(Continuing with the saga, now back in the slave quarters with their usual, unchanging conundrums – or are they really unchanging, or dare I say, unchangeable?)
As already mentioned I fought and died near the end of the Melkiar invasions. I spent some years on Altaria, found some of the information on Malefactus I had hoped to locate, and re-incarnated (manifested physically) on ‘Stack World minus four’ (SW-4) of the lower set of the six dark worlds where I am now living, or to put it in a more accurate sense, existing and surviving day to day, always under the shadow of imminent death, as are all of the women in this compound.’
This concludes the Michele Dellman article.
[end blog post #56]
[begin blog post #57]
Chapter 26 – Tiki Tells a Story and An’Tierra Remembers
As the daily treatments of ice-cold water on bare flesh in pre-dawn light causes shock and exhilaration at the same time, so I put my mind through this process. I do my mantras against fear and for total detachment. Each morning I push Tiki away from my body and close my heart to her sounds and scent. She is doing everything in her child-woman power to seduce me to be mother and lover to her. I am doing everything in my power to give her all she really needs that I can give without falling into the temptation of ownership. Quasi-legally, because the men decree it so, she is my slave until they (or I) decide otherwise, or until either of us is killed. I could kill her myself and nothing much would come of it, except maybe I’d have to reimburse her owner (if she has one yet, there is no way of knowing) by taking an extra turn in the arena.
The lives of females are the cheapest commodity on Malefactus until the betting starts on a fight. A young trainee without reputation and without an owner has no value at all. She may earn some points through sexual performance but that’s shaky. Most of these men, the trainers, handlers, blacksmiths and male nurses or medics aren’t that interested in “performance.” They just take you when they feel a need and discard you, often with a slap or a kick. Romance is not their strong point.
Tiki has already been gang-raped twice during her voyage to Hyrete from her segregated crèche in a fortified village in an independent principality east of the kingdom of Elbre and south of the Union of Estáan where she was raised from an infant. The trip by foot, using male slaves as baggage carriers, took over four weeks of difficult walking through soft and shifting dunes. There were twenty-four young females when the trek began. Twenty three arrived in various degrees of exhaustion from starvation, dehydration and physical abuse at the compound in Hyrete.
The soldiers who accompanied the trek to guard against raiders decided that each night they would have a sex orgy. So each night a couple of the girls were forced to perform erotic dances for which they had not been trained and were then raped repeatedly. Some were otherwise abused. One cried out under torture and was killed after they finished with her. According to Tiki, the soldier guards were drinking heavily and mixing chakr in their brew. Under the influence of the drink, they mixed the forbidden drink using the dying girl’s blood and chakr. Then they took pieces of her body and cooked themselves a “sacred” meal. I’d heard a similar story from Tiegli so I have no reason to doubt Tiki’s account of that ghoulish march. For these girls the slave compound in the great keep of Hyrete would seem a reprieve, a place of safety… until they find out otherwise.
There is yet no such place on T’Sing Tarleyn for any woman. What, you may ask, constitutes a “safe” place for a woman, in any society, on any world? I would say from personal experience it’s a place where a woman is safe without having to rely on anyone else, especially on a male, to protect her. Ideally, wherever a woman happens to be, that is automatically her sacred, inalienable and inviolable sanctuary. In any situation, any role, a woman is approached only by her permission. Only when she clearly indicates her sanctuary is open can another walk in to “touch” her. That is how I see it now.
Yes I know Tiki desperately needs a mother figure in her life. She desperately needs love and protection, however tenuous, from an elder. I know I can provide some of it for her, but I want her to find it on her own, within herself. The only place of comfort and safety here is within one’s heart and mind. There is nothing that can help you outside of yourself. Nothing. That is, I realize belatedly, the true “lesson” of the stack worlds, regardless whether they are on the “light” or the “dark” side of the balance equation.
I brought this knowledge with me here, of course. It’s something all Altarians know, a basic natural awareness. Tiegli discovered this before she died. The “Concubines” or twins already know this. Perhaps the Cydroids also, although their minds do not function like ours so I still do not know how they perceive their reality in relation to natural humans.
Now Tiki must learn it for herself. I must allow her close to me while keeping my anti-emotion shields up when we are in contact. I begin by approaching my handlers and complaining that Tiki is too much of a distraction. She needs to be occupied. I address Delton, overseer of handlers.
His gaze sweeps over me with a rather neutral and tired look as I stand with head bowed. “Speak gora.” It’s the ritual opening. A reminder that has lost much of its meaning over the years I’ve heard it, as do all rituals, yet deadly dangerous to take for granted. Rituals are noticed, not in being performed but in being ignored. I speak without looking at his face, focusing on a purple blotch above his left knee.
“Young slave 1339-32-19 which shares sleep with me need better employ sir. She has use, perhaps kitchen? Perhaps clean the straw? Too weak for weapons training yet sir. Too young, waste of time – me. Need time for older fighters to make better. Maybe train to help nurse?”
I display the most abject and humble stance I can muster, using the kind of pidgin they prefer to hear, in the hope he will even listen. He sneers – another ritual – and motions me away. I’ve been “heard” whatever comes of it. I know after so many years that they are good at listening and pretending they don’t. Females know nothing so they cannot accept any suggestions directly. They discuss any point I raise privately in their strategy and meeting sessions, taking full credit for any idea they think has merit.
Later that day Tiki, or should I say slave #1339-32-19 is taken from our cage and escorted into the kitchens. The number I quote is the last line of numbers branded on her backside. It refers to year, batch number and number in batch when she was admitted into the training compound in Hyrete. For example, year #1339 is admission to Hyrete arena compound as trainee at age 13. #32 is thirty-second batch to arrive that year. #19 is order of branding as number nineteen in batch. She has another brand line above that stating the year of birth and class of breeding. Hers is #1326-04. Born year 1326 local time; class 4 female fighter. She is permanently branded as a gladiator. Any man can thus know instantly what she is – not whom – women have no status as human beings.
Thus do I begin the training of a slave girl to come to a place of self-awareness and understanding. Small steps, all to be taken within the system. Step outside, even once and your chances of being flogged to death are almost one hundred percent sure. You can bend rules as long as you are willing and able to unbend them immediately, but woe to you if you break them.
[end blog post #57]