R5 Greta: Desperation, part 3 of 3

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.”

“Oh, I see,” Flaminius said, and she could tell he was learning.  She hoped he was not learning too much.

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.”

“But it doesn’t matter,” Greta said.  “No one should have those weapons.”

“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.

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MONDAY

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.

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R5 Greta: Desperation, part 2 of 3

The physician who came with Papa showed contempt from the beginning, but his contempt got abated a little as Greta pointed out his work and named everything he did in both Latin and Greek.  In truth, she spent all that while examining the wound.

Papa stayed respectfully quiet and only said “Ouch,” in the appropriate places. Meanwhile, Hans came in with arms full of moldy bread, and Vanesca returned at about the same time with the water. Greta set them immediately to preparing the penicillin which would be taken orally, though they hardly knew what they were doing, or why.

Papa’s leg had not yet become infected, but it seemed rapidly headed in that direction. She examined Papa’s hands.  When the assassin struck, he missed the target, struck only Papa’s leg; but the sword went to the bone and even cut a hairline fracture.  As Papa cried out, he grabbed the sword and held on to the blade so the assassin could not draw it out and strike a second blow.  Papa demonstrated and explained.  “Then Marcus tackled the man and had him tortured.  That was how we found out about Kunther’s rebellion,” he said, and Greta knew that was also how they found out about the guns.

Papa’s hands did not look to be cut too badly.  They were already healing.  But not every soldier was scrupulous about keeping his weapon clean.  Some blades even developed a keen edge of rust. Soldiers routinely died, not from the wound, but from the infection that developed.  Greta well understood why the Roman physicians recommended removal of the leg.  His chances for survival were not good if he lost the limb, but if his leg turned green, his chances became zero.

Greta finally stood up.  Everyone waited.  “You missed a sliver,” she told the physician.  “Did the sword break?”

“No.” Darius spoke up.  “But it had notches in several places, like a sword that had been in hard battle.  I suppose a piece may have broken off against the bone, isn’t that possible, physician?”

“I suppose it is possible.”  The physician admitted.  “But we can do nothing about that now, certainly not with the wound already closing. The leg is ready to green, and there is nothing we can do about that either, except remove the leg and burn it off and hope for the best.”

“No,” Greta insisted.  “We get out the sliver and then treat the leg against infection.”  She sounded so sure.  “Papa.  You will have to follow my directions for the next twenty-one days.  If you do, you will get well.”  She sounded very stern and he raised his eyebrows.

“I mean it.” Greta spoke with everything she had. “Do you understand?”

“Yes, Mother.” Papa nodded.

“Good,” Greta said.  “Physician and Hans stay.  Everyone else out.”  Vanesca and Darius looked up.  “Sorry,” Greta said.  “This is necessary and important.”

They agreed, and as they left, Greta made her Papa drink the sleeping potion.  Then she got a bowl of fresh water and got the physician to start cleaning the wound while she stepped outside.  Marcus paced there, with about twenty men waiting as well as they could.  Gaius mounted and Darius followed.

“You brought up the entire cavalry troop?” Greta asked.

Darius and Gaius looked at each other.  Romans did not easily share such information, but Marcus did not hesitate.  “Three hundred,” he said.  “And about an equal number of auxiliaries and of your own people.”

“Vanesca!”  Greta shouted before Vanesca got out of earshot. “Go fetch Yanda’s father and tell him I need him here, on horseback, and dressed for war, immediately.”

Vanesca waved.

“Immediately!” Greta repeated herself to be sure.

“The whole legion is following?” she asked Marcus.

“Pretty much,” he admitted.  “The legion in Apulum is spread all over the countryside, but VII Claudia is mostly intact and coming up from Vimiacium on the Danube.”

“Take Yanda’s father with you,” she said.  “His name is Hersecles.  He is too old for much of a fight, but he has the respect of all who know him, and that is a lot of people.  What is more, his whole heart is for peace with Rome and against rebellion.  He can replace Eldegard if Eldegard should prove false.  I am not saying he will turn false, mind you.”  Marcus nodded, and Greta felt terrible suggesting it because Eldegard was Drakka’s father.  “I know Papa picked him,” she went on.  “But he was on the fence.  Part of the reason for Papa’s pick was to bring him over to the side of peace.”  She had nothing more to say, and after that, they waited, and waited until Marcus could barely contain his impatience.

“If I had a copper for every time I had to wait,” Gaius quipped.  “Do you know how rich I would be?”  Marcus nodded, but it did not help.

They waited, and the Roman physician came out to report.  “The wound is clean, your father is asleep, and the boy is bored.”  He related things in his own order of importance.

“Fine,” Greta said, a bit sharply.  She felt uncomfortable, not because of the wait, but because Darius kept staring at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. “What?”  She shot the word at him, and it distracted Marcus for the moment.

“Nothing.” Darius sat upright.  “Did I say something?”  He asked Gaius, not expecting an answer.

“Damn it!” Greta felt unhappy with herself. She wanted to hate herself, but she had to say it.  “Damn it!” She repeated.  “Just don’t get yourself killed, all right?  It wouldn’t be much of a wedding without you. Okay?  I said it.”  Greta felt herself flush red from anger and several other conflicting emotions.

“Bravo!” Marcus shouted.  Then Hersecles chose that moment to show up so she did not get a response from Darius, if he had one.

Greta made the introductions and gave Hersecles her instructions before they raced off to catch the troop which was already well ahead of them.

“He doesn’t look like much of a warrior,” the physician noted.

“Better than I thought,” Greta responded, and she brought the physician back inside the house.

Hans sat by the bed watching Papa snore, but the minute they came in he asked the question which had been pressing on his mind.  “Will my Nameless be able to help?”  To his disappointment, Greta shook her head, and then explained.

“This is not a spiritual matter.  It is strictly a matter of flesh and blood.”  Greta saw that the wound looked tolerably clean so she said, “Thank you” to the physician.

“But can you do this alone?” Hans pressed.

“No,” she admitted.  “But Doctor Mishka can.  She is a trained battlefield surgeon and she operated on far worse after Tannenberg, and even here in Dacia, though they did not call it Dacia in 1915.”

“Who is Mishka?” Hans asked, responding on the one thought he grasped from all that she said. Greta could see the same question forming in the physician’s mind.

“Take my hands,” Greta said.  “It is sort of a tradition.”  And she grasped Han’s hand and held the physician’s hand firmly.  She closed her eyes and reached out, not with her mind or heart, but with her spirit, and not in space, but sliced through time, even to the twentieth century.  All at once, Greta no longer stood there.  The Doctor stood in her place and felt much too snug in Greta’s dress.  The Roman nearly ran, but Mishka put her arm out and Hans restrained him.

“My surgical garb.”  Mishka called, and like the armor, it replaced Greta’s dress.  “Better,” Mishka took a deep breath.  “My black bag.”  She called again and the bag appeared in her hand, and she felt ready.

“Doctor Nadia Illiana Kolchenkov.”  Mishka introduced herself to the Roman and shook his bewildered hand.  “Colonel, late of the Army of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.”  That was 1945, not 1915.  This seemed an older Mishka than Greta had envisioned.

“Flaminius Vinas,” the Roman said, meekly.

“Pleased to meet you,” she said.  “Now you must assist.”  She winked at Hans who smiled broadly.  In this one he could see at least a little of his sister.  He could never pinpoint a particular feature.  Even the hair and eye colors were different.  But his sister was in there all the same.  “We make a fine troika,” Mishka said.  “But my brother must finish his potion as instructed, yes?”