Faline was grazing on a small clearing. The grass was getting rarer and less tasty, but she had still been able to find herself a nice spot to eat. Occasionally, she looked up, her nose catching scents and her ears making out sounds, but once she knew everything was alright, she started feeding from the plants again.
There were other does grazing around her, not only Shila, but also a few others. Many of them were talking, but Faline didn't really participate. She was too nervous; she couldn't follow the talks.
She felt that she would soon come into season.
This was bad, for now, she had to avoid Ronno if she didn't want to be impregnated by him. After all, she still held hope that Bambi would come, even though it was dimming slowly. But they had been friends for their entire lives. He was the one she had had her first kiss with. How could he not come to her rescue?
When she smelled the familiar scent of the lead buck while checking the air, she quickly took off. A pale doe saw her, and, nudging Shila, pointed at her. The maroon doe looked at the Great Princess and nodded.
Faline didn't see it. She quickly bounded over to the stream and followed it for awhile, until she came to a little waterfall. She carefully climbed down the moist rocks, avoiding slipping and getting herself hurt in the process. Once she reached flat ground, she started running again until she entered a small clearing.
The clearing was peaceful, only flowers in different shades of blue and a few butterflies were there to keep her company.
She stood still for a moment, taking in the beautiful sight and sighing in relief. The doe had discovered this place sometime after her arrival, when she had been searching for any hint where she was. She hadn't found one, but this clearing was her secret place. A smile snuck onto her tensed features when she started to walk again.
Somehow, this place still had colors while the rest of the world started getting paler, greyer, and colder. Even the butterflies were still alive, unlike most of the others. It was a magical place to her. She lowered her head and smelled the scent of the flowers.
It was her secret place, her hideout.
After waiting for a few moments, she started grazing once more, occasionally nipping on one of the flowers, but mostly feeding from the green plants. She was more careful than usual, for she was sure that Ronno would try and find her. She was his favored doe; he would notice that she was gone.
After a long while she actually sensed someone approaching. She could her an animal moving around the clearing. Her head high, and her ears pricked, she looked around.
"Hello? Ronno, is that you? Shila, Tia? Thistle?"
Someone chuckled. Faline stepped backwards and lowered her head. Her muscles were more tensed than ever. This wasn't the laugh of someone she knew. It was a stranger, and a male. Unfamiliar males were dangerous.
"Who are you?" she called fearfully.
"None of the ones you mentioned" the voice answered.
It was a pleasant voice, warm and deep. But none the young doe had heard before. She stepped backwards, but jumped when she felt that the stranger was there. Her head turned to spot him. She felt like a hunted rabbit.
"Why are you circling me? What do you want?"
The stranger chuckled. Faline's ears pressed against her neck and she instinctively made herself seem as small as possible. This stranger, a deer judging by his silhouette, did not take her serious. That made her even more cautious and scared, as she didn't know what his plans were. Horrible thoughts flooded her head.
"I'm just wondering why a pretty doe like you is apart from her herd."
"I needed room for myself."
"You did?" It didn't sound like a real question, but still, there was a curious tone in his voice. Faline slowly lifted her head a little.
"Yes. My…mate-" she hesitated at that word, for she didn't know how to describe her and Ronno's relationship properly. She was his queen, indeed, but her heart didn't belong to him. It belonged to only one buck. "My mate is getting on my nerves, and I wanted to get away from him." She cursed herself for telling him this. Wouldn't that make him think he had a chance?
In fact, the buck now answered; "So, is he?"
"Yes, he is. But I don't want any other males around. In fact, I've not even come into season!" Faline growled.
"Is that so?" The stranger sounded amused.
"Yes. And I will go now. I don't talk to bodiless voices." Faline raised her head, although she was still feeling small and weak. If she was fast enough…maybe she had a chance?
She honestly didn't want to meet another buck. Not while Ronno was lurking for her getting into heat. Not while it was still possible that Bambi would come for her.
No, she would wait.
But what…what if HE wouldn't?
And the stranger didn't. Faline watched how the branches of a bush slowly moves before a antlered head appeared out of it. She gasped in shock, stumbling backwards.
Soon, the whole buck was revealed, and great Cerva, how handsome he was!
The buck was dark brown with a head that was just a few shades darker. Piercing blue eyes observed her with curiosity. But the odd thing was that although these eyes were in a cold icy blue, they were warming her inwardly. And still, those eyes seemed to be able to stare through her, down to the deepest ground of her soul. It was strange, really.
"Who…who are you?" She was shivering beneath this stare. The stranger grinned a little and slowly approached her, but she, of course, backed up.
"No need to be scared of me, miss."
"But…it's the rut…" Faline stammered. She could see how he let his glance wander from her hooves up to the tips of her ears. She knew she was a pretty doe and he was a buck. Bucks wanted does. They wanted them to mate with them and bear their fawns.
Faline suddenly realized what a mess she had gotten herself into. She knew Bambi had wanted her, but now, he was far away, and Ronno was just waiting for her to get into season so he could make her pregnant. If this new buck took her away, he would not get a chance. He would keep her until she was ready to take.
Why on earth did every buck desire her?
Maybe it wasn't her, maybe it was just their urge to reproduce, but she felt sick of it in this moment. She just wanted to be a fawn again, running over the meadow with Bambi, the air stroking her fur, the soft green grass beneath her hooves.
But those days were gone. Bambi was gone, as well as her old life.
All that counted was here and now.
She jumped in surprise when the stranger suddenly started to laugh.
"You does think us stags just want to breed and ditch you afterwards, don't you?" He stopped approaching her and lowered his head as if to graze. Faline stared at him with wide eyes, unsure what to think.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
The buck raised his head again and stared at her with odd eyes. Now that he stood closer to her, Faline noticed that his pupils weren't black, but dark blue. And right between his curvy ten-point antlers, he had a white marking formed like a crescent. She had seen it the moment when he had lowered his head. It was clearly visible against the nearly black fur on his head.
"I am different, dear Faline."
"How…how do you know my name?" Faline stumbled backwards, her eyes widening even more with shock. This buck got scarier and scarier with each moment that passed.
"I knew we would meet. That's all you need to know for now. Believe me, I don't mean you any harm. But now, I have to go. Will you meet me again tomorrow night?" He spoke with great hurry, but his eyes looked at her with truthfulness. Faline couldn't help but nod, although she didn't understand.
"Why do you have to go?" she called while he turned.
"Your mate is coming after you. Don't forget, tomorrow night." He jumped into the bushes, but then her turned and stretched out his head again. "I'm Greer, by the way." And with that, he was gone, vanished into the shadows of the trees. Faline remained standing there, staring after this stranger.
"Tomorrow night," she mumbled when she finally turned away. Ronno had called her.
Bambi just stood there and stared at what used to be his home. Now, it was nothing but a burning sea, engulfed by the raging flames man had brought. The young buck let a deep sigh escape his throat. Why did man have to take everything he held dear? His mother, his home…
He just hoped that Faline, wherever Ronno had brought her, was safe. At least she didn't have to go through this hell…
He raised his head again when he noticed steps approaching him. He expected to see his father, but The Great Prince was on the other side of the small island, talking to Luag and Friend Owl. The Young Prince had to smile a little. At least all of them were safe.
But the one who had moved closer to him was Primel. Bambi was glad she had managed to survive as well. Her face mask was dirty and she looked a little ragged, but other than that, she seemed to be okay. She actually smiled when she stepped up to him.
For a while, none of them talked. They just stood there, staring at the mess before them. Smoke wobbled around the island and even the water was bright red from the reflection of the flames. Bambi felt miserable. He had no idea how they would go on after this. Where would they live?
"Are you okay?" a voice suddenly snapped him out of his thoughts.
"Your father said man hit you with one of the teeth they always throw at us."
Bambi turned his head to look at the small wound on his flank. She was right; he had been hit by a bullet. But with the whole adrenaline which had flooded his veins, he hadn't really noticed the pain until now. After his father had got him to get up, the only thing he had had in mind was running. Running after The Great Prince with blind trust. Bambi had instinctively known that following the old stag had been his only chance of surviving.
He felt the wound throb, but that was all. Nothing more. After arriving here, his father had given him some plants he had found, although Bambi had no clue where. But the old stag was very wise, Bambi knew that well. It seemed that the Great Prince always found a way to survive. The young buck just hoped that he could also find them a new place to live.
"I'm okay," he whispered.
Primel gave him a glad smile before she once more turned her attention to the fire. She sighed as well when she saw the destruction before their eyes.
"So much has been lost today…"
Bambi knew what she meant. Not only had they lost their home, the fire and man had also taken the lives of deer and the other animals. Bambi hadn't talked to anyone but her yet, but he guessed that most animals had lost someone this day.
At least he hadn't lost anyone who was dear to him. The Great Prince, Thumper, Flower…they were fine. Primel, who he had really come to like, was okay as well. And…
She was fine as well. She had to be.
But all those places that remembered him of her were gone now. The meadow where they had met for the first time, where they had played tag and talked - the flames had taken it. The tree by the pond were she had kissed him right before the fight with Ronno – gone. He just prayed the memories they had wouldn't fade like the places of their youth.
"What are you thinking of?"
Bambi turned his head and noticed how curious Primel looked at him.
"A doe I really liked. Her name's Faline. I just remembered how we used to play as fawns."
Primel suddenly looked weird. She wasn't smiling anymore and stopped talking to him. She just stared at the ground, at the flames, at the blood red sky, at the other animals…at anything but him. Bambi tilted his head.
What was wrong?
"Where is she?"
"Another buck took her away after I lost a fight against. I have no clue where she is."
"Do you miss her?"
"She was my best fawnhood friend. So…yeah, I miss her."
"Oh." Primel turned her head away and glanced behind. She then briefly looked at Bambi. "Sorry, I have to go. See you later!" With that, she quickly left. Bambi stared after her with a confused face. What was wrong with her?
"Primel!" he called, but she didn't turn.
What was wrong with that doe?