His Life in Their Hands
For complete disclaimer and rating, please see chapter one. Thanks to Andunea for her beta-services.
Welcome back, mellyn! This is the final part and I wanted to post it today to have more room for my other stories. "Skills of a Healer" will be updated before the weekend, too.
The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.
Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus
The way back to wakefulness was the hardest part. He knew that; even if he wasn't aware of being in this state at present. Time floated in and out of his awareness, playing tricks on him. Legolas was unsure whether moments or days had elapsed since Elladan had given him the sleeping draught. This time, it wasn't his elven hearing being restored to him. The smell returned first. The smell of grass and humid air, of branches burning in a fire, of sweet herbs, the particular smell of horses. It hung in the air with a lightness he did not expect. Next was pain. His body felt as if it were betraying him. No, not the entire body, but his abdomen. It hurt to breath. To just move a muscle. He moaned and tried to stay still. But even moaning hurt. Then he felt familiar presences, heard well-known voices. Sound was coming back to him, too. He felt a wet cloth being pressed to his clammy brow. "Easy, mellon, hush. Do not move. It might hurt too much. Just be still. Rest." The words and syllables, spoken in his native tongue, harmonized seamlessly with each other.
He knew the voice better than his own and tried to open his eyes. What a task. His lids were heavy, as if they had been closed for centuries. But Legolas tried again and finally, sight returned to him, too. The twilight of pre dawn clouded the scene around him, but his tired and pain stricken eyes focused on Aragorn. Elessar, he corrected his sluggish mind. The King of Gondor and Arnor graced him with a bright smile: "Welcome back, my friend. We managed to remove the piece of flesh that ailed you. Stay on your back and sleep. You need to restore your strength."
Legolas felt the blanket being lifted off his body and Aragorn moved to take a look at his abdomen. Suddenly, the elf felt a great wave of nausea roll over him and he could not help but just turn his head followed by his whole body to try and empty his stomach which had only contained a small amount of healing tea. Dry heaves sent burning hot tears into his eyes and the retching hurt his belly immensely. Only a few drops of sour liquid remained on his trembling lips.
"Shh… it is going to be all right," Aragorn murmured, cleaning the elf's face with a fresh cloth. "Relax and just hold on, Legolas, it is almost over. It will be well." Bare of all the strength left to him, Legolas felt himself being turned on his back again. The undergarments he was wearing were being drawn aside to reveal his belly to the waiting world. If the elf objected to the scrutiny he refrained from saying anything. Before his fea fled into sweet oblivion, one thought manifested in Legolas' tired mind: 'What have they done to me?'
The next time he woke, his mind wasn't in tumult any longer. Prominent was the pain, and the thirst. Legolas opened pain blurred eyes and found himself still laying on a heap of blankets. The ground underneath was soft, young green grass in a clearing. The early twilight had changed; now, it looked as if it were late morning. Through the opened tent flap, he saw the shadowed peaks of Amon Din cumulating into fresh white clouds and blue skies. A warm gust of air told of a bright and sunny spring day. Aragorn was still at his side but when Legolas focused on the limp form next to him, he saw that his friend was indeed sitting there, legs crossed - fast asleep.
"He had kept watch for hours, laddie, and now that you join us again, you find him sleeping." Gimli came near and knelt beside him, smiling.
Legolas tried a smile himself, but knew he must be failing. "Gimli. I........I.......am......thirsty......if I may have some water?" His voice wasn't more than a cracked whisper. Thirsty. Aye. What would he give for a drink of cool, clear water!
"I am sorry, child. You will have to wait until evening to have some water. Your elven healing should have sealed the hole in your innards by then. I can only give you a healing tea now." Legolas turned his head and saw Lord Elrond kneeling on the other side of his form. He nodded slowly - better a cup of tea than no liquid at all. It almost amused him that the elven lord would call him "child" still, but it also comforted him in some way. Compared to the older elf's age, or the age of his own father, he was indeed an elven child.
Legolas tried not to moan as the Lord of Imladris helped him lift his head, since he did not want to wake Aragorn. Elrond held the cup as the younger elf made to take small sips. The draught was bitter and almost too hot, but Legolas drank obedientely. He knew before he felt that painkilling and sleeping herbs must have been added to the hot tea. Elrond smiled. "Rest, young one. Only in sleep will you be able to restore your strength. Healing means sleeping. We will watch over you." Elrond's long, elegant and skilled fingers once again found their way to Legolas' forehead and with a soft sigh, the blonde archer fell into a fitful slumber.
It was the evening after the procedure that found Legolas awake again. This time, exhausted blue eyes met Aragorn's silver gaze and the king smiled this well-known ranger smile of his. "So, you finally decided you had enough sleep, my friend. It is well. And I am glad you are awake now. How are you feeling? Are you in any pain still? Speak truthfully, please. I do not like it when you hide something from us as you did those last days." He watched as Legolas tried to compose himself. The elf's face was once again pale, since the fever was gone now.
"Aragorn. I still feel tired but the pain is bearable. If I stay still. I am sorry I am the reason our company will be delayed."
"It has been but a day, Legolas. Your elven healing will make this a swift recovery. You are not delaying anything. We will stay as long as we must." Aragorn brought a cup of fresh, cold water and the elf drank greedily, asking for more.
"Easy, my friend, I do not want you to feel ill again. You shall have more water, but first, let me give you this healing tea. But I must warn you, it might be bitter. At least that is what my father told me." He produced another cup with a warm, milky green liquid and Legolas drank it without his usual banter. Aragorn knew his friend wanted to get well again as fast as his healing allowed. Within a short time, Aragorn thought Legolas was looking much better. The elf's face had almost his normal color again and Legolas' eyes did not seem so pain stricken any longer. The king and healer marvelled at the elven healing, always a blessing, since Legolas had been through enough life-threatening injuries.
When Legolas said that he was hungry, Aragorn could not help but laugh.
"Well, Estel, I cannot remember eating at all - it feels as if I haven't eaten in one week or so. It should be perfectly normal that I am hungry." The elf looked so innocent making that statement that Aragorn almost felt bad for his answer.
"Oh, how I like to hear you say that you are starving, my friend. But, sadly, you will have to wait until the morning. Since we had to cut at your innards, we must make sure the gut heals nicely. Tomorrow, you can have some oatmeal. The day after, we can try with broth and vegetable soup. But no raw fruits, cheese and vegetables or lembas bread for one week. Your gut needs time to heal." Legolas' facial expression turned into a sour look and Aragorn laughed again.
The elf seemed to think about something, and then, out of the blue, asked: "How many?"
"How many what?"
"Stitches, of course. Do you not remember our game, Estel? Beating each other by the count of the stitches?"
The king and former ranger groaned. "Oh, Legolas, are we still counting? That's ridiculous, since the shadow is no more and hence we should be living quietly and at peace - without further injuries. And since both of us are left without an appendix now, there should be no such procedure like this waiting for us any longer. But let me see; I have to inspect your wound and change the dressing anyway."
Chuckling, Aragorn draw back the blanket to let it rest at Legolas' bony hips. His fingers took away the undergarments and removed the long wound dressing. He studied the scar which marred the right side of Legolas' stomach. "One.....two...three.....four.....there are twenty six stitches on the outer skin, but I do not know how many sutures it took for my father to close the hole in your ......"
"Eleven," a nearby voice said mirthfully and Lord Elrond stepped into the tent, followed by Gandalf. "I brought your first visitor, Legolas," he explained.
The white wizard entered the tent, a small bowl with blooming flowers in his hand. "Legolas. I am glad to hear you are feeling better. Even if I do not understand that a fair being like you could get ill." He chuckled and sat on a pillow next to the young elf. "I brought you something," he said, and the scent of those wild flowers filled the king's tent. Legolas' eyes widened in joy and he offered his companions a smile as bright as the rays of Anor. "Thank you so much, Mithrandir, you always know what I need most." His long, still trembling fingers carefully touched the delicate leafs of the small flowers.
Gandalf did not stop chuckling. "You know, our Master dwarf did tell me about Aragorn now indeed being your senior. I was not astonished to hear about the reason of your flesh's illness." Yet, Gandalf almost grinned.
Legolas looked at him, stunned. "What do you mean.....Aragorn being my senior?"
Now it was the turn of the king and healer to join the conversation. "Oh, I forgot telling you, my friend: It has been a cherry stone that we have found in your appendix." His lips started twitching, but his face remained neutral - almost. Then a small, warm smile danced across his features and he could not stay calm any longer.
Legolas' confused look cleared at once: "Aye, Aragon, now I know of what you speak - I remember you telling me about a cherry stone you ingested when you were ten years old. A cherry stone keeping you away from the Yule festivities. I did not understand back then, but I do now - after all." His smile returned: "Herein you shall be my senior then. Again something we share."
His hand searched Aragorn's hand again in a friendly gesture, a gesture so well known between the two of them.
Legolas then addressed the Lord of Imladris, who was standing in one corner of the tent, preparing more of the healing tea Legolas would still need: "I thank you all for saving my life....once again," the young elf said, nodding the graceful nod that somehow only he could manage. Elrond only smiled, bowing his head.
Aragorn took Legolas' hand in his own, stroking the long, pale digits with his calloused fingers, but he did not drop the former subject: "I was just wondering, Legolas: Where and how did you get that stone since there are no cherries growing on the trees yet?"
Legolas felt his cheeks blushing: "Well, my friend, perhaps I should tell you a secret - a secret about delicious cherry jam. The jam your cooks made last year, I am afraid. I guess I was the one eating the last remnants of it....without bread and butter, just the jam. As I said, delicious - the sweetness, the color, the aroma......."
"Tell me if I venture too far, but I never knew you were a sweet being, Legolas," Gandalf inserted mischievously and the company in the tent started laughing. Even Legolas, whose belly still hurt when he was laughing, joined in.
They continued their journey without further delay on the third day after the procedure they had performed on Legolas - the company offering a strange picture never before seen: Gimli, now riding with Aragorn so as not to disturb Legolas' still healing wound.
Arod was a steed they knew would carry his injured master with great diligence. And so the grey horse did.
As both Elrond and Aragorn had predicted, the elf's recovery became a swift one. Elladan removed Legolas' outside stitches on the seventh day, his brothers being pleased they did not have to hold down a swearing or struggling Legolas. At another campsite along the Great West Road, the elf sat in the king's tent again and waited patiently until all the stitches had left his skin. After that, the proud prince of Eryn Lasgalen did not complain of pain any longer. But everytime his eyes would meet Aragorn's, his gaze spoke of the unending knowledge that his life had truly been in their hands and that he had come to terms with the feeling of being vulnerable in a way he had rarely experienced before. A slowly fading scar, almost an elegant heap, reminded him of that.
At length after fifteen days of journey the wain of King Théoden passed through the green fields of Rohan and came to Edoras; and there they all rested. The Golden Hall was arrayed with fair hangings and it was filled with light, and there was held the highest feast that it had known since the days of its building. (2)
(2): JRR Tolkien, The Return of The King: Many Partings
Feedback, anyone ? I'd love to hear what you think.
Historical medical details and last notes: I gave the poor elf an appendicitis this time. As I was saying before, no one ever told us about specific differences in the anatomy of elves and men in general. We only know that elves are more resilient and their bodies are stronger, hiding some strength normal men could not muster. I reckon there should be some similarities, though.
Appendicitis in medical history:
When one considers the frequency of diagnosis and treatment of appendicitis nowadays, one might imagine that the condition was known and well treated far back in antiquity. Most of the history of appendicitis and appendectomy has been made and written during the past two generations, however. This does not mean that light has not been sought on this subject ever since the time of the Fathers of Medicine. And considering the difficulties at hand, these ancient surgeons and physicians did exceedingly well. Of course, abdominal surgery as practiced today is not an old art, therefore, one might not have expected an appendectomy to have been performed so many years ago. In Hypocrites' time they were "cutting for the stone," when an appendix was not even known to exist. What was not known to exist surely could not be prognosticated or treated. Anatomical findings: Galen, who of all the ancients gave by far the most complete anatomical descriptions, found no appendix because he dissected only monkeys, which have no appendix. And what Galen did not see or describe, no one saw or quoted throughout the Middle Ages.
So it was that Berengarius Carpus, professor of surgery at Pavia and Bologna, who gave us our first description of this structure in 1522. He spoke of there being found a certain bowel "additamentum" empty within, and in breadth less than the smallest finger of the hand, and of a length of three inches or thereabouts. Vesalius, writing twenty-one years later, even gave several illustrations. Much confusion appeared to exist at this time between the caecum and the appendix, shown in the writings of Stephanus (1545) and enlightened by Ambrose Pare in 1582. Vesalius insisted on calling the appendix vermiformis the caecum because of its true blind pouch nature; whereas, as he pointed out, the so-called caecum has three openings, namely, the colon, ileum and appendix.
Fallopius, writing in 1561, appeared to have been the first writer to compare the appendix to a worm; and Bauhin (1579) to ascribe there to a function. He proposed the ingenious theory that the appendix served in intrauterine life as a receptacle for the faexes; from which it seemed not improbable that he confounded it with the diverticulum described nearly two hundred years later by Meckel, whose name it bears. Laurentiue (1600), Vidus Vidius, Fabricius ab Aquapendente, Morgani (1706), Verheyn (1710), Santorini (1724), Vosse (1749), Weitbrecht (1747), Haller (1778), and Sapatier (1781) - all names of anatomists to be conjured with, added more or less insignificant ideas concerning the structure of the appendix and entered upon useless controversy concerning the name, function, position, etc. of the appendix vermiformis. It took some time until, after many tries - more or less succesfull - appendix-surgery became known to the physicians and surgeons, patient's proper anaesthesia still being one of the problems:
In 1889, Lawson Tait split open and drained an inflamed appendix without removing it, and his patient recovered. And so it goes. By 1890 one author has listed nearly a hundred appendiceal operators, and his collection is far from complete. But to Thomas G. Morton of Philadelphia belongs the credit of the first successful operation for the removal of the appendix, deliberately undertaken with an alternative diagnosis of disease in the organ. Dr. Ellson of Philadelphia gave this report of this case just as presented to the College of Physicians, June 1, 1887 by Dr. Woodbury:
"I have the honor of presenting this evening to the College a private patient who five weeks ago today was apparently beyond recovery, with perityphlitis abscess. Dr. Thomas G. Morton, the abscess evacuated and the appendix removed at its origin, almost divided by an ulcer, skillfully performed Laparotomy. I also present the specimen taken from the patient; the appendix. Accompanying it is a small concretion, resembling in size and general appearance a cherry stone (which it was) that evidently was the cause of the ulceration."
Today, appendectomies are common surgeries and older such as younger surgeons are very well trained in performing them. In total, those surgeries won't leave you with as many sutures anymore as I gave the poor elf in this story. The point in between navel and hipbone, which Elrond touched to confirm his diagnosis is called - after his inventor - McBurney. Today, the patient's reaction when pressing this special spot is still a big part to the diagnosis. I said bye-bye to my own appendix when I was 14, during summer break.