September 13, 2005

Chapter 24

"And what do we do about John?" asked Catherine.

"He's still unconscious," said Matthew. "Martha expected him to be ready to return tomorrow."

"Return to what?"

"I haven't had time to think," replied Matthew. "We need to have a fuller conversation about this tomorrow, after we've all had a chance to rest. I'm sure Martha can let him sleep an extra day."

The council adjourned for a few hours' rest.


Miriam waited outside the operating room of the hospital. The elders had retired before she got there, and only Isaac was waiting for her.

"I wish -" he said.

"I know, I do too."

They said no more, sitting in the chairs until they both fell asleep.


Dawn revealed a clear sky over a crisp cold morning. In the largest barn, Miriam's organization was still running smoothly, even without her there.

The raider men were awakening slowly from their tranquilizers, each in a separate cell. As they awoke, they realized that they were in different clothes, resting on hay while locked in a stall. Bread, soup, and water were provided in dishes on a bench, and most of them drank heartily as soon as they found the water. Some stayed quiet, while others shouted everything from epithets to Bible verses at the farmers.

The women and children were on the other side of the barn. The children hadn't been tranquilized, but the citizens had surprised most of them in their sleep, so capturing them hadn't been difficult. Teenagers and women had been tranquilized, and were waking up slowly. A group of the farmer women was there to greet them as they woke up confused. They offered the women water, and helped them collect their children before leading them to larger cells with more blankets, food, water, and places to rest.

One of those wakings was different. Ruth had been tranquilized along with everyone else, and Keren sat next to her all night, waiting for her to awaken. As Ruth came to, Keren welcomed her mother back, and the two of them left the barn crying.

After a few hours all the prisoners had awakened, and the farmers changed their focus to meeting their new guests' needs while waiting for word from the elders. Two guards from the city watched ominously over the proceedings, their bright red uniforms and rifles clearly setting them apart from the rest of the scene.

At the other end of the city, the gate was open, the camp largely quiet after the previous night's excitement. A few farmers rode down the hill on horseback at dawn to fetch sleighs, and the first of them were returning. All but around fifty of the farmers were looking forward to going home in the next few days. The elders were staying, along with a core group to watch the prisoners until the city could take them to their next destination.


"He's going to be all right," said Martha as she shook Miriam awake. "He's going to be all right."

"Can I see him?"

"Yes, you can, but he'll be asleep for a few hours. Over here."

Miriam rushed to the room Martha indicated, opened the door, and started weeping again. Jacob was a tangle of bandages, his head wrapped in gauze and barely recognizable. What was visible looked chapped and bruised.

"He looks terrible, I know," said Martha. "He's not going to feel good for a while, but we think he will heal. Not much is broken, actually - he must have landed on top of the raider. The knife wound was pretty deep, but we've cleaned it up and that should heal too. I'll leave you here with him."

Isaac walked in the room as Martha left, and gasped.

"I think - I think I'd better get some sleep," he said. Miriam nodded, drifting off again to sleep in a chair.


The council had reconvened, though everyone was bleary-eyed from lack of sleep.

"I know you're all tired," started Matthew. "I certainly am, but there's too much to do right now."

Rose and Michael, the two doctors, entered the room at Matthew's signal.

"Good morning," Rose began. "We have two patients to report on to the council. First, Jacob. Jacob will be all right eventually, though only some luck in his fall and Martha's prompt intervention kept him from joining the raider who fell with him."

"Did you use -" Catherine began.

"Once we had Jacob in the hospital, we were able to accomplish everything necessary using medicines the farmers are normally provided," said Michael. "Most of what he needed was surgery to address his knife wound, blood to replace that which he had lost, and general cleanup of abrasions, sprains, and a minor break in his arm."

"Excellent," said Matthew. "So he should be available to the farmers again soon?"

"He can walk around in a day or two. It'll probably be a few months before he feels himself again, but yes."

Rose started again. "Our other patient is a more complicated story. John had been away for fifty-one years, and it definitely showed in his medical condition. I believe he is nearly the same age as you, Matthew, but he, well, he was very frail when he arrived."

"And now?" asked Stephen.

"He's still quite frail. We've completed the first phase of his detoxification, though the process hasn't been used for centuries. We've removed a tremendous number of poisons from his system, and revived many of his systems using appropriate hormones and a much larger dose of the medications we normally take."

"Many of his systems?"

"Probably all of his systems, eventually, but it takes time for this to settle and heal. His skin is far smoother than it was, and he should have more energy, but some of the more difficult pieces - bones and hair, for example - will take longer to rejuvenate."

"Can he be awakened now?" asked Matthew.

"Not this minute," said Michael, "but sometime today, certainly. We've kept him under relatively light sedation, as he wasn't strong to start with and we didn't know if the anesthesia would interfere with the rest of the process."

"Has he said anything?" asked Catherine.

"He's muttered about the gate in his sleep, and something about Rachel."

"His wife, upstairs," said Stephen.

"Yes," replied Matthew. "We're going to have to figure out how to handle that."

"She may not -" started Rose. Everyone looked at her. "She's not in good health," said Rose. "I didn't expect her to last this long, especially when we went into retreat. Apparently the chaplain can follow directions, and having her family there may be helping as well."

"Family?" asked Catherine. "Does John have," she paused, "children?"

"He and Rachel have a son, Gideon," replied Rose.

"A son? Gregory allowed John to -"

"Yes, Catherine. Or at least Gregory approved Rachel's having a child," said Matthew. "It's fair to say that he never expected John to come back here."

Stephen turned to Catherine. "I never would have expected Gregory's generosity to cause us problems either."

Catherine's face burst into a deep shade of red.

"Thank you, Rose and Michael," said Matthew. "I'm afraid we have a lot to discuss."

They left the room, and the council was silent for a few minutes as everyone gathered their thoughts.

Finally, Matthew broke the silence. "It is clear," he said, "that our founders never expected an exile to return once permitted, much less return a different person."

Posted by simon at September 13, 2005 11:07 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

© 2004 Simon St.Laurent.
All Rights Reserved.