After a brief test of her new tether system for Muninn--had proven both that the concept was practical, and that she needed to come up with a better way to attach the tether to the anklet; he’d had her knots untied within minutes and would, she was sure, be faster the next time--Liz, who had no intention of leaving the cabin again in that storm unless absolutely necessary, freed the bird, much to everyone’s relief. Except for Einar, who was still asleep and didn’t much seem to care one way or another. Liz suspected he wouldn’t have liked the idea of restraining the bird, probably would have dismissed the creature’s bloodying of his head with some little remark or another, allowing that it could have been a lot worse, and besides, the bird was just doing his job in trying to keep me from sleeping in the daytime, which I most certainly should not be doing, and Liz smiled at the thought, shook her head and finished unlacing the nettle cord, removing the anklet and setting it aside.
“Alright, you’ve got free run of the cabin again, but don’t let me catch you over there by the bed, ok? Or it’s right back on the leash with you.”
A theory which Muninn promptly tested by hopping over and perching himself on a raised rumple in the bear hide at the foot of the bed, sitting still and silent as if keeping watch, and Liz, despite her threats, let him be. It seemed right, somehow, that the raven should stand vigil over Einar as he slept, and knowing that the bird had on more than one occasion in the past either alerted him to danger or even awakened him when he was sleeping too long out in the cold, she hoped the bird might alert her if Einar’s condition changed in a worrisome way, without her noticing. Which may be exactly what he was trying to do while I was outside, but I can’t see that anything’s changed with Einar and really, we just can’t have birds pecking holes in the sides of people’s heads, now can we?
Liz had a quiet day working in the cabin as Einar slept--she hoped it was sleep, though his lack of response to Muninn’s earlier actions had left her to think it must be something deeper--continuing her work on the first pair of mukluks as the wind continued to rush and whistle through the trees outside, occasionally slamming the side of the cabin with such force that she might have feared its collapse, had she not seen how sturdily it had been built. For the most part though, the cabin was shielded from the wind by the immense wall of granite that rose up behind it and the timber that stood dense and black all around, and Liz, sitting there with sleeves rolled up in the stove-warmth and smelling the rising aroma of the evening’s simmering stew as she worked, could not help but think that in many ways, they really were quite well off. Now if only Einar would stay in that bed for a day or two or three, let himself regain a bit of strength and put on some insulation for the winter. Despite being glad that Einar was finally getting some good solid rest, Liz was beginning to worry just a bit, knowing that there was some chance his state of apparent unconsciousness might be related to unusually low blood sugar after his days of hard travel and very little eating, and if that was the case, she knew no amount of rest would remedy the situation. Doubted that was the problem since he’d consumed at least a little of the honey water she’d given him that morning, but not wanting to take any chances, she scooped up some honey in a spoon and got his mouth open--not an easy task--leaving it there to dissolve so it could perhaps help bring him back, should lack of sugar be part of his trouble.
A premature darkness was creeping over the plateau; she could see the crack above the door slowly going from blue-grey to grey-black, and wanted to bring in a bit more wood before full darkness fell, perhaps clear away more of the accumulated snow from in front of the doorway, and she was about to hitch Muninn up once again to his tether but he was too quick for her, left the perch and hopped over to the door. She laughed softly at his antics.
“Alright then, come on out. I’d rather not have to tie you up, anyway, and everyone can use some fresh air from time to time. Just don’t get lost in the snow, unless you want to spend the night out there. Which of course wouldn’t do you any harm. Your kind spend the winter north of the Arctic circle with no trouble at all, but you wouldn’t be too happy if I closed you out for the night, would you? And I guess I really don’t mind your company either, with Einar out cold--not too cold though, with all those bear hides over him--and little Snorri here doing a lot of kicking but no talking, yet. No, don’t mind having conversations with you, sometimes.”
With the snow having fallen steadily through the day, Liz had a bit of trouble getting the door open, and no wonder; a good eight inches had piled up against the door, and she worked to clear it, stomping down a path over to the area beneath the meat-cache trees and gathering an armload of wood before returning inside, glad to be out of a wind powerful enough to cut through her clothing--she’d left the parka inside for that quick trip--despite being significantly buffered by the timber.
Einar was sitting up on the side of the bed when she returned, elbows braced against his knees, leaning forward. His face was a bad color and he seemed to be working hard to get enough breath, but she knew that look in his eyes, saw him searching for his boots and feared she was going to have to resort to the rabbit stick, if she wanted to keep him inside.
“You’re awake! Can I bring you some soup?”
“Need my boots.”
“Where’re you going? It’s quite a storm out there…”
“Up to the overlook. Above the spring.”
“There’s nothing to see. Snow’s blowing sideways, and it’s starting to get dark.”
“I don’t need to see.”
You’re all worn out. It’s a blizzard out there, and besides, you’re going to die if you keep wearing yourself out like this and never resting.”
“I don’t want to die in bed.”
“I don’t want you to die before our child’s born. But that’s not going to happen if you’ll just slow down for a few days and let yourself catch up. Now if you’re not ready to eat, how about you get some more sleep if you can? Things will look different in the morning. You’re going to be just fine.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Heart’s not working right.”
“Of course it isn’t. That’s because you’re dehydrated, haven’t had a decent meal in days and your electrolytes are all messed up. Try the soup.”
“Need to go to the overlook. Might not be able to…get there in time if I wait.”
“You’re not thinking straight.”
“I am. And I think you need to lie back down, get a little more rest and I’ll be right there with some soup. Just give it a try. It’ll help.”
Einar shook his head, not what I had in mind, not at all, but maybe old Bud Kilgore was right, and I need to try and…yeah. Do what she said. Which he did, slumping back down on the bed and pulling his legs in after him--had to use his hands; they wouldn’t move on their own, which provided further evidence that he’d better be getting up to that overlook, and quickly--and watching Liz as she busied about over the stove, preparing supper. Next thing he knew Liz was crouching there beside him, worried wrinkles on her forehead as she roused him from a sleep into which he hadn’t even been aware of falling.
“What’s wrong? Don’t sleep yet. You still need to eat.”
“Nothing’s wrong, just…can’t breathe when I lie down. Think that’s what woke me. Felt like I was drowning.”
“Well then for goodness’ sake sit back up! Why didn’t you tell me? Here, I’ll make you a place against the wall where you can prop up, right here in the bed. Is that better?”
“It’s good. Thanks.”
“Stay awake then, because here’s the soup, and we’ve got some things to talk about after you eat. The raven’s good to talk with when there’s no one else around, but there are some things you need to answer for me.”