11 September, 2012
11 September 2012
With Liz starting some stew over a fire of dry spruce sticks collected by Juni and nestled in a nearly snow-free depression at the base of a large tree, Einar crouched on his heels some distance away, trying to make sense of the situation and decide on their immediate course of action. For one thing, he rather wished they didn’t have the fire and was reluctant to go near the thing, himself, but Liz had strongly insisted and really, he could hardly expect her to spend a night out with the little one, without some source of warmth. Unless, of course, he had some reason to believe the fire’s presence put them in imminent danger of detection, and as he hadn’t been able to come up with a strong enough argument to that effect, she’d got her fire.
Well. With the two women hard at work, Liz cooking and Juni running around in search of additional firewood, Einar figured he had no business sitting there doing nothing, and he rose, stumbling a bit but preventing a fall by pressing his arms against opposing trees, and went in search of a favorable location for a night of camping. Not that he would be getting any sleep, not considering the situation, but perhaps Liz would. She had, he saw, chosen the area reasonably well, a deep bed of pinecone remains revealed by the scraping away of bits of still-powdery snow which had been prevented from melting and soaking into the ground as of yet by the heavy cover overhead. Would be a dry and fairly warm place to bed down, and he scratched out a spot for Liz and Will, figuring Juni could prepare her own and knowing that he, intending as he did to spend the entire night watching on the chance that the whole thing proved, after all, to be a trap of some sort, would be having little need of a bed. Liz would probably object, want him to be warm and all that, but circumstances had changed rather drastically, and surely she must make some allowance for that.
Speaking of being warm, he was not at present, was in fact shaking so hard that it was becoming difficult to control his hands sufficiently to finish making Liz’s sleeping nest for the night, and he stood, pressing arms close to his body and making sure he was well hidden by a tree before letting the shaking try to warm him. Wasn’t working. He’d quite thoroughly used up his meager reserve of energy making the hike up to the overlook that morning and quite gone beyond it in dealing with the stranger in the basin, and now his body was left with little to draw upon, its efforts insufficient and he only grew colder standing there. Stand there he must, however, for the spot slightly overlooked the basin and gave him the only clear view in the area of its white expanse, and though the enemy, if they were about, would probably approach either from the air or through heavier timber where detection would be much more difficult, he did find himself with a definite need to keep watch over the basin, itself. Just to be sure nothing moved. Besides which, he wanted to keep away from the women. Liz could handle herself just fine, and this gave him an opportunity to observe Juni, make sure she demonstrated no hostile intent towards his little family. That was what he told himself, anyway. In reality, his motivations were largely based upon wanting to avoid having to answer any more of her questions. Muninn--too shy of the new human presence to beg for stew fragments and intent on guarding the elk carcass, besides, was watching the basin and would, Einar knew, be the first to see and report anything untoward that might appear out in the snow. Which was a good thing, for Liz was calling him, coming for him, and this time she did not appear inclined to accept his refusal.
“Stew’s almost ready. How’s the bed coming along?”
Thought he’d answered--good, looking good, you picked a nice dry spot--but Liz was staring at him as if still awaiting a response and he attempted to repeat it, but suddenly was shaking so hard he couldn’t get the words out. She had him by the arm, leading him.
“Let’s go to the fire. Come on, supper’s almost ready and you haven’t sat down since this morning, I don’t think…”
There by the fire Einar tried very hard to conceal the shaking from Juni as he began thawing in its warmth, but to no avail. She was watching him, her journalist’s curiosity clearly hard at work, and he looked away, hoping she would go back to talking with Liz, but there appeared little chance.
“What’s the matter? Are you really still that cold?”
He shrugged. “Not…so cold. Winter in the high country. Supposed to be…cold. Not a problem.”
“It sure looks like a problem.” She glanced at Liz as if wanting some backup, wanting her to step forward and do something, but Liz only shook her head as if to say, don’t bother.
“It’s because you’re so skinny, isn’t it? You’d probably be freezing even if it were summer. I though you were a little scrawny last time I saw you, but now…wow, what have you been living on, anyway?”
“Oh, we’ve got plenty. Had plenty all winter.”
“You sure do have a healthy-looking baby boy here, so I believe you about having plenty. What is it then? Are you sick?”
“I’m sorry. Too many questions I know. I am a journalist if you remember. It’s what we do. We ask questions. But this isn’t an interview, and I’ll try to stop treating it like one. Oh! I’d love to do interviews with each of you about what it’s like to be living up here with a baby, the challenges of going it completely alone for something like that…what you see the future being like for your son, up here, but I guess there’s not much chance of that happening, is there?”
“Nope, not a chance.”
She turned to Liz. “He sure is talkative, isn’t he?”
Einar had plenty to say, actually, but most of it couldn’t be said in Juni’s presence, and he motioned Liz aside, asking Juni to tend the stew and moving some distance from the fire’s glow before sitting down on a snowy log and waiting for Liz to settle beside him, grave and serious and wanting to get some things talked out before the fire and food had their effect on him, and he began growing hopelessly sleepy.
“Well, we’ve got some things to decide, here. Big decisions to make.”