A Surgeon in the Making by SurgicalSteel

Chapter 1 by SurgicalSteel

Dol Amroth, 2965 TA

Since the storm passed, it was strange looking out over Dol Amroth. Brick homes farther away from the port still stood, while the docks and the wooden warehouses and homes lay in ruin. As if some giant had randomly thrown piles of lumber around, Serindë thought. She glanced out at the sea, pondering how strange it was that things should look so calm now. Sun shone over the waves, and a few of the other children played in the sea while pretending to fish or look for crabs.

It had been a harrowing day. Wind howled around the house she shared with her parents and brother. She had watched from a second story window as her playmates struggled through the angry waters - some of them making it to the relative safety of her parents' home, others swept away. She'd never really believed in Ossë's wrath until that day.

"Why, Mama? Why would he be angry with us?"

But Mama had no answers.

She sighed. She might only be nine years old, but she was rapidly realizing that dwelling on the horror around her only made her sadder and questioning the Valar did no good.

So she did what little she could. Daddy was a ship captain, so the family had supplies that they shared with others. Mama said she had clever hands, so she'd helped bandage the wounded. Most of the injured had been slowly evacuated to Minas Tirith now - by horse cart to Pelargir, then by boat up the Anduin. She helped Mama in the kitchens every morning, and then she'd go out to help the men and boys clearing the wreckage. Mama didn’t like it much that she’d been helping out by the docks – said it wasn’t proper work for a young lady – liked it even less that the docks were her favorite place in the city, her place to sit and watch the sea…

Father of us all, it's hot, she thought, then walked down where the docks were being reconstructed. It would be impossible for the larger ships to come in to port until that work was done, so lumber from the wreckage was being used to at least create a temporary dock.

"Good morning, Master Beren," she said to the Harbormaster, a bleak-faced man who nodded pleasantly to her. "What can I do to help today?"

He actually smiled! "Aren't you a sweet child to be here helping? And won't your Daddy be proud of you when he gets back into port?"

She ducked her head, somewhat shy of praise. "Well, it's just the right thing, that's all."

He ruffled her dark hair gently. "Well, young lady, best thing you can do right now is to carry water to some of the men working."

She pouted. "That's all? Nothing I can carry away, nothing else..."

"That's hot, thirsty work those men are doing, and they'd be mighty grateful of the water."

She sighed. She'd rather be out on the shore with the other children - but Mama said it was important to help in any way possible. That's why they'd stayed in Dol Amroth rather than relocating up to Minas Tirith with the wounded. So she filled a pail with clean water, picked up a dipper and skipped over to the construction site.

The men smiled to see her, gratefully accepting the water. Occasionally one would ask her to help brace a board that they were nailing into place and her heart nearly burst with pride. She really was helping! Her older brother, Galdor, had said she was too little to do anything and she'd just get in the way. She'd angrily responded that she wasn't little she was nine whole years old and she could so help!

It was a long, slow, hot day, but she quickly fell into a rhythm. Fill the pail, carry it to the new dock, let the men drink. Stretch her arms up to help brace a board or maybe help carry a board over to the site. Walk back to the water barrels. Fill the pail.

As the afternoon grew darker, she knew she needed to get back home to Mama to help dish up whatever Mama'd managed to create with their remaining food supplies. They'd had beans-and-rice most nights, but one of the boys had found crawfish this morning and another had found crabs, so seafood stew was a distinct possibility. She grinned at the thought of Mama's seafood stew.

So focused was she on the run home that she didn't even notice the horse-carts barreling down one of the few cleared streets until she heard a sickening crunching sound. She wondered what the sound might have been - then felt the pain in her left foot. She glanced down, astonished. That's not my foot. That can't be my foot, she mused, seeing ends of bone and blood.


******


The next thing she knew, she was awakening in a candlelit room. Soft voices murmured next to her.

"How could you just cut off part of her foot?"

"Madam, there is nothing else that I could do for this sort of injury. Better to amputate immediately and have some chance at healing rather than have the wounded foot putrefy and carry away her life."

"Mama?" She pushed herself into a sitting position.

"Oh, Serindë!" And she found herself crushed to Mama's bosom and Mama was weeping - and the apprentice healer that she'd helped with the wounded was looking at her with pity in his eyes.

"My foot hurts, Mama."

"I know it, Serindë, I know it."

She looked at what was left of her foot, and then burst into tears herself. Galdor was right after all - she'd just been a stupid little one and gotten in the way and now she wasn't going to be any help to anyone!

When she awoke the next morning, her head was still cloggy from all the crying and her foot still hurt abominably. Angrily, she dashed tears away. That's just going to make my head cloggier and won't change anything, she thought.

And Mama was sending her away, sending her up to Minas Tirith because she said she couldn’t possibly manage an injured child and do her work at the same time – and it didn’t seem fair, or right, because the apprentice healer had changed the bandage a few times, and it looked easy enough, and couldn’t she get around on crutches if she had to? But Mama was adamant; with her injury she’d be in the way and no help to anyone and if she was going to be no help to anyone better that she’d at least be out of the way.

So she tried to stay as cheerful as she could. She maintained the cheerful face as they loaded her onto the horse-cart for Pelargir with the few other wounded left in Dol Amroth. She cried a bit as she was loaded onto the boat for Minas Tirith - boats reminded her of Daddy and she hadn't seen him for months and when would she ever see her family again?

By the time she arrived at the Houses of Healing she had become quietly determined to be of whatever help she could. After the healers changed her bandages in the morning, she'd make her way on her crutches to where the nurses rolled and folded bandages and help them as much as they'd let her. The healers soon realized that her Mama had been right - she did, indeed have clever fingers, and it was not long before they allowed her to start helping with dressing changes. One of the healers showed her some tricks he knew for tying knots in sutures. She practiced delightedly until she could tie the knots without a thought. She pestered the Herbal Master into letting her help chop and crush the herbs - and while she ground with mortar and pestle he would drill her in Sindarin and Quenya and the properties of the herbs she worked with.


*******


It was several months later that Daddy finally arrived in Minas Tirith. She had put the crutches away a month before and was limping about with a specially designed boot. He found her in the gardens of the Houses of Healing and hugged her tightly and said he didn't even recognize his little girl, she'd grown that much. And she cried for the first time in months because Daddy somehow always smelled like the sea and she'd missed home so much!

That evening, Daddy approached the Warden of the Houses of Healing for permission to take her home. Surprisingly, rather than agreeing immediately, the Warden made a counter-offer. "You have a remarkable girl here, sir. She's extremely bright and quite good with her hands. Unlike many of our charges, she was not content to lay back at let us care for her - she's pestered almost every Master Healer into giving her some sort of lessons, and she's actually been a great help. We'd like her to stay."

"Stay - and do what?"

"Be an apprentice Healer."

Daddy dismissed that notion immediately. "Her place is with her family. And she's too young."

The Warden laughed. "It's true she's young - but she's already proved herself capable of doing the work. Frankly, sir, I think she'd be happier here for the time being. In case you never noticed, she loves being helpful - and goodness knows she'll be of much more help to us here than she will in Dol Amroth now."

"Daddy? Please. I miss you and Mama and even Galdor - but I like it here. The Healers are all nice to me and they teach me lots - and I really really like to learn from them - and I really really want to learn more - and I'd just get in the way again at home but I can help here and the Healers say I'm not in the way at all and..."

And Daddy sighed. "I have to think about this. But it seems like the decision has already been made for me."

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Minas Tirith, 2973

Serindë studied.

She spent all of her time these days either in the archives or in the Houses of Healing. Life had settled into an almost monotonous routine. Awake before dawn, she would dress quickly and see to her patients before most sensible people were even contemplating breakfast. A bit of time either assisting one of the healers in surgery or in the autopsy rooms dissecting. Back to check on her patients again. If light was good in the afternoon, make some anatomical sketches. If not, spend the afternoon folding and rolling bandages. Afternoon rounds with a Master Healer. Evenings in the Minas Tirith archives.

She sighed, rubbing her eyes tiredly. No hope for it - the volume she really needed was from the earliest part of the Third Age. She'd have to climb up the ladders to the upper stacks to retrieve it. She just hoped the White Wizard wasn't back there. He made her flesh creep.

She stretched herself out of her seat, and then limped back through the stacks, glancing around her as she went. No sign of the White Wizard. No sign of the Steward's condescending son, either. Carefully, she made her way up a narrow ladder to the upper stacks. Wish someone would find a better way to index these texts than by date written, she thought.

There it was! A Brief Treatise on the Treatment of Combat Wounds, by Elrond Ëarendilion. She reached - then a bit further - just a bit further... Got it! Oh, no, she thought, realizing that she had completely and utterly overbalanced. Holding the book in one hand, she wind milled her arms trying to regain her balance. As her good foot slipped off the ladder, she had time only to think that this would undoubtedly hurt a great deal.

"Oooof!" What was this softish thing that she had landed on? It smelled of sweet galenas and - oh dear. She stood quickly, brushing herself off, extending a hand to the old man on the floor. "Sir, I'm so terribly sorry - please forgive me, let me help you up," she babbled.

He accepted her hand, standing, brushing himself off, then glancing around. "My hat?"

She spotted the item in question, a tall, pointed, wide-brimmed, blue hat and snatched it up. As she attempted to brush the dust off of his hat, she dropped her book - on his booted foot. "I'm so terribly sorry," she gushed.

He bent down and picked up her book, glancing at the title. "A helper for the Healers, are you? A dangerous one, I'd say."

She glared, snatching the book back out of his hands, snapping, "I'm not a helper for them, I'm an apprentice to them, and I'm studying for my Mastery."

"And that is undoubtedly why you make a practice of falling off of ladders? To create business for yourself?"

Indignant, she started, "I may have fallen on Lord Denethor three times, but the last time he banged into my ladder and destroyed my balance - and the time I fell on the White Wizard it was because there was a spider crawling on my hand and..."

"I had no idea you had such practice at landing on others."

She couldn't help herself. She was exhausted with hard work and study - and the situation was rather ridiculous. She started to giggle. After staring in astonishment for a moment, he joined in. She laughed until her sides ached and tears ran down her cheeks. Wiping her eyes, she extended her hand again. "Serindë of Dol Amroth, sir."

"And I am Gandalf the Grey."

"A wizard?"

He nodded.

Impishly, taking a chance because his eyes seemed so kindly, she stated, "May I say, sir, that you're far more comfortable to land upon than the White Wizard."

The remark started him laughing again, and his laugh was a rich warm sound that made her feel as if she was in the presence of a much-loved uncle. "I am terribly sorry, sir. I was careless. If you are injured in any way..."

"Only my dignity, young Healer. Only my dignity. Apology accepted."

And laughing still, he continued his search in the stacks.

*******

Inside the Houses of Healing, a board of three Master Healers had convened. Serindë sat before them, hoping desperately that she appeared calmer than she actually was. The questioning began.

"Describe for us the proper ordering of a field hospital."

"If a man takes an arrow wound to the medial upper arm, what structures may be injured?"

"How would you treat a patient with the lung-fever?"

And on and on and on.

Finally, the Warden of the House looked at his two colleagues. "Are you satisfied, gentlemen?" Both nodded. "Very well. Serindë of Dol Amroth, know that your name will be inscribed upon the rolls of Master Healers of these Houses."

Her delight was so great that the rest of his words simply floated above her head. She hugged the Warden fiercely, exclaiming, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

She was seventeen years old and a Master Healer.

*****

She sat in the Warden's office, nervous again. "I'm damn good, Aglahad, you know that I am, and this is just utter stupidity!" she blurted.

The Warden shook his head gently, saying, "Serindë, this wasn't my decision. The six month posting you took with the Rangers of Ithilien proved beyond a doubt to me and everyone in this House that you're capable of keeping up with anyone under almost any circumstance - and keeping the injured alive and on the road to recovery until they can be evacuated. This has nothing to do with your ability."

"I thought the Navy had trouble attracting ship's surgeons?"

"They do. You know they do. And with your family's background you know why - the long months away..."

"And here am I, volunteering and they draft Gimilzor instead? He doesn't even wash his hands between the autopsy room and changing bandages and..."

"And he has no physical imperfections."

Her jaw dropped. She looked down, and then pointed at her left foot. "They're declining me because of a childhood injury which in no way hampers my ability?"

"The Lord Denethor has been given full permission by his father, the Steward, to strictly enforce a policy of..."

She cut off the Warden with a muttered expletive.

"Why, Serindë - I didn't realize that you thought of Lord Denethor in quite that manner. I'll let him know that you made the offer, though."

Glaring, she pushed herself out of her seat, muttering another suggestion to be relayed to Lord Denethor.

"Serindë, you're a healer. Wouldn't Lord Denethor need to be rather more limber than he is to even attempt that particular act?"

Making an angry gesture at her superior, she slammed out of his office. Leaning on the wall outside, she ran her hands through her hair. Her family had been seafarers since the Second Age - had been settled in Middle Earth long enough that Elendil and his sons were no more than latecomers to the party. She was not going to be the only member of her family to never make it aboard an ocean-going vessel.

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