Cylus 14th Arc 721
Immediate excitement of the kerfuffle with Barry having passed, adrenaline drained away. Its effects waned, pain breaking through the haze. Sharp and hot and worse every time he moved his leg. The fabric of his trouser leg was stained red, soaked and heavy, sticking to the equally slick skin and layer of dirt underneath it.
At the same time, a wave of lethargy crashed over Rokas, multiplying the gravity working on his body. Muscles complained, strength seeping away with every second, until he had to actively focus to keep standing. His mind too was affected. Slower than usual, thoughts crawling, taking seconds to form out of thick fog that would rather remain formless and gaseous.
Concern radiated from around, and Rokas frowned, uncertain where it came from. Unable to attribute an element to the insistent and disembodied worry for his wellbeing. It might have once have had a distinctive voice, but didn’t anymore. But if he focused hard, it seemed to originate beneath his feet. Deep, deep below. Earth. His kin. The first he’d ever reached out to. And yet he failed to distinguish it from its siblings if he did not concentrate.
Even through the molasses bogging down his thoughts, Rokas sensed distress begin to pile up. Hands trembled, innards turning to mush, hurting as if someone’d slammed a hammer into his abdomen. And yet, distant. Happening to one that was not him. Aware of it all, yet not feeling the full effect –or at least unable to comprehend it.
Rumbles tickled the soles of his feet, and it took Rokas a few moments to translate the garbled mess. His stomach weighed a hundred pounds.
“No, no. I’m fine. I think.”
More vibrations in the earth, an impression of emotion. It almost remained obscured by the mental fog. Cold sweat gathered on his back.
“Bleeding?” He glanced down, to the wound in his thigh, to the crimson that still gushed out, to the small spill near his feet. Became once again aware of the searing, pulsating heat. Stunned for but a moment, uncertain what to do about it. Then recalling his training in the Black Guard, not combat or judicial. Medical. First aid, taught in case it’d prove necessary to treat wounded comrades or yourself on the streets of Etzos, keeping the severely wounded alive until a medic showed up, or deal with injuries when no specialized medical personnel was available. “Stab wound. Step one… step… one. Hold the… No. Examine? No. No. Put pressure on… Stop the bleeding by putting pressure on the wound.”
He did just that, covering his thigh with a large hand and pushing down hard. It caused him to wince at first, but his grit his teeth and sucked in crisp breaths. Blood continued to leak out, now spilling between his fingers. After a few moments his body adapted, no longer flaring the sensations of pain, though they still remained.
At his feet a mound of loose earth formed, grains and clods rolling up his boots and lower legs. Gently tugging at his trousers, dragging him down with its weight. Rokas needed a few seconds to decipher the meaning behind it, molding it into words and phrases, frustrated at the difficulty of the process.
“Later. If I sit down now, I won’t be getting up again.” It already took effort to not crumple into an exhausted heap, after all. So instead he limped to the largest of the cabins in the camp, the dormitory hall. There were first aid kits stored in there, easy to access in time of emergency. In each of the buildings such a kit was present, but the dorm was closest.
It took him some time before he returned to campfire with the medicine box and a flask of water under one arm, eyes fixated on one of the stumps near the fire. Rokas hauled himself to it, trailing blood, and didn’t as much sit down as falling onto it, knees buckling now he didn’t need to remain upright. With the weight off his injured leg, the some of the pain subsided, and after an eternity the bleeding stopped too.
Pants down, he cleaned the caked blood away with some drinking water and finally he could inspect the wound. As feared, it was deep. Barry’s knife had bitten through a couple inches of flesh, piercing layers of skin and fat and muscle to the white of bone that glimmered in the flickering light. Some of the circular veins dribbled drops of blood, but most were clogged with dark-red clots. Medical professors would have a field day using him as an example for teaching students. Alas, no surgeons grew from the trees in the North Woods, so he’d have to close it up himself.
“Step two… Three? Three. Disinfect to… to kill off the germs… prevent the flesh from… from… rotting.”
In the first aid kit he found a bottle of medical grade disinfectant. The moment Rokas uncorked it, the characteristic nostril-burning scent of undiluted alcohol wafted free. Strong and pungent, hitting hard like a punch to the face. Some people try to drink this? They’re mental! Bracing for the sting he knew would come, Rokas poured some directly into his open wound. Face contorting in pain, he released a held breath in a steady, yet shaky exhale. When the initial burn passed, it settled into the stabbing of many small needles mostly overshadowed by the soothing cold that followed as the liquid evaporated.
Then he soaked a clean rag in some more of the alcohol and cleaned the skin around the wound. Or tried to anyway. As a result of his growth as a Defier, his skin was caked in a layer of dirt that had proven extremely difficult to remove in the past. It clung to him regardless of heavy wind or rain, whether he scrubbed his flesh with a hard brush or if he soaked himself in water. On the flip side, it did make it very unlikely for any of his personal soil to have slipped into his injury. Rokas suspected he did shed part of the layer every so often –its composition varied rather often, after all— but that the soil replenished itself through his witchmark before the decrease in coverage became noticeable. At the very least he’d never seen his own bare skin since the development of the mutation.
Just to be certain, he checked the laceration an extra time. Clean, no dirt particles in there; it was ready for closing. He rummaged in the kit for needle and gut, and began the long and frustratingly difficult process of threading the needle. One of the disadvantages of having a huge body were the large hands and thick fingers that came with it, fingers that really did not lend themselves well to dexterous tasks. Yet he managed somehow, and before too long he’d prepared a sufficient length of gut.
“So. Bleeding’s stopped. Wound is clean. Needle’s prepped. Next I need to… to make sure the needle’s clean as well. Fire. Got to hold it in a flame ‘til it’s red-hot.” He nodded to himself, then lit a small candle-stump and heated the needle until it glowed.
Rokas released a deep, deep sigh, placed a folded-up leather belt between his teeth, and bit down hard. With one hand he pinched the gaping wound shut, the other readying the needle. For a few moments he hesitated, tip of the needle hovering above his skin. Then he scowled, jamming the metal point deep into his flesh. A cross between a hiss and a moan slid through clenched teeth, but he pushed through nonetheless.
The needle tunneled through easily, puncturing skin again on the other side. He brought it back to the side he started on, thread slithering in the needle’s wake until the knot at the end pulled it to a stop, and repeated the process. Once finished, he pulled the gut taut, cringing at the sensation of it tugging within his flesh, and tied a knot so it wouldn’t come loose.
It wasn’t the best of jobs, the stitches were crooked in places, weren’t evenly spaced, and varied in depth. As a result the flesh of this thigh rose and fell like valleys and hills, and the eventual scar definitely would not be pretty either. But none of that mattered, it got the job done.
To finish things up, Rokas wound a roll of bandages around his thigh to protect it from the coarse fabric of his trousers, as well as to keep it clean –or as clean as possible with a layer of soil caked to the skin.
He slumped a little on the stump, finally giving in to the weight pressing down on his body and mind. Both were spent. Not as if touched by the oppressive haze of sleepiness. Not drowsy and yawning and in danger of nodding off. Worn out. Ragged and weary and worked past their limit though he knew not why. One thing was abundantly clear: he needed rest.
So he sat near the fire, warming his body and keeping weight off his leg, and waited for time to pass.