28 November, 2012

28 November 2012

Rather than the enemy, it was Muninn the raven who made first contact with Einar, bird somehow finding his way in the dark to land heavily on the creeping man’s shoulder, and had Einar been moving as swiftly as he was was used to doing, they might all have been eating a rather unexpected and unwelcome raven stew for breakfast.  He wasn’t so quick though, Muninn managing to get hold of a lock of his hair and twist hard before any great harm could come to him, and Einar knew the bird then, stopped still and squinted through the darkness at the beady black eyes he knew must be even then studying him, head tilted to one side as the raven tended to do when attempting to puzzle through something, as he certainly would be puzzling through the surely inexplicable events of the night.  As was Einar attempting to do.

Muninn had not followed him when he’d set off into the snow that morning with Juni, had seemed to sense without being told that his presence was neither needed nor wanted on that particular expedition, yet here he was, showing up in the dark when by all rights he ought to have been fast asleep back in the cabin.  Unless Liz…  Which she might have done, certainly having a mind of her own and having been none too pleased, he was pretty sure, about the planned festivities of the day, and certainly the bird would have gone with her, had she set off up the mountain after him.  Better reconsider his entire strategy in that case, lower the atlatl a bit and be, if no less ready to bring it to bear should the situation require, more cautious about who might be on the receiving end.

The voices had ceased, intruders perhaps alerted to his presence by the rasping of the raven or possibly just on the move again, quiet in the hopes of being able to come up on him unawares, and with Muninn still on his shoulder—weight unbalancing him to some degree, but he hardly wanted to dismiss the bird and risk creating another ruckus which might draw attention to his position—he continued towards the last place where he’d heard the two conversing.  Nearing what he estimated to be the spot, still hearing nothing he stopped, straining ears in the clear, crisp quiet of the night.  Something over there on the left, the faintest stirring amongst a black mass of close-growing firs, and he held his breath, dart ready, hoping he did not himself show too strongly against the lighter background of patchy snow and rocks on which he stood.  At least the moon wasn’t up yet.  That would have put him at a real disadvantage.

No further sound from the trees, and he was beginning to really struggle at keeping himself still, preventing the shivers which wanted to unsteady him, so that he feared not being able to fling the dart with any accuracy or strength, when the time came.  Breathing, striving to keep himself still, he waited, might have gone on doing so until the moon climbed high in the sky and the silvery-white puffs of his breath in air increasingly still and frigid had all but ceased, only he wasn’t to be given any such opportunity.

The move, when it came, was sudden, a great rush from the timber and he was knocked to the ground, atlatl gone and arms pinned at his sides when he went for his knife, and he would have gone on struggling, flipped his assailant off and to the side where he could get some leverage, but she was speaking and he heard her, knew her, allowed himself to remain still.  Rising just as soon as she was sure Einar wasn’t going to try and make any quick moves, Liz helped him up, tried her best to brush the snow from his clothing.  Muninn, confused and not much liking the darkness, had flapped away to the nearest boulder as contact was made, and sat chortling unhappily about the antics of his human companions, Einar greatly relieved but somewhat disgruntled at the suddenness of Liz’s greeting.

“Fine way to…say ‘hi’ to a fella when…”

“When what?  When he’s been stalking you like an animal for the past several hours, closer and closer, getting ready to pounce?  I’d say it’s a fine way to greet a fellow, under those circumstances.  Now come here and let me see you.  Yes, I know it’s dark but I don’t need light to see.  Huh.  Just like I thought.  I’m guessing you haven’t had a thing to eat since yesterday, have you?”

Dismissing her question with a little shrug which was entirely lost amongst his shivers he pulled away from her, squinting into the pale moonlight for some sign of what she might have done with little Will, who did not appear to be on her back.  “Sure, fine way to greet me I guess, except for Will.  I might have hurt him, you know.  Might have…”

“No you mightn’t, because I’ve got Juni holding him back there in the timber.  He was never in any danger at all.  And now, let’s all agree on a spot and I’m going to make a fire, and make camp.”

“What about the survival course?  When I ran them before, they sure never did end at dark.  Nobody got the night off, and I don’t think they should, because that’s not the way it works in real life…”

“This is real life.  And it’s not ending for good, just for today.  What’s the point of a survival course if the instructor doesn’t survive the first night of it?  What kind of an example would that be setting?”

He gave a quick grin, teeth flashing in the moonlight.  “Don’t know what you’re talking about.  I’m still here.”

“At the moment.  But if you try to do this all night…”

“You doubt that I can do it?”

“You certainly don’t need to prove anything to me.  I’m just saying that you’re going to be a much more effective instructor if you allow yourself some rest overnight, and to be warmer than you are right now for a few hours.”

“That’s just not how it works.”

“Well, I didn’t say she had to be warmer, did I?”

“No, but I teach by…by example.  Not gonna ask somebody to do things I’m not willing to do, myself.”

“Oh, we all know you’re more than willing.  But I’m not willing.  The course is over for the night, to resume, if it must, in the morning, but right now I’m making a fire and boiling some soup and you’re going to sit beside it with me and eat.  What your student does is up to you.  I’m not here to interfere with that.  Now come sit down and let me get my parka around you, while I make a fire.”


  1. To be determined: Who is sneakier:

    Muninn, the Crow, or Liz, who is by now almost a Crow Woman, of the Nation CROW, indigenous peoples of this continent, in third place but still a Contender, Einar, whose first solid food was Crow, or maybe it was Foot In Mouth... hard to say! ;-)

    Regardless, that was a great chapter, well designed in Plot, with all the regular Characters, saving little Snorri, who was waiting just off stage, disguised as a short tree....

    Note to myself, shouldn't you have coffee before you wright, right.... WRITE, in the morning????


  2. Philip, your writing seemed just fine to me. I don't drink coffee but did make the mistake the other day of consuming a packet of "energy gel" that had caffeine in it along with the brown rice syrup, potassium and other good things which were to help me have energy for the rest of the day...which I didn't realize until *after* it was too late! Ack! Didn't need that...caffeine and I do not get along at all!

    Hard to say who is sneakier, amongst that bunch. It would be a pretty close contest...