The juniper tea, which he began drinking down after Liz’s description of its potential benefits, did indeed leave Einar feeling a bit strange, shaking and sweating as if coming down with a fever and generally feeling a good deal worse than he had before, but he kept at it, soon draining the pot, setting it aside as he sat there staring intently at his half finished snowshoes, taking big breaths and trying his hardest not to be sick. A bit of the stuff was alright, tasted nice, even, but the entire pot was too much and left him shuddering at the lingering odor of juniper that wafted about the cabin, rising on the stove-heat and doing its best to suffocate him. Needed to get outside in a hurry, and he did, stumbling out the door and crouching against the woodshed, forehead resting on its rough, snowy side as the bitter air whispered through his clothing and began cooling the sweat until he was shaking from cold rather than fever and Liz, watching from inside, began wondering if she might have made a terrible mistake, talking him into drinking the juniper tea. Worrying, she went to him, tried to help him up but he didn’t want to get up, quite content to stay there crouched in the snow in the only position from which his stomach didn’t seem to be threatening imminent expulsion of the experimental tea. Which he didn’t want. Had begun the experiment, and meant to see it through. Liz brought his hat, snugged it down onto his head and he didn’t try and stop her, though in truth he had been somewhat enjoying the rustling of the wind through his hair, still feeling terribly hot and out of sorts. Must not be, though--not hot, at least--as the rattling of his teeth said otherwise, and he found himself hoping greatly that he juniper would work the first time, as he was feeling little inclination to try it a second.
Liz was saying something, and he clamped his jaw in an effort to make out her words. “Are you Ok? It didn’t do like yarrow, did it, and make you feel all strange…?”
“Is it supposed to? Didn’t think there was anything in juniper that would…”
“No! It’s not supposed to.”
“Good. That’s good. I’m Ok. Just got awful hot there for a while and it was kinda distressing, but it’s coming out alright. Guess I’d better uh…get inside pretty soon here before I…lose the rest of the feeling in my fingers, because they’re getting awful…”
She took his hands, pressing them to her stomach for warmth, helping him up. “Yes, I can see that you’re freezing, now. I’m glad you’re not hot anymore, at least! Let’s go back in, give this stuff some time to work.”
Over the next hour as he kept plugging away at his snowshoes, Einar experienced several cycles of what felt like rapidly accelerating fever followed by shaking chills--that part he didn’t much mind, found it entertaining, even, augmenting its effect by sitting in the partially open doorway until, much to Liz’s distress, his lips and extremities began going a shade of purple--and after a time he began experiencing an urgent need to head to the outhouse. Just the result the tea had been supposed to produce, and Liz, though a bit worried that he might lie down in the snow and freeze himself on the way out there should he experience another hot spell, was hopeful that it might in the end do him some good. After making several hasty trips outside as the afternoon wore on, Einar seemed to be feeling a bit better, and when sometime before supper she checked his legs it did appear that things were at least slightly less swollen, a good sign perhaps, of things to come, but if nothing else a source of some temporary relief in time for him to get a bit more enjoyment out of his supper.
By the time supper was nearly ready the snowshoes were finished, and Einar, keen to try them, worked feet still swollen and painful into his boots and headed out for a brief test before settling in for the evening. Slow and cumbersome were his movements, hampered by the deep snow, a dizziness that continued off and on to plague him and the hurt of resting even his rather unsubstantial weight on feet so swollen and out of proportion, but it was enough to let him know that the snowshoes had been a success, would hold him and prevent his floundering about too badly in the fresh new powder that now covered the clearing, knee-deep in some places but drifted hip-high in others, a major obstacle indeed for those not properly equipped. Which he certainly wouldn’t have been, had he ventured out as he’d wished that morning on the trapline run, Liz wearing their single pair of snowshoes and he struggling to make some headway in the trail she’d broken, but inevitably sinking down not only through the layer of fresh powder but punching through the thin crust below with nearly every step.
Measuring the difficulty with which he was currently making progress through the fresh snow even with the aid of his new shoes, Einar knew that Liz hadn’t been far off when she had suggested he’d likely die out there had he insisted on doing the trapline that day. Without snowshoes, he would have very quickly grown exhausted, would have maintained only with the greatest difficulty a pace even nearly approaching speedy enough to keep himself reasonably warm and would, in the end, have failed even at that, as his meager resources burned themselves up and he collapsed in the snow. Einar shook his head, frustrated and perhaps even something bordering on scared that he hadn’t been able to see it, had been so ready to go charging out there and pushing through all that new snow, endangering not only his own life but those of Liz and the baby as well, as Liz would have certainly felt an obligation to remain with him out in the frigid, snow-covered timber when at last he’d reached the end of his rope and been able to go no further. With temperatures sure to plummet far below zero in the stark, clear night--already, with the sun not yet even sunk fully behind the ridgeline, he could feel the little hairs in his nose crinkling and catching with the cold, fingers losing their feeling with a rapidity that told him it was already a good bit below zero, and sinking fast--and no blankets or robes along on the walk, it would have taken all their effort simply to survive the night without some better shelter, and though confident in their ability to do so, Einar hated that he’d so nearly subjected Liz to such an ordeal, and without need.
Back inside, time to get back to Liz and try some of that supper she’d spent so long preparing, and the way he was feeling--better, not quite so terribly bloated and sick; seemed the juniper was starting to do its job--there seemed some chance he might even be able to talk himself into consuming a good-sized portion that would make Liz happy and give him strength for the soon-to-come trapline run.