02 September, 2012
2 September 2012
Light in his eyes--a harsh, unnatural light, not the light of morning--and a cold terror gripping his throat--must’ve found him, somehow followed his trail in the storm, and now they had him--Einar woke plastered against the tunnel door, knife in hand, rifle beside him and Will sleeping cozily, wrapped in the mountain goat pelt in the protected little circle formed by his father’s body. Einar was shaking and so stiff with cold that he could scarce hold the knife, but he had to hold it, had to get Will on his back and make a run for it before they had him for good and took his son away into captivity…
Lighting another candle, Liz saw the confusion in his eyes, did not at all likes the looks of him crouched over Will with the knife, appearing equally ready to fall upon her--or the little one--with the weapon or scramble out the door, probably taking Will with him into the night, and she moved slowly, crouching down beside the bed and setting the candle on the floor before her so that he could see her face. Didn’t see it though, did not seem to be seeing much of anything that was actually in the room, and indeed he was not, additional light glaring in his eyes and only confirming what he had already known; they’d found him, would soon have him--both of them--if he didn’t act. And then he heard her voice. Soft but insistent through the blood rushing in his head and the roar of rotors above the timber--so that was how they’d done it; storm must have stopped and they’d spotted him from the air, seen his heat signature through the trees, and surrounded him--she spoke to him, and he wondered if that was some trick of theirs, too, a ruse designed either to draw him out or simply to unnerve him, make mockery of his loss and drive him mad enough to make the rash decision which would end his life--and spare theirs. Must be a trick, for it was far too real to be coming solely from his own mind, imagination, and he despised them for it, but kept still, for clearly they wanted him to move, and he must not, not if he wanted to live, and to save the child…not that there was much chance, at this point. Not unless they hadn’t seen him yet, and he could still slip away… But he could not, for they were coming for him, then.
He saw the man advancing, alone, moving slowly in the beam of the light they’d got trained on him, and he grabbed for the rifle but his enemy agilely kicked it aside, darted away when Einar went for him with the knife and then he had Will, holding him as a shield so that he could not strike. He sagged back to the ground, mind racing and eyes still badly dazzled by the brightness of that light, knowing that he must act quickly and decisively to stop the man taking Will--I’m sorry little one, so sorry--or he’d be gone, and there would be no second chance. Gathering himself, measuring with his eyes the distance, he sprung…
The thing hit him squarely in the side of the head, splintering, sparkling fragments of pain and a moment of struggle, and then everything went black… Einar fought it, the formless darkness which came over him, knew, somewhere in the still-active recesses of his mind, that he must wake, act, yet for all his effort several minutes passed before he was able to do so, and when once again he got his eyes open it was to find himself wrapped securely in something warm, smothering, arms pinned tightly at his sides and Liz standing over him. Which could not be. He blinked, shut his eyes and tried again but she was still there, and he knew she must be an illusion, hallucination, glanced about desperately for Will only to see him secure in her arms, still asleep. None of it was real, and he struggled fiercely against whatever bonds held him so nearly immobile, not knowing whether they, too, might be simply a product of his malfunctioning brain or if perhaps the enemy had managed to restrain him, but either way they had to go, and he was well on his way to accomplishing this when Liz--the image of her, perfect in every way except for the fact that it could not be real, for she was gone--tucked Will safely away in his bed and threw her entire weight across the hide in which he was bundled, securing him more effectively than ever. Couldn’t breathe. Tried to roll, throw his assailant off to the side but he lacked the strength and the man pressed him into the earth, crushing his ribs and crushing the air from his lungs until things began going dark again despite the light, and then from somewhere down there in the rapidly encroaching darkness he got a whiff of willow, just the faintest hint but it was enough, and suddenly it was her there before him, his own dear Lizzie alive and present and far too real for any hallucination, and he stopped struggling, lay still as she loosed the wraps of cordage which bound the hide, helped him to sit up.
Still shaking, as much from exhaustion and the unbelievable reversal of the situation now as from cold, he reached out a hand and touched her arm, and she was really there, and it was so far beyond his comprehension that for a moment all he could do was to stare, shaking his head, wanting to be glad but still too tightly held in the grip of the horror that had been.
“They took you.”
“I am here.”
And she was holding him, gently freeing the knife from his clenched fist, setting it aside and doing her best to rub some warmth back into his chilled frame as his eyes wandered in disbelief from Will to Muninn to the intact front door and then back again to her face, and in the tears that came then was an odd mixture of relief, exultation, shame and a rejoicing so earnest and intense that he could scarce keep it inside, might have broken out in song had not Liz been speaking to him, he struggling to make out her words, and she sounded a good deal less joyful than he felt.
“What were you doing? What was going on just now? Where were you taking Will…?”
“Will… They came in the night and there was gas and smoke and I couldn’t find you, but I found him and we…” Stopped in silence, gazed for a long moment at the child where he slept safe and warm in his bed, still bewildered at the paradox of it all and looking as though he was not yet fully certain which world he was living in, dream and reality blending and swirling in an indecipherable and still-terrifying amalgamation, and Liz saw it, shook her head and offered him a sip of water.