Experimenting somewhat cautiously with his sore and blistered fingers, Einar found that he could, through a carefully concerted effort, bring himself to manipulate various sorts of traps and snares with reasonable success and a manageable level of pain, and without, he was pretty sure, doing too much damage to the already injured areas. If anything, they seemed overall a bit better that morning, for which he knew he had Liz’s quick action with warm water and balm of Gilead salve to thank. She’d probably prevented infection, maybe even saved a finger or two. Can’t be doing that again, sitting out there to freeze for the night with no thought given to your hands, and he knew he wouldn’t do it again, not if he was in his right mind and thinking about the consequences, never would have done it in the first place had he been taking such things into consideration at the time, but he’d got stuck, just staring off into the snowy distance up there with mind blank and body inert as the night had slipped by him, and he shuddered at the thought of it, memory hanging heavily and the chill of it still in his bones. He shivered, pressed arms briefly to his sides for warmth and continued his inventory of the traps and snares. No matter about all that. He had a mission now, a very clear purpose and wouldn’t be sitting down in the snow to freeze again anytime soon. Had muskrat and beaver to trap! And Liz to inform of his plans, too, but so far as he could tell she was still sleeping, and he meant to allow her to remain that way for as long as possible. Had been aware of her occasional wakefulness in the night, restful breathing interrupted and eyes on him in the darkness; he’d felt them, knew the vigil--which had included once leaving the bed to replace the hot rocks placed around him with new ones--must have interfered some with her own sleep.
Quietly retrieving his pack from behind the water barrel and speaking softly to Muninn when the bird stirred, ruffled his wings and threatened to wake for the day--not yet, you big vulture. Keep it quiet there for a while, or you’re gonna get us both in big trouble--Einar began coiling up snares, easing traps in between items of clothing to prevent their rattling and generally preparing himself for departure. Some of the traps, he knew, would have to hang from the outside of the pack; Kilgore had been generous, and they would not all fit inside. These he secured as well as he could, wiring them together to prevent excessive noise in travel and making sure none would fall from the pack as he walked, even donning the near-completed pack and jumping cautiously up and down there in front of the stove to check for stray rattles. An old habit, and not a bad one. Nothing rattled, nothing, that was, except for his bones when he took a hard landing and collapsed in a heap beneath the pack, biting off a groan and pressing his eyes together until a bit of the dizziness passed.
Well that was a pretty doggone dismal failure, O Great Trapper. Come on, pick yourself back up and see about the damage, here. Anything twisted, broken or otherwise rendered useless? No? Good. Back at it then, and I guess jumping’s out for the moment. But, at least there weren’t any rattles that I noticed, not until the whole thing went tumbling to the floor, at least.
Liz was awake. He could hear her stirring, figured he’d better get a fire going so the place would be a bit more comfortable for her when she left the bed, found it easier said than done with his fingers the way they were, but he managed it, stood shivering in the spreading orange glow of the flames as it reached out to begin illuminating the darker corners of the cabin, glinting with an iridescent sheen off the feathers of the sleeping raven and sparkling in Liz’s hair where she sat up in bed, watching him. Silently slipping her arm from beneath the child’s head and carefully tucking him back in beneath the hides, she joined him by the fire.
“What are you doing, here? Looks like you’ve got some big plans…”
“Trapline. Figured it was time for me to get serious about the river, before springtime gets any closer and the quality of the furs starts declining some, and besides, it’ll give you two a little peace and quiet around the place for a few days. Plan is--if you don’t object too greatly--for me to go down there for two, three days and get things established, do a little trapping and then come back for the two of you, if you still want to come.”
“I think I may object too greatly…”
He was about to laugh, teeth flashing white in the firelight in what Liz took to be the beginnings of the fierce grin-grimace with which he had taken lately to expressing his delight on one matter or another, but seeing that she was to all appearances quite serious, he stopped. “What do you mean? Object to which part?”
“To the part where you take off by yourself for the valley. Looks like you’re all packed, and everything. Were you just going to disappear this morning, without even telling me?”
“No, I was gonna tell you. Just didn’t want to wake you. Wasn’t going anywhere before we talked, though.”
She looked relieved, hard lines at the corners of her mouth easing in the firelight. “I’m glad of that.” Studied him. “You’re really intent on going this time, aren’t you?”
“I am. It is best.”
“I’ve stopped and delayed you three or four times already, so if you’re ready to go, I won’t try and do it again. Just promise me…” hand on his arm, stared at him until he looked up and met her eye. “I want to see you again. Promise me you’ll take care of yourself out there, eat, stay warm at night, don’t go out of your way to lose any fingers…”
That grin again. Sure, he promised. Had to eat, so he’d have the energy to set all those traps, pull muskrat and beaver from the river, break away the ice day after day and…
“And don’t you be hopping in one of those holes for a soak, or a swim, or a bath or whatever you call it, either! You need all that energy just for keeping yourself alive and warm and going, down there. No swimming!”
Mock dismay, a lopsided grin, but no promise on that account. He’d use the water if he needed it, and there was no stopping him, not this time, not ever. But she believed him on the other matters, could see that he was sincere in his intent to make the most of the trapping run, work as efficiently as possible and conserve his energy towards the end of taking furs. All she could do, then, was to hope and pray that he might keep on track down there, avoid getting lost and mired down in the sometimes rather dark and winding passages of his own mind to the extent that he might end up--for this was really what she feared--not being able to find his way out again before it was too late, and the elements took him.
“Have some breakfast before you go?”