“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
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