Liz was none too pleased at Kilgore’s suggestion, thought at first that he was simply making a very bad joke in stating his intentions to head out into the coming storm, wanting to mess with Einar in some way--and it appeared to be working, too; only Kilgore could do that, and Liz somewhat resented his ability--which would have been bad enough, but when she realized he was apparently serious, she put her foot down.
“You two have already been out all day. It would be foolishness to head out again right now and spend the whole night wandering around in a storm, and before you’ve had supper, too! Surely it can wait. Maybe it’ll still be storming in the morning, and if not, we can retrieve the cache later, the two of us. I saw you and Einar looking at maps together. We can find it.”
Kilgore stopped his preparations, turned to Liz with a look of weary resignation on his face. “Ma’am, not sure I could explain to you my reasoning in a way you’d find acceptable, but it is absolutely imperative that we do this tonight. Imperative. Very likely a matter of life or death.”
“Yes, I agree, because you’re going to kill my husband if you drag him back out there so soon. Unless you have some knowledge that we’re about to be attacked, in which case I would have to hope you’d have informed us of the danger by now, then I don’t see why on earth this whole thing can’t wait a day or so.”
“Well I know you don’t see, and I can’t exactly tell you. No, I don’t have any knowledge of an impending attack of any kind. That not something I’d keep from any of you, you can be real sure. But you got to give Asmundson more credit than that. He don’t kill so easy, even if that was my intention, which it is not. I’ll bring him back. Now how about you help him into his warm things, so we can get started with this. Sounds like the storm’s not waiting.”
The storm, indeed, was not waiting, hard pellets of snow already scouring the cabin walls, wind-driven, and Liz, instead of doing as Kilgore had requested and helping prepare Einar to venture out into that melee, turned her attention to the fire. Nothing would be flying in that weather, and it was time they got the cabin warmed up again, cooked some proper supper. And, if she had her way, got Einar seated near the stove for some broth followed by a long, quiet evening of warmth and food and hopefully before too long, sleep.
Einar--boots already on, parka in hand as he stared confusedly at its still somewhat damp fur exterior, turning it this way and that and trying to sort out where his arms were supposed to go but making surprisingly little headway--appeared to have other ideas, and leaving the newly started fire in Susan’s care, Liz went to him.
“It can wait. Come and eat.”
“No. Have to go do this.”
“Tell me why.”
Couldn’t tell her why. Hardly knew, himself. Knew he had to get the parka on though, if he wanted to last the night, and still couldn’t figure out how the sleeves were supposed to work. Liz saw his trouble, gently but insistently took the garment from his hands, hung it over the stove in the hopes that it might see some drying before they set out, assuming she proved unsuccessful in convincing them not to go. Einar wasn’t happy at the removal of the parka, was struggling to get to his feet and go after it but Liz held him in place with a firm hand to the shoulder.
“It has to dry, and besides, you need something under it. Let me help you with a sweater.” Ribs and shoulder all bruised and stiffening from his fall movement was proving increasingly painful for Einar, but when Liz asked him about it, he just shrugged, shook his head wearily as if to say, it’s nothing, finished twisting and contorting himself into the sweater. She wished he would have used words, instead of confining his communication to nods and shrugs. Seemed he had lost the ability--or perhaps just the energy--to do much speaking there over the last little while, and the trend concerned her. Sweater on, she helped him back to his feet, steered him over to the warming stove in the hopes of getting some broth in him, at least, before he ventured out into the storm. Kilgore, holding his gloves over the stove in an attempt to finish their drying, saw where things were heading and did not like it. Needed, for his purposes, to get Einar out the door in a hurry and ideally before he’d had too much time to catch his breath or warm thoroughly as he eventually would all plastered up against the stove like Liz had him, now. It would only prolong things, make the night a good bit more difficult for them both. Time to get going.
Einar did not want to go. Was dreadfully weary, hurting, liking the feel of the warming stove-rocks against his back and wanted nothing more than to curl up against them, and sleep for a very long time. Which was exactly why, in his mind, he must go, and Kilgore--his own reasoning very different--knew it, and was taking advantage of the fact. Making it all but a sure thing that Einar would not change his mind, and stay.
“Laziness, Asmundson. Don’t let me see any of that laziness. I would have expected more out of you. On your feet, and this time you stay that way.” Which he did, Liz having barely enough time to hold up the pot of broth up and get him to take a few quick swallows before they were gone, Kilgore hustling him through the tunnel into the waiting darkness outside.
In the cabin things were very quiet for a few moments, both women listening to the howl and rasp of the wind against the logs and in the trees all around them, darkness nearly complete and the storm in full swing. Susan was the first one to break the silence, rising and setting a pot on the stove. “Well, the two of us might as well eat, at least. We’ve got a good fire going here, plenty of meat in the house and maybe before we get this batch of stew all eaten up, they’ll be back to have a share.”