Liz watched as the distant light bumped and swayed out across the canyon rim until finally it went out of sight behind a timbered rise in the ground and was gone, men never stopping, never pausing to investigate the place where they must have once again crossed the little family’s trail, and Liz hoped this could be taken as a reassuring sign that whatever their purpose up in the high country, it had nothing to do with a search of any kind. She had to hope. In any case, the light was gone, and when after watching for a good fifteen minutes more she saw no sign of its return, she decided she’d seen enough, turning to Einar and once more attempting to wake him, but without success. His fever appeared to have gone down a bit, face and side of his neck quite icy to the touch when she checked, but clearly the silence into which he had fallen was somewhat deeper than dozing, and guided by the light of a near-setting moon she worked to get him back into the cave.
Difficult job, rocky and low as was the entrance to that place, and she ended up going in first and dragging him a bit gingerly by the shoulders, not wanting to further injure his damaged arm or to delay his hoped-for return to consciousness by bashing his head on a rock.. Succeeding at both aims she finally reached the little chamber and eased him over to the remains of the fire, which despite being so long neglected, still glowed a faint red.
Will, thankfully, still slept, and working quickly Liz brought the fire back to life, confident that even should the men on the far rim make a return, they would not be able to see even the slightest glow from those flames. Might smell the smoke, might have seen it, had the moonlight been bright enough, but with the moon near setting and a strong, gusty wind picking up, this worried her little. Soon, fire crackling happily and its warmth once more beginning to fill the cave, Liz searched the place for a handful of fist-sized stones, setting these to warm in the coals as she worked to roll Einar’s upper body onto a mattress, of sorts, which she had made from their two packs. While the pine boughs they had earlier put down did something to insulate him from the warmth-robbing chill of the rock floor, the packs, she supposed, could only help improve the situation.
Still no sign of stirring from Einar, and though worried, Liz also found herself a bit thankful that at least in his current state, he could not insist they pick up and depart, flee the area in the night, leaving behind all the moose meat they’d worked so hard to butcher and secure in the trees, not to mention the entire contents of the drop bag, save what they’d carried with them on their backs… This, at least, would give both of them some time to think the situation through, to come up with a plan which would hopefully both keep them secure against any threat represented by the two men on that snowmobile, and prevent the loss of all their supplies, so early in their sojourn in this new place.
Rocks thoroughly heated, Liz used sticks to remove them from the coals, wrapping them in spare socks and placing them close to Einar—under his arms, around the small of his back where they would warm the blood passing through his kidneys—so that they could begin to thaw him a bit. Between the rocks and a proximity to the fire which he would almost never allow himself when awake, she knew he’d end up a good deal warmer than he had been in quite a while, by the time he did finally return to alertness. Knew he might not like it much, but that could be dealt with later.
“And in the meantime,” she spoke aloud, sorting the things she’d removed from her pack before using it as a mattress,” maybe this will actually do you some good. You think? Since it seems to be the only way you can get any real rest, right now… I do wish you’d go ahead and wake up though, because you really need some more Oregon grape root tea for your arm. Got to get rid of whatever infection is causing you this trouble, and I don’t really have any better idea as to what its source might be. Guess I should look at the arm again while you’re out. Can do something for that, even if you’re not ready to take the Oregon grape internally.”
The arm, when she got it eased out of his sleeves and into the firelight where she could inspect it—not an easy task, Einar’s limbs somewhat stiff and inflexible, seeming to fight her a bit even in unconsciousness, though she knew this was not likely—did not look too bad, inflammation appearing to have gone down somewhat since the last time she had checked it, in the canyon that morning. She took the opportunity to bathe the wounds in Berberine solution and apply fresh dressings, Einar never stirring during the process. Well. Let him rest. Not much else she could do, really, but if he was to remain in that state for the rest of the night, she really wanted him in the sleeping bag, and unzipping it all the way down she did her best to roll him in, replacing the now-cooling rocks with fresh ones and easing her own sleeping bag over beside him, unzipping and overlapping it so warmth could be shared.
At least, she thought to herself as she crawled in between Einar and Will, the cave did a lot to keep temperatures from dropping too low. While the low fifties is pretty cool if one is simply sitting immobile all day in barely-adequate clothing, it sure feels warm in contrast to the below-freezing weather and wind outside. Didn’t take much to heat it, either, at least not the small chamber in which they found themselves, and she could not help but recognize the advantages of staying in such a spot, at least until the coming of spring. Except for the fact that Einar would consider the area to have been compromised by those men on the snowmobile—and the fact that he might be right.
Probably not good to stay so near the canyon rim, anyway. If people sometimes explored its far side, what was to say that they might not venture over onto the one that hung some two hundred feet above their current position in the cave? Anyone poking around up there for long enough would be sure to smell their smoke if not see it, a situation which would be inviting disaster. They would never be able to relax in this place, not even to the degree they had done at the cabin—which had not always been terribly significant!
No, they must move on from this place, find something more secluded, and probably the sooner, the better. Well. It would not be happening that night, and much as she would habe liked to stay awake and puzzle through their entire situation, plan a mode of transport for the moose meat and study the map until she found a place for which they reasonably ought to head, Liz’s weariness finally got the better of her, and she slept.