We were in pretty rough shape after the day’s fighting. Cho was still badly wounded, and Professor Sokolov was almost certainly going to lose his arm. Dr. Stardust and I wanted to keep everyone in Gettysburg until we were all healed, but our new…allies? comrades? perhaps even friends? urged us to leave the town, as it was actually a haven for the mutants, or Monstas, as the Trikru called them. (I think I’m beginning to figure out some of their language: Trikru = Tree Crew, and Skaikru, as they call us, is Sky Crew. Perhaps their language is not so dissimilar, after all?)
We followed Joel and his team on horseback (a novel, and painful, experience) to a nearby Trikru village, called something like Sarris. Had they not led us directly there, I think I would have passed right by, it was so cleverly disguised. Our wounded were led to a healing tent, but first I asked Ayden (through Dr. Stardust, who seems to have developed a rapport with her) if there was any cold water nearby. Once I was able to convey my reason—to preserve the mystery vials, which had been in the insulated refrigeration units, but without power for nearly 30 hours—an old woman led me to a cool cellar. I opened the refrigerator to let the cool air inside, and the woman agreed to let me store them until we could reclaim them. Then I made my way to the healing tent.
The village healer had given Cho and Professor Sokolov a sleeping draught. Dr. Stardust and I conferred with the Trikru healer, and we were all in agreement that Sokolov’s arm needed to go, before rot or gangrene set in. We were able to rouse Sokolov enough to get his blessing to remove the arm. Dr. Stardust, being the surgeon, led the procedure while I assisted. We were able to remove the damaged tissue; the Trikru healer placed a cap of leather and metal on the freshly-cauterized stump, and I fell into a cot for some much-needed sleep.
The next day (I can scarcely believe it’s merely the third day since we left York), we stayed in Sarris while Professor Sokolov recovered from surgery. It was difficult to stay put, as I was eager to follow Ayden to a city where she had seen medicine. Especially after the loss of our antibiotics, I was unwilling to return empty handed. I had conferred with the Trikru healer, to learn the names and properties of the herbs I had found on our outgoing journey, but they were merely a stopgap measure, until I could get my hands on some real medicine.
Ash had found a fishing hole, where he claimed to have caught a fish with his bare hands. Mm hmm. I searched the water for some leeches, in case we needed to detoxify anyone’s blood in the field. Alas, I came up empty-handed. I turned my search to maggots, which I had read could be useful in cleaning wounds, as they eat only rotten flesh. My first thought was to use Sokolov’s arm, but I found that the flesh was burned the previous night. Luckily, Ash had a fish head to donate to the cause: as I had already seen flies swarming around it, I knew that maggots would soon follow. I found a Trikru craftsman, and traded a bone spear from the Monstas, for a wooden box I could use to hold the fish head (or, my maggot colony).
The following morning, Day 4 of the journey, we set out with Ayden as our guide to the new medicinal cache. Joel’s team had agreed to let Ayden be our guide, but the rest of them had their own mission. It’s a shame they had taken the horses with them. We set out to the north, and the journey was uneventful for most of the day. Suddenly, we were attacked by a pack of wildcats (Catamounts, Ayden called them). Not being much of a fighter, I kept very still at the foot of a tree, and I noticed that Professor Sokolov was doing the same. He held his new walking stick/cudgel (a shillelagh, as he called it) defensively. I held up my scalpel in a similar fashion, in case one of the cats decided to attack me.
The more martially inclined in the group soon dispatched the catamounts, and we harvested what we could of their hides, meat, and claws and teeth. I suggested that we leave the offal behind, and move away to find a campsite for the night. Ayden seemed impressed by my suggestion. During the night, when it was my turn to take watch, I could hear her quietly whimpering in her sleep. Perhaps one day she will trust me enough to share what in her past has terrified her so.
Tomorrow morning, we will see what treasures there are to be found in the new cache!