29 May, 2012
29 May 2012
Morning came, a pale daylight filtering through the clouds, and it was still snowing. Liz’s big batch of stew was by that time nearing doneness, Einar having helped by keeping the baby content as she worked over the pot. Will was wide awake and had been for some time, occasionally content to simply lie there and study Einar’s face--made Einar slightly uncomfortable, but he allowed it, staring right back at those great grey mysterious eyes and wondering what they saw when they looked out at the world, how the child’s brain, without the context of language in which to frame everything, interpreted those sights, and he wished he could remember some of his own thoughts from that age, how things had appeared to him--but for the most part he wanted to move. Einar did his best to keep the little one satisfied, pacing from bed to water barrel and back again as the raven looked on curiously and the good, warm odors of Liz’s bear stew filled the cabin, a sharp contrast to the continued blasting of the wind outside, sound of snow scouring the walls.
Einar shivered. Still not warm yet after his long hours out in the snow, wouldn’t be thoroughly warm for a good while yet, but he did not mind. Was quite used to spending the winter half frozen and struggling to keep himself warm enough to be mobile and useful, and so long as he could use his hands and expect a reasonable degree of steadiness on his feet--especially when carrying the baby--he was quite satisfied. Liz seemed to have different standards, however, and though he had never been able to figure them out, exactly, they seemed to involve his being offered bowl after bowl of her freshly-made stew, He tried to keep up, though finding it somewhat difficult to eat while looking after the baby, as the hot stew would inevitably set him to shaking furiously again as it found its was down to his empty stomach and began further warming him from the inside out. Made it hard to walk straight and left him less than trustful as to the steadiness of his hands, so after a few tries he set the bowl aside, supposing he’d better wait until Liz took Will again. Then, he would finish the stuff, for his long sit in the snow and the struggle that had been finding his way home through the teeth of that blizzard had left him with an immense, hollow hurting hunger that he knew the bowl of stew would hardly begin to satisfy. Yet, he dare not have more, not all at once anyway, lest he further aggravate his sore and swollen legs. Couldn’t afford to risk that, not with the possibility that he might soon be called upon to cover more ground and in a hurry, depending upon the actions of the skiers and their potential rescuers.
The single bowl of stew would have to do for the moment, and it would, if not with quite the level of satisfaction he might have derived from sticking to a single bear. Or a single elk. The whole critter. Devouring the entire thing and then crawling off bloated and bloody, belly dragging the ground, to curl up in his den for five or six days of solid sleep before creeping out to crack the bones for their marrow, like a long-starved wolf. He sighed, shivered again. Nope. Didn’t have a whole bear or elk at which to throw himself and wouldn’t have dared make like a wolf even if he had, but it was a nice thought. Fella could have nice thoughts now and then, couldn’t he? No harm in nice thoughts, and at the moment, the five or six days of sleep he’d have after devouring the elk sounded quite nearly as tempting as the meal, itself. Awful sleepy all of a sudden, and he knew sleepiness associated with the sort of cold he’d recently come though must be resisted at all costs, lest a man find himself rather quickly in a place from which self-retrieval wasn’t even an option, mind going dark as the cold crept in and took him, but he was no longer that cold, not quite, was dry and out of the wind in there by the fire and his current need for sleep was genuine, the real thing and not a trick of the cold. Crouching, nodding, he tried to focus on Will’s face but it was jumping and swimming before his eyes, vision beginning to go all dark and fuzzy around the edges and he hurried to get Will to a safe place, nestling him gently on the bed before collapsing beside him, face down on the bear hide and fast asleep.
Liz just shook her head, draped a corner of the hide over Einar’s still rather thoroughly chilled form and let him be for the moment, knowing that he hadn’t slept in well over two days and must be dreadfully weary. Not weary enough to sleep through the dream-visions that came crowding in on him as soon as his eyes had closed in slumber, though, and within seconds he was wide awake again, raising himself up off the bed with his hands in one fluid motion and glancing rather desperately around the cabin as if seeking a way out, unseeing--Liz had no doubt what it was he saw, its detail written with excruciating detail in the blank expanse of that wide, wild stare--before his eyes came to rest on little Will and he was stopped in his tracks. Sight of the child helping him get his place in the world Einar sank back to his stomach with a sigh, relieved if only half believing, certainly not ready for more sleep but infinitely glad to find himself back in the cabin, his own familiar home and with no particular need to rush the walls and find a way--any way at all; window of opportunity would be incredibly small--to escape.
Liz was saying something, and he scrunched his eyes shut, opened them again in an attempt to get them to focus, thinking somehow this might help him to make more sense of her words, and it did, something did, for he could finally puzzle them out. Something about stew. More stew. She wanted him to eat more stew, and that offer, coming in the midst of the departing dream-horror whose grip he was just then beginning to loose, struck him as immensely funny and he burst out laughing, burying his face in the bear hide to prevent disturbing Will but the baby was already awake, watching him. Not quite understanding the situation and half afraid that Einar was going to smother himself in the hides Liz took him by the shoulders and got him turned over, Muninn by that time making quite a racket of his own where he perched beside the water barrel, and soon Liz was laughing along with the both of them, not understanding how a second bowl of stew could be so very humorous but glad Einar was getting some enjoyment out of the situation, after clearly waking up on the wrong side of the bed, so to speak. Finally he was able to rein in his laughter, worn out and beginning to be aware of how cold he’d begun growing once again, lying there so far from the fire.
“Yeah, I’d like the stew now, if it’s still available. Real good stew you’ve made. It ought to hold us for days, as many days as it takes for this rescue to be over and done with so we can have a fire again. Really excellent stuff.”
She got him the stew. “Oh, I’m glad you think so. I was beginning to wonder if maybe you were laughing at my offer because the stew was so awful, you couldn’t imagine why I’d ask you about having more! Thought maybe I’d accidentally chopped an elk spleen or something, and thrown it in the stew.”
Which just set Einar to laughing all over again, and a few minutes passed before he was able to dig in and start on the stew. There would be no laughter, however, when a few minutes later he poked his head out the door to check on the weather…