Two days and nearly a foot and a half later, the snow finally began moving out. Unseasonably wet and heavy, it had plastered itself all over one side of the cabin, whitening walls and further increasing their ability to insulate, closing off as it had any and every tiny crack which remained after Einar’s rather effective insulation upgrade that past fall, and by the second morning the sound of snapping branches began reaching them, entire trees giving way when particularly powerful gusts came up and further stressed their already heavily-laden limbs, wet snow failing to shake itself loose and fall to the ground as drier powder would have done. Fortunately nothing fell too near the cabin, trees in the immediate vicinity sheltered somewhat from the full fury of the wind by the near proximity of the cliffs immediately behind, and the thunder and crash of falling timber remaining a distant thing, not too threatening after the first few incidents--except to Einar, who jumped every time and couldn’t seem to remember that he didn‘t need to leap up in response to each crack, check on its origin--and even seeming somehow to add to the coziness and safety of the cabin. Even Muninn--repentant, perhaps, for his having dragged Einar through the snow, but more likely simply afraid that Liz would throw him out into the storm if he didn’t behave himself, which she was more than prepared to do--seemed content to refrain from his usual mischief and sleep, feathers puffed and beak tucked behind a wing, on his perch as the wind carried on just beyond the walls.
Einar’s feet had suffered some from their extended time out in the snow, the cold and damp proving less of a problem for them--he really had done a good job with his improvised boots of rabbit fur and elk hide, loose enough to allow for the further swelling which had been inevitable while still thoroughly protecting the already-damaged extremities--than had the pressure of bearing his weight up that slope and down again, and in the wake of that journey they had swollen terribly, wept, cracked and it had been all Liz could do to prevent his developing a serious infection in one of the resulting wounds. The effort had required a good deal of soaking, berberine washes twice daily when the dressings were changed, and though Einar always sat silent and unmoving through these sessions, staring with well-practiced unconcern at wall or stove and sometimes even helping to unwrap the old bandages, Liz could see in his eyes how it was hurting him, kept offering willow, which he consistently refused. Wanted to read, that’s what he really wanted to do, go through those documents as he’d been about to do when the raven first made off with them, but it seemed to be taking an awfully long time to translate thought into action, get his hands to respond, and even when finally he managed--come on, you can do cordage, so surely your fingers ought to be able to open an envelope, for goodness’ sake!--he couldn’t get his eyes to focus well enough on the words to make any sense of them. Distressing, perhaps, but not surprising, at least not to Liz, who had been with him during that first night of the storm, had held him through the hours of trembling as he slowly warmed, frequently replacing hot rocks, attempting to knead some life back into bloodless purple limbs and doing her best to ease a bit of honey in between clenched teeth when twice he fell to the floor all rigid and strange and stiff, muscles locking up and brain freezing in silent protest of his lack of energy, or sugar, or something; she hadn’t known for sure, but the honey did seem to help bring him out of it… Now, seeing his frustration at not being able to read as he wished to do, she took the papers from him, straightened the crimped folds he’d accidentally put into them with his clumsy hands and stashed the envelope once more up in the rafters where he’d first kept it, well within his view should he need it again.
Ridiculous as it seemed to Einar that he should not be able to manage so simple a thing as reading that transcript, he failed to fully realize that it had taken him well into that second day of storm to even regain enough strength to be able to sit up reliably and begin working on a little project here and there, his first evening and night back at the cabin spent fighting sleep and largely losing, Liz keeping him well supplied with hot rocks and urging hot, thickened broth on him whenever he seemed aware enough--or willing enough; sometimes she was unsure which might be the greater factor in his ongoing difficulty--to take it without choking. Which was not near often enough so far as she was concerned, and by that late morning when the snow began moving out, the sunken, almost transparent look of his face and the wide, staring white of his eyes--he couldn’t sleep anymore, lay, when he wasn’t engaged in cordage making or some other activity, with limbs all drawn up against the cold but refusing the hides with which she kept trying to cover him, staring at the ceiling, and she thought he looked scared, though she strongly doubted that he was consciously so--told her that she’d let things come quite far enough, and had better begin doing some serious insisting when it came to mealtimes. Was about to try and wake him a bit more thoroughly so they could discuss the matter, when another tree snapped beneath the weight of snow and wind--nearby, nearer than any of the others--and spared her the trouble.
Jarred to full alertness as if from a dream, Einar lay perfectly still for a full second, listening, waiting, but no further sound came and Liz, when he found her face in the dimness of candle and firelight, looked not at all perturbed by the crashing, so that he might have almost believed his ears to have betrayed him, had not Will set up a keening cry at the sound. So. It had been real. Blinking, rubbing his eyes he rolled to his side, rose. By a few inches. Seemed to be all he could manage, and that would not at all do so he redoubled his efforts, moving legs with his hands when he had to, getting them under him and rising to his knees.
“It was just another tree, that crash. Too much of this heavy snow, and then a big wind comes along…”
He nodded, felt like sinking back to the floor but forced himself to stay upright, not wanting to lost any ground. “How much snow?”
“Couple feet, I’d say. Speaking of feet, it’s probably time to tend to yours, but how about some lunch first?”
“Is it that late? Lunchtime?”
“Well, I’d guess sometime near noon, but we can call it breakfast, or dinner, or a midmorning snack or anything else that would suit you, so long as you have some!”
He tried to grin, ended up shivering instead and looked away before she could get after him for not being more thoroughly covered up, but of course it was too late, and she’d already seen. No reason to say anything, and she simply sat down beside him with a pot of that perfectly thickened stew she seemed so fond of making lately, offered it to him with a spoonful of honey. “Have the honey first. I want you to be able to get through the meal...”
Einar ate it, not understanding why the consumption of the stuff should be a prerequisite to eating stew, but uninterested in questioning her at the moment. He was hungry. Way behind after his long slog up the hill and the slow, freezing return trip through wet snow and wind, and he knew he’d better do what he could to catch up. Slow going, stomach wanting to rebel at every bite but he kept at it, sitting all hunched over beside the stove and watching Will as he lay half upright in buckskin sling on Liz’s front, playing with the end of a heavily knotted cord she’d tied to the garment for just that purpose and occasionally stopping to look up in wonderment at the ever-changing patterns made by the firelight on the logs up above. With Will to keep his mind from going in the wrong direction and Liz reminding him to get back to work whenever his attention seemed to be wandering, Einar managed to down a good quarter pot of stew; a small start, but a very good one.