Next thing Einar knew it was dark, entirely dark save the faint coal-glow on the wall opposite the stove, his feet hurt and he couldn’t find the coil of cordage he’d been trying so hard to finish. Something definitely not right, bear hides weighing unusually heavy upon him and his eyes barely opening when he tried, feeling all sandy and slow in their sockets. Needed water, that was pretty clear, remembered having a few sips of broth, urged upon him by Liz and all but poured down his throat when he’d professed his satisfaction with breathing the steam rising up off the stuff—foolish notion, would take you an awful long time to get an appreciable amount of water, doing it that way—but that had been hours ago, he was sure, and he needed more. Tried to turn over, wanting to get himself over to the water barrel and satisfy his thirst before he managed to fall asleep again or simply to forget how badly he needed the thing, but he couldn’t seem to make any headway against whatever held him down.
Beginning to feel trapped and a bit frantic, he wanted to fight it, flip himself over with as much force as he could muster, but was afraid that in doing so he might injure Liz or the little one, particularly if the weight that held him down proved to be as great as it felt. Had to go about it another way, and he tried wriggling out from beneath the weight but found that the hides seemed held firmly by it on the only side from which he might have exited, Liz blocking him on the other. He nearly gave up then on getting his drink, didn’t want to wake her but could tell further sleep would be a rather unwise idea should it happen before he got some water in him, edged a bit closer to Liz in the hopes of being able to crawl over her without causing a disturbance. No deal. Instead of Liz, he ran straight into another heavy weight like the one trapping him on the other side, and a bit of exploration told him it was a log. Big one. Could hardly roll it, when he tried. Well. He’d go out the bottom. Only Liz woke before he could accomplish it, and instead of helping him move one of the things, she sprung from the bed and added another log to the load. This left Einar to shake his head and close his eyes, certain that he must be dreaming and wanting very badly to wake, as he really did need water and had little hope of getting himself up and moving so long as he was stuck in that goofy dream.
Liz wasn’t dreaming, placed the third log carefully and hoped Einar would fall back asleep before he figured it out but he did not, still struggling to sit up when she slid back in bed beside him. He was wide awake by then and had no doubt about it, frustrated to think Liz might have intentionally done something to keep him trapped in the bed but his feet were keeping him from moving as quickly as he might have hoped, having to take care not to bash them on things in the effort, and before he could worm his way free, Liz had hold of him.
“Stay. You’ve only just gone to sleep a little while ago, and there’s nowhere to go right now”
“Need water. And what’s…” He shoved at the logs, still trying to roll them out of the way without endangering Liz.
“I’ll get you the water. Got some broth right here, actually. Drink. It’s not warm anymore, but not frozen yet, either, and neither are you, which is why I put the logs there. You keep wandering away. I wanted to have some warning this time…”
Einar did not understand, thought he probably ought to be indignant at her efforts but he was too dry and thirsty to be indignant, eyes clicking in their sockets now when he moved them, and he knew the rest of it must wait until after he’d had some water. Or broth. Would have to be broth, and he sipped it at first, gulping when he was able, until the pot was empty and he lay back exhausted and nearly sick with the sloshing weight of the water inside him, but confident that he was going to live, after all. At least for the moment. It would have to do. Liz didn’t agree, was taking the longer view and in doing so, found herself inclined to leave the logs in place, especially seeing as they’d done their job the first time around, and continued to do so.
Revived significantly by the broth, Einar gathered himself and pushed away the log on the outside of the bed, sending it to the floor with a crash as he fumbled about for a candle, which he found and lit, squinting at the situation, at Liz, shaking his head.
“You were trying to …kinda keep me tied down here, huh? Don’t need to do that. I’ll stick around. I’ll stay. Not going anywhere.”
She moved the remaining logs, quickly contemplating the best course of action. Had never wanted to force things on him, really, to coerce him, and she knew he was likely to react badly to any such attempt, but something was different that night, and she knew she’d better be sticking by her original plan, if she wanted to be able to discuss the matter with him in the morning. He’d be unhappy, but would be alive and hopefully rational, and they would work it out. “You always seem to be going somewhere, even when you’re not awake. Can you really be so sure you won’t?”
He shrugged. “All I can give you is my...intention. Intend to stay right here.”
“Nope, that’s not enough. You need to let me use the logs. It’s either that, or tie a rope around your wrist and the other end around mine, but all things considered, the logs really did seem the better option…”
A shudder from Einar, hand drawn across his eyes as if in an attempt to clear away an unpleasant vision. “Yeah, let’s skip that second one, why don’t we? Let’s just skip the whole thing, actually. Gonna have me afraid to sleep in the cabin here pretty soon, and seeing as I gave you my word I’d do my best to try and let the foot heal this time, that seems kinda counterproductive. You’re a pretty light sleeper, with Will here and all, so how about you just yell at me if I do something you don’t care for in the night, and I’ll remedy it real promptly. Ok?”
“But that’s just the problem! You’re so sneaky. Don’t make a sound when you leave, and here lately, you hardly even move the bed at all, so how am I to know you’re leaving?”
“Being sneaky is good. Keeps you alive. How about just don’t worry about it? I’ll be here in the morning, just like I said I would.”
“You’ll be frozen in the morning, if you get up in your sleep and press yourself into the corner by the water barrel, or stretch out on the floor…frozen solid. You’re not too far from that right now, just opening up the hides and letting in some cold air. I can see you. You can’t hide those chattering teeth from me, no matter how hard you try to clamp your jaw and talk all carefully and precisely, like nothing’s wrong…frozen solid, I’m telling you. And that’s something I can’t fix.”
“Sure you can. Just pour…pot or two of boiling water over me in that case, and I’ll be fine. Reconstituted. And mighty grumpy, besides, ’cause I don’t like hot water.”
“You’re awful. Now lie back down so I can get those logs in place where they need to be, and if you haven’t disturbed any of them by morning, we can talk about doing something different tomorrow night.”
Much to his own surprise as well as Liz’s, Einar went ahead and allowed himself to sink back down in the hides without further resistance, back towards sleep, even accepting the additional broth and the bitter drink of willow solution she insisted he swallow, not some doggone domesticated critter, here, not all tame and compliant, and don’t like being treated as though I am, but if he was going to protest it would have to be in the morning, for his awareness of the world had once more ceased.