That first impact against the front wall of the cabin was a heavy one, timbers groaning but holding and Einar on his feet in the same instant, putting out the candle, grabbing Liz and shoving her behind him, spear in hand as he crouched, facing the unseen menace. Which, as he discovered very quickly, was not an entry team with battering rams as he had at first suspected, for there was no shooting, no smoke, no follow-up crash as they finished off the door and stormed in, only the whuffling, snuffling grunts of a hungry and frustrated bear. Followed home. Einar relaxed his grip on the spear, re-lit the candle and laughed with relief; had it been the other thing, the one that had first come to his mind at that massive, crashing impact against the wall, it would have been the end for them that evening, for all of them, as the place had no back door, no escape tunnel, a problem Einar knew badly needed a remedy. In the meantime, the bear hadn’t gone anywhere, was pawing and snuffling at the base of the wall, and though the cabin had withstood the initial assault, Einar did not especially want to find out exactly where its breaking point might be. Had to get rid of that bear. Needed to get ahold of it, actually, to put a dart into it and add its meat and fat to their food supply, but that was going to be one difficult task to accomplish with the critter pushing heavily against the door area and the cabin made without windows, made without so much an arrow slit through which to jam a spear or toss a dart, an obvious design flaw in the place, and he felt a momentary shadow of fear; what if it hadn't been a bear? What if it had been them? What were you thinking, Einar, when you built this place? But none of that was going to be terribly relevant unless they could stop the massive animal from pushing the wall in on top of their heads. Einar got back to his feet, braced his hands against the wall as if to hold it in place and let out a cry that started as a growl and ended in a roar.
Responding with a startled snort--had not been under the impression that the structure contained anything quite so dangerous as the owner of that voice surely must be--the bear scooted back a bit, sniffling around the edges of cabin where walls met ground, working its way around as if it meant to begin digging in an attempt to get at those chokecherries, just as soon as it found the best spot. Which it might well have been, but Einar had an idea, let out another roar to keep the creature at bay and hurried over to the water barrel, scrambling up on top of it with his feet balanced precariously on either side, pressing both hands against the roof directly over the barrel. The spot had been damaged shortly after completion of the cabin by the heavy impact of a fallen aspen branch, a hole punched in the roof and because the branch had proven a convenient conduit for bringing rainwater to the barrel, they had left the opening largely un-repaired. The space was far too narrow to allow the passage of a human, even so slender a human as Einar--slender? Ha! You’re a sack of bones, Einar, wouldn’t even make a decent supper for that bear, out there--and he worked quickly to enlarge it, prying at the sticks and branches that made up the structure of the roof, knowing that if he could clear some of them, there would definitely be room for him to wriggle up and out between two of the main beams of the roof. Liz saw what he was doing, handed him the axe, which greatly sped up the process, and before long he was reaching his arms up through the enlarged opening, preparing to exit. Liz stood there beside the water barrel, and he ducked his head back inside the cabin, spoke to her.
“Once I get up there, hand me the atlatl and darts real quick, and the spear. Gonna see what I can do about getting us some fresh bear meat for tonight.”
“It’s dark. Will you even be able to see the bear?”
“Not all the way dark, not yet. Kinda grey out there. And I’ll be in a real good position, up on the roof like that.”
“Don’t fall off…”
He flashed her a grin, teeth white and gleaming in the candlelight, hoisted himself up and out of the narrow opening, needing to twist and wriggle a bit to get his shoulders through, but having no trouble after that. Creeping to the back of the roof, he leaned against the chimney, balancing himself, blinking into the almost-dark of evening. While the bear had definitely heard the rustling and scraping of his exit, it did not appear too concerned at the development, continuing to snuffle at the ground in front of the door as if waiting for the berries to begin oozing out under it, and Einar reached back down through the opening for weapons, which Liz held up for him to grab. Hearing a soft scuffle he glanced down below, only to see that Liz had worked her way up onto the water barrel, balancing as he had with one boot on either side of its rim and appearing ready to try and launch herself up through the opening.
“You won’t fit. Snorri won’t fit. Stay down there, wait until I’ve finished it off and then you can come out the door and help me do the skinning!” Which was just what Liz had been concerned about--the possibility that Einar might insist on his taking that bear on without any assistance, but he did have a point about her belly not being too likely to fit out through the gap in the roof, so for the moment she waited, lowering herself carefully down from the barrel and listening intently for any indication of what might be going on outside.
Crouching still and silent on the roof for a minute as he allowed his eyes to adjust to the near-darkness, Einar followed the bear more by its gruntings and snufflings than by sight, glad that it did not seem disturbed by his presence. His shoulders and ribs were hurting him terribly after his hasty work on the roof and the effort of hoisting himself up through the resulting gap, but everything seemed to be functioning more or less normally when he tested it, and he believed he ought to be able to hurl a dart with sufficient force to take the bear, if he could get a good look at it, and a reasonably good angle. Might not bring it down immediately, dark as it was and uncertain as the placement of that dart might therefore be, and such a situation would definitely pose some risk, as the wounded bear could easily charge up the angled portion of the roof at him, if it had a mind to do so. Probably wouldn’t, though; from what he had observed of wounded black bears--or frightened ones, for that matter--they tended to be far more likely to take off into the timber than to charge their attacker. And Liz was safe in the cabin, which had withstood the full weight of the creature’s efforts at entry once and would almost certainly do so again, if necessary. Have to go for it. We sure need the meat, hide, all the fat that the critter’s been accumulating for the winter…just have to wait ‘till it turns a little, gives me a chance at a better shot…come on, critter, back off a little so I can get a better look at you. But the bear did not seem inclined to leave its post in front of the cabin door.