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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 60: Kondor 20
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 59: Hastings 21
The Canterbury hospital was built the next year, and London had expanded greatly. By the following year, graduates from London were building hospitals in other places and, at Kondor's suggestion, each new hospital drew graduates from each school, so that they could share the insights they gained from individual teachers and experiences. The next year Canterbury was also graduating enough students to contribute, and Kondor was losing track of how many there were. Soon hospitals headed by doctors he had never met were sending doctors from their own programs, and he did not even know where they all were. He thought of visiting, of taking a tour of England and seeing the work he had wrought. But he was always busy, always caring for patients, working on medicines, teaching classes. It was something he would do someday. Right now he had enough to do.
And time slipped past. The merry men continued their attacks on the rich, their aid to the poor. There was enough need for help in Nottingham that another hospital was established near the city, so that the families there did not need to make the trip through the woods. Kondor thought he could remember eight winters passing since his arrival, but that had not been something which had concerned him, and he was trying to piece it together from the events, the steps it had taken to get here.
But after that eighth winter, he was not certain what to do next. Without modern chemistry, he would not be able to advance medications further, at least not further than his students could do without him. He had spoken of vaccines, but even he was unsure about infecting children with cowpox in order to prevent smallpox, and that was the simplest. There was much that could not be treated in this age, and it might be the work of a dozen lifetimes to get beyond that.
And as spring began to give way to summer, the world changed again.
One of the women--although they were now doctors themselves, it was difficult to forget that they were once the women who worked as nurses and midwives--climbed the ladder to awaken Kondor. He had had a long night, and was not pleased at the early call, but it happened often. He immediately asked what the symptoms were.
"It is not symptoms, sir. It is soldiers. They have been spotted on the road headed this way. Friar Tuck has left to organize the men, but he cannot be back before they arrive."
"Thank you. Let me get dressed and organized, and I'll be right down."
He packed up everything, and threw his M-16 on his shoulder. Perhaps he was to be arrested, and if so he would like to take his things with him. He wished he could take samples of his medicines, but he lacked water-tight bottles (although he could seal them with wax, there wasn't time enough for that). He said a few brief words, thanking his staff, and asking them to continue the work whatever happened.
And by then the soldiers were outside.
"We seek the one called Kondor." The voice had a slightly different accent from the one to which Kondor was now accustomed. He stepped outside.
"I am Kondor. What do you want?"
"I am Sir Guy of Gisbourne. You are charged with crimes against the crown."
"I would like to hear the charges."
Ignoring him, the man continued. "You are to come with me to stand trial."
Kondor readied his gun but did not aim it, and removed the safety. "I would like to hear the charges. Now, you can tell me what they are, or you can try to force me to come with you; but if you choose force, I can give as good as I get."
Perhaps Sir Guy didn't understand what that meant; but he decided he would present the charges.
"First, you have never paid taxes on the properties and monies you have earned while here."
"Not guilty, your honor," he said, with a bit of sarcasm in his voice. "I have given the king the lives of many of his subjects, and been paid nothing for it. I have lived off the kindness of strangers, and built this hospital with my own hands. I have given England my knowledge, and new medicines to cure the diseases that were killing them. If the King is the country, I have given him more than any man alive."
"Second, you are guilty of treason, giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the crown, to rebels and bandits who refuse lawful orders to pay taxes and who rob the King's servants of their lawful monies."
"Not guilty again, your honor. I have offered my skills and knowledge freely to men, women, and children without discrimination. I do not ask their politics or their professions, nor do I care; but I know that I have helped some who work for the oppressive government of the shire reeve of Nottingham, and have never turned away anyone who needed my help."
"Third, you are accused of espionage, of spying on the lands and people of England as a foreigner to undermine the security of the state."
At this point, Kondor laughed aloud. "I'm about as foreign as they come. But I doubt I could get information back to my homeland even if it would do them any good. And as far as spying is concerned, I talk mostly to peasants from villages in a province a hundred miles from the capital, and if they know anything of use to an invading force, I've never heard it. Go home, Sir Guy of Gisbourne. There is no criminal here."
"I order you in the name of King John of England..."
"King John?" Kondor interrupted. "What happened to King Richard?"
"King Richard died of injuries in battle last year, in France. His brother John has ascended to the throne."
Kondor became more somber. "I'm sorry to hear that. The saddest thing is, had we known we might have saved him. On the other hand, he was never a very good king, putting the burden on his brother to overtax the people in order to fund battles which were of no value to England. And now he's left the country in the hands of a man who has no concept of how to rule justly and with mercy. I would not be surprised if you yourself are part of an uprising in a few years, demanding your rights from--King John?" The name connected in the back of his mind. This was why no one alive knew about Magna Carta. "Yes, I'd say it's almost a certainty."
He had relaxed his rifle, but now straightened it again. "I will not submit to the so-called justice of such a man. You're a nobleman, and you've heard my defense. Do you want me to call witnesses? They may be commoners, but they can read and write, and do math probably better than you can, and compound medicines and treat the sick--and they can testify that what I've told you is true. So, pass judgment yourself, or leave me alone."
"Why, you obnoxious--" he started to say; but as he stepped toward Kondor, an arrow flew from the surrounding trees and brushed past his face.
"Stop!" Kondor shouted. "This is a place of healing. Don't let it be remembered as a place of war. I'll accept the sentence of the court." Turning to Sir Guy, he continued. "It's me you want. I won't spend years in a London prison. If I'm to be executed, do it now, here. Do it properly, as the order of business that it is, and not as an act of anger. And then leave the hospital to do what it does, to care for the sick and the injured."
Sir Guy quite abruptly raised and fired his crossbow. The bolt rather expertly caught Kondor in the throat, and he heard a scream. He collapsed to his knees, and images and fragments of thoughts flashed through his mind. He was going to die, and it was painful; but it wasn't a new experience. As he died, he would vanish, thrown back into the scriff. The pain of having his body reduced to molecules would be intense; but the effect on those here was what interested him. Probably the soldiers would flee in terror. They had been ordered into the haunted forest, and were already surrounded by the unseen men of the wood; seeing Kondor vanish would play on their superstitions. It would also begin a new legend about him. He would probably become a saint in their mythology, Saint Kondor, who healed the sick and taught medicine in Britain. There would be children named for him.
And then he blacked out, never knowing whether these things came true.
He awoke lying on his back on a hard flat surface. Opening his eyes, he saw that he was inside, in some kind of chapel. He turned his head, and realized that he was lying on a table on a dais of some sort, surrounded by lit torches and by several men in robes. He sat up quickly, almost too quickly, and steadied himself.
"I'm sor..." he began, but his throat hurt terribly, and he choked back the word, involuntarily raising his left hand to his neck, and swallowing hard; his eyes closed in a wince. It would pass in a moment, he thought. But he had apparently arrived during some kind of church service or something, and should get out of the way. In a moment he tried again.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I suppose you're wondering why I'm here."
"Not at all," came the reply. "We called for you."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #39: Character Futures. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: