Three days later, and Einar was more sure than ever about his predictions of an early spring. All around them things seemed to be thawing, melting, and even Muninn the raven was growing restless with the strangeness of it all, leaving the cabin for longer and longer stretches of time to soar high above the timber, calling, seeking, perhaps, others of his own kind with whom to consort about the strange new developments. The snow had taken on the definite characteristics of spring, soft and slushy in the day and freezing to a hard crust at night, allowing both humans and animals to skip effortlessly over its surface during the still-frigid morning hours. Einar, his movements perhaps not as effortless as Liz’s but full of enthusiasm nonetheless, did his fair share of the skipping, taking full advantage of the easier travel conditions to establish a short but fairly productive trapline in the timber above the cabin. Many mornings he would return with two or three rabbits and sometimes a squirrel or two which had found their way into his snares, Liz questioning whether the meat and furs thus provided were really worth the energy he was expending in securing them, seeing as he had so little to work with just then, but she mostly kept her concerns to herself. The trapline was giving him something to do, getting him out of the cabin for a while each day without sending him miles from the place to freeze in the snow, and that made it enormously valuable, in her eyes.
The new ease of movement brought by the unseasonably warm days, however, did not extend past the early morning hours, snow surface quickly becoming soggy and then sticky as the sun hit it, rotten, and this brought its own set of challenges, especially for Einar. Moisture quickly soaked his improvised boots as the snow softened, mukluks and their relatives being well and good for the dry, cold snow of winter but performing less adequately when temperatures began climbing. Einar, suffering more from the worry of potentially losing more toes he was from the rather constant hurt of existing with continuously wet and half frozen feet, was glad when finally the swelling went down to a degree which allowed him to carefully ease his feet into his regular, waterproof boots again--a feat which had unfortunately been accomplished by his almost entirely giving up eating, once more. He’d figured--amongst other things--that this would be less detrimental than losing a foot or two to the additional damage which would surely result from walking about in the soaked, freezing hides and furs for a few weeks, and though Liz had not been so sure, she hadn’t put up too much resistance upon discovering what he was doing, and why. The goal was, after all, an admirable one even if his means were questionable; she no more wanted to perform a field amputation on one of his feet than he wanted to have it happen. She just hoped he’d try and start eating again after the swelling had been absent for a time, and she began working on ways to waterproof his improvised mukluks, should he show no inclination to do so. That would effectively remove his excuse and--she hoped--help her talk him into resuming his regular infusions of stew and broth.
Broth. That had become something of a contentious issue between them, Liz certain that, scientifically speaking, there was no reason at all why Einar should not be able to go on drinking broth without risking renewed swelling in his feet, and his refusal to try it seemed to her nothing short of a sort of deliberate, purposeless stubbornness, something of which she knew he was more than capable. That would not do, not in this case where his very life almost certainly depended on the speedy resumption of the sort of eating he’d been doing for a week or so prior--depended on his doing better than that, really, increasing the amount to a significant degree--and she was determined to see that things start heading back in the right direction. He could eat broth, and he would. With honey added, and a good dose of her secret ingredient, too. She was eating well, and there was more than enough for Will, including a stash which she’d collected and frozen out in the snow, against a time when she might find herself for one reason or another unable to provide for him for a day or two. She laughed a little, milk and honey, sounds like the Promised Land…and might be just the ticket, so long as he’s only aware of the “honey” part. If I can get him to take the broth, at all.
Einar, for his part, had stopped being concerned about eating the day after he stopped doing it; the swelling did indeed begin to go down fairly quickly, and that was all he cared about. Had to be able to wear his boots for protection in the wet snow, or he’d lose a foot or two. Might do so anyway, he had to admit when he allowed himself to look at the thing head-on; healing had been coming along pretty well so far despite his occasional use of the feet and the fact that he’d barely been getting enough nutrition to allow his body anything to spare on rebuilding damaged tissue of that sort, and now that he’d chosen boots over dinner--a choice which might have proven unnecessary had he considered the possibility of simply staying inside when the snow was too wet for his improvised mukluks, but the thought had never occurred to him--he knew the healing would inevitably slow even further. But would hopefully continue. Would be enough. He shrugged, went back to packing the cache of freshly-dried jerky whose completion had occupied him since returning from the trapline that morning.
Made from a pitch-coated willow basket which he had just that morning finished waterproofing, the cache was packed full of carefully-preserved jerky, part of the yield of the meat they’d been pulling down from its places in the surrounding trees and drying against the coming of warmer weather, and he was pleased with the way it was turning out. Most of the jerky he’d simply left as it was when finished drying, packing it into rough wrappers of sewn rawhide and stashing in the basket, but a portion of the jerky he’d pounded to a fine powder and mixed with liquefied bear fat, pouring this also into rawhide envelopes and packing the resulting pemmican in the basket, as well. The two varieties of food ought to provide them the energy they’d need for a good week of marching through the timber, and would, just as soon as the snow melted back well enough that they wouldn’t be leaving too many tracks in placing the thing, be concealed along one of their most likely exit routes from the basin. Einar was determined, now that the season was on its way, to prepare at least two of these baskets each week, setting them aside until placement could occur. So far, he’d assembled three in three days. Fast work, but working with food in that way--slicing and drying the jerky, batch after beautiful batch, packaging it neatly in rawhide and turning other portions into pemmican--seemed to help get his mind off the fact that he wasn’t eating it, and that, from his perspective at least, was a good thing. And a productive one. Liz could hardly complain, so long as he was getting so much work done.
She could offer him broth, though, and Einar knew he was in trouble of one sort or another when he saw her leave the stove with an unusually determined crispness to her step, cross the room and seat herself beside him, holding the soup pot…