26 September, 2012
26 September 2012
For a long and terrifying moment Einar, waking, had no memory of the events of the past two days, knew only that a stranger had somehow gained entry to the cabin, had hold of his son and had managed to separate him from his rifle but had not taken the knife, and in that moment fortunately he did not act, but kept perfectly still where he lay on his stomach, scanning the room, making his plan. Rifle was right there, leaned up against the wall in its usual corner by the bed, and Liz…appeared not at all disturbed that the stranger had Will, and then he really saw the intruder’s face for the first time since waking, and he remembered. No stranger, exactly. That was Juni, enterprising reporter, student of the primitive life and all-around invader of the quiet and somewhat secure life they’d scratched out for themselves there in the basin…and he had to ask her about some maps. Get her to show him what she knew, what she’d seen in the federal documents to which she had been witness, and he was glad he hadn’t been quicker in going for the knife and attempting to “save” Will. Really needed that information. Wished she wasn’t there though, not for the night at least, for weariness lay on him like a load of bricks, and he wanted nothing more than to sleep, lie face-down on the good, solid floor, abandon himself to the soft, pressing silence that seemed rising all around him even then and not wake again for a very long time.
Certainly couldn’t sleep for more than moments at a time with this new person in the house, though. For several reasons, not least among which was the fact that she might not survive it. Not if he should happen to wake again as he had just done, disoriented and missing details of recently-past events but ready for action and that stranger anywhere near his little boy…no, not good for Juni’s long-term health and survival prospects--or for the general peace and tranquility of their household, either; Liz, he was quite sure, would much prefer to sleep at night without the intrusion of such concerns--and he needed her to stick around at least long enough to go over some maps with him. So. Had to stay awake for a while, that, or sleep out in the tunnel where he would be away from people but within clear earshot of any danger that might approach the cabin in the night; sounded to him like a fine solution, but he didn’t figure Liz would go for it. Probably wasn’t part of the program, his freezing all night in the tunnel, even if it did allow all of them better sleep and a higher degree of security.
Well. They were staring at him again, both of them. Hated to have people staring at him, and he wondered what the trouble could be, this time…until he glanced around again and came to the realization that he had, after flipping over in waking, frozen in some odd state of suspended animation, entire weight supported on one arm and the opposite knee. And it wasn’t working so well, anymore, leaving his limbs shaking and close to failure, and no wonder they were staring, for he must be quite a humorous sight at the moment, indeed. Enough of that, and he collapsed to the ground, rolling over and quickly assembling himself into something more nearly resembling your average wakeful, sitting human critter. Which attempt only left him somehow looking more awkward and out of place, Juni, having recovered quickly from the alarm of nearly being on the wrong end of Einar’s alarmed awakening, barely managing to suppress laughter. She managed, especially after a severe glance from Liz, to do it, quickly looking away and studying Muninn the raven, who sat shifting uneasily on his perch after all the uproar.
“So,” Juni spoke up, wanting to break what she took as a rather uncomfortable silence, “what’s with the raven? Did it just stray in here and stick around for the free food, or what?”
Einar shifted position once again, crouching beside the bed and getting his spear into his hand as much for balance as for anything else. “This is Muninn. He started following me a few months back, sticking close even before I started feeding him, and hasn’t strayed too far since. Good to have eyes in the sky, sometimes. He’s warned us more than once about trouble in the area, skiers, other human activity.”
“And has an uncanny way of being able to find either Einar or me if we get separated,” Liz added, “and lead us back to each other. I like having him here, even though he is a terrible beggar, and clever enough to usually get what he wants, even if we have no intention of giving it to him! We have to really watch when we have jerky drying, or he helps himself to entire strings of it.”
Juni looked thoughtful, then she smiled, holding out piece of meat left from her supper stew, waiting patiently until the raven hopped forward and seized it from her fingers. “Muninn, the Old Norse raven of mind and memory, if I remember correctly, sailing over the battles and movements of mankind and returning every evening to his master to report the happenings of the day. Who does that make you then, Einar Asmundson? Raven on your shoulder, grim look on your face, spear always in your hand, a wanderer over the earth…”
“Hey now, at least I still have both of my eyes,” Einar growled, dismissing the reporter’s reference to the mythology of his ancestors, “and my tree is a pine, not an ash. Old dead limber pine.” Which left a question in Juni’s eye--what tree? What are you talking about, now? I was just joking around with those myth-references, but you don’t really seem to understand about jokes, do you?--but she did not ask it.
Good thing, too, Einar silently scolded himself, that she didn’t ask. Gonna get yourself in trouble here, unless you’re prepared to tell her that yeah, you do on occasion find yourself with a pressing need to spend some time in silent communion with the harsh elements of winter while attached rather firmly to a certain dead pine up at the dropoff. Sounds like a real good thing right now, actually. Wish I was there. But she sure doesn’t need to know about any of that, and neither does Liz, ’cause she’d surely cave my skull in with her rabbit stick if she knew it was harboring such thoughts. Huh. Really gonna miss that place once we’ve had to move on. Have to find a new one, I guess. Shook his head, got creakily to his feet and braced hands against the ceiling for stability.
“How about those maps? You ready to show me what you know?”
“If you have the maps, I’m ready to show you what I remember.”
“Yeah, we’ve got the maps,” and he searched, found them tucked away above one of the rafters where he and Liz had taken to storing papers and other flat items, pulled them down. Only to have the large, flat envelope containing the transcripts of his debriefing tumble down after them, spilling its contents all over the floor as the well-worn yellow paper split down one side.