31 October, 2011

31 October 2011

After Einar told Liz, in short, clipped sentences with sometimes rather too much time between them as he struggled to put the words together, the role Muninn had played both in initiating his long absence and bringing him safely through it, she wasn’t entirely sure whether to bring the bird in and give him a share of their supper stew by way of reward, or stew him up and add him to it. She opted for the former, seeing as Einar very likely would have found some reason or other to wander down and scout out that camp even had not the raven kept bringing him scraps of cloth and wire and such, would have sensed its presence and spent even more time wandering in search of the offending human intrusion, more than likely freezing himself to death during the night in the process, the way he was looking. So the bird got let in and treated to a few rabbit bones with the meat still clinging generously to them, sat there picking and chortling in the corner as Liz wolfed down her supper and Einar poked sleepily at his, appearing unsure what to do with it and nodding over the pot, twice nearly upsetting it until Liz saw that much as he needed to eat, his demand for sleep appeared more immediate and pressing. She took the pot, set it aside and suggested they go to bed. It wasn’t dark yet, had only been early afternoon when finally she’d made the decision to go searching for him but the outside the shadows were certainly lengthening, day already growing cooler as the sun sunk lower, and she hoped Einar, despite his usual aversion to napping during the daylight hours, would not have to wait for night to do some sleeping. Certainly didn’t appear so; as she helped him into a set of clothes drier than those in which he’d spent the first half of the day slogging though the damp timber--ribs were all bruised and swollen again, and after watching him spend a full ten minutes struggling to get out of his damp clothes, she’d had to step in and offer a hand--it was all he could do to keep his eyes open, despite the obvious hurt of moving his arms.

“Did Kilgore do this?”

“We had a bit of a disagreement down there, yeah. Mostly because he managed to get the drop on me once yesterday, sneak in and get way too close before I knew he was there. Or who he was. Not good to startle a man like that. Guess he mashed my ribs in pretty good, but can’t say I really blame him. Had him pinned to the ground and was about to…well, anyhow, he was just defending himself. But didn’t do the ribs any good.”

“Well. I’ll wrap them for you, and then into bed, how about? And you can tell me the rest of the story there. But first you drink some more of this broth. You look like you haven’t had anything to drink since you left here, and that can’t be good. Didn’t you run across any creeks or seeps or anything?”

Einar shrugged--long story, the one about the cameras and search team, and he didn’t much want to tell it just then--blinked, shook his head slowly and accepted the broth, wanted to say something about how he intended before bed to make his way up to the overlook and scan the surrounding valleys and ridges for any sign of smoke that would indicate the continued presence of Kilgore and his companions, but by the time he got the words strung together and ready to come out, Liz had finished with his ribs and was all but dragging him to the bed. No matter. If Kilgore had some devious plan in mind, he’d never allow a stray puff of smoke to give him away. He knew better than that, and Einar supposed he might as well get some sleep. Had the trapline to run in the morning, and needed to be able to stay awake while doing it, needed to… Next thing he knew he was waking from a sleep into which he had no memory whatsoever of falling, Liz attempting to rouse him so she could help him up off the floor and onto the bed. He grinned, made a sleepy apology and hauled himself up onto the heap of bear hides and fir boughs, lying down only because he found himself too dizzy to sit up, once again briefly pondering a walk up to the overlook but supposing it would have to wait. Hurt to lie there in the bed, his body seeming nothing but a mass of sharp angles and barely-covered bone that couldn’t get comfortable no matter how he turned and contorted himself, but he didn’t bother about it for long; the bed was warm, insulating, and he so far beyond weary that it was all he could do to stay awake until Liz joined him, which she did as soon as she’d banked the fire for the night and set the leftover stew in a the cool corner behind the water barrel to stay fresh for the morning meal. Seeing Einar not yet asleep and curious to know more about what had transpired during his absence, Liz rolled close to him and tucked the hides in around the two of them.

“What was Kilgore doing up here? Or down in the valley, or wherever he was?”

“Leading a search team.” He laughed softly. “Yeah, leading ‘em around and around and taking down all the cameras and sensors and all that they were working so hard to put up…looks like the search is in high gear right now for the time leading up to winter, but he says they’ve got no idea of where we are. And haven’t come any closer than where I ran across them down in the valley. We got to be careful, get some more caches out there, but for now, we’re staying.”

“That’s a good thing. A very, very good thing, and I’m glad he was able to tell you all of that, but I do wish I could have a word with Mr. Kilgore, because every time the two of you meet, it seems you come out a little worse for the wear, and you sure could have done without any additional damage to your ribs, right now.”

“Oh, I gave as good as I got, or pretty nearly so. He’s gonna have a busted lip for his wedding now.”

“Wedding? Susan…?”

“So he says. Ornery old uncivilized mountain critter like him, I can’t see how that ever came about, but I guess stranger things have happened.”

That's for sure! I’ve seen them with my own eyes… When is the big day? The wedding?”

“I don’t know. We sure didn’t talk about anything like that, but he did threaten to make another trip up here in the near future, and if that happens you can ask him yourself. If I don’t put an atlatl dart through him, first.”

Liz shook her head, was about to make a joke about the atlatl but could see that Einar wasn’t in a particularly humorous mood. Looked like he was about to pass out again, actually, and she gave him a bit of the remaining honey water from earlier, which seemed to revive him, some. “I take it your visit wasn’t particularly friendly?”

“Nah. He…well, some folks just can’t stick to minding their own business, and I don’t care for a fella digging around in the deep dark recesses of my past and clubbing me in the side of the head with privileged information just to try and…exert undue influence on me. Don’t like it one bit, but that’s exactly what he was up to.”

“What was he trying to get you to do?

“Ah, stuff I probably ought to be doing anyway…he wasn’t entirely wrong, but I sure didn’t much care for the way he went about it. And then he went and…well, after they’d all gone and I was ready to head back up here I saw a bag that had been left behind in camp, and it could have only been left by him because he was the last one out of there, and I real carefully approached that thing and checked inside, and what do you think was in there?”

“I don’t know? What?”

“A radio! And a note, but not in a language those jokers along with him could have very likely deciphered, had they got ahold of it. Was him telling me to contact him if at any time we need his assistance, or Susan’s, and he’d have his friend Roger Kiesl fly ‘em over the general area, and let them jump in. Not a good idea. Not any of it. But that’s Kilgore, for you. He’s always…” And Einar was asleep, words dwindling away and Liz rearranging the bear hides one final time before joining him, herself quite weary, as well.

The next morning when Einar woke to the soft sounds of Liz working on the stove while carrying on a quiet conversation with Muninn, or perhaps the baby--couldn’t tell which, but she certainly wasn’t speaking to him--he could barely lift his head when he tried, a great heaviness seeming to hold him down. Probably just needed some water, and he reached out from beneath the hides in search of it but this hand wouldn’t respond to grasp the container, fumbling and shaking and finally knocking it over, out of his reach. Liz hadn’t heard, the container falling on the soft, cushioning edge of the bear hide, and Einar pulled his hand back in, used what felt like every bit of his remaining strength to roll to his side, facing towards Liz so he could watch her as she moved quietly about the cabin. Must have been talking to the baby, as Muninn was nowhere in sight, and he wanted very badly to be out there with her so he could bring in some firewood, go run the trapline and generally make himself useful, but his body seemed entirely unwilling to respond, wanting very badly for him to go back to sleep. Made him angry.

You’re supposed to be a warrior, Einar, and what’s this? Can’t even get your head up off the bed? What would you do if they came right now?

I would fight.

You would die, and they would take her, and she’d be raising your child in captivity. Except that she wouldn’t, because they’d take the child the second he was born and send him off somewhere to be raised however the state saw fit, while she spent the rest of her life in a federal cell. You know that’s the way it works. What are you thinking, letting it get to this point?

Thinking I’d better get up and chase off this doggone weakness, that’s what. Climb up to the overlook and check on things, run the trapline and prepare a couple more caches. Been lying around plenty long enough.

With which he made another effort--rather a monumental one, under the circumstances--and finally managed to roll himself off the bed, get to his hands and knees and rise, braced against the wall for balance. A start, at least.

Comments from 29 October

yay! both back where they belong!

It’s good to be home…

colspt said...
Whew, close call. Now Einar eat some dinner and when you finish eat dinner again.

Two dinners! I bet Liz would like him to do that, but doubt Einar can stay awake so long.

Philip said...
The FOUR of them, where they belong, ~home~, let us not forget Muninn.... Isn't he part of the family by now????

Miss Cleo says MeeeeOwwwwww!.... but then I really may have written it wrong.

Whatever you do, never, ever misquote a cat! Might get her angry with you. :D

Yep, Muninn seems to be there to stay, and he certainly sees himself as part of the family.

Nancy1340 said...
Thanks FOTH.

Thanks for reading!

30 October, 2011

30 October 2011

No chapter tonight, just got home a bit ago from a trip to the city to pick up some supplies, not as good as wandering in the hills but necessary every once in a while...I'll have another chapter tomorrow.

Thanks for reading!

29 October, 2011

29 October 2011

Muninn, as usual, was somewhat puzzled at his human companion’s behavior, launching into the air out of startlement when first Einar stumbled and went down but not going far, circling over him and scolding until he stopped sprawling about on the ground and made an effort to rise once more. Took a good deal of effort, but Einar did at last get himself to his feet, found his spear where it had ended up partially hidden in the brush when he lost it in the fall and managed a few dizzy steps up towards the willows, Muninn leading the way and scolding all the while, his harsh, rasping voice keeping Einar somehow connected to the present and to the task at hand when his mind very much wanted to wander, drift away into the willows somewhere…willows are safe, glad I found the willows…and leave him once more sprawled out on the ground, this time almost certainly asleep within minutes as the damp seep of the willow ground crept up around him. The bird was apparently every bit as anxious to get home as Einar himself, and while Einar expected his eagerness might have a good bit to do with the fact that his accustomed scraps of meat had been entirely absent over the past day or two--aside from what he’d been able to steal from the searchers’ campfire--he was nonetheless grateful for the bird’s persistence, followed his wheeling progress in the sky as he covered the remaining distance up to the cabin clearing.

No smoke coming from the chimney, the place having a strange, quiet feel to it and he stood there silent for a short time, still concealed within the timber, worried for Liz but not wanting to walk into a potentially dangerous situation without first gaining some understanding of the circumstances. If only he was capable of understanding, of observing and piecing together whatever clues might lie in the clearing and forming a clear picture of what had happened, but he could in reality barely keep to his feet, head spinning and the world trying to go black around him. He fought it, steadied himself with a few deep breaths--deep as his ribs would allow, at least--and stared hard at the cabin, knowing he must make some sense of it all, and then, without further hesitation, act.

Perhaps the entire thing had been a setup, the searchers’ activities nothing more than a ruse to lure him away from the cabin and keep him occupied while others moved in and took Liz, and if that was the case they’d almost certainly be waiting for him out there, too. Even waiting in the cabin, perhaps, and the thought came to him that slow as he’d been in his climb, Kilgore and the others might well have had time to circle around and make their way up to the cabin since their parting that morning, plenty of time to talk Liz into coming with them or perhaps even taking her by force, had she refused. Which was certainly the less ominous of the two possibilities--that the “searchers” had in fact been associates of Kilgore’s rather than members of a federal search team, but it sounded unlikely; surely Kilgore would have let him know somehow in that case, given him the choice to come with them, to return to Liz and bring her along…which left only the theory that Kilgore had simply and likely without his own knowledge been used to draw him out and keep him busy while they made their move up at the cabin. The strategy did not entirely surprise him; the enemy had, apparently, discovered at some point the location of the cabin, and had wanted to separate the two of them before moving in to make the capture. Which meant that they must intend to take him alive--otherwise they would have simply obliterated the place one night when both of them lay sleeping--and probably had already done so with Liz. He had to know, had to get some sense of the situation but must be extremely careful in the process, lest he find himself at the wrong end of a tranquilizer dart. He had no intention whatsoever of allowing things to end that way. Which meant more watching, perhaps a cautious circuit of the cabin, keeping to the heavy timber and ready at every moment to engage whoever it was might be posted about the place. Taking out his atlatl he fitted a dart, was about to fade back into the trees but something made him wait, a slight rustling sound from somewhere over on the left of the cabin.

Liz. Heard her before he saw her, knew her by the sound of her walk as she came around from behind the cabin with a pack on her back, wearing her parka and appearing prepared for a long journey of some sort as she made her way around to the cabin door and checked it, jamming an additional aspen log against it as if concerned that bears might attempt to breach it in her absence, which means she thinks she’s coming back…so they can’t have been here! Never would have left her alone like this if they’d been here, anyway, would have had a chopper in here within minutes to whisk her away before I could make it back, and he didn’t understand any of it, convinced as he’d become of the fact that he’d been set up and Liz taken, but couldn’t deny what was before his own eyes, wanted to go to her, as she appeared about to leave again, but couldn’t seem to get himself to move. Time all distorted, world growing strange and dim and unfamiliar around him and he fought to get his bearings, make his body move, but it seemed about the best he could do was to go on standing. Muninn, glad to see Liz and hoping for a snack, took to the sky and made a dive at her, Liz’s taut face breaking into a smile at the sight of the raven.

“Muninn! Where is he? I know you wouldn’t leave him, so he must be close. Right? Take me to him, will you? Let’s go.”

The raven just hopped a bit closer to Liz, tilted his head and let out a series soft chortles, still hoping for food but she didn’t have anything readily available, shooed him back up into the air and watched intently as he sailed across the clearing and into the trees, following him with her eyes, looking straight at Einar. That got him going again, and he loosed his grip on the branch that had been keeping him from toppling over, lowered the atlatl and went to her, ground moving strangely beneath him but he didn’t care; Liz was safe, and so, apparently, was the baby. She caught him by the shoulders, wouldn’t let him go despite his efforts to finish crossing the clearing; he didn’t have much left, could feel it, and did not especially want to have to crawl those last few yards but she had a good grip on him, so he quit moving.

“What happened out there? What happened to you?”

Einar put his hands on her belly, the baby moving beneath them, and he smiled. “Bud Kilgore.”

“Kilgore’s here? Is Susan…”

Shook his head, pulled out of her grasp--was getting dizzy again, losing his place and knew he was about to fall, didn’t want to take her down with him--and got himself as far as the woodshed before sinking to the ground against it, Liz hurrying to unbar the door. “No Susan. And he wasn’t here. Below. In the valley. He’s gone now.”

Liz helped him to his feet, into the cabin. He didn’t look good, all gaunt and starved and hollow, eyes sunken and the little indented spots at the sides of his head deeper than she remembered, favoring his ribs once again and seeming quite short of breath. No matter. He was back. He’d be alright. Hurrying to prepare a fire, Liz nearly overlooked the fact that Einar was becoming terribly unsteady on his feet once more, about to fall, glanced around just in time to guide him down onto the bed where he sat, chin on his knees, trying to breathe away the dizziness. Wasn’t working, but Liz knew what he needed, quickly stirred a generous spoonful of honey into some water, pressed it into his hands until he accepted, drank.

“I was about to go looking for you, thought you’d hurt yourself on the way back down from the cache and I didn’t want to leave here with the baby…trying to come like that, the other day, but had decided to do it and then just as I got up to the top of the overlook I started hearing a raven, thought it might be Muninn and came back to check…”

“Saw that there was no smoke in the chimney when I got back just now, place all boarded up and I thought…well, thought a lot of things. Glad you didn’t get far. Hate to have you and the little one wandering around out there for something like that… Should have told you where I was going. Wanted to tell you, but it seemed pretty urgent at the time that I hurry down there and have a look…”

“Oh, you can tell me all about it now--after we have some supper!”

Comments from 28 October

Kellie said...
almost only counts in horseshoes! keep going Einar! before Liz leaves! and for Liz and the baby's sake, eat and drink!

Yep, he’d better not stop until he gets there…

Meplat said:

No. Not at all. One who has read this whole saga would be nuts to give up on EA! The subtitle could be 10,000 ways to try to kill yourself and fail! Einar is one tough old boot. He will pull through.

I was just trying to present the logical case that Liz should think through before heading out in her condition on an ill conceived rescue mission. It could end with all three of them dead. But I know it is very hard to go by cold hard logic sometimes. Been there, done that. Sometimes it comes down to this being the hill you are willing to die on. But expectant mothers have a heavier responsibility than the rest of us in this regard.

I know that we often regard females as overly emotional and rattled brained in certain circumstances. Hence the term ‘histrionics’. But a factual examination of the real world will reveal that women are very pragmatic when it comes to the survival and well being of their offspring.

Liz is a very practical and straight-thinking person, and yes, I agree that she has to give first priority right now to the little life that is entirely dependant on her. Einar can take care of himself.

28 October, 2011

28 October 2011

With Kilgore and the searchers well on their way out of the area Einar started back up away from the creek, skirting around the small meadow in which they had camped and shaking his head--hopeless old vulture--when he saw Muninn picking through the remains of their previous evening’s fire. Finding some, too, by the looks of it, and Einar stopped behind the sheltering safety of a stand of firs--seemed likely to him that they might have protected their camp with cameras or other sensors, though he certainly hadn’t seen them do so, and had been watching the entire time, with the exception of his brief nighttime foray to the creek for water--watching as the raven gobbled down what appeared to be scraps of tortilla and meat of some sort. His stomach twisted painfully at the sight, but he ignored it. Not a good idea. Leave it for the bird. Then something else caught his eye. Hanging by its strap from the broken-off branch of a dead spruce--it’s leaving appeared an accidental oversight, but Einar knew better; Kilgore would never miss that sort of thing in the final sweep he always did before leaving a campsite--was a camouflaged bag approximately the right size and shape for carrying binoculars, but appearing a good bit lumpier than it would have, in that case. Einar was curious. Almost certainly the tracker had left that bag with the intention that he find it, but to what end? Further intelligence, including a detailed summary of the enemy’s winter search strategy? Supplies for Liz and the new baby? A rigged grenade? (Put the fella out of his misery, he’s not listening to me, can’t get his head on straight and it’d be best for everyone; he could almost hear Kilgore mumbling it to himself as he pulled the pin) Or perhaps just a snack…

The possibilities were endless. And awfully risky. Figured he’d better go have a look. But didn’t want to expose himself by venturing out into the meadow, wished there might be some way to communicate to Muninn that he needed the thing to be fetched there to him in the safety of the dark timber, but the bird hadn’t yet been around long enough to follow such complex commands, even had he been willing. Einar didn’t want the bird to be the first one to handle the unknown package, anyway. On the chance that it was something dangerous, he’d prefer to do that himself, stand some chance of keeping it from detonating if it was… Are you seriously thinking Kilgore would be looking to splatter your guts all over this clearing? Yeah, guess I am. He was a little weird last afternoon while we were talking, seemed pretty disgruntled, in his real quiet sort of way, that I didn’t seem to be listening to him. I was listening, just couldn’t figure out how to respond, couldn’t make myself speak after listening to all that stuff about…the past, and all. Not real sure what he wanted from me. Or why he thinks he has any business trying to interfere in things up here, when it comes to how I conduct my life. Guess Susan might have put him up to it, out of concern for Liz. And with those two getting hitched, guess he’s probably pretty keen to keep her happy one way or another, so I guess the question comes down to whether or not she wants me dead, so Liz and the little one can go down there with the two of them, as they’ve both offered numerous times

Einar shook his head, crouched down lower in his timbered hiding place. Nonsense, all of it. Kilgore might have strong opinions and no hesitation in expressing them, and Susan cared a great deal for Liz, he’d seen it, but both of them were honorable and sensible people, and would not, so far as he could see, betray the two of them in that way.

So then. The bag. The tracker had hung the object of Einar’s interest in a spot where it could be easily accessed from the timber, obtained without exposing more than a bit of one’s hand to any cameras that might have been placed in the meadow, and Einar was appreciative. Wouldn’t have found a trip out into the open area of the meadow to be a reasonable risk, even with the fair certainty he had that no cameras had been placed to cover the area, and Kilgore had clearly known how he would be thinking, and placed the item accordingly. Einar approached it on his belly, that scraggly dead tree, creeping up like a fox on the stalk and lying there behind it for a good five minutes immobile and growing dreadfully cold, but not noticing in the least, before he dared rise and reach for the strap. But not with his hand; a stout spruce stick with a forked end served as a tool to allow him to free the thing from its spot on the branch, lifting, lowering--thing seemed awfully heavy--and depositing it on the ground in front of him.

A careful poking and prodding with a stick, Einar shielded behind a fallen aspen and reaching over it as well as he could, put to rest any lingering concern over grenades and such, and he dragged the bag closer, opened it. Kilgore, you scoundrel. What do you think you’re doing, here? After reading the tracker’s brief note, things became a good bit more clear, but Einar still didn’t like it. Emptying the bag to ensure that nothing more sinister lurked beneath its sinister-enough cargo he inspected it to his satisfaction, loaded everything back in and made his careful retreat from the area around the meadow. Morning was well underway by thetime Einar got himself away from the camp, to his feet and stretched the chill out of his muscles so that he could manage something closely approximating a normal walk, and he was growing increasingly anxious about having been away from Liz for so long, wanting to get home. First had to decide what to do about Kilgore’s dubious gift and--not wanting to leave it too near the camp but very hesitant to carry it too much closer to the cabin, either, lest he have misinterpreted the situation and the item prove to contain an active tracking device--he made a quick decision to stash it somewhere significantly upslope from the camp, off in the direction opposite the one he’d be taking on his return home.

Making that climb quickly as he was able and deciding on a spot where he would be certain of finding the item once again should he ever choose to take Kilgore up on its use--highly doubted it, but life was such a changeable, uncertain thing, and one is wise to leave all options open--Einar cached it safely inside a hollow-trunked aspen, took one final look around at the place to fix it in his memory and turned to start the long, convoluted traverse across acres of steep, heavily timbered gulley-riven mountainside that lay between him and the approach to the basin. Exhausted. Hadn’t noticed it until that moment, but in addition to driving some of the chill from his bones and leaving him--parts of him, anyway, but that was about the best he could hope for, those days--warm for the first time in what seemed like a week he was weary to the point of wanting badly to curl up right there on the ground and sleep but knew he must do nothing of the sort, dare not allow himself so much as a brief stop before he was well on his way to being back to the cabin, lest he have a terribly difficult time getting himself going again. Wasn’t far from the point where rest would become mandatory--he could feel it--the choice taken from his hands as his body shut down in an attempt to conserve its last resources and keep him alive just a bit longer, but he couldn’t have it, couldn’t allow it. Must keep moving, and he did, hours passing unmarked as he made his way up through the timber, taking special care to avoid leaving sign with the possibility that the two searchers--or someone associated with them--might in the future be back in the area, and might not have Bud Kilgore with them to provide direction. Distraction. It was a dangerous game, and one in which his obvious advantage was diminished somewhat by the fact that he could, at the moment, hardly remain awake and on his feet, and he was glad not to be the object of direct pursuit at the moment, for it would have been all he could do to summon the required speed and cunning to slip out of that net, and perhaps more.

Dizzy. Couldn’t get his breath, wasn’t at all sure where he was and was beginning not to trust his eyes, either, the trees appearing strange and dark before him, faceless, no variation, no matter where he looked. Lost. Things weren’t making much sense, and he wished desperately to be able to shake the cobwebs from his head, but couldn’t think how that might be accomplished. Move faster. Might help. Left him slamming headlong into a tree he hadn’t seen, instead, and he stood there for a minute or so driving back the blackness that was trying so hard to take him, heart feeling all thready and fast in his throat as he struggled for air. Haven’t got much left here, and I sure would like to get back to Lizzie before this thing’s all over, if You’re willing. She needs me to…I’ve still got to…and with the baby coming… Couldn’t think what he’d been trying to say, wanted to sit down, close his eyes and stay that way a very, very long time, might have done so, and with rather unfortunate consequences, had it not been for Muninn. The bird had been following him all day, moving from tree to tree or circling overhead as Einar made his slow progress up the mountain, but now, curious at the first pause in many hours, he swooped in and landed hard on Einar’s shoulder, completely upsetting his balance and sending him tumbling to the ground where he lay clutching his ribs and laughing silently until the tears nearly came. He knew that skyline, the narrow band of willows inhabiting their damp little seep where for a brief space the slope grew less steep and allowed a bit of moisture to accumulate, and beyond them a stand of firs so dense one couldn’t see five feet into it, concealing the place he’d very nearly given up hope of seeing, after such a long day of seemingly fruitless wandering. He was almost home.

Comments from 27 October

Kellie said...

NNNOOOOOOO Liz!!! stay put! please!!!

although I would have been out there that first day, lol!

I wish I could see a picture of the parkas

Nancy1340 said...
My thought exactly Kellie. LOL

I think FOTH posted a photo of one of the parkas a couple of years ago at the tree-rat tree.

I did post pictures of coats similar to what Einar has made Liz for carrying the baby, only these (Inuit amauti) on the other forum when Einar and Liz first started talking about making one. Here are a couple of images:

A modern version:

And here’s a short video of the coat in use with an older baby/toddler:

Meplat said:

Stay put Liz! You don’t need to have a preemie at 10,000+ feet! Think about it. If he got himself into a jam it was probably because he would not take care of himself. In his condition a broken leg or any mishap that left him immobile for an extended length of time in those conditions would be fatal anyway. The best thing you can do for him right now is to make sure his child and his name lives on. It is what he would want you to do.

You have enough food fat and furs to get you through the winter. Hole up and have Einar’s baby. If it’s a normal delivery you can handle it yourself, women have been doing it for 400,000 years. If there are problems the likelihood that Einar could make a big difference are low.

Have the baby and ride out the winter. After the wet muddy spring is over take the little one down to Susan’s place and let Kilgor do what he is good at. Raise your child a thousand miles away and tell him/her what a great man there father was. And best of all, let the feds knock themselves out for the next ten years chasing a ghost!

Yes, Liz can almost certainly handle the delivery by herself if needed, as long as nothing goes badly wrong--if there’s an excessive amount of blood loss, it might be helpful to have another person there to help out--and it would be wisest for her to stay put I think, but hey--it sounds like you’ve given up on Einar making it home, and it may be a bit too early to do that…

27 October, 2011

27 October 2011

To Einar’s relief--he needed to get moving, and soon, after a long cold night whose effects had been exacerbated by his recent consumption of good quantities of icy spring water--Kilgore and his two charges woke anxious to make a start down the mountain, too anxious to take the time for a hot breakfast, even, and he breathed a sign of gladness as he sat listening to them converse, breaking down camp and wanting to be on their way downslope “before the altitude sickness can start setting in again.” Which he did not find at all likely to happen, but was glad they thought otherwise… Waiting until the men had been out of sight for several minutes Einar got creakily to his feet and followed them--dizzy, ribs hurting but doing his best to ignore all of it, focus on the retreating search team--keeping his distance but close enough to see as they made it down to the valley floor and followed the creek, descending. Good. Looks like I can go home. Which was to prove easier said than done…

By the time the second afternoon came and went with no sign of Einar’s return, Liz knew something must have gone wrong. She knew he would not, without some very powerful reason, delay his return to her just then, not with the trouble she’d been having on the recent climb back up to the cabin and the concern he’d displayed at the possibility that she might be in some danger of going into early labor…he’d been intent on placing that second cache, but had insisted he would hurry back after, and she’d believed him. She wanted very much to go looking for him, cover the most likely route between the cabin and the cache site he had described to her in case he’d fallen and hurt himself or run into some other sort of trouble that might be preventing his return, but considering the way she’d been feeling that past day the thought of the climb concerned her a bit, as the last thing she wanted was for the baby to come with her far from home up a mountainside, and Einar with no idea of how to find her. She could leave a note, she supposed, letting him know where she had gone and when, should he return to the cabin ahead of her, but that still left open the possibility that the climb could put her into early labor, and if Einar should have strayed from the route he mentioned to her so that she didn’t find him at all and he was prevented from returning to the cabin for another few days, still…well, the risk of it seemed too great, with the baby’s safety potentially at stake.

Einar would have to make his own way home this time, and though confident in her decision, she spent a largely sleepless night sitting up and worrying about him, going over in her mind all the things that could have possibly happened to extend his absence and praying that he might be brought safely home. Needing to keep her hands occupied she worked on Einar’s parka, using the one he had made her as a model but not adding the baby-carrying features he’d created for her--they required use of more hides than the “plain” version, and she figured she’d be carrying the little one most of the time, anyhow--and modifying certain portions of the garment for his greater height and longer arms. By the time her eyes got too tired to go on focusing on the stitches, she had attached both sleeves to the torso portion of the parka, and was ready to start on the hood. She wished, folding her work and setting it aside for the night, that Einar had it with him on his current journey. She’d tried to send her parka with him, but he had of course refused, insisting that it was for her and for the little one. The night was cold, her breath showing in the cabin, even, once she got away from the stove a bit, and she hated the thought of him spending a second night out there with nothing more than the deer hide to shelter himself.

Well. At least it’s not raining…or snowing…and he should be able to make himself pretty comfortable under a spruce tree, if he will. We’ve spent plenty of nights like that, and he knows how to scrape together enough insulation to keep himself going through nights like this. I’ll just keep working on the parka, and next time he’ll have no excuse. He’ll have to wear it. Need to be making some progress on our boots, too, because neither of us have anything suitable for keeping our feet warm and dry when the snow sets in for good, and Einar’s close to losing the soles off of his boots, if he hasn’t already, wandering around up there in the rocks… Yep, lots to do. Weary though, too weary to do any more without a rest, and she retreated to the bed for a short nap, first setting a pot of water, frozen bits of goat meat and bear fat on the edge of the stovetop to begin heating so she’d have a batch of good hot broth to start on when she woke. All through the night she had kept broth on the stove in anticipation of Einar’s return, but as each batch had begun condensing and boiling down she had used it to fuel her work, warmed by the rich mixture and enjoying the renewed energy it had provided her. Seemed she was constantly hungry as winter deepened and the cold became permanent--couldn’t imagine how Einar kept himself going on as little as he took in, as much energy as she seemed to be expending simply in keeping warm--and the soup worked well for her. Perhaps--it was more prayer than speculation--he would be back by the time that next batch of soup was ready.

With dawn less than an hour away when finally she lay down, Liz slept until after the sun was up, waking with a start and rolling out of bed quickly as she could, glancing around for any sign of Einar but seeing nothing to indicate that he’d been back The fire had gone out, soup boiled low and thick on its top but not, with the rocks cooling, gone entirely dry and burned, and she scooped up the pot, pressed it between her hands in an attempt to warm them, breath rising in white clouds around her in the cold cabin. Hurriedly she got the fire going again, gulped a bit of the soup and set the rest to re-heat, breaking the skim of ice on the water barrel so she could add a bit more to the pot. Draping herself with a sheep hide and the rabbitskin blanket for her morning trip outside she moved quickly to retrieve a previously-skinned rabbit and a bit of venison from their treetop meat stash, searching the crunchy bits of snow that remained around the clearing for footprints or scuff marks that might say Einar had been there in the night--goodness knew why he would have been that close and not come inside, but he had surprised her before by doing things she never would have expected, or done herself, and she wouldn’t have been terribly surprised to find him curled up under a tree behind the cabin--but seeing nothing fresher than when he’d left. Where are you? It doesn’t take this long to climb up to the caching spot and back, not even if you were moving very, very slowly, and if you decided there was something else you needed to take care of out there that’s fine, but I can’t help but wonder if you’re lying out there somewhere in the rocks just

She shook her head, tightened the blanket around her shoulders and breathed on numbed hands, her earlier decision to remain at the cabin and await Einar’s return cast into doubt by his continued absence and the frigid temperatures that had descended over the basin in the night. Returning to the cabin and working to chop up the rabbit for her morning batch of stew, Liz began planning the hike that would take her up the mountain and along Einar’s described route to the cache, searching until she found him.

26 October, 2011

26 October 2011

The dark hours crept by for Einar, stretching on slow and at times seemingly endless as he huddled against the aching cold of the night under a billion clear, unblinking stars, holding his ribs and occasionally dozing for a few fitful minutes here and there. Dozing, dreaming, one minute running for his life on half-crippled limbs through the dark, dripping jungle, endless rain blending its sound with the hushed, high-pitched, excited voices behind him, mostly blotting them out but not quite, and he knew he had to move faster or they’d have him again, soon…and then through some trick of the mind he was the next minute safe and dry at home, someone’s home but apparently not his own, for he didn’t know the place but an enormous feast lay before him spread on a great table, heaping plates of steaming, freshly-sliced bread, its top golden brown and butter melting in such plenty on some of the slices that it was beginning to run over the sides, ham and turkey and some sort of very thinly sliced, highly seasoned beef, all steaming hot and blending its wonderful aroma with those of what appeared to be nearly a dozen casserole-type dishes, all covered with cheese, of course, melted, oozing, and then there were the pies…but he couldn’t get to any of it, could only stand there and stare, and then it was gone. All gone.

Einar woke cold with an unshakable chill that seemed to come as much from inside him as it did from the night, keeping himself perfectly still and staring intently into the darkness, unsure for a time just what had been dream, and what reality. By the time he finally reached out a hand and felt the familiar soft-needled limbs of his fir enclosure, he’d very nearly convinced himself that the part about the jungle had been real. Had seemed real enough, for sure, and it certainly wouldn’t have been the first dark, nearly sleepless night he’d spent huddling beneath a low canopy of leaves with the rain dripping all round him and the humidity so thick it seemed one must push it aside before being able to take a full breath as he dreamt of great bounties of food that he so badly needed but was nowhere near being able to access.

He’d come, in those dark, rainy days after taking leave of his captors, to greatly look forward to such dreams (hallucinations? He’d never been quite sure, and really, it hadn’t mattered much in the end which they’d been) for the brief reprieve they provided him from the constant agony of moving his broken and starving body through that rough and endlessly jumbled terrain, seeking safety, escape, but knowing that they remained terribly distant, almost beyond his reach, the strain of knowing that his enemy was always out there, hunting him, moving about silently in the rainy dimness and at times drawing so near that he could smell them, a fishy, garlicy pungency that meant they were near, too near, and would soon have him again if he made the slightest mistake, let his guard down in the least…which meant of course that he shouldn’t have been sleeping at all, shouldn’t have allowed himself to indulge in those mental flights of fancy but really, for how many weeks can a man be expected to go entirely without sleep? At some point it will happen, little snatches here and there no matter how hard a body tries to hold it off, to resist it, and at least when he was immersed in the food dreams with all of their brilliant, too-good-to-be-true intensity, he wasn’t hearing Andy’s screams or smelling the awful, choking stench that had risen up through the bamboo slats of the little cage where he’d spent so many days bound in impossible positions just waiting for his captors to return for the next round of questioning, that odor rising to blend with the fetor of his own rotting wounds as they slowly poisoned him. Those dreams had come too, but the hungrier he’d got--wasn’t much to eat out there in the first place, and he’d possessed little time or opportunity during those desperate weeks of flight and evasion to stop and procure for himself what might have been had--the more the food-visions had come to dominate his sleeping moments.

Shifting on the cold ground Einar scrubbed a sleeve roughly across his face, blinking into the darkness and seeing out of the corner of his eye the faint and dying glow of Kilgore’s evening fire. It wasn’t raining, wasn’t even humid, the only smell that rose around him was the good sharp tang of the firs in which he’d taken refuge for the night, and he knew where he was. Wished he had some idea of what time it was, too, how much of the night might be left because he had during his sleep grown terribly cold, stiff almost to the point of immobility and he very much wanted to get up and move a bit if morning should be more than an hour or two out. Difficult to tell though, his view of the night sky almost entirely obscured by the timber overhead so that he couldn’t use the position of the stars to judge the time, and he squirmed in his improvised nest of fir needles, craning his neck for a better view. Still pretty early in the night far as he could tell, and competing with the cold for the bulk of his attention was a growing thirst that left his throat parched and dry and, worst of all, made him want to cough, which he knew might well prove disastrous, near as he was to the searchers’ camp. Thinking back on the previous day he tried to recall when last he’d had something to drink, couldn’t quite come up with a time but knew it had been before his discovery of the camp that morning, as he remembered already being quite thirsty as he lay waiting for the men to finish their breakfast. Had wanted to visit the creek at that point, but concern over the sensors and cameras they’d already placed near it had dissuaded him. Shaking his head and trying without success to swallow the dryness in his mouth he felt around for a fir needle, chewing it, glad at the bit of relief its tangy sharpness brought him. A very temporary solution, but with it, he could go on waiting for a time. For morning, he supposed, when everyone moved on and he was sure they were heading down, and could himself leave the area and find water.

Time passed, stars wheeling overhead and the camp quiet below as Einar half dozed, ribs aching with every breath and far too cold to sleep, waiting, and he could have done it, made himself remain there unmoving, watching, until daylight came and the camp emptied and was still, had it not been for a persistent and worsening scratchiness in his paper-dry throat, each breath coming at the danger of instigating a cough. The fir needles had worked for a while but they weren’t enough, mouth so dry by that time that they were simply sticking to its roof and refusing to budge, and finally he stirred, shifted, rolled stiffly to his side and lay there for a time rubbing numbed limbs, trying to pound enough circulation back into them that he might have some hope of making it down to the creek without stumbling about too loudly. Still the danger remained that he might pass too near one of the cameras placed along the creek by the search team, but by traveling a good distance upstream he believed the risk might be almost entirely eliminated, as they had, according to Kilgore, not yet covered that area. His other concern was that they might rise very early and take their leave of the place, lose him so he’d have to waste precious time waiting for daylight and tracking them down to make sure they were going the right way, but as quiet as the camp had been all night so far, he decided it reasonably certain that they would go on sleeping until morning. Were probably still feeling the effects of the “mountain sickness” they’d obtained as a result of the tracker’s tampering with their water supply, and Einar moved as quickly as he could while still keeping quiet, heading uphill as he skirted around the camp in search of water. Some five or six hundred yards above the camp he began descending, guided by the sound of water whispering over the rocks and carefully approaching the creek through a dense stand of willow that he hoped would be enough to shield him from the cameras whose presence he had already decided would be extremely unlikely that far up the valley.

There it was; he could see the soft glint of starlight on the water just ahead through the thinning screen of willows, and it was all he could do to restrain himself from making a headlong dive for that water but he kept still for a full two minutes, listening, scanning what he could see of the surrounding woods for any movement, anything unusual, and seeing nothing. Carefully, quietly he allowed himself at last to creep the final few yards to the water, hands and knees, slithering through the willows and lying on his stomach in the rocks, cupped hands full of the icy, life-giving water as he sipped and then gulped until the water was sloshing around in his stomach, and he could hold no more. Freezing. The water had been a necessity, something he’d desperately needed both to prevent a coughing fit that would have given him away and to begin replacing the fluids he’d lost through the day but it had left him even colder than before, trembling uncontrollably as he crept backwards over the rocks and into the willow thicket, wanting to either get to his feet and take off running up the mountainside to generate some heat, or curl up in a ball right there where he was and not move until the sun came up. Couldn’t do either, of course, and he got slowly to his feet, ribs aching fiercely where he’d lain in the rocks, and began working his way back to the well-concealed spot where he’d determined to wait out the night. All was quiet in the camp down below, both searchers asleep and Kilgore, near as he could determine, deep in slumber as well, and he drew his knees up to his chest, scraped together as many fir needles as were within reach and prepared himself for more hours of waiting. Not too many now, for he could see the faintest hint of grey beginning to grow through the straight-trunked ranks of spruces on the high eastern horizon.

Up at the cabin Liz was wrapping up a rather long night of her own, wishing very much for the coming of morning.

Comments from 25 October

he knew the tracker had been right about his chances of leaving Liz and the baby sometime during the cold, snowy months--not through any direct choice of his own,

yes it WAS by HIS direct choices!!! Oh Einar, you really are not quite right mentally!

Are any of us…?

Taking a chance is not the same as making a direct choice to leave them, as far as Einar is concerned.

But he might be wrong.

Kellie said...
Thank you for the story!! you know you must be a great writer when your readers yell at your characters and forget they are not -real. or are they....?????

Fiction, it’s all fiction… :D

Nancy1340 said...
Not real??? Not from my point of view young lady !! LOL

Thanks FOTH

Thanks for reading!

25 October, 2011

25 October 2011

Einar did not go far up that slope, had no intention at all of quitting the area before he saw the searchers awake, satisfied with Kilgore’s explanation of why they’d slept the day away--hopefully they’d be too ashamed to question the matter, but he certainly couldn’t take that for granted--and headed down out of the area. Which probably meant waiting through the night, as he expected them to go ahead and make camp right there in the meadow. Not a good thing having to spend another night away from Liz, but he really couldn’t see any good way around it at that point. No sense in hurrying home, only to spend the next several days wondering just where the team had gone from that meadow, if perhaps they had been suspicious of Kilgore’s split lip and gone looking, found some trace of his presence and followed it… Doubted that would happen. Kilgore was a good talker, and he had been careful not to leave a trail as he retreated from their meeting place, but if the men doubted him and got to poking around, they might well stumble upon the spot where he and the tracker had engaged in their brief struggle, and go from there… No. Couldn’t leave until they had done so, themselves, not until he was sure they were headed down and out of the area. Best get that deer hide wrapped around you, pile up some of these fir needles for insulation because it looks like you’re here for the night, and the way this wind’s blowing, you’re gonna need all the insulation you can get.

With darkness beginning to descend on the mountainside and the men still having shown no sign of stirring, Kilgore busied himself with collecting firewood, knowing they would soon be growing badly chilled in their immobility if they weren’t already, would greatly appreciate a fire on waking. Also, he needed a way to explain his damaged lip, and as the injury had been inflicted by an aspen branch in the first place, the wood gathering seemed to provide a good cover. Dumping several armloads of roughly broken aspen and spruce branches between the slumbering searchers he scraped aside the short, dried meadow grasses with a boot, arranged a few rocks in a rough circle and began arranging hands full of tiny twigs and clumps of dry needles that he’d found still clinging to a small dead spruce, preparing to light the fire.

Not far above in the timber Einar, having settled himself in a well-hidden thicket of young firs and prepared as well as he could for a night of watching was feeling the evening chill as well, huddling against it with arms wrapped around his middle, pressing his re-injured ribs against the hurt of his own shivering--his entire left side seemed to be stiff and swollen where the tracker’s knee had mashed it, and he hoped very much that most of the pain might prove a result of the swelling and bruising, rather than re-broken ribs. Wasn’t sure he had the strength or stamina to breathe himself through another five or six weeks of rib healing just then, take the deep breaths that would be required if he hoped to avoid a potentially fatal lung infection, but knew he’d give it his best shot, should circumstances require--and thinking that it was shaping up to be an awfully long night. Down in the meadow the men were shivering too where they lay all sprawled out on the ground, Einar could see it even from his somewhat distant hiding place and wondered at what point Kilgore might deem it time to try and wake them, give them the chance to warm up a bit before the real cold of night set in. Somehow he was finding the entire thing tremendously humorous, was having a hard time all of a sudden not laughing aloud, and it hurt, the straining not to laugh, but didn’t last long as he was quickly reminded of his situation--and Kilgore’s words--by a particularly powerful gust of wind that tore up the slope and through his hiding place.

Cold. Had nothing left with which to slow the loss of heat from his body, nothing much to live on when things didn’t go exactly as planned and he knew the tracker had been right about his chances of leaving Liz and the baby sometime during the cold, snowy months--not through any direct choice of his own, but through the simple and ultimately irrefutable laws of nature--if he didn’t find it within him to make a change. Already he was struggling to feel his fingers, deer hide doing little to shield him from the advancing chill of the evening, and it wasn’t even dark yet. His lack of water would only compound the problem, he knew, and for a moment he found himself wishing he’d managed to talk himself into accepting Kilgore’s earlier offer of food and drink. Well, too late now, and seeing how long those two searchers seemed to be sleeping, he supposed he was glad he hadn’t risked it. Kilgore was trustworthy, had proven himself so numerous times but he was also a very strong-willed individual with his own ideas of how things ought to go, and Einar had found himself not entirely confident that the tracker, given a chance, might not attempt to take matters into his own hands in a way that might prove disastrous to them all. Best not to eat his food, only to wake up on a plane to Arizona or something, Liz all tied up and fast asleep beside me. He’s threatened something like that before, and seemed none too happy with the situation up here or with my lack of answers when he questioned me about it, either.

The snapping of branches; Kilgore adding to the fire, which he had started some minutes prior, smoke and occasionally a swell of warmth swept up and over him as the wind shifted, and Einar stared somewhat longingly at the clear orange flames where they showed above Kilgore’s hastily constructed fire ring. Perhaps the men wouldn’t wake, would never wake and he could head down there and share the fire, or at least have one of his own. Sounded good. And immensely unlikely. Kilgore knew what he was doing. The men would wake. It would be disastrous for everyone if they managed not to, Kilgore coming under suspicion and the entire area perhaps receiving more scrutiny as a result, and it was with some relief that Einar several minutes later observed the first of the searchers stir, roll over and groggily sit up, shaking, crawling closer to the fire. With the wind having calmed some as dusk progressed, Einar was able to clearly make out every word of the exchange that followed.

“What…what happened? Don’t remember…lying down but here we are and…”

“Aw, hey, you’re freezing, aren’t you? Come on, get closer to the fire here, and in a minute I’ll have supper going. You went to sleep, that’s what. Good long nap.”

“No, I uh…”

“It’s the altitude. Lack of oxygen’ll do that to you the first time or two. This is you fellas’ first time up this high since getting into town, isn’t it? Well then, I’m not surprised ya dozed off. You’re fortunate you didn’t end up with full blown mountain sickness, headache, dizziness, the whole works. You don’t have headaches, do you? No? Good. Probably good to take it a little easier for a day or two anyhow until your bodies become more accustomed to operating on less oxygen, maybe even call this operation good and head back to base for the time, walk out in the morning and come back up early next week.”

By that time the second man was awake and huddling over the flames, gratefully accepting Kilgore’s pots of steaming hot instant coffee and discussing somewhat groggily amongst themselves the unwanted and rather unpleasant effects of the early stages of mountain sickness, Einar shaking his head and grinning up at Muninn when he realized that they were not only fully accepting Kilgore’s explanation, but adding their own details to the account. Seemed the second man had, indeed, wakened with a bit of a headache, which only served to further confirm the diagnosis, and though he was all for starting down that night--didn’t want to end up with cerebral edema if things got worse, and seemed genuinely frightened of sleeping up high lest he never wake--the first had no intention whatsoever of moving from that fire until daylight, and made his opinion known in a most emphatic manner. Kilgore and the second searcher yielded to his insistence, Kilgore reassuring them that rest and water would likely assist greatly in reducing the symptoms of their mountain sickness, with cerebral edema being highly unlikely at their relatively low elevation. They would though, he insisted, be wise to start down in the morning, cutting their mission short by a day and a half, and neither man made an effort to disagree.

Smiling to himself there in his tangled nest of young firs--got to admit the man’s good at what he does, real persuasive--Einar drew the deer hide closer around his shoulders, tucked already numbed hands beneath his arms and rested his chin on his knees, prepared to watch and wait through the night, make certain the team’s plans in no way changed with morning.

Comments from 24 October

Nancy1340 said...
Anorexia is not about appearances as much as control over ones body.
His soaking in cold water, limiting his food, pushing his body to/over the limit, withholding sleep, traveling miles and miles without resting. Doing any of these things is good but with limits.

I see your point, but guess Einar just doesn’t know how to do a thing--anything--halfway.

colspt said...
With anorexia it gets to the point where it doesn't really matter what the persons motivations are,none of them make sense anyway. As they strave their body and brain more and more the less rational they become.

Einar wouldn't take the trail mix from Kilgore because he can't rationally think anymore. Maybe there is a fine line between living on the edge and paranoia.

He wouldn’t take the food because Kilgore had just given something to those searchers to make them sleep very soundly for quite a long time, and he didn’t want to risk having the same happen to him! At least, that’s how he was seeing it.

24 October, 2011

24 October 2011

How to refute it? Einar supposed he could try logic but that, much as he hated to admit it, appeared solidly on the side of the tracker just then so he considered attempting to change the subject but there were no other subjects, nothing his brain could get hold of, not with the things Kilgore had just been discussing and it seemed he was lost, immensely, entirely lost with nowhere to turn. Muninn, wary of the tracker but having wanted to stay near Einar roosted on a rock nearby and Einar looked to him for an answer but the raven just looked back, tilting his head and blinking those wide, wise jet-black eyes of his, silent. Wise, perhaps, to be silent and Einar tried it--was his way, anyhow, at most such times--but the tracker was growing impatient, appeared very nearly ready to knock Einar another hard blow upside the head with his aspen staff, and Einar knew he could hardly afford the risk of ending up unconscious on the ground with the two searchers so close and him having no clear idea of when they might be waking. Cautious, he took a step back, recovered his knife from the place where it lay half buried in spruce needles, crouched against a spruce and returned the tracker’s stare with a defiant one of his own. Ribs hurt, and he was beginning to grow awfully cold with the extended lack of motion, muscles tightening up and tugging even further on the damaged area, adding to the hurt. He needed to move, put some distance between himself and those searchers before they woke and realized something wasn’t quite right, and didn’t want to have to earn the right to leave by talking to Kilgore. He’d already said enough. More than enough. More than he’d wanted to say, more than he’d wanted to think, even, because every time he allowed his mind to go down that road…

“Answers, Asmundson. I want answers, and your lady deserves ’em. Her and the kid. Got to think about what’s most important in your life right now. Where your real duty lies, and how you’re gonna live with yourself if you walk out on that by not doing the things you need to do to give yourself a fighting chance of sticking around for a while in this life. And now don’t you go telling’ me you won’t have to live with it ‘cause you won’t be here anymore, or anything like that, because I just know that’s what you’re gonna say, and you know it’s beside the point.”

Which had, indeed, been something like what Einar had intended to say--though only as a way to let Kilgore know he had little intention of engaging in the discussion, as he did not of course really believe the answer lay in any such direction--which left him with nothing, nothing at all and he just kept silent, kept staring.

Kilgore was having none of it. “Come on, man. You’re not gonna go all silent on me like you did the last time. That’d be taking the easy way out, and when have you ever chosen to take the easy way out of anything? I need to know that you’re gonna consider what I said just a bit ago, work things around in that scrambled up head of yours however you need to work ’em so you can come on back and be amongst the living by the time that kid of yours gets here, or I just don’t see how I’d be doing the right thing in leaving your family up here to take on the winter all by themselves. Way things are right now, they’d be better off if I just knocked you out, went down there and woke them Boy Scouts and handed your scrawny carcass right over to them because you know what? With you out of the picture at least that woman of yours would feel free to head down out of here and spend the winter in a spot where she and the little one would have some chance of seeing spring. It’s a hard life up here as you know better than anyone, and if they’re gonna stay and make a go of it, they need you, man. All of you. So. Is any of this getting through that thick skull of yours, or does it need to be pounded in with a stick? Sometimes that seems to be the only and solitary thing that can get through to you. What do you say? Want to blink or something just to let me know you’re hearing my words, if nothing else?”

Einar shook his head, let out a great breath of air while trying hard to prevent the tracker seeing the extent of the fresh damage to his ribs. “Yeah, I hear you.”

“Ok. Good answer. How about you get started right now then, and help me finish this beef jerky and cheese and chocolate and stuff that I’d set aside for my lunch today. It’ll do you some good.”

Einar stood, glanced anxiously down towards the sleeping men in the meadow, who appeared not to have stirred. “No, no I can’t do that. Got plenty of food back up at the cabin and may even come across something on the way, but this stuff’s likely as not doctored up with sleeping potions and bear tranquilizers and such, so I’d just as soon skip that part.”

“Sure do hope you’re joking about all of that, but it’s mighty hard to tell with you, sometimes. Ok, have it your way. But it’s gonna be an awfully long, cold walk back up to the cabin without any fuel on board.”

Too pushy. The tracker was being far too insistent, and it had Einar worried. He took another step back, eyes darting across the meadow, scanning the timber around and above them. “I’m used to it.”

Picking up on something in Einar’s voice, a certain strain that he had learned could only mean trouble the raven ruffled his wings, left his safely distant perch on the rock and took a heavy seat on his shoulder, twisting a bit of his hair and letting out a series of quiet little sounds that seemed meant for Einar’s ears only. Acknowledging the bird with a nod Einar went back to watching the meadow, Kilgore studying the raven.

“What’s this now?” Don’t believe in such things myself, but some would say that a raven hanging around a person like this is a sign that they’re not long for this world, on their way out and the bird can somehow tell, waits with them…that it? That what he’s doing here? Keeping the death watch with you?”

“Him? Nah, this is Muninn, and he’s been hanging around the cabin for some time now. Wouldn’t be right at all to call him a pet, but he’s kinda attached himself to us and sticks pretty close now, keeps watch on things and sometimes gives us pretty important warnings, too, when we’ve got intruders in the area.”

“Yep, we’ve met previously, your scout raven and I. Critter’s been hanging around our camp for two days staring and stealing and generally making a nuisance of himself. That’s how come you knew to be lurking around down in here, isn’t it, in the first place?”

Einar nodded. “Followed him here.”

“Well you’d better go on and follow him back up the hill pretty soon here, because them partners of mine are gonna start waking up from their naps, and I wouldn’t want you to be too close and get yourself stuck under a spruce mat while we eat our supper like you did with breakfast this morning…man, that must’ve been awful, hungry as you are, to just have to lie there on the cold ground and smell our breakfast cook with no hope of getting any for yourself…or is that the sort of stuff you do for entertainment, these days?”

“You’d be surprised, Kilgore.”

“No, I wouldn’t. Go on get out of here now. And think about what I said. Or I’ll be back sooner than later to see that you do.”

“Better not, not with that wedding coming up. Would hate to have to give you a bashed in head and a nice atlatl dart through the gut to go with that fat lip you’ve already got. Just wouldn’t look right with your wedding clothes.”

“Yeah, well seeing as I plan on getting hitched in my Selousie greens, that might not be too far out of place, but guess I’ll avoid it if at all possible. Take care of yourself, Asmundson.”

Einar lifted a hand, took off into the timber, Muninn following close behind him.

Comments from 21 October

Kellie said...
come on Einar! get busy LIVING!!!! Leave the dying for the dead! Be alive! and FREE!!!

Sounds good…

Anonymous said...
If Einar named his son Andy, would that help him reconcile to himself I wonder?


I don’t know. Don’t think Einar knows, either, but an interesting question.

Thank you all for reading. Here are a couple of photos from my wanderings this past weekend:

21 October, 2011

21 October 2011

Eying the tracker suspiciously, Einar took half a step back, leaning on an aspen in an attempt to remain upright--awfully dizzy all of a sudden, and he supposed it might have something to do with that blow to the head—and taking a firmer grip on his spear, which Kilgore had returned to him after helping him take a seat. “Nothing much to talk about Kilgore, unless you got some intel you want to pass on about this search. I’d really like to know whether or not I need to be making plans to move real quick, leave the cabin before the baby comes.”

“You mean you don’t already have them plans? Would have figured you as the sort who’d be half an inch from acting on three or four different escape plans at any one time, especially with what’s going on out here…”

“Of course I have the plans, was just hoping real strongly not to have to put them into effect this fall with the little one about to come, but from what I heard your two friends down there saying earlier today, sounds like they may be onto us, may have heard some things to get their suspicions up. What can you tell me?”

“Nah, they don’t know where you kids are. Haven’t got a clue, or they’d have blasted the place with a couple Hellfires by now, no doubt about it. They want you gone, man! And don’t plan on taking any chances with letting you slip through their fingers again like you have…oh…five or six times, now? If they do get a bead on ya, there won’t likely be any time to put those escape plans of yours into effect, even if you got ‘em. But like I said, they don’t have any solid idea of where to go looking. And will have even less of one by the time I get done with them. I’m gonna run them around real good, let them come just close enough to think they’ve covered this area real thoroughly and then move ‘em along out of here to continue their winter-long wild goose chase through the mountains. Wild coyote chase, more like it. Man, you’re one mangy old coyote, but you’ve become a major thorn in their side, let me tell you! I’ve never had more fun in my life. Well, almost never. There was that one time when…”

“Heard them say something about reports of smoke. Sounded like that was what drew them to this area.”

“Oh, yeah, that was from some wildlife survey a couple weeks ago that reported seeing smoke a couple of times in what they thought were odd places, considering that hunting season hadn’t started yet at the time, but they couldn’t really pin down the spot, and when the Task Force asked me to work on pinning it down, well, this valley’s the place I showed ‘em. After lots of careful study and interviewing all the surveyors, that is. Some of them twice. Woulda liked to keep them farther away than this, but like I said, any further and they might have become suspicious, or at least started to wonder about my mapping and navigation skills…”

“This is far enough, long as they don’t get too much closer. It’ll do. Maybe let us stay put for the time. Be rough on Liz to move right now, with the baby so close to coming.”

“Probably be rougher on you, much as I know you wouldn’t want to admit it… So now. Back to the talk we were supposed to be having.”

“We just had it. I needed intel, you gave it to me. Good deal. Now you better get back down there to those Boy Scouts of yours, before that poison wears off and they wake up to find you missing. And better come up with a pretty good story to explain that busted lip, too… Thing’s looking pretty ugly.”

“Yeah, you may think you’re a master of evasion, but you’re not gettin’ around me on this one, Asundson. So. What’ll it be? You gonna start taking care of yourself, by which I mean eating more than once or twice a month and not doin’ whatever it is you’re doing to keep getting yourself banged up so doggone bad, or are you gonna check out and leave that lady of yours all alone at eleven thousand feet up a mountain with winter breathing down her neck and a kid on the way? Which one have you picked ? Cause you sure can’t have it both ways.

Einar was angry, half wished one of the dozing agents down there in the meadow might wake just so Kilgore would have to take his leave of the conversation, but it wasn’t happening, and he spoke. “Doing my best for Liz and the little one, but sometimes I…” he looked at the ground, didn’t want to say it but felt backed into a corner by the tracker, nowhere to turn. “Sometimes it just doesn’t seem things can be right again unless I…die like he died. The way he died. Just can’t make it right without that, and I know it’s not logical, not right but man, it’s so real sometimes and every time I get to thinking that way, which is most of the time lately, most of the time for the last few months, really, it seems I just can’t bring myself to eat, don’t want to eat, guess I’m somehow trying to…I don’t know…be back there, in every way I can, put myself back in something like that situation and keep pressing it ‘till I got nothing left, test myself, endure to the last…got to know I can do that and yeah, I know it’s not gonna bring anybody back or make any real difference, but I just don’t know what else to do. How else to live with…I want to go back, Kilgore. Do it again. All of it. Do it different.”

Yeah, don’t we all. But that don’t matter here. It’s beside the point. “If you don’t find a way to turn things around real quick Asmundson, you may just end up getting your wish. To die like Andy, weakened by starvation and dehydration and tortured to death just like he was, like you very nearly were too, before you busted out of there, except this time you’re doing it to yourself, aren’t you? That’s what this is all about. And I understand it. And maybe would even be doing it myself, if I was in your position. Would be struggling with all of it, for sure. But you know what? It’s not gonna change what happened out there, none of it is, and even if you’re looking at this as a way to redeem yourself somehow, pay for the things you did…the ones you didn't do would be more like it, yeah? Fact that you didn’t find some way to get him out of there? That, or stay and die with him if it came down to it…yeah, I know how it is. I lost folks over there too, you know. Good men, some of whom I was directly responsible for and I wonder every day of my life if there might’ve been more I could have done, some way I could have or should have fixed it so it was me and not them who didn’t end up coming home, because you know we would have done it if we could have…yep, I’ve been there, and like I was saying, if you see this…sacrifice you’re making now as a way to punish yourself for the way things turned out, a way to earn yourself the right to go on living, maybe, by assuring yourself that you can and would stand up to anything they could throw at you, I’m not gonna tell you you’re wrong there--even though you probably are, and we both know it--because I’ve had similar thoughts myself, from time to time. We’ve already talked about all this. No sense in my repeating it. I mean, I could tell you that it wasn’t your fault, that you did the absolute best you could do and conducted yourself honorably, that God forgives you and so do I and that I’m even pretty sure Andy did, himself, before he went--you would have in his position, and you know it--but you’ve heard it all before, and it’s all beside the point, anyway. Here’s the real deal, though. Even if you’re dead convinced you did wrong out there in leaving him, well, two wrongs don’t ever make a right, and you’re about to leave a wife and a child behind here in this high, desolate county with little more chance of making it than Andy had, and I just don’t think that’s something you want on your conscience. That’s not the kind of man you are.”

Einar looked confused, broken, shaking his head and rubbing a fist so hard against a nearby aspen that he bloodied his knuckles before he could bring himself to speak. “But I have no intention of leaving them! That’s not my intention here, not what I’m trying to do!”

“But you’re going to. You’re killing yourself, man. Body can only take so much, and though yours sure can take more punishment than the average, far as I can tell, it’s gonna give out on you one of these days pretty soon here and then it’ll be too late for any more arguing and contemplating and such. Gone. You’re gonna be gone, and them left behind to face the consequences.”

Comments from 20 October

Kellie said...
Hopefully Kilgore won't "make him listen" like he did before! Einar cannot afford to get any worse off.

maybe if Einar would actually just listen (and that means also act on) to what Kilgore says verbally, no physical action will be required.

Yay! for the wedding!

Yes, Einar could probably do without another “talking” session with Bud Kilgore just now, if it can be avoided! Though really, he would probably prefer that to the talk Kilgore’s likely to give him…

colspt said...
Einar should know by now that he can trust Kilgore. I hope he at least takes some food and water and whatever meds Kilgore has.

I think Einar trusts him more than he does any living human other than Liz. But he still has to be cautious.

Nancy1340 said...
Thanks FOTH

Thanks for reading!

I'm heading out again for the weekend, should be back Monday with a new chapter.

20 October, 2011

20 October 2011

Too late for the atlatl, knife in hand he came uncoiled and sprung in the direction from which he’d been able to determine the breathing was coming, one man only, and he intended to take him, but the man was ready, dodged and whirled and caught Einar in the back of the head with a hard blow from a stout spruce branch, knocking him to the ground and quickly kicking the knife out of his reach. Blackness, it was welling up all around him, trying to take him, an ice cold finger tracing up the back of his neck and he fought it, flipped himself over and tried to engage once more a shadowy foe who danced to the side and was about to give him another solid knock with the branch but this time Einar caught it in both hands before contact could be made, forced it back at the man, several quick moves sending him off balance until he was on the ground, pinned beneath that stick with Einar doing his best to crush the air out of him, crush his throat but the man was strong, had Einar by both wrists and then he got a knee bent and up onto Einar’s ribs, was shoving, trying to free himself and it was all Einar could do to keep from crying out at the white-hot sear of pain that shot through his injured ribs at the pressure, crushing them, crushing out his breath but he knew he must not make a sound with the others still around somewhere, no way he could take both of them at once, so he remained silent, struggling, but he was losing ground. Fast. Strength just wasn’t there, body betraying him. And then the man spoke, voice barely more than a raspy whisper.

“Hey kid, you were…sleeping on duty, here. Didn’t anyone ever tell you what happens when you sleep on duty? Quicker man than myself would have had ya dead to rights, no doubt about it.”

Einar released his grip on the stick, fell back away from his opponent, away from the crushing pressure that seemed to have been caving in his ribs and keeping him from breathing, air returning in a rush; felt like he was inhaling fire, teeth gritted against the hurt.


“Man, you busted my lip. Now I’m gonna have a busted lip for the wedding…”

“Well, you mashed in my ribs. Doggone things were just starting to heal. Wedding?”

“Yeah, I figured if a mangy old coyote like yourself could pull it off…the married life, that is…well, maybe I could do it too. Lifelong bachelor that I’ve been. And besides, the lady wouldn’t quit having me over to the house for them home-cooked meals of hers, you know, and boy, can she cook!



Einar thumped him on the back, still doubled over in an effort to catch his breath, face pinched and white with the renewed pain of his ribs. “Good deal.”

“Yeah it is. Real doggone good deal. Hey now, better sit down before you fall, man. Come on, let me help you. You look like hell, Asmundson. Rough time this fall? Trouble finding enough to eat? Your bones are all stickin’ out, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Einar shook his head, coughed, wiped a bit of blood from the corner of his mouth and studied it for a moment there on the back of his hand, not a good sign, not looking good at all but he was still upright, still breathing after a fashion, figured he’d be fine in a while. So long as he didn’t have to take on the other two men, as well. That might mean trouble. “No, we got plenty to eat. Cabin full of good things to eat. We’re ready for the winter.”

“Well you sure don’t look it. You been sick or something, or are you just starving yourself for the fun of it? Because you need the challenge?”

“What’re you doing here? Thought I told you to keep away from my place.” Ignoring the question, changing the subject.

“This isn’t your place, Asmundson! This is as many miles as I could reasonably keep these fellas from your place. Took some doing, but I showed ‘em on the map how this spot in the creek just had to be the one you’d come to for water--and fish!--if you were anywhere at all in the area, and now they’re so thoroughly convinced there’d be no talking them out of it if I tried, and we’re covering the whole entire area with cameras and such, as I’m sure you’ve seen. Though I hear…” He let out a big laugh, loud enough to make Einar wince and cast a hasty glance down the slope at the still-sleeping forms of the two men Kilgore had somehow got himself the job of guiding through the back country, “I hear that some big old bear or other’s going along and ripping them things out, too, just about as fast as we can place ‘em. Not difficult to do, since he’s seen where each and every one’s been put…”

Einar smiled, a tight, tense sort of thing, but a smile nonetheless. “Yeah, some bear… But what about the others? They’re gonna hear us. Probably already heard us.”

“Aw, don’t worry about them. They’re taking a real good long nap, from the looks of things. Gonna be out for a couple more hours I’m pretty sure.”

“You and your…poisons again? Sure don’t think I’ll ever eat or drink anything in your presence, the way you like to play around with those poisons…”

“Well now that’s funny, because I was just about to offer you a drink, and maybe some jerky and cheese and a bag of trail mix or something, because it looks like you’re in a pretty bad way when it comes to certain life-sustaining substances, but if you don’t want it…”

Couldn’t risk it. Ought to, but couldn’t, and he shook his head, held up a hand to fend off the offered canteen, Kilgore replacing the cap with an exasperated little flick of his hand, not in the least surprised at the fugitive’s reaction. Man didn’t have much choice, he knew. Real thin line between self-preservation and utter destruction in the life he’d been living, and habits like that could be mighty difficult to un-learn.

Studying the camp--Muninn had focused in on the sleeping men, was ever so carefully working at freeing the knife from the belt of one of them, and Einar hoped for all of their sakes Kilgore’s sleeping poison was good and strong--he turned to the tracker. “Who are they? Guys you’re with.”

“FBI. This is part of their big ‘winter push.’ Convinced they can have you this winter, if only they try hard enough, set up enough surveillance, follow every tip that comes in from locals and out of state hunters and cover areas they haven’t really looked at before.”

“Think they’re right?”

“Nope. Not if you kids’re careful up there. Real careful. Like no-tracks-and-trails-in-the-snow-unless-they’re-hidden-real-well-under-trees careful. They’ve got a new fella running things down there at Mountain Task Force--they sure do come and go, let me tell ya!--and he’s real smart and real serious about this thing. Better watch it this winter.”

Which sent Einar to his feet, ribs hurting him at the sudden movement, and Kilgore could not help but notice.

“Mind if I have a look? Least I can do, after crunching them for you like that.”

Einar pulled up his shirt, eyes quiet, distant at the pain of flexing his torso like that. He was used to it. Would get through it. Again.

“Gosh man,” Kilgore let out a low hiss, “you got nothing left. You’re all bones in there, and you’re gonna freeze when it starts getting a little colder. Just gonna freeze every moment of every day, and then you’re gonna die because a fella can’t produce enough heat without a little something to burn, to work with, and I’m telling ya, you haven’t got it. But I suppose you already know that, don’t you?”

A shrug from Einar. “I’ll get along.”

“Not unless you start eating again, you won’t. That woman of yours is gonna be burying you here before long, and then she’ll be burying the kid, too, because without anyone to provide for them, they’re gonna be in a mighty rough spot, this winter. Ok, the ribs. Let me have a look. Yeah, broken alright. Two…no, three of them. With healed breaks above where it looks like they been broken real recently, too. How’d you breathe like this? Looks like you had a section of ‘em floating there for a while, not attached to anything, and that can make it near impossible to breathe…”

“It did.”

Kilgore shook his head. “We got some talking to do.”

Comments from 19 October

Nancy1340 said...
Bud comin' to pay E a visit?

Well, somebody sure is…

Apple said...
I hope it is or there will be one dead man soon and it won't be Einar.

Might be a dead man even if it is Bud, if he doesn’t announce himself in some way!

19 October, 2011

19 October 2011

Long hours the small team put in that day as they turned the approach to the creek into a minefield of cameras and sensors designed to surely entrap anyone daring to consider it a source of water or a spot to seek out game, and Einar wondered why so much focus was being placed on that particular area. Had they perhaps received a report of unusual activity centering on it, and if so, who had been advancing such activity? Hunters? Backpackers? Bud Kilgore himself, perhaps, but Einar doubted that one, as the place really was too close for comfort to the area around the basin, and Kilgore would know that, surely wouldn’t choose it as a decoy location, a place to which to draw the attention of the search…unless they had already turned their eyes in the general direction, and he simply couldn’t get them any further away without arousing their suspicion as to his intent. In any event, they seemed thoroughly absorbed in their work along the approach to the creek, and he would be just fine so long as he didn’t try and approach it. Which was becoming increasingly difficult to avoid doing, his thirst growing through the day and no seep or spring presenting itself as he trailed the men, his only source of moisture being the bits of icy snow he was able to find and salvage from the shadowy sides of rocks and spruces, rare but greatly welcome when he did locate them. Down that low, the recently fallen snow had almost entirely gone, a benefit to a man having to spend much of the day lying flat on his stomach beneath one fallen log or another watching his would-be captors lace the forest with sensors, but not so beneficial when it came to quenching thirst. The thirst did not matter. He could drink another day. Or so he told himself.

Keep your eyes on the target down there…targets…and your mind will follow. You could do this for days. Have done, at times. Sometimes it takes that long, and everything else has to come second to keeping them in view, waiting for the right moment… Which moment he knew probably would not come, must not come, for if he took out the two men as seemed at times the wisest and perhaps only course of action--they were, after all, a bit too close to his safe haven and were clearly intent on his discovery and capture--he would only be inviting a major renewal of the active search right there in the valley below his basin, and with Kilgore there, he doubted the pair would be allowed to do much real harm, anyway. Half considered at that point taking his leave of the entire area, making his way around very carefully up to the basin and going home, but could not justify in his mind taking that kind of risk, leaving the men on their own--even if Kilgore was there with them--to perhaps work their way in closer to the home place and possibly see their smoke, call in a report…no, he had to keep an eye on them, make certain they never came close enough to do any such thing and haunt the edges of their camp until finally they finished their work and departed. Liz would be worried about his extended absence, but at least she would be safe. Unless the baby had decided to insist on putting in an early appearance, in which case he definitely ought to be up there with her. No way to know that, though, and no sense in going home before he’d seen to it that the team left the area without ending up any closer to the basin than they already were. Difficult time for both of them, but he could see no real way around it, would simply have to do his best to explain his decision to Liz, when the time came.

Unable to satisfy his growing thirst and increasingly preoccupied with it, Einar didn’t think much about eating that day, nibbling half-heartedly every now and then on a spruce needle or digging a grub from the punky softness of a rotten aspen log, careful not to leave much sign of his activity, not to do anything that would be likely to draw the attention of that scouting party should they later stumble across it, and though during all those long hours he was far too focused on his mission to feel hunger as more than a fleeting sensation, he was by the middle of the day beginning to have a difficult time overlooking the growing weakness and exhaustion its presence brought him. Body needed fuel after all the miles he’d covered those past few days, and he knew he was in for a long, cold night in its absence. No matter. He’d be too busy to give it much notice. And was, until somewhere towards the end of the afternoon the men stopped moving and sat down in a sunny clearing for what appeared to be a belated lunch break and siesta. Tempted to go in search of water while they took their rest--looked as though they intended to be at it for a while, one of the men having actually reclined against a tree, appearing asleep, or very close to it--Einar restrained himself, the thought occurring to him that perhaps they were hoping for just such a slip, hoping to catch him in their snare while still on site and able to respond immediately and take him. He wouldn’t fall for it. Would wait. And did.

Weary. Dozing. Fighting it, but not entirely succeeding, sun warm on his back where it fell in slanting, late afternoon patches through the trees and his targets not moving, nothing changing down there and he knew he’d better move, find some way to keep himself awake because he could feel himself shutting down, everything slowing down as his body took full advantage of the stillness to force him closer and closer to sleep, oblivion, not now, had to pull himself out of it…head snapped upright and he knew he’d failed, at least for a second, took a hasty look down at the little clearing to find the men, much to his relief but also somewhat to his surprise, still to be resting, sprawled out now in the grass as if napping in earnest, and he saw that Kilgore had joined them in their repose, but doubted the tracker was really sleeping. Something far too alert, too poised about the way he carried himself, even in rest. Those guys better watch out, or he’s gonna tamper with the sensors while they laze around… With which he was himself dozing once more, not wanting to do it but seeming entirely unable to stay awake. It would be alright. He’d know if they moved, would hear something, sense the movement and spring back to wakefulness in plenty of time to…

Panic. Terror. Blind screaming panic-stricken terror, it tried to seize him, send him off at a dead run into the timber but he resisted, kept still for a fraction of a second more, head on his knees, eyes closed, listening, trying to determine just what had awakened him, and precisely where the threat might lie, before making his move. Probably only had one move, time for one move before they made theirs, and it had better be the right one if he wanted out of this. Which he most certainly did. Might already be too late, for he was sure he’d heard the unmistakable rustle and crunch of stealthy human footsteps in the dry grass; likely as not, they had him surrounded. Or not. Half a second passed in slow, regimented increments, his mind was clearer, and so was the situation. Breathing. He heard breathing, and the man was alone and it was enough. All the information he needed. Time to act.