Despite Liz’s parka being rather too small for him Einar found it a suitable way to carry the baby, Will soon fast asleep against his back as he worked his way around to the front of the cabin and stood braced against the corner of the woodshed, wanting to talk to the little fellow but finding himself rather too out of breath to say a word. Liz had been right about the broth; even with a significant amount of the stuff to give him energy, he was terribly dizzy and unsure of the world, everything spinning around him so that he gingerly lowered himself to hands and knees and crouched there in the snow until he could trust himself once more with standing. Will hadn’t been in any danger, really, but the incident scared him some, left him worrying just a bit what might have happened had his strangeness progressed from dizziness to a loss of consciousness as ht had done more than once in recent days, and though he had a solution--I’d just lie face down in the snow, let him sleep there all safe and warm on my back until I woke again--Einar did not like having to consider the possibility. He was Will’s protector, took the role tremendously seriously and found the prospect of ending up face down in the snow with the little one on his back wholly incompatible with that role. Had to do better. Which, in his mind, meant spending whatever time was necessary--without the baby in tow--challenging himself and rebuilding his strength, climbing the slope behind the cabin and sitting in the snow until he either froze or found a way to compensate for the cold as he had always been able to do…but already he could hear the disappointment that would be in Liz’s voice when she discovered his plan. She wouldn’t like it one bit, and would, despite hating to admit any such, probably be right in her criticism, too.
“Well, little one, that leaves me in quite a bind, doesn’t it? Guess you and I are just gonna have to go on back in there and have some more soup pretty soon, unless you can come up with a better idea. Not just yet, though. This parka works so well that I want to be sure and give it a real thorough test. Let’s do some walking.” Into the timber, then, Einar keeping well beneath the thickest growth of trees with the intention of minimizing tracks, climbing up and over fallen trees, slogging through the deep snow and generally giving the parka a thorough testing, finding himself every bit as satisfied with its performance as Liz had been. A safe, secure and warm way, indeed, to carry the little one, and tucked in there beneath the hood, he would have been thoroughly protected even had a storm been blowing. Yep, Inuits definitely knew what they were doing when it came to bringing little ones safely through the winter, and it’s a good thing, too. Good that we can learn a little bit from their example rather than having to figure all of this out for ourselves, from scratch. We’d have got it, I have no doubt, taken care of the little guy but this device sure is gonna make things easier.
“Speaking of getting you through the winter, little one, you know, it’s a funny thing about us humans… Most every other mammal-critter in temperate areas like this one is wired so that they give birth to their young in the spring, when the worst of the hard times have passed and the food’s starting to show back up again, but what do us humans do? We just go ahead and procreate whenever we doggone well please, with no regard whatsoever to the season. Almost as if seasons didn’t exist. Now why would we go and do that? Strange. Guess that’s because the Lord gave us brains that allow us to be a lot more flexible, handle things like bringing newborn, hairless infants safely through months and months of sub-zero temperatures up in the high country like this, keep ’em warm, find food for ourselves and their mothers and keep everybody fed and alive and all, but it still seems pretty odd, don’t you think?”
No answer from Will, who, quite oblivious to the whys and wherefores of human existence, the intricacies of anthropological theorizing and the timing of mammalian birthing seasons, slept warmly on his father’s back, dreaming the deep, mysterious dreams which always fill the sleep of infants and send inscrutable little smiles flitting across their faces, and at whose nature grown-up people cannot even begin to effectively guess. Einar shrugged, sleep, there’ll be plenty of time to answer, when you get older, continued his walk. Sky remained clear; the Kilgores ought to have a fine day for their climb, and he figured they’d be needing it, between Bud’s injuries and their unfamiliarity with the route. The three of them had gone over the maps together, Einar pointing out what he believed would be two of the best ways up to the portion of the open ridge where Roger Kiesl intended to swoop in sometime the next morning and scoop them up, but seeing it on the map wasn’t the same as having walked the terrain before, and he hoped they would be able to avoid some of the steeper, more open areas where avalanches would pose a real risk. As would any tracks they ended up showing in those clear zones, unmistakable beacons for any passing aircraft to see. Despite occasional misgivings that tried to creep their way in--difficult to trust anyone, after all, and he never was quite sure that he was correctly reading people’s intentions--Einar really did trust that Kilgore would do his very best to protect them and their security as he made his way out of the area, and he could only hope and pray that it would be a success. Wouldn’t be able to relax, exactly, until sometime after the next storm, after he was sure that all tracks left by the departing couple had been thoroughly obliterated. Which storm, he knew, ought also to provide him the cover he needed to go and retrieve the items left by Kilgore in the basin, practical, useful things which would ease their life up there, no doubt, as well as the mysterious envelope whose vaguely guessed-at contents had been so occupying his thoughts since their first mention.
Well. Later. That was all for later. For the moment, he figured he’d really better be getting back to the cabin before Liz started fearing that her worst apprehensions had come to fruition, leaving him to lie face down in the snow with the little one on his back, waking, hungry and helpless to find his way back home. No, couldn’t have her thinking that, only, glancing around and seeing how very far he’d managed to wander from the cabin while so deep in thought, speculation and conversation with the sleeping baby, he guessed she would have to wait at least a little while to get her answer. Fellow could only be expected to walk so fast with a baby on his back and arms held rather close to his body by the confines of a too-small parka, but over the next twenty or so minutes he definitely tested those limits, retracing his original trail in the knowledge that he’d been extremely careful to keep to the heaviest timber where any tracks he might leave would be thoroughly concealed from the air.
By the time he got himself turned around and halfway back to the cabin Einar was really beginning to notice even the baby’s rather insignificant weight on his back, the burning, twisting hurt in his side which had begtn on his long haul with Kilgore returning with a vengeance that took his breath and left him all hunched over as he covered those final few yards, straightening up only with the greatest difficulty and pressing an elbow to his side in an attempt to alleviate the hurt brought his ribs by the simple act of breathing. Will was not troubled in the least, sleeping quite happily and even helping, in some small degree, to keep his father warm so that Einar was barely even shivering by the time he made his way back through the tunnel--that would come later, he knew, when he returned the child to his mother and stopped moving--Liz greeting him with a big smile as he pushed his way in through the tunnel door.