1968 December 2nd
Carpathian Mountains, Romania - Ukraine Border
(Present day Borșa)
It had taken barely under a week before snowflakes accompanying the gift of frost put a resounding chill in the atmosphere. The raw air left a sensation akin to an aged menthol cigarette when deeply inhaled. Each drawn breath of the mountainous air mimicked the struggling footsteps accompanying them against the acoustics of the crag the pair followed.
Negotiations with the stable hand proved surprising.
Ashley perceived himself at disadvantage. Initially, his incapability to comprehend the Ukrainian language (much less the local dialect), had prepared himself for days of arguing or teaching the stable hand some semblance of communication. However, upon approach throughout the few days of making nonverbal communication were met warmingly, something his companion spoke clear opposite of.
In retrospect, the appearance difference between himself and the fellow countryman of the stable hand was the considerable difference. Ashley just discarding the partisan uniform days prior to the initial start of the trek was not to physically challenge himself, but due to the uniform’s awful resemblance of the uniform he had wore with the 173rd.
Ashley had deserted out of principle. The Americans had put their nose in another country’s business and couldn’t even finish it themselves. He hadn’t prepared when he initially lied about his age to help Italians, much less people who weren’t even remotely his countrymen.
Pushing past the awful recollections of the near past, his mind was acknowledging those of the present.
Ashley had recently used some of the medical supplies in his parcel due to the stable hand having a rotten molar, something that was understood without communication to be a bother for anyone. Being down a few rags and rolls wasn’t an issue as they could be cannibalized from clothing or reused after thorough sanitizing, however they used up the only supply of antibiotics. The old gent was exhibiting more than just symptoms of a molar issue however, the bacterium growing in the man’s mouth seemed to have caused an abscess, leading to a potential fatal pulmonary issue the man never would have expected down the line.
The cold foreign interjection broke Ashley’s train of thought. His companion must have been trying to alert him in a more direct manner than usual as it caught him off guard. An expectant look and a courteous hand were extended from his partner, who now sat mounted upon the single heavy draft horse they were lent for the trek.
With an upward sweep, Ashley slung his leg over the gear that now firmly rest atop the horse and attained as much comfort whilst riding double horseback as he could.
The remainder of the trip fared pleasant. The large steed trotted along the crude beaten path with ease until a modest cobblestone path slowly trickled forward, giving way to the almost cheerful clacking of hooves in relief.
“I’m no doctor, you know.” muttered Ashley with a morose tone.
“For Partisano, you doktor.”
The mutual response in his partner’s voice as he gave way to an outstretched arm, pointing in the distance up the path.
“For family, you doktor.”
He hoped his meager skills would suffice, there wasn’t much Ashley was capable of. Granted he learned modest amounts from his grandfather, the local apothecary in Syracuse, he hadn’t truly understood the facets of science. His ignorance, combined with no remote semblance of experience had lead to his discouraged behavior. Even still, he wished to repent for his ignorance, some elaborate act of contrition that would resonate with himself to further his studies.
He hoped, but those very same hopes would incite strife between the two men before their journey’s end.