Hello, Benjamin from Brother’s Campfire here!
Today’s tale was a collaborative effort with Zahra, a contributing author at Brother’s Campfire. This is her signature.
She is an aspiring author, artist and musician and agreed to sing a part of this post. Here is a link to some of her work.
I have had the distinct privilege of working with her in other posts and I hope you enjoy the story.
Do keep in mind that Ashton has a job as a ship’s surgeon before reading.
Well, without further ado,
Theodore awoke in fine spirits despite the wounds. He was a little more prone to being cold than the other patients and Ashton had to really bundle him up. He was of a mind to talk.
“You are a fine young man for helping my family and sewing me up, Ashton.”
“anytime,” Ashton said cheerfully. “They tell me you are an alchemist.”
“Alchemist? Goodness no! I am a chemist, a man of science. I was born a farmer in the land of Vijayapura and my father sent me to school. My heart is in the soil and my mind is on how it works.”
Petra, who had been helping Ashton with the wounded milled about. “Theodore! I am so glad you are conscious! You are a man of many hats and we were worried so much about you!”
“Ah, Petra, I am afraid I cannot sit up and greet you, did your boyfriend make it through the thunderbird attack?”
“Yes, he is well. He is helping Lulach gather wood for the ship’s repair. He is quite the craftsman.”
The comment made Ashton’s blood boil. He wanted to be out there working as well and here he was, a nurse.
Petra and Theodore did not seem to notice. They spoke of things mechanical, and chemical, almost oblivious to anything else.
From the conversation, he did learn that the dragons had an insatiable appetite for grain and alcohol, and without it in their diet, they could not breath fire. Those in the Northlands called them thunderbirds.
Ashton went back to work. Infection of the sword wounds and the dragon burns were of the utmost concern. Many of his patients had fevers.
One man, named Heafrith, was ravenous. “Young man, I have not eaten in a good while, may I have a bite to eat?”
Ashton examined the man. He had a stab wound to the abdomen.
“Have you had a bowel movement recently?”
“Wots a bowel movement?” Asked Heafrith.
“Have you used the earth closet?”
“Ahh, why didn’t ye say such. Nay, I have not for a bit. Why do ye ask?”
“I am afraid your body is in shock from your injuries and you best stick with fluids mate. Your stomach won’t push things through properly.”
“Ahh. Well you’re the sawbones, ya know best.”
Ashton looked to distract Heafrith. “Sir, do tell me about yourself, do you work for Captain Nicholas?”
“Aye lad, that I do, and with pride. I served with him in the battle of La Longi, and marched against the Carsiolians. He’s a good man, and hard as nails.”
Ashton was genuinely curious.
“Tell me about the battle, did you kill a lot of men?”
Heafrith sighed. “I was in the supply chain. I know little about it. Tell me about yourself, you seem a strapping lad full of fire and wisdom.”
Ashton felt he had misstepped. Something in the back of his mind told him that he shouldn’t of asked such a thing.
“I am but a farm boy trying my hand in a few things. What is La Longi like?”
Heafrith relaxed a little. “Ah, La Longi! It is a busy place, an exporter of grain and the devil’s own Screamin Peaches.”
“I have heard of the Screaming Peaches in Hayhyrst, Sir. One who refrains from it may be counted wise.”
“Aye, don’t I know it? Myself lost me freedom drinking. Let me tell you lad. I had me a pint of the peaches and went about robbing a few for money so I could buy more. I loved me a pint at the Puking Peasant Inn.”
“I fell in with some other thieves and would you know, I started breaking into homes. A lucrative business it was.”
“All was well until I busted the lock of La Longi’s own Watchman Wayne. Boy was I in for a shock and landed in Silent Gallows.”
Ashton had heard of the Silent Gallows from Lulach, but was confused.
“Aye. The last stop for the thieving, lad. Tis a cruel place where like minded fellows abuse each other to no end. I was to be hung from a noose and left to rot in a gibbet after. That will sober a man up right quick.”
Ashton did not wish to pry and let the words flow on their own.
“Sounds like a tough place.”
Heafrith put a hand on his stab wound. It looked to hurt. “Aye.” He replied simply.
His next patient was a young lady of Vijayapura. Her hair had been burned off and her left arm looked like a wax candle. It would have to be amputated.
“Water,” She whispered. He obliged and asked her name.
“Sarah. I am hideous and ugly now, am I not?”
Ashton was wild eyed with concern and wanted to give the right answer. The last time he had spoken to a woman he had proposed to her and got in all kinds of trouble.
“Sarah. Now that is a pretty name. I had a friend who was named Zahra. She was from Vijayapura like you! You rest easy now and everything will be ok. We will get you on your feet in no time.”
“You did not answer my question. Am I ugly now?”
Ashton had bought time to formulate a response by talking about his friend from Pitmerden.
“You are quite becoming, Sarah, and your life in La Longi will be full of opportunity. You are looking good!”
Disappointment was apparent on her face. She could see the disingenuous in Ashton. And Ashton could tell.
“You are a liar, but thank you, Hakim. I know you are trying to be sweet.”
She began to cry and would not be consoled.
Ashton didn’t know what to do so he prepared her some medicinal tea.
Meanwhile she began to sing a haunting song, the words he could not understand, but they had to do with love. What he could make out were the words “forever with you eternally.”
He steeped the herbs and let it cool to a drinkable temperature. When he returned with the beverage , she was in better spirits.
“I heard you singing Sarah, it was beautiful!”
“Thank you, Hakim.” She replied. “It is the farewell song of my people.”
On his next round, she was dead.
Her eyes were already closed and he covered her body with a woolen blanket.
Ashton felt small and helpless. This was the second person that had died under his care. Her voice haunted him. There was no reason for such brutality from a pirate. He could have pulled alongside and “lightened the load” of a lesser armed ship without such unnecessary destruction to life and property. It’s what the longboatmen did and they were no saints.
Ashton resolved to be part of the capture of the pirate Captain Gryll. This was too much.