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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 42: Kondor 14
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It was his third night camped in the clearing, and Kondor heated another pack of rations over the small fire he made in the used fire circle. Perhaps the men kept moving, and had abandoned this area. Maybe he should have given up and gone elsewhere before now; but when it came right down to it, he had nowhere else to go. A black man in Norman England during the Crusades was not going to be a welcome guest in the cities. He might as well stay here as go anywhere else. So he resigned himself to eating his rations in the twilight, and began to think about how to build a home here for an extended stay.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sudden awareness that someone was standing just beyond the light of his fire. He did not look up.
"By now you could have killed me," he said; "and I believe I could kill you before you could move. So let's agree that we aren't here to kill each other. Come closer and have a bite to eat. I won't say it's good, but it's food, and we can talk."
A tall man dressed in green and leather stepped forward. He spoke with the same accent as the others, or at least if it was different it was similar enough that Kondor could not tell. "You have been here long, stranger. What is your business in Sherwood Forest?"
"I've been looking for you, Robin. You're a legend. They say you fight for the rights of the poor against the oppressors. I wanted to know if it was true."
"I have never heard it put that way," Robin replied. "The shire reeve demands more from my countrymen than they can pay. I take the stolen wealth of his Norman brothers so that they can eat. Why does that concern you? Who are you?"
Kondor offered some of the reconstituted meat from his meal pack, but Robin declined. "My name is Kondor. I am a soldier who holds life precious. I am a doctor, dedicated to saving lives, but I am not afraid to die. But those sound like riddles. I thought I might help you."
"But you are a foreigner. Why would you help us? This is not your war."
"Freedom and justice are everybody's war. I didn't expect to be here, or to meet you; but it's a happy coincidence, perhaps. I would like to help you to help your people, if you will allow it."
"And what do you ask in payment? I do not hire mercenaries."
"I'm a stranger in a strange land. I don't know the laws or customs, I don't know what is safe to eat or drink, I don't know where to travel. I do know that I will be seen as alien, probably even enemy, by your countrymen. I don't ask for more than your acceptance; if that includes helping me to find food and shelter and some degree of home in your country, that's what we call the icing on the cake."
A smile crossed Robin's face, and then faded. "One of my men is very sick," he said. "Friar Tuck, the holy man who tends to our wounds and diseases, has done all he can, and has prayed earnestly. Perhaps you are the answer to his prayers; perhaps your foreign medicines may help where ours have failed."
Kondor frowned, but rose as he answered. "I don't put much faith in prayer. If it truly worked, some of our worst wars wouldn't have been fought. I can't cure everything, but I can try." He picked up his medical kit and his M-16--the latter more because he did not wish to leave it behind. "How far is this man? Should I break camp, or will I be returning here before I sleep?"
"He is not far. If you follow me, you will see him in less than an hour."
Kondor did follow him, and it was much less than an hour, perhaps only a quarter of an hour at Robin's quick pace, before he arrived at the bedside of the sick man. A collection of makeshift shelters ran along the side of a low ridge, with the undergrowth growing from the rooftops so it all blended into the forest. He entered and found several women attending to the man.
The way the symptoms presented, Kondor was fairly certain that it was either a bacterial or a viral infection. Robin introduced him as Kondor, a doctor from a foreign land who might be the answer to Friar Tuck's prayers. The fat friar was sitting by the bedside.
"Please excuse me," Kondor began. "I do not wish to interfere with your treatment."
"No, no," said the friar; "please go right ahead. I have done all I can."
"I would ask that no one leave just now," Kondor said. "It may be that you will need to be treated to prevent you from becoming ill as well." He examined the patient, his eyes, his ears; he felt the man's throat for swelling, took his pulse, guessed his temperature by touch. Then he opened his medical kit and took out one of the instruments. Even as he did so, he could sense Friar Tuck's eyes watching every move.
"It is a machine which will help me decide what medicine he needs." He realized that he would be suspected of witchcraft and magic, and wanted to avoid any such confusion. Removing the probe, he inserted it into the patient's mouth, soaking it in saliva. The analyzer began identifying organisms and pathogens. It quickly determined the presence of an infectious bacterial strain. Kondor had a substantial amount of broad-spectrum antibiotic which, given over several days, should cure it. He took out one bottle.
"I'm going to ask you to swallow this pill. Don't chew it. Can we get a glass of clean water for this man?" He looked at the women, and one of them poured a cup from a pitcher close at hand. He doubted it was clean; it might even be the source of the infection--but it would suffice for the moment. "Over the next several days, I'll be giving you additional pills which will help your body rid itself of this disease."
"What sort of magic is that?" asked Friar Tuck, fear in his voice.
"There's no magic; I don't believe in magic. My pills are made from plants and animals and rocks and dirt from my home which have been found to have curative properties. Once I become familiar with what you have available here, I'll be able to show you how to make such medicines. You will, I hope, teach me some of what you know?"
Tuck, apparently relieved by the assurance that this was not sorcery, agreed. "Oh, yes, certainly. An exchange of knowledge could only benefit both of us."
"I'll want to see everyone who has touched this man or been in this room since he first became sick, starting with you all. I want to be certain none of you are already sick, and give you some medicine as a prophylactic, so that you will not succumb to his disease." Examining them quickly, he handed pills from a different bottle to each of them. "Swallow these without chewing, with a drink of water or something. Don't drink the water from this room. I'm going to have to clean up a bit here before he can have other visitors."
Robin stood holding his pill, the others looking at him. Kondor knew what they were thinking. He was probably not at risk for this particular infection, but he couldn't be certain, so it wouldn't hurt to be safe. He took one of the pills himself, tossed it in his mouth, and swallowed it. Robin hesitated a moment, and then did the same. "You'll find it easier to swallow those with a drink," Kondor suggested, and the others began to leave. "If there's anyone else who has had contact with this man, please send them to me."
As the others left, Kondor picked up the pitcher and cup and the few eating utensils which lay on the table beside his patient. The eating utensils were marked with dried food which he could see even in the dim lamplight of the room. Taking everything, including the lamp, outside, he washed the utensils with the water and a bit of antibacterial hand soap from his kit. Then he rinsed everything thoroughly and dumped the rest of the water on the earth. He sprayed it all with a strong topical antiseptic, and took it back inside.
By this time, several others had arrived who had had contact with the sick man. Kondor examined each of them, but assured them there was no sign that they were ill. Still, if they felt at all sick over the next couple of days, they should see him immediately. When the women returned, he asked one of them to take him to the water, so he could make sure it didn't have the sickness in it (it was difficult to explain his ideas to them; they knew nothing of disease) and get fresh water for the patient. Soon everything was as good as he could reasonably get it. He excused himself, saying that he would be back in the afternoon to check on the patient, and could find his own way home.
He was becoming more accustomed to the forest; with little difficulty he found his tent beside the glowing embers of his fading fire.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #33: Novel Struggles. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: