Einar had the wary, watchful look of a trapped predator with one leg crushed and held firmly in the steel jaws but all his faculties still about him, teeth sharp and ready, dangerous as ever as he faced his tormentor, and Kilgore didn’t like that look, edged back and crouched against the wall, hoping to let the moment pass so they could carry on a semi-civilized conversation. Einar just went on staring, and it was beginning to be a bit unsettling, even to Bud. At least he was awake, and looking a good bit more alert than he had all day. Yeah, alert enough to jump at a man and rip his throat out , that’s how alert the fella looks, and he could probably do it, too. Be one heck of a way for all this to end, the two of us doin’ each other in like that, and the ladies left to clean up the mess. Can’t have that.
“What’re you thinking, Asmundson? Looks like some pretty intense stuff you got going on, there.”
“I think you know.”
“Was a dream, man. Only a dream, though I do know how it can be, sometimes. You’ve been out.”
Which might have been true, all of it, but Einar did not think so, memory telling him that the words he now recalled--Kilgore’s voice, if not his language--had come from outside of him, not within as such things so often seemed to do, as the rest of the sequence surely must have done, for he wasn’t there, at all, was right at home in his own good snowy cold mountains… Though one can seldom be entirely certain, when time is as fluid as it had been for Einar of late, just what belongs to the realm of dream and what to reality, he was as sure as he could be that the words had been the tracker’s and he did not like it. Did not like what it implied.
“I may be a little slow to respond at times today but I’m not brain dead. How did you know those things? Tell me.”
“Aw, you know how it is with languages, Asmundson. You use one every day for four, five years, use it more than your own during that time, almost, and it’s gonna stick with you over the years. I know three or four more, if you want me to go ahead and demonstrate the fact…”
“You know that’s not what I’m talking about.” Voice hoarse, growing angry, sitting up and bracing himself with his arms lest he sag back down to the bed. “Not the language, the words. No way you could have know those things, unless…”
Einar was on his feet, Kilgore going to the floor as he dodged what might well have been a fatal blow with a chunk of spruce firewood, the thing clattering off across the floor as Einar’s hand cramped up and he lost his grip--doggone dehydration, gonna be the end of me if I don’t somehow get things turned around here pretty soon--and Kilgore regaining his feet, going for Einar and Liz wanted to step in but Susan shook her head, steadying hand on the younger woman’s knee, stay, let them handle it, they’re going to be alright…
Which they were, more or less, not due so much to any great restraint on either of their parts as to a sudden and insistent commotion outside the front door, Susan on her feet and both men whirling to face whatever danger was about to make its appearance, Susan opening the door before either of them could move to prevent her. In through the open door burst a bluster of black feathers and harsh, angry rasping as Muninn--who had been hanging back since the arrival of the guests, unsure of their intentions and not wanting to enter the over-crowded cabin--announced his presence, flying straight for Bud and giving him a tremendous lashing with his wings, coming to rest on Einar’s shoulder when the tracker finally escaped the bird’s wrath by throwing a deer hide over his head. Set too far off balance by the bird’s weight to go on pursuing Kilgore and struggling terribly simply to remain upright and drive back the blackness that seemed always on the verge of overwhelming him that day Einar stood, panting for breath and gritting his teeth as the raven twisted a sizeable clump of his hair so violently that it came out in his beak.
“What’s the…deal, you old vulture? Had enough of being closed out there all by yourself, or what?” To which the raven answered something that either Susan or Liz could have very easily interpreted for Einar had he needed such service, but he didn’t, nodding, closing his eyes for a moment and allowing his head to droop in exhaustion. “Yeah, I know it. Foolish…humans. But there are some things that not even a…real wise raven-critter like yourself can know about, you see? And this was one of them. And will have to be finished, but not now. For now we can just…” Sank down onto the bed, legs unwilling to go on supporting him and breath coming hard, but he never did take his eyes off the tracker, who was peering warily out from beneath his shield of deer hide, watching the raven for any sign that he might not be finished with his rampage. Muninn, for all his earlier bluster and fury, appeared at the moment entirely content to go on sitting there serenely on Einar’s shoulder, re-arranging ruffled feathers and chortling softly into the fugitive’s ear, Einar nodding periodically as if understanding the creature’s intent, if not his words.
“Bird’s your guardian, isn’t he? Knows just when to show up. I knew the critters were intelligent, but wouldn’t have guessed at this. Almost makes you wonder why anyone has a dog, don’t it?”
Einar glared at the tracker, silent for a moment, rubbing the spot where Muninn had pulled out a sizeable plug of hair from the side of his head. Never met a dog who would do a thing like that, so right there may be part of your answer, that, and the fact that this critter puts holes in my shoulder whenever he grabs on like this, but yeah, he and I do seem to have a bit of a common language, at times… “We’ll not…go any further with that right now Kilgore, not here in front of my son, but its…we’re gonna have to…”
“I know. And we will. Gonna have plenty of time to finish it, because the Mrs. And I, we intend on sticking around for a few days, if you kids’ll have us.”
Einar shook his head, glancing over at Liz, who was nodding rather enthusiastically--looks like she wants them to stay, for sure--dismissed the raven with a gentle shove, laughing silently when Kilgore jumped a bit at the sight of the creature coming at him as he settled on the floor. “Yeah, we’ll have you. Long way from here to anywhere much, and I can smell a new storm coming in. Not gonna send you folks out into that.”
A nearly audible sigh of relief from Susan and Liz, life seeming to return to the cabin as they rose and began bustling about preparing supper, Muninn begging for scraps as they worked.