Those Jagged Remedies (June#BlogBattle-Scar)

Scars

Intent: cold and raw. A precise mix sufficient to clear your senses. Visceral, held in check by the focus which in turn fed back on that which it supressed. All was balanced for the work ahead.

The figure finally moved out of its cover, slow, patient progress to the campsite, watching the two slouching, complacent guards. The figure did not take anything for granted though, only moving when the guards shuffled off away from the interloper’s planned route.

The plan was clear enough, its execution requiring enduring caution, stealth and concentration. Acceptance of a long night essential.

‘Medician.’

Eight years’ service, Principal Lieutenant Vragen by custom accepted an audible oath as the first sound to leave the lips of a soldier dragged out of sleep. Even dodging the small pillow, sent with some accuracy, considering the dispatcher’s eye were still closed. Eyes widened on seeing the target’s rank.

‘My apologies, Principal Lieutenant. Albeit deep in the first sleep after two days and nights of toil. That was indefensible. What are your orders sir?’

By the time the disciplined apology seasoned with an excuse had reached his ears the soldier was out of bed at an attention which despite the baggy nightgown would do credit to a parade ground. Remarkable recovery, but not swift enough to tame the twinkle in the eyes and the faint twist to the right corner of the mouth. Working the arts of interrogation and investigation gave you an edge in observation.

‘Place yourself at ease Medician. I shall overlook the pillow. Reflexes in the best traditions of the LifeGuard.’ there was a brief exchange of restrained grins ‘I am here to call upon your skills. We are required to supply a miracle. In this case the saving, not taking of a life,’

He was but half way through the opening of the explanation when she uncaring of his presence, pulled off her nightgown, and began to dress into uniform clothing. Her body marked with scars of service and personal shaves with death.

‘Somebody of note Principal Lieutenant?’ she asked.

‘Lord Lemp’s son Idjel,’

‘I thought,’ she said combing fair hair into order ‘he was out somewhere learning,’ -a sarcastic tone entered her voice- ‘a soldier’s trade?’

‘His father purchased a commission, in The Hounds Vigilant,’ their sarcastic exchanged continued, her next contribution a harsh bark of a laugh.

Dressed and gathering up her medical supplies, she continued.

‘Learning how to avoid proper combat and which are the best villages to terrorise and sack, all in the name of the Emperor,’

‘Still not deemed of official concern to the LifeGuard I fear,’ he said in finality.

Their arrival was greeted by a flustered Lord Lemp, the close presence of a LifeGuard outpost being a very mixed blessing to lesser nobles. To his due, Lemp currently embraced the blessing aspect with effusive thanks for their swiftness. Vragen was all diplomacy, any opportunity for investigation was to be grasped. His medician however was for grim efficiency. With a brief, civil request to ‘see the patient’ she set the lord and his senior officials scuttling off, she at their heels like a shepherding dog, her officer in their wake.

At the door of the bedroom, coat and hat removed, hair secured under a tight cap, while hands washed in an astringent of her own, and ignoring the initial goggling that there was a woman here, her emotionless interrogation of the circumstances began. Where had he been? When did this come to the attention of his father? Had they given him any treatments yet?

‘Hmm. Down in Hegohel. Yes. There are three strains of plague there. A day out from coming home with escort? Really? Staggered in by himself? Principal Lieutenant sir. The previous camp needs to be traced and eradicated sir. Expeditiously, sir,’

And having given that command to her commander, she entered the room. Alone.

Yes, a befouled mess, already. Facial skin reddened in patches. Lost in a delirium. Sweating. Threshing too. Not even the lowest of servants attending. The word Plague was enough to let The Fear out. Even mild ones which left the suffered scarred and thus marked. She hitched on her face mask and eased on her slender leather gloves. To work then.

Since there was no one around she dealt with the threshing by kneeling her full weight on his chest, in other situations a man would pay good money for such treatment. In a perfunctory manner she clutched his face, twisting it to right and left, leaned in, he inadvertently helped by screaming in pain, allowing her a good view of mouth and upper throat. In equally unsympathetic manner she examined other parts, his weakness stifling true resistance. Yes, definitely 

Outside she deftly removed cap and gloves, dropped them into a nearby ornamental urn and having washed her hands in astringent emptied some into the said receptacle. She regarded the assembled quartet.

‘Carmine Furusio,’ she announced and raised one hand to still panic ‘It does not travel by air, not even casual touch. Uncleanliness is the cause. It’s curable. The problem is with cadavers, other illnesses can fester. The camp and burn everything, Principal Lieutenant, especially bodies, no survivors. The Good Lord God knows what else mercenaries carry under their skin. Now please, Principal Lieutenant, sir,

Witnessing the prompt exit Lord Lemp, was taken a’ back at the authority these Medicians carried. He did not even question her peremptory tone when she addressed everyone as to what she would require for assist, nor confirmation she would attend to this alone. There was relief on that score.

First, the sight of the carrion birds, then the audible sound of flies, of course the stench and finally the stillness of the camp. Vragen did not have to command the party to halt. Taking a page from the Medician’s book, on dismounting he covered his face and hands, approached slowly, studied the first body. By the distance from the perimeter he guessed the fellow had tried to flee. Some of the horses had broken from tethering, others had survived by reducing the grass around them. No sign of plague. He let them loose, they made for a stream. He returned to the first body avoiding the others. All very sudden, this attack of plague.

He gave the order to collect the first kindling, to start an initial fire allowing safe ground to build a bigger base for another ring of fire,  moving over more scorched land, poking roasted bodies closer in, until the dead were piled into one place and the last great fire started. The Medician had trusted him with the overseeing. The men did too.

Upon returning he found Lord Lemp in a mixed state, agitated, relieved and concerned all at once. If there was not such an air of death about the sight might have seemed comic. Without waiting for the dismount he addressed Vragen.

‘My son lives,’ he said, although the joy was tempered with distraction ‘The Medician remained with him all the past day, night and this day too,’

A loud keening came from the room one flight above them, Lemp glanced upwards, his mouth working while his brain sought words.

‘It seems he must lose one leg. A pernicious infection, she told me. She is about the business now,’ a hope born of desperation into his voice ‘She assures me he will not feel too much pain, there are potions y’see,’

Smoke drifted across the courtyard.

‘She is most meticulous. Insists everything is burnt; to ashes. Says it will halt any progression. We all have to wash our hands too.’ A nervous laugh followed. She’d unsettled the man, Vragen was certain. A signature trait she forcefully employed when encountering negligible but unpleasant folk. The thin mouth, cold remote tone, and dark eyes, the unrelenting stare could curled you. Even more damned unsettling when you knew how cheerful, chatty and mischievous she could be with most folk.

The sound pitched to a sharp screech and as quickly into a moan, and silence. A small audience look upwards, expectant, waiting for the announcement. No doubt, Vragen reckoned, as ordered.

The window flew open, the face gaunt and severe looked down.

‘The leg has been successfully removed,’ she called out, clear and composed ‘Just above the knee, the area cauterised. Squire Idjel has lapsed into acceptable unconsciousness. I require assistance in cleaning and cleansing. The risk of Plague transference has ceased,’

And the window was closed.

The Medician stood before the Lord Vragen felt the rolls might be reversed. She presented two bottles of dark wine coloured mix.

‘Your son will live. Though, Lord, he will be without the vitality associated with a man of his age. This is Extract of Herstel. Ensure he has one quarter wine cup of this each day until both bottles are finished, this will aid his progress. Some would say you should give him a stronger dose. The LifeGuard does not recommend this.’

The duo rode away, they examined the ground scored by fire. The Medician grunted some acceptance. Vragen asked her if Idjel would truly live.

‘I cannot say for certain, Principal Lieutenant, sir. The fellow was weakened. It depends on the care he now receives. In body, heart and soul.’

Vragen was writing his report, based upon The Medician’s own brief, terse account. He was musing not just on the sparseness but her reply to his question of Idjel’s survival.

Vragen’s experience tapped at him. In this case, by her tone and expression she might as well have said ‘Don’t know. Don’t care,’

Some might have admired her composure and dedication dealing with any plague victim. Yet her actions did fit with her attitude, in particular to someone who had ridden with one of the most undisciplined and battle-shy mercenaries of the empire. Consider The LifeGuard’s institutional acceptance of medicians’ inclinations to be covert executioners of folk they judged unworthy to live. She had had ample expert opportunity to ensure the fellow died. No local would have suspected. Instead, she had left with gratitude about her.

Long enough in one area of expertise could leave you agitated as well as alert. Investigation work enabled you to know which references to go to.

Even an outpost of LifeGuard held a sufficiently basic reference library of works, political, cultural, religious and medical. The latter being of his current interest.

‘Carmine Furusio,’. The ailment was indeed one of the more modest afflictions; practitioners opinions seemed sanguine. The symptoms did remind him of encounters in his career. He moved to chapters on poisons. ‘Cremisi Astuto’. Both tuscatalian phrases alluding to red, the former plague, but the latter, no, translated to ‘astute’. Ideal name. Similar symptoms. Only always deadly. Made more sense. Plague camps had bodies lying in parody of repose; this one, they had been scattered, fallen, giving impressions of prior staggering.

Someone had struck, carefully at night. Cooking pots, wine barrels. Revenge upon one group or just a targeting of mercenaries. How had Idjel survived? Easiest part. His own supplies, the last victim when poison was running out. Fleeing in fear at the sudden deaths. Whoever could answer was long gone. A fair reasoning.

The Medician would have surmised the difference too. She covered for them adding her own nuances on the survivor. Had the amputation been necessary? What weaknesses had been left to pervade? A miserable fate. And her parting words, a LifeGuard caution on medication. Most nobility chaffed at LifeGuard strictures. Her words a positive dare to do so. A carefully planted verbal toxin; belated execution by circuitous default.

And evidence burnt.

Motive? Swift undressing had revealed four close, long, narrow pale scars down her arm. A woman’s nails. Medicians made light of small injuries unconsciously inflicted by patients in torment. Dying of multiple rapes, or sadistic injuries, driven mad at death of children..

One man’s prolonged torment both symbolic justice and a balm for scars to limb and soul? How many other applications? Before and to come?

https://bbprompt.com/2022/06/03/june-blogbattle-scar/

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27 thoughts on “Those Jagged Remedies (June#BlogBattle-Scar)

  1. Pingback: #BlogBattle Stories: Scar | BlogBattle

  2. “ornamental urn” a fancy name for ‘trash can’ or recycle container. Love it.
    I have to say that I did not expect her to be a her. Figured it would be a he. A surprise for sure.
    This story would have read differently 2.5 years ago. Now we’re all used to masks and gloves, which enhances our understanding of the story. We can imagine ourselves as her tending to a person with a virus.
    The ending was a great surprise – not only was she a medician, but she was also a judge, jury, and executioner. Fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed that Sam.
      She’s a central character in a trilogy I indulged in writing and has ‘form’ for doing this sort of thing. I thought it would be interesting to go back to an earlier time when maybe, for the first time she got away with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shades of the burning to prevent spread of BSE Roger. Although as I recall even the 60’s reports cast doubt on the method as piles heaped tended to smoulder rather than burn with searing heat. Smoke capable of carrying a contagion outward….

    Sounds a lot like deliberate biological warfare too. I oft wonder if Monkey Pox could simultaneously outbreak in several countries almost to the day without some, shall we say, deliberate assistance. Between you and Abe we have two rather grim tales going on.

    Nice touch with the female Medician too. Quite a powerful character, but I do wonder if she has some overarching pressure applied. Do the job badly or not as we want and things could add yet more scars to the collection. All complete with PPE too. Nice touch, or is it more to scare the pants off those around her?

    Very intriguing tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you found that interesting Gary. Y’know I hadn’t thought of those BSE images directly, they must have struck a chord when writing this one.
      She’s not above using all manner of tools for intimidation of various degrees. Her name in Arketre Beritt, a central character of mine. Quite conflicted: kind and friendly to ordinary folk, an absolute hellion to anyone nasty who crosses her path, very professional on the battlefield and a source of concern to her closest.
      This was something of a back-story when she was only a year or so out of training.
      (She’s also one of those characters who looks over your shoulder when you are writing, tutting)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Maybe lurking subliminally in the background. Quite disturbing scenes as I recall.

        She almost sounds unbalanced. Not overly trusting. A case of keep your enemies close kind of thing, especially when you said a source of concern to those close to her. Not to mention sitting on the writers shoulder muttering you’re not doing me right!!

        Back story rambles I find totally fascinating too. Both reading and writing. Possibly it’s a procrastinating method to avoid a complex plot haha

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad to picked up on that. In Arketre’s narrative there is a part tribute, part lament for the folk who have to deal with the horrors for the rest of us. Within her ‘regiment’ The LifeGuard (an intense state within a state outfit) there is a concern for ‘Going Down The Long Road’ and getting so far down that road a trooper forgets how to or doesn’t care about ‘getting back’ . It’s part of her struggle to try and avoid that, happily for her she has two very close folk whose relationships with her always haul her back. She meets them later on (and just in time).

        I agree with you there about back stories. Plots and counter-plots can get all too complex, and yet some Fantasy tales require them…..Ah writing, if it was easy, where would be the fun in that. Yeah?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed… but for others sacrifices the oblivious masses can live it up and still find things to complain about.

        I guess many in the battle fronts lose themselves. Trauma, smell, loss, fear all bleeding together. Flip onto social media and the world at large has a host of debates and opinions. Smiling away while you are in a place very few can imagine. I guess that must also leave scars of different sorts.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Indeed Gary. The places where the counter-intuitive, the paradoxical and the illogical to survival and well-being dwell.
        The book which has influenced me a great deal is Michael Herr’s ‘Despatches’, dealing with his time as a journalist in Vietnam during 1967-68.
        There was a stream of conscious style of observations on the American Political and Military Hierarchies. His commentaries of the effects on US soldiers, journalists (including himself) are spell bindingly vivid.
        These days the majority of responsible military histories will give some consideration to the price paid, not just in dead.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve not read that one. May look it up now. Thing with history now is it won’t necessarily comply with the initial political motives. I’ve seen quite a few documentaries recently that challenge “accepted” history and almost forensically break it down. I think the point being folk thought the world was flat for many long moons… established thought trains are not necessarily true.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree Gary.
        History is a harsh teacher. However it’s necessary to read several histories to get something approaching the true picture.
        Sometimes the writer’s, or in the case of TV the production team’s agenda get in the way.
        One thing is certain. No one person or no people ever come out with clean hands and as shining innocents or ‘noble’.
        Humanity is flawed and has not learnt the lessons yet.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. A very dark and intriguing tale indeed! I like your use of the word Medician – part medic, part magician – and wonder how I’ve never run across it before. Your brainchild? The name of Lord Lemp (made me think of Limp) was also telling. I also was caught off guard that the medician was a woman. She definitely qualifies as one of those complex characters – has her good qualities, but I don’t trust her. When she put on the face mask, I actually wondered if it was supposed to be one of those ‘gas mask’ looking contraptions used by the plague doctors centuries ago. You set up the story nicely, giving us a peek of how the contagion started and then wrapping up what happened at the end. And yet some mystery remains … well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you abe. I was working in slightly unfamiliar territory (murder mystery-sort of) although with a character well-known to me. I’m glad it paid off.
      Y’know I never thought of the Magician aspect, when that word started off it was (I thought my own made-up word: a combination of ‘Medic’ and ‘Technician’ and checking today on google – lo and behold it is an actual term used to cover medical professionals such as medical scientists; professional practitioners: doctors or nurses etc. Considering the Fantasy World this is set in ‘Magician’ has a certain resonance.
      Arketre being a ‘medic’ as in armed forces, with a practical set of tools and knowledge. Her mask is a traditional piece of gauze . She is complex, her back-back story would see her as a cheeky rogue, useful with fists but caring of nature and very adept. Serving in the elite and judgemental LifeGuard has hardened her, maybe too much. Once you earn her trust you are safe with her, maybe not comfortable though. She does encounter folk who turn her away from going to ‘far down’, though have to haul her back at times.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Magician does seem more fitting than Technician in this world you created – magic and healing have long been intertwined in past ages. Real word, huh? It’s so annoying when you think you coined something clever, only to discover somebody else beat you to it. Of course you still deserve credit because when you thought it up, you never heard of it before. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • The world build I went for was based on my surface knowledge of current teachings upon Quantum, Dark Energy, Dark Matter and mixed up with folk in a sort of Medieval / Renaissance era trying to make sense of it (and exploit it- of course). Though it was difficult to keep ‘Magic’ out of the equation, but they’ve got ‘laptops’ so that kind of pinned it down.😃 …. a bit.
        I keep telling myself to google my latest made up word..but…..Ah me.
        Still I’ll take that credit thanks😀

        Liked by 1 person

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