[Onward with the story, huh?]
“Well Antierra, we meet again my dear. You certainly made a mess of yourself in that last fight.”
“It wasn’t exactly my idea, Bal. I encountered something I had never successfully confronted before; something I knew well. An ancient and deadly nemesis that had anticipated my coming here and had prepared itself to destroy me. It almost succeeded – twice. The first time you saved me. The second time, I took responsibility for myself and fought it out, as must we all sooner or later. I wish I hadn’t let it get so strong and really challenged it sooner. All those lives it persecuted me and I submitted to it thinking there was no better way. And likely there wasn’t, not then, not yet: I wasn’t strong enough or focused. I suppose this is the logical place where the outcome from such long-term hatred had to be determined and one of us consumed by it.”
End blog post #82
Begin Blog post #83
Balomo holds my hand and looks at my scarred, beaten and old body. There is no sexual desire in him now, hah! I don’t mind. I think I’ve known for some time that ‘sex’ was no longer on my agenda. “You avatars see the world in strange ways. I knew there was something utterly wrong and odd about Warmo but I would not have thought he was on par with your abilities. Are there many like him or you who can travel through dimensions and through time to seek each other out to destroy each other’s spirit or mind? With so much enmity?”
“As below, so above, Bal. Relative to the number of ISSA’s in the universe (or parallel worlds) we are very few. But we do tend to make waves where we battle. What happened with the motion for my execution?”
“Temporary reprieve. Nothing settled. The king, as you would expect, vetoed the motion but he cannot defeat it. It will be re-introduced each week until accepted or defeated by a two-third majority vote of the Court. If for, they will kill you, the method not described in the motion. We suspect they may be planning to have you put in their next killing orgy.”
“Ah, such pleasant thoughts for me to entertain while I recuperate. How much better than a State-sponsored parade in my honour for destroying the evil Wizard. Seriously, how long have I been out of circulation this time?”
“Only five days so far. You will have to return to the training and exercise yard within two days or the motion for your execution will automatically stand. Seven days is the maximum any fighter can have as you know. It’s their law.”
“Yes I know the law. Seven days to return to active duty. If the fighter is not fit by that time she is executed. I’ll make it. Any news from the compound? How’s Tiki? The Concubine twins? The crazy young sex-slave addict, if you know whom I mean?”
“The kitchen Cydroids keep me informed. I’m supposed to tell you that the slave you call Tiki has begun training and I hear good things. She is fast and certainly determined, so say the handlers. One of the twins as you call them has been killed. Her ‘sister’ is borderline ‘dikfol’ from grief and has already fought two rounds single-handed against two-man teams, killing all four. We need you to talk to her and maybe find her a match. We think she wants to die but cannot end it as long as she can kill men. The young addict, I regret to say, is dead. She was strangled in the kitchens. Two kitchen staffers were flogged to death for that worthless ‘pess.’ She was stealing chakr-laced fighter foods to use for favours and for herself. Someone caught her. We’ll never know who killed her.”
I take the weight of Bal’s news in my heart and hold it there. I feel utterly dejected. I cannot hold back my tears and turning away on the gurney, sob loudly and freely. The lump in my throat could choke a horse. So little change despite the sacrifices. I know I shouldn’t have expectations but as anyone who goes through a war knows, it cannot be helped. We always hope for change bringing in better things. I need a better answer to it all but as this world is currently wired, it won’t allow me to find one. Not directly anyway.
I’ve defeated my personal nemesis. Accomplished the impossible. Remained alive through a series of miracles such as men not punishing me for flaunting their rules; surviving a fight to the death with an actual demon; manifesting events that got me access to an AI auto-med to put my body back into a semblance of a woman’s form and fighting fitness. None of that brings me the comfort I long for. Always thrown back to the beginning, it seems.
From now on, it must be small steps again. I must train Tiki and continue the Teaching but before I can do that I must somehow cleanse myself of the accumulated grief and guilt for all the pain I have caused to other sentient beings while I’ve been here.
A male Cydroid and Balomo stand beside my bed studiously avoiding looking in my direction. They know I must work out my own sense of culpability; that any outside interference will only confuse me the more. Finally I can look up again.
“I want you to sit up,” says Bal “and take XBA7’s hand.”
Without help I manage to sit, fight off a dizzy spell and take the Cydroid’s outstretched hand. He helps me off the gurney and I stand shakily, feeling both cold and hot at the same time. I turn and throw up, or try to. There is nothing in my stomach and only bile drips from my lips. I heave over and over until I begin to fall. The Cydroid holds me by the waist from behind and I regain enough strength to finally stand unaided. I’m handed a glass with a mouth rinse to clean myself. Bal then hands me the flask with the pink nectar and I sip slowly. Things come into focus.
I look down at my body and by what I can see I am glad they have no mirrors here. I must look like a one hundred year old skeleton! Good! Maybe I can just scare my challengers to death in my next encounters, hah! I walk around the gurney, close enough to fall on it should my strength fail. I manage, still feeling dangerously woozy. I walk a little further, make a half-turn and stare at my prison.
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