While Liz packed items into a second cache basket, Einar did what he could to secure the toe of his right boot, which had been close to failing for weeks but had finally let go on the climb back up to the cabin that morning after the trapline, sole hanging loose and floppy from the upper portion of the boot and threatening to separate entirely if he didn’t take steps to prevent it. At lest, he told himself, most of the snow was gone, making the boot repair less immediately critical than it otherwise might have been. And I don’t happen to have any toes left on that foot, anyway. Not like I’m gonna freeze them if I get some moisture in the boot while I’m out and about today. Better that foot than the other one, I guess. Small comfort, he knew, for though unable to freeze toes on his right foot anymore he could certainly sustain injury to what remained of the thing, and he was having enough trouble with the foot, already. Stump ached terribly in the cold, left him at times limping and moving a good bit more slowly than he would have preferred. Needed new boots, they both did, and soon. Though he had several times constructed such and Liz, so far as he knew, had no prior experience at boot-making, he hoped perhaps she might find the construction of new winter footwear a good and useful pursuit while spending several more relaxed days in the cabin, days it appeared she and the baby both needed after her recent trouble. Finishing with his hasty repair on the boot he tried it on, found the coils of pitch-coated nettle cordage to have greatly improved the boot’s structure. Would be just fine, for the tasks of the day.
“Boots aren’t holding up so well, Liz.”
“No, they’re certainly not! But as many miles as we’ve put on them, I’d have to say we’ve got our money’s worth out of them…especially seeing as we didn’t pay for them. Yours are the ones Susan gave you that time, aren’t they? And seems mine I took off a dead agent down in the valley, many, many months ago…”
“Huh. Yep, believe you’re right on both accounts Long time ago, those days were. No wonder we’re due for some new ones. I’m gonna go place this cache--in a place where you’ll have no trouble finding it, a spot we both know real well--and what would you think about getting started on some boots for one or the other of us while I’m out doing that? Deer hide’s the best thing we’ve got for soles since it’s thicker than sheepskin and tougher than elk--but you can use whatever you find handy for the upper portions. Something warm. Line it with rabbit maybe, if we’ve got enough left. We’ve got another month or so when we can be expecting wet snow from time to time, but then after that, mukluk-like boots ought to be just fine, keep us real warm until spring when things start getting soggy again. So aim for something of that sort, maybe.”
“I’ll do it. Get the pieces cut out, at least. Let me trace your feet before you go, so I’ll have a pattern to work from.”
“Aw, you can start on your own first if you like. Your boots aren’t in much better shape than mine.”
“Sure they are! The soles are coming off of yours, and while I know you’d happily wear them that way for the next eight or ten months if need be, I don’t want you losing any more toes! So yours come first. Now stand here on this sheet of aspen bark, and let me trace your feet.”
Einar stood, balancing with some difficulty on first one foot and then the other as she ran a burnt-tipped stick around each, making outlines that she could cut out with her knife and lay on pieces of hide as patterns, finally bracing both hands against the ceiling in order to prevent himself toppling over. Seemed to have used up most of his energy on that trapline run, felt as though he could just as easily have gone to sleep as set out with the second cache basket. Which of course wasn’t an option. Liz needed rest, and he needed to place the remaining caches. Without delay. Was going to take him the remainder of the day just to reach the location he had in mind, let alone making the return trip, and he wanted at least that first half to be done in the daylight, if possible. Would allow him to be more certain of leaving as little trace as possible at the site, concealing that basket well in its hanging tree and making sure it would be there--and safe to use--when they needed it. Liz was doing something on the stove, cooking something, from the smell of it and he knew that if given the chance she’d sit him down and try her best to feed him something, which only increased the urgency of his leaving. If he ate, he’d really be struggling to keep from curling up under a spruce for a quick nap, the way things were going, and he simply couldn’t afford any such luxury at the moment. Had better be on his way, and told Liz so when she invited him to stick around and share some lunch with her before heading out.
“Gonna be a long walk any way you look at it, and I need to start covering those miles.”
“Einar,” she put a hand on his arm, waited until he looked her way. “Wish I could be coming with you on this one. Take care of yourself out there.”
“Yep. I’ll be back before morning.”
“I hope you’re back in time for supper! If not, I’ve packed you some cold goat roast, honey and a few lily flour fritters I was experimenting with earlier, so please don’t forget to eat. I’ll be waiting for you. See you tonight.”
“I’ll try for it.” And he was off, basket slung over his shoulder and spear in hand.
Might have made it, too, by that night, had it not been for Muninn, and the prize he brought when returning early that day from his aerial wanderings, seeing Einar missing from the cabin and setting out to find him.