The sun is hitting the far north wall, painting a dull orange-yellow into the texture of the weathered stones above the shadows cast by spired turrets thrusting themselves into the afternoon sky from the red-brown tiled roofs of ponderous square structures whose purpose I’ve never bothered to enquire about. There’s another piece of crenellation missing up there. Why aren’t they doing a better job of repairing their keep, their great city? On occasion while walking from the training areas to the forge carrying the weapons needing attention I noticed large cracks in the masonry between the square stones. Are they just letting the keep fall apart because modern weaponry makes the idea of a ‘fort’ redundant? Or is their economy collapsing from the combination of rising costs from raising, training and maintaining of slaves and perhaps even more relevant, a growing debt due to gambling? Or is the war with Estáan expanding and draining more from the battered economy of Elbre?
End blog post #83
Begin Blog post #84
I’m remembering the confused economics of Old Earth, early C-21, near the end of my last ‘formal’ life there and do a comparison with what is happening here. I don’t have much of a perspective of Malefactus, being a slave within a compound buried inside a city and no access to current events, to the history, of the rest of this world. On Old Earth there was a common, mostly subconscious awareness that economics based purely on exploitation of any resource and measured by the interest of greed would cause a massive collapse of society. Of course the inevitable happened on that world as its primary resource called crude oil, peaked and dwindled with little actually in place to replace it, despite the best of hopes at the time.
What about here? What’s it like, say, in some city or town on the southern shores of their ‘Great Sea’ as they call it? What constitutes the basis of that economy? Is it the same dreadful thing as here in Hyrete? Or do they fish, farm, mine, grow fruit maybe? I know the females are still slaves, no matter where one goes on T’Sing Tarleyn; that the basic labour is all done by slavery, but do they treat their slaves better? I don’t know why they should and I have to assume that no matter where one is on this world things are as bad as here.
Long ago my ‘Teachers’ taught me how to look at the things which I had no way of knowing for certain. “As below, so above.” Translated it simply means that when projecting into other dimensions, other worlds, other places or into the future, go with your knowledge. Remember that knowledge comes from two sources irrevocably blended together: information and experience.”
Why does it matter to me how women are treated in those places I can not know about? It matters simply because all that I have gone through here, all that I am going to yet experience, is meaningless to me if such a passage does not result in the betterment of their lives in some way. It matters because over the years I have lived here the women I have met, young or old, all have a place in my heart. They are, to me, mothers, sisters, lovers, daughters. It matters because I will never be free in heart as long as they remain slaves.
“When none of it matters it will all be yours.” So I was taught those many years ago on Old Earth. I remember the lessons so clearly now that I’ve failed every one of them. And you know, maybe that is the purpose of every ‘great’ lesson, that we never get them until we realize we’ve failed at what we thought they were about. Only then can we begin to rise to the challenge: that beyond the obvious lies reality. This I’ve learned about being truly alive: that it will never cease to amaze me, no matter where I find myself, nor in what circumstances.
That may well explain why in some place beyond time I sat with many good friends, human and others and we decided to join the shadow beings who are called “WindWalkers” within the All-Thing. The “Ever-Wanderers” or “Avatari.” Such joy we felt then, when we sang our song in unison, its power vibrating among the stars and their countless worlds, participating and adding power to the music of the spheres. When we raised our hands, we created a crystal of rainbow light that for a moment illuminated our spirits and minds and cleansed us of all blemishes. We enjoined ourselves to remember, as it has been said, the voices of the dead and of the living and take that remembrance as the gift of the Avatari to the worlds we would inhabit.
We could not have known then the nature of the trials that awaited us among the various planes of existence we would visit and incarnate. We could not have known that it was every weakness and every failure we would rise from that would determine who we were and how we could function. We could not have known that the only power that would serve us in the end was what we ourselves manifested from our surroundings and from within ourselves. We could not have known that in most instances where we would be most effective we would simply give our own physical lives to these worlds. And not just once.
I’ve now managed a few steps without help and away from any support. I feel a bit more confident. Slowly, I bend forward, keeping a shaky balance, then attempt to bend back. I fall but wave the Cydroid away. I get up and regain my balance. My head continues to clear and that distant drum beat that was the beating of my heart in my damaged temple fades more and more. I cross the alley to a stone pillar and lean on it. Bal has followed me and stands next to me. He’s wearing a silken mauve robe that flows in the breeze and he looks very handsome to me. Why not? By galactic standards I’m but a very young woman, not a battered crone who should have died years ago. Ah well, I truly do not care actually that I don’t attract him anymore. I may not have changed things much on this world but I have gained a new kind of adulthood, a new kind of understanding from my experiences.
Maybe there is one great lesson to be learned before one evolves into full humanity; the correct answer to the Sphinxian question:
‘How does one become human?’
The answer could go something like this: to become aware that ‘any allegiance to a deity or concept or universal principle which puts obedience above decent behaviour toward an innocent is evil.’ 
Perhaps that is the ultimate lesson above all lessons ISSA beings must learn before they evolve into full humanity. The correct answer to any demand for sacrifice, by any Power whatsoever, is to offer oneself in place of the other, even if the act seems utterly hopeless. It never is. Infinity redeems, not history, not time, not God, not the gods.
“Bal, how long have I lived here?” For in truth I can no longer remember.
“You came here in the fifth month of the year one thousand three hundred and twenty-eight (1328). It is now the seventh month of one thousand three hundred and forty-one (1341). You have been here thirteen years and two months. Do you want the statistics on the number of times you fought and won in the arena?”
“No!” The cry comes from deep within my spirit, from beyond time itself. “I have won nothing, Bal, except my mind freedom when I defeated and destroyed the Warmo. All the others, no matter who they thought they were or I believed them to be, are my victims. I killed them, all of them. Yes, it could be said I had no choice, but I had. I came here of choice. Yes it could be said I wanted to help the women of this world and that remains as true today as the first day I was branded and became a T’Sing Tarleyn slave woman and fighter. But the blood I shed, especially the times I enjoyed shedding it, I must yet atone for. Nothing is free; nothing is ever what it seems. Every good or evil event has its opposite.”
“You are too hard on yourself, almost to the point of blindness. If you refuse to see the good you have brought here by your sacrifices how will you ever succeed? Antierra – you will die in that arena, perhaps soon. The auto-med reports many failures in setting things to right in your body. The Warmo did things to you we cannot repair. Your heart is damaged but not all of your damage is physical, do you understand? You must regain control of yourself for this world still desperately needs you.
 Quote from “Hyperion” by Dan Simmons, p. 292