Einar worked hard on that first pot of broth, and its consumption did indeed prove to be hard work. He had, over those past few days, stopped feeling hungry in the least, the desire for food ceasing to manifest itself so that going without no longer required an act of will as it often did; apathy had worked just as well. A dangerous place in which to be, at least for one in his situation, but he’d been too preoccupied with the documents to know or to care. Now--still not particularly interested in food but determined to keep his word to Liz--he found eating difficult, the very act of swallowing at times a challenge with things sticking in his throat and doing their best to gag him so that he wasn’t able to get very far at all on the more substantial bits in Liz’s pot of broth. It both saddened and somewhat frightened her to see him trying so, but with little success. No matter. The broth would help, would have to help, with its rich combination of boiled sheep bones, bits of dried bear blood, fat and honey, as well as a secret ingredient happily shared by herself and little Will, would give him some energy to get through the day, if nothing else--though he would probably still dispute the fact, the matter of his making it through to the end of the day still appeared to her somewhat in question, as it had appeared during most days, of late--and she could gradually add more substance to it as time went on, until he found himself better able to partake of a more regular meal.
Broth gone at last and the more solid part of the meal set around for the moment--Liz had said it was alright for him to save it, not wanting him to choke to death on the stuff--Einar went back to his sorting and preparation of the traps, applying a bit of bear grease here and there and testing the action of each conibear, really struggling to set them and nearly having one close on his hand one time before he rigged a tool out of two sturdy sticks to help him pry the things open and set them. He’d used such tools in the past--metal, not wood--to set the larger conibears but had always just done by hand the smaller ones such as those given him by Kilgore. No more. Not unless he wanted to lose a hand, or have one crushed and a bone or two broken, at least. Which he was pretty sure he didn’t. Might, after a day or two of eating everything Liz pushed at him, but that was another matter, and he would do his utmost never to let her know about it. Wouldn’t want to be seen as insulting her cooking, which certainly deserved nothing but praise, as he remembered. Couldn’t really tell, that day. It all made him sick. So, back to the traps, and to setting and testing them with his tool of lashed willow sticks, wearing heavy gloves and doing his best to avoid crushing a hand. Hands were useful things, especially if one had any intention of using a rifle, which he certainly did. Training with it, anyway. The rifle--FN, at least; he could risk using the .22 with a bit of care, and intended to do so--far too noisy to actually fire under present circumstances, unless actually under attack and no longer attempting to conceal their position, but he had been making good progress exercising his arms with the thing, dry firing it and working on his strength and technique, and intended to continue that training on a daily basis. Liz was watching as he set the traps, testing them one-by-one.
“You ever set a conibear?”
“I’ve never even seen one up close, except at my uncle’s house where he had them hanging in the shed. Show me how.”
“Well, you’re gonna have to set little Snorri down if you want me to show you, because this takes two hands and I sure don’t want him getting mixed up in the middle of it! He needs to be just a few years older before he’ll have the strength to set one of these things.”
“If I put him down right now he’s going to wake up and cry. He’s not sleeping soundly enough yet for me to dare try and set him down. Maybe for now you can just show me, and later I’ll give it a try.”
He showed her, taking one of the traps he had not yet tested and trying once again to compress the springs by hand, knowing she would be able to do it when her turn came and not really wanting her to know that he was unable, but it was no use. Hands just didn’t have the strength, and the things kept sliding out on him. Resorting to the tool he had made, two stout foot-long willow sticks lashed together in the center and carved a bit at the ends to allow them to catch the spring ends and give him some leverage as he closed the tool like scissors, he compressed one spring and then the other, showing her how to hook the safety catches over them to prevent their springing out as he worked, hooking the “dog” into its groove and setting the trigger. Ready to go, and keeping his feet carefully clear of the front of the trap he stood on the side and demonstrated with a length of firewood what would happen when the trap was tripped. Pretty instant death for whatever had stuck its head through the thing, that was what, and Liz jumped slightly at the force of the metallic impact.
“Best little game-getter around,” Einar told her. "Heavy, but worth carrying a couple in your pack if you really expect to be out there for the long term, or in a cache, because you can set them in the evening, go to sleep and they’ll work for you to make sure you got something to eat in the morning. Of course, snares’ll do the same thing, but these take less setup and are in some ways more sure, because they don’t rely on having a springy tree or some brush nearby as a lot of the kill snare setups do. A real fine bit of gear, and just about perfect for taking beaver and muskrat. Will work for land critters too though, every bit as well. Just have to be careful if we do any non-water setups that Muninn doesn’t get curious and go poking around one of them, because if he hopped in under there and brushed the trigger, that’d be the end of him. Blackbird pie. Raven soup. And I’m kinda fond of the critter…”
“Oh, no, we don’t want anything like that to happen! I guess he’ll follow us trapping, but we’ll just have to be careful.”
“Most of it’ll be for beaver, anyway, and those we set underwater. He won’t be in any danger from them.”
“That’s good. I’ll try setting one of those traps in a few minutes here, as soon as Will finishes relaxing so I can set him down. I need to know how to do it, too. It looks like you have to use those sticks to set it?”
“Really shouldn’t have to, with this size trap. Just about essential with the bigger ones, and they make this tool that’s like scissors with depressions on the end instead of blades, and they make it real easy to get a bunch of leverage and compress those larger springs. This size I used to do all the time by hand, but I tried it just now, and…well, let’s just say I need to do some more work with that rifle, strengthening my hands and arms. Ha! And maybe with the traps, too. That could get exciting… So I just real quick improvised something similar to that trap setting tool, and it works, more or less. You can use it or not, based on what you need. Just have to give it a try and see. Everything looks to be in good shape though, so as soon as you’re ready, we can head down there and get started…”
“With what we talked about earlier, I hope you’ll see the wisdom of giving it a few more days, maybe. Let this new food start to take effect and do you some good, and then we can go.”
The hike, he wanted to tell her, would do me more good than any amount of food has the ability to do right now, but he just kept quiet, nodding. She wouldn’t agree, and might even be right, and as he was making an attempt to do things her way for a while, he would wait. Lots he could do with that time. Best get started.