And, we’re back.
At this point in Metallum Terra, the general theme that Quique Alcatena and Eduardo Mazzitelli are blowing out variations on is fairly clear: it’s how young male [uncomprehending] love for a female is thwarted by the male’s aggression and/or ambition, as observed by an older, wiser male who not only cannot guide youth toward wisdom but is swept along by youth’s undoing. No spoilers: This one has a far less poetic, ambiguous ending, which is unfortunate but understandable; I imagine there are only so many different ways a peasant can almost-rape nobility with its attendant aftermath. By the way, lanthanum is a real element used in alloy form for lighter flints. Very clever, caballeros.
Once again, my half-assed translation is below the page. Enjoy:
They brought Lanthanum aboard during one of our many journeys across the great mercury ocean.
As always with the newcomers, the eldest offered him welcome.
ELDER: We are partners in misfortune. We all support each other.
LANTHANUM: I am not one of you. I am different. Like a flint that can shine in this unbearable darkness …
TITLE: Metal World: Radiance In The Dark
Our masters (The Men of Steel) were a caste of nobles and warriors. They were born of a different race of alloy, living solely to fight and make slaves.
MAN OF STEEL: Patchwork, scrap!
Every so often (as we have seen many times) one of us foolish captives tries to rebel.
As Fate would have it, with the pitiless malice that Fate treats all, the gun fell into Lanthanum’s reach.
For an instant our boat was adrift, we were transfixed by the terrible sight.
This was unprecedented.
Countless things can describe The Men of Steel, but “ungrateful” is not one of them. For the rest of the trip, Lanthanum was free from the galleys.
The Great Master wanted to personally meet the flint that blinked in the abominable darkness.
GREAT MASTER: What did you do before being a slave, “slave?”
LANTHANUM: I was always a slave, My Lord. And in my efforts to serve my masters, I’ve learned the arts of war, trade, navigation, all of them …
The beautiful (as we have been told, as we are not allowed to look up to see) daughter of The Great Master, smiling.
When we were not rowing our lords to war, we cut down the forest and built their warships. From that day forward, we did so under the order of the relentless Lanthanum.
LANTHANUM: Why are they not working?
ELDER: They broke the saw.
And it is fair to say that his whip encouraged our efforts.
LANTHANUM: Replace it at once, “Twisted Irons!”
That beautiful woman (some say as beautiful as the sun. Not allowed to ever lift our eyes, we have never seen) spent time watching him and smiling.
His skills as a navigator, learned from masters of the trade, gave him another place of privilege.
So we placed our lives within his formidable expertise to pilot the ship through the storms.
From some other of his Lords he must have acquired his brilliant skills at strategy.
It happened that the victories of The Men of Steel (which were not many) increased when the generals agreed to hear his opinions.
And his genius for parties and celebrations allowed him to win the sympathy of the ladies of the court.
No longer he was forbidden to look at his masters directly in the face, constantly warned of the danger of looking at that stunning woman and her constant smile.
While all this was happening, we sat in the abysmal darkness of our hut and heard the stories recounted by our oldest.
ELDEST: There was a flint, which was equally gray and opaque like all the stones but different … He said that he shone, although he could not prove it, because the lady could not see. But so arrogantly did he make his assertion that just convincing others of his talents and her …. it was clear that he was just a stone. Like any other … but different …
One day, The Great Master invited him to share his table and stopped calling him “slave.”
GREAT MASTER: My good Lanthanum … your advice has so helped my business, my politics and my campaigns that I can be away for a few tranquil days …. I know that my interests will be well protected here.
There was also the look. And that smile.
When the Great Master left, his daughter’s insisted Lanthanum got a room in the palace.
All he had to do now was to get drunk and then (to the delight of her father) to marry her.
Then he would be so radiant a glow that the ominous darkness that had stalked his life would disappear forever.
He paid no attention to the look of horror on that delicate face when he invaded her bedroom. “Naturally,” he thought, “she must keep up appearances.”
Her screams attracted the night guard, who struck his head, at this stage of the facts, to no avail.
Neither gave importance to her stubborn resistance to being hugged. “Naturally,” he thought, “she must feign modesty.”
Five days (which took The Great Master to return) he was confined in the dungeons.
GREAT MASTER: How could you dare so much? … I granted extraordinary privileges to someone of your station because you served me well, and because my daughter was having fun watching a slave try to be a lord … But your shame has been too serious … “Slave” … “Buffoon” … it’s time to remember to what place you belong …
That evening they brought him to the barracks.
One of us (maybe me, maybe the eldest, perhaps the youngest) spoke for us. As we all do everything.
SLAVE: You were right, Lanthanum. You were not one of us … We are not allowed to kill another slave. But in the morning, when they find no trace of Lanthanum, they can not accuse us of anything. There will only be small pieces of the broken saws that we have been gathering these days.
Of course, we have the whole night ahead.
Another thing occurs to me, reading this story again as I pasted in these pages: Splitting the set-up almost equally between the boat and the forest is probably why the ending doesn’t fully satisfy. On the other hand, at least we don’t see Lanthanum being cut to teeny-tiny pieces with the broken saws coming as the story’s ending from a mile away, like some old EC story.