A storm was indeed on its way, last fury of the dying winter preparing to spend itself amongst the soaring peaks and hanging basins of the high country; Einar could sense it as they made their way back to the cabin, stopping to gather the stacks of wood they’d retrieved from the woodshed and staring up at the barely-moving spruce tops which swayed with small, restless movements in a rising wind. Hearing the wind long before he felt it and—ears perhaps representing the keenest of his senses at the moment—long before its approach was audible to Liz, he instinctively ducked his head, drew elbows in close to shield his body, and then it hit them, boundless, buffeting, nearly knocking Liz from her feet and leaving Einar to lean hard in the direction from whence it came, willow bending in the gale. Breathless beckoning, Liz took off around the cabin, shouting to him, when he showed no inclination to movement, to follow.
“Come on, let’s get in out of this. Going to be a big one, you think?”
Einar shrugged, teeth gritted in the face of the wind, got himself turned with some difficulty and followed.
Big enough, I guess, and too bad about our having decided to keep Juni for a while, because this would give us a real good opportunity to lose her, take off without track or trace. But, other storms will come. Looks like I’ve managed to get myself mostly stranded in the cabin, for this one. Talked myself right into a doggone corner, and now can’t get out. Not the way I’m used to doing it, at least. Got to see this one through. And, as if bidding farewell for a time to the icy, biting force of the wind—a temporary leave-taking, only—he turned one final time before rounding the corner of the cabin to the relative shelter behind its bulk, grinning into the teeth of the storm, head up and eyes keen, alive.
Inside, the storm’s force shook the little shelter to its roots—had no foundation, of course—and left little bits of lichen insulation falling from wall-gaps where it had served all winter as fine chinking, littering the floor and admitting rather more air than had previously been able to find its way in between carefully-chinked logs. Liz pulled down a basket from its rafter-hook and gave to Juni the task of retrieving the wayward scraps of insulation, gathering them up so that they might be secured back in place. Meantime, the gusting gale took full advantage of every tiny gap in the cabin’s shell, sending icy little tendrils curling and fleeting about the interior of the place, gnawing and knifing their way through all but the most insulating of clothing so that sensible creatures such as Liz and Juni crowded in around the fire, seeking mitigation for what was seeming the otherwise-unshakable chill of the advancing storm. There where the stone stove, already thoroughly warmed since their return, radiated a fair amount of heat the stray drafts seemed a good deal more tolerable, less ominous, and the two women were glad.
Einar, of course, having his own rather different ideas of what constituted common sense when it came to such situations—why waste a good opportunity, for one thing?—stayed right where he was, sitting with back to the door and arms stretched out at the sides, listening intently to the changing pitch and timbre of the gusting storm and appearing almost relaxed, quite oblivious to the fact that everything from extremities to face were rapidly going a rather unhealthy-looking shade of mottled purple. Rather than chastise him upon discovery of the situation Liz--who knew that while often such circumstances were the result of incorrigible stubbornness on his part, nearly an equal number really could be attributed to his somewhat unique perception of the world, an unusual interpretation, perhaps, of the things his senses were telling him—simply draped the rabbitskin blanket about his shoulders and handed him a pot of steaming nettle tea, believing that he would drink if presented the opportunity and gratified to see that she was correct.
“Kind of a chilly wind out there, isn’t it?”
No answer from Einar, who was busy shuddering over his tea and thawing numbed fingers as he rather gratefully breathed in its rising billows of steam, but Juni nodded, added a stick to the stove. “I guess we’d better work on replacing this insulation, hadn’t we, in case the storm sticks around for a while? Or we’ll end up burning too much of our wood just trying to keep the place warm.”
Liz nodded in agreement. “The way it’s blowing, I’d say we need to get right on it. You can be responsible for that, if you like. Einar and I were talking…I don’t know what you had in mind as far as staying here, but we’d be glad if you’d like to stick around with us for a few more weeks. Pick up some more skills, maybe help out with things from time to time, that sort of thing. How does that sound to you?”
Juni’s usually-guarded features lit up with a rare grin at the proposal, her gathering of fallen insulation gaining speed as she worked in silence for a moment before nodding her assent. “If you’re both agreeable…I’d really like to do that. Still have lots to learn up here, if you’ll have me. And,” staring pointedly at Einar, who didn’t even look up, “ if I can live through the lessons…”
“Yeah,” Einar finally glanced up, lowering the steaming tea-pot so as to be able to get a sideways glance at the young journalist, “you’ll live through them. Probably. Guess I’m more or less agreeable, and Liz already had her say…what about you, Snorri? What do you think about having company for a while more?”
Will, still fast asleep, made no answer, but as he did not actively object and Muninn—definitely amongst the more sensible creatures in the room—remained where he had been for the past hour, fast asleep with beak tucked beneath a wing for warmth, Einar figured the matter might as well be considered settled, and went back to his tea. It was, he could not help but think, bound to be one long, slow storm if he was to spend it all cooped up in the cabin with three other people, and a bird. Better find himself a project, or one would surely come to him, and it might not be the sort of which Liz would too readily approve.
Glancing about the cabin’s dimly-lit interior and seeing the increasing problem with wind-loosened chinking escaping from between wall-logs as the strength and duration of the gusts outside intensified—winter, indeed, seemed to be having a last go of it, and sparing no effort— he had an idea, drained the last of his rapidly cooling nettle tea and rose a bit creakily to begin his work.