With the light fading fast outside and snow still falling heavily, Einar prepared the cabin for the baby’s first night, banking the stove--he could, he’d learned, keep things smoldering along all night with the proper combination of a very hot bed of coals, a not-quite dry unsplit aspen log and a mostly closed damper and stove door, but had seldom done it, not wanting to sleep with that heat still being generated, should a flight come over in the night--and making sure Liz had adequate quantities of water and chlorophyll drink available to her should she find herself thirsty in the night. So far the baby had been very quiet, stirring about now and then but for the most part contentedly sleeping on Liz’s chest and occasionally, when she encouraged him, making an effort to feed, taking in the precious colostrum which would not only sustain him until her milk came in, but provide him with the antibodies which would help protect him through the early days of his life, as his immune system began to develop. The quiet contentedness which had so far marked the first day of little Will’s existence would not, he knew, be likely to continue indefinitely; at some point the crying would be bound to begin, but perhaps that night, at least, would be somewhat peaceful so Liz could have a hope of resting well for a few hours. Sure looked like she could use it, and Einar couldn’t blame her at all, considering the way her past two days or so had gone. A major task she’d accomplished, for sure, and he was anxious to do his part in easing her burden.
Speaking of which, Einar’s opportunity to make himself useful was soon to come, the colostrum which nourished and protected the child through that first day or two having a laxative effect as well, helping clear his system of accumulated waste, the baby’s diaper needed attention. Knowing how difficult cleanup of these first few black, tarry movements could prove even under “civilized” conditions, Liz had carefully spread the little one’s nether region with softened bear fat before diapering him, a technique shown her by Susan--who had used olive oil rather than bearfat, but the concept was the same--in order to prevent things from sticking and being too difficult to clean. Taking Einar up on one of his frequent offers of help Liz handed him the little one, directing him to the pile of fresh, dry usnea.
“He needs changing. Think you can do it?”
Einar was pretty sure, managed the task with reasonable ease due to Liz’s application of bear fat and, when she directed him, applied a fresh layer. Nope, don’t want this to be any more difficult than it is, for sure. Bear fat it is. Who would have thought?
With Liz and little Will resting comfortably once more in the bed, Einar went out for a bit more firewood before himself turning in for the night, not wanting their supply in the tunnel to become too depleted. Before heading out he paused to get into a warm shirt, parka, hat, the whole bit, not something he normally would have bothered doing for so short a trip, would have relished it instead as yet another opportunity to test himself against the cold, but I can’t do that this time, can I? Because at some point over the next while before we all go to sleep Lizzie’s bound to hand me that little one for a few minutes--another diaper change, or maybe she’ll want to head outside herself for a couple minutes before sleeping--and it wouldn’t do if I was too cold and clumsy to hold him safely and securely, would it? Or if he got chilled just from being too close to me. No, it definitely would not, priorities all different and Einar hurried, gathering the wood as efficiently as possible and returning to the warmth of the cabin, the bed.
With the exception of his two brief rests earlier in the day in bed with Liz and the baby, he’d been on the move constantly for well over two days by that point and was exhausted, barely able to keep to his feet when he didn’t put a good bit of effort into the task. A bit of sleep would be a good thing. Very good thing indeed. Except that he wasn’t to get any. Baby cooperated beautifully, still and quiet through his first night out in the air, waking periodically to feed but hardly disturbing Liz’s rest as he did so, nestled safely in the crook of her arm in a position which facilitated easy feeding to the point that she found herself not even having to wake all the way in order to satisfy him. Einar was not so fortunate, every little sound outside reaching his ears and demanding attention, investigation, until finally, concerned that his restlessness would prevent Liz’s getting the sleep she so badly needed and would have otherwise been able to enjoy he left the bed, getting into his warm clothes and heading outside with spear in hand, wanting to have a look at the night. Bright it was, brighter than the day had been, almost, snow having almost ceased and a misty quarter moon peeking out through the jagged remains of the storm to brighten a world heaped and brushed smooth and brilliant with three feet of fresh snow, and Einar blinked at its brilliance, breath rising white and cloud-like up into the still, frigid air. Well. Looks like little Snorri ought to have some sunlight to lie in, tomorrow. It’ll do him some good, and Liz, too. Sunlight was many hours off, though, many long, cold hours, most of which Einar spend moving from tree to tree out in the timber around the cabin, watching, waiting, securing the place and occasionally glancing, eyes watering and head aching with the bitter chill of the night, back at the cabin where it sat with its front nearly buried in snow, hidden, protected, and he was glad.
Having worn his warm clothes for the night watch Einar managed to get through it without experiencing serious hypothermia as he certainly would have if less heavily dressed, but morning found him nonetheless dreadfully cold and weary, shaking, struggling to maintain feeling in his fingers, ready to be inside and near the fire for a while. Dawn. Sunlight on distant peaks. Time to fix Liz some breakfast. She was still asleep when he pushed his way in through the tunnel door, shaking snow from parka and stomping it from boots, did not stir at the soft sounds of his entry, and he was glad. Was even gladder that she still slept when, rising from the crouch in which he’d been making the breakfast preparations beside the stove, he began feeling terribly dizzy, world going strange around him and he quickly returned to the ground, lowering his head, tightening the muscles in his abdomen and legs as he’d done previously to keep more blood in his upper half and prevent himself from losing consciousness, but it wasn’t working, was having no effect whatsoever, and in a last desperate act before the thing overtook him--couldn’t let Liz see it, whatever it was--he fumbled open the tunnel door, diving into it and collapsing on the floor where he lay for some time wide awake, eyes open but seemingly unable to move a muscle, arms and legs stretched out all stiff and strange and useless and mouth hanging open despite repeated and rather vehement attempts to get it closed.
Not responding. Mouth wouldn’t close, hand wouldn’t move when he told it to come up and assist, nothing was responding, body seemingly disconnected from his brain and he wondered for a moment if the disconnect, so different from anything he’d previously experienced, was to be final, paralysis progressing to his lungs, heart, all done, the end, but it wasn’t paralysis and it did not progress, instead easing after a matter of…minutes? He couldn’t tell, had lost all sense of time…and allowing him to bend arms and legs once more, draw them in, get his mouth closed and curl up into a tight little huddle there in the tunnel, all empty and sick and strange-feeling inside, and suddenly very cold. Felt like sleeping and almost certainly would have done so had it not been for Liz and the baby waiting for him inside, Liz needing breakfast and probably a break from holding the little one so she could make her way outside and he got shakily to hands and knees, prepared to return inside. His body hurt, muscles in his arms, legs, shoulders, even, feeling sore and achy as though he’d just got done carrying and splitting an entire winter’s worth of firewood--which he had not done--and he didn’t understand it, supposed it must be related to whatever had caused his limbs to stiffen up so strangely and began wondering just how long the little incident might have gone on. A good bit longer, perhaps, than it had initially seemed to him. Shrugged, shivered, made his way through the tunnel. Hoped it wouldn’t happen again, whatever it had been. Could prove mighty inconvenient. Probably just a one-time thing, lack of sleep and…who knows what else, nothing to worry about, but he wasn’t finding himself very convincing.
Be realistic, Einar. You know what that probably was, what almost certainly caused it and know what’s likely to come next, too. Unconsciousness. Coma. Death, if Liz isn’t around when it happens or doesn’t get things figured out pretty quickly, and she’s pretty well occupied right now with that little one. Not a good time for this, not if you got any say in it at all and I got to tell you that in this particular case, you probably do. Now get in there and have something to eat. Spoonful of honey or something, at the very least.
Which he did, feeling a good bit steadier after, if still achy and shaky and a bit confused, unsure what had just happened to him and not absolutely certain he wanted to know. Didn’t much matter at the moment, anyway. He had work to do, breakfast to prepare--which he did in a hurry, having had it nearly finished when first the strangeness began coming over him--and usnea to hunt, not wanting their supply to grow short. It would be good to get out. Fresh air would do him good, and his absence, he figured, ought to give Liz and the baby some good quiet time to rest and eat and become better acquainted with one another.