21 November, 2012

21 November 2012

Immediately upon Juni regaining her composure she grabbed the dart, twisted it free from the tree and ducked down behind a rock in the hopes of avoiding Einar’s wrath should he indeed be attempting to put an end to her, but he had no such intention; almost certainly wouldn’t have missed with that first dart had such been his intent, and Juni knew it.  Logically, at least.  The knowledge did little to reassure her under present circumstances as, badly worn out from the hard climb and still caught up in the moment she realized that Einar had disappeared once again, was nowhere to be seen, surrounding boulder field and the clumps of scraggly, dispersed timber which scratched out their rough living here and there in its midst suddenly taking on dark, menacing feel so that she was seized with an almost frantic need to get herself to better shelter.  Shouldn’t give in, mustn’t, knew she had to be all but invisible there in her present position and would almost surely be lost if she rose and ran but the call was too strong, strangling her with its urgency and she was on her feet, dart in hand as she made for the nearest larger cluster of timber and she nearly made it, might have done so had it not been for the slickness of the snow-streaked granite which caused her to temporarily lose her footing and that was all he needed, sweeping feet out from beneath her with a large aspen branch and sending her sliding and skidding down the angled rock face, while never so much as showing a glimpse of himself.

This time Juni let out a bit of a scream despite herself as she went down, arms flailing and hand scrabbling desperately at the ice-slick stone in the sudden fear that she would not be able to stop, might slide and tumble all the way back down the mountain.  Which of course was ridiculous, rockslide not extending nearly so far and vast stands of timber lying between her and complete obliteration, but she did not realize that at the moment, could not call the fact to mind and found herself breathing a sigh of exhausted relief when finally she slid down and came to rest at the bottom of a rather narrow and deep crevice between two enormous granite slabs.  Relief which lasted only until she looked up an realized just how far she had slid and fallen, and how difficult would be her extraction.  Not so bad had the rock been dry, for she had done some climbing and could almost certainly have chimneyed her way up and out, but with both faces vertical and even overhanging in places and slick with ice and in places even seeping, dripping melt water from above, she could see right away that such a climb would prove a great challenge indeed.  Tried anyway, the terror of being trapped in that place with her pursuer--for that was how she had come to see him, and she did not all like the notion--searching and probably about to find her lending urgency to her movements so that she made it a good four or five feet up out of the crevice before losing her footing and sliding back down again, stuck, desperate and beginning to be wet and quite cold from the relentlessly dripping melt water from above.

Trapped.  Left there to die.  There in the stifling, dripping silence the fear grew in her mind until she became sure of it, utterly convinced that he had deliberately led her to that place, entrapped her and left her to die, should have seen it coming but she hadn’t, and now the end was surely only hours away…  Convinced beyond doubt of her abandonment she redoubled her efforts to escape, skinning one forearm and bashing a knee against the icy floor of her tiny, high-walled prison before finally giving up in exhaustion, sinking to the ground and waiting…  For more energy, she told herself, she was resting, waiting for a bit more energy, a fresh idea and then she would make another go of it but in the back of her mind she knew there would be no additional energy, no flash of insight, not in time.  Well, she would deal with it later.  After the rest.

The voice drifted down as if from a great distance, a harsh, rasping thing but it was human, more or less, and could not possibly have been more welcome; he had come for hr and she was, after all, going to live!  Except that he did not sound at all friendly, voice insistent, demanding, and she kept herself still, hushed her breathing in order to catch his words.

“Why are you here?  Got to tell me why you’re here.”

Shouldn’t have done it, pushed him so, tested, but being quite human herself and possessed of perhaps more than her fair share of spunk and defiance even when cold, wet and trapped deep in a rockslide, the words seemed to simply slip out.  “I’m here because the rock is incredibly slippery up there, and if you don’t watch out, you’ll probably end up down here, too.”

Wrong answer.  He was gone again.  For an hour.  Maybe more.  She couldn’t tell, had lost all track of time as she crouched there exhausted from repeated but unsuccessful efforts at freeing herself, scrunched into a little heat-conserving ball which she knew would, in the end, prove insufficient as she was soaking wet by that point, would never survive the rest of the day in those frigid temperatures, let alone the coming night…

Wanted to live, and though she knew he was probably long gone by then, back at the cabin with Liz warming up and relaxing now that the menace represented by her presence had been eliminated, she called for him, but there was no immediate answer…

Einar had been sitting up on the rocks all the time as Juni struggled to escape her granite prison, arms wrapped around his bent knees, freezing despite the climbing sun but managing to more or less hold his own with its help, and at the sound of her repeated cries for help he rose creakily to his feet, stumbled and nearly went down before catching himself with his atlatl.  Couldn’t quite trust himself to speak, scrubbed hands across his face to limber things up and gave it a try, repeating his question.  Why are you here?  What was your intention in coming here?

Her answer came same as always--steadfast, I like that--and he lay down flat at the top of the crevice, peered down at her and began planning the way out.

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