Elf Boy's Friends - IX
The next two courses Corwin took at the Healers Collegium covered physiology and
emergency medical care. As a full-time student Matt had already taken physiology, so emergency care was the only course he shared with his boyfriend. Their teacher once again was the esteemed Josip Holm.
"Now that the war with the trolls is over, some of you students might well wonder whether your time might not be better spent on other medical subjects, learning things more applicable to the practice of medicine in peacetime. You should know that emergency medical care covers more than just combat medicine. Emergencies come in all sizes, from a pile up of freight wagons on a road to an earthquake which levels a town."
"We are lucky to have Corwin Klarendes in this class. Corwin was trained as a combat medic and, young as he is, he has already seen more combat than many a career soldier. Not only is he a well-regarded war correspondent, he has fought as a participant in the Lightning War against the Eastern Barbarians, against the orcs, and most recently against the trolls in the final two campaigns of that war. In recognition of his courage and accomplishments, Corwin was awarded the Military Cross for Valor and has been twice Mentioned in Dispatches as well as earning two Wound Stripes."
"You would do well to seek Corwin out during your spare time and learn from someone who has seen war at first hand. Today though I want to focus on emergency medicine off the battlefield. Corwin has experience in that area as well, starting with the rescue last year of passengers from a downed autogyro and later in the company of his friends Drew Altair and Axel Wilde in the mobilization to deal with the earthquake which devastated the town of Darken, which lies at the foot of the Western Mountains."
"I have asked Corwin to speak to you about his experiences. Please save your questions till later. Now without further ado, I give you, Corwin, Lord Klarendes to give him his proper title."
Corwin winced inwardly. He knew that by using his full title Holm was just being polite, but the boy had always thought it silly for grown men to address a kid like himself as a social superior just because of an accident of birth, he being the son of a baron. Corwin felt it would be presumptuous for someone so young to insist on an aristocratic title. Now titles which you earned were a different story. Someday he hoped to be knighted for his accomplishments like many of his closest friends, none of whom was shy about using their hard-won titles. For one thing, it got you a better seat at a restaurant where you were not known.
Matt nodded encouragingly as Corwin launched into the presentation his boyfriend had help him prepare. Matt's critique of Corwin's two rehearsals had sharpened its wording and pacing, and Matt had helped with the illustrations drawn with a charcoal pencil on large sheets of oaktag.
Corwin launched into a vivid description of the kinds of injuries he had treated in his rescue missions. He stressed that many victims of crashes and collapsed structures might have multiple trauma. Victims might be trapped for days suffering not only from broken limbs and crush injuries but also from dehydration. One man of middle years trapped under the ruins of his bureau suffered not only a broken back, he also struggled with psychological trauma from an inordinate fear of confined spaces. Indeed, many victims of structural collapse already had or might well develop a fear of enclosed spaces and/or of the dark. Their feelings of helplessness while awaiting rescue made things even worse. Healers had to be as much aware of psychological trauma as the physical sort.
As in combat so in major disasters triage was an important part of the work of healers who must direct the injured to the appropriate level of care. There were never enough healers, magical or otherwise, so bonesetters should attend to most fractures while nurses and chirurgeons attend to internal injuries that could be set right by surgery.
The hardest part was rationing magical healing when the number of victims for whom nothing except magic could help exceeds the resources available. How did you choose? In battle the military divided the wounded into three groups: those who need just to have their injuries disinfected, bandaged, or stitched, at which point supportive care and their own recuperative powers would restore them to health. The second group was those who needed surgery and were likely to survive both it and their wounds. The last group was those who would die not matter what else might be done for them short of all-out magical healing.
"So how does the Army choose who lives in such cases?" the red-headed frost giant Klare asked. "Those with higher rank?"
"Absolutely not. Rank has no bearing. Only war wizards are privileged for triage and only because there are so few of them — under a hundred — and their contributions to victory potentially the greatest. That is why the enemy makes them a priority target. None of the senior war wizards has fewer than three wound stripes, and some have double that. War wizards have earned their priority."
"No, its basically a matter of doing the most you can for the most victims with the magical energy of the Healers on hand. Sometimes all you can do is ease a person's pain and let him die peacefully because a full healing would take energy that might go to save three others. It is one of the hardest things to do in medicine, but it is unavoidable."
Holm thanked Corwin and endorsed everything he had told his fellow student healers. Holm himself had served with the forces as a very young man. He could confirm that the worst part of battle medicine was not the often hideous wounds but the heart wrenching choices healers had to make.
After class Corwin and Matt went dancing and wound up in Corwin's bed, as they had been doing once or twice a week. The couple enjoyed their time together though theirs was really a casual relationship, an extended summer romance which would run its course till Matt left for home, leaving fond memories behind but nothing more. Neither youth thought theirs would become a life-bond. For Corwin Matt was entertaining company not a member of the "family" of nine who lived together in their residential hotel.
A few days later Corwin, Matt and their fellow students were abruptly summoned to a meeting. Their instructor Josip Holm told them that a giant tornado had struck in the northwest. Spawned by what had stared off as an ordinary summer thunderstorm, it had abruptly swollen to monstrous proportions.
A weather wizard had sensed the danger and given warning locally but could do not save his city entirely. His powers were limited, which is why he worked as a weather forecaster for the local new-paper. Nevertheless he managed to change its vector enough to avoid the most densely populated area, though nearly killing himself in the process. Once the emergency was over, the man would be publicly recognized for his heroism.
"The whirlwind left a trail of destruction more than a mile wide and eighty-three miles long, with a few skips in between. The tornado smashed three towns and half of Feldspar, a major city and the site of the teaching hospital for that entire region. Many injuries were from debris flung by the powerful whirlwind. Roof tiles made of fired clay were a particularly deadly missile . A tornado could strip a typical roof of hundreds of these weighty tiles which became deadly missiles when flung about by tornado force winds.
The locals are mobilizing resources to respond to the disaster, but the regional disaster coordinate has asked for help. So additional rescue workers and medical personnel will travel from the capital to the stricken region to help those already on the scene."
Faced with a widespread disaster the government mobilized rescue workers from the largest pool of trained medics, fetchers, delvers, and healers in the Commonwealth: the population of the capital, both civilian and military.
Also being deployed were autogyros to collect victims from the countryside and fly them to field hospitals the civil authorities were setting up as well as to local infirmaries, which was why Drew Altair's reserve commission had been activated. His red speedster had been fitted with stretchers, one on each side of the fuselage.
Eike Thyssen had come up with a design that could be fitted quickly to the fuselage of the smaller aerocraft that had no internal cabin and turn them into flying ambulances. Really bamboo baskets fitted with belts and buckles to strap the patients in, they would let Drew transport the injured to where full medical care was available. A medic would fly with him to stabilize the patients for transport.
It wasn't just medics who were needed. Delvers could sense the location of victims trapped in cellars and collapsed structures. That was why Nathan Lathrop, as a naval sounder, and Jemsen, as an earth wizard, were called up. Since the twins were inseparable, Karel went along too though just how an air wizard might help was not clear. Fetchers not only could fly autogyros, they could lift beams and heave blocks of masonry aside to free those trapped beneath.
Axel Wilde went along too. Axel's skill and experience as a combat and rescue medic would make up for his lack of the gift of magical healing. In addition he would teleport groups of rescue workers where they were needed.
"The victims number in the thousands so we are calling on you students too, even though you are not yet half-way through your course of study. Each of you will be paired with a licensed Healer. Let her take the lead and join your powers to hers. That will let us treat and save more victims. Save your questions till you get there. For now, get the kit bags you all keep here for just such a contingency. Oh, and Corwin, take your combat medic kit as well. You will be doing double duty, employing both natural medicine and magical healing."
"Understood. How will we get there, sir?" Corwin asked.
"Through a space portal. Afterwards we will get around locally by whatever means are available including on foot, horseback, bicycle, and autogyro."
With that the students went to their rooms and got the kits which they had packed really as an exercise, not really expecting to use them until they finished their studies. They gathered in the courtyard where they rendezvoused with Sir Ahndray who would open the space portal to the town which was the headquarters of the relief operation. He himself would not travel with them. Relief operations were not the job of war wizards.
The seven friends split up and stood in the ranks with their colleagues: Corwin and Matt with the student healers, Axel Wilde with the medics, while Nathan Lathrop and the twins Jemsen and Karel stood with the mages. All were in military field dress which meant without badges or medal, and wore cuirasses plus helmets to protect torso and head from falling objects. All bore arms. You never knew what sort of trouble you might run into out in the field, even on a mission of mercy.
Sir Ahndray's aide Lemuel double-checked the personnel roster then nodded to his boss who opened a portal wide enough not only for the personnel on foot but also for a dozen autogyros like Drew's which rolled through on the ground.
The stricken city was set on the flat land just east of the mountains, it was connected to the rest of the Commonwealth by a good road alongside which ran the heliograph line which had transmitted the distress call from the civil authorities. A long ugly scar marred the landscape. In places the tornado had torn the top soil away right down to bed rock. Debris was scattered everywhere. No structure of brick or wood had withstood its two hundred fifty mile per hour winds.
Standing atop a low dais, an authoritative-looking human of middle years addressed the new arrivals in a parade ground voice:
"Listen up. My name is Commissioner Donner. I'm the disaster coordinator. Thank you for coming to help out. All new staff are to report to their functional group as indicated by the placards at each station. You guys in autogyros park over on the right then line up."
On his left was a row of tables with placards for healers, medics, mages, and pilots respectively. The friends lined up at their appropriate tables and gave their names and function. When it came the turn of the twins the registrar added Jemsen to the rolls as a delver but was taken aback when Karel announced that he was an air wizard.
"But we didn't ask for an air wizard. Besides I cannot see what good air wizardry could do in this situation. No offense."
"You don't understand. My twin and I, we always work together. Always."
"That's right." Jemsen confirmed. "He goes where I go."
"What seems to be the trouble here?" Donner asked frowning.
The registrar explained the situation.
"What makes you two kids so special we should take you both? This isn't a family outing, you know."
"It's like this, sir. Karel and me, we are literally inseparable. I cannot remember when we haven't been within shouting distance of each other. And we're psychically linked."
"Wait a minute. Those tattoos… You're the famous twins Jemsen and Karel."
"In the flesh." Jemsen acknowledged.
"Still the point my man raised is a good one. What use is air wizardry?"
"You need to dispose of the dead before decay sets in and they turn into a public health hazard. That is where Jemsen and I come in. He's not just a delver, he is a full-fledged earth wizard. That means he make the earth heave open for mass graves, then cover them with earth once they are thrown in. That takes care of humans and dwarves who traditionally bury their dead. Elves and Frost Giants cremate theirs."
"True, but I don't have the manpower to chop down enough trees for hundreds of funeral pyres and wouldn't not have them do it if I did, not to mention the last thing we need around here is more smoke. The urban fires are still smoldering."
"Exactly why you need air wizardry to create mirrors which focus the heat of the sun to incinerate dead bodies completely and turn them into ash without any smoke at all. Nor are there any bones left behind as when a body is burned on a funeral pyre."
"Are you sure these sun mirrors of yours will work as advertised?"
"Don't worry about that, sir. I have witnessed my brother's sun mirrors turn whole regiments of troll cavalry into ash. And he can blow the mess away with jets of air or perhaps a dust devil."
"The ash improves the fertility of the fields downwind so choose the sites accordingly."
"All right, we'll sign you both up. Glad to have you."
"What about us?" Corwin and Drew asked the commissioner before he turned away.
"We want to work together too. I'm Drew Altair and this is Corwin Klarendes." Drew explained.
"Work together doing what?"
"I'm a fetcher, a pilot of a flying ambulance. I need a trained medic like Corwin Klarendes to stabilize patients till I can get them to the hospital. We've done rescue work together in the past."
"So what is the problem?"
"Corwin is also a student Healer. The Healers will want him to work with them."
"A Healer too? More power to you then. Nothing says you have to work with just one healer. You can link up with any of them wherever the flying ambulance takes you. All right, I'll clear it with the healers. You guys can fly together."
"One more thing, sir." Drew interjected. "Keep me in mind if you need some really heavy lifting done."
"Oh, I thought that pilots of autogyros were the weaker sort of fetcher, those who had trouble flying with yokes. Just how strong are you anyway?
"I can levitate a pair of brontotheres easily enough." Drew told him simply.
"Two brontotheres, eh? In that case you'd better sign up as a mage as well as a pilot."
He indicated the next table over, the one for mages where Axel was trying to explain that he was there in a dual capacity: both medic and mage. The registrar wasn't sure how to handle dual status and motioned Donner over. The commissioner told Axel:
"You should register as a mage. Your gift of teleportation is far more valuable than anything you might do with your combat medic kit but keep it handy. Assist the medics as and when you can."
Once Corwin registered as the medic assigned to in Drew's flying ambulance, he stepped over to the next table and said that he was in the same boat as his friend Axel Wilde, only he was a three-fer: medic, trainee Healer, and a war mage who could wield ball lightning.
Donner told the registrar that he had already agreed to let Corwin work with Drew, but to put him on the rolls as a mage as well, even if a use for ball lightning was not immediately apparent.
Nathan Lathrop registered as a delver, or sounder as the Navy liked to call them. The elf-boy Matt went on the rolls simply as a student Healer.
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