23 July, 2012
23 July 2012
Having grown restless with confinement in the cabin and demanded exit, Muninn the raven soared high above the cabin clearing, rasping loudly as with a slight tilt of wing and tail he swooped down for a closer look, watching, waiting, wondering what could be taking the man so long to get up and out and join him in the fine, cold air of morning. Giving it a bit more time he waited, circling, sailing off over spruce and fir to survey the basin itself--snow-covered, nothing out of the ordinary visible down there--returning, wingtips nearly brushing the treetops as he glided in for a landing before the tunnel entrance. Seemed the man in his charge must be in some sort of trouble again, and the raven meant to take action.
Liz heard Muninn out in the tunnel, the soft, chortling call that had come to represent the bird’s request for entry, but there was this time an edge to the raven’s voice, and she did not want to let him in. Had just finished trying very hard to distract Einar from his seeming determination to start all over again reading the transcript of his debriefing, an activity which he had somehow managed to decide might provide suitable accompaniment to the eating of his breakfast--couldn’t be more wrong so far as she was concerned, for she knew that once he got himself immersed in those details eating would be the farthest thing from his mind, a near impossibility for him, at least for a time, and she wondered if somehow, perhaps even subconsciously, this knowledge had played a part in leading him to pull down the envelope and start reading--and it seemed that the raven might provide just the distraction that Einar would need to drop the conversation in which they had been engaged, and take up his reading once more. Raven might as well stay outside, for the time being.
Too late. Einar, also, had heard the bird’s soft calls, set aside his breakfast pot and gave the raven entry. “You certainly weren’t out there long, you old vulture. What’s your trouble? Wanting your breakfast? No? Never really seen you turn down food before. That’s strange. Got something to tell me? Well, out with it. You see something out there?”
Muninn’s chortles and rasps, though, insistent as they were, did not quite sound to Einar like the alarm calls he’d previously given when discovering potential danger and wanting his people to come and take a look. Seemed he was simply anxious for some company outside, wanting, perhaps, to go on one of the rambles the two of them had so often taken, perhaps hoping Einar was ready to go back out on the trapline for the morning. Well. The bird had seemed to enjoy being in the valley, following the river and picking bits of meat from the odd muskrat carcass now and then, when the trapping was most successful, and Einar supposed he couldn’t blame the raven for wishing to return to that arrangement.
“Patience, critter. We’ll all be heading down there, soon enough. That is what you want, yeah? Head down to the river, spend a few more days running that trapline and tossing you the occasional muskrat?”
The bird tilted his head, stared at Einar with his bright, unblinking black eyes and let out a series of soft chortles which sounded almost like agreement, but not quite. Then, in a move too quick for Einar to effectively counter, he hopped closer and seized the envelope into which the transcript had been tucked, flapping his way to the main door, which Liz had briefly opened in order to eject the little pile of wood chips, spruce needles and other debris gathered up in her routine morning sweep of the cabin floor, and quickly disappeared through the opening, envelope in tow.
Einar was on his feet, sharp intake of air at the hurt of putting weight on them once again but then he was moving, diving after the bird and narrowly missing losing a hand to Liz’s quick slamming of the door. Brought up short by his rather sudden and forceful encounter with the stout logs of the front door, Einar sat stunned for a moment, rubbing his head and trying to get back some feeling in battered hands but before he could get himself together and on his feet again Liz was already taking action, bolting the door and heading for the tunnel.
“I’ll stop him. I’ll get it. You stay here with Will!”
“He may not listen to you. Let me go. I need that stuff back.”
But she was already gone, Will awake and crying after the commotion, and what was Einar to do? Stood hesitating by the door, wanting to dash out there after her and do his best to talk the raven into returning the envelope, or at the very least follow the bird so he might see where he dropped the thing, when he tired of carrying it. Ravens leave no tracks, and the papers might be lost forever if no one watched carefully to see what his course might be. Yet, he could not go. His son needed him, needed someone, and there was no one else around. He turned, swallowing the near-frantic urge to flee after that departing bird, sat down on the bed and carefully took little Will into his arms, rocking and bouncing him until both father and son were quiet, settled, breathing in concert and finding themselves better able to get through the present moment and see what the next one might bring.
Silence. That was what it brought, the passage of time, no sound of Liz crunching back through the snow and he wanted to go out there and help her search, follow her tracks and call for the bird. She’d left her parka, and though its arms and torso were, he knew from trying previously, far too short for him, he would indeed be able to fit himself into the garment and still have room for Will to ride in the hood all snug and warm, and he laid the child down on the bed, struggled into the parka and stood, prepared to lift the little one into position. And promptly fell to his knees, legs turning to jelly and a great blackness welling up before his eyes. Blinked it away, taking in great ragged gasps of air that suddenly seemed far too thin, not enough oxygen, not doing the job, got back up onto the bed, staring hard at Will’s face in an attempt to get his bearings. Could do it with enough concentration, knew he could keep himself on his feet…but what if he was wrong? And fell on or against something hard, or even on his back in the soft snow, passed out and did not wake in time to prevent the child smothering? Shook his head hard to clear it of the horror brought by such a thought; no way he could risk it. Not unless both their lives should depend on his making a timely escape and Liz was herself not there to do the job, and that certainly wasn’t the case just then. You’re not going anywhere with this kid right now, not over a few scraps of ancient old yellow-edged paper. No way. “Looks like it’s you and me here, little one. Guess we’re just gonna have to manage it, somehow…” And the child answered with a series of soft, repeated sounds, finding, as usual, something to smile about in his father’s demeanor and manner of speech, and Einar, still blinking hard against the blackness, smiled back.
The raven was gone. Liz at first ran after him, ran, at least, in the direction she thought she’d seen him take in the lone glance she’d got out the front door as she slammed it in Einar’s face, eyes scanning the treetops and searching bits of open sky as she went, but he was nowhere to be seen. Winded from slogging through the deep snow and knowing there was no sense in haste, anyway, when she really had no idea whatsoever in which direction she ought to be going, she finally slowed to a walk, chewing on a bit of compacted snow and calling softly for the bird, and then more loudly. Nothing, no response at all.
She half hoped the bird might carry the envelope so far before dropping it that they’d never see sign of it again, or of its contents, or that by the time they did stumble across it, everything would be rotted by the action of a few freezes and thaws, beyond reading if not beyond recognition…but quickly pushed that thought aside. Einar had already offered to allow her to burn the documents, and she had--rightly, she still believed--refused. He, alone, ought to be the one to destroy them, and only when he was ready. For now, she must find and retrieve those papers. And do it in a pretty timely manner, too, so she could get back to the cabin before Will grew too hungry, or…well, never mind about the “or.” They’ll be just fine, the two of them. You just hurry up and find that bird!