Sunday, February 18, 2018

Looking Southward and Backward, Part 9.

The interrogation began with almost insultingly simple questions, such as how to locate a person's pulse, or what the shapes of leaves of common but irritating vines come in. But they quickly grew more and more difficult, and now Sarq has gone from from quietly suffering through the experience to being significantly more engaged. Now he actually has something to prove, it seems. Elrusyo is delighted at this, even as he produces vial after vial of strange concoctions for our companion to identify and then explain the full and proper use for. Purgatives, topical solutions, ointments, even a narrow glass tube of highly potent and highly illegal analgesic extracted and diluted from crimson honey.

A brief respite plays out now, as Sarq is finally given a chance to take a drink of water and remedy the cotton-mouth his new tutor is afflicting him with through this intensive and unorthodox quizzing. Ciudo and Hraela are both impressed by this point, both by our newcomer and their fellow, and earlier misgivings seem to be banished- or at least temporarily subsumed beneath a lively layer of novelty and spectacle. A bump in the road missed by the carts ahead of and behind us causes water from Sarq's ladle to be thrown up into his face, and so the exam break ends with a chill and some sputtering.

The farther away from the topic of medicine and the use of herbs they move however, the longer Sarq's pauses become, the more uncertain his answers grow. But he hasn't answered incorrectly yet, and Elrusyo seems sensitive to that. He's leaned in now, rapt concentration in his features as he stares almost unblinking at Sarq, as if he were instead listening to a flowing, informed lecture not of his own partial creation. All this does is cause Sarq to sweat more and more, however. He fidgets with his black hair, and one leg bounces up and down unceasingly and unevenly, with the occasional rap of his boot sole sounding dully against the floorboards.

Next comes the treatment of bodily trauma, with issues of blood loss and an avoidance of infection seeming to be of very great importance to Elrusyo. It appears that he also has an... elaborate system developed for the measurement of volumes of blood and other bodily fluids in creatures. A system in which the contents of an average-sized human are the standardized unit of measure. So, for example, as he explains to a bewildered-looking Sarq, one human's worth of blood is equal to two-and-a-half dogs, and the volume of blood carried by the draft horse at the head of our caravan is equal to approximately eleven and one-fifth humans, or "one deca-human plus change" as he puts it.

The cart-drivers within earshot of us are beginning to grow uncomfortable.

Still, Sarq eventually gains a sound grasp of the math, and with a bit of exercise in the physics of liquids, he is able to satisfy Elrusyo's questions regarding exactly how quickly one has to act and what steps must be taken if someone were to sustain severe lacerations of an artery or major vein. He produces objects of his own now, demonstrating that he did not leave home unequipped to deal with such injuries. Somehow, he had managed to obtain a surgery-grade set of tools and many, many yards of bandaging, gauze, and gut string. Neatly tucking it all away after the last nod of acknowledgement from Elrusyo, Sarq seems quite pleased.

Then Elrusyo asks if he's ready to give a demonstration.

Sarq begins to ask what he is talking about, when no one is injured.

Elrusyo pulls back one of the loose sleeves of his coat, reveals the inside of his forearm, and then draws a hitherto-unseen blade from his belt diagonally across it, cutting a fairly deep-looking gash into himself.

"You now have approximately ten minutes to treat your patient before blood loss becomes life-threatening; that's a little over four talecks, for you University kids!" Elrusyo exclaims almost cheerfully as he presents his maimed arm to my trio of horrified companions.

I quietly pull my legs in under myself in order to avoid bloodying my shoes.

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