Conception and Saul
Date: June 12th, 2010
Translation - Truth conquers all.
"Vincint Omnia Veritas"
A battle-scarred village in the Amazon.
Max hasn't spoken a word in the last week.
He didn't even leave his hut for the first few days, much less the village. When he finally emerged, it was only after hours of being pestered, prodded, and begged by Conception, the young girl he had saved.
The girl he saved the day Cody died.
Though he remained silent, Max became an excellent listener. The villagers taught him of the region's wild edibles, the local predators, and the danger posed by guerillas and revolutionaries. In return, he has served as both healer and shepherd for the villagers, treating injuries and driving off jaguar with equal efficiency. He never gave them his name, leading his charges to dub him "Uncle."
And this is how Max has come to sprawl in front of the fire in the center of a village in the far reaches of the Amazon. Idly, he knots strings of plant fiber together to form strong, sturdy rope. Curled up in his lap, Conception dutifully works on her own strands. Together, they lean comfortably against a long, smooth log along with most of the surviving villagers.
Max hasn't been alone in his grieving. The little girl in his lap still wakes in the night screaming for her mother, only to turn to the giant branco for protection. At times she is inconsolable except by him. For now, her family leaves the attachment be.
The glint of the firelight off the bracelet catches the eye of the little girl. She's never seen a diamond before, or anything so fine. Her tiny little fingers reach toward his wrist and she begins to toy with the steel links, trying to make the stones sparkle even more.
"«Uncle, can I have it?»" Her small voice pipes up over the silence of the firelight. Her question receives a sharp glance from her father, a man that was finally released after Max's liberation of the village.
A pained expression creeps across Max's face. He shakes his head, but not unkindly. Though he is loathe to deny her anything, this memento is one he must keep to himself. His weaving is laid aside so that he can touch the bracelet with his own fingertips. Then, hand held over his heart, he signifies the item's importance by allowing his face to grow pleased and content.
Consolingly, he rumples the girl's hair, mussing her as if she were a puppy rather than a child. His smile turns quirky and dry, leaving him with the appearance of an affectionately exasperated older brother.
A peal of laughter is Max's reward for the little rumple and she leans back against him with a tiny sigh of happiness. Then, turning to him, she points to her heart and then touches his too. "«Me too,»" she says quietly, giving him a bright white smile. Though she's not allowed to keep it, she continues to play with the links, smiling up at him every time the reflection catches her in the eye.
Cautiously, a few of the elder villagers move closer to the braiding man and his little charge. A tentative countenance is relayed to him, more out of respect than fear. In the short time he has been with him, Max has become a legend among the villagers.
One of the newly freed men has the courage to speak up first. Looking directly at Max, he gives him a small smile and offers a spit with a bit of roasted meat and fruit on it. "«You were in the crash, Branco? You got separated from the rest too?»"
This hesistant parlance is enough to prod Max from his self-imposed silence. "«I…»" he begins, his voice rough and raspy from disuse. He wets his lips with his tongue, swallows, and starts again. "«No. I came here seeking the crash. The woman who wore this bracelet.»" He points to the glittering steel and diamond links. "«I care nothing for the rest.»"
Again, he pauses. As he thinks, he hugs the small, fluttering life that's perched on his knee. One that would've been extinguished, if not for him.
"«What do you know of the survivors?»" The foreigner asks, giving lie to his previous statement.
The hug elicits a small complaint from the youngster, as though the large man is interrupting her playtime. She allows it, even leaning into the embrace for the amount of time it takes to get back to fiddling with the bracelet.
"«In the hut over there, there is a man…»" The villager points through the darkness toward one of the huts at the far edge of the cluster. He pauses for a moment, as though trying to find the right words. "«The men, the revolutionaries, they found him in the jungle. He cannot walk… he told us of the crash.»"
Gently, Max sets his passenger down on the ground. He stands, brushes himself off, and nods to the villager. "«I will speak with this man,»" he says solemnly. "«Thank you.»"
The tall, pale-skinned man touches his fingertips to his heart, his lips, and his forehead by way of salute. Then, still nodding, he returns to his hut to retrieve what is left of his medical supplies.
Moments later, Max is standing outside the indicated dwelling. He raps smartly on the door and waits for a reply.
Conception runs behind Max for a few steps before being called back by her father. The attention grabbing shout has her startled and skidding in the mud. One of her feet slips out from underneath her and she lands flat on her bottom. Her eyes are wide as she stares at Max and before she has a chance to burst into tears, she's already being scooped up by her remaining parent.
Max's knock is answered by an old woman, the healer of the village. Without saying a word, she moves aside for him and allows him entry.
On a sleeping pallet in the far corner of the room lays a man of Hispanic descent. Both of his legs are bound in splints, indicative of possible breaks. The wet cloth on his brow would suggest a fever as would the clammy texture and whitish palor of his skin.
"«Branco, you have come to heal the visitor?»" The old woman asks, leading Max toward the man. "«He has been like this for days.»"
Though he is not a medical doctor in the strictest sense, Max's studies of human and Evolved physiology have left him intimately familiar with the body's component parts. Commonly, repairing an injury or treating an illness is as simple as diagnosing a systemic cause and repairing the obvious damage.
Fever. Possible breaks along load-bearing bones in the legs. Risk of infection from bone damage: likely. Probability of soft tissue damage: near certain.
"«I will repair him,»" Max murmurs, already digging through his supplies. "«Has he spoken?»"
Aspirin for the fever, anti-inflammatories for the tissue damage, and antibiotics for the infection that invades wounds in this dank, hot climate. Along with a brace of painkillers from his personal reserves, the pills are fed into the injured man's mouth and followed by a drink from Max's canteen.
"«He has spoken, when he wakes he speaks a language I cannot understand.»" The old woman recedes back to her place of vigil where she is burning herbs and other assorted things in a small bowl.
As if on cue, Saul opens his eyes, although it may have more to do with the refreshing drink of water than anything else. "Jamie… Jamie… where is…" From Max's touch it is ascertainable that the fever has spiked, without his aide, it is obvious that the man would die.
His bleary eyes focus on the bracelet around the large man's wrist and he reaches up to grab it. "Where did you get this?!" His tone is urgent, his wild eyes glare up at Max, not recognizing him as either villager or guerrilla. "Where? Tell me…"
Though it's a surprise to hear English in a place as remote as this, it's not an unwelcome one. "It belonged to my… partner," Max replies, his voice still a bit rusty. Gently, insistently, he removes the bit of jewelry from his patient's reach. When his hands are free, he starts unwinding the ties from the man's leg splints.
"She was killed by the guerrillas," he continues, keeping his tone carefully neutral as he sets aside the wooden slats and bindings. As gently as he is able, he probes and manipulates both legs to ascertain the nature and extent of the damage.
"I found it in the jungle, before they found me. They took it from me…" Saul wheezes as he fights to stay conscious. Laying back down as Max removes his weakened grip, he looks up at Max and furrows his eyebrows in pain. "…Which one? Which one is your partner?"
Is. Not was. Something that Saul is clinging to. Without the strength to relay his story, the man just lays there breathing heavily. "Which one… there were so many on the plane…" He turns to the white giant and blinks a few times, trying to get him into focus.
For an instant, Max's heart flutters in his chest. Resolutely, he squashes any hopes and dreams before they can fully form. "A blonde woman. Tough. Pretty, in a capable sort of way. Cody Baker."
Mustn't linger. Musn't ponder. Musn't think at all.
Operating on a combination of instinct and rote recitation, he lowers one of the injured man's legs to the floor. "Your tibia is fractured and has been set improperly. I can fix it," he promises. "But it will hurt."
"The pilot… the woman in the sombrero who took over the plane when it was going down…" Sauls gasps in pain as Max manipulates his leg and cries out. He tries to remain silent for a while after the white man sets the bones in his leg, only to let loose a groan of pain every second breath or so.
"…the bracelet belongs to her?" He manages softly, his eyes finally focusing on Max. Half lidding them in exhaustion, he takes Max's hand and squeezes a little, trying to garner his complete attention. "Find them… please.. find them and find Jamie. They were going to a lumber camp… where the trees attack."
More familiar information. Max nods thoughtfully as he gives the leg a final jerk, then goes about binding it back up. Not only does the man's statement match up with what is already known, it bears remarkable similarities to the dream that brought him here.
When he's finished with his work, he takes up the clammy hand and squeezes it reassuringly. "You took the bracelet from the crash?" he asks, ignoring all other elements in favor of the one most important to him. "You're saying that the blonde woman was never in the village? She is at this lumber camp with the rest?"
"Never here… none of them were…" Saul murmurs, his hand falling away from Max. A long sigh is let loose before he closes his eyes and drifts off as the pain killers begin to take effect. "Only.. found… me…"
Max gives the hand a final squeeze, then releases it and lays it across the man's chest. "I will find them," he promises quietly. "Whoever is left, I will find them."
He stands and fixes his eyes on the medicine woman. For the first time since the battle, his eyes shine with a hint of their old confidence. "«Gather the villagers,»" he says, his tone making it an order rather than a request. "«I must leave. I would speak with them before I go.»"