30 September, 2012

30 September 2012

Juni, when finally Liz found her by the increasing sheen of an almost-full moon which was just then beginning to show itself through the spruce-tops, was not lost in the snow at all, but had instead found her way over to the series of trees where they kept their winter’s supply of meat, and was staring up at the stuff as if taking inventory.  Which would have made Einar terribly suspicious, no doubt, had he been there to see it, and Liz was glad that he was not.  As for herself she was somewhat less suspicious; Juni struck her as someone who was genuinely curious about their life in the wilderness with all of its intricacies and challenges, and a moonlight inspection of their food supply seemed not out of line with such curiosity.  Still, hanging back, she watched silently for a time, not wanting to reveal her presence until she was absolutely certain that no foul intention existed on the part of the young journalist, hand straying down to her knife at the thought that here, should any such nefarious purpose show itself, might at last be her chance to do away with the unwelcome guest whose presence she had come to see as threatening in so many ways.

The next moment, watching Juni lift her arms to the sky and do a little dance in the moonlight beneath their food-hanging trees, she was sorry for having harbored such thoughts in the first place for though unwelcome indeed and certainly making a mess of the tidy little existence they had managed at last to secure for themselves that past winter, surely this girl possessed no evil intent in showing up as she had done, and could not be so harshly dealt with as Liz had been seriously contemplating.  Not yet, at least.  She would bear close watching, and for a few minutes Liz watched, but Juni, growing quite cold without her parka, hat and gloves which had remained inside as hostages against her return, soon tired of her explorations and headed back towards the cabin, Liz hurrying to keep ahead of her and avoid detection.

Despite the events of the past day, everyone slept surprisingly well that night, Einar with weapons close to hand and one ear open for any movement in or around the cabin, Liz with an arm around him so she could be sure of knowing if he went anywhere in the night and Juni curled up in her sleeping bag beside the water barrel, Will quite oblivious to the world and Muninn keeping silent watch from his perch.

Early in the morning before anyone else was stirring Einar gently freed himself from Liz’s grasp and rose to greet the bitter chill of the not-yet-day, taking in a great breath of the sharp air and deciding that they needed a fire, had better have one before Liz got up and he began moving quietly about the cabin, seeking kindling and arranging it in the stove.  Had, despite the sound sleep of the night, known it was past time to rise when he had wakened to the sound of a hovering helicopter which proved upon careful listening not to be there at all; had he allowed himself to return to sleep at that point, he knew what would likely have followed, and the cabin was too full of people for such shenanigans.  Which was why he really belonged outside at night and always had--preferably tied to a tree for everyone’s safety, and he grinned fiercely at the thought, tucked already-chilled hands beneath his arms for a bit of warmth--though regrettably Liz could seldom be prevailed upon to see things his way in that regard.

Soon Einar had a fire going in the stove and stood shivering over its rising warmth, limbs so stiff and uncooperative that he thought for a moment he’d be compelled to huddle against the warming stones for a time before he would be able to get himself limber enough for any useful work, but he didn’t want to do that, did not want to display any such weakness in the presence of their uninvited guest--though she remained undoubtedly still asleep at that particular moment--and with a great effort of will he breathed his hands steadier, still shaking after several minutes of effort but their circulation much improved, and he fed the fire, took down the remains of the meat Liz had used for their supper and began carving up a breakfast stew.  Still no one stirring, and it was a good thing.  He wanted to have it ready before they woke.

Liz was in fact awake, though lying so still as to prevent Einar recognizing the fact, warm in the bed as she watched him shiver his way through the breakfast preparation and wanting to go to him, talk him into coming back to bed where he could enjoy another hour or two of warmth. Often as she had seen it and much as she knew he really did not only welcome the challenge but experience it in a far different way than she or most others would have, she still could scarce stand to see him struggle so with the cold, especially now when he could so little afford the expenditure of so much energy when it could have been avoided.  Yet, watching, she realized he was doing something about that, and the discovery came as a great and unexpected encouragement to her.

Whether due to an acute awareness of their coming move from the basin and his need to be stronger before that time or because of what he saw as a threatening presence in the cabin and his need to avoid showing weakness in the intruder’s presence--or perhaps a little of each--Liz noticed that Einar was definitely taking a more active interest in eating that morning, no longer simply forcing himself to do it by way of keeping his word to her, but actually snacking on bits of the meat he was slicing to add to their breakfast stew, and she was immensely glad to see the change, hoped it would continue.  He had never done anything like that during one of Bud and Susan’s visits, had, if anything, only become more reticent and stubborn in his resolve during them, but then they had at least to some extent been “friends,” whatever that meant to him; perhaps he had needed the presence of a real enemy, a real threat, even if in the person of this harmless-looking girl, to jar him out of the pattern that had so marked his life for the past year or more and get him taking an interest in the things needed for his own long term physical survival, once again.  A good thing, for she had been greatly worried about his ability to complete the change in location she knew he’d be wanting to accomplish as soon as they parted ways with Juni, had certainly seen him do things in the past which any observer would have reasonably believed beyond his ability, but even unshakable resolve and an endurance and resiliency beyond anything to which she had previously been witness must have their limits, and in loading up a good number of their earthly possessions on his back and striking off into the snow to find a new dwelling place for his family in his current condition, she feared that he would finally and irreversibly be surpassing that limit.  She must, then, hope despite her better instincts that Juni would somehow manage to stick around for a while, a good long while as Einar continued to build his strength, and lying there in the predawn chill as she watched him prepare the breakfast, Liz determined to do all she could to see that come to pass.

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