After much flapping and pounding at the door Muninn was admitted to the kitchen, the rather irate raven having to deliver himself of the object in his beak before he could let loose with the tirade of rasping dismay with which he expressed his outrage at having been left up in the dark woods and then shut out of the house. “What have you got there, critter?” Susan retrieved the strip of cloth, examining it as a slow smile of recognition spread across her face. She knew that calling card.
While she had not seen the man, Bill Foreman, since his last visit to their house while her husband Bill had still been living—the two of them had served together, though she never knew the details—Susan well remembered his later leaving a photo of Liz there on her front porch while she had yet been unaware of the young woman’s whereabouts after going missing, the image confirming to her that she was safe, and with Einar.
The last time she’d heard from him had been at the wedding, when he’d somehow managed to leave a faded boonie hat decorated with a white feather on the front porch during the height of the festivities, all without being noticed by any of their guests. Bud still wore the hat. Susan had, from time to time after that, got the sense that the shadowy character might be out there somewhere, watching, protecting, though she’d never until that day got confirmation of his presence. Susan—and Liz, also, once the situation had been explained to her—felt a good deal more relaxed knowing Foreman was around, watching, presumably helping to guard the place in Bud’s absence—when he wasn’t busy capturing and rather forcefully interrogating folks who happened to wander up into the timber…
When the two of them got back to Einar he appeared to be asleep, head bowed so that his face was nearly in the basin of water and breaths coming at alarmingly great intervals, but when the raven sought to remedy this, landing on his shoulder and taking a clump of hair in his beak, the sleeping man’s response was instant and rather more forceful than either of the women might have expected.
Narrowly missing Einar’s wild grasp the raven took wing, heading for the wall as the water basin went the other way, overturning and splattering all over the kitchen. It was quite a ruckus, Will laughing from his spot on the couch and Liz going to Einar as Susan hurried to clean up the spilled water and restore some semblance of order to the place. Einar wasn’t laughing, leaning heavily back against the wall and wildly scanning the room for the source of the chaos, gaze settling at last on the bird. Realization dawning, all the starch seemed to go out of his bones and he slid down limply to the floor, giving the still-laughing Will a weary grin before allowing forehead to rest on his knees, apparently ready for sleep. Susan wanted to let him rest, but not just yet.
“We need to bandage your arms. Will you come back to the table?”
“Oh, they’re alright. Lot better than they were.”
“They’ll be even better if we can bandage them and keep them clean. Come on, up you go.”
Einar went, sitting quietly aside from his shivering, which was still quite intense, as Susan applied a strong smelling green salve—comfrey, he was pretty sure, with something else added—and wrapped the worst areas of his arms in gauze, covering it with flexible camouflage wrapping to hold it in place. Einar smiled at this detail, joking in broken sentences that by the time she got finished, he would be all set to go back out in the timber and move around unnoticed.
Liz, meanwhile, lacking the usual hot rocks with which she would have surrounded Einar to help him warm after a night such as the one he’d just had, prepared two hot water bottles earlier given her by Susan as the next best alternative. Over Einar’s half-hearted objections—gonna have me roasting here pretty soon, not used to this much heat—she wrapped them close to his torso where she knew they ought to help complete the warming process, gently securing them in place over bandages with wraps of soft flannel. This task completed, she brought over a pot of tea to which she had added a generous amount of honey, pouring Einar a mug of it and offering to help him drink, considering the condition of his hands and the fact that he remained rather unsteady.
Shaking his head and grinning, Einar grabbed the mug himself, inhaling its steam and enjoying a quick sip before hurriedly setting it down lest he lose his grip. “Got anything to…eat around here? Long night, kind of hungry…”
Delighted at the request, Susan hurried to prepare a bowl of fruit—sliced bananas and strawberries—which seemed a good place for Einar to start, before trying the more substantial stuff that he really needed. The fruit smelled good, and Einar tried, but nearly choked on the first bite, had to stop after the third. Muscles just weren’t working right, body entirely out of energy. This did not bother him too greatly; the fact that he was trying, it seemed to him, ought to be enough, plenty, really, and he was content. Drifting. Ready to sleep again. Liz and Susan, though greatly encouraged at Einar’s change in attitude, were far more concerned just then with results. Perhaps, Liz thought, if she could get him to drink more of the tea, the situation would improve, and she tried, but he gagged on the stuff, coughed, couldn’t seem to get it down and finally she had to give up trying for fear of drowning him. Susan shook her head, sat down across from him.
“Einar, I need you to listen to me for a minute. Look at me. This is really important. You need some fluids, and it doesn’t seem to be working for you to drink right now. I’d like your permission to do an IV, just for a little while to help you get past the worst of the dehydration. I think it would really help with your level of alertness, and make it easier for you to stay awake. Is that alright with you?”
Susan thought she saw a moment’s wavering—he did want very badly to be able to stay awake, after all—but then he lowered his eyes, shook his head. “I can drink.”