20 March, 2012

20 March 2012

They weren’t going to make it. This much became clear to Susan far before it did to Bud, who was putting every ounce of his energy and focus into moving himself up that steep, snowy slope, and they were making progress, but it was proving tremendously slow, and with the sun beginning to set, they remained far below the ridge’s crest, stuck and struggling in a band of steep, broken rock packed tightly with gnarly, close-growing little firs. The trees, at least, gave Bud something to cling to as he worked on the ascent, a good thing, as his leg had quickly tired with the use and was now all but refusing to support any part of his weight, hard as he might try to force the matter. Though a very determined and stubborn individual, himself, Bud Kilgore lacked Einar’s apparent ability to continue under any and all circumstances pushing his body up to and beyond its limits without any thought of the consequences--or perhaps sometimes even because of them, but that was another matter--and with said consequences in mind, he found himself reducing the pace even further as time went by, in the hopes of sparing the leg additional damage. Just after sunset they stopped, Susan brushing some of the snow from a granite protrusion to make a seat for Bud and pulling out their water bottles. For a while neither of them spoke, simply sitting together as they caught their breath, sipping water and looking out on what could really only be described as an incredible scene, as one by one the basins and valleys below fell into shadow, and were swallowed by the advancing evening.

“Gettin’ late down there. Gonna be late up here pretty soon, too.”

“Yes, it is. I was starting to think about finding a place to camp…what do you think?”

Kilgore rubbed his chin with its weeks’ worth of grey-white stubble, squinted up at the terrain above them, bobbing his head in an attempt to see through the intervening tangle of small trees. “Got to keep climbing through the night if we’re gonna make this meeting with Roger.”

“Do you want to do that?”

“Some mighty rough stuff up here, between these gnarly, grabbing trees and all the little granite bluffs and cliffs and all we keep running across. Could do it in the dark, and we got our headlamps, but it’ll be pretty difficult going. Main concern…” he stopped, took a big gulp of water and accepted the handful of nuts and dried fruit Susan was offering him. “Main concern right now is that as it gets dimmer, I’m gonna be a lot less able to pick routes from a distance, keep to this map Asmundson and I looked over and I may end up leading us out into the open where we’ll leave a mess of tracks, before I even realize it. Safest thing’d be to wait the night out, but yeah, that probably does have us missing Roger, because there’s only so much speed I seem to be able to manage, right now.”

“You and Roger have a backup plan though, don’t you?”

“Yep, he intends to be back the next day first thing in the morning, if we don’t make an appearance on the appointed one. Then after that we’re on our own for a while before he’ll try again.”

“So let’s find a place pretty soon here to set up camp for the night, do our best to reach the spot in the morning, but not worry too much if we have to take that extra day?”

“You, my dear, are an incredibly sensible person. Glad you don’t mind if we have to fall back on Plan B, but of course, I’m gonna give it my best try in the morning, and who knows, we just might make it! If Einar was here though, there’d be no doubt. He’d get there, in a timely manner and ready to ’rassle a bear or pole cat or whatever else might stand in his way when he got there, even if he had to drag himself every step of the way. Maybe I ought to make an effort to be just slightly more like him, in that way.”

“No, you’re doing just fine in that regard! Poor Einar’s going to end up dead one of these times, if he keeps that up. Every time I see him, I find myself a bit more astonished that he hasn’t gone down that path, already. Come on, let’s make camp.”

The spot wasn’t right though, far too steep and with nothing even remotely approaching level to provide them a place to bed down without needing to anchor themselves to a tree to prevent their sliding down the mountainside in the night, and while both of them were willing and prepared to spend the night thus if no other option should prevent itself, Susan was pretty sure they could do better. Grumbling silently under his breath--he’d been keeping himself going and had been ready to do it all night should they decide such was the best course of action, but had quickly got used to the idea of being through for the day after their little conversation, and did not look forward to further torturing his damaged leg--Bud got to his feet, followed her. At least, he knew, with darkness descending quickly, they would have to settle on their spot reasonably soon. Some honeymoon this is turning out to be! Wouldn’t have it any other way, though. Except for the bit with the leg, of course

· · · ·

Helping Einar up onto the side of the bed, Liz relieved him of the still-sleeping Will, who by all appearances had enjoyed a most comfortable walk in the snow. The same could hardly be said for Einar, who was trying very hard but with little success to prevent her seeing just how badly the little jaunt had affected him. Though not nearly so dizzy as he had been before--broth really had helped, in that regard--he was showing all the signs of exhaustion and looked to her very nearly ready to collapse right there on the bed where he sat, and indeed might have done so, had he not been so intent on holding himself perfectly rigid in an attempt to prevent his injured side from flexing. Was a lost cause though, for he had to get Liz’s parka off, gritted his teeth and did it, already starting to shiver in the warmth of the cabin and knowing that things would only grow more difficult, the longer he waited.

“This thing works real well. He really seems to like it.”

“Oh, it’s great! Give him a few weeks to grow--and you a few weeks to eat and rest and all the things I hope you’re going to be doing, now--and we should be ready for our first family trip down to the river to trap muskrat or beaver! What do you think?”

“Sounds like a deal. Got to be careful of tracks, always careful of tracks, but we ought to be able to manage that, and a good batch of muskrat and beaver pelts will add a lot to the supply of good furs we’ve got to work with, here. Give us something to start with when making warm winter things for the little one, as he grows.”

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