07 November, 2012

7 November 2012

Einar did not want the root and he didn’t want Juni’s berberine water, either, such seeming a concession he wasn’t entirely willing to make, but with both of them insisting so and he once again beginning to grow dizzy and uncertain with fever, he figured he’d have little choice.  Might as well go along with their suggestions, while he was still conscious and aware enough to be making choices.  Maybe the stuff would really help, and if it would, taking it did seem the only really right thing to do, despite his reluctance.  Couldn’t afford to go on losing touch with things as he had been since the start of the fever, not down by the river where danger was never far away and a confrontation with other humans a distinct if distant possibility.  Liz being by far the more insistent of the two and her opinions holding a good deal more weight with him, he started on the root, washing down its acrid bitterness with an only slightly less bitter swig from Juni’s bottle.  Good.  Nausea replacing dizziness, his notice of the fever put on hold if not its actual course altered while he struggled to keep the searing liquid in his stomach, succeeded, struggling to his feet with a grin.

“You two sure can cook.  Whew!  Don’t remember when I’ve ever had a tastier meal.  Got any willow bark for dessert?”

“Willow bark.  That’s not a bad idea at all.  It ought to help the fever come down even more, and I can stir in some honey to make it more like dessert, if you like…  But we’ll have to wait until tonight when we have a fire so I can simmer the water for a bit.  This will just have to do, for right now.”

“This is plenty.  Don’t know if it’s…done anything for the fever yet, probably take a while to start doing that, but it sure did get my attention!  Done with all that nonsense now.  Ready to get back to work.”

Which he was, most sincerely and thoroughly, mind perhaps a bit more ready than body, though, and he swayed some with his first step, went to his knees on the second and then was back on his feet, making for the tree on which they had hung their drying hides.  Time to start the tanning process, and though it might have been easier to do the job later up at the cabin, life was a very uncertain thing and he figured Liz and little Will might as well at least have warm new hats to wear on their long walk into exile, if it came to that.  Bear fat.  Would have been useful when it came to tanning, saved him the trouble of retrieving all the beaver and muskrat brains for the project, but they hadn’t thought to bring a stock of bear fat, so he  went to the carcass pile and began his work.  Muninn took particular interest in Einar’s project, hovering close overhead, balancing on a nearby boulder and finally hopping down and generally making a pest out of himself in the hopes of handouts.

“You want snacks, do you?  Well, you big old vulture, how about this: I’ll feed you as much as you want, just so long as you’re willing to help me tan and stretch these furs.  Deal?  No?  Well, probably for the best.  You start stretching things, and we’re likely as not to end up with fur all over the ground and not very much left on the hides.  That what you want?  Bunch of fur on the ground so you can build yourself a big, cozy nest where you can hunker down for the rest of the winter?  Probably not, come to think of it.  You’ve already got the cabin…”

Juni, who had been watching the conversation with a good deal of interest, hoping to see how Einar went about tanning the hides of small animals but in the end finding the exchange fascinating for another reason entirely, turned to Liz.

“He finds it a lot easier to talk to the raven than he does to people, doesn’t he?”

“Sometimes.  A lot of times.  Muninn is good company for him.”

“Maybe you need to get a dog!”

“Dog?  More like a fox, out here.  Or a coyote, I guess.  If we could find a den, take a pup and tame it.  I guess they’d probably get along just fine, Einar and the coyote…except that they’d end up arguing half the time over who got which meat scraps and bits of liver and lung and sinew, and such.  It might make for some pretty spectacular arguments, but otherwise, they’d be pretty well suited to one another.  A wolverine would probably work, too.  Some vicious arguments at first, but then they’d probably realize the extent of their common ground, and things would settle down some.”

“Hey, I can hear you,” Einar growled from his work area over beneath a dense cluster of spruces, where he had begun working to extract as many brains as possible from the skulls of their catches.  “What’s all this about me being half coyote, half wolverine and twice as ugly as either?”

“I never said a thing about your actually being related to the critters,” Liz retorted, “nor about your being ugly.  It was all about the personality…”

“Oh.  Well in that case…hey, that’s even worse!  Isn’t it?  Maybe not.  Maybe I should learn to take a compliment where I can get it, huh?”

“Yeah, you’d better!  Now how about some more of this berberine stuff, while you’re taking a break from your tanning?  Just a swallow or two, to keep things moving in the right direction.”

Einar didn’t particularly want the stuff, stomach still tied in knots from the first dose, but Liz was, as usual, proving quite insistent and somehow the fact that the stuff was so scaldingly hard to swallow seemed to be making it a bit easier for him to want to do it, seemed to make up, in some small way, for the concession he was making in allowing himself to have the stuff, and he drank.

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