31 October, 2012

31 October 2012

Things moved slowly that morning, Einar sleeping long and soundly as grey began to show above the high ridge to the east and light strengthened, Liz not at all inclined to disturb the first real rest he’d managed in days, but eventually not even the bear hide was enough to stave off the deepening chill of morning, and he began to shiver in his sleep.  Probably would have gone right on sleeping, anyway, such things little inclined to disturb him anymore, but his “escape” the previous night, followed by the mad rush up the mountain with a man on his back had taken its toll, and the trembling only served to accentuate the fiercely aching shoulders, bruised ribs and battered limbs which had resulted.  Half unwilling and from a great distance, he was brought back to an awareness of the world.

Eyes wide, wild at first as Einar raised himself on an elbow and glanced about camp but then came a slow, spreading smile as he regarded Liz where she lay tucked up close against him with Will sleeping in the crook of her arm, Muninn the raven keeping watch from his chosen boulder, and it seemed a very long time indeed since he’d been there in that place.  Home, with the people he loved and cradled in the very heart of his own dear, familiar mountains, and it was a very good place to be.  A brief shadow crossed his face as he saw Juni where she crouched bringing the fire to life, remembrance, the faint echo of a sorrow bitterly felt if already grown a bit more distant with the fading of the night, but it passed, a nod of recognition and she, too, was included in the smile with which he took in the camp.  Morning of a new day, and it was time to rise.

Easier said than done, and the look of glad contentment was temporarily struck from his face as legs buckled beneath him, breath catching in his throat at the hurt of movement.  He simply laughed at his own clumsiness and tried again, got it that time and walked stiffly over to the fire, Liz making Will warm and secure amongst the hides for another hour or two of sleep and joining him by the flames.  No words passed between them as Liz and Juni prepared a breakfast of stew, working together to crumble bits of jerky into the simmering broth and shave into it bits of bear fat with to fortify the meal.  Einar, busy feeding Muninn a strip of jerky broken into small bits, seemed little inclined to speak and neither of the women thought it best to break his quiet.  The silence was good.  Did not last though, as Einar was soon on his feet again and searching for his pack, not a problem except that four steps into the search he fell again, this time narrowly missing what would have been a hard strike to the head when he rolled at the last minute away from the trunk of a nearby spruce.

Not wanting to see a morning that had started so well end in disaster before breakfast was even eaten Liz hurried to his side, steadying him when he bounced with almost unnatural resilience right back to his feet, enthusiastic if not quite steady.

“Hey, hold on a minute.  Let’s go have some breakfast first.  The rest of it can wait, don’t you think?”

A grin from Einar.  “Sure, it can wait.  If we’ve got beaver and muskrat in the snares right now, they’re not gonna go anywhere before breakfast.  Let’s eat.”

Which they did, Will waking before they were halfway through and Einar, after Liz had given him a brief meal of his own, relieving her so that she could eat.  There beside the fire with Will in his shoulder and Muninn entertaining him by tilting his head and chortling on the boulder immediately behind--the child for the past weeks been increasingly fascinated with the raven’s shiny black eyes, iridescent feathers and complex vocabulary of chortles and rasps--Einar savored his own portion of the breakfast stew, still thoroughly overwhelmed at the gentle sigh of the wind through acres of spruce and fir, water gurgling beneath the ice, soft touch of his son’s cheek against his own, the wonder of being home.  So enamored was he in the little details all around that he nearly drifted off into sleep observing them, startling back to wakefulness at Will’s protest as the little one began sagging, slipping, sorry fella, don’t know what happened there.  Let’s get you back upright again where you can get a better look at that bird.  Will was no longer content with simply watching, however, wanted very badly to get a handful of sparkling black raven feathers and Einar, knowing he would lose his grip on the furiously squirming child if he didn’t give him some freedom, eased him to the ground.  And, child safely out of the way, promptly slumped back against Muninn’s boulder, out cold.

Woke smiling again, ready to get up and go but Liz was bending over him with more broth and insisting he drink, which he did, time to go check the snares, but she seemed to have other ideas.

“What do you think,” she started, pressing yet another pot into his hands, this time full of water, and it felt surprisingly good and cool as he drank,  “call this one good, take our furs and go back up to the cabin for a while?  It would give us time to tend to the furs we’ve already taken.”

Einar looked genuinely surprised, perhaps even a little baffled at the suggestion.  “Furs will be just fine, and we just got here.  Place is seeming safe enough, no human activity and nothing in the air, and so far our snares are yielding pretty well.  Let’s go see what this morning’s yield is like, but I’d say unless it’s just impossibly dismal, we might as well go ahead and stay a few more days.  Can’t see any reason why not.  Weather’s gonna be starting to warm soon, and the quality of the fur will only go downhill from here.”

The two women exchanged glances, Juni not quite rolling her eyes and Liz shrugging, both of them having some pretty good ideas of “why not,” but neither wanting to come right out and say, because last night just about killed you, that’s why not, and even if nothing like that happens again while we’re down here, you’re looking likely as not to wake up frozen solid one of these mornings…  So they said nothing, Liz determining to have that conversation sometime later in the day when she and Einar could be alone.  No sense bringing another person into it, further complicating the matter.

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