[begin blog post #8]
Chapter 5 – “Tiegli”
“One must be poor to know the luxury of giving” (George Eliot)
He knows nothing of love, just fucking and that’s fine by me under the circumstances. He responds to his lust stirred by my overwhelming desire for sexual release and finds his satisfaction. When it’s over for him, it’s over and I’m left with an incredible ache of in-completion. ‘Damn you!’ I think. Hiding my shaking hands by pressing them hard into my stomach I wait as he slips his white robe on and directs me outside. He calls to another man sitting perfectly still on a stone bench against the wall to my right. He is wearing a white tunic uniform and apparently reading on a slate. To me he appears as an extremely handsome man, taller than the doctor when he stands up from his reading to acknowledge the doctor with a quick wave of his hand, an unusual greeting or signal, the arm bent at the elbow, the forearm extended forward and the hand, facing down, moved stiffly and rapidly across the body and back.
They speak low, the uniformed one casting probing looks in my direction. I am the intense subject of their discussion. Leaving me standing there they walk across the yard and through a heavy stone door that opens and shuts automatically and silently. I am left confused and utterly exhausted with my slashed arm throbbing horribly despite the doctor’s assurances that everything is fine; that it’s only a flesh wound.
With nothing better to do, knowing I can’t walk anywhere without some male escort, I focus on that new character, the white tunic. What role does that one play, I wonder? It surprises me that in such a black-white, cartoon-like world that so much still happens behind the scenes – so much that all the research I did on this world and my painstaking efforts to duplicate my future experiences here come to practically nothing in actuality. You can study a thing until you go blind and still, until you experience it, you really know nothing about it. I realize it’s fear that makes my mind wander thus but I cannot help it. I have to “grow” into this place or it is going to rob me of my sanity.
Forget all that you know, or think you know. Such is my life now: a blank followed by a question mark! I wonder at the value of past life memories. How can they help one when thrust into an alien power structure? Yet, what else have I got here? I was warned I would get no “off-world” help while I remained here. I’m the only source of all my thoughts and all the decisions I make. The right and wrong of it all, it belongs to me alone. I can agree with what I do, or I can judge and condemn myself. Still, I must live or die by my own choices.
Ah, choices! I remember my long-ago discussions with friends on the subject of free choice; how I insisted there is no such thing. Indeed, if nothing else, Malefactus is proving that I was unfortunately correct on that point.
My handlers (guards or trainers, I still can’t quite sort them out) finally remember to come for me. I am ordered to wash in a wash trough then I am served a meal, alone, by a kitchen slave girl. I realize I am famished and the food tastes good to me. After I eat I’m taken inside the cage area and shoved into one of the cages where a woman is sitting. She is typically broad shouldered with a thick, short neck and her pale, almost white flesh is covered with scars. She is bald; one eye almost shut and her left ear is missing entirely. Her right breast has a deep scar from a cut through it and the nipple is missing. She looks up at me and smiles a crooked, gap-toothed smile. She reaches over and touches me with her right hand. She is missing two fingers there also.
Female gladiators do not have names, just physical descriptions and fighting titles. She is “The Crone” being the oldest surviving female in the line-ups. No point asking how long she has been here, the brands tell that story accurately enough. Hers tell me when she was born (1303, bred fighter class 04) The next line indicates she’s been in this compound since 1316 and according to my brand it’s now 1328. That’s twelve years of surviving hundreds of encounters; of fights to the death.
When they turn off the lights we lie down side by side, holding each other and although I desperately want to sleep she insists on telling me her story.
“Why did they put me with you?” I whisper to her.
“For me, a favour by guard, one night. Accept? I speak with you,” she whispers back, “tell something very important for us.” She grabs my wrist as if to impress her thoughts through my flesh, “You know we have no name? Fighters have no names? But I have name, real name!” Proud she sounds even in her whispering. She points at herself. “Tiegli – and it has meaning too. Undaunted. No Man hears this name, but all fighters here have, and they have much envy my luck. Some they fight with this name – very strong name. Also mean fearless. I live this name, many years.
“Listen: there is big fight tomorrow and die with four women escape to desert and bring back – you know this. Tomorrow is killing orgy. No fighter live after this no matter how many of men we kill. They just come more and more. We weaken with losing blood and so tired we can not hold weapon or stand. Then they kill. Sometimes give rape if we still have enough life, much hurt they give before we die – revenge for men we kill – ritual. Vengeance ritual.”
Her story is short. At age of ten she has already been sent off from her crèche to be trained as a fighter and is being held for auction in a female child compound. There is a raid that turns into a blood letting until the besieged make peace by offering their attackers the “contents” of their female compound. Now both sides fall upon the hapless females. Tiegli is taken by a couple of young brothers and hidden. They hope to keep her alive long enough to sell her on the black market that flourishes in certain parts. They stuff her in a pack bag and from a tear in the side she is able to observe everything that takes place as the young girls are raped and killed, some tortured viciously. She sees her best friend gang raped then cut open across the stomach. She throws up inside the bag and forces herself to pass out.
As a bag of grain stuffed in a pack, making no sound and no demands for food or water, surviving the heat in her vomit and excrement, she is bounced along for two days strapped to a harness carried by male slaves. She is taken out during a violent storm in between suns twilight, staked out in the rain to wash where she is inspected, haggled over and sold to buyers from Hyrete – the fortified city we are in now. Hyrete is a major center of commerce and entertainment in Elbre, but also distinguished by being the capital city of the kingdom of the royal house Tassard.
So the people of Elbre are called the Tassardi. The only other major “kingdom,” actually a so-called unified republic ruled by an oligarchy of merchant houses, is Estáan. The people there are known as Estáani. While complete enmity officially exists between these empires and dependencies, there is much slave trade between them. As elsewhere, business knows how to take advantage of enemies as well as friends. The bottom line remains the bottom line. Trade is good. War is even better. First and foremost, profit. Then whatever.
During her training in Hyrete there is an uprising while a multi-event killing orgy is taking place. She is taken by the group of rebels and with male help and the use of two stolen “carriers” they flee into the desert. The rebel leader baptizes her and gives her the name of Tiegli. When they are captured, as inevitably happens, the ring-leaders are executed by torture and she is returned to the compound. They cut off her ear and shave her head. She would never be allowed to grow her hair again. She is entered in her first fight much too young and almost killed. Fortunately her opponent is a young foolish buck with little experience. She barely manages to bring him down and the fight is terminated before she has to kill him. After this, it’s just fight after fight, kill after kill. From training/holding compound to the arena and back.
“Why do they do this?” I ask. “Why do they fight you if they know they will get killed?”
She chuckles in the dark and pinches me, “They say honour but mostly is money.”
“Honour?” I ask. “How can there be honour in killing a woman, or being killed by one?”
Another chuckle, “You not know these things? Some, we say you from the land, the rock of T’Sing Tarleyn. Some, we say you Desert Beast rise from desert sand, come to help women. Some, we say you from other world. We know only this world. Are people up there?” She grabs my wrist tighter and lifts my hand upward so I understand what she means. You tell, not lie to Tiegli, please.”
“No, not lie. I will tell you but you must answer my question first. About honour.”
“Everybody is enemy; someone is enemy of someone. Women most dangerous enemies because men attracted to woman sex and lose fighting power. So young boy must kill female as proof he free of female weakness. Boy is given young girl – sometime older woman no good no more – to kill. Rite of passage to be man. Necessary or boy killed too. They always must … hmmm… show power to hate and do by shouting and killing. Also must kill enemy. Boys go to great hunts in big desert” (I note she points to the south) “and where high mountains live. After big desert and mountains there is green land of grass and short trees that make tent” (I cannot make her explain further – canopied tops of leaves that deflect water or sunlight?) “In that away far land they kill wild beasts or take wild black people for slaves if they find,” and she points to the only dark-skinned woman I’ve seen, a young woman whom they nickname “The Brute” sitting and rocking herself in a near-by cage. “She harvested when very young. They train, she good killer. Dangerous. Something wrong in head.”
She continues with her story and I try not to interrupt her.
“Sometime, yes? They make large group, many weapons (I gather she means armies) attack other group, city. Much die in what called raids. Sometime fight group join enemy group in wild celebration after battle. Compounds full of females they raid to rape and kill and if “evil juice” is found men become like Warris (which she describes to be wild peoples of the south lands who practice cannibalism) and cook female bodies to eat. I, Tiegli, know. Saw, smelled the flesh, even I get hungry from smell. This I see when taken.”
[end blog post #8]