Sighing, the doe lowered her head and drank slow, graceful sips of water from the stream which marked the border of their kingdom. It was cold, clear and well-tasting. Much better than at home. Well, what had been her home until a few weeks ago, she thought.
Faline raised her head and stared at the landscape stretching out before her. She was a good distance away from home, not very far, but she still wouldn't find the way back. Ronno had led her strange paths going here. Probably to make sure she wouldn't escape.
Once again, she sighed as memories flooded through her mind. So many things had happened in the past weeks. Bambi's defeat, her journey to this place alongside Ronno, his fight against the leader of this herd and, of course, his victory over him.
Yes, he had his own herd now, and he had chosen Faline as his beautiful queen. She didn't have anything to do with making decisions, of course, but no duties, either. Well, aside from bearing Ronno an heir.
And that was what she was frightened of.
He was a strong buck; she wasn't one to deny that. He had overpowered Bambi, who had the Great Prince's blood running through his veins. And he had defeated the buck who lead this herd, who wasn't less impressing than Bambi's father my any means. True, the buck had been old, but he was still a though one to beat in battle.
Faline had watched with fear in her eyes how the two bucks collided over and over again. And not just that, they had also gored each other and tried to stomp on their opponent to break their rip-cages or legs so they wouldn't be able to fight on. Their wounds had been deep and the ground had been covered with small puddles of blood.
But eventually, Ronno had won. The old leader was lying on the ground, his body covered all in deep wounds, especially on his throat, chest and sides. He couldn't move anymore, he didn't even try. Faline had cried silent tears and had turned her head so she didn't have to see it happening. Although she had never met that buck before, seeing him being murdered was more than she could stand. And that was when she heard the unbelievable.
"I let you go. Never return, and you may live."
Faline had thought it had been a joke, but it was real. When she had looked up, Ronno had taken a step back, looking the injured buck straight in the eye, a silent treat burning into his gaze. The old buck had nodded, and with the help of some others, he had stood and limped away.
That moment, Faline's gaze had met Ronno's, and the red buck had smiled.
Then he had cleared his throat. "I am your Prince now. My name is Ronno, but you will call me The Great Prince or Sir. And Faline is your Great Princess. Treat her with respect. Come here, Faline."
She had hesitantly stepped up to her mate, giving the crowd a shy smile. It had all been so overwhelming.
And it still was. Of course, being a queen had its advantages and pleasures. She had the coziest den, could pick the best spots to eat, everyone had to make way for her when she wanted to go through a crowded space. She could even have her own guard if she wanted to.
And it wasn't as if Ronno did treat her bad. He wasn't mean to her, he didn't use any kind of violence, and he actually treated her well.
But she missed her old life, she missed her mother Ena and Gobo, her little brother, and most of all, she missed Bambi. They had been friends all her life, and now, she probably wouldn't see him ever again. She still held a hope that he would come and rescue her, but how could he find her? He had no clue where she was, not even she herself had.
And there was another thing…
"What are you thinking about, Faline?"
The blue-eyed doe snapped out of her thoughts. She hurriedly turned her head, but relaxed when she recognized the doe approaching her. The gaze of the evergreen eyes, framed by rich lashes and placed in a very pretty face, was comforting Faline immediately. The newly arrived female was skinnier than most does, but by no means less beautiful. Her fur was maroon, and almost black fur ran from her nose over her head, down her neck and back down to the tip of her tail. She made dainty steps in Faline's direction and smiled at the other doe.
"Oh, hello Shila. Um…nothing of importance…" Faline replied casually and looked away. Shila giggled; a childish sound for a grown-up lady like her.
"Don't try to trick me. What are you thinking about?"
Faline looked into her honest, trustworthy face. She had a look in her eyes that made everyone want to tell their sorrows to her. She was a picture of innocence. Faline sighed.
"I was just…thinking about my old life. And…I'm afraid."
"Of what?" Shila tilted her head.
"Well…Ronno said today that he can't wait to have a heir, a strong buck like him. But what if…if I'm not able to give him one...Will he kill her?" Faline stuttered and lowered her head. She hadn't even come into season yet, although it was rutting season. The doe was sure it was only a matter of time. And then, she would have to mate with him.
But Shila laughed. "Kill her? Come on, Faline! My brother is a show-off, but he wouldn't be able to kill a newborn!" The thought really seemed to amuse her, and she couldn't stop giggling. Faline's face turned from fear to disbelief and finally to anger.
"Well, he had no problem with almost killing my love, Prince Bambi", she shouted, stomping with one of her front hooves. Shila stopped in her action, her eyes narrowing. Suddenly, she seemed rather angry with Faline. There was no softness in her eyes anymore.
"You know how these things work, Faline. Ronno is a good buck, and a strong buck at that. If your Prince lost, he didn't deserve you. And tell me, did Ronno mistreat you in any way?"
Faline made a step backwards, suddenly becoming frightened by the doe. "No, but…"
"There is no but. Ronno admires you, maybe he even loves you, I don't know. He will care for your fawns, and they will be good ones. Forget your weak prince. This is your love now, and this territory your home." With that, she stormed off, leaving behind a confused Faline. The blue eyed doe stared after her.
What was up with that doe?
Bambi swung his head around, finally without feeling a stinging pain in his wounds. They were almost completely healed; soon, he would only have very few scars left to remind him of losing Faline.
He had given up wanting to find her. Day after day, he had roamed the forest for any sign of her or Ronno, had asked everyone he met, had found a trail and had lost it again. It was as if Faline and Ronno had vanished into thin air.
But now, he focused his attention on the owner of the voice. It was a doe. She was a small, stocky, and had inconspicuous grayish brown fur, except of white markings on her small head which started at her nose, running up to her forehead and framing her chocolate eyes in a soft, slightly heart-shaped curve. She was kinda pretty, but there was nothing particularly special about this doe. But Bambi was polite nonetheless.
"Yes, can I help you in any way?"
The doe smiled shyly. "Yes, I would be glad if you did. Can you tell me where I find the Great Prince?" she asked with a calm, soft voice.
Bambi chuckled. "Of course I can. I suppose I know where my father ought to be now."
The doe's eyes grew wide. She blushed. "…Father? Then you have to Prince Bambi! Please, I beg for your forgiveness!" It wasn't obvious if she was serious or not, but she really hurried to dip her head and look submissive. Bambi laughed; he wasn't used to being treated this way.
"No need for that. You can call me Bambi. What's your name?" He started walking towards the meadow, where the Great Prince usually was around this time of the day, motioning for the doe to follow him.
"Primel," the doe answered and ran up to the buck's side. Bambi smiled.
"That's a nice name. What do you want from my father, Primel?" The prince gave her an interested look, meeting Primel's glance.
"Thanks. Well, I didn't arrive here all alone. She paused. "Our forest was destroyed bit by bit by those terrible humans. It was not safe anymore. So a few of us decided to go away and search a new homeland. We are about one and a half dozen and we want to ask permission to stay here." She seemed to be sad. Bambi supposed she had suffered losses.
The young prince looked thoughtful for a long moment. He didn't see why his father would object this plea. But then he considered that there were possibly strong bucks in the herd, and that was exactly the type of buck the Great Prince didn't like at all.
But he smiled. "I don't think that father will deny you that permission. If he disagrees, I will do anything I can to change his mind."
Primel beamed, making Bambi notice how beautiful her eyes participated in that smile. He could tell that she was one of those deer whose smiles really reached their eyes and made them gleam. "Really? Thank you!" she cheered and Bambi felt how her joy swept over to him, making him smile without noticing it.
While they were searching for the Great Prince, the two young deer talked, telling each other about their homes and so on. Bambi learned that Primel's brother was the leader of the band she was traveling in. She also told that she had been send because no one could resist a sweet thing like her, laughing all the time.
She's right, Bambi thought. She was different from Faline, who had played out her charms to her advantage to get him interested in her. She was a very beautiful doe, and she knew it. But Primel had the charm of a young fawn, with her wide, innocent eyes and her joyful smile and laughter. But she was beautiful as well, just in her own way.
"There he is!" Bambi suddenly said and pointed his four points towards the tall stag, who was already looking at them, waiting for them to come closer. The two bounded over to him.
"Son", the old prince greeted him and turned to Primel. "Miss. What do you two want?" He quickly looked at Bambi, giving him a questioning look with a raised eyebrow. Bambi didn't need words to understand and quickly shook his head.
Primel, not noticing the silent conversation, told her story. The Great Prince listened with attention, looking very thoughtful when she ended her tale.
"Please, father. Give them a chance."
The 12-point-stag turned his head and looked at his son, noticing a hopeful shimmer in his eyes.
"Alright" he finally said with his deep voice. "I shall at least talk to your brother. Lead the way, Primel."
Bambi and Primel looked at each other with triumphant smiles before the doe started walking in the right direction, the two bucks following her.
Ronno looked down at his kingdom from a hill, feeling proud and deeply contend. What did he need Bambi's forest for if he now had his own herd to rule? Of course, he would get complete revenge on that buck and claim his forest as his, but for now, he had all he wanted, although the thought of the harsh winter approaching scared him. But he was sure he would be able to make it. His plan had worked out, that was all that mattered.
He had planned this for a long time. Ever since he had learned about this place because of his sister, and about the fact that the leader was old and easy to defeat, he had been determined to make this place his.
Faline had just been an extra. He could have taken any doe as his mate, but take Faline away right before Bambi's eyes, and beating the young prince up, had been heavenly.
But it wouldn't have worked out without Shila's help. The doe was older than him, but she had been kidnapped by the former leader at a young age. She had lived in this herd ever since and had been forced to mate with the old buck and bear his fawn. But close to the end of her pregnancy, she had sneaked away, pretending to be in labor. But instead, she had run home. It had been a long journey until she found her brother, but they had been happy to see each other again.
But his happiness had soon turned into fury. Hearing that his sister, the only doe he loved, loved deeply, had been forced to carry the fawn of a kidnapper, of a buck who had been an adult before she was even born, was too much to stay calm. So he had formed a plan. He would take over the herd, kill the buck, and make him pay.
To check things out, Shila had leaded him back to her herd, and Ronno liked the fine land. Unfortunately, they had been spotted, and to keep her brother from being harmed, Shila had distracted them by telling a made-up story while Ronne had run away.
Then, with the beginning of the rutting season, Ronno's plan had gone into action; he had taken Faline away from Bambi, taken her here and defeated the old buck. He had been about to kill him, but then he reconsidered. The buck was hurt, bleeding badly; he wouldn't make it very long. If he didn't die from infection or blood loss, predators would be his end. Ronno smiled evilly at the thought. It was a malicious way to think about the most pathetic way of dying for such a shame of a stag.
He wouldn't force Faline to mate with him. Sometime, she would give in, and til then, he would wait. But one day, Faline would give him a buck to inherit his throne. The doe wouldn't get away, trying was too dangerous and Ronno knew she was aware of this fact.
No, she would stay, and she would be completely his. He didn't mean her any harm, actually, he just wanted her. He and he alone should have this doe.
He slowly stepped down his hill to meet up with her. Everywhere he looked, bucks were fighting for some does. He didn't care. He had taken two does already, and if he was lucky, they would give him strong bucks.
While he was passing the herd, being greeted from all sides, he noticed a figure approaching from the stream. He soon recognized the figure as a doe, his sister, to be exact. Grinning, he stepped closer to her.
"Shila, sister, what did throw you off like that?" he laughed. Shila's fine head swung around, and Ronno almost took a step backwards when he saw the flame burning in her eyes. The doe was not just angry, she was furious! Not a good sign at all.
"You want to know what threw me off? It was your pretty doe, Faline!" she hissed. She spit the other doe's name out like poison. Ronno had no idea what Faline had done, but it must have been something really bad.
"What did she do?" he asked.
"First, she accused you of killing fawns, and then she talked about this Bambi again, her love." She pronounced the last word especially disapproving and rolled her eyes at the thought of someone loving the young prince.
"What?!" Ronno exclaimed. He had no idea if to feel insulted or disappointed. But he quickly regained a blank face, shaking his antlered head. "I will talk to her. Where is she?" He scanned the trees circling the meadow, the main meeting place of the herd, with his eyes. He saw lots of plants, trees, deer and rockfalls, but there was no sign of his mate.
"Near the stream", Shila huffed. Ronno sighed, nosing his sister.
"Go and look after Thistle. I don't want the little guy to get into trouble again."
"You think I can't take care of my own son?" Shila replied with narrowed eyes, but Ronno could see the small smirk sneaking onto her lips and the sparkling in her eyes. He was relieved, turning to look for Faline.
"I would never suspect that, sis", he called, his voice being carried away by a soft breeze.
Ronno found Faline still standing by the stream, staring at her own reflection in the water. It was difficult to make out more than a blurred image of light brown fur, since the swift body of the liquid ragged it each second she stared at it. But the doe was so absorbed by it that she didn't notice the buck stepping up to her and stopping by her side.
"Is there anything of interest in there?"
Faline's head shot up and for a moment she thought her heart had stopped beating. With wide eyes she stared at Ronno, her muzzle hanging open, her chest rising and falling quickly. When she recognized him, she let out a sigh of relief.
"Ronno", she called feebly. "You almost startled me to death."
"Oh, I'm sorry", he replied, looking anything but serious. "But you were so enchanted by the water, there was no way to make my presence known. Anyway, my sister has just told me something quite interesting." Towards the end, his tone became a slight coloring of threat. Faline heard it. Her muscles tensed. Instinctively, she backed off.
"Yes. She said you accused me of murdering young."
"I…you…you want a male heir, I just thought, a doe wouldn't be good enough for you…" Faline backed off more and more, Ronno following her, but pausing when he heard her reply.
"And you honestly think if you gave me a daughter, I would kill her?" Now he seriously felt offended. Faline nodded hesitantly. It was written on her face that she was afraid. Her whole body was tensed and her eyes had the expressions the ones of hunted rabbits had.
And then, Ronno did something unexpected.
"Faline that's the most stupid thing I've ever heard," he snorted. But his laughter soon turned joyless and kinda hard and cold. Faline tilted her head in bewilderment.
Ronno recomposed himself. "Of course, I wouldn't kill a doe fawn. I wouldn't be pleased, but I've got time. We would try again." Faline breathed out a sigh of relief. It was as if a huge weight had been taken from her heart. She stepped closer to the red buck, but stumbled backwards again when the cold expression returned into his eyes.
"But Shila also told that you've been talking about Bambi."
"Yes." Ronno stepped forward, backing her up against a rock behind her. She shrank back.
"Did he go looking for you?" Ronno stared at the doe, but by no means raised an antler against her. He couldn't do that, not if he wanted complete triumph.
"No." Faline lowered her gaze.
"You're right, he didn't. He did by no means try to get you back. Then how much can you mean to him?" He let out a cold laugh and stared at her with complete complacency.
Faline felt anger rise in her body, a hot feeling that streamed from her loving heart through her legs until it reached the tips of her hooves and up into her head until it took control of her mind. Her body was filled by it.
"Don't talk like that! He loves me!"
"Then why isn't he here?" Ronno yelled back. He had to admit that he was impressed by the does endurance and bravery.
"He will come! You'll see."
Faline proudly raised her head, flicked her tail and trotted past Ronno, back to the herd. I will never belong to him! She thought.
She will belong to me!, were the thoughts of the stag who watched the doe disappearing from his view. He looked over the landscape before he followed her. He had a herd to take care of.
"I'm glad your father allowed us to stay."
Bambi and Primel were standing apart from the other deer, watching Luag, Primel's brother, and The Great Prince talking about the last facts about the agreement they had just made. Both stags seemed fairly contend.
Luag was a proud eight-pointer, a muscular fellow with steel grey eyes which had a silent fire burning in them, which was calm now, but would rage in emergency situations or any kind of battle. His pelt had the same tone of his sisters, but was darker.
Bambi turned to face Primel, giving her a kind smile. "Father may not seem like that, but he has a good heart. He wouldn't turn down anyone who needs help." He had always saved Bambi, no matter how often the young buck had put himself into trouble. Of course, he was his father, but Bambi knew he would do that for anyone. How did his father always say?
"For a Prince, each deer is like a son, daughter, sister or brother. And you do fight for your family, don't you, Bambi?"
Primel nodded and looked at the mighty stag. "Yes, I believe you. I feel it."
"You feel it?" Bambi tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. Primel giggled.
"It's hard to explain, but I do."
Bambi shrugged, watching how the two leaders nodded at each other and how the Great Prince turned and walked over. He looked at the doe beside Bambi.
"Your brother wants you to accompany him. He's going to tell the herd that you're allowed to stay", he told her. Primel nodded and smiled at the big stag before dipping her head.
"Thank you, my Prince." She turned, now looking at Bambi. "And thank you for helping me out today, Bambi." She gave both a sweet glance before bounding over to Luag, who was awaiting her.
"Goodbye", Bambi called quietly. The doe looked back at him and nodded. He saw how she talked to her brother before both of them took off to where the other herd members were.
Then he looked back at his father, noticing the stag had already started walking again. He quickly caught up with him and started trotting by his side.
"Thank you, father."
The Great Prince didn't answer, but Bambi noticed his lips curling a little into a slight smile. Father and son walked in silence until they reached the meadow. There, the Great Prince looked up, checking the air for any signs of man, like any deer was supposed to before entering open fields. His nose twitched and his fine ears played for a while before he decided it was safe. Bambi had stayed by his shoulder.
"Do you want to come to the meadow with me?" the Great Prince asked.
"Yes, father!" Bambi nodded eagerly. He always enjoyed spending time with the older stag, knowing that he wouldn't be there forever. The two passed a few fighting bucks. Does were watching the fights with interest. Some noticed the two princes and immediately tried to make themselves look as beautiful and seductive as possible. The Great Prince chuckled.
"Any doe that interest you?" he asked his son flatly. Bambi looked at him in surprise.
"No, not really."
"None of the new ones, either?" There were many pretty does not only in their herd, but also in the newly arrived one. And many of them hadn't mated this year yet.
"Well, as you say", the Great Prince said, turning to walk among the does and finding himself one he liked. Bambi stared after him with a confused face.