"Then... it sounds as if you feel it's your fate to die. Or be maimed."
"Fate? I am aware of the term from my student days; we study something of your philosophy, you know. What you refer to here as 'fate', we simply look at as one of the laws - a tertiary, not a primary or even secondary law - but one of the laws regulating the activities of man in this universe. One may sometimes win predominantly, or lose predominantly through an entire lifetime or even a sequence of lifetimes, but the equation will eventually tend toward balance. Or perhaps it is just then balancing from some earlier winning or losing sequence."
Varlik frowned. "But why do you fight then, if you feel doomed to lose eventually? Why would anyone go through the pain and exhaustion and danger, and see his friends killed or mangled, when he's only going to lose in the end?"
"Ah! But we have no doom, and it is not the end."
The T'swi looked at Varlik for several seconds without saying anything further, as if considering how to make his answer more meaningful. "Varlik, why do you live?" he asked at last.
'Why? Because I can't help myself. A person is born living and with the instinct to survive. That's why I live."
"Um." The blue-black warrior nodded thoughtfully. "Yet if you stay with us, you will see us put ourselves repeatedly in great danger. How is it then that the instinct you speak of is inoperative in so many of us? Including you, it seems, for here you are, going to battle with us."
"What you call 'the instinct to survive' is simply an emotional attachment to a body, growing in part from the misapprehension that if it is destroyed, you cease to exist. But in fact, while bodies are notably destructible, you yourself cannot avoid survival.
"The challenge is to live with interest unless one's fear is too great, which seems to be rather common among the worlds of man, one normally prefers that that existence be interesting."
A hint of a smile touched the wide mouth. "And even then, consider the possibility that the person who is fearful, who perhaps is even in hiding, may at some hidden level enjoy the experience.
"As warriors, we find our greatest interest and pleasure in battle, and our next greatest in preparing for battle. Winning is preferred, but the preference is slight. We are not allowed to - ah, 'graduate' is your nearest word to it. We would not be allowed to graduate if we did not know deeply and truly that the fullest joy and reward of the warrior is in being a warrior, and performing the actions of a warrior, with artistry! And that winning is something to favor only very slightly. We do prefer to win, but it is not important to us. We do not allow the matter of winning or losing, surviving or dying, to interfere with our pleasure. We go into battle ready to enjoy the experience, without anxiety over the outcome."