I tried mindspeech with Estraven six or eight times in the month of Thanern. No luck. I could feel his mind present and eager, but my thoughts could not reach it. After a while, he gave up.
“I am deaf as a rock, dumb as a log,” he said one night in frustration.
His frustration was partly due to the temperature of the tent. The chabe stove, on my side of the tent, was turned to eight out of thirteen; rather cozy for me, too hot for him. It had been on ten previously, but I had turned it down.
He was still in kemmer, and had been abstaining to that point, but it was the last day of kemmer. He assured me that the intensity tapered off towards the end. Still, he was too hot, and his undershirt was sticking to his skin as he tried to wriggle out of it.
“We could play Go again,” I suggested.
“No,” he grumbled, cursing at his undershirt.
He asked me, then, to give him a hand. I did, and helped him free himself of the garment. After I had done so, he looked up at me, flushed, from under his thick brows and his curtain of long black hair.
It was an attractive look on him.
“Let’s try something else,” he said.
Estraven leaned closer and pressed his forehead to mine. I thought for a moment he thought it might help with mindspeech, but his thoughts were nowhere near telepathy.
I think it was he who kissed first. We slept very little that night and woke up with our limbs tangled together, but by that time he was in somer, and we continued as usual.
I tried mindspeech with Estraven again during Nimmer, but we made no attempt during the great snowstorm that snowed us in for several days. That storm had managed to coincide with Estraven’s kemmer, and he had no intention of abstinence this month, not anymore. We spent five or six days in blissful physical communion, resting comfortably, making love, sleeping, holding each other close, having long, pleasant conversations, kissing, laughing, and making love again.
Estraven spent much of the day after kemmer quite quietly, mostly sleeping, staring at the ceiling, writing his diary, looking blankly into the distance. His silence was beginning to worry me, because he had been quite talkative the previous days. I asked him whether he was worried about something.
“Perhaps,” he said, and didn’t elaborate.
The next day, while out hauling the sledge, we did what we usually did around midday, and stopped and cut ourselves a small wall of ice to eat our lunch in lee of.
“If I get sick,” he began.
“Are you feeling sick?” I asked.
“No. Let me finish.”
His description of what might happen to him involved blood, which horrified and perplexed me. Scurvy? But not scurvy, since orsh and gichy-michy had plenty of ascorbic acid. Something else? He mentioned the alternative possibility of hunger and fatigue. I did not understand.
“If you get sick, I’ll put you on the sledge and haul you,” I said, “I know you’d do the same for me.”
“I don’t think I’d get that sick,” Estraven said. “I may not get sick at all… I am only telling you so that you are not surprised if I do.”
“Right,” I said, still terribly in the dark.
“I wish I’d brought more rations,” Estraven lamented. “I brought more than I thought we’d need, but this is going to take more days than I had accounted for.”
“It’s all right,” I said, though I too certainly wished he had brought more rations.
And onward we hauled.