(Another excerpt, this one gives some insight into Antierra’s not so subtle exhortation to the women fighters, but also into the background of weapons design and construction. Words are fine but what will speak the loudest to the fighters is “new and improved” weaponry, and this is Antierra’s discovered forte.)
[begin blog post #33]
Chapter 14 – The Forge
On the surface life resumes its pace in cages, compound and arena. The auto-medic has done a great job of repairing my body while leaving all the obvious scars received previously. With renewed hope that I will be able to work out a scheme to rescue Deirdre from the arena, I work out with increased strength and vigour. I am able to continue my unofficial training of new fighters while Deirdre is left to attend kitchens and tables, as well as the cleaning of the stalls. Although she must still take her turn in the line-ups for training, all of it takes place with me and I know not to press her. She does her amazing moves, to the continuing delight of the male watchers and I pretend they are part of the weapons handling. No doubt the male trainers and handlers would not mind if all the young trainees performed as does Deirdre the trained entertainer. She is very popular with the men, naturally and certainly doesn’t mind it. She is also happier than I’ve ever seen her.
Long ago I had wondered why these nubile young women did not get pregnant from constant sexual intercourse. I was told we are given contraceptives in our food, it is that simple. Only rarely does this not work and a woman becomes pregnant. If she cannot quickly abort in the cages and is discovered, it means death. She cannot report her condition to a medic to be given a proper abortifact. Any female who has the constitution to overcome the effect of the contraceptives is considered a danger to the system and must be disposed of.
A gora cannot, by statute, give birth. This is the sole preserve of the birthers. No ‘wild’ children legally permitted on any part of Malefactus, so I’m told. Again you see how legalism is twisted to fit the needs or wants of those in power. A woman who gives birth to a wild child is killed along with her child. She has no recourse in this matter. However if the child survives and is captured at an age where it can be sold into some sort of usefulness it is automatically entered in the system in some capacity as a slave. As on Túat Har, it appears some stack worlds are also infected by the power of money to control ruling forces, even when such control makes absolutely no sense. Money is here exposed for the destructive and corrosive virus that it is and if people made the effort to see this, it would lose its power to destroy. But greed causes spiritual blindness and none are so blind as those who will not see but by their faith in the system convince themselves they have the greater sight by simply purchasing their claim to the greater right.
Whether training or fighting, I find it ever more difficult to keep my mind from Deirdre. Part of it is pure carnal “love” and it’s easy to recognize that weakness, but there is more. A part of me is with her all the time. My work; my long-time process towards becoming a compassionate being, though severely curtailed here, has somehow attached itself to her empathic nature and we’ve become a “one” of sorts. This pleases me, yet annoys me also. She has too much power over me, made the worse because she is neither aware of it, nor would she want it if she knew of it. Despite the pain of loss I will feel, I will only become whole again when (not ‘if’ – I never allow myself to think ‘if’) she leaves this planet.
More weeks pass. I’ve decided it is in my best interest, and Deirdre’s, to add some entertaining aspects into my fighting. I need to prolong the days I am considered a good bet in the arena. Now would be a bad time to be earmarked for termination in a killing orgy. I know I can outlast any contender since I have access to the stim which I get from Deirdre and which she procures by whatever means. I suspect she has seen the doctor and has made arrangements that are seen to by the Cydroids. Likely the stuff comes from some channel through the court. There is an understanding between us that we do not speak of certain things. Quite naturally I do not dwell on the fights in the arena and she does not tell me what she must do to procure the drug I need. Nor do we touch on our sexual encounters with men, hers being on the increase, mine, well, quite obviously going the other way!
My body feels like its old self without the pain and the stiffness. I can couple the speed and suppleness of youth with nine years of grueling experience in arena fighting. I feel more confident also in the fact I’ve been given more autonomy in weapons maintenance and re-design. Nothing major but enough to upset contenders. And I’ve trained on that horrible axe with the knowledge that myself, or one of us, would be forced to use it in a fight. I push the women to become more proficient in handling their weapons. Become one with your weapon, I continually remind them; love your weapon. I wait for the doubts to be expressed by trainees and fighters alike and demonstrate while teaching this ancient art.
“As you would not normally drop your arm, or your leg, in a fight, so you cannot drop the weapon that is a part of your body, an extension of the physical you. To accomplish this feat you have to learn that you, the fighter, are not a physical being. You, the fighter, cannot be killed since you are an immortal mind. Once you accept this, you will know the truth of it and be forever aware that your whole body and whatever appendages it possesses, is a weapon.
“Your brain extends to the end of your sword blade, or the pike on the end of your staff. You can feel the life of it throughout every part of you. Now your ego self, your energy interpreter, is able to tell your extended body exactly what your mind is directing it to do. You, the etheric, the shadow fighter, the immortal mind, directs the fighting from a place that is totally inaccessible to the challenger. He, or they, cannot see you at all. They can only see your weapons. The same is true for those spectators in the arena. Ignore them all, they have nothing to do with the purpose for which you fight.
“I assure you that if you cannot reach this state of mind you are not a fighter, just another arena victim to be overcome, wounded and gloated over; to be raped and finally tortured to death for the gratuitous entertainment of the spectators. It is time, fighters of Hyrete, that we move beyond this lowly animal status and reclaimed our true selves. We are not goras, we are ahyas! If we do not move ourselves forward, we are dead.”
Thus do I continuously exhort them to excel, and to reach beyond anything they believe themselves able to accomplish.
We have our own “blacksmith” in the compound; not so much in an individual as in a crew committed to producing the highest quality hand to hand combat weapons as well as experimenting with new ideas. They keep their forge in a far corner of the training compound where some highly combustible odourless, colourless gas is piped in to fuel the forge fires; another interesting piece of technology in this otherwise backward and medieval world.
I am permitted to go there without asking permission now, and can enter the enclosure of the forge itself if one of the men inside escorts me in, reporting to the handlers’ office that he’s got me in hand. Yes, they have voice communicators they use over short distances, but they do not have datacoms. Those seem reserved for the elites and security forces.
The blacksmith group enjoys the challenges I give them, always eager to learn more about weaponry. Even I wonder sometimes where my exotic tastes and natural skills in such a barbaric art form come from. If I did not have a good working knowledge of information drawn from past lives I’d be confused. For now, I credit my creativity in weaponry to my many incarnations on Túat Har; Old Earth, the center of the greatest “generic” and mindless violence I’ve ever experienced as a wandering Avatari. Take pride in that, Earthians! You remain unchallenged masters of gratuitous violence expressed as psychopathy!
I begin my work with the blacksmiths by trying to describe a proper axe handle. They even allow me to draw an outline of one in the sand – after I query the danger of breaking the taboo on drawing or writing. They look at one-another and smile. The one I take to be the chief smith, a barrel-chested older man with a chest as woolly as a sheep, says:
“We follow somewhat different rules here, slave. We be not as brain dead as your trainers and we not be slaves to dead gods and dead laws. There be no danger for you here, you try no tricks. You do, we beat you, maybe make you taste the red hot steel on pretty lips. You savvy?”
I understand their language is not motivated by hate or even a sense of superiority. It’s just the way of it. Cover your ass by explaining what goes, what does not. For them what else could I be but a nameless gora?
As to my axe handle design, it’s a no go. It leaves them utterly perplexed and perhaps just as well. I have thought of a better idea.
“Forget it,” I say. “Here, put a hand stopper on the handle, like about here.” I hold it three quarters of the way back from the blade end. “Make that longer,” I demonstrate by holding the straight handle vertically against my body, holding it to my elbow with my arm down. “Now can you affix a short, sharp pike with a cutting edge on the end?”
“That we can do, and a pleasure that is. You truly have the Beast in you. With our weapons you kill – we get credit. More money for good steel and fuel for the forge, that is good. What more you need?”
[end blog post #33]
The description reminding us of the degradation the women have been subjected to counterpointed by Antierra’s effective and precise preparation for a response leaves us on a rewarding edge of suspense.
Well written Sha’ Tara.
Thanks for all your encouraging comments, Roger.
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Keep up the good work Sha’ Tara..there is a book itching to get out.
Ahh, now here you capture me heart and soul. Antierra has the ethos of a noble warrior instead of just a fighter. The win goes to the one who is most clever in the fight. The mind and body is the greatest weapon and the fighting spirit is the force that propels the skilled hand. She is all of those things and her attention to weaponry is the way to that small advantage that secures another day. It’s nice to have allies at the forge.