19 November, 2012
19 November 2012
Starting out, it took Liz a while to find their tracks in the crusty snow and then she was delayed even further when Will woke and urgently demanded his breakfast, but with the sky slowly brightening and the snow slightly deeper as she climbed, the task grew a bit easier. Looked to her as though the same could not likely be said for the instructor and his student, their path at times taking them up terrain nearly vertical in nature and dreadfully slick with snow that had melted and re-frozen as ice on some of the exposed rock, and as she trailed them, frequently going around their chosen obstacles instead of up and over or, in the case of a massive patch of wild roses, through them--what was he thinking here? Guess it’s just like him, choosing the most difficult path--she saw several places where one or both of them appeared to have fallen. Always they had risen again, one sometimes helping the other but for the most part the two trails seldom even meeting, Einar appearing to have led the way. Of course he would be leading the way, and despite her concern for him, she could not help but feel a bit sorry for Juni, who would surely be finding herself engaged in a rather desperate struggle to keep up. Hard as Einar appeared to have been driving them, it was anyone’s guess whether or not she would actually be able to catch up to them that day if they continued moving, but Liz believed it worth a try. Had to try.
Daylight. Juni hadn’t actually caught sight of him for what seemed like hours, following largely by the sounds of his movement over the crunchy snow and, when the panting of her own breath too greatly obscured these clues and left her fearing she was lost, navigating by the occasional scratches and scrabblings left in the snow where he had slipped a bit in his climb. What would happen when finally she did catch up she could only guess, but somehow the prospect of being left all alone out there in unfamiliar territory in the snow with no gear and no dry clothes held a terror beyond anything else she could imagine at the moment. Ignorance, to be sure, a notion which would almost certainly not survive the day, let alone the week, but just then the pressing reality of it spurred her on to speeds which would have had her easily catching him, had it not been for the difficulty of staying on his trail. Must not lose the trail.
Far ahead, Einar was, could see her struggling along some three or four hundred yards down the slope, moving slowly as she searched out his trail through a section of mixed timber and bare, windswept rock, a difficult puzzle, and secure in the knowledge that she would be some time in catching up, he allowed himself for the first time to sink to the snow and rest for a moment, forehead against a spruce trunk and eyes closed as he tried to breathe away a welling nausea, dispel the billowing black shadows which had been stalking him since the light had grown strong enough to differentiate them from the surrounding blackness and allow the pounding of his heart to slow a bit, hopefully resume something more like a normal rhythm. Dangerous, this rest. Felt himself after a short interval not far at all from sleep, and it certainly wouldn’t to do have her catch him sleeping. Back on his feet, one glance down the slope and he was moving again, weariness obliterated by the realization that she had gained a good bit of ground, would soon be catching up if he did not stay on top of things. Which he would eventually have to allow her to do, but it was not yet time.
Up the slope ahead, up at a sprint which demanded all the failing energy he could scrape together but rewarded him with a much safer margin of distance, a needful thing if he was to put his plan into effect, and leaving the snow he scampered across an area of open, windswept granite, tilted some forty degrees and quite slippery with a barely-there dusting of icy windblown crystals skating on the edge of disaster and keeping on his feet only through a careful and constant movement which worked with gravity instead of against it. Gained the far side swiftly climbing up and around the giant granite slab and concealing himself in the little rock alcove he had so greatly hoped to find on its far side, scraggly growth of ground-creeping fir helping to further conceal his position.
Peering up over the ragged rise of rock before him he was able to get a good open view of the approaching slope as it swept away below him but the angle was all wrong, and glancing down to be sure his quarry was not too nearly approaching he deftly launched himself over the edge of the slab and into the snowy scree on its upward side, taking up a position behind the more favorable cover of a stand of stunted little firs. Better. From there, he could both see and maneuver himself into the necessary position. All that remained was to wait. Which, fairly desperately needing some time to catch his breath, might not have proven such a difficulty, had Juni’s progress not all but ceased when she hit the open area of nearly snow-free rock below. The rocks all but stopped her, though. Left her casting about for any sign of his passing, pausing to stare up at the timber as if hoping to catch sight of him but of course he was nowhere to be seen, having for all practical purposes vanished into the snowy woods.
After a good half hour of slow, methodical searching on Juni’s part--Einar couldn’t have vanished, must have left some sign of his passage, must be testing her, and she pursued that sign with a dogged persistence which he might well have admired, had he not just then been so busy actively freezing to death--Einar was almost ready to throw a rock or call out to Juni just to get her moving in the right direction. He’d had more than enough of the waiting, struggling to keep himself steady and tensing his muscles against the violent shivers which were doing their best to seize from him all control over his movements, wishing more than anything that he could climb again, get the blood flowing, yet, he waited. Must wait. Must also maintain some semblance of stability however, some use of his hands and he tried through a series of small movements to restore to them enough flexibility to do the thing he’d decided he must do.
Succeeded, though barely, steeling himself as Juni finally found his trail again and picked her way up the rocks, he drew back the atlatl, dart in place, and waited. Final, frigid minutes of waiting, and then when she was not ten yards away just stepping out onto the tilted slab of slick granite he loosed the dart, sending it deep into the trunk of one of the small aspens just behind her--perfect aim, just where he had intended to hit--and leaping out with a savage yell as she rolled to the ground, seeking cover.