Hans understood well enough despite the trouble Mishka had translating to Dacian for Hans and Greek for the physician. Some of it just came out in Russian, but it hardly mattered. Hans went back to work and Mishka picked up her bag and felt pleased to see the physician did not bolt. Instead, he looked over her shoulder as she first laid a boiled cloth on the table, and then laid out her instruments.
“More light,” she called out, and Hans went to the window. “No. Candles.” The smoke would be bad, but who knew what might be blowing in the air. The conditions of Mama’s kitchen were not exactly sterile.
Mishka laid out the scalpel, tweezers, clamps and all in order. These were made by her little ones in ancient days. From the same crowd that made Thor’s Hammer, she used Greta’s phrase. The medicine always arrived fresh, but just to be sure she checked the green dot on the bottom of the vial of penicillin.
“Remarkable craftsmanship.” The Roman spoke over her shoulder. Mishka quickly pulled out two masks, one for herself and one for the Roman and his beard. She had to make him wear it. Once washed and gloved, she turned them to the patient.
Flaminius became fascinated the instant she cut into the wound. After that, his attention never wavered. He dutifully made sponges out of the boiled cloth and they dug and sponged, clamped, looked, and dug a little deeper. At one point, Papa moaned and tried to turn over. Mishka had to call Hans to hold him down. They were nearly at the bone.
“You know,” Mishka spoke, though in what language, she could not be sure. “It is always a risk to history to intervene like this. This whole surgery is something out of time, almost as bad as the guns. But history says there should be peace between Dacia and Rome, and Greta’s Papa is too important a chess piece to lose at this stage. Eh, Hans?”
Hans looked up and nodded, but said nothing. Mishka went on. “As for Marcus.” She clicked her tongue. “I suppose I shall have to keep him alive somehow, too, if he is ever to be emperor. At least he has no Rasputin dog chasing his heels, eh, Hans?”
Hans did not look that time. They came to the bone. “And here it is.” Mishka said, cleanly extracting the sliver of the sword with her tweezers. After that, came the long, slow process of sewing him up. She had self-dissolving thread, thank goodness.
When they were nearly done sewing, Mishka sent Hans to put the kettle on the fire. “A special cure?” Flaminius asked.
“No,” Mishka answered. “In want of vodka and a good cigar. I will settle for some tea.”
“I must say, what I have just witnessed is the most remarkable bit of medical work I have ever seen. The only thing I don’t understand is why I have to wear this uncomfortable mask.”
Mishka reached for her penicillin and hypodermic as she answered. “Because I do not want anything in the leg except leg. No breath, spit, hair, and certainly no eggs you had for breakfast or greasy ribs from last night’s supper, both of which are still hiding around your chin.”
Mishka tapped the vial of penicillin and looked concerned. These people had no experience with antibiotics. She wanted enough to shock the healing process, but too much might be a disaster. “We do live by faith,” she reminded herself, and prepared the needle for the injection. At that moment, Papa’s hand flew up and caught her arm.
“Where’s my Greta?” he demanded. Mishka turned away, and then vanished from that time and place. Greta came home to find a hypodermic in one hand, and her other hand caught in her father’s crushing grasp.
“I’m right here, Papa,” she said and turned to face him. She saw him relax a little, but she called Hans over to get between them. Then she had to inject the needle herself, and Papa felt it. Fortunately, it was over quickly and the hypodermic vanished as the bag and instruments had already vanished with the good Doctor. “Everything is done. You are going to be all right.” And she motioned the physician to hold Papa up so he could take his pain medication. Then she applied the antiseptic salve and bandaged him tight, including the splint which would keep his leg immobile. She knew he would not keep the splint on for long, but she felt every hour would be a plus. Last of all, Greta hugged him and cried a little. He patted her back, but got groggy as the pain medicine had its’ effect. Then, as Papa fell back to sleep, she called the physician and Hans to her side.
“Flaminius Vinas,” she said. “Not a word about Doctor Mishka to anyone. Not now, not ever. Hans is the only other person who knows and that is how it must remain.” She shot Hans a sharp look, but somehow, she knew she could trust him. Flaminius might be another matter, but he put her mind at ease.
“Never fear,” he said. “Hippocrates taught us all about confidentiality.”
Greta relaxed. “And by the way, she says I will have to have that cup of tea with you, if you wish.”
The physician laughed. He looked genuinely pleased to have been part of it all, and especially pleased at being able to scratch his beard once again. Greta opened the window and extinguished all the candles while she sent Hans to fetch Mama. Then, when all three were present and paying attention, Greta explained the need for clean bandages and the splint to keep the leg straight until the bone could properly heal. She had to finish fixing her makeshift penicillin compound herself. It would not be very strong and might upset his stomach, but it should suffice. He had to drink a measured dose every morning for the next ten days. They must not skip a day, and he must finish it all—all ten doses. Mama alone would forget one morning. Hans could hardly be counted on, but the physician, she felt, would keep the faith and she decided this Flaminius might not be such a bad fellow after all, Roman though he was.
Greta slept that night with her eyes and ears open. She got up twice to give Papa his pain medication. The physician knew a very similar formula and promised to use it sparingly lest he become addicted to the medicine. She got up a third time to help Flaminius change Papa’s bandages. The stitching had been excellent, but the antiseptic dried and made the bandages crusty. Originally, Greta had thought to leave at first light, but in the morning, she felt much too tired to contemplate such a journey. Besides, it started pouring rain.
Afternoon came before she had a chance to speak with Papa, alone. She concluded that the only right thing to do was tell him her intentions. That way, if she did not survive, they would have some idea of what happened to her.
“Papa,” she said. “I know all about the weapons of Trajan, the guns.”
“What?” Papa looked hard at her, but quickly softened. “I must always remember, though my little girl, you are indeed the Woman of the Ways. You did for me and my leg what a whole host of Roman physicians with all their superior knowledge were powerless to do.” Greta turned a little red since that was not strictly true. “Lord Marcus says they will be a great help to us in defending our land and homes, if only we can get them out of the hands of the rebels.”
“No, Papa,” Greta said. “Marcus only wants his Romans equipped with those weapons.”
“And us,” Papa insisted. “When we guard our border, we also guard Rome’s border. They will include us.”
“And why not?” Papa asked with serious doubts as to her sanity on the matter.
“Because they are stolen from the future. Because they don’t belong here. Because the gods want them rounded up and destroyed.” The gods seemed the best way she could explain it, and that caused her Papa to pause.
“Are you sure about this?” Greta nodded without hesitation. Papa leaned back and sighed. “You know,” he said. “I have only heard of these weapons, but what I have heard, I can hardly believe.”
“I must go,” Greta said, broaching the real subject.
“Why you?” he asked.
“It’s my job,” she answered, and Papa knew that well enough not to argue the point.
“Anyway, it’s too late,” he said, sure that he had her. “The soldiers are too far ahead of you. You might as well wait until Marcus brings them back and do what you must do, here.” Papa relaxed. He thought that ended the discussion.
“I must cross the forest to Ravenshold,” Greta said, quietly.
“What?” Papa exploded. “Never. You must not even think of that. You cannot go. I forbid it.” Greta heard the fear in his voice as well as his concern for her.
“Three days journey at most and I can be in Ravenshold two days ahead of Marcus,” she said.
“Absolutely not. Do you hear me? I forbid you to go.”
“Papa,” she said. “I am only telling you in case I don’t survive, so you will know what happened to me.” But Papa already stopped listening.
“I’ll hear no more of this foolish talk.” Papa folded his arms and closed his eyes. Greta gave him a kiss and stepped outside to stand in the rain.
R5 Greta: Into the Woods… Greta begins to understand what being the Kairos is all about, even as things get strange. Until Monday, Happy Reading.