ysabetwordsmith: Victor Frankenstein in his fancy clothes (Frankenstein)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem was written outside the regular prompt calls, inspired by discussion with [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "fever / delirium" square in my 11-25-14 card for the [community profile] hc_bingo fest. It is posted here in trade for "Urgent Business" and related demifiction by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. This is the middle of the triptych about the boys getting sick after the trot-line incident, so begin with "The Cold of the Winter."


"The Heat of the Fever"


The ride was long and cold, as Egyed
had a farm up the slopes instead of
down near the river, where he
mainly raised goats and sheep.

The clear day meant the herds were
turned out of the barns into corrals
for exercise, bleating and baaing,
females round with unborn young.

Indoors, Tivador was tucked in bed while
his younger sisters scampered around
the house straightening this and dusting that.

Victor slipped into the bedroom to find Tivador
flushed and sweaty, dark hair stuck to his forehead.
"Your father says you have a fever," Victor remarked.

"I'm too hot, my skin's all tight, and
my arm and leg hurt," the boy complained.

Victor ran his hands over the warm, moist skin
which was much hotter than normal. Listening
to Tivador's breathing revealed no hint of
congestion, though -- this was a different
problem than what Nandru had.

Changing the bandages showed the source;
some of the fishhook wounds had gotten infected
despite everyone's best efforts at cleaning them.

The ones on Tivador's arm were dark red,
surrounded by tight, shiny skin. The leg looked
even worse, several of the wounds already swollen
and oozing pus. Fortunately the lymph nodes were
only a little puffy, without the ominous red streaks
that would indicate a serious infection.

"Well, it's not good, but not too bad either,"
Victor said. "I'll start with a poultice to draw out
some of the infection, then a sponge bath
to bring down the fever a bit."

Ráhel bustled around, bringing him
everything he needed to treat her son.
Victor made a poultice from turmeric, thyme,
and slippery elm to spread over the wounds.

"The sponge bath you can do, any time
he gets too hot," Victor told Ráhel.
She watched him closely the whole time.

"It helps a little," Tivador said.

Victor sat beside the bed and
recited stories while waiting for
the poultice to soften the scabs
enough for the next step.

"Cleaning next," the doctor warned.
"This will be unpleasant. You might
want to get a good grip on your mattress."

The scabs came off with only a little scrubbing,
which was good, because it was always
riskier to cut into the skin to drain infection.
The pálinka stung, though, making Tivador
hiss with every dab and swipe.

"Count the nails in the ceiling,"
Victor suggested as he worked.

"It's a thatch roof," Tivador whined.

Victor glanced up. So it was. He had
forgotten that most of the cottages were thatched,
with wooden shingles more on the village roofs.
"There's me shown for a fool," he said, winning
a pained giggle from his patient.

Instead Tivador wound up counting
knotholes on the pine door.

The herbal cleanser burned too, but it would
help encourage the wounds to heal better.

"This salve should put out the fire," Victor said as he
smoothed it over the injured skin. That one had
lavender and tea tree oils, but the calendula flowers
in a gentle base of beeswax and olive oil made it
feel more soothing than astringent.

By the time Victor finished applying fresh bandages,
Tivador had fallen into an exhausted sleep.

Victor handed over a bottle of fever remedy that
Igor had made, one of several things which used
cherry brandy for a base, in this case adding
willow, meadowsweet, birch, and cherry bark.

"This should keep the fever from getting too high,"
he said to Ráhel. "Just remember that heat
dries out the body. Get Tivador to drink as much
as he'll hold -- broth, water from boiled vegetables,
birch soda, whatever he's willing to swallow."

She puttered around the small bedroom,
tidying up, as Victor let himself out.

"How is he?" Egyed asked.

"Not well, but it could be worse," Victor said.
"Chances are, he'll miss Christmas, though."

"He won't like that," Egyed said.

"As long as he's still complaining, you don't
need to fret too much," the doctor pointed out.
"If he goes quiet and sluggish, then worry.
Remember you can send for me, any time
of day or night if it's an emergency."

"I don't like to put you to so much trouble,"
Egyed said, wringing his hands, clearly
torn between concern for his son
and consideration of his budget.

"No need to worry," Victor assured him.
"I'm partial to lamb and cabrito, or there's
always wool from the spring shearing."

Egyed gave him a half-smile then,
relieved that he had plenty of goods
which Victor wanted more than scarce coin.

Errands complete, Victor returned to the castle,
where he gave Igor a report of the long day.
"Both of the boys are sick," Victor said.
"Nandru caught a cold, Tivador a fever."

Igor sighed. "Well, it was likely."

"I hoped at least one of them would
escape it, though," Victor said.

"I've got the mold culture ready," Igor said.

"We can try that for Tivador tomorrow,"
Victor said, then heard the rattle of furniture.

Adam toddled to greet him, clinging to chairs
and walls and everything else on the way
to his father's side, babbling softly.

Victor picked him up and went to supper.

The next day, Igor accompanied
Victor on his rounds.

They found Nandru near the forge again,
polishing a box of brightwork for Imre.
"I'm not coughing as much, but I'm tired,
and it's not even noon," the teen said.

Victor listened to his chest, and yes,
the congestion was beginning to clear.
"Lie down early if you feel like it," he said.
"This is your body's way of telling you that
it needs more rest to recover. If you listen
to it, you'll be back on your feet all the sooner."

"Victor told me about your barter plans," Igor said
as he lifted away the box, which was mostly finished
anyhow. "Why don't you have a nice think about
where we could gather plants come spring?
Then you won't be wasting the time in bed."

"I can do that," Nandru said, collecting
a pat on the shoulder and praise
for his work from Imre.

"He'll be fine in another day or two,"
Victor assured the blacksmith.
"Just keep him warm and quietly busy."

"Thank you," Imre said. "He's a good boy,
only having trouble finding his place."

Next they made the trip up to the farm
to see Tivador, who wasn't doing as well.
"He's gotten worse," Egyed said. "Sometimes
he talks about seeing things that aren't there.
Ráhel keeps washing him to cool him down."

"Then you're doing fine," Victor said.
A slightly higher temperature could help
burn away an illness, but too much of it
sometimes cooked things inside the body
that he didn't know how to fix.

When they got upstairs, Victor took the cloth
from Ráhel and continued the sponge bath
without missing a stroke. With his free hand
he tested the heat of the fever, and frowned.

"I brought Igor today, so that we can try
something new," Victor said. "The mold cure
works wonders, when it works -- which is
about a third of the time for me, and
half the time for Igor. If it doesn't work, well,
even a plain bread-and-milk poultice helps a bit."

Igor chattered at Tivador while setting up his supplies,
and then cleaned the damaged skin. Victor
interspersed an examination with swipes
of the damp cloth, but the boy responded with
little more than brief mutters to both of them.

The only time Tivador really focused on them
was when he whispered, "Am I going to die?"

"Not if I can help it," Igor said as he spread
a thick layer of bluish paste over the wounds
from the fishhooks. Some of them seemed
to be improving, especially on Tivador's arm,
but his leg looked worse than before.

Igor saved the last of the paste and coaxed
Tivador to open his mouth. "Here, swallow this
and hopefully it'll make you feel better."

"It tastes like moldy bread," the boy complained.

"It is moldy bread," Igor said. "I know, it
tastes terrible, I wouldn't give you anything
that I hadn't tested on myself first. Finish it,
and you can have a piece of lemon candy."

Tivador obeyed, and Victor hid a smile.
The children had learned quickly that
Igor's treats were worth the trouble.

Even with the sugar to hold his interest,
Tivador didn't have much energy, and
by the time they finished caring for him,
he had fallen asleep again.

"He keeps drifting off like that," said Ráhel.

"Sleep is good," Victor said. "If he won't
wake up easily, though, that's a bad sign.
You know you can come for me if you need to."

All the way back to the castle, Victor and Igor
talked about Tivador, trying to figure out
something else they could try if the mold cure
didn't work, but neither had any new ideas.

"Why don't you go sit down while I start supper,"
Igor suggested as he counted heads.
The werewolves had come indoors
to escape the sharpening wind.

Victor went, but he couldn't stay seated
for more than a few minutes. He kept
getting up to pace around, grumbling
and running his hands through his hair.

He hated losing a patient, and he was
starting to worry that he might not save this one.

"What is wrong?" Shandor asked.

"Remember the boy who got tangled in
a trot-line?" Victor said. "Now Tivador is sick,
and we're running out of ideas to make him better.

The werewolves all looked at each other,
a long silent conversation that made Victor
wonder what he was missing.

"It may be that we ..." Shandor began.

Fridrik grumphed at him and looked away.

"... that I could help," Shandor said.
"You've seen how we lick our wounds,
to clean them and make them heal faster?"

Victor nodded. "Yes, and they don't often scar,
even ones that should," he said. Then recognition
flared. "You have something in your saliva,
like Csilla does, that aids healing."

"Different," Shandor said, "but yes."

"Will it work even though Tivador
is already sick?" Victor asked. "I know
that some things only prevent illness, and
cannot cure what has already taken hold."

"Yes," Shandor said, then added, "probably.
Much depends on whether his body accepts
the gift or not. Some do better than others."

Victor tilted a hand in acknowledgment.
"It is the same with Csilla's gifts, and
even with many medicines."

"It offers a chance," Shandor said.

"Are you sure this is something
you're willing to share?" Victor asked,
trying not to build up too much hope.
The werewolves might be casual about
their abilities with him and Igor, but they
were downright wary of most others.

"I would not have it known," Shandor said slowly,
"but if he is as sick as you say, then my help is
easily hidden by the haze of his illness." Then
the werewolf caught Victor's gaze and held it
as he so rarely did. "Tivador is a good boy. He
does not kill when there is no need, nor frighten
the game, nor tear leaves from the trees. I would
miss him if he died, and cubs are to be protected,
even outside the pack, even human ones."

Fridrik and the women whuffed agreement.

Victor was a little startled to realize
just how thoroughly his groundskeepers
had been observing people in the woods.

"All right," he said. "Tomorrow you come along,
and I will distract Tivador if necessary
while you lick over his wounds."

Over supper, Victor repeated the plan to Igor,
who said, "Let's see whether the mold trick works.
If it does, we don't need to risk Shandor's secrecy.
Otherwise the two of us can cover for him."

Victor readily agreed to that plan,
and then turned his attention to Adam,
taking comfort in the boy's cheerful company.
There would be time enough to worry about
tomorrow when it came.

* * *

Notes:

Overwintering livestock requires knowing the different needs of sheep, goats, or whatever you're raising. They usually need supplemental food and shelter, but not all the same kind, and it isn't good to keep them cooped in a barn all winter.

Signs of infection typically appear about 48 hours after an injury. With appropriate treatment, symptoms should begin to abate within 24 to 48 hours. If the infection keeps getting worse, it usually means the treatment is not working. Try different things and see if something else works better.

Herbal first aid supplies cover the same range as synthetic ones. Poultices may be made from a variety of herbs and are usually blended on the spot for the needs at hand. Antiseptic cleansers and salves help fight infection and speed healing. There are multiple ways to reduce fevers, including herbal remedies. Some people find that either natural or conventional medicines work better for them; pay attention and stick with what works for you. Herbal medicines also provide a valuable backup in case you can't get the conventional kind.

Goat meat has several names; cabrito is milk-fed kid meat. When you're raising dairy goats, you have to breed the does every year, and half the kids are bucklings you don't need.

Reducing exercise and increasing sleep are two ways to get better faster when you're sick. Healing burns energy, so lowing the outflow or raising the inflow of energy can help ensure enough supply for that task.

One popular poultice recipe is bread and milk.

The history of penicillin includes many mold-based treatments over time and cultures. This is an example of how Victor and Igor are doing things that aren't as sophisticated as some modern options, but a lot more so than the Georgian era in which the original novel was set. Igor's greater interest and experience with live cultures have improved his results, but it's difficult when you can't see exactly what you're doing. Many molds look similar at eye level and are tricky to view under a microscope. Also early microscopes were pretty clunky things.

You can make hard candy with peppermint or other flavorings. Igor uses a barley-sugar base for his because it adds nutrients as well as tasting good.

There is some evidence that exposure to canine saliva can improve human health.  What the werewolves have is different from and better that what domestic dogs have, but clearly related.  And I found this reference after  I wrote the poem.

Most of the study into help-seeking behavior focuses on why people don't seek help for mental health and how to make them do that. In order to succeed, help must be 1) available, 2) effective, and 3) not attached to negative consequences greater than its positive benefits. Mental and physical health care have barriers, not all methods are effective, and when you add stigma of any kind then the risk-benefit analysis can easily tip the wrong way. Having demonstrated their usefulness in emergencies, Victor and Igor have moved on to encouraging people to turn to them for help before things build up to the kind of problem that might not be fixable. They follow through on that by helping when people ask, and while it doesn't always work, it's a definite improvement over other options. You get what you reward.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-30 04:07 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
a lot more so than the Georgian era in which the original novel was set

Ah! What is the era of this series, then?

• you have the breed the does every year
?→ have to breed

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2015-03-30 05:22 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu

¡Ah! Gracias, señora. ... Or should I rather say Спасибо, госпожа ?

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-31 04:50 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Oh, yeah. Calendula-tea-tree salve, beeswax base. Goooood stuff. My thyroidectomy scar is barely visible; the scar on the sole of my foot from a sewing-needle-ectomy would take a fingerprint expert to find. Hadn't heard of putting lavender in that particular salve, though?

Victor is a most excellent mazil. He sets his people at ease unless they really deserve otherwise. I would not care to try to tangle with him at this point, with the entire village behind him... especially Csilla and Shandor and his people. Reminds me of a song (http://www.echoschildren.org/CDlyrics/LEASTOF.HTML)... *toothy grin*

Thank you!

Date: 2015-03-31 05:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Oh, yeah. Calendula-tea-tree salve, beeswax base. Goooood stuff. <<

Cool.

>> Hadn't heard of putting lavender in that particular salve, though? <<

Take a base salve of beeswax and olive oil. Take a list of healing herbs sorted into subcategories: things that speed healing, things that reduce scarring, things that fight infection, etc. Lavender is antiseptic, antispasmodic, antidepressant, and lowers fever. Here is used primarily for antiseptic and its soothing fragrance.

>> Victor is a most excellent mazil. He sets his people at ease unless they really deserve otherwise. <<

Sooth.

>> I would not care to try to tangle with him at this point, with the entire village behind him... especially Csilla and Shandor and his people.<<

That's the idea, yes.

>> Reminds me of a song... *toothy grin* <<

*shiver* Haunting and beautiful song. I suspect there has been a lot of that sloshing around in this setting. Often only a few of the strongest pack members will survive. In Ena's case, the opposite, because she ran instead of fighting.

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-03-31 05:46 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (taliesin)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
"Least of My Kind" is at its best somewhere after midnight in a rocking filk circle ... after the ears prick, the whole room *howls*.... that, Cat's "No Quarter" (NO QUARTER!) (sorry, reflexive callback line :) and then somebody cranks up Cambreadth... wouldn't do to try to make trouble with a roomful of wound-up filkers. Herrrrrp, HUAAAH!

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-03-31 05:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
"Make their yellow blood run cold!"

One of my all-time-favorite battle songs. :D

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-03-31 05:53 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
You saw the Avengers fanvid?

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-03-31 06:14 am (UTC)

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