Muninn the raven had been watching the place for the better part of two days, having located it not long after Einar and Liz got settled in, but reluctant to approach, being, after all, a wild creature and not entirely used to human habitations. This day though, watching as Kilgore left the house and recognizing the man, something compelled him to go in for a closer look. This is how he came to be perched on the deck railing when Susan went out to collect a pot full of snow from the deck. Liz had wanted to do it, arguing that she could then truthfully tell Einar that she, and only she had been involved with the gathering and melting of the stuff, thus presumably making him a bit more likely to feel safe drinking it, but Susan had insisted that it would be unwise for Liz to show herself outside, for that reason or any other. She had no real reason to suspect that they were being kept under surveillance at all times, but with no way to prove the contrary and a history of the searchers keeping an eye on the place, it seemed far better that the matter of their having guests remain unknown to all.
The raven recognized Susan, tilting his head and letting out a soft rasping call which she could not help but take as a question.
“Yes, they’re in there, if that’s what you were asking. I was wondering when you were going to show up. Didn’t expect you’d have had any real trouble following them here, but it’s a different place, isn’t it? An unfamiliar one, especially to you who’ve spent your entire life up in the high country…”
The bird took a cautious hop closer, but did not answer. “Well, are you coming in? Don’t know if you’ll be able to put up with something so different as a house, but you know all of us. We’re not going to do you any harm. And just maybe your being there will in some way help your human to realize the same thing, because he’s having a little trouble with that, right now. What do you think?”
Muninn was thinking, alright, wanting into the house where he knew Einar, Liz and the little one must be—had heard the latter numerous times, and despite lack of recent audible confirmation of Einar’s presence and an inability to see inside due to drawn curtains on most of the windows, sensed that the man was in there as well—but remaining cautious, the entire thing looking rather like a potential trap to his ever-cautious raven brain. It was Will who finally convinced him, letting out a squeal of delight as he galloped past the door on hands and knees, chasing Susan’s big tortoiseshell cat. That voice he knew, and having come to consider himself a protector and guardian over the smallest Asmundson, it seemed only right that he ought to go inside when Susan opened the door.
After a cursory inspection of the place—big, strange, but it smelled of food and was basically to his liking—Muninn took wing and came to rest on the couch above Einar, chortling softly and reaching down to twist a bit of the unconscious man’s hair before settling in as sentry until he should wake. Susan allowed him to stay, only scooting him to the side long enough to slip a towel beneath him, unsure of the bird’s habits when in a house but not wanting to lose furniture to the creature, should he prove to be less well-mannered than she might hope.
Will, spotting the raven, gave up his chase of the cat—a large, mild-mannered beast who having gone through the toddler years of all five of Susan’s grandchildren, knew very well how to manage herself around grasping little hands—and made straight for the bird, fascinated as always with the ever-changing iridescence of his feathers. Before either Susan or Liz could move to stop him, the little one had hoisted himself up and was shuffling his way along the couch, trying for a closer position to those wonderfully tempting feathers and ending up behind the piece of furniture, in a spot very close to the one in which his father had previously hidden himself to sleep. The resulting chaos of squeals, rasps and finally a loud protest from the bird when Will came away with a prized tail feather ought surely to have wakened Einar, had he been capable of waking, but it did not.
While Liz and Susan had been concerned about the results should Einar wake before Bud’s return and go back to demanding his missing weapons, it soon became apparent that they might have more to fear in the opposite—his not waking at all. Certainly he was showing no sign of it, and when Bud returned, the tracker’s voice failing, like everything else, to get a response, they all began to worry just a bit. The main concern was that the dart might have had some unfortunate, long-lasting impact upon his ability to remain awake, interfered somehow with the functioning of his brain or with his breathing, perhaps, but he seemed to be breathing fairly regularly at the moment, if slowly and seldom. Which, according to Liz, was not at all out of the ordinary for recent weeks. Bud had his own ideas.
“He’s gonna be just fine, you know, once he’s slept this thing off. I didn’t give him enough of the dart to have done this. He’s already been awake after that, was starting to come out of it. This is just straight-up exhaustion, and the longer he can sleep, the better, I figure. Unless he’s out so long that he starts drying up and blowing away in the breeze, which wouldn’t take one heck of a long time just now, from the looks of him, and if that starts to happen we may have to try and remedy the situation, one way or another. We can do that, you know.” He turned his attention to Liz. “With your permission. Sue and I are all equipped to run IVs, the works, and we’ve both got the training, too. Might be a real good idea to go ahead and do that while he’s out, since we all know there’s not one chance in a million he’d let any of it happen while he’s awake… Could even put something in there to help make sure he wouldn’t be waking up too thoroughly before it’d had a chance to do him some real good.”
Liz was quick to shake her head, suppressing the hasty voice that urged her to do it, go for it, may be his only chance… “No, I can’t give permission for that. He trusts me, and I know it isn’t what he would want, under these circumstances, or just about any others. He was drinking. He’ll be alright, so long as he keeps that up. And starts eating.”
“Right.” No more comment from Bud, but Liz could see what he was thinking.
“He was asking about his rifle and knife a while ago. Do you know what happened to them?”
“Yeah, I know what happened. He’s not getting them back, that’s what. Not in my house, he’s not. Not just now.”
“It’s our house…” Susan gently reminded him.
“Not in our house, then. No way. Up at the cabin it was different, his own territory, but with this place being unfamiliar and him eight thousand miles away most of the time…nope. I got you guys to think about, all of you, and until he’s been awake for a while, and himself, this is the way it’s got to be. Rough, I know, especially when the threat is real and he’s gonna have that on his mind, but I don’t see any way around it. Don’t worry. If there’s explaining to do, I’ll be the one to do it.”
Which appeared very soon to be necessary, Einar beginning to stir beneath his blankets, struggling to open his eyes