This evening, while I was engrossed in a very detailed account of the medicinal properties of silver dust ground together with nitrate, I was torn from my study by a loud shout from downstairs, immediately followed by the sound of shattering glass and a hound’s deep, booming barking. Over the commotion of it all, I heard someone cry out for a surgeon. Knowing that the people of this sad hamlet probably haven’t so much as seen a surgeon in many a decade, I reluctantly set my scroll aside and went downstairs to see what the urgency was.
The main floor of the tavern was in quite a state. A large man wearing the garb of a houndmaster was straining to hold back a massive, bleeding mastiff from mauling another traveler, who was barely out of reach of the beast’s maw. Blood was springing from the hound’s head and his ear was hanging by a mere shred of skin, as blood mixed with shattered glass below it. The story was explained to me later, but at a glance it was obvious what had happened: the hound had attempted to steal the traveler’s dinner and had been smashed with a glass for his trouble.
I will confess to not being the most altruistic of physicians, with some saying that my avarice would be my eventual undoing, but I have always harbored affection for the Natural beasts of the world and it pained me to see a well-bred hound in such a state. His master had been the one calling for a surgeon, recognizing that the ear was in danger of being lost. The rest of the travelers looked on mutely as the hound strained at its collar, but once the master was able to pull him back the offending traveler found an opportunity to make a hasty exit. To the master’s credit, whose name was Maxwell, he seemed far more concerned about his hound’s well-being than exacting revenge. He was looking to me desperately for help, and I informed him that I might be able to offer it if he could calm the hound, whose name was Anselm. With no small effort, Maxwell was able to calm Anselm from his deep, booming bark into a pitiful and pained whimper, which endeared me even more to the beast. At this point, Anselm’s fur was matted with blood, congealing with his fine hair. I directed Maxwell to lead him up into my quarters, where I was able to prepare for a minor surgery.
The hound was well trained and obeyed Maxwell’s commands despite its injury, lying down when directed. I tried to examine the wounded ear but Anselm flinched away from my touch, presumably due to pain, so I retrieved a rag and damped it with ether. I spoke soothingly to Anselm, both for his and his master’s sake, as I held the rag to his snout, watching the ether take hold. Once I felt that he was suitably unconscious, I touched the ear again with no reaction from Anselm. The blood had coagulated inside the wound, but the glass had nearly sliced the ear off the hound’s head at the base, barely leaving it attached. The ear canal was free of injury, leaving his hearing unimpaired, and there did not appear to be any other significant wounds to his head. I retrieved a bone needle and line of cattlegut from my surgeon’s bag, and set to work.
I have not had much experience with animal surgery, only treating livestock when I was a young physician, and Anselm’s skin proved to be incredibly thick and loose, making it difficult to force the bone needle through. I was simultaneously gentle and firm, mustering all my experience as a physician to avoid damage to the ear, eventually feeding the needle through and successfully suturing the ear. The length of the wound required 6 passes with a needle to ensure that the ear would be flush with the skull, while will hopefully result in healing well. To prevent fever taking hold later, I took a small smattering of honey and rubbed it over the wound.
Anselm had remained unconscious throughout the entirety of the procedure, and remained that way for some time after. Regrettably, this entailed Maxwell remaining in my room, though he proved to be an apt conversationalist. To my credit, I did very little talking, allowing him to fill the silence. He spoke at length of his time as a Master of Hounds for a royal family in one of the southern provinces before a civil war deposed them, requiring him to flee with Anselm. During his time there, he had heard many rumors surrounding the Clarke family, tales of the elder Clarke dabbling in the old magic and pulling the young master Clarke from the belly of a demon, who had corrupted the estate as a part of some foul deal.
It all sounded impossible and ridiculous, though in the shadow of the castle on the hill, I could not help but feel there was a grain of truth to it. Eventually, Anselm started to stir, finding the strength through the lingering ether to stand up. While waiting for the hound to gather his wits, I asked Maxwell if he had plans to avenge his hound’s injury. A dark look fell over his face but he remained silent, tending to Anselm. Worryingly, Anselm tried to paw at the sutures, but Maxwell was able to soothe him enough that he stopped. He thanked me for seeing to Anselm and left, presumably to his own quarters.
I can feel exhaustion start to take hold now, and the tavern seems to be blessedly quiet tonight. I hope that by the time I wake, this young Master Clarke will have appeared so I may know if this journey has been a waste of my time.