27 July, 2012

27 July 2012

Einar wanted to go.  Wanted it so badly that his frostbitten toes itched, which ought to have been better than the pain he’d been dealing with for the last couple of days, but wasn’t.  Did not understand why the raven had flown off with his envelope, nor could he comprehend the creature’s delay in returning, could see Liz was telling the truth when she said she’d done her best to try and recover the documents, but he knew the raven was more likely to respond to his call, and even if the papers were already gone, perhaps the direction from which Muninn flew would give some clue as to where the search ought to begin.  Liz had known the urgency with which he would likely regard the endeavor, knew also that, in light of her failure, she would be wrong to try too hard to prevent him from going on his search, but was well aware also of the fairly high probability that it would, in the end, kill him.  Even if he managed to make it back after the conclusion of his wild raven hunt—hardly a sure thing, seeing as he had barely been able to hold his head up for more than minutes at a time since returning from the valley—the further damage done his feet would likely lead to an infection which he could not survive.  Still, she had no intention of trying to stop him.  Likely as it seemed that the expedition would do him in, who was she to say that the untimely loss of those papers might not do the same thing?  Ought not; a man really should be able to survive such a thing, but with life and death hanging in such a fine, mysterious balance just then for him…well, she did not want to be the one responsible for his not making an effort to recover that envelope.  She could at most offer to go with him, hoping desperately, of course, that he might accept her company but never letting on how strong was her wish that he not go alone, and as he crept from his position beside the bed and began packing a light bag, she retrieved her parka and prepared to stow Will for the hike.

“I didn’t find him the last time, but how about Will and I come along?  Two sets of eyes are probably better than one when it comes to spotting things in the snow, and maybe with both of us, he’ll be more likely to assume there’s food along, and come when we call…”

For a long while he sat silent, staring at the ground or at his feet or perhaps at some third thing that only he could see, and then a strange thing happened.  Never even looking up, Einar quietly began removing the items he’d stashed in the pack.

“I’m not going.”

Unsure of his intent, she said nothing.  Which was foolish, and she knew it—the un-sureness, at least.  His intent was almost always exactly what it seemed, very straightforward, and she doubted this occasion would prove to be any different.  She wanted to be glad, jump about the cabin rejoicing at the good sense and wisdom of his decision, but she didn’t like the way he looked, all slumped over and defeated, not at all the way she liked to see him.

“You’re not going?’’

A little shrug, eyes still on the floor and the look on his face one which she wasn’t entirely sure she’d ever seen there before, a certain apathy which surpassed his obvious weariness and left his eyes all dull and dead, spark gone.  She didn’t like it.  Wanted him to change his mind, insist on going, be his usual, cantankerous self even if it nearly killed him, for this new thing, she could not help but think, certainly would.

Einar did not share her concern.  Knew he had made the right decision, though it crushed something inside him to admit as much, and with the decision done and final, he sought to busy himself with other matters, forget the loss of the transcript, picking up his half done coil of nettle cordage and concentrating hard on the task of getting his fingers coordinated, working in concert.   Managed it, added an entire foot to the rope as Liz sat watching him, wondering if she ought to offer to go out for another search but keeping silent, not wanting to seem to be questioning his decision.  Somebody ought to question it though, for instead of the peace which she expected might come with a readiness and resolve to let the thing go, let it be gone, buried in the snow to rot and return to the soil and perhaps allow its contents to fade once more to the shadowy corners of his mind where they might have a bit less impact on his daily life, he had the look of a man being forced by circumstances into something he did not at all want.  Just as she had refused to burn the documents for him when he had clearly not yet been ready to release them, she hated to see him give up on their retrieval when he had seen a need, apparently, to revisit them for some reason that morning.  She shrugged, left him to his cording.  Let him figure it out.  I don’t know what’s best, on this one.  Just don’t know.

The day went on, Einar barely pausing long enough in his cordage-making to eat the lunch of stew Liz made for the two of them--thickened to just the right texture with lily root powder, something he ought to be able to swallow without choking--limiting himself to three or four tastes, and she hoped his appetite was simply off a bit due to the hurt of his frostbitten feet and the two soakings they’d already necessitated that day, but somehow doubted it.  Wanted to take the rabbit stick to him, give him a good knock in the head before he could sink any more deeply into the thing and kick him out of the house until he either found the envelope or accepted its loss and came home ready to eat and live and go on, yet she really had no justification for doing so.  He had, after all, made the decision she would have hoped him to make, decided without her urging to stay in the cabin where his feet could go on healing and he would have a far better chance of making it through the day, not to mention the coming night…  She was frustrated.  Turned away from him--he wouldn’t look at her, anyway, had hardly looked up once from his project all morning, not even stopping when she changed the dressings on his feet, a slight change in his breathing being the only sign he gave of feeling the procedure, and she wondered once again how he did it--and scooped up little Will.

“What do you say, little one?  Time for you and me to go outside for a little while?  I’d like some fresh air, that’s for sure, and we could use a little more firewood for the afternoon, too.  Let’s take a walk!”  Will tucked safely into his parka-pouch, Liz stashed a few pieces of jerky in her pocket, put a hand on Einar’s shoulder by way of leave-taking, and ducked into the tunnel.

He could hear them out there, Liz going on about one thing and another, telling Will about the trees, the wind--yeah, windy; he’d been hearing it pick up for the past while--and pointing out to him the great overhanging cornice of snow on the cliffs back of the cabin, and he almost smiled at the hearing of it; she sure was a good mother.  Then everything was quiet, Liz evidently wandering a distance from the cabin, and Einar was left alone with his own thoughts--keep twining this stuff, just keep going; the work left his mind free to wander while very usefully occupying his hands, getting something accomplished--and with the increasingly wild buffeting of the wind against the stout logs of the wall.  Storm coming, he was pretty sure.

After a while Einar went out and smelled the air--Still no Muninn; was strange that the bird had not returned--an almost electric sharpness, spruce-laden and humid, saw the clouds scudding across the sky and read in these signs the telltale coming of a storm.  Big one, and that settled it for him.  Had to try and find that envelope.  Make one last try before the sky opened up and it was lost forever.  Again he sniffed the air, stared up at the barely-swaying tops of the spruces and firs, a restless motion, portending, and he set off to find Liz.

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