Tag Archives: knighthood

Antierra Manifesto – blog post #94

“I’d like to have friend #1334-02-28 if it pleases.”  He enters the numbers and motions me to head for the cages where the guards wait for further orders.  He walks to another hut and two handlers walk to the cages behind me.  I am let in to my space and soon the ‘transfers’ are done.  I move into Swala’s cage; Tieka is moved to Zel’s cage.

End blog post #93
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Begin blog post #94

What just happened here are the kinds of things that get you both loved and hated.  When people who have no power see others in similar circumstances apparently without real effort wielding external power, there is jealousy.  When such power brokerage benefits some, they will love you until you fail.  They never expect you to fail.  When you do they turn against you. 

So here’s my thought on the matter.  Methinks heroes should always die young, just after they have accomplished the one thing, whatever it was they set out to do and they should only set out to do one thing.  Then everybody is happy and there are, hopefully, no more expectations – unless they believe their hero is some sort of avatar.  Then the hero’s reputation will both rise and plummet as followers and detractors face off.  It’s foolish, it’s wasteful, it’s so human. 

The women in the cages will love me more than ever, that cannot be helped.  Friends of the overseer will hate me with a passion.  That cannot be helped either.  In the end I will fail those who love me and give satisfaction to those who hate me.  I will die a violent death.  The ones will feel abandoned, the others vindicated.  So I have learned.  So it must be.  Unless I am wrong about this, as wrong as I’ve been about so many other things since I came here.  I wouldn’t mind being wrong in this case!

I turn to Swala.  She seems happy to be with me, but I must ask.  “You want me with you, Swala?”

“I be happy with you, yes Anti.  Always, I like you.  Copy fighting and training ways.  Listen to Teaching.  You tell stories from stars, I always listen.  I believe all from you.  Trust, I do.  I be friend with you.”

There is a quiet, sensible kind of gentler energy to be with an older woman.  Older by our standards.  Swala is twenty years old and has already survived many fights in the arena, few of them fair.  Strong, muscular, heavier than most fighters, she is a favourite for the gamblers and for that has paid a heavy price already.  She carries many scars and ugly welts on her back – result of some ‘unofficial’ flogging probably received in some drunken sex orgy.  Doesn’t matter.  I move against her and we begin to doze off together, nothing left to say that isn’t better left unsaid.  As with Tiegli, this is the closest thing to what the Cydroids would call mind touch. 

You wonder I did not say, “Deirdre”?  Ah but with her the mind touch was always cancelling out by our carnal feelings for one-another, our “need” of each other.  Every time we got close to the knowing it was like poking your finger in a mirror surface of a small pond.  Any reflected image there is broken up.  No, our mind touch, such as it was, could never be pure, no matter how good a thing I thought we had or I wanted to believe we had.  It was always spoiled by the ‘shattering’ energy of hormonal action.

It’s good to just be with a friend during the night.  Especially when your feelings won’t let you decide whether to be happy or sad with your situation.  I enter the Teaching: from sorrow, of which I have plenty here, comes joy, always.  I embrace that joy tonight.  Once embraced it more than suffices.  That’s the thing about joy, you know?  It is self-fulfilling.  If you experience joy in that moment it is impossible to know less or more of it.  It manifests only in completion.  That too is part of the Teaching.

Morning comes, clear, beautiful, clean.  The purple glory of early morning sky has faded, giving way to reveal a deep turquoise blue painted from battlement to roof to battlement across the top of the old keep.  This means no desert storm blowing sand in the sky.  It also means we should enjoy the morning freshness for the rest of the day will bring on oppressive heat.  After our meal we wash and begin our training ritual.  No fights scheduled for today since the fixed one was cancelled.  Our male trainers are less truculent than usual and I wonder if my judge friend has had a meeting with them and laid the law down.  That has happened at times in the past. 

As weapons master, even though the title must remain unofficial, I oversee the distribution of the weapons and how they are handled by each fighter even before they are used.  I insist on the ritual of awareness to be practiced by every trainee.  It took me years to have the male trainers and handlers turn a deaf ear to my exhortations to the women; to ignore the silence rule in this instance.  They are not so stupid they can’t see the results of my teaching on weapons handling.

Thus I address the women each time I am the unofficial overseer (nor do I address them in their pidgin but in proper language):

“Every weapon you hold becomes your friend and it seeks to accomplish three basic tasks: to protect and defend you and to defeat your enemy.  That is the energy it carries; the purpose for which it is made.  It knows this.  That is no different than how a fighter is bred and becomes a member of the female ‘fighter elite’ that you are.  As your bodies are bred for a specific purpose which allows you to fight men who are stronger and heavier than you and to defeat them time and again, so your weapons are ‘bred’ to defend and to attack.  You have no other purpose, neither have they.  So know your weapon well before every fight.  Handle it with pride and use it only with the best of skill you possess.  Never get sloppy with a weapon for if it loses respect for your grip, stance, methods, it will fail you.  It will not let you down if you do not let it down.  This is a great teaching that goes beyond weapons to everything in the land and the sky.  It is the teaching on balance of energies. 

You know of scales?”  They nod affirmatively.  “Good, when you see scales tip one way, you have two choices: either you step on the heavy side and cause the tipping to complete swiftly, or you jump on the lighter side and cause the balance to be restored.  The master must know beforehand which step to take then take it without hesitation.  This you must understand as fighters: whether to join the heavier force and cause it to fall, or oppose it and cause it to hold.”

This too I consider part of the Teaching.  Making the women aware that everything possesses its own spirit; its own force through awareness of purpose and surroundings.  That inanimate “objects” so-called have energy.  That energy fields, or forces, contain sentience causing them to hold together.  When we enter these forces or manipulate them we join with them and become a part of them.  This is life.

“As with human partners, if you have a special and precious weapon, say a sword that you treasure and with which you have won many battles, you do not, at the end of the fight, throw it in a pile with other weapons of various kinds to be handled or even taken by anyone.  I could tell you stories of very ancient times when knights (they were a special class of fighter) kept their swords in scabbards that were worth more than the sword itself, in terms of money.  They inlaid precious stones in the scabbards, the holding belts and even in the hilts of their blades.  It was their way of telling their sword friend how much they appreciated them.  And know this, that if the knight was ever in dire straights and became poor, he may sell his horse, his armour, the very scabbard and belt that held the sword, but he would never sell the sword.  If he could not carry it openly, he would find a place for it, wrap it carefully in oiled rags and hide it with the hope that in better days, or at great need, he would find it again.  Thus many old swords were found again by new fighters and new tales of heroes born from difficult times.

“Now hold your weapons high and salute life.  Salute victory.  Salute the goddess who slowly awakens to you as you awaken to her.  Our days are coming, as surely as the seasons change.  Hail to the weapons!”

Each time we go through this ritual the women barely restrain themselves from cheering.  These are the moments that inexorably change the face of Malefactus. 

End blog post #94

The Tale of King Demarth

A short story,  by Sha’Tara

The old woman looked intently at the young girl at her knee as she sat by the smoldering fire of the hearth. Outside the wind blew and scraped branches against the stone of the cottage.

“Did I ever tell you the story of King Demarth of Ulmn?”

“No, you have not.”

“It is a very good story. Now I have to think for a minute or two, just to remember some of the details. You see, it’s an old story, handed down many generations in our family. So many generations…” she goes silent and sighs.

“Yes, now I can begin:

“Once upon a time, in a land far away there was a king called Demarth who lived in a mighty castle. He had many men-at-arms and over the years his father and he conquered the surrounding kingdoms and added them to their domain called Ulmn.

The king, therefore, becamd powerful and very rich. He was also a man who loved adventure. Often he’d go out into the countryside with only a couple of retainers, and sometimes he’d even go alone.

On one of his lonely rides one day he strayed farther than usual and found himself in a strange part of the land. He was no longer certain if this part belonged to his kingdom or not. As he pondered which way to go, his horse, a tall black war-horse, snorted and angled his ears forward toward what looked like an orchard. The king urged the horse forward and was suddenly hit in the head with a well-aimed green apple.

“Ho,” he cried. “Who is it dares to throw apples at the king?”

A young woman climbed down from a loaded apple tree and stared at the king and his horse. Then she slipped to her knees and bent her head.

“My lord – I thought thieves were in our land again. I have grievously offended you, take my life.”

The king bade her rise and he looked her over. She was indeed very beautiful, though dressed almost in rags and her red hair was unkempt and wild about her head.

“What is your name, girl?”

“Alnya” my lord, she replied.

“Do you have parents?” he asked her.

“My father was killed in the king’s wars before I was born. My mother lives in our cottage. I have two brothers much older than I. They work in the fields.”

“Take me to your mother, then – how far is it?”

“About a mile, my lord.”

He brought the great war horse near her, grabbed her and swept her in front of him on the horse. She gasped as they galloped to the cottage. Once there, the king asked for water, drank, then gave the peasant woman a purse filled with gold coins in exchange for her hospitality and her daughter to take back to the castle.

For you see the king had fallen madly in love with the beautiful and daring peasant girl and had decided to make her his bride. This he confided to her as they rode back to the castle beyond the great stone wall. She wept at the news but he did not understand nor did he enquire of the reason. Tears are affairs of women he’d been taught – best left alone.

I won’t bore you with the details of making this peasant girl into a courtesan, but she learned fast. She had her brothers brought to the castle to train for knighthood, and her mother came to live there as well. The farm was rented and kept in the family by the king’s law.

The gist of the story, my girl, is that Alnya had a lover before she met the king. She tried to forget him but one day he came even to the castle looking for her. They saw each other and she contrived to meet him. They swore love to each other and she promised to find a way to be reunited with him. Then she made him leave so that, should things turn sour, he would not be discovered. Despite their love, great was the fear in each of them.

Alnya decided to risk all. She went to the king and declared that she had a lover and wanted to return to him to be married to him, despite the certainty of poverty, or worse.

The king became very angry. You see, he too loved Alnya. And he had the power of his law to force her to marry him. He could even have the peasant lover thrown into his dungeons for life, or killed. He ordered Alnya away to her chambers and took his great horse out for a ride.

As he rode, he made a point of noticing everything that moved. The birds, animals and the people at their work or children at play. He stopped on a high, bare hill, dismounted and thought about his situation. His anger was abated now. He watched an eagle soaring high in the sky, then come down, lower and lower, suddenly swooping into tall grass and coming back up with a rodent in its talons.

How like that eagle I am, thought the mighty king. How easy it is for me, so high, to pounce down and just take what I want. Perhaps too easy. Perhaps I must suffer shame and defeat again, as I did when my wife the queen died in childbirth and I was left alone. Perhaps the happiness of others is of more importance to the mighty than their own. What is our purpose but to ensure the weaker are protected from injustice as well as from physical harm? How much the more from any injustice I myself would inflict upon them?

The great king mounted his horse and rode through the forest in silence, coming upon Alnya’s village. He enquired after a young apprentice smith he was interested in for the castle forge, so he said. He found the boy at the forge, working the bellows.

“Ah, my lord the king,” said the smith. “Please come in. Is there something wrong with your horse, a loose or missing shoe perhaps?”

“No my good man,” said the king. “I wish a word with your apprentice, Garthain.”

So the king walked a ways with Garthain, Alnya’s lover. Suddenly the king turned upon Garthain and pulling his long double handed knight’s sword from its diamond-studded sheath, said, “Kneel, knave, for you crave the king’s own betrothed and I must challenge you.”

Trembling, the young man kneeled. But he looked the king in the eyes and said, “I love Alnya. I always have. We were lovers when you took her away. You took my heart and desire to live when you took her then. So take that sword in your hand and strike me dead. May my head be the trophy you bring to her wedding bed.”

The king help up the sword and brought it down… gently upon Garthain’s shoulder.

“I knight thee in the name of God and the Kingdom. If it suits you now, find a horse and ride back with me to the castle. Indeed there will be a wedding this week, and indeed it will be that of the fair Alnya. But let it be said by all that she marries, not of duress or fear, but of love. When you are married, you may choose to live here in the village – with my blessings and gold for help, or you may join my knights at the castle, though I warn you it is a harsh life there.”

And so it came to pass that the king rose to be mighty and had peace in his land for as long as he lived. And though he did not have a love of his own, he had the love of an entire kingdom, to his dying day, and he was mourned greatly for he had been the best king anyone had ever known.

And thus, it was said long ago, should all the mighty behave towards those over whom they reign or rule.

And now this story is yours and in turn you must tell it to your children. Do not forget it, ever.