Khakhanate Book 2: The Crow HTML version

Book II
The Crow
Copyright © 2009 Thomas Lankenau
For Deena
Amona Island, 118 K
(Mona Is., PR, 1487)
My name is Crow. My name is also Karl Waldman, although I am never called that. Only my parents and
sometimes my siblings called me Karl, to everyone else I am, in various languages, the Crow. I suppose it is
presumptuous of me to think to carry on my grandfather’s narrative, since I share few of his attributes. Still,
among those few attributes I do share with him are a good memory and enough patience to ferret out the truth
from the official version of events. These qualities would have long ago gotten me killed had I not eventually
learned discretion. As it is, they did get me exiled three times (so far), and I now find myself with a lot of time
and little to keep me busy. I am now (in my third exile) living on a small island named Amona that lies between
the much larger islands of Aiti and Boriquen. It is about eighteen li long and twelve li wide, and is little more
than a limestone slab rising about two hundred feet above the surface of the sea. It is riddled with caves and
alive with innumerable birds. I am not allowed off the island, but I can receive visitors, and a most attentive
staff of two Tainos from Boriquen meets all my needs. They grow, gather, hunt or catch and prepare whatever
we eat, and keep my small house clean and cheerful. They are a very warm, friendly couple who make every
effort to keep my spirits up. They even insist that they do not mind staying here with me and indeed, they only
rarely return home. All this even though I was a complete stranger to them when their cacique ordered them to
attend me in exile (in defiance of official instructions that I be left alone on the island) and make sure I live long
and well. Their cacique, Behechio, does know me and feels indebted to me, but more on that at the proper time.
One of the few people who care to visit me regularly is my Ani’ Yun’-wiya brother Cimnashote. On his last
visit, he brought me the copy of my grandfather’s memoirs, which I had left with his parents so long ago and
reminded me of his mother’s prediction that I would finish it. It was that, rather than the birth of a namesake
grandson, that has led me to write this book. It should help keep me busy for a good long time.
I must admit that when I first read Grandfather’s memoirs, I dreamt of writing my own after a great and
successful life that easily eclipsed that of my great ancestor. As it happens, I write now more for lack of
anything better to do, and my life has been quite mediocre and forgettable to anyone else but me. Still, I have
been around great people and significant events and I can set them down with more disinterest than anyone else
I know, especially since only a handful of people, all of whom are related to me, can read this old language.
I should probably begin where Grandfather left off. When he died he was ninety-five years old, a most ancient
age that few others have attained, especially after so active a life. I was five years old when he died and while
aware of him, knew him only as the very old man who would tell us wonderful stories. He alludes to his talent
in the narrative, but he is too modest about it. They were marvelous tales, and he would tell them with
exaggerated gestures, expressions, and inflections easily holding my rapt attention. His bright blue eyes would
variously burn with intensity, shine with wonder, freeze with icy coldness, or sparkle with fun. I was
heartbroken when my sister told me he was dead. It was many years and in my second exile before I fully
appreciated such storytelling. I do remember some of his funeral to which my father alluded in his appendix. I
stood with the whole family when the funeral pyre was lit by the then Khan, my cousin John. We all
subsequently accompanied the ashes out into the middle of the lake in a fleet of small boats. There was a natural
whirlpool there, and the ashes were placed in a basket that was directed into the whirlpool where it was sucked
under. The only other thing I remember about the day was the silence. There was no sound from the throng in
the square. My cousin John said very little. The fire crackled, steamed, and hissed dispiritedly, as if it regretted