24 July, 2012

24 July 2012

Liz had been gone for what seemed to Einar a dreadfully long while, and the baby was screaming.  Hungry, no doubt, as he seemed to eat nearly constantly when she was around, but Einar of course had nothing to give him, resorted to checking and then changing his diaper, instead, in the hopes that it might make him a bit more comfortable as he waited for his snack.  Didn’t work.  More screaming, the thin, shrill sound nearly proving more than Einar could bear after the first ten of fifteen minutes, as it seemed to set his teeth on edge and leave him a bit frantic to be somewhere else, but he simply gritted his teeth and got the child back into his arms, rocking, swaying, hoping movement would suffice.  He wanted very much to get up and walk with the baby, pace the cabin as he’d done on many nights during those first few weeks of his life, when Liz had needed a bit of a break, a bit of sleep, but he feared the dizziness that threatened to overcome him every time he rose, could not bear the thought of potentially hurting Will in his clumsiness.  So he remained sitting, cradling his son in his arms, draping him over one arm on his stomach--he’d seen Liz do this, a usually-successful attempt to alleviate gas pains for the little one--and propping him up against his shoulder, trying everything that came to mind.

Still, the child cried.  Shrieked.  Face red, eyes pinched shut and forehead wrinkled, angry and uncomprehending at his sudden lack of warm, plentiful food on demand, he used his strengthening voice to wail his displeasure to the world, wanting, needing an answer, and though Einar tried his best, he could not seem to provide one.  Food.  Little one needed food, but he’d never had anything other than Liz’s milk and that wasn’t available, Einar wondering with a sudden cold fear what he would do should Liz fail to come back that night, fail to come back at all, how he could ever keep the child alive should something happen to her.  They’d talked about it before the birth, but head aching, echoing with those ceaseless wailings, he struggled to remember the details.

Liver.  Was pretty sure his plan had involved liver, mashed to a fine gruel in deer or elk broth, enriched with bits of bear fat and marrow, some spruce needles for vitamin C and then strained, fed to the child drop by drop if necessary in what would surely be something of a desperate effort to keep him alive…  Also remembered Susan bringing a bottle and can of formula when she came up before the birth, but he hadn’t seen them since, and did not know where Liz might have stashed them.  Should have kept track of such things, he supposed.   Please, please come back Lizzie, let her come back, this little guy needs her awful badly if You’re willing…

Likely, she would come back. Weather was fine, skies clear, she was strong and healthy and knew her way around the place, could always follow her own tracks back home, if nothing else, and he told himself to settle down, stop worrying so much. Try again to comfort the child.  It was a temporary thing, the screaming.  He could live with it.    “Snorri, Snorri, what else can I try?  I’d walk with you, run with you but my legs…just can’t trust them now little one, hate that but it’s the fact, so here we are, and the swinging and bouncing don’t seem to be doing it for you anymore, do they?  What do you need?  What can  I give you?”

Perhaps, despite the woolens brought by Susan--the baby had only just recently grown into them, and Liz had been using them for him nearly constantly, since--Will had grown chilled there in the rather cool air of the cabin; Einar realized with something of a start that he hadn’t even thought about the fire since Liz’s departure, and it had surely begun to go cold in that time.  The child felt warm enough to him, warmer than his own hands, for sure, but then most things tended to be warmer than his hands, those days, most living things, at least, so that was not a good measure.  Couldn’t think of a good measure, and with the wailing continuing unabated, he decided to give something a try, slipped the child down the front of his shirt and lay back on the bed so that Will rested stomach-down on his chest.  For a few moments he rooted about frantically for food, unhappy and slightly confused when he found none but eventually relaxing, warm and feeling safe there where he could her the beat of his father’s heart, feel his breathing, and, exhausted, he slept, Einar pulling the corner of a deer hide over the two of them and sleeping, also, totally spent.

Muninn was gone.  No sign of him in the great high blue arch of the sky overhead, no telltale black hulk in any of the surrounding spruces, and he would not respond to her call.  Perhaps he would have to Einar’s; the two of them did seem to have some special understanding, and as she continued searching, wandering here and there through the snowdrifts in search of any sign of the bird, she began to second-guess her quick decision to try and keep Einar in the cabin.  The raven might fly for miles if he really wanted to, and she knew their chances of finding the documents after such a flight had to be quite small.  Up the trail towards the spring she traveled, calling, hoping that with an elevation gain and the thinning of the trees she might have a better chance of seeing something, but no sign of the bird made itself obvious, and after struggling halfway up to the spring through deep, drifted snow, she turned back, seeing little point in continuing.  He could have just as easily taken off up to the rocky buttress of the cliff, or sailed silently down to the valley to drop the envelope in the river…  She could, at least, make a trip down through the willows and to a spot which overlooked the basin--her initial goal in heading for the spring, but the snow had proven too deep to reasonably continue without snowshoes--before returning to the cabin.  Sticking to the heavier timber around the willows would help keep her out of some of the deeper snow, and perhaps if the bird had tired of carrying that thick envelope in his beak and dropped it somewhere in the open on the snow, she might have some chance of spotting it.

Still nothing.  Liz stood at the far edge of the willows, the low edge where the land fell away sharply and there existed something of a gap before the timber closed in again, perfect vantage from which to view a good portion of the basin, but still she saw neither raven nor envelope, not a sound in response when she called, first using the bird’s name and then the harsh, nasal note with she had occasionally heard Einar summon the bird; either he was too far away to hear her, or was deliberately remaining quiet and unwilling to respond.  She wouldn’t put it past him.  The bird was bright, clever and incredibly willful--a lot like Einar, really; no wonder the two of you get along so well--and might well have his own agenda that day.  Strange, for his usual agenda that winter had seemed to focus rather heavily on food and the obtaining of it, and all the food was back at the cabin.  Well.  The bird would return, eventually.  That was not her concern.  And if they never saw those documents again…maybe Einar would be able to accept it.  Breathe a sigh of relief at their departure and be glad that he hadn’t been called on to make the decision, himself.   She shook her head, squinted out at the snowy expanse of the basin, scanning.   Doubted it.  Couldn’t really imagine his being content with such an outcome; he’d run himself ragged, freeze what remained of his feet and likely as not die out in the snow looking for that thing.  She had to bring it back.  Kept looking, following the edge of the willows and continuing to scan every open area of which she could get a glimpse, climbing, following the increasingly steep break in the land until finally she reached a spot where the timber closed in and cut off her view of the basin.  Not much point in continuing on her current course, and she cut off through the timber, heading in the general direction of the cabin but with no intention of giving up, just yet.  Must try one more vantage point, first.

Having been out for well over an hour--probably close to two, judging by the position of the sun--Liz knew she really needed to be getting back, needed to feed Will, her body plainly giving her the signal that it was long past time, but she kept on, wanting very much to get up to a high point, give a few more raven calls and see if the bird would show himself, give her some idea of where he was and what his flight path might have been.  Cliffs up behind the cabin seeming the best option she headed for them, going far up and around the cabin and not allowing herself to pass near enough to hear, should Will be crying inside.  That would have ended her mission for sure, and she feared the consequences should it end without success.  Cliffs ahead of her, she climbed, searching, calling, hoping…

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