20 April, 2012
20 April 2012
Storm moving out in the twilight hours and a deep chill settling over the little plateau, that night was a quiet and restful one for all occupants of the cabin as they lay bundled in sleeping bags and snuggled beneath bear hides, even Einar managing to sleep quietly for several long, uninterrupted stretches before being wakened after each by the cold or by his hunger. At least there were no dreams. Liz, too, enjoyed the quietness of the night, her feeding routine by then well established and Will hardly having to stir enough to wake her in order to get his still-frequent nighttime snacks, but several times she found herself wide awake nonetheless, holding her breath in the silence as she listened for any sign of Einar’s breathing, scared more than once than it might have ceased altogether in the night but each time reassured, after a fashion, when with the passage of several minutes she felt him shiver. Still going, if with a bit of difficulty, and hopefully getting some good rest, too; she rejoined him in sleep.
The following morning they finally got around to opening the duffel, revealing the remainder of the gifts brought by the honeymooning couple, the little bolt action .22 rifle and several bricks of ammo which the tracker knew could provide them with a tremendous amount of game both small and large in Einar’s careful use, a significant quantity of ammo for the FN--partially explaining the duffel’s heaviness--as well as several magazines for the latter and cleaning supplies for both firearms. To further augment the little family’s game-taking potential Kilgore had included a dozen well-made cable snares in three different sizes to allow for the taking of everything from rabbits to deer and even elk, and a few mid-sized conibear traps whose presence seemed to delight Einar nearly as much as the rifle. But not quite.
Along with all the potential future meals represented by the firearms, traps and snares, Susan had insisted they include some which were more ready to eat, which meant several additional jars of Nutella and peanut butter, some wax-dipped cheese rounds which Einar could not help but eye hungrily as they were pulled out of the bag, powdered eggs and a sandbag half filled with split peas all divided out within the large container into smaller portions, each of which had been protected inside doubled-over zippered plastic bags. Everything had made it in fine condition, the heavier items protected by packets of cloth goods, additional diapers and clothes for the baby, socks and underwear for Liz and Einar and a good warm wool shirt for each of them, too.
Knowing that Liz would greatly appreciate such things, Susan had included two bars of soap, floss, several toothbrushes and a little container of mixed salt and baking powder with dried, powdered mint leaves from her greenhouse to serve as a substitute for the charcoal or ashes or goodness knew what they currently used to brush their teeth, and Liz was indeed most appreciative of the little luxuries. That was it, the extent of the air drop, aside from a pair of little blank books with lined pages which Susan had thought one or both of them might like to use in recording their thoughts, details of daily life, the growth of little Will, weather conditions or other relevant details, and with them she had included several pens and pencils.
Over those next few days Einar continued training with the rifle, often just shouldering it and holding his position--sitting at first, elbow braced against his knee, and then standing, though never for terribly long, as he didn’t want to drop the rifle--dry firing and cycling the bolt several times, trying to strengthen his arms, still the trembling that tended to seize them after a few seconds and breathe through the cramps. Mighty difficult at times, but he would just grit his teeth, turn to face the wall in order to hide the tears that occasionally traced their way unbidden down his cheeks at the hurt of the thing, and keep on. He had learned long ago that one really can command the muscles to go on working despite their cramping up, a bit of knowledge that had more than once come in very handy on his various free climbs on the high, brittle rock of the Spires, and he put that knowledge to good use now, though forced to silently admit that there was a bit of difference between the two sets of circumstances, simply in the fact that he’d possessed a good bit more muscle to start with, during those climbs.
Sometimes, weary of being cooped up with everyone in the cabin and needing some quiet, he would head outside by himself without the rifle--no one bothered to follow him once Liz became assured that he did indeed intend on returning, but on occasion she would secretly watch him from just inside the tunnel, check on him--calling to Muninn and holding one arm or the other outstretched until the bird made an awkward landing, holding the arm out straight and straining against the creature’s weight for a few minutes finally it began trembling so that the bird, alarmed, took once more to the air. After which he would do much the same thing with rocks or heavy pieces of firewood until at last, barely able to close his hands, let alone lift anything usefully heavy, he would sit silently in the snow for a few minutes before returning inside.
Despite his increased activity and a visible determination to get himself turned around, physically, Einar barely ate over the course of those days, taking in no more than he had to, it seemed to everyone else, in order to keep himself conscious and able after a fashion to move about the place, but when asked about it he always said he was getting plenty. Though Liz did not want in any way to discourage the obvious efforts he was making at growing stronger, she worried for him in the absence of greater quantities of food, feared that he might quite lose himself in his focused effort, to the exclusion of the very things he needed to be doing in order to assure their success. Feared that in his doing so she might lose him altogether, so did what she could to encourage him to go on eating, but more often than not he silently excused himself during mealtimes, heading out through the tunnel for another visit with the raven, or a walk with the new rifle. Kilgore would just watch him go and shake his head, knowing his difficulty but not how to help him through it, as the customary stomping to which he had occasionally resorted seemed somewhat out of place, under the circumstances.
Kilgore’s leg benefited greatly from those days of rest and care by Susan, swelling going down significantly and the pain with it as he largely kept it elevated and frequently applied the improvised ice packs she made him from snow and clean cloth diapers--Einar suggested once that the tracker just come out and join him on one of his snow-sitting expeditions, take care of the thing once and for all, but Kilgore no-so-politely declined--and though as the end of their stay neared he was not necessarily looking forward to the trek up to the red ridge, neither was he dreading it to the degree that he might have been, several days prior. The leg was not, they all now agreed, actually broken, and he ought to be able to walk on it with some care.
During those days Einar did not once take down the hidden packet of documents--wanting very badly to finish their reading, read them over and over as he’d planned to do but reluctant, perhaps, to go any further down that road in Kilgore’s presence--nor did anyone press him to do so, Liz alone knowing where they had been secretly stashed. Kilgore, however, was not ready to leave without once more broaching the subject with Einar, and was simply biding his time.