Liz wasn’t too sure about that roast wolverine. To her, the meat really did taste very much like the live animal smelled--not an appetizing odor by any stretch of the imagination--and though she did eat, hungry after their day out in the snow and knowing how much trouble Einar had gone to in preparing the meal, she could not say that she very much enjoyed it. Einar appeared to be just the opposite, devouring his portion with obvious relish and picking the bones clean before pounding and breaking them on the rock hearth down to manageable sizes and adding them, somewhat to Liz’s dismay, to the pot in which she was to cook the next morning’s breakfast soup. Looks like it’s going to be wolverine, the broth, at least, and I guess I can just hope that the taste isn’t contained so much in the bones as it is in the meat, or we’re in for some pretty interesting soup, when I combine serviceberries, avalanche lily corms and wolverine broth! Einar will love it, I’m sure, even if it does taste of wolverine. Perhaps especially so. Seems he must have been permanently affected by having to eat that first wolverine when there wasn’t much else available and after the major battle he had to endure--and win!--to subdue the creature and keep it from eating everything in his shelter, and now it’s almost a treat to him to eat the meat. Or something. Maybe I’d better not ask.
Supper finished and the wind still howling like mad outside, throwing itself against the cabin until the walls shook and whistling with a sharp, angry sound through the tall, flexible tops of the surrounding spruces, Liz made a hasty trip out to the woodshed to bring in an armful of logs, wanting to be certain that they would have enough to keep the fire going through the evening and, if she had her way, though the night, too. The wind nearly took her breath as it gusted sharp and bitter between the cabin and woodshed, leaving her to wish she might have thought to slip into her parka for even that short stint out in the weather and quickly gathering up her load of firewood so she could return to the warm shelter of the cabin, strong logs encompassing them and shutting out the storm’s wrath; a good place. No sooner had she got the door back open, pulling against the wind and nearly calling out to Einar for help when she felt the force with which the gusts were trying to hold it closed, than a massive black shadow swooped down before her eyes and into the rectangle of warm light. Einar sat watching in silent laughter as Muninn flapped and shook the snow from his feathers--and all over the bed, Liz all but throwing her armload of firewood against the wall by the stove in her haste to stop him getting any more snow on the hides and furs that served as their sleeping robes.
“Oh! Look what you’ve done now, you big scoundrel! Just about the only dry wraps we’ve got left in this place after that trapline run, and now you’ve gone and got snow all over them! I ought to throw you right back out into that storm…but I’m not going to do it. So long as you’ll promise not to do it again. Come on now, away from the bed and onto your perch.”
Still shaking with silent laughter Einar turned to her, shaking his head. “Sometimes I’m pretty sure you have more to say to that bird than you do to me.”
“Well, the bird actually listens.”
“Aw, hey now…I listen. Fact that I’ve got a thick skull and enough stubbornness to easily last me two or three lifetimes doesn’t mean I don’t listen.”
“I know. You really do listen when it counts, most of the time…there are times when you seem to hear me even when I don’t say the things aloud, take care of them before I even think to ask or realize that the need might be there, and that’s why I really can’t understand why you…it’s just that I want your lifetime to be…well, I really want you to live. To live, and when it comes to me trying to urge you in that direction, sometimes it seems that you listen, but you don’t really hear. And I just don’t know how to get through to you.”
Einar was quiet for a moment, contemplating, trying to understand but not really succeeding, and somehow managing to say the right thing, anyway, or something close to it.
“Stew. Your stew gets through to me.” She gave him a big smile, which told him he must not have been entirely off course in what he’d had to say, a good thing, as he’d had the distinct impression that he might be growing dangerously near to entering rabbit stick territory…
“Well I guess it does, when you actually eat it! Speaking of which, what about dessert? Do you think you could eat a little chokecherry pudding, because I was thinking of making some…”
Nodding, Einar conceded that her pudding was indeed a wonderful thing and one which he’d be honored and delighted to consume whensoever she might see fit to prepare a batch, which seemed to make her happy, and he was glad. And tired. Suddenly so awfully, terribly weary that it was all he cold do to keep from sinking to the ground right there where he was and going off to sleep without any further delay, but he did delay it, fought the weariness and then finally pressed hard enough on his injured and still rather tender ribs--white splinters of light crashing and crackling over his head and falling away to the floor; yep, that ought to do the trick--that he made it retreat to the dark corners of the cabin where it sat looking out at him dark and sullen-eyed, waiting to claim him should he let his guard down in the least. Which he did not. Not in the least. Mustn’t do that. Mustn’t let it have you just yet…you’ve got cordage to make.
While Liz prepared the pudding, set it to simmer and then worked to spread out their wet hides and her parka from earlier in the day so they could more efficiently dry near the stove, Einar pulled down the bundle of dried, tied nettle stalks that hung up near the ceiling, choosing several of them and going to work preparing them for the making of cordage, gently pounding the stems with a rounded rock, splitting them and removing the foamy-dry, spongy white pith before stripping the fibers from the woody part of the stalks, setting them aside until he should have enough to begin the cording process. Soon finished with her evening chores, Liz joined him, and they worked together to prepare and cord nearly twenty feet of good, strong nettle twine as darkness closed in outside and the wind went on blasting against the walls of the cabin, trying very hard but largely failing to enter.
It took Einar all evening to warm up, just as Liz had predicted, and even then, after hours of sitting on the rocks surrounding the stove and absorbing its warmth as he worked to twine foot after foot of nettle cordage, he still had that cloudy, distant look to his eyes, hands not quiet as steady as they might have been and shoulders occasionally trembling a bit when a particularly strong gust of wind sent a draft in around the door. None of which mattered much to Einar, counting as he did all of it as simply part of the price he must pay in order to ready himself for winter, ignoring the particulars and telling himself that he must overcome, had no choice, but Liz noticed, and could not help but worrying.
Which worry did not last terribly long, being interrupted just as they were beginning contemplate heading to bed for the night by, an insistent dripping along the wall beside the stove, and in an instant both of them were on their feet, scrambling for something in which to catch the water before it could dampen too many of their possessions, Einar knowing that his first task upon the arrival of daylight would be to clamber up onto the snowy roof and see just what might be the matter…