Stalking, sneaking, moving with all the silence and stealth granted him by the heavily falling snow--nearly ideal conditions, in some ways--Einar approached the cabin, every sense alert for the ambush he fully expected would exist. Cabin was clearly occupied, smoke coming from its chimney and it made no sense whatsoever that his would-be captors would make themselves at home in the cabin without setting a trap for him outside, made little sense that they would make their presence in there known at all; seemed a good bit more logical that they should quietly surround the place but leave it untouched, wait for him to enter and corner him inside, trap him. He certainly would have done it that way. But perhaps they simply wanted to avoid the siege which might then result. Would result, unless they were prepared to destroy the cabin and him with it…which, based upon previous actions, they were almost certainly ready and willing to do.
Wrong. It was all wrong. She had said she would wait, and yet here she was beside him, bounding up on her snowshoes like nothing at all could be wrong, no need for caution and he motioned for her to stop, get down, hit the snow where she might still have some chance of avoiding detection, keeping herself and the child out of the crossfire when things opened up but instead she took his arm, greeted Muninn, who had again drifted down from his tree to land at their feet in the snow, and headed for the cabin, urging him along beside her.
“It’s Bud and Susan! They made it back, and they’ve got a fire going for us in there. Let’s go say hello.”
No. Held his ground. Wouldn’t move, and didn’t want her going any closer either, especially not with the baby on her back. She might be right, but certain as he’d been about the enemy presence in and around the cabin…would explain a lot, though, if the intruders turned out simply to be the Kilgores. Like why they had gone straight in and started a fire, alerting everyone to their presence. Would have done so because they were cold, and besides, weren’t trying to be stealthy. As might have an enemy who had managed to intercept the couple, incapacitate them and take their place, arranging quite a warm welcome indeed, and one he and Liz would likely not survive. Liz was all but dragging him at that point, firm grip on his arm, her presence, it seemed, pretty nearly the only thing keeping him from toppling over in the snow despite his best efforts, and he shook his head, pulled away from her, feeling the entire thing begin to spin out of control, entirely out of his control and he did not at all like it. Squinted hard against the blackness that was doing its best to seize him, managed to drive it some distance away and got back behind better cover, motioned for Liz to do the same, eyes darting across the nearby timber as he sought the best avenue of escape.
Liz saw what he was thinking, read it plainly in his eyes and in the little motions of his body--the ones which weren’t the stiff tremblings of an increasingly hypothermic and exhausted man, which conscious motions were rapidly becoming fewer and farther between; a definite danger sign, but he was too far gone to see it--knew she would have to do something if she wanted to prevent his taking off into that storm again. Rabbit stick in hand, she was fully prepared to take action, and would have, had not Bud Kilgore just then poked his head out of the tunnel to squint blinking and hatless into the storm. The tracker nearly lost his head, too, before Einar realized just whose head he was looking at, and lowered the atlatl.
Kilgore let out a great breath, relieved, realizing just how great had been his danger and thinking that the cabin could really do with some indoor plumbing, just to reduce the risk of unsuspecting guests being run through with darts every time they went out to use the facilities. “Asmundson, you scoundrel, who’d you think it was?”