14 July, 2012

14 July 2012

It took both Einar and Liz a good while to be ready for sleep after the consumption of Liz’s rather pungent and aromatic mustard dish, the hurt of Einar’s feet returning to him shortly after he’d finished the last bite and further disinclining him to sleep, but weary as he was after his nearly sleepless days in the valley, eventual sleep proved inevitable.  Liz could see that he was still cold, knew he’d be warming for hours, a process which would likely still be going on when morning came.  For his part, Einar was and always had been content to allow such things to take their natural course once danger of imminent death had for the most part passed, but Liz was concerned about his feet, knew that the sooner he finished warming, the sooner his body would decide it was safe to return something like full circulation to his extremities.  With this in mind she really wanted him in bed for the night under the bear hides instead of on the chilly floor--was, she could tell, going to be another frigid night, temperatures already far below zero outside and air in the cabin crisp and biting despite the fire--but getting him there was another matter entirely.  He was barely awake, head drooping and brain definitely not fully engaged, and when she urged him up and into the bed, he just gave her a lopsided grin, shook his head and closed his eyes.  Fine right where he was.  Great, actually; he was home, family warm, healthy and secure, and all was well with the world.  Or would be.  Feet hurt something awful, but his weariness had become by far the more powerful force, and he was ready for sleep.

When urging didn’t work Liz tried dragging him up onto the bed, not too heavy, she probably could have managed it had he been a sack of potatoes or a bundle of firewood, but a living, half-sleeping human in another matter, dead weight with limbs flopping about most inconveniently, and she soon had to abandon the effort for fear of hurting him, or Will, in the attempt.  No matter.  Einar had got the idea, still not quite awake as he crept up onto the bed and allowed her to pull the hides over him, heading towards sleep again in an instant, slight smile tugging at one corner of his mouth as he watched Will through closing eyes.  Liz banked the fire, slid in between the two sleepers and pressed her back against Einar where he lay still huddled and shivering despite all the warmth and food of the past hour or so, herself drifting towards sleep after a time, confident that everyone was, for the moment, safe, glad they were together again.

Morning, Muninn the first one to wake, hopping down from his perch behind the water barrel and briefly reconnoitering the interior of the cabin before settling on a slab of sheep meat Liz had hung near the back wall the day before with the intent of keeping it frozen or at least cool for the next morning’s stew.  The raven found it to be in fine condition, tasty as could be and only partially icy, much easier to eat than had been Einar’s frozen muskrat carcasses, and he made himself quite at home picking from it piece after piece of good meat.  Einar was awakened, not by the soft sounds of the feeding bird but by his own hunger, a hollow, hurting thing that he felt at  first more as an insidious, faint weakness than anything else; the sharp pangs always eased somewhat in the night, but he knew they would be back just as soon as he moved, turned over, and they were, as were a number of other things, prying and screaming and competing for his attention, but most notable were the feet.  Couldn’t ignore those, and he quickly dropped to the floor upon attempting to stand.  Was dropped, to be more accurate, for it was no intentional act on his part.  Right.  Maybe not going too far today, if I can help it.  That, or I perhaps I can somehow attach skis or snowshoes to my hands and knees, and get around pretty efficiently that way…  He grinned, let out a silent little grimacing laugh and shivered in the deep morning chill.  If it even was morning.  The raven’s feathers gleamed slightly in the remaining glow of the coals, but it was difficult for him to tell whether the faint light he was seeing from outside came from moonlight on the snow, or the slow coming of dawn.  He strongly suspected the latter.

Creeping towards the raven where he continued his feasting--did Liz tell say you could have that?  Didn’t really think so…  Well, looks like we’re both gonna be in some trouble here, critter--Einar slid in beside the bird, supporting himself against the cabin wall and carving away at the already somewhat mangled slab of meat with his knife, removing thin shavings and gobbling them down before the bird could snatch them away from him.  Awful good stuff, but it was making him cold--colder, for he had certainly not finished warming from his long trek the day before--and he hurried to down more of it in the hopes that its warmth-bringing energy might at some point begin to outweigh the chill of its icy mass in his stomach.  Something wrong with the timing though, and it didn’t quite work, hands soon shaking so hard that he had to lay the knife aside and do his best to grip the entire slab between his palms and gnaw bites directly from it, as the raven was doing.

It was thus that Liz found the two of them several minutes later when she missed Einar in the bed and lit a candle, not sure whether to laugh, cry or protest the wanton predation of their intended supper as she took in the comical sight of man and bird caught in the act and looking quite guilty.  Together they blinked wide-eyed and startled at her in the flood of new light, eyes wild and staring, Einar’s icy blue ones and the raven’s of bright, beady black.  She laughed.  They made quit a pair.

“You know I’d be more than happy to cook that for you, if it would make any difference…”

A wild grin through chattering teeth as he wiped hands on his pants before tucking them beneath arms in an attempt at thawing them, some.  “Having…hard time waiting.”  Could barely speak for his trembling, and seeing the sharp, knobby outline of his shoulders in the flickering light, ribs painfully highlighted beneath the deerskin he’d tossed about his top half upon leaving the bed,  Liz supposed it was no wonder either that he hadn’t been able to wait for breakfast, or that he had nearly frozen himself again attempting to secure some.  There was, if possible, even less of him than when he’d left for the trapping expedition, and she really couldn’t imagine how he had managed to avoid freezing solid, one of those nights.  Shuddered, knowing that it surely must have been an incredibly near thing.

“Why don’t you clean up and come back to bed for a bit, and I’ll work on the fire and make some breakfast?”

“Was…gonna do it but…had to have little energy first.”

“I bet you did!  Now that you’ve got your ‘energy’ though, is there anything left for breakfast?”

“Hey, I just took some little…nibbles off the edges.  Same with the bird.  There’s…plenty left.  You watch.  I’ll…I’ll fix it…”

“You’ll do nothing of the sort.  Not this morning, anyway.  Now come back to bed and get warmed up before I have to clunk you with this rabbit stick and drag you here, understand?  And before long I’ll have the cabin warm and breakfast simmering.”


“No!  I think we had enough of the mustard, don’t you?  Or did you really like it?  Looked like it made you turn kind of green at the time, but I guess it worked out alright…  No, I was planning some bighorn sheep curry, actually, with the last of the onions Bud and Susan left for us.  Ought to be real good.”

Einar had still made no move to return to bed by the time Liz got dressed and joined him, appeared to have no intention of doing so, and thinking that he really didn’t need a bashed head to go along with his already rather sore feet, she spared him the rabbit stick for the moment, instead simply hurrying to bring the fire to life so the room could begin warming.  Well as the cabin had been insulated both inside and out, it was no match for the sort of arctic night they’d been having for the past couple, and she was very glad of the bear hides on the bed.  They’d have been in a rather bad way, without their warmth and shelter.

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