An early supper eaten and darkness not yet having fully descended on the basin, Einar ventured out once more into the snowy chill of the evening, coil of freshly made deer sinew cordage in hand and the past night’s furry raider on his mind, determined to snare the wolverine before it could return and make itself at home with their winter’s meat supply. Choosing a sturdy but supple young fir near where the bulk of the meat was stored, he shimmied up the tree’s narrow trunk until it began bending with his weight, hanging on until his feet once more touched the ground. Keeping his grip on the tree then by tucking its top beneath his arm and squeezing for all he was worth--hurt his ribs, half wished Liz was there to help, but she had remained inside to finish the second pair of snowshoes before bedtime and to finish cooking whatever she’d had on the stove when he took his leave--he tied the end of his sturdy length of sinew cordage to the tree near its top, securing the fir to a nearby spruce with a few quick wraps of the cord’s far end. A short rest, then, struggling to catch his breath and scraping up a bit of hard-crusty snow--partially melted during the day and re-frozen already--to assuage his thirst before resuming his work.
The two pieces of the trap’s trigger he had already prepared, whittling the pieces while sitting in the cabin near the stove to keep his hands flexible, one to be pounded into the partially frozen ground and the other attaching to the taut, tree-bound sinew cord, holding the bent tree down against its tendency to spring back upright and creating the tension which would, if all went well, snap the wolverine’s neck and lead to a quick kill when the trigger was tripped, eliminating the otherwise-great chance that the angry creature would snap or quickly chew through the cord that held it. Pounding the trigger stick into the ground Einar baited the snare with a generous portion of fresh goat meat--the prize, near as he’d been able to tell, that had originally attracted the animal--hanging it just out of reach above the spot where he intended to place the snare loop, carefully held open and suspended on a series of small sticks that he would poke into the ground. Finally, sinew cordage freed from its hold on the spruce and loop set and spread, he eased the top half of the trigger into place, balancing it lightly and allowing its counter-pressure against the bottom trigger stick to hold everything in place. Done, then, and Einar gave everything one more inspection, slow, thorough, looking for any mistakes he might have made in the construction or setting of the snare but finding none, finished.
Wild and white was the world as Einar turned to go, moon high in the sky and just over a quarter full, reflecting off the new snow with an eerie brilliance that he found somehow very exciting, life-giving, world cold and crisp around him and he did not want to go inside and sleep. Wanted to watch and wait for the wolverine to come, observe its stealthy movements as it left the timber and began seeking the feast it had been driven from the night before, be there when it encountered the snare but he knew the creature would be able to smell him, to sense him, if the wind was wrong for carrying his scent in its direction, knew he’d be more likely to succeed at his trapping if indoors and not so intently focused on its arrival. Plus, Liz would be happier with his presence in the cabin, would be more likely to sleep, herself--which sleep she badly needed to keep the baby healthy--and if being entirely honest, he would have to admit that he was, himself, rather beyond weary after the long day of log hauling preceded by Muninn’s early morning awakening and all the trouble with the wolverine, body aching from the heavy work, and could use some sleep. Sleep it was, then, and he said a quick prayer over the wolverine set--bring success to this snare, let me find it full in the morning for the protection of the meat that will feed us this winter--before tossing a bit of goat meat at the base of Muninn’s tree, where the bird waited hungrily, and retreating into the cabin for the night. Or starting to. Something was bothering him, and before he reached the woodshed he turned back, glancing over his shoulder and scanning the silver-shadowed woods until he picked out the dark form of the raven, having finished his snack of goat meat and, just as Einar had feared, hopping about in the snow beside the snare, twisting his head one way and another as he apparently contemplated the best way to secure himself a good portion of that bait meat. Which wouldn’t do at all, Einar not too keen on having half the bait gone and the snare possibly disturbed and not functioning properly when the creature showed up, but liking even less the prospect of the bird’s somehow managing to trip the snare and injure himself.
Quietly returning to the snare site he hissed softly at the bird to get its attention, sweeping a hand towards his body and the raven got the message, took to the air and landed with a great quiet rush on Einar’s shoulder, feathers glinting a dull but slightly iridescent green in the moonlight. Together they went to the cabin, then, Einar ducking through the door with the bird still on his shoulder and Liz laughing at the sight of the two of them as they appeared in the firelight, Einar wild-haired and wild eyed and with bits of frost in his beard from his breath in the increasingly frigid night air, the raven all puff-feathered against the cold and eying Liz’s pot of dessert pudding with unconcealed fascination and delight, and it was one of those moments in which Liz found herself simply glad to be alive, to be where she was.
“Did you get the snare all set up?”
“Set up and ready to go! Unless that wolverine got too badly spooked last night by this raven--and my spear--we ought to have him by morning, because I left him some awful tempting cuts of goat meat just hanging down right out of his reach above the snare.”
“Is that why you brought Muninn in with you? Afraid he might scare off the wolverine before he had a chance to get himself caught?”
“More afraid that he’d raid the bait, the thieving vulture! He was already starting to study it when I left, just staring and tilting his head the way he does, clearly determined to find some way to get at it, and I didn’t want the wolverine showing up to find the bait gone, snare tripped and an angry, trapped raven hanging by his feet or neck or wing from the top of that springy little fir!”
“Oh, no, that would be awful! I’m glad you’re letting him stay in here tonight.”
“Well, can’t be making a habit of it, but I guess for tonight it won’t do any harm, will it Muninn? Now get off me and settle in on that perch of yours over there by the water barrel…that’s right. Big old heavy critter, aren’t you? And quit looking at that stew! Or whatever it is. That isn’t yours, I don’t believe…”
“It’s chokecherry pudding, and I’d like for you to try some before bed. New recipe.”
Einar wanted to object that he didn’t generally like to eat just prior to turning in for the night, because if he went to bed too full and comfortable, he might well sleep through any commotion that might occur when the wolverine paid his return visit, but Liz had already dished out his portion of the rich, reddish brown substance and as it did smell terribly good, he figured he’d better go ahead and make an exception to the rule.