Beyond the Boundary Stones (The Chronicles of Tevenar Book 3)

BOOK: Beyond the Boundary Stones (The Chronicles of Tevenar Book 3)
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Beyond the Boundary Stones

by Angela Holder

Deore Press

Houston, Texas

For my daughter, Bethany.

One

N
alini tied off the last stitch and reached for scissors to snip the silk thread. She straightened, stretched, and took a deep breath. Then she set aside the needle and scissors and removed the sponge from over her patient’s mouth and nose.

The boy’s father snuck a glance at the line of neat dark crosses across the brown skin of his son’s abdomen. He focused on the boy’s slack face. “Are you sure he’s all right? How long until he wakes up?”

“Not long.” Nalini dropped the sponge into a metal bucket. Later she’d bury it. The sweet oil of vitriol was highly flammable and must be treated with caution. “He needs to rest for several days while the wound heals. But I removed the source of his pain. It won’t trouble him anymore.”

The man swallowed and avoided looking at the bowl where Nalini had deposited the diseased organ. “I can’t help but worry that something will go wrong. It must be evil to interfere with the Mother’s creation this way. He didn’t even twitch when you cut into him. It’s not natural. How can he live with part of his body gone?”

Nalini kept tight hold of her temper. “This part isn’t necessary for life. But it would have killed him if I hadn’t removed it. Would you sacrifice your son’s life rather than interfere with nature?”

“No,” the man muttered, drawing back. “But what if this brings some terrible curse on him, worse than what he suffered before?”

“It won’t.” Nalini tried to keep her thoughts charitable. The man was here, wasn’t he? When the boy, despite his determination to exhibit adult stoicism, had cried out at the pressure of Nalini’s hands on his lower belly, she’d known surgery was the only way to save his life. She’d sworn the father to secrecy and told him to bring the boy to her house late at night. She couldn’t afford to be discovered and have to flee again. She’d had her doubts about whether the man would risk it, but an hour ago he’d carried the boy to her door.

Curse the narrow-minded bureaucrats who controlled every aspect of life in Giroda. She’d had such hopes when she’d first discovered how effectively sweet vitriol made patients insensible to pain. For a while she’d been sure she would revolutionize the practice of medicine, raising it to heights not seen since the ancient wizards lost their powers. But then one error in dosage had ruined everything. The Magistrates had ruled the use of sweet vitriol excessively dangerous and forbidden it. How could they not recognize that mistakes were inevitable when developing a new procedure? Nalini regretted the girl’s death, but she regretted all the needless deaths since more.

She cleaned up the blood-soaked cloths while giving the man her standard instructions. “If the incision becomes red or inflamed, or if the boy develops a fever, bring him to me. I have medicines that can cure infection.” Most of the time.

This boy should be fine, though. He was young and strong and otherwise healthy. The little protrusion off the intestines had been swollen but intact; none of the noxious fluid had escaped to spread its poison. And since she’d begun taking measures to keep her instruments scrupulously clean the incidence of post-surgical infections had dropped a great deal.

He should be coming around soon. Nalini laid an ear to his chest and listened to his breathing. Slow and regular, the way she liked it.

A sudden banging on the door made Nalini jerk her head up. Gesturing the boy’s father to silence, she hurried to the door. If it was the Magistrates’ soldiers she was doomed, for there was no way to hide the evidence of the clandestine surgery quickly enough. But they wouldn’t have knocked.

When she cracked the door open she saw two men in the garb of traders from Ramunna, clearly the worse for a late night in Nivith’s taverns. The shorter one, with a round face and a neatly pointed beard, supported the taller, rougher-looking one, who clutched his blood-soaked side.

“Are you Nalini Oba, the healer?” the shorter one asked in Ramunnan. “We were told you could help my friend.”

“I make no promises, but let me look.” Nalini gestured him to a chair. She wasn’t going to kick the boy off the cot in favor of a drunkard who’d gotten sliced up in a brawl. At least not until he’d fully recovered from his drugged sleep.

She pulled back the man’s jerkin, removed the towel he held pressed to the wound, and examined the jagged cut. It wasn’t pretty. The portion over his ribs was shallow, but the knife had continued downward and sliced open his belly. Layers of red muscle and yellow fat gaped open. Ropy blue bowels were visible. She’d have to wash away the blood to see if any deeper damage had been done.

She scowled at the man. “You’re lucky to be alive. If you want to stay that way, you’ll have to let me sew you up.”

The man grimaced and set his jaw. “Whatever it takes.”

She pushed the edges of the wound together and let him press the towel over it again. “Be still for a moment—what’s your name?”

“Tereid,” the man supplied through gritted teeth.

“And I’m Ozor,” the other man offered.

Strange, those didn’t sound like Ramunnan names. “Well, Tereid, as soon as I finish with my current patient I’ll see what I can do. Ozor, keep an eye on him and catch him if he passes out.”

Nalini stopped at the washbasin to rinse the blood off her hands and went to check on the boy. He was blinking groggily and struggling to sit up. She supported him and helped him swing his legs off the cot. “How do you feel?”

The boy made a face and worked his mouth. “It tastes funny. I think I’m going to throw up.”

“That happens sometimes. I’ve got a bowl right here if you need it.” She positioned the big basin she kept handy, but after a few minutes the boy waved it away.

“I’m all right.” He peered at his belly. The row of stitches seemed to fascinate him. One hand came up to touch them; Nalini batted it away.

“Hands off. Let me bandage it for you.” As Nalini’s deft hands wound the long linen strip she addressed the boy’s father. “You’ll need to change the dressing daily. Other than that, leave it alone.” She tucked the end of the bandage in place and gave the boy a pat. “Feel like standing up? If you can walk, your father can take you home.”

The boy lurched to his feet. He staggered at first, but after a few minutes he was steady enough that Nalini felt comfortable letting his father guide him out the door. The best thing for him now was a good night’s sleep in his own bed. In a week he’d be up and around again. In a couple of months, nothing but a scar would remain.

Nalini closed the door and turned back to the traders. “All right, your turn.” She swapped out the blood-spattered sheet for a fresh one and gestured for Ozor to support Tereid to the cot. The big man lay back, muttering curses under his breath. Nalini frowned. She was fluent in Ramunnan and Marvannan as well as her native Girodan, but she didn’t recognize his words.

She stripped off his tattered tunic with businesslike efficiency. The cut extended through the waistband of his breeches, so she removed those as well. Tereid scowled but didn’t protest, which was more sensible than most of her male patients. She threw a sheet over him to preserve his modesty and set about giving his injury a thorough inspection.

She sponged away the blood as gently as she could, but he jerked when she got to the deepest portion of the wound. More jerking met her attempts to flush out the breached abdominal cavity, even though Ozor held Teried’s shoulders down, and Tereid was obviously doing his best to remain still. Nalini scowled. She didn’t care if Tereid suffered while she sewed him up—it served him right. But she had to get a better look to see what sort of damage had been done to his internal organs. That wasn’t going to happen if he kept thrashing around.

“Look,” she said, putting down the flask of water and going to Teried’s head. “I can tell you two aren’t from around here.”

“We’re from Ramunna,” Ozor put in quickly. “On a trading voyage. Our ship’s in the harbor.”

She nodded. “I’ve got something that might help you. It’s illegal in Giroda. I figure you probably don’t care, but if word gets around I’m using it, I’ll get in trouble. Can you keep your mouths shut?”

Tereid gave a scoffing laugh, then cursed ferociously when it put pressure on his wound. “Don’t worry,” he wheezed when he recovered. “We’re used to being on the wrong side of the law.”

Ozor nodded. “We’ll keep your secret.”

Nalini went to get the bottle of sweet vitriol and a clean sponge. She showed them to Tereid. “If you breathe the vapors from this, it will put you to sleep. You won’t feel anything while I work on you. I know most men swear they can handle pain, but if you can swallow your pride this will be a lot easier on all of us.”

Tereid eyed the sponge. “It won’t kill me?”

“No,” Nalini assured him. Now that she had the proper dosage worked out the chances of something going wrong were much too small to mention. “I used it on the boy before you. You saw he was fine. It will just ease your pain.”

“Some people refuse? The more fool them.” Tereid lay back and closed his eyes. “I’m ready.”

Nalini dripped sweet vitriol onto the sponge, carefully counting the number of drops experimentation had shown her was needed for a man Teried’s size. She held the sponge to his face. “Breathe deep. And don’t try to move. It makes you clumsy before it knocks you out, and we don’t need you hurting yourself more.”

Tereid obediently inhaled. After few minutes his tense face relaxed. “Hey, Ozor, this isn’t bad,” he mumbled. “Smells nasty, but feels like being just drunk enough to enjoy it.”

“Can you hold this in place?” Nalini asked Ozor. He nodded and reached for the sponge. “Keep your face well away. We don’t need you getting woozy, too.”

Ozor looked from the sponge to the bottle Nalini had placed back on its shelf, then to Teried’s slackly smiling face. “This is remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Nalini grinned as she went back to washing out the wound. Tereid wasn’t all the way under yet, but he didn’t seem to notice when she sluiced water into his belly. “I discovered it myself.”

BOOK: Beyond the Boundary Stones (The Chronicles of Tevenar Book 3)
2.98Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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