Sunday, 7 September 2014

Doctors, Boo-boos and Healing. Part 1

Mogmush trembled and sweated, his eyes darted around the small cell as his head jerked from left to right in quick panicked motions. He could feel the fear rising as the smell of the place curled about his nostrils. 
The portal opened and a smiling ghoul in red robes stepped into his cell. It made a show of looking around the small place, glazed over eyes skipping over small table and the stack of out of date fashion booklets. Mogmush twisted his head and tried to avoid eye contact. he looked anywhere but at the smiling apparition before him. 
"Mr..." It consulted the small wooden board held before it. "Mog...mush?"
Mogmush felt his lungs stop as his name was called out. He felt the adrenaline rising and prepared to leap to his feet to fight his way clear. 
He got to an awkward half crouch before the pain in his leg stopped him dead. A strange mewling noise escaped his mouth as the huge man collapsed into a boneless heap on the floor. 

Nurse Swab stared at the mostly naked man on the floor. He was rolling around and whimpering whilst clutching at his leg. She felt a stab of pity for the huge thing and waved for some of the male nurses in the next room to help lift him up.
"It'll be alright. The doctor will make it better." She said in her most soothing voice.

"Blaaaaah!" A wall of sound hit her as the Barbarian hit his leg on the small coffee table as he was gently dragged in to the surgery. 

The dictionary rather boringly describes a doctor as; "A person qualified to treat others who are ill."
It defines the English version of a Boo-boo as: "Making a minor mistake or error."
And the American version of Booboo as: "A minor injury."
Healing is further described as: "The process of making or becoming sound or healthy again."

These are all rather boring, useful and pedestrian. Which wont do at all.

I would define a Doctor as; "The person that you hope will make It go away and the person who you blame if It doesn't."
Likewise I would say a Booboo is; "A sodding irritation that should not be used by anyone over the age of three on either side of the Atlantic ocean."
Finally, I would describe Healing as; "The long, slow and irritating process of forgetting that you are in pain and returning to what passes for normal assuming you are not on deaths door."

In Fantasonia there is a sickness. A vile and pervasive disease is worming its way through the words of numerous authors and making the worlds of fantasy easy to survive and more or less risk free.

I am of course speaking of Miracle and Magical cures.

Whats wrong with Magic and Miracles curing people?
Theoretically nothing. Actually, in the real world it would be a nice thing to have happen. The problem is that many, many Fantasy worlds aim for a sense of gritty realism and yet they happily cure wounds, from the crippling to the slightly annoying, in an instant.
There is no healing process, there is no learning from mistakes or even any real fear of making them.

Don't be ridiculous! If they had no fear then wouldn't wear armour.
Lies. Dirty lies.
The characters wear armour because it is expected of them. And not all of them do that, some will happily swan around in the melee in a smoking jacket and an air of hope.

It's Fantasy!
Fair point, Typeface. However if it is a novel that is trying to be gritty and (relatively) realistic then it would make more sense for the characters to be worried by pointy/sharpened metal, claws, teeth, fire, splinters, saddle sores, exhaustion, arrows in the knee, dislocations, breaks, sore teeth, bowel disruptions, hangovers, wild animals, tame animals, princesseseses, princes, witches, wizards, teeth, sorcerers, dragons, bad hair days, lightening, thunder, hurricanes, rain, muppets, crabs, rats, wind, damsels in distress, forests, enchantments...

Enchanted forests, warlocks, goblins, trolls, orcs, orks, orques, ships, seas, deserts, forests, chicken bones, pigs, horses, horse shoes, pointy shoes, lovers, flat shoes, heels, robots, steam, punks, pirates, slavers, thieves, princes of thieves, gentlemen, nobles, peasants, slopmongers, kings, queens, emperors...

You probably get the idea by now.

Sorry, what was the original point?
Wounds and hurts are part of life. A nasty, and desperately avoided part but part none the less. A larger part of life is spent recovering from those hurts and wounds, both physical and emotional.
Learning from the mistakes that lead to those hurts, fixing the things that have gone wrong and making to do with the new limitations. Discovering what the limits of your endurance are and how they can change your life.

Well... When you put it like that, waving a magic wand or whatever does limit my character a bit.
Yes, it does. Without that fear there can be no real growth or striving. All the cunning plans to avoid the pain simply don't have the room to happen.

It should be noted that you don't just go to the Doctor when a limb is spurting the red stuff. You might also go when you are feeling queasy and nauseous or slightly snotty.
Now, do bear in mind the fact that for a large part of Human history the Scientific Method was non existent and that even when it did put in an appearance it was vilified as both heretical and Necromancy, in the west at least.
That meant that disease and illness, as well as injury, were often treated with a bewildering mix of common sense, folk lore, religion, faith and good old fashioned gibberish.
The following is a list of common (real world) ailments and their symptoms as well as some common cures. I haven't made a single one of these up, they are all real and were at some point or another inflicted on some poor sod.

Problem- Tooth Ache
Symptom- Teeth which ache
Cure- Hold a cup of water in the mouth (?) whilst holding the flame of a lit candle near to the painful tooth.
Sort-of-logical reason for this- It will burn away the worms eating the tooth, making them fall into the water.
Score on the daft idea chart- 3

Problem- Severe Headache/Migraine
Symptoms- Pain in the head, loss of vision, black thoughts, mobile pain in the head and neck.
Cure- Trepanning. AKA drilling a sodding hole in your head.
Almost-logical-if-it-wasn't-bullshit reason for this- Evil spirits caused the problems and needed to be cut out. Possibly along with "infected"/"rotten" brain tissue. Amazingly people have been known to survive this.
Score on the daft idea chart- 3896

Problem- Plague. AKA The Black Death
Symptoms- Depending on the brand of your Plaguey-Waguey expect anything up to and including; Boils, blood boils, vomit, the screaming shits, bloody vomit, bloody shits, puss everywhere, rotting from the inside out, seriously bad smells.

  • God! Pray/flagellate the bad stuff away. In desperate times people have always/will probably always turn to their deity/s of choice. For a variation on the begging for mercy European zealots would regularly beat (read flagellate) themselves in a strange effort to drive out the sin/illness/please God.
  • Kill Jews! For some reason they decided that persecuting an already fairly persecuted people would be a really good way to get rid of their illness. Instead of curing them it just made them murderous, racist, bastards who also had the plague.
  • Rub a chicken over the Boo-boo! A live chicken applied to afflicted areas twice a day...yeah, that'll sort it. Pass me the bottle. 
  • Leaches! Let the little parasites suck all of the bad blood out of you, leaving you cleansed and refreshed! Actually this practice was part of a complex almost science involving the different Humours and achieving a ballance between them. Blood letting carried on well in to the 1800's as a popular method relieving stress and revitalizing the body.
  • Smear yourself with shit! Being covered in it, having your open sores stuffed with it and generally wallowing in it. For some reason Doctors thought that everyone's least favorite bodily product was a great cure.
  • Bathe in your own piss! Your own by preference but anyone's would do. Again with the strange ideas here.
Score on the "What-Were-You-Thinking-You-Lunatic" scale- TOO GREAT TO RECORD

What on earth? No wonder there was such a high mortality rate!
Yup. Now, I've just presented you with three ailments, of varying popularity and their most notorious cures. Obviously (with the exception of the Black Death cures) most of them weren't used all of the time and were reserved for special cases. However, that they could be considered at all is worrying. 
This is effectively the world in which your Heroes and Villains will live. Assuming they make it out of childhood they will be fairly tough individuals, having dealt with at least one mad bastards ideas of what a cure is. 

I see...So its entirely reasonable that my Hero would want to avoid Doctors?
Yes! Why on earth would anyone want to go and see these leech peddling quacks? Obviously today's Doctors, with the benefit of the Scientific Method and years of training are safe and highly recommended if you have an issue, but back then? Or in fantasy? You might be better off finding an old woman and asking how she dealt with whatever it is. Mostly because being an old woman she has clearly survived more or less anything you care to name and might be more willing to talk about it than an old man. 

"Ah yes, I see what the problem is here." He doctor removed his heavy headgear and sat back with a creak of leather. Mogmush couldn't help but stare at the heavily stained table in the corner of the room. It looked like something that belonged in a torturers cell. 

"What has happened is evil spirits have gotten into your leg and are gnawing at the bone. That's what's causing the pain." 

Mogmush nodded his head, it sounded reasonable enough unless you knew he had sprained it playing a game of Foot The Ball. 

"I'm going to prescribe a full treatment of Appeasment, urine and fire to re balance your body and drive the little swine out. The effect should be more or less instantaneous."

Mogmush stared at the man before him for a long time.


"Yes, your own of course, you can use the privy over there if you like. One of my orderlies is taking a replica of your leg to the well. He'll throw it in in order to appeal to the goddess of the water to wash away your pain."

"And the fire?" Mogmush's voice trembled a bit.

"Oh, we hold the fire near your leg to help drive the spirits out." 


Mogmush thought about it for a few moment before shrugging and limping over to the privy. After a complicated moment he was arranged. Realising that he absolutely no dignity to lose he went ahead.
After a moment Mogmush noticed something happening. A cloud was forming just to the left of his leg, dozens of little, vicious faces were grinning at him and gnashing their ephemeral teeth at him. 
In shock the huge Barbarian stumbled out of the privy, gabbling to the doctor.


The doctor looked up from his desk and idly waved a hand to an orderly who stepped forward with a lit torch. Some unpleasant noises came from the privy for a few moments before silence returned. 

"There, now isn't that better?" The doctor smiled before holding his hand out. Mogmush simply nodded and handed over a purse before leaving as quickly as he could.