Work on the shelter walls went fairly quickly the following morning, Einar going out before breakfast to collect a load of the timbers they would need, Liz helping him shorten and place some of them while the stew simmered. Already the place was feeling more enclosed, warmth of the fire lingering longer than it had done while held in by the parachute alone and force of the wind—when it managed to gust or draft thinly down into the protected little mountainside basin which held the shelter—greatly reduced. The spot was really showing some promise, and Liz was excited to see the shelter finished. But not before breakfast, for the stew, carefully assembled from the few bits of remaining moose meat, a few dried rosehips she’d found clinging to brambles on the basin’s edge and the bones of Einar’s rabbit, cracked for their marrow, was ready.
Einar, somewhat predictably, did not want to stop work to eat, would have happily gone on placing and securing upright timbers until the job was finished, but Liz—only half-joking about resorting to the rabbit stick if he didn’t listen—insisted they take a break, and Einar sat down with her to eat. Was feeling a bit ornery that morning, out of sorts after a night of rather vivid dreams and wanting very much to assert himself by refusing food for a day or two, but he knew he’d simply have to find some other way to get through the difficulty, that time. Had to eat, and not just because Liz wanted him to do it. Could feel, even after several days of better and more consistent nutrition, that his body was rather closer to the edge than it had been for some time, a deep chill in his bones and a heaviness in his limbs which left hands, feet and legs seizing up at the most inconvenient of moments and seemed at times certain to stop him in his tracks, and he knew that not only had he better keep on eating if he wanted to stay around, but had better be careful how he did it. Could hardly afford another bout, just then, of the sort of difficulties that had in the past left him struggling even to breathe, after a while, as his body had a hard time adjusting to the availability of more food after an extended period without. Could feel himself right on the edge of it there lately, even eating the way he had been. But the soup—all protein and fat, just what he needed—ought to be just fine, and with Liz being quietly insistent, he dug in.
Slowly enjoying his soup, Einar stared at the ceiling, setting aside his spoon and remaining motionless for so long that Liz began wondering what could have caught his attention. “Soon as we get the walls finished, what do you say we hang the parachute on the inside like a sort of tapestry, the way we discussed? Sure would brighten things up for you, reflect a lot of light from the fire and make it easier to work in there after dark.”
“Sure! It’ll be good for insulation, too, and really cut down on the drafts that come in.”
“Yep. Nothing wrong with making things more efficient, firewood wise. Though the occasional draft isn’t gonna do the little guy any harm, either. Help make him tough.”
“Oh, I don’t think there’s too much danger of him coming out any way but tough, living this life!” And I wasn’t so much thinking of Will’s benefit when it comes to preventing drafts as I was yours, anyway…though I’d better not be telling you that, had I? Or you’ll just have to go out and sleep on a snowy boulder every night for a week or something, just to prove me wrong!
Still not done with his soup—looking for any excuse to finish, aren’t you, Liz silently speculated—Einar rose and measured with his arms the distance from one end of the ceiling to the other, figuring how best to stretch and attach the parachute for maximum coverage and working out a means by which the material could even be doubled up in some places to provide better wind stoppage and insulation where wall joined roof and drafts were most likely to originate. Liz was impressed, but still wouldn’t go help him finish the stacking of uprights for the wall until he’d finished his soup. So, he did.
Discovering that they did not have enough small trees, even when cut to length, to fully enclose both walls, the two of them went after more, Einar doing most of the finding and Liz helping to carry. She would have done more of the searching and choosing, herself, had Will not decided with a seemingly unshakable certainty that he’d already spent more than enough time on her back for one morning, and absolutely must be free to crawl and totter about the ground without further delay. She tried talking to him, singing, narrating for him every step she took and pointing out interesting objects in the timber, but none of it worked, and before long he was wailing and struggling so that she could barely keep her balance.
“Will! What is it? I know you can’t be hungry, because you just ate fifteen minutes ago. Are you really in such a hurry to go somewhere? What’s going on?”
Silent for a moment at the vehemence of her questions, the child arched his back and strained to be free of the hood-carrier, resuming his vocal protests when it became clear that his mother had no immediate plans to set him down in the snow as he wished.
Meanwhile Einar heard the ruckus and hurried her direction with two aspen poles on one shoulder and another tucked beneath his arm. “What’s the matter with him? Got his clothes wet, or something?”
“No, that’s not it. He’s your son, Einar, and probably wouldn’t mind being cold and wet nearly as much as he minds being confined. He wants down, that’s what he wants! Wants to explore, and for some reason it’s become an emergency all of a sudden.”
“Well, why not let him out and explore?”
“Because I’m trying to help you finish brining in these wall timbers…”
“Didn’t say you needed to go explore. Just let him do it. You can keep working on timbers.”
“He’s eight months old! I’m not going to leave him all by himself while we get timbers!”
“You know, it’s too bad Muninn wasn’t able to come with us. He’s probably be a proficient baby-sitter by now, would keep an eye on Will and alert us if he started getting into any trouble.”
Einar was quiet for a minute. “Yeah, kind of miss that bird. Wonder what he’s up to, anyway? Maybe watching Bud and Susan’s place for them, serving as living, breathing backup to Bud’s driveway alarm…”
“Probably. I imagine he’s happy, but do wish he was still here with us. He and Will seemed to get along pretty well, and I know the two of you had a special understanding.”
“Yep. Always did tend to have more of an understanding with the less-human sorts of critters in this world…”
“Hey now, what does that make me? Want me to get that rabbit stick, or what?”
Laughing, Einar loosened the wide buckskin strap that secured Will in his hood-pouch, lifted the child out and balanced him on his hip. “I wasn’t talking about you, and you know it! Now, how about Will and I go explore for a while, get it out of his system, and then we can finish that wall?”