As the day continued, Will waking, eating and beginning his daily exploration of the cabin, Einar went over with Juni the basics of carving a bone atlatl point, giving her a section of elk leg bone at the end of the lesson so she might try her hand at the skill. Much of her morning was spent in simply scoring the bone so it might be broken correctly, tracing the same line over and over with a sharp bit of granite until enough material had been worn away that she could tap the bone with a larger rock and have it split neatly in half. This was her intent at least, after Einar’s describing the process and briefly demonstrating a technique for scoring, and she was very pleased when things worked out the way they were intended, bone falling neatly in half and her roughly-etched dart head template ready and waiting to be carved out.
Will watched with interest as Juni worked, his previous day’s interest in the beaver hide replaced by a fascination with watching bits and shavings of bone come off and fall to the floor as Juni’s project took shape. So taken was he with the process that several times Liz had to go and retrieve him, easing small but incredibly strong hands from around the sharp-tipped shard of granite being used by the young reporter to scratch out the rough shape of the dart head, and returning it to her. This displeased the little one greatly, intent as he had been on not only observing but participating in whatever strange and wonderful process was being carried out there on the floor of his small but increasingly fascinating abode.
After the third such retrieval, the youngest Asmundson’s protests growing louder each time, Liz decided he needed some fresh air, bundled him up against the continuing storm and headed out to the woodshed. Besides distancing Will from what seemed at the moment to be proving an almost irresistible source of temptation and giving him something else on which to focus his increasingly intense curiosity, Liz did not at all mind the opportunity to go check on Einar, who had for nearly the past hour been out in the woodshed doing something or other. Making kindling, he’d told her, and had taken the axe, but she had heard few sounds of late to indicate that he was still working with the firewood, and with the storm continuing in unabated, rock-scouring fury, she had begun to worry just a bit.
Einar was indeed still in the woodshed, kindling piled neatly in a stack two feet high against one wall, waiting to be carried in, and because of it she did not at first see him, squinting into the darkness and thinking he’d gone. There were no tracks leading from the shed however, and despite the fury of the wind she expected there would be some sign if he’d taken off into the timber. Which made it worth going in for a look, and she did, finding him pressed against the wall behind his kindling stack, arms locked around his bent knees and eyes distant, empty when she moved out of the door to allow a bit of muted, storm-filtered light to fall on him. He was cold. Looked like he’d been still for way too long, and was feeling it. Or would be, if he was feeling much of anything. She sat down beside him, leaning forward so as not to trap Will, riding in her parka, against the wall.
“What are you doing?”
“Just watching…storm. Good place to be.”
“Looks like you’re a little chilly. Let me have your hands. They’re not a good color.”
He stared at his hands, blotched alternately purple and bloodless-white, tried without much success to flex his fingers and finally at Liz’s insistence held them out to her, she slipping off her mittens and taking them between her own. Took several minutes, but the intense sting of returning circulation eventually brought him around, nodding gratefully at Liz and accepting, finally, the embrace with which she had been attempting to warm him.
“Now can you tell me what’s going on? What you were thinking about, out here?”
“Just needed some quiet.”
“Quiet. Well, have you had enough? Can you come back in now?”
He shrugged, got a bit shakily to his feet and began gathering up kindling from the pile, Liz helping until they’d got it all picked up. Outside—and to some extent in the woodshed, as well, its front being open to the weather—the storm raged on, and pausing before heading out once more into the full force of the wind, Liz did have to admit that it was beautiful in its own way, the spectacular force and fury of slanting, swirling wind-driven whiteness to which their immediate world had been reduced. It was no wonder that Einar might have wished to seek a few minutes’ solitude out there with little between him and that living, moving entity. She was sure, though, that there had to be more to his absence, especially as he had apparently hidden himself with some deliberation behind the kindling pile to sit unresisting as the elements stole in and began their work on his body.
Not something she needed to know, she supposed, only in this case it seemed really that she did, as the consequences tended to be rather swift and severe at their elevation and in such weather, and Einar…well, she greatly wished him to continue on what had appeared to her a better path, over the past day or two. It was far too soon for him to be reverting to his standard mode of existence, sitting out in the weather and, she wouldn’t be surprised, probably refusing his stew again pretty soon, too. Must not happen this time. She wished he’d talk to her, tell her what he really had been thinking about as he froze to the woodshed wall…but he seemed little inclined to volunteer any such information, and she couldn’t quite bring herself to ask. Silence, then, as they stood together watching the storm, until finally, unwilling to go on seeing him shiver in the piercing, snow-laden wind, Liz laid her head against Einar’s shoulder to get his attention, nodded towards the cabin and led the way inside.
Einar, much to Liz’s relief and somewhat to her surprise, as well, did not refuse the bowl of stew she was within minutes easing into his still-purple hands, Juni having tended the pot in her absence and even added some bits of sheep jerky and a few dried nettles to fortify the meal. Did not refuse but did stare rather absently at the wall as he ate, mind somewhere far away and far, she was certain, beyond her reach. But perhaps not beyond Will’s, the little one clambering over to his father and beginning to climb his knee, all the while a look of very serious determination in his eye, destination clearly beyond doubt and, to him at least, tremendously important.