Breakfast finished, Liz tending to Will and Juni thoroughly engrossed in the carving of her first elk bone atlatl point after a quick lesson from Einar--he’d been hesitant when she asked…why teach the enemy how to make weapons?…but had finally relented, his love of passing on such knowledge overcoming any misgivings he might have harbored--all was quiet in the cabin that morning, the small sounds of life accompanying Muninn’s insistent tapping and worrying at a bone from the breakfast stew, soft crackle of the fire tying everything together. A pleasant morning, or might have been, had not a number of concerns weighed so heavily on the minds of everyone but Will and the raven. Einar, especially, struggled as he cleaned up from breakfast to come up with a timeline, some plan by which they might get everything that really mattered cleared out of the cabin and stashed safely before moving on, and do it without staying too long at what had become with the reporter’s intrusion a seriously compromised location.
Compromised only if and when she went on her own way though, he reminded himself, and though he was finding it exhausting to have such a guest on the premises, at least she was under their supervision while there, and unable to put them at any further risk. Unlikely to do it, at least. Was still some chance that, if really determined to do so, she could send a signal to passing searchers by way of an untimely and very smoky fire, or some such. So, she must be watched, but posed far less threat to them while their long-term guest than she would once out on her own. Still, the time must be put to its best use and that meant getting the remainder of their winter-frozen meat turned into jerky and packaged up for caching, a process for which Einar would have preferred them not have an uninvited observer present to learn their secrets and potentially contaminate the end results, but there was little choice, and as soon as he’d got the soup pot cleaned and set some water to heat for the tea he knew Liz would be wanting, he left the cabin to survey the raw materials remaining to be processed. Part of an elk, a few cuts of bighorn sheep and a deer haunch or two represented the bulk of their frozen meat supply; they had, over the past few weeks, done reasonably well in eating and processing what had remained, wanting to get the job done ahead of the warmer months to come, and he was glad for the head start.
Though they had not yet cached any of the results, the jerky and pemmican was at least packaged in the sturdy, waterproofed baskets at whose construction he and Liz had become so proficient, and could be placed at the first opportunity. Cold already after several minutes out in the morning chill without his parka--needed to take some time every day to work on his cold endurance, really felt as though he’d lost some measure of control over that particular aspect of his existence, still accepting and even enjoying the cold, but finding himself with increasing and somewhat alarming rapidity debilitated by its embrace--but determined to make the walk out to the meat-trees count for something, Einar braced himself against one of their trunks and lowered a deer haunch, meaning to bring it inside where partial thawing could prepare it for jerky-slicing.
That’ll be a good start, good plan for today if we get this entire thing drying, which with three of us slicing and hanging, we really ought to be able to manage. Then when we get this done, hopefully in time for tomorrow, I’ve got other plans if they’re at all agreeable to Liz. Had been intending to get down to the river one more time before the warmer weather really starts to set in, take a few beaver and muskrat for hats and warm things for Will, like I was trying to do last time I was down there. Didn’t’ go so well that time, but I’ve…yeah, admit it, Einar, you’ve been getting a little more to eat lately, and that ought to help a lot when it comes to keeping yourself alive and unfrozen at night, out on the trapline. May think you can get by on nothing at all, or that you ought to be able to, but sometimes the practice doesn’t go as well as the theory, does it? So. Time for a trapline run, and you might as well take the entire family this time, and the interloper, too. Liz’d never stand for you going off on your own again, and you know if you leave the two of them alone for a week or so at the cabin, you’ll probably come back to a bloody mess and Juni’s scalp hanging from the ridgepole, or something like that. Could happen, and besides, you wouldn’t leave Juni with your family, anyhow, on the slight chance that she really might have some ill-intent in all of this, and might try to make off with Will or summon the feds while you weren’t there to try and stop her. Better take everyone along.
Better be getting back to the cabin, too, for eating better or not over the past several days, he was still far from being able to effectively hold his own against the cold, and it was getting to him as he stood there immobile, especially with that frozen deer haunch over his shoulder, and he hardly wanted to have to explain himself to Liz if he ended up creeping back through the tunnel half frozen and entirely unable to use his hands. Wouldn’t do, and he got moving, laboring back across the hard-frozen surface of the morning snow and depositing his burden at the tunnel mouth, pausing before diving in to listen for any sign of danger, hearing nothing but the soft, reassuring whisper of the wind in the spruces.
“Who wants to go trapping down on the river tomorrow?” He tossed the question out as soon as he’d made it in through the tunnel door, not wanting to give Liz time to fuss over him for having frozen himself so in his short expedition to the “pantry,” hoisting the deer haunch up onto the granite slab they used as a cutting board as he awaited her answer. Liz, somewhat to his surprise, did not object, instead nodding something that might almost have been approval. We do need to get down there once before winter runs out, and he’s going to go mad sitting here all crowded into the cabin with me and our unwelcome guest and wondering all the time in the back of his mind if he’s figured things correctly, or if the feds are about to burst over the ridge at any moment in a fleet of choppers…a few days of trapping should do us all some good.
“If we’re going so soon, I’d better go ahead and make you some juniper tea, so your boots will fit for the hike.”
“Got to skip it today. Just about did me in I think, that last pot of it I had. Starting to do real unfortunate and unpredictable things with my heart rate, rhythm, even, and if it’s all the same to you, really think I’d better take a break from the stuff. Just a day or two.”
“Yes of course. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Just did tell you.”
“I mean before…”
“Because I was sick of not being able to get into my boots, and needed to try something. Juniper tea’s always done that to me, it’s just worse now than I ever remember, before. More noticeable. Need to take a break.”
“Yes, you do. We’ll find something else to try to help keep your feet from swelling. And no, going back to not eating anything is not one of the options, so you can just get that idea out of your head right now! You know why it’s probably having a more noticeable effect now, don’t you…?”
“Sure, I know. Heart’s just not as flexible as it ought to be, at the moment. Not as forgiving. Will get better.”
“Hopefully, if you keep eating.”
A dismissive shrug from Einar, but he did take a taste of the venison as he began slicing it for the first string of jerky; only one day to get ready for this expedition, so I’d better be working on it…