There's no business like puke business
Elrond was sitting by the window, looking out at the small herbal garden he kept at his small hospital, he was not pleased with it this summer. Many of the herbs were not growing as they should and he blamed the unusually warm spring. There was a lack of fresh water in many places and the farmers were in despair. The valar were busy trying to fix the problem but to no prevail. He had a few moments off and this day had been a busy one with a fractured leg, two broken teeth which had to be pulled and a toddler with a diaper rash. It was unusual with such problems since elves normally don’t get sick but that one kid proved to have a very sensitive skin, and the mother had used a rather rough fabric so maybe it wasn’t odd after all.
His assistant and his apprentices were off to lunch and Elrond was saving some room for his wife’s stew, he knew she was making stew that evening and it was normally very delicious. To say that the rest of Celebrian’s cooking was delicious would be one very fat lie. She was a very good seamstress and extremely gifted at embroidery but cooking? Nope, she could make stew, and that was it. But now he sat there thinking of the one thing she did know how to make and his stomach was rumbling. Two hours left before he went home for the day and he hoped it would be two very peaceful hours, nobody had asked for a consultation and so only people with an acute problem would seek him out then. He sighed and concentrated on the papers on his little desk, an essay about the healing of spiral fractures written by some dork who hadn’t seen a fracture in his entire eternal life. Elrond was reading it simply for his own entertainment, he had been laughing a few times already and was chuckling lightly when his assistant came over and knocked on the door. “My lord, you have a patient”
Elrond got up, amazing, thank you and goodbye to the peaceful hours he had looked forwards to enjoying. “ What sort of patient?”
The assistant smiled, a rather shy smile. The young ellon had applied for the job because of his parents who saw the job as a healers assistant as a truly noble call. Unfortunately the young one didn’t have the stomach to handle anything more bloody than a hangnail. So Elrond had given him a sort of desk job, he was a secretary and did the paperwork most of the time, and that suited him just fine. “A mother with an elfling, the kid is puking”
Elrond smiled, oh, a simple case. Five minutes and he would be back to the essay, great. Many suffered from nausea these days since it was so hot and not all realized that even elves need to drink in the heat to stay hydrated. He followed the assistant out to the examination room where a very lovely elleth of vanyar origin sat with an almost angelic looking elfling on her lap. The kid had thick golden hair and bright blue eyes and he was plump and cute. The mother was feeding him well , Elrond could see that. The elleth smiled, and Elrond straightened himself up, he wanted to impress this one, if she spoke well of him he would get more patients. Elrond had started wearing some white robes while on the job and he had tied his hair back into a nice braid, he had discovered that the patients felt more safe when he did look clean and a bit strict. The robes were shiny white and elegant although very simple and he wore no jewelry. The young elleth wore little jewelry too, but that was normal for the vanyar, they wore their famous golden hair as jewelry and this one had her hair braided up into an intricate pattern of thin braids which formed almost a sort of web around her head and showed off her long swanlike neck. The kid wore only a pair of diapers and a thin tunic and he was squirming on her lap and sucking his thumb. “So, the little angel is throwing up?”
The elleth nodded, she had a faint blush over her cheekbones and she looked a bit apologetic. “ Yes, he threw up twice this morning and my mother in law insisted that I go see a healer, she is…a bit hard to resist”
Elrond had to grin to himself, oh yes, he knew everything about demanding in laws. “So he hasn’t puked after that?”
She shook her head. “No, but he has eaten again, so I guess he is alright now?”
Elrond smiled his most gentle smile, he loved elflings and this one was adorable. “ I will have to check up on him of course, but I am pretty sure that he is fine since he haven’t puked again, have he been drinking as he should?”
The mother sent him yet another apologetic smile. “I am afraid not my lord, he is a bit …difficult and the only thing he likes to drink these days is pineapple juice and that is not easy to come by now”
Elrond nodded and put a hand on the toddlers forehead, the kid looked up at him with an adorable smile and he had to admit that he rarely had seen a more lovely child anywhere. “Well, try to tempt him with moshed watermelon, mixed with crushed ice. Most kids love that”
The elleth did lighten up. “Thank you my lord, oh why didn’t I think of that too. “
Elrond got the impression that this was one very stressed out young thing, and he had the greatest sympathy for her. He smiled to the kid. “No fever, and he does look rather happy now doesn’t he?”
He tickled the kid on his chin and the elfling giggled and squirmed, adorable little one. Elrond grasped the kid gently to put him on the examination table, just so the mother saw that he indeed did something and that was when it struck, like a thunderbolt from the skies. The toddler smiled widely and opened his mouth and spewed! And Elrond had seen puke before, a lot in fact but never projectile vomiting like that. The first beam of greenish liquid hit him square in the chest and the kid lifted his head slightly so the rest reached the healer in the face. And then the kid squirmed and turned his neck and his mother got the last of it all over her hairdo. Elrond couldn’t let go, he put the kid down on the table and the child burped and then it puked again, a veritable fountain which covered the table, and its surroundings with a thin layer of greenish stinking puke.
The mother was gasping, her eyes large as puke ran down her face and Elrond knew that his robes were no longer white, they looked more like at attempt at creating non figurative art using a dirty green color. What in Eru’s name had that kid been eating? He felt the disgusting liquid running down his face and he was glad he had closed his mouth and his eyes. He wiped it off his face with his sleeve and the kid giggled and released yet another flood of filth. How could a toddler contain this much of the devilish substance? The mother was gasping for air, and Elrond knew she was getting hysterical so there was just one thing to do. He called for his assistant since the apprentices hadn’t returned yet. “Calorno, please, take this lady to the bath, she needs to get cleaned up”
Calorno entered the room, saw the mayhem and turned around on his heel as if he had discovered that Morgoth stood in the corner, wielding his great hammer. Elrond heard the unmistakable sounds of retching and shook his head, great, he had to do it all by himself. “ I will show you the way my lady, then I will deal with the puking. It is obvious that he has eaten something…rather volatile”
He carried the elfling with him to the bath and the elleth was shaking all over, to shocked to be able to talk. Elrond elegantly snatched something from her hair, or rather, the goo covering it. It was some sort of chewed leaf and he sighed and smiled, knowing he looked rather peculiar covered in goo. “Do you have a garden my lady?”
The elleth looked at the pool with desperate longing, it was apparent that the idea of being covered with sick was enough to almost make her pass out. “No, but my mother in law does? How come?”
Elrond sent her a rather sardonic grin. “Well, you can tell your mother in law that she is the cause of this, she has to keep an eye on this one all the time, which she cannot have done.”
He showed her the leaf. “This herb here causes nausea and intense stomach spasms, we use it to purge the stomach of people who have ingested poison by mistake. It is very efficient, as you can see”
The elleth just stared and then she went beet red and bright white. “ Oh that….bitch, I am gonna have a long chat with her when I come home, a long chat indeed. She constantly claims that I am an awful mother, but apparently she has left my child unsupervised in her garden? Oh she is gonna hear it!”
Elrond just grinned and left her to clean up, then he gave the elfling some medicine to calm the stomach which the kid swallowed without complaining and he shook his head. No doubt about the mother’s wrath, it would be monumental. The vanyar wives did live for their offspring and were extremely protective of them. Elrond did wash off in a bowl of water and changed his robes, the ones he had been wearing had to be burned for sure, they couldn’t be cleaned. The elfling sat smiling on the table, the only one not visibly distraught by the incident and he wondered which of his apprentices he should give the honorable task of washing the entire room. It had to be done, it smelled like the bowels of hell there now and Calorno had sought refuge in the outhouse where he was bidding his breakfast a very fond farewell judging by the sounds.
The elleth managed to get the filth out of her hair and dress, and left with a hard expression within her eyes, one mother in law was getting what she deserved very soon and Elrond commanded that the apprentices were to wash the room together. All three of them joined Calorno in the outhouse several times before the job was done.
Elrond sighed, the thought of his wife’s stew weren’t that tempting anymore, but he had to eat, or else she would get very annoyed. Well, the day was almost over so an hour or so of reading and he would have an appetite yet again. It wasn’t as if he was unaccustomed to disgusting sights and scents, he was used to almost everything. He sat down and started reading and had gotten into the right mood again when he heard the sound of a galloping horse coming from the street outside. He frowned, oh no, this sounded like some serious thing, maybe someone was injured? He got up and the horse stopped outside of his hospital and before long he did hear running feet and a tall elf wearing very nice clothes ran into the reception room. He was pale and gasping for air, it was obvious that he had been riding very hard. Elrond had managed to find a new set of white robes and looked as formidable as before and he smiled professionally. “How may I be of assistance?”
The elf grasped onto the desk and took a deep breath. “My lord Elrond, I have come from the palace of lord Ecthelion, they are celebrating the wedding of one of his friends and everybody is getting sick”
Elrond knew that the reborn hero of Gondolin did throw some extremely lavish parties and everybody wanting to be somebody had to show up there to be sure that their status was well known. “What do you mean sick? “
The elf swallowed. “They puke my lord, everybody is puking”
Elrond had to blink a few times, oh by Eru’s beard! More puke? The Valar had to be laughing, this was insane. “Alright, I’ll get my horse”
Before long he was riding alongside the messenger and Elrond had brought his box of instruments and equipment, hopefully this would be easily solved. The palace was not far from where he had his hospital and they rode straight into the main yard. Elrond felt the smell even before he dismounted, oh crap! A servant came staggering to take the horses and Elrond stared at the elf with narrow eyes, what the hell? Were everybody sick? He entered through the main entrance and was greeted by a sight from the apocalypse. The floors were covered with puke, elves laid everywhere and they were all very ill indeed. Most were still retching even if their stomachs were empty and Elrond grasped a thin curtain and ripped some fabric from it, used it to cover his mouth and nose. The stench was unbelievable!
Some servants ran around trying to help the sick elves and they almost slipped on the goo and one ellon fell flat on his back in a huge pool of the stuff. Elrond cringed. The host came staggering, his beautiful blue robes were heavily stained and his eyes bloodshot. Ecthelion were among the most handsome of the eldar lords but now he did look like a mess and he almost fell to his knees. “My lord Elrond, thank Eru you are here, everybody…everybody is throwing up”
Elrond had to think fast, this had to be some sort of food poisoning, nothing else could explain that everybody got sick at the same time. He tried to avoid breathing through his nose and the stew his wife had made would have to become food for the servants this evening for sure. He tried to think in a logical manner. “It has to be something everybody has been eating or drinking, have you any clue of what that may be?”
Ecthelion shrugged, he had puke all over the front of his robes and did smell rather ghastly. “No, well, everybody have gotten a welcome drink but that was just for the guests, not the servants. And the servants are just as ill as the rest of us?”
Elrond frowned, this was real detective work. “ Right, something else everybody has in common here? Does the food come from one kitchen? “
Ecthelion nodded. “ Yes, and we have an excellent chef and a very skilled crew so I cannot imagine them doing any sort of mistakes?”
Elrond tilted his head. “And the servants eat food made by the same kitchen? The answer lies there for sure, I cannot do anything before I know exactly what they have eaten.”
Ecthelion gasped and moaned and grasped his belly. “ Oh Eru, I would rather fight a balrog once more, damnation how this hurts!”
Elrond squinted, both pain and puking? That sounded serious indeed. “Show me the way, I need to see the kitchen, now!”
The lord nodded and waddled off and Elrond did pity him, the palace was a very beautiful place with lots of airy rooms and gorgeous architecture and furniture but now it had lost its charm completely. He saw one elf who had yanked a huge flower out of its pot and were puking into it and an elleth hang over a railing, puking into a pond with goldfish in it. The fish probably thought it was food! What a mayhem.
The kitchen was located in the basement under the palace and it was the cleanest place Elrond had seen in a very long time indeed, there wasn’t a single grain of dust to be seen anywhere, the tiles were shining, the kettles were impeccable and the cook and his staff were wearing white uniforms without a single stain anywhere. They even wore gloves and Elrond had to stare, with a great deal of awe. You could have used the floors as a plate, they were that clean. Elrond did see that none of the staff were sick and that told him that they hadn’t been eating whatever it was that had made the other elves there ill. What could that be?
The chef was in tears, the poor elf looked like a freshly washed sheet and he was sobbing. Elrond understood that this was a terrible blow to his professional pride and he just hoped that the poor elf wouldn’t fade because of it. Elrond tried to look as comforting as he could. “Have any of you felt ill?”
The staff shook their heads and Elrond tried to concentrate. “Right, the others here have eaten something you haven’t, any ideas?”
One of the staff members, a rather short elleth of telerin origin stepped forth. “ The lord ordered for us to serve seafood, and we didn’t get as much from the fish salesman as we wanted so the guests got the best of it and the servants ate the left overs”
Elrond got nervous, seafood? Now that was something which could cause real problems , he had read about some terrible effects of seafood which had gone bad. “Show me whatever you have left of it”
The chef sort of sobbed. “But the food was fine, excellent, nothing was wrong with it, it was fresh!”
Elrond smiled. “I am sure it is, but maybe it was stored alongside something which wasn’t, or transported with something that could have contaminated it.”
The chef looked as if he was heading for his own funeral but did get up and walked towards the storage room where the food was put before it was served. It was a new invention, a huge room with thick walls filled with blocks of ice brought south from the helcaraxe, and it was very cold. Elrond saw that only one crate was left, it didn’t contain much, just some shrimp and a few lobsters which had lost their claws. Elrond picked up some shrimp, they did in fact look very fresh and the smell was normal, nothing wrong with them. And the lobsters too were nice. The chef sort of whispered. “The scallops and oysters were fine too, very fresh, just perfect”
Elrond nodded. “ I do believe you, so why have everyone gotten so terribly ill?”
He could see nothing wrong with the crustaceans at all, they were as fresh as if they had been pulled out of the sea just minutes ago. This was very odd. A servant came running and he was very pale. “MY lord, some of the sick ones are having convulsions, and they have passed out too”
Elrond spun around on his heel, his eyes large. “ Oh Eru, then it isn’t seafood which have gone bad, it is seafood which IS bad!”
The chef looked confused. “ Pardon?!”
Elrond got frantic. “ I heard of it once, when I was in Lindon. Some fishermen had caught some shrimp and seashells and ate them right away, it should have been very safe but they all fell very ill and some died. The reason was that the shrimp and seashells came from an area with a certain species of algae and they get toxic if the weather turns very hot.”
He grasped onto a servant who looked less ill than the others. “Fast, find out where the seafood came from!”
The ellon scooted up the stairs and Elrond grasped some bowls and some cups. Then he opened his bag and pulled out a huge box filled with a very dark and nasty looking substance. The chef stared at it with huge eyes. “What is that? It looks awful!”
Elrond nodded. “ It is, but everybody has to drink a glass of it, I hope I have enough. It is a mixture of charcoal and some herbs, it will stop the poisoning and help the sick ones heal faster, but it is nasty”
The chef took a huge step backwards as Elrond poured the contents into a bowl and filled it with water, it did look like the sludge some kids make while playing with mud. The healer worked fast and before long he had a huge punch bowl filled with the goo. “Now, make sure everybody, and I mean everybody gets a cup of this, nobody gets away, got it?”
The staff nodded and carried the bowl up the stairs with some odd expressions on their faces, they weren’t used to serving stuff which looked like the bottom of a firepit after a rainstorm. Elrond just hoped that it wasn’t too late, but these were adult elves. If there had been elflings present things would have gotten very serious indeed He ran after the kitchen staff and the sight of him convinced the sick guests and servants that yes, they had to do it. He helped with the distribution of the charcoal mix and soon many sat there looking rather dizzy with black stains down their chin and bloodshot eyes. The servant he had sent off returned, panting like a whipped horse. “ The fish salesman got it from some fishers who usually catch their fish just outside of the small islands south of Tol erresëa but due to an accident with their boat they had to catch everything on the inside of the islands, between them and Alqualonde.”
Elrond made a grimace and grasped onto Ecthelion who did look a wee bit better, but no less bizarre with the black stains on his lips and his hair in sweaty ropes down his back. “Write a letter to the harbor master of Alqualonde and warn him of this danger. Nobody ought to eat anything caught in those waters until the cold weather returns.”
The noldorin lord just nodded and waddled off to do what he was told to do and Elrond continued working, and it was indeed a tough job for not all would drink that black goo voluntarily. He and three other strong Ellyn had to subdue Rog and forcefeed him the stuff and he swore so bad Elrond wished he could go deaf just for a few minutes and the huge elf did spit some of the goo onto Elrond who by now looked very colorful indeed. After a couple of hours it was getting clear that the worst was over, the puking had stopped, the convulsions too and everybody was out of the dangerzone but many had a terrible stomach ache and Elrond had to prescribe both rest, certain herbs and a special diet for the lot of them. Not all were all that happy about it. Rog almost threw another tantrum when he was told that he had to lay off the booze for a month and the rest of the lords of Gondolin shared his lack of enthusiasm and made that clear with surprisingly strong arguments, and voices.
But Elrond didn’t budge and he knew that the wine salesmen of Tirion and Formenos probably would blame him for a decrease in their income for the next weeks but what the heck, the health of these elves were more important than money and besides, they could all need to sober up a bit. He knew that some drank wine like others drink water, their livers would thank him in the end. When Elrond finally was done it was late and he looked horrible, his braid undone, he was covered with sick and charcoal and one of the servants had by accident spilled a bowl of some sort of shrimp based soup all over his back so now he smelled of that too. The palace would be cleaned up but it would be a task of monumental proportions and Elrond did pity the cleaners, they would need strong stomachs no doubt, in special since the weather was just as hot as it had been, if not worse.
He didn’t stop by his office but rode straight home, mumbling something about the worst day of this age, and a severe lack of appetite. He didn’t bathe or change, and that was with purpose. At least Celebrian would see and smell why her husband refused to eat her delicious stew. He stopped in front of their home and took a deep breath, as a healer he knew that rare cases often appeared in clusters and this had been one of those cases, one rather innocent and one not but both had puke in common. He frowned, why didn’t his stable worker come to get his horse? He got down from the black gelding and put it into the stable on his own and then he entered the house and knew that no, the day was not over yet, not by far. His butler lay on a couch just inside of the entrance, and he was greener than the great greenwood. He had a bucket in front of him and it was full. In the main hall his servants and his wife were assembled, all with buckets in front of them and all very miserable and Elrond suddenly realized that the valar did love him indeed. They had spared him from a cruel fate by sending those cases in his way. Celebrian was whimpering and she was sweaty and shivering. “ Oh meleth nin, I am so sorry, but we are all ill. Oh sweetness, what in all of Arda have you been doing? The smell….”
She started retching and Elrond just smiled, he had gotten so accustomed to the smell by now it didn’t bother him anymore and now he had an excellent excuse for not wanting any stew. He smiled and caressed her back, he had some charcoal stacked away somewhere, it would come in handy. “Oh you know, the usual, puking nobles and puking elflings”
She rolled her eyes. “We couldn’t wait with the stew Elrond, so we all ate early and now we are sick, so sick”
Elrond nodded and his smile was one of gratefulness. “Tell me my sweet, did you add some seafood to that stew today?”
Celebrian frowned. “ How did you know? Yes, I did. The fish sellers at the market had some very nice scallops and I bought some and added it to the stew yes, to give it some salty flavor? Why?”
Elrond got up to get the charcoal. “Because my dear, this day isn’t as terrible as I thought it would be, lay still and I will get you some medicine. Throw the rest of the stew outside”
Celebrian just looked very confused and Elrond managed to get enough medicine for everybody there, the stew was thrown onto the garbage heap behind the garden shed and nobody thought any more of it until the next morning when Elrond, refreshed and grateful that he hadn’t come home in time to get food poisoning too stepped outside just to be attacked by a whole armada of very angry puking seagulls who had eaten the rest of the stew and now were out for vengeance. When the healer made it back inside he was covered with goo yet again and had to take a bath, when you think you are off the hook you are wrong most of the times and this time the valar did get the last laugh after all.