The following morning Einar rose early in anticipation of their coming trapping expedition, taking leave of Liz and Will and quietly stoking the fire, hoping not to wake Juni. He wanted to do a bit of scouting before taking off for the valley, took the binoculars and his parka and slipped out for a quick climb up into the cliffs up back of the cabin. His attempt at stealth did not entirely work, and Liz--a still-sleeping Will snuggled down on her back as if she’d expected to be gone for a while, and he wondered if she’d been planning to follow him--met him in the tunnel as he struggled to get into his boots, hand on his shoulder as she crept forward to assist with the task. It wasn’t easy, but together, they finally managed.
“The juniper really was helping, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, some. I’ll get by, maybe try it again in a few days if things haven’t started improving, any. Right now just want to take a few minutes up in the cliffs before we go, watch the valley for smoke, any sign that we won’t be alone down there. Muninn’ll warn us as we get closer and I know I won't be able to see everything from up there, anyway, but still think I ought to take a look.”
“I think you ought to consider saving your energy for the hike. It’s quite a climb up to the top, back there.”
Resolutely, he shook his head. “Nope. Figure if I can’t make it up into the cliffs and back, I sure got no business heading out on a trap run to the valley, in the first place. It’ll be a good test.”
She nodded--couldn’t argue with that, but only hoped he would be able to honestly assess the results of the test--squeezed his shoulder and watched him go, heading herself out to their hanging pantry in the spruce grove to check on everything before their departure, cut some frozen meat for the trip and hang their newest batch of jerky well out of reach of hungry scavengers
Juni, meanwhile, had been awakened by all the movement but stayed in the cabin to pack, rolling up her sleeping bag, stowing her few possessions in her pack and wishing, as she did so, that Einar had not so thoroughly hidden her camera, as she would have liked to take it along and record her first experience on the trapline. Wondering if perhaps she might be able to find it--the consequences of such discovery, she knew, were unpredictable at best, but she was willing to risk Einar’s wrath in order to recover the camera--she searched in and behind several of the baskets which held Liz’s dried serviceberries, chokecherries, lily roots and other footstuffs, but she found nothing. Scanning the cabin for other possible hiding places her eyes fell upon the orange envelope whose contents Einar had accidentally spilled in retrieving the maps, and her curiosity got the better of her. Waiting until she no longer heard the fading crunch and crackle of Liz’s boots in the snow, she carefully slid the envelope from its spot in the rafters, checked to see how the papers were positioned so she would be able to put them back exactly as they had been, and began reading…
So absorbed was the reporter in the narrative that she entirely missed hearing Einar’s approach until he was in the tunnel, itself, saved only by the fact that he stopped to knock some of the snow from his boots and repair a small section of the wall which was losing its insulation, weaving willow wands back into place as Juni desperately stacked, straightened and shoved the transcripts back into their envelope, all but tossing it back up into the rafters and hurrying to look busy with something else before he could make his way in through the door.
“Ready to go?”
“Yes. Almost. I’m just packing.” She was sure he would hear it in her voice, the tremor, the guilt, the fear that he would know what she’d done, even if she never let on, but fortunately he seemed little aware of such nuances of human expression, that, or she was a better actor than she had known. Or both. Either way, the realization emboldened her somewhat.
“She took Will and went to get some meat for the trip. Einar, I…”
“Well you’d best hurry up and finish packing then, because I want to get down there with plenty of daylight still left to make camp, and the day’s moving right along.”
“I just want to ask…” but--fortunately, no doubt, for Juni, who surely would have thought better of the thing she’d been about to ask, given time and distance and a bit more thought about the potential results--he was already gone, ducking back out through the tunnel to find Liz and remind her to retrieve some fur scraps for the lynx sets he wanted to try, down by the river. He’d seen the tracks on his last, failed week down at the river, hadn’t had the opportunity that time to try for one or two of the creatures but the furs would still be good, and he meant to make the effort, this time. Liz, by the time he reached her, had not only already thought of collecting some of the fur scraps Einar kept hanging in one of the trees for just such a purpose, but had done it already, making a neat pile of everything on the deer hide she’d brought to aid transport and preparing to hoist it to shoulder and haul it back to the cabin for packing. Giving her a quick grin--the prospect of completing the trapping effort he’d started several weeks prior had him in an unusually buoyant mood that morning--Einar slung the bundle over his own shoulder instead, keeping pace as she started back for the house and thus wordlessly answering her question as to the outcome of his cliff-climbing test. He was, though weary and winded after the exertion, ready to go.
Fur scraps gathered, food packed and cabin closed up for the duration, Einar, Liz, Will and their uninvited guest started down towards the basin and the long, timbered steepness of the mountainside that separated them from the river valley, and their soon-to-be trapline.