Report to the Midwives’ and Doctors’ Guild in Turenay
Cora wrote this before the king and queen arrived. The village has a name now: Tal-Rayen!
Lepers’ Village, autumn 549
Dear Lyse, Rusla, Hylti, Aule, Erlyn, Aimai, Kamale, Halla, Varyn, Leva, Erne, Torin and Ghamri, Jeran, Rayin, Airath, Rhanyn and Lydan, Kancho, and Sedi:
It’s night, and I have made a little light to write by, so please excuse my bad handwriting. I haven’t been so busy since last autumn, with the lung sickness — and everything that happens here is new, so I have to write it down! To make sure nobody forgets about this, I shall write about how I arrived here as well, but first I need to make the tally of my patients, and to mention Anshen. And where I am.
I am here in this village without a name, in the country of the Deceiver, where nobody has a real name either, only things like “Cubbybear” and “Threelegs”. This village was built 75 years ago, when Grayling (the priestess of Naigha) was only ten years old. It was built as an ordinary village, as far as I have been able to figure out, but soon there was a sickness, that is called the Silver Sickness, and soon only the sick people remained here. To die, is my guess, but the Silver Sickness is very slow, and they didn’t die.
Then, I think, it seemed a good idea to the Deceiver to make this village the trash-heap of this county, and soon it became customary to send everyone with a skin sickness, a cancer, a deformity, a growth of the bones or a contagious sickness — everyone who cannot work — is sent here. Deformed children are placed on the shelf where the path to the village starts. I would have expected many idiots as well, but there are only a few, who also have another deformity. Maybe that’s because many people who aren’t very smart can still work, just like I can be a good doctor even though I am not clever.
Eighty to ninety people live here now, twenty to thirty children. There is also Tallboy, a man of about thirty — who is more properly called Aldan, who could be a grand master and will be joining us in Turenay to learn to be a doctor to his people.
I had already heard about this village and I was resolved to visit it and do my best. I am a doctor, well nearly, I am still a journeywoman, but who can call himself a doctor and not go and help a village full of sick people! Only I told Faran to stay in Ironlode, since I didn’t know whether I would be able to come back, and he’s only an apprentice, and shouldn’t have to run the risk. Everyone kept telling me that whoever went to this village never came back. So I went. Two journeywoman-priestesses of Naigha from Turenay came with me and one master priestess of Naigha and her journeywoman from Ironlode.
We had brought with us:
- item: linen for shirts and shifts, enough for 160 people
- item: strong, sour wine for washing
- item: brandy, ditto
- item: sage and many other herbs, for washing and healing
- item: a barrel of goose-fat, for ointments
- item: a large tub, for us to wash in
Oh! I am also bringing with me five deformed children that can be healed in the hospital. And one child with a cancer that I don’t dare cut out yet, plus Tabby, who is also called Rava now, who has married Tallboy.
- item: sweetmeats, sweetbreads, syrup, honey and treacle and sweets
- item: a tent, so we would not have to accept hospitality, but could sleep somewhere safe
The village is divided into two parts: Upstream and Downstream. Upstream is where the deformed people live, who have no sicknesses of the skin, Downstream is where the people with skin sickness live. However, there is one common, and everyone works together on the fields, in the vineyard and everywhere, everyone to their ability. This village is such a relief in that respect — the rest of this county is very much dominated by the Deceiver and people are not so warm of heart towards each other. Only the bathing is separated: that is why the deformed people live and bathe upstream in the brook. They call it a river, but it never touches my breasts even if I try to cross it where it is deepest. And you know I am not tall!
I have been working here for about two weeks, treating the deformed in the morning, the sick in the afternoon, starting with the children, and working my way up to the elderly. There are many elderly here: I started with the children thinking that they would not be as bad as the elderly already, so I would have the easier cases to learn from to begin with.
The first day I spent making a catalogue of cases in Upstream, the second day in Downstream.
The most important effort I made on my first day was visiting Tallboy, with whom I had spoken in the spirit twice during my journey through this county. He suffered from a very bad skin disease, as if a thousand boils were festering on every part of his skin, a thousand on an area as big as my hand. He considered himself so disfigured that he did not dare go out in public, nor propose to his love, Tabby. I have not a clear idea of what causes this disease, but I have seen here two types of skin disease: the dry and the oily. This was an oily disease, but I treated it as follows:
- wash the open sores with a strong solution of sour wine in warm water
- then wash again with quite warm water in which much sage is boiled
- using a prepared salve of goose-fat, nettle and burdock, and my mind, rub every part of his affected skin until the skin was dry and scars had formed.
He now looks like a he has been pelted by hot oil drops, but the pain has completely gone and he is no longer sick. He immediately asked me whether the sickness had affected his manhood, but I could reassure him since the application of the salve to those parts had caused a clear effect, so Tallboy went to Tabby and proposed, and now they are together.
I would not have been able to perform this work had I not had the help of Tabby, Bendy and the four priestesses. But even then I was beginning to suspect that there was more at work here.
The next days, until the Grape Harvest Festival (which is not a recognised festival, but more later), I spent working on my patients. For the silver sickness, Bendy, the apprentice in the spirit of Tallboy, when they were looking with me found the correct remedy. We established that Silver Sickness is present in the blood and that we can see it as salt or sand — sand is perhaps best. So with our first patient, the boy Cubbybear, we cut a slit in his armpit, because I felt that the hearthplace of the sickness was there, and forced out all the silt, the sand, keeping the blood in with a seal of my mind.
This was not easy, also not for the patient, who fainted. However, the treatment was efficacious, because the silver spots, that also can eat flesh and fingers and toes away, became dull instead of lustrous. There is no possiblity for restoring feeling to the damaged skin and flesh, but I am confident that there is no sickness in the patient any more.
Furthermore, there were patients with a growth of the soft tissue between the bones of the back, fingers, arms and legs. When young, this growth can be told to inhibit itself and the patient can grow normally. It is different from Rovan who now is apprenticed to the wheelwright Halla, because with him the hard bones of his legs were growing crooked, here there is softer bone tissue between the hard bone that pushes the hard bone apart and cripples my people. With older people, I have had to open them and cut the extra tissue away and then heal them. This however is very difficult and takes me many hours, and I only had two weeks before the King and Queen would come!
There were also people with ordinary rheumatics, and those I could only give a little relief. One of them, an old man, was so happy at not having pain anymore that he went to work instead of dancing!
I also treated people with growths on the skin, and also in the belly. On the skin was more difficult in the belly, since I am already familiar with internal growths. I am afraid that my people with growths on the skin will always have ugly scars.
Here I discovered something which I think is the main difference between a master and a grand master in the traditions of the spirit: a master can see the world with his mind, and work on the world in the way he sees it, but a grand master can bend the world to fit his mind. The case here is that the women with skin growths, I saw those growths with my spirit as a plant with tiny, tiny, crawling roots. I could uproot those plants and throw the stuff in a bucket — but when I looked at the bucket, it did not look like that at all, not even when I looked with my spirit. It was just blobby goo, mixed with blood and black stuff. We burnt it, but there was a lot of it. So I think that that’s the difference.
Then there was the grape harvest festival. This was very nice, it was in the beginning of my stay with these people, but after I had healed Tallboy, and had seen that Tabby was fully healthy. At the end of the festival I felt I had to dance for Anshen, and I asked Tallboy who is by way of being the village elder, together with Grayling and Tabby, whether that was allowed, and it was.
This made me think next day, and reach out with my spirit, and that made me ask the village children to get stones and lime and sand and build an eight-sided fire pit in the middle of the common — after asking for permission of course. Permission was readily given, and that afternoon a small fire dedicated to Anshen was burning here. I realised I had been feeling as if Anshen had been cupping his hand over this village and our work here — even the priestesses of Naigha did not deny this.
Without Anshen I could not have helped eighty-six people in twelve days in any case. Especially since many were very sick, of sicknesses I had never seen before. There are now only a few people left who are not well, apart from the deformed people of course, I cannot make legs or arms in any other way than by growing them in my belly. Rheumatics is very difficult, and some people with the soft tissue growth were too far gone to be able to cut them open. But even Stinker (I am sorry, he doesn’t have another name, and I wasn’t allowed to think of one for him, his new girl is going to do that), he is healed now. He had a very interesting skin disease, because it not only affected the outer skin, but also the skin inside his nose, mouth and arse, and even some way inside his manhood. Even his tongue was affected, the poor boy. I very carefully checked his alimentary canal for infections, but did not find anything.
Of course, there were the ordinary ailments of any village, neglected wounds, women passing water continously after a difficult birth, lung sicknesses, abscesses and so on. But there were amazingly few cases of neglect, beatings and so on. And only about one third of the village had lice and other vermin.
Your obedient servant, journeywoman Cora astin Velain has the honour to greet her masters in the guild and submit this incomplete and illiterate report for their consideration.