“Never again we be goras. Now we be ahya! Always! Forever! Together we be ahya! Say it low together. This is my last mantra, my last Teaching. Remember you all be ahya! Let men say ‘gora’ but you must translate that as ahya in your mind each time to break the evil spell. Practice self-empowerment, always. That is our greatest weapon, ahyas.”
End blog post #105
Start blog post #106
Throughout the cages hundreds of voices in turn repeat that last Teaching. Then there is silence. They sense I wish to be left alone now to think and sleep. It’s not so different than facing a fight to the death in the arena. The part about not being able to win doesn’t quite become real after so many fights ‘won’ during those long, long years that seem at least four times their physical number: a mere thirteen years.
Yes, only thirteen years to go from a beautiful twenty five year old female to one who feels seventy-five and looks it. My hair is short and almost completely white at thirty-eight. My body is covered in scars and lumps. One leg is bent outward from a badly set fracture when I was not able to get proper medical attention after a particularly vicious fight. I’m missing my middle finger on the right hand. A deep cut across my left breast left a thick ugly brown welt there. The top half of my left ear was lopped off long ago and half my teeth are missing from blows to the face, not all from the arena. It’s no wonder they learned long ago to feed us with gruel, broths and stews. Many of us could never chew solid foods and would starve to death.
The clanking of the cage gates awaken us in the morning. A shaft of sunlight bathes our space for a few moments and it is glorious to see the dust motes floating in its gold and silver rays. I can sense how much nature would like to speak to all of us and teach us simpler, better ways. I have sensed the same things on Altaria… and back on Túat Har. For a few moments I let myself bask in the comfort of those memories. One more day, and however long I can last in the arena tomorrow and I’ll be going home should I choose to do that.
I try once more to communicate simple words with some of the dikfols – we are twenty-three, including myself, shackled to the sliding rings – and this time meet with some success. A few are not so far gone that they cannot speak but their minds are all darkened. They spit at me, or in my direction and call me every low slang curse word they can dredge up. I let it pass as a storm and say nothing in return. They had expected me to react in the same way; my silence takes them by surprise.
“Why you hate me, goras?” ( I have to use that term or they will get even angrier.)
One of the women snarls at me. “You turn men against us, evil you be. We know. Men, they beat us and say because you hate them. We know. Now you die in orgy too krosspeeg. Maybe I kill you myself. Hate you. Haaaate you!” She screams it at me.
“Stupid you be goras.” I reply in the fighter’s low throaty power voice. “Stupid to listen lying men. Is why you are here, because you stupid. I help women, many years. You be knowing this. I get lovers together. I send hurt goras to doctor to save life. I take on bad drooks and fight myself for some I know cannot fight good. I teach many good weapons trick, yes?
“I say this to you goras. Yes, you kill me tomorrow, instead of men who be killing all us. Is smart? I be best fighter ever. Tomorrow, if we together, kill many, many evil men. Maybe so many they no have killing orgy again. Maybe young lovers not have to be killed that way no more. Try understand! Tomorrow we all die. We be friends to fight men? Or we be stupid and kill one-other to believe lying men? You try kill me tomorrow, I promise I kill you first. I better than you, any weapon I use. Weapons my magic. I be daughter of Great Desert Beast. Ask others tonight. They be knowing. But maybe I just let men, let you, kill me because I tired living with stupid goras. Maybe I just die, go home, never return to help more. Maybe I just spit on T’Sing Tarleyn and let women and children continue die. My world, it good place. Everyone happy there.”
And I turn my head away from them and say again the one word they understand better than anything else: “Stupid!”
There is silence for a time then one of them says hesitantly, “I think. I too be good fighter. I think I fight with you, be partner?”
I reply slowly, “Yes. Is good thinking. I like.”
“How you know when dead you go home? When dead, I dead. Not have home.”
“Listen to me. First I give you name, Tomia. You like?”
“Yes, very good, I like much. I be Tomia. It mean?”
“It mean quick understanding. It mean now you have person. Now you have name, no stay dead. They kill, you move from dead body, you fly to home. Not hard. You find quick. Friends there, they help. All fine. Is how it is. This big ahya secret, men not know this. Men not find Tomia home. Safe there.”
“Other dikfols here, how they go home? No name, cannot speak. Brain broken.”
“They be your family now, Tomia. You think name, give name to each one. That name, it go inside broken brain and follow spirit after body dead. Very powerful is secret name. When awake from dead body, they find name. They too be free. You, Tomia, set ahya friends free.”
I watch her working her mind to find names for the other women. She frowns deeply and certainly works hard to find fitting names. She knows these women, a couple of whom are just small girls barely thirteen I’d wager, someone having faked their brands to expedite their sale and make a quick buck. They likely went over the edge from sexual and other physical abuse, torture, overdosing on chakr or from having witnessed horrors their young minds could no longer absorb. It could be all of the above. The most dangerous part of any young fighter’s life is the trip from the crèche to the fighter arena. I try not to imagine watching these children being set upon by males to be dismembered while still alive and their parts thrown over the walls into the crazed crowd, but the image remains nevertheless. This is one more horror I must remember, in case the temptation to forget becomes too seductive.
End blog post #106