"That Resurrection of Hope"
Tomorrow arrived earlier than expected,
when Egyed came pounding on the castle door
just after dawn. "Tivador is getting worse,"
he reported. "He barely wakes when we
wash him, and you said that was bad."
"Wrong culture," Igor grumbled.
"Damn it, if I could just tell
which bloody mold I've captured ..."
Victor flung on his winter coat over his
dressing gown and flannel pajamas,
not wanting to take more time to dress.
"Shandor is coming with us today,"
he said as he stamped his feet into
his boots. "He knows much about
injuries that happen in the woods."
Egyed just nodded, too worried
to protest whatever odd thing
the doctors might suggest.
When they arrived, Victor could see
why the father was so frantic.
Tivador was flushed more than ever,
and barely stirred when the two doctors
looked him over, frowning at each other.
Victor shooed Ráhel out of the room
with a gentle admonition to get some rest.
Then he unwrapped the bandages,
noting that at least the careful treatment
had healed some of the gouges and
kept the scabs soft on the worst of them.
"Tivador, we're going to try something
new again," Victor said. "It may feel strange,
but it shouldn't hurt too much."
"Mmmhmm," Tivador said, his eyes opening
for a moment before fluttering shut again.
Victor moved so he could block the boy's
line of sight if necessary, then waved
for Shandor to begin.
The werewolf shifted from human
to lupine form, then padded forward
as silently as a cat. Victor wondered
how he did that, when wolves had
claws that stayed out like a dog's
and should have clicked on the floor.
Perhaps werewolf claws were more
like those of a cat than a dog.
Shandor's long pink tongue
lapped tenderly over the gouges.
His nose wrinkled at the taste,
but he did not stop until he had
covered every inch of wounded skin.
As soon as Shandor finished,
he changed back to human form.
"Rinse your mouth out," Igor whispered,
passing him the flask of medicinal pálinka.
Shandor obeyed, and Igor followed the alcohol
with a piece of the lemon candy. The werewolf
wasn't much fonder of the lemon flavor, but
it made some improvement and it was all
that Igor had to offer at the moment.
They stayed with Tivador for hours,
Victor altogether unwilling to leave
while the boy was so sick. It wasn't
the first time that they had camped out
in someone's bedroom for a morning,
or even overnight in a few cases.
Victor kept an eye on his pocketwatch, and
every hour he beckoned to Shandor, who
came over to clean the cuts with his tongue.
On the fourth round, Tivador roused
enough to protest, "Tickles."
Victor leaned over to block his view,
just in case, saying, "Well, tickling
is better than hurting, isn't it?
Be patient, it will be over soon."
Tivador gave a faint giggle, then
drowsed off again.
Victor pressed a hand to his skin.
"Hmm ..." he said, reluctant to voice
that resurrection of hope until he was sure.
"I need a second opinion here."
Igor came to make his own examination.
"He feels cooler to me," said Igor. "The fever
hasn't broken yet, but I think it's going down."
"That's what I think too," Victor said with a nod.
Shandor gave them a lupine smile, then
shifted back to his human form.
"Yes, cooler," he agreed.
"What do you think of his chances?"
Victor asked, barely more than a breath of sound.
He prodded the wounds gently, noting that
they seemed to be oozing less.
"Good now," Shandor said.
"The sickness was bad, but all
in his skin, not in the blood or the bone."
Victor's eyebrows went up. "You can
tell the difference?" he said.
"Different sickness, different taste," Shandor said.
While Igor was applying the latest sponge bath,
Tivador woke up enough to complain, "Cold."
At once Igor set aside the damp cloth. "Do you
want your sheet back?" he asked, and when
Tivador nodded, Igor straightened the long twist
of muslin that had been kicked onto the floor.
Victor slipped out of the room and went
downstairs in search of the parents.
Ráhel was snoring in a chair while
Egyed watched their daughters.
At the sound of footsteps, the herder
looked up and said, "Must you wake her?
It's the first real sleep she's had in over a day."
"She'll want to see this, you both will,"
Victor said with a grin. "Tivador is awake
and starting to feel a little better now."
"Oh, thank God," said Egyed,
hastening to rouse his wife.
Ráhel bolted up the stairs as if
lost sleep was no concern whatsoever.
"Mama," Tivador said happily. "M'thirsty."
"I'll get --" Ráhel began.
"Come with me," Igor said, catching
her elbow. "I have a recipe for this."
Victor knew the one, a blend of water
with salt and sugar, sometimes with
a splash of fruit juice or cider for flavor.
Soon Igor returned with Ráhel's
big summer pitcher and a cup.
"Tivador, sit up and drink this,"
said Igor. "It tastes a bit funny,
but it will help you recover."
Tivador drank greedily, and
pronounced it, "Better than mold."
Igor chuckled. "Let him have half a cup
at a time, wait a few minutes, and
then refill it," he told Ráhel.
Egyed stood at the door, fingers
clenched so hard over the frame
that the knuckles turned white. There
wasn't space in the small room for
another person, and he was holding
himself back by sheer willpower.
"We can't thank you enough for
what you've done," he said to Victor.
The doctor patted him on the shoulder.
"It's what we're here for," he said.
The ride home was cheerful, despite
the sharpening wind that suggested
snow sometime in the next day or two.
Fridrik met them at the door, a little anxious,
and Shandor assured him, "The boy
was so sick, he had no idea what
I was doing, only that it tickled."
"Even if someone had noticed, you probably
saved Tivador's life," Victor said. "His parents
would protect your secret with their lives,
for the sake of what you have done."
"Perhaps," Shandor said, which for him was
a concession, given his sad experience of humans.
The next day, Victor went out with Shandor
in tow just in case, while Igor stayed behind
to start the feast for Christmas Eve.
First they looped through the village
to check on Nandru. The teen was back
on his feet and seemed mostly recovered,
his chest clearing and voice just a little hoarse.
"I feel a lot better now," Nandru said.
"I'm sorry I let it get out of hand, but ...
I'm used to working even if I'm sick,
not lying down like a cat in a sunbeam."
"You will get better faster if you rest
and take care of yourself," Victor
reminded him. "I'm glad it helped."
After that, the doctor went up to the farm
to see how Tivador was doing, half-afraid
that he'd gotten worse again, half-hopeful
of further recovery by now.
They found Tivador sitting up in bed
and demanding fruit which was not
to be had in the middle of winter.
His mother gave Victor a helpless look.
"Stop hounding your mother for a minute
and let me look at you," Victor scolded gently.
"But I'm hungry," Tivador whined,
"and she won't give me anything
but that stupid juice!"
"Behave yourself for a few minutes
and I'll bring you a treat," Victor offered,
which was enough to shush Tivador
through the brief examination.
Ráhel fluttered around them, asking,
"What can I let him have? He's
hardly eaten since he got sick, so
I was afraid to feed him too much."
"Canned fruit or stewed dried fruit
will be easy to digest, said Victor.
"Shandor, fetch that jar of apricots
from the wagon, if you would please."
Shandor nodded and went to get it.
"Tivador can have soup too, or
bread soaked in broth, then later try
a bit of yogurt or cheese," Victor said.
"Nothing too heavy at first -- you
were right to be cautious -- but
he should be all right in a few days."
Thin, determined arms went around
his neck in a surprisingly strong hug.
"You fixed me," Tivador whispered.
"I knew you could."
Sometimes the utter trust of a child
could be downright terrifying.
It had really been Shandor's doing, anyway,
and maybe some of Igor's as well, since
Victor's efforts hadn't helped much.
Then again, Victor had brought Igor here,
and the two of them had invited the Dacians
to share the valley. If it hadn't been for that,
none of them would be here to help. So maybe
Victor had saved Tivador, in a roundabout way.
It was a Christmas gift all the sweeter
for being so completely unexpected.
That thought had him humming all the way home.
* * *
"It is often when night looks darkest, it is often before the fever breaks that one senses the gathering momentum for change, when one feels that resurrection of hope in the midst of despair and apathy."
-- Hillary Clinton
Most canids have nonretractable or semi-retractable claws. Most felids have retractable or semi-retractable claws. Nonretractable claws leave marks and will click against a hard surface; they are usually blunt. Retractable claws do not leave marks and make no noise; they are usually sharp. Semi-retractable claws may or may not leave marks; if they do, the indentations are usually less than for nonretractable claws. They tend to be sharper than nonretractable claws but not as sharp as fully retractable ones. Similarly, if they make noise it is usually less than for nonretractable claws. This makes it possible to distinguish between canine and feline tracks. Some examples of animals with semi-retractable claws include gray foxes and cheetahs. These werewolves have semi-retractable claws, which rarely scratch the ground or make noise.
Wound licking is an instinctive behavior in many animals which promotes healing. Histatin is one substance found in saliva which aids this process. Wolves in particular lick wounds to make them heal faster, which even works on some humans who have a lot of contact with wolves. Werewolf saliva contains a topical antiseptic, a substance which helps to stop bleeding and glue ripped tissue back together, and a symbiotic microbe that colonizes the body to prevent infection by killing off competing microbes. You can see how this is optimized to treat large, ragged wounds such as caused by hunting and fighting. Domestic dogs can boost human health by licking; what the werewolves have is different and better, but derives from the same roots.
Wolf anatomy supports a strong sense of smell and taste. In the brain, these two senses are closely connected, even though the receptors for each are a little different. As wolves can distinguish many different scents, so werewolves can also distinguish tiny differences in taste.
Electrolyte drinks come in three basic types, depending on the relation of their components to the body's normal mix. They are used to restore fluids and nutrients lost due to exercise or illness. Know how to use them properly. Because the commercial ones contain artificial colors, flavors, and other undesirable ingredients it is often better to make your own electrolyte drinks. You just need water, a pinch of salt, a little more sugar, and if you want flavoring then add fruit juice.
Eating right when you're sick will lead to a faster recovery. Easily digestible foods yield plenty of nutrients without stressing the digestive system when your body is already tired. If you haven't been eating much, it helps to ramp up slowly so that you don't clog the pipes.