[begin blog post #34]
They eagerly listen and seek to incorporate many of the innovations I propose. We turn to the design of the axe blade itself.
“Too heavy for any woman, even I” I say. “Try leaving just the outline of the blade and remove all the metal inside. Think of it as a sword blade cut in three sections, the longest cutting edge curved, the other two used as braces. Weld them here… and here. See? Then try a new design – one with two blades opposite each other. That will cause excitement, guaranteed. Look, if I roll the handle with a powerful wrist action the blade spins around its axis, thus, and anything it contacts is sheared off as if it had contacted a milling blade…”
“A milling blade?” The look of intense interest is almost comical, like leading a class of first graders on a field trip.
“Don’t they teach engineering to men here?” I ask, being deliberately provocative. The smith’s face darkens momentarily and I know I’ve walked in dangerous waters.
“Begging your pardon sir, but how do you know about blending metals? Is there teaching for this?”
“This of no matter to gora. We not speak of teachings here.” The subject is closed. I keep my mouth shut and await developments.
“Tell what you need to fight, we make.” He raises his finger at me in a warning gesture.
I bow my head and lower my arms, then speak in a much lower, subservient voice, “Please, light and deadly, always, when designing weapons for females. Survive on skill and speed we do, not strength. Longer we last, more money owners make. They see results from good weapons, smiths get credit, as you say, yes? Good arithmetic?” The two I’m addressing look at me quizzically. No ‘arithmetic’ for these guys.
Then I show them my relatively larger feet than those of a typical T’Sing Tarleyn female.
“Where I from there be people train to use no weapon to kill – just body. Feet be good killing weapon in hand to hand combat. You hear I kill trainer by using sweeping side kick many years ago when first I here, yes?” Some nod knowingly as I demonstrate by knocking down a bundle of what could have been potatoes, from a ceiling hook, raising my foot higher than the tallest of them. I pick up the bundle and swing it back into place, hiding the fact it was almost beyond my strength.
There is one thing you learn in these kinds of worlds, not very different from Earth: that those who think themselves stronger are easily impressed to observe those they consider weaker do something they cannot do. It’s up to the “weaker one” to immediately change the subject, let it go. Never rub it in that you can out-do a man at anything. If they see you beat them at something they will accept it, once or temporarily, but if you make it look that you are gloating in the least they will find some justification for nailing you when you do not expect it and they will never miss their chance.
The only safe place to gloat over a man is in the arena when you know you have beaten him and he still does not realize he is a walking dead man. If he is a particularly vicious type who has raped or tortured other females, now is the time to let him know that you are taking revenge for their pain and death. Let him face and feel the terror he has been inflicting on others. In any other situation, when under an authority that has power of life and death over you, remain subservient even when it is obvious you are superior. You cannot reject them but they can reject you. Here subservience is best expressed by always reverting to pidgin talk when addressing men.
“Please, I would like foot weapon is call ‘sandal’ that straps to foot and has blades mounted on it. Make retractable if that be possible?”
I had to describe what a sandal is. Except for the richest among them who do so strictly as an affectation, no one wears shoes, having no need of them. But they catch on quickly especially the head smith after he decides to ease his now huge erection in me. He takes me as casually as if he were taking a drink of water. The others watch and smirk. I have difficulty getting used to that, even after all the years I’ve experienced the casualness of it. Perhaps it’s because they are also raping you when they do it, stealing your power if you let them by not being prepared for it. Almost every act of fornication here is an attack upon the woman. As an act of love it would be a violation of their laws on sex. But breaking their law on casual sex seems much less of an offence, probably because it is rape, the socially acceptable humiliation of a female.
“I see head trainer,” he belatedly answers after rubbing his dirty hands on my breasts and feeling my hardened nipples. “Maybe I convince. He approve, yes, we make for you. I credit young apprentice here,” – points to a young boy working with a hammer on a piece of what I take to be white-hot steel – “for new ideas. He be about gora size so he be one to think of thing like that.”
It was a definite insult, not just a slip of the tongue, a serious goading for whatever reason. Maybe the head smith does not like the boy and would like to be rid of him. The boy fires his master a look of pure hatred that could mean trouble down the road. To be compared to a female is the lowest of insults. To say to a man, “You’re a gora!” is to guarantee a fight, often to the death. I suspect this boy has yet to pass his puberty rite and has not killed his first female. His eyes sweep over me with utter contempt. I know he’d attack me if he did not already know that would be the most foolhardy, and terminal, thing he could do. He knows that if he did kill me he could claim I was the cause of the insult he had to avenge. Probably he would only receive a mild reprimand and have to pay back some of my value by winning a fight in the arena sometime in the future. Of course, that also depends on who it is owns me and my fighting skills and how much they are worth… He’s not so stupid that he does not realize to attack me gains him two ways to die: at my hands instantly, or in the arena by and by.
But the white bearded, broad shouldered smith laughs loudly – the first hearty laugh I’ve heard on Malefactus. And I start to wonder… the smith could be useful if I could somehow draw him into a conspiracy to get Deirdre out of this place, away from Hyrete and off Elbre. I too have that female ectohormonal power men so dread here. The power to seduce just by being what nature has endowed me with. My “rebuilt” body is still very attractive despite its scars. And he’s had a taste of it and what I chose to express with it. How much more of it does he want? He would know many traders I warrant, but how could I trust them not to sell her back into the same situation? I shake my head to free myself of these mindless thoughts. Always I comeback to worrying about ‘my’ Deirdre.
Dreams are one thing. Reality too often plays out differently. And in this place, reality has a way of hitting you on the side of the head. Not literally this time, but in my heart.
The days continue to slip into weeks, the weeks stretch into more months. Since my healing and interview with the doctor – I still don’t know his name – I have heard nothing. Deirdre has had many “interviews” with all the men in the compound but she seems not to mind, or care. She had expected her life to have been as a provider of erotic pleasures and has been thoroughly trained for it. It doesn’t make it any easier for me though, because I seem to worry about her every waking moment.
In all of that, I am a fighter. I had anticipated that sooner or later I would be forced to use the axe in a fight and that day has come.
[end blog post #34]