The sudden intrusion of moisture, it seemed to Liz, into the dry, windless little alcove she’d chosen for shelter, must be due to a melting and seeping of some of the newly fallen snow on ground not in all places entirely frozen, this snowmelt just then managing to find its way through all the layers of rock and soil overhead and begin dripping. Whatever its cause she knew she’d have to find a way to stay dry, which meant either leaving the alcove and finding another spot from which to wait Einar’s return, or somehow stopping the drips. Not wanting to go searching, and expecting the moisture intrusion would likely not last too long, in the first place, she opted to stay put, securing Will once more on her hip before unfolding the large, heavy trash bag they’d managed to snag on their way through Bud and Susan’s garage, carefully cutting along its seams until it was opened up into a single large sheet of plastic. Now for some way to suspend the stuff, make a sort of tent or canopy, and she turned to the thirty feet of parachute cord she wore around her waist in lieu of a belt, a habit picked up from Einar and one with which she had fortunately not dispensed with after coming to stay with Bud and Susan.
Feeling along the walls of the chamber until she found two protrusions of rock nearly opposite one another and large enough that she could wrap and tie the cord around them, she set up a center line, draping the bag over it and using the tail ends of the cord to secure its four corners, suspending each a foot or two off the ground by tying it to a rock or bit of wood. Makeshift shelter complete, she retreated beneath it with Will, feeding him and listening to the soft drip-drip of water on the bag above. The sound was monotonous, soothing, Liz fairly comfortable on her bench seat and not even particularly cold anymore, out of the drafts and snuggled up in the blanket with Will, and before long she found herself feeling immensely weary, drifting slowly towards sleep.
Head snapping up, eyes wide open in the inky sameness of the mine, Liz came wide awake, holding her breath as she listened for a repeat of the sound that must have wakened her. Einar. It had to be Einar, and she was on her feet, momentarily tangled in the crinkly plastic folds of her shelter as she forgot about its presence and stood up into it, shook it off, went looking. No sign of Einar anywhere between the chamber and the mine entrance, nor of anyone else, either; the sound, it seemed, which in her half-sleep she had taken to be Einar’s voice, must have been merely a product of dream. Dream or not, he would hopefully be coming, and sooner rather than later, and she had to be ready for his return, for the reality that would be facing them both after his time out in the snow and cold, when he’d barely been managing to hold his own in Susan’s warm kitchen… had to be prepared to make a fire.
To this end, she wrapped Will more snugly against her in the blanket-sling, cautiously approaching the entrance and pausing to listen before slowly stepping outside, out into the storm, hurrying to the nearest cluster of spruces and beginning her search for the pitch-covered bits of bark she hoped would help to warm and light the little chamber where they would be spending an unknown period of time together. Finding a good bit of dried pitch on the third tree she checked, great yellow-white globs of the stuff clinging to its bark on one side when she brushed away the snow, she began collecting, kept at it until she had a good pile of the stuff. Returning to the welcome shelter of the mine, Liz shivered herself warm again , listening, waiting, hoping to catch a glimpse of Einar before returning to the warmer inner alcove that had become her shelter. At last, hearing nothing but the wind, seeing nothing through an ongoing swirl of snow, she left her post, took Will to the better shelter and warmth of her chosen chamber.
The raven did not know where Einar was going and thus could not lead the way, but he did stick close as the man struggled forward through heavy, wet new snow which was by then really beginning to add up, covering what had been a fairly solid springtime crust beneath and making the going an increasingly slow and exhausting task. Einar kept on almost mechanically, conscious mind disconnected from the processes of his body which carried him forward, only dimly aware of the country through which he passed and—aside from a nagging knowledge that he must avoid leaving a trail—largely undisturbed by the fact.
Rubber boots do not provide a great deal of insulation in wet snow, or any sort of snow, and at last Einar, fearing for his feet, had to stop and do his best to thaw them out a bit, crouching against a tree and removing first one boot and then the other, wringing water from his socks and pressing cold, yellow-white foot soles to the insides of his legs in an attempt to restore some warmth. Didn’t seem to do a lot of good, legs just about as cold as everything else by that point, but he figured the effort was bound to be better than nothing. Only dry socks and a reprieve from the constant cold of the snow through the rubber would really help, a little fire, maybe, beside which to warm himself so his body would be willing once more to send more blood circulating to his extremities—a single layer of denim is never particularly good protection against the wind and wet of a spring snowstorm, but that was all Einar had left after his escape from the house and leaving his sweater tangled in the webbing on his makeshift bed— but for the moment he’d done what he could do.
Shoving the boots back into place he did his best to pull stiff, ice-encrusted pants legs down over them in the hopes of keeping more snow from falling down inside as he walked. The pause, though necessary, had only served to accelerate the grip of cold and storm on Einar’s wearied body, and his movements, when he resumed them, were the slow, stiff stumblings of a man badly needing to be in out of the weather. Soon. Had to be nearing the mine, but he was walking blind, snow swirling around him and evening beginning to descend at the same time, and after a while he had to admit that he was not at all certain of his exact location. Having some trouble, in fact, remembering exactly where he might be trying so hard to go, in the first place, and he might have gone on wandering right up the ridge and over, for as long as legs and brain and strength had held out, had he not run almost face-first into a solid rock wall.
Curious thing, that wall, stone looking almost as if it had been worked by man at some time in the dim and distant past, broken, fragmented, fascinating, and he ran his hands over it, slid down—liking the lessening of the wind there in its shelter—beside it and rested chin on his knees, dozing. Disturbed. Raven landing heavily on his shoulder and though the skin had long ago lost all feeling in the cold, the bird’s sudden weight canted him rather violently to the side, slamming his head into the wall which had so recently been the object of his fascination. Hurt, and he swatted at the bird, wishing it to leave him alone, leave him to sleep. For which the dark, inviting opening yawning low and inscrutable before him in that hand-worked wall of rock seemed the perfect spot, to crawl in there out of the weather, out of view of his enemies, wherever and whomever they might be, and to sleep. Moving, dragging unwilling limbs he rolled at last in onto the dry rock floor, safe, spent, sleep coming.