stay here, or if we need to go elsewhere. I have called you all here to decide what we should do."

"I saw Marro hit," Jolo said in his deep voice. "He was not on the meadow, but was standing in the forest several lengths from the edge of the meadow. Somehow a Man saw him and used his killing stick on him. I was close enough to see him hit. It could have been me."

Bambi nodded his head in appreciation. "Thank you Jolo, that is good to know."

"I assume you all smelled what happened afterwards," Jolo added and went silent. No one spoke about the scent of burning deer meat.

"This means we will have to stay away from the meadow while Man is here," Bambi went on. "I feel we can still use the meadow at night if we stay away from the Man animals and the Man cave."

"I agree with Bambi," he spoke up. "What I do not know is if Man will stay all the time or will only come during The Season and then leave before winter. From living with Man, I know that is what they usually do. What happens here I do not know. That will have to be seen. The question is will we be able to safely get enough food to prepare for the winter?"

"I do not see how," Ronno said. "I do not like being on the meadow even at night. I have learned that Man has a long reach, and I do not want it to reach out and touch me. We need to use the meadow to preserve what food we have in the forest for winter. I no longer see how we can do this. I feel we need to go back to our old forest. There was much food there and Man only came during The Season."

"There was much food there before the fire," Faline spoke up.

"So we can stay here and maybe have Man kill us, or go back to the old forest and maybe starve during the winter," Ronno replied. "This is not a good choice."

"It is the only choice we have," Bambi said not trying to hide his frustration.

"It is not, Father," he heard Veron's voice call out. "I feel there is another choice. Some of us can go live in the forest where Man has put his path."

Everyone turned and stared at him mostly in disbelief. Finally Jolo spoke up "We all left that place because Man came and it was no longer safe to stay."

"Not for a large herd, but a few of us could live there and that would see the demand for food here become less," Veron explained.

He had to admit to himself he never considered that choice. Veron's idea did make sense, only who would want to live there? In any case it sounded like they were going to split up the herd. Something his instinct told him was the wrong thing to do.

"I would rather stay here," Claris spoke up. "Here we know the dangers, and many of us know how to avoid the dangers. In other places that is not so. I do not think we need a new forest. There is plenty of food here."

That took him by surprise. Although Claris had her own opinions on many things, she had always discussed things with him first. Not tonight. He was not sure he agreed completely with her. It was then he noticed something else. At the end of the open clearing he noticed most of the yearlings were leaving the open space and going off on their own. Both Stabo and Gina left with maybe a dozen others. He wondered what that was all about. He saw Bambi noticing it too. There were many other private discussions going on among the herd. He walked over to Bambi.

"I am not sure I like this," he said in a low voice.

All Bambi could do was stand there silently while the herd talked among themselves. Bambi knew he could not force this. "It is their choice, they must make it," he said quietly.

"I think we need to give them more time to decide," he told Bambi.

"Yes, and we need to feed before the first light," Bambi replied.

"Friends!" Bambi called out loudly. All the conversation stopped. "To break up the herd is a hard thing to do. We must think about this. I will ask you all to be here tomorrow night with your decision. Now we need to feed on the meadow."

"I agree," Ronno said and started walking to the meadow with Marol his doe and their young male fawn. The others started to follow them. The yearlings had still not come back. Bambi's son Veron and several others were also gone.

Claris came over to him and nuzzled her nose against his. 'You seem troubled,"

"I am," he said. "I think splitting the herd is a bad idea, but it is not up to me, you, or even Bambi to decide. Everyone must decide this for themselves. Let us eat and talk later."

Claris nodded and followed him onto the meadow. They ate and drank their fill and as the first sign of light appeared, everyone left the meadow far behind. When they returned to their thicket Claris fed Stena again and then led her off into the forest. At that age fawns could not control their bodies as adults could, and he did not want her fouling their resting area with waste. He also releaved himself away from their sleeping place and then came back. A short while later Claris and Stena retuned. Claris lay down next to him and then little Stena wiggled in between them. It was warm and safe there. As soon as she lay still, he nuzzled his daughter who licked the side of his face. He always liked doing that, Then Claris did the same. Stena yawned once and promptly fell asleep. She was almost as beautiful to look at as Claris.

"I worry about her," he whispered in Claris' ear.

"I know," she said and nuzzled him on his mouth. He did the same. It always brought on that warm feeling of delight he felt near her.

"Did you mean what you said about staying here?" he asked.

"Of course," she said as if wondering why he even asked. "There is plenty of food here. I am not afraid of the meadow as long as we are back deep in the forest by the first light. This is the only place I have ever known. My mother came from the old forest, but I was born here. This is where I belong."

"How is your mother?" he wanted to know. She was the older doe Ata they often left their fawns with.

"She is fine, but I think she is still lonely. I think she still misses my father. He was killed when I was a fawn. It was right after the Old Prince died and Bambi became herd leader."

"She does get along well with Faline," he said. "She is not that old. I am surprised she never took up with any of the older males."

"Not many left," Claris said almost in a moan. "Ronno is the oldest and she never liked him. That leaves you and Bambi and a few others. She is the oldest female in our herd. She told me that none of the senior males appeal to her."

"I never thought about it like that," he had to admit. "So you want to stay here in this forest?"

"Yes," she repeated.

"Even though what that may mean for our children?" he said wanting to make sure Claris fully understood the possible consequences. He had no desire to see his own children die in the meadow.

"Yes," she said without hesitation. "We can teach them to avoid Man."

That ended the argument on what they would do. If Claris stayed, he would stay with her as long as they lived. He also had no illusions about his own fate if they stayed. How long would it be before some Man came to finish with him what they tried to do two seasons ago? No sense dwelling on that. He was alive today and today was all that counted. He had the bear to thank for that. He decided to change the subject.

"Did you see Stabo, Gena, and most of the yearlings leave the gathering?" he asked.

Claris nodded, "Yes, and they were not on the meadow with us to eat. Also Veron and many of the younger males and doe were not there. The older deer were. Faline also noticed it and was not happy."

"My feeling is we will find out tonight," he said and yawned as widely as Stena. "Pleasant sleep," he said gently to Claris and nuzzled her face again. She did likewise and they both fell fast asleep.

There were more noises from the Meadow. It was as if Man was telling them they would not be leaving any time soon. They got up twice during the day, but did not move away from the protection of the forest. As before when the greater light set, the noises stopped.

After the last trace of the greater light had vanished and the noise from the Man animals had stopped, Bambi again called the herd together. This time even more of the herd came so it was crowded by the pond. All came and took their positions.

"It is time for a decision," he said flatly. "I will ask of you how many would like to go back to the old forest.

"I and Marol will go," Ronno spoke up first. "At least there we may be able to use the meadow more than here."

"Anyone else?" Bambi asked.

"Me," Ata spoke up. "I am getting old and I rather die there than here."

He felt Claris start to lurch forward, but stopped. She saw her swallow hard and drop her head. "Mother," was all she said in a low whisper.

There a were a few more voices, mostly from some of the older deer, the three five-season males and five five-season females also indicated they all wanted to go back.

"Thank you," Bambi said. "I and Faline will also go, but we will wait until mid summer when the fawns are bigger and can make the trip more easily."

Both Claris and he looked at each other. It was hard to imagine the forest without Bambi and Faline. For the longest time they were their only friends. The forest was going to get lonelier again. There was nothing to be done about it. To him it felt like the end of everything was upon them.

"Father," Veron spoke up and stepped forward. "Many of us have decided to go to the other forest with the Man Path. We will live there."

"No," Jolo called out. "If you go there, you will die there. Any deer that goes near one of the Man animal as it goes down the path dies. I have seen it."

"There are no Man animals at night," Veron replied. "It will be no worse than staying here with Man on the meadow at all times."

Veron was right, but he could see it did not sit well with Jolo. He didn't know if Jolo was angry because they were going to take over his old home, or if he was angry because he felt they were being extremely foolish. "Suit yourself," he said with distain. "I will not go with you."

"I understand," Veron said and dipped his head in a mark of respect. Bambi had lowered his head like Claris had when her mother said she would leave. The herd was not just breaking up. Families were breaking up also."

"If I may speak," he heard Stabo say. Usually yearlings kept quiet at gatherings until they were older and wiser."

"Go ahead," Bambi said. "This affects all of us, even the young."

"The yearlings talked it over all day and we have all decided to go with Veron," Stabo announced. Immediately, a dozen yearlings started nodding their head in approval including Gena.

All he could do is lower his head and shake it in disapproval. This was becoming worse than he could imagine. He felt his world was falling apart and there was nothing he could do to stop it. It was going to be a much different forest after they all left. He looked at Claris who now had tears running down her eyes. Her family was going away.

"If that is your decision, then I wish all of you good luck," Bambi said "I feel we will all need it. Those who have not spoken will be staying here in this forest?"

Jolo and stepped forward. "I will stay here," he said simply.

Finally he felt he had to say something. "Claris and I will also stay here," he said loudly."I must tell you I feel breaking up the herd like this may cause some bad times, but I understand it is everyone's own decision. I hope we do not end up regretting this."

All of the three-season deer, and four-season deer all motioned that they would be staying in this forest. The dangers of the known were less than the dangers of the unknown. One herd had become three in less than a night.

"Is there anyone else who wants to speaks?" Bambi asked.

"I will also stay," the Old Owl screeched. "I am too old now to go back to the old forest."

Everyone was silent, more like stunned at what had just happened. Even the forest had become deadly quiet.

"Let us go eat," Bambi said.

He tried to eat, but the grass had no taste for him that night. Even Claris only ate a little. They did not speak, that would come later when they bedded down to rest. Instead he spent a while looking at the Man cave at the far end of the meadow. It was getting larger. Soon many Men would come and bring their killing sticks. Men were to blame for this. If they had stayed away, none of this would have happened. He felt the anger build up in him again. Man had taken from him so much, and now after he had found a home, Man was causing that to break up. He wished fire from the sky would come and burn Man like he burned deer. It was then he saw Bambi and Jolo walk over toward him.

"Can we speak to you alone?" Bambi asked.

Claris took Stena back toward the other doe. He walked toward the far side of the meadow. When he was sure they could not be overheard he stopped. Both Bambi and Jolo looked serious, Jolo looked even afraid, something was not right.

"Speak," he said.

"You know what this means?" Bambi said.

"Three herds, only one leader," he said.

"You always were smart," Bambi said. "I will take those back to the old forest. That means no one will be here for the other herds."

"Except you," Jolo added.

It took him a second to realize what they meant. "You want me to be herd leader in this forest?" he asked not believing it.

"Who else," Bambi said. "I asked you before to take my place if anything happened to me. Well, something is going to happen to me. I am leaving. You are the strongest, the wisest, and know more about how to avoid Man than anyone. Who else should be herd leader?"

"I will not challenge you for leader," Jolo said. "I have seen your actions and heard your advice. It is better than mine."

"Thank you," he said and bowed his head. "What of the herd going to the Man path forest?"

"The only ones from that forest who are going back with Veron are not that strong or wise, they cannot be leaders," Jolo said factually. "The yearlings and two season deer are still too young to lead and Veron is the leader of his age group. Veron will more than likely be the leader over there even though he is far too young. I also have to tell you anyone that goes with them I feel will not live long."

He could see the effects of Jolo's words on Bambi. Both his son and daughter were going. He could tell this was tearing at him. This was all coming too fast for him. He needed to think.

"Too much, too quickly," he said. "I need to think how we can make the best of this. Bambi, I would like to see you, Jolo, Veron and Stabo in the small clearing right after dark tomorrow to see how we can make this work."

"I will be there," Bambi said. Jolo nodded.

Now all he had to do was think of something to tell them.

Despite all that had occurred, he and Claris did not exchange too many words other than what he told her about what Bambi had said. Claris was stunned and hid her expressions from him. He could not tell if Claris was happy she would be the mate of the herd leader or was afraid because of what he told her about past herd leaders he knew and how they all died. She rested fitfully. He couldn't sleep at all. There was no good way to do what had to be done, yet it had to be done. It was late in the day before his fatigue finally overcame him.

That day the noise from the Man cave was less. Before the time the greater light was setting, it had stopped altogether. They got their best sleep in days.

Just after dark, Bambi and he walked silently toward the small clearing. Bambi was looking to him for a clue about what he was going to say, but he realized he had to tell all of them the same thing at the same time for this to succeed. They walked into the small clearing with the others already there. Jolo with his full rack starting to grow in was by far the tallest. Veron, with his smaller rack was shorter than Jolo, but was going to be heavier. Stabo was the smallest and youngest of all. They all looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and anxiousness.

"Thank you all for coming," he started. "Although I do not like what is going to happen to the herd, the decision is made and we have to live with it. What is important now is how to prepare all three herds to best survive the coming Season and winter. There is enough food to supply all of us, and I think that will not be a problem. What will be a problem is how to avoid Man. Man is coming into the forest in increasing numbers and he will come after us. Because of my past, I have knowledge that has helped Bambi and others avoid Man. Most of the time this works, sometimes it does not," he said and let them look at his scarred side.

"Bambi is an experienced leader and will have no problem with the herd going back to the old forest. Veron, you will most likely be herd leader of the group going into the forest by the Man path. To be honest with you, you are still too young to do this, but there is no one else. You will need help." With that he stopped and looked directly at his son.

"Stabo, you can help him like I help Bambi, but you need to know how. I have already taught you many things, but there is more to learn. I will be herd leader in this forest if the remaining herd agrees. Do not repeat this, but I see no one who is wise enough to replace me. However if something happens to me, then Jolo will need to take over here, and he also needs to know how to avoid Man. I must teach both Stabo and Jolo what I know about Man so you will both be ready. It might also help Bambi and Veron to know this, but the main thing with you Veron is that Bambi has to teach you how to be a good herd leader. Unfortunately we do not have much time to do any of this, so we need to start now. Do any of you have any questions?"

That was a lot to be said quickly, but everyone, even Bambi was still letting him take charge. No one said a word.

"Very well here is how we start. I am going to do something I have only done twice before. I am going to tell you the full story of my time with Man and how I gained this knowledge." He looked at Stabo. "I've only told your mother and the bear this story, because I did not want to upset the rest of you. Afterwards I will teach Jolo and Stabo all the tricks I have learned about Man. Many of these you already know. Bambi will teach Veron what he knows about being a herd leader. We will do this every night until you are all ready to leave for the new forests. Do you all agree?"

"I do not like this," Bambi said looking at Veron, "But Stranger, I know you are correct."

"Thank you, Father, for giving us this knowledge," Stabo added.

"Do not thank me," he said loudly. "I am doing you no favors with this."

With that he lay down as did the others. He collected his thoughts and started his tale at the beginning.


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