Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The Last Chant of Black Mchachi

A Kateverse poem rather than a song, in that there is no melody associated with it. This one has a very definite author: the Melandran mercenary champion known to Luke as Black Mchachi, who fought and fell beside him and El Alegroso at the fatal battle of Dazaama Beach. There's a suggestion in Killer-Kate that he knew her before this - not necessarily from conflicts in which they were on the same side.

One very cartoony way to look at the Dazaama backstory is as follows: Don Quixote leads a Spanish/Moorish alliance against the Satanist slavers of Carthage, but is betrayed by his countrymen in his hour of victory, and goes down fighting at impossible odds at the head of a small loyal following, led by a really dodgy Ivanhoe and a legendary sub-Saharan Amazon. That isn't any too close, but it's about as close as we're going to get without telling the full story - something I have no present plans to do. It's one of Luke's defining experiences during his long exile, however.

This is Mchachi's last chant before that battle - or rather, a second-hand translation of the 'Southron' she spoke it in, which is also not her native tongue. Several things emerge even through this filter. Firstly, as per my previous suspicions, not only is 'Black' just something unimaginative alt-Mediterranean types call her, but so is 'Mchachi' itself. Secondly, the subsequent ratfinkery of the allied Dons seems... not to have been something capable of surprising her. Thirdly, she's bringing a set of seriously foreign assumptions to the party, and some of the words used here plainly do not mean what we usually think they mean in English.

The Last Chant of Black Mchachi

"Big Black Girl," they call me, ohoú! ohoú!
Because I will not spill my name and my soul and my making
Like water over a dirty threshing-room floor.

I am the lioness who shakes off the dust.
My spear-arm bears up fifty muses.
My mind is a myriad knives.
By our blades are men's nations divided.

"Their death-wound," they call me, ohoú! ohoú!
Whenever I scrawl some red culture
On some hide that shall never be cured.

Last year I was stronger and swifter.
I have braided my hair with iron wires.
I will go with the greybeard against tiresome pawn-takers,
Before we have too much in common!

Drink my soul to the dregs, when you hear me.
I am – [you cannot say this] – bare-backed, shield-fronted, laughing last below Tanash,
Come to slake these hot sands of Dazaama.

"Big Black Girl," they called me, ohoú!
"Their death-wound," they call me, ohoú! ohoú!
"Dead," they will call me, ohoú! ohoú!
When I am the breath on the tongue of a spear.
- Let’s give them something to sing of.

'Melandra' is an almost content-free Northern geographical term meaning, more or less, 'Blackmansland'. The word here rendered as 'culture' could almost as well have been translated either 'inspiration' or 'civilization'. I still know only a very little about the particular civilization/inspiration/culture from which she hails, and practically nothing about its neighbours. Also, I am much too ignorant about several important real-world matters to yet see it save through the foggiest of airs, around the edges of my main story. It does have to be seen, though.

A last possible implication of the chant, which I quite like, is that one thing the champion prefers her actual intimates to call her is a close equivalent of 'Dusty'.

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