Muninn, watching him from the tree, looked skeptical of his idea and so, Einar supposed, should he be; Liz was careful and had known the risks of climbing up above treeline with people on the ground and the chopper in the air, and it seemed quite unlikely that she would have allowed herself to be seen, let alone captured. And the wildlife survey probably was…exactly what it seemed to be. Still, the unexpected did happen, and Einar could not shake a feeling that something must have gone terribly wrong up there to delay her so. Wanted to go looking for her, start after her up the draw where he'd watched her disappear, but he knew he must not leave any of the meat behind lest they risk losing it to hungry scavengers, and when he measured the two loads with his eyes, trying to think what it would be like to carry both up that slope on his back, he shook his head, lowered himself back to the ground beside the pack boards. Couldn't even seem to haul himself around very effectively at the moment, and could tell he would be hard-pressed, if nothing changed, to get his own scrawny carcass up that chute, let alone all or even half the meat. Well then, something had to change, he had to make it change so he'd be ready if Liz did not show up soon or if he had reason to believe she needed help up there or wherever they’ve taken her...don't go there Einar, you know they probably haven’t taken her at all, but he couldn't help it, and when he thought of trying to get himself down to the valley, find out where they had gone with her and devise a plan for getting her back, all without getting the three of them--or at least the two of them, guess I’m pretty expendable in this mix, when it comes down to it--killed, it was almost more than he could wrap his brain around.
Sure hope you're safe up there Lizzie 'cause if not, doggone it, I'm coming for you and there’s no way that child of ours is gonna be raised in captivity. Shouldn’t have let you go up there by yourself, not now with the baby probably limiting how fast you can move if things do go wrong...though truly there isn't much sign of it in the way you conduct yourself day to day, a person would hardly know, aside from the little one being so visible now... And with the possibility of a rescue mission of one sort or another foremost in his mind and suddenly rather angry at himself for allowing the combination of circumstances that had rendered him all but useless when it came to such things he forced himself to his feet, put all of his concentration into keeping his legs under him and, locking his knees, managed it for a good fifteen seconds or so before collapsing in a heap on the goat hide, out of breath and so cramped up he could barely pry himself out of the ball he'd curled into.
Not working too well is it? Looks like a fella can only get so far on water and adrenalin, no matter how thoroughly convinced he may be that he can sustain himself indefinitely that way, and your legs seem to be telling you they’re about through. Things aren’t working right, electrolytes out of balance and what muscle is left not doing what you need it to do. Gonna have to have some more to eat...you know how it is, don’t have to wait for Liz to come along and remind you about the liver or shove some broth into your hands and stand over you with the rabbit stick until you finish it, like she’s just about resorted to doing a few times here lately...just get yourself some more of that liver, why don’t you?
Which he did, but only, he insisted to himself, as if needing to justify the action, because there was some chance Liz would be needing him up there, and he simply had no way to get there in his present condition. Liver helped so he had some more, more, even, than he'd had just after cleaning the goat, felt like sleeping after that but kept himself wide awake watching for Liz to reappear at the top of that chute, listening for the scrape or clatter of a rock from far above, anything that would have given him some indication that she was on her way, but hearing nothing. Glancing up at the sunlight on the adjacent ridge he wondered how long it had been since he'd awakened, returned to awareness, whatever he'd done, and though it felt like hours he could see it had not been long at all. He would wait then, had to wait, give her adequate time to make her way back down on her own before going after her, and in the meantime, he set about trying to figure a way to secure the meat in his absence, should he have to make the trip up there. Sure wasn't taking it with him. But at least he could stand again, legs not too steady and feeling on the verge of cramping up again if he demanded too much of them but they would get him up the slope, and would have to do.
The meat and hide he would have to cache, piling heavy granite slabs all around it until it was covered and hoping they would be enough to temporarily keep it from the jaws of scavengers, as the area entirely lacked in trees large enough to suspend such a quantity of food far enough off the ground to do it any good. The strategy would work quite well against coyotes as they were not strong enough to move aside the rocks he would use--that’s assuming you’re strong enough to move the rocks you’re gonna use, which is assuming a lot, today--but bears, if one should happen along, would have no trouble at all accessing the meat. Well. He'd do what he could. And had better get started, long as it might take him to move all those rocks into place. Wouldn't want to be starting the job just as dark was approaching, Liz still having made no appearance and he deciding that he must go after her. Granite existed there on the slope in abundance, the ground beneath the timber being little more than a slightly overgrown rockslide, so Einar had no trouble finding suitable slabs as he moved the two packs close together, covered them with the hide and began encasing the lot in rock, one slab after another, building them up higher and all the time keeping one ear out for Liz. Or the helicopter. Or both. Moving quickly at first Einar got the first two rows of rocks stacked, slowing down then despite his best efforts, as the strain of all that heavy lifting began to wear on his ribs, further inflaming things and making it increasingly difficult and costly to draw a full breath. Had to keep going.
One can only keep going so long on inadequate oxygen, however, and after a time Einar found himself draped forward over the partially built cairn, pressing his ribs and feeling near losing consciousness as he fought to clear the welling blackness from before his vision, get back to work. Would have managed it sooner, he was pretty sure, had his heart not been behaving so strangely, speeding up and then slowing down and seeming to miss beats here and there, only adding to his breathless, and he drifted for a good while somewhere between dream and a desperate, wide-eyed attempt to keep himself breathing. The dream side of things won out after a time, Einar’s head falling forward and the world going dark. Watching him, Muninn the raven stirred restlessly on his perch, glided down and brought Einar hastily back to full awareness when he landed on a nearby rock and gave him a gentle tap on the shoulder. And almost got himself turned into supper, too, barely hopping back quickly enough to avoid Einar's knife.
"Don't do that to me, you cantankerous old vulture, not if you want to live through the evening..." But he was grateful to the bird, really, once he got over his startlement a bit, took a gulp of water and returned to work on the cairn, completing another row of rocks before again pausing.
The sun had gone from the far ridges as he worked, and still Liz had not returned. He was going to have to make that climb. Or so he thought, until Muninn, who had been watching his work with a critical eye, tilting his head this way and that and at times offering a harsh word or two by way of commentary, took flight and swooped up along the heavily timbered sides of the draw, circling and rasping and cawing around a spot nearly halfway up before returning to Einar and roosting on the half-finished meat-cairn, croaking and cawing and generally making a fuss looking like he wanted to take off again.
"What is it up there, fella?" Einar whispered to the bird as if half expecting an answer. "You see her in those trees, real fine looking lady with an elk hide on her back, or is it someone else that's got your feathers all ruffled? Never seen you get upset like that about Lizzie showing up."
Muninn answered him with a quick peck to the arm and a harsh rasping, launching himself back up into the air and again making the quick glide up the draw. Einar didn't like it, thought the bird's behavior most unusual compared from what he'd come to expect of it, almost as though the creature were trying to alert him to the presence of whoever or whatever was up there...or it of him, which appeared to be more the case, but that hardly made sense. Either way he knew he must be ready, left the meat and crept up in amongst the timber above the cairn, small but dense and concealing, working his way slowly up towards the spot where the raven seemed to be focusing most of his rather noisy attention. If it was Liz coming down that draw so much the better, but the bird's behavior indicated something different, more sinister, and Einar's mind went immediately to a number of possible scenarios, chief among them being that with Liz captured and taken off in the chopper, they were now coming for him. He would be ready. Would not let it end that way, not for him, and not for her, either. If only that doggone bird would quit swooping back and circling round his head, alerting the enemy to every change in his position...