Pausing now and then to shave bits of additional wax as the supply began growing a bit shallow, Einar and Liz made six stubby little candles, a good bit shorter and wider than the typical dipped beeswax candle simply because of the constraints of the dipping vessel, but quite useful nonetheless, and seeing them there where they hung cooling from a stick that jutted out from one of the cabin beams gave the place a cozy, homey feeling, the promise of light to cheer dark evenings as the winter progressed. Liz wanted to make more, figured they might as well take advantage of the opportunity since the pot was already coated with wax, but Einar--though he would have adamantly denied any such insinuation, gone out and frozen himself until he was so thoroughly awake he stood no chance of getting to sleep for many hours, which was why she had no intention of mentioning it--could hardly keep his eyes open, and she was concerned that should they carry the work too much further into the evening, he might well end up toppling over again and knocking himself in the head, should she not be near enough to break his fall. Six candles were a good start; more could be made later, and in preparation for bed she used sticks to remove five large, rounded rocks from the coals of the fire, dropping them into the water barrel, which though it had begun to thaw since the fire had been started, still remained largely filled with ice. No way to know when they might have to go fireless again for a while, and she knew from past experience that their lives would be immeasurably more difficult should they find themselves at some point in a position where they were having to melt ice with their body heat simply to obtain drinking water. It could be done, had been done by them in the past, but she knew the endeavor would lead to their existing in a state of chronic if manageable dehydration due to the difficulty of obtaining enough water, which while not good for her or for the baby, would be potentially deadly for Einar in his current state. His blood would thicken, slow, and he’d freeze. Plenty of motivation, then, to keep on top of the water situation, do everything she could to see that the ice in the barrel continued thawing, and once thawed, stayed that way.
Hot rocks in place and beginning to yawn, herself, Liz looked forward to heading to bed, taking down her parka for one final trip out through the tunnel before turning in for the night. Einar, though, had already begun shaving more wax into the pot, having apparently seen her hesitation and assumed she must be waiting for him to take the lead--hope that’s all it is, hope he didn’t hear me thinking about him; sometimes I wonder--and she joined him, the two of them working in contented silence as they again filled the pot with chips and spirals of golden, sweetly-scented wax and set it to begin softening. Staring into the melting wax, dazed, weary, Einar half dozed on his feet, swaying, pitching forward but startling awake and catching himself before he could go too far off balance, over and over until Liz knew she had to either start laughing--really was a comical sight, Einar looking very much like one of those little jointed, collapsing wooden children’s toys, a giraffe, perhaps, with rubber bands running through his bones to jerk him back upright every time he neared collapse--or do something about it. She chose action, swallowing her laughter and taking him by the hand, taking advantage of his unsteadiness to pull him down beside her, bear hide around his shoulders and a gentle hand on his arm holding him back from rising, resisting, as he seemed always so ready to do, stay, stay with me, and he did, chin on his knees and one hand on the roundness of her belly--baby was really kicking that evening, pressing and shoving against her ribs as if looking very hard for a way out--as he waited for the wax to finish melting.
Sleepiness driven away somewhat by the wonder of it Einar sat up a bit straighter, eyes big in the flickering firelight and a hint of a grin creeping across his face as he turned to her. “Little one’s awful busy tonight, isn’t he?”
“Oh, tell me about it! He’s one active little critter in the evenings, especially lately. I think I’ve got bruises up under my ribs from his strong little feet.”
“It’s a good sign, all that activity. Means he’s healthy, getting what he needs in there. And it’s a good thing, too, that his feet are up by your ribs. Chances are he’ll stay that way crowded as he has to be in there by now, and that’ll make for an easier delivery than if he was stubborn and insisted on coming out feet-first, like I did.”
“Yep, so I’ve been told…came into this world backwards, and been a little different ever since.”
“‘A little different’ doesn’t even begin to cover it, I’m afraid! I don’t think the way you came into the world has anything to do with it, but you never know… Yes though, I’d very much prefer little Snorri to stay head-down for his entry into the world, if he’s at all willing.”
“Well, if he turns the wrong way between now and then, there are things you can do to try and convince him to turn back, lying with your legs up and your head down, standing on your head, things like that.”
“Standing on my head! Think I might need a little help with that one at this point, might need you to hoist me up into a tree by my ankles or something, but if it comes down to it, I’ll certainly give all of your ideas a try… Hopefully though he’ll just go ahead and stay put, even considering the fact that he is your son and therefore bound to be intractably stubborn and too strong for his own good.”
“Huh. No such thing, especially in a life like this…but he’s gonna be getting it from both sides, you know? Because his mother’s got a stubborn streak of her own and a rabbit stick to back it up, and I got the scars to prove it, too!”
“You’re going to have a few more to go with them pretty soon here, if you don’t let the work be done and get to bed! You’ve been falling asleep on your feet for the last two hours, and I can’t say I blame you. Let’s get this second batch of candlds finished up, so we can call it a day.”
“Oh, I’m…” Silenced by a shake of the rabbit stick Einar laughed, hauled himself to his feet and nearly ended up falling face-first onto the stove when he lost his balance, world trying its best to go black around him--yep, looks like she’s right about it being about time for bed and all that, flat out of energy, here--but he caught himself, hands braced against the ceiling as he inspected the wax, found it ready and tilted the pot, holding it for Liz as she dipped the doubled-over length of nettle wick, over and over as the candles took shape, thickened, and were done. A bit of wax remained, and he poured it, still quite fluid and easy to handle, into a dirt-dusted depression on a nearby rock, where it could solidify and be pried loose for later use. Bedtime, then, Muninn already cozy on his perch and Einar once more drifting towards sleep right there where he stood, staring a bit wistfully at his cold corner over behind the water barrel, and had he been alone that is almost certainly where he would have ended up, but when Liz took him by the hand and urged him towards the bed, he went with her, asleep almost before he could get himself beneath the bear hides.