It took Einar, sitting beside the fire and breathing steam from his cup of broth, a good while before he began warming adequately to do much besides shiver and stare, a fact not lost on Liz but one which she saw no need to bring to his attention just then. He would, in all likelihood, simply explain—soon as he was able to speak coherently—that had she not insisted in his coming out of the storm he would be in no such predicament, fire being at the root of his entire difficulty. And he would mean it, too. She just smiled and shook her head, left him to warm and turned her attention to Will, and to the simmering soup. When finally Einar was through the most intense portion of the warming and able to make himself understood again, he began eagerly explaining to Liz his ideas for the roof.
“Got most of those aspens down to similar lengths now, and figured we could lean them at an angle against this back wall we already have. Not quite as big or nice as the old cabin, but I’ll build us something better, if we decide to stay. Lots of trees around for the purpose. Figured we could…” paused for a minute as the shivering seized hold again, head bowed and arms pressed tightly at his sides in an effort to control it. “Could heap the roof up with spruce needles to help keep out the wind and moisture, conceal the place until it gets all covered with snow, use branches and a few more aspens to build up the sides…”
“That ought to provide pretty good shelter, as wind-free as this place already is because of the terrain.”
“Yes. For the wind, figured we could use the parachute inside the shelter, kind like a tapestry in an old castle. Hang it from the ceiling and let it come down along the walls, secure it in place here and there so it doesn’t sag too much, and it’ll help with insulating, trap air between its fabric and the roof, keep out any drafts and snow that might try to find their way through.”
“That ought to reflect a lot of light, too, being white. Make the place nice and bright inside, when we’ve got any kind of a fire.”
“Thought you might like that.”
“Yes! A lot easier to do projects when it’s bright inside the shelter. If the parachute is to be like a tapestry in an old castle, though, I’ll have to embroider scenes on it, battles, wolverines, your first successful wooly mammoth hunt…”
“Wooly mammoths haven’t lived here since…”
“I’m kidding! I know they’ve been extinct for quite a long time, but wouldn’t it look entirely appropriate to see one come ambling up through the timber out there, back all matted with snow and you wrapped in that wolverine hide and challenging it with a spear?”
Einar laughed. “Yep, that’s me. Wolverine slayer, mammoth hunter and all-around caveman. Sounds about right. Hey, can you imagine how warm a mammoth hide would be? Too heavy to wear, I expect. Heavier than a buffalo hide, even. But surely the best bed quilt that ever existed. Too bad the critters are gone.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. Sure would be neat to see one, and you’ve got a point about the hide, but if they were still around, you’d probably insist on challenging one hand-to-hand without any sort of weapons, just to see if you could survive being stomped. Wouldn’t you?”
Laughing, getting to his feet and standing over the fire, Einar drained his cup of broth. “Well, there’s really no other way to know for sure, is there?”
“See? That’s why I don’t mind so much that wooly mammoths, sabre tooth tigers, pterodactyls and some of the other larger former inhabitants of these mountains are now extinct! Because you’d just have to challenge them, if they were here…”
“Pterodactyls are not extinct. I’ve shot one down with my bow.”
“Right. Large, flying predators with armor. Guess I’d just never realized that pterodactyls were rotary-winged creatures!”
“Sure! Sure they were. Can hear ‘em coming from miles away.”
“You know, I was just thinking last night that it’s been quite a long time since we’ve heard a pterodactyl, even in the distance. The quiet sure has been nice.”
Einar glanced anxiously at the sky, sinking a bit lower in his stance as if certain he was about to start hearing that distant rumble even then. “Yeah. The quiet is good. Have to wonder how long it will last. Hopefully until Will is big enough to use a crossbow, so he can go hunting with me!”
“For the pterodactyls. Crossbows made with leaf springs from abandoned trucks. Or from pieces of other downed pterodactyls. Works pretty well either way.”
“Oh! Yes, I guess it does. Hopefully you and Will won’t ever have to hunt those particular flying creatures again, but if you do, I’m sure you’ll be ready, both of you. I have no doubt that he’ll be learning to build and operate a crossbow by the time he loses his first tooth—if not even sooner!”
“Never too soon to start learning. Is it, Snorri? Come here. I’ll tell you how it works.”
Will just laughed and went on precisely and methodically picking apart the spruce cone with which he had been entertaining himself, delighted at his father’s addressing him but not entirely understanding. Not yet. That would surely come, with time.
Having described to Liz his vision for the roof and found it to be to her approval, Einar was anxious to get started on the project, leaning the angled logs and pinning up the parachute-tapestry on walls and ceiling, but Liz caught his arm, insisted he stay.
“Not now. Not yet. You haven’t had any soup, and besides, if you move the parachute while it’s storming like this, all our things are going to get snow blown onto them. It can wait. Maybe tomorrow the storm will finally be over, and then I’ll help you move the logs, stack them up, hold fabric while you tack it in place—everything!”