Einar and Will did not get far in their exploring, Einar brought up short under a cluster of closely-growing firs when a faint and indefinable sense of unease that had been growing in him since leaving the shelter finally revealed its source. The plane was a small single engine, moving slowly and so low down between the canyon walls that it had approached much more nearly than otherwise would have been possible before being heard. Though reason told him that the plane’s presence was most likely unrelated to their own, long habit and the instincts of a hunted man sent him to the ground at the base of one of the stoutest of the little trees, Will sheltered beneath him.
Coming straight at them now, and as Einar lay face down in the icy fir needles with Will sheltered beneath his body, he prayed that Liz’s fire would have died down sufficiently by then as to not be putting out any smoke, not too much heat, should the plane be part of some search and equipped with infrared… Twisting, turning himself on the ground he craned his neck in an attempt to get a look back at the area of the shelter, scanning for smoke but seeing nothing. Good, but not terribly reassuring, as the density of the timber around him was almost certain to prevent his catching a glimpse, even should a pillar of smoke stand black and betraying above the place.
Will was squirming, wanting to be free, but Einar kept hold of him, met his eyes and was somewhat surprised when the little one responded to something in his gaze by falling still, eyes suddenly big, silent, afraid, so that for a fleeting moment Einar hated that he had to grow up this way, always running, always with something to fear. The thought passed very quickly, swallowed up by the reality of the plane’s presence and the fact that it was even then circling back, passing no more than three hundred feet above his head before dropping down once more between the canyon walls.
Plane gone for the moment Einar lost no time getting to his feet, Will pressed to his chest as he scrambled out from beneath the firs that had sheltered them, scanning the great, silent arc of the sky for any hint of that plane’s return, but hearing nothing. Saw no smoke, either when after several minutes he’d worked his way up to the little rise overlooking the shelter, and found the lack of visible sign encouraging, if not entirely reassuring. Were plenty of other signs for the to see, had they been looking, unusual track patterns left in the snow, the residual heat which would undoubtedly be emanating from the area of the shelter, even if the fire itself had been out, and he just hoped the people in that plane hadn’t seen, because they had not been looking. Had to hope.
The thought of running, of really covering ground the way they would have to do if they had been discovered, was rather daunting to Einar just then, all that downed, snow-covered timber surrounding them and his leg still far from normal after the way he’d twisted it landing that jump. Thing would more or less support his weight when he really gritted his teeth and ignored the pain, as he had been doing during the construction of the shelter, but its capacity for speed remained somewhat limited, to put it lightly. Frustrated with the fact, he shifted all his weight to the injured limb by way of test, stumbling and nearly losing his hold on Will when the leg folded beneath him. Tried again, with the same result.
Yeah. Looks like I’m not doing a lot of running anytime soon. Nothing wrong with my ability to lead folks into an ambush and shoot straight and true once they fall for it, though. So looks like that’ll be my part of this, if they end up coming. Create one heck of a distraction while Liz and you, little one, disappear into the timber…
Through the timber, then, Einar traveled, taking longer than he strictly would have done in returning to the shelter, in the interest of leaving fewer tracks and making certain he was never far from terrain and vegetation which would offer cover should the plane return, and when finally he reached the shelter, it was to find it empty, Liz nowhere in sight. Softly he called for her, hoping she was hiding nearby, dismissing the thought—very real in the moment—that perhaps he was misunderstanding the entire thing, missing the fact that men were already on the ground and had taken Liz, that the child’s only chance was for him to turn and seek safety in the timber, to flee…
Liz coming, he heard her—or someone with a very similar gait to hers—moving cautiously over the snow, crouched low with Will until he could get confirmation, get a good look. There she was, stepping out of the timber—boots in some of their old tracks, and he could not help but admire her instincts her efforts to avoid leaving new sign—and heading right for him. He went to her.
“Yes, it’s been out. I let it go a while ago, so there shouldn’t have been any smoke. You don’t think they were…?”
“Looking for us? Don’t see how, really. We’re so far from our last known location. But if somebody let something slip, or if those towers really did have something to do with us, and they saw something interesting as we made our way up the canyon…”
“It’s probably just some hunters, you know. Or the Division of Wildlife. Scouting for moose. We know there are moose down there, and they probably know, too. Maybe they’re trying to keep track of them, ahead of calving season, something like that.”
“Well, it is about that time of year, isn’t it? Just a month or so from now.”
The conversation ended there, plane suddenly making a reappearance over the trees, its approach masked until the last minute by the canyon walls and timber so that it was almost upon the before they had any inkling of its presence. Together they dived beneath the nearest tree, Einar hugging its trunk as he reflexively sheltered Will with his body, Liz pressed close beside him. The plane did not circle, banking instead against the high ridge above them and angling off away from the canyon and disappearing into the distance, this time gone, Einar was pretty sure, for good. Or at least for the time. He rose, handing Will to his mother and only then realizing that he was shaking, one hand on his knife and eyes scanning the surrounding timber in a repeating loop, far horizon and then closer woods, searching out anywhere an enemy could be hiding and half surprised when he spotted none. Liz was watching him, seeming more concerned about his reaction to the plane than to the aircraft, itself.
“Think it’s gone?”
He looked startled at the question, almost as if he’d forgotten she was there with him. “Sure. For now. Left pretty high, heading over the ridge. Don’t think it’s coming back anytime real soon.”
“So we can stay here?”
Einar sighed, shook his head. “Don’t have a real solid reason to leave. Better just lay low for a while, keep an eye on things and hope they don’t make a regular habit of this. Meantime, better hold off on having any more fires, just in case they should end up coming back over in the night when there’s even more contrast, temperature-wise.”