Time on My Hands
Chapter 5: 195 CE: Tending to Romans
A few minutes later the centurion led Raben into a two story stone home. The moans of his wife could be heard as soon as they entered. Without hesitating he ran up the stairs and into the room where the moaning woman lay on a bed. The midwife and the healer were ineffectively tending to the woman.
“Have you given her anything?” Raben asked as he moved to the woman’s side and began to gently palpitate her swollen tummy.
“Who are you?” The healer asked indignantly as he tried to maintain control.
“I’m an Ianuarian,” Raben declared. “Now answer my question! What have you given her?”
“Get out,” The healer demanded. “You’re too young to know what to do.”
“The baby is turned,” Raben declared as he glared at the healer. “It’s too late to try to properly realign it. That should have been done when labor began. It will never come out naturally.”
“I tried to turn the child but he made me stop,” the midwife sobbed indicating the healer.
“You were hurting the mother,” the healer defended.
“A bit of pain is tolerable to ensure a natural birth,” Raben growled. “By delaying the process you have endangered the mother and child. Now I must take drastic measures, cutting the child from her body, to save both.”
“That will kill them,” the intimidated healer whined.
“Don’t project your limitations on me,” Raben snapped in reply. “This woman and her child will die if the baby isn’t taken. Tell me what you’ve given her!”
“Tell him what you’ve given her,” the clearly angry centurion ordered. “It’s obvious you don’t know what to do, he at least has an idea!”
“I’ve given her mandrake potion to dull the pain,” the healer begrudgingly admitted.
Raben nodded. “Is there a sturdy table in your kitchen and do you have water boiling?” After receiving a nod he began ordering those in attendance about. “Boil as much water as you can. Then thoroughly wash the table. In a second pot boil clean cloths for at least ten minutes and slowly pour boiling water over the table then wipe it down with vinegar. I’ll give her medications to make her sleep then when the water and table are ready we’ll need her taken to the kitchen and placed on the table. I’ll need all the vinegar you have as well as some honey, a whisk and a small bowl that has been cleaned and boiled. We need to move quickly!”
“Save my child, even if it means I die,” the mother to be gasped as another painful contraction hit.
“I’ll do my best to save you and the child,” Raben assured her. “Now I need you to sleep.”
Twenty minutes later Raben had his kit prepared. In the small bowl he diluted honey with boiling water to make a gel. Taking a clean cloth soaked in vinegar he thoroughly washed the baby bulge. From his opened surgical kit he pulled out several long thin strips of sinew which he submerged in the bowl of vinegar. After wiping his hands on a cloth he picked up an finely tooled obsidian blade. With a smooth stroke he split open the skin of the mother’s bloated tummy. A second stroke severed the abdominal muscles exposing her uterus.
Those watching were horribly fascinated as Raben worked. With another swift stroke he opened the uterus. Reaching inside he gently lifted the embryonic sack containing the child. Placing the child on birthing clothes he sliced open sack exposing the child who began to flail his arms and cry.
“Take the child,” Raben ordered the midwife as he turned back to the mother. After cleaning the inside of the uterus with vinegar he used the soaked sinew to carefully sew the uterus closed covering the stitched wound with diluted honey. Then he carefully sewed the severed abdominal muscles back together with more vinegar soaked sinew again covering the wound with a thin coat of diluted honey. Lastly he sewed her skin closed with vinegar soaked sinew coating the scar with a thin layer of honey.
“She should wake up in an hour or so. If she finds the pain too great give her small doses of mandrake potion no more than every four hours but only for two days. The wounds should heal with proper care,” Raben stated after the forty minute procedure. “When the birthing cloths are dry place one atop the wound. If you wash and then boil the cloths for ten minutes, once dried and kept clean they can be reused. Change them every four hours making sure to lightly coat the wound with honey. Make sure she doesn’t get out of bed for five days. After that, she should do no lifting for two weeks and light lifting for a further two weeks. Failure to do so could result in the wounds splitting open and death. You’ll need to procure a temporary wet nurse since she should not nurse the child until she’s been off the mandrake potion for one full day.”
With that he checked the baby pronouncing it healthy. The midwife was awed by Raben’s calm efficiency and competency. The healer was humbled by Raben’s obvious skill. Never had he seen anyone do what he’d done, saving both mother and child in such circumstances.
“You’ve done this before,” the midwife stated.
“Yes, several times,” Raben answered. “My adopted mother was the clan Ianuarian and I learned from her as I grew. As her son I was with her all the time. My age masks my abilities.”
“I could have taken the child,” the healer whined.
“Probably,” Raben agreed. “But you would kill the mother doing so.”
The healer didn’t reply because he knew what Raben said was true.
The centurion was speechless. He’d seen healers operate on wounded soldiers but they were clearly not in Raben’s league. Never had he seen such skill or caring. The tough veteran realized his impromptu decision to bring the youth to see his wife was the best decision he’d recently made. Then he asked the young healer to stay a few days to insure his wife would be okay.
After Raben cleaned and repacked his med kit the grateful centurion rode with him to the tabernae (inn) in the settlement that had grown around the Halheim border fort. There was a wall about four feet high and a foot thick around the site of the tabernae. A sign hung on the gate post proclaiming the business to be a tabernae. The twin wooden swing gates were open indicating they were open for business. Two men and a boy standing in front of the building entrance interrupted their conversation as they saw Raben and the centurion ride inside the compound.
“This young man will be staying here for a few days,” the centurion declared. “He’s the best healer I’ve ever seen. He just saved the life of my son and wife. I’ll pay for all his expenses. See that he has the best. I’ll see you in the morning, Raben.” With that the centurion left to return to his duties.
“Of course, Centurion Didius,” the owner replied with a slight bow as the centurion left. “Boy, take this healer’s horses to the stable.”
Raben slid off the horse quickly pulling his packs with him. The stableboy took his horses with assurances the animals would be brushed and fed. The owner led Raben inside.
“This is the main room,” he explained. “Meals and drinks are served here. You’ve missed lunch and it’ll be another three hours before supper is ready. If you can’t wait until then we can provide cheese and bread Latrines are out through that door. You’ll have a cot in the main room upstairs for the night.”
“As you can guess from my appearance I’ve just crossed the border,” Raben began. “This is my first time in Roman territory. I mean no offence. Will my things be safe if I leave them by the bed?”
“No offence taken,” the tabernae keeper answered. “I wouldn’t leave anything valuable unattended.”
“Thank you,” Raben replied as he shouldered his packs. “I’ll explore the town until meal time.” With that he left the tabernae. For the next three hours he walked around the small community. The bakery fascinated him. In Germania Magna, the non-Roman area of Germany, most households made their own baked goods. To have most people buy their daily bread was a new concept. He also realized that doing so required the use of money instead of the familiar barter. The inquisitive healer spoke to many villagers gaining knowledge of how things were done on this side of the border. Nearly three quarters of the people he met thought he was a young girl which he quickly corrected.
Before returning to the tabernae Raben stopped by the centurion’s home to check on the mother and babe. The grateful father welcomed the healer. His wife, still weak and a bit groggy from the mandrake potion, profusely thanked Raben.
Returning to the tabernae, Raben entered the public room. The open room had two areas, one with benches and tables primarily for drinking and the other mostly tables for eating before drinking. Raben ate a hearty meal while keeping a wary eye on the small group of boisterous and obnoxious men on the other side of the room drinking. Apparently the others in the room were accustomed to the miscreants for they ignored them while conspicuously avoiding them.
Raben tensed as he recognized one of the repugnant voices. “That’s the bastard over there eating.” It was the voice of the decanus he’d knocked out this morning... or more correctly the demoted decanus. “Twenty five years down the drain thanks to him! The little bastard needs to be taught a lesson.” The man and his three companions rose to their feet and stalked towards Raben.
Raben slipped his fingerless studded gloves on, rose and headed for the door as the four men closed in. Once outside Raben dropped his gear turning to face the men as they exited behind him. Nearly everyone else followed to watch the expected carnage.
“You men should go back to your barracks before you get hurt,” Raben stated in a clear calm voice after confirming they were soldiers.
“You little bastard, you got the drop on me this morning, now you’re going to pay!” With that the irate man lunged at Raben as his companions encircled him.
Raben dove forward under the lunge tripping the man before rolling back to his feet. The man slammed face first into the gravel outside the tabernae. The man’s companions charged Raben from three directions. Raben used his agility to slip between them before they could close. The closest swung a powerful right hook which Raben barely avoided. Realizing the attackers were not going to stop the assault and that the onlookers were urging carnage, Raben launched a powerful uppercut connecting firmly to the nearest man’s chin. The four studs above his knuckles punched through the man’s flesh into the bone, snapping his head back as blood spouted from the wounds instantly knocking him out.
Before the man hit the ground Raben spun to the side to avoid another attack while slamming his studded bracer into the man’s face. The studs did exactly what they were designed to do puncturing six holes from his chin, across his cheek, then shattering the bridge of his nose leaving two holes in his forehead. The injured man continuously bellowed in pain as he grabbed his bloody face while stumbling forward to drop to his knees as blood flowed through his fingers.
While Raben faced the startled clearly frightened fourth man, who was backing away from the small hellcat, the demoted man had regained his feet. The wails of the injured man masked his movements as he tackled Raben from behind. The agile healer noted the onlookers looking behind him which gave him just enough time to instinctually twist as he was being taken down so he landed on his back rather than his stomach. The impact with the ground knocked the breath out of both. The man’s arms were around Raben’s waist with his head on the healer’s chest as they both struggled to catch their breath.
Since he was in much better shape Raben recovered almost instantly unleashing a flurry of punches from both hands against the unprotected head of the man who had started the fight. The results were painfully staggering to the ignorant man. Before the ex-decanus could catch his breath the repeated blows of the studs mounted on Raben’s fingerless gloves shredded the man’s ears and the skin of his bald head. The pain was so intense his initial howls of pain were agonized grunts since as soon as he drew in a breath he expelled it in a cry of pain. After nearly a minute the man managed to pull his arms free from their pinned grasp about Raben’s waist and roll off the determined healer. The battered man found himself so beat up he couldn’t even sit up much less attempt to stand.
Those who had watched the uneven battle were stunned. Other than being tackled and landing on his butt Raben had not been injured. One of the men was unconscious and bleeding profusely from a
a broken jaw. Another was seated on his butt cradling his shattered face. The man that started it all was moaning with his hands trembling so severely he couldn’t begin to cover his shredded ears and scalp. The fourth man had fled and was no where to be seen.
Raben retrieved his pack. “I’ll need a lot of boiling water, vinegar, honey and clean cloths,” he ordered of the startled onlookers. “Some of you keep the injured men from moving and hurting themselves more until I can treat them.”
Several people headed into the tabernae to get what he requested. Some moved to keep the injured still. The others watched in disbelief as Raben opened his healer’s kit and one by one he headed to the men he’d incapacitated. To each he administered a heavy dose of mandrake potion to deaden their pain. Raben was relieved as the unconscious man instinctually swallowed when the potion when it was put in his mouth.
Maneuvering the unconscious man into a safe position he cleaned the wounds and wrapped the man’s shattered bleeding jaw to stop the bleeding. “If he wakes up keep him calm and still. Do not let him talk. I’ll sew him up after I tend to the others.”
Next he moved to the man with the busted up face. “Your nose is broken and needs to be reset. It’s going to hurt like hell but needs to be done. I’ll need you to lie down. I’ll need a person to hold each arm and leg and another to hold his head still while I reset his nose.” With a bit of gentle probing with his fingers he sussed out the breaks. After careful palpitation with his thumbs he gave a precise sharp dual jab. A clearly audible “CRACK” was heard.
The man grunted and drew in his breath.
“That’s better but it needs more adjustment.” With that said he repeated the procedure two more times until he was satisfied. Then he carefully cleaned the puncture wounds with vinegar removing crushed flesh, sewed them closed, then coated them with honey. “Keep the wounds clean and for the next two days lightly coat them with honey. I’ll be staying here for a few days so I want to see you each day to make sure there is no infection.”
The man nodded his head.
Raben approached the grizzled veteran who instigated the short brutal brawl. His eyes glared at the young person who had now twice so easily beaten him. The fact the boy had stopped fighting as soon as his opponent had been rendered impotent and began treating the injuries he’d inflicted mystified him as well as all the onlookers. None of them had witnessed such an abrupt turnabout.
“I’m sorry I had to hurt you,” Raben addressed him. “I’m a healer and I hate injuring others but when I’m forced to defend myself or others I’ll do so. I ripped you up pretty good and I’ll need to sew up your wounds. It will hurt but if you don’t let me clean your wounds and sew them closed I can pretty much guarantee they’ll become infected and you’ll die. If you want me to leave you alone I’ll do so but you will die painfully.”
The grizzled vet glared at Raben for a few moments. “Take care of Silvanus first.”
Raben nodded and turned to the man who was just starting to painfully regain consciousness. “Your jaw is broken. It will take five or six weeks to heal. You can not chew during that time. You should not even move your jaw. You’ll need to keep your teeth together and will need to drink your nourishment. All solid food will need to be pulped. Fortunately with the two teeth now removed you’ll have a conduit to pass the food into your mouth. Failure to follow my instructions will cause your jaw not to heal and will eventually kill you. First I need to check your teeth to determine if any treatment is needed. Then I’ll need to sew up your wounds. It is critical you hold your head still while I do so. Do you understand?”
The man was clearly scared but nodded his head. Raben set to work. Carefully and gently opening his mouth he checked the teeth. Two on the left top, the outer incisor and canine, were broken. Removing a primitive pliers from his kit he laboriously removed the remains of the broken teeth. Next he cleaned and sewed the wounds. Finally he made a sling to hold the man’s jaw firmly in place against the rest of his head. Then he administered a second dose of mandrake potion to dull the pain and lull the man to sleep.
“Take him and the other man to the infirmary,” Raben declared. “Tell the medicus I’ll stop by to explain their treatment and care.”
With that he turned to the man who started the fight. “What is your name?”
“Ulixes,” the battered man answered.
“A most fitting name,” Raben nodded. “It means to be angry or to hate. Now, Ulixes, may I treat your wounds?”
“Why?” Ulixes asked in utter confusion. “Why do you treat us so kindly when we attacked you?”
“I have no choice,” Raben answered. “I am an Ianuarian. My earliest memories are of accompanying and assisting my adoptive mother who was an Ianuarian. In my heart I am a healer. I’ve learned to fight and even kill, but I don’t like doing so. Now, may I treat your wounds?”
Ulixes nodded his head. The man was tough. Not a sound escaped him as he stoically sat through the cleaning and stitching of his lacerated head and the reconstruction of his nearly shredded ears.
The crowd was impressed by Raben’s surgical skill and Ulixes’ ability to endure pain. As he stood Ulixes was a bit woozy from the mandrake potion and the alcohol he’d consumed in the tabernae. Raben packed his med kit then escorted Ulixes to the post infirmary. After speaking with the medicus and reassuring that he would return in the morning he turned to leave.
Just outside the infirmary the fort centurion stood waiting for him. “I understand you had another run in with Ulixes and a few of his companions.”
“A simple misunderstanding,” Raben replied. “Unfortunately they’ll be in the infirmary for a bit. A rough estimate will be that worst will be about six weeks. The other two will need two weeks then light duty for two weeks.”
“You savaged them then treated them,” the centurion chuckled. “You are a rare one. I had my doubts when you said you could take the eight guards this morning, now I think you may have been right. Taking out three of my toughest fighters without a scratch is impressive. Did you learn how to fight from that Demon Slayer? Perhaps you’d like to join the legion?”
“The Demon Slayer trained me. Thank you for the offer but no,” Raben smiled with a head nod. “I want to travel to Rome and then to Corinth and Athens in Greece to learn to be a better healer.”
“I understand,” The centurion smiled. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
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