Quiet in the cabin as Liz and Susan ate their supper of stew, only the howl of the wind outside and the cozy crackling of spruce wood in the fire lending their voices to break the heavy silence that had settled on the place. Having cleaned up the supper things, Susan sat by the stove sorting the tiny warm clothes she’d brought for the baby, Liz feeding little Will until he fell asleep in her arms and then joining Susan by the fire, child still in her arms so he’s stand some chance of remaining asleep for a time. Even Muninn was quiet, sitting subdued on his perch and not so much as ruffling a feather in acknowledgement when Liz offered him a bit of meat from the stew. Wind as heavy as it had been when Bud and Einar set out and darkness nearly complete, the bird had not especially wanted to go along, and Liz, though she might have felt better had he been along to watch over the two travelers, had not had the heart to kick him out into weather which would have rendered flight quite difficult. So he sat, silent, watching, brooding, it appeared to Liz, and she wondered what the bird might be thinking, whether he was capable of experiencing a sense of foreboding similar to the one that seemed so close to suffocating her that evening.
Susan, too, was subdued as she thought of the pair out there in the storm; she trusted Bud’s judgment and knew his intention was only to help, but hoped Einar might end up surviving his methods. After their earlier venture to the basin and the hasty return after the chopper made its pass, she had been somewhat concerned about his making it through the night even there in the cabin, had intended to offer to stay up with him or perhaps take turns with Liz in doing so, just to make sure he continued warming and occasionally got a bit of broth to begin reversing what had appeared to her to be fairly severe and worsening dehydration, and now here he was being marched around the snowy timber in what was shaping up to be a fearsome storm. Wouldn’t have been her first choice for that night, not by a long shot, but it had been Bud’s, and she had to trust that he knew what he was doing. To pray that he did, and she prayed, sorting, staring into the fire and asking God’s guidance on the two of them, wisdom for Bud, strength for Einar and a safe return for them both. And peace for Liz, the patience to wait through the trial that I know this night has got to be for her, wondering, fearing, please give the confidence that it’s all in Your hands, that those men are in Your hands with You as a light to their path out there in that storm…
After that Liz did seem a bit calmer, speaking softly to Will when he stirred, whimpered and threatened to wake, singing softly and walking him back and forth from bed to wall and back again, snug in the sling Susan had made for him. Finally he quieted, and Liz sat back down.
“How long do you think they’ll be?”
“Ah, Liz, you’d know better than I would. The basin isn’t too far from here, but in this storm…well, I’d be pretty surprised to hear from them before sometime late in the morning, wouldn’t you?”
“He was hurt. Tried his best to hide it, but I’m worried about his ribs. I don’t think it would take much right now to break a couple of them, or re-break some of the ones that were hurt before. They can’t have healed up properly, and then for him to go falling off that cliff, even if he did land in the soft snow…well, I don’t like it.”
“Bud saw him fall. He’ll be aware of the potential trouble, look out for him.”
“He looks out for Einar with the heavy end of a tree branch! I’ve seen it. Or with his boot… If anything, he’ll probably just break more ribs.”
Susan sighed, shook her head. “I’m not saying I understand it, but you know that’s just the way the two of them communicate, sometimes. I believe he’ll be careful. He knows when to stop.”
“I hope so. That does sometimes seem to be the only language Einar understands, though. You’re right about that. He’s even told me so from time to time, apologized for not hearing me sooner on one thing or another and recommended I use the rabbit stick next time I really want him to listen…but I hate to do that! He barely lives through the stuff he does to himself, sometimes, sure doesn’t need me knocking him in the head in addition to all of it. But sometimes I still have to, just to get his attention.”
“That’s all Bud is doing out there tonight, I think. Getting his attention. It may be on a far different scale than what you would ever do, but the principle is the same, and I think they’ll both come through it alright. I pray that they will. It takes a lot of patience, doesn’t it?”
“Living with our fellas, that’s what. With them, and with all they bring along from the past, because it’s always there, isn’t it? Always in the room, even when they don’t know it. Especially then, maybe.”
“Sometimes I just don’t know how to reach him, what to do for him. It’s like we speak different languages, and I’ll never quite understand no matter how hard I try..”
“You probably won’t. I don’t think we can ever quite understand, if we weren’t there with them, and neither of us were. But you can have patience, that’s what you can do. Have patience, and love him. And it’s a little different with you and Einar, anyway, I would think. You two have been through an awful lot together, so you have that in common at least, that shared history in addition to all of the other stuff that you may never quite grasp. I’ve seen you with him. You understand him pretty well, I’d have to say. You’re doing great, and he’s really trying, too. You’re both going to come through this alright, and have some great years together up here with your little mountain tribe. Little Snorri Willis, first child of a new mountain tribe…” And Susan took the baby, slipped the sling over her own shoulder to give Liz a break, began pacing with him.
Neither of them felt much like sleep as the evening wore on, and after bringing in an armload of firewood to be sure they’d have enough for the night and early morning, Susan made some tea, lit the lamp and prepared to stand vigil with Liz through the night.