12 November, 2012

12 November 2012

Two days later, Einar’s fever gone, back beginning to heal and a sizeable and growing pile of furs draped over the leaning aspen just outside camp, he decided that the time had come to head back up to the cabin for a while.  The weather was warming, ice thinning a little more every day and the river becoming, for several reasons, an increasingly dangerous place to be spending time, threat of human presence and discovery weighing perhaps even more heavily on Einar's mind than the very real risk of someone falling through the ice while out checking snares, and it was time to move on.  Besides which, they had accumulated a fair number of furs, fed themselves on the meat with some left over, and could scarce hope to carry their entire take should they stay too much longer and continue in their success.  The trip had served its purpose, and it was time to go home.  For however long the place remained home…  Which would in large part depend on Juni and her fate, a thing not yet entirely settled but he had promised Liz her week or three, and so it seemed for the time at least, they would all four remain at the cabin together.  Juni did not ask for details when, packing up camp and preparing for their return up the mountain, Einar and Liz went on with the apparent assumption that she would be accompanying them.  She knew the matter would surface sooner or later in an urgent manner and would then demand solution, but if for the moment they seemed willing to allow the situation to continue as they had been, who was she to upset things or to argue?  Instead, seeing departure preparations being made, she quietly packed her own things, sleeping bag, tarp, the two hides from the muskrats she had personally taken--had tried to give them to Einar to add to the collective take of hides, but he’d insisted she keep them--and prepared to go.

While Liz fed Will Einar packed their belongings, furs wrapped in bedrolls and lashed to the outsides of packs, traps atop them.  He, as usual, gave himself the heaviest load, Liz wishing she could relieve him of some of the weight in an attempt to spare his still healing back from further harm and allow him to conserve his energy a bit, but he insisted that the load was his to carry.  Cold morning, and this will help keep me warm as we go, he insisted, and she knew he had a valid point in mentioning such, for despite a warming trend in the weather, he seemed to be struggling more than ever with keeping himself warm enough to be out of danger, most of the time.  Not that he always tried particularly hard, but even when he clearly was doing so, the ice seldom seemed to leave his bones.  Liz suspected this surely must be due largely to the fact that his bones remained so near the surface in the first place, no weight appearing to have been added to his painfully emaciated frame over the past week or so, despite his diligent adherence to his promise to eat whatever she set before him.  Simply working too hard for any of it to really stick, she supposed; if anything, he seemed to have lost more over the past few days, and she could only hope the trend might begin to reverse itself some once they were settled back in at the cabin and able to keep a bit warmer, travel less each day.  Would simply have to reverse itself, if he was to be around much longer.  Physically resilient as he continued to be, she knew there must be limits somewhere even for him, and one of these times he would be bound to surpass them with one final injury, illness or night out in the cold, and he would be gone.  Much preferable were a few quiet weeks at the cabin, during which they could hopefully begin to see some positive results from his increased eating and rest.

Einar, happily oblivious to Liz’s ponderings--wouldn’t much have cared for them--was ready to go, pack hoisted up on his back and cinched around waist, furs hanging from every side and a big grin on his face as he stood staring up at the slope above them as if he could hardly wait for the challenge of ascending its heights.  Liz, also, was anxious to be getting home, their days at trapping camp having been difficult ones and an evening fire never a certain thing, and she slipped Will into his place in her parka, taking one last glance around camp to ensure that they weren’t leaving anything behind--Einar had done it already, but she wanted to make absolutely certain he hadn’t overlooked anything--and followed as he started off at a lively pace up the slope.  Juni fell in behind, unsure what to make of the fact that Einar no longer insisted she travel sandwiched between him and Liz as a security measure, but grateful and uninterested in too deeply questioning the development.

For a while the four of them climbed in silence, Einar pushing himself hard in order to maintain what he considered a reasonable speed and both women finding themselves somewhat amazed that he was able to keep it up, the way he’d been looking over those past few days.  Liz, though, knew him well enough to be well aware that the speed of his ascent, rather than necessarily being an indicator of improving health and strength, might just as likely be the almost-final effort of a man nearing the end of his rope, that final frantic little release of adrenalin and energy designed to get a fellow through the roughest bit of a very rough time, and on to a better situation where he could begin to replenish his energy stores and repair some of the damage.  Only, he never really did that.

She couldn’t remember how many times she’d seen him go through that and while of course always glad to see him somehow repeatedly come up with the energy to get through things that ought to have killed him, the trouble was that he never seemed to use that final little push of energy to start things improving.  Rather, he seemed to take their very existence as evidence that he really didn’t need to change anything at all, was doing just fine and could go on exactly as he was for an indefinite period of time, forever, perhaps, and she knew it wasn’t true.  Couldn’t go on much longer at all, despite the fact that he stubbornly went on defying the odds, pushing himself a little further each time and still somehow managing to keep waking up in the morning.  Well.  Time to deal with all of that later, after they were back at the cabin.  For the moment they simply had to finish getting there, and hopefully before dark, for as they gained elevation she could feel an appreciable drop in temperature, and with skies clear and almost purple against the snowy peaks, she knew it was destined to be a cold night.

Einar, she knew, would almost certainly not allow them to simply approach the cabin, go inside and settle right back in to living there.  He would want to watch the place for a while, find a high spot from which to observe and make sure not only that nothing appeared amiss, but that it went on appearing so for a good long while, before he should consider it reasonably safe for the rest of them to go home.  She could only hope that this part would go somewhat smoothly; times in the past were still quite vivid in her memory when it hadn’t, and though she supposed she ought to be glad that he tended towards being overly cautious rather then the alternative, she had at the same time seen him take the concept way too far.  Didn’t especially want to spend two or three fireless and freezing nights up in the cliffs helping him run surveillance on the place just to make sure it was approachable, so as they climbed, she prayed that their way might be clear to occupy the place that night, should they arrive in time.


  1. Thanks for the chapter. Interesting stuff going on. I'll bet Juni stays more than three weeks. But not with FOTH. He could write it any way he wants and take me for a bundle.


  2. Thanks for reading, Mike.

    Probably not a bad guess about Juni, but these things can be pretty uncertain...