05 October, 2012

5 October 2012

After his discovery, Will crying and everyone looking his direction, Einar had to join the little group in camp, carefully avoiding looking at Juni and she at him so that Liz had to wonder what could have possibly transpired between them during the few minutes in which she had been away gathering snares.  Well, whatever the matter might be it would simply have to wait, for supper was ready and she intended everyone, and Einar especially, to eat without delay.  It wasn’t much, their cold supper of pemmican and chokecherry-honey mush, but when the half frozen pemmican was sliced and spread with the sweetened fruit paste, it seemed to the hungry travelers nearly as appetizing as it was nutritious.  Liz only wished they might have a fire so hot tea or broth could be enjoyed with the meal, but she and Einar had already discussed the matter, and he wanted, for that first night at least, to minimize their signature as much as humanly possible.  Which, hunkered down in a clump of timber without fire or even shelter, save the over-arching trees, they certainly were managing to do.  Except for the noise made by little Will, and expecting a good deal of his trouble must be due to hunger, after several hours’ travel without a snack break, she took him from Einar, fed him before enjoying her own portion of the meal.  While Einar had, of course been unable to feed him and thus unable, past a certain point, to go on keeping him content, the interlude had seemed to do both of them a great deal of good, Will finding at least temporary contentment in the change of pace and Einar, for his part, having no choice but to warm up after his time digging about in the ice, Will requiring constant motion to prevent his wailing.

Already with his cessation of the forced movement brought about by having Will in his charge Einar was growing cold in the deep shadows of the evening; Liz could see it, but figured this was one time when he’d simply have to deal with it, himself.  She’d too many other things to do at the moment, and could hardly be watching him every moment, in addition.  Not that he’d have wanted her to do that, in the first place.  He’d get through just fine, would have to, as he wouldn’t want to risk leaving his family alone with the uninvited stranger whose presence for some unknown reason had suddenly become all but intolerable to him.  Because of this, she was confident that he’d figure it out, find some way to stay warm enough to keep hands and feet useful, should they be needed for the defense of his family.

Supper, and they ate in silence, Einar crouched with his back to a tree, Juni a respectful distance away and Liz between the two of them, still feeding the seemingly insatiable Will as she enjoyed her own meal, the rich, fatty pemmican a satisfying and warming meal when combined with her hastily-improvised chokecherry preserves, no one even thinking to complain that the whole lot was cold.  Finally Liz could stand the heavy silence no longer, and she spoke.

“Well, it looks to me like we’ve recovered almost all of the traps and snares, so we ought to be able to get a lot done tomorrow as far as establishing a trapline, don’t you think?”

A silent nod from Einar, a nearly-inaudible growl,  “yeah, we got all but a couple of them, have to chop those out of the ice with the axe, just couldn’t get at them without it, can do that in the morning or even in a couple minutes here when we get done eating.  I can work in the dark, can work all night if I have to.”

“Why would you have to do that?  We have time, don’t we?  Let’s all get a good night’s sleep, and set snares in the morning, don’t you think?”

A shrug, a glare, more silence and then Einar was on his feet, remainder of his supper set aside--he’d barely tasted it, actually, much to Liz’s dismay; she would have to see that the situation was remedied before they turned in for the night--and spear in hand, ready to go.  “About all the night’s good for, anyway.  Might as well make some progress on the trapping rather than lurking around camp the whole time.  You sure don’t want me around here, and it’ll be good.  I can keep the ice holes open, make the rounds every hour or so and stir up the water so it doesn’t freeze solid again, give us a big head start for when it gets light enough to set the snares.”

“Yeah, and the way things are going right now, you’d probably end up keeping those ice holes open by jumping into them every hour or so, wouldn’t you?  All night long.  And be frozen solid by morning.”

“Sounds about right.  Fella’s got to protect his trapline, you know.  In fact, I was thinking that instead of bothering with the snares in the first place I might just go diving for beaver and muskrat.  It’s like spear fishing, only you do it under the ice, and you really got to be on your toes, because those critters are pretty fast swimmers.  Anybody want to join me?”

Smiling at the welcome lightening of the mood--even if Einar was dead serious about wanting to spend the night in that icy water, as she suspected was probably the case, and she shuddered at the thought of it, gave thanks that he wasn’t down there alone, at the moment--Liz pulled him back down beside the tree and placed his unfinished supper in his lap.  “Sorry, I don’t think Will can hold his breath for that long, yet.  So delightful as this hunting method sounds, I’ll simply have to pass.  This time.”

“Oh, don’t worry.  Since it sounds so delightful to you, you can just wait for Will to fall asleep and come join me for a quick dip.  Seeing as I clean forgot to bring the waterproof nightvision diving goggles, spearfishing for muskrat is out until morning starts letting some light through the ice, anyway.”

“Another time.  I’ll come on that dip with you sometime when we can have a fire to warm back up, after!”

Einar laughed, nodded, rose, the hilarity leaving his eyes as he glanced at Juni, a dark shadow seeming to come over him.

“You’re really going,” Liz asked.

“Yeah, going.  I’ll stay out of the water, though.  See you folks in the morning, when trapline time comes.”

Liz was on her feet also, Will looking up at her in startlement at the sudden motion, the unaccustomed edge to her voice.

“Wait!  Take your dinner, at least.”

“Not hungry.”

“It doesn’t matter.  Remember our…agreement?”

“Give me a day off?”

“No.  Not now.”

He nodded, took the food she was pressing into his hand, stowed it in a pocket and left the camp.

Juni waited until he was out of sight, crunching of his boots faded to silence.  “This is my fault.”

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