Wall secured as well as possible against the unwelcome intrusion of the wind and the place beginning to warm, Liz was able to turn her full attention to other matters, such as seeing that a good, hearty stew began making its way towards readiness. Not even Will competed for her attention, his entire world currently consisting of the beaver pelt with all of its wonders and intricacies to be explored, textures to be studied and mapped, whirling patterns in the fur followed and replicated with tiny hands in the smoother portions and, Liz was sure as she watched him, individual hairs to be counted, had he been capable of such. She smiled, shook her head and went back to the preparation of stew. They would have quiet the time together, those two, as the years went by. Two of a kind, at least in some ways, and already they seemed to enjoy spending time with one another.
Except that just then, Will was wide awake and engaged with the world, and Einar very plainly was not. Had managed, while Liz watched their son, to thoroughly lose his place in the world and slump over against the water barrel, either quite fast asleep or unconscious, and watching for a moment Liz decided it did not entirely matter which, for either way he was clearly growing dangerously cold in a hurry, and she went to him, rabbitskin blanket in hand, tentatively touched his shoulder. No response, no so much as a stirring in his face to let her know he was aware of her presence so she tried again, this time a bit more insistently.
“Einar. Hey, are you in there? I know you’ve got to be awfully tired after that walk and I want you to rest, but how about waking up for just a second? I’ll have some stew ready in a while, and it would be good for you to eat before you sleep…”
Still no answer, and she was beginning to be seriously worried, knew he really had to eat before he slept, this time, as he must be just about entirely out of energy after that long trek through the cold, and there seemed to her little guarantee of his waking, should he slumber too deeply without some prior fortification. A notion which was only reinforced by her present inability to rouse him, ample evidence, light a sleeper as he tended to be—ha! An understatement if ever I heard one—that this was something more than sleep. Wanting to resort to more definitive means in her efforts to produce some wakefulness but concerned what might happen should he suddenly come to himself under such circumstances with Will so nearby, she scooped up the little one, beaver pelt and all, depositing him on the bed and causing no minor consternation on the part of the young explorer, who in being moved lost his place in what had become a rather methodical sorting and categorizing of individual strands of fur, and was forced to start all over again…
If Will’s ruckus did not wake his father—the little one was not pleased at the uninvited interruption, and did not mind letting the world know about it—Liz figured no noise she might make would be likely to have the desired effect, either, and so resorted to more physical means. Shaking him, rolling him to one side, she finally got some response when she took him by both arms and attempted to lift him. The eyes that met hers were wide, angry, perhaps a bit frightened, but despite the startlement of waking it did not take Einar too long to figure out who he was staring at, meeting Liz’s concerned look at last with a bit of a twisted grin, freeing himself from her grasp and sitting up under his own power. He looked confused, didn’t have anything to say and made no objection when she drew the blanket well up around his shoulders. “I’ve got some stew on the stove, how about you stay awake and eat some before sleeping again, Ok?”
“Not really sleeping. Just…”
“I know. All the more reason to have something to eat.”
Juni, meanwhile, had disappeared out into the teeth of the increasingly stormy day as Liz had worked to waken Einar, neither of them thinking too much of it until she failed after what seemed a reasonable amount of time to return. Despite many months at the cabin, neither of them had taken it upon themselves to construct anything which resembled indoor toilet facilities, such needs still necessitating a hasty trip out into whatever weather might be prevailing at the moment, which in this case meant a quick scramble through the snow to to spot where they had, at least, erected a rough shelter which served to block some of the worst of whatever storm might be raging at the time.
It was not to this outpost Juni had been headed, however, as Liz began to suspect when well over a quarter hour passed without her return. At first this did not concern her terribly; if the young reporter wanted to head out minus almost all of her gear and her sleeping bag onto what was shaping up to be one of the fiercest storms in recent memory and try to walk out…well, that would almost certainly solve the problem of what they were to ultimately do with her. Not that Liz wished to see the matter end this way; she had become somewhat fond of the girl, despite her initial misgivings. Anyhow, Juni was too smart to attempt such a foolish enterprise, especially without nabbing key items of gear which had been left strew about the interior of the cabin. Which left the possibility that either she had been somehow delayed against her will out there—injured, perhaps, or turned around in the whiteness of the blowing snow, and lost—or was up to some project at whose nature Liz could not quite guess. Before too many more minutes passed—and the storm had time to further intensify—Liz might have gone out looking, but presently a stomping and shuffling in the tunnel announced Juni’s return as she beat snow from clothes and boots before pushing her way in through the door.
“It’s really starting to storm out there! Windy! Here!” With which she shoved a good-sized furry object into Liz’s hand, a rabbit, as it turned out, and proceeded to give the account of how she had been going for some frozen venison which she knew still hung in the trees outside, thinking it might do all of them good if added to the stew, but on her way there had happened upon a rabbit run with what appeared to be very fresh tracks, hardly drifted over at all by the wind. She’d pursued them, found the creature and taken it with a rock…
So they had fresh rabbit stew that afternoon, the two women thoroughly enjoying the change from the dried, reconstituted meat and berries which had been their fare for the past several days—tasty and satisfying enough, in its own right, but nothing beats fresh, especially after it has been absent for a time—and Einar consuming rather more of the stuff than he would have done if left to his own devices, Liz a source of near-constant insistence which he would not have found terribly difficult to resist had he been trying…but he was not trying. Was trying, rather, to remember some of his past resolve, the realizations which had come to him up at their last camp after Juni’s halted survival training, and though they seemed rather distant now, not so certain as they’d done up in that little cluster of evergreens—he was, after all, doing a bit better, and could easily begin to convince himself that nothing had been terribly wrong in the first place, the second thoughts he’d had up there merely the product of momentary weakness—he managed to remember enough of it to convince himself that eating a bit extra probably wasn’t the terribly bad idea which it seemed.