10 October, 2012
10 October 2012
Finished skinning out the beaver Einar had brought in that morning and enlisting Juni’s help in stretching it on one of the lightweight willow frames they’d brought down for that purpose, Liz was ready for a trip down to the river and the four of them went together, Will on her back, Einar leading the way and Juni between the two of them, as Einar still insisted she travel. Down at the river they checked the traps and snares Einar had put out earlier in the morning, finding them all empty but not discouraged by the fact, as the hours had been few and Einar knew they needed at least a night to pass before they could reasonably expect to find anything in the traps. Wandering up into a dense stand of evergreens bordering a wide, slow portion of the river, they set snares for the martin and ermine who had left tracks and sign on fallen logs and scratched in the snow as they traveled back and forth from water to wood, Einar also creating a large cubby and arranging snares in the hopes of taking the bobcat who had clearly been preying on rabbits there in the thick tangle of willow which separated timber from the more open area along the river. A good day’s work--much walking and little speech; good for everyone--and as the sun began dipping low, they headed back for camp.
That evening Liz, tired of seeing Einar so cold all the time and ready for a bit of a break from the constant, damp chill of the valley, herself, worked to construct a reflector from nearby fallen timbers, dragging them over, breaking off intruding branches and stacking them so that the fire would lie between the wall of stone and her newly-constructed one of rock. This would allow its warmth to reflect not only from the rock surface as it would have, but from the logs as well, hopefully creating a pocket of relatively still, warm air where they would be sitting. She had seen the concept work previously with great success, and as darkness approached, looked forward to the evening with a fair amount of happy anticipation. It would be good to be warm again if only for a few hours before bed. Juni proved very helpful not only in the construction of the reflector but in gathering firewood as well, not even waiting for Liz to ask before venturing out to collect the dry twigs, sticks and branches which would allow them to have warm food that evening, and before dusk was properly falling, they were all ready for the night and it was time to begin preparing the stew of which Liz had spent a good portion of the day dreaming.
Liz’s reflector performed with admirable efficiency, working so well both to block the wind and reflect the fire’s warmth that before long they were all sitting there in the protected little space with faces warm and flushed and--save for Einar, who had his reasons--sleeves rolled up to the elbow, basking in the unaccustomed warmth. Will, glad to be out of the parka-seat which had been his home for large portions of the past two days, played happily on the mountain goat hide, which Liz had spread for him on a great dry pile of spruce duff some distance from the fire, raising himself on hands and knees and rocking back and forth with such lively insistence that finally he succeeded in falling forward to land on his nose. Undeterred by the accident and appearing more determined than ever in its wake--shades of his father, Liz could not help but think, and the thought scared her a bit, even as she found it encouraging--Will was back on hands and knees in a moment, striving once more for forward motion and this time achieving it, awkward motions of hands and legs assembling themselves into his first attempt at a true crawl, the results of which pleased him so much that he quite refused to give up practicing, until finally Liz scooped him up and offered him some supper. There would, she knew, be little containing him now, and he would have to be watched very carefully whenever free of the confinement of parka or buckskin sling.
Muninn had been unusually cautious in the presence of Juni since her arrival, had most of the time been keeping his distance ever since she showed up but he was always there, always watching, a black shadowy hulk perched high in the sheltering branches of a nearby spruce or fir, seldom approaching too nearly. That night, whether due to the rising odor of the warm stew, the relaxed and almost merry attitude of the little group around the fire or perhaps to some sense accessible only to ravens, some knowledge that his services were soon to be needed, was different. Rather than remaining perched high in his tree with the usual bird’s eye view of the camp, the raven sailed down on silent black wings to take up a seat on a large rock only feet from Einar’s shoulder, watching curiously as Will made his preparations to crawl and cheering him on with soft chortlings when finally he discovered the secret of forward motion. Einar, eating, tossed the bird several good-sized chunks of meat from his portion of the stew and might have kept it up until he was left with nothing but the broth had not Liz stepped in and insisted that he do a bit more of the eating, himself.
“The raven’s a scavenger. I’m sure this isn’t the first time he’s eaten, today. The stew is for you!”
“I’m a scavenger too, you know…”
“Oh yes, I know. I’ve seen you in action! But to stay alive, a scavenger has to actually eat what it scavenges, and while Muninn seems to have no problem whatsoever with that concept, you I’m not so sure about. So, eat.”
Which he did, smiling as Will--long ago done with his own supper--crawled awkwardly over to him and, clinging to his knee, pulled himself up into a standing position, forehead wrinkled in concentration and the expression on his face an odd mixture of triumph and intensity. “What is it, little one? You want a taste of this stew? Time to start tasting some of the variety this big old world has to offer? Well, I’d say you earned it, with all that effort. Got to ask your mama though. I about got my head knocked off a minute ago for sharing my supper with a raven a minute ago, and besides, I don’t know if she wants you tasting this kind of stuff, just yet.”
“He can try it. Just a tiny bit. Too early for him to be eating much that isn’t milk, but no harm in a little taste now and then.”
Will liked the stew, when Einar gave him the tiniest taste on one finger, eyes going all huge and round with discovery as he tasted, thought, reached for more, but Einar shook his head. “Enough. You can try more another day. Better go practice your crawling a little more, increase your speed and stability, and such.”
With everyone relaxed as they sat around the fire enjoying good food, warmth and the sight of little Will becoming more acquainted with the world and his ability to move through it, certainly more relaxed that they’d been at any time since Juni’s arrival, the reporter saw her opportunity, moved a bit closer to Einar where he leaned against a spruce, appearing half asleep in the warmth of the fire.
“You didn’t answer me before, and maybe that’s because you don’t want to, or can’t, but I’ll try one more time…about your time overseas and especially the time described in that transcript. How do you think it’s related to your time out here, to the things you’ve been able to do--and the ones you haven’t?”
Einar hadn’t moved, but the easy, relaxed look had left his face, body tense and fist clenched around the spear at his side. Muninn, watching from his rocky perch, hopped down and took a seat on his shoulder, twisting a bit of hair near his ear and chortling in the familiar, confidential way he had. Einar, irritated, wanted to swat at the bird but kept still, turned his rather considerable ire on Juni. “Now what’s that supposed to mean? The ones I haven’t?”
“It was only a question. No special meaning.”
“All questions have meaning. Yours are more pointed than some. What are you trying to do? What do you want from me?”