Hello everyone! I have a scene that is giving me trouble on both medical and psychological levels and would appreciate any help I can get.
The POV character is a Roman Catholic priest confronted with a wounded man. The setiing is complicated by time travel issues, but the the priest is from 17th century France.
The castle they are in is under a surprise attack. The victim is the first casualty - a guard who was shot (from a small handgun, if it matters) while standing duty at the gate and then staggered inside. The priest has a lot of military experience - planning battles as well as witnessing the process and the aftermath. He feels responsible to participate in the castle's defence, and he wants the guard to tell him what happened at the gate. He is (correctly) assuming that the guard is dying - if not right now, then within the next several days for sure. He also knows that the guard is a Roman Catholic, although not a very devout one.
The plan was for the guard to tell the priest something along the lines of "there were about this many attackers going in approximately that direction", then the priest grabs the guard's weapon and runs off to defend the castle.
The problems I have with the scene are:
1. I need a dying man who is coherent and initially mobile. I thought to give him a gut wound, but googling "gunshot wounds to stomach", "gut wounds" suggests that the guy will be either screaming in pain or unconscious. All the other wounds I can think of would be either immediately fatal or potentially curable. What I need is a gunshot wound that would
a) permit the man to walk 15 meters or so before collapsing, then talk for at least a couple of minutes, and then, ideally, actually hand the priest a weapon, possibly with a short explanation which button to press (this is not a 17th century weapon, or guard, or castle)
b) be recognized as definitely, unequivocally fatal by an experienced 17th century "soldier", assuming said "soldier" failed to consider the possibility that people here have different medical capabilities than what he's used to.
Any ideas how to do that? And how exactly would the priest know the man is a goner? (For the gut wound I was thinking a tell-tale smell).
2. The priest is behaving more like a soldier than like a priest here, but he is a priest. As such, he'll probably at least think about doing something, um, religious. My knowledge of Catholicism is fairly limited, my knowledge of 17th century French Catholicism - even more so. I tried to google "Roman Catholic death preparation", "Catholic priest comforting the dying", "Catholic last rites", "Emergency last rites" and combinations thereof. I got that there is a procedure of Penance, Anointing, and Viaticum, but that obviously requires time and preparation. The priest here was not planning on giving any last rites and has no supplies beyond a pectoral cross. So, the questions are:
2a. Will the priest feel oblidged to offer spiritual support before or after getting the military info he needs? What kind of support would that be, exactly? Will he offer to hear a confession (would you like to...) or will he insist on it (repent your sins), or will he just jump straight into the Viaticum (do you reject sin...)? Can the Viaticum be shortened somehow? From the text I found here, it would take at least a couple of minutes, and the priest really needs to get moving.
2b. Assuming the priest expects the guard to live another few hours, can he just give him a quick blessing (how would that be phrased?) and intend to come back for the proper ceremony after the assault has been repelled (which is not at all certain at that point)? Or is that completely contrary to what is expected of a priest, he has to stay and say the prayers now, come hell or high water?
2c. Conversely, this is a 17th century priest who'd seen the war up close. He's got a man who is in a lot of pain, and who cannot, in his opinion, be healed. Would it occur to him to finish the man off out of mercy? I'm pretty sure he has the nerve to do it, but did Catholicism in 17th century approve of mercy killing? Also, if he does decide to kill the guard, would that mean he'd have to first perform the last rites? Because that would take time he hasn't got and make this option impossible.
3. Finally, the whole concept of a priest killing. I heard that Catholic clergy is not supposed to spill blood, which is why in the middle ages they only used maces/clubs/staves for combat, but I never found any backing for that idea. Google search for "Catholic clergy spilling blood" yields a suggestion that perhaps the clergy was not allowed to use swords, specifically, because those who use the sword will perish by it. Also, I saw some counter-arguments about monastic orders using swords like no tomorrow, which was a good point.
I mean, I realise a priest is not really supposed to kill, period. But if he happens to be killing anyway, will he have any more qualms over using a gun than over using a mace/club/staff? He comes from a noble family, and probably wouldn't know how to use a club. And no clubs are available, anyway. So he has to use a gun no matter what. But will that present an additional moral dilemma?