The Orphans of Cathorna
Medical treatment is primitive
Staunching bleeding, stitching cuts, setting a broken limb and extracting arrows and other foreign bodies from wounded flesh are within the bounds of a good medic’s skill, but little more than these gross physical repairs is possible. The causes of disease are a mystery; most are put down to dark influences (and have sometimes been demonstrated to be the Black Enemy’s work), and infections are attributed either to curses on enemy weapons or ‘bad air’ getting into the body through wounds. Herbs and other means can fight such conditions, but the mechanism by which they do so is little understood, even by the practitioners.
Beware of blindly applying 21st Century knowledge to every problem. Malaria may be caused by the fetid air around swamps, not the insects that inhabit them. Similarly, things like singing a song or saying ‘bless you’ may keep plague at bay or prevent Sauron possessing you when you sneeze.
Magical healing is expensive and slow
Cathorna has two people who can provide magical healing: Devout Devon and Amrik Chaudra. Both offer “One Body per day” healing for about one silver, plus or minus twenty percent. In both cases, the procedure takes an entire day of the wounded party’s time, and about fifty percent attention by Devon and Amrik.
In Devon’s case, the wounded party is subjected to a fairly straightforward routine. Lying on a bare wooden table in the little room at the back of the chapel, the wounded party is subjected to a ritual involving cleansing water, simple repetitive prayers and acknowledgement of Orome’s might. The wound heals normally but at an accelerated rate, the ritual ending at sunset when the wounded party is asked to join the congregation for evening prayer. While undergoing the ritual, the wounded party cannot do anything other than lie there. They can communicate with other people (and wounded Cathornans regularly invite people to come chat while they lie there), but Devon doesn’t tolerate this for long.
Multiple-body wounds (i.e. one hit that did 2+ Body) can be healed, but only at the same One Body Per Day rate. The cost per body increases by about fifty percent, i.e. two Body costs 250 copper, three costs 450 copper etc (these are rules of thumb). The wounded party’s family or friends are expected to help, bringing them food, water and anything else they need. Multiple-body wounds can be healed in this way, but it requires the wounded party to remain under Devon’s care the whole time, a heavy burden for all but the rich.
Multiple single-body wounds (i.e. three hits that did one Body each) can be healed one day at a time, without the overnight stay or the increased cost per Body.
Devon can also counter the ongoing effects of poison, disease and infection, although others are cheaper alternatives.
Amrik’s healing magic is more ‘provincial’ in nature. His prices are slightly higher and the routine a little more onerous, but he does not subject customers to the same level of proselytising as Devon. There is a treatment room adjacent to his study/laboratory, in the centre of which is a table known to be used for dissections, experiments and other guesome activities as well as medical work. The room is spotlessly clean, the walls lined with countless jars, boxes, pouches, tiny drawers and bundles of things on strings. The stout timber table is darkly stained. A wounded party is invited to lie on it, usually loinclothed, while he applies poultices, cloths soaked in pungent extracts and bandages, while telling the victim to “drink this, it is good”, or “eat this, it is terrible but it helps!” His magic, if it is such a thing, involves walking around the victim, mumbling incoherently while slapping them with sticks. The victim can do what they want while under his care, so long as they remain on the treatment table, and most find some way to keep occupied, knitting, whittling, moulding candles or whatever manual labour they can manage while prone with five pounds of pulped river weed and pig tripe poultice slathered on them. Again, Amrik can provide multiple-Body-wound healing, at a similar rate. He is generally better with poisons than Devon, roughly as good with infections, but has nowhere near the same success rate with disease.
Amrik had an apprentice some years ago, one Merry Dellow. She disappeared with her husband Rael in 1634, shortly after their two year old son Giles died of Plague, one of the last to do so in Cathorna. Since her loss, Amrik has not taken on, nor sought a new apprentice.
Amrik and Devon are the closest Cathorna has to an emergency department. Anyone close to death is brought to them, day or night, and receives their immediate and full attention. Devon treats even the godless if so called upon by a Cathornan. Both he and Amrik still charge for such treatment, but only after the fact, once the patient is stable, safe and responsive. Both have spent weeks focussed almost entirely on single patients, bringing them back from the brink.
Herbal treatments are not powerful
Cathorna has a few people who dabble with herbs. Cian and Beckett are rarely approached for assistance, their repertoires and skill being relatively limited. Elenril the elf is Cathorna’s best herbal healer, and is the person of first resort when dealing with infections. Despite her slight frame and caring bedside manner, her treatments verge on brutal. Infected wounds are first debrided with birch scrubbing brushes until they bleed; brave men have caved under this treatment. She shows adults no sympathy, but seems to be able to subject children to the same treatment without eliciting more than a few frightened tears. Herbal salves and various whole plant parts are bound to wounds with soft linen bandages, then the patient is sent on their way. She also treats disease, mild poisoning and other afflictions (nausea, chronic pain, rashes). On occasion she will provide “double healing rate”-type herbs, but she usually refuses, insisting that the patient’s body “will find its own way to health in time.”
Elenril is particularly popular because she usually helps people for free. In some cases she will ask a favour, some specific goods in return or a token payment of a few copper. However, she does sometimes insist on payment, though nobody is sure how she decides. She is notoriously remembered for refusing to treat young Sam Borrett’s snake bite in 1639, offering only that “cruelty brings its own retribution.” Sam insists the snake bit him for no reason.
Teagan O’Conchubhair is developing some skill as a healer and herbalist. She can perform most of the treatments discussed above (staunching, setting etc), and has some knowledge of herbal treatments for a range of simple afflictions. She can prepare draughts that accelerate normal healing up to two times, but rarely does so, insisting her skill is inadequate, and her potions are, by her own insistence, “as likely to leave you impotent as anything else.” Conditions in the O’Conchubhair homes are not conducive to setting up an apothecary, and she has shown only a passing interest, despite her apparent skill at finding and preparing herbal restoratives.
Elesse Porter (Kel and Mila’s daughter) has expressed some interest and aptitude for healing, but has not been apprenticed.
While Elenril and other herbalists can fend off even the worst infections, they cannot help with gross injuries. Even the best herbalist can do no more than double normal healing, and none of them can restore lost limbs or organs. Herbs can only augment the body’s own functions, generally speaking. Some herbs have more powerful effects; some much more powerful, but these are mostly beyond the skill and knowledge of Cathorna’s herbalists, mostly. Rumour has it that Elenril gave Dorrigan a supply of a draught that enabled him to stay awake and alert for days at a time after Fourth Cathorna, but neither of them will discuss it. Amrik can definitely produce mind-altering and sense-enhancing potions (his love potions, now contraband, are legendary), but as to whether these are magical or purely herbal is unknown.
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