Early in the morning, not even a hint of light yet beginning to show, and Muninn the raven was restless, gliding down from his tree to hop about in front of the tunnel and tilt his head for any sign of activity inside. Hearing nothing he took to the sky once more, circling the cabin and swooping down across the clearing and nearby trees, out over the basin, scanning, searching, calling out his disquiet to the wide, empty skies and greeting a lynx that loped with long-legged, snowshoe-footed grace across an open area between two dense stands of firs. Intent on obtaining itself a breakfast of mouse, the lynx barely even looked up, and Muninn moved on. Over the tarn, frozen, snow-covered and waiting spring like everything else in the basin, up across the almost-sheer series of ledge and broken precipice to the overlook just beyond the spring he sailed, swooping, circling, coming to rest in the long-dead fir whose carcass stood at the edge of the overlook-clearing, head tilted and black eyes bright at what he saw, sparkling with curiosity.
Back at the cabin Einar was restless as well, the quiet heaviness of sleep leaving him long before dawn and a hurried, harried sensation slowly creeping into its place to leave him lying rigid and listening beneath the hides, Liz’s slow, measured breaths and the softer but more rapid breathing of the baby doing little to reassure him. Something was amiss, whole world seeming suspended in an anticipatory silence so fragile that it felt to him possible to disturb it by the slightest movement, so that he dared not flex a muscle until he was ready to respond. But, respond to what? Perhaps the entire thing was an illusion, lingering remnant of some unsettling dream left him as an unwelcome gift by the departing night--would not be the first time such things carried over to color the start of his day--but the night had been a fairly quiet one, and he could remember no such dream, nothing that would quite account for the strangeness of the morning. Which left the possibility that it was real, this heaviness that lay thick in the air and warned him against untimely movement, that it had its origins in something which, while undetectable by the normal range and reach of the senses, was nonetheless quite as present and pressing as if the danger had been standing there in the room for him to observe with his eyes. Was seeming by far the most likely answer, and he took a few slow breaths to quiet himself, still the sounds within him and allow a better reading of his surroundings as he rose, swiftly, all one motion with knife in hand and ears wide for any response from outside.
Nothing, and the result of his rising wasn’t good. Nearly collapsed onto the floor at his first attempt to stand. His lower legs were all swollen, white, puffy and nearly twice their usual diameter of late, and when he tried to take a step it proved somewhat painful as his feet were affected, as well. Had, despite his best efforts, managed to eat too much, or too quickly, and had ended up with the dreaded swelling. Not a big surprise. After the way he’d been shorting himself, anything beyond a few sips of broth likely would have proven too much, the edema an inevitable bump on the road to being able to eat a bit more, and his gobbling of most of that piece of Nutella-spread flatbread he’d found stashed near him in the night couldn’t have helped matters, either. Too bad. He’d just have to live with it, hope he could manage to get into his boots, for this was certainly no morning to stay in bed with his feet raised as Liz might well suggest if she saw the situation. Mustn’t let her see it, not this time, not with that unknown but pressing danger lurking somewhere outside, just waiting to get its claws into them. Had to go take a look at things.
Struggling, Einar got into his boots and grabbed his parka before ducking into the tunnel, glad to see Liz still sleeping and hoping she might remain so for a time, so he’d have a chance to look things over and try to determine the source of his unsettledness, before she lit the fire for the morning. Doubted anyone would have found their way up into the vicinity of the basin that time of year, but knew better than to ignore the sort of warning he was receiving that morning. Far too much precedent existed to the contrary. It was with great caution, then, that Einar poked his head out of the tunnel and peered wide-eyed into the barely-graying dawn light, scanning the treeline, bluff and clearing before hastily retreating to the shelter of the tunnel.
Nothing visible, no sound to confirm his suspicion but the portent of impending trouble was so strong out there that he was compelled to return for a weapon. Considered the rifle, but decided against it. Too heavy; would slow him down somewhat, and unless actually under attack by a tactical team and needing to try and hold them off long enough for Liz to smuggle the little one out of the area, he would find himself tremendously reluctant to use it, due to the noise and its potential for attracting further trouble. With that in mind he chose the atlatl, took six darts and tucked them into the back of his parka, was about to quietly let himself out the door again when he thought better of it. No sense going to check on the possible danger while leaving Liz alone to carry on with her normal morning routine, potentially sending a big plume of smoke up into the sky for everyone to see. Still didn’t want to wake her as he was sure she would probably try and talk him out of his planned expedition, so he retrieved a piece of paper from the notebook left them by Susan, scratching out a quick note.
“Have to go check on something. Don’t make a fire until I get back.”
Ought to do, and he set it atop the stove where she would be sure to see it when she went to build the fire, holding it in place with a rock and setting beside it a piece of the flatbread he had saved from his nighttime meal. A good start on a breakfast for her, since she wouldn’t be able to heat up the customary pot of soup, and then he was gone.
Once out in the dim but gradually graying dawn forest, Einar had no clear idea which way to turn, considered climbing the cliffs behind the cabin in an attempt to get a feel for things, see if any visible sign of danger might exist down in the river valley, and he would have done it, had not Muninn at that moment shown up in a swooping, circling tizzy, diving at Einar’s face, coming within inches before wheeling and taking off again. The raven was animated, agitated, clearly wanting Einar to follow him and unwilling even to land for a moment on his outstretched arm when it was offered.
“What is it, critter?” An inquiry softly spoken, barely audible but the raven heard, wheeldd about and came all but screeching to the ground at Einar’s feet, rasping quietly but urgently, hopping, tilting his head and backing away when Einar tried to take a step nearer. “What’s got you all upset this morning? You feel it, too? Shadow of some sort, something coming…maybe it’s just a change in the weather, barometric pressure or something, but I’ve seldom seen you get so anxious about such a thing, and I sure got wind of something this morning, myself. Woke up all antsy and just ready to take off into the timber, let me tell you. Well, guess we’d better go settle this one way or another. Where is it you’re wanting me to go, anyway? Can see you’re anxious to have me follow you somewhere. Let’s get at it.”
Seeming to understand, the raven took off into the timber, waiting now and then near the top of a tree for Einar to catch up, leading him at a good pace up towards the spring.