Ama was worried about Alani. Since the attack, the young doe was awkwardly quiet. She barely talked and seemed to be buried deep in her thoughts. She wasn't herself. Anyone could tell that she was still pondering about what had happened on the meadow. She didn't look at the world with big eyes anymore, for now she saw its dangers.
When they were in their den, Ama turned to look at her daughter. Alani was staring at nothing particular, just lying there, motionless. But when her mother let out a deep sigh, the fawn raised her head a little. She noticed her mother looked worried and sad, and wondered why.
"Are you alright, Alani?"
Alani thought about that question. Was she? No, not really. Since she had encountered Man on the meadow, she couldn't think about him without fear. The picture of the buck getting shot, the buck lying on the ground with a pained face, didn't leave her alone. But she didn't want her mother to know, so she faked a smile.
"I'm fine, mother. Don't worry 'bout me."
"But I do worry. I was barely older than you when Man took the life of one of us, and I was very scared." It had been a friend of the Great Prince, a handsome young stag. He had been busy impressing a doe when suddenly, thunder sounded and he ran away with flying hooves. Later, she had seen him lying in his own blood. Ama had never been able to forget this day. Even know, she shuddered at the thought.
Alani was silent. After a while, she asked with a voice full of sadness; "Mother, why does Man do that. What did we do to them?"
Ama sighed and shook her head. "I don't know. It has always been like that and will go on this way." She lowered her gaze.
"Did man take someone you loved?"
Ama looked up and nodded. "Yes, many." Faces of her fallen loved ones appeared before her inner eyes, although she didn't want to think about them. She sighed once again.
"That means Man will never stop?" the fawn asked dejected and looked at her mother, a faint gleam of hope still left in her eyes. Ama was down-hearted to see Alani like that, and much more saddened by the answer she had to give.
Alani's hear dropped. Ama nuzzled her comfortingly. She knew how the little one was feeling, for she sensed that Alani was not only worried about her life, but also about her friends'. They hadn't met anyone they knew, but that didn't mean anything.
"Mother…you think the others are okay?"
"I'm sure. They're fine, you'll see."Ama didn't want to worry her anymore, but she couldn't know for sure if the other deer were still alive. Her mate crossed her mind, but she shook her head to get him out of her thoughts.
"Mother?" Alani asked in confusion. She had noticed the motion.
Ama smiled faintly. "It's nothing, Alani. Sleep now, tomorrow, the world will look completely different." She laid her head down and closed her eyes. Alani hesitated, but then did as she was told. Soon, nothing could be heard but calm breathing.
"We must endure everything, Alani. We have to be smart and fast so we can survive," Ama whispered after a few moments. Alani opened one of her eyes for a second, but didn't answer. Probably Ama was right. But she would only really understand it when she was older.
She didn't even notice how she fell asleep. When she opened her eyes for the next time, it was bright day. She was in a den that wasn't hers, and her mother was gone. She quickly stood.
"Mother?" The fawn left the den, but there was still no sign of Ama. Calling for her, Alani walked around in the foreign looking forest area. But Ama didn't show up.
The doe-fawn stopped after a while. She was lost and at a loss of what to do. She wondered what had happened. Where was her mother? And where in the world was she, anyways? She sighed in desperation and lowered her head.
But then, she suddenly heard voices. Her ears perked up. Although she had no clue who it was, the young deer was happy, for she wasn't alone anymore. She hurried to follow the calls.
After only a few meters, Alani spotted three other deer. She quickly hid in a few bushes so she wasn't seen and could get a good look at the strangers.
The fawns were around her age, with big eyes and spotted pelts. They seemed to be siblings, since they called each other "bro" and "sis". The only male was chestnut colored with a black head and back streak and bluish-green eyes, the smaller doe was pale chestnut brown with ink blue eyes and the other doe…well, the other doe looked exactly like Ama. But she was a little fawn and had no scars. Weird.
After a while, the little pale doe noticed Alani and stopped. She stared at the dark fawn with wide eyes.
"What is it, Fay?" the other doe asked and walked up to her. The fawn named Fay moved one leg towards Alani and said; "There."
Her siblings looked at Alani, who didn't make an attempt to flee. Why should she? The others surely would do her no harm.
"Hey, you," the buck fawn called. "Come out."
Alani obeyed the authoritarian voice and stepped out of the bushes, towards the other fawns. They seemed relieved that she was obviously only another fawn who was to shy to approach them directly.
"Why are you watching us? Who are you?" the male asked. But he didn't sound suspicious, it seemed more like he was surprised and curious.
"Alani. I…I think I lost my way." That wasn't a complete lie. The male fawn smiled.
"Then we'll help you out. By the way, I'm Coryn, and these are my sisters Fay and Ama."
It was as if Alani had been hit by a flash. So this fawn was her mother! The dark doe was unable to speak, she just stared at the light brown doe with her muzzle hanging slightly open.
Young Ama seemed to feel uncomfortable with someone staring at her like that, so she looked at her siblings, seeking for help. Coryn and Fay had bewildered expressions as well. "Is everything alright?" Ama asked slowly, waking Alani from her trance-like state. She hastily shook her head.
"What? Ehm…no. I mean YES! Yes, I'm fine. You just resemble someone I know," Alani hurried to answer. The other fawns looked at each other with uncertain expressions.
Fay was the first to talk again. She was small, weak and dainty, but she had a kind nature and a big heart. "Where do you live? Where's your mother?" she asked quietly and smiled.
Alani continued looking at Ama for a moment, but then, she answered. "I don't know. All I remember is that suddenly, mother was gone. I went looking for her, and now, I'm lost." She still had no idea what was happening, but one thing was sure. This wasn't normal, not in a single way.
"We could walk around a little and you say if you recognize something. Maybe we'll even meet father or my big brother," Coryn suggested and started walking without waiting for her response. The girls looked at each other for a moment, but then decided to follow him. What do I have to lose? I won't recognize anything, but it's better than standing around. Alani thought to herself.
The four of them talked why they were examining the forest. Alani found out that it was true what she had thought; she was in a past before she was even born. The father of the three was her grandfather, the current Great Prince. In her time, he was dead, and the brother of Coryn, Fay and Ama, Bambi's father, was the ruler. So Fay and Coryn had to be her aunt and uncle. But why was she here? And how?
She pondered about this, but soon she began turning her attention to her newfound…friends again. Were they friends? Maybe for a short little while. However, the fawns started playing after a while, not caring about the ways they took anymore. And as anyone could guess, when they stopped again, they had no clue where they were anymore.
"Oh my, I think we're lost," Coryn noticed and looked around. Embarrassed, the does looked to the ground.
"Mother sure is worried," Ama said. Alani tried to smile.
"Well, we're in the same situation now, I guess."
"Seems like it," Fay agreed.
Coryn closed his eyes for a moment. If he hadn't been a deer, he would have rubbed his temples. But as it was, he only thought about their situation for a moment and lifted his head high in the air as if he would carry large antlers on it. Instantly, the does looked at him.
"Standing around and complaining doesn't help anyone. Let's move on, maybe we'll find the way home on our own," he ordered.
"And if not?" Fay whimpered. She was miserable, felt unprotected and alone in the huge wide world, although her siblings and her new friend were around.
"It will be alright, Sis, you'll see," Ama said comfortingly and nosed her. Fay smiled a little, but didn't seem to be very convinced. Fear and concern were clear on her face.
"We have to go. Come on," Coryn said and started walking. Alani noticed how much of a leader he was. She liked the young buck, but at the same time, she wondered how and where he was in her time. Why had her mother never mentioned her siblings, for that matter?
She was deep in thoughts when she suddenly heard something. A voice, fine and light as a carillon, called her name. She stopped in her steps, her ears playing to catch the sound. There, there was it again.
She made out that the voice must've come out of the bushes. She took a step in that direction, but hesitated. There was something white-golden between the leaves, she could see it. What did all of this mean?
"Alani, what are you doing?" Ama asked. She had turned around as soon as Alani had stopped walking. Coryn and Fay stood still now as well, waiting for an answer. Alani looked at them in clear confusion.
"Don't you hear it? Someone is calling my name!" The calls hadn't stopped, and now, she heard the voice again. "There, listen!" The other fawns did, but as much as they tried, they couldn't hear anything but the usual voices of the forest.
"You're imagining it. Maybe you're tired. Come on, we have to get home," Coryn judged impatiently. All he wanted was to find the way home, to his mother, who had to be worried sick. Alani followed for a few moments, but then, she turned sharply. The voice again.
"Alani, come here. Have no fear, but you must follow me."
She looked at the others, then at the bushes where she saw white fur again. The young doe felt a sudden urge to follow that voice. Without thinking, she stormed towards the undergrowth, not caring about the yells of her companions. But when she saw the doe-fawn who had called her, she froze.
The doe was extraordinary in her appearance. Her pelt was white as snow, something Alani of course didn't know yet, and her skull and a broad streak running down her back to her tail where light golden. Only her eyes were a little darker; they had the color of amber. She smiled at Alani for a moment, only to turn on her hind hooves and bound away.
Without hesitation, Alani followed. She didn't even notice the siblings running after and calling her. She had lost all her senses and only felt the wish to get behind the secret of this doe.
They ran for quite some time, and Coryn, Fay and Ama didn't stop once. They had come to the conclusion that Alani was mad in her head, and even though Fay was worn-out, she rejected the suggestion to take a break. All three siblings wanted to prevent the odd fawn from hurting herself in any way.
They were in the outer parts of the forest now, and suddenly, the white doe stopped. Alani came to a halt as well.
"Who are you?" she panted. The others were a good distance away, so they could hear her talking. But she didn't get a response. The other doe just smiled, jumped into the undergrowth and was gone. Alani searched for her, but who- or whatever that might have been, she was gone.
That was when the siblings arrived. Coryn was furious, to say the least. Immediately, he yelled at Alani; "What was this about? Have you lost your mind? You can't just run off as if Man was after you! Do you have any idea who badly you could have get hurt?!"
"But that doe…" She hesitated and looked at her fellow deer. Had they really not seen the strange animal?
Fay confirmed it. "There was no one but you."
Alani's head sank low. "Oh."
They stood there for a few moments, unable to speak. Alani was embarrassed and the siblings didn't want to torture here more. The silence was interrupted by voices. But this time, they weren't in Alani's head, for the other fawns' ears perked up as well.
"Voices," Ama stated the obvious.
"Let's follow them;" Coryn suggested and the four of them slowly followed the sounds. When they felt like the ones who caused them were close, they hid in the bushes and peeked out. Fay squealed in surprise.
"Man;" Ama whispered and immediately attempted to flee.
"Stay!" Coryn ordered harshly to avoid getting spotted. He explained something to the does, but Alani didn't even listen.
It's them again she thought and stared at the humans. Without doubt, the three teenagers who took a walk through the forest were Alicia, Cassie and Dan. While they were paying attention to their steps and enjoyed nature, they chatted casually. Alani wanted to run away, but on the other hand, she was curious and considered to step towards the humans. Eventually, she decided to stay hidden and listen to their talk.
"Dad will be furious when he finds out we're here again," Cassie, the black haired girl, said to her siblings in this very moment. It wasn't clear if she was serious or not, but the other two didn't seem to worry.
"Yeah, something could happen to his little princess," Daniel joked and looked at Alicia, whose mouth dropped in a frown. But then, she tried a slight smile and punched her brother's arm in a playful manner.
"Stop it, Dan. Let me enjoy being away from home for this one day."
"He's just worried, Lis."
"I know." Alicia sighed and looked at her sister. "But he drives me crazy. Tell me, how big is the probability that I get run over by a car when I'm off to school? Or that I get fatally sick when I'm out in the rain once?" She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath.
"Very big. You're his first daughter, you know."
"And I'm not important?" Cassie pulled a face.
"Of course not," Daniel reassured her. "But you didn't almost die at your birth." The siblings looked at each other, as well as the four deer.
"What are you doing here?" a stern voice behind them suddenly asked. Instantly, the fawns turned around and stood face-to-face with a very angry future Great Prince. He was more furious than Coryn had been before.
He was younger, of course, but still very impressive. On his head was a rack of eight points.
"We…you see, we…" Ama stammered, but when her big brother threw her and icy glance, she fell silent. Prince turned to Coryn, for he was to protect his sisters, but paused when he spotted Alani. She unwillingly stiffened at the intensity of his gaze.
"Who is this doe?"
"Her name's Alani. We've met her just today," Fay quietly answered with a lowered glance. Prince looked at her, but much less scolding than when he looked at his other siblings. Then, he turned to Alani.
"Where's your mother?"
"I don't know," Alani whispered shyly. She didn't want to lie, but the truth, the fact that the fawn beside her was her mother, would be unbelievable. Prince narrowed his eyes in dismay. Immediately, Coryn stepped forward to protect the doe, although it was clear that he was afraid to stand up against Prince.
"She lost her way and we tried to help her. And doing so, we got lost, too," he explained and held his breath. Prince still looked furious and very frightening.
"You should have called mother instead of making her worried sick. It's bad enough that Mila ran off to hang out with some young bucks, but at least she is able to handle herself," he scolded them harshly. They lowered their heads in shame. But then, Coryn felt a spark of anger and threw his head in the air.
"We are able to as well!"
"Silence!" Coryn winced at the yell. "You can't. You're way too small. Now come on, I'll bring you to mother and father. You too, Alani." With lowered heads and ears, the fawns followed him.
"I'm sorry," Alani said quietly.
"It's not your fault," Ama whispered back. But Alani still felt guilty.
They were silent the whole rest of the way, until two deer came running towards them. One was an especially tall stag, maybe twelve, if not fourteen points, the other was a light colored doe.
"Fay, Ama, Coryn! Thank heavens, you're okay," the doe cried and nuzzled each of her fawns. Then she looked at Prince, who had walked up to his father. She thankfully smiled at him.
"Where did you find them, my son?"
"Near the path where Man often walks." None of the fawns dared to say that they had actually seen Man. Things would only get worse.
"What? They were so far away?" their father exclaimed.
"I don't wanna hear anything, son!" Coryn winced when he was yelled at again. He backed up and lowered his head, gaining a pitiful glance of Alani, whereas The Great Princess looked at her mate with clear dismay.
While her grandfather spoke to his children, Alani made an attempt to sneak off. But after a few steps, she spotted something in the shadows of the trees. Her heart rate increased.
"Man!" There was a man with a gun which he now raised, ready to shoot. She ran, shouting so the others would notice the danger. Thunder sounded while she ran in fear. She knew that this time, her mother wouldn't be able to help her.
Pain shot through her body when a bullet hit her flank. Did she have to die now? The doe stumbled and fell, her limp body crashing to the ground. She felt how something shoved himself over her body and cowered above her. Her eyes were closed and her breathing went hard.
"Alani, wake up!"
Her eyes shot open. There was her mother, but as adult doe, not as fawn. And her den was back, too. Everything was normal again.
"I…I had a bad dream," Alani panted more to herself than to her mother. She thought of her dream again, but she could hardly remember single things. She just knew that she had been in the past, and with her a white doe…
"Alani, how did you know those names?" Ama asked suspiciously.
"Fay and Coryn."
"I dreamed of them. They were your siblings. Is that true?"
Ama's eyes widened. "Yes. Yes, that's true." She shook her head and closed her eyes in surprise and shock. When she looked at Alani again, her glance was without emotion. Not lifeless, but unusually cold. She was upset; Alani saw and was it herself.
The fawn was speechless. Could it be that her dream was true? Why did she dream of the past and of Man? Without intention to do so, she suddenly told her mother about the entire dream. She had to talk about it, it didn't leave her alone.
Ama was more than shocked. It couldn't be that Alani dreamed of such things. That wasn't normal, wasn't possible.
"Alani, you mustn't tell anyone about those dreams. They're…not normal. Don't talk about them!" Her voice was high-pitched and full of fear. Alani winced and nodded in shame.
"Very well." Ama took a deep breath. "If you understood, then let's sleep now." All she wanted was time to think, so she lay down.
Alani thought about the dream and herself for a long time. They're not normal…Does that mean I am not normal? An outsider? Would others cast her out and defy her? She feared so. A ring of fear closed around her hearts. She decided not to talk about her dreams ever again. Then her mother wouldn't need to be upset again. Yes, that was it.
Alani closed her eyes and began sleeping again with a silent smile. Maybe her dreams would go away by themselves.
Only time would teach her how wrong she was at that.
The next morning
Alani was walking around by herself. Ama wasn't far away, but while she was grazing, the fawn wanted to explore. But the main reason was that she wanted to be alone, to think. Although she had been sure that the dreams would go away, she still felt kinda sick. It was like a cloud hovering above her head.
"What's wrong with me?" she murmured.
"Nothing's wrong with you," the bright voice from her dream called. Alani turned sharply.
There! The white doe! She was standing before a tree, smiling cheerfully. She looked kind, but Alani took a step backwards.
"You mustn't be here!" She cried. She wasn't crazy!"
"I must be here. You will understand it in time. Just be sure for now that everything is okay with you. You are something special, but just at times. For now, just live your life without worry about that. Everything will make sense eventually, you'll see," the doe said. And then, she was gone.
Alani just stood there for one moment, but then, she ran after her. "Stop! Who are you? Why am I special? Wait!"
But all shouting and crying was in vain. Panting, Alani stopped in her steps and looked around. Nothing. The doe was gone.
"Who am I?" Alani whispered tonelessly.
"Alani?" A little deer jumped in front of her. It was Bambi, and he was smiling at her with innocent cheerfulness.
"Who are you talking to?"
"With…with a squirrel, one of my mother's friends. But now, she's gone away," Alani lied quickly. But Bambi didn't suspect anything. She was lucky.
"Oh, alright. Do you want to play with me? Mother is with yours."
"Yes, sure," Alani nodded. Playing was normal. She was normal, as she wanted to be. But one question didn't leave her head.
Who was she?