It's dark in the tiny hut where they wake before dawn and he gathers what he needs in a small leather sack. The soft tones of their pre-dawn voices don't wake the wee ones sprawled on the floor throughout the one tiny room. Her fingers, still tight with sleep, pack his food and necessities quickly and efficiently. The comforts of home wrapped neatly in strips of cloth and tucked away in his bag.
He grabs a stick, and jabs it into the fire - watching a tiny flame leap up and claim a dry piece of wood. He has split and stacked an ample supply neatly beside the fireplace. The winter has been long, harsh and wet - and yet his forethought kept them warm and dry. They are provided for. He could be gone for days... weeks even... depending on what game he can find.
So many little mouths...
The door opens - letting in a blast of arctic air and an angry lash of snow - and then shuts softly behind him. The little ones murmur in their sleep, voicing complaints over this slap of cold. Their mama shushes them and pulls their blankets up around their ears before settling herself back - determinedly in front of the Homefire.
Morning will come - days followed by nights... hours long with labour and toil and care, but the burning embers will never cease to be fed. The wood he faithfully stacked will be used in his absence as she tends to the little ones... and keeps the Homefire burning.
As the flames ebb, and threaten to die - she will gently add fuel, poking the embers and watching them lick the bark, tasting, growing in a hungry dance, before finally consuming - nourishing - the Homefires.
Neighbours stop by, letting in the frigid air... "You should be more grateful," they admonish, "His toil is all for your benefit - his labour keeps you in this comfort..." they say waving their hands in broad strokes around her home.
She says nothing - her gratitude is her hidden treasure that she won't allow to be tarnished and needlessly defended to those who don't know any better. She's glad when they're done counting her blessings for her, because what they see is so minuscule compared to the lavishness of the blessings she counts in the night as sleep threatens to overtake her and she wrestles against it. Sleep must wait - and be measured out carefully between the feedings of her precious occupation. Wearily, she doggedly tends the Homefire.
Over time, the stacks of wood dwindle. She sweeps clean the floor beneath them, and dumps the splinters of wood and bark that remain into the waning blaze... The little ones sleep in the comfort and warmth of a home that is still heated with the flames of the Homefire, until finally -there is a light step at the door... arms laden with enough to replenish their stocks, he steps inside - carefully shutting the door against the winter that never ceases to rage outdoors. He stamps his feet, and the snow falls and melts where it lands. She lifts his burdens and helps him unpack his nearly gone provisions. He reaches his hands, red with cold, towards the glowing embers.
His eyes meet hers... grateful to come home to find the Homefire still burning.