Hope you're all having a blessed Thanksgiving day--we all really do have so very much to be thankful for despite the rather dire outlook for our nation right now--our physical freedom, food to eat (how often do most of us really stop to think what an incredible blessing this is?) our faith and the knowledge and skills which will help to see us through hard times. Truly, we are blessed.
Had Einar been in possession of his usual length of parachute cord Juni’s rescue might have gone a bit easier but as it was, having left the cabin with rather an opposition to taking along any gear, all he had was the shorter coil of nettle cordage which never seemed to leave his possession. Not much help when it came to reaching the bottom of that granite tomb with the ability to help lift a person back out of it again, so he knew he had to go about the whole thing a different way.
Nodding to the by-then rather desperate Juni to let her know he wasn’t abandoning her altogether he made a hurried retreat to the nearest stand of timber, mostly fir but with some stunted aspen mixed in around the edges, and there he found a small dead aspen, so long perished that with a hard shove he was able to dislodge it from the ground. Carrying it was another thing, remaining rotted root cluster catching on the close-growing evergreens with every step and necessitating more stops than he would have liked, as he was himself so very near giving out from cold and exhaustion—hadn’t realized it, sitting on the snowy granite waiting to see if Juni could struggle her own way out of that granite tomb, but now that he was moving again he felt it closing in on him, iron jaws tightening around his middle--that he hardly dared stop moving, lest he find himself unable to start again. Fighting the tangled, grabbing roots all the way he dragged the aspen back to Juni’s rocky prison, lowering it down to her and waiting to see if its height would be adequate to allow her climbing past the slickest and most overhung portions of rock.
She tried, gave it all she had, but he could see that the efforts were going nowhere, her hands by that time too numbed and insensitive to grasp the somewhat slick aspen with enough strength to raise her up out of the pit. Needed another plan, wished for more cordage, for a rope but he had none, might have been able to get her up and out with the lowering of enough aspen trunks but as much challenge as it had been for him to haul the first one, he knew such a plan would rather take too long. She’d been down there too long as it was, especially considering the tasks he was going to ask of her once she was freed. Better act now. Which he did, shouting—it was more of a croak, really, but she got the message—for her to move aside, up into the narrow end of the crevice and lowering himself as far into its recesses as he could before his arms gave way and he fell. Landed hard, breath nearly knocked out for lack of the good, springy landing which might have been expected of legs not so weary as his, but he recovered quickly, wordlessly motioning her up onto his shoulders and hoisting her up until she could get an arm wrapped around the stout stick he’d left tied to his doubled-over coil of nettle, secured near the surface. Two tries it took her before she could get her hands to cooperate adequately to allow for some upward motion, straining, hauling and finally emerging out onto the rock above, where she crouched for a breathless moment of relief and agony—hands had gone completely numb with the wraps of cord around them, were only then beginning to regain some feeling, and it hurt—before whirling around on hands and knees to see how she might help Einar out of the hole.
There was no need, Einar already more than halfway up out of the narrow crevice, and before she could say anything he made it the rest of the way, flopping over on the snowy rock nearly too exhausted to breathe, but he stayed thus for only a moment.
Rising, Einar led the way into the timber, handed her the little flint and striker that he kept always around his neck. “Make fire. Soaking wet and freezing. Gonna die without fire.”
Which she wanted to do, wanted it so desperately as she knew he was right and that she going to die without it but her hands weren’t working, blotchy white and purple claws which could hardly hold the tools he’d given her, let alone hope to put them to any good use but he was relentless, refusing to help when she cast aside all remnants of pride and asked for it.
“So, your hands don’t work. That’s a problem. Gonna get you killed here pretty soon. So make them work.”
“Heat. Got to…generate some heat.”
Made enough sense, she supposed, and had she not been so hopelessly hypothermic from her long confinement in the dripping granite crevasse, she might have been able to translate theory into action, but as things stood all she could do was to flail her arms about Which actually seemed to help a bit, so she kept at it, soon stomping her feet as she swung her arms, clumsy and tired but feeling ever so slightly warmer, finding herself, after a time, able to use her hands sufficiently to strike sparks. Which still left her having to collect kindling and find something to use for tinder, which she could not seem to do no matter how she looked, leaving her to pull a slightly damp handkerchief from her pocket and shred it up the best she could do--hope it’s cotton, hope it’s cotton…lost if it isn’t cotton, because he really will sit there and let me freeze to death if I can’t get this right--stacking small, bare-dead spruce twigs atop the shreds, larger branches above those--getting hopelessly cold again, had to stop and stomp around for a few more minutes to get her hands back--before striking sparks. The shredded cloth, despite fortunately being cotton, was not fine enough and she partially collapsed her pyramid of kindling trying to shred it finer but at last managed to get everything close enough to right that a spark took, smoldered dangerously dim for a moment and then, with the help of the trembling little sigh of breath which seemed all she could manage at the moment, flared up into flame.
Sticks crackling, sparks rising, Juni stood shaking violently over her little fire, terror of the past hours giving way to silent tears of relief as slowly she began to warm, purple hands beginning to return to something like their natural color and steam rising from her icy clothes. All the while Einar sat silent in the timber overlooking her little camp, still, watching, wouldn’t approach the fire, himself, though plainly, she could see when she was able to look up from her own thawing and take some heed of the world around her, suffering every bit as dreadfully from the cold as she had been, and she wished very much at that moment that Liz might show up and take some charge of the situation…