Waking with a grumble and a groan shortly after Einar retrieved his third bowl of stew, Kilgore squinted around the cabin, looked down at his leg and quickly pieced everything back together. Some mighty strange dreams he’d been having, between being dragged through the dark, snowy woods with his head clamped between two snowshoes and bounced over fallen trees that lay in his path, but now that he looked around and saw where he was, he realized the entire thing was not only possible, but entirely plausible. Especially when he made a brief visual inspection of Einar. Fella definitely looked as though he’d been through the wringer, and Bud didn’t at all like the way he was holding himself, all twisted up and drawn in as if something might be injured inside. Not that he felt too great, himself.
Flexing legs, arms as he tried to work some of the kinks out of things he was beginning to feel the full effects of being dragged all those miles through the rather…lumpy…timber, bumps and bruises all over but that stuff would heal, and here they both were alive, warm or at least getting there and more or less well back in the cabin. And in need of some serious planning and thought if they were to make their rendezvous with Roger in two days’ time, too. Seemed they’d better be leaving pretty soon for their arranged meeting place if they wanted to make it in time, because he had a feeling that he was going to be mighty doggone slow out there in that deep snow with his leg all twisted up and swollen the way it was. Thing was starting to hurt pretty good again, throbbing and aching something fierce, demanding his attention so that he shifted position in an attempt to alleviate it a bit, knocking over the pot of tea Susan had recently left beside him, in the process. Pot clattering away across the floor Einar--who had very nearly been asleep again, himself, since the end of his conversation with Susan--jumped to his feet and stood staring wide-eyed and ready for action with spear in hand, breaking into a grin and allowing himself to lean heavily on the wall in the hopes of preventing a fall when he realized the source of the disturbance.
Muninn was not so forgiving, scolding and chortling from his perch behind the water barrel and generally making known his displeasure with the noisy intruder who had dared to disturb the peace of the morning. Not wanting to see Liz and Will disturbed Einar hobbled over to the bird, made a quick motion by way of summons and braced himself as Muninn landed heavily on his shoulder. Gritting his teeth against the hurt of the raven’s claws on his shoulder where the hauling-straps had left numerous bruises and abrasions. Nothing to worry about, you old vulture. Got me for a minute there too, but we can both relax now. Can…huh. Looks like we can do our relaxing right here on the floor, because my legs just aren’t doing what I want from them, right now. Neither, come to think of it, was the rest of him, and Einar quickly lowered his head, curling up against the water barrel in a hasty attempt to retain consciousness, and it worked, leaving him to watch in somewhat of a daze as Susan righted the pot of tea, refilled and set it once again to heat on the stove.
“You’re awake!” She addressed Bud. “How’s the leg?”
“Still attached. Stuff you gave me seems to be wearing off now and it hurts some, but I’ll live. Gonna be a slow climb up to the ridge where we’re supposed to meet Roger, though. Not too worried. We had backup plans, and backup plans for those, he and I did. If we don’t show up at the appointed time, he’ll be back exactly two days later, and then a week after that.’
“And if we happen to be overdue by more than a week?”
“Aw, then he’ll just assume we’ve fallen victim to some addle-brained but still extremely agile and dangerous mountain man critter who’s rumored to inhabit these snowbound heights--kinda like the Yeti, you know; the rumors are rampant--and he’ll stop looking for us.” Eyes dead serious as he stared at Susan, but she wasn’t buying it, and they both broke into laughter at the same time.
“Nah, at that point we’ve got the radio. Couldn’t use it right here, too risky even with all the precautions we took, but one of us could take a day hike to a safe spot, and get in touch with him.”
“Yes, if it comes to that. For right now though, I hear your tea starting to boil, and it looks like the ‘addle-brained but still extremely agile and dangerous mountain man critter’ over there could probably use some, himself, so let me go finish making it.”
“Got anything to put in that tea? Willow or something? Surely Asmundson has some around here somewhere…hey, Asmundson! Mind if I eat your snowshoes? Shred ’em up and put ’em in my tea?”
Einar, addle-brained mountain critter that he was--had to admit he was none too sure about the “extremely agile and dangerous” bit just then, but would have tried to live up to it, if necessary--had been listening rather intently to the conversation, chuckling silently and shaking his head at Kilgore’s antics even as he hoped very much they wouldn’t find any cause to use a radio while anywhere near his basin.
“Yeah, I mind if you eat my snowshoes. Don’t touch my snowshoes. But I’ve got an old willow stick around here somewhere that you can have, if you really want it. Things all full of tooth marks from when I’d have to change the dressings on my foot, but it kept me from losing a few teeth at the time, that’s for sure. Leg’s pretty bad, it looks like?”
“You can keep your old willow stick, man. I’ve got Sue with the medical kit, and that’ll beat an old chewed up willow stick, any day! I may be every bit as tough as you, but thankfully I don’t have your insane, unquenchable need to seek out more hurt than life’s already dealt you, just to see if you can take it. Rather take a pill or two, in this case. Yeah, leg’s kind of a mess. All swelled up. What’d you do to me, anyway?”
Einar just laughed, shook his head again and curled back up into the heat-conserving ball that had been allowing him to continue slowly returning to something near a normal body temperature--long, long process after that past night--weary and feeling once again as though he might be dangerously near losing consciousness.
Dipping back into the medical kit, Susan retrieved more medication to help Bud with the pain and swelling in his leg, wanting to give some of the same to Einar. She could see that he was obviously in a good bit of pain with his side where he’d fallen, favoring his shoulder and ribs, legs cramping up on him every time he tried to move after the incredible exertion of the long haul up from the basin and the open wounds on hips and collarbone not appearing terribly comfortable either, but he refused, and she did not want to push the matter lest he get the idea she was trying to force him into things. Especially not after the understanding they had seemed to reach, earlier. He was almost asleep again, anyway. Best simply to let him sleep, if he could. Which, unfortunately, he was not to be able to do for too long at all.
Beginning in the late morning hours to suffer the effects of the reasonably large quantity of pemmican he’d gobbled in his desperate quest for the energy needed to complete his night-long haul up from the basin, Einar found himself with increasing frequency having to dive for the tunnel and hurry out beneath the trees, his body rather unfamiliar with the intake of such quantities of food and not reacting particularly well. On the fifth or sixth such trip he was a long time in returning, too long, Susan thought, and going to check she found him passed out in the tunnel, badly dehydrated and in worse trouble than she’d realized… Time to wake Liz.